Tag Archives: arts3091

Scientists can be selfish too

I have to admit I didn’t think of science as an industry in the same way I thought about the music industry or journalism. For me, science research was some vague thing undertaken by very intelligent people that went through some mysterious processes to establish its validity and eventually benefitted me, and the public, in the form of diagnoses, cures and treatments. It never really occurred to me that science research might be some people’s livelihood or that certain individuals might put their individual aspirations above that of the public good. What seemed self-evident for musicians, that they might not want to throw all their hard work out there for free public consumption, seemed not quite right for science and health publishing. Somehow they seemed to noble for this.

But of course, it is an industry and hence, the open source, free sharing nature of the internet has the potential to really shake things up.

The debate is in fact very familiar; general and increasing agreement about the public benefit of sharing and openness punctuated by frequent cries of ‘What about my job?!’

I am in agreement with the two articles we were directed to, both of which were generally positive about new media and science publishing. As Elizabeth Pisani states in her article  Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds, the example of genetics demonstrates the success of sharing and collaborating between researchers. Once science funders decided they would only fund geneticists who were willing to make their data available immediately, the access to information on gene sequences increased exponentially and the pace of discovery and cures in tandem.

Similarly, in the article On Science Publishing, John Wilbanks claims that we are entering a world where the publication of research serves as a distributed commons of knowledge, ‘as the beginning of millions of research cycles, not where a short set of pages represents the end of a research investment’. Wilbanks is very positive towards to potential of new media for science and is critical of the fact that there are still limits and barriers to access.

Science researchers are an indispensable part of society and finding new ways to incite them to share their knowledge and data with the public is key.

Maybe the large amount of money saved by major funders through only funding researchers who are willing to share their work could be used to pay these researchers an increased amount.

As with journalism and the music industry, we are once again relying on a society built on goodwill rather than greed. However, no-one believed that thousands upon thousands of people would rush to share their knowledge with no tangible benefit yet Wikipedia exists and thrives. I think it helps to have faith in the inherent goodness of society.

References:

Pisani, Elizabeth (2011) ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11

Wilbanks, John (2011) ‘On Science Publishing’, Seed


New media social organisations

New media has enabled a whole raft of community groups with their own specific or general aims of change. These range from the grand and ambitious, fighting global warming, to the intimate and personal, organising a community garden. What ties these groups together is the organising potential of new media, allowing individuals to find others with similar interests and band together to enact change.

However, whilst it is easy to get all utopian and hail the internet and the way it can change society for the better, it is also easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are changing society when really you are just lying in bed, prostrate, pressing the ‘like’ button on Facebook. There’s a guilty party right here. Enthusiasm for causes needs to be followed up by action.

A critique often levelled at alternative social organisations online is that they don’t actually achieve any real action. It’s all online petitions and ‘liking’ causes. One of Australia’s most prominent social action groups, GetUp! has faced this criticism. How accurate is it? Does GetUp! achieve what it sets out to do? Does it accomplish anything in the ‘real world’ not just online?

Former editor of GetUp! Nick Moraitis responded to criticism that GetUp! doesn’t achieve real world action by stating ‘just because GetUp! uses online technologies more effectively than other Australian progressive groups, it doesn’t mean that’s the only tactic they employ.’

GetUp! does indeed utilise new media more effectively than most, garnering attention for a variety of important causes and providing a centralised place for donations.

And as Moraitis states, they also employ a variety of offline tactics as well, such as organising rallies and undertaking interviews with mainstream media.

GetUp! achievements speak for themselves, with $2.2 billion secured for mental health, challenging discriminatory voting laws, assisting in increasingly paid parental leave and many more. You can read more here.

There are a variety of online community groups that don’t really get past the click and like stage (the majority of Facebook groups) but when progressive groups such as GetUp! utilise both online and offline tactics the results are impressive.

References:

http://www.getup.org.au/

http://newmatilda.com/2011/04/01/getup-gets-things-done

http://p2pfoundation.net/


Group Collaboration in New Media Art

We live in an incredibly exciting time for art – art is disseminated with incredible ease, is shared, is contributed to, is reused and remixed endlessly.

