Sunday, 12 October 2014

Post 10: Review Post

Shit. I almost forgot about this.

This paper has definitely been one of the most interesting papers I've taken during my four years at University. When you tell people you're a media studies student, they generally expect you to just watch films and shit, but this paper threw that cliche out the window and instead made me think of media as more than things you watch or listen to on some sort of media playing device. The fact that these media playing devices generally play video and audio just shows how the term "media" is generally seen as referring predominantly to audiovisual media. These days I pretty much see everything as some form of media after taking this course. Doing Andre Nusselder's book for my book review helped that out a lot. While before I generally stuck to the audio-visual connotations of media, now media includes various things such as language, the screen, interfaces etc. It's also revealed to me the extent that everything is mediated.

Furthermore, I've quite enjoyed some of the interesting philosophical issues that have been discussed throughout the year. That techno-dystopia/utopia one led to some interesting discussion (I still think Robo-Craig may be a distinct possibility in the future) as well as the debate about surveillance that just happened to coincide with Moment of Truth at the town hall. I've even brought up many of these topics with some of my other friends. I've also enjoyed rambling on these blogs rather than doing some formal response, as I can communicate my ideas in a more colloquial way.

I can't really think of any changes that could be made to the course (other than maybe move to a less obsolete classroom), as I think the workload was fair. In fact I didn't really need that extension for the book review, as it was cancelled out by the fact that I went out of town for a few days and all it really did was give me more procrastination time.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Post 9: Ubiquitous Media in the City

I probably seem like a technophobe the way I've written about technology on this blog (though I'm not), but regarding media in the city, a couple things come to mind. The first is that freaky as fuck Geisha from Blade Runner.

At least for the present, electronic screens in the City tend to be little more than animated billboards. They're kinda boring to be honest, and the fact that these screens seem to only be used for commercial interests shows an unfair advantage with them, as only rich people and companies can afford to use them to disseminate ideas. The last time I saw a public screen in town that wasn't just a glorified billboard was when the Rugby World Cup was on, and they set up screens on the Viaduct. 

The second thing that came to mind was surveillance (and yes, I know that topic was two weeks ago) 

That article discusses Auckland's plans to implement facial recognition cameras around Auckland. While the justification of cutting down crime sounds legit, going back to the whole idea of panoptic surveillance, I'd feel uncomfortable knowing I'm being watched wherever I go. Like is Auckland City really that crime-ridden? I'm already paranoid enough that my Smartphone can let people know where I am if I use the GPS, so knowing that someone can be watching what I do and know who I am while I'm doing it just drives that up even more.

So basically what I'm trying to say is, while media's growing ubiquity around the city may sound like something pretty cool, especially if we get something like a public TV or whatever, one should have a look at what this ubiquitous media's being used for, which at the moment seems to favour those in control, either those with money (such as the corporations who use those animated billboards), or the government (regarding surveillance). If there was some way to democratise these ubiquitous media developments, maybe I'd be a bit less pessimistic. But right now, we have all this awesome shit that clearly plays favourites.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Post 8: Something about Cloud Computing

Around this time last year, I'd rocked up to Uni once to print out an assignment that I'd spent the whole previous night working on only to realize upon arriving at Uni that I'd stupidly forgotten to attach the actual essay to the e-mail that I'd sent to myself. Since then, I've been a big user of Dropbox, a cloud-storage service that prevents future, similar fuck-ups from occurring. These days, I chuck most of my Uni readings, assignments etc into the Dropbox, allowing me to access them from any computer, my tablet, or even my smartphone.

But I do see the drawbacks. The recent string of celebrity photo hacks demonstrates this. This is why I don't upload private files to Dropbox, or anything with private info. I prefer to back that stuff up onto hard drives, because if they're not connected to my computer, they're pretty much inaccessible unless you're with me in person.

Like Andrejevic pretty much implied in his surveillance reading. We all have the potential to be stalkers. So going by that logic, what's to stop the people behind Dropbox going through your files every now and then and taking note at what you got? Social media websites already pass on your information to advertisers to help with data mining and Google logs your searches. Furthermore, the TPPA is meant to introduce more restrictive copyright laws that are meant to curb the circulation of copyrighted material, so I'd imagine websites like Dropbox would be more vigilant in order to comply with those agreement.

But hey, cloud computing's still pretty handy. As long as you're careful and don't put anything you wouldn't mind others noticing, then I don't really see many other problems with it. It's definitely prevented me from forgetting my assignments since I've started using it.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Post 7: What timing...

Quite convenient how we tackle surveillance the week after Monday's Moment of Truth revelations about metadata collection in NZ. It's a shame we couldn't discuss surveillance on Monday before the election rather than after it, as the two readings basically outline two of the main reasons I'm infuriated at the NZ media's reporting of Greenwald and Snowden's presentations.

The basic gist that I got from Andrejevic is that deep down, everyone's a stalker. Evidence for that is the fact that the very term "stalk" becomes far less severe if it follows the word "Facebook". And I think I established my personal opinion during the dystopia seminar that the only thing preventing utopia is the fact that we're all assholes deep down. Given those two qualities, it wouldn't be surprising to imagine an NSA/GCSB agent peeking at some unlucky Kiwi's e-mails or texts if something picqued his curiosity. With the sort of data he'd have access to, the whole world can be his own "Big Brother". On paper, a system of mass surveillance sounds like a great way to keep crime in check, but its potential for abuse is just too great (because humans are assholes).

