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May 31, 2011 / graceunsw

Media and Me

Kind of like Marly and Me…but not as cute.

As I near the end of my Bachelor of Media (Communications and Journalism) degree I feel that this post provides a useful opportunity for me to express my complex feelings towards the industry at the present time. To be honest, for the most part I feel somewhat ambivalent about the future, and where I can see myself positioned in it.

Obviously there are opportunities inherent in this state of flux that is persisting at the present time. I have learnt extensively about the pervasiveness of new media in all aspects of social and cultural organisation, and the enormous potential this enacts in terms of possible career paths and affecting positive change in the world.

By the same token, many of my traditional understandings about what it is that media can achieve have been completely rewritten. If citizens are now journalists and twitter can start a revolution, where does that leave a media practitioner? It all seems quite uncertain at the moment, although I guess this may breed new roles for media, and offer a lot more potential.

I think it is quite certain that in light of all the change and development occurring at present, media is more vital to our sense of self and society than ever before.

It seems that, going forward into the future, one issue that will be increasingly important (and difficult) to maintain is the essence of our humanity in the face of technology and science. Aaron Koblin, in his TED talk entitled ‘Artfully visualizing our humanity,’ provides an excellent illustration of how they can be married:

May 24, 2011 / graceunsw

Media and Art – imagining the future

Ah, the future. Whilst I myself would not even want to begin to hypothesise the nature of our world even five years from now, I think some very important insights can be gleaned by artists, who attempt to capture their vision for the world, albeit from a highly subjective viewpoint.

The Emergence Collective has attempted to “explore questions about the future of art, both in regard to its aesthetics, production, finance, curation, distribution and collection” through their documentary ‘The future of art.’ Perhaps the most important conclusion that I gleaned from this film was that, increasingly, people, as the producers of content and information, are beginning to take over the role of curation that was once afforded to those in positions of power and authority. This democratisation sees people archiving and designing their own histories, which is an incredibly unique process that is highly intrinsic to the 21st century.

One of my favourite artists is a musician who is deeply involved in such processes. His work raises important questions about the nature of what constitutes art and media in the 21st century, and as such has been highly controversial. The artist I am talking about is Gregg Gillis (better known as Girl Talk), who specialises in mashups and digital sampling of popular songs. Gillis’s work has been criticised by media such as The New York Times as being a “lawsuit waiting to happen,” however I believe that this is completely ignoring the point he is trying to make with his work.

Pitting old and new media against each other is both counter-productive and, more so, a redundant argument at the present time. It seems obvious now that there are aspects inherent in new media that are compatible with the benefits of old, and aspects that are fundamentally at odds with each other. In terms of the future, at this stage I believe it is more important to work on solutions that cater for bridging the gap in between media institutions, with the focus on celebrating innovation and creativity rather than pursuing litigious actions for little societal gain.

References:

Gabriel 2011, The Future of Art, Emergence Collective, accessed 24 May 2011, <http://www.emergence.cc/2011/02/the-future-of-art/>

Walker, R 2008, Mash Up Model, The New York Times, accessed 24 May 2011, <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/magazine/20wwln-consumed-t.html>

 

May 10, 2011 / graceunsw

Science, media and technology

Science and media are at the forefront of enacting social and cultural change and development. Kevin Kelly blogged about this, noting that “right now, with the advance of communication technology and computers, we have entered a new way of knowing. The thrust of the technium’s trajectory is to further organize the avalanche of information and tools we are generating and to increase the structure of the made world.”

New media is fundamentally transforming science, technology and innovation, which has profound impacts on how we function as a society. To take a recent example, I recently came across a billboard on a bus stop with the headline ‘what if there was something about you?’ that directed people to sign up to a national breast cancer registry. The implications this could have for the future are enormous, offering immense potential for archiving and understanding the conditions that may give rise to cancer, and contributing to it’s prevention and ultimate cure.

This highlights the tendency of new media to operate in a predictive capacity, attempting to visualise the future and respond to it in the present. Obviously, there are benefits inherent to this. However, any understanding of this must also be tempered by the reality of the destabilising nature of these new technologies. Elizabeth Pisani, a journalist and “sometime researcher” for The Guardian stated that “support for data management, development of infrastructure, [and] resources for curation of data” is crucial to seeing the benefits of data sharing realized in the 21st century.

