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.


Media Ecology Association 2009, accessed 16 March 2014,

(Author not named) 2010, ‘Too much TV psychologically harms kids: study’, Sydney Morning Herald, 11 October, accessed 16 March 2014,

Anon, 2008, ‘The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari’, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 15 March 2014,


‘Essay-in-lieu-of-examination’ #Final Assignment 40%

13 Jun

When publishing changes, so does society. Investigate and compare the impact of two publication technologies, one pre-1900 and one post-2000, on a specific aspect of society (e.g. education, politics, creative industries, science, entertainment, social relationships). 


Over the years society has been visually entertained from the late 1800s development of the motion picture, to today’s cinematography, downloadable films and online videos. This essay will critically compare the publishing platform of the traditional motion picture camera with today’s online YouTube platform. Through this comparison, we will be able to see the different ways these publication technologies have impacted the content, consumers and creators within the entertainment industry. The concepts of ‘forms of expression’, the ‘actor-network’ theory and the ‘the creative commons’ will be explored in order to demonstrate that when publishing changes, inevitably society does too. In the case of entertainment, I believe YouTube has shifted the dynamics of the industry in a positive and refreshing manner. However, many take the view that YouTube has produced a network of mind-damaging entertainment that continues to contaminate the dynamics of the entertainment industry.

Forms of Expression

The invention of the motion picture camera provided society with a new expression of content. It opened the doors to an extended experience of entertainment by bringing static photographs to life. Eadweard Muybridge was known by many as the, ‘father of the motion picture’ after his creation of ‘the horse in motion’ (WildFilmHistory 2008). Muybridge was hired by Leland Stanford to photograph horses in order to prove the theory that for a split second, all four hooves of a racehorse are off the ground simultaneously (Harry Ransom Center 2007). He set up a row of twenty-four cameras with tripwires, which would each trigger a picture for a split second as the horse ran by (Harry Ransom Center 2007). His photographic results settled the debate as his motion picture (see the YouTube link and photo below), clearly illustrated that all four hooves do come off the ground at once.


The ‘horse in motion’

This motion picture is a prime example of how forms of content can create a whole new form of expression – an expression of movement. The content within these photos, and they way in which they were published, made what was previously invisible for the human eye visible. Muybridge’s ‘motion pictures’ became a form of expression that inspired others to capture moments in time. From Louis Le Prince’s 1888 experimental film, the Roundhay Garden Scene, to Thomas Edison’s development of the first motion picture system (Kinetoscope) in the early 1890s, the publishing of films was soon seen as a source of profit. At the cost of a nickel the public were entertained with fifty-foot film snippets including Fred Ott’s Sneeze, entertainment performances like acrobats, music performances and boxing demonstrations at Edison’s New York Kinetoscope Parlour (Musser 2013). At one end of the spectrum the motion picture can be seen as a source of entertainment that significantly broadened the cultural, historical, and political knowledge of the middle class. However, is can arguably be said to be the catalyst for creating lazy consumers as one could have their entertainment spoon-fed to them rather than actively entertaining themselves through reading, sewing, or playing a musical instrument.


Has the motion picture done this to us?

The creation of YouTube in 2005, like the motion picture, opened doors to whole new expressions of content within the entertainment industry (Wikipedia 2013). However, YouTube is arguably a much more diverse, individualistic expression of content. Unlike the publishing of motion pictures pre-1900, YouTube enables any individual (who owns a computer) to create their own videos instantly. Rather than being confined to a motion picture company’s middle-class choice of entertainment, YouTube offers endless types of entertainment on a global scale. If one was entertained by music, movies, TV shows, sport, comedy, opera (the list is endless) then it can be instantly accessed on YouTube. Although these infinite forms of expression could be perceived as widening society’s unhealthy consumer culture, this is arguably balanced out with the option of being able to create their own forms of expression. Guy Debord discusses the stars as a form or expression, “Stars — spectacular representations of living human beings — project this general banality into images of permitted roles… The function of these celebrities is to act out various lifestyles or sociopolitical viewpoints in a full, totally free manner (Debord 1987). Like stars, forms of expression created on YouTube gives society the ability to make anything entertainment, which in turn can be interpreted differently by the consumers around the world. YouTube has impacted society in a way that does not confine them to a position of consuming entertainment. It has enabled society to create, share and watch their own sources of entertainment, giving the word ‘entertainment’ a much more broad and productive meaning.


