Entertaining Ourselves into Technological Slavery: Invisible Technologies - The World of Technopoly
Future Of Computing
Technological Society, Gadgets And Environment
In as much as clothes act as our extended skin, today's technology is a replica of our nervous system; therefore, the production of technique and its content has been so decentralized as to represent our consciousness and behavior. Todays' means of communication, which has in the end managed to impose itself on humans, also, controls the behavior of man. This then means, technology has taken over and is shaping man's attitudes and behaviors.
Marshall McLuhan states: "Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology." Media today displays the contradiction between profit, highly concentrated content, advertising saturated, corporate media system and the communication requirement of a democratic society.
Robert McChesney says: The decline of journalism and the hypercommercialization of culture; i.e., the antidemocratic manner by which communication policy making has been and is conducted in the United States and globally(globalization) and the way the internet is being incorporated into the heart of the corporate communication system, is decidedly undermining the democratic potential envisioned by its founders".
What today's media has done is assist us into entertaining ourselves to death. It is the death of intellect, the death of our human souls, the death of our families, societies and contemporary civilizations as we know them today. Technopoly today has taken over to the extent we base our rational and common sense on the feed form television and the internet, Tweeters and the whole bit. We look for quick knowledge and vast information that one gets from the library from Google and Wikipedia, etc.
We entertain ourselves from sports, to Soaps, and so on. Douglas Rushkoff states: "The news, comedy, and drama produced by current vanguard of media-wary social activists, ranging from subversive underground documentaries on public access television to mainstream movies and TV shows, all share the delight in deconstructing and reexamining media.
The documentaries expose the thin logic and obsequious pandering of network newspeople while movies and sitcoms recreate and satirize famous moments in media history.... We have developed a new language of references and self-references that identify media as a real thing and media history as an actual social history". The media has become our natural world. As such, it came to promote the agendas of nature and the assertion of chaos.
Individuals on the Web or in interactive TV are involved in the chaos(feedback). The illusion that we have control of the gadget that splurges us into the data-sphere is in-fact the loss of our control of everything and the death of life itself. This means, we end up imbibing a technological dependency that life pre technological reality becomes extinct. The manipulation of the gadget and what is spun through as entertainment or news or whatever, is the death and surrendering of our independence to the technique of technopoly which monopolizes our datasphere and human sphere.
Time magazine discussed the type of pornography that is found on line today: "Pedophilia(nude pictures of children), hebephelia(youths) and ... images of bondage, sadomasochism, urination, defecation and sex acts with barnyard full of animals. Marty Rimm's research that the Carnegie Mellon university carried-out points out that: "The university surveyed 900,000 computer images; 83.5 per cent of all computerized photographs available on the internet are pornographic....
With so many graphic images available on computer networks, I believe Congress must act and do so in a constitutional manner to help parents who are under assault in this day and age of entertainment." This article from the Time proposed that pornography of this nature is available to anyone who is remotely computer literate, and as entertainment, has parents worried about their children's safety.
Entertainment as Technique
H.D. Lasswell's definition of 'technique is that: "It's the ensemble of practices by which one uses available resources in order to achieve certain valued ends" Lasswell gives a list of values and the corresponding techniques. As values, he lists 'riches, power,, well being, affection'; and as techniques , the techniques of government, production, medicine, the family and so on..
Laswell makes it clear that that it is necessary it shows the effects of technique not only on inanimate objects, but also, on people. Because of the nature of the communications industry, people have continuous access to popular arts of their own time- its music, rhetoric, design, literature, architecture. As a consequence, their receptivity to popular forms is well developed and appropriate. But their capacity to respond with educated imaginations to traditional or classical forms of art is severely limited.
McLuhan states: Mechanical technology as extension of parts of the human body had exerted a fragmenting force, physically and socially. With the extension of the central nervous system by electric technology, and the very inclusiveness of information as a weapon, becomes a daily reminder that politics and history must be recast in the form of the "concretization of human fraternity." McLuhan elaborates further on technique through mechanized automation as follows:
"Automation is not an extension of the mechanical principles of fragmentation and separation of operations. It is rather the invasion of the mechanical world by the instantaneous character of electricity. That is why those involved in automation insist that it is a way of thinking, as much it is a way of doing. The new kind of interrelation in both industry and entertainment is the result of the electric instant speed.
Jacques Ellul has this to say about 'technique': "The technician sees the nation quite differently from the political man: to the technician, the nation is nothing more than another sphere in which to apply the instruments he has developed. Restraints on the rule of technique become increasingly tenuous. Public opinion provides no control because it too is largely orientated toward "performance" and technique is regarded as the prime instrument of performance, whether in the economy, or in politics, in art or sports." So, how do we then define Technique as?
Ellul gives this definition as: "The ensemble of practices by which one uses available resources to achieve values. "Technique", Ellul further elaborates, "As the universal and autonomous technical fact, is revealed as the technological society itself in which man is but a single tightly integrated and articulated component. The Technological society is a description of the way in which an autonomous technology is in process of taking over the traditional values of every society without exception, subverting and suppressing these values to produce at last a monolithic world culture in which all non-technological difference and variety is mere appearance."
The Nature Of Technopolic Technology
Language, The Ultimate Invisible Technology
In this case, we will explore Postman's view of What he calls Technopoly. "Most people believe that technology is a staunch friend. It makes life easier, cleaner and longer. Can one ask more from a friend?Second, because of its lengthy, intimate and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust an obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful.
"But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend. Its gifts are not without a heavy cost. Stated in the most dramatic terms the accusation can be made that the uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology, in sum, is both friend and enemy. The most dangerous idea out there is the belief that in peace as well as war, technology will be our savior. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that."
Postman advices us further that , "Any wise man, must begin his critique of technology by acknowledging its successes. He reminds us that there is a calculus of technological change that requires a measure of even-handedness. ... "Once a technology is admitted," writes Postman avers: "it plays out its hand; it does what it is designed to do. Our task is to understand what that design is - that is to say, when we admit a new technology to the culture, we must do so with our eyes wide open." Postman advices us that we need to pay close vigilance by knowing the history and contemporary zines/memes of the technologies we are dabbling with.
This means then we have to know how to use these gadgets as to their offered operations, and we need to know the Language that is being as used by/for the technology as to how it effects and affects us, from past to present; from touch to instant results and gratification; from our dependency and trust of it on what our affects/effects are, and what this means to the evolution of humanity. He teaches us these changes in of themselves affect us, as we effect them, that the very language it introduces into our grammar, is changed, and changes our world and assists and sort-of programs us to function within the zines/memes it introduces to us through the use of its own coded and loaded language.
