ARTS3091 Blog 8 – Social Organisation

May 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Will the Internet become a ‘localnet’ and what will this mean for the ‘world wide’ of the web?

It is interesting to look at the world wide web in comparison to the printing press; two technologies that Marshal McLuhan believes have had a profound affect on social organization.

The printing press was invented in 1440 and in popular use by 1500. By the mid 15th century the government and church were actively censoring printing press through licensing and prohibition.  If we compare the above history to that of the Internet, we can see some interesting comparisons. The first connection of ARPANET in 1969, arguably the ‘birth’ of the Internet; everyday use of the internet beginning around 1995 and now the introduction of CISPA and SOPA in the states (not to mention Australia’s implemented blacklist).

So if the Internet is to become censored in the same manner printing press was, will we see a ‘meshnet’ revolution, similar to such printing revolutions as the polish underground press? I believe, based in the comparisons above, that the concept explored by Donald Rushkof in his article “The Evolution Will be Socialized” will become a reality, at least in part.

Unfortunately, as Rushkof discusses, while the internet may seem to complement a peer to peer culture, it is actually built upon hierarchical infrastructure. For this reason, I believe following internet censorship ‘localnets’ will form, based on meshnet or darknet wifi technology. By ‘localnet’ I mean a connection of networked computers that are incredibly prohibited by physical space. For example a localnet would be restricted to local data and unable to send or receive international data due to the government and corporate ownership of transnational submarine cables.

It is interesting to consider a world that would by heavily connected on a hyper local level, yet isolated globally. While this is far from a reality it would offer insight into global networks and help us visualize how current hyper local networks operate.

References

Rushkoff, Douglas (2011) ‘The Evolution Will Be Socialized’, Shareable: Science and Tech <http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-evolution-will-be-socialized>

ARTS3091 Blog 7 -Transparency & True Democracy

May 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Can the ubiquitous way in which data is stored, manipulated and accessed help create a ‘true’ or at least a ‘truer’ democracy?

In Australia we have a representative democracy; a model analogous to a pyramid, where everyday people give input at the bottom of the pyramid, which is then passed to the top, where decisions are made.

I think it is important to look at transparency in two separate ways: – The transparency of function and the transparency of communication.

Make the functions visible

As Catherine Styles (2009) discusses in her blog, the first step to a ‘truer’ democracy is to make the functions of democracy clearly visible. Making information available keeps people accountable, and as discussed in ‘Open Gov the Movie’ it also makes people more involved. As Jake Brewer of Open Gov states, “If we knew everyday how many lobbying dollars were being contributed on the healthcare debate… it would change the debate… people would be so much more aware and so much more participatory than they are now”.

Brewer also discusses the possibility of ‘real-time democracy’ in which we can see the decisions made by politicians instantaneously. In my opinion, the idea of real-time and naked transparency of functions may be utopic and unrealistic, however should be something we strive for to create a ‘truer’ democracy. By making the functions visible we are keeping the pyramid model, however it is a more ‘visible’ pyramid, this is representative of a traditional notion of transparency.

Make communication transparent

As the function of government becomes more transparent, there is a growing possibility to change the current pyramid model on which government is built. That is, rather than having communication from everyday people to decision makers travel through several conduits, regular people can be closer to the decision making process; more similar to a funnel than a pyramid. This presents some technical difficulties, as discussed in ‘open gov the movie’ one of the largest problems of this funnel model is converging data from potentially hundreds of thousands of people, into a format that can be navigated by less than 10.

There is no denying that each new innovation will bring new problems, and this funnel model would be no exception.

I think further research could be conducted into forms of social media which deal with massive amounts of traffic and content, such as twitter, facebook, pinterest and reddit, and then applying these means of content and traffic management into potential funnel models of government.

