Haunted by the future

Note to Andrew: Hi Andrew! I know this entry is long and I apologise, but it is a topic that resonated quite strongly with me and I wanted to be able to tell my story. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I did.

*****

Now that we’ve finally done it and come to the end of yet another semester and this course, I find the final questions asked in the course reader a little daunting: “What is the future of media, cultural and social change? How can we know, if we can?”

Well.

The fact that I literally cannot wrap my head around the idea of knowing where I may be in the next five years let alone a single year, makes me agree with much of Rushkoff’s (2012) ‘present shock’ argument that “we no longer have a sense of a future… We have a completely new relationship to time; we live in an always-on “now”, where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything”. My enthusiastic nodding along with Walter Isaacson’s comment on Rushkoff.com where he says “the digital age… has caused a focus on the immediate moment that can be both disorienting or energizing”, caused me to reflect on why I felt so drained and felt that I could relate to what Rushkoff calls ‘narrative collapse’, ‘digiphrenia’, ‘overwinding’ and ‘fractalnoia’; and my own thought process and attribution of this reasoning surprised even myself (yet again showing how we always live in the “now”; I hadn’t even thought to link my past to my future).

When the ubiquitous nature of new, wireless and networked media – especially that of our personal social media channels – is programmed so that one is expected to continuously ‘keep up’ with their social peers 24/7 even if only lightly dipping their toes every few hours into the waters that lap up toward the sandy banks of Twitter; enthusiastically geo-tag themselves at events or places with friends (what I would call social-tagging if I were to coin the term); as well as ride the waves of  what Easterling (2011) calls “a fire hose blast” of information, I’d agree with Easterling (2011) when he says “the most consequential architecture in the world has already become information”. I may exist in the physical dimensions of this world by attending a classroom in Kensington, sleeping in my own bed in my home in Chatswood and socialising with friends in a bar in Surry Hills, but ultimately my social construct is built and based in another world of its own – a world which is constructed by data, information and those darn red pin dots on maps across multiple websites and continents – and this, I attest, can definitely be disorientating or energising, depending on my mood and capability to process these whole blasts of information.

But more interestingly coming back to why I felt so connected to the precise themes of disengagement that Rushkoff calls ‘narrative collapse’, ‘digiphrenia’, ‘overwinding’ and ‘fractalnoia’: after careful thought, I realised that there were almost identical conjunctions between ‘present shock’ and of common disorientated themes experienced by diasporic communities – that is, of immigrants like myself.

While you may not guess it, my social and physical construct of self until I immigrated to this big, brown land down-under at the age of 8 was based on my little community of family and friends in Seoul, South Korea. Provided that I couldn’t even write my name let alone converse with others in the language that I now find myself writing this very blog entry in, I now look back to the ages of 8 to around 12 as my ‘lost years’ (though not in a negative way at all; it is just simply what it was). While fellow ’90s kids’ were enjoying the likes of Cheese TV, playing OzTag with family friends at various beach houses dotted alongside the east coast of this beautiful country and watching movies that they would be quoting with their peers in 10 years time as an exercise of nostalgia, I was trying desperately to assimilate myself by learning a foreign tongue. When I finally did get to a stage where those around me could understand me and we could build up social interactions to form friendships, puberty hit and I finally realised that I would forever prick myself if I attempted to jump fences between these the duo-nationalities and that a lifetime of frustrating disorientation lay ahead of me if I were to restrict and bind my sense of self to physical places. I had already returned to South Korea for family trips and had become all too aware that I no longer belonged, that I was viewed as a ‘foreigner’. So instead, I set about erasing that fence altogether and based my sense of existence on experiences and ideas, regardless of their geographical location.

'Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.' Seoul, Korea || Flickr Creative Commons || Photo credit: Park Jongwoo

‘Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.’
Seoul, Korea || Flickr Creative Commons || Photo credit: Park Jongwoo

In this journey that I took to become who I identify myself as today, I experienced ‘narrative collapse’ in its purest sense. I tried to revert my cultural losses by watching Korean dramas, listening to Korean music, reading the Korean news – an example of ‘digiphrenia’ and ‘overwinding’ – though I found this exhausting when I realised this too, was forced and not really within my present interests, living in the “now”; I was exercising ‘fractalnoia’ with a history that was no longer mine.