Each star has something to say…each YouTube clip does too.

The ‘Actor-Network’ Theory

The motion picture and YouTube publication platforms are examples of Bruno Latour’s ‘actor-network theory.’ They both have ‘humanistic’ and ‘non-humanistic’ ‘actants’ within their networks that are essential for the publication’s function as an entertainment source (Any-Space-Whatever 2013). The non-humanistic actants within the motion-picture network include the technological elements of the motion picture system, the location and the objects within the motion picture. The humanistic actants include the creators of the motion picture, the people being filmed and the spectators. Unlike YouTube, the motion-picture publication created a ‘top-down’ network, reflective of society’s strict separation of classes and feudalistic values. The spectators were ‘passive actants’ as they had no power to edit or critique the publication, and no form of direct communication with the actors or producers. Although the content of the entertainment may have been enjoyable, educational, and inspiring, the spectators were unable to balance out the creative forces within the network.


Pre-1900 ‘passive actants’ trapped in their consumer role.

In contrast, YouTube produces an inter-active network of entertainment. Every humanistic actant within the network has the option of watching, creating, sharing and even critiquing a video. Each actant has a relational tie and can aggregate different forms of entertainment through discussion, critical comments and the sharing of videos. The publication platform of YouTube demonstrates the complex ‘actor-networks’ the digital age has created, and how society expects to be entertained in a way that involves them interactively. Although YouTube’s actor-network reflects a democratic and refreshing network of entertainment, the breadth of actants arguably has a damaging effect on the quality of the entertainment produced and consumed.  McKenzie and Wark discuss the issue of ‘hackers’ in their article ‘Abstraction’, stating, “Hackers create the possibility of new things entertaining the world. Not always great things, or even good things, but new things…there are hackers hacking the new out of the old.” (Wark and McKenzie 2004). Looking at the term hackers broadly, the question must be asked whether the humanistic actants of YouTube are in fact ‘hackers’. Are we just re-producing a source of low-quality contemporary entertainment that already exists? It is inevitable that there will always be ‘hackers’ within the network of YouTube. There will be people who will entertain others and themselves by singing a song that has already been created, or carrying out a prank that has already been played. However, these are still forms of entertainment that may cater to a certain individual’s taste. One may love the tales of Shakespeare but find it difficult to understand Shakespearian language. The humanistic actants within the YouTube publication network can provide tales of Shakespeare that are performed in many different languages, enabling multi-ethnic societies to consume and enjoy the entertainment (see the Chinese adaptation of Richard III below). YouTube ‘hackers’ can be interpreted in a positive sense as they can reproduce entertainment that crosses temporal, spacious and cultural boundaries. As stated by McKenzie and Wark, “the greatest hacks of our time may turn out to be forms of organizing free collective expression, so that from this time on, abstraction serves the people” (Wark and McKenzie 2004).

The Creative Commons

The motion picture and YouTube are publishing platforms that have created and developed the concept of ‘the creative commons’ over time. Consumers of entertainment have experienced the shift of once meeting on a ‘physical’ common ground to a ‘cyber’ common ground. The motion picture was a form of publication that enabled people to physically meet and mingle on a common ground. Society was not only entertained by the content within the motion pictures, but also by the experience of dressing up and socialising with others. However, it was a common ground that was passive rather than active. Society could not push the boundaries of entertainment within society like it can today. The ‘physical’ and potentially ‘creative commons’ that the motion picture produced was essentially cut off when the motion picture ended. There was no continuing flow of distribution that enabled society to share the entertainment with others locally and globally.