One element of this vast area of contemporary art, particularly new media art, which I find particularly interesting is the ever increasing importance of group collaboration. As was claimed in the documentary The Future of Art ‘the idea of the great man is disintegrating’. In other words the lone genius creating incredible works is slowly being usurped by works utilising the combined input of a great range of people, reusing and contributing to others’ work. ‘Many hands make light work’ seems to be trumping ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’. The combined existence of those two sayings has always been troubling for me.

The final product is rarely the final product. You can never know what may become of your artwork. In some ways, this may make the final product perhaps less sacred as that level of untouchability is removed. The final product can be bastardised. It can also be beautified. I am going to focus on the beautification. Rather than blabber on, here are a couple of examples of works that have been remixed and reused to create something beautiful, amusing and touching.

Firstly, as was discussed in class, is Mass Ornament, a video installation by Natalie Bookchin that raises several issues of what constitutes art.

Bookchin collated and choreographed several hundred YouTube home-made dancing videos. The result, as you can see above, is quite stunning, capturing the very sameness of all these people dispersed around the world.

Are the dancing videos posted up on YouTube art? Or do they become art only when merged and combined by Bookchin? Could Bookchin’s artwork have existed without these dancers? Clearly no.

Both elements, the YouTube dancers and Bookchin, require each other in order to create this ultimately quite beautiful artwork and it is the contribution by all parties that creates the beauty and meaning in the work.

And now for something completely different, the website Learning to Love You More, which generally employed old media but used new media to draw on crowd collaboration and input. Now the website exists only as an archive but from 2002-2009 it was an active, ever-changing example of collaborative artwork.

Briefly, Miranda July and Harrell Fletcher would set an assignment for the general public each week and the general public, or whichever part of it happened to be paying attention, would respond by completing her task and posting the results on the website.

Examples of assignments included asking a neighbour to sing or play and instrument and recording the performance; climbing to the top of a tree in your town and taking a picture; making an encouraging banner. The beauty of this website was the simplicity and generality of the commands which acted as a guide and allowed for a wide variety of responses from participants worldwide. Interesting, Learning to Love You More, like Mass Ornament, showcased the amateur. This focus on the amateur is a defining feature of new media art.

In both of these works, the lone genius acts as curator rather than as content-maker. It is the combined collaborative effort that creates the meaning, empathy and beauty in the art.

References:

Shalom, Gabriel (2011) The Future of Art Transmediale, http://www.emergence.cc/ 2011/02/the-future-of-art/

http://www.learningtoloveyoumore.com/index.php

http://bookchin.net/projects/massornament.html

 


Going beyond the dead journalism frame

It has been said so often that it has begun to lose its impact – journalism is dead. The glory days are over.  Never again will we see in-depth thoughtful investigative journalism. The big, scary internet has been the sinister killer.

If everyone just took off the rose-tinted glasses for a second and turned around to face the future, or at least the present, they might get a more realistic view of the state of journalism.

Thinking transversally, what is journalism? What is its purpose and what does it aim to achieve? In a survey of journalists conducted by Jeremy Adam Smith of Stanford University, meaningful journalism was held to be that which had instigated policy or social change. Others have claimed that journalism provides citizens with the ability to be free and self-governing (Kovach and Rosenstiel in Craig D A, Excellence in Online Journalism) and some point to the characteristics of quality journalism, that it is accurate, independent, bias-free etc. Fundamentally, quality journalism should be an integral part of democracy, allowing citizens to discover and know their society.

So with this in mind, is journalism dead? Do citizens no longer have the ability to know their society? Do the numerous journalistic sites and articles proliferating on the net not subscribe to these characteristics and ideals of journalism? Did the traditional media ever do this?

I would argue that the long-held goals of journalism are being achieved in numerous ways online in the 21st century. Frameworks alleging the trustworthy properties of traditional media as opposed to the fickle and biased nature of new media are far too simplistic and often simply incorrect.

