The chicken or the egg? (or evolution?)

March 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Excerpt from ‘The Matrix: Reloaded’ 

Councillor Hamann: Almost no one comes down here, unless, of course, there’s a problem. That’s how it is with people – nobody cares how it works as long as it works. I like it down here. I like to be reminded this city survives because of these machines. These machines are keeping us alive, while other machines are coming to kill us. Interesting, isn’t it? Power to give life, and the power to end it.

Neo: We have the same power.

Councillor Hamann: I suppose we do, but down here sometimes I think about all those people still plugged into the Matrix and when I look at these machines, I.. I can’t help thinking that in a way, we are plugged into them.

Neo: But we control these machines, they don’t control us.

Councillor Hamann: Of course not, how could they? The idea’s pure nonsense, but… it does make one wonder just… what is control?

Neo: If we wanted, we could shut these machines down.

Councillor Hamann: Of course… that’s it. You hit it! That’s control, isn’t it? If we wanted, we could smash them to bits. Although if we did, we’d have to consider what would happen to our lights, our heat, our air.


This week I have decided to blog on the concept of Machinic Flow, as explored in in Chapter 1 of Murphey et al.’s (2003)  book, Culture and society.

For brevities sake, I will define technological determinism as where technology drives advancement in society, while cultural materialism can be defined as where different societal pressures; political, cultural and economic, drive technological advancement.

Machinic flow, quite simply, can be seen as a combination of technological determinism and cultural materialism. To expand upon further, how both technology and society change together over time. “Like rivers and streams, they flow into each other, accumulate in larger rivers or split into some deltas” (Murphey et al. 2003, p.34)

For example a technology may appear in the flow, such as the printing press in 3rd century China, yet not be carried by the political flow of the time, only to resurface later in 15th century Europe when the political flow was more suitable (Murphey et al, 2003). Conversely, cultural phenomenon, such as globalisation, were not made possible until the relevant technology allowed.

This is an effective metaphor, however I believe it is practically flawed. While technological determinism is too simple a reduction of a more complex ‘flow’ or network, society has become increasingly dependent on technology. If we took away technology ‘we’d have to consider what would happen to our lights, our heat, our air’.

While cultural, political or economic forces may drive societal change – even technological change -these forces have all become technologically mediated. By this I mean that the flow of culture, politics, economics and technology travels over a technological bed.

While technology may not drive societal advancement, it is a restricting or controlling factor in society – a scaffold on which everything is supported. It flows with these forces as Murphey et al (2003) discusses, but in contemporary society it should perhaps be considered part of the river bed and banks than the flow itself. It is eroded and changed over time by societal flow, but ultimately supports advancement rather than strictly driving it.

That and transformation.


Murphie, Andrew and Potts, John (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38


The Changing Role of Publishing in Social Life

June 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’

Alan Rusbridger, Editor of The Guardian newspaper.

How is the diminution of traditional, and often hierarchical, “authoritative” intermediaries changing the role of publishing in social life?

Picture Essay
Found here:


All Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr Commons or Created by the Author

Bagdikian, B. H. (2004) The New Media Monopoly. Beacon Press.

Brewer, J. (1997) The pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Curran, J. (1991) Rethinking Media and Democracy. London: Arnold.

Curran, J. & Leys, C. (2000) Media and the Decline of Liberal Corporatism in Britain. In: Curran, J. & Park, M. Y. De-Westernizing Media Studies. London: Routledge.

Fox, E. (1998) Media and Politics in Latin America. London: Sage.

Fang, L. (2011)  Did the Cable Industry Pay Ralph Reed Millions of Dollars to Orchestrate Tea Party Opposition to Net Neutrality? [online] Think Progress. Available at: [Accessed 2nd June 2011]

Habermas, J. (1962) The Structral Transformation of the Public Sphere: An inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Herman, J. (2011) Online Astroturfing Gets Sophisticated [Online] Smart Planet. Available at: [Accessed 5th June 2011]

Krönig, J. (2004) The Tyranny of the Fourth Estate [Online]   Progressive Politics Vol 3.2. Available at: [Accessed 5th June 2011]

McLuhan, M. (1962) The Gutenberg Galaxy. Canada: The University of Toronto Press.

Nightengale, V. (2007), New Media Worlds? Challenges for convergence. Oxford University Press

Protess, D. Et al. (1991) The Journalism of Outrage. New York: Guilford Press.

