RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Reality—actual, potential and virtual

What is reality now? What produces it? What is life? What is living? How do you know? Does reality change? Getting to grips with the complexity of reality in order to make sense of media, cultural and social change

 Are media creating new “virtual worlds”, or was the world already virtual, or both? (ARTS3091 Course Outline Week 5, 2012)

What is authentic, true reality? Is the existential, physical, spatial reality that we humans experience the only true, actual reality? Or, are the virtual, augmented realities that are created through the mediation of data and flows authentic? How do we know what is real?

In the digital age, where globalisation, information networks, instantaneous and invisible flows data, and new media forms interrelate with social and cultural changes, preconceived notions of what is authentic and inauthentic, what is real and unreal, can be challenged.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

Virtual reality can be defined as “computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds” (Wikimedia, 2012). The simulated environment can be modelled on the existential world so that a life-like experience is created when one immerses themselves in  virtual realities, such as in pilot and driving simulation systems, or in virtual realities depicted in the following video from IDEO Labs:

The human participant immersed in the virtual world in this video shook when he found himself on the ledge of a building, because what he could see, what he could experience, felt real. In actuality, is it real, or is inauthentic? If a virtual simulations/realities/worlds, whether geographic, a pilot simulation, driving simulation or artistic simulation, can draw out from within you real emotions, movements, and engage you physical and cognitive capacities, then there is strong level of authenticity we can attach to these realities.

In contrast to a simulated digital world another alternate reality we can experience beyond our existential one is ‘augmented reality’.

Erick Schonfeld on Techcrunch.com explains that, “if virtual reality is a complete immersion in a digital world, augmented reality (AR) is more a digital overlay onto the real world.  It enhances the real world with digital data, and therefore it is much more interesting than a completely fabricated environment”. (Schonfeld, 2010)

Take for instance the following videos which depict how an augmented reality cinema app for the iPhone works through the digital overlay onto the existential, real world, and how Lego sets are created right in front of you:

Although the technology is different to that of ‘virtual reality’, the participants in each video had enhanced experiences, be it the movie clips on location or the lego set “brought to life”. As opposed to a simulation or copy, a digital overlay occurs. But does this make it any less realistic than virtual reality?

If in both instances we can process the different data and immerse ourselves in enhanced experiences, then we can say that reality has been extended. Drawing upon Week 4’s topic of the extended mind, if we extend our knowledge onto physical objects such as books, diaries, computers, and embed our knowledge in programs like a GPS navigation system, then can it not be argued that virtual or augmented realities are an extension of actual, existential reality?

I would argue that augmented reality would be a greater “extension of the mind” and extension upon actual reality than virtual because of the overlay of data on the physical environment, which correlates with embeding knowledge into technology.

Virtual realities can generate reactions, both emotional and physical, that are authentic. Augmented realities can do the same. The only difference in both is the bodily sense they target, be it sight, touch, sound, taste or smell.

These realities have the potential to be real, but whether they already exist naturally amongst physical, existential reality needs to be addressed before we can determine whether they are real.

References

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality> (one of the  better entries)

Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html>

‘IDEO Labs – Amazing 3D Immersion Technology”, YouTube.com, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ7QJwcdJmM>

Schonfeld, E (2010), ‘Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality: Which One Is More Real?’, techcrunch.com, <http://techcrunch.com/2010/01/06/augmented-reality-vs-virtual-reality/>

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

“Global Mnemotechnics”—Globalising Memory, Thinking and Action

How do perception, sensation, thinking and feelings relate? What is consciousness? What is attention?

In an interview with philosopher Alva Noe in 2008,  an explanation between the traditional understanding of how we think and perceive was contrasted against a modern, contemporary and new understanding. He stated:

“The traditional thought is that we perceive in order to act; when we act, we do it to perceive…[In contrast] the ability to move is at the very core of what it means to be a conscious perceiving agent…” (Noe, 2008)

What Noe was exploring was they way in which we understand the relationship between perception and sensation, thinking and feeling. The question this poses is: “Does thinking happen solely in the brain, or is the process of thinking something that extends beyond the muscle, beyond the organ in our head?”.