But this is far from a sob story. Working in the non-for-profit sector co-ordinating humanitarian aid in my job outside of university, I am only too aware of how much of the above could easily be considered a ‘first world problem’, leading me to concur with Christiane Paul’s note that there is a “dark irony in the term ubiquity in a world where… access to clean drinking water is [still] effectively a privilege of the accident of birth” (Paul in Fuller 2013, pp.xix). Still, living in the Anthropocene, I wouldn’t be so foolish as to completely ignore the ubiquitous, networked society of today and the effect it has already had/the potential it holds with the advent of new media and communications techniques to drive a change to our world; whether that be the likes of advocating against climate change, or truly innovative, like use of mobile phones in Rwanda to deliver healthcare to remote villages (a personal favourite story of mine).

The fact is, technology will always echo Derrida’s (1994) notion of ‘hauntology’ as we adapt to their infinite capabilities – and as we learn to adapt even further than where we are now by building cultures that exceed beyond the everyday life to that of a ubiquitous, networked society, we’ll most likely ride along, not knowing that our position within society had yet again changed until we are made to uncover the layers of social construct that build up with our use of such technologies.

References

Anthropocene, n.d. ‘Anthropocene’, accessed 20 May 2013, <http://www.anthropocene.info/en/anthropocene>

Derrida, J. 1994, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning & the New International, Routledge, London, UK.

Easterling, K. 2011, ‘An Internet of Things’, e-flux journal, issue 1, accessed 20 May 2013, <http://www.e-flux.com/journal/an-internet-of-things>

Muller, M. 2013, ‘Forward’ in Throughout: Arts and Culture Emerging with Ubiquitous Computing, eds. U. Ekman, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp. xi-xxxi.

Rushkoff, D. 2012, ‘Present Shock’, accessed 20 May 2013, <http://www.rushkoff.com/present-shock>

UNICEF 2010, ‘How an SMS can save a life’, UNICEF, NY, accessed 20 May 2013, <http://www.unicef.org/rwanda/reallives_8393.html>

Advertisements

Open science: a closed case?

Before even thinking about how open science may alter our world, I think it’s important to grasp what science and science publishing as a medium really are. Kelly in his article suggests that science is the “complex apparatus for determining the factual correctness of information and relating it to old knowledge” (Kelly 2010), while Wilbanks (2011) purports that science publishing is the “core factory for knowledge transfer in the world” and the “philosophical transactions of knowledge” – and as we university students can attest, “scientia potentia est” (knowledge is power).

In this sense then it’s quite obvious why Pisani (2011) believes that sharing data and scientific knowledge from one scientist to another – or what is commonly called ‘open science’ – could be beneficial to the medical science industry and in turn, the general public’s health at large, yet feels uncomfortable doing so. She argues that with the added exposure, the pace of discovery, diagnostics and cures will inevitably quicken – a seemingly logical fact – but given the competitive nature of science publishing where one’s career prospects are based on and manifest through the culture of data-hoarding, the idea of sharing can be “scary”.

The very same problem is outlined by Michael Nielsen, an Australian physicist and champion for open science. “We can build tools that amplify our collective intelligence”, which could bring a fundamental “change in the way we construct knowledge itself”, yet “there is a kind of conservatism about it”.

Kelly (2010) posits that “the achievement of science is to discover new things; the evolution of science is to organise the discoveries in new ways”. Open-access forms of new media are generous in the way that they will allow scientists today to do both the discovering and the organisation; discovery through gaining access to an unprecedented amount of data open for collaborative interpretation with other likeminded scientists around the world (perhaps similar in scope to the Polymath Project which Nielsen mentions above), but also organisation through the increased channels through which science community can publish and release their findings to the world.

I don’t think that the topic of open science will directly correlate to my research topic of the transversal nature of Twitter and its impacts on child rights advocacy campaigns, however one thing I can say for sure is that I doubt that the topic of open science is going to be a closed case anytime soon.