Although we may be on our way, I think there is still a while to go before science, media and the human mind can be reconciled fully.

 

References:

Kelly, K 2010, Evolving the Scientific Method: Technology is Changing the Way We Conduct Science, accessed 10 May 2011, <http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57831/>

Pisani, E 2011, Medical Science Will Benefit from the Research of Crowds, The Guardian, accessed 1o May 2011, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing>

May 3, 2011 / graceunsw

web 2.0/gov 2.0 and its implications

Media has fundamentally changed society and our interactions, and has in many ways become a force for revolution. As I blogged about in my last post, the situation in Egypt and Libya is just the beginning of publics harnessing media for their advancement, and cannot be underestimated. Social media is changing our world, with consequences both positive and negative, that I am sure will play out in interesting public debates over the next few years.

The Coalition of the Willing wiki provides a useful illustration of this new tendency of social organisation. It suggests the practical steps media and individuals can take, independent from government, to effect change. Their wiki also features a great film which goes into their motivations and goals in a more detailed way. Although aspects of this film were a little optimistic, it was quite inspiring, and perhaps the most important lesson it teaches is that action can begin on a small scale, which may eventually have far reaching implications.

We are already beginning to see the power people can have without government influence in issues big and small around the world. Perhaps a new revolution is upon us. With a participatory media culture and populace that is educated and can make informed decisions on their future, one can only begin to imagine the potential for change being generated in this time of flux.

References:

Coalition of the Willing wiki, 11 May 2011, accessed 4 June 2011, <http://cotw.cc/wiki/Coalition_of_the_Willing>

April 19, 2011 / graceunsw

Politics of/and Media

The dynamic interplay between governments, their constituents and the media has had important implications in both powerful and disruptive ways. A recent example of this is how the recent political uprising in Egypt mobilised the affordances of new media and the conventions of traditional media in order to create a new kind of media event (perhaps heralding the future of how such issues will play out).

This coupling of old and new media tends to be discussed in absolute terms in much of the public discourse surrounding current issues. I would like to question this, however, as I wonder if it has to be one or the other? If so, how can they coexist and what are the implications of this for the future?

Social media is often dismissed as a trend or fleeting tool that does not really wield any power and cannot effect change. I think we are beginning to see that this is a somewhat naive view, in that increasingly social media has become not only a means of organisation, but rather THE means of organisation people live by.

Social media is what instigates the people. I think the challenge is translating the situation from the virtual world to the real world and not the virtual world.

Nikki Usher states that “the media ecology now involves a complex interplay between social media, streaming internet, and mainstream media, which are all working together to create a much larger, more nuanced picture of the live broadcasting of history.”

She furthers that, overall, this may constitute a “shift from simple documentation to interactivity”, providing both threats and opportunities for the mediasphere in a hyper-globalised world with constant media cycle.

 

References:

Bergstrom, G n.d., Egypt: The First Twitter Revolution?, About.com, accessed 30 May 2011, <http://marketing.about.com/od/crisis_communication/a/egypt-mubarak-power-in-social-media.htm>

Usher, N 8 February 2011, How Egypt’s Uprising is Helping Redefine the Idea of a Media Event, Nieman Lab, accessed 20 May 2011, <http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/>

March 31, 2011 / graceunsw

Mediated Reality

What is reality now? What produces it? These are arguably some of the most important questions of our time, yet are also some of the most difficult to grapple with.

Immediately, when I think of reality, and the constant intersection of virtual and real human experiences, I think of Peter Weir’s 1998 film ‘The Truman Show.’

This film is a (somewhat prophetic) example of the way that media interferes in the production and construal of reality, and the implications this has for both the individual and society. Murphie (2004, p.130) suggests that “we are dealing with a media culture in which there is an increased awareness that all the virtual structures that invisibly inhabit networked ecologies produce dynamic form and this feeds back into that which produces it.” This follows on from what I wrote in my last post about mnemotechnics, particularly that about the intrinsic connection between the mind, the body and the environment.

