Archive | March, 2014

Pushing the boundaries of virtual and augmented reality #ARTS3091

29 Mar

 

The effects that “virtual” and/or augmented” reality has on humans provide a broad platform for sociological debate. Wikipedia defines augmented reality as,

 

“…a live, copy, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data…” (Wikipedia 2014)

 

Paul Dourish describes this notion as an “embodiment of computers”. He argues that the development of computer technology has resulted in computer systems occupying “our world of physical and social reality”. It is interesting to think about whether embodied interaction is enhancing or diminishing our reality… and how far we can actually stretch the limits of augmented reality to make it a reality

 

Is it possible that we could get to the point of augmenting friends or dates? That fluttery feeling when meeting someone you’re attracted to – could it be transformed into “augmented reality”? For those lonely soles out there who have tried every way to find the ultimate man or woman (speed, online, blind dating etc), it seems that – judging from the current speed of 21st Century technological developments –  the creation of a virtual “Mr Right” might indeed be possible.

 

Although both a worrying and intriguing thought, I personally don’t think augmented reality could be stretched this far. The excitement of really getting to know someone – discovering their hobbies, likes/dislikes, past and even their mannerisms could arguably not be simply “augmented”. Even if it could be, the intimate interactions loved ones share could definitely not.

 

This possibility of augmented friends and dates aligns with the idea of robots taking our jobs. Sarah Gardner, in her article, “A robot for every job” suggests that humans will no longer be needed to work in factories,

“More than a million industrial robots work in manufacturing plants all over the world already.  And they’re getting smaller, cheaper and smarter all the time” (Gardner 2013)

She stresses the concerns of economists, who believe that the development of robots will leave many “no or low-skilled workers” unemployed. American scholar and businessman, Warren G. Bennis, reinforces the idea of robot work-place domination:

“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” (Gardner 2013)

 

Even though robots have evidently seem to be acquiring human abilities:

Advancements in robotics are continually taking place in the fields of space exploration, health care, public safety, entertainment, defense, and more. (see http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/robots-at-work-and-play/100389/ for some interesting examples) (Taylor 2012)

There are still arguably many flaws in this theory of robot domination. Firstly, humans are not stupid – we are adaptable. We live in a face pace word of technological development that continue to offer new and interesting types of jobs. Furthermore, robots may actually be offering many people (who are likely stuck in jobs they hate) a liberating opportunity to find a job that is more challenging and motivating.

 

One must be carful to make generalized assumptions on the supposed effects of augmented reality and embodied interaction. Even though computers play a major role in conducting and enhancing our everyday lives, there is a line that remains drawn between real and virtual.  It is arguable that the sensitivities of a human being could never be remade, and that virtual “beings” could never actually dominate our ever-adapting and developing world.

 

References

 

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Augmented Reality’, Wikipedia, accessed 28 March 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality

 

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia, accessed 29 March 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality

 

Dourish, Paul (2004) ‘A History of Interaction’, in Where the Action Is: The

Foundations of Embodied Interaction, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: 1-23.

 

Gardner, Sarah (2013) ’A Robot for Every Job’, Marketplace.org, February

18, accessed 28 March 2014 http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/robots-ate-my-job/robot-every-job

 

Taylor, Alan (2012) ’Robots at Work and Play’, In Focus, October 17, accessed 28 March 20114 http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/robots-at-work-and-play/100389/

What makes a memory memorable? #ARTS3091

24 Mar

Wendy Chun argues that digital media are highly unreliable when it comes to storage and memory. She puts forward the idea that we assume that digital media is about storage and storage is perfect, therefore making our memories perfect. However, as Lovink stated,

Because of the speed of events, there is a real danger that an online phenomenon will already have disappeared before a critical discourse reflecting on it has had the time to mature and establish itself as institutionally recognised knowledge (Kyong-Chun 2011, p. 186)