Postman says: "If we define ideology as a set of assumptions of which we are barely conscious but which nonetheless directs our efforts to give shape and coherence to the world, then our most powerful ideological instrument is the technology of language itself. Language is pure ideology. It instructs us not only in the names of things but , more important, in the various ways technology, as it morphs into technopoly, effects and affects our whole lives and reality/speech too.
Postman writes: "Language divides the world into subjects and objects. It denotes what events shall be regarded as processes, and what events, things. It instructs us about time, space, and number, and forms our ideas of how we stand in relation to nature and to each other. In English grammar, for example, there are always subjects who act, and verbs which are their actions, and objects which are acted upon. It is a rather aggressive grammar, which makes it difficult for those of us who must use it to think of the world as benign.
We are obliged to know the the world as made up of things pushing against, and often attacking, one another. ...To put it simply, like any important piece of machinery, television or the computer, for example - [for them] language has an ideological agenda that is apt to be hidden from view. In the case of language, the agenda is so deeply integrated into our personalities and world-view that a special effort and, often, special training are required to detect its presence. Unlike television or the computer, language appears to be not an extension or our powers, but simply a natural expression of who and what we are.
This is the greatest secret of language: Because it comes from inside us, we believe it to be a direct, unedited, unbiased, apolitical expression of how the world really is. A machine on the other hand, is outside us, clearly created by us, modifiable by us; it is easier to see how a machine re-creates the world in its own image, But in many respects, a sentence function much like a machine, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the sentences we call questions. The structure of any question is devoid of neutrality as its content. The form of a question may even block us from seeing solutions to problems that become visible through a different question.
Questions, then, are like computers or television or stethoscopes or lie detectors, in that they are mechanism that give direction to our thoughts, generate new ideas, venerate old ones, expose facts or hide them. I wish to consider mechanisms that act like machines but are not normally thought of as part of Technopoly's repertoire. I must call attention to them precisely because they are so often overlooked. For all practical purposes, they may be considered technologies - technologies in disguise, perhaps, but technologies all the same.
Aside from language itself, I do not suppose there is a clearer example of a technology that doesn't look like one than the mathematical sign known as zero." In the case explained above, Language is one of the many invisible technologies we ought to know and understand very well in order for us to make sense of our world around us and within us, and the role these worlds play in affecting and affecting us and our world-both within and without.
Another good example of tehnology running our lives is the international StockExchange. The Nasdaq Stock Exchange is not a physical place; it is a computer program that controls people's transactions of technology stocks. What if this system was to someday crash, or be infected with a computer virus? How would anybody know their amount of stock shares? The buying an selling of futures is another non-tangible item bought and sold in Wall Street.
The value of these bonds is assessed in an immensely complex computer model and valued accordingly. Traders just assume these values are correct and use these values in their own transactions. Technology is mandating their business, giving them information that they just assume to be correct, and therefore technology is controlling their life which is the definition of Technopoly. They are totally depended and relying on technological efficiency and exactness/technique.
The Culture of Technopoly
If the technological technique creates state and reality of Technopoly, which ends up running people's life, it will be in order for us to see what it is and how does it technopolize man's world and reality. Postman writes: "Let us take as an example the case of television. In the United States, where television has taken hold more deeply than anywhere else, many people find it a blessing, not least those who have achieved high-paying, gratifying careers in television as executives, technicians, newscasters, and entertainers. It should surprise no one that such people, forming as they do a new knowledge monopoly, should cheer themselves and defend and promote television technology.
"On the other hand and in the long run, television may bring a gradual end to the careers of schoolteachers, since school was an invention of the printing press and must stand or fall on the issue of how much importance the printed word has. ...We have a similar situation in the development and spread of computer technology, for here too there are winners and losers. There is no disputing that the computer has increased the power of large-scale organizations like the armed forces, or air-line companies or banks or tax-collecting agencies.
"And it is equally clear that the computer is now indispensable to high-level researchers in physics and other natural sciences. The schools teach their children to operate computerized systems instead of teaching things that are more valuable to children. In a word, almost nothing, that they need happens to the losers. Which are they are losers."
The relationship between the consumers and designers or perpetrators of the technology of computers and its techniques, are further explained more clearly by Postman thus: "It is to be expected that the winners will encourage the losers to be enthusiastic about computer technology. ...They also tell them that their lives will be conducted more efficiently. But discretely they neglect to say from whose point of view the efficiency is warranted or what might be its costs.
Should the losers grow skeptical, the winners dazzle them with the wondrous feats of the computers, almost all of which have only marginal, all of which have only marginal relevance to the quality of the loser's life, but which are nonetheless. Eventually, the losers succumb, in part because they believe that the specialized knowledge of the masters of a new technology is a form of wisdom. The masters come to believe this as well."
We do have technologies that are sprouting nearly everyday. Apple has a new gadget for music like that of the iTunes mode coming in a couple of weeks. Our relationship to the peddlers of technology and its technique has us depended on the new gizmos emerging and we lapping up everything they bring to us for our [in]convenience: we end up becoming the slaves of everyday emerging technologies and their embedded technique, that in the process we dump off all our human sovereignty and freedom. As we do this to ourselves, Postman points out that Technopoly has a different agenda than that we are aware of:
"Technocracy is not at all where things come to an end. Technocracy has steadily given way to Technopoly. In the age of Technopoly, technology is not merely the dominant factor within culture; rather, technology seeks to redefine culture itself. This represents the ultimate alienation of technology from its human basis. That is, so long as humans create culture and therein formulate and modify and seek various ends, human life and human designs come to be driven by technology-[in the end[.
Technology becomes the "author" of ends, and humans become means to those ends. This, clearly, is where technology assumes the powerful position of omnipotence, humans lose access to any clear conception of their own vital interests. The whole process comes to be driven by technology itself and humans are alienated to a subordinate role where they no longer shape their own lives' Technopoly is "Totalitarian Technology". Technopoly process/and designed to redefine what all the other features of culture can mean to us"
Only technique is at once both concrete and objective that it creates the reality it describes, i.e., as discussed above when the technique which is embedded within the technology makes possible for the technology to change and determine what culture should/could be about or is. We need to educate ourselves in a much more better way. The fact that our language habits and all these are at the core of how we imagine the world, and to the degree that we are unaware of how our ways of talking put such ideas in our heads, then, we are not in full control of our situation, we are, Postman says, 'enslaved by technology'.
Postman asserts that: "The principal key to Technopoly's successful assault against traditional culture has been its control over and elevation of information [Thus], beginning with the printing press and then the telegraph and the telephone and "ending"[continuing from there.. my addition], with the Internet and ultrahigh-speed satellite communication, technology has constructed a pervasive framework for the passage of information. Technopoly has elevated the concept of information as preeminent, as the sole dispenser of information, acquired the power to control the destiny of an information-dependent culture as a whole.
