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My posts that I think are best for other Dig Ed students to comment on. You are of course welcome to comment on anything else.

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger and some other cyber tunes

Daft Punk – A band that constantly illustrate the tension between “human” and “electronic”. The desire to have the “feel” of live musicians playing together but still have the huge sound palate and power of electronic synth sounds.

The human side is best exemplified by this, which is almost chiding other more generic EDM producers who came in the wake of Daft Punk’s eventual breaking of the US. (for reference)

The electronic side of DP here.  It almost feels like the music was always in the machines and Daft Punk were just turning it loose. 2.55 for the synth drop. Oh my.

Perhaps the most interesting Daft Punk track in terms between the relationship between past and future is this. Definitely “the sound of past’s future”.

As Simon Reynolds points out “There’s a story about when [Donna Summer’s Moroder-produced] I Feel Love came out, Brian Eno heard it and grabbed a copy and ran around to David Bowie’s house and went ‘David, David, I’ve heard the future!’….but nobody is going to say of Giorgio By Moroder… nobody is going to rush around to anyone’s house and say ‘I’ve heard the future’. There’s something very poignant about the fact that Giorgio Moroder and Daft Punk collaborate but they don’t actually do anything mind-blowing. They just do this rather sweet pastiche of something from 1977…(it’s) all about making the music of the future – but that becomes a memory.”

Devo – A past representation of what was imagined to be future music. The tension between “human” uncontrollable urges and the promise of robotic neurotic cleanliness. Watch for the singer beating his chest like a heartbeat.

Gogo Penguin – More current futuristic ish music. Live jazz instrumentation but written using music software. The ending from 5.31 onwards is particularly stunning. The sound of a CD/record skipping encorporated into a live performance. A feature of errors in a defunct media format is then made to be part of the music! Not a wholly new idea e.g. John Cage but still a good one.

 

Mememory 2.0

I’ll keep the typo in the title, it’s nice. Meme-memory. It could be a Gibson like neologism. Although I would have to write a prescient cult novel to go with it, which is highly unlikely. What could mememory be? Nostalgia for transient pop culture clips from your youth? E.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQHPYelqr0E

Could it be the way memories spread from person to person if through re-telling? So that your own personal memory gradually gets warped by the group memory of your peers and society? e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fat_Years or at least I think this will be an example. I haven’t read it yet and don’t want to read the Wikipedia summary. My mum told me she ordered it me for Christmas but it still hasn’t arrived yet.

 

Memory 2.0

Seems fairly similar to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. As the youtube comments suggest:

StevenGaspard2 years ago

Umm… I saw this movie already… It was called Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind…

herpderpmonkey1 year ago (edited)

+OrbGoblin But saying it’s standing on its own two feet? There’s no way, way too many similarities. Even ignoring the identical plot devices and the style. The sound design and some of the sequences are distinctly “Eternal Sunshine”.

 

I particularly agree with the comment about the sound design. If you want to evoke psychedelic dreamyness use a few reversed sounds and long ambient sine wave synths. Textbook.

It also made me wonder about algorithmic cultures and whether this script went through the “similar to big blockbusters” algorithm that is mentioned in here (or possibly here, I can’t remember which).

Did this get approved because it has so many of the similar features? Probably not because it is only the entry for a short film competition so they probably don’t have the financial clout to hire the firm that owns that algorithm.

 

 

Going Live!

I can also totally see why facebook are advertising this feature. Livestreaming is not yet normalised on an individual level within society. Football matches, press conferences, gigs, etc, sure but not most people’s everyday lives. If they can make their platform ubiquitous for livestreaming it’ll be another huge slice of personal data they can capture about their audience, as well as further embedding their service within people’s daily lives. More data, more accurately targeted adverts, more revenue for facebook. So yes, other features can just be rolled out without fanfare but this is getting pushed hard.

These adverts are dotted around bus stops in Edinburgh. Every time I see one I think of two sci fi novels. Thinking about it, it makes sense to look at films and music and how they influenced cyberculture at the start of the course. Certainly my own reactions to new technology are informed by my previous engagement with pop culture sci-fi. Anyway, here are the two novels I am reminded of:

1.) Supersadtruelovestory by Gary Shyteyngart – In it there are several side characters who spend their entire time livestreaming, even to the extent that the protagonist cannot meet them in a bar without them streaming their entire conversation.

“One of Lenny’s best friends dates a woman “who spends about seven hours a day streaming about her weight” (her show’s signature line is “Hey, girlfriend, gots muffintop?”) Another friend streams critiques of U.S. foreign policy “intermixed with his own hardcore gay sex.”

I’ve read this book several times and think it’s great. I’ve not met anyone else who has read it or persuaded anyone I know to read it so I’ve never had a chance to talk about it with anyone.

2.) Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

“How to go LIVE when you and your droogs are kicking some grazzy chelloveck to death! It’s real horrowshow!”

I wonder what algorithms facebook has in place for censoring and policing livestreams. Will it really just allow anything to go live and then claim that they are the platform for the content rather than the producers, so therefore not responsible?

Just went and read this

Apparently facebook took down a video depicting police brutality just as it was going viral. Similar issues to the furor over whether twitter gamed occupy wall street to stop it from trending. The opaqueness of algorithms and how their black boxing make people suspect censorship.

So in short, yes, facebook are still arguing they are the platform not producers. And it will put moral responsibility on individuals to not look at videos that potentially disturbing or controversial. This get-out clause certainly hasn’t stopped the use of beheading videos as an effective terrorist weapon. Once seen they can’t be unseen. A simple warning that the video contains graphic content is not the same as asking people to consider the complex cost and benefits of using a visual format to inform themselves about issues.

