Mediarized Towers Of Babel
Garbled Noise in the Channel
"As our proliferating technologies have created a whole series of new environments, men have become aware of the arts as 'anti-environments' or 'counter-environments' that provide us with the means of perceiving the environment itself. Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology. The medium is the message can be clarified by pointing out that any technology gradually creates a totally new human environment"-Marshall McLuhan.
Today's media and technologies have taken the media revolutions to the neurons of the world brain, and this has helped this contemporary media juggernaut to dominate and to blur our perceptions. At the same time we experience a programmed world and unfolding world in a fully sensory manner. Also, this new media has the capacity and capability to affect and effect the greatest cultural and social changes in our midst; in short, the media can foster and is fomenting a revolution and is revolutionizing both technology society into a cacophony of media savvy users, analysts and public participants. In many other ways, the media is a world-wide culture-wide dance.
Through its constant barrage and consistent repetition the modern media allows a virus to multiply into our hugely self-referential media space, and has an ability to comment on the media itself. Rushkoff says that: "The viral shell permits the memes to spread before they have a chance to be marginalized. Viruses couch themselves in irony and appeal to the objective sensibilities of the viewers. Viral shells can be understood as framing devices that force us to distance ourselves from the issues within them. This objectification of the issues allows us to understand the symbols in our media as symbols and not reality. At the same time, we are made aware of the complexities beneath apparently simple representations of our world." In this case, a society no longer merely uses technology as a support but instead is shaped by it.
Therefore, to reiterate McLuhan as stated above, "Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the next. Technologies begin to perform the function of art in making us aware of the psychic and social consequences of technology. ... Technology gradually creates a totally new human environment." Today, we are being rapidly transformed and depended on the memory and psychology of the embedded technique within the fast emerging interconnected gadgets and technologies.
These new environments have us hooked to our cell phones, iPods to the extent that they have become the extensions of our selves in an interconnected internet babble and new ways of human interpersonal interconnected memes; where viruses, according to media culture enthusiast "Bill Me Tuesday": viruses can act like a logic analyzer. As the virus goes through the operating system, it stops at certain checkpoints, doing its rounds in a given amount of time. This checkpoint will report back what the condition is.
Essentially the virus will serve as a means of creating self-repairing system.... The goal is as a self repairing, crash resisting system, similar to the way our bodies repair themselves. Biologically we are the product of thousands of microorganisms cooperating together. We can apply that kind of thinking in the computer world. We are modifying the concept of a virus to serve us. In turn, technology shaped us as we are today.
It is also important to take a brief look at the impact and effect of language in our transforming the world and how that world transformed us. There are people who believe that language is what makes us human. From the beginning of language usage to using language within and with these new emerging and merging technologies, we have created some forms of different languages in the process. Neil Postman says: "As changes occurred, human beings invented surrogate languages to widen their scope: ideographs, phonetic writing, then printing, then telegraphy, photography, radio, movies television, and computers, each of which transformed the world-sliced it, framed it, enlarged it and diminished it."
To say of all this that we are merely toolmakers is to miss the point of the story. We are the world makers, and the word weavers. That is what makes us smart, and dumb; "moral immoral; tolerant and bigoted".(Insert mine) The new and emerging technologies are shaping our language, our behavior and creating a deep and unshakable dependency of these new and ever changing technologies, that we are barely keeping up and are about swamped by the new gadgets and the techniques, which shape obscure our view of life and spontaneity inherent in us.
As we manipulate technologies, they in turn affect and effect us in minuscule and major ways. We then have developed a language to help us cope, vary and expand our effecting technology and it in turn transforming our every being and ways and means of communicating.
Language makes us human. We use this language as a carriage in our interrogating and interacting with life and within life. We use language to talk, sing, voice our opinions, disagreement, thoughts, intention communicate, write, and so forth, in our day to day lives. It is a complex effect one mediated by each person's psychological makeup, social status, age, and how the individual uses the media.
The Quilt of Pretentious Diction
This language issue and usage was covered by George Orwell and we will explore what he really meant and intended to make us see and understand in depth. Given that we speak English we assume we all mean the same thing or understand each other's meaning. Meaning therefore is 'the import of signification'. The study of the social production of meaning from sign systems is also known as Semiotics. Meaning is a largely untheorized, although debates about the meaning of meaning are well known conversation stoppers, but it is well known that it explains how people make sense of their social world.
The media nowadays uses a lot of words, metaphors and diction designed to have a certain impact, affect and effect. Words like phenomenon, element, individual(as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate are used to dress up simply statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Sometimes adjectives like epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion.
Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, status quo are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Some average writers opt to use Latin and Greek words because they are grander than Anglo Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous are gaining ground from their Anglo Saxon opposite numbers. The normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, theorize formation.
It's easy to make words of this kind, deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth." Orwell goes on to note about how these words have been used, he addresses meaningless words . Orwell states that: "In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.
Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, sentimental, natural, vitality as used in art criticism are strictly meaningless in the sense that they do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. ... Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable" The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another.
In the case of a word like democracy , not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way, Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are; 'class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality and so on.'
Most of the political words cited above has inflamed passions and great debates on all social issues in all relevant media and mediums. It seems not to matter whether people understand or know or might ever experience either socialism, fascism and so forth,they nonetheless use them. What is of concern here is the modern usage of these words in the society and media, mostly for wrong reason and their lack of understanding of them, that creates seemingly, the confusion and talking at each other, rather than with each other.
Orwell concludes this lesson on the meaning of words thus:
"I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this,but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with decay of language. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy.
"You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make stupid remarks, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to anarchist-is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and give the appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell wrote the excerpt above in 1946."
He is merely pointing out to the meaning of words and their usage in day to day life, literature and, as I see it, in the print media and digital media. If we understand what he means by meaning and how it is conveyed, we can better understand how words are used today and what their meaning is intended to be. We always think we understand what we mean to say, since we are all speaking English, it is interesting to note that meaning can be concealed and applied within words to hide the actual meaning to the one that is meant.
Culture is a form of communication and it is also formal, informal and technical. It is important to note that mass-communication media such as the press, radio,television, computers, Internet, cell phones, twitters, Internet games and so on are instruments used to extend man's senses. It is also important to understand and know how men read meaning into what other men think and how this type of communications impacts our world and meaning-making abilities.
Hall says: "We must learn to understand the 'out-of-awareness' aspects of communication. We must never assume that we are fully aware of what we communicate to someone else. There exists in the world today tremendous distortions in meaning as men try to communicate with one another. The job of achieving understanding and insight into mental processes of others is much more difficult and the situation is more serious than most of us can admit." Most of our difficulties stem from our own ignorance.
Honest and sincere men fail to grasp the significance of the fact that culture controls behavior in deep and persisting ways, many of which are outside our awareness and beyond the conscious control of the individual. Hall advises on this issue by stating: "Man's brain has endowed him with a drive and a capacity for learning which appear to be as strong as the drive for food or sex." This means that when a middle-aged man stops learning, he is often left with a great deal of drive and highly developed capacities.
"If he goes to live in another culture, the learning process is often reactivated. For most Americans tied down at home,this is not possible. To forestall atrophy of his intellectual powers, man can begin learning about those areas of his own culture which have been out of awareness. He can explore the new frontier."
Therefore, to understand other cultures, it would be better to learn about those things within ones culture that one is not aware of, and has been left out of the loop about their existence and functioning patterns.
Another thing to note is how mainstream cultural studies have given scant attention to the institutional contexts in which mass communications are produced. As we seek to rectify cultural studies and their neglect of the organizational processes of the media, we must also be cognizant and consider how the context of production — whether this can be conceived as an occupational milieu, a specific organization, an industry or the wider social relations of power in society — influences what is produced.
Importantly, it would be worth it to interrogate cultural mass communication and media to see if it is possible to differentiate between contexts of production, and the multimedia packaging of cultural goods, cultural practices and whether these promote social empowerment or subordination, either foster aesthetic innovation or traditionalism, or do they or they do maybe enhance or detract from the quality that is produced.
The best reason for the layman to spend time studying culture is that he can learn something useful and enlightening about himself. It forces one to pay close attention to those issues of life which differentiate others from yourself
Ways of Seeing and Knowing the Culture of Media
The news we receive, as numerous critics point out,is the product of organizational processes and human interaction. It is shaped by the methods used by journalists in gathering the news, the sources they draw on, and the organizational requirements, resources and policies of the institutions they work for(Fishman '80). Usable and predictable regular copies that need to be secured, makes some journalists to be assigned to certain 'beats', such as town hall, law courts or legislators. This pre-cues news, encouraging activity in these areas to be reported more fully(Tuchman '78). This also locks up journalists into a complex pattern of interaction with key sources in which information is traded for publicity(Gandy '82) .
In a nutshell, a prior decision about the allocation of personnel within a news organization can influence what new is reported, and how it is reported. Some critics also point out that information is selected and presented as news within socially constructed frameworks of meaning(Schudson '91). The news is signified thorough the 'symbolic system' of society. It draws upon assumptions and premises, images and chains of association, that are embedded in cultural tradition. The news is also structured by formats and genre conventions of news reporting, which vary in different societies and evolve over time(Schudson '94) We can therefore view news as the product of the culture of society and industry in which it is produced and processed.
There are still some other people who see the output of the media not as a reflection of raw, unmediated realty, but rather as a social index of attitudes and feelings. Sometimes our media ca be seen and portrayed as reflecting not a common culture and unified society, but a plurality of social groups and the hybridity of individual personalities. There are those who distinguish between values and normative attitudes , or between consensus and contended opinion(Alexander '81) Here, the argument is that the media both expresses the values and beliefs that most people in society hold in common, and also give voice to those differences of opinion and orientation that characterize a pluralist democracy.
One way in which the media may reflect change, it is argued, is to register a shift in the boundaries between these two things over time(Hallin '94). How the media functions and disseminate news, and how culture plays a role in all this meta media of contemporary merging and emerging technologies and memes, has not changed so much, but has been enhanced and upgraded because of the addition of the Internet,which has become an extension of ourselves like our nervous system in our bodies-because we experience it on the internet, in the datasphere and cyber world: like when we are surfing, texting, twittering, emailing, blogging, posting, commenting and so forth.
Under the Umbrella of Technology
Our nation is depended-on and is controlled by technology. Even as we utilize language to media application and participation, or manipulation of these technologies and techniques, we are still not aware to the extent we need them and their impact on us; but, surreptitiously, technical gadgets and their in-build techniques, by creating dependency of the efficiency, we end up being slaves to technological gadgets, technology and technique.
We are permanently in the groove of merging with emerging technologies and technological gadgets, that in the end we are unable to separate and differentiate ourselves from them. There are psychic and social consequences of technique and technology and modern technical gadgets on our persona, culture and society.
Marshall McLuhan, in this extended excerpt put it neatly:
"The medium is the message means, in terms of the electronic age, that a totally new environment has been created. The 'content' of this new environment is the old mechanized environment of the industrial age. The new environment preprocesses the old one as radically as TV is reprocessing the film. When machine production was new, it gradually created an environment whose content was the old environment of agrarian life and the arts and the crafts.
"This older environment was elevated to an art from by the new mechanical environment. The machine turned Nature into an art form. For the first time men began to regard nature as a source of aesthetic and spiritual values. They began to marvel that earlier ages had been so unaware of the world of Nature as Art. Each new technology creates an environment that is itself regarded as corrupt and disregarding. Yet the new one turns its predecessor into an art form. When writing was new, Plato transformed the oral dialogue into an art form.
"When printing was new, the Middle Ages became an art form. "The Elizabethan world view" was a view of the Middle Ages. And the industrial age turned the Renaissance into an art form as seen in the work of Jacob Bruckhardt. Siegfried Giedion, in turn has in the electric age taught us how to see the entire process of mechanization as an art process." Today we see the modern technologies turning electricity into an art form, because through the internet, we are moving through the information age and data speed and the speed of light.
"The confusion and Babel that has transpired because of these changes of technological gadgets, technology and technique, we should not be confused and be startled; we only need to accept the fact that the new era is moving us into a new environment, and the old machines and electricity are being turned into an art form; it may be our reactions that cause the cacophony in the media, and we should not view that as confusion.
But McLuhan concluded that: "We can afford to use only those portions of them that enhance the perception of our technologies and their psychic and social consequences." As a society under the groove and roof of current technology and techniques, we need to understand it thoroughly and completely and begin to master its cybernetics and reduce entropy in the channels.
How Technology Will Obviate Learning
Recent technological advancement framed within the context of new theories about the pivotal role of language in human evolution are decreasing the value of foreign language competency. Our confidence in technology's ability to rebuild the Tower of Babel should remain steadfast, thanks to the newly emerging scientific theories. It is now becoming clear that language was pivotal in the early development of humanity, and where such critically exists, so do markets and business opportunity ripe for exploitation.
In his recent TED TALK, evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel asserts that language was a social technology(a la Ong), that emerged out of homo sapiens' new ability to accurately mimic anything they saw. In order to prevent this "visual theft," language was used to protect the ideas and innovations of early human cultures from those of other competing groups. In describing this theory, Pagel elucidates this language as:
"...A piece of neural-audio technology for rewiring other peoples' minds ... it allows you to implant a thought from your mind directly into someones else's mind, and they can attempt to do the same to your without either of you having to perform surgery." These "discrete pulses of sounds" allowed homo sapiens to cooperate on levels theretofore unwitnessed on Earth. Competing species like the Homo Erectus were never able to develop language like us and remained outside of our cooperative networks (cultures). Using technology to eliminate cultural barriers and thus enhance global human cooperation is a direct descendant of these early evolutionary developments.
The Tower Of Info-Babel: Cyberspace as Alternative Universe
This is Jorge Luis Borges' remarkable vision of the 'Library of Babel:
"The universe [which others call the Library] is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.... From any of the hexagons one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase.
"One of the free sides leads to a narrow halfway which opens into another gallery,identical to the first and to all the rest.... Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upward to remote distances. In the hallway there is a mirror which faithfully duplicates all appearances.... The Library is a sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible."
We then learn and cull from Reg Whitaker this following Historical piece:
"Given the frenetic and feverish manner in which the information revolution is being hyped, it is worth pausing to ask just what is actually involved in this revolution. The initial answer is deceptively simple. Essentially there are two closely linked technological departure points: the computer and instantaneous communication systems. Both technologies have been developing in an exponential, explosive trajectory, but it is in the fusion of computing and communications (networks), that the truly revolutionary potential lies.
Just as the capacity of the human mind to store, sort, retrieve and manipulate vast amounts of information is being enormously enhanced by means of ever-smaller, ever-faster and ever-more powerful microprocessors, the reach of individuals is being immeasurably extended through fibre optic cable and satellite communication to form 'real-time' networking of all computers.
This technological fusion has literally created a new world, a new space — cyberspace. Cyberspace exists nowhere and everywhere, it is a tabula rasa in the sense that it is constantly being constructed and reconstructed, written and rewritten, by the simultaneous interaction of all those networking in the medium. With Virtual Reality - which eventually will shed its clumsy apparatus of goggles and gloves for something
More akin to StarTrek's Holodeck, an all-encompassing artificial inter-active environment — cyberspace will actually become a lived space, with its own land scape and geography, into which people will 'move' and inside which they will 'act' (and be 'acted upon'). The discovery of such a new world, and more, a world that is apparently plastic, that can be moulded (closer to our heart's desire), unlike the intractable and often perverse real world, bound to bring out the Faustian in those who first glimpse its expansive, seemingly limitless, contours. They stand with wild surmise upon a peak in Darien.
With Faust, let us give the devil his due. The possibilities are endless, intoxicating. Space - old-fashioned physical space, distance — already shrunk by technologies like the telephone, is finally dissolved in cyber-space. People communicate with one another without regard to physical location: communities (systems of communication can transcend not only locality but the artificial constructs of the nation and political boundaries). New languages are born out of the new forms of communication, and with them, humanity reshapes its own consciousness.~
Already, not in some speculative future, but in the here and now, cyber-space is giving birth to new, 'artificial' life forms. In computer labs, programs have been designed to replicate particular environments (say, an 'ocean') and into these environments a 'species' (for instance, 'fish') has been introduced that is programmed to adapt to changing conditions. Generations pass and adaptations are made quite independent of the original program. The fish swim about, eat, reproduce and die in cyber-space.
They are not 'real', they have no physical materiality, yet they behave just like 'real' fish, they interact with their environment, and they make something of themselves in the processing~the most recent Star Trek spinoff series, Voyager, there is a brilliant creation, the Emergency Medical Hologram, a computer program containing the most advanced medical knowledge projected holographically as a 'doctor' who must serve as the starship's chief medical officer in the absence of a human doctor.
This hologram behaves remarkably like a human being when interacting with 'real' humans; he is self-conscious, he experiences anxiety, irritation, affection5 And why not? How does 'real life' differ from its 'artificial' replication in cyberspace, presuming only that the program is complex enough?
Of course, the Library is not really the 'Universe,' its architecture is not the architecture of matter: It is an analogical 'universe'. Its shelves store information in the form of texts which contain 'data' that mirror or reproduce the material universe. Borges advances two axioms about the nature of the Library that he considers indisputable. The first is that it exists astern. The architecture of information is too complex and elegant to have been the product of man, the 'imperfect librarian'. Call it
God or Nature as you please, but remember that information is about something, it is not that thing itself: But this is easily obscured when the focus shifts to what is in the Library. Borges' second axiom is that: 'The orthographical symbols are twenty-five in number' (the letters of the alphabet plus the period, comma and space). This has allowed the formulation of a General Theory of the library. All books tire made up of the same elements, but in the 'vast Library there are no two identical books'.
From these premises it may be deduced that the 'Library is total and that its shelves register all the possible combinations of the twenty-odd orthographical symbols [a number which, though extremely vast, is not infinite]. In other words, all that it is given to express, in all languages. Everything: the minutely detailed history of the future....'
When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books , the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose elegant solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimension of hope.
Thus our own era of info hype, the unlimited promise of the great Internet (the embodiment of Borges' Library condensed into millions of individual computer screens as-[w]windows into cyberspace, a 'sphere whose exact centre is any one of its hexagons and whose circumference is inaccessible'). These are no small matters. The devil's promises are enthralling, enchanting, alluring.
No wonder s o many have been drawn by the siren's song. But wait . . . cyberspace is not another universe into which we can escape via a magic doorway. Dream worlds exist in the minds of dreamers, who live in this world, breath air, eat food when hungry and drink water when thirsty — or not, depending upon their material circumstances. Cyberspace is a dreamed world, but the dreamers dream it through the mediation of computer hardware, fibre optic cable, complex telecommunications networks, and specific social and economic systems that support and deliver these technologies.
Cybernauts are wired, in more ways than one. There is, or at least there should be, a political economy of cyberspace. Yes, even in the free-floating delirium of this new world, the old dismal science, like gravity, drags the cybernauts back toward earth.
Some uncomfortable but unavoidable facts: most of the people of the present real world not only lack computers but even lack access to telephones. To most of the world, the Information Revolution is not even a rumor. The IBM television ads that portray "solutions for a small planet" with cute clips of people in traditional and exotic settings discussing (with subtitles) various arcana relating to the latest IBM technologies perhaps tell us more about the imperial delusions of corporate power, or about the penetration by new products of Third World elites, than about any reality of 'solutions' for a 'small' planet.
The Information Highway may be opening out like a vast autobahn across North America and Europe and the hyper-developed parts of Asia, but when it reaches into Africa and Latin America and the less developed parts of Asia, it reaches as narrow fingers into privileged islands; for much of the Third World, it simply stops short altogetherN~or is there any rational reason to think that the information revolution offers a magical solution to the endemic problems of poverty and underdevelopment.
It is rather the latest name given to the enduring and ever deepening domination of the many poor by the wealthy few. Access to the Internet is as much use to a Bangladeshi peasant as hitching a ride on the Challenger space shuttle; but it is very useful to the multinational corporations that rule the global economic system that maintains Bangladesh as a ghetto of misery.
There are similar arguments against facile idealism applicable within Western societies. A reasonably up-to-date computer clone, pirated software, modem and monthly connect charge may not represent a huge investment. Yet it excludes a great many, as does the specific context of computer culture. The result is that the Information Highway has a decidedly middle-class look. Users tend as well to be disproportionately male, white, and the other familiar categories of privilege.
Of course, over time these things may change. But just as with the case for Third World development, there are overheated notions afloat in political and bureaucratic circles (viz., the frenetic mind of Newt Gingrich) that a computer in every kitchen will somehow solve the problem of unemployment and regional economic decline.
It is, of course, out of the question that rightwing neoliberal politicians (who tend to be the ones that babble most about the transformative power of the computer) can devise and execute and pay for a vast public works scheme for actually putting the hardware and software required into the hands of the poor and the unemployed.
Unfortunately, social democrats have been equally complicit, if less utopian, in talking up the computer as empowerment. Even the limited schemes undertaken by some social democratic governments to 'retrain' (a mantra of contemporary capitalist crisis) redundant fishermen with no fish stocks, coal miners with closed pits, or workers with skills tied to vanishing heavy industries, via the route of imparting 'computer skills' quickly disclose their derisory limitations.
At best, these retrained workers hunching over their consoles have instantaneous access to the intelligence that no jobs are available. At least lining up outside the unemployment office provided some minimal human contact with others of like predicament, even if the end result is the same.
The attraction of neoliberal politicians to info babble has little to do with any notions of redistribution of wealth and power. The computer as 'empowerment' is a wonderfully ambiguous piece of rhetoric. This 'empowerment' offers a convenient and trendy rationale for further
Slashing the public sector.
Who needs armies of public sector workers to offer support services when former state clients have the opportunity to plug in directly? Who needs expensive capital investment in physical infrastructure and maintenance when services can be accessed on the Net? Right-wing politicians in North America who are tired of seeing tax dollars going to universities and colleges have started talking about the 'Virtual University,' where courses are on offer to clients (formerly called students) receiving information designed by programmers (formerly called professors) and tapping in assignments and answering exam questions, without ever leaving their home computers.
In the fullness of this vision, the entire support and maintenance staffs, most of the teaching staff and the administrative apparatus can be lopped off the public rolls, and the physical plant (formerly known as the campus) can be sold to the private sector for more productive and profitable use. This is a paradigm for other such schemes for a 'Virtual Public Sector' or the 'Virtual State'. Like Virtual Reality, users allow their senses to delude them into believing that they are somewhere they are not, that they are really doing things that are not happening at all. The opiate of the masses indeed.
There is an ideology among many of today's cybernauts, especially the Americans, that can best be described as frontier capitalism, or rugged individualism. The self-image is that of the lone frontiersman out there on the cutting edge of civilization armed with his [the gendered pronoun is used advisedly] contemporary equivalent of the six-gun, the high-speed modem. It is expressed in a powerful aversion to the traditional enemy of the frontiersman, government and its attempts to regulate and domesticate his wild energies.
Thus, there have been ferocious reactions to the clumsy attempts of the Clinton administration to impose surveillance over the Internet, from the 'Clipper Chip' and the embargoing of exports of various encryption programs; to the FBI's ham-handed attempt to enforce tapping of digital communication (and make the users pay for the privilege); to censorship initiatives from various levels of government against cyberspace pornography and hate mail. These are probably reasonable responses under the circumstances, but they are also classic examples of navigating via the rear view mirror.
Neither individual free enterprise nor an aggressive interventionist state are particularly relevant to the new political economy of cyberspace. Hardware and software are produced by corporate giants like IBM and Microsoft, and the infrastructure of the Internet is currently a bone of contention between the telephone and medial cable giants. The real frontier is the commodification of information by capital. To shift metaphors, cyberspace is like the commons under attack from enclosures. The relentless emphasis in recent years on 'intellectual property' as a crucial element in international trade agreements points us clearly in the direction
That the so-called information revolution is traveling. The architecture of cyberspace may well look very much like the dark vision of William Gibson in his 1984 science fiction novel Neuromancer that first invented the very term 'cyberspace': vast mysterious collections of data looming like mega-fortresses fiercely guarded by giant corporations — while the 'real world' wallows in urban squalor, petty criminality, violence and tawdry escapism.
Information is a resource whose relation to late twentieth century capitalism is like that of oil to the capitalism of the early twentieth century. This is not to say, as some have unwisely extrapolated, that industrial capitalism is dead. Automobiles still provide the basic means of transportation for much of the world, and oil must still be tapped to feed the voracious appetite of automobiles for fuel. Information has not displaced older resources, just as postindustrialism has not displaced industrialism.
But the computer and the new communications technologies have redefined how production and distribution take place. Mass production and mass consumption have, in the process of fulfilling their promise of growth, been transmuted. Production (including services) requires fewer workers and greater 'flexibility,' and mass consumption of mass-marketed goods is increasingly matched by 'niche' marketing of specifically targeted production.
On both sides of the equation, information and high-speed communication of that information is a crucial resource. The shift from the primary to the information-intensive services sector that is evident throughout the rich industrial nations is another indicator of this same change. Command over information and its transmission will be the key to success in the capitalist world of tomorrow.
The notion that this crucial resource will be allowed to become a public good is idealism at its most inane. Thus the cyberspace commons is enclosed as rapidly as its space expands. The advocates of 'electronic freedom' have their hearts in the right place but their heads in the sand. More apposite to the realities are the young freelance cyberpunk hackers who for their own fun and profit break into the dark corporate information towers that loom over the wired world.
The first (anti)hero of the first cyberpunk novel was Gibson's Case, cyberspace cowboy who had made too many powerful enemies. Yet even these latter-day information highwaymen are themselves gobbled up by the very corporations they have successfully targeted: the electronic safe-crackers are hired on as smart high-tech security guards to keep out others and, who knows, to crack their competitor's security as well
Already we may be moving into a new era that leaves behind the individualistic hacking frontier: organized electronic warfare employing disciplined teams of corporate hackers setting about systematically to break into or to sabotage the data banks and operational software of economic competitors may become the order of the day.
Computer viruses, first transmitted by freelancers out of malice or just for the hell of it, will increasingly be utilized as weapons targeted at specific competitive information systems (the biological warfare of cyber-space attacking the synapses of the enemy's information economy). This is a long way from the 'promise of the Internet,' from the limitless vistas of information laid open to each and all who wish to browse its fields and pluck its free flowers of truth. Let us be blunt: this is a vision of Never-Never-Land, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
We should consider carefully why the promise of the Internet is such a pleasing delusion. It is not because capitalists are evil persons, or because corporations are conspiring against the public interest (both propositions might be true, but still be beside the point). Information is a product. Raw, unprocessed data is not yet information — and even that requires someone to collect it in the first instance and store it in accessible form. Already there are claimants expecting compensation for their work.
Processing data into a finished product useful to potential consumers is even greater value added. All this will be reflected in the final price. Only in the for-profit private sector are there the resources both to produce sophisticated information and to purchase the finished product on a commercially viable scale. Public sector information services were once fairly widely available on a free or relatively low-cost basis, but in this neoliberal era, market principles of user-pay, cost recovery and servicing' clients' have led to the virtual privatization of public sector information.
Even those once-privileged bastions of state information secrecy, the security and intelligence agencies, are flogging their information services to the highest bidders in the private sector. Governments increasingly post free information on the Internet, but this is mainly for democratic legitimation of their cost-recovery supply to the private sector: the very fact that information is Freely available is generally proof of its relatively low value as commodity.
Cyberspace will be a treasure trove of information only for those who already have treasuries to spend. For the rest of us, beneath the false promise of the Internet lies an overstuffed, cluttered, anarchically disorganized jumble of info trash so worthless that it has been discarded to lie along the sidewalks of the information highway for the casual use of anyone who cares to pick the odd item up.
As time goes by, even this litter will be cleaned up and replaced by smaller business ventures selling baubles and beads: North American television viewers have already seen the future in the Shopping Channels. Information is a valuable commodity, and it is power in the form of competitive advantage. But it is crucial to understand that information is power in a deeper sense. Ever since Foucault's Surveiller et Punir: Naissance de la Prison was published in 1975, we have been alerted to the importance of surveillance as a primary mechanism of social control in the modem world.
With Foucault, the Panopticon - Bentham's plan for a prison designed in such a way that each prisoner was under constant hidden surveillance, or what amounts to the same, would believe that he might be watched at all times — became the quintessential metaphor for a modem technology of power. Others have elaborated Foucault's insights into a concept of the 'surveillance society.'
This technology of power rests on the accumulation of coded information used to administer the activities of individuals about whom it is gathered. In contrast to earlier political forms, the modem state lays less stress on overt coercion to sustain its rule. Instead it favors pervasive, and penetrative administrative power, primarily through the collection, storage and retrieval of information within an administrative context of regulated definitions of tasks, functions and roles that situate individuals and groups in relation to other individuals and groups in an administrative or organizational framework.
Under a surveillance regime, people disappear into abstract, bureaucratic categories: 'client,' 'customer,' 'taxpayer,' 'functionary,' 'law enforcement officer,' 'supervisor,' 'shop steward,' 'teacher'. The routinized exercise of surveillance implies coercion, but overtly involves only the marshaling of information as a means of regulating behavior. The lineaments of the surveillance state have been apparent for a long time, but the explosive advances in computer and communication technologies provide a powerful and ever-expanding toolbox of surveillance.
From the workplace to the streets to the home, people are being subjected to ever more sophisticated, ever more specific, ever more invasive, scrutiny. Although many of these technologies were initially developed through the military-industrial complexes, force-fed by the national security states during the eras of world war and cold war, they are now very much central elements of contemporary capitalism, in two main ways.
First, corporations are enhancing their surveillance capacities to increase competitiveness, both in terms of the productive process and marketing distribution.Second, surveillance is increasingly relied upon by capital in general to reduce risks and provide a more stable environment for doing business, both domestically and globally. Indeed, the privatization of surveillance has proceeded to the extent that it is perhaps more appropriate to talk about the surveillance society rather than the surveillance state.
In effect, many of the aspects traditionally associated with the state's political rule — authoritative allocation of roles and regulation of behavior, for example — are being quietly transferred to the private sector. To look first at surveillance for competitiveness: fewer workers in more automated work environments are also more closely watched workers. 'Smart-cards' permit controlled entry to work places and also allow supervisors to keep electronic track of where employees are at all times. Electronically encoded identification of tools and parts not only permit better inventory control but also block employee pilfering.
Increasing use of computers as an integral part of the productive process not only enhances efficiency but also provides a cumulative and precise record of the productivity of the employees operating them, as well as of the workers that the computers are tracking. None of this need be confined to individual workplaces: global corporations carry out global surveillance of operations and employees; managers are in constant electronic touch through E-Mail, teleconferencing, etc., and their performances closely monitored and evaluated.