Technopoly has succeeded in redefining "knowledge" and "reason" into something more like "information" and "familiarity". It is only when we reflect on this (something that Technopoly never wants us to do) that we realize to the extent to which 'knowledge' and 'information' are different. Technology has succeeded in this campaign of redefining culture through the elevation of information by elaborating three aspects of its "infrastructure." These are bureaucracy, the emergence of expertise, and the evolution of machinery. Technopoly has successfully redefined what is to a doctor, including of course, the whole relationship between doctor and patients.
This is not a point that Technopoly wants us to reflect; hence, we are consistently encouraged not to think about these matters but, instead, to always think of these changes simply as "progress." e.g., So long as we can accept it all as "progress," then we are discouraged from taking any critical look to what has happened. The cult of progress goes hand in hand with the cult and [culture] of technology in advancing the regime of technopoly
Yet, needless to say that one of the purposes of an education is to give us greater control of our situation. Understanding the media, as Marshall McLuhan aptly observed, is the best way towards overcoming technopoly and gaining control of our Media, communication and the monopolizing effects of technopoly. With the final integration of the instinctive and the spiritual by means of these human techniques, the edifice of the technical society will be completed.
If we understand entertainment as part of the logical outcomes of techniques, we will be then in a position to deal much better with entertainment as something that is bound to kill us, but one that will edify our stature in the history of civilization. The cultural domination of technology today is frequently facilitated by the language through which we discuss the presence of technology in our society, and that language set clearly the range of questions about technology and its roles that can be allowed. We should also be cognizant of the Invisible technologies that are spinoffs of Technopoly as it trudges on and redefines cultures and societies-and us.
Technology Has Become Autonomous and Automatic
Efficiency Is Its Modus Operandi
One of the most highly regarded post-industrial prophets is the French social critique, Jacques Ellul, who rarely addresses the effects of the individual technologies, but instead focuses on technology at the highest level of abstraction, as a system, worldview, and way of life; the term he uses in this context is la technique. Ellul's argument is that we have entered a historical phase in which we have given up control over human affairs to technology and the technological imperative.
According to Ellul, "Technology has become autonomous and automatic, self-augmenting or expanding at an ever increasing rate, and encompassing every sector of human society. It dominates the natural world and has replaced religion and even science as our governing ideology. Except that technology is not really an ideology, in that it represents no set of ideas or values other than itself. Efficiency is the only thing that matters in a technological system, so all other considerations are subordinated to efficiency, if not eliminated outright."
So that, whilst 'efficiency is the ground-game of technopoly, we learn from Mumford that: "If we are to prevent mega-technics from further controlling and deforming every aspect of human culture, we shall be able to do so only with the aid of a radically different mode derived directly ... from living organisms and living complexes(ecosystem)". When we are dealing with what Kathrine Hayles calls "Posthuman", we begin to have a better view of the role Technology gets to have and enslave us.
It is in this state of existence that we begin to hear warnings from people like Norbert Wiener who states that "It's the cybernetic function between humans and machines that we can work to understand, with the hope of gaining some element of control over rapidly expanding technology. Wiener touches on some implications of this expansion which he foresees, most of them being negative, some potentially apocalyptic.
He cites the possible instance of Cold War conflict s being a potential catalyst for unchecked technological growth. He warns that humans will be unprepared to deal with the after-effects of this kind of growth once the conflicts have finished. He predicts that a few opportunists could take advantage of the technology to control automated systems which could possibly put many people out of work very suddenly, and also give the controller excessive money, power, and control over the population.
Outside of the potential, Wiener warns that people might eventually become enslaved to their machines. I am fairly sure he wasn't talking the relatively benign type of 'enslavement' that we have to machines today, particularly communicative machines like computers and smartphones. I believe that type of control is allowed by humans and is symptomatic rather than determinist, but then again, it occurs within the framework of economic, cultural, and social forces.
So it happens because of collective rather than individual actions. Wiener states: "We shall have to realize that while we may make machines our gods and sacrifice man to machines (carpel-tunnel syndrome), we do not have to do so."
It is important at this juncture to see the breakdown of technique and technopoly by McLuhan which helps to clarify how these invisible technologies manifest and are applied to human beings:
In his book, "Mechanical Bride," McLuhan analyzes how popular culture reflects and promotes the attitudes, beliefs, and values of technological society. "Technological man is either a specialist-savant like Sherlock Holmes or an emasculated drone like Dagwood Bumstead", according to McLuhan. Technological woman is mass produced (from the assembly line to the chorus Line), with the help of industrial products such as girdles, soaps, and domestic gadgets (or she is replaced by products such as the automobile).
Technological children are given baby formula instead of being breastfed (setting up an oral fixation that will be satisfied by Coca-Cola), and provided a technical education that will allow them to fit into the machine-like organizations of corporate America. Even in death, we are ruled by technology through the sale of coffins that are weather resistant." In conclusion in one of his books where-in he discusses the transition from a print media environment to an electronic one, he therein introduces the term "Global Village, "stating, "The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a village." This might be one way through which we're entertaining/entering ourselves into a technolocial prison and society
Can Man Survive the World and Environment of Technopoly?
The Internet has become the most highly perfected means yet for the scattering of the the self beyond recall. Unless we collect ourselves in the presence of our intelligent artifacts, we have no future. The one sure thing about the computer's future is that we will behold our own reflection in it. What might be hidden within "us" is an increasingly powerful machine, of which machines we create are an outward expression. Machine become a threat when they embody our limitations without our being fully aware of those limitations
If we trash the current state of technopoly without changing our habits of mind, we will simply invent a new prison for ourselves using whatever materials are at hand. It is not particularly surprising that in a culture widely cited for its loss of "community" itself should come in for heavy use. The more we lack something, the more we may be fascinated by fragmentary glimpses of it. It is strange that in a society founded so centrally on the creative initiative and freedom of the individual, we should today find this same individual so utterly helpless before the most urgent social problem: Technopoly.
The power of the computer-based organization to sustain itself in a semisomnambulistic manner, free of conscious, "Present" control - while yet maintaining a certain internal, logical coherence - is increasing to a degree we have scarcely began to fathom. Do we really want a Global Village? Perhaps it is merely a ghastly sense for the ironic that prompts us to hail the birth of the "Global Village" just as villages around the world are self-destructing. The attempt to sum the advantages and disadvantages associated with computers is itself a sign of how far we have already succumbed to the computational paradigm.
There is a difference between "special effects wonder" and the true wonder that leans outward a devout scientific curiosity. The latter grows from an awareness of one's immediate connection to the world - from a sense that inner essence of what one is looking at is somehow connected to the inner essence of oneself. Finally, "how" we think is at least as important as "what" we think. We are surrounded with exteriors into which we have breathed our own peculiar interiors. That is what virtual realities are. But that is also what the physical world is like and about.