References

Kelly, K. 2010, ‘Evolving the Scientific Method’, The Scientist, December 1, accessed 14 May 2013, <http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/29382/title/Evolving-the-Scientific-Method>

Nielsen, M. 2011, ‘Open Science’, TEDxWaterloo, April 6, viewed 14 May 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnWocYKqvhw>

Pisani, E. 2011, ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing>

Wilbanks, J. 2011, ‘On Science Publishing’, Seed, January 29, accessed 14 May 2013, <http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing>

Sydney’s own Coalition Of The Willing

This week’s topic of social organisation was especially all the more interesting for me given my attendance at TEDxSydney just this past Saturday. One of the key highlights – and indeed, a (highly-successful and delicious) feat in itself given the 2,200+ audience members in attendance and the 250+ TEDxSydney growers who generously contributed their home-grown produce – was Grow It Local‘s crowd-farming initiative. Literally getting a taste of how dynamic social organisation could occur through the creation and management of micropolitics and networks and the participation/collaboration of those belonging to the new communities arising from said-networks, it wasn’t hard to visualise the possibilities of hyperlocal social organisation for issues and causes other than to promote urban farming.

The unreal coming-together of the local Sydney community with a unified cause to decrease food wastage and promote growing fresh produce was largely indebted to their utilisation of their Facebook page and other new networking-capable media such as TEDxSydney’s Twitter to engage an interested audience, and then collectively bring them together to create a society. In bypassing any authoritative figures such as the local Councils (though Waverley Council did later support the cause and the City of Sydney Council also jumped on board promoting GIL with some location-specific, 3D ads), Grow It Local created Sydney’s own Coalition Of The Willing; a group of everyday enthusiasts and believers who actively sought to together change public perception about an issue they cared about, and hence became a micropolitic power of its own.

This is what I think Terranova (2004, p.101) means when she says that “to animate machines, …is not to ‘bring’ life to a machine; rather it is to organise a population of machines in such a way that their interactive dynamics is ‘alive'”; that social organisation can be ‘animated’ when communicative mediums – whether they be Twitter or Facebook –  become a two-way source of dialogue so that they can interact with, amongst and even perhaps against each other to shape themselves collectively into this morph of the network society. It makes sense then that Manning (2009, p.138) states that “the body emerges not fully formed but in relation to an associated milieu that is itself a body-becoming”; the inherent dynamics of social organisation means that it is bound to be transversal, always reflecting and absorbing each other’s presence to morph into a living organism.

Further reflecting on Terranova’s (2004, p.105) argument that “a transversely-connected multitude is quite alien to the logic of mass societies, in as much as the solidity and boundedness of the mass tend towards… an increasing homogenisation, while a multitude tends to engender, multiply and spread mutations”, I think it will be fascinating to research and gain a deeper insight into just how much the transversal nature of Twitter can impact and shape the ‘effectiveness’, or flow, of a child rights advocacy campaign as described in my research proposal. I hope that this week’s lecture will generate some ideas on how to effectively draw a logical conclusion out of such a dynamic medium and network as well as some research methods I may wish to further incorporate into my project.

References

Campaign Brief 2013, ‘The City of Sydney and Grow It Local bring vegie patches to the streets via Republic of Everyone’, Campaign Brief, April 18, accessed 5 May 2013, <http://www.campaignbrief.com/2013/04/the-city-of-sydney-and-grow-it.html>

Grow It Local 2013, About Grow It Local, accessed 5 May 2013, <http://www.growitlocal.com.au/about.aspx>

Grow It Local Facebook 2013, Grow It Local, accessed 5 May 2013, <https://www.facebook.com/GrowItLocal>

Manning, E. 2009, ‘From Biopolitics to the Biogram, or How Leni Riefenstahl Moves through Fascism’, in Relationscapes, The MIT Press, Cambridge, M.A., pp. 137 – 139

Terranova, T. 2004, ‘From Organisms to Multitudes’, Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age, Pluto, London, UK, pp. 101 – 106

The relevancy of data

Let’s say you didn’t know the answer to a given question. What would your first instinct be? If you’re anything like me, you’d fire up your laptop, head straight to the ever-faithful Google search bar, bang in some key words and voilà, happily receive your answer. But how did that information get there and how do you know that it’s reliable? And if the whole society is doing the same, how do data and media shape our societal, social and personal contexts?

