Author Archives: jori

I @ Other in Lexia to Perplexia

I have been playing around with Lexia to Perplexia for awhile – I am not sure I reached the end, but I have hit a point where I can’t click open any more new windows. I found it confusing and disorienting to remember which words and phrases I saw before in the project because there are many paragraphs and phrases that repeat themselves throughout the narrative.

Narcissus, a character from Greek mythology, appears repeatedly throughout the project. In the Greek myth, Narcissus is subject to divine punishment when he falls in love with his own reflection in a pool. While reading Hayles interpretation of Lexia to Perplexia, she thinks that Memmott tries to rewrite this myth:

“’I-terminal,’ a neologism signifying the merging of human and machine, looks at the screen and desires to interact with the image, caught like Narcissus in a reflexive loop that cycles across the screen boundary between self/other” (Electronic Literature 122).

We, as subjects interacting with the text, try to interact and control the images on screen; but the technology actually controls us and throws the user into a recursive loop of text and images. If the technology takes control in this circumstance, maybe as a user we are not supposed to fully understand this project…?

Hayles also talks about the signature of “Sign.mud Fraud” that Memmott uses throughout the piece. This signature shows how older forms of analysis and psychology cannot directly inform our understanding of these new technologies. Our interactions with new media create relationships that need to be evaluated on completely new terms. This theme is reminiscent of our discussions on Electronic Literature – You cannot analyze electronic literature pieces with older literary theory or technology theory; the pieces need to be approached with new, interdisciplinary analyses.

In a broad interpretation of this project, Memmott shows through text and images the exchange between the individual and computer interface. When we click around on a computer screen, we are blind to the multiple processes occurring behind the images and in the hardware of the computer. Memmott illustrates the process of coding that occurs remotely. This quote within the “Process of Attachment Section”: “Any| Every hum.and attachment is a col.lation of local and remote em.Urgencies,” exemplifies this phenomenon. Attachments are created by things we see – local, and underlying attributes we don’t – remote. ‘Urgencies’ can signify the relationship that users create with computer in which they urgently request the machine to process their every wish. The way that Memmott uses new uses of punctuation illustrates the ways that computer code changes the flowing structure of narrative, turning long sentences into short segments of code.

In Manifesto 3, the text says,

“The machine is build in expectation, more than as an object – the tangible machine…is dead already…tomorrow you will reject me – this is my destiny I know.”

I understood this manifesto to explain the way users of machines expect them to act perfectly, to understand any command. Users are usually ignorant of the real human that created the computer code in the first place. (A phenomenon we know understand through the reading of Ullman’s, The Bug.) As soon as the machine does not hold up to our expectations, we reject them – we depend on machines, yet we also love to hate the machine. In Manifesto 2, the text says, “I @ other; the re:peat ‘face to face; other to other’; the trans|missive miltiples; other @ I.” This sentence resonated for me as an interpretation of the “I” we use with the machine. We think that as an individual we have complete control over the machine, yet we forget that we are actually always interacting with the ‘other,” with the machine.

In the author’s note on the Electronic Literature site introduction, Memmott tells us that “text is the gap between theory and fiction.” The text of Lexia to Perplexia tries to evoke this gap between the literary, the mythical, the technological, and the human. While this project was created in 2000, many of these themes are still pertinent today, ten years later, in explaining and deciphering our relationship with the machine. If anything, themes of “interimacy,” “metastrophe,” and the repetition of echo and narcissus are intensified in today’s networked world of the machine.

Gaming to change the world

I just put this on my website for this class, but I wanted to repost it here because it reminded me of the conversations were recently had in class about the gaming culture and judgments surrounding “gamers.”

I was recently sent a link to another TED.com lecture given by Jane McGonigal. McGonigal works the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, CA where she is interested in building a better future through innovate and creative solutions. In the video below she shares her theories behind the world of gaming and the opportunities for world change that can evolve through the application of the attributes of gaming culture.