Global Media Cultural Studies
Aniko Bodroghkozy wrote the following article:
I’ve been thinking about a somewhat inflammatory polemic that Robert McChesney (above, left) wrote almost a decade ago in which he skewered unnamed Postmodern and Cultural Studies-influenced media historians for producing “politically timid and intellectually uninteresting and unimportant” and “trivial” work (McChesney: 1996, p. 540). He argued that, given the policy and regulatory decisions — such as the recently passed 1996 Telecommunications Act — that were likely to fundamentally reshape the communications landscape, media scholars needed to be providing historical scholarship (and by extension, one assumes, non-historical work as well) that intervened and provided context for these policy debates (p. 550).
The work that McChesney characterized as “trivial” tended to focus on audiences and the “discovery” that “they do not necessarily swallow whatever the corporate masters feed them” (p.544). Clearly McChesney was mopping the floor with the scholarship of John Fiske (above, right), his students, and those influenced by Fiske’s work on popular culture and television. The piece also seemed to be excoriating Lynn Spigel’s hugely influential cultural history of suburban families and the introduction of television in the postwar era (Spigel: 1992). McChesney may have been coy about “naming names,” but it was pretty clear who he was talking about.
For a young scholar like me this was far more than an academic battle among competing intellectual paradigms. If you were a grad student in the Telecommunication section of the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1990s, this was about you. In the early 1990s McChesney was a junior faculty member struggling to get tenure in the Journalism and Mass Communications Department one floor down from Comm Arts in Vilas Hall. Upstairs on the 6th floor of Vilas Hall, John Fiske ruled. Brought into the department in 1988, Fiske was a star. His brand of “affirmative” Cultural Studies was the emergent paradigm, McChesney’s hoary old “political economy” appeared residual. In Fiske’s terminology the “financial economy” that scholars like McChesney, Dallas Smythe, Herb Schiller and the like focused on wasn’t the end of the game. Scholars needed to pay attention to the “cultural economy” of audiences and its meanings and pleasures (Fiske: 1989, p. 26). Grad students on the 6th floor of Vilas, such as me, would genuflect in front of the financial economy of television, but then quickly move on to the really fun, interesting, sexy, and cutting edge stuff we could analyze in the cultural economy. Political economy scholarship and policy studies were like broccoli. Good for us as media scholars-in-training, but not tasty. We taught issues of ownership and control and media concentration to our students because we knew it was important for them to understand how the media industries were configured. These issues were never central, however, and certainly not in our own developing scholarship. Cultural studies made a more satisfying meal and it seemed more well balanced.
Fast forward to 2005. John Fiske is retired from academe and runs a successful antiquing business in Vermont and writes about 17th century oak furniture. Robert McChesney is now the star. He writes best selling books (McChesney 1999), gets compared to Thomas Paine and Paul Revere, heads up one of the most dynamic of a growing number of media reform organizations, Free Press, and has managed to make political economy of the media sexy. It’s feeling to me that McChesney’s paradigm is now emergent and cultural studies residual. (Here in Flow, some of the most stimulating and well-responded-to pieces have been columns on media reform from Tom Streeter and Mike Curtin).
Let me pose a question bluntly: to what extent does it matter whether TV audiences can or do perform negotiated or resistant readings of Fear Factor or Punked or The Apprentice or Desperate Housewives? Are audience agency and receptive practices important right now? In the past, one could argue (and I certainly have) that television as popular culture functioned as an important cultural terrain for mediating and negotiating significant social change (Bodroghkozy: 1992, 2001, 2004). Fiske’s argument that popular culture was “on the side of the subordinate” and had politically progressive (albeit not “radical”) possibilities made sense within the context of television programming in the 1960s and 1970s. A mushy form of liberalism was hegemonic common sense throughout this period. Even the Reaganite 1980s could not significantly overthrow the cultural impact of the social change movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Jane Feuer found the pervasive self-reflexivity of 1980s TV to constitute a “postmodern form of complicitous critique” (Feuer: 1995, p. 9). By decoding reception practices during this period, critics and scholars could actually produce useful information about the cultural handling of larger political and societal forces.
And with broadcast television of the 1990s, we saw a new “Golden Age” of quality and popular prime time fare. A commentator on Public Radio Inteernational recently extolled 1990s TV observing that “in the ’90s the best shows were also by and large the most highly rated shows. That had never happened before. And mainstream TV was arguably superior to mainstream motion pictures. That had never happened before either.” I could have deconstructed this “high culture/low culture,” canon formation talk, but instead I sat in my car nodding vigorously at my windshield as I listened. Clearly in the 1990s when TV was “good” (even while some of my grad school colleagues were almost perversely fixating on “bad” TV), it became intellectually defensible to study the texts and audiences of the medium. Television merited humanistic and textual analysis even though cultural studies approaches were not grounded in questions of aesthetics and artistry. I don’t think it is any accident that television studies entered the academy during this “Golden Age.” And the “best” shows of the 1990s were also ones that welcomed readings over contested ideological positionings and subversive discourses. There is excellent scholarship on shows like Roseanne,thirtysomething, The Simpsons, Murphy Brown, etc. Fiske’s best (and regrettably last) book on television was about how 1990s television produced media events that brought to “maximum visibility” otherwise hidden cultural currents and shifts in the structure of feeling (Fiske: 1996).
But the 1990s was the time when McChesney’s voice cried out in the wilderness that we cultural studies/Postmodernist scholars of television and media were blind — bewitched by carnivalesque trifles and simulacral silliness. Most media scholars are ready to concede, of course, the intellectual shallowness and “banality” (in Meaghan Morris’s terminology) of the mania for finding “resistive” or “oppositional” activity everywhere in the pop culture environment. That moment does seem to be “oh so 90s” and over. The 1990s also saw the entrenchment of media deregulation that has ushered in the frighteningly concentrated industry we find ourselves with today. What I am trying to figure out is to what extent McChesney was correct to chastise cultural studies-oriented media scholars (historians or not) for our preoccupation with bottom-up tactics over top-down strategies of power, ownership, and control. Were we feasting on cultural studies meals of empty calories and sugary treats when we should have been eating our broccoli, strengthening ourselves to produce muscular scholarship for battles in the political arena?
I am struggling to find an answer. I’m not ready to junk my own approach to television study (which has always tried to account for lines of power, dialogue, resistance, and incorporation across industry, text, and audience formations within specific historical contexts). On the other hand, to analyze contemporary television and media and not take account of the massive concentration of ownership of all sectors of media into a small handful of conglomerate behemoths with more power than many nation-states seems intellectually decadent.