Now the second article about ways paranoia is understood is also incredibly relevant to this week. A while ago, John Key tried to justify the GCSB bill by pulling the terrorism card. I mean sure, that probably works in America where terrorist rhetoric gets thrown around like the f-word in a Quentin Tarantino movie, but here? Sure, if NZ had actually been attacked in the past, or had seen some definitive proof of terrorist activity, that could've seemed plausible, but we've had no such luck. When he released those documents for "Project CORTEX", they seemed to use the same rhetoric of "protection", as the operation appeared to be concerned with protecting NZers from malware (basically making CORTEX a glorified anti-virus program and thus irrelevant as proof that SPEARGUN is bullshit), thus making it appear that the GCSB bill was again about protecting NZers.

The part that's really pissing me off though is the fact that there are actually people buying this crap. It's visible in the comments to the news reports (though internet commenters have never been the most intelligent lot) and I've also heard friends try to justify it.

Hopefully this weekend's election shows that Kiwis are smart enough to see through the smoke screen.

Anyway, enough with the politics, I will leave with this (it's still slightly relevant):

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Post 6: Fuck Furbies are creepy

That clip's from "Terry's Friend Dates a Robot", an episode of Batman Beyond where one of the supporting characters decides to construct himself a robot girlfriend in order to look popular. I thought it would be somewhat relevant to at least the second reading on Furbies and other creepy robots.

In the Clark reading, where he discusses how the brain's understanding of the body is affected by body image, I couldn't help but notice a vibe of technological determinism. Linking back to Ihde's idea of embodiment relations in week 4, technology can act as an extension of the body, and thus affects the way the body experiences the world. When I played ice hockey for example, I remember my coach saying that our sticks should be an extension of our arms, so that we get a better feel for the puck. Similarly, he also argues that language also affects one's understanding of the world. Nusselder describes Lacan's belief that language is a form of technology as well, thus further reinforcing the technological determinism idea of the chapter.

The second reading brought me back to my book review on Interface Fantasy. When Turkle discusses the Furbies, I realized that the skin of the Furby acts as an interface, interfacing children with the robot beneath the soft toy. It acts like the computer screen in Nusselder's book, interfacing the real with the virtual and giving form to the mechanical processes beneath, allowing children to see them as "friends" rather than pre-programmed machines. Without that skin, the furbies would look downright horrifying (though I'll confess that I've always thought those bastards were kinda creepy). When the Furby's true robotic nature is revealed to the child, the child will likely realize that it wasn't a real pet all along, shattering the illusion that the interface helped provide. In this way, it can be linked once again to Lacan, to "tuche", or chance encounters with the real behind fantasy which shatter one's ideal perception of the world.

I will leave y'all with this Furby skeleton, and show just how important the interface is.

It's like some sort of Terminator

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Post 5: Techno-dystopia

In case you're the sort of person who can't handle metal, the link above is to Fear Factory's 1998 album, Obsolete. It's a concept album following your generic techno-dystopian narrative about a world where machines have taken over and humans have been reduced to slaves who couldn't keep up with the times.

Techno-dystopia's quite common in sci-fi, and personally I think there's a good reason for that. Sure, it'd be sweet to have machines do everything, but we gotta consider the consequences.

Take those exercise devices we saw at the end of last week's seminar. Moov for example is only about $80. Compare that to the cost of a personal trainer, which is usually a minimum of $30 an hour. For now, people may prefer the face-to-face interaction that you get with an actual trainer and will be willing to pay the extra cost. But Moov will probably develop and become more advanced (and more afforable) over time. As we see with how often people use facebook chat these days (people in my own flat will sometimes prefer to talk through facebook chat when they can't be fucked getting out of their rooms) even if initially met with skepticism, people tend to get more comfortable and more reliant on the new technology over time. As such, if Moov were to somehow get more and more advanced (maybe one day turning into some sort of personal training android), it could do some damage to the personal training industry. The amount of damage will probably depend on how it, and similar devices develop over-time.

In a similar vein, I currently work a fast-food job making pizza and dough for Pizza Hut. If some genius were to make some automated dough-making machine, or pizza topping machine, you can be sure that Restaurant Brands is gonna jump on that bandwagon once they can afford to and boost profits by saving labour. At the same time, they'll be making people such as myself obsolete and needing to find a new job.

As argued by Winner in the first reading, people really don't give a shit as long as the dough's rolling. In the words of the almighty Wu-Tang Clan, "Cash Rules Everything Around Me, get the money, dolla, dolla bill y'all"

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Post 4: Nothing's real anymore

Finally gave that systems theory reading a go after going through the first three chapters of Interface Fantasy for my book review and let's just say both readings have definitely warped the way I look at the world. Something tells me magic mushrooms were very strong in Luhmann's and Lacan's day...

Only a week from tackling Heidegger, I'd begun reading Nusselder's application of Lacanian psychoanalysis on interfaces, cyberspace and fantasy and found the argument that pretty much everything is a construction influenced by imagination and mediated by interfaces quite convincing.

Nek minnit, this Moeller guy's argues that everything actually is just a series of systems of communication, whether it be politics, economics or religion. It's not about who's involved, it's about what's happening, and his argument was pretty convincing as well.

So now, I'm not really sure which one to follow. There's definitely a lot of evidence to back up both world-views. Take their differing views on history for example. The consensus is that history's told differently depending on the messenger. From Nusselder's Lacanian perspective, it's because our understanding of history is shaped by subjectivity. History is made sense of by various individuals and communicate through a medium, whether it be language, TV, newspapers etc. But how we make sense of what's communicated is also affected by the world-view of the persons being communicated to.
Systems theory would focus less on the individuals in question, and believe that a person's conception of a historical event is the result of communication going on in systems such as legal systems, political systems or educational systems. In this sense, there is less emphasis on the individual's understanding and more on the structures around the individual.

Personally, I think individuality needs to be considered more so I'd lean towards the former. Systems theory seems kinda dehumanizing though it's backed up pretty well by Moeller and Luhmann. Either way, my mind is still slightly conflicted on how it should see the world.