Put simply, the fact both traditional media (newspapers, radio, tv etc) and new media (twitter, Facebook, Instagram) constantly bombard us with new information, it must be questioned how much we actually remember. Do we rely on our computer archives, status updates and twitter feeds so much that social media has actually weakened our ability to remember? Or has it become an extension of the human memory? (Wikipedia 2014)

I’m specifically going to focus on how Facebook seems to be an extension of ones memory, but also a place of memory overload. From the recent profile “time-line” installment it appears that Facebook treasures personal memories. Scrolling back through old photos and posts I am reminded of holidays, fun nights out, and funny moments I’ve shared with friends and family. Birthday reminders, personal event calendars and notifications arguably extend and enrich my biological memory. On the other hand, it also seems that the endless documenting of photos, status updates, posts and reminders of peoples birthdays (that most of the time I don’t really care about) layers up my profile with mindless memories that will become meaningless over time. I know when I scroll through my Facebook homepage I tend to mind numbingly read things without any intention to remember them…if some actually asked me what I read on my Facebook homepage this morning it’s likely that I wouldn’t be able to recount much of what I read.

Benjamin Libet has calculated that it can take up to .5 of a second to consciously “experience the present”. The media’s fast pace nature arguably doesn’t give one time to “experience the present” because the focus is too much (both publically and privately) about what’s happening now, tomorrow or next weekend.

Alva Noe believes that memory does not come from the mind, but rather our personal experience:

 The brain is necessary for our life, but it is hardly sufficient. A human being, like every living being, is a locus of densely interwoven coupling with the world around us (Noë 2010)

Alan Kay’s video (see below) is a great example of how the mind learns and remembers through physical experience rather than technical thinking. His video addresses how “over-thinking” can actually seize up the process of learning and remembering. Relating Alan Kay’s theory with my own personal experience of trying to learn the French language, I would definitely have to agree that memorable memories are made through experience. After studying French at school for 4 years, I only seemed to remember the phrases “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir”. However, after living and working for a French family for only two months as an Au Pair, I was just about fluent. Apart from the obvious fact that I would pick up the language quickly as I was hearing it all the time, every French word was given substance from the way my host family would say them to me.  If Nemo (the 5 year old) was hungry he was grab his stomach and whine “J’ai Faim!” (“I’m hungry!”) Or if Marko (my host dad) couldn’t find his keys he would be pointing at the door lock, looking around franticly shouting, “Où sont les clés?!” (“Where are the keys?!”) It was these actions that made these words memorable – not the words themselves.

We learn and remember through experience and not through technical thinking. Although it may seem like the media is an extension of our memory, these memories on there are simply “stored away” rather than remembered. Both old, and particularly new, forms of media constantly bombards us with information and updates to the point that our mind is trained to just read and observe rather than experience and absorb it.

 Alan Kay’s video:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50L44hEtVos

 

References

‘The Extended Mind’, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Kyong-Chun, Wendy Hui (2011) ‘The Enduring Ephemeral, or The Future is a Memory’ in Huhtamo, Errki and Parikka, Jussi (eds.) Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications. Berkeley: University of California Press, 184-194

Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/doesthinkinghappen-in-the-brain

An Ecology of control and destruction? The domino effect of mainstream media representation #ARTS3091

15 Mar

In it’s simplest form, Neil Postman asserts that,

Media ecology is the study of media as environments (Media Ecology Association, 2009).

If the media can be classed as an environment, it is essential to ask what kind of environments different media platforms create. Are these virtual media environments having a detrimental effect on societies’ immediate and future physical environments? In order to answer these complex questions, it is necessary to examine what sorts of environments are created through personal media usage and vise versa with public media engagement.

Personal Media Usage
The two most prominent media platforms I use would be either iMessage or Facebook. Right from early in the morning I use the “Text my Bus” App to find out what time my bus will be arriving. During my bus trip I would likely be texting or Face booking a friend, and even during lectures and breaks I spend a fair amount of time scrolling through my Facebook homepage or replying to messages. I would feel extremely lost, and almost naked, if I realised I’ve left my iPhone at home…it would put me in a frustrated mood too.