Physical interaction on a common ground

In contrast, YouTube has produced an ongoing and ever expanding ‘cyber commons’ that has enabled consumers to create, archive, and share their own entertainment. Sociologist, Danah Boyd, discussed the metaphor of “flow”, and how society today lives in a “world of flow… you’re living in the stream: adding to it, consuming it, redirecting it” (Guillard 2010). We are living in an ever-evolving cyber commons has arguably produced a whole new flow of entertainment that has opened doors for any average person to make it big in the industry. The Canadian pop-musician, Justin Bieber, has YouTube to thank for his fame (see the YouTube clip below). His videos were discovered by accident on YouTube by an American talent manager in 2007 (Wikipedia 2013). Psy’s YouTube hit “Gangam Style” was recognised by Guinness World Records 2013 as the most viewed and “liked” video in YouTube history (Wikipedia 2013). Arguably, YouTube’s ‘cyber commons’ has diminished any type of physical interaction and enables individuals to coop themselves up for hours. Many people (including young children) may choose to watch mind-damaging videos such as war killings and other types of provocative material. As Boyd pointed out, “People consume the content that stimulates their mind and their senses. Consequently, it is not always ‘the best’ or the most informative content that holds their attention, but that which triggers a reaction. Which is not inherently a good thing”(Guillard 2010). Although there is potential for consumers to cut themselves off from the outside world and watch limitless videos, I believe this is outweighed by the relationships, careers and educational value YouTube as a  ‘creative commons’ has produced.  “…we now have more than a million creators from over 30 countries around the world earning money from their YouTube video… Subscriptions allow you to connect with someone you’re interested in — whether it’s a friend, or the NBA — and keep up with their activity on the site.” (YouTube 2005). From personal experience, I know that whenever I watch an enjoyable YouTube clip I instantly share it with my friends, or show it to them in person. It’s a source of entertainment that can be continuously shared an appreciated by anyone from around the globe.


YouTube transformed this little lad’s life when his musical talent was spotted on the ‘cyber commons’!



Through the exploration of forms of expression, the actor-network theory and the creative commons, it is evident that when publishing changes society does too. The impacts of the motion picture and YouTube publication platforms have provided society a whole new extended experience of entertainment. Society has shifted from the position of consumers of a narrow source of content to creators, designers, editors and critics. YouTube has redefined the meaning of entertainment on a global scale, giving those of any demographic a chance to watch, produce and share their own entertainment. Although YouTube has arguably enabled people to create mind-numbing and damaging entertainment, it cannot be assumed that all motion pictures were meaningful too. Entertainment is something that is personal, and YouTube is a publication platform that caters to all tastes. Whether it is scientific dissecting, karaoke, or surfing, these endless diverse forms of expression can entertain anybody at any time.

Word Count: 1986  



Any-Space-Whatever 2013, Actor-Network Rochambeau, accessed 1 June 2013, <;

Debord, G 1987, Unity and Division Within Appearances’, The Society of the Spectacle, accessed 1 June 2013, <;

Guillard, H 2010, ‘What Is Implied by Living in a World of Flow’, Truthout, 6 June, accessed 1 June 2013, <>

Harry Ransom Center 2007, Horse in Motion, Eadweard Muybridge, ca. 1886, accessed 30 May 2013, <>

Musser, C 2013, ‘Edison: The Invention of the Movies’, ElizabethK Studio, accessed 5 June 2013, <;

Photopin 2013, Creative Commons and Flickr, accessed 5 June 2013, <>

Wark and McKenzie 2004, ‘Abstraction’, A Hacker Manifesto, Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press, paragraph: 004 and 023

WildFilmHistory 2008, Eadweard Muybridge, Wildscreen, accessed 29 May 2013, <>

Wikipedia 2013,History of film, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed 30 May 2013, <>

Wikipedia 2013, Justin Bieber, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed 3 June 2013, <;

Wikipedia 2013, List of YouTube Personalities, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed 3 June 2013, <;

Wikipedia 2013, YouTube, Wikimedia Foundation, accessed 30 May 2013, <>

YouTube 2005, Statistics, accessed 1 June 2013, <;


Real-time visuals do a lot more than entertain.. #real-time

4 May

A real-time visualization, known as ‘VJing,’ create static visuals into something that moves. This moving element takes the ‘term’ visualization to a whole new level as it encapsulates audiences and enables them to not only to reflect on a visual, but to actually become involved with it emotionally. As Wikipedia defines,  “VJing is the manipulation or selection of visuals, the same way DJing is a selection and manipulation of audio.”