In today’s networked society, unprecedented amounts of data are so readily available and are often analysed and utilised for their immense potential to become a powerful source of information that will influence the public in ways that we previously may never have imagined. Retailers and advertisers can manipulate their understanding of consumer behaviours to exercise much greater influence (remember that Forbes article ‘How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did‘?) , educational institutions can be graded (My School, anyone?), and the futility of war is quantifiable in cold, hard numbers (for example, the Iraq Body Count) (Quilty-Harper 2010). However when the media and our society are so willingly engaging with the data available and even viewing the use of data as common best practice (see The Guardian’s Datablog) or as a measure our worthiness to receive tertiary education (e.g. the HSC and the ATAR cut-off for uni), the independence of such data becomes a vital element to consider in the overall social assemblage that is constructed by such data-based media and communications.

We are constantly surrounded by data. Flickr Creative Commons  ||  Photo credit: Hsing Wei

We are constantly surrounded by data.
Flickr Creative Commons || Photo credit: Hsing Wei

As per Latour’s Actor-Network Theory (2005), all actants – including the data available; the methodology taken to receive that data; the choice of analysis; and the mediation of said-data – play an equal role in shaping our understanding of the world around us, including our perception of oneself. While I appreciate a good set of data and the continuous strive toward what Edwards (2010) would call the ‘Global Knowledge Infrastructure’ as much as anyone else, I feel that our often unassuming acceptance – or is it ignorance?-  that all data is good and correct data places an unequal agency at the hands of the media and communication technologies. With reference to Foucault’s notion of power/knowledge (1980), I feel that our docile acceptance with the reality as it is presented to us demonstrates our society’s deeply-embedded and largely unbalanced sense of security in data, allowing the media and communication technologies to dictate which data will become ‘important’; often forgetting that economic reality can also create or impact data (for example, think tanks and their specialist reports which can have a skewed bias toward the institution’s goals). Add to this the very nature of data mining/collecting and the penchant to use non-human actants to achieve and build the database, and data friction (Edwards 2010) is almost unavoidable.

However I don’t believe that data is inherently a bad thing. Instead, I think that given the right measures, data is an incredibly powerful tool that can be utilised to pinpoint and eliminate or verify a proposed ‘truth’ or any perception we hold of ‘the real’, hence engineering better – or should I say more productive – results for almost all aspects of life. In my upcoming research report I hope to track an issue through the method of data mining, though I’m not quite sure of the topic just yet. It will be interesting to note how a data-driven approach can yield different qualitative and quantitative results, paying special attention to data friction.

EDIT: The below was added on 12 May 2013.

On 4 May 2013, I attended TEDxSydney and saw a fantastic talk by Simon Jackson (Professor of Political Science and Statistics at Stanford University) on the use of data and ‘The Demographic Data Revolution’; how we can use data to enhance, rather than diminish, democracy . He was involved in the 2012 U.S. election cycle and powered the Pollster section on Huffington Post, achieving a perfect set of predictions of the election outcome in each state. The video is below.

References

Edwards, P. N. 2010, ‘Introduction’ in A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp.xiii-xvii.

Foucault, M. 1980, Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, Pantheon, New York, NY.

Jackson, S. 2013, ‘The Democracy Data Revolution’, TEDxSydney, a public talk, 4 May, viewed 12 May 2013, <http://youtu.be/INf5u29n-5Q>

Latour, B. 2005, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, OUP Oxford, Oxford, UK.

The Guardian 2013, Datablog, The Guardian, UK, viewed 15 April 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog>

Quilty-Harper, C. 2010, ’10 ways data is changing how we live’, The Telegraph, August 25, viewed 15 April 2013, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/7963311/10-ways-data-is-changing-how-we-live.html>

Are you for real?