Towards the end of traditional media’s primacy, in-depth investigative journalism was sadly more an ideal than a reality. The business nature of newspapers, television stations meant quicker, less labour-intensive stories often took priority over extensively researched, investigative journalism. Despite this, various frames enamoured with ‘the good old days’ have inspired some to forget the realities of traditional media. As one particularly cynic commentator has put it ‘we tend to forget that journalism grew up to fill pages between ads’ (http://timberry.bplans.com/2009/05/is-journalism-dead-dying-or-just-faking-it.html#ixzz1KVsClaip).

One of the key issues raised in the death of journalism debate is how to finance meaningful journalism online and this is taken up in a Knight Garage blog article by Jeremy Adam Smith. For Smith, the future for funding meaningful investigative journalism seems to be in grants, donations, crowd-funding and nonprofit collaboration. I think this idea is fascinating and promising. Taking journalism away from its traditional commercial ad-driven habitat is surely a good thing. As Smith states ‘the combined predominance of social motivation and charitable support clearly suggests that journalism has become a social venture, not the bottom line business it once was’. I personally have more faith in journalism as a crowd-funded social venture than an advertisement funded commercial business.

There are far too many issues regarding the changing nature of journalism to tackle in a short blog post, but in short, it is unwise to frame the issue as simply traditional media good, new media bad. Or for that matter, the converse, that all old media was corrupt and all new media is a utopian charitable dream. The new journalism landscape is complex and exciting.

Whilst traditional media formats may be dying, quality journalism is far from dead.

References:

Craig David A, 2011, Excellence in Online Journalism

Smith Jeremy Adam, ‘How We’re Financing Meaningful Journalism’ http://knightgarage.standford.edu/2011/03/how-were-financing-meaningful-journalism

Benton Joshua, ‘Eight trends for journalism in 2011: A Nieman Lab talk in Toronto’, http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/eight-trends-for-journalism-in-2011-a-nieman-lab-talk-in-toronto/?utm_source=feedburner


Reality and Virtuality

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mediated_reality_continuum_2d.png)

It’s easiest to start with a picture. Especially a picture which attempts to put reality into a little box. Here we have the spectrum of mediated reality, from unmodified reality in the bottom-left corner to severely mediated virtuality diagonally opposite. In between we come across mediated virtuality and augmented reality, all of these terms blurring what truly constitutes pure reality.

What is unmodified reality? What could this possibly mean?

Surely every aspect of our reality is modified by some extent and new media is achieving this ongoing modification in increasingly inventive ways.

Virtual reality has dominated public consciousness for a long time, particularly focusing on the supposed benefits and dangers of virtual world games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. Increasingly though, attention is turning to Augmented Reality and the opportunities this poses for not just gaming but social networking, business, commercial activities (particularly e-shopping), music creation and much more. The various directions of Augmented Reality are explored by Chris Grayson in his blog post Augmented Reality Overview.

I agree with Grayson when he states that he doesn’t believe Virtual Reality will really take off until we are “in there versus looking there”. This is where Augmented Reality is so exciting. It is a far more immersive bodily experience. By incorporating computer generated data into our physical environment the sense of reality is far greater. The various videos linked to on Chris Grayson’s video stretch from cute novelty, to useful and informative to what I believe has crossed the barrier to creepy . The Loopt i-Phone app in particular was a little much for me. This app involved discovering the exact locations of your friends, what and where they were eating, how they felt about what they were eating and where they were. Sam Altman, the CEO of Loopt stated that this app was ‘making serendipity happen’ but I believe this was killing the very notion of serendipity, the idea of an unexpected pleasurable discovery is well nigh impossible with this app. In this reality everything is known beforehand.

Slightly more positively, the following is one of my favourite examples of augmented reality –  not life-changing or with any particular utility but just really beautiful.Here reality and virtuality are wonderfully blended into a media form which has become hideously stagnant, the music video.