Today, as Andrew addressed in the lecture, VJing is often used in clubs and at festivals. When I go to a club and there is some form of a real-time visualization, I am usually mesmerized by it. It is a form of publishing which, as Andrew said, “modulates our experiences.” There simple and complex types of VJing that are used to form expression of music content. For example, something as simple as lazar light show is a form of VJing as it creates an appealing dream-like atmosphere for people to engage in while in a club or at a festival – it essentially enables people to connect with each other around them too through colouring everyone’s skin and clothing the same colours, as-well-as as letting people reach out and touch the real-time 3D visual. Check out the video of a simple form of Vjing below:

There are also more complex types of VJing, which involve using more content and are essentially aiming to take the reader on an emotional journey. Complex VJing can combine all types of images and often merge, flash, distort, lighten, darken (the list is endless) to create an experience that would not be possible in the real world. Check out this complex VJ below and ask yourself these questions; what do you feel emotionally when watching it? Does it take you on a journey? Do you feel you have been lifted or brought down by the real-time visual? Is it addictive to watch and why? Do you feel is would appeal to a certain type of social?

I felt a sense of fear during first half of the VJ, the tribal-like music and images transported me back in time to another land where troops and animals were being assembled for war. Splatters of red against the neutral great bodies and black background halfway through the VJ made me feel like I was fighting with a tribe, which then formed into a sort of ceremony – the modern pictures of a dancing fighters gave me a sense of satisfaction that war was over, and that we live in a time of peace. However, the ghost-like face hovering in the background towards the end gave me a sense that we will always be watched over by enemies (whatever land or country we live in), and that we are, in a sense, always at risk of war breaking out.

In the lecture, Andrew spoke about those who highly disapprove of VJing, such as Paul Virilio, who thinks real-time visuals make us “loose out on real-life experiences,” for example watching cloud formations, the sunset and sunrise, star-watching etc. Although, I agree that (to an extent) real-time visuals have the potential to occupy our minds with simulated experiences, we could never actually loose real-life experiences. Something as simple as watching the horizon is a calm and sensualising experience that is globally panoramic – something that a VJ could never achieve. In my opinion, those who create VJs are not out to dominate or takeaway real-time experiences, they just want to enhance them, and even use them to help educate. Take a look at the project Paleodictyon – it’s a project that has created visuals to project onto the architectural structure of a building to form living organisms –enabling someone who’s visiting the museum learn about the lives of living organisms through sound and visuals rather than just reading about it on a panel or looking at them through a telescope. I think it’s incredible and proves that VJing are not just streams of real-time pointless images, but actually have a lot of purpose, expression and goals to reach.

Interpretations of Visualisations #Visible

25 Apr

When I went to a friend’s birthday party a couple of years ago everyone had to dress up as something beginning with “P,” so I decided to cover my whole body in post-it notes.  I got into a conversation with a few people at the party I didn’t know and they were having a debate about the ways in which someone’s costume reflected their personality. One of them said to me, “I reckon you must be a super-organised person with all those post-it notes!” and the other one said, “no way! She must be completely disorganised and chaotic!” It’s interesting to reflect on how people interpret different things depending on their background and experiences.

Look at this image..

Some people may see it as just a glass of milk…some may see it as a glass half full and some half empty. What does each interpretation represent? Images and visualisations will always be interpreted differently by different people, even as something as simple as a glass of milk and post-it notes.

Now, taking a look at this visualisation:

Looking at it for the first time I thought it was pretty boring…just lines and grooves. But when I read the background information and applied it, my whole perception of it changed. It became, as Andrew said in the lecture, a “network of data visualisation.” Very complex and fascinating – every single line, groove and colour that is visible in the visual has a different meaning and contributes to the network as a whole.

“Each arc represents a unique person, where the yellow color denotes how long they lived before being shot, and the white color how long they could have lived. Each arc is clickable and reveals more detailed information about that casualty.”