When we turn to the marketing and distribution side, the scope of surveillance is equally impressive. Mass marketing — which still of course continues — is a very blunt instrument, a bit like the bombs dropped from air planes in World War 11: a visual or radar sighting of the target area was made from thousands of feet in the air, the doors were opened, the bombs dumped, and the crew hoped for the best. Today's niche marketing is more like the military's contemporary smart weapons: the targeting is precise and the delivery is monitored and guided all the way to impact.
The key to the new smart marketing is information. Consumers are identified not as mass, undifferentiated markets, but as subgroups with very specific information about purchasing patterns and purchasing power. Data banks on consumer preferences, with information gathered from myriad sources, can be cross-referenced and specific potential customers for specific products can be identified and targeted. Mass media move from broadcasting to 'narrowcasting': 500 channel television via direct broadcast satellites permits a proliferation of specialized programming with specific audiences whose particular buying preferences will be sensitively accommodated by the advertisers on those channels.
Most of the data gathering goes on quite unnoticed by the targets, or is seen to be facilitating consumption. For instance, electronic checkouts at video rental shops speed up the process for customers. Few realize that information on each rental becomes part of a data profile of each customer's preferences in films. Supply and distribution have been similarly revolutionized by the new technologies. Bar codes on products can provide instant readout of sales and inventories all the way to the factory door; readjustments and resupplies can be underway within seconds of consumer decisions recorded at checkout counters.
Surveillance as 'risk aversion' moves the private sector closer to the traditional concerns of the state. Credit-worthiness is a crucial entrée into the consumer society. Anyone judged a credit risk cannot hold a credit card, or borrow money for a house or car, and may even be barred from renting accommodation or transportation. Once named a credit risk, on the basis of data matching from private data banks, a process which allows little recourse for the targeted person to crosscheck the validity of the sources of the negative information, an individual may find it very difficult to get off this electronic blacklist, leading to a downward spiral in personal economic circumstances.
Insurance companies, basing decisions on data banks to which they have privileged, sometimes exclusive, access, can deny people access to insurance policies, or arbitrarily set rates at prohibitively high levels. In the case of automobile drivers in most jurisdictions, this may amount to effectively preventing someone from driving — and in many cases, from making a living.
Even more ominous is the increasing use of screening for employment: drug testing, evidence of previous legal offenses, medical problems, even lack of credit-worthiness, may be reason for denying employment or sacking an existing employee, often without appeal. Information upon which such significant decisions are made are based upon immediate access to vast data banks, many of them privately held and controlled.
Even in the case of public data banks, funded by taxpayer dollars, the subjects of the information may have little or no access to data on themselves, either because they are prohibited by law, or because only corporations with a high commercial stake can afford to pay for the added value of ordering the design of the data in forms accessible for their particular purposes. Again, in the case of public data banks, citizens often feel that these are actually helpful to them in their daily lives.
For example, 'smart' health cards that encode personal medical information (blood type, allergies, medications, etc.) offer holders security that they will be properly handled in medical emergencies. Less obvious is that such cards may contain credit information about health insurance coverage that could lead to being turned away at hospital doors, or worse, medical information (a history of drug addiction, for instance, or having been tested positive for certain conditions such as HIV) that may have devastating consequences for the holder in various situations. DNA banks might seem to offer protection for peaceful citizens against criminals, but what of the (admittedly very small) chance of an innocent person's DNA sequencing matching that of an offender?
The Cold War national security state pioneered the process of security screening of broad categories of people: state employees; workers in defense and other industries of national significance; immigrants and citizenship applicants. The criteria were political: membership in the Communist party or in some other left-wing groups; association with known Communists, or past membership in alleged Communist 'front' organizations.
The political prejudices of conservative politicians and police were given free rein under the purportedly impartial cover of security screening — as if this were like objective screening for a disease. It did not stop there. Homosexuality was targeted as an alleged character weakness that left persons vulnerable to blackmail and thus security risks. Rabid homophobia was never far from the surface, and has in the case of the American and British military outlasted the Cold War that provided the ostensible rationale.
There were many things going on in this process, many different fish being fried. But what was in common was the growth of data banks on citizens, first in the primitive and clumsy form of card indices and paper files, and then later in electronic form, in cyberspace. This was (and is, it still very much exists) a shadow world: it exists in the thick shadows of state secrecy, and its information shadows, or parallels, the real world.
Owen Lattimore, the Asian scholar who was bizarrely persecuted by the Washington witch-hunters in the 1950s as a Soviet spy, said it best in his autobiography when he referred to the dossiers compiled on him by the FBI and congressional committees as the profile of a "man who might have exited." There was a real Lattimore and then there was the Lattimore of the files who might have existed. And only the latter one mattered in the eyes of the powerful.
Today, in the time of the Information Revolution, we are all, in a sense, Owen Lattimore. The private and public data banks that form the high-security skyscrapers of cyberspace contain the shadow selves of almost every citizen and consumer. These data profiles, or shadow selves, in important ways overshadow our real selves.
People who have protested bad credit ratings, for instance, have found that even simple cases of mistaken identity have been almost impossible to rectify. Just as the guardians of state security always argued that doubt must be resolved in favor of the state, never the individual, the powerful motive of risk aversion on the part of capital means that doubt is resolved in favor of the corporation.
Corporations do not care if mistakes are made, or injustices perpetrated against individuals (except in the rare cases where sufficient bad publicity is generated that their public image suffers), because it does not pay to be attentive to such possibilities. They are in the business of avoiding risks on behalf of their shareholders; data profiles indicate risk categories and actions are taken to avoid anyone whose profile places them in the category. The result is a kind of social triage. Some are effectively excluded from full citizenship not in the state but in civil society.
Our cyberspace selves tend to overshadow our real selves for both good and bad reasons. Data banks mirror the real world but, necessarily, imperfectly. Just as a perfect scientific/mathematical model of the material universe — one that established a one-to-one relationship with reality — would be an absurdity, a theory as vast and complex as the actual universe, so too data profiles are always simplifications of reality.
The key points are who asks the questions and sets the parameters of the data search, for what purposes. The answer of course is that those with wealth and power get to shape the questions and thus the kind of simplifications that emerge. Corporate data banks, and the public data banks to which corporations buy privileged access, are there to answer corporate questions.
The simplified, perhaps simplistic, data profiles are patterned to answer corporate needs. Real world selves are inveterately messy, maddeningly complex, irritatingly inconsistent,full of contradictions-in a word, difficult. That is what it means to be human, after all, and why we so often throw up our hands in personal relationships, write poems and novels and plays to contemplate the inexplicable, toil over biographies, and vainly try as social scientists to explain individual behavior through meta-theories of the collective.
But our cyberspace shadow selves a r e not messy, not complex, not inconsistent, not contradictory: they are simple, easy constructs that can be quickly and cheaply drawn from the database and cost-efficiently used by the customers who pay for them. These cartoons crowd out the messy reality because the world of economic transactions is structured in such a way that only certain kinds of information can be fed into it. If you don't fit the program, you will have to be cut down to size, or stretched, or whatever it takes.
It's the Mad Hatter's Tea Party: if the mouse can't be stuffed into the teapot he will just have be excluded — a risk. But this is, after all, the Library of Babel. The biblical Tower of Babel was an audacious attempt to build a direct link between earth and heaven. A jealous God cursed the architects and builders with a multiplicity of languages so that no-one could communicate with any others. The Tower fell and the languages were dispersed across the earth.
So the extravagant happiness of the revolutionaries armed with the General Theory of the Library soon gives way to doubts, heresies, strife and despair as it becomes apparent that 'everything' includes nonsense, mistakes, even deceptions. One book consists of nothing but "the letters MCV perversely repeated from the first line to the last." The era of info hype passes into the era of info-babble.'Purifiers' are despatched through the endless halls to seek out and destroy false texts. There are struggles and librarians are murdered; others commit suicide.
Seen in a skeptical light, cyberspace is not such an enthralling field of possibilities after all. It is a threatening terrain with dark towers of data brooding on the horizon, old-fashioned exploitations and conflicts transposed into new and disturbing forms, haunted by strange shadow distortions of our material selves that menace us in our daily lives. It is an alienated world where the products of our own invention and imagination come back to torment us.
This picture too is just a possible world, drawing on elements already present and extrapolating a plausible, if unpleasant, future. Like all possible worlds it will probably not come about exactly as pictured; it may indeed look quite different. Futurology is a treacherous endeavor, especially when premised upon the whims of that most illusive of masters/mistresses, technological innovation. But the bottom line of my argument is that any speculation that fails to take into account the thread of continuity in terms of power and wealth will be seriously off the mark.
The networked computer may change us in ways that can be both foreseen and yet unforeseen. It is unlikely to effect, by itself, a fundamental transformation in the political economic structure of the very system that gave rise to it, that marketed it, and enthusiastically incorporated it into its organizational strategy for competitive success. If real change is to come about, it will have to be because people make it happen, by learning to use the new technologies against their owners, not because a technological 'deus ex machina' does it for them.
What then of the left-wing cyber enthusiasts and their prophecies of cyberspace as a democratic frontier? One must immediately qualify any response by granting that in authoritarian regimes, the new communication technologies can be liberating and empowering. The capacity of any repressive regime to shut out the outside world, to hold its subjects captive in mind as well as body has been rapidly eroded.
The fax machine and E-Mail have indeed become revolutionary weapons in the hands of dissidents, and satellite television, for all that it symbolizes cultural imperialism and the penetration of traditional cultures by Western capitalist values, also destabilizes brutal regimes and police states. But when we turn to the so-called 'advanced' liberal democracies, the democratizing potential seems far less substantial.
Take the fashionable chatter about 'virtual communities' in cyberspace as new nodes of social resistance. Some have even spoken of Internet affinity groups as 'electronic cafes' like the European caMs of the early twentieth century where radical and revolutionary ideas and movements were spawned. But these 'virtual communities' are entirely lacking in the social and cultural context that could give rise to actual revolutionary movements. They are literally disembodied, disconnected from the social roots of their participants, floating in cyberspace without the identities that enable and drive people to carry out actual struggles against real enemies.
People who communicate with one another only in cyberspace often mediate these communications through masks, false identities that they consciously adopt as playful/deceptive shields to protect their real identities. Some would have us believe that this represents a new evolving consciousness that transcends class, ethnicity, gender and national borders.
It sounds more like escapist game-playing: Nintendo players of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your identities! In any event, it is already a notorious fact that it is the Right, not the Left, that has made the most of the political opportunities of cyberspace, in many cases the ugliest elements of the Right, offering racism as political pornography on the Internet.
Another take on this is to argue that cyberspace eliminates from communication the hierarchical cues that infect face-to-face communication. Women need not be silenced by domineering male voices, discussion can be color-blind, etc. It is true that studies of the impact of E-Mail communication in multinational corporations suggest a slight weakening of hierarchical order, a certain limited democratization. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this democratization. Unable to effect genteel putdowns by the body language of status and privilege, or unable to catch the cues that would signal retreat and submission, participants resort to verbal violence: the phenomenon of 'flaming' one's opponents.
The democratic frontier turns out to be a Hobbesian frontier, the verbal war of all against all. The moral lesson? The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars. ... An aggressive, competitive society is not transformed when beamed into cyberspace; rather cyberspace takes on some of the colouration of that society.
Does the Information Revolution offer an alternative? Yes, and no. It does offer an alternative capitalist future, but it is unlikely, under present circumstances, to offer an alternative to capitalism. On the other hand, the profound impact of this revolution cannot be ignored by those seeking real alternatives.
Cyberspace is a new reality, a specter haunting the world. As some of the old terrains of struggle shrink, cyberspace expands as a new terrain to be studied, and to be acted upon. It is emphatically not itself an answer to problems that we ourselves must solve, with or without the aid of technology.
At the end — or is it the beginning (the Library is "unlimited and cyclical)-we are left with the great conundrum of the Library: by containing everything it contains nothing. Indeed, even if humanity were to extinguish itself "the Library will endure: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly motionless, useless, incorruptible, secret".
In the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the ultimate cornputel; 'Deep Thought,' after cogitating for seven and a half million years, finally delivers the answer to the 'great Question of Life, the Universe and Everything'. The answer: 'forty-two'. When complaints are raised about how disappointing this is, Deep Thought suggests that the problem is in the question. But the question is ... everything. '"Exactly!" said Deep Thought. "So once you do know what the question actually is, you'll know what the answer means.'
How Media Users Are Fragmented In today's Technological Society
The proliferation of brands and channels and fragmented media is forcing companies to rethink their marketing strategies. Proliferation is happening all around us everyday and I am watching the growing fragmentation of customer micro-segments. Social media has allowed the mushrooming of micro-communities everywhere. Intensifying competition and corporate desperation for growth together with the supply and demand chain innovations have encouraged today’s companies to target ever more demanding customers within ever smaller segments.
The product, pricing and service options available to customers of consumer industries have grown significantly, from packaged goods to financial services, with the exception of a few (home furnishings is one of the few exceptions). All of these factors have dramatically driven up the complexity and cost of marketing while boards and CEOs are pushing their CMOs to improve the return on marketing expenditures. No wonder many CMOs I talked to said that a major restructuring of marketing models is imminent.
In this crazy business environment, marketing is ready to be reinvented. No one is sure to who is taking the lead to drive this change. Collectively ad agencies, media owners and clients have no clues about what's next (Media players are the worst). The revolutionary and disruptive impact of emerging technologies is creating new behaviors that drive marketers crazy. From TV prime time to YouTube and from advertising to advocates. Where is marketing going next?
The internet, cognitronics (building an interface between the brain and the computer) genotyping (classifying population segments based on genetics) and biointeractive materials (high technology sensors for living systems) are just some of the developments, which will be next to create a profound impact on marketing. They demand our long-held assumptions be challenged and re-examined as the quiet revolution turning into a tsunami.
The sad thing is that many marketers and their ad agencies still consider their discipline as just a series of tools, processes and techniques and the output is some striking visuals and a set of messages. They are so behind-the-curve. They need to know that we now live in a Google-Youtube-iPod-iPhone-MySpace-eBay-Flickers-Twitter-Walmart world.
Here’s what I think will be the key trends that further pushes marketing to the edge (not in any particular order):
Virtual Corporate Personality - For years, large corporations have been trying to act as big corporations and becoming more and more “faceless”. The need for organization to have a “humanized” face (or interface) and touch is becoming important. This is not just about executives’ blogging, it is about putting a face and brings this face into the virtual world. I have been thinking a lot of about this and I have some interesting ideas.
Private Search Network - The personal media revolution results in exponential increase in the amount of consumer generated content. This leads users to search beyond the algorithm for new ways of searching what they need beyond just text and images. A method for this is collaborated social search, where people are sorting content on the web, creating their own groupings and sharing that with others. As a result of that you get Private Search Network which you need to be a member or be invited to get access. Marketers may have to pay to get access to these groups.
Widget Everywhere Marketing - Widgets will becoming a new marketing tool as it is an effective way to add value and be able to link it to some marketing messages or simply create a service. As more and more new technologies will allow open participation for anyone who wants to create a widget. (Facebook is taking that approach and many will do the same)
Automated Tagging – One day almost everything will be tagged and tagging will become more sophisticated. It will extend into products and services and even customer testimonials. Or even product origins or usage , etc. The task of tagging will be automated and that will create a new level of challenge and opportunities for any search engine. I have seen a few interesting business plans from VC's of this idea last few weeks.
Social Media Optimization - SMO is slowly evolving into a movement in the online world. Primarily being driven initially by those search marketing folks, I think SMO will continue to get broader use from marketers interested in building traffic as well as buzz. Optimization and follow by measurement will be next.
Merging Media Environments
One of the most significant changes to occur in the United States in the last half of the 20 century was the enormous growth of media industries. With more delivery channels, a greater volume of media product, the development of new production technologies, and the tendency for large conglomerates to own different types of media companies, the environment for media writers is richer than ever.
Writers may take on a wide variety of projects from radio advertising to television news to dramas for video release. As newer media force older media to adapt contents and functions in order to survive, writers adapt along with them. A rush of mergers integrated media and entertainment organizations in the last decades of the 20 century into giant industries.
These mergers linked writers and producers even as audiences seemed to fragment. It became common for one organization to own radio and television stations. A large organization, such as Disney, has production companies, publishing companies, television networks, cable channels, movie studios, theme parks and other businesses.
Promotions and transfers of individual employees within this "group" create a sense of convergence. The scripts or copy media writers develop may be intended for different audiences and have different formats, purposes, and obligations as they move from job to job within one organization.
Perhaps one of the clearest places to see the convergence of media writing skills is in development of scripts intended to become multimedia products such as CD-ROM games and educational programs, corporate training video discs, interactive movies and Web pages.
A multimedia writer must be able to combine the strong aural sense of the radio copywriter, the concentrated visual sense of a television producer, the information gathering skills of a news reporter, the dramatic judgment of a movie director, and the ability to predict and arouse audience interest when developing multimedia products.
Electronic media have several attributes in common. Radio, television, film (which has become electronic), and multimedia all present a diversity of program material appealing to a diversity of audiences. They can provide wide dissemination of information and culture to huge audiences through a variety of delivery systems and technologies. Some delivery systems are direct, immediate, and fleeting, such as broadcast, cable, cell phone services, and online systems or websites, such as Hulu.
In these delivery systems, audiences depend on programmers to schedule or maintain the channel, which frequently changes. Other delivery systems, such as tape, disc, and CD, are more permanent. Audiences may borrow or purchase tapes, disc and CDs similar to the way they acquire books, and like books; audiences consume these materials at their leisure on their own timetable. Radio, television, and multimedia all share the functions of informing, persuading, and/or entertaining audiences.
One truth of mass media is that they are always changing. An examination of broadcast media trends in the last decades of the twentieth century gives some support to the argument that mass audiences for mass media are quickly evaporating. Narrowcasting, or the strategy of isolating audience segments and tailoring messages to this segment, became the mode of operation.
Radio served niche audiences through music format programming, while cable helped to established specified programming geared toward distinct audience interests. For example, the cable channel Animal Planet programmed shows specifically for pet owners and people with an active interest in animals. Home and Garden Network produces and programs "how-to" shows dealing with home improvement, crafts and gardening.
The sci-fi Channel targets science fiction enthusiasts, while Nickelodeon targets children, BET (Black Entertainment Television) targets people of color, Lifetime targets women, and Spike targets men.
In this respect television is following the pattern of development set by magazines early in the twentieth century, when the special interest magazine replaced general interest magazines on the newsstands, and the pattern of format programming set by radio in the 1950s, when specific music format replaced general interest.
This becomes important to writers as electronic media attempt to develop a smaller but more loyal audience base. It's important to keep in mind what your mission is and which audience you message will target.
Merging Media Functions: Informing, Persuading, Entertaining
Communication theorists identified four functions of electronic media programs: to inform, to entertain, to persuade, and to transmit the culture from one generation to the next. While one function may predominate in a program, these functions are not usually segregated. For example, the primary function of a television commercial for a fast food product is to persuade an audience to buy that product.
This may not happen unless the commercial first engages (entertains) the audience and informs the audience about the product. Messages are not isolated from the culture that produces them. By drawing message elements from the culture and fixing these in a medium that can be replayed, electronic media help to relay or transmit the culture from one generation to the next. A young person watching “Nick at Nite” can see programming her parents watched as children.
Types of Media Product
Electronic media products come in many different structures and genres: commercials, documentaries, news, features, interview and talk programs, music video, public information programs, westerns, science fiction, soap operas, romance, how-to, sports and games; the list goes on and on.
Whatever the primary function, all media programs have structures. Some may appear more appropriate to one function than another. For example, audiences are more used to seeing dramatic structures used in conjunction with entertainment. However, drama can be a powerful tool that is both informative and persuasive.
Writers strike through the politics of words, shaping them to best serve the primary function of their script or copy. Writers need to understand script and copy structure and the association of structure to function, genre, and production. Writers need to understand basic ideas, techniques and practices that can layer and drive script structure with the muscle of emotion and the flesh of spectacle.
Types of Electronic Media
Freelance Writing: Freelance is a term first used to designate mercenaries, warriors who hired themselves and their lances to anyone who would employ them.
The freelance media writer works at home on a commission basis or is subcontracted for jobs. The Benefits of freelancing are the freedom to establish your own client base and work at home in pajamas. The Pitfalls of freelancing are the uneven cash flow and the tendency of many clients to hear the first part of “freelance.” This can be especially problematic for young people fresh out of college, who haven’t yet developed a strong portfolio or industry reputation.
In-House Writing for Local Radio or television stations: Local radio or television stations often have Creative Services Departments for station identification, promotions, and local advertising and hire writers as part of the station’s staffing of these departments. At very small stations, writers may need to be
Involved with production as well as writing of these spots and promotions. Local radio and television stations will also have News Departments, which have reporter and anchors to research, write and report local news. The benefits of this type of working environment are that usually a writer has fixed hours and a professional environment.
One of the downsides may be writing for only one medium-the radio or television medium where you are employed. However, if you are involved in station promotions, you may be asked to write across media. For example, you might be asked to create a newspaper ad that promotes your station or creating radio advertising to promote a television station. Local stations may also ask writing staff or creative services staff to maintain and update the station’s website.
Writing for Corporate In-house: All types of organizations -- such as educational institutions, large businesses, and large non-profits -- hire writers to craft messages for the audiences they hope to influence.
The in-house writing staff of the public relations, advertising, or information department of a large corporation want to maintain the good-will of employees, consumers, stockholders, as well as the general public. These are highly coveted, well-paying jobs that require creativity, strong interpersonal communication skills, and extremely good writing skills.
Advertising managers oversee advertising and promotion staffs for the company. Marketing managers develop the firm’s marketing strategy. Public Relations Managers direct publicity programs and oversee relations with the press. Small companies or films may have individuals that combine advertising, marketing, and public relations skills under one department.
Writing for Networks and Cable: Like the local stations, networks and cable stations may have News Departments and Creative Service Departments. The major networks all have news organizations. Though beleaguered with financial cutbacks, network and cable news operations provide a continuing stream of news and information to a huge viewing audience with a variety of news and information programming.
News offerings may include prime time news, such as “CBS News with Katie Coerce,” entertainment news such as NBC’s “Access Hollywood,” news magazines such as the CBS program “60 Minutes” and ABC’s '20/20,' news interview programs such as NBC’s “Meet the Press, early morning programs, such as ABC’s 'Good Morning America.” Creative Service Departments are responsible for the on-air design and visual identity of the network or channel, along with the creation and execution of all branding and promotional materials.
Writers of Entertainment programming for networks and cable may be involved with developing soaps, sit-coms, episodic dramas, game shows, mini-series, reality shows, and other network or cable-produced product. These programs be written and produced independently and bought/purchased by the network or writers may be on staff.
Writing for Advertising Agencies: Multifaceted agencies include account executives, creative directors, art directors as well as writers. A client, such as a business, retailer, or manufacturer, hires the agency, which works on a combination of fee-based and commission based compensation. The creative team at an ad agency consists of art directors and copywriters, who often work closely to develop the concept for an advertising campaign.
The production department or creative services department produces the actual advertisements. Account executives are the sales arm of the advertising agency, responsible for meeting with the client and coordinating the creative, media, and production staff behind the advertising campaign.
Working for an advertising agency requires diversity, adaptability, and familiarity with print, Internet advertising, and electronic media. Specialties may include focus on types of persuasive messages such as political advertising. Interactive Ad Agencies may specialize in Web Design, Search Engine Marketing, and E-Commerce consulting.
As demand for media product mushrooms and the media themselves change, writers must be flexible-able to write across media- and adaptable able to apply seasoned skills to new situations, adjusting to the changes in media that are inevitable.
To Entertain: When we think of entertainment, we often think of narrative films, television dramas, episodic television programs, or television situation comedies. There are many types of programs whose principal function is to entertain. Game shows, music videos and music programming on radio, talk and variety programs all primarily function to entertain.
To Inform: We think of news, educational, and instructional programs as primarily having the function of informing audiences.
To Persuade: We think of advertising, public service, political, evangelical, editorial and promotional material as having the primary function of persuading audiences.
However, it is important to realize that these functions are not discrete.
Media often entertain to inform, inform to persuade, and persuade when they entertain. For example, media personality Dr. Ruth Westheimer began her career as a sex therapist on a radio talk show in 1980 on WYNY FM in New York. On her show, Sexually Speaking, "Dr. Ruth," intended to inform listeners about important health matters related to their sex lives.
However, she quickly gained a reputation for being candid and entertaining and for her tag phrase, "Get some." She made several comedic appearances on Late Night with David Letterman in the early 1980. She then became a spokesperson for Clairol Herbal Essences and body wash, with the goal of persuading people to buy Clairol products.
Media messages may function in ways writers don’t intend them to function. Because a writer intends to write a terrifying horror script, doesn’t mean that audiences won’t laugh at the
Movie when it’s finally produced.
The Process of Media Communication
Who (source) says what (message) to whom (audience) through which medium (radio, television, film, internet) with what effect (audience response)?
This question forms the basic model of the communication process and is the common ground writers in journalism, advertising, and entertainment stand upon. The model below shows the basic ingredients of the communication process and explains why communication sometimes fails.
An information source on who, presumably, a person who creates a message.
The message or “says what," which is sent by the information source and received by the destination.
A transmitter, which in the case of video would include many components — cameras, microphones, editing, in addition to the distribution network (cable, satellite, broadcast, internet).
The signal, the message converted into digital files and electronic signals.
A carrier or channel, for the signal.
Noise, which can be channel or signal noise and/or semantic noise. Another type of noise is semantic noise or the inability of the audience to understand a message that is otherwise clear. Or semantic noise could occur with the sources of the message, writers and producers who did not fully understand the possible meanings of the words, sounds, and images they used.
A receiver: For a video message this might be a computer or television set.
A destination: The audience member or person who consumes and processes the message.
Though we often think of the media writer as the source, very often it is the job of the media writer to develop someone else’s message. The writer comes between the client (the real source) and the performance of the script. There may be many people who are involved in bringing a message to the public. In these cases, the writer becomes one voice for the “who” in the collaborative media communication process.
The “who” of a media message may be: The independent media writer writing a screenplay alone, a client for whom the media writer works, a news source giving information to a reporter, people working in collaboration to produce a media product.
When a news reporter interviews an actress and uses her direct “soundbite” within an edited news package, both the source and the reporter become the “who” of that media message.
“Says What” is the actual message the media will deliver. The copy, scripts, and screenplays media writers create are the foundation on which these messages are built. The formats writers use depend on the type of message they are creating and the type of media that will be involved in production.
“To Whom” refers to the audience. Usually media writers target specific audiences based on demographics (selected population characteristics such as age, gender, race) or psychographics (those traits relating to personality, values, attitudes, interests, or lifestyle choices).
“In which medium” -- The format you use for your script and the way you shape your language depends on the medium through which the script or copy will be delivered.
“With what effect?” A writer or producer’s intentions are not always outcomes.
Effects of media messages are cognitive; they change what an audience member knows or believes.
Effects of media messages are emotional; they may change how an audience member feels.
Effects of media messages are behavioral; they can change what an audience member does.
The goal of the media writer is to construct blueprints for production in which the message is clear and ultimately delivers the intended meanings not only to those who will produce the script but to those audiences who are the final destination.
Some Points Worth Noting
Creating a communications brief for “external” communication
The external communications brief
1. Who is the client, what is the brand?
2. What is the task we need to address and how do we know if we have achieved it?
3. What do we want to say — single minded proposition?
4. Who do we want to talk to — target audience?
5. How do we reach them — media channels (including social media & word of mouth)?
6. How do measure the effectiveness of the communication? 7. How much money is available — budget?
A thought on social media & storytelling
“The Rise of the Story ” Richard Stacy
• Stories have always been a useful medium of communication — but the rise of social media has just made them essential. If you haven’t got a good one, you could be in trouble.
• The philosophy of marketing is restrictive — one-word ‘brand equities’, single key visuals , etc. At its heart is the idea of the proposition — a tightly defined statement of what the brand stands for. This was the cornerstone of a marketing or communications strategy in the mass media age.
• A story can drive conversation in the way a proposition cannot. People can pick up a story and tell it in their own words, they can pluck bits out of it and pass it on. It has mobility — the key attribute in the world of liberated media.
• A single story can live and move in blog posts, tweets, Facebook pages or conversations — anywhere and everywhere.
Social media & storytelling
• Stories have a further advantage in that they have an application beyond how you project your organization outwards, they can be a strategic management tool in their own right.
• Once you have an effective corporate story, this in itself is a strategy and when your strategy is a story it is easy for it to spread through the organization.
• One of the biggest management and communications challenges any business faces is ‘aligning’ employees behind a corporate strategy — but once that strategy is encoded as a story, that process is much simpler.
Short Notes On The definition Of social Media
Social Media is the democratization of content and the understanding of the role people play
In the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also in sharing and creating content.
• Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue.
• Participants in social media are people, not organizations.
• Honesty and transparency are core values.
• It's all about pull, not push.
“Digital media has created a great deal of complexity, but it has put a potentially powerful array of new tools into the hands of communicators.
We are in the business of building and selecting channels of communication, but now we can build networks of relationships with the stakeholders we care about”
- Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing & Communications, IBM.
Fragmentation In The Age of Globalism
John H. Ogwyn wrote the following article(From a religious perspective):
As the world becomes more and more interconnected, nations are fracturing along old ethnic and religious lines. Pension funds in Canada can be affected by economic developments in Russia or Thailand. Is there an alternative to mankind's fragile nation-states? What does the Bible say?
In recent years, our world has been moving inexorably toward becoming a "global village." Rapid travel and instantaneous communication have tied the entire globe together to a degree unimaginable just a generation ago. Satellite and computer technologies have broken down the restrictions of national borders in the flow of information and ideas. Multinational corporations and conglomerates now dominate virtually every field from finance to manufacturing—further integrating the world economy.
Make no mistake about it; today's world economy is more interconnected than ever before. Japanese companies are not simply Japanese companies, American companies are not simply American companies and French companies… well, you get the point! In many cases something that is 'American made,' contains components that were manufactured in a number of other countries. Japanese auto manufacturers have plants in the United States and American companies have plants in Mexico and Latin America. Even when people think they are buying a familiar national brand, often the manufacturer or the brand name is actually owned by a multinational conglomerate
Our global economy is characterized not only by free trade in goods and services, however. Of even greater effect is the free movement of capital all around the world. Global financial markets exert tremendous influence on worldwide economic conditions. Interest and exchange rates, as well as stock prices in various countries, are very much interrelated. There has been rapid growth of the global financial markets because financial capital is free to be moved wherever in the world it will be best rewarded. Because of this, we now find that pension funds in Canada can be directly affected by events in the economies of Russia or Thailand.
