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The readings this week were definitely pretty hard to swallow, but Rouvroy had some very interesting things to say.  While I was very intrigued by the usage of technology by the government, I can’t help but wonder what the limit is, in terms of protection.  We’ve discussed and read about many problems, but what of the solutions?

We speak about the Internet, about the digital media, as (among other things) a network for connection. In considering the term post-digital, we recognize its ubiquitous influence and recognize an online presence as the norm. It may seem that way to us these days. It seems impossible to understand a world where you couldn’t immediately share a thought, a picture, an article with people outside of your immediate surroundings, or one where marketing an event could not be done by simply creating a Facebook page for it (which would automatically send reminders to all ‘attending’). This week’s reading on the post-modern, combined with my reconsideration of Kirschenbaum’s account of screen essentialism for our second assignment, reminded me that in fact our world, our whole world, does not operate like that.

4.4Billion people around the world still don’t have internet. How does the seeming ubiquity of the internet in the developed world and, particularly, in urban centres, serve to distance these populations from those communities that don’t have internet access?

Facebook and Google have launched projects to bring internet access everywhere. How will this change our virtual and real communities? Does this represent a new kind of corporate colonial project?

Should we be trying to get everyone online? It seems to me that, as Prof. Chun mentioned in our last lecture, while there are definite benefits to having internet access, we can’t expect technology to solve our political problems. These efforts, by Facebook and Google, to get everyone online might then be considered projects of market expansion and not a project to disseminate something of obvious value.

Cramer’s “What Is ‘Post-Digital’?” was a reading that I could relate to my own life and personal view of today’s digital media. The beginning sections that describe the phenomenon of hipster’s reversion back to the analog and “old media” and shows how this action has become more than a fad, but an actual historical transition. The section regarding the “Disenchantment with the ‘Digital'” was most interesting to me because the term “disenchantment” is the exact word I would use to describe my own feelings towards the internet and rise of New Media. The digital world is a space that I have never fully devoted myself to, but I still encounter it constantly everyday of my life. The overwhelming abundance of the digital in day-to-day living has made me enjoy the retro methods of hipsters and fans of old media who choose to revert back to past, analog devices. In our course, we have been learning about the transition from the analog to the digital and the importance digital media now has in society, but the up and coming mixture of old and new is another integral transition in media’s development. Cramer describes his term “post-digital” as “a contemporary disenchantment with digital information systems and media gadgets, or a period in which our fascination with these systems and gadgets has become historical,” (Cramer 701). The disenchantment that the introduction of digital media created is the realization that this new technology and method does not make what was once hard, easy, but rather adds a new level of complication and “is another thing to deal with,” (701).

I share the same idea Cramer has regarding the new “post digital” and find this topic very interesting. I myself reject the full emersion of digital media and devices in the everyday, and would say I’ve realized that the digital’s promise of simplicity and efficiency has been abandoned. Having said this, I do realize the necessity every citizen has to digital devices and a complete reversal back to the analog years would create complete chaos in our contemporary world. Or would it? Is our need for the digital actually dire because of how popular and influential it has become or is this notion of necessity simply imaginary and induced by the digital devices we use?

Big Data is an incredibly hyped concept in the common discourse. This comes as no surprise in an era of rampant neoliberalism, where practically any government intervention is seen as “too much” and privatization is seen as the solution to all our economic woes. Thus, when the layperson began to realize just how pervasive Big Data is, much controversy was stirred over the notion that Big Data is an arm of “Big Government.” Sure, the problematics of the NSA’s surveillance methods are an easy target for the modern neoliberalist, but what is interesting to me is the fact that Big Data is actually a weapon of Big Consumerism. The very purpose of the collection of such large sums of data, as Mayer-Schönberger presents, is to gather information that will better predict certain trends. In essence, laissez-faire economics — a distinctly neoliberal policy — is a driving factor behind the “invasive” data collection that is hyped by many media outlets as being anywhere from creepy to infringing upon rights to privacy. But government regulation wouldn’t solve this issue, either, as their track-record with pervasive data storage isn’t quite clean either. So which type of Big Data is the lesser of the two evils: that of the government or that of corporations?

It has truly been a long winding journey in MCM0230. Revisiting the past readings from our last reading Florian Cramer’s “What is ‘Post-Digital”, I can’t help but feel like we’ve gone full circle. We were given the apocalyptic world of Chiba City, Japan – a physical composition of what we can define the ambiguous ‘post-digital’. Everything in this city represents one angle of the ‘digital’, the flux and conundrum of the ‘post’. Likewise to what Cramer said, “‘digital’ information never exists in a perfect form, but is instead an idealised abstraction of physical matter which…has chaotic properties and often ambiguous states.” (Pg.705) That it is not a single entity, but a phenomenon that allows such states to be formed under countable units – a qualitative measure almost.