It is quite shocking how much of an impact a visualisation can have once the facts behind it are applied. It is also amazing to think that you can invent a very complex network visualisation or very simple one out of the same information. For example, you could make a scientific graph to represent what 200 calories look like, or you could simply use two photos:

So next time you look at a visualisation, don’t judge it until you have read up on the background info, and think about the endless ways you could create another visualisation to represent exactly the same thing.

Why the “Cyber Commons” could never be conquered #Commons

18 Apr

There is a lot of debate about the advantages and disadvantages of the Internet as a global ‘common ground,’ and whether it has the potential to be destroyed.

Unlike (as Andrew addressed at the start of lecture 6) the ‘traditional’ commons of the 17th, 18th and 19th Century like pasture, piscary, turbary and pannage..the ‘cyber commons’ is a much wider and diverse creative use of space that is essentially ‘unlimited.’ It can be argued that because it is such a wide common ground, it is much more open to abuse that cannot easily be regulated. It’s not just a case of poisoning or throwing some of your pigs off the common land because you’ve got too many and they’re eating all the grass, it’s a case much more subtle that can have personally damaging effects. The cyber commons can unfortunately be place for bullying, child porn, piracy, “trolling,” “astroturfing,” and just cruel amusement. George MonBiot, an environmental activist who has worked as radio producer of BBC wildlife programs, a current affairs producer for World Service, is an author of several books and currently a writer for the Guardian addresses the issue of “astroturfing” on his website; Monbiot believes these people/entities take advantage of the Internet’s ‘common ground,’ and as a result destroy the quality of work produced by both respected individuals and large corporations. He speaks of the effects of ‘austroturfing’ by a particular PR company.

“I first came across online astroturfing in 2002, when the investigators Andy Rowell and Jonathan Matthews looked into a series of comments made by two people calling themselves Mary Murphy and Andura Smetacek. They had launched ferocious attacks, across several Internet forums, against a scientist whose research suggested that Mexican corn had been widely contaminated by GM pollen.”

He also speaks about his concern that abusive comments and discussions only tend to come up when there’s money at stake.

“..discussions of issues in which there’s little money at stake tend to be a lot more civilised than debates about issues where companies stand to lose or gain billions: such as climate change, public health and corporate tax avoidance. These are often characterised by amazing levels of abuse and disruption.”

Although the “cyber commons” may be taken advantage of by certain users, certain laws have been formed to help regulate this abuse such as the Competition and Consumer Act of 2010 and Australian Copyright Act 1968. With these regulations in mind, Monbiot firmly still believes that “We’re in danger of losing this global commons as it comes under assault from an army of trolls and flacks, many of them covertly organised or trained.” Now, I think Mobiot’s argument is completely out of proportion. Unlike 18th Century commons, the Internet is a resource that is not scarce. The commons of the Internet is so huge, so diverse, and forever growing through different networks that we could never be in danger of losing it completely.

The digital commons has the authority of giving any ordinary person a chance to have their profiles, opinions, books, artworks, movies, photos, essentially any creative works published. Yes, there is a chance of abusive comments, trolling or copyright, but these issues can both be ignored or dealt with legally is necessary. Quality work that is viewed, shared, and appreciated by thousands globally cannot be crushed by ‘an army of trolls’ or ‘abusive opinions,’ as they are just not strong enough to hold their ground.

Take a look at the creative commons formed by Kickstarter. This is a network that has clear creative and legal authority, and this is forever expanding globally.

When I think about my own and my friend’s experiences with the Internet’s ‘commons,’ it has always been positive (apart from the odd spam mail my email sometimes sends out..) I am a member of ‘the loop’ website which enables members to create an online profile (publishing a CV, interests, and hobbies) as well as ongoing creative works/portfolios. I am also able to surf the loop as a common ground to look at other people’s profiles, as-well-as apply for jobs. I managed to score an Internship last summer by applying to PR companies that were able to instantly access my profile and see my qualifications, skills, interests, and contact details. I also use the Internet as a common ground to look at restaurant, bar and movie ratings. From websites like Timeout and IMDb I have hardly ever been let down on their ratings and reviews. the “cyber commons” really in danger of being destroyed by the minority “army of trolls and flacks”… I think not. I think it will continue to grow as a common ground that will be shared, regulated and enjoyed by the majority of users.


