FTVMS 717 – Week 11

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In thinking about the pervasive nature of ubiquitous media, two particular areas piqued my interest within the course: the possibility of utopian/dystopian futures and the concept of immersion and what it might mean in today’s context.

We are experiencing a shift much like television did in its transition from the broadcast to the post-network era. In the case of ubiquitous media, we are now seeing the digital come out into the real world, instead of us having to “log-into” digital worlds.

A problem I have with ubiquitous media is that it almost assumes that everybody will have access. But unless ubiquitous media can solve the problem of the digital divide, a dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion will be created—in which case would something like the concept of “media buildings” be a solution in granting access to the disadvantaged?

It would seem that “enclosing” or immersing users is a lucrative endeavour for the private sector. But how are those with little money affected—or even those without access? And if we are able to live increasingly “cyborg existences” in unison with our devices, what happens to those who can’t join us? Ubiquitous media may be utopian for some, yet dystopian for others.

Where immersion is concerned, we are seeing technology increasingly dissipate into our environment—almost “naturalizing” its usage and presence. As such, “good” technology shouldn’t ever reveal itself and we should only really ever be able to notice that we were ever immersed once crucial aspects of our mediated environments are found missing or defective. Here, ubiquitous media seems to be about the lessening of friction. Which makes it possible for us to become inadvertent users of technology, where we won’t know when or where we’ve “opted-in”—where’s our agency?

Ubiquitous media is often “bolted” upon the framework of the everyday—in which case it becomes crucial to examine where we end and the “media” begins. Here, it is also crucial to examine the implications—looking at who gets access and also at how we are seemingly becoming embedded deeper and deeper within mediated environments.

FTVMS 717 – Week 10

For the blog this week I took a walk down Queen Street, focusing primarily on how—just like with the introduction of the television—screens, or media have become part of the “furniture” of our city.

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The time, date, stock exchange information and even news headlines. All in one digitized sign.

It is interesting to note how even rudimentary forms of media—along with screens—have endeavoured to turn buildings into something else. In this way, these structures have been imbued with new meaning, and the space around them has consequently been recalibrated—turning these buildings into place-based media structures.

From my observations (gallery at bottom of page), it is clear that in many cases these structures have either been shaped to adapt to: the needs of the moment; the city’s ambiance; the efficiency of the city; or the “brandscape.”

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Advertising – which is always refreshing. Even the frame of the Westpac has the ability to change, affecting the ambiance of the space around it.

Many of these examples serve to illustrate how Auckland has been streamlined by ubiquitous media—by creating a more user-friendly environment for tourists and inhabitants alike. This is exemplified by information rich “screens” which endeavour to provide the populace with a wealth of information. And these have the potential to be personal, as long as you filter—as many of these examples don’t yet have the capability to tailor themselves to individual users.

Some of these more basic forms of media are, for the most part, “invisible” or taken for granted, and while electronic screens are slowly proliferating throughout Auckland City, they are still somewhat a novel experience—yet all of these are aspiring to embed people within the network of the city, by using infrastructure, almost to characterize the city as an interface in which one can be immersed.

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Keeping the city moving with “old media” – “Keep Left,” along with directions – in order to maintain the speed and mobility of Auckland City.

In essence, these examples serve to enhance or refresh spaces—by providing information, art, advertising and more. All of which, open us up to new forms of agency and space-making practices.

Herein, a maxim of ubiquitous media in the city reveals itself: be useful, or be useless. As these “enhancements,” must be “good” enough to be able to bleed into the everyday nature of our relations with the city.

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An Info terminal – have never seen these in use, not sure if they’re new or just not working at the moment.

From this and the readings this week, two interesting ideas were raised for me:

– Could “media buildings” be a solution in dealing with uneven access to media networks, by providing the homeless for example, with access to these networks through these new pieces of “furniture?”

– Also, I’m not sure if this has been done anywhere in the world, but I thought it would be an interesting idea—especially in creating transnational spaces—to set up screens in cities across the globe, linking them up with cameras, so that people could interact with others around the world, while still remaining within their respective cities.

