Week 2 – Lifestream Synthesis

This week I have been continuing making my way through the reading list for Block 1 and further exploring cybercultures.

I enjoyed our second group session on Togethertube and initially I found the viewings a little harder to make sense of compared to last week. However, after watching them a few times I noticed some similarities between them. The majority of clips demonstrated machines/robots communicating in a human like manner and being capable of humanlike independent thought – certainty far more advanced then the binary operation usually associated with them.

I’ve also spend some more time in thinking about the impact technology has had on life and culture. I’ve been considering old ways of life and how they have been modernised by use of technology. Some tasks have been made more efficient, some quicker, some cheaper, some have replaced people all together.

I have been giving some attention to virtual reality and how our senses can be manipulated to have better than life experiences. This was inspired by the Sterne reading and his example of sound being overlooked in favour of virtual artefacts in the creation of virtual worlds.

Furthermore, I have been reflecting on some of the issues surrounding equality and inequality as a result of cyberculture. It is quite overwhelming to think of the influence technology has had over just about everything and scary to realise some problems we have created in pursuit of digital excellence.

 

Who really benefits from cybercultures?

I have recently finished reading Hand’s ‘Hardware to everyware: Narratives of promise and threat’ and once again I am mind-boggled at the impact that technological advances have had not only on the individual, but on a global scale. It feels as though my thoughts and feelings are now finely balanced on a see-saw as I am unable to decide on who cyberculture (as we know it now) ultimately benefits.

To quote Hand (2008):

“Power in digital culture indexes an increasing tendency toward the total surveillance and administration of society, now conducted through globally gathered and sorted information. The results of this will paradoxically be greater insecurity, an intense amplification of existing social divisions, and the consumerization of democratic citizenship” (Hand, 2008, p 39)

On one hand (excuse the pun), I am excited and optimistic about the opportunities that digital cultures will provide people with. It is truly thrilling that technology allows us to connect with people across the world that we would never have been able to without it. From this arises empowerment of the human race to achieve what may at one point have been unthinkable. As I have acknowledged in my previous blog posts it is almost impossible to imagine any real barriers to what can be achieved.

On the other hand, however, there are real threats and dangers that have arisen from our craving to introduce technology into everything. Similar to the real and physical world there are some negative and counteractive influences over digital cultures. An example of such would be the so-called “Dark Web” in which, metaphorically speaking, can be considered the digital equivalent of the underworld. Having conducted some brief research of the Dark Web, I learned that it can be summarised as an encrypted version of the internet where people can mask their true identities and locations to engage in online activity that would be considered inappropriate (if not illegal) in normal circumstances.

Hand would suggest that digital influence merely exaggerates and amplifies the characteristics of society. If true, then inevitably we will have to look beyond the romantic notion of technology as an enhancement to everything and consider the possibility that there may be unwanted implications too. I noted that Hand also made reference to global inequalities and the effect that digitisation has on widening gaps that exist between existing cultures. I was reminded of a personal experience from a few years ago when I was sat at a bar on the island of Boracay, Philippines. On one side of the bar sat a young English family whose 6 year old boy was entertaining himself by playing on an iPad. On the opposite side of the bar was a Filipino boy of a similar age who was trying to make money for his family by selling handmade personalised bracelets. It was a sobering experience to witness such inequality between to boys whose only main difference was the culture in which they grew up. Until now I hadn’t considered the role that technology played in creating this inequality.

I guess that I am concluding that as long as there is human influence in cybercultures then it is difficult to determine who ultimately benefits. Perhaps there is no sole beneficiary but instead a new set of opportunities and problems for everyone. And everything.


References

Hand, M. (2008). Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat. In Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. (Aldershot, Ashgate): pp. 15-42.

 

Digital senses

I have recently finished reading Sterne’s ‘The hystiograpgy of cyberculture’ and was intrigued by some of the thought-provoking suggestions that he offered. When I think of a cyborg I picture a half human/half machine hybrid that has all the personal qualities of a person blended with the enhanced offerings of robotics.