 References

Styles, Catherine (2009) ‘A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’ <http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/>

Quigley, Chris (2010) Open Gov the Movie <http://www.delib.co.uk/opengov>

 

ARTS3091 Blog 6 – Framing Transversals

April 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the editorial of Fibreculture Journal found here, Andrew Murphie discusses transversals.  He explores what could be described as a ‘macro’ transversal: -new media, in all its broad forms, in relation to other industries. Murphy states that new media transverses more areas than ever before such as dance, city planning, celebrity, aesthetics and hacking.

While this explanation was helpful I struggled to clearly understand the concept due to the ‘macro’ nature of the topics being discussed. After the lecture I better understood the concept.

I believe a better way of explaining the idea of transversals & framing is through music.

A current genre of music can be seen as a frame. Music in this frame abides to particular rules, It is defined and simultaneously restricted by its frame. Take for example electro/house music; without getting too technical, we can safely say that electro/house is framed by electronically produced sound, strong emphasis on a 4:4 beat, a bpm of around 120 and usually a ‘drop’ (more on the transversal element of the ‘drop’ here).

In comparison swing  music is framed by woodwind and brass instruments, an emphasis on the 2nd  and 4th beat of a 4:4 bar and a strong rhythm component.

As murphie describes: “a transversal is a line that cuts other lines, perhaps across entire fields – bringing the fields together in a new way, recreating fields as something else.”

I would argue that a music transversal can be seen in the mixing of two music genres (frames); for example electroswing. Electroswing brings together  elements of separate frames in a new way.

I argue that transversals are only temporary, a transversal occurs when two frames are crossed, however as soon as meaning is created out of this new transversal, it becomes a frame itself.  By this I mean that electroswing is now a legitimate (if little known) genre, with its own framings. It is possible in the future that we will hear an electroswing/reggae transversal, which could then become its own frame. The way in which we see frames or transversalities is simply a matter of how we ‘frame’ them (oh the irony).

Transversals could be further explored in the area of thought and creativity. In a lecture on creativity John Cleese states ‘Creativity is like humor. In a joke, the laugh comes at a moment when you connect two different frameworks of reference in a new way’  and that ‘a new idea is connecting two separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning’. This would be interesting to consider, is there such a thing as original thought?

The lecture is long, but worth watching.

ARTS3091 Blog 5 – Data Dominance?

April 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Where on the above diagram does the colour ‘red’ stop occurring?

You would have a hard time saying 0 is not red, but what about 5? If you were to say 5 is pink, then what about 7?

We could play this game continually, moving into smaller and smaller increments and it is still doubtful that we would find an absolute point where the colour ‘red’ ceases to occur.

How does this relate to this week’s topic of Data?

There seems to be a growing suggestion that data will ‘rule the world’ and we will live “a data driven life” (Wolf, 2010: Title)

My argument is that there are some things that cannot be quantified. We can attempt to quantify them, as Chris Anderson (2008) argues in wired magazine “With enough data the numbers speak for themselves.”, but I would say that there are simply some things that cannot be quantified, and for this reason I would argue that data is an imperfect tool for measuring the world and, while it will have a considerable impact, will not control every facet of our life.

For example, a physicist would tell you that the colour red does occur at a specific wavelength of light. A perceptual physcologist will tell you that a combination of signals sent from different cones will result in you perceiving red. And a web designer will tell you red is #FF0000.

These forms of data are all effective at telling us what red is, but cannot tell us when red ceases to be. For example these above data tools can tell us almost certainly that 0 is red and 1 is not red, however would struggle to discern where red stops being. This is because the tool of data does not allow for this distinction to be made.

It is clear that while data provides interesting insights (even if they may be flawed) into aspects of being , it is just another tool we can use to attempt to attain some notion of truth.  As Simon Rogers (2011) states, data journalism is the same as any other form of journalism, be it investigative, citizen, opinion or photo journalism “it’s just journalism”.

I will conclude by saying that the world is both subjective and objective, and to use an objective brush to paint a picture of the world would be to paint an incomplete picture.

For this reason I believe data will not completely take over journalism, self tracking, or many other aspects of life.