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Gallery contains examples of “old” and “new” media.

FTVMS 717 – Week 9

cloud_webFranklin posits that “Cloud computing represents the process, or at least the dream of a process, whereby the computer dissipates into an environment.”

From here, correlations can be drawn between Cloud computing and immersion—as the dissipation of the computer into the environment suggests that our environments are becoming increasingly moulded by computing processes that we are seemingly unaware of and thus embedded within.

Franklin refers to this process as one where computers are becoming increasingly “naturalized”—a term which I referred to in last week’s blog.

Ostensibly, the goal behind the naturalization of computing processes is to immerse or “enclose” users within virtual worlds which serve as “controlled zones,” where user-activities can be monetized and tracked—which places the motivation of constant user activity at the centre of commercial web design, as Franklin contends.

Control then, becomes a key commercial driver behind the Cloud initiative—as our engagement with Cloud computing architecture is being increasingly dictated to by the private sector.

As such, marketing endeavours reveal themselves as crucial tools in “locking” users within the various iterations of Cloud computing.

Lametti suggests that devices are being “dumbed down,” along with the proliferation of a thin-client business model, in order to implore users to rely on the Cloud more and more. This suggests that ease of use and the removal of friction are important in locking users within virtual enclosures. In other words, the “naturalization” of devices and their features has become an important piece of the immersion puzzle—as users search for increasingly simple devices which they can integrate into their lives and daily routines, enabling the power of the Cloud to be embedded within the everyday.

But, just as we are beginning to feel comfortable within these “enclosures”—what will happen when we don’t have the keys and are locked out? And furthermore, is the Cloud just a series of better “locks” which the powerful may use to protect their interests on the Internet?

The Cloud presents itself as an interesting example which corresponds highly with immersion—one which may be useful to my research project.

FTVMS 717 – Week 8

247343-1wKYSm1405777656Andrejevic presents an interesting point: interactive technologies are essentially alibis for information gathering.

In light of this, it would seem that engaging, engrossing and immersing users is crucial, not only in increasing the bottom line, but also for surveillance—two objectives which inspire the need to immerse from a commercial perspective.

Here, I find it interesting how successful technologies have “naturalized” their unique capabilities in creating tools for surveillance.

On Facebook, checking in and location tagging gives the user the ability to manage their identity online, revealing to their friends what they are doing and where they are. As a user, this presents an opportunity to show the world a carefully constructed side of your life, while giving anyone in your social network the ability to engage in peer monitoring, and furthermore, allowing for the creation of data profiles which detail your whereabouts and your activities.

Even the Facebook “like” opens up a possibility for surveillance, as things like behavioural preferences and demographic data are able to be gathered through the simple click of the “like” button.

Essentially, these are both examples that constitute forms of tracking—which many social media users have willingly adopted, seemingly without question.

Therefore, it would seem that immersing oneself in an interface such as Facebook has some implications.

As Jennifer Golbeck explains in her TED Talk, Facebook users aren’t actually the customers at all, they’re the product. Here, Facebook users are just consumer profiles which can be sold to the highest bidder.

We may think we have agency as a result of the various affordances offered to us by interactive technologies, but through our actions we are creating very specific sets of data—data which is all being aggregated and used somewhere, sometimes for purposes unknown.

Golbeck TED Talk:

http://www.ted.com/talks/jennifer_golbeck_the_curly_fry_conundrum_why_social_media_likes_say_more_than_you_might_think

FTVMS 717 – Week 7

BylGVkwA few themes within the readings this week stood out for me in relation to my own personal research.

Of particular significance to my interest in immersion, is Clark’s view that we are living a “cyborg existence.” Herein, Clark details how our bodily limits and bodily presence is ultimately an ongoing construct, allowing it to be influenced by tricks and especially new technologies. In this context, we—as humans—are constantly evolving and adapting in accordance with the latest technologies at hand. And as such, it would seem that this is a key theme in explaining how we are so easily embedded and immersed into the heavily media saturated environments of today. These new tools ostensibly become almost invisible extensions of our own mental and physical capabilities—adding new layers to our culturally and technologically open, cyborg existences.

