mediamusingsblog

After the optimism of last week’s authors, I was surprised to find our reading chock full of warnings about the true impact of new media.

In Prometheus Wired, Darin Barney writes of how new media and developing technology lead to the deletion of jobs.  While some may argue that technology creates new jobs, these jobs are in different areas and are not filled by the individuals that lost jobs.  Barney writes, “Work, jobs, and even entire trades are obliterated by networks because this technology facilitates the reorganization of production to drastically minimize human labour and human process control” (137).  He describes, in depth, the dark side of the jobs created by new technologies: “the presence of network technology allowed the relocation of work to areas where wages and rates of unionization are low, and workplace regulations are minimal” (140).

Honestly, I was surprised by his attitude towards telecommuting.  Maybe his attitude can be attributed to the time of his writing (2000).  I was always under the impression that telecommuting was a dream job, that telecommuting was a highly desired position.  Barney, however, writes that telecommuters often work more hours for less pay, and telecommuters are often unaware of opportunities for advancement within their corporation.  Has that changed today?  Or have I always viewed the situation through rose-colored glasses, oblivious to the hidden downsides of telecommuting?

It was also interesting to read about the concept of the Mondex card.  Obviously, this technology never took off, but it did attempt to solve many important problems that existed at the time of its invention.  Actually, I just googled it, and it turns out it still exists today as a subsidiary of MasterCard.  Here’s the link if anyone is interested: http://www.mondex.com/

Mark Andrejevic’s iSpy was also an intriguing read.  It featured some of the hidden effects of new technology that I had never really considered before.  This was an eye-opening read for me.  I guess I always knew that information about me was being collected on the Internet.  Many times, I can look over at the ads in the sidebar of a website and notice that they have at least attempted to customize them for me to the best of their ability.

They know I’m single, and that I live in Tulsa.  So, those two tidbits of information are used quite frequently in ads.  Just this weekend, my dad was surfing the internet, and when I walked by I noticed an ad that said “Find single, mature women over the age of 45 in your area.”  Well, they did get the age bracket correct, but my dad is married.  So, I guess they at least tried…

Andrejevic writes, “There is a pattern here: the use of interactive technologies–new media devices–lends itself to the generation of cybernet information: feedback about the transactions themselves.  This feedback becomes the property of private companies that can store, aggregate, sort, and, in many cases, sell the information to others in the form of a database or a cybernetic commodity” (3).

It’s kinda scary, at least to me, to think that my cell phone company could be tracking my movement without my knowledge.  I mean, if they are tracking my movement, they wouldn’t discover anything very interesting.

I’ll admit, I am the kind of person that googles people.  I google myself just to see what comes up.  It turns out there’s an actress by the same name, so unless you know a few more facts about me, it’s difficult to actually find the information about me that’s out there.

I wonder, though, if I would google people if they would be notified that I had completed a search on them?  I don’t think I would.  There’s something about the anonymity of a google search that makes it okay.  I mean, just think of all the groups on facebook that promise the ability to see who views your profile.  To the best of my knowledge, they are all scams, but their whole existence shows our obsession with who knows what about us.

I was surprised by the optimism in this week’s reading.  I guess I’ve gotten so used to reading critical reviews of new media, that to read someone praising new media seems strange. 

The  highest optimism was found in the articles by Kevin Kelly.  He argues that “the web runs on love, not greed.”  Suprisingly, according to Kelly, the majority of the websites on the internet are non-commercial.  Instead of seeking money, people are simply “sharing” their wealth of knowledge.  He writes, “the electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate” (We are the Web). 

While I can see evidence of this in sites like Wikipedia, I’m not entirely convinced that the motives behind web contributors is love and the wish to share.  A counterexample that comes to mind is the document sharing website, Scribd.  Many times, this website will pop up in my google search results.  I will click onto the website, and be pleased to find the information I need.  This information is free to view online.  However, I often wish to save the file as a pdf.  After clicking the save document button, you are presented with two options: pay us a fee to download OR upload a file of your own.  I would argue that the majority of the documents loaded on this site were done to avoid paying a fee to download instead of a desire to share with the rest of cyberspace.  We are greedy.  We want things to be provided to us for free on the internet.  We feel entitled to free things. 