McChesney and his acolytes are becoming political activists and intervening directly into the political and regulatory regime. Whether one agrees with McChesney and Free Press’s particular agenda or framing of the issues seems beside the point. The point is for television and media scholars and students to get involved in media reform politics. I went to the first national media reform conference organized by McChesney’s group in 2004, held in, of all places, Madison. Practically nobody from the 6th floor of Vilas Hall was there. Practically no television studies/media studies scholars I know (except for Constance Penley and fellow former Vilas “telecommie” Norma Coates) attended. I couldn’t understand why not. I found it strangely ironic to return to Madison and find my intellectual allegiances shifting, at least somewhat, away from what the 6th floor had represented to me as a grad student and moving downstairs to the 5th floor. A couple weeks ago, the second annual media reform conference took place in St. Louis with reportedly over two thousand in attendance. I couldn’t make it this time around but hoped other media scholars could.
For me, it comes down to this: regardless of what we do in our scholarship, if we consider ourselves students and teachers of media and television but are not on some level involved in media reform, we’re doing media studies “for the hell of it.”
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Can technology fix our cultural achilles heel?
We are informed by Mbugua Njihia That:
There are many things that a technology revolution will help us achieve and the benefits will have us looking behind, trying to imagine how we made do with what is now or what will become a defacto part of each and everyday life. We have seen technology change lives in; agriculture – allowing for higher output per square meter under management using scientific methods, in healthcare – enabling access to pre and post natal services to mothers, thereby reducing child mortality rates, in financial services – throwing the net of financial inclusion wide restoring dignity to many by way of access to credit, in governance – through tracking of activity at the August house driving accountability, through open data that reveals insights that have driven interventions where once only guesswork and gut feel prevailed among other benefits that make life that much easier.
One can draw benefits from across all sectors of the economy save for one that seems to have been relegate to the back burner; culture. Our achilles heel in Kenya is our very amorphous understanding and interpretation of our culture and history. Everything that is seemingly wrong with our society today can find roots in the confusion that exists. Despite years of formal education that many have the benefit of, the problem cuts across every social class. Everyone carries a version of history, most likely forged by the pens or direction colonial masters as we have had a poor model for accurate knowledge transfer from the days of old. Save for minimal textbook exposure in our formal education systems, or fireside chats in a more traditional setting, not many avenues exists for an enriching cultural experience and therein lie the problem.
Despite all the advances in technology, if we as a people become lost in our own cultural darkness, opaque to the roots and ways of all others with whom we share a border and earn the right to be called Kenyans; it will all be lost. Without knowledge, understanding and most importantly acceptance, the value of any technology that we import or innovate will be limited.
Perhaps the solution is not even technology based and we need to rethink the education system in terms of content and exposure of the younger generation. Maybe it is and we can use the liberalization of the media space to ensure that accurate cultural digests are part and parcel of scheduled or on demand programming. It could start in the simple things like understanding the roots of marriage customs, an interactive immersion into the migratory routes of our forefathers or smart language linkages.
No hard and fast answers here but the only thing that holds true is that the technology dividend will not be realized without a cohesive citizenry and culture is at the heart of it.
New Emerging Media Studies And Awareness
Role of Media in Social Awareness
ROLE OF MEDIA IN SOCIAL AWARENESS
By Pradeep Kumar Dwivedi, Ingita Pandey
The media plays a very constructive role in today’s society.
Media play an important role in increasing of public awareness and collect the views, information and attitudes toward certain issue. Media is the most powerful tool of communication in emerging world and increased the awareness and presents the realstage of society. In this decade of
Knowledge and awareness there is a huge and grand role of media, it isall around us when we watch on Television, listen to on the radio, read to the books, magazines, and newspapers, every where we want to collect some knowledge and information and a part of this media hasto present a very responsible role for our society. Without the media, people in societies would beisolated, not only from the rest of the world, but also for the total formation of creditable world.
WHAT IS MEDIA
Media is one of the most powerful instruments of communication. It can help to promote the right thingson right time and gives a real as well as strong aspects of the world about what is right or wrong also italso express that how can we store and distributes the views. The world is moving towards progress inevery step of life.
But we cannot refuse the real fact that we all are bounded directly or indirectly with theloads of social problems and issues, which are affected by the people of the people and for the people.Social issues or matters include so many types such as poverty, violence, corruption, bribery, suppressionof human rights, rape, discrimination, and crime, killing in the name of honor.
Today News Channels, Newspapers, radio, internet etc. help us to estimate the realities of live and focused on the every socialmatters with the pure and free effect, it has a chance to explore the issues of society more openly.Media refers so many links such as mass media broadcast media, print media and the web media.
We know that television and radio are considered broadcast media while newspapers, magazines and journalsare formatted as print media and internet news are called as the web media. The media is an importantsource of information through its news segments, entertainment and allows for exchange of our ideas,suggestions and views for related matters.
There is huge variety of media. The media is not only animportant source of news and opinions but also entertainment. Most young people usually turn on thetelevision for movies, educational programs other entertainment programs. However, although most of usget our news through the media as many of us have little time to read books or journals, the news
presented to us can be biased and one sided because news reported on websites appears most reliable and transparent though one has to be careful about the accuracy of the facts reported. However, there is still adegree of freedom in these countries' press compared to other more conservative countries. we haveaccess to news from all around the world and readers are invited to send their views and contributions to be published in the media.
The term media is derived from Medium, which means carrier. Media denotesa links specifically designed to reach large viewers. The term was first used with the advent of newspapers and magazines. However, with the passage of time, the term broadened by the inventions of radio, TV, cinemas and Internet. In the world of today, media has become almost as necessary as food and clothing.
It is true that media is playing an outstanding role in strengthening the society. Its responsibilityis to inform, educate and entertain the people. It helps to know current situation around the world. Themedia has a strong social and cultural impact upon society. Because of its inherent ability to reach largenumber of public, it is widely used to convey message to build public opinion and awareness, it can beused to educate people with very little cost.
Imagine a classroom in every city with thousands of students being taught by just one teacher. But unfortunately, because of money-making approach of media and lack of interest by government, very less work is done in spreading the education.
IMPORTANCE OF MEDIA IN SOCIAL AWARENESS
The media has got a vital role in molding a good society to develop our lifestyle and move it on the right path, because it always try to side with the truth and relevant factor. It is the best toolto spread awareness in the modern society either it be political, social or economic and giving us latestsight about what is happening in our world, making us aware about our rights, creating awareness againstevils in our society, what new happening around us, exposing corrupt politicians and hardcore criminals by sting operations.
There is correlation between media and society to share them self about the past, present and future event on need base method of the society. We know that a long time ago we see allnews, views events all these things through Radio, Banner and Cinema slide show. But now a day wehave a power to see everything of the society and to share it among the people only the good approach of media.
So Media and their function have been changed as because there is a competition among theMedia also. Therefore apart from the service to the society they have to earn also. From this point of viewseveral media are taking different steps to expand their business and sometimes they are deviated from the principles for which they are functioning.