Monbiot, George (2010) ‘Reclaim the Cyber-Commons’,, accessed 17th April 2013, <http://;

Wikimedia Foundation (2013), ‘Copyright law of Australia,’ accessed 18th April 2013, <;


The Unhealthy Realities of Digital Distractions #Infotention

11 Apr

Click on the link and take a look at the image..

This woman has devoted her complete attention to this challenging yoga position. Her brain is tuned into every muscle in her body to make this position possible. There is clearly no room for mind wandering or multitasking otherwise she may fall. For most people, holding a heightened attention like this for a certain amount of time proves almost impossible..

We live in an age with many distractions, as James Temple remarks in his blog, “the modern world bombards us with stimuli, a nonstop stream of e-mails, chats, texts, tweets, status updates and video links to piano playing cats.” Putting your mind to one task and shutting everything else out is a lot easier than it sounds. I started yoga a couple of weeks ago as I thought it would help me relax and wind down after a stressful day a uni. Although I found the physical elements of it relatively simple, getting my mind to focus on just my body movements and breathing was extremely tricky. Every time I closed my eyes and tried to focus on my breathing (while posing as a dog) my mind would wander to thinking about my dog Tigger…and how I had to feed her when I got home…then what I might cook myself for dinner that will be quick and easy and how many ARTS2090 readings I needed to get through after dinner…and that I had a law assignment due in three days which led me to remember that that I was going to get a fine for not returning my law textbook back to the library…which led me to think about how I spent way too much money last weekend and that I really needed to start saving if I had a hope of going away next year…and that the lady in front of me (who looks like a yoga dog-posing expert) looks just like my friend’s Mum who is going through an awful divorce the moment and so on and so on..

SO…didn’t quite pan out to be quite so relaxing as I thought. As a result from not being able to divert my attention to relaxing my muscles and posing like a dog I was a lot more stressed leaving the class than before it began.

Now, why the heck couldn’t I just stop my mind from racing? I blame technology. In particular social media – I’m a little addicted.  So many Gen-Y’s are addicted, James Temple pointed out that a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (released in January 2010) concluded that 8- to 18-year-olds devote an average of seven hours and 38 minutes to entertainment media per day. But because they dedicate so much of that time using more than one medium at once – say, scanning Facebook as they listen to music and chat with friends – they actually pack in about 10 hours and 45 minutes of content in that period. Not only do I see this as unhealthy, but also it is a great challenge for digital authors, producers and publishers as their potential audiences have such limited attention spans.

Digital publishers have to tackle two main issues:

  1. An constant growing global competition and,
  2. Creating a publishing entity that actually holds the attention of an online audience.

In order for publishers to tackle these two issues they MUST make the assemblage of their website elements attention-worthy and easy to access. David Rock discusses the notion of our minds working as a “default network” when not much is happening around us. “It’s the network involved in planning, daydreaming and ruminating.” Digital publishers, in order to be successful, must pull people away from this state of mind. They have to find a way to use the concept ‘infotention’ to their advantage. Infotention is the concept of being able to filter through the huge amounts of information that we are bombarded with on the Internet. For example, infotention is applied to the network of my email – certain emails are filtered into my junk, and I have the option of using a search engine to find older emails, or organise them alphabetically. Infotention is essential to the digital online publishers as digital audiences have such low attention spans and subject to the distractions of other digital platforms. A publisher must find a way that grabs an audience’s full attention.

YouTube has carried out this concept very successfully. Although it has it downfalls of advertisement distractions, YouTube has cleverly organised its archives so that if you watch a video of ‘dancing dog,’ down the side panel will be very similar videos that grab your attention, which may then bring you to a dancing cat, that may even aspire you to subscribe so you can make a video of your own pet dancing. YouTube is a publishing entity so organised, so diverse, and so hands on that that it has authority over your minds ‘default network.’