Peter Lurie argues that the Internet, unlike previous fads, is here to stay.  The deciding factor in this is “not from the range of content available online, but rather the process of finding it” (Why the Web Will Win the Culture Wars for the Left).  The act of reading on the Internet is radically different from the act of reading a book.  Our instinct is to follow different hyperlinks, check other sources, open 5 new tabs of things we might find interesting, view similar sites, and the list goes on and on.  Our thinking is no longer linear.  We’re following twelve different tangents at once.  And, we like it this way.  Lurie writes, “The content available online is much less important than the manner in which it is delivered, indeed, the way the Web is structured.” 

Attacks on television were made largely because of the television programming provided.  Lurie, however, feels that this argument cannot be used against the Internet because the Internet is so, so much more than mere content.  It is an experience. 

The chapters we read from Joe Trippi’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised proved to be a fun, Saturday afternoon read.  It was interesting to follow his narrative of just how large a role was played by the Internet in the 2004 Presidential Election.  A large part of his message is his argument that “on the Internet, being the first mover can be everything” (85).  One of the characteristics that set apart Howard Dean’s presidential campaign was their use of the Internet to “empower” individuals. 

Because of all our emphasis in the last week on television, I found the following statement to be very interesting:  “That’s all a relatity show is, television trying to compete with the variety, authenticity, and instant feedback of the Internet” (213).  I guess this struck me because it seemed other authors thought that television wasn’t trying to adapt to the changing wishes of the world. 

Most importantly, maybe, Lurie argues that the Internet is helping people help themselves instead of relying on large corporations or governments. He writes, “People are no longer waiting for the media or the government to give information.  Now they are going online and getting it, and then disseminating it.  And with that information, they are gaining power” (232).

I found it really interesting to read these different theories of what tv and  computers would look like in the future.  In some ways the theories were totally wrong, but others were spot-on. 

Gilder writes that while television causes us to be less free, the upcoming “telecommuter” will emancipate us.  For him, “television heavily determined which books and magazines we read, which cultural figures ascended to celebrity and wealth, and which politicans prospered or collapsed” (8).  But, more than this, television is “a top-down system” (11).  The television is our master and we are its slave whether we realize it or not.  We, as viewers and consumers, must accept whatever programming it offers.  We are “passive receivers or dumb terminals” (12).  Televisions limit freedom so much that “tyrants everywhere push TV sets onto their people” (18).  He writes, “Television is a tool of tyrants” (20). 

The telecomputer, however, will save us by allowing us to interact with the telecomputer and create our own content.  Since individuals will be able to create their own content and share their own opinions, it will actually free us from the tyrants who try to control us without our realizing it. 

Negroponte approaches the freedom in new media from a different standpoint.  While he considers “atoms” to be semi-stifling, “bits” are freeing.  He gives an anecdote about how “atoms” can get stuck in customs.  However, his bits are able to travel freely.  Digital versions of books, for example, are better, he argues, because “digital books never go out of print.  They are always there” (Chapter 1, The DNA of Information).  Digitizing items also reduces their cost, thus more people will be able to afford them and access them.  Negroponte cites a statistic that 45% of the cost of textbooks is “inventory, shipping, and returns” (The DNA Of Information). 

J.P. Barlow, in 1996, penned “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.”  He sees cyberspace as “the new home of the Mind” (A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace).  In cyberspace, there are no questions of “property, expression, identity, movement, and context” (A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace).  Whereas our physical bodies are under the jurisdiction of wherever we live, our minds, in cyberspace, are free to do as they wish.  This, however, has led to questions of intellectual property law.  Barlow argues, “Intellectual property law cannot be patched, retrofitted, or expanded to contain the gasses of digitized expression any more than real estate law might be revised to cover the allocation of broadcasting spectrum” (Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net). 

I find it interesting that while all three authors find an emancipatory future in new media, they all find freedom in different areas.

Plant argues that while Freud and other prominent men of the time may have felt that “women have made few contributions to the inventions and discoveries of the history of civilization” (Plant, 255) that was simply not the case. In fact, women made numerous contributions whether they realized it or not. Though the history book does not record these contributions, it does not mean that they never occurred. Long before computers were ever dreamed of, “weavers often used their work as a means of communication and information storage” (Plant, 258). Plant follows the growth of the weaving industry. In fact, the loom was the first piece of machinery to be automated during the Industrial Revolution. These developments led Jacquard “to hypothesize that if it was possible to program a loom to weave any design, then it must be possible to program a machine to perform any computation” (Plant, 262).