In this video, “Gaming can make a better world,” McGonigal throws out a staggering statistic: The average online gamer spends about 10,000 hours playing these games before he or she reaches the age of 18. This amount of time is equal to the amount of time spent in school before high school graduation. Therefore, a gamer receives a parallel education from the gaming world while in the most formative years of education.

McGonigal sees four values of the gaming culture that could be applied to real world situation.

1. Urgent Optimism: in the game world a reasonable hope for success exists, bringing people back to the game in hopes that they can solve the next big gaming task.

2. Social Fabric: Within the gaming world, studies have shown that people tend to trust those that they have played a game with. Multi-player games need collaboration and a community that trusts each other to successfully function.

3. Blissful Productivity: When playing a game, the player is never standing around doing nothing. Games always move along quickly and the gamer feels that they are contributing to a productive cause.

4. Epic Meaning: Games give tasks to complete and missions to take on that give the gamer a sense of meaning.

With these four attributes, McGonigal thinks that games produce “super empowered hopeful individuals.” Aligning with a desire to incite change through innovate solutions, McGonigal wants to make these scenarios less virtual by making games that aim to solve real world problem. These games could be used as an online educational outlet in which users play the games and see the effects of their own opinions and strategies for solving real issues. These real world issues – famine, lack of oil, water issues – need creative and hopeful individuals to address them.

World Without Oil is the first game addressing real world issues that McGonigal created, along with her team. The game chronicles what would happen if the world suddenly ran out of oil. The users of the game post pictures, read news clipping, and blog about their experience in a world without oil. Because it is difficult to change your life “just because it’s good for the world,” as McGonigal said in her talk, this game shows people real outcomes and scenarios that could possible occur in the future.

Global Extinction Awareness System gives players a threat to human life such as health, energy, or a famine crisis and asks them to use solutions to save the world. As more people play the game and try to save the world from its impending doom, the solutions that players try out are compiled into a database that can be read by anyone – offering solutions to real world problems.

Urgent Evoke was developed in partnership with the World Bank Institute. The game went live in African countries where players can complete a ten day course within the game/graffic novel given the title “Social Innovator class of 2010.” After a player completes this training they can apply to become a real world mentor and join a summit in Washington D.C. talking about the real social issues that affect Africa.

Perhaps the gaming world, through a construction of an equitable public sphere, can create a virtual world in which ideas can be debated and put under a test of trial an error. If these games work in the ways McGonigal hopes, this deliberation and interaction online can then translate into real world solutions.

New Twilight Book Online

I came across this news release today. Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight Series announced that she is releasing her new Twilight novella online, in a “read-only” format, one day after the book comes out in stores. “Stephanie told fans that they had already bought a “ton” of her books and she wanted to give them back something for free” (Mirror).

In an earlier post I talked about how authors were using the Kindle to pre-publish their novels as a way to get feedback. However, Meyers use of the Internet to publish is different. Meyer is adopting the Creative Commons approach toward the spread of her work. Sort of a – buy it if you can, enjoy it online if you can’t.

I haven’t read any of the Twilight novels, so I wasn’t immediately excited about this, but I started thinking about new publishing mediums for novels. I think I need to try out the iPad to see if it is easier to read text for long periods of time. I really hate reading long articles on the computer screen and if there is any technology I would love to have it would be a “reading” friendly computer screen so that I wouldn’t have to hunch over with glasses squinting at my screen. I also feel some attachment to holding a book, the smell of books, the look of covers. I guess I am just still very skeptical of e-books at this point and am trying to think through the actual reasons why.