From this brief description of my personal media usage, it is evident that a kind of virtual ‘instantaneous social environment’ has been created. This environment seems to shape the dynamics of my daily routine into one of constant socialising and networking with others. The individual and arguably solitude, act of riding a bus or walking down the university main walkway is transformed into a virtual ground of social conversation, laughter and gossip. How others communicate with me through texting has the power to influence my behaviour throughout the day. As Neil Postman emphasises,

…an environment is, after all, a complex message system which imposes on human beings certain ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving (Media Ecology Association, 2009).

If somebody posts something funny on Facebook I may laugh, or if I hear some shocking news from a friend I will likely feel anxious for the rest of the day. My daily media communication has the power to place me in a social environment, which arguably has the ability to immunise the immediate/physical happenings of the public environment all around me.
From this analysis of my own personal media usage, it must be questioned whether individuals are controlled by their media environments? This inquiry will be critically discussed and analysed below.

Public Media Engagement
The public sources their news and entertainment from many different types of media platforms (the internet, television, the newspaper etc.) I am going to specifically examine the type of environments television can create, as this media is watched by the younger, middle aged and older generations daily.

A study published in the US journal Pediatrics in 2010, found that kids who spend hours each day in front of the TV or games console have more psychological difficulties like problems relating to peers, emotional issues, hyperactivity or conduct challenges, than kids who don’t (SMH 2010). The researchers found that children who spent two hours or more a day watching television or playing on a computer were more likely to get high scores on a questionnaire, indicating they had more psychological difficulties than kids who did not spend a lot of time in front of a screen (SMH 2010). It cannot be said from this evidence alone that engaging with television from a young age has an effect on all children’s psychological patterns. However, it is interesting to note the potential ‘future environment’ television might be creating for some children. It is arguable that too much television watching may lead to bleak and psychologically draining physical environment for children as they venture through school, work and their everyday habitation.

Furthermore, as we will see from the following YouTube video, the effect of mass media misrepresentation can create almost fantasy environments, which can dangerously lead to dictating communities’ views and opinions. The video is a report on how, since 2007, the Adelaide press have run more than 150 articles on a supposed violent Aboriginal gang – dubbed the Gang of 49 – terrorising Adelaide with hundreds of crimes including ram raids, robberies and high speed chases. As we will see from this video, research shows that there is actually no gang at all, and as a result younger Aboriginal’s within Adelaide communities actually want to be part of this imaginary gang when they grow up. This overblown media misrepresentation has arguably created an “environment of fear”, where society assumes, if they see a young group of Aboriginal men, that they will be dangerous and violent.

YouTube Video on the Gang of 49:

This destructive environment that television viewing (and other types of media) has the potential to create, is reinforced through Anon’s statement,

Industrial capitalism has enhanced our knowledge and technological capabilities beyond belief. Yet despite this technical and scientific advancement we still are faced with massive inequalities of wealth, poverty on an enormous scale, millions of annual deaths from easily treatable diseases and numerous wars, both between and inside states (Anon 2008)

Will the constant evolving of new media environments have a lasting effect on people’s lives to the extent of completely controlling their decisions and the way they live? We must remember the importance of our immediate physical environments, and not let media misrepresentation dictate our decisions to the point of controlling our feelings, thoughts and lives. Society must take more care to not believe everything that they engage with when delving into their media environments.

References

Media Ecology Association 2009, accessed 16 March 2014, http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/

(Author not named) 2010, ‘Too much TV psychologically harms kids: study’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October, accessed 16 March 2014, http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/too-much-tv-psychologically-harms-kids-study-20101011-16fo4.html

Anon, 2008, ‘The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari’, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 15 March 2014,
http://mediaecologies.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/the-three-ecologies-felix-guattari/