Yet, paradoxically, as the world becomes more and more interconnected, nations are increasingly subdividing and fragmenting along old ethnic and religious lines. Europe, Asia and Africa have, during the last decade, all been rent with warfare and violence directly related to such ancient divisions. Government and financial leaders have pointed to such conflicts as an illustration of the need for a viable alternative to the present, unsteady system of independent nation-states.
Billionaire financier George Soros in 1998 wrote a book titled The Crisis of Global Capitalism, in which he discussed some of these very topics. He observed that financial markets are inherently unstable and what solution did Mr. Soros propose? "To stabilize and regulate a truly global economy, we need some global system of political decision-making. In short we need a global society to support our global economy… the sovereignty of states must be subordinated to international law and international institutions" (excerpted in Newsweek, Dec. 7, 1998, p. 84).
Leaders in government, as well as in finance and industry, are worried. They see a world increasingly interconnected in the economic sphere, and thus threatened with worldwide economic dislocations as a result of strife and conflict in far-flung areas of the globe. Such instability could threaten the entire economic edifice that mankind is building up.
The Cold War Is Over—Where Is Peace?
The English-speaking nations spent more than half of the twentieth century, beginning in 1914, locked in wars either "hot" or "cold." Finally, in 1989, it all seemed to be over. The Iron Curtain was no more. People danced in the streets throughout Eastern Europe. There was a sense of euphoria in the air. Two years later, in December 1991, the Soviet Union itself ceased to exist. In its place were a non-communist Russia and more than a dozen other independent republics. The Cold War was over and the West had won! After four decades of living under the nuclear shadow of "mutually assured destruction," peace had finally been achieved. Or had it?
The bipolar world dominated by two superpowers is no more. What remains, however, is a far more fragile and complex arrangement. Nowhere is this fragility more evident than in the Balkans, dubbed in the 19 century "the powder keg of Europe."
Additionally, there has been major bloodletting involving the Kurds in Turkey and Iraq and various tribal factions in both East and West Africa. East Timor has broken away from Indonesia, the Philippines is faced with its own breakaway movement and even tropical paradises such as Fiji have been torn by coups rooted in ethnic rivalries. Ancient conflicts have also re-erupted between Hindus and Muslims in India, not to mention between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East. Of course problems in the Middle East always raise the specter of disruptions in the flow of oil—and therefore of major disruption in economies around the world.
All of this fragmentation is occurring at a time when big business is becoming ever bigger. Merger mania has gripped the international business community. Banks, insurance companies and manufacturing concerns are continually merging and becoming part of ever-larger conglomerates, while trade barriers between nations are increasingly being eliminated.
In the aftermath of the cold war, the economies of the former Soviet bloc were tied to those of western nations. Many thought that this economic interdependence would guarantee peace, eliminating the potential for war. The result has been far different from was imagined in those heady days of 1989. It is certainly true that economies all over the world are increasingly chained together. But there has been a dawning awareness, sharpened by the Asian meltdown of 1997, that no chain is any stronger than its weakest link. Increased linkage in such a fragile, fractious global environment has made affluent western nations more vulnerable than ever before.
These are the circumstances that provided the backdrop for the so-called Millennium Summit, held at United Nations headquarters in New York, from September 5-9, 2000. This was the largest gathering of world leaders ever and took place at the 55th annual meeting of the UN General Assembly. Throughout its history, the United Nations has proven itself inept and ineffectual in resolving problems on the world scene. With a General Assembly that is little more than a debating society for third world countries, and a Security Council that can be easily paralyzed by big power vetoes, the UN has very little that is positive to show for its decades of existence.
Events that have required military actions have generally had to rely on American troops if effective action was to be taken; though at certain times this has been under ostensible UN auspices. It was in this context that French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine made an announcement to the General Assembly in his speech during the Summit on September 7. "The European Union has decided to equip itself to be a major political actor and play its full role on the international stage" (Agence France-Press, Sept. 12, 2000). The EU, he announced, intended to create and equip a military force of 60,000 for use in international missions by 2003.
Many leaders realize that a world increasingly integrated economically still lacks the political and military means to prevent the disruption of that integration. Even more, the world lacks anything to provide an overarching sense of identity for its people that would provide loyalty to global institutions. Without a sense of common identity, fragmentation along old fault lines can only worsen.
Contenders for World Power
A number of years ago, Poland's Catholic primate, Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of Warsaw, defined three geopolitical contenders for power on the world scene. "Three Internationales," he called them (see Malachi Martin, The Keys of This Blood, p. 21). He categorized them as the Golden Internationale, the Red Internationale, and the Black Internationale. The Golden Internationale was the Cardinal's name for the financial powers, the transnationalist capitalist leaders of the West. The Red Internationale referred to the socialist leaders of the East. The Black Internationale was a reference to the Roman Catholic Church with its black-robed priests and nuns.
The first two, he stressed, offered a completely materialistic view of the world.
Both Western capitalists and Eastern socialists view history from a secular perspective. In their raw form, both systems are exclusively materialistic and concerned with the here and now. The Vatican, which has played a dominant geopolitical role in centuries past and aspires to do so once again, takes a different view.
Western capitalism lures the world to her bed by promising the twin pleasures of freedom and prosperity. However, some see that the West has confused freedom with moral anarchy. These capitalists worship bottom-line profits and individuality over virtue and community. Large corporations are notorious for their willingness to lay off tens of thousands of employees if the move is expected to boost their stock prices immediately and reward top management with handsome bonuses. As corporations have increasingly become multinational, any allegiance to employees, a local community, or even to a nation has become minimal or non-existent.
As for the Red Internationale—the socialists—history has shown that a centrally planned economy has not been able to compete with an entrepreneurial one. Despite promises of constructing a workers' paradise, the communists ultimately had to rely on barbed wire fences and armed guards to keep their people from leaving "paradise."
The Red utopian promises have failed and left millions of once true believers disillusioned in their wake. However, among intellectuals who still subscribe to the possibility of a man-made utopia, and among have-nots witnessing an ever-widening gap with the haves in bottom-line capitalistic countries, forms of Marxism still retain drawing power.
People the world over are increasingly aware of the failures of exclusively materialistic philosophies. In their current forms, neither capitalism nor socialism can offer any transcendent goal or purpose. Nor can either produce a just and equitable society where prosperity is sustainable indefinitely. As a result, the age-old ethnic and religious rivalries threaten to fragment an interdependent world.
Unless human emotions and actions can be channeled differently, they will fracture the whole global economic house. An identity that transcends the current divisions and rivalries is clearly needed. For all of the internationalists' desire to supersede the independent nation-state, they have been unable to devise an alternative that would claim the loyalty and stir the emotions of the average man in the street. People do not develop intense emotional loyalty to faceless bureaucrats. How, then, is the looming crisis of fragmentation in an age of globalism to be resolved?
After a period of relative dormancy, the third geopolitical force mentioned by Cardinal Wyszynski, Roman Catholicism, is increasingly flexing its muscle. The Vatican offers a different worldview than either capitalism or communism. And in addition to a worldview, it offers a source of emotional unity; fostered by ritual and pageantry that unites different peoples with different languages and cultures.
In 1981, a private meeting took place in the Vatican between the pope and American CIA Director William Casey. Mr. Casey was a deeply devout Roman Catholic who attended mass almost every day. Director Casey and President Ronald Reagan had come to believe that, "There was a potential third superpower in the world—the 109-acre Vatican city-state—and that its monarch, Pope John Paul II, had at his command a remarkable arsenal that might tip the balance of the Cold War. In a meeting that would not be revealed to the world for another decade, Casey… helped seal an alliance between the [pope] and the Reagan Administration" (Reader's Digest, Oct. 1996, p. 213, excerpted from Bernstein and Politics, His Holiness).
Vatican influence was crucial in bringing about the emergence of a non-communist Eastern Europe in 1989 and, along with that, the collapse of the postwar, bipolar world order. Today, Vatican influence is increasingly being felt in the Middle East as well—and is destined to grow markedly.
History Recorded in Advance
Where will the influence of this third force lead? The answer has been recorded in advance, believe it or not! It is found in what to most people would seem an unlikely source—the Holy Bible. In Isaiah 46:10, God tells us that He declares "the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.'" Bible prophecy, which constitutes more than one quarter of all Scripture, is simply history recorded in advance! What does it reveal about the turbulent times in which we live and the days ahead of us?
In the book of Revelation, God reveals that in the end-time, a system He calls "Babylon" will arise in Europe and dominate the whole earth. Revelation 18:9-18 and Ezekiel 27 describe a great worldwide trading bloc that will completely dominate the global economy. Babylon involves far more than mere economics, however. It is also apolitical system called the "Beast" (Revelation 17:9-13), possessing great military power and strength (Revelation 13:4). But, as we will see, religion is the "tie that binds" this whole system.
The original Babylon, or Babel, was founded by Nimrod in the land of Shinar, in what is now Iraq (Genesis 10:8-11). Here the people—all of one language—came together to build the famous Tower of Babel to keep from being fragmented and scattered. The tower was to reach into heaven—a prideful venture that directly challenged God (Genesis 11:1-4). The Almighty intervened and divided the various nationalities by giving them different languages (vv. 5-9). This halted construction of the tower.
This parallels our modern time remarkably. In fact, the economic and political integration of European nations with their different languages has frequently been compared with the ancient Babel project. As an example, the European Commission sponsored a widely distributed poster of the Tower of Babel and the words, "Europe—Many Tongues, One Voice."
In addition to trying to build a political empire, Nimrod also promulgated an idolatrous system of worship known as the Babylonian Mysteries, through which he sought to unify his subjects. It may surprise you to learn that this essentially pagan religion, though changed in form, has persisted to our day. Called by God "Mystery, Babylon the Great" (Revelation 17:5), it is described as a great "mother" church which will play a major role in end-time events.
Jesus Christ warned His disciples in Matthew 24 that there would be false prophets who, while claiming to represent Him, would lead people astray with a false message (vv. 5, 24). This false system will NOT promote Buddha or Mohammed, but rather will use the name of Jesus Christ while substituting a different message than the one that He taught. Through His Apostles, Christ warned of a time when a great charismatic religious leader—"THE false prophet"—would work apparent miracles and "lying wonders," which would deceive the vast majority of people on earth, even in this modern, secular age (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:13; 19:20).
This false religious leader, who is soon to emerge on the world scene, will head the great Babylonian Mystery system just mentioned. He will ally himself and the religious empire that he heads with a yet-future politico-military leader to arise in Europe. This will constitute the seventh and final resurrection of the old Holy Roman Empire. For a detailed explanation of this subject combining the Bible with the record of secular history, please request our free booklet, The Beast of Revelation.
You see it is religion—a false Christianity—that will ultimately be used as the "glue" to bind a fragmenting world together. This is the only way unity and common identity on a global scale can be achieved. The bad news about an unholy alliance of false religion with economic, military, and political interests is not the end of the story, however. God revealed through the pen of the prophet Daniel the good news beyond the bad. "And in the days of these kings [the final ten who constitute the revived Holy Roman Empire] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 2:44).
According to the inspired word of God, Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:11-16). When He does, He will sweep away the false systems that men have erected and replace them with the glorious Kingdom of God, a government based upon the righteous laws of Almighty God…
Idioms Of Liberation Or Imprisonment
For his sculpture Idiom, Matej Krengathers books from libraries and bookshops in the city where he installs each version, making towering turrets of collected words, and therefore philosophies, vernacular expressions, and cultural histories. Born in Slovakia, Kren has created this piece in cities including Sao Paulo, Prague, and Jerusalem. While Kren's works are formally interesting and nicely respond to safe ideas about culture, geography, and identity, I can't help but see them through a sociopolitical lens as well, the lens of Israel-Hezbollah, Iraq, al-Qaeda, and George Bush.
On a basic level: how are our books and doctrines--the bible, the Quran, the Torah--locking us in or, conversely, walling us off? (This notion resonates with Huang Yong Ping's Two Typhoons, a pair of World Trade Center-like distended scrolls, one written in Sanskrit, the other in Arabic.) How--like the teardrop-shaped doorway in Idiom--can they free us?
Maybe the metaphor in Cuban artist Kcho'sObras Escogidas(selected works) (above) is a bit more overt: constructed from Spanish-language books, the image of a Cuban escape vessel, a vehicle both literal and literary, is undeniable. I guess I fall on the side of knowledge: this many books, stacked so high, is freeing; a single book, peered at exclusively, is the prison.
Yet, the advent of the new emerging media and technologies, has fragmented the mode of book reading, TV viewing, Radio listening, and so forth into a fragmented and more akin to babel-like discordant and many things that are but a fleeting post, drop or whatever, which is sooner when it's posted, is replaced by many other billions of post per second. If a book at least holds the attention of a reader(s), the new social media and other such Internet entities, break down consciousness, coordination, and uniformity and continuity of yesteryear's ways of communicating, reading and thinking.
The House Internet: The Viral Soup
In The Mix Of The Internet's Viral Soup: A Short History
In order to better understand how the Internet fragments audiences, consciousness and the environment they operate in, we will cull heavily on a piece of research written by James Stayner wherein he states that:
"The news environment in advanced industrial democracies is undergoing a tremendous series of changes driven in a large part by the emergence, spread and evolution of the internet. The once ubiquitous scenario of a string of national, regional and local news outlets with largely captive audiences and secure revenue streams has fundamentally altered. In a period of fifteen years, the net has helped to further deterritorialize news markets, reconfigure media competition, fragment audiences, transform news reception and content production, and has forced a reassessment of journalistic roles.
"It is this rapid period of evolution and its consequences for news and the wider democratic public sphere which forms the main focus of this chapter. Concentrating mainly on the US, it considers the extent to which the old news order has been transformed, and the degree to which new digital news environment has provided a greater diversity of information sources for citizens, enhanced the expression of public opinion and has democratized the news making process.
"In just over a decade the news website has become a familiar feature of the news environment. There is no consensus as to exactly when the first news outlet went online. Some suggest as early as 1990 in the US, when seven newspapers could be accessed over the internet (Gunter, 2003), others put forward the slightly later date of 1992 (Li, 2006). Much of the initial expansion, though, took place after the emergence of the world wide web and the dot-com boom which followed, which saw established news organizations invest millions of dollars in their web operations.
"An indication of the rapid expansion can be seen by a quick reprise of some figures. In 1994, 60 newspapers in the US had websites, by 1998, depending on sources, there were between 1,600 and 2,000 newspapers with their own sites (Greer and Mensing, 2006; Li, 2006) — all of the main news organizations had a website displaying news content by 1995 (Scott, 2005; Sparks, 2000). By 2002 the number of newspapers online had grown further to 3,400 in the US and 2,000 outside the US (Gunter, 2003), although some put the figure higher. Li (2006), for instance, suggests that there as many 4,000 newspapers online in the US not counting other news outlets.
"At the same time as the number of internet news sites expanded so has the audience for online news [see Deuze, 2003]. Table 1 shows the proportion of people who regularly consume news online grew by 29 per cent from1996 to 2006, while those using traditional off-line outlets declined, although it should be noted that for many the internet complements off-line news consumption and is not a substitute for it (Ahlers, 2006).
"Such developments are not limited to the US In the UK, for instance, during the first part of 2002, an average of 10.6 million people per month were accessing news websites, up by 3.5 million on November 2000 [Hargreaves and Thomas, 2002]. In 2005, other research showed that 61 per cent of British net users relied on it for news (Dutton et al., 2005).
Web 1.0 to 2.0
"Over this time period the internet has also evolved. Currently, news outlets are adapting to what has been called web 2.0. There is no agreed definition of this term, popularized by O’Reilly Media, however, in the context of this chapter, it is taken as short-hand for a variety of changes relating to the look of content, speed of access, mobility, and content reception and production. Web content has evolved from largely text and graphics to include video and audio streaming. This is a result of a boost in network capacity due to the emergence and spread of broadband, meaning larger amounts of data can now be transferred at ever faster speeds.
"Further, wireless technology [Wi-Fi] has resulted in an increase in mobility. While web 1.0 was mainly computer based and static, the public can now surf the web through mobile devices. Finally, not only can content can be viewed on a variety of platforms, but internet users can also upload and disseminate text, audio, video and digital photographs over the web. User-generated content sites such as Facebook, YouTube and MySpace have become one of the most visible characteristics of web 2.0 (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007).
"It is important to explore what these developments mean for the news. The most visible impact of web 2.0 has been in the appearance of online news. News websites are no longer solely text and photograph based, video streaming has become a wide spread feature. For example, a survey of over 80 newspaper websites in the US in 1997, found that only 7 per cent of websites had video content and 16 per cent audio content, by 2003 44 per cent of sites had both (Greer and Mensing, 2006).
"By 2005, online video had become a common feature on US news websites [Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2006]. Visitors to most of the leading news sites can view a whole bulletin or particular extracts, for instance, those browsing the main networks’ websites can watch breaking news and segments from the evening news bulletins, in 2007, 37 per cent of internet users said they watched news videos online (Madden, 2007).
"The way news is accessed is also changing. News can be down-loaded as a podcast from news websites and watched at the audience’s convenience. A survey in the US found that 12 per cent of internet users had down-loaded podcasts form various news websites in 2006, compared to 7 per cent in 2005 (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007). Although the numbers regularly downloading news output are small, it does surge during large news events.
"In the US, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, there were more than 10 million video clip downloads from the MSNBC website and 9 million from CNN [Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2006]. In a similar way wireless technology is transforming news viewing, news bulletins can be sent to personal digital assistants or cell phones. In 2007, a survey found that 30 million internet users in the US accessed the web from a mobile device (ComScore, 2007), with phone users regularly upgrading their cell phones these figures are certain to rise.
These changes mean that the time-linear-appointment-to-view news bulletin is being replaced by a more bespoke service where the audience has the ultimate say about when and how information is consumed. Audience members can assemble their own mix of stories to suit their interest. This has empowered audiences to filter what they see/read to an unprecedented extent, facilitating the emergence of what Nicholas Negroponte has termed the Daily Me. The Daily Me being ‘a communications package that is personally designed with each component fully chosen in advance’ (Sunstein, 2001: 7).
While new providers, like online news aggregators, might have pioneered personal newscasts, it is not just these new players that provide such facilities. A survey of over 80 newspaper websites in the US found that the number of sites which allowed audiences customize their news consumption rose from 10 per cent in 1997 to 24 per cent in 2003 (Greer and Mensing, 2006) — a figure which is likely to have grown further.
While most of the major news sites have had well established interactive facilities, such as message boards and email, the ability of audiences to contribute to news content has generally been more limited. However, web 2.0 has transformed this situation. User-generated content has become a common feature of mainstream news outlets.
Audiences are encouraged, and sometimes paid, to submit video footage and other material to news sites. Inspired by the success of user-directed-news-sites, like ohmynewsinternational, wikinews and dig.com, that allow users to post stories, some news outlets let their readers to write their own stories, particularly on local issues (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2007). The professional staff reporter has been joined by the freelancers, compilers, amateur enthusiasts, and members of the public, the so called ‘witness-reporters’ or ‘citizen journalist’. Increasingly, as Dahlgren and
Gurevitch (2005) observe, a larger amount of the information in the online news environment does not originate from professional journalists but from these amateurs.
In sum, online news has gone from shovel-ware to increasingly sophisticated interactive output. In the world of web 2.0, news can be accessed by a variety of portable devices. Through these different platforms audiences cannot only view the stories they want at their convenience but also post content, even break news. These changes in news consumption and production, however, need to be seen as part of a wider series of developments in the news industry.
Audience Input And Its Limitations: Media And Social Networks Produce News With Online Reader Participation
Stayner further instructs us about the Audience, their input and how they are limited in so doing.
"One of key criticism of off-line newspapers and news bulletins has been that audience direct input has been too restricted [Richardson and Franklin, 2004]. The emergence of news websites and the development of web 2.0, it is argued, has changed this situation (Twist, 2006). The space for audience debate is no longer limited and the voice of the audience is less reliant on the editor and journalist for exposure.
"However, while there clearly are more opportunities for audiences to communicate their views and contribute to the news, some argue that the reality is somewhat different to the hype [see Deuze, 2003; Singer, 2005]. News outlets still exercise control of messages posted on their sites, removing comments deemed inappropriate from message boards and blogs.
"In terms of audience-journalist interaction, a study of the extent to which online audiences engaged with news websites found that only 15 per cent used chat rooms and 13 per cent emailed journalists [Lowery and Anderson, 2005; see also van der Wurff, 2005].
"Similarly, a survey by Nielsen/NetRatings found that only a minority of visitors to leading newspapers websites in the US looked at journalists’ blogs. In December 2006, of a unique audience of 30 million, 13 per cent visited the blog pages of an online newspaper (Nielsen/NetRatings, 2007).
"It is not just the public that shy away from interaction, Lowery and Anderson  found that only a minority of journalists pursued contact through news blogs. Another survey discovered that most journalists in the US saw responding to email as part of their job but just over half did so, and did so only occasionally (Pavlik, 2004).
"Indeed, Chung in her study of interactivity found that although most sites producers recognized the ‘importance of incorporating... interactivity’ they were cautious about it, especially those from the established news organizations [2007: 48]. These respondents often pointed to the increase in workload in maintaining such interactive features (Chung, 2007).
"The emergence of the internet has meant that there are now more news outlets available for citizens to choose from than ever before. While most American internet users still visit the websites of the main news outlets, a substantial proportion regularly visit non-U.S. news sites or niche sites such as news blogs, indeed, news aggregators often take them to such sites (Thurman, 2007).
"The growth of such outlets has been beneficial for minorities of various kinds who have felt that the main off-line US news providers cater for majority tastes or use the majority language and fail to accommodate them. For example, certain diasporas are able to access news outlets with which they have a cultural and/or linguistic affinity, in a way that is much easier than before. A similar point could be made for those with particular political/ideological views. The radical media have always been part of society (Downing, 2001), but they have never been more accessible as via the net.
"This section has also shown that internet news sites provide more opportunities for citizens to exercise their voice and contribute to the news. Citizens are able to supply material and shape news content with greater ease than before. Open-source news, for example, means readers can direct content, posting their own stories. Citizens are no longer confined to being spectators, monitoring news from the sidelines, but are able contribute to its focus and production, becoming citizen journalists.
"Despite the potential of new developments to enable a more informed and active citizenry, it is important to remain critically aware of the challenges still faced. There may be more choice but large media chains still exercise power in the online news environment. They still own the bulk of the established brand outlets on which a large proportion of internet users tend to rely. Research has shown that the diversity of views on these branded sites maybe largely illusory with most of the news coming from Associated Press and Reuters (Paterson, 2006).
"These profit hungry corporations are also interested in charging citizens for additional news services at the same time as engaging in cost cutting which may well undermine the quality of output on which citizens have to depend. In addition, research has also revealed that citizens’ online behavior is increasingly subject to surveillance by news corporations interested in building up information on their tastes and habits (MacGregor, 2007).
Despite the potential, new opportunities to interact and produce content may be exaggerated. Interactive developments have been given lukewarm response by the public and journalists (Lowery and Anderson, 2005). News editors have continued to exercise control over much of what is contributed. In addition, the issue of unequal access to the internet has remained. Internet users tend to be wealthier, educated and young, and this is also true in relation to the adoption of new communication technologies such as cell phones (Chadwick, 2006; ComScore, 2007).
"These groups are more liable to post content, according to a recent Pew survey of bloggers in the US, 54 per cent were under the age of 30, 37 per cent had a college degree, and 38 per cent were knowledge-based professional workers [Lenhart and Fox, 2006]. These groups are also more likely to use the internet to access news and information.
"For example, another Pew survey conducted during the 2006 mid-term elections, found that 44 per cent of those who went online to gain campaign information earned over $75,000, 49 per cent had a college degree, and 71 per cent were under the age of 49 [Rainie and Horrigan, 2007].
"The current transformation of the news environment provides both new opportunities and challenges for democratic communication. Long term, whether these changes enable a more informed and active citizenry or facilitate increasingly interest driven news consumption remains to be seen, but what is certain is news will never be the same.
The Advent Of Google .. Today...
Is Google Making Us Stupid?
Nicholas Carr wrote the following article titled:
What the Internet is doing to our brains
"Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stalney Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”
I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy.
My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.
I think I know what’s going on. For more than a decade now, I’ve been spending a lot of time online, searching and surfing and sometimes adding to the great databases of the Internet. The Web has been a godsend to me as a writer. Research that once required days in the stacks or periodical rooms of libraries can now be done in minutes.
A few Google searches, some quick clicks on hyperlinks, and I’ve got the telltale fact or pithy quote I was after. Even when I’m not working, I’m as likely as not to be foraging in the Web’s info-thickets ’reading and writing' e-mails, scanning headlines and blog posts, watching videos and listening to podcasts, or just tripping from link to link to link. (Unlike footnotes, to which they’re sometimes likened, hyperlinks don’t merely point to related works; they propel you toward them.)
For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind. The advantages of having immediate access to such an incredibly rich store of information are many, and they’ve been widely described and duly applauded. “The perfect recall of silicon memory,” Wired’s Clive Thompson has written, “can be an enormous boon to thinking.” But that boon comes at a price.
As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.
I’m not the only one. When I mention my troubles with reading to friends and acquaintances—literary types, most of them—many say they’re having similar experiences. The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing. Some of the bloggers I follow have also begun mentioning the phenomenon. Scott Karp, who writes a blog about online media, recently confessed that he has stopped reading books altogether. “I was a lit major in college, and used to be [a] voracious book reader,” he wrote. “What happened?” He speculates on the answer: “What if I do all my reading on the web not so much because the way I read has changed, i.e., I’m just seeking convenience, but because the way I THINK has changed?”
Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me.
His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.”
Anecdotes alone don’t prove much. And we still await the long-term neurological and psychological experiments that will provide a definitive picture of how Internet use affects cognition. But a recently published Study Of Online Research habits , conducted by scholars from University College London, suggests that we may well be in the midst of a sea change in the way we read and think.
As part of the five-year research program, the scholars examined computer logs documenting the behavior of visitors to two popular research sites, one operated by the British Library and one by a UK educational consortium, that provide access to journal articles, e-books, and other sources of written information.
They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another and rarely returning to any source they’d already visited. They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site. Sometimes they’d save a long article, but there’s no evidence that they ever went back and actually read it. The authors of the study report:
It is clear that users are not reading online in the traditional sense; indeed there are signs that new forms of “reading” are emerging as users “power browse” horizontally through titles, contents pages and abstracts going for quick wins. It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense.
Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self.
“We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: "The Story and Science of the Reading Brain". “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace.
When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.
IfWe lose our cognition, and depend entirely on Computers.. What happens if they fail
All Can Be Lost: The Risk of Putting Our Knowledge in the Hands of Machines
Nicholas Carr writes:
On the evening of February 12, 2009, a Continental Connection commuter flight made its way through blustery weather between Newark, New Jersey, and Buffalo, New York. As is typical of commercial flights today, the pilots didn’t have all that much to do during the hour-long trip. The captain, Marvin Renslow, manned the controls briefly during takeoff, guiding the Bombardier Q400 turboprop into the air, then switched on the autopilot and let the software do the flying.
He and his co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, chatted—about their families, their careers, the personalities of air-traffic controllers—as the plane cruised uneventfully along its northwesterly route at 16,000 feet. The Q400 was well into its approach to the Buffalo airport, its landing gear down, its wing flaps out, when the pilot’s control yoke began to shudder noisily, a signal that the plane was losing lift and risked going into an aerodynamic stall.
The autopilot disconnected, and the captain took over the controls. He reacted quickly, but he did precisely the wrong thing: he jerked back on the yoke, lifting the plane’s nose and reducing its airspeed, instead of pushing the yoke forward to gain velocity. Rather than preventing a stall, Renslow’s action caused one. The plane spun out of control, then plummeted. “We’re down,” the captain said, just before the Q400 slammed into a house in a Buffalo suburb.
The crash, which killed all 49 people on board as well as one person on the ground, should never have happened. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded that the cause of the accident was pilot error. The captain’s response to the stall warning, the investigators reported, “should have been automatic, but his improper flight control inputs were inconsistent with his training” and instead revealed “startle and confusion.” An executive from the company that operated the flight, the regional carrier Colgan Air, admitted that the pilots seemed to lack “situational awareness” as the emergency unfolded.
The Buffalo crash was not an isolated incident. An eerily similar disaster, with far more casualties, occurred a few months later. On the night of May 31, an Air France Airbus A330 took off from Rio de Janeiro, bound for Paris. The jumbo jet ran into a storm over the Atlantic about three hours after takeoff. Its air-speed sensors, coated with ice, began giving faulty readings, causing the autopilot to disengage. Bewildered, the pilot flying the plane, Pierre-Cédric Bonin, yanked back on the stick.
The plane rose and a stall warning sounded, but he continued to pull back heedlessly. As the plane climbed sharply, it lost velocity. The airspeed sensors began working again, providing the crew with accurate numbers. Yet Bonin continued to slow the plane. The jet stalled and began to fall. If he had simply let go of the control, the A330 would likely have righted itself. But he didn’t. The plane dropped 35,000 feet in three minutes before hitting the ocean. All 228 passengers and crew members died.
The first automatic pilot, dubbed a “metal airman” in a 1930 Popular Science article, consisted of two gyroscopes, one mounted horizontally, the other vertically, that were connected to a plane’s controls and powered by a wind-driven generator behind the propeller. The horizontal gyroscope kept the wings level, while the vertical one did the steering. Modern autopilot systems bear little resemblance to that rudimentary device.
Controlled by onboard computers running immensely complex software, they gather information from electronic sensors and continuously adjust a plane’s attitude, speed, and bearings. Pilots today work inside what they call “glass cockpits.” The old analog dials and gauges are mostly gone.
They’ve been replaced by banks of digital displays. Automation has become so sophisticated that on a typical passenger flight, a human pilot holds the controls for a grand total of just three minutes. What pilots spend a lot of time doing is monitoring screens and keying in data. They’ve become, it’s not much of an exaggeration to say, computer operators.
And that, many aviation and automation experts have concluded, is a problem. Overuse of automation erodes pilots’ expertise and dulls their reflexes, leading to what Jan Noyes, an ergonomics expert at Britain’s University of Bristol, terms “a de-skilling of the crew.” No one doubts that autopilot has contributed to improvements in flight safety over the years.
It reduces pilot fatigue and provides advance warnings of problems, and it can keep a plane airborne should the crew become disabled. But the steady overall decline in plane crashes masks the recent arrival of “a spectacularly new type of accident,” says Raja Parasuraman, a psychology professor at George Mason University and a leading authority on automation.
When an autopilot system fails, too many pilots, thrust abruptly into what has become a rare role, make mistakes. Rory Kay, a veteran United captain who has served as the top safety official of the Air Line Pilots Association, put the problem bluntly in a 2011 interview with the Associated Press: “We’re forgetting how to fly.” The Federal Aviation Administration has become so concerned that in January it issued a “safety alert” to airlines, urging them to get their pilots to do more manual flying. An over reliance on automation, the agency warned, could put planes and passengers at risk.