It’s a confronting experience to come across a topic like today’s one of reality which I experience daily and think that I know back-to-front, only then to have it challenged by something like the virtual which shakes the fundamental thought of what even constitutes ‘the real’. Can the virtual also be real/part of reality?

Building on from last lecture’s idea that what we perceive to be memory can instead really be attributed more as perceptions of events past aided by global mnemotechnics, to think about my perception of ‘reality’ in the same way – in that what I consider to be ‘real’ is really a produced acknowledgement of the existing conditions of my environment that I’ve grown accustomed to over the past 20 years – made sense. Whitehead’s (Manning 2006) idea of ‘causal efficacy’ validated this understanding with his belief that “what we perceive… is not an object but its pastness or its capacity to exist in relation” (Murphie 2013). If what I believe (or perceive, because reality is never a set-in-concrete kind of matter and often subjective depending on other factors even in fields such as science; e.g. climate change) to be ‘real’ can be reflected in the virtual – whether that be augmented like the video below or simulated – then who is to say that that too doesn’t constitute reality?

Mediation then of course plays a huge role in the facilitation of this second level of reality, not only through being the platform on which virtual worlds can exist (e.g. the Internet and World of Warcraft, Second Life, Habbo Hotel and the use of Bitcoins) but also being the primary actor through which we participate in and cope with the multiple and shifting realities that we face in society today. If the virtual is “potential waiting to be realised” in a world where “change is always changing” (Murphie 2013), the virtual thus has the power to create experiences that we will then perceive to be part of reality. It essentially shifts the entire field of relationships that exist between oneself and their social/ecological environments, which then shapes our perception of reality with the past in the present.

A simple example of all this may be that of cyber bullying, where scathing negative comments targeted to an individual online can create some terribly ‘real’ consequences for that victim; they may feel psychologically threatened by and live in constant fear of their attackers, and may physically display their vulnerable emotional state by crying, feeling ill or purposely avoiding being in the same places where possible – all of which are actions/notions that would be considered very ‘real’ by society today, so much so that there are various laws codified into legal systems against such behaviour.

Cyberbullying is an example of a definitive crossover between the virtual and the real. Flickr Creative Commons  ||  Image credit: Wally Gobetz

Cyberbullying is an example of a definitive crossover between the virtual and the real.
Flickr Creative Commons || Image credit: Wally Gobetz

While increased options and assistance in shopping or urban explorations through the virtually-based augmented reality technology may be exciting and welcomed (Drell 2012), as Havens (2013) purports in coherence with my understanding of the role of media and communication in producing reality by acting on relations and potentials in a given situation, the virtual – in his case, augmented reality – is not a step to be taken lightly. As with all actors upon society and in particular, that of media and communications which possess critical levels of reach to societies, it would be a mistake to “ignore the dynamism of material reality” (Murphie 2013) and their potential impacts upon our world. I hope that my expanded knowledge of the complex nature of reality will help me uncover the links between media, cultural and social change at a deeper level for my research assignment.

References

Drell, L. 2012, ‘7 Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Your Life’, Mashable, December 20, accessed 9 April 2013, <http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/augmented-reality-city>

Havens, J. 2013, ‘The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality’, Mashable, February 8, accessed 9 April 2013, <http://mashable.com/2013/02/08/augmented-reality-future>

Manning, E. 2006, ‘Prosthetics Making Sense: Dancing the Technogenetic Body’, The Fibreculture Journal, issue 6, viewed 10 April 2013, <http://nine.fibreculturejournal.org/fcj-055-prosthetics-making-sense-dancing-the-technogenetic-body>

Murphie, A. 2013, Advanced Media Issues: New Media, Cultural and Social Change, a study guide distributed by The University of New South Wales, Sydney for Semester 1, 2013, pp.25-28.

Can you remember this?

There used to be a particular funny phrase that my mother used to mutter to me as she sighed at my repeated forgetfulness as a child: “Don’t you know that what sets humans apart from animals is the ability to think?! Why can’t you just remember to do things?”.