Human Technology Interaction

In the Salon article that Rachel mentioned in her previous post, Ellen Eullman says at the end of the interview in reference to the way humans treats machines that, “We’ve given these electronic records the aura of infallibility and truth.” Just because a technology becomes a part of our lives through the machine form, does not mean we should treat these machines as flawless and foolproof. I think that because new machine technologies increasingly appear in user friendly formats, we are blinded through design and interface of what actual code built the technology. And, as Katherine Hayles reminds us, we do not realize the origins of the technology until it breaks down:

“These banal events signify that the everyday human-machine communications integrating us into a world in which virtuality and actuality seamlessly merge have been disrupted; somewhere, somehow, the interfaces connecting human action, intention, and language with code have momentarily broken down” (Hayles 136).

Ultimately, humans create the code that runs the machine. Our interactions with a machine only operate previous code written by the programmer and instead of interacting with an infallible machine, we are actually interacting with a fellow human through our machine manipulation. If you visualize an interaction with a machine as an interaction with a fellow human, you are actually interacting with a human in the past. It is this aspect of the machine that creates many of the problems that we encounter. As users of machines grow and require new and advanced technologies, the technologies that are part of our lives remain stagnant, with software written in the past. Updates try to solve this problem, but alas, new additions may never keep up with our unnerving ability to create a list of new tasks and abilities we demand of our technologies.

Ellen Ullman, in her novel The Bug, reveals the underlying relationship that humans have with programmable code. As Levin’s life falls a part around him, literally with the earthquake and figuratively with his love life, we also see how human emotion and action affect the development and tracking of computational bugs. Even though Levin created the code in which the bug derived, he is unable to locate the place in the software that the bug originated in. Ullman tells the parallel story of Levin’s relationship with Joanna to show the complexity and depth behind the computer software. By intertwining stories of code with love, Ullman brings light to the life of computer programmers as well as insight into the inter-workings of software development. I am curious to see how these themes play out and resolve within the second half of the novel.

Watching We Live in Public

I downloaded We Live in Public on itunes while waiting for my return flight back to school. (Note: there are way too many inappropriate scenes to watch this in an airport with families around…) Anyways, I thought the film was very interesting. I had watched Digital Nation earlier in the week and both films showed very different interpretations of our relationship with technology and the Internet.

We Live in Public tells the story of Josh Harris, “The greatest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of.” Harris made his fortune and debut into the media during the dot com boom of the 90’s. He started a couple Internet start-up companies and was one of the key figures within the powerful group of youth nerds that dominating the New York computer scene. Within his business ideas, Harris predicted the popularity of many of the Internet technologies that have become an integral part of our daily lives. Of particular interest to Harris was the changing ideal of privacy. Now, we don’t think twice about the amount of information we fork over to google or present via Facebook. However, at the beginning of the Internet boom, the ways that people were beginning to share previously private information changed the cultural landscape.

Through various cultural experiments portrayed throughout the film, Harris put the lives of participants as well as himself online. Everything about their lives (a sort of Big Brother experiment) was made public. After the group experiment ended in 2000, Harris and his girlfriend taped their own life together and showed it online. Gradually, both Harris and his girlfriend began to relate more to the viewers online (who would contribute their ideas via chatrooms) than with each other. For example, after an argument, Harris and his girlfriend would rush to their computers to see who “won” the argument in the eyes of the people watching the tape. Ultimately, their relationship broke down. Harris also lost all of his net worth in the dot com bust; He left NY and went into the country to start an apple farm. The film ends with Harris trying one last time to pitch an Internet company idea to MySpace, failing, and then moving to Ethiopia to avoid creditors and to experience “real” culture.

What does all this mean when one of the largest Internet figures leaves the world of technology behind and chooses to live in an underdeveloped country with no connection to the world made available through technology? If Harris was able to predict the future popularity and cultural significance of many of these technologies, is he also predicting their decline? Or at least the negative effects that the technologies might have? I think fundamentally that We Live in Public is telling the story of someone young coming into huge amounts of money and power, not knowing what to do with this newfound power and wealth, and ultimately breaking down. What is interesting about the phrase, “biggest Internet pioneer you’ve never heard of,” is that because technology is constantly changing, the people who are influencing the way we interact with these technologies are also changing. Without a prominent voice in the field, I think this allows each individual or community to really dictate their own relationship to technology and how those technologies are able to influence their lives.