Wolf, Gary (2010) ‘The Data-Driven Life’, The New York Times, <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/magazine/02self-measurement-t.html>

Rogers, Simon (2011) ‘Data journalism at the Guardian: what is it and how do we do it?’, The Guardian, Datablog, July 28, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/28/data-journalism>
Anderson, Chris (2008) ‘The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete’ < http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-07/pb_theory>

ARTS3091 Blog 4 – How do we know what is real?

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Virtually virtual

The virtual is:

The indeterminate potential of any given moment
as the entire weight of the world moves through it’
(Murphey, n.d.)

This sentence is a brilliant summation of the concept of the virtual. To truly understand it however, you have to read murphy’s article a few times, or flush the sentence out a bit more.

On first reading, I thought the virtual was better conceptualized as an ‘unimagined’ reality, rather than a ‘potential’ reality as murphy describes.  As I reread the article I saw how ‘potential’ reality was a more concise term. As well as this I came to understand how the virtual is in fact real, or at the very least, I came to see how you could refute that the virtual is not real.

Murphy’s statement can be split in half.

The “indeterminate potential of any given moment”  (Murphey, n.d.) refers to the multiplicity of the concept of the virtual.  There are virtual memories: our memories which we are not actively remembering all the time and which we ‘throw ourselves into’ to ‘actualize certain individual memories’. The same could be said to apply to concepts or thoughts.

We could apply the concept of the virtual to Scott Rosenberg’s article where Mark Zuckerberg discusses the metaphorical map of technology:

I think that the biggest part of the
 map has got to be the uncharted territory.”
(Rosenberg, 2010)

Zuckerberg is essentially saying that the biggest part of technology exists in the virtual, waiting to be actualized in the form of new technology.

This brings us to the second half of the sentence, ‘as the entire weight of the world moves through it’(Murphey, n.d.). This phrase explains that the virtual is affected by reality. When a potential reality is actualized, it is through a physical (or real) medium. For example, a memory can be actualized by a smell, a thought/concept can be actualized by words on a page, or an entrepreneurial man or woman can actualize a virtual technology.

This is why the term ‘potential’ reality is more fitting than ‘unimagined’ reality, as it has the potential to become truly real, not just imaginarily real. In other words, we cannot deny the virtual the status of ‘real-ness’ or real-ity’ when it is transformed by things we claim to be real.

References:

Murphey, A. (n.d.) Arts3091 Course Notes – Week 5 [Accessed 27th March 2011] Available at: http://arts3091.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-and-readings/#weekfive

Rosenberg, S. (2010) “Your map is wrong”: Zuckerberg lights out for the territories. Wordyard. [Accessed 27th March 2011] Available at: http://www.wordyard.com/2010/11/17/your-maps-wrong-zuckerberg-lights-out-for-the-territories/

ARTS3091 Blog 3 – Extended Mind

March 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Extended Percept

This week I am blogging on Alva Noe’s readings & vlog, David Chalmer’s  lecture and the class lecture. I’ve decided to argue against the philosophical concept of the extended mind.  The extended mind argues, in a nutshell, that cognitive processes aren’t (all) in the head. That external processes (media technologies especially) are replacing what is normally done in the head (Chalmers, 2009). That our sense of self is controlled by our interactions with the external world (Murphy, 2012), and ‘that thoughts, feelings, experiences of taste and the like’ do not take place in the head at all(Noe, 2009).

I argue that instead of media technology extending the mind, it extends percepts.

Noe makes an analogy between the car and self, comparing the brain to the engine. He argues that driving takes place in the whole car not just the engine, and that as such ‘being’ or ‘self’ takes place in the whole body, not just the  brain. He is arguing that our senses are part of our extended (exterior) mind. This is partly true, but is by no means definitive. It is a commonly known fact that we can have a perception, without a percept. How would you explain basic illusions, or more complicated perceptions without sense such as dreaming, blind sight or phantom limbs? Perception can be purely internal, without external actors.

