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?
In recent years there has been a sharp increase in online dating services which rise in tandem with global craving for technology. I guess this can be used as a prime example of cybercuture.
Recently I have been reading about cyborgs and the concept of human-machine hybrids achieving far more than the traditional, organic human – at least from a physical perspective. This, however, prompted me to think about the influence that machine (and indeed technology) has on the mental state of the human form.
The music video embedded within this post is a light hearted sketch of an unpopular, middle aged man exaggerating his physical attributes to attract the opposite sex in online dating environments.
I suddenly remembered studying the concept of presence during my first semester on MSc Digital Education whilst enrolled on Introduction to Digital Environments. Back then I considered digital personas and opportunities that online environments afforded people to change their characteristics to create an idealistic version of themselves. I did not, however, consider the influence this practice has on a wider scale – in particular its contribution to cyberculture.
Technology affords us the opportunity for change. Is that change necessarily always for the better? Does it remove barriers and expectations that are placed upon us in the physical world and in everyday society?
I think that there is a misconception that with technology comes progress. Sure, we may become faster, smarter and more efficient. But what about the qualities that make us who we are? Kindness, honest. Love?
Is online dating better and more advanced than the traditional method? I’m not so sure.
Last night I enjoyed my first experience of Togethertube with my fellow students. It was fun to have conversations during the films even if it did seem a little odd to begin with. On initial reflection, I wondered if Togethertube is what the popular reality TV show Gogglebox (Big Brother style observations of families simply watching TV) will mutate into after exposure to large doses of technology.
The clip entitled ‘Address is approximate’ had me considering posthmanism from the perspective of a robot, or perhaps the machine half of the human-machine hybrid as described by Miller (2011). I previously posted about recent technological developments having digital personas (Siri, Cortana and Alexa) and the push for machine to have life like qualities such as personalities, voices, names etc. What if it was possible for the machine to become so advanced, or become so lifelike, that they began to crave the human form in the way that humans crave the digital?
The following clip was taken from the cult sci-fi series ‘Red Dwarf’. Set 3 million years into deep space and long after the extinction of the human race, the crew of Red Dwarf consists of a human, a hologram, a human evolved from a cat and a mechanoid robot who, over time, breaks his original programming to achieve human qualities.
It again has me wondering if technology will ever have limits. Will scenes such as the one above become the cultural norm? A hybrid society of humans and machines?
Miller, V. (2011). The body and Information Technology. In Understanding digital culture (London, Sage): pp. 207-223.
Having played around with IFTTT and my WordPress site I once again find myself amazed at the interoperability of technologies and the intertwining of web based services. It is fascinating to think that at some point in time humans had the capacity to invent the computer and microprocessor that nowadays can surpass the physical and cognitive ability of its inventors.
I am working through the core readings for Block 1 of Education and Digital Cultures and have frequently paused to consider a life without technology. At the ripe old age of 30 I can remember the days when mobile phones were not every day commodities and to get in touch with my friends I had to walk round to their house and knock of their front door. In what seems like such a short space of time it is almost impossible to comprehend how people functioned without the technology that we now take for granted.
It is everywhere.
It is provides entertainment, education and information. It is influencing how we shop, travel, work, think, exercise, bank, communicate, remember, create, and navigate. If electricity was to disappear would it be the end of the world as we know it? I’m not sure that we would know where to start.
It is almost ironic that some of the most recent advancements in technology have shifted away from an input/output methodology towards a digital persona such as Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa. Are we looking to push technological advancement to new limits but save face by giving computers names, voices and personalities? This, perhaps, seems like the human race clinging on to the seemingly fading idea that “man is better than machine”.