Roman  Office of the Inquisition (1559) Index Librorum Prohibitorum [Online] [Accessed 8th June 2011]

Rusbridge, A. (2010) The Splintering of the Fourth Estate [Online] The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 25th May 2011]

UK Parliament (2010) Media: Ownership debate. 4th November. [online] [Accessed 1st June 2011]


June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment


May 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

During our distribution and aggregation readings this week the most interesting thing I came across was this paper (Robinson, 2009) on Citemine. Citemine is a social networking marketing mechanism for reviewing research papers. It works much like any other social networking site (SNS) with user likes, dislikes and comments.  The creators however discovered that this would be meaningless if there were no repercussions to these interactions. Therefore to submit a research paper you have to stake a portion of your points which you receive when you sign up. You can then make these points back by selling a portion of the papers equity. You purchase a portion of equity by rating the paper you have read – essentially buying a share of the research. A paper is then accepted as of publishable standard if a pre-defined amount of shares are bought. Once this limit is met every time the paper is cited by another research paper each shareholder makes a dividend on their shares.  However if the predefined amount is not met then the paper is rejected and the people who have staked shares in the paper lose their points. This creates a two tiered ratings system of both research papers share price and how many points each individual has.

While the theory behind Citemine has been well thought out and looks coherent in an academic paper, the mechanism behind the theory has not succeeded. Citemine is now down, and according to its twitter account, has been so for around 10 months.  While the theory behind the site is a perfect example of distribution and aggregation, Citemine seems to have looked over self distribution and aggregation in social media circles. Citemines twitter feed has one post, there are no updates concerning the sites development and it has no followers. There are also no links to Citemine’s twitter feed outside of twitter itself. Also the paper discusses the concept of accountability for users actions within Citemine. While currency does create accountability within Citemine itself, there are no further repercussions in other social circles. Why not create a Citemine application within Linkedin to have Citemines users actions accountable in the real world, in much the same way Farmville is connected to Facebook and other Facebook users can see Farmville repercussions in there news feed. This would also double as effective, targeted marketing for a new and unknown product due to the fact that researchers using Linkedin will almost definetly have connections with other researchers who can then join Citemine.

Robinson, R. (2009) On the Design and Implementation of a Market Mechanism for Peer Review and Publishing [Online] [Accessed 22nd May 2011]

This is Not Data

May 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

A Translation of the conversation between Theaetetus and an Eleatic Stranger found here.

True= conventional meaning for true – etc correct and right
TrueR = means real or existing in reality
(further explanation in dialogue)

Original Translation
 Str. And you mean by true that which really is?  When you say trueR you mean that which is real?
 Theaet. Yes  Yes that which is trueR coincides with reality.
 Str. And the not true is that which is the opposite of the true?  And when you say not trueR you mean that which is not real?
 Theaet. Exactly.  Exactly – so the pipe in my hand is trueR – whilst this picture of a pipe is not.
 Str. A resemblance, then, is not really real, if, as you say, not true?  A resemblance or visualisation then, is not real and therefore in your sense, not trueR?
 Theaet. Nay, but it is in a certain sense.  No, but it is trueT in a certain sense.
 Str. You mean to say, not in a true sense?  You mean to say it is trueT, but not in a trueR sense?
 Theaet. Yes; it is in reality only an image.  Yes it does coincide with reality so exists as an image in a trueR sense, but only as an image. What is not trueR is what it represents.
 Str. Then what we call an image is in reality really unreal.  Then what we call an image is, in a trueR sense, not really trueR. So the pipe in this image is not trueR  , the image truthfullyT resembles, visualises or represents a pipe however is only trueR as an image
 Theaet. In what a strange complication of being and not – being we are involved! How strange is it that we are involved in everything that can exist in both trueR and untrueR forms!?
 Str. Strange! I should think so. See how, by his reciprocation of opposites, the many – headed Sophist has compelled us, quite against our will, to admit the existence of not – being.  I agree it is strange. See how, by representing many ways to interpret truth and reality our fallacious teacher has tricked us into admitting the existence of things which are not real (not trueR ).
 Theaet. Yes, indeed, I see  Yes indeed, I see.
 Str. The difficulty is how to define his art without falling into a contradiction.  The difficulty here is to define things which are trueR and untrueR  without  falling into the contradiction of saying there are things that exist which are not real.
 Theaet. How do you mean? And where does the danger lie?  What do you mean? Why must we not contradict ourselves?
 Str. When we say that he deceives us with an illusion, and that his art is illusory, do we mean that our soul is led by his art to think falsely, or what do we mean?  When we say he deceives us with this contradiction, and things visualised by art are trueT (however art is only trulyR  a visualisation and nothing else), which creates a contradiction, do we mean that we are led to believe visualisations cause us to think incorrectly?
 Theaet. There is nothing else to be said.  That is correct, there is nothing more to say.
 Str. Again, false opinion is that form of opinion which thinks the opposite of the truth: – You would assent?  So you are saying that incorrect opinion is an opinion that takes knowledge from things that are untrueR would you agree?
 Theaet. Certainly.  
 Str. You mean to say that false opinion thinks what is not  You mean to say incorrect opinion thinks trueT of things that are untrueR?
 Theaet. Of course.  Of course.