The experience of airlines should give us pause. It reveals that automation, for all its benefits, can take a toll on the performance and talents of those who rely on it. The implications go well beyond safety. Because automation alters how we act, how we learn, and what we know, it has an ethical dimension. The choices we make, or fail to make, about which tasks we hand off to machines shape our lives and the place we make for ourselves in the world.
That has always been true, but in recent years, as the locus of labor-saving technology has shifted from machinery to software, automation has become ever more pervasive, even as its workings have become more hidden from us. Seeking convenience, speed, and efficiency, we rush to off-load work to computers without reflecting on what we might be sacrificing as a result.
Doctors use computers to make diagnoses and to perform surgery. Wall Street bankers use them to assemble and trade financial instruments. Architects use them to design buildings. Attorneys use them in document discovery. And it’s not only professional work that’s being computerized.
Thanks to smartphones and other small, affordable computers, we depend on software to carry out many of our everyday routines. We launch apps to aid us in shopping, cooking, socializing, even raising our kids. We follow turn-by-turn GPS instructions. We seek advice from recommendation engines on what to watch, read, and listen to. We call on Google, or Siri, to answer our questions and solve our problems. More and more, at work and at leisure, we’re living our lives inside glass cockpits.
A hundred years ago, the British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote, “Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them.” It’s hard to imagine a more confident expression of faith in automation.
Implicit in Whitehead’s words is a belief in a hierarchy of human activities: Every time we off-load a job to a tool or a machine, we free ourselves to climb to a higher pursuit, one requiring greater dexterity, deeper intelligence, or a broader perspective. We may lose something with each upward step, but what we gain is, in the long run, far greater.
History provides plenty of evidence to support Whitehead. We humans have been handing off chores, both physical and mental, to tools since the invention of the lever, the wheel, and the counting bead. But Whitehead’s observation should not be mistaken for a universal truth. He was writing when automation tended to be limited to distinct, well-defined, and repetitive tasks—weaving fabric with a steam loom, adding numbers with a mechanical calculator. Automation is different now.
Computers can be programmed to perform complex activities in which a succession of tightly coordinated tasks is carried out through an evaluation of many variables. Many software programs take on intellectual work—observing and sensing, analyzing and judging, even making decisions—that until recently was considered the preserve of humans. That may leave the person operating the computer to play the role of a high-tech clerk—entering data, monitoring outputs, and watching for failures. Rather than opening new frontiers of thought and action, software ends up narrowing our focus. We trade subtle, specialized talents for more routine, less distinctive ones.
Most of us want to believe that automation frees us to spend our time on higher pursuits but doesn’t otherwise alter the way we behave or think. That view is a fallacy—an expression of what scholars of automation call the “substitution myth.” A labor-saving device doesn’t just provide a substitute for some isolated component of a job or other activity. It alters the character of the entire task, including the roles, attitudes, and skills of the people taking part. As Parasuraman and a colleague explained in a 2010 journal article, “Automation does not simply supplant human activity but rather changes it, often in ways unintended and unanticipated by the designers of automation.”
Psychologists have found that when we work with computers, we often fall victim to two cognitive ailments—complacency and bias—that can undercut our performance and lead to mistakes. Automation complacency occurs when a computer lulls us into a false sense of security.
Confident that the machine will work flawlessly and handle any problem that crops up, we allow our attention to drift. We become disengaged from our work, and our awareness of what’s going on around us fades. Automation bias occurs when we place too much faith in the accuracy of the information coming through our monitors. Our trust in the software becomes so strong that we ignore or discount other information sources, including our own eyes and ears. When a computer provides incorrect or insufficient data, we remain oblivious to the error.
Examples of complacency and bias have been well documented in high-risk situations—on flight decks and battlefields, in factory control rooms—but recent studies suggest that the problems can bedevil anyone working with a computer. Many radiologists today use analytical software to highlight suspicious areas on mammograms. Usually, the highlights aid in the discovery of disease.
But they can also have the opposite effect. Biased by the software’s suggestions, radiologists may give cursory attention to the areas of an image that haven’t been highlighted, sometimes overlooking an early stage tumor. Most of us have experienced complacency when at a computer. In using e-mail or word-processing software, we become less proficient proofreaders when we know that a spell-checker is at work.
The way computers can weaken awareness and attentiveness points to a deeper problem. Automation turns us from actors into observers. Instead of manipulating the yoke, we watch the screen. That shift may make our lives easier, but it can also inhibit the development of expertise. Since the late 1970s, psychologists have been documenting a phenomenon called the “generation effect.”
It was first observed in studies of vocabulary, which revealed that people remember words much better when they actively call them to mind—when they generate them—than when they simply read them. The effect, it has since become clear, influences learning in many different circumstances. When you engage actively in a task, you set off intricate mental processes that allow you to retain more knowledge.
You learn more and remember more. When you repeat the same task over a long period, your brain constructs specialized neural circuits dedicated to the activity. It assembles a rich store of information and organizes that knowledge in a way that allows you to tap into it instantaneously. Whether it’s Serena Williams on a tennis court or Magnus Carlsen at a chessboard, an expert can spot patterns, evaluate signals, and react to changing circumstances with speed and precision that can seem uncanny. What looks like instinct is hard-won skill, skill that requires exactly the kind of struggle that modern software seeks to alleviate.
In 2005, Christof van Nimwegen, a cognitive psychologist in the Netherlands, began an investigation into software’s effects on the development of know-how. He recruited two sets of people to play a computer game based on a classic logic puzzle called Missionaries and Cannibals. To complete the puzzle, a player has to transport five missionaries and five cannibals (or, in van Nimwegen’s version, five yellow balls and five blue ones) across a river, using a boat that can accommodate no more than three passengers at a time.
The tricky part is that cannibals must never outnumber missionaries, either in the boat or on the riverbanks. One of van Nimwegen’s groups worked on the puzzle using software that provided step-by-step guidance, highlighting which moves were permissible and which weren’t. The other group used a rudimentary program that offered no assistance.
As you might expect, the people using the helpful software made quicker progress at the outset. They could simply follow the prompts rather than having to pause before each move to remember the rules and figure out how they applied to the new situation. But as the test proceeded, those using the rudimentary software gained the upper hand.
They developed a clearer conceptual understanding of the task, plotted better strategies, and made fewer mistakes. Eight months later, van Nimwegen had the same people work through the puzzle again. Those who had earlier used the rudimentary software finished the game almost twice as quickly as their counterparts. Enjoying the benefits of the generation effect, they displayed better “imprinting of knowledge.”
What van Nimwegen observed in his laboratory—that when we automate an activity, we hamper our ability to translate information into knowledge—is also being documented in the real world. In many businesses, managers and other professionals have come to depend on decision-support systems to analyze information and suggest courses of action. Accountants, for example, use the systems in corporate audits.
The applications speed the work, but some signs suggest that as the software becomes more capable, the accountants become less so. One recent study, conducted by Australian researchers, examined the effects of systems used by three international accounting firms. Two of the firms employed highly advanced software that, based on an accountant’s answers to basic questions about a client, recommended a set of relevant business risks to be included in the client’s audit file. T
The third firm used simpler software that required an accountant to assess a list of possible risks and manually select the pertinent ones. The researchers gave accountants from each firm a test measuring their expertise. Those from the firm with the less helpful software displayed a significantly stronger understanding of different forms of risk than did those from the other two firms.
What’s most astonishing, and unsettling, about computer automation is that it’s still in its early stages. Experts used to assume that there were limits to the ability of programmers to automate complicated tasks, particularly those involving sensory perception, pattern recognition, and conceptual knowledge.
They pointed to the example of driving a car, which requires not only the instantaneous interpretation of a welter of visual signals but also the ability to adapt seamlessly to unanticipated situations. “Executing a left turn across oncoming traffic,” two prominent economists wrote in 2004, “involves so many factors that it is hard to imagine the set of rules that can replicate a driver’s behavior.”
Just six years later, in October 2010, Google announced that it had built a fleet of seven “self-driving cars,” which had already logged more than 140,000 miles on roads in California and Nevada.
Driverless cars provide a preview of how robots will be able to navigate and perform work in the physical world, taking over activities requiring environmental awareness, coordinated motion, and fluid decision making. Equally rapid progress is being made in automating cerebral tasks.
Just a few years ago, the idea of a computer competing on a game show like Jeopardy would have seemed laughable, but in a celebrated match in 2011, the IBM supercomputer Watson trounced Jeopardy’s all-time champion, Ken Jennings. Watson doesn’t think the way people think; it has no understanding of what it’s doing or saying. Its advantage lies in the extraordinary speed of modern computer processors.
In Race Against the Machine, a 2011 e-book on the economic implications of computerization, the MIT researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue that Google’s driverless car and IBM’s Watson are examples of a new wave of automation that, drawing on the “exponential growth” in computer power, will change the nature of work in virtually every job and profession. Today, they write, “computers improve so quickly that their capabilities pass from the realm of science fiction into the everyday world not over the course of a human lifetime, or even within the span of a professional’s career, but instead in just a few years.”
Who needs humans, anyway? That question, in one rhetorical form or another, comes up frequently in discussions of automation. If computers’ abilities are expanding so quickly and if people, by comparison, seem slow, clumsy, and error-prone, why not build immaculately self-contained systems that perform flawlessly without any human oversight or intervention? Why not take the human factor out of the equation?
The technology theorist Kevin Kelly, commenting on the link between automation and pilot error, argued that the obvious solution is to develop an entirely autonomous autopilot: “Human pilots should not be flying planes in the long run.” The Silicon Valley venture capitalist Vinod Khosla recently suggested that health care will be much improved when medical software—which he has dubbed “Doctor Algorithm”—evolves from assisting primary-care physicians in making diagnoses to replacing the doctors entirely. The cure for imperfect automation is total automation.
That idea is seductive, but no machine is infallible. Sooner or later, even the most advanced technology will break down, misfire, or, in the case of a computerized system, encounter circumstances that its designers never anticipated. As automation technologies become more complex, relying on interdependencies among algorithms, databases, sensors, and mechanical parts, the potential sources of failure multiply. They also become harder to detect. All of the parts may work flawlessly, but a small error in system design can still cause a major accident. And even if a perfect system could be designed, it would still have to operate in an imperfect world.
In a classic 1983 article in the journal Automatica, Lisanne Bainbridge, an engineering psychologist at University College London, described a conundrum of computer automation. Because many system designers assume that human operators are “unreliable and inefficient,” at least when compared with a computer, they strive to give the operators as small a role as possible. People end up functioning as mere monitors, passive watchers of screens.
That’s a job that humans, with our notoriously wandering minds, are especially bad at. Research on vigilance, dating back to studies of radar operators during World War II, shows that people have trouble maintaining their attention on a stable display of information for more than half an hour.
“This means,” Bainbridge observed, “that it is humanly impossible to carry out the basic function of monitoring for unlikely abnormalities.” And because a person’s skills “deteriorate when they are not used,” even an experienced operator will eventually begin to act like an inexperienced one if restricted to just watching. The lack of awareness and the degradation of know-how raise the odds that when something goes wrong, the operator will react ineptly. The assumption that the human will be the weakest link in the system becomes self-fulfilling.
Psychologists have discovered some simple ways to temper automation’s ill effects. You can program software to shift control back to human operators at frequent but irregular intervals; knowing that they may need to take command at any moment keeps people engaged, promoting situational awareness and learning.
You can put limits on the scope of automation, making sure that people working with computers perform challenging tasks rather than merely observing. Giving people more to do helps sustain the generation effect. You can incorporate educational routines into software, requiring users to repeat difficult manual and mental tasks that encourage memory formation and skill building.
Some software writers take such suggestions to heart. In schools, the best instructional programs help students master a subject by encouraging attentiveness, demanding hard work, and reinforcing learned skills through repetition. Their design reflects the latest discoveries about how our brains store memories and weave them into conceptual knowledge and practical know-how.
But most software applications don’t foster learning and engagement. In fact, they have the opposite effect. That’s because taking the steps necessary to promote the development and maintenance of expertise almost always entails a sacrifice of speed and productivity. Learning requires inefficiency.
Businesses, which seek to maximize productivity and profit, would rarely accept such a trade-off. Individuals, too, almost always seek efficiency and convenience. We pick the program that lightens our load, not the one that makes us work harder and longer. Abstract concerns about the fate of human talent can’t compete with the allure of saving time and money.
The small island of Igloolik, off the coast of the Melville Peninsula in the Nunavut territory of northern Canada, is a bewildering place in the winter. The average temperature hovers at about 20 degrees below zero, thick sheets of sea ice cover the surrounding waters, and the sun is rarely seen.
Despite the brutal conditions, Inuit hunters have for some 4,000 years ventured out from their homes on the island and traveled across miles of ice and tundra to search for game. The hunters’ ability to navigate vast stretches of the barren Arctic terrain, where landmarks are few, snow formations are in constant flux, and trails disappear overnight, has amazed explorers and scientists for centuries. The Inuit’s extraordinary way-finding skills are born not of technological prowess—they long eschewed maps and compasses—but of a profound understanding of winds, snowdrift patterns, animal behavior, stars, and tides.
Inuit culture is changing now. The Igloolik hunters have begun to rely on computer-generated maps to get around. Adoption of GPS technology has been particularly strong among younger Inuit, and it’s not hard to understand why. The ease and convenience of automated navigation makes the traditional Inuit techniques seem archaic and cumbersome.
But as GPS devices have proliferated on Igloolik, reports of serious accidents during hunts have spread. A hunter who hasn’t developed way-finding skills can easily become lost, particularly if his GPS receiver fails. The routes so meticulously plotted on satellite maps can also give hunters tunnel vision, leading them onto thin ice or into other hazards a skilled navigator would avoid.
The anthropologist Claudio Aporta, of Carleton University in Ottawa, has been studying Inuit hunters for more than 15 years. He notes that while satellite navigation offers practical advantages, its adoption has already brought a deterioration in way-finding abilities and, more generally, a weakened feel for the land.
An Inuit on a GPS-equipped snowmobile is not so different from a suburban commuter in a GPS-equipped SUV: as he devotes his attention to the instructions coming from the computer, he loses sight of his surroundings. He travels “blindfolded,” as Aporta puts it. A unique talent that has distinguished a people for centuries may evaporate in a generation.
Whether it’s a pilot on a flight deck, a doctor in an examination room, or an Inuit hunter on an ice floe, knowing demands doing. One of the most remarkable things about us is also one of the easiest to overlook: each time we collide with the real, we deepen our understanding of the world and become more fully a part of it.
While we’re wrestling with a difficult task, we may be motivated by an anticipation of the ends of our labor, but it’s the work itself—the means—that makes us who we are. Computer automation severs the ends from the means. It makes getting what we want easier, but it distances us from the work of knowing. As we transform ourselves into creatures of the screen, we face an existential question: Does our essence still lie in what we know, or are we now content to be defined by what we want? If we don’t grapple with that question ourselves, our gadgets will be happy to answer it for us.
Buzzing! Ding-Dinging! Ringing!
TECHNOLOGY has given us many gifts, among them dozens of new ways to grab our attention. It’s hard to talk to a friend without your phone buzzing at least once. Odds are high you will check your Twitter feed or Facebook wall while reading this article. Just try to type a memo at work without having an e-mail pop up that ruins your train of thought.
But what constitutes distraction? Does the mere possibility that a phone call or e-mail will soon arrive drain your brain power? And does distraction matter — do interruptions make us dumber? Quite a bit, according to new research by Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Lab.
There’s a lot of debate among brain researchers about the impact of gadgets on our brains. Most discussion has focused on the deleterious effect of multitasking. Early results show what most of us know implicitly: if you do two things at once, both efforts suffer.
In fact, multitasking is a misnomer. In most situations, the person juggling e-mail, text messaging, Facebook and a meeting is really doing something called “rapid toggling between tasks,” and is engaged in constant context switching.
As economics students know, switching involves costs. But how much? When a consumer switches banks, or a company switches suppliers, it’s relatively easy to count the added expense of the hassle of change. When your brain is switching tasks, the cost is harder to quantify.
There have been a few efforts to do so: Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine,found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption. But there has been scant research on the quality of work done during these periods of rapid toggling.
We decided to investigate further, and asked Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology, and the psychologist Eyal Peer at Carnegie Mellon to design an experiment to measure the brain power lost when someone is interrupted.
To simulate the pull of an expected cellphone call or e-mail, we had subjects sit in a lab and perform a standard cognitive skill test. In the experiment, 136 subjects were asked to read a short passage and answer questions about it. There were three groups of subjects; one merely completed the test. The other two were told they “might be contacted for further instructions” at any moment via instant message.
During an initial test, the second and third groups were interrupted twice. Then a second test was administered, but this time, only the second group was interrupted. The third group awaited an interruption that never came. Let’s call the three groups Control, Interrupted and On High Alert.
We expected the Interrupted group to make some mistakes, but the results were truly dismal, especially for those who think of themselves as multitaskers: during this first test, both interrupted groups answered correctly 20 percent less often than members of the control group.
In other words, the distraction of an interruption, combined with the brain drain of preparing for that interruption, made our test takers 20 percent dumber. That’s enough to turn a B-minus student (80 percent) into a failure (62 percent).
But in Part 2 of the experiment, the results were not as bleak. This time, part of the group was told they would be interrupted again, but they were actually left alone to focus on the questions.
Again, the Interrupted group underperformed the control group, but this time they closed the gap significantly, to a respectable 14 percent. Dr. Peer said this suggested that people who experience an interruption, and expect another, can learn to improve how they deal with it.
But among the On High Alert group, there was a twist. Those who were warned of an interruption that never came improved by a whopping 43 percent, and even outperformed the control test takers who were left alone. This unexpected, counterintuitive finding requires further research, but Dr. Peer thinks there’s a simple explanation: participants learned from their experience, and their brains adapted.
Somehow, it seems, they marshaled extra brain power to steel themselves against interruption, or perhaps the potential for interruptions served as a kind of deadline that helped them focus even better.
Clifford Nass, a Stanford sociologist who conducted some of the first tests on multitasking, has said that those who can’t resist the lure of doing two things at once are “suckers for irrelevancy.” There is some evidence that we’re not just suckers for that new text message, or addicted to it; it’s actually robbing us of brain power, too. Tweet about this at your own risk.
What the Carnegie Mellon study shows, however, is that it is possible to train yourself for distractions, even if you don’t know when they’ll hit.
Emerging Web-Interactive Designs..
Latest Web Design Trends That Enhances User Website Experience
AcerDesign Posted The following Article:
The previous year saw the emergence of the trend of mobile devices having internet connectivity, which was spurred by the rapid growth in terms of the number of people who bought and uses these gadgets. Thus mobile solutions became major fields in web design services.
Other trends in 2012 brought about improvement of HTML and CSS with the development of HTML5, CSS3, and web-safe fonts in browsers. Last year, we also saw the trend towards enormous screen resolutions in mobile devices, navigation using a single page rather than multiple pages, and the use of metro interface introduced by the release of Windows 8.
Web Design Trends For 2013
Industry professionals and experts point out to several developments that shape up the web design trends for 2013. Below are technologies and techniques that have identified so far.
Responsive web design (RWD)
The growth of mobile devices still continues to influence website designs for this year. Thus the goal is to develop a webpage that will be compatible to both desktop and mobile platform. Web designers have to ensure that their designs will work on different screens and the flexibility that Responsive Web Design (RWD) provides will certainly enable that.
By allowing designs to convert to various screen sizes, Responsive web design, enables the creation of websites that give people cinematic or movie screen experience as well as the integration of storytelling on the pages.
RWD also provides businesses with the practicality advantage they always look for. The tools that web designers are using now to accomplish this work are Twitter Bootstrap or HTML5 Boilerplate among others.
RESS is a combination acronym of Responsive Web Design and Server Side. Its main purpose is the enhancement of web performance through the combination of the client side and server side powers resulting to an optimal experience for each device.
Experts explain that the basic flow of RESS implementation starts with the gathering of as much information as possible about the device and then get the proper markup in the server. When the markup specially generated to match the device is sent, media queries and other responsive design techniques are employed to ensure that this will be enough to what is being aimed at.
Following that process will be the server-side markup creating the content to be shown while the responsive design techniques will be the responsible on how these contents will be displayed. By ensuring that this is carried out properly through good planning and coding can deliver the best website experience that businesses would like to give to their clients and customers.
More Creative navigations
Trends on web design for this year also brought about more creative navigations and less use of traditional style. This enables rich user experience through the employment of full-screen photographs, videos, interactive elements and animation.
The traditional style of having a menu bar that people can click and scrolling down each page are being replaced by sophisticated and cool designs.
Incorporation of parallax effects in websites
The so called Parallax Effect create illusions of depth by making elements or layers of web pages move at different speeds when scrolled or imitating camera movement. This technique gives user a more engaging experience when navigating pages making web designers use them more in their works.
Another reason parallax scrolling websites is growing in popularity has to do with the availability of new tools that make designing website easy. Even an average web designer will be able to come up with a decently good parallax scrolling website with minimal effort.
Swiss design style
With the Windows 8 interface released the Swiss design style had its reemergence. This design is defined by features the use of typography as the primary design element and sans-serif typefaces, grids and asymmetrical layouts. This made the idea of using grids and grid-based typography to gain popularity.
Typography is once again becoming preferred item among web designers because it is being used as part of the Swiss Style brought about by Windows 8. In addition, experts pointed out that it also has the advantage of accessibility given the fact that it can easily be resized to fit any screen.
Simplified Visual Designs
The demand for web design that has the accessibility advantage is moving this year’s trend towards the development of simpler visual designs. In addition, buttons need to be usable and not just precise pointers while text needs to be readable and not just pleasant to look at.
The use of Glyphicons, which are small icons that help users understand quickly the context of what they are looking at, is also becoming part of the current trend. This allows both non-English speakers and non-readers to understand the site more.
UX Centered Design
This year, experts are pointing out that UX is getting the attention it deserves. What this design does is to improve the user experience and giving them pleasant time while using the site thus visitors are more likely to engage, connect, and buy from the website.
The Viral Stream Traveling At The Speed Of Electricity...
Modern Technologies And The Fragmentation Of Consciousness And Media/Communications Environs..
Jason Swarts writes:
Work activities that are mediated by information rely on the production of discourse-based objects of work. Designs, evaluations, and conditions are all objects that originate and materialize in discourse. They are created and maintained through the coordinated efforts of human and non-human agents. Genres help foster such coordination from the top down, by providing guidance to create and recreate discourse objects of recurring social value.
From where, however, does coordination emerge in more ad hoc discursive activities, where the work objects are novel, unknown, or unstable? In these situations, coordination emerges from simple discursive operations, reliably mediated by information and communication technologies (ICTs) that appear to act as discursive agents.
Policies, user guides, training sessions, systems of management, shared theories, systems of nomenclature, and so on all serve as mechanisms of coordination [7, p. 301]. Values associated with these discursive artifacts are often captured in the genres and in the interfaces and outputs of the technologies that people interact with [8, pp. 59-111].
Looking at these genres (e.g., feasibility reports and evacuation plans) and technologies (e.g., blood pressure machines and automotive diagnostic tools) we see information organized into familiar forms, creating recognizable discursive objects for coordinating work activities. Scholarship in the field is rich with studies of genre or aggregates of genres as coordinating mechanisms that profoundly influence the ways users understand the objects of their work.
Our interactions with these technologies, Latour argues, are pre-scripted. There are successful and unsuccessful ways to interact with technologies that correspond to the values and politics of the spaces where those technologies are found. Since many of our technological interactions are simple ones, we are often only dimly aware of the politics we are complicit in maintaining. We may not recognize that the form of information may reinforce a hierarchy of expertise regarding who can use that information. We may not see that the openness2 of an interface shapes the organization of team efforts.
Latour’s example is of a door closer that:
a) replaces the human action of opening and closing a door; and
b) embodies the human motivation to close doors after they have been opened. By design, people can only interact with door in a limited number of ways, and these interactions reinforce a social order.
Where automatic door closers are in use, our interactions with doors are very simple: we walk toward them and the doors open. When we leave, the doors close. We participate in a social order that values closed doors by stepping away from the sensor, making our cooperation with maintaining order a simple technological interaction of the type that we likely perform countless times in a day. The same is true of our interactions with ICTs, which mediate how we produce, share, and work with information.
Many technologies fragment the activities that they afford in sum by turning those activities into a series of simple operations (e.g., pushing buttons when illuminated, reading numbers on a machine display), and yet this is not a problem because simplification is what we expect from our technologies.
Technologies that get in the way and draw attention to themselves prevent users from focusing on the activities that they wish to achieve with their assistance. Still, this does not absolve us of the responsibility to consider how technologies mediate the production of discourse on the basis of their design.
Another bundle of related discursive functions is aggregation and disaggregation. Technologies can take multiple streams of information and connect them in meaningful arrangements. A heart monitor may transform the physical sensation of a beating heart into a number, but the anesthesia record aggregates multiple readings in a line chart that shows increasing, decreasing, or stable values.
Aggregators create discursive objects that afford work-specific uses and interpretations, which is to say that they also serve transformation functions. When data points come together, the points remain the same, but what emerges from them is an aggregate discursive object that is not wholly present in any one piece of data. As in the case of the anesthesia record, aggregators often require information to be transformed prior to aggregation. Units of information must be complementary and the modes (e.g., numerical, pictorial, auditory) must be compatible.
The counter-function to aggregation is disaggregation, the splitting of discursive objects into multiple data streams. Sometimes the found form of information does not serve the needs of all users. Technologies like the anesthesia record can then take a complex discursive object and split it into useful pieces of information that other users may recruit into other discourses.
For example, a blood pressure machine disaggregates overall heart function into pulse and into systolic and diastolic blood pressures. The anesthesia record disaggregates the condition of anesthetization into the anesthetics delivered, their amounts, and times of delivery. Aggregation and disaggregation alike change the form of access, which may favor or disfavor the use of that information by people with different training and expertise.
Broadcast technologies make private information public, by distributing to all within range. Broadcast technologies replace the effort needed to deliver information and make it continuously available. As with the dis/aggregation technologies, broadcast technologies can have transformative functions.
For example, a heart monitor measures a patient’s heart rate and transforms those readings into numbers in order to broadcast that information to people at a distance or to those who are unable to take their own readings. The number is continually updated and broadcasted, which affords the creation of an aggregated, real-time account of changes in the patient’s vital signs.
A broadcast technology’s influence on uptake is that when information is more shareable, coordination may become easier to achieve because more people have access to the same information.
A function related to broadcasting is relaying, which differs in that information is broadcasted across time and place and requires the use of technologies to receive that information. A broadcast technology operates in real time and within the confines of a particular place where that information is to be used.
Although not exclusively true, people who inhabit the same physical place are often engaged in the same, similar, or complementary activities. That is, the assumption is that broadcasters send out information to those who have compatible uses of that information and who require no technological assistance to receive it, whereas relay technologies do.
Information that is relayed crosses boundaries of place, as facilitated by mobile, networked technologies, may be taken up into discourses the author had not anticipated. Relaying technologies also broadcast across boundaries of time. Information that was broadcast at one moment may travel through a network and be retrieved minutes, days, or years later.
Information conveyed through relay technologies retains evidence of its discursive origins, of other information with which it has held company. To the extent that users are aware of those origins, they may be prompted to apply an associated interpretive frame. For instance, a technology that makes interactive tissue and cell slides helps users apply information that would normally require the mediation of a microscope in settings where no microscopes are available or where they would be impractical to use. The relay technology would allow the user to think like a microscope.
Transformation technologies convert information across representational states. These states, as Winsor indicates, are associated with different kinds of knowledge and power. When transformational technologies are put into play, especially when they both collect and transform information, one concern is how the transformation opens or closes access to that information.
While the transformation might make the information more easily connectable to other streams of information, one needs to consider how others may be using that information and the impact of the transformation on their use.
Dis/aggregation technologies can constrain work activities for the same reasons. Instead of transforming information across representational states, aggregation technologies transform by embedding information into units that may require a different kind of expertise to unlock or that may speak to one particular use of the information at the expense of others. When information is locked into an aggregate form, some audiences’ interests will be better served than others. Disaggregation has a similar effect, requiring users to assemble their own discursive objects from separate streams of data.
Broadcast technologies have the impact of making private information public. In some situations it is useful to have information broadcast in an accessible form. Those receiving the information can apply it to their own ends and work independently.
An unintended result may be that work relationships are altered, information-sharing and information-processing relationships may be changed. Publicly available information also enables supervision and surveillance. What are the effects of these changes on discursive activity?
Relay technologies facilitate the transfer of information across place and time. They ensure that useful pieces of information can be called up and applied in a variety of settings. However, many relay technologies are not sensitive to context.
They are not aware of the ways that information becomes useful as it is shared among people, texts, technologies, and other streams of information in a specific context and moment. The content itself may be unnecessarily constraining or, worse, misleading and uninformative.
Regarding both the positive and negative qualities of interacting with technologies as discursive agents, the point is the same: these technologies have prescriptions that are designed into their functionality and their interfaces. Where this issue concerns us is when these technologies are increasingly used to mediate knowledge work.
When people start to interact with their technologies as discursive agents, responsibility must begin to shift to those who are critically equipped to assess the value and future design directions of these tools. Thus, a secondary purpose of this article has been to discuss the methodological imperatives associated with studying these effects.
By studying the discursive functions of ICTs and observing their mediating impact on discursive activity, we may see how successful coordination is afforded by ICTs. Perhaps more importantly, in situations where coordination fails, an analysis like that discussed in this article may point to the systemic ways that ICTs contribute to the problem.
Wholesome Paradigm Shift Causing Discordant Fragmented Dissonant Cognition
The emergence of the new technologies and their techniques has altered human consciousness, cognition in a discordantly dissonant way. To hear and read McLuhan talk about technologies being an extension of ourselves, is not a small issue. Looking at and understanding our nervous systems and how it functions, one can juxtapose it to the present Web/Internet extension of ourselves in the way our own nervous system works.
There is definitely a change in the way Humans iterate with each other, the weld and as a global human. Yes, Global people-for the Internet or should I say the Web, has changed all that forever, from pre-analogue, to analogue, past post analogue and now into the present future of Computer , Digital and Viral streaming. This is by no means a small shift. It is around a decade old, but it has transformed mens minds, attitudes, behavior, mannerism, languages and mode of human interaction to machine conditioned and controlled communication.
This is the shift I am talking about. The old paradigms have been rendered obsolete, so has the present way of communication that is dictated to by the gizmos we use and their juice: Web Viral Streaming. This has affected many things about men's/women's lives, thinking, working habits, transportation, War, Economics, Politics, and every imaginable face of human endeavor, and existence/reality. Our interacting with present-day technologies, as pointed above in the piece prior to what I am having a discourse about, whatever one calls discursive interfaces(discursive agents), shift that occur, I contend, are continuously changing the paradigm of the media/communications zeitgeist.