“Digital technology is no longer new media” (Pg. 700)

Technological advancements have fully assimilated into the 21st century, and thus we can call ourselves the first generation to really take advantage of the ambiguousness and ‘creepiness’ on a global scale.  Yet we cannot forget the past, the beginning of Web 1.0 unto Web 2.0. We are slowly losing the people that forged us onto the path of the ‘digital’. It is easy to forget just where all this came from, how I am sitting here typing up this blog post. The fact that this computer can translate my typing on the keyboard onto this visual computer screen, and that I could publish onto ‘BrownBlogs’ with the click of a button; without the recognition of development of digital technology I would just be oblivious to my surroundings. If there was no ‘old’, there wouldn’t have been a ‘new’.

To an extent, we can compare this to the history of our previous generation. The remaining Holocaust survivors are far and few, and as years go by; we are vulnerable to the the realities of time. Sooner than later, our future generations will not be able to experience our present and presence of the forefathers. Our present becomes the past, and the past therefore becomes history that will forever be in our memories and in museums; but not in front of our very own eyes.

“To endow the powerful feelings associated with nostalgia to our lives in the present” (Pg. 707) Is that what digital media is here for? Cramer noted that such devices are in fact ‘analog-to-digital-to-analog converters’, that our “sense can perceive information only in the form of non-discrete signals such as sound or light waves”. We use our senses to feel, to smell, to touch, to hear, to see – all these are still analog responses that are bounded by our human limitations. It is definable, it is known, it is evident.

However, as we come to a close on this day and age – we see a gradual change in where we stand. We are now where Cramer calls “the state of affairs after the initial upheaval caused by the computerisation and global digital networking of communication, technical infrastructures, markets and geopolitics.” (Pg. 703) We are concurrently at the crossroads of ‘post-digital’ and becoming the ‘neo-digital’ – that our eyes can not only observe the continuum of a spectrum, but each individual single pixel as given by our ‘computerisation’.

We still have the “illusion of increased control over the medium”. (Pg. 710) We have a choice on which type of photography to best portray the artists’ vision – be it digital or film. Musicians can decide whether to encode their music onto vinyls or on MP3 digital files. Filmmakers went from SD to HD to the state-of-the art 4k HD cameras that portray ultra-resolute imagery that the human eye fails to observe such detail. In short, we are still tied in with the nostalgic past to our present, our today, our real. If we were to severe such ties, then what happens after? We are still governed by the system in which we live by, that neither “‘digital’ nor ‘post-digital’…is able to leave behind, or even adequately describe.” (Pg. 710)

So I must ask: What if there is no longer such a ‘System’?

This week, and this term, we’ve read articles and examined how the Internet brings us together. The web and digital medium seem to have a binary effect: either they create a community of people with similar interests removing obstacles that would otherwise keep them apart, like physical distance. This creation due to the web has permitted people to further explore their interests and potentially removes a specific feeling of isolation that they might face in their real lives. On the other hand, there’s an objectification of the individual in the digital. Things like the architecture of Facebook created through an algorithm, as Bucher points out, or big data, focusing on the repetition and prediction of habits of collective groups of people, have a polarizing effect.
This collection of actions, opposed to individual people and their qualities, have created something beyond Deleuzan modules and beyond the creation of the dividual. There’s an outcry by users to have a voice in a digital sea, a want to break this dividual understanding of identity in new digital media. From protests to “exposing” ourselves on blogs and in video, we hope to be heard and noticed, which can be confirmed by likes and comments. As time continues and our live become more aligned with the virtual world and digital mediums, we discover more about their architectures and how to hack, shift and expose their structures.
As individuals, we’ve learned to attempt to vocalize and depict our individuality and specific experiences, thoughts, and hopes in these new digital mediums. In this sense, the internet and the digital are heterotopic, offering millions of potential ideas and experience to manifest into virtual reality, but now they’ve evolved beyond being trapped in this realm. YouTube stars (like TV and movie star) now meet and have conferences; fashion bloggers now hold more sway than some members of fashion houses, being invited to sit front row in shows and donning magazine covers; and members of the greater community, like Snowden, are exposing their knowledge of surveillance’s capabilities to the world, resulting in real life discourse and ramifications. The digital and virtual now have physical implications; these two world once separated by lacking a major sense (that of touch) and confined to a smaller screen, now are becoming normalized and regarded as real life.