Education and Technology

While I haven’t finished Diamond Age, so I cannot make any decisive conclusions, a common theme presented at the start of the novel is that of the education. Neal Stephenson is tackling fundamental questions surrounding a new generation of youth and what education would best equip them for the future. Digital Nation, the PBS documentary (a link posted earlier by Rachel), also addresses this issue by investigating the ways technology has influenced and will influence the education system and the youth of today.

Stephenson is particularly interested in how environments and cultures affect a person’s education and identity. In relaying the history of Finkle-McGraw on page 17 he states, “while people were not genetically different, there were culturally different as they could possibly be, and some cultures were simply better than others.” The example of a community helping victims of a plane crash in need shows how some communities are better equipped to work together, thriving as a group. Throughout the novel, cultural differences of the Victorians, Hindus, Chinese, and other territories are overtly expressed. I am curious to see how Stephenson plays out his use of racial undertones throughout the rest of the novel. While the theme isn’t specifically addressed by the characters, the author is definitely interested in how race affects this future world environment.

With the new generation, the characters of Finkle-McGraw and Hackworth want their children to lead “interesting lives” (19). While the characters talk about the different child rearing styles of staunch discipline versus freedom, they never really expand on what this definition of “interesting” really entails. It is apparent, however, that they feel they need to take the education of their own children and grandchildren’s into their own hands – hence the Primer. This interactive book bonds with the child it is made for, educating them on simple topics such as spelling and more complicated tasks as how to interact with the world. This theme of controlling education to see how it affects the lives of the children will be the central theme of the novel that gets played out.

Digital Nation was interesting to watch while reading the novel because the documentary shows how technology is changing education today. In Korea, children are taught “netiquette” in grade school, singing songs on how to treat people online. In South Korea, digital technologies have transformed the lives of its citizens and the country is feeling the pronounced side effects and consequences of becoming a digital nation. How can you use technology to advance and education a country without leading children to become psychologically addicted to the screen?

To show the more beneficial effects of technology, the documentary follows schools that have embraced the use of technology in education within the United States. Many of the teachers interviewed talked about how by using technology, such as interactive powerpoints, computer lessons, etc, they are able to capture the attention of youth that would previously tune out older forms of teaching. They also point to the fact that the future is within digital technologies and if we want to prepare the upcoming generations for success, we have to implement technology into the education system.

The film ends without any conclusive argument, which is how most of our class sessions have ended. We can see the effects of hyper technology use on the kids in Asia, but we aren’t quite ready to admit that our society might be leading in that direction. We also aren’t quite ready to admit technology is fully beneficial. I am curious to read the end of Diamond Age, written in ’95, to see Stephenson’s prediction of technology and its influence on education.

The Kindle and the Novel

I came across this article today: http://www.aaronrosspowell.com/blog/my-experience-selling-a-draft-novel-on-the-amazon-kindle.

Powell is a published author who used the Kindle as a way to publish his newest novel in a “beta” stage, or a draft. His idea was that he could make a little money off the draft (selling it around $3 in hopes it would be an ‘impulse’ buy) and that he could get some feedback on the draft before the final publication. He found that the book sold well, but that he only got a few reviews. He concluded that while Kindle might be a great way to get your  book out to readers, it may not be the place to gather feedback (he opted for his website for feedback.)

We have talked about how the Kindle changes the medium of delivery for novels, however this brings up new ideas of how to interact with a novel. This form of delivery is comparable to Professor Fitzpatrick’s book, where she was able to get comments on the manuscript before it went to publication in book form. I think that fans of authors might appreciate an early delivery of a work, in the hopes that they might be able to contribute their ideas.