In my lifetime, I have been part of a society that is deeply fascinated with the notion of what constitutes reality, and how it can be subverted. I have grown up in the world of Big Brother, Second Life and Facebook, and have seen these unconventional realities (and a myriad of other examples) become integrated into daily life. This of itself is not overly surprisingly, and could be dismissed as just a twenty-first century case of a fad taking hold of the human psyche. What I believe is most important to this, is the nature of this integration, and the specific characteristics of reality that are conducive to its subversion.

Media is fundamental to our reality, in terms of intervention, exploitation, extension, substitution and rearrangement of our subjective experiences of the world.The more I think about this, the greater potential I see in it as a research topic to explore in much greater detail on another platform.

References:

Facebook in Real Life, 2008, online video, accessed 31 March 2011, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrFdOz1Mj8Q>

Murphie, A 2004, ‘The World as Clock: The Network Society and Experimental Ecologies,’ Topia, volume 11, pp.117-139

Second Life – the online 3D virtual world, 2009, online video, accessed 31 March 2011, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3gHCupXSMs>

The History of Big Brother, n.d., Big Brother World, accessed 31 March 2011, <http://www.bigbrother.com.au/history>

The Truman Show trailer, 1998, online video, accessed 31 March 2011, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkZM2oWcleM&feature=related>

March 22, 2011 / graceunsw

Global Mnemotechnics

Mnemotechnics – aiding or meant to aid one’s memory (Collins Compact Australian Dictionary 2000, p.548).

Andy Clark and David Chalmers established two main principles that are at the heart of mnemotechnics, in their seminal paper ‘The Extended Mind’

1. The distortion of the past, present and future (and the effect of their increasingly blurred boundaries)

2. The connection between mind, body, and the environment.

Firstly, the distortion of the past, present and future. The effect of technology on people’s capability to retain memories cannot be overstated. Media technologies consciously play into the human experience, and have, as David Chalmers states “rapidly become a very important part of our cognitive processes…taking over many important functions that used to be performed within the mind,” which may be seen, on an everyday level, with the iPhone. The iPhone serves as a repository of many aspects of our everyday experiences (if not all of them) such as music, phone numbers, emails and photos, which suggests that the object has indeed become an extension of the mind.

This has ramifications for the notion of retention. Husserl delineates between three branches of retention, explained by Carr (1987, p.252) as:

1.Primary – the near present/most recent memories

2. Secondary – the state of recalling a moment from the past

3. Tertiary – the increasing reliance on external supports, namely media.

It will be interesting to see the effect/affect tertiary retention will have on the dynamic relationship between mind, body and the environment. Already, I think we are seeing some of the early struggles that attempting to bridge the internal retention (primary and secondary) of humans with the profoundly machinic tertiary retention technologies of recent times has engendered, and this will only continue. Although this video is slightly futuristic (and, to be honest, a little frightening), it does make some important points about the way things seem to be heading…

It is clear that while our assumptions about mnemonics are inherently rooted in traditional media, ways of thinking, memory, action, thought processes, feeling, habit and sensation have all been externalised. Mediated interference in our daily lives has disembodied the mind, and whilst we may not be cyborgs yet, it is not too difficult to imagine a future where that is the reality.

References:

Beyond Human: The Cyborg Revolution, 2008, online video, accessed 22 March 2011, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urVXWUD8Q3Y>

Carr, D 1987, Interpreting Husserl: Critical and Comparative Studies, e-book,  accessed 22 March 2011, <http://books.google.com.au/books?id=XC7mBPMF4sAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=david+carr+interpreting+husserl&source=bl&ots=ToUFlg-gQu&sig=UVkSvMaHosv3ilZeEcfdtZdTmXE&hl=en&ei=dA-VTbXbGYm4ce-OnakH&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false>

Chalmers, D, Clark, A 1998, The Extended Mind, consc.net, accessed 22 March 2011, <http://consc.net/papers/extended.html>

Collins Compact Australian Dictionary 2000, Mnemonic, Harper Collins Publishers, Sydney