Theaetetus is saying, like was said in the lecture, that representations of meaning are often incorrect or untrue – much like what was said about Socrates and the perfect tree or imperfect visualisations of the tree.

The Attention Economy

April 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. –Albert Einstein

The attention economy, what is it? To summarise Herbert Simon, it is an inverse relationship between information and attention(Boyd, 2010). Technically we always have the same level of attention, if such a thing were quantifiable, however the growing amounts of information mean we have to allocate our attention more carefully and by doing so increase its value. Essentially it is a reverse of basic supply & demand theory. Content demands our attention and as the amount of content increases our supply of attention becomes more scarce and therefore more valuable.

The concept is similar to themes explored in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World
Please check out this short comic  (McMillen, 2009) – Its too large for the blog

Now that we have got that out of the way: Are we really seeing a poverty of attention as Simon would have us believe? A Stanford university study highlighted in an (2010)  article explores the so called ‘dangers’ of  information overload where “heavy multimedia users have trouble filtering out irrelevant information — and trouble focusing on tasks.” Or are we merely seeing “the most recent spin on an ancient theme” as Stowe Boyd (2009) states in his article.
Consider, for a moment, the music industry. It is currently in a crisis where p2p software is destroying many components of the industry.

“I foresee a marked deterioration in American music and musical taste, an interruption in the musical development of the country, and a host of other injuries to music in its artistic manifestations”

This quote was written in by John Philip Sousa in 1906 in a book titled “The Menace of Mechanical Music” (Sousa, 1906). It was written in protest to the Phonograph –  he believed it would be detrimental to the music industry. While this example does not relate to the attention economy directly, it illustrates that often, new technologies are met apprehensively by society and this concern is often considered comically backward as society progresses beyond the point of adaption for said technology.

I like to imagine when man first invented fire – three cavemen sitting around the campfire questioning whether it is worth their time and attention to cook their food and make sure it doesn’t burn or whether they should just eat it raw.


Boyd, Stowe (2010) The False Question of Attention Economics [online] Available at. [Accessed 19th April 2011]

McMillen, Stuart (2009) Amusing Ourselves to Death [Photograph] Available at [Accessed 19th April 2011]

National Public Radio (2010) The Price of putting ‘your brain on computers’ [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19th April 2011]

Sousa, John Phillip (1906) The Menace of Mechanical Music [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19th April 2011]

World of Mouth

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

To begin, thankyou Erik Qualman for my catchy title.

So far this week we have looked at archives – and more often than not, what I’ll refer to as old and mostly static archives. I looked at depth into Jon Stokes’ article on the google backlash and read extensively on the articles he linked to in his blog.  Stokes’ blog and Mathew Ogles blog focus on theories relating to archival manipulation and retrieval. Stokes looks at how Googles search power is affecting businesses and websites. While Ogles blog focuses on how we are stuck in what he refers to as real time due to the immense and instantaneous nature of archives online. However many online thinkers, such as Erik Qualman,  believe that we are undertaking a revolution in how we retrieve data from archives and that what is mentioned by Stokes and Ogle may soon be irrelevant – if you have 20 minutes to spare watch his ted lecture here.

Qualman shows that 90% of people trust peer recommendation of products over traditional marketing and believes that this is going to change how we archive our material forever.  With this in mind we can see that social networking sites are in fact a threat to search engines like google. This is because Googles search capabilities are at the core run on a static formula. If over time internet users were able to rate and tag websites we could see a revolution in the way we sort and access archives. People are more likely to use a site that their friends said was useful or entertaining in the same way they would buy a product.  This would then transfer the power that Manjoo talks about in his article from the mega corporation of Google into the hands of the people and then theoretically return fairer and more relevant results than a formula ever would.

Finally I would like to mention that perhaps reading articles from 03, 05 and even to some extent 08 may be outdated in this ever changing media landscape. And yes, I do realise the irony in saying that after reading Ogles article.