As to whether these "discursive" tools and means are successful, I think McLuhan has addressed how the effect and affect us-That is, in the end, we come out as beings being determined by the technologies we have created. These new technological gizmos the viral stream, have come to, in the end, today, determine al our being-creating an unchallenged dependency on these created machines and their techniques. Our dependency on these newly emerging and converging technological media environments, has made up dependent on them, thus, our own cognitive and discordant cognitive media zeitgeist(as I already have partially noted above in this discourse). To some people, it is modernization and technological advancement. I think this is where Media ecologist like McLuhan et al., to interject.
"McLuhan contends that all media in and of themselves and regardless of the messages they communicate exert a compelling influence on man and society. Prehistoric, or tribal, man existed in a harmonious balance of the senses, perceiving the world equally through hearing, smell, touch, sight and taste. But technological innovations are extensions of human abilities and senses that alter this sensory balance. An alteration that, in turn, inexorably reshapes the society that created the technology."
McLuhan saw the media as fundamentally changing our communication as a whole in society. To McLuhan, communication was everything to the theory. If you examine the other theorists at the forefront of this concept they had other angles, for example Lewis Mumford’s was technology, Susanne Langer’s was aesthetics but for McLuhan, communication was it.
McLuhan saw the role of communication in all forms of media, from the beginnings of print to the technological age, as well as in things like money, cars, weapons, etc. For example, for McLuhan, the kinds of print you utilize be it alphabet or hieroglyphics, determined what kind of communication was sent. As well, the kind of car you drive or if you prefer a grenade to a gun communicates something about the kind of person you are (Levinson, 2000).
For McLuhan, the way that we prefer to communicate or in other words, the media we choose to communicate through, determines the message that is sent. In some cases he argues this choice can change the course of a civilization.
McLuhan obviously did examine the other facets of the theory, for example he explored as many technologies as Mumford but he related everything back to communication. This consistent relation to technology gave media ecology a point of gravity or a moral compass for those who study the theory today (Levinson, 2000).
McLuhan saw the message that was communicated in a very different way from other communication theories. There are countless other theories and academic communication programs that advocate looking at the message of what is being communicated. The actual words, symbols, pictures, etc are what are to be focussed on and studied. For Media Ecology it is not what is actually being said, implied or shown. The basis is the selection of the media used to communicate the message. Reiterating what I said above, choosing the phone over texting not only alters the communication, it alters the message that comes across. We look more at the consequences of choosing the phone and its interaction with the message, over the actual words in the conversation.
Neil Postman and Media Ecology
Neil Postman was one of McLuhan's intellectual children and spent much of his professional life examining, thinking and writing about media ecology. He was not always impressed by what he saw.
Postman states that media ecology "...is the ways in which the interaction between media and human beings give a culture its characteristic and, one might say, help a culture to maintain symbolic balance." (Postman 2000) and that "Media ecology looks into the matter of how media communication affect human perception, understanding feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival (quoted in Salas 2007)
"A medium is a technology within which a culture grows; that is to say, it gives form to a culture's politics, social organization, and habitual ways of thinking." (Postman 2000)
Postman is concerned with the way a media helps a society to develop rational thought. (Postman 2000) However, some writers claim that Postman is biased toward literacy and the culture that arose out of it (Gencarelli 2000)
"...It is the business of the educator to assess the biases of the information environment with a view toward making them visible and keeping them under control." (Postman quoted in Gencarelli 2000.)
The Medium is the Culture (Social Networking Sites):
"McLuhan contends that all media—in and of themselves and regardless of the messages they communicate—exert a compelling influence on man and society... an alteration that, in turn, inexorably reshapes the society that created the technology." (McLuhan, McLuahn, & Zingrone, 1996, p.233-234).
- What McLuhan means is that all changes affect the culture, the technology, and the people interacting with the changes. Furthermore, people change the environment to an online environment such as Facebook, or twitter. This intern develops new ways of looking at people and even meeting and connecting with people. This also develops new conventions such as language specific to the media that is a culture in and of itself. For example the term 'lol.' Social networking sites have taken on the role of both culture and medium through the development of terms such as Facebook culture or google generation. Not only are these websites tools or mediums, but they are also communities that produce a culture that exists within the medium.
“We put the word 'media' in the front of the word 'ecology' to suggest that we were not simply interested in media, but in the ways in which the interaction between media and human beings give a culture its character and, one might say, help a culture to maintain symbolic balance.” (Postman, 2000, p.11).
- This details how the interaction between people within social networking sites develops not only its own culture, and language, but also rules and conventions that are stereotypical of that resource. For example typing in bold, caps or red font may be a sign on anger and yelling.
The changes that I have alluded to above, are explained by McLuhan and other scholars as to how to understand The Media, and that the Media environment is our print future's discordant and dissonant cognition. Above, these media gurus explain the effects and affects that the media ecology influences and re-directs/dictates to our present reality. The Hub above is a way of using various Media ecology Masters in explaining to us, the users of contemporary technological gadgets and their techniques, and how these affect our cognitive perception and creates dissonance. This point is made much more clearer by Paul in the piece he wrote below about McLuhan's view of Media ecology
McLuhan Part Deux
The View Of Media Ecology By McLuhan Revisited..
The following article, as I have just mentioned, was written by Paul Levinson:
What did Marshall McLuhan contribute to Media Ecology?
You might well ask what hydrogen and oxygen contribute to the existence of water.
Without those elements, there would be no water. Of course, other factors are necessary. Hydrogen and oxygen on their own, in a vacuum, are not sufficient to create water. They are profoundly necessary, but not sufficient.
Which describes McLuhan’s contribution to Media Ecology to a tee. Without his work in the 1950s and ’60s, there would be no field of study that sought to explain how the nuances and great sweeps of human history are made possible by media of communication—how media determine the thoughts and actions of people and society, in a “soft” way. Like how the elevator makes the skyscraper possible. Necessary to the very idea of a tall building (living and working on the top floors is impossible without a means of conveyance) but not sufficient (construction of a skyscraper requires certain engineering skills).
McLuhan got us to the top floors of communications and taught us about the pervasively “soft” influence of media in all aspects of life. We might say that media are to human society as McLuhan is to Media Ecology.
Come to think of it, McLuhan also taught us about the value of analogy in the investigation of media and their effects. But in the essay that follows, I’ll try to touch first upon some of the more major non stylistic components of McLuhan’s contribution to our field.
Media are crucial. We may read a book or watch TV or log on to the Web any evening, but these encounters are never—can never be—just one-night stands. McLuhan saw that they change the way we live and who we are. And Media Ecology has taken up the task of detailing some of the many ways this has happened and will continue to happen.
The explosion of the Internet with this-dot-com and that-dot-com everywhere you turn has made the importance of communication obvious. But it wasn’t always so. Indeed, the curriculum of Media Ecology, as I first encountered it in 1976, had a lot that was not first and foremost about communications. Lewis Mumford’s beat was technology; George Herbert Mead’s was expression of the self upon the world; Susanne Langer’s was aesthetics. Most of course were related, fundamentally, to communication.
To inquire into the ways that music and writing play differently in the brain—as Langer did, to take her work as an example—is inescapably to look at the impact of different modes of communication. But one got the feeling, or at least I did, that communication was not quite her central concern. It was rather the scales of human perception and cognition and feeling, with communication serving as the stimulant and conduit.
McLuhan’s work was startlingly distinct from the others in that he put communications at center stage. Indeed, in McLuhan’s schema, there was nothing else on the stage. Everything was communication. In Understanding Media (1964), he considered at least as many technologies as did Mumford, but each was rendered and explored as a medium of communication.
Not only writing and printing were history-making media, as McLuhan’s mentor Harold Innis (whom I’d rate the second most important contributor to Media Ecology) had shown. Not only telephone and television, which Innis had missed (partly because Innis hadn’t focused on electronic media, partly because TV had barely come on the scene when Innis was working). But money, clothing, cars, and weapons were also critically important media in McLuhan’s book.
In making everything about communication—in insisting that whether we pay for something with cash, check, or credit card says something about who we are, as George Herbert Mead might have noted (absent the credit card), had he been a Media Ecologist—McLuhan gave Media Ecology a center of gravity, a moral compass. There was no doubt in my mind in those Media Ecology seminars in 1976–1977 that McLuhan was the star, and everyone else whose books we read and discussed were planets, satellites, asteroids.
Not that anyone was blinded by, obedient to, or worshipful of the star. Far from it. McLuhan was often criticized, sometimes vehemently, by us students of Media Ecology. His prose—his style of writing—received scarcely warmer acceptance in Media Ecology than it did in the rest of the academic world.
(I actually had come to savor it by this time, but that was likely because I had gone through my period of frustration with McLuhan’s style when I’d first read Understanding Media and The Gutenberg Galaxy  as an undergraduate at City College in New York City in the 1960s. His “probes”—such as hot and cool—were hotly debated, coolly assessed, even experimentally tested by some hardy souls in our program. (I recall one experimental test of McLuhan’s notion of light-through/light-on by a PhD student in the class prior to mine.)
But the point is—though McLuhan said he was too “acoustic” to have a point—that McLuhan and his point of view, whether about the significance of communication in general, or the cascade of things he observed about the impact of specific media, was the point of all of these debates, assessments, and tests. McLuhan was not the first theorist we studied, and that was probably a good idea. But once his work was introduced in our seminars, it became the touchstone—whether of foundation or contrast—to just about everything else that followed.
This included the books that were published by graduates of the Media Ecology Program. Among my classmates’ books, Joshua Meyrowitz’s No Sense of Place (1985) has epigraphs by McLuhan and Erving Goffman. My Mind at Large: Knowing in the Technological Age (1988) is dedicated to McLuhan; my The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of the Information Revolution (1997) cites McLuhan as the first of four thinkers whose work made that book possible (the others are evolutionary epistemologist Donald T. Campbell, philosopher Karl Popper, and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov); my Digital McLuhan (1999) is—well, the title says it all.
All were about communication, and informed in my American Heritage College Dictionary’s first sense of the word (“to give form or character to”) by the approach McLuhan brought to it.
The Medium Counts
Beyond the compelling, general principle that communication counts, McLuhan also taught us that the specific medium of communication makes a big difference. A Media Ecology classmate once put it this way: We study how whether one writes with a squiggle this way or that way can change the course of civilization.
That might have been overstating the case just a bit. I’d say that whether one writes with a squiggle (i.e., the alphabet) or a picture (i.e., hieroglyphics) can and indeed did change the course of civilization. But the point is well taken either way, for what it gets at is McLuhan’s “medium is the message”—the way we communicate, often taken for granted, often determines what we communicate, and therein just about everything else in life and society.
Media Ecology was very much about making that distinction. Other programs, such as the Annenberg School in Philadelphia, were also vitally concerned with communication. [But their idea of communication studies was mainly analysis of content.]
In investigating the possible relationship between television and violence, their approach was to look for correlations between numbers of violent episodes in TV programs and numbers of violent acts committed by their viewers. In contrast, McLuhan wondered to what extent the tantalization of untouchable, beautiful images on TV engendered real-life frustration. And that was what Media Ecology was interested in, too.
Neil Postman, who wisely created Media Ecology in so much of McLuhan’s image, was the one most responsible for our focus on media, technology, process, and structure, rather than content. And this resulted in other structuralists, implicit and explicit, ranging from Whorf to Levi-Strauss to Chomsky, being brought into the curriculum. But McLuhan was the signpost. And he was a signpost that pointed, Janus-like, at the past and the future at the same time.
Dwight Macdonald observed, in the title of his article about McLuhan in Stearn’s McLuhan: Hot & Cool (1967), that McLuhan “has looted all culture, from cave painting to Mad magazine, for fragments to shore up against the ruin of his system” (p. 204). Typical of McLuhan’s critics, Macdonald is keenly aware of McLuhan’s encyclopedic conversance with the myriad details of history—for how else would McLuhan know where to “loot”—but Macdonald attempts to twist this advantage into some kind of flaw. Media Ecology was inspired by merely the advantage.
Indeed, the study of media and their effects now seems intrinsically historical mainly because of McLuhan (and his mentor Innis), and the furthering of that approach in Media Ecology. Even before the Web, back in the 1970s, most graduate programs that studied communications and media were pointed towards the future. Interactive television, telecom satellites, community cable, and all that was sparkling and new were the buzzwords. McLuhan’s “global village” had already rooted that future in millennia of human constructions and attitudes, all of which were fair game for the students of Media Ecology.
My own doctoral dissertation—Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media (1979)—in a sense took McLuhan’s observation that electronic media recall oral patterns of communication and turned it into a theory that media become more natural, less artificial, more human, as they evolve. Other theorists—ranging from Darwin to Popper—played major roles in my work, but McLuhan was the key resource. His historical connections popped up throughout the dissertation, as they continue to do so whenever I write about communications.
Other students in the Media Ecology Program focused on specific, signal events in history. Ed Wachtel’s dissertation on the window as an archetypal medium flowered into a lifelong study of visual perspective in art and technology (see, e.g., Wachtel, 1977/1978). Typical of a Media Ecology so influenced by McLuhan, Wachtel’s approach to visual rendition encompasses the full extent of human history, from cave paintings to the Web.
As we students of Media Ecology began publishing in academic journals and attending scholarly conferences, we found a kinship with historians (as well as futurists) that went beyond communications, strictly defined. Not only were my articles and reviews welcome in the Journal of Communication, I was early on published in Technology and Society. Media Ecologists began speaking at conferences not only sponsored by the International Communication Association, but by the Society for the History of Technology. These were also the venues of McLuhan, especially as he sought in the last years of his life to tell the world about “discarnate man,” telephones and privacy, the hemispheres of the brain and media, and most of all about the “laws of media."
But there was an enduring difference between McLuhan and Media Ecologists, on the one hand, and scholars in those communication and history fields on the other. For McLuhan (1976) not only wrote of telephones and privacy, to take but one of his many threads, but rendered his thoughts in a uniquely arresting way—observing of the telephone’s invasion of the home that the automobile was the last place one could be truly alone (and today, of course, the cell phone has brought down even that last remaining castle wall in motion).
This was a difference not so much in subject matter—especially with the historians of technology—as it was a difference in style.
I cannot comment with any certainty about the flavor, the atmosphere, of other doctoral communication programs, because I participated in only one. But if output in conferences and journals is any reliable indication, the general world of academic scholarship often seems to lack a certain levity, an élan in presentation, characteristic first of McLuhan and then Media Ecologists.
This, of course, cuts both ways. One person’s gravity is another’s plodding. The playfulness of McLuhan—his zest for coming up with new ideas or new ways of presenting old ones, rather than exhaustively rehashing the ones already in hand—was one of the prime targets of his critics. The academic world expects documentation, not word plays and analogy. But words in all their glory were important to McLuhan, if only because they, too, are a crucial medium of communication.
Media Ecology as a whole has been less playful than McLuhan. Certainly the writing style of Meyrowitz, Wachtel, Lance Strate—and me—is far more linear, less aphoristic than McLuhan’s. But our approach to our subjects—the kinds of connections we’re willing to consider—flows from McLuhan. Metaphor plays a larger role in our work than does statistical evidence.
Interestingly, Media Ecology also fostered a speaking style that is probably more entertaining than McLuhan’s. This was not because McLuhan didn’t want to be entertaining, but because aphoristic bursts often do not lend themselves to dynamic talks. As public speakers, Media Ecologists learned more about presentation from Neil Postman than McLuhan. Indeed, Postman’s sense of humor and connection to his audience were deeply instructive for many of us as teachers. I know that even now, more than two decades out of Postman’s seminars, I hear myself sounding like Postman sometimes in my classrooms. And the students seem to like it.
Postman’s approach was also influenced by McLuhan. Although Postman’s books are far more traditional in organization than McLuhan’s—they have chapters in the tens rather than the hundreds, which seem to follow one another in some order—they are nonetheless more like extended lectures than strictly scholarly works. Footnotes, references, charts, and tables rarely appear in Postman’s books, because he—like McLuhan—wants to persuade via attractive verbal argument, rhetoric, rather than numbers that can be numbing. Indeed, Postman was quite explicit in communicating to us that style was at least as important as content. We students of Postman’s learned that the medium is the message in that way, too. And in that way we were McLuhan’s students on yet another level.
And as the years went by, it also became clear to some of us that not only were we McLuhan’s students—we were among his only students.
For all of McLuhan’s extraordinary impact as a thinker in the twentieth century, the University of Toronto never saw fit to support his establishment of a proper doctoral program. Classes and seminars were conducted in the Coach House—aptly right behind the Medieval Studies Building. The ambience when I gave a lecture there in the late 1970s was of a group of heretics hiding in the catacombs of Rome, stealing nights and time and insight as we could.
The result was that, with the important exception of Walter Ong—who was a student of McLuhan’s in America, not Toronto—McLuhan left the world few if any direct students to continue his work.
Media Ecology filled this gap in more than one way. First, we continued McLuhan’s work in our books, articles, and conference papers, as I have briefly discussed above. But just as crucially, Media Ecologists have created a community to which like-minded souls—those who get what McLuhan was about, and are applying it in their work—can find harbor.
The first example of this I can recall was James Curtis. I was asked to review his Culture as Polyphony (1978) by the journal Technology and Culture in 1979. Curtis was (and still is) a Professor of Russian. He was well outside the formal field of communications. But his book deftly applied McLuhan, and right in synch with Media Ecology. When he presented a paper at Fordham University’s symposium on Marshall McLuhan in 1998 (organized by Lance Strate), Curtis could have been Meyrowitz or Wachtel standing up there (they also presented papers), for all I could tell. In subject matter and style, Curtis was one of us.
Torontonians themselves have become part of the Media Ecology orb. Bob Logan and Derrick de Kerckhove and Liss Jeffrey and, more than anyone else, Eric McLuhan, of course, come by their McLuhan directly—not through Media Ecology—and yet they speak at Media Ecology panels and conferences and seem for all the world like Media Ecologists. Given that Media Ecology owes so much to McLuhan, it is inevitable that anyone doing McLuhan’s work would become part of Media Ecology.
And so, as the new millennium dawns—exactly when depends upon your mathematical metaphysics—McLuhan rides high. As someone once remarked about Chomsky and his revolution in generative linguistics, it succeeded not because he convinced his contemporaries or critics, for he did not. It succeeded because graduate students were convinced.
We, the students of Media Ecology, were convinced by McLuhan.
Social Media Acts As An Extension Of Us...
The Media Should Be Known and Understood: Extension of Africans
When we begin to acknowledge and Understand the Media and its mediums, we may be able to decipher the gap between Media and its mediums and the shaping of our perceptions of images and mass consumed media experience, that affects and effects our reality, through the created "false media reality'.That, it is incumbent on us to UNDERSTAND THE MEDIA"!
The existence of the media in its present formats means that we are willing and unwilling participants in a media environment that is not of our liking,making and neither under our control. This is one aspect and facet of our struggles we are not addressing clearly, definitively and clearly.
We need to recall, at least that much we know, that the present state, existence, manifestation and the real form and format all these media rake-in and take are shaped by the researched history of public relations, media manipulation and dissemination designed to meet the aims, needs and goals of these Media Mogul and Western powerful Conglomerate and their government's national and International interests.
As Noam Chomsky once pointed out that that the present media systems "engineer consent" in the process forging and conditioning 'public attitudes'. What this means is as once put by one leading practitioner that, 'this is an intellectual tradition that shed light not only on the emergence of public relations, but on the proliferation of images as tools of persuasion over the past century.'
As Africans, when we study these techniques and ways and means of media and how these impact on us, we get a different image, reality and distorted media not in our service, but as an additional tool of our oppression, confusion and dysfunction. We shall have to begin working on Understanding the Media and its Mediums and its effects and affects on us.
That is, we have to begin to know and master the ways of knowing and learning about how the "Media Engineers Consent" from us and within our polity. In order to understand the history significance of visual communication, "The Crowd" remains a required reading.
"As our proliferating technologies have created a whole series of new environments, men have become aware of the arts as 'anti-environments' or 'counter-environments' that provide us with the means of perceiving the environment itself. According to Hall, 'men are never aware of the ground rules of their environmental systems and cultures.' Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the social consequences of technology."
McLuhan continues: "Art as anti environment becomes more than ever a means of training perception and judgement. Art offered as a consumer commodity rather than as a means of training perception is as ludicrous and snobbish as always. We are entering the new age of education that is programmed for discovery rather than instruction. ... TV has provided a new environment of low visual orientation and high involvement that makes accommodation to our older educational establishment quite different. ... But TV is only one component of the electric environment of instant circuitry that has succeeded the old world of the wheel and nuts and bolts"
We learn much more further from McLuhan that Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man-the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by various media … Any extension, whether of skin,hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex.
So that, Le Bon saw the "crowd as a temperamental monster impelled by dark and irrational forces. Among crowds, the conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The "crowd" was driven by impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, absence of judgement. It is not driven by its mind, but by its spinal cord."
If we begin to understand some of these media theories, we begin to see ourselves in the mix of things with ease. Understanding the media is a prerequisite for us to dealing with our present conditions. The media and its apparatuses collates us as a collective mass or crowd and deal with us from the "crowd" mentality and psyche perspective in hawking its products or misdirecting us according to its whims and interests and techniques
In short, we also have style today which is an incongruous cacophony of images, strewn across the social landscape. Style may be borrowed from any source and turn up in a place where it is least expected. The stylish person may look like a duchess one week, a murder victim next. Style can hijack the visual idiom of astronauts, or poach from the ancient peagantry of Guatemala peasants costumes or those from the Brazilian Carnival, or the Zulu, xhosa, etc., dress traditions and so forth…
My point in introducing such a complex subjects as "Understanding The Media" is that, there are various techniques and effects and affects embedded within the automation and electrification of Media and its intention to control the consuming mass populace, and maximize its profits and existence. To effect its maximum application, Jacques informs us that:
"Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among other organs and extensions of the body". ... So that, "To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it. To listen to radio or to read the printed page is to accept these extensions of ourselves into our personal system and undergo the 'closure' or displacement of perception that follows automatically."
This really means that we have no choice in this matter but become extension of our emerging and burgeoning technologies and techniques. We are extended by our cell phones and are sold to its brands without having no time to understand the present ones in our hands and lives. The technologies we use and are addicted to, displace our reality and replace it with a promise of a "packaged" commodity that will enhance, not satisfy our technologically compromised manifestations and existences.
McLuhan adds that:
"It is this continuous embrace of our own technology in our daily use that puts us in the Narcissus role of subliminal awareness and numbness in relation to these images of ourselves. By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. That is why we must, to use them at all, serve these objects, these extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions....
"Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology, or his variously extended body, is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world. As the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms. The machine world reciprocates man's love by expediting his wishes and desires, namely in providing him with wealth. One of the merits of motivation research has been the revelation of man's sex relation to the motorcar[Will talk to this point made here by McLuhan in some other time and post]. (McLuhan)
We get a better heads-up when McLuhan concludes for us that: "The principle of numbness comes into play with electric technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die "[Just like we have to suspend disbelief when watching a movie, or else we might walk out and never watch it-my addition].
Thus the age of anxiety and of electric media is also the age of the unconscious and apathy . But it is strikingly the age of consciousness of the unconscious, in addition. With our central nervous system strategically numbed, the tasks of conscious awareness and order are transferred to the physical life of man, so that for the first time he has become aware of technology as an extension of his physical body.
Apparently the means of instant, total field-awareness. With such awareness, the subliminal life, private and social, has been hoicked up into full view, with the results that we have "social consciousness" presented to us as a cause of guilt-feelings. Existentialism offers a philosophy of structures, rather than categories, and of total social involvement instead of the bourgeois spirit of individual separateness or points of view. In the electric age we wear mankind as our skin. (McLuhan)
In approaching and dealing with the emerging and submerging technologies, we cannot overlook the fact the effect they have on our human information and interaction realities. We cannot use the outmoded ways of communication dealing with the present state of communication, media and their mediums. Adjustments will have to be made and Understanding the media become imperative.
As in the case of South Africa and elsewhere in the world, the gizmos and gadgets we depend on and use for our mere existence have packaged in them techniques that modify our beingness and reality. If we choose to discard and ignore these effects, we do so to our own peril. So that McLuhan intones that,
"The aspiration of our time for wholeness, empathy and depth of awareness is a natural adjunct of electric technology… the age of mechanical industry preceded us found vehement assertion of private outlook the natural mode of expression."
"Every culture and every age has its favorite model of perception and knowledge that it is inclined to prescribe for everybody and everything. The mark of our rime is its revulsion against imposed patterns." Robert Theobald said of economic depressions:
"There is one additional factor that has helped to control depressions, and that is one additional that has helped to control depressions, and that is a better understanding of their development." So that, examination of the origin and development of the individual extensions of man should be preceded by a look at some general aspects of the media, extensions of man, beginning with the never explained numbness that each extension brings about in the individual and society. (McLuhan)
As Africans, the world over, we sometimes do not really dig deeper into the meanings and realities brought about by these new technologies which we use as leaders of our people, and our people, en-masse, use them too. Studying the effects and affects these new emerging and merging technologies should be studied as to what their intentions are, what their techniques are, what it is that they do to us and what can we do about that from becoming aware of them.
We have to understand that these new technologies and techniques(for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity. Its characteristics are new; the technique of the present has no common measure with that of the past; and new technologies bring along with them Techniques. According to Jacques, Technique is a 'blind' force, but one which unfortunately seems to be more perspicacious than the best discernible human intelligences.
The term technique",
Jacques writes, as he uses it, "Does not mean machines, technology, or this or that procedure for attaining an end. In our technological society [technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency] (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity. Its characteristics are new; the technique of the present has no common measure with that of the past."
Understanding the media then is understanding the definition of terms that apply and operate within the present technological societies in a global mosaic and extending man in all directions, shapes, form, existences and realities. In the case of South Africa and elsewhere Africans, from domination, colonization and Imperialism, these technologies come into thriving and long established cultures.
Wilson informs us that,
"Fundamentally, a people's culture is a mental behavioral system used by them to rationalize and justify, organize and regulate, give meaning and purpose to the individual group behavior, social relations, lives and existence.
"Culture is essentially a way of thinking, perceiving, evaluating, and interpreting the world; a way of relating to others and to the physical-metaphysical world, and involves an explicit and implicit set of rules of conduct which orders the overall social relations, arrangements and attitudes of a society.
"The power generated buy such social relations, arrangements [alignments] and attitudes is utilized for maintaining and enhancing the well-being and integrity of the society; for procuring, processing and producing the material and non-material products characteristic of the society; and for substantiating its abilities to defend and advance its interests in cooperation with or in opposition to other societies or groups."
The media as we know has had the ability to destroy the African family in many direct and indirect ways. So that, Wilson informs us that, "Dominant groups, in seeking to achieve and maintain their power over subordinate groups, are for this reason compelled in some ways to constrain, restrict, reduce, destabilize, misdirect, or destroy the family systems, and along with those, the communal and cultural systems of the groups they subordinate."
The oppression, distortion and destabilization of the African Families in Africa and the diaspora by White Colonial/Imperial white power began with enslavement, colonization followed and is still being run by Imperialism, and continues unabated to this day. The use of the media and its systems is controlled by the former enslavers, colonialists and present Imperialists to maximize profits and re-enslave and control their former slaves, colonized and imperial side-kicks today.
Once we can link this disparate events and cobble them cohesively from a multi-disciplinary context and stand-point, which will enable to begin to come to terms with the present-day media, and from our cultural and historic perspective, deal with them decisively, and with a finality of a people who have awakened to the glitz and blitz of media and its gizmos, and begin to use this new technological society and knowledge about the media and its gizmos to upgrade Africans, inform Africans and empower all African people.
This is one topic that is still ongoing and needs to be interrogated more extensively and intensely as it affects, effects and related to African people globally...
The Origins of Consciousness in the Technological Age
Mobile Technologies - Information on the Move ... or Stuck in a Groove? - A South African Perspective
Audiences as they are demarcated and segmented globally, is one other issue I would like to address on this Hub. I will solicit a huge excerpt that was written byDenise Rosemary Nicholson. Before I delve into the writhing of Denise, it is important to remember and know that Communications information in South Africa today is a hand-down from Apartheid media, so that, the inherent chasms and divides, are still being exploited and utilized by the present-ANC government in its efforts to curb media, censor it, and hide the grossly details of their corruption and disempowering their polity. with the technological Apartheid looming, as well caricatured byDenise below, and I will now post her impressions about this type of segmented audience in South Africa, and what that all implies.
Mobile technologies present exciting and new opportunities to those who have not been able to access digital information before or provide additional opportunities for access. Education programs and curricula are being revitalized through innovative technologies. Digital technology has the potential to revolutionize the lives of people with sensory-disabilities. Developing countries are now able to tap into global knowledge through a variety of hand-held devices. There is a lot of information available on open access which can be downloaded to these technologies.
However, not everything is free. Copyright issues have to be taken into account when using copyrighted material on these devices. Rights-holders and manufacturers control use and access to information on mobile devices through the use of digital rights management systems (DRMs), technological protection mechanisms (TPMs), and strict licenses. This paper highlights some benefits of mobile technology for education and disseminating information in a developing country‘s context. It also discusses how copyright, licensing and technological protection measures prevent or hamper access and help to keep information-'stuck in a groove‘.
There is a huge knowledge and digital divide between developed countries and developing countries, particularly in Africa. African countries depend heavily on educational, recreational and other published material from industrialized countries. They are net importers of intellectual property and pay huge amounts to purchase or gain access to global information and knowledge. In the process, researchers and tertiary institutions very often have to buy back their own African research that is published in subscription-based journals with no open access options.
As technology develops, African countries need to find better ways of accessing information to gain knowledge and be able to participate and contribute to the global society. They need technology to assist them in developing at a faster rate so that they can advance and one day, enjoy the status of developed nations. Africa is the second-largest and second most-populous continent after Asia, yet its internet usage is only 5.7 percent compared to other largely populated areas of the world (Internet Users, 2011).
The Knowledge and Digital Divide
According to the Global Information Technology Report 2010/11, Sub-Saharan Africa still lags behind the rest of the world. The main issues are underdeveloped infrastructure, inefficient markets, opaque regulatory environments, inadequate educational standards, and widespread poverty. These are powerful obstacles against a more extensive and efficient use of new technologies for increased development and prosperity in the region (World Economic Forum, 2011). ―This means that mobile technologies serve to both address and to complicate our notions of the digital divide, the gulf between the Internet technology haves and have-nots‖ (Watters, 2011, paragraph 4). Since most Africans will never own a laptop, Kindle or iPad, the mobile phone is key to sustained ̳information on the move‘2 in Africa.