The notion of the ‘Extended Mind’, in which Clark and Chalmers identify an interrelating system between the body, mind and environment as opposed to notions of these entities being separate, is one way to approach  questions of how humans think and perceive. Furthermore, we need to “go out of our heads and look at the way we are embodied and also bound to and embedded in the world around us” (Noe, 2010).

Embodiment & Experience

Folders and university writing books with countless written notes and mind maps created during my last two years of study, along with my HSC studies, are shelved and organised around my room, either placed nicely in my shelves and bookcase, or stacked in a large plastic container and yet to be put away properly after having moved home weeks prior to the start of 2012.

Within these physical archives lay countless personal knowledge –  wriiten essays, notes and mindmaps dedicated to studies of journalism/media practice and theory, canonical English literature, the poetry of the 18th & 19th century English Romantics, and many more areas of study.

In line with the ‘extended mind’ theory, these archives of notes and essays are an extension of my mind; my extended memory. As Steigler (n. d) explains: ”

“To write a manuscript is to organise thought by consigning it outside in the form of traces, that is, symbols, whereby thought can reflect on itself, actually constituting itself, making itself repeatable and transmissible: it becomes knowledge”.

Unfortunately, while I retain some knowledge of the aforementioned topics, it is ambitious to say that my internal memory contains all that information within it to this day. The common motif of a student in contemporary society – a society where the flow of information is rapid and almost instantaenous due to new media technology, and thus drawing our attention from one thing to another – is that “I remember studying/reading that, but I’ve forgotten what I know”.

As such, my mind, has been extended onto those written notes and essays, those physical forms, and they are, in reality, my knowledge externalised beyond the boundaries of the mind. My understanding of how I think and perceive is no longer that of tradtitional, which separates the mind, body and environment, but an understandig that recognises how these work together as a system.

Stiegler (n. d) writes that “Human memory is originarily exteriorized, and that means that it is technical from the start”, giving rise to Chalmer and Kent’s notion of ‘active externalism’ (Wikimedia, 2012). In understanding mnemotechnics – the art of thinking – it is clear that thinking correlates with experience – and experience is, according to Noe (2008) “always necessarily embodied, environmentally situated, and spread out in time”.

Thinking is not only internal, but external; both mental and physical.

Industrialising Memory

The negative side of mnemotechnology – technology which we place our thinking in – is that memory becomes industrialised. As Steigler puts it:

” [the] more we delegate the execution of series of small tasks that make up the warp and woof of our lives to the apparatuses and services of modern industry, the more vain we become: the more we lose not only our know-how but our know-how-to-live-well”.

The analogy Steigler provides, that the more improved a car gets, such as with the addition of GPS, the less we know how to drive a car, because all the knowledge takes away the opportunity for us to engage with it using our memory, is worrying.

Yet essentially, the notion of an “external mind” for me relates to notion that the media is an externalisation of the mind, and that has both positive and negative consequences as a result of the interlation between media, cultural and social change.

References

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc> (about 9 minutes)

Dalton, S. (n.d.) ‘e sense’ <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHTtri5jGDc>

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>

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

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

Wikimedia 2012,

‘The Art Of Memory’, Wikipedia, last updated 6 December 2011, last accessed 18 March 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_of_memory>

‘The Extended Mind’, Wikipedia, last updated 22 Friday 2012, last accessed 16 March 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_Mind>

‘Mnemonic’, Wikipedia, last updated 8 March 2012, last accessed 18 March 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemonic>

 

Tags: , , , ,

“Ecologies”—Media Ecologies/Other “Ecologies”

Media Ecologies, Social Ecologies, Other “Ecologies”—What are “media”, “communications”, “interaction”, etc? How do our various concepts of these match up with what really happens?

The study of Media Ecologies, which Strate (1999) defines as “the study of media environments, the idea that technology and techniques, modes of information and codes of communication play a leading role in human affairs“, is not without it’s differences in how it is approached.

Marshall McLuhan’s understanding of media ecologies reflects his technological determinist view, in that “technology is the agent of social change” (Murphie & Potts, 2003) and that “the medium is the message”. It creates the views that:

  • Media infuse every act and action in society.
  • Media fix our perceptions and organize our experiences.
  • Media tie the world togehter.
  • ‘Ecologies’ refer to the enivironments, the social systems affected by media. (Wikimedia, 2012)

Media certainly ties the world together, and instigates social and cultural change in society, especially if we look at history in terms of the three inventions that transformed the world – the alphabet, the printing press, and the telegraph. We can see when observing history through categorical eras such as the Tribal, Literary, Print, Electronic, and now Digital ages, social and cultural practices were transformed immensely by the affordances the inventions created.