In “Does Democracy Mean Something?”, Ranciere describes the seeming contradiction of democracy between the chaos inherent to democracy and the power structures implemented that, in order to maintain that chaos, oppose it. But, since we’re considering human behavior, there really is no contradiction: instead of a paradox or negation, such acts of power are democratic, because they organize power in such a way that opposes the power dynamic that naturally arises barring other source of power: that of violence or mandate (police). How democracy fights against the police is by finding order in less violent of ways, namely the uniformity of belief. It’s here that a less violent version of order and power is exercised. Furthermore, the mode with which a certain belief is transferred becomes vital to and essentially indistinguishable from the meaning of a belief, as the act of unifying the message is a form of combative order itself. This form of consolidation of belief explains such fantasies as the utopic cell phone in “People Power II” or the repetitious structure and form of index card videos and other such activism sites. If subjects in a democracy wish to have a political influence, then they must behave unilaterally, while still resisting the violence which undermines the preservation of the variety of beliefs in a democracy, and, if a thought is to catch on, then, like an Internet message, it must adhere to a common protocol that informs a belief’s meaning.

Looking at the history of civilizations, there seems to be a marked pattern. Nomads evolve into farmers evolve into industrialists evolve into post-industrial, modern-day citizens. The pattern seems normal, natural even. Just as we age naturally, so does a society. Societies, like people, interact with one another. And through these interactions, societies can mature prematurely. Such is the case in “The Cell Phone and the Crowd”. Technology was introduced too rapidly, without time to adjust to basic technological advances. This led to a diminishing returns effect, where the inundation of technology overwhelmed the population and damaged family units. The way American society functions now, as we grow older, we become less sheltered. Our parents let us stop believing in Santa Claus and start engaging us in politics over dinner. Our teachers no longer tell us to be nice to one another and start telling us stories of that one time they got high instead. As we grow older, there is a disillusionment but also a recovery. If we are introduced to too many new things too quickly, the disillusionment and recovery is longer. The same can be said for societies and technologies. If societies are introduced to too much technology too quickly, it is hard to know how to “properly” use the technology. Not only that, but societies are not given time to adapt the technology into their existing culture. When somebody else introduces us to technology, we don’t have time to frame it in our own customs and norms. The more technology we take from others, the greater chance of losing our own societal values. Thus, time becomes an important factor in the introduction of technology into a society.

Ranciere’s description of democracy as a a fundamental paradox which defines a political system in which the grounds for political rule is that there are no grounds for political rule (lest it become a technocracy or oligarchy) is an interesting way to think about certain internet institutions, such as Anonymous. As was discussed a little during  this Wednesday’s lecture, it’s strange that we have and continue to think about the internet as a democratic space because it has never, in implementation, been regulated in a democratic way. However, using Ranciere’s description of the democracy as paradoxical, perhaps we can consider the role of the internet in providing spaces for/allowing to exist certain communities like Anonymous which arguably fit some of Ranciere’s descriptions of operating democracies. Anonymous is, in theory, an organized community in which anyone can suggest an organized call to action and anyone who can find a point of entry can join. If the heart of democracy is dissent and reenactment, an excess of political action from the people which both undermines existing government and suggests new ways of governance, it is useful to think of the ways Anonymous engages in exactly these descriptions. In thinking about democracy as action, and the opening up of new communities that enact equal power, I think it is necessary to consider Anonymous as a case study of an implementation of democracy as action. And if the internet is not democratic, can the communities it enables be democratic?

 

Our Wikipedia lab was rather interesting, especially when seen in the context of our whole class and this week’s lectures.  The way Wikipedia was described in our lab was as a resource anyone could edit and talk about; yet how could something that has so much potential to be wrong manage to catch the eye of the entire world? Well maybe not the world, because articles in languages other than English seem to be lacking.  But it majority of the editors are not scholars, and the possibility of being wrong is always very high.  While the discussion portion of the website encourages debates about any kind of edit, it’s still possible for for some edits to slip past the eyes of the editors.  Though most of us know that it’s unreliable, the fact that it’s usually the first link to appear in most search engines means that we’ll use it to glean some basic information regarding nearly any subject.  It’s expansiveness and ability to summarize what could be hard to find information makes it incredibly useful, though, and it’s a shame that (to me) none of the articles contains information pertinent to the website.

Regardless, the idea of an encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone and can always be kept up to date is no doubt appealing to a lot of people, yet most who use the site probably not only do not donate but also do not make contributions.  Not many people find information online and think “I wonder if Wikipedia knows about this”.  Yet that is exactly what everyone should think!  If everyone reading a valid source added the information onto Wikipedia then its purpose would be complete.  Yet this problem of “freeloading” in a way limits it and prevents from becoming all expansive.  There are still articles about people or places or things that contain a small blurb.  The fact that some Wikipedia sources can be books to makes it transcend just one form of media.  If we could see it to it’s full potential Wikipedia would become an even stronger pillar of the Internet.