What society will decide for their existences and functioning ismainly depend upon the Govt. rules and regulations by limiting their scope of works in a particular field.In my opinion several sensitive international issues should not be published through Media for whichtension among them increased. Otherwise media should come in front of the society with all truth.
The main purpose of this studies to explain the real feature of growing techniques of information and used it to spread the social awareness. Its limitless connectivity and potential has open social order and systemof interaction and communication which have been made a possible way to develop the communicationtechnology and define the social situation of awareness.
We can feel the impact of social networking inevery step of life. Everyone wants information timely and to the point which can be possible through thehelp of social media. There is various types of social networking under the connectivity of media. Herewe explore the FACEWOOK a social networking site, people can assess information easily through thehelp of this site and user can utilize these information to their personal and professional work and behavior. Social network is used to denote the huge number of blogs and
To provide online social networking service which can be focused and reflecting of social network or social relations among people who share interests and activities Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the internet. They interact, share and exchange resources by social networks. It promotes free flow of information and sharing of resources beyond boundaries.
My point is not any of it said above. We had a nation with so much of events happening around, which but is escalated only on the whims and fancy of the people who rules us. Few of the examples are RamMandir issue, Lokpal Bill, 2G scam, CWG scam, Mining scam, Land Acquisition scam, Coal Gate, DelhiRape Case, Godhra Riots, Mumbai Riots, 26/11 Mumbai Attack, Aarushi murder case, LPG subsidy, Fuel price hike etc.
All of the above issues had its on relevance in political arena and accordingly had thecoverage and importance across the media and discussed upon the nation till then until when it is to befumed and exploited. Unfortunately none of the news had a chance to be there in limelight or discussionseven until its natural closure of which many are due pending.
Shattering fact is that even many of theabove stated issues out of the many left out without mentioning are yet to have a judicial closure and theculprits yet to be booked and penalized. But at the brim of its flash we had all of the print and visualmedia, administration, intellects, social media and even stupid common man were there on the front to protest, outrage and even ready for a national cessation.
Post shelf life of the issue hardly was there anymovement on the same until either there is a reference by any for personal gain (other than the relative of the person involved) or on the occasion of anniversary reminder by the media who had to fill in the primetime slot. It is time for us, to do something better for our society. Any means the realism of a fact lies with the complete closure with justice delivered not only to the victim but to the society too.
Until unless thelimited time outrage and mongering of issue is protracted despite of what we are forced to think and react.May this sound a bit weird as we being responsible-sensible citizens, it is our bona fide birth right to reacton anything and everything comes across. But will make a difference if it is made to prolong it despite of the shelf life tag come along with the issue.
Helping 'smart' devices talk to each other
Remember Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian short story “The Veldt” (excerpted here) with its nightmare vision of a soul-sapping high-technological future where monstrously narcissistic — and, as it turns out, sociopathic and homicidal — children resent even having to tie their own shoes and brush their own teeth, since they’re accustomed to having these things done for them by machines?
Remember Kubrick’s and Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where HAL, the super-intelligent AI system that runs the spaceship Discovery, decides to kill the human crew that he has been created to serve, because he has realized/decided that humans are too defective and error-prone to be allowed to jeopardize the mission?
Remember that passage (which I’ve quoted here before) from John David Ebert’s The New Media Invasion in which Ebert identifies the dehumanizing technological trend that’s currently unfolding all around us? Humans, says Ebert, are becoming increasingly superfluous in a culture of technology worship:
Everywhere we look nowadays, we find the same worship of the machine at the expense of the human being, who always comes out of the equation looking like an inconvenient, leftover remainder: instead of librarians to check out your books for you, a machine will do it better; instead of clerks to ring up your groceries for you, a self-checkout will do it better; instead of a real live DJ on the radio, an electronic one will do the job better; instead of a policeman to write you a traffic ticket, a camera (connected to a computer) will do it better. In other words . . . the human being is actually disappearing from his own society, just as the automobile long ago caused him to disappear from the streets of his cities . . . . [O]ur society is increasingly coming to be run and operated by machines instead of people. Machines are making more and more of our decisions for us; soon, they will be making all of them.
Bear all of that in mind, and then read this, which is just the latest in a volley of media reports about the encroaching advent, both rhetorical and factual, of all these things in the real world:
A house that tracks your every movement through your car and automatically heats up before you get home. A toaster that talks to your refrigerator and announces when breakfast is ready through your TV. A toothbrush that tattles on kids by sending a text message to their parents. Exciting or frightening, these connected devices of the futuristic “smart” home may be familiar to fans of science fiction. Now the tech industry is making them a reality.
Mundane physical objects all around us are connecting to networks, communicating with mobile devices and each other to create what’s being called an “Internet of Things,” or IoT. Smart homes are just one segment — cars, clothing, factories and anything else you can imagine will eventually be “smart” as well.
. . . We won’t really know how the technology will change our lives until we get it into the hands of creative developers. “The guys who had been running mobile for 20 years had no idea that some developer was going to take the touchscreen and microphone and some graphical resources and turn a phone into a flute,” [Liat] Ben-Zur [of chipmaker Qualcomm] said.
The same may be true when developers start experimenting with apps for connected home appliances. “Exposing that, how your toothbrush and your water heater and your thermostat . . . are going to interact with you, with your school, that’s what’s next,” said Ben-Zur.
The Internet Of Things: A Dystopian Nightmare Where Everyone And Everything Will Be Monitored On The Internet
Jacques Ellul’s nightmare vision of a technological dystopia
Matt Carding Exploains:
Imagine for a moment that pretty much everything you think about technology is wrong. That the devices you believed are your friends are in fact your enemies. That they are involved in a vast conspiracy to colonize your mind and steal your soul. That their ultimate aim is to turn you into one of them: a machine.
It’s a staple of science fiction plots, and perhaps the fever dream of anyone who’s struggled too long with a crashing computer. But that nightmare vision is also a serious intellectual proposition, the legacy of a French social theorist who argued that the takeover by machines is actually happening, and that it’s much further along than we think. His name was Jacques Ellul, and a small but devoted group of followers consider him a genius.
To celebrate the centenary of his birth, a group of Ellul scholars will be gathering today at a conference to be held at Wheaton College near Chicago. The conference title: “Prophet in the Technological Wilderness.”
Ellul, who died in 1994, was the author of a series of books on the philosophy of technology, beginning with The Technological Society, published in France in 1954 and in English a decade later. His central argument is that we’re mistaken in thinking of technology as simply a bunch of different machines. In truth, Ellul contended, technology should be seen as a unified entity, an overwhelming force that has already escaped our control. That force is turning the world around us into something cold and mechanical, and — whether we realize it or not — transforming human beings along with it.