Yet, there is also the need to reflect the Cultural Materialism viewpoint, which expresses that (as I wrote in my previous post) Technology, on its own, cannot enact social or cultural change, and that social characteristics such as economics, politics, elites in power, and culture play a heavy role in how these new forms of media are implemented, adapted, and if at all used.

 As such, Neil Postman’s understanding of Media Ecologies, adapted from McLuhan’s work, provides a view that acknowledges the impact society has on media technologies, and thus, media ecologies.

“Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affects human perception, understanding, feeling, and value, as well as how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. The word ecology implies the study of environments: their structure, content, and impact on people” (Postman 1970)

As such, an understanding of ecologies as a society, a network, a connection of and between people and the environment, and different political, cultural and social ideologies, Postman’s understanding reflects a more interactive connection between the impacts media have on society and cultural change, and vice versa.

Journalism As A Media Ecosystem

It is through Postman’s understanding of Media Ecologies, where the media itself is not just an instrument, but an environment, that Journalism can be understood as a media ecosystem.Transformations in media in the last several decades have altered the current news-media landscape into one characterised by a multi-directional network of flows to and from producers and consumers, and one where media organisations begin to target a more active audience as opposed to a passive audience.

Journalist, author, and lecturer of Communications and Media Studies at the University of Western Sydney Milissa Deitz’s explains the Journalism as a media ecology:

“[Is] a phenomenon in which journalism is a joint project between journalists, non-journalists, accidental journalists, bloggers, politicians, celebrities, and the general public” (Deitz, 2010)

The Guardian’s most recent advertisement for their Open-Journalism explores how the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf would be understood and reported in modern society. It highlights how journalism is a joint project between the organisations and the public through multimedia use and interactivity. What it explores is an important issue in Journalism (and how the media ecology operates) – truth and accuracy in what is reported.

Journalism has transformed into a practice and medium that is no longer primarily built on journalists and news organisations disseminating information and setting the agenda, but one that is more open, interactive and convergent (in terms of multimedia use). Essentially, it is not just the medium that influences changes, but society and individuals decide how media technology evokes change. As Deitz (2010 suggests:

“…the contemporary media landscape is questioning and continuing to question the conventional frameworks for analysing and reporting on culture, politics and society” (Deitz, 2010)

The media ecology that is Journalism is one where not only those affected by the media constitute the ecology, or the environment, but the media is the environment as well. The video shows people not just accepting newspaper headlines such as ‘Big Bad Wolf Boiled Alive’, or broadcast reports entitled ‘Three Little Pigs Arrested for Wolf Murder’ which presents one perspective, but audiences are interacting via Twitter, questioning whether killing an intruder is ever justified, and revealing information such as the wolf having Asthma. This demonstrates the multi-directional relationship being achieved in the Digital Age, and how journalism is evolving as a media ecology that focuses on the revelation of truth in news reporting. It’s an assemblage that functions both socially and mechanically.

References

Deitz, Milissa (2010) ‘The New Media Ecology’, On Line Opinion: Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate <http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=11410&page=1>

The Guardian 2012, ‘Guardian Open Journalism – Three Little Pigs Advert’, Youtube, published 29 Feb 2012, <http://youtu.be/vDGrfhJH1P4>

Media Ecology Association 2009, ‘What is Media Ecology?’, last accessed 10 March 2012’ <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/>

–  Postman,N, 1970, “The Reformed English Curriculum.” in A.C. Eurich, ed., High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary   Education, as posted on Media Ecology Association 2009, ‘What is Media Ecology?’, last accessed 10 March 2012’ <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/>

– Strate, L, “Understanding MEA,” In Medias Res 1 (1), Fall 1999, as posted on Media Ecology Association 2009, ‘What is Media Ecology?’, last accessed 10 March 2012’ <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/>

Thussu, D K, 2006, ‘Contraflow in Global Media’ in International Communication: Continuity and Change (2nd Edition), London, Hodder Education, pgs 167-193

Wikimedia 2012,  ‘Media Ecology’, Wikipedia last updated 5 March 2012, last accessed 10 March 2012  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Media_ecology>

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Media Change/Cultural and Social Change – Foundations, Thinkers, Ideas

What Is The Catalyst For Changes & Transformation In Media, Culture & Society? Is It Socio-Cultural Factors, Or New Technology?