Neat definition of Cyberculture

Frow and Morris (2000: 316), define culture neatly as ‘a network of embedded practices and representations (texts, images, talk, codes of behavior, and the narrative structures organizing these) that shapes every aspect of social life’. Cyberculture therefore refers here to ways of life in cyberspace, or ways of life shaped by cyberspace, where cyberspace is a matrix of embedded practices and representations.

http://www.ids-uva.nl/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Cyberculture-Theorists-Manuel-Castells-and-Donna-Haraway.pdf

 

Lifestreaming and mental health

So from the about lifeblogging link suggested in the course handbook I ended up looking at the Quantified Self conference, this guy presented his deeply wrongheaded and creepy software at the conference:

http://quantifiedself.com/projects/1038

From the off, I oppose the ultimate assumption he makes that life is about maximising your happiness. This is overly utilitarian and needlessly devalues the worth of other emotional experiences that are essential to the human experience. Putting the futility of his overall aim aside, I have three other criticisms, to whit;

First, it is worth questioning whether happiness can be measured in the ways he suggests. At several points in his presentation he mentions in passing that the measurements can be adjusted to the individual depending on the weighting they give each metric. So the usefulness of his software relies on the mindboggling assumption that a person can know exactly what makes them happy and by how much in terms of opportunity cost.

Second, the measurements totally ignore personal context. For example, travel is assumed to increase your mental well-being but what if you have to travel across the country to attend the funeral of a relative? This would increase your score but would it really make you happier?

Third, the measurements also ignore societal context. By relentlessly focusing on personal data Milburn ignores the possibility that humans are social animals and that our mental health can be affected by our position in a wider society. Status anxiety exacerbated by societal income inequality can be a major factor in mental health (https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/mental-health), yet this is not reflected in his metrics.

What this boils down to is that Milburn confuses correlation with causation and then solely focuses on the factors that tracking technology makes the easiest to quantify.

As ever, this leads me back to music. A soundtrack:

“Karma Police arrest this man, he talks in maths, he buzzes like a fridge, he’s like a detuned radio”

 

Possible implications of google’s improved translation AI:

1.) Less paid work for professional translators as there is now a free service that can provide near human translation

 

Q: Will google translate ever be accepted as an “official” translation by governments?

When my wife applied for her visa we paid a considerable sum to have an official, government approved translation of our flat lease in China (even though my wife could have done just a good a job translating it). Technologies fit with current social structures is an important factor in whether they are adopted on mass.

 

2.) Potential monopolies and force feeding the algorithm.

 

As it stands google does not charge for its’ translation services. If the AI is really that good that it gradually replaces other translation services do we not risk giving too much market power to google. What’s to stop them from charging once the market place is cleared out?

Also, although the service is free what google gets from you is more data for the algorithm to work from. Presumably google then owns the original text you inputted as well as translation and will do what they want with it. This is quite different from professional, human based translation services where there are ethical guidelines preventing the retention of client’s documents. Is that a price we are willing to pay?

Probably.

 

3.) Easier translation but loss of nuance and cultural knowledge? Does this matter as long as it is “good enough” for quick jobs?

 

Just because the words are translated accurately into your language doesn’t mean that text can be understood. Metaphor, similes, cultural references, all of these require extra knowledge which a free translation service cannot provide. For example, you could translate 知音 as “bosom friend” as google translate currently does.  This is a perfectly functional as a translation, within one context. But 知音 can also be translated as “soulmate” and has an elaborate etymology that google translate does nothing to reveal.

知音 refers to story from the warring states period. A nobleman called Boya was playing his guqin when he was overheard by a simple woodcutter, Zhong Ziqi. To the nobleman’s amazement this common and unsophisticated woodsman could appreciate his refined playing and describe exactly what images were in the nobleman’s mind when he played. The woodcutter and the nobleman were each others’ 知音. The person who knows the sound of your heart. A different English idiom could apply here “someone who speaks my language”. But you don’t get that option from google (it was from teaching my wife this idiom that led her to teach me 知音). I know enough Chinese to know to do a web search for 知音 and remind myself of the etymology but someone using google translate who hadn’t spent time trying to learn Chinese wouldn’t know to do that.

Doing a google web search for 知音 led me to some interesting results. I’ve given you my version of the 知音story above, here is someone else’s version, here is another. They all tell the same story but in different ways and with different nuances. The third story simplifies the implied social relationship between the Boya and Zhong Ziqi to an overly blunt “they had nothing in common”. Now I also know that guqin is an instrument that is strongly linked with upper class literati and so I tried to get across the class difference between the two characters in a subtler fashion.

As this story dates back to the warring states period there is no definitive version, all three interpretations are valid. However, this kind of complex “fuzzy” epistemology is anathema to algorithmic thinking. In order to be incorporated into an algorithm meaning has to be made precise so that the data can be tagged and searchable. This can be problematic, not only in terms of epistemology but also with regards to hidden agendas for excluding data. For instance, let’s assume that google translate is going to become even more sophisticated and can eventually start to draw upon folklore and etymology to give flexible, nuanced translations. Which version of the 知音 story does it choose as the “correct” story for its database? As google has a financial motivation to increase revenue from targeted advertising they would want to keep you within its network of services, thus it is feasible they would select the third story for their database as it is published on googleplus. This goes against my judgement of the third story as the least helpful for understanding 知音. Relevance is entirely subjective and problematic for algorithms.