Turkle furthers this notion, adding that we feel “enhanced” through these technological extensions. Moreover, she talks of “filling in the blanks,” which seems to be another key initiative in the quest for not only creating interactive technology, but successfully inducing immersion. Not only does new technology fill gaps in our own lives—allowing it to become embedded in our everyday existences—it also allows us to fill gaps that it leaves open for us—fostering a kind of meaningful relationship. This seemingly opens up the possibility for us to become “in sync” with the technology—allowing one to happily lose track of where they leave off and the technology begins. Which leads me to wonder: are we “becoming” our devices, or are they “becoming” us?

Furthermore, through Turkle’s exploration of social robotics, she uncovers an undercurrent of nurturance, which seems to be a crucial tool in engendering immersion by creating a Heideggerian world-of-concern for the individual in their human-technology relations.

In our “tethered” world, these themes are of particular interest to my research and require further investigation.

FTVMS 717 – Week 6

FF_blomkamp2_fThis relentless search for efficiency within the development of “smart” technologies, “The Internet of Things” and “big data” is facilitating a marked shift in the very nature of society. It is this temptation to want to fix everything—rooted in technological “solutionism”—which seems to be edging us closer and closer towards a future pervaded by technology.

Who benefits from this? It would seem that big business and those who have the means will stand to gain as media and technology become increasingly ubiquitous, and as such, a dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion is created as those with the technology ready-to-hand will be able to prosper within these new environments.

Will these new environments be utopian or dystopian? Within this context, the answer should hinge on one’s place within society. As we move into an era where wealth is becoming increasingly derived from the application of brainpower, jobs are beginning to vanish, die-out, or be reconfigured, as the human contribution is being eradicated in order to increase profits through efficiency. Those without the appropriate “brainpower” will effectively be marginalised where their futures will become uncertain.

In Winner’s words, we’re becoming the “receptacles for patterns and processes whose character has been decided elsewhere.” Solutions are being imposed upon us and subsequently, large numbers of us who lack the requisite skills may become “unwanted human surplus,” or added to the “discard pile” as technological “solutionism” rears its ugly head.

It would seem that the gap between the rich and poor will only widen, as this increased efficiency will see big business flourish, while eradicating their much smaller rivals. The same kind of effect may infiltrate the rest of society, especially among those such as the homeless. Those with the means could effectively wall themselves off from the less fortunate within the electronic equivalents of “gated communities.” It would seem that utopian/dystopian science-fiction could turn out to be rather predictive after all.

FTVMS 717 – Week 5

digital-show-and-tellFor me, the concept of the cyborg advocates an intimate relationship between humans and their technologies, which has typically been propagated through science-fiction, where the human body is physically modified and “upgraded.”

Our current era resonates strongly with this notion, yet without the need to utilise cyber-mechanical devices to modify ourselves. This is owed to the fact that we are currently engaging with our technologies in a worryingly intimate manner. With the advent of Google Glass and other such objects on the horizon, it would seem that this is an initiative which is being actualized.

These technological extensions of human ability are effectively magnifying our capabilities and seeing us increasingly embedded in Whalen’s concept of “the cognisphere.”

As global function systems are seemingly open to everyone, this made me consider issues of inequality within society, specifically concerning “The Digital Divide” and especially the homeless.

What happens to those who lack the technological means to embed themselves within these globally interconnected cognitive systems? What are the implications for the disadvantaged?

As networks of pervasive computing proliferate, it’s quite possible that groups such as the homeless will not only be neglected, but excluded and resultantly marginalised. In this respect, our “realities” will differ and in the future we may in fact be left with hierarchical structures where members of society are left to bodily existences while others are embedded and immersed within increasingly complex “cognispheres.”

The co-evolutionary spiral between humans and technology is grossly magnifying our capabilities, while opening ourselves up to new and greater possibilities based on our latent abilities and desires. As we continue to evolve with our technologies it is crucial to ask what will happen to the disadvantaged. What may be a utopian future for a large majority of society may ostensibly be a dystopian one for others.

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