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Who’s There?

Virtual Reality has touched our minds, our bodies and souls. It has penetrated every part of society. I feel that we have entered an age where people have become accustomed to the virtual where we have now extended our presence into a less real and more materialistic world over the 3D Screen and because of this I have decided to share some of my experiences within the virtual realm of technology. For those who have seen the ‘Kill Switch’ Episode on the X-Files, watched the old or new version of Tron/The Tron Legacy, The Matrix or even AI, you will find that this week’s blog explores the issues of human nature that has entered into the cyber-world.

Virtual Reality is around us we are being drawn into it all the time. It’s practically unavoidable. In order to understand this, I feel that the Gaming Industry is a great place to start, as it has enabled me to understand what this vague, and abstract concept means. For example, I have just recently purchased a Nintendo 3DS. For me it was a toss between the PSP, Vita or 3DS, so I went along with the 3DS after giving it lots of thought. I have no regrets. In fact, one of my favourite features on the Nintendo 3DS is the AR (Augmented Reality) Cards, as well as the Street Pass, and Mii Maker. These aspects of the Nintendo 3DS are all based on morphing the virtual with the real, in addition I’ll confess that it had also helped me make the final decision.

Street Pass and Mii Maker are a great way of explaining how my presence has marked the virtual space. The Nintendo console comes with a camera where one takes a photo of face/profile pic. This can then be digitally enhanced with Mii Maker. The profile /Avatar on the Mii Maker can then be used in games/internet profiles and social media, similar to the way one would use their Avatar on Wii. Your Avatar can now be used as characters in games as well.

Sounds familiar? One’s profile on a game or social media (Facebook, Twitter) application can be identified as taking part of the virtual reality space. I think that the debates on whether this is good or bad is useless, but to assess the impact is of more value. Some of the issues that have been talked about are based on the humanity’s senses and perceptions. I won’t be going through these, as they are a little obvious. For instance, I have had to adapt with my sense of sight. For instance, when I am immersed in the 3D world on my console as opposed to the ‘real’ world, (that maybe on the way to uni on the bus) I have to be able to switch from the 3D world to the real world to make sure I don’t miss my stop. For the record though, this has yet to happen.

Thinking about the Virtual World that humans are constantly in contact with, it is difficult to miss the philosophical question of whether these virtual realities are actually assisting humanity as a whole, or as individuals or via consumerism. To elaborate, (this thought derived from the lecture) are the processes/companies behind virtual realities really trying to improve people’s sense or are they simply focusing on a desire to prove whether the impossible is reachable. I understand that virtual reality technologies are formed on perception and one’s senses. To further explain this, one’s perceptions and senses is built through one’s familiarity with the world. The worlds, which we live in, and the objects that we are in tune with, are familiar to us because of our past experiences. This then means that if we decide to form something new (e.g. Google Glasses) are we simply being selfish and attempting to introduce something that is external to what we are already familiar with. Is it a capitalist pursuit, or are we simply trying to enhance ourselves into the virtual space, because our space is insufficient. These questions, I have yet to uncover, however what I do perceive is that the virtual space is out there and (and to borrow from the X-Files) I feel like I have a second presence outside of my body that is formed out of electrical nodes.

Reference/Bibliography,

Murphie A, 2004, ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental Ecologies,’ Topia Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring

Phillippe Jean, Fractals, Technical and Other Things: Eternally Returning to the Virtual, published February 9th 2011, accessed 2013, link, https://www.diigo.com/bookmark/http%3A%2F%2Ffractalfinance.blogspot.com%2F2011%2F02%2Feternally-returning-to-virtual.html?tab=people&uname=andersand

Wikipedia.

Mind Games

Just when I thought that the exteriorization of the mind was a new development, mainly possible in science fiction movies, I find out that it has been with us from the beginning of humanity’s existence. Perhaps, this may sound a little hyperbolic, though not completely off the mark.

Basically, I have just started exploring this idea of mnemotechnics, which explores the ways in which humanity has adopted to multiply technologies that forms the basis of one’s reality. In discussions on mnemotechnology, this development refers to an individual’s constructed reality via cognitive learning, memories, perception, feelings, and experiences. It is a bit of a mouthful, and one, which I have not completely and utterly understood. Having said this, I have encountered some competing debates that I will aim to tackle within this Blog.

Firstly, mnenotechnologies, taken from Bernard Steigler’s understanding is taken to be a technological apparatus that assists with the cognitive, or societal processes of humanity. As a far-fetched example, I like to think of the movie Total Recall (2012), in which a company sells the idea of creating any dream a person desires. However, on a simpler case mnemotechnices in the past, and present have included alphabet writing to modern day technologies such as, the IPhone where the technology has worked as an “extension of one’s mind” (to use David Chalmer’s explanation).

These mnemotechnologies have been criticized and loved by different theorists, but when analyzed from a pure observational point of view it is evident that it they are ubiquitous. Some of my best memories are stored on my hard-drive, the Internet and on paper, as well as hidden at the back of my mind. In addition to this, some of my future is also stored on the above mediums and at the back of my mind, and at present my mind works to think about various “things”.

On the one hand, it could be said that these mediated mnemotechnologies were already on the rise during the Industrial age, where philosophers were observing the rapid mechanization of society and decay of humanity. On the other hand, the idea that humanity’s cognitive processes have developed via more sophisticated, individualized mnemotechnologies has only added to humanity’s culture. These thoughts, that I have thought to uncover, have stemmed from a couple of articles, primarily, Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis, and Andrew Murphie’s ‘The Mutation of “Cognition” and the Fracturing of Modernity.’