Arcade Fire – The Wilderness Downtown


Hypomnesis, Anamnesis, photos and perfume

Recently whilst on holidays overseas, I lost my camera. The day before this, I lost $600. The latter event was met basically with a ‘diddums’ – well something slightly more emphatic than ‘diddums’ but with no particular passion or trauma. The former event however was met with pain and anguish. I threw the contents of my bag about the room, I sweated, I yelled. It wasn’t a pretty sight. The physical object of the camera wasn’t important to me, it was the build up of weeks of beautiful memories that I couldn’t bear to lose. It was almost as if, knowing I had the camera there to do the work for me, I let my capacity for memory down a little.

This exterialisation of memory is referred to by Bernard Stiegler in his text Anamnesis and Hypomnesis. The camera, the external object is the hypotechnic, an object separate from our mind which yet does the same role as our mind. This hypomnesis, the extension of memory, is in contrast to anamnesis, the so-called ‘natural memory’. The ability of memory to be extended beyond the mind and also the potential danger of this, has been considered since Plato. As Stiegler states, Plato claimed that writing was a form of hypomnesis and as such was false knowledge. The question of what constitutes false knowledge and false memory and their ‘natural’ counterparts is fascinating and particularly relevant in a society where media and technology continue to provide more external apparatuses. Am I losing something in delegating my memory to a camera?

A similar thing occurred a few weeks later when I met up with my sister after having travelled alone for a month. Whilst travelling alone is an incredible experience I would suggest to anyone, any time, the one downside is when you get home there is no-one to reminisce with, no one to recall with you particular obscure events. So, when I met up with my sister I once again let my memory relax. I had found another form of hypomnesis, however this time it was not my camera but my sister’s brain.

I don’t believe I am losing any particular natural memory or ability through this exterialisation but instead assisting processes of recollection which occur if not naturally then internally. An example of the way in which hypomnetic and anamnetic memory are always working and combining is evidenced when I now smell a particular smell or hear particular songs. Here we have the external trigger of memory (hypomnesis), but the sensual, involuntary reaction (anamnesis) –  which occurs and produces a memory far more vivid than voluntarily recollected memories.

In fact, I have now banned myself from wearing a certain perfume because I want it to hold the memories of my trip and not be tainted by any subsequent experiences. Sad because I truly love the smell of Euphoria but the power of that perfume to bring back not just vague visual pictures but sensations and feelings and sounds and smells is too valuable. Having the past in a bottle, especially a bottle that smells as good as Euphoria is one of the greatest gifts I can imagine.


Labelling Media Theories

The question of the extent to which technology (media specifically) alters society and influences individuals’ actions is fascinating to me. This question was predominant throughout the readings and it seems, throughout media studies in general.

Technological determinism holds that technology is the sole agent for change in society. It is a popular view in media studies and in the wider society, as demonstrated in the categorising of various periods by their dominant technology (steam age, the age of electricity, the information age etc)

It is undoubtable that certain new technologies do significantly alter society. The main issue with technological determinism is that it removes technologies from their social context, treating specific technologies as if they ‘came into existence of their own accord’ (Murphie and Potts).

Cultural materialism, the name given by Murphie and Potts in their text Culture and Technology, is the perspective held by those theorists on the other end of the spectrum to technological determinists, those who seek to always situate technologies in their contexts. Key in this collective of theorists is Ray Williams who emphasises ‘social need and political intention as significant factors involved in technological development.’ Determinists simply leave these factors out.

It is easy to state that technology changes society because in this case we are usually only considering the technological inventions that exist and proliferate today. There are many, many examples of various technologies and media which simply did not catch on and hence faded from the public memory. These inventions did not survive because they didn’t suit or were not necessary for their particular social conditions. Thus, it is not simply technology influencing society but also social conditions influencing and changing technology.

Some media unquestionably and radically alter society. I found Paul Levinsen’s discussion of the phonetic alphabet and the subsequent rise of monotheism particularly interesting. The ability of these meaningless letters to represent abstract thought was clearly a huge advantage to the Hebrews in communicating the idea of monotheism. Also fascinating was the resistance that this new written mode faced, by Socrates and Plato amongst others. This resistance mirrors the current opposition that various digital technologies face today and situates our current media situation within a long line of invention, resistance and acceptance.