The Kindle does bring up modes of interactivity. It may be because it is a new technology, but it seems that the Internet has been a better forum for feedback and discussion. Therefore, the Kindle might be a mode of distribution, but ultimately the Internet will remain the forum for readers to interact with the author and other readers.

Project Outline

I have started my website for my final project here:

http://www.online-deliberation.com/

To see an outline of what I plan to do, click on the images on the homepage. Each image will take you to a different section of the website with a short outline of what content will be there.

Let me know what you think or suggest that I add.

Media, Computers, and Synapses

In Galatea 2.0, Powers writes the following paragraph:

“If we knew the the world only through synapses, how could we know the synapse? A brain tangled enough to tackle itself might be too tangled to tackle. Tough, too, to study the workings of a thing that you couldn’t get at without breaking.” (p. 28)

Powers finds it difficult to really explore what is behind synapses when it is virtually impossible to really see that is going on. (However, it was strange he didn’t mention brain scanners that can measure activity.) While reading this passage, I instantly was connected to a point that Katherine Hayles was making when she says:

“Although synaptogenesis is greatest in infancy, plasticity continues throughout childhood and adolescence, with some degree continuing even into adulthood. In contemporary developed societies, this plasticity implies that the brain’s synaptic connections are co-evolving with the environment in which media consumption is a dominant factor.” (p.114)

In this passage, Hayles is able to dissect what Powers thought was a complicated mystery and connect synapses back to our media consumption. We all know that we are affected by media in one way or another. Advertisements, pop culture, how we view ourselves as well as the world, is all affected by portrayals in the media. However, by looking at media in relation to our  brains, Hayles tries to show that we may be affected by media multi-dimensionally, all the way down to the way our brains are working.

Hayles goes on to talk about the new generation and their “hyperactivity,” which implies that younger generations literally have brains wired differently than the generation before. We thought we were different than our parents, and if we look to our brains, we really are. The fact that our generation is able (or wants) to sit in from of the TV watching a show, type an email on our computers, while texting someone at the same time – may not be because of our youth, but precisely because our brains are wired differently than our parents. Not all of the changes are necessarily bad – Steven Johnson who wrote Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter attributes higher IQ’s and greater productivity with multiple tasks to our media saturated world of today. (So, take that older generations.)

However, are we really smarter? Does the ability to multi-task trump having the concentration to read a 700 page novel? Moreover, are we really multi-tasking successfully or merely engaging in obsessive ADD? Reading Katherine Hayles section of hyperactivity did not make me proud of my generational accomplishments, but actually made me dread going to work tomorrow and spending eight hours in front a computer, feeling oh so sorry for my synapses.

Hayles ends the chapter with the statement, “The future, unpredictable as ever, remains open” (130). It will be interesting to see how media and future generations will shape the way we interact with technology as well as each other. Our generation (20-30’s) is in the interesting spot of having some ties to a pre-digital age. We do give important to entertainment that is not tied to media, reading novels, and actual phone conversations. I would argue that kids in the age group of 10-20 right now are definitely more prone to hyperactive behavior. Will we become so hyperactive that we move to return to our roots? Or will media completely change the evolution of our brain activity? Only time will tell…

websites for projects

Pitzer media studies just sent out this email that might help you if you are looking for a website to create your project.

____________________

Dear seniors,

I came across a new website for creating an easy, but rather good-looking portfolio website, for free! In an age where Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, and other social networking sites can tell so much of who we are as artists, you might want to look into this. The social networking links are built into the initial formatting of the site. There is an informative demo that you can check out on the site as well.

http://flavors.me/

Artist/Designer Daniel Eatock created another free website I like:

http://indexhibit.org/

As I imagine that some of the faculty might be interested in sharing this with your students, I have cc-ed you as well.

Good luck!
Stephanie

____________________
Stephanie Hutin
Director of Production
Intercollegiate Media Studies
Pitzer College
1050 North Mills Ave
Claremont, CA 91711
909.607.3889
Stephanie_Hutin@pitzer.edu