To choose between one of these questions, is to delve into one’s life, which would be defined by the media ecology that they are, and have been exposed to. To elaborate, I will quickly describe a media ecology, which relates to a contextual understanding. It’s about the interrelationship between media environments and communication. To throw out an extreme example, when thinking about Max Weber, or Marx’s perspective of rapid machination that led to the loss of humanity, one would think of the mass media, or hierarchical societal systems that replaced creativity with bureaucracies. This period was perhaps relevant at the time of their writings, but now in the present day they have been less associated with the modern/present times. For example, in media studies I have come across the idea that mass communication has been replaced with citizen journalism. This follows, that at the present time of writing, society is can be thought of as being identifies with liberalism, or post-modernism.

Although, this is my cue to say that I negotiate my life with various mediated mnemotechnologies that define my past archived memories. I prefer to say that I do not conceive a future with media oligarchies that aim to aggregate all types of information into one (or multiple) database. Although this may sound too conspiratorial to be true, the choice in the matter is that mnemotechnologies are created and not too forget, bought. One needs to buy a phone, a Sim card, purchase Internet services and modern day electronics.

I recognize that since the beginning of humanity this has not been the case, but even a piece of paper with various scribbles of thoughts got the likes of Galileo, and Martin Luther into trouble. I will have to confess that, to a large extent, the way the mind has been brought into technological apparatuses is a little disconcerting. Just think of the movie, Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind, and the pain and stress (or no pain and stress) that Clementine had to go through just for a little shift in life’s experiences.

Bibliography/References

Website: The Media Ecology Association, http://www.media-ecology.org/

Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc

Murphie, Andrew (2005) ‘The Mutation of “Cognition” and the Fracturing of Modernity: cognitive technics, extended mind and cultural crisis’, 2(2), September,  http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/display.php?journal_id=58

Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation,http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis, accessed March 2013

Diigo Links

https://www.diigo.com/user/anthropol

These are all my Diigo links for my Media course. They update on WordPress every time I add or change my Diigo links. I have used If This Then That programming to set it up, which I recommend for all to try.

Filed under: arts3091

My very first “If This Then That” programming.

Media Theories and Absurd Realities

Media forms part of people’s daily life. What people value, their norms and actions are negotiated through the media.

The definition of the media is broad, and has changed throughout history. McLuhan’s ‘Understanding Media,’ applies various aspects of society to define the media. For instance he refers to  machines, technology, and the printing press. In his earlier works, The Gutenberg Galaxy he refers to the ancient world, the middle ages and the age of mass media to draw out the impact of the media in society. According to a chapter in the 2003 book, ‘Culture and Technology’ (Murphie & Potts) McLuhan falls under cultural theory as he intertwines media into culture. This paradigm differs to technological determinism and cultural materialism but I think relates closer to structuralism.

Thereby it can be stated that, each theorist falls into one or two categories, Raymond Williams, falls under cultural materialism,  and Friedrich Kittler is identified as a post-structuralist. In the contemporary society, it is hard to side with one of these theorists. I find that each theorist has formed their own philosophy of the world according to their individual experiences. For instance, Raymond William’s background differs to McLuhan’s world although both theorists developed from around the same time.

In the contemporary society, I think it’s much easier to explore, relate to, and understand the study of media through media archeology, rather than attempting to relate my media experiences with one of the above. Media Archeology is defined well by Jussi, Parrika (2012) in a chapter in the book ‘Intro: Cartographies of the Old and New.’ This quote taken from the chapter, “excavating the past in order to understand the present and future” is generally what media archeology is all about.

So everything has it’s foundations. In Apple technology this progress is evident. The various innovative changes of the Ipod classic, Nano, and ITouch are obvious examples. However, there is one aspect of this historical progress that I find a little perplexing. The question that tends to drive me crazy is whether technological progress is formed as humans evolve or whether progress happens through the capitalist economy, as the driving force of innovation and competition.

The question of human evolution derives from an article that is called, “Insects in the Age of technology.” The article draws on the idea that social scientific research in entomology (the study of insects) has enabled ethnology (the study of human cultures). An example that was used in the article is that of the discovery and exploration of a spider’s quick movement on their webs to influence “motion engineering.” Morally, I would like to think that human nature and scientific nature has influenced the technological progress, but what I see instead is that progress is developed through institutions where competition is the driving force to enhanced mechanical and robotic advances, that tends to happen behind closed doors.

The latter aspect of my question, is probably influenced by my interest in comic books and pop culture. In popular culture, this question seems to be at the forefront of story-telling. The big bad scientist who wants to rule the world and get rich vs the assistant with high morals and love of humanity. Then there is more complex motifs, where the scientific research has led to moral degradation. Think of, Doctor Manhattan in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. His powers were accidental though he helped the US in their struggle in the Vietnam War but in the midst of all this he struggled with his own sense of self, dealing with his longing for nostalgia. He was the only superhero in Watchmen to have powers but with them he was constantly battling with human feelings of love and relationships. Spiderman, is another example where he gained his powers as a direct accident. The Terminator,  is another example where science has facilitated the imminent destruction of the world and so the fight for survival begins. This may all seem too frivolous, but watch out as yet I have not even began to dig deep into conspiracy theory. So if the study of media is related to one’s world as I think it is, what would happen if Marshall McLuhan came back to life in the future where technology has threatened human kind, or Foucault emerged in a world where technology did not have any play in society? I wonder sometimes, whether theorists would have the same opinions if placed in a different world at a different time.

References,

Murphie, Andrew & Potts, John (2003) ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ in Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan: 11-38

Parikka, Jussi (2012) ‘Introduction: Cartographies of the Old and New” in What is Media Archaeology? Cambridge: Polity: 1-16

Parikka, Jussi (2010) ‘Introduction: Insects in the Age of Technology’ in Insect Media: an archaeology of animals and technology Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: ix-xxxv

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