While my mother no longer leaps to act on her maternal instincts when I unintentionally leave the iron on after hurriedly getting ready for work or spill a hot plate of soup all over myself by foolishly thinking that yes, of course with my two hands I can carry 6 bowls at once and did you say you wanted a cup of tea too?, this week’s topic of memory not only fittingly recalled the above scenarios from my childhood but also certainly challenged my perception of my past, present and future experiences: How much am I consciously ‘thinking’ or ‘remembering’ a memory, as opposed to following a technic? To what extent do I rely on media technologies to recall memories, and in admitting so, how does global mnemotechnics (the globalisation of media technologies) impact on my, and the general society’s, day-to-day experience?

Like many others, when I ‘remember’ my childhood I look to it fondly, ‘remembering’ some funny or endearing event that I can recall even today at the ripe age of 20. However, these particular incidents of the past that I am ‘remembering’ are not what the Greek philosophers would have considered “natural” memory – rather, I am engaging in what Chalmers (2009) describes as ‘external memory’, whereby “parts of the environment are coupled to a cognitive system in the right way… [so that] they become parts of the mind”. In reality, what I perceive to be a ‘memory’ is in fact a puzzle-match of my active “symbolic processing” (Murphie 2013) from my “tertiary memory” (Stiegler in Cohen, 2001); historical moments that have been aided through the use of mnemotechniques such as my mother’s writing of journals, taking photographs, recording home videos, and engaging with verbal recounts from aunties and uncles that have reshaped my ‘experience’ over and over again to present what I perceive to be a natural memory of sorts.

In realising this, I heartily confirmed the validity of Stiegler (n.d.)’s remarks that “cognitive technologies, to which we confide a greater and greater part of our memory, cause us to lose an ever-greater part of our knowledge”. Especially given the unprecedented rate at which media technologies are fast becoming digitised and hence globalised with an increased ease of access to self-generated data, Stiegler’s (n.d.) view in the danger – or is it inevitability? – of global mnemotechnics which would permit the equipment and its service industry to gain a ‘control of knowledge’ resonated deeply.

We live in a day and age where it is considered normal to instinctively whip out a smartphone to record just about anything that happens in one’s daily life and not only publish it on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter which are solely built for the purposes of sharing, but also actively archive these through ‘tagging’ the time, location, and others present at the event.  This unbarred willingness that we exercise in transferring the responsibility of retaining of memories and the trust that we place in the media technologies to archive these events and tags to act as “tertiary memory” (Stiegler n.d.) later on, shook and tore apart any fundamental belief I held for my ability to recall ‘memories’; my memories are not simply mine anymore, but a currency for the service industry to model, manipulate, sell or even destroy.

Google Ads Preferences

Your photos and check-ins are not all the data that companies are gathering on you: Google Ads Preferences shows how you’ve been classified using your cookie history to classify your demographic and interests, which are then used to target you with Google Ads.                         (Photo credit: J.Bae)

But was this really a conscientious choice on my behalf? Noë (2008) comments in his interview that “…experience, {and] consciousness, is always… necessarily environmentally situated”. When Facebook initially pushed the geo-tagging feature of ‘Check In’ to all users in 2010,  the public – myself included – were apprehensive of its potential to infringe on their privacy rights. Since then however, I’ve been dropping the ubiquitous red pins left right and centre to remember and archive the good nights out I had with my friends, or a particularly memorable moment. By having the option there and seeing others use it, I too grew fond of the feature. The existence of such media technologies and the globalisation of these media technologies – or global mnemotechnics, as Stiegler (n.d.) would call it – has culled in me the need to exteriorise my emotional memory and exercise what Chalmers identifies as the ‘extended mind’; a meshed, interrelated system between the body, mind and environment as one, as to embed my presence and consciousness in the world around me, as well as within myself.

While it would be childish of me to point the finger at Facebook and blame its innovative features that allow me to share more about myself than anyone has ever before, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think that these global mnemotechnologies greatly influenced and increased the complexity of human experience. We now not only have to monitor and maintain our physical and mental selves but also the third dimension of self that is online, just to be able to remember what exactly it was that we were doing two weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, where we were and with whom.