Chalmer’s main example that cognitive processes take place outside the head is that he can ‘remember’ numbers in his iphone. He also states that arguing against this fact is self defeating, but I disagree. Memory is a three part process. Encoding, storing and retrieving.  A media may be able to encode and store, but it cannot retrieve. (stay with me here)

I am arguing that media technology extends percepts, rather than our mind, through space and time. Chalmers argues that by writing down things we are extending our memory. I argue that we are extending the percept of the thing we are writing down. If someone tells us an address we are able to access that perception, albeit through a different medium, at any time and place. It does not extend our mind but rather extends the percepts of the world.

In summation; I believe that rather than extending the mind, we are extending percepts available to our mind in both space and time.

Embodied

References

Noë, Alva and Solano, Marlon Barrios (2008) ‘dance as a way of knowing: interview with Alva Noë’, <http://www.dance-tech.net/video/1462368:Video:19594>

Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain>

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

Murphey, A. (2012) Week 4 ARTS3091 Lecture, University of New South Wales

ARTS3091 Blog 2 – Levinson reading

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

The Medium Controls the Message

‘Sometimes an idea can be too big for a medium to convey’  

Before this reading, McLuhans famed statement, ‘the medium is the message’, was lost upon me. Paul Levinson’s reading and the contextualization he provides really helped me better understand this statement.

The piece begins by analyzing hieroglyphics and their logographic properties; ‘the components of each hieroglyph were usually rooted in some visual depiction of the word’.  This notion is difficult for us, with our modern alphabet, to understand. This is because logographic text could only ‘preserve the spoken word’ with symbols rooted in visual depiction. It may have been easy to write about the nile or the pyramids but how would you write down words such as liberty, justice or democracy?

Levinson looks at how this affected the societal notion of ‘God’ or omnipotent things.  He notes that while written communication was rooted in visual depiction (logographical), ‘Gods’ were associated with physical things, for example the sun God, Ra, was literally the sun, while a falcon depicted Horus.

Levinson then analyses the phonetic alphabet, particularly Hebrew, and how this allowed for re-imagination of ‘God’, that which we use today. ‘By breaking communication up into tiny letters, they correspond to nothing complete and recognizable in the world’ making them ‘meaningless individually, but therein capable of meaning anything in proper conjunction’ (16) This new medium allowed for a much more complex notion of ‘God’ to emerge, one who is immanent (with and within all things) yet also transcendent (outside time and space), along with many other complex characteristics.

Hieroglyphics were unable to communicate such a complex notion of God. The idea of an omnipotent God, as we know it today, was too complex for the medium of hieroglyphics to convey.  [I’m a poet and I wasn’t previously aware of it]

Levinson’s analysis of how different mediums affect the complex notion of omnipotence stop here, but it definitely got me thinking. The notion of today’s God may have seemed difficult to convey through hieroglyphics, but in comparison to scientific concepts such as gravity the idea of God seems quite simple.

McLuhan believed three inventions reshaped the world, the phonetic alphabet, the printing press and the telegraph. It could be argued that the printing press mediated the more complex ideas of science, much like the phonetic alphabet helped mediate the more complex notion of ‘God’ as we know it today. While there are many other forces in play, it is interesting to look at the dissemination of printed text, in comparison to what is considered the scientific revolution and the enlightenment. The scientific revolution is associated with the 16th and17th century while ‘the enlightenment’ is considered to have occurred during the 18th century.

As you can see by this graph, the distribution of printed books throughout this period grew predominantly. It is clear that there is a correlation between these two factors, but does this imply causation? If so it would be a clear example of technological determinism.

A more interesting question to ask however: were people’s ways of thinking prohibited by their method of communication? Did Egyptians not have concepts like liberty or justice, or where they simply unable to ‘memorialize the spoken word’ which articulated these concepts. Does the medium in which we communicate truly affect the way we think, or simply affect our ability to communicate our thoughts? It is an interesting question to consider, one which cannot be answered here, however this reading has prompted many thoughts for me.

Reference:
Levinson, Paul (1997) ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge:11-20