In an era of rampant technological enthusiasm, this is not a popular message, which is one reason Ellul isn’t well known. It doesn’t help that he refused to offer ready-made solutions for the problems he identified. His followers will tell you that neither of these things mean he wasn’t right; if nothing else, they say, Ellul provides one of the clearest existing analyses of what we’re up against. It’s not his fault it isn’t a pretty picture.
. . . Technology moves forward because we let it, he believed, and we let it because we worship it. “Technology becomes our fate only when we treat it as sacred,” says Darrell J. Fasching, a professor emeritus of religious studies at the University of South Florida. “And we tend to do that a lot.”
. . . “Ellul never opposed all participation in technology,” [says David Gill, founding president of the International Jacques Ellul Society and a professor of ethics at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary]. “He didn’t live in the woods, he lived in a nice house with electric lights. He didn’t drive, but his wife did, and he rode in a car. But he knew how to create limits — he was able to say ‘no’ to technology. So using the Internet isn’t a contradiction. The point is that we have to say that there are limits.”
Michael Snyder Further Adds In The Article He Titled Below:The Internet Of Things: A Dystopian Nightmare Where Everyone And Everything Will Be Monitored On The Internet
Can you imagine a world where your home, your vehicles, your appliances and every single electronic device that you own is constantly connected to the Internet? This is not some grand vision that is being planned for some day in the future. This is something that is being systematically implemented right now. In 2015, we already have “smart homes”, vehicles that talk to one another, refrigerators that are connected to the Internet, and televisions that spy on us. Our world is becoming increasingly interconnected, and that opens up some wonderful possibilities. But there is also a downside. What if we rapidly reach a point where one must be connected to the Internet in order to function in society? Will there come a day when we can’t even do basic things such as buy, sell, get a job or open a bank account without it? And what about the potential for government abuse? Could an “Internet of Things” create a dystopian nightmare where everyone and everything will be constantly monitored and tracked by the government? That is something to think about.
Today, the Internet has become such an integral part of our lives that it is hard to remember how we ever survived without it. And with each passing year, the number of devices connected to the Internet continues to grow at an exponential rate. If you have never heard of the “Internet of Things” before, here is a little bit about it from Wikipedia…
Things, in the IoT, can refer to a wide variety of devices such as heart monitoring implants, biochip transponders on farm animals, electric clams in coastal waters, automobiles with built-in sensors, or field operation devices that assist fire-fighters in search and rescue. These devices collect useful data with the help of various existing technologies and then autonomously flow the data between other devices. Current market examples include smart thermostat systems and washer/dryers that utilize wifi for remote monitoring.
But there is also a dark side to the Internet of Things. Security is a huge issue, and when that security is compromised the consequences can be absolutely horrifying. Just consider the following example…
It is a strange series of events that link two Armenian software engineers; a Shenzen, China-based webcam company; two sets of new parents in the U.S.; and an unknown creep who likes to hack baby monitors to yell obscenities at children. “Wake up, you little ****,” the hacker screamed at the top of his digital lungs last summer when a two-year-old in Houston wouldn’t stir; she happened to be deaf. A year later, a baby monitor hacker struck again yelling obscenities at a 10-month-old in Ohio.
Both families were using an Internet-connected baby monitor made by China-based Foscam. The hacker took advantage of a weakness in the camera’s software design that U.S.-based Armenian computer engineers revealed at a security conference in Amsterdam last April.
The Internet allows us to reach into the outside world from inside our homes, but it also allows the reverse to take place as well.
Do we really want to make ourselves that vulnerable?
Sadly, we live at a time when people don’t really stop to consider the downside to our exploding technological capabilities.
In fact, there are many people that are extremely eager to connect themselves to the Internet of Things.
In Sweden, there are dozens of people that have willingly had microchips implanted under the skin. They call themselves “bio-hackers”, and they embrace what they see as the coming merger between humanity and technology. The following is what one of the founders of a Sweden based bio-hacking community had to say during one recent interview…
“The technology is already happening,” says Hannes Sjoblad, one of the founders of BioNyfiken. “We are seeing a fast-growing community of people experimenting with chip implants, which allow users to quickly and easily perform a variety of everyday tasks, such as allowing access to buildings, unlocking personal devices without PIN codes and enabling read access to various types of stored data.
“I consider the take-off of this technology as another important interface-moment in the history of human-computer interaction, similar to the launches of the first windows desktop or the first touch screen. Identification by touch is innate for humans. PIN codes and passwords are not natural. And every additional device that we have to carry around to identify ourselves, be it a key fob or a swipe card, is just another item that clutters our lives.”
And of course this is happening in the United States as well…
In America, a dedicated amateur community — the “biohackers” or “grinders” — has been experimenting with implantable technology for several years. Amal Graafstra, a 38-year-old programmer and self-styled “adventure technologist”, has been inserting various types of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips into the soft flesh between his thumbs and index fingers since 2005. The chips can be read by scanners that Graafstra has installed on the doors of his house, and also on his laptop, which gives him access with a swipe of his hand without the need for keys or passwords.
But you don’t have to have a microchip implant in order to be a part of the Internet of Things.
In fact, there are a whole host of “wearable technologies” that are currently being developed for our society.
For instance, have you heard about “OnStar for the Body” yet? It will enable medical personnel to constantly monitor your health wherever you are…
Smart, cheaper and point-of-care sensors, such as those being developed for the Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE, will further enable the ‘Digital Checkup’ from anywhere. The world of ‘Quantified Self’ and ‘Quantified Health’ will lead to a new generation of wearable technologies partnered with Artificial Intelligence that will help decipher and make this information actionable.
And this ‘actionability’ is key. We hear the term Big Data used in various contexts; when applied to health information it will likely be the smart integration of massive data sets from the ‘Internet of things’ with the small data about your activity, mood, and other information. When properly filtered, this data set can give insights on a macro level – population health – and micro – ‘OnStar for the Body‘ with a personalized ‘check engine light’ to help identify individual problems before they further develop into expensive, difficult-to-treat or fatal conditions.
If that sounded creepy to you, this next item will probably blow you away.
According to one survey, approximately one-fourth of all professionals in the 18 to 50-year-old age bracket would like to directly connect their brains to the Internet…
According to a survey by tech giant Cisco Systems, about a fourth of professionals ages 18 to 50 would leap at the chance to get a surgical brain implant that allowed them to instantly link their thoughts to the Internet.
The study was conducted on 3,700 adults working in white-collar jobs in 15 countries.
“Assuming a company invented a brain implant that made the World Wide Web instantly accessible to their thoughts, roughly one-quarter would move forward with the operation,” the study found.
In the end, they are not going to have to force most of us to get connected to the Internet of Things.
Most of us will do it eagerly.
But most people will never even stop to consider the potential for abuse.