On one hand, mobile phones will increasingly serve as both our gateway to the Internet and as our personal computers. As costs decrease, more people will own or have access to mobile computing devices. However, accessibility and equity remain an issue. Income still dictates cell phone ownership and Internet access. Poorer communities may only be able to afford (if at all) the less sophisticated cellular models without Internet access, instant messaging and other features, whilst people who are better off economically can afford models which offer a whole range of applications (Smart phones and various Blackberry models for example). For many people, accessing the Internet via their phone is their only connection as they do not have Internet at home due to the costs and/or lack of electricity or reasonable bandwidth (Watters, 2011).
Cell phone batteries need to be regularly charged, and this hampers uninterrupted use of mobile phones at this stage. Users in many rural areas have to take regular trips into nearby towns that have electricity to charge their batteries. However, as solar energy is harnessed for better power options in Africa, this problem may disappear in time.
Emergence from ‘Darkest Africa’3 – ‘Information on the Move’
Africa is often characterized as the ‘dark‘ or ‘silent continent‘ ―because her abundance of knowledge, research and practice does not reach far beyond its local audience‖ (Gray, 2010). For years, lack of bandwidth and extremely slow satellite connections have ―arrested development on the African continent and have constrained Africa from achieving her full potential‖ (Okine, 2011, para. 8).
Information and communications technology ―[ICT] and collaborative communication are now offering new possibilities for giving Africa a voice across the globe‖ (Gray, 2010). Since 2009, the capacity of Africa's fibre optic cable connections has expanded almost 300-fold. The SEACOM fibre optic cable system was launched to support East and Southern African countries with inexpensive bandwidth, thus removing the international infrastructure bottleneck.
On 20 April 2011, the 14,000 kilometer West Africa Cable System (WACS) fibre optic line arrived in South Africa's Western Cape Province. The cable starts in London and will connect fifteen points along Africa's western coast. This will link the continent's Internet providers directly to the servers of Europe and boost the bandwidth of the world's least connected region. The new link is the latest in a series of submarine cables that hold the promise of an Internet explosion for Africa (Massive undersea cable, 2011). It will most certainly 'speed up information on the move‘ for Africa.
Africa as the First post-PC Continent?
Digital and particularly, mobile technology, provides huge potential for research, learning and teaching purposes. A convergence of historical circumstance and an increase in innovative mobile applications may make Africa the first post-PC continent, because the majority of Africans do not have the luxury of laptops, iPads, Kindles and the like (Wanjiku, 2011). They will embrace mobile applications, like cell phones to engage the digital world. The mobile phone will become the main or default mode of information on the move for millions on the continent. Cell phones will be the means whereby Africans engage in communication, teaching and learning, civic, political and social activities, e-banking and other financial services.
Mobile Technologies - Advantages for Africa
African countries are already starting to benefit from the use of digital devices, such as mobile phones, Smart phones, Blackberries, as well as iPods, e-books and digital game consoles. Few people are able to afford the iPad at this stage. A number of non-profit organizations are using mobile networks to deliver mobile health services, such as patient data collection and the dissemination of health information, to poor, rural populations throughout Africa (World Economic Forum, 2011).
Farming communities are using mobiles to share important information on agricultural and related information in rural areas. Conservationists are using mobile phones in their endeavors to protect wildlife from poaching and other dangers.
Educators are realizing the untapped potential of personal technologies and how they can change learning in the classroom and beyond its walls. Tertiary institutions are embracing e-learning and m-learning (mobile learning) in imaginative ways. Distance learners are now able to seek help from lecturers, engage in online study groups, and discussions. Non-profits and operators can also collaborate to offer formal and informal lessons, useful information, study tips, tutorials and quizzes via mobiles (World Economic Forum, 2011).
Mobile devices have been used to crowdsource information, for example, in times of political change in African countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Cote d‘Ivoire, Sudan and Libya, during 2011. They have also been used to communicate, share information and provide assistance to communities ravished by earthquakes and tsunamis, such as Haiti, New Zealand and Japan. Mobiles have also changed the way in which civil society organizations and protest groups organize their activities (Mobile phones and development, n.d.).
Many commercial entities already provide information via mobile phones on direct marketing, economic information, advertisements, life insurance policy options, competitions and a great deal more. Airlines provide services for bookings and check-ins on mobile phones. Radio stations provide online information about traffic congestion, news, weather reports, community-based activities, social upliftment and development programs and other useful information.
Libraries are incorporating mobile technology into their services, for example, online access to their catalogues via mobile phones; Short Message Service (sms) alerts about outstanding loans, new acquisitions, information literacy training, changes in opening hours, workshops and other services.
Electronic voting is being piloted in a number of African countries, e.g., Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria, but a lot more has to be done before this becomes a continental voting process. There are cultural issues as well as concerns about privacy, security and anonymity since some countries now require subscribers to register their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards, and there is concern on the part of citizen that their votes may be tracked. ―The process must enhance democracy not build or entrench a digital divide. The system must be usable by the young and the old, the rural and the urban, the physically challenged and the able and finally the literate and the illiterate voter‖ (E-Voting in Africa: Mr. Collin Thakur., 2010, p. 27). It is an inevitable process for Africa as it advances technologically, but more work has to be done to ‘fine tune‘ the process, before any country will embrace it fully.
Lack of communication can be a major barrier for grassroots non-governmental organizations working in developing countries. FrontlineSMS is the first text messaging system created exclusively with this problem in mind. By leveraging basic tools already available to most non-government organizations (NGO‘s) — computers and mobile phones — FrontlineSMS enables instantaneous two-way communication on a large scale. The software is free and it is easy to implement and operate. Messages are paid for in the normal way (FrontlineSMS, n.d.).
Mobile phones provide increased access to entertainment, both traditional formats (such as radio and recorded music) and new forms such as online gaming and access to online video sites, like YouTube (Mobile phones and development, n.d.).
The marriage of mobile phones and community radio is a natural one. They both facilitate "anywhere, anytime learning," but in different, complementary ways. Learning programs can use phones to interact with learners — register them, provide learner support and assessing learning outcomes — overcoming barriers faced by radio and other traditional media. Learners can access educational content as and when they need it. Radio, on the other hand, provides for an engaging and collective learning environment that can reach large numbers with a single broadcast at a low cost.
Together, mobiles and radio can increase the degree of participation in learning for development, which is key. Communities must be active participants in community learning — by shaping priorities, sharing experiences and providing ongoing input (Pringle, 2011, para.1).
Two innovative mobile applications that can act as a complement to radio, are Freedom Fone (developed in Zimbabwe) and Gramin Radio Inter-Networking System (GRINS) developed by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, for use by community radio stations (Pringle, 2011).
Mobile Revolution in South Africa
The World Wide Worx Mobility 2011 research report reveals that 39 percent of urban South Africans and 27 percent of rural users are now browsing the Internet on their mobile phones. The study excludes ―deep rural‖ users, and represents around 20-million South Africans aged 16 and above. This means that at least 6 million South Africans now have Internet access on their phones (World Wide Worx, 2010).
The most popular in terms of mobile sites and services is MXit, an instant messaging service, developed in South Africa, which currently has ―close to 40 million thumbs twiddling in more than 120 countries, with 40,000 new subscribers every day‖ (The Master of IM, n.d., para. 6). It is the largest social network in Africa (At 27 Million, 2010). The breakdown of users is as follows: 24 percent of cell phone users aged 16 and above (29 percent of urban, 19 percent of rural users) subscribe to MXit (World Wide Worx, 2011). Blackberry Messenger is also becoming a popular instant messaging service, particularly in South Africa, and subscribers are upgrading to these devices as soon as their cell phone contracts come up for renewal. Instant messaging seems to appeal more to teenagers than communicating via sms or email, as they enjoy real time or immediate communication, instead of having to wait for a response later on.
Other teen favorites are Facebook and Twitter. ―Facebook is catching up fast reaching 22 percent of users, and in fact passing MXit in the urban over-16 market, with 30 percent reach, versus 13 percent among rural users‖ (World Wide Worx, 2011, para 4). Twitter will also become a key mobile tool, almost catching up to MXit in 2011, from a low 6 percent of cellular users at the end of 2010. The proportion of urban Twitter mobile users is exactly double that of rural users. i.e., 8 percent, against 4 percent (World Wide Worx, 2011).
The arrival of email in the rural user-base and its growth among urban users is remarkable. There has been a substantial shift with urban use rising from 10 percent in 2009 to 27 percent at the end of 2010. While the percentage growth among rural users is lower, the fact that it was almost non-existent a year before means the 12 percent penetration reported for 2010 indicates mobile e-mail becoming a mainstream tool across the South African population (World Wide Worx, 2011). Lastly, 51 percent of the South African population is under the age of 25 (Walters & Isaacs, 2009). This provides huge potential and markets for mobile devices.
Encouraging a Reading Culture
South Africa lacks a reading culture and mobiles are starting to make a difference. The Shuttleworth Foundation‘s Mobile for Literacy Project, or M4Lit Project, is using cell-phones as a viable medium for the distribution of longer-form content that engages readers and gets them to participate via comments, voting, competitions and contributions. It is bridging mobile phones with books.
The fact that South African (and African) youth don‘t read or write enough in a traditional sense is an obvious challenge everyone‘s trying to fix. What‘s smart about the Mobile for Literacy project ... is that it doesn‘t push legacy or tradition. It starts with what teenagers obsess about — text-based messaging — and uses this to get them to read more (Mobile books, 2010, para. 6).
Africa is a book poor but cell phone rich continent, and this has profound implications for distributing content and also for engaging with people. The success of this M4Lit Project could not only drive a new market for teen literature, but might reinvent how teen books are produced and published in Africa.
The project enhances reading and writing skills in a fun way and engages teens in digital and mobile literacy. This equips them with excellent skills for university or work purposes in the future (De Waal, 2010). The M4Lit Project was the pilot phase, which then became the YOZA Project, which is a mobile library site, where new authors can share and discuss their works and get feedback from others via the YOZA mobile site. It is accessible on MXit in South Africa and Kenya (Yoza Project, n.d.).
Mobile Banking and Financial Services
Mobile phones are providing Africans with financial information and banking opportunities which never were available before. In South Africa, for instance, an estimated 13 million people - 27 percent of the population — are currently without bank accounts. At the same time, 94 percent of the adult population possesses a cell phone (Free mobile banking..., 2011). Mobile telephony has spawned mobile money in South Africa, Kenya and other parts of Africa. Many of the mainstream banks already offer mobile banking facilities. However, in bringing mobile money transfers and other banking services to those who have never entered a bank, it creates a stepping stone to formal financial services for billions of people who have never had accounts, credit or insurance (World Economic Forum, 2011). In May 2011, the Mahala Free Banking Platform was launched on cell phones in South Africa. No consumer premiums are payable, as the business model will be sustained by value-added services and advertisements (Free mobile banking..., 2011).
One problem with mobile banking is that it also gives rise to and enables criminal activity. Theft of cell phones is high in South Africa as they are being stolen for use in bank robberies, drug dealing and other crimes. Banks also have to constantly keep one step ahead of email fraud scams, like phishing, which requests clients to provide personal information for the purposes of information or identity theft. It is not always apparent to clients that this is in fact a scam, so banks have regular television and radio notices and messages to warn clients not to respond to such emails.
Mobiles Assisting Persons with Sensory-Disabilities
Mobile devices are also assisting visually and hearing impaired persons in South Africa and other parts of Africa, to access digital content. ―The DAISY Consortium is an international association that develops, maintains and promotes international DAISY (Digital Accessible Information System) Standards‖ (DAISY Consortium, n.d., para. 1). This format was designed to make books accessible to those with print disabilities, as well as sighted users who simply want a standard way to take books with them wherever they go.
The format allows for books to contain text, audio, or a combination of both. It also makes navigation from point to point within the book easier and more accessible compared to analogue recordings. The mobile DAISY Player supports all these formats, allowing access to the widest possible variety of electronic books. MP3 audio files can be converted to basic DAISY books (Mobile DAISY Player, n.d.,para. 1). Mobile Accessibility is a screen-access application which provides a suite of accessible applications for various uses, including touch navigation, voice synthesis, email, calendar entries, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), interaction on Facebook and other social networking (Mobile accessibility..., 2011).
The Mobile Speak screen readers have software applications installed on a mobile phone, to generate text to speech and provides Braille output at the same time as speech or independently (Introducing Mobile Speak, 2011).
More than ever before, visually impaired people have so much technology at their fingertips to help them create and take advantage of more opportunities in life. The Internet has helped visually and hearing impaired persons in so many ways, especially with their education, research, recreation and general communication with others. Since a great deal of material is now available in electronic format, blind people can obtain information for themselves quite easily, unless the format is totally inaccessible.
Unfortunately there are still websites which are inaccessible or are very difficult for blind persons to access, because the needs of blind persons have not been considered in the design stage of the websites. ―Despite the existence of assistive devices and accessibility guidelines, if a Web site is not designed in a manner that it is flexible enough to work with various assistive devices, there is nothing that the user can do that will lead to successful use of the site‖ (Lazar & Jaeger, n.d, para. 16).
Learning materials and open educational resources are much easier to find and even online courses are open to blind and visually impaired students. Digital communication with their teachers or friends keeps them in touch and alleviates loneliness and boredom (How the Internet..., 2011).
Talking mobile facilities now enable blind persons to communicate via sms, email and phone calls. They can participate in social networks, use navigation tools and specific map data or GPS applications to assist them in finding their way around their suburbs and environs. They can benefit from mobile banking, e-commerce, e-health, e-employment agencies and Government services (Blind Wiki, n.d.)
Visually or hearing impaired persons can use text messaging service on their phones providing they have the correct software applications enabled. Some mobile phones now have several other features which assist visually impaired persons, including voice over in thirty languages which work with all applications, typing with voiceover, support for wireless Braille displays and others features (Australian Government, n.d.).
Augmented Reality in South Africa
Augmented reality (AR) is another aspect of active digital technology which is quietly making its appearance in South Africa and is likely to make a huge difference in education, libraries and other areas of society in due course. ―AR refers to the addition of a computer-assisted contextual layer of information over the real world, creating a reality that is enhanced or augmented‖ (New Medium Consortium, 2011, para. 2).
It can be used for visual and highly interactive forms of learning and assessment in South Africa and has the ability to respond to user input (New Medium Consortium, 2011). ―Students can use it to construct new understanding based on interactions with virtual objects that bring underlying data to life. Dynamic processes, extensive datasets, and objects too large or too small to be manipulated can be brought into a student‘s personal space‖ (New Medium Consortium, 2011, para. 6) on a Smartphone or similar device, ―at a scale and in a form easy to understand and work with‖ (New Medium Consortium, 2011, para. 6).
AR has great potential for deaf and hearing-impaired persons who need more visual or graphic descriptions to access knowledge. Even for blind persons, more descriptive information about graphics, conveyed via text to speech software, could be helpful.
Increased Access to Telecommunication Services
Mobile communications have increased access to telecommunications services particularly in developing countries, including Africa. The cellular network can be built faster than a fixed-line network, it can cover geographically challenging areas, services have been introduced in a competitive environment, and pre-paid models have opened access to mobile cellular for those who would otherwise not qualify for subscription plans. In countries, where mobile communications is the primary access to communications, increased exchange of information on trade or health services are contributing to development goals; in countries where people commonly use both fixed-line and mobile communications the personal traits of the cell phone are changing social interaction (International Telecommunication Union, 2003a, para. 3).
There are still issues, though, that have to be resolved before cellular phones become the ideal form of communication in Africa. Some of the most popular phones, e.g., Nokia 1100 and other low end handsets do not have browsers and do not support General Packet Radio Service, or any other form of data transmission (Banks, 2008).
Network coverage in many rural areas lacks data support even if the phones have it, although this is admittedly changing. There are also issues of language and content but, more importantly, cost. Using the Web, especially if the user is not adept at searching for information, can be expensive for someone with a low phone budget (Banks, 2008).
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Report of 2009, two-thirds of the world's cell phone subscriptions are in developing nations, with the highest growth rate in Africa where a quarter of the population now has a mobile (MacInnes, 2009). This provides new options and excellent scope for information on the move in Africa.
Information ‘Stuck in a Groove’?
The mobile explosion is certainly changing communication and encouraging information on the move in South Africa and on the African continent. However, information can get ̳stuck in a groove, because of barriers such as restrictive legislation, licensing and technological protection measures, that are used by rights owners to control the flow of information and access to knowledge.
a) Copyright as a barrier
Copyright legislation is one of these barriers. Copyright is a ―bundle‖ of exclusive rights that the law gives to authors and creators, to protect their original works for a certain period. Such works include literary, musical, artistic works; sound recordings; computer programs; cinematographic films, broadcasts, program-carrying signals and published editions. The term ‖author‖ is used in a wide sense and includes composers, indexers, artists, sculptors and even architects.
Authors‘ rights include the right to decide whether and where their works should be published, copied, modified, digitized, broadcast, translated, performed in public, etc. Copyright is a monopoly or economic right but the author‘s moral rights are also protected in many copyright regimes. Copyright provides an incentive for authors to create new works and to earn some compensation for their efforts.
Copyright law provides some limitations and exceptions for users to access copyright works, but in South Africa and in the rest of Africa, these are totally inadequate. Although South Africa is a signatory to various international intellectual property agreements, it has not yet adopted appropriate legal flexibilities allowed in these agreements into its national copyright law.
There are still issues, though, that have to be resolved before cellular phones become the ideal form of communication in Africa. Some of the most popular phones, e.g., Nokia 1100 and other low end handsets do not have browsers and do not support General Packet Radio Service, or any other form of data transmission (Banks, 2008).
Network coverage in many rural areas lacks data support even if the phones have it, although this is admittedly changing. There are also issues of language and content but, more importantly, cost. Using the Web, especially if the user is not adept at searching for information, can be expensive for someone with a low phone budget (Banks, 2008).
According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Report of 2009, two-thirds of the world's cell phone subscriptions are in developing nations, with the highest growth rate in Africa where a quarter of the population now has a mobile (MacInnes, 2009). This provides new options and excellent scope for information on the move in Africa.
Information ‘Stuck in a Groove’?
The mobile explosion is certainly changing communication and encouraging information on the move in South Africa and on the African continent. However, information can get ̳stuck in a groove,' because of barriers such as restrictive legislation, licensing and technological protection measures, that are used by rights owners to control the flow of information and access to knowledge.
a) Copyright as a barrier
Copyright legislation is one of these barriers. Copyright is a ―bundle‖ of exclusive rights that the law gives to authors and creators, to protect their original works for a certain period. Such works include literary, musical, artistic works; sound recordings; computer programs; cinematographic films, broadcasts, program-carrying signals and published editions. The term ‖author‖ is used in a wide sense and includes composers, indexers, artists, sculptors and even architects.
Authors‘ rights include the right to decide whether and where their works should be published, copied, modified, digitized, broadcast, translated, performed in public, etc. Copyright is a monopoly or economic right but the author‘s moral rights are also protected in many copyright regimes. Copyright provides an incentive for authors to create new works and to earn some compensation for their efforts.
Copyright law provides some limitations and exceptions for users to access copyright works, but in South Africa and in the rest of Africa, these are totally inadequate. Although South Africa is a signatory to various international intellectual property agreements, it has not yet adopted appropriate legal flexibilities allowed in these agreements into its national copyright law.
The few limitations and exceptions that the South African Copyright Act (South Africa, 1978) has, are in Section 12 and 13, namely:
―Fair Dealing‖ (Section 12(1)) which permits copying without permission for the following purposes:
- Research or private study
- Personal or private use
- Criticism or review
Reporting current events
Copying is also permitted in Section 12 (2-4) for quotation and by ―way of illustration‖ in a PowerPoint presentation for teaching purposes. It is also permitted for judicial proceedings or a report of judicial proceedings. Other acts are provided for in Section 12 (4-13).
Section 13 of the Act (its Regulations) provides for limited single handouts in a classroom situation but do not extend to distance learning, informal educational programs or staff training. There are some provisions for interlibrary loans and preservation of analogue material in libraries. However, they do not provide any exceptions for persons with sensory-disabilities, nor do they allow digitization, format shifting, uploads to digital formats, or conversions into alternative formats, for example, Braille.
In contrast to fixed-line telecommunications, intellectual property rights (IPR) for content are an essential element in mobile telecommunications. IPRs in mobile communications can be analyzed with regard to exclusive rights that mobile operators acquire from content producers and license holders, copyright protected data that mobile users can consume or download onto their mobile phones, and the potential file sharing of copyright protected mobile data over mobile peer-to-peer platforms (International Telecommunication Union, 2003b).
Copyright law hampers the process of accessing information and availability of information, particularly for educational and library purposes. If the material is under copyright, copyright clearance and payment of copyright fees are necessary before the material can be reproduced or downloaded for teaching purposes. Some universities are generating content in the form of podcasts and via e-learning tools such as Moodle which is accessible using a mobile phone. The clearance process is slow and rights holders are often unwilling to grant permission if they know the material will be loaded onto a digital platform. This even includes CDs and DVDS.
As the use of smart phones proliferates, so too is the use of 'apps, or ―application' software, which facilitates specific tasks for smart phone users. However, computer software is also subject to copyright protection and licensing.
Many millions of people have a disability, such as blindness or dyslexia, which prevents them from reading standard sized print. They can read the same books as their non-disabled peers, but to do so they require ―accessible formats‖ of these books, such as large print, audio or braille. However, publishers rarely make such books, and so it is mostly left to charities to do so with scarce resources. As a result, only some five per cent of published works are ever made available in accessible formats. This is a ―book famine‖ (World Blind Union, 2010, para.1).
Copyright laws are territorial and do not allow cross-border exchange of material in alternative formats. South Africa‘s copyright law has no provisions for the blind and visually impaired and limited provisions for deaf persons.
Here are two examples which show how copyright restrictions are causing the duplicate production and unnecessary extra costs for organizations and libraries servicing sensory-disabled persons:
When Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2) by J. K. Rowling was published the English speaking visually impaired organizations around the world had to produce five separate national braille master files and eight separate national DAISY audio master files. Had they been able to avoid the unnecessary use of financial and production resources for this duplication they could have produced a further four Braille titles and a further seven DAISY audio titles for sharing around the world (World Intellectual Property Organization, 2009).
Voluntary organizations in Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Uruguay have only 8,517 books in alternative formats between them. However, Argentina has 63,000 books and Spain 102,000. All these countries speak Spanish.
Imagine if reading disabled people in Argentina and Spain were able to legally share their alternative format books with their Latin American colleagues in other countries thanks to a copyright exception permitting cross-border exchanges. That would immediately and radically increase the number of readable titles for reading disabled people in the five countries mentioned above (World Blind Union, 2010).
Copyright legislation is therefore creating a huge accessibility problem for blind and visually impaired persons around the world. The World Blind Union, supported by a number of South American countries, proposed a Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization in Geneva, for Blind, Visually Impaired and Reading Disabled Persons.
There have been hot debates and discussions about this Treaty for a few years now. The United States, the European Union and the African Group also submitted alternative proposals which have now been consolidated for discussion at the WIPO General Assembly during 2011.
Since digital material is so easy to duplicate and distribute, rights-holders have sought to protect their digital material in a variety of measures, in addition to copyright law. Restrictive licenses, publisher conditions and digital rights management with technological protection measures are now being used as extra precautionary measures to ensure their digital content stays intact and is paid for accordingly. Some measures are more insidious than others, but all create barriers to accessing information.
Licenses have become a core part of intellectual property rights management in the digital environment. Licenses allow the copyright holder to devolve specific rights to use, store, copy and disseminate work to a third party, whilst maintaining control at all times. Licenses are typically restrictive, and acceptable uses of the licensed work are carefully delineated, often overriding existing copyright exceptions (UKOLN, n.d.).
Whether the material is licensed before loading onto a mobile device or whether the mobile phone can only accept licensed material, access to information is restricted in the process. Only applications linked to certain mobile devices will accept information on to the device. As of early 2011, there were more than 300,000 apps just for the iPhone and more than 200,000 available through the Android Market. These numbers have already increased considerably, yet iPhone users can only use apps from the Apple Store. Other platforms can download apps from any website.
There are various types of apps, including educational apps, but if users in developing countries cannot go online easily, due to accessibility and affordability problems, then apps are of limited use to them (Commonwealth of Learning, 2011).
Bulk licensing to educational institutions for mobile content, for instance, is not available at this stage. This means that institutions have to adopt an ad hoc approach to software provision on mobile devices (Patterson, 2011).
c) Digital Rights Management
Digital Rights Management (DRM), or ...electronic copyright management systems, are technologies designed to automatically manage rights in relation to information. This can include preventing copyright works and other information from being accessed or copied without authorization and establishing and enforcing license terms with individuals.
DRM systems comprise a number of technological components, which can include encryption, a surveillance mechanism, databases of works, owners and users, license management functionality and technological protection measures (TPMs) (University of Ottawa, 2011).
DRM is a form of continual protection that protects works and manages rights at all times, no matter where the works are located or who has possession of them. The rights owner essentially locks the user into their product or digital content. DRM attempts to promote authorized use of a copyright work, in part by precluding the possibility of copyright infringement. While DRM systems provide many advantages to information providers they can place users at a disadvantage. Legitimate users of a site may find themselves limited by conditions imposed on them by the providers. For example, files may be ―Read Only‖, so users cannot copy small parts of the text in order to quote the work. They may also find that they can only access the software from a certain machine; they may not be able to copy it from desktop computers to more convenient laptops (Knight, 2004). DRMs cannot distinguish between infringing and legitimate usage, and block all users. In fact, hackers or ―pirates‖ can circumvent these technologies quite easily, so the ones that are really affected negatively are legitimate users, including persons with sensory disabilities, researchers, librarians and educators.
Because of the limited access afforded by DRM, it has the potential to protect a work indefinitely. DRMs can remain embedded in digital formats long after the copyright term has expired, making content inaccessible when it should be in the public domain. This permanent lock-down of the public domain runs contrary to the principle of balancing the interests of creators and of the public in copyright law. Similarly, DRM also threatens access to many works over the long-term because data stored in proprietary DRM formats (whether it be songs, software, electronic books or other data) are at much greater risk of being lost once the playback media is no longer available, locking away the protected data forever (University of Ottawa, 2011).
Digital technology has the potential to revolutionize the lives of people with sensory-disabilities, but DRMs create access barriers. For example, text-to-speech synthesizers allow words on the screen to be read out aloud and images to be described orally. This enables the blind person to hear, rather than read, the text.
There is also software that enables a computer to react to voice commands instead of those rendered via a keyboard or mouse. There are screen readers that translate electronic text into Braille. However, publishers of e-content often apply DRM that makes it incompatible with compensatory technology like screen readers. Adobe and Microsoft build DRM technology into their e-book software that allows publishers to disable text to speech capability, making the content useless to visually impaired readers (Kramer, 2007).
There are also other obstacles for visually impaired persons, which take many forms. A common one is the Captcha, a security feature consisting of a string of distorted letters and numbers that users are supposed to read and retype before they register for a new service or send e-mail. Few websites offer audio Captchas. Some pages are poorly designed, like e-commerce sites where the ―checkout‖ button is an image that is not labelled so screen readers cannot find it (Helft, 2009).
Overly restrictive DRM is a challenging issue for libraries because it narrows users‘ rights to access and manipulate legally acquired content. Libraries sometimes agree to pay-per-use licensing models or accept end-user licensing agreements, so that they can distribute content to mobile users. DRMs can prevent preservation, archiving, and other exceptions allowed in copyright law. They prescribe and control how users can access and use digital content by overriding copyright exceptions and creating technological barriers where no legal barriers exist. The ability of sensory-disabled persons to benefit from digital media is therefore being undermined by DRMs (Nicholson, 2006).
International IP agreements and national laws in some countries prohibit users from circumventing or bypassing these protection measures for legitimate access purposes. South Africa‘s Copyright law does not address anti-circumvention measures, but they are provided for in the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act No. 25 of 2002 (Nicholson, 2006).
d) Digital Rights Management and Copyright Law
International Treaties, such as the WIPO Copyright Treaty4 and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty5, support DRMs in national copyright legislation.
DRMs allow companies and other creators to reserve rights for themselves which they do not legally have. For example, under copyright law in most countries, one has the right to use excerpts of copyright material (such as music, books, films , etc.) for the purpose of review. However, when those works are protected by DRM, a third party (such as the creator of that material) can prevent one from exercising those rights (Jackson, 2003, para. 14).
In fact, in trying to exercise these rights, one could be breaking another law, for example, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act in South Africa, or the Digital Millennium Copyright. Act (DMCA) in the United States. DRMs have therefore succeeded in imposing their own personal control laws, which supersede national copyright laws, which are generally more favorable to rights holders than consumers of information (Jackson, 2003).
e) E-Books for Libraries
DRMs and licensing have obvious implications for the future of e-Books. Are digital formats really persistent and perpetual? What is the life expectancy of an e-book? These are serious concerns for libraries and their users.
Many assume that the e-book is a replacement for the physical or hard copy of the book. The distinct difference between a physical book on the shelf and an e-book on a server is that the former is likely to be there for a very long time, whilst the e-book may not be accessible in a very short time (Daniels, 2011).
Some academic libraries in South Africa have decided to stop buying print books if they are available in electronic form. Is this a wise decision at this stage? Libraries may have a reasonable process for preserving digital content, but this will not be possible if publishers follow the recent decision of HarperColllins, which has angered librarians around the world. Some library consortia in the United States have decided to forgo the purchase of HarperCollins e-book titles in the wake of the publisher's decision to set a license limit of twenty-six checkouts per title and also amid concerns about what may be next (Kelley, 2011).
HarperCollins Publishers have given a whole new meaning to ―Library Short Loans‖. Their e-book licenses currently only allow twenty-six library loans or checkouts before the e-book ‖implodes‖ itself and can no longer be accessed until a new license is purchased. This contradicts every library‘s statutory mandate to provide reasonable access to their collections. It also goes against their collection development policies and service excellence promises, as they cannot offer long-term use of any of these e-books. We tend to assume that all books (print or electronic) once purchased are ours for life and that we can read, lend and share with any reader. HarperCollins will halt that sharing culture and transfer of knowledge unless they reverse their draconian license decisions. They are dictating to libraries how their collections must be used and for how long. E-books will become like temporary loans from publishers to libraries at a price. This is unacceptable to librarians and readers. Large publishers like Macmillan and Simon & Schuster in the United States do not allow any library circulation of their books (Hadro, 2011).
Amazon has recently taken the decision to allow Kindle e-books for library use, but the Kindle service will only be available in the US, just like the e-book sharing, apps, or any other Kindle extras. Overdrive, the service provider, is more than capable of providing the service around the world, but Amazon refuses to allow this (Hoffelder, 2011).