When people ask the questions, “Why is print media dying?” or,  “Why do people prefer to read their newspaper through an iPad app?”, the common answer is: “Because everything is online”. But the real questions we should be asking are: “Why Is Everything Online”? and “Who or What Determined That Print Must Die, and Digital Must Reign”?

The same thoughts can be applied to the use of Twitter, which has now become a present day journalists ‘must-need’ tool. “Why must we communicate in 140 characters or less?” Is it because the development of the technology has determined that everyone should communicate in short form, using a mix of hyperlinks, mentions and hashtags? Is it because society needed a tool to successfully communicate in 140 characters or less?

Questions such as these have been asked and analysed by many theorists about media and cultural changes throughout the last few centuries. While the answers to questions like this can be complex, there are two ways we can aim to develop an understanding and our own critical thought.

Technological Determinism

Technological Determinism advances the argument that “technology is the agent of social change” (Murphie & Potts, 2003). The theory is built on the notion that “a successful technical innovation, if implemented on a sufficiently wide scale, will generate a new type of society” through its own power and autonomy (Murphie & Potts, 2003).

Marshall McLuhan further extends this understanding through his proposal that ‘the medium is the message’. As Murphie and Potts (2003) explain, “McLuhan argues that the cultural significance of media lies not in their content, but in the way they alter our perception of the world”.

To use my own example, the introduction of digital and online media such as websites, apps and Twitter has transformed 21st century society into one dependant on instantaneous information. As such, print journalism begins to become redundant as newspaper websites can update information almost instantaneously, and this goes with television and radio broadcasts, whilst print news only becomes available once the paper is printed and distributed. Newspapers are now seen as primary for ‘analysis’ of news stories as a result.

The introduction of journalists has transformed the profession into one that requires one to apt in most, if not all cross-media forms. A “convergent” journalist must be able to film video, take photos, interview, produce audio content, and write for print, online & broadcast. As such,Twitter has transformed the industry and the expectations of journalists as they must now know how to tweet all their information to get the story out first.

Cultural Materialism

In the book Tragedy of Technology, Stephen Hill wrote that:

“Technological Change…is not, by itself, productive of social change. Instead, the direction of change is a product of the particular alignment between the technological possibilities and the society and culture that exists”.

The notion of Cultural Materialism expresses that Technology, on its own, cannot enact social or cultural change, and that social characteristics such as economics, politics, elites in power, and culture play a heavy role in how these new forms of media are implemented, adapted, and if at all used.

For example, Media Ownership gives elites the power to disseminate their political views and opinions through their programming and print media. Rupert Murdoch’s decision to implement paywalls in front of his online newspaper content challenges the widespread notion of the sharing content online, and now impacts the way digital media must work and develop to meet this need.

Essentially, technologies come about because there is a cultural or social need for them.

Summary & Thoughts

In understanding how changes in media, culture and society arise, a multi-directional ‘Cause & Effect’ relationship emerges, as media impacts society and culture, and vice versa.

It is from within the needs and wants of the social and the cultural that new media technologies emerge. While these new media forms are imperative in how they change cultural and social media practices and how they evolve the media industry, be it in the print, digital, broadcast, public relations and other sectors, the impact and effect of a new media form remains heavily dependant on how we use these technologies.

People do not solely follow the Hypodermic Model/Media Effects where they consume everything, but they are active, choose what they use media for (hence, Uses & Gratifications theory).

If media forms are used by people in different  or additional ways to what they were initially made for, technologies are not neutral,  transformable; adaptable to social and cultural desires. Simultaneously, while being subject to change, they themselves are agents of change.

References

Bauwens, Michel (2009) ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ <http://vimeo.com/7919113>

Jeffries, Stuart (2011) ‘Friedrich Kittler and the rise of the machine’, The Guardian, December 28, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/28/friedrich-kittler-rise-of-the-machine>

Miller, W, (2008) ‘Non Sequitur’ <http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2008/05/09/>

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,