An Internet of Things could potentially give governments all over the world the ability to continually monitor and track the activities of everyone under their power all of the time.
If you do not think that this could ever happen, perhaps you should consider the words of former CIA director David Petraeus…
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation Internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing”
Are you starting to get the picture?
They plan to use the Internet of Things to spy on all of us.
But we just can’t help ourselves. Our society has a love affair with new technology. And some of the things that are being developed right now are beyond what most of us ever dreamed was possible.
For example, Microsoft has just released a new promotional video featuring 3D holograms, smart surfaces, next-generation wearable technologies, and “fluid mobility”…
The elaborate, highly produced video shows jaw-dropping technologies like a SCUBA mask that annotates the sea with 3D holograms, a multipart bracelet that joins together to become a communications device, and interactive, flexible displays that automatically “rehydrate” with information specific to the people using them.
This Is What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains
According to Colin Hogan, we learn that:
In his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr expands on his Atlantic piece from last summer, (Is Google Making Us Stupid?) where he posited that our technology is changing the way our brains operate. The internet, Carr wrote then, assumes "that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines." Encouraged by the frenetic, hyperlinked web, we are losing our capabilities to process information at less-than-internet speeds. We are easily distracted, he argued, and increasingly incapable of paying attention to books or articles of any sustained length.
Far from being a solitary Luddite cry against the further reaching of the internet on our daily lives, Carr's assertions have increasingly become a fact of accepted knowledge: that our addiction to the web and computers is affecting the way we think. We are no longer knowledge seekers, but information data processors, roaming from one fact to another. That is, our capability for "deep thinking", is limited without the time to process information and draw our own conclusions.
As Kieron O'Hara highlighted in Plato and the Internet, knowledge has moved from the Platonic realm of "justified true belief" – that knowledge is based on things like reason, experience, perception – to a commodity, or data, that can be applied for a given situation. Basically, usable information that's devoid of humanity.
It was a concept familiar to Jean Baudrillard. In his essay Operational Whitewash, he argued that, given the current societal trend for everything to have an "operational genesis … communication is a matter not of speaking but of making people speak. Information involves not knowing but making people know."
Baudrillard continued: "In order for content to be conveyed as well and as quickly as possible, that content should come as close as possible to transparency and insignificance."
But not only is it just the way that we gather information that has changed, but how we communicate it once it has been found. Increasingly, those information interactions are through social networks: web-driven speaking tools that reduce our own communication to data piles, stacked with quick, surface-level proclamations. The kind of deep thinking that gave Descartes the comfort to qualify his own existence, gives way to data sharing, shallow thought, and the comfort that a computer has qualified our existence for us.
Enter Steve Jobs and both the iPad and the new iPhone 4, two devices inherently designed to make us more connected. The latter has a "retina display" – a screen designed to the maximum number of pixels distinguishable to the human eye – and a feature that Apple calls Facetime. Thanks to the iPhone's two cameras, users can now, as they have long been able to on their desktop, technically speak face-to-face via a split-screen.
"Am I man or machine?" Baudrillard asks in Xerox and Infinity. "The worker is always, in a way, a stranger to the machine he operates, and alienated by it." But now the relationship is becoming different, Baudrillard confesses. "The new technologies with their new machines, new images and interactive screens do not alienate me. Rather, they form an integrated circuit with me."
Who are we talking to when we face the screen? As we touch the face of an iPad to connect with a friend, we are attempting to extend ourselves through a machine, and to grant human capabilities to a screen: not artificial intelligence, just artificial humanity. But while we may be sociable online, the social aspect of those networks is only distinguishable by their ability to link people only in the strictest internet sense – not physically, but in the abstract. In the end, as we gaze into the screen, we are facing only what we've directed the machine to do – that is, we are facing ourselves. It's a perpetual narcissistic feedback loop of enclosed interactivity.
"The whole paradigm of the sensory has changed," writes Baudrillard. "The tactility here is not the organic sense of touch: it implies merely an epidermal continuity of the eye and image, the collapse of the aesthetic distance involved in looking." We are drawn to the screen by its proximity and emptiness that begs to be filled. Our fingers encounter something tactile, but in reality, Baudrillard reminds us, "the image is always light years away … at a very special kind of distance that can only be described as unbridgeable by the body."
What we are communicating, in fact, is a mirror of ourselves in a highly pixelated form, existing simultaneously only so far away as a finger length and yet nowhere at all. It is a shallow relationship. Through the glass screen of web interaction, we are in danger of becoming simply the same surface-level information that we are now programmed to gather.
Welcome The hooplah that surrounds the release of a new Apple product is enough to make many otherwise calm and balanced adults froth and jigger. That some froth with excited happiness and others with outraged contempt is almost irrelevant, it is the intensity of the response that is so fascinating. For the angry frothers all are fair game for their fury – the newspapers, the blogosphere, the BBC and most certainly people like me for acting, in their eyes, as slavish Apple PR operatives.
Why should these iPads and iPhones be front page news when, the frothers froth, there are plenty of other manufacturers out there making products that are as good, if not better, for less money? And isn’t there something creepy about Apple’s cultiness and the closed ecosystem of their apps and stores? The anti-Applers see pretension and folly everywhere and they want the world to know it.
The enthusiastic frothers don’t really mind, they just want to get their hands on what they perceive as hugely desirable objects that make them happy. The two sides will never agree, the whole thing has become an ideological stand-off: the anti-Apple side has too much pride invested in their point of view to be able to unbend, while Apple lovers have too much money invested in their toys to back down. It is an absorbing phenomenon and one which seems to get hotter every week.
I almost always go out with an iPhone in one pocket, a BlackBerry in another and an Android device in a third. But then I am peculiar. If I had to keep only one, yes, I confess I would choose the iPhone, but I could cope happily if I were left with just a Black Berry Bold or an HTC Desire. At least so I would have said until last week when Apple gave me an iPhone 4 to play with.
For just as the frenzy of iPad launch has subsided (3 million sold in 8 weeks) it is now time for Apple haters to have a new device waved in their angry faces and time for Apple lovers to get verbally bitch-slapped for falling once more for Steve Jobs’s huckstering blandishments. iPhone 4 is here. It is only a year since many will have taken advantage of incentives to upgrade from iPhone 3G to iPhone 3GS and their deals may still be active, denying them the chance to leap to the newest phone without eye-watering financial penalties.
Much as 3GS was released simultaneously with OS 3.0, so iPhone 4 arrives with iOS (as all Apple mobile device operating systems will now be designated) 4.0, which will be able to bring some, but not all of its new functions and features to older phones (but not the iPhone 2G). The phone will be available unlocked here in the United Kingdom, so your existing SIM (so long as it is cut down to the new mini-SIM shape) will work without having to jailbreak and unlock.