Michael H. Goldhaber (1997) ‘Attention Shoppers!’, Wired, accessed 11 April 2013, < wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>

Temple, James (2011) ‘All those tweets, apps, updates may drain brain’ San Fransciso Chronicle, April 17, accessed 11 April 2013,  < BUTO1J0S2P.DTL>

Rock, David (2010) ‘New study shows humans are on auto pilot nearly half the time’, Psychology Today, accessed 11 April 2013,  < humans-are-auto-pilot-nearly-half-the-time>

Traditional v Digital Archives #Desire

29 Mar


Consider CMSs (content management systems), such as WordPress, YouTube, BlackBoard, those of particular newspapers online, the library catalogue, etc. How do they archive? How do they organize publishing? Possible actions? Forms of access?

Technically speaking, Digital CMSs (listed above) have a complex assemblage of archives. There are many digital ‘actants’ within the media platform. For example, the Internet software, file upload software, typing/audio/camera software, advertisements, the creators/users/viewers of the archives and many more. Each of these actants are necessary for building archives within a CMS such as Youtube. In contrast, traditional archives have a much narrower assemblage, as they do not require as many actants to make up the archive. If I wanted to make a photo album I would only need two main actants – photos and an album.  But if I wanted to make a photo album on Facebook I would need many different soft wares to create and publish the digital archive. In terms of organizing publishing, although YouTube, Blogs and BlackBoard have forms of censoring, anyone can organise the way the want to publish. As Andrew Murphie discussed in the lecture, we live in a society of “produsers” (producers and users). I could essentially become a user of YouTube by becoming a member, a producer by making my own movie, and a publisher by publishing it on YouTube.

What is this archive (in terms of digital archives) instituting?

Derrida views archives as the basis for what counts within both society and even perhaps our sense of ourselves. In terms of what digital archives institute and their importance, refer to the YouTube video I posted below titled ‘The Importance of Digital Archives’.

What new “inside” and “outside” do digital archives constitute?

Modern-day archives and publishing platforms have enabled ‘inside’ personal memories exist on the ‘outside,’ free for a global audience to share and experience. For example, the hurricane digital memory bank ( stores personal accounts, on-scene images, blog postings and podcasts of Hurricane Katrina and Rita. This digital archive has opened up the space for anyone to access and contribute memories. Although it can be argued, as Matt Ogle discussed, that certain digital archives focus on the ‘now’ (for example Twitter, Facebook and Youtube), closing off the past because of its constant, fast past character. They still open-up the possibilities for global audiences to contribute and even alter online published archives (for example, one could comment on someone’s Facebook photo from February last year, which then could have be ‘liked’ by someone yesterday.)

What do they Destroy?

Although digital archiving and publishing has completely revolutionised the way we store our past and may dominate globally “one can therefore no longer speak of an Asian, European or American technical system”(Stiegler 2003). Digital archiving has, in a sense, destroyed the sense of historical discovery. We have shifted from, as the Sharon points out in ‘early modern notes’, valuing archives as a place of “dreams” and “discovery.” Modern-day society desire (even demand) our archives to be readily available with a click of a button. Parikka discusses Ernt’s “media archaeology” and how we live in a society of “technoarchives”. He believes that the “length of storage is becoming increasingly more short term.” Digital publishing corporations, particularly online news cycles, have destroyed the authoritative value of archives as we are so concentrated on creating present news and wiping out the old.

Further more, in a literal sense – digital archives have a risk of being destroyed in a second! If one’s computer broke down, all the archives within it (photos, documents, data etc) risk being wiped. Physical libraries filled with data, documents and photo albums do not have this risk of being destroyed instantly. Yes, they are spatially bound to their location, but they are permanent. This applies the same way for digital and physical publishing corporations. A digital publishing entity such as YouTube could potentially have a network ‘melt down’ where as a physical publishing house such as Random House has the authority of physical disposition – once they print a book it can’t suddenly disappear because it was not properly ‘saved’ in a digital archive.


Howard, S 2005, Reposted: Archive fever: a dusty digression, Early Modern Notes, accessed 28 March 2013, <;

Ogle, M 2010, Archive Fever: A love letter to the post real time web, accessed 28 March 2013, <;

Parikka, Jussi 2013, ‘Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology’ in Ernst, Wolfgang Digital Memory and the Archive Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press: 1-22

Stiegler, B 2001, Our Ailing Educational Institutions, Culture Machine, accessed 28 March 2013, <>