I found it interesting to learn that “the role of programming was assigned to women because it was considered to be menial, minor secondary work” behind the work of creating the hardware (Plant, 264). Had women been more active in theorizing the future of media, I believe that we would have sooner foresaw the development of the pixelled screen (Plant, 264) because of its connection with weaving. If women had been allowed to design the actual computers instead of merely the software, would our technology today be radically different? Maybe…I’m not really sure.

Turkle traces the development of virtual worlds know as MUDs. Having never heard of MUDs before, I was intrigued at how dedicated these users seemed to be. Multiple users interviewed by the author cited being able to escape reality as their rationale for spending so much time on MUDs. No matter their social class in the real world, these individuals could be upper middle-class citizens online. One user, Thomas said, “MUDs got me back into the middle class” (Turkle, 240).

If women and feminists had been more involved, would they have worked to create MUDs that allowed people to escape from their real lives or would they have focused their efforts on simply improving their rights in their real life. Some may argue that MUDs offered the ability for women to truly experience life as equals, online. Online, people were judged by their coding ability instead of their gender. However, these gains online did not necessarily translate into gains in real life.

Haraway’s writing was the most difficult for me to understand. Haraway comments, “There is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women” (Haraway, 155). She argues, “The dichotimies between mind and body, animal and human, organism and machine, public and private, nature and culture, men and women, primitive and civilized are all in question ideologically” (Haraway, 163). Had feminist writers been more prominent in theorizing the future of new media, it seems that today there would be less emphasis on whether one was man or woman. I feel that media would have taken a slight turn somewhere in order to accomplish this. These women would have utilized the developing new media to promote their own beliefs. Even if this had occurred, there would be some other group today arguing that new media doesn’t serve them.

I guess that’s enough rambling for now. I’m hoping that some insights will be shared in class, because I’m having a difficult time trying to visualize how new media would have differed.

To what extent were the people involved in these events responding to changes in the world—developments in knowledge, or technology, or society—and to what extent were they creating that new world, by applying a set of ideas to the technological and social material at hand?

It seems that these prominent thinkers were actually creating that new world by responding to changes in the world since they chose what changes to focus on.  Hayles writes, “During the Macy period, the idea of homeostasis was extended to machines” (Hayles, 8).  Previously, the idea of homeostasis was a dominant topic in biology.  So, these thinkers took that biological idea and tried to apply it to other fields.  So, they were reacting to changes in the world, specifically the rise of attention given to homeostasis in biology.  However, there were likely many, many other rising topics in biology and other scientific fields.  Why homeostasis?  Why not <insert other fancy science term>?  What would cybernetics have looked like if another rising topic had been chosen?

Turner spent a great deal of his analysis focusing on Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog.  Turner features pages from the Whole Earth Catalog on Plate 8 & 9.  The catalog’s focus was to spread information about products that should be of interest to those influential people.  So, the catalog responded to the changes in the world by featuring new technologies and thinkers.  However, it also helped create the new world in that it had the choice to feature whichever products it wished.  By featuring such items as computers and calculators, it prompted many people to purchase said items.  So, more people became technologically savvy.  This, in turn, fueled the need for more updated technology.  If these influential thinkers of the time hadn’t pushed for ownership of computers, would Steve Jobs be as big a name as he is today?  Would we all have laptops?  How different would the world look?

So, I guess I’m arguing that these people both responded to the changes of the new world and created the new world at an equal extent.  That sounds weird to write, so I hope my argument made at least some sense…

Oh, and p.s.  I found the description of a robot surgeon shaving up the brain of a human to be very, very disturbing.  I just thought I would share that with all of cyberspace.

Though I found Hayek’s analysis of the rule of law and the economic problem of society of be interesting reading, I am having trouble connecting his theories to our discussion of new media.  Am I missing something?

I will admit, though, that I was very excited when Hayek began discussing the “economic calculus problem” in “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”  However, I was disappointed when I discovered that there was actually no calculus involved. 

A main problem that Hayek attacks is exactly who should be the one making the decisions in society.  He offers three options: planning, competition, and monopoly.  Here, planning refers to “central planning–direction of the whole economic system according to one unified plan” (H6).  Competition, on the other hand, refers to “decentralized planning by many seperate persons” (H6).  While both of these scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages at solving the economic problem of society, Hayek argues that the problem is already being solved by the monetary system.  He writes, “The whole acts as one market, not because any of its members survey the whole field, but because their limited individual fields of vision sufficiently overlap so that through many intermediaries the relevant information is communicated to all” (H21). 