The notion of memory, thinking and action has been the most interesting topic for me thus far as a framework for viewing new media and its influence on cultural and social change. Thus I hope to incorporate this into my research project in a way that will hopefully elicit a general understanding of how my fellow peers view the role of global mnemotechnics in shaping our identities, including all our past experiences that are embedded in our memories – wherever we may have stored them.

References

Chalmers, D. 2009, ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, viewed 26 March 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>.

Murphie, A. 2013, Advanced Media Issues: New Media, Cultural and Social Change, a study guide distributed by The University of New South Wales, Sydney for Semester 1, 2013, pp.20-24.

Noë, A & Solano, M.B. 2008, ‘Dance as a way of knowing: interview with Alva Noë’, June 16, 2008, viewed 26 March 2013, <http://www.dance-tech.net/video/1462368:Video:19594>.

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.), Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation, article, Ars Industrialis, viewed 26 March 2013,  <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>.

Following the force of flows

Flows and assemblages. They’re topics that we’ve come across before in previous courses, and in my attempt to grasp this week’s topic of what constitutes a ‘machinic’ thought, I’m glad that I’ve had the chance to grapple with the two concepts as they helped me understand the workings behind ‘machinic’ thought.

As paraphrased in Murphie and Potts’ (2003, p.31) reading, Deleuze and Guattari (1987) suggest that “what we would normally conceive as specific and isolated technologies are participants in a broader natural and cultural flow in a ‘machinic’ dimension”. Utilising their metaphor of rivers and streams, I was able to see Deleuze and Guattari’s argument that technologies also flow, and these flows are able to merge together and be produced anew as their contexts change. All assemblages, whether it be a machine or an ecology, produces different and unique things by creating, directing or blocking flows. The mechanic thought follows this understanding to suggest that technology participates in our life within a natural and cultural flow, hence bringing about cultural and social change (Murphie & Potts 2003, p. 31). That is, technology is infused in our lives in a natural manner as a part of our daily flows, and this in turn brings about a relationship between the technology and our culture.

River Dane

Just as this beautiful River Dane naturally flows over and under various mediums – such as rocks, moss and algae life as well as the fish that live in the streams – and affects and changes their lives daily in various ways (e.g. shaping the rock formation, providing a supportive environment for the survival of algae or moss and moving the fish down along the river), so too does media technology on human life.
[Photo taken from Flickr Creative Commons. Photo credit: Simon Harrod]

This notion of a ‘mechanic thought’ provided me the stable middle ground I was seeking to position myself on as I was having a difficult time swaying to either side of technological determinism which strictly confers that technology is the autonomous agent of social change – so much so that ‘the medium is the message’ and media technologies are able to alter ‘patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance’ (McLuhan 1974 in Murphie & Potts 2003, p.13) – and that of cultural materialism which proclaims that technological development arises out of social need and political intention (Murphie & Pott 2012). While I can see the validity of both arguments when reflecting on my daily consumption and usage of media technologies, my pride in my most-likely naive belief that I still have the power to disengage from my smartphone and the social world it so easily encompasses (should I ever feel the wish to, that is) deters me from siding on the side of technological determinism, while I can’t say for sure that I ever felt a thirst and need to wear the hyper-technology infused Google Glass, which disputes against the idea of cultural materialism.

While I found Kittler’s argument that “after all, it is we who adapt to the machine; the machine does not adapt to us” (Jeffries 2011) an insightful reflection on the human use of technology, I have to agree that viewing “the actual function of a technology – materially and culturally” (Murphie & Potts 2003, p.32) is more important than viewing its singular form. In my research I hope to utilise this mechanic thought and observe the impacts of a chosen media technology from a societal – and hopefully highly objective – view.

References

Jeffries, S. 2011, ‘Friedrich Kittler and the rise of the machine’, The Guardian, December 28, viewed March 14 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/28/friedrich-kittler-rise-of-the-machine >

Murphie, A. & Potts, J. 2003, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’, Culture and Technology, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 11-38