What about the developing world? Are e-books going to be a privilege reserved for affluent countries?
f) e-Books for Individuals
Some DRMs lock customers into using a single content distribution service. Many providers that implement DRM on the content they distribute do so to keep customers returning to their online stores. Some content legally purchased from online e-book stores is locked into a specific format that can be read only on devices sanctioned by the provider (Vollmer, 2010). Individual users of e-books may find that their books have a short shelf life, as the DRM may restrict access after a certain period or may continue locking up content long after the copyright term has expired. Individuals also may not have the finances or technical ability to keep upgrading the software or to migrate it to new technology as old ones become obsolete.
New formats evolve all the time, but not all versions will remain retrospectively compatible. In other words, older e-formats may not be accessible within a few years, unless the software is upgraded on a regular basis and/or the license has adequate flexibility to facilitate, rather than restrict access to the digital content (Daniels, 2011).
Ironically, authors refusing to make their works available in digital form are finding they are being pirated anyway. J. K. Rowling, for instance, refused to publish her Harry Potter books digitally. As a result her books are among the most pirated titles year after year. Every single book from the Harry Potter series is available digitally, either scanned or transcribed by fans (Publishers fear ebooks..., 2010).
g) Remotely Wiping Mobile Phones
Another area where digital content is at risk is the use of remote wiping of mobile data. The mobile phone is increasingly becoming as functional as a personal computer, which means it is commonly being used to store more inviting data for criminal activity, consequently making it more susceptible to theft. The modern mobile phone is likely to contain sensitive information, passwords, personal documents and access to its user‘s entire social network, a worrying amount of information to lose or fall into the wrong hands (BullGuard, 2011).
Many of the modern smartphones have remote wipe features, which enable users to remotely erase all data on their phones, if the need arises for legitimate purposes. However, there is a negative side to this as well. The remote wipes available for Android iPOs and Palm‘s webOS allow exchange administrators or an employer to remotely reset logged in mobile phones, removing all personal data and resetting them to factory defaults.
Some are using this as a way of disciplining employees who log into servers from unapproved devices. Others have erased data in error because their staff member‘s phone was configured to receive email from their Microsoft Exchange Server, the kind most big companies use. Therefore, if an employee is linked to the said server, he/she must ensure that there is automatic backup, otherwise all his/her data could be wiped clean from his mobile phone (Kaste, 2010).
The danger of this is that this power could be abused. Additionally, incriminating evidence could disappear by remote wipe if criminals know how to use the features. Mobile phones are being used in criminal activity, for example, bank robberies and organized crime, even illegally in prisons, and this is a worry for crime fighting agencies.
Role of Libraries Regarding Access Barriers
DRMs, unfortunately, are already here and most mobile devices and computers probably have DRM-enabled applications on them already (even though we may not be aware of them).
A significant part of our role as librarians is to serve as advocates for unhindered access to information for our users, who include publishers, authors, software programmers, educators, learners and other people from all walks of life (Puckett, 2010). Throughout history, librarians have been called upon to combat censorship over the flow of information.
Today, censorship comes under the guise of licenses, digital rights management and restrictive copyright laws, which affect access and fair use or fair dealing, in ways that are unprecedented in the modern era. (Why should open..., n.d..) When we do nothing to protest unreasonable licensing conditions or DRM restrictions, we implicitly give our consent (Puckett, 2010). If we are not advocating open, freely usable digital content for our users, can we really call ourselves librarians? We must ―advocate for open, freely usable digital content‖ (Puckett, 2010, p. 23).
There are some things librarians can do to stop restrictive licenses and the proliferation of DRMs on e-books and other digital content. They can negotiate better licenses with e-publishers and refuse to sign standard licenses with reduced rights for their users. Libraries should be encouraged not to buy or install DRM-enabled software. When ordering books, music, films, e-books and other digital content, they should first check if it is DRM-protected. If it is DRM-protected, they should insist that the DRM be removed before the item is purchased, alternatively that the digital work be supplied in an open format that gives users the freedom to use it in a way that suits them. Librarians need to ensure that all their users can have access to this work, not just individuals with separate password protection. Librarians should make it clear to publishers and providers that DRMs are not acceptable for library collections and unless accessible to all their users, they cannot purchase the digital item or content. They should insist that publishers‘ blurbs, advertisements and online information clearly indicate which items are DRM-protected. Libraries should not be pressured into accepting DRM-protected material. After all, they are key customers and their needs should be respected by publishers and providers of digital content (Jackson, 2003).
Mobile technologies, particularly mobile phones, have a major role to play in libraries, education and other aspects of modern life in South Africa and on the African continent. Copyright laws in South Africa and on the African continent. Copyright laws
Our Eleven Selves
The Way Of Culture and Its Transmission..
Article above is one of a few and rare articles that deal with the information technologies as they act as technologies, but are also giving less to the Africas communication systems. This is not the only issue. Books are cry expensive and hard to come bye.the Television programing is a bad copy of American TV. So that, the environment of the media is full and fraught with the imbalance of power and dissemination abilities not afforded the Africans who have been crippled by Apartheid, before this technological era. This has had some seriously deleterious effects and affects to us African people under Aparthied, and is still the norm under the ANC government. So, I proceeded to write the following piece:
Cultural Gyroscope: Each One Teach One-Each One Reach One...
Everything Is Everything With Cultural Transmission..
One thing about the cultural festivities and dress of Africans of South Africa, this includes Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. These cultural societies have their brand of culture represented fully in South Africa. So that, like the Swazi festivities of the Reeds, the traditional dress of the women is part of the showcasing of the culture-you also find this amongst the Zulus. This about the cultural dress of women is seen differently by different people, globally, once posted on the Web.
Now, in countries like America, there is a segregated perception and ways of seeing others' and their cultures. So that, the photo below may been seen by Africans as cultural presentation and the beauty/colors and youthfulness of our little girls-this is seen as "nakedness" and "Porn" by many around the world. The Boers did a good job of projecting and presenting us to the world, without our consent/knowledge, and described us as backward, savages, and unclad which just shows how barbaric we are. This is a fact, and is still proliferating throughout the Web, today
The Boers also made it a point in implementing their Apartheid strategies, so that they divided and conquered us. They convinced us that we were and are a '"Tribal" people. This was done not to reinforce our cultural force and cohesion, but to break it down-divide us amongst ourselves and so that we should end up seeing each as different. The Apartheid regime build/ or should I say-created/forced upon us the 'tribal' ideas, like when the Townships of Soweto were built, they created what they called sections throughout the Ghetto: The Sotho sections, Tswana, Shangaan and Zulu's sections,Xhosa sections in one big townships. So they ingrained into our psyches that we are a different people, not the same, are 'tribes' which never got along, and are not the same-be it Zulu, Pedi, Sotho, Tswana Swazi and so forth. Today, those of us ignorant and opportunistic of this act, want to reinforce that belief that we are "TRIBES" and we must accept it for it identifies us originally. Balderdash!
This is a flawed and distorted way of Seeing Ourselves and prohibits/inhibits us from seeing Ourselves as A United Nation with One Unique and diverse culture. Some of us today cringe when we see photos like the ones I have posted below of the Swazi lasses in their cultural element below, etc. I have so far been showcasing the posts of the Xhosas, Pedi, Tsongas, and I decided to add other diverse cultural manifestations of the People of Mzantsi. It is better when we begin to See Ourselves in Diverse cultural mode. Some of us truly believe the myth that if we see and think, act and acknowledge ourselves as a Nation we will lose our "Tribalness". What Hogwash!
So far that is fiction and bogus perceptions and perspectives implanted in our minds. I reiterate: South African African culture, History, cultures, traditions, customs, languages, music, dances, cultural rites and practices along with cultural dress, are but of one diverse people with not much differences if any. We are presenting and showing off our identities as distinct but of a similarly varied and diverse people, and We are a Nation that is able to have such elements as part of its Nationess/Nationhood.
But Since we have just emerged from the debilitating and grueling slave/concentration-camp mentality and lives under Apartheid, we still have to coalesce our beliefs and ways of understanding and seeing ourselves as a cultural diverse but one people-to that of a United Nation with a diverse culture. Those who oppose this, are comfortable in their slave-mind incarcerated conditioned and low-self-esteem subjected self-confidence-that they are in effect confirming what Apartheid has long tried to engorge in our minds of past dictates of divide and conquer and crass Apartheid regimed and enforced slavery.
This comes with an arrogant chauvinism, in many personalities in our midst, that further dividers and shatters families and all times of relationships in the collective of African people-just because the man maintains their 'triblalness' and can only see as far as the their nose. They are clinging to this 'tribalist' mythology is a self-defeating endeavor for our people to be in a position to envision themselves as a Nation. So that, by posting our various groups and elaborating on some, is one way of the African viewers of Mzantsi to see their culture with diversity as one Culture.: in our case this means a heightened state of our prolific culture manifesting itself as of the Nation of Africans in Mzantsi.
It is the same cultures, traditions, customs, music, dance and multi-colored traditional dress and very pity and efficient languages. We dance with cowrie shells or whatever percussion we can attach to our bodies, we gyrate, stomp and stomp/hump the ground, we all clap rhythmically to dance sound/rhythm and song, we roll, and sit flat hitting the ground; we all sing together in groups and so forth; the dances are the same, 'Mtjitjimbo" for we''s say, Amaxhosa, "Mokgibo" in Sesotho; theres the "Domba" snake Dance in the Ndebele, as found in the Zulus; We all dance and sing accompanied by the Drum-drums of all sizes and kinds.
If we see us different and as 'tribes', other Nations will take our everything because we are too busy outdoing, out besting, pulling each other down like crabs in a barrel, they will own our everything, whilst we look on in puzzlement as to who the authorities about our culture are-but it will not be us the indigenous of South Africa. If one gets to have a holistic look at our cultural photographs or listen to our music and watch our dances, one is awestruck by this magnificent culture, so variable, and yet uniquely similar and the same-One Nation Of Africans In South Africa dotting the whole landscape of Mzatnsi-like tentacles-interconnected.
We Are One-We Are A Nation With Diversity At It Core
1. Swazi Girl In formation in the celebration of the "Reeds" Festivities..
2. Bapedi women In A A Cultural Vibe...
3. Venda Girls in Traditonal Dress Mode and traditional accessories..
4. Xhosa Women Breastfeeding her infant...
5. Zulu Youth perfuming Zulu Traditional Warrior's Dance...
6. Ndebele girls in their traditional clothing and sitting next to their house they decorated themselves, with the help of their mothers...
7. Basotho Men Wearing there Animal skins and traditional hats sitting next to their house..
8. Batswana Dancers clad in their traditional Tswana dress..
9. Tsonga woman in a trance doing a traditional dance...
10. The Khoisan family...
11. The Cape Coloreds. Celebrating The Minstrel and Coon Festivals..
12. Zulu Woman In Full Cultural Gear
If we are saying to ourselves let's Talk About culture.. Okay, Let's show what we talking about and look at it holistically, and not 'tribally'. We cannot 'claim' to be African people of Mzantsi and then we know less or nothing about our other 'selves'. It's not only seeing others in our culture and tribes, but as part of a larger Nation, which is diverse. The ways of looking at ourselves cannot be confined to our 'tribal' localities, as some would stubbornly intone. It is these groups as seen together that is the main point here. If the Boers wished to divide and conquer us but making us believe that we are different, we might as well begin to see ourselves as a nation of African people, despite all our perceived differences foisted on us by our being Apartheidized.
I have collected a smidgen of our photographs of all the 11(eleven) nations of Mzantsi. I choose to see ourselves as a collectives of nations that are part of one Untied Nation of Mzantsi. For us to even think along these terms is a stretch for many of us. Cultutral education and transmission should take place in every lesson or information we impart to ourselves. We are One People, and that is a fact many will have a tough time trying to dislodge.
The pictures of the eleven people I have used is to orientate ourselves to the fact that we are One people. This is important that I keep on reiterating it. We cannot move forward from our "Past"(Apartheidization), so that the complete indoctrination of our entire people, is what needs to be overturned here. Not only must we see ourselves as presented here, we have to begin to learn and know well the ways of others, which, many-a-times, is the same or one with the rest-and how to use all this to our own advantage. This we will discover when we interact amongst each other with each-respectfully(Hlompho/Inhlonipho), and we consciously work hard understanding and knowing each other, and in many ways than one; thus when we will more in common than differences in our cultures, custom, tradition and so forth.
When we use the collage above, go through it, see others as we see ourselves, for that is evident and eminent, that one comes to that point of self recognition and recognition of the others(Ubuntu/Botho) - so that, what has been denied us from becoming a being a nation, can come from us being and making a nation by knowing more about ourselves as a diverse collective and authentic nation. Self appreciation bears self knowledge-we can divide how we want to propagate that knowledge to the world and amongst ourselves. We cannot keep on citing other people when we can do ourselves a favor and studying, knowing and understanding ourselves collectively; be ourselves for ourselves and act and talk about ourselves, and present our cultural manifestations, our rudder bearing and also anchoring our moorings to what we dictate, propagate and project . It's easy to dismiss what I have just said, but one is more respected for being what and who they are, than faked selves. We cannot run away from ourselves, so, we might as well deal with ourselves.
The presentation above is one of the attempt I have been working on of many decades, and it is not getting any easier-that of asserting that we are Unified and Diverse Nation. How we see, can be 'reset' to what we want to see about ourselves and our culture. We wonder why our education is in crisis.. It is so because we control and own nothing. We depend on imports and we export nothing. We have culture, music, dance, languages, etc., and these are being controlled and taken from us by people who are not us and they profit on them and so forth. I am not saying anything new here, but the discourse needs to broadened, the ways of looking and seeing need to be adjusted from the past to the present, our modus operandi is to resuscitate this African culture and redress our lack of understanding and knowing it, and practice new ways of applying, manifesting and celebrating it, for that is what we can recoup from our lost treasures/land/wealth/history/dance/music/languages and culture.
If we keep on going the way of the herd' mentality-modernism and all its accourtements/assortments to be our final goal, we will forever be slaves, cutters of wood and hewers of water-if not worse-in the land of our birth. I am nationalistic is that's what I am to be termed. It is important that one is, for we still have yet to address our inability that has been embedded in our African psyches that we cannot up to this point see sand say to ourselves that we are a Nation of African people of Mzantsi, without making excuses to anyone of attempting obfuscation/confusing the issues. I cannot see myself as a 'tribesman' when I have lived and been nurtured by all the 11 people I have posted above. I cannot wrap my mind around that unreality that I belong to a 'Tribe". I am more conversant and seriously belonging to a Nation of African people of Mzantsi, and that if it's an obsession, so be it, for in my reality, "One For All And All For One" is my mantra-We are stronger And Cannot Be Moved Bundled-unless we so wish or want to-for us, and that there is Power..
So that as we transmit our culture to each other, its "Each One Teach One-Each One Reach One". If there is something and one thing with the other people within the variegated nations that form our Nation in Mzantsi: It has more common with one another than would any culture be comparatively and seriously speaking. Some may be lax about this issue because we have been taught that matters that concern Africans are of no use- That we are childish in our bearing and mentality; that we drink beer and make many children; that are lazy and cannot even think or learn-all this was practiced and we were constantly reminded by our Boer tormentors that to be a fact and the undisputed truth about us.. Since we now know that this was not so-we better have good sense to know that we can shape, own and control our culture and its everything.
The have used this ruse to indoctrinate many of us to the present generation in our midst. The never forsook their 'divide and conquer strategy' it is still in full use as we speak. The sad thing is that many of us do not need Boer enforcers, we, Africans, many of us, have taken this opportunity to try and claim being belonging to the 'tribe', and the rest can go to Hades. . You can't cement a nation with disparate and separated cultures as in our case. You can glue the foundation of a Nation based on the knowledge and commonalities in each and every culture to and for each other. Ubuntu also means self empowerment and Power in a real sense.
We should be able to speak with authority when it comes to our own National culture, but have strong convictions in the similarities and sameness of al these cultures, as one diverse culture, then we might be on our way to unchaining our Apartheidized minds and consciousnesses. We also need to be very knowledgeable and articulate eruditely about our own culture and its everything.. Clearly and Authoritatively./Authentically. This is why I have tried to make this article come to light, because many people are busy with other things, I will stick to culture and its everything about Africans of South Africa to whirl us around from the focus and negatives forces of the past.
Cultural transmission and propagation should be done by us, and we should know each's culture very well and solidly. If we can operate from the fusion of all these cultural boons of a nation of Mzantsi, that would shift the old paradigm, and introduce a new way of communication and cooperating with one another based on culture, custom, traditions, history, music, dances, languages, sacred cultural and customary and traditional practices,, with us at the helm, and being the mind force behind it; we shall then be functioning as a nation from a position of unified strength built upon and based on what is relevant and real to all.. of the Africans of Mzantsi.... African Culture!...
Culture Speak And Way Of Seeing
I have posted here, the photo of the Basotho women, and this was spread-out through out the Facebook viral stream on different Walls/Timelines. The responses vary because they are not only locally South African, the are World Wide. The result has been that I had to post more of the Basotho pictures, but this time with a difference. So that, what really started the formulation of the posting of the photos below was the following exchange between me and someone on another Timeline which went like this:
X: "before europreans came with blankets in the 17th century what did the Basotho wear? its a genuine question.."
Skhokho:"Like all early people of Mzantsi, all had to contend and deal with and wore Skins from various animals of which they had perfected the technique and skill of curing/refining leather, and not only make something to wear, but also ton cover them as do the blankets above. The Basotho Of South Africa/Lesotho..
They live in the mountains at very high altitudes, and the weather is very unpredictable/cold and snowy. and also affected by the atmospheric conditions and the High Winds blowing at the Peaks of these Mountain Ranges, which span the distance from Lesotho all the Way to Maputo. The Basotho people understand this and know about their existence in what they call "Naheng"(Barren open spaces)- and have written about it, in Sesotho Books - and being in the mountains and seeing these spaces, lof these mountains this bums the mind's eyes when seen and experienced. And the winds are constant and incessant. Their hats are called "Modianyewe" or "Mokorotlo"" Which aids with the Sun's glare, and is a national symbol. The Blakets are called "Lesolanka" Or "Seanamarena"-and they have different names according to their quality and importance-culturally. It's not only culture, its a way of life and self preservation by a people who know best about that region.. Their clothing was just as elaborate and full of decor, prior to the blankets.. And their hand made sandals, of which I own a few, are tough and aesthetically pleasing. The art and crafts of the Basotho are unique and very advanced-up to working with iron.. Anyway, culture is never static.... Thanks...
X: "I fully appreciate that culture is,in and of itself in what would be best described as a state of constant flux hence my interest in seeing those skins that were worn prior to the incorporation of foreign ware,authentic,undiluted pre-colonial Basotho garments,would love to see some pictures if you have so as to get a better understanding of the evolution of the culture.
Skhokho: "See The Poat Below"..
Skhokho: "Now, If we have to go deeper into revealing the Basotho in their original state, we run across a problem of paucity of material. So that, the painting and the photography of modern-day Mosotho and his natural state, had to evolve, because, if you have ever been to Lesotho, you'll appreciate those blankets and have a much better understand of why they are so important-and they have to wear them.. I have already made mention to the reason way in my first response to you. Anyway, below I am just going to cobble together some photos that give another view of Basotho. Also, there photos I will not post and respect those.
1. A Mosotho Girl hitting her stride during the initiation festivities..
2. A Mosotho man with his animal hat(Although it is nowadays Lesotho.. Some remnants of wearing these skins still prevails)
3. Mosotho Medicine Man... (This is where one can fully trace the traditional garb of the Basotho as I have indicated in my response)
4. A portrait captured during the times when photography was not such a luxury of a Mosotho woman in her traditional clothes
5. The Man on the left of your picture has hi Animal skin Blanket, and as I had noted in my prior response to you, the Basotho had refined the skill of curing the skin of an animal and make it a blanket, something wearable and sandals.
6. A Basotho Hat
What I have done above, was to give another view of the Basotho people.. This is by no means all about the Basotho, but, because I understand the Image post and suggestion of an Image on viral community.. I preferred to showcase these, to try and respond to your query, Native Thought.
I evidently left out many photo, but the thrust of the response was to at least concretize the fact that the Basotho wore animal skins as part of their clothing and blankets. It is also practical for them to wear blankets, it does not matter who brought them to South Africa. The place is cold. I tried to post the following piece just to try make my point:
The Basotho Of South Africa/Lesotho..
They live in the mountains at very high altitudes, and the weather is very unpredictable/cold and snowy. and also affected by the atmospheric conditions and the High Winds blowing at the Peaks of these Mountain Ranges, which span the distance from Lesotho all the Way to Maputo. The Basotho people understand this and know about their existence in what they call "Naheng"(Barren open spaces)- and have written about it, in Sesotho Books - and being in the mountains and seeing these spaces, lof these mountains this bums the mind's eyes when seen and experienced. And the winds are constant and incessant. Thir hats are called Modianyewe" or "Mokorotlo"" Which aids with the Sun's glare, and is a national symbol. The Blakets are called "Lesolanka" Or "Seanamarena"-and they have different names according to their quality and importance-culturally. It's not only culture, its a way of life and self preservation by a people who know best about that region..
Apparently in my presenting our culture, I have to come against 'tribalists' and 'political operatives' who are all out to debunk and destroy the fact that our culture lives, and is not static..also it adapts and still retains its core. is malleable to any obstacle thrown its way. Our clothes are not our culture.. but it is the knowledge and spirit of doing as we do things according to our culture, that will determine if whether we are serious about our culture customs, traditions, languages,music, dances clothes, foods and deferment to the ancestor, the whole bit, that we might then begin to pick up the pieces.
I also learnt from X that we have to say thing much more clearer, a fact I partly overlooked, when present certain aspects of our culture, for, as X noted very well.. What we see them wearing has a historical genesis.. So, X correctly pointed out s to the, what came before the blankets that the Basotho are Wearing.. What we find as another obstacle about finding concrete material about Africans in Mzattsi, is the lack of books, and there are those that are worse for wear. so... I really appreciate C's input for it emboldened me to post the more concrete Basotho.. With the prerogative of choosing what I post, for as I have noted above, Images are powerful.. And my intent is to project and propagate our African everything in the best of possible ways and means..
Separate Media-Converging Mediums
We learn the following from Group Work:
Media convergence have become a vital element of life for many people. With the development of technology in different platforms and operations such as television, Internet and mobile communication, audiences have had both a bigger choice of media and a life which media technologies has made easier. However, one question needed to be asked whether or not media convergence bring opportunities and challenges to the industry and society itself.
On the one hand, in term of industry, with the development of technology, the cost of products and software was lowered.Instead of having different news crews for every medium, one converged media operation can use the same reporters and staff to produce stories for, television, telecommunication and Internet mediums. By combining each medium’s resource, a converged operation can increase the quality of its product. As a result satisfaction of customer is increased, which leads to a larger audience. From the public’s standpoint, the increased convenience of information provided by converged stories makes using the media a better experience.
Beside, in term of society especially, media convergence cause the fragmentation of audiences for news. Nowadays, people talk about not having enough time to everything they want in a day or doing more than one thing at one time. Convergence lead the media is more interactive and audience participation is encouraged. In addition, greater audience engagement can help to enhance the way people experience the media. Moreover, with the interactive World Wide Web, audiences are able to download and share music , video , photo via social networking and become media produce.
On the other hand , media convergence bring many challenges . Audiences complain about information overload and they can be overwhelmed and find it difficult. Furthermore, the rapidly changing of technology has obstructed audience’s activities. People lack of skill to take full advantage of new media especially old people and disable. So will an audience so used to traditional forms of media embrace a new way of receiving information. In addition , media companies pursue audiences by greater benefit from maketing and advertising through cross-selling.
While the future of converged media seems very bright, its proprietors will have to ask themselves some questions: Will the new technology that is anticipated be as revolutionary as people expect? Will the investment in convergence be profitable enough in the short term, or in the long term? What competing technologies should be utilized in order to produce the best media? Will converged media be successful in a world marketplace?
Those are few of the many questions posed by the growing trend of media convergence.
Our world is now a digital world and its technology is forever evolving, technology drives the change. Some of the biggest technological changes over the past decade have been phones, computers and television and it is still evolving.
In the 1870’s, Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham both created the telephone. This was a massive technological change that would shape our world today. Before the creation of this invention people were communicating via telegraph. The dot-and-dash morse code system was a very successful way of communicating however change was needed, people needed to talk to people. This is where the telephone began.
Ever since that bright moment, we have been communicating via telephone,however the invention has changed dramatically still since then. In the late 1990’s the mobile phone was created, this enabled people to use the telephone on the go and has been an even greater success.
Since the early 1930’s Computer technology had startedits journey in the new digital world and began to rapidly evolve along with it. In 1981 a company called Apollo Computer revealed its first computer work station called the DN100. This was one of the first computer work stations. A year later a company called Commodore released their own computer, an upgrade to the Apollo DN100, they called it the Commodore 64, it came with 64KB of RAM and featured impressive graphics for its time. Nothing compared to computer today. Over the years computers evolved rapidly, getting bigger and more powerful, faster and more reliable. Nowadays we have desktop computers and laptops, all of which vary from size, speed, graphics and other technical components that build them. Still to this day computers are evolving, what will come next in computer technology.
Televisions are also a fast moving digital change. They have gone from black and white to colour in the space of a decade and nowadays they are in HD and more recently 3D. When television were first around not everyone had them, they were expensive and very much like gold dust, now nearly every home has at least one television, it has become a necessity in this digital world, we rely on it. It’s entertainment, educational, relaxing, informing and reliable.
Over the years we have invented many technical devices, mobile technology, television and computer technology being the most important and effective to our lifestyle. These individual technical devices are now evolving into one another. For example mobile technology now offers new possibilities and has merged with television and computer technology. We have gone from just phoning people to communicate to texting, messaging such as Facebook and twitter, Imessage and Blackberry Messenger and the more recently Whatsapp, which enables you to Imessage and Blackberry Message people. Using the internet, watching television on your phone and news applications, nowadays instead of picking up a newspaper or waiting for the news on the television or radio, you can look at it straight away on your phone by just entering an application such as the BBC News application on my phone. Games, emailing, photography, video-recording and it has now even evolved in 3D technology.
What is going to come next? What will be the next evolution phase? What else is going to happen in our forever changing digital world?
Old Media - New Media
The evolution of converged media has been slow and subtle. Publications such as Time were experimenting with television in the late ’70s. Major newspapers like the Ft. Worth Star Telegram began experimenting with computer applications in the early ’80s. These attempts and most other early convergence ventures were unsuccessful. Despite the huge startup costs the companies incurred, and the lack of success they achieved, efforts to converge media continued. With technological advancements that made computers more affordable, a new wave of convergence efforts began in the early ’90s. Newspapers such as the Atlanta Journal had graphical and navigational capabilities far beyond prior efforts. Of course, all of this was made possible by the growth of and increased access to the Internet. Now media companies had a standard format to build their convergence efforts.
In the mid ’90s, the computer world, especially the Internet, experienced a period of extreme growth that rivals any other in history. As more households became linked to the Internet, consumer online services such as Prodigy, America Online and Compuserve became increasingly popular. Recognizing the trend, many news organizations signed on with the consumer online services, which set up sites for the newspapers on their program. While the sites gave many newspapers national exposure, few of them gained enough from the efforts to justify their disadvantageous revenue splits with the online service providers. It was during this time that USA Today became the first newspaper to successfully bring its signature look to the Internet. Television also joined in the convergence effort, with networks like Bloomberg Informational Television, which combined aspects of the Internet with traditional broadcast news. In the late ’90s, most major newspapers established their own websites without the consumer online services. This combination of print and Internet paved the way for the next stage of media convergence.
In the last four to five years, media companies have been fine-tuning the concept of convergence. Local newspapers, radio stations, television broadcasters and websites have combined to form fully converged websites. National newspapers, the New York Times and Washington Post, reached cooperative agreements with the networks ABC and NBC in 2000. While these local and national efforts have brought convergence to a new level, many major and local news organizations have yet to incorporate all the elements of media. Many so-called converged organizations merely republish or repurpose material from one medium to another. The standard newspaper-Internet combination that developed in the ’90s is still convergence’s most common form.
World Wide Web
he internet has been one of the biggest contributors to the media convergence phenomenon. It has allowed a vast range of media platforms such as print, video and audio to become almost instantly accessible from nearly anywhere and has completely changed the way in which we, as an audience, absorb information. And as mobile internet is becoming increasingly popular, it has allowed the convergence of anything at all to one handheld device. For example, news sites have massively changed their style of writing to allow quick fast hits of information by using short, to the point headlines followed up by a brief summary of events. This is aimed at an ‘on the go’ audience who want to quickly check for updates and learn the events occurring in the world. The internet, however, enables this to go one step further, using images and video clips to tell stories of the day. The BBC news site frequently has a ‘story in pictures’ section which uses images taken of a certain event and captions to tell the story which benefits more visually minded people and can provide a different perspective on a news story. Images are also very appropriate to hand held devices as many smart phones and tablets are designed for smooth and clear picture viewing. There is also a link allowing you to watch a live stream of the television broadcast of BBC news. This allows access to the television on your handheld device making television, which has always before been a very static and passive form of media intake free to take anywhere. It is not only the news industry which has seized the opportunities of the internet, however. Almost all radio stations are available to listen to live online and in fact many are exclusively broadcast over the internet. Youtube.com is a site that allows anyone to upload a video where anyone can view it and as a result has become one of the biggest examples of the convergence of media online there is. Almost anything at all can be accessed through a single website, from music videos, comedy sketches, feature films and people’s personal reviews of a subject and this can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection and with the rise of smartphones, this means almost anywhere. Youtube.com is the second most popular site on the internet and it is this ease of use which has made the site so successful, allowing anyone to create their own media and allow the rest of the world to see it.
Im going to talk about technology in media convergence.
I am going to talk about three topics which I found the most important in the development of our digital world; mobile technology, computer technology and television technology.
Firstly I am going to talk about mobile technology.
In the early 1870’s Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham both created the telephone.
Before this we were using the telegraph with a system of dot-dash-dot. This was a good way of communicating however change was needed, messages could be translated wrong and an improvement was needed.
This was a massive step in our mobile technology movement. The first major step.
This invention evolved further leading to the creation of the mobile phone in the late 1990’s.
Now-a-days mobile phones are a necessity in our lives. We use them everywhere, everyday for everything.
Journalists use them, we use them in a journalistic way, filming anything exciting that we come across. We use them in emergencies and much more.
Computer technology is also a massive necessity in our digital world now-a-days. Just like the mobile we will use them everyday and some people will take them everywhere!
The Computer started its slow journey in the early 1930’s. However it wasn’t until 1981 that a massive break through happened.