Hayek argues that money has allowed us to “dispense with the need of conscious control” (H24).  And, this is important because “civilization advances by extending the number of importatn operations which we can perform without thinking about them” (H25). 

But, what does this have to do with media?  Are we supposed to relate his argument about control of the economy to control of media?

In Road to Serfdom, Hayek writes that our age has a “passion for conscious control of everything” (75).  But, “the state should confine itself to establishing rules applying to general types of situations and should allow the individuals freedom in everything which depends on the circumstances of time and place, because only the individuals concerned in each instance can fully know these circumstances and adapt their actions to them” (75). 

I found it interesting that Hayek argues that “to produce the same result for different people, it is necessary to treat them differently” (79).  This just seems so counter to what people believe now.  I’m taking a class on special education this semester, and this is something my professor feels very adamantly about.  She instructs us that fairness shouldn’t be about every student getting the exact same things but that every student should get exactly what they need on an individual basis.  Thus, it can be fair to allow one student to use a calculator if that student truly needs it. 

Please, enlighten me if you can about how this would apply to new media…  I’m grasping at straws trying to relate this blog post to the previous thinkers we have studied.

Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle is definitely not one of the more straightforward pieces on media that we have read thus far this semester.  Am I right in assuming that the spectacle is mass media?  If this assumption is not true, then you’d probably be better off to ignore much of the rest of this post.

Debord states, “The spectacle is self-generated, and it makes up its own rules” (20).  So, if this is speaking of media, then Debord is arguing that media is dangerous because of the fact that it creates its own rules.  It rules over the world instead of being ruled by the world.  My dad was watching I-Robot this weekend as I was doing some reading.  Throughout the movie, it was emphasized that robots could not be dangerous since they followed three basic rules.  When robots became dangerous is when they started ignoring these rules and making their own.  Debord seems to feel similarly.  Media is dangerous when it makes its own rules.

He also argues that media and the spectacle lead to “isolation” and “separation.”  Debord writes, “All goods proposed by the spectacular system, from cars to televisions, also serve as weapons for that system as it strives to reinforce the isolation of “the lonely crowd”” (22).  Instead of uniting us together, mediums such as the television drive us apart.  So, for Debord, media not only has the power to create its own rules, but it also drives humans apart from one another.  Society becomes less unified as a result of media.  Thus, society is less able to stand up to attacks.

 

Baudrillard also finds the new media to be disturbing in his Requiem for the Media. Baudrillard comments, “The mass media are anti-mediatory and intransitive.  They fabricate non-communication…We must understand communication as something other than the simple transmission-reception of a message, whether or not the latter is considered reversible through feedback” (page 280 of the New Media Reader).  The fact that we cannot amply respond to mass media is what disturbs Baudrillard at the deepest level.  He disagrees with others who believe that mass media can be adapted so that we can both receive information and send information.

Baudrillard states, “Power belongs to the one who can give and cannot be repaid” (281).  Is this what media is doing to us?  It gives us information, entertainment, etc.  But, can we repay it?  Later, he comments, “For the time being, we live in the era of non-response” (281).  For Baudrillard, media is terrifying since there is no way for us to communicate with media in the same way that it communicates with us.  Sure, we can invent ways to respond to media, but are those responses ever heard?  These responses, while they can be sent, cannot be sent in the same way with the same magnitude as media communicates with us.

He criticizes Enzensberger: “As if owning a TV set or a camera inaugurated a new possibility of relationship and exchange.  Strictly speaking, such cases are no more significant than the possession of a refrigerator or a toaster” (281).

Both Baudrillard and Debord are terrified by media because media has the potential to impact our lives in a way that we don’t even realize is happening.  For them, we are embracing media as a source of entertainment or being in the know.  Yet, we don’t realize that we are sacrificing our ability to communicate or are being isolated in the process.


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  • Lisa Johnson: I also found Haraway to be quite a difficult read, I'm glad I wasn't the only one. I agree that Haraway seemed to suggest that differences between gen
  • Brewin: I think that you've asked exactly the right question here. Why homeostasis and not some other term? My response would be to note that the whole notion
  • Hillary Hellmann: I was very intrigued by Hayek's statement that freedom should be left to individuals to make decisions in their lives because of dependence on circums

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