What initially I didn’t think of was the way in which technology can enhance our senses. I appreciate that the focus of Sterne’s piece was of the making of history and the timeline of technological integration, and he clearly states that he is merely using sound as an example to re-enforce his point – however I think his analogy is worthy of reflection.

I recently attended a conference on assistive technologies and one of the keynote speakers, Gareth Ford Williams – Head of Accessibility for the BBC – described the public broadcaster’s efforts to enhance their radio transmissions towards a modernised and futuristic sounding “3D Radio”. In short, they are adopting technology to manipulate our brain’s interpretation of sound to create a better than life experience and to immerse people in transmission rather than passively listening.

3D Radio Video (Kelly 2016):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03smbxv

The same can be said for virtual reality. Our sense of sight is being manipulated to take us to places that we couldn’t otherwise go. 3D technologies allow us to explore internal organs in their functioning form and explore geographical location outwits our reach.  I would suggest that mechanical enhances the physical, virtual enhances the spiritual.

But  to what extent to the physical and spiritual need to be enhanced for us to concede that whether we like it or not, technological advances are becoming an integral part of our every day lives and society? Perhaps we have reached the glass ceiling of humanity where we have reached our potential but see and crave the need for more.

I have also been considering the histiography of cyberculture that Sterne proceeds to investigate. He mentions transition from analogue to digital – To that I’d add digital immigrants to digital natives, human to cyborg, offline to online and physical to virtual.


References

Kelly, S. (2016). The head giving you 3D VR sound. Retrieved: 26 January 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03smbxv

By: Stuart Milligan

Hi Daniel,

I liked this post. I have been considering my views on some of the key questions that you raised:

Should we embrace technological advances to prolong and improve quality of life?
In my opinion, longevity – yes. Immortality no. I think that technology can improve quality of life far beyond the limits that we could achieve ourselves.

Where should we stop?
Can we stop?

Has our technological power outpaced our ability to make informed moral choices?
Would you agree that technology has shaped us as a race and as a society. That we want everything instantaneously at our fingertips?

Will it create further conflict and inequality and society?
I think it could solve some issues too – but certainly yes – I think that technology offers people an alias to escape the boundaries set by society.

from Comments on: Miller – The Body and Information Technology http://ift.tt/2jMj1FK
via IFTTT

How did the world function 20 years ago?

It’s hard to imagine back as little as 20 years and how different everyday communication was. The world seems a much faster and more efficient place. But at what cost?

It seems at the cost of the fundementals of society. An app to make sure that we don’t forget our manners and common decency?  I noticed this today: New app helps pregnant commuters find a seat on public transport, but it needs your help

The next time you are on a bus or a train, take notice at how many people are pre-occupied with some form of technology. You will struggle to find many who aren’t.


References

Another187, 2016. Instagram. Available at http://www.instagram.com. Accessed 23 January 2017.

Week 1 – Lifestream synthesis

The first week of Education and Digital Cultures has been really quite incredible. Not only because I am in awe at the technologies that we have been using but also the idea of cyberculture and posthumanism.

It really does boggle the mind trying to comprehend the influence that technology has on today’s society and culture, both from the perspectives of where we would be without it and the seemingly limitless places that it will take us to. It is just as difficult trying to imagine a boundary where the human race would be willing to slow technological progress and go it alone.

It is well documented that machines can make us bigger, better, faster, stronger and push us well beyond our physical capabilities, but this week I have been considering the spiritual side of machinism. Can what makes us unique and individual be enhanced through technology? There certainly seems to be an expectation that machine intervention will inevitably lead to improvement. However there is a danger that it can damage the qualities in life that make us function as humans (love, compassion, kindness etc).

Perhaps this is why this week I have noticed a paradox in human beings craving advancement but seemingly unwilling to forgo dominance that they have over the universe – and to that end I introduce you to my new friends Siri, Cortana and Alexa.

Machines help us reach limits that we simply wouldn’t be able to reach on our own. But do they help us develop as a race?