Apollo Computer created the DN100.
It was a fully working work station. Slow to todays standards but it worked.
A year later the Commodore64 was created and came with 64KB of RAM. WHICH IS NOTHING! But back then it was a lot.
How did we survive?
Now-a-days we have macs, laptops decent desktop computers with GB’s of RAM and TB’s of memory!
Last but not least Television Technology.
Televisions have changed dramatically over the years and have probably evolved the quickest.
They’ve gone from Black and white with no sound, to black and white with sound, to colour and now HD and 3D. They’ve been in all shapes and sizes, box and parallegram shaped to now flatscreen, even mounted on the wall.
Now-a-days we don’t just use mobile phones for talking we use them for all sorts:
We have phone applications for News, Facebook, News, Twitter and much more
For that we need internet access.
We use them for storage
Some even have Microsoft office or similar software
They are mini computers
They are faster, stronger, smaller and bigger, we have nearly unfillable harddrive space, HD webcams, software galour and now even mini computers such as the ipad!
Are now in HD
And the new and upcoming IPTV is coming soon. What is going to happen next?
Why have a chosen these 3 technological things to talk about.
Because they all link together.
Mobiles needed the computer technology to work.
Computers needed the television technology to work.
Mobiles also needed the television technology to work.
All of them linked to each other, needed each other and they wouldn’t have been successful without each other.
Our world depends on technology.
Divided and Fragmented Media
Media Fragmentation - Multi-Channel
This is what Tony Sousa has to say about Fragmented Media:
The world of media is changing at an unprecedented rate as technology disrupts the established business models for publishing and advertising, and as consumers change the ways in which they consume information, services and entertainment. Perhaps the most significant change that we are seeing is the fragmentation of the media landscape and its audience, compared to the mass market paradigm that held sway throughout most of the 20th century.
Advertisers, marketers and media planners 20 years ago had only a few clearly defined channels to choose from – most of them mass media in nature to choose from – whereas digital technologies have splintered media into numerous niches, channels and segments today. Consider the diagram below.
10 Things You Can Do Now
We see media fragmentation taking place at several levels in today’s landscape:
Fragmentation of channels and media outlets
In the past, we used mass media such as print and broadcast to reach the audience. The costing models were simple and we communicated one-to-many with our audience. Now, however, the market has fragmented and we can no longer assume that we are simply broadcasting messages to a largely passive, mass audience.
This is especially apparent on digital channels – especially social media – where conversation and personalisation of content are becoming increasingly important and where audiences are scattered across numerous social media services and niche portals. But even broadcast and print channels are breaking into niche markets and form part of the social conversation on the Web.
A Twitter account and a Web site can be nearly as important for a radio broadcaster or advertiser as its on-air broadcast. The audience might be talking about and viewing its content on channels it doesn’t even own such as YouTube or Facebook. Fragmentation means some loss of control and visibility for traditional publishers.
Fragmentation of audience attention
The audience’s attention is fragmented across multiple channels and outlets. People watch television with one eye while they are reading a news story on their tablet computers; they browse the Web at work with the radio playing in the background; and they hop between different social media apps on their smartphones. Even when we talk about social media, the audience is fragmented across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever the next flavour of the month might be.
Consumers now choose exactly how and when they interact with a brand – be it Internet, TV, radio, mobile, print. They need to be reached with consistent messaging across all of these points and with messages that take into account how different audience segments interact with content across different media. It is important yet difficult to understand how a consumer’s perceptions of a brand are shaped and reinforced by the interactions he or she has with it through different media.
Fragmentation of agencies and marketing departments
Today, there are very few people in the average company with a complete view of the brand’s advertising and marketing strategy across multiple channels. Many companies still run ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ marketing and advertising in separate silos.
And a large number outsource different aspects of their marketing strategies to a number of digital, PR, brand, advertising and consulting agencies with little interaction and information sharing between these different service providers. Such is the level of fragmentation that different aspects of digital – SEO, social, display advertising, paid search and mobile – may be outsourced to different agencies.
This means that it is difficult for the marketing director to get a clear view of how these channels interact with each other to shape customer behaviour and perception. The result is that companies lack the ability to holistically plan, execute and optimise their marketing campaigns and strategies.
Media fragmentation has created a range of new challenges and opportunities for brands and agencies. Though managing a fragmented audience and a daunting range of channels can be expensive and complex, it also opens up opportunities to build more meaningful and personalized relationships between brands and consumers.
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At this juncture, I would like to solicit and utilize the research on Audience Fragmentation as researched by James G. Webster. This whole work of James is premised upon focusing on the "Public Attention In tThe Age Of Digital Media," this is what James wrote:
Audience fragmentation is often taken as evidence of social polarization. Yet the tools we use to study fragmentation provide limited information about how people allocate their attention across digital media. We offer a theoretical framework for understanding fragmentation and advocate for more audience-centric studies. This approach is operationalized by applying network analysis metrics to Nielsen data on television and internet use. We find extremely high levels of audience duplication across 236 media outlets, suggesting overlapping patterns of public attention rather than isolated groups of audience loyalists.
The Dynamics of Audience Fragmentation: Public Attention in an Age of Digital Media
One of the most widely observed consequences of the growth in digital media is audience fragmentation. As more offerings are delivered on broadband networks and more choices are available “on-demand,” patterns of consumption become more widely distributed. While some celebrate these changes as signaling a more responsive marketplace and robust public sphere (e.g., Anderson, 2006; Benkler, 2007), others see cause for concern. To them, fragmentation spells the end of a common cultural forum, or worse, the birth of media enclaves and “sphericules” that scarcely interact (Gitlin, 1998; Katz, 1996; Sunstein, 2007). While there is little doubt that broadcasters and main-stream outlets have seen their audiences erode in favor of newer alternatives, the tools we use to track fragmentation tell us surprisingly little about audience loyalties and how public attention moves across digital media. This paper reviews what we know of audience fragmentation, offers new methods for understanding the phenomenon, and speculates on the future of media consumption.
We begin by outlining a theoretical framework which identifies the factors that promote or mitigate fragmentation. We review three different ways of studying fragmentation. The first is a media-centric approach that tallies total attendance across outlets or products. This mode of analysis is typified by trend lines, long tails, and power law distributions. The second is a user- centric approach that focuses on the media repertoires of individual consumers. We then describe an alternative audience-centric approach. We demonstrate this third approach by applying network analysis metrics to data from Nielsen’s TV/Internet Convergence Panel, which tracked television and internet use across the same sample. Finally, we offer an assessment of where audience fragmentation is headed. We find very little evidence that audiences are composed of devoted loyalists. Rather, they show high levels of overlap across outlets, drawing into question assertions that audience fragmentation is indicative of social polarization.
The Factors that Shape Fragmentation
Fragmentation results from the interaction of media and audiences. It is best understood with a theory that lets us move easily between the macro-level effects of structure and the microlevel actions of users. The “theory of structuration,” developed by sociologist Anthony Giddens (1984), provides such a framework and has been adapted to describe the operation of the media environment (Webster, 2008; Webster, 2011). In a nutshell, we see media as providing resources (media providers) that agents (media users) appropriate to accomplish their purposes. To do this effectively, both parties rely heavily on information regimes (media measures) to monitor consumption. This is a recursive process in which users both reproduce and alter the structural features of the environment. In other words, the media environment is jointly constructed from the interaction of structures and agents — something Giddens called a “duality.” Below, we identify the principle components of the model, highlighting those factors that shape fragmentation.
The most obvious cause of fragmentation is a steady growth in the number of media outlets and products competing for public attention. This happens when established media, like television, expand or when newer media, like the internet, enter the competition. These are sometimes categorized as intra- and inter-media fragmentation respectively (Napoli, 2003), though, as digital technologies make it easier for both content and users to move across platforms, such distinctions seem less important. Whatever their means of delivery, media providers work to attract the attention of users. Attention has traditionally been monetized in a
“Dual-product” marketplace, where media providers sell content to consumers and “eyeballs” to advertisers (Napoli, 2003).
Adding to the choices and claiming their own share of attention are new offerings loosely referred to as “social media.” These include social networks like Facebook, purveyors of user-generated content like YouTube, and an assortment of content aggregators like Netflix, iTunes, Google and Digg (Webster, 2010). The motivations of these providers are not always as uniform or transparent as those of traditional media, but many seek fame or fortune. To achieve that, they too compete for an audience.
Unfortunately, the supply of public attention is limited and, given the endless number of claimants, scarce. This has led many writers to characterize the information age as an “attention economy” in which attracting an audience is a prerequisite for achieving economic, social or political objectives (e.g., Davenport & Beck, 2001; Goldhaber, 1997; Lanham, 2006; Webster, 2010). That’s certainly the logic that governs the media marketplace, and it’s a recipe for audience fragmentation.
What media users do with all those resources is another matter. Most theorists expect them to choose the media products they prefer. Those preferences might reflect user needs, moods, attitudes, or tastes, but their actions are “rational” in the sense that they serve those psychological predispositions. Whether people use the growing abundance to consume a steady diet of their preferred genre, or to sample a diverse range of materials is an open question. Many observers, noting people’s penchant for selective exposure, fear the former, particularly as it applies to news (Hollander, 2008; Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Ksiazek, Malthouse, & Webster, 2010; Prior, 2007; Stroud, 2008; Van den Bulck, 2006). In the extreme, selective exposure could produce highly focused audiences that have been variously characterized as “enclaves” (Sunstein, 2007), “gated communities” (Turow, 1997), and “sphericules” (Gitlin, 1998).
Social scientists typically expect users to know a good deal about the environment in which they operate. Economic models of program choice, for example, assume a perfect awareness of the alternatives that are available at any point in time (e.g., Owen & Wildman, 1992). In reality, rational choice is “bounded” in two ways. First, the sheer abundance of the digital marketplace makes perfect awareness impossible. Second, media products are “experience goods” characterized by “infinite variety” (Caves, 2000; 2005). Users can’t be sure that even familiar outlets or brands will deliver the desired gratifications until they’ve consumed the offering.
Users cope with these difficulties in a variety of ways. They often have “media repertoires” that effectively limit their choices and minimize their search costs. We’ll have more to say about these in the section that follows. They also rely on recommendations. The power of social networks to affect our media choices has been evident for some time (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955), but the emergence of social media has introduced new forces that shape attendance.
Studies of Audience Fragmentation
The audience fragmentation that emerges from this mix of providers, users and measures is generally conceptualized and reported in one of two ways. We have categorized these as media-centric studies and user-centric studies. Each approach operates at a different level of analysis and reflects the priorities and analytical resources of the researchers. Media-centric studies are, by far, the more common of the two. After discussing each, we offer an audience-centric approach, which has features of the first two but contributes to a more complete picture of how the public allocates its attention across the media environment.
Research on media-centric fragmentation uses discrete media outlets (e.g., channels, websites, etc.) or products (e.g., movies, music, etc.) as the unit of analysis. These are sometimes aggregated into larger groups or brands. The total size of the unit’s audience is reported at a point in time (e.g., Tewksbury, 2005) or in a series of cross-sectional “snapshots” over time (e.g., Webster, 2005). The latter is typically used to illustrate long-term trends in fragmentation and is a staple of many industry reports and forecasts.
An increasingly popular way to represent media-centric data is to show them in the form of a long tail (Anderson, 2006). Here units are arranged from most popular to least with the total audience for each (e.g., monthly reach, unique visitors, total sales, etc.) depicted vertically above the unit. Long tail distributions are akin to a larger family of data reduction techniques including Lorenz curves, Pareto distributions and power laws. All are useful in depicting lopsided patterns of use in which a few units dominate attendance. These distributions are characteristic of “winner-take-all” markets (Frank & Cook, 1995).
Just as audiences can be spread across media outlets, each individual’s use of media can be widely distributed across providers or highly concentrated on a particular class of products or outlets. This is fragmentation at the micro-level. Most of the literature on selective exposure would suggest that people will become specialized in their patterns of consumption. While user-centric averages are not hard to come by (e.g., time spent viewing, page views), research on variation across users in anything other than broad a priori categories (e.g., age, gender) is not common. The most relevant exceptions are studies of people’s “media repertoires.”
Repertoires are subsets of available media that individuals use on a day-to-day basis. They are one of several “coping strategies” people have for finding preferred content in an increasingly complex media environment. The majority of this research has been confined to television exposure and “channel repertoires” (e.g., Ferguson & Perse, 1993; Heeter & Greenberg, 1985; Neuendorf, Atkin & Jeffres, 2001; Yuan & Webster, 2006), although recent efforts have begun to incorporate multiple media (e.g., Ksiazek, 2010; van Rees & van Eijck, 2003). Most studies focus on explaining the absolute size of repertoires, but often say little about their composition.
Nonetheless, a user-centric approach has the potential to tell us what a typical user encounters over some period of time. For example, we know that viewers in many countries use only 10 to 15 TV channels a week even when hundreds are available or that the composition of media repertoires is related to the demographic characteristics of consumers (e.g., van Rees & van Eijck, 2003; Yuan & Webster, 2006). But user-centric studies are generally designed to describe typical users or identify types of users. They rarely “scale-up” to the larger issues of how the public allocates its attention across media.
A useful complement to the media- and user-centric approaches described above would be an “audience-centric” approach. As we conceive it, this is a macro-level way of seeing audiences that characterizes them by the other media they use. This hybrid approach is media- centric in the sense that it describes the audience for particular media outlets. It is user-centric in that it reflects the varied repertoires of audience members, which are aggregated into measures that summarize each audience. By doing so, we highlight the extent to which public attention is dispersed across the media environment.
There is a long tradition in audience analysis, rooted primarily in marketing research, that measures the extent to which audiences for multiple media products (e.g., TV programs, networks, magazines, etc.) overlap or are “duplicated.” That is, of the people who use one media product, how many also use another. Some of these studies concentrate on “pairwise” comparisons to assess channel loyalty or audience flow (e.g., Goodhardt, Ehrenberg & Collins, 1987; Webster, 2006). Others have applied multivariate techniques to search for “viewer-defined
program types” (e.g., Kirsch & Banks, 1962; Rust, Kamakura, & Alpert, 1992). Webster (2005) used an analysis of TV network duplication to report that, rather than living in gated communities, viewers of specialized networks seemed to “spend a good deal of time out and about” (p. 380). But most research using such techniques doesn’t address questions of audience fragmentation. In the section that follows, we will describe a new metric, drawn from network analysis, that is built on measures of audience duplication across media outlets. It is illustrative of an audience-centric approach to studying fragmentation.
The Future of Audience Fragmentation: The Myth Enclaves
One type of audience behavior that is often implied in commentaries on fragmentation is the inclination of users to hunker down in “enclaves” of agreeable, like-minded media (e.g., Sunstein, 2007). Writers have labeled these audience formations gated communities, sphericules, echo-chambers, cyberbalkans, red media – blue media, or, less judgmentally, niches and micro- cultures (Anderson, 2006; Gitlin, 1998; Iyengar & Hahn, 2009; Sunstein, 2007; Turow, 1997; 2006; Van Alstyne & Brynjolfsson, 2005). All suggest highly segmented markets with little in common. One problem with the media-centric studies of fragmentation that buttress many of these commentaries is that they provide no direct evidence of the more relevant user — or audience-centric behaviors in question. This leaves analysts free to speculate about the relationship between niche media and audience loyalties.
Anderson’s reading of media-centric data illustrates the temptation, “...Long Tail forces and technologies that are leading to an explosion of variety and abundant choice in the content we consume are also tending to lead us into tribal eddies. When mass culture breaks apart it doesn’t re-form into a different mass. Instead, it turns into millions of micro cultures...” (2006, p.183). Others make a similar leap, assuming that fragmentation across highly specialized were so, we would indeed be confronting a segregated world of media enclaves and micro- cultures. But that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Our results indicate that, at least across the 236 outlets we examined, there are very high levels of audience overlap. The people who use any given TV channel or website are disproportionately represented in the audience for most other outlets. This result is consistent with recent research that finds little evidence of ideological segmentation in media use (e.g., Garrett, 2009; Gentzkow & Shapiro, 2010). For example, Gentzkow & Shapiro (2010) reported that visitors to a white supremacist website were far more likely than the general population to visit nytimes.com. Similarly, Elberse (2008) found that even consumers of obscure niche media devoted most of their attention to more broadly appealing fare. These studies, along with the results presented here, suggest that users have rather varied media repertoires. All-in-all, there is very little evidence that the typical user spends long periods of time in niches or enclaves of like- minded speech. Alternatively, there is also little evidence that the typical user only consumes hits. Rather, most range widely across the media landscape, a pattern confirmed by the low network centralization score. They may appear in the audience of specialized outlets, but they don’t stay long.
What is harder to know, at this point, is just what people are after as they move from outlet to outlet. Our measures of exposure to TV channels and internet brands were quite broad. Far more “granularity” — and a larger sample — is needed to understand exactly what is being consumed. For example, do visitors to a Nazi website go to the New York Times for information on politics or fashion? Moreover, measures of exposure, no matter how precise, cannot tell us how content affects people. It may be that even modest periods of exposure to hate speech or otherwise obscure media have powerful effects on those who seek it out. In which case, the processes of “group polarization” that Sunstein (2009) fears could still be operating.
That said, neither media-centric nor audience-centric studies of fragmentation provide much evidence of a radical dismembering of society. While Anderson can look at long tails and foresee “the rise of massively parallel culture” (2006, p. 182), we doubt that interpretation. That suggests a profusion of media environments that never intersect. It is more likely that we will have a massively overlapping culture. We think this for two reasons.
First, there is growing evidence that despite an abundance of choice, media content tends to be replicated across platforms (e.g., Boczkowski, 2010; Jenkins, 2006; Pew, 2010). Second, while no two people will have identical media repertoires, the chances are they will have much in common. Those points of intersection will be the most popular cultural products, assuming, of course, that popular offerings persist.
The Persistence of Popularity
Perhaps the most fundamental question about media-centric fragmentation is just how far the process can go. Will future audiences distribute themselves evenly across all media choices or will popular offerings continue to dominate the marketplace? Anderson expects that in a world of infinite choice “hit-driven culture” will give way to “ultimate fragmentation” (2006, p. 181). Others believe that “winner-take-all” markets will continue to characterize cultural consumption (e.g. Elberse, 2008; Frank & Cook, 1995).
We are inclined to agree with the latter and offer three arguments why audiences are likely to remain concentrated in the digital media marketplace; these involve the differential quality of media products, the social desirability of media selections, and the media measures that inform user choices.
The quality of media products is not uniformly distributed. If prices are not prohibitive, attendance will gravitate to higher quality choices. Both media providers and media users seem to have an affinity for “A-list” talent when they can afford it (Caves, 2000). Digital media make it easier for users to consume quality products in two ways. First, the pure “public good” nature of digital media makes them easy to reproduce, and often “free” (Anderson, 2009). As Frank & Cook noted, “If the best performers’ efforts can be cloned at low marginal cost, there is less room in the market for lower ranked talents” (1995, p. 33).
Second, the increased availability of “on-demand” media promotes this phenomenon. The move to DVRs and downloaded or streamed content makes it simple to avoid the less desirable offerings that were often bundled in linear delivery systems. Consuming a diet of only the best the market has to offer is easier than ever before. This effectively reduces the number of choices and concentrates attention on those options.
The social nature of media consumption also tends to concentrate attendance for reasons of social desirability. Media have long served as a “coin-of-exchange” in social situations (Levy & Windahl, 1984). A few programs, sporting events, or clips on YouTube are the stuff of water- cooler conversations, which encourages those who want to join the discussion to see what everyone else is talking about.
The advent of social media, like Facebook and Twitter, may well extend these conversations to virtual spaces and focus the attention of those networks on what they find noteworthy. Often this will be popular, event-driven programming. Recent studies of simultaneous media use during the 2010 Super Bowl and opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics suggest that individuals use social media to discuss these events as they watch TV (NielsenWire, 2010, February 12; 2010, February 19).
The pursuit of quality and the social aspects of media come together in a third factor that concentrates audiences – media measures. Because digital media are abundant and the products involved are experience goods, users depend on recommendation systems to guide their consumption. While search and recommendation algorithms vary, most direct attention to popular products or outlets (Webster, 2010).
This creates an environment where slight leads accumulate advantage, sometimes with the speed of a contagion. Salganik, Dodds and Watts (2006) have demonstrated that music downloads are powerfully affected by information on what other users have chosen. The more salient that user information, the more markets are inclined to produce winner-take-all results, although the actual winners are impossible to predict before the process begins. Under such circumstances, the “wisdom of crowds” (Surowiecki, 2004) may not be a reliable measure of quality, but it concentrates public attention nonetheless.
The persistence of popularity, and the inclination of providers to imitate what is popular, suggests that audiences will not spin off in all directions. While the ongoing production of media by professionals and amateurs alike will grow the long tail ever longer, that does not mean endless fragmentation. Most niche media will be doomed to obscurity and the few who pay a visit will spend little time there.
Rather, users will range widely across media outlets, devoting much of their attention to the most salient offerings. Those objects of public attention will undoubtedly be more varied than in the past. They will often, though not always, be the best of their kind. They will be the media people talk about with friends and share via social networks. Their visibility and meaning may vary across the culture, but they will constitute the stuff of a common, twenty-first century cultural forum.
Technical Innovation And Media...
Seeing Twenty-Twenty: One Eye On Technology-The Other Eye On Culture
My posting the above issues of cultures means that I am simply saying that the burgeoning and merging technologies and their gizmos are proliferating with cultured miles that have been in existence long before the present-day technological societies we now live and exist in. So that, talking about the consciousness and care that is required and needed in these African cultured milieu, means that we have to utilize these new techniques with their technologies to suit and develop , propagate and empower our culture through the,(technical gizmos and their embedded techniques).
The article above about Mobile Technologies: Information on the Move" by Denise posted above, touches on why these are in short apply. That is, the access to the World ice Web for Africans of South Africa if fraught with many middlemen, censorship and the governent's tightening its noose to reign-in and control the media. This is no different from what Apartheid did to convince Africans that they were tribes, and were different, and theta hey are not one nation nor a nation, but a collective or backward 'tribes".
The moguls of the new media limit access to the Web, charge irrational high fees for Laptops, and made the acquirement of the net a truncated and demarcated and fragmented flow and availability, coupled with the most out priced commodity putting it farther from the reach of the majority poor. In both situations, we find that in cultural aspect and side of things, Africans are in no-man's land as to what to do or function in and with their culture; on the media technological front, they are denied access and availability to the Viral stream through various means as described by Denise above.
So that, as media are converging and diverging, fragmented and virally streaming away from each other(akin to the growing and expanding universe, at tremendous speeds, we see that the consolidation of people psyche and culture is and as a prerequisite to applying our malleable culture to these burgeoning technologies and their techniques. If people understand and know what their culture is all about and how they want to use, they will be predisposed to adapting their culture to the new technological techniques and their preset morphing and evolving gizmos.
These African people in South Africa, along with their culture, are a captured audience and are manipulated through lack of access and other stabling blocks put along their path of mastering and familiarizing themselves with the emerging and merging technologies. techniques and their ever changing gizmos. Learning and understanding our own cultures, etc, set up up very well towards outlearning and knowing much more about how to apply our culture to this new technological world. some of our own people discard of their culture and run pell dmll into knowing and using these technologies as what they see on the TV, the Web and other media which implants these unreal-realities in their perceptions. some think here in south Africa is just like in America.. Their media projected America, and not the one they have visited nor have first hand knowledge of. so that, that confusion leads to the wannabe-Americans who are Africans of South Africa, begin to g=feel a huge resentment/envy for the Americans, and more rejection and hatred of what he considers his backward culture.
The effort of this Hub then is to bring together a culture that is media friendly and designed, and the new techniques and technologies that are in use in this milieu-that in this Hub, I bring about the awareness of what new technologies can do to upgrade and enhance our culture in south Africa beyond our wildest imaginations
Theories For Africans Towards Understanding The New Media
The Media Should Be Known and Understood: Our People-Centered Culture Is Compatible with The Techne Zeitgeist..
Extension of Africans And Their Cultures
When we begin to acknowledge and Understand the Media and its mediums, we may be able to decipher the gap between Media and its mediums and the shaping of our perceptions of images and mass consumed media experience, that affects and effects our reality, through the created "false media reality'.That, it is incumbent on us to UNDERSTAND THE MEDIA"!
The existence of the media in its present formats means that we are willing and unwilling participants in a media environment that is not of our liking,making and neither under our control. This is one aspect and facet of our struggles we are not addressing clearly, definitively and really.
We need to recall, at least that much we know, that the present state, existence, manifestation and the real form and format all these media rake-in and take are shaped by the researched history of public relations, media manipulation and dissemination designed to meet the aims, needs and goals of these Media Moguls and Western powerful Conglomerates and their government's national and International interests.
As Noam Chomsky once pointed out that that the present media systems "engineer consent" in the process forging and conditioning 'public attitudes'. What this means is as once put by one leading practitioner that, 'this is an intellectual tradition that shed light not only on the emergence of public relations, but on the proliferation of images as tools of persuasion over the past century.'
As Africans, when we study these techniques and ways and means of media and how these impact on us, we get a different image, reality and distorted media not in our service, but as an additional tool of our oppression, confusion and dysfunction.
We shall have to begin working on Understanding the Media and its Mediums and its effects and affects on us. That is, we have to begin to know and master the ways of knowing and learning about how the "Media Engineers Consent" from us and within our polity. In order to understand the history significance of visual communication, "The Crowd" remains a required reading.
McLuhan writes: "As our proliferating technologies have created a whole series of new environments, men have become aware of the arts as "anti-environments" or "counter-environments" that provide us with the means of perceiving the environment itself. According to Hall, 'men are never aware of the ground rules of their environmental systems and cultures. Today technologies and their consequent environments succeed each other so rapidly that one environment makes us aware of the social consequences of technology.'
McLuhan continues: "Art as anti environment becomes more than ever a means of training perception and judgement. Art offered as a consumer commodity rather than as a means of training perception is as ludicrous and snobbish as always. We are entering the new age of education that is programmed for discovery rather than instruction. ... TV has provided a new environment of low visual orientation and high involvement that makes accommodation to our older educational establishment quite different. ...
But TV is only one component of the electric environment of instant circuitry that has succeeded the old world of the wheel and nuts and bolts"...
We learn much more further from McLuhan that Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Am talking about the World Wide Web, here...
"Rapidly, we approach the final phase of the extensions of man-the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by various media … Any extension, whether of skin,hand, or foot, affects the whole psychic and social complex."
So that, Le Bon saw the "crowd as a temperamental monster impelled by dark and irrational forces. Among crowds, the conscious life of the mind is of small importance in comparison with its unconscious life. The "crowd" was driven by "impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, absence of judgement. It is not driven by its mind, but by its spinal cord."
If we begin to understand some of these media theories, we begin to see ourselves in the mix of things with ease. Understanding the media is a prerequisite for us to dealing with our present conditions. The media and its apparatuses collates us as a collective mass or crowd and deal/manipulates us from the "crowd" mentality and psyche perspective in hawking its products/wares-with a spin, to us, or misdirecting us according to its whims and interests and techniques.
In short, we also have style today which is an incongruous cacophony of images, strewn across the social landscape. Style may be borrowed from any source and turn up in a place where it is least expected. The stylish person may look like a duchess one week, a murder victim next. Style can hijack the visual idiom of astronauts, or poach from the ancient peagantry of Guatemala peasants costumes or those from the Brazilian Carnival, or the Zulu, Xhosa, etc., music, dance, dress traditions and so forth…
My point in introducing such a complex subjects as "Understanding The Media" is that, there are various techniques and effects and affects embedded within the automation and electrification of Media and its intention to control the consuming mass mind and populace, and maximize its profits, interests and existence. To effect its maximum application, Jacques informs us that, "Any invention or technology is an extension or self-amputation of our physical bodies, and such extension also demands new ratios or new equilibriums among other organs and extensions of the body". ...
So that, "To behold, use or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it. To listen to radio or to read the printed page is to accept these extensions of ourselves into our personal system and undergo the "closure" or displacement of perception that follows automatically." This really means that we have no choice in this matter but become extension of our emerging and burgeoning technologies and techniques.
We are extended by our cell phones and are sold to its brands without having no time to understand the present ones in our hands and lives. The technologies we use and are addictive, and displace our reality and replace it with a promise of a "packaged" commodity that will enhance, not satisfy our technologically compromised manifestations and existences.
McLuhan adds that: "It is this continuous embrace of our own technology in our daily use that puts us in the Narcissus role of subliminal awareness and numbmness in relation to these images of ourselves. By continuously embracing technologies, we relate ourselves to them as servomechanisms. That is why we must, to use them at all, serve these objects, these extensions of ourselves, as gods or minor religions...."
Physiologically, man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology. Man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world. As the bee of the plant world, enabling it to fecundate and to evolve ever new forms, the machine world reciprocates man's love by expediting his wishes and desires, namely in providing him with wealth.
One of the merits of motivation research has been the revelation of man's sex relation to the motorcar[Will talk to this point made here by McLuhan in some other time and post]. (McLuhan)
We get a better heads-up when McLuhan concludes for us that: "The principle of numbness comes into play with electric technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die (Just like we have to suspend disbelief when watching a movie, or else we might walk out and never watch it-my addition). Thus the age of anxiety and of electric media is also the age of the unconscious and apathy . But it is strikingly the age of consciousness of the unconscious, in addition.
"With our central nervous system strategically numbed, the tasks of conscious awareness and order are transferred to the physical life of man, so that for the first time he has become aware of technology as an extension of his physical body. Apparently the means of instant, total field-awareness. With such awareness, the subliminal life, private and social, has been hoicked up into full view, with the results that we have "social consciousness" presented to us as a cause of guilt-feelings.
Existentialism offers a philosophy of structures, rather than categories, and of total social involvement instead of the bourgeois spirit of individual separateness or points of view. In the electric age we wear mankind as our skin." (McLuhan)
In approaching and dealing with the emerging and submerging technologies, we cannot overlook the fact the effect they have on our human information and interaction life-styles and realities. We cannot use the outmoded ways of communication dealing with the present state of communication, media and their mediums. Adjustments will have to be made and Understanding the media become imperative.
As in the case of South Africa and elsewhere in the world, the gizmos and gadgets we depend on and use for our mere existence have packaged in them techniques that modify our beingness and reality. If we choose to discard and ignore these effects, we do so to our own peril. So that McLuhan intones that, "The aspiration of our time for wholeness, empathy and depth of awareness is a natural adjunct of electric technology… The age of mechanical industry preceded us found vehement assertion of private outlook the natural mode of expression."
Every culture and every age has its favorite model of perception and knowledge that it is inclined to prescribe for everybody and everything. The mark of our rime is its revulsion against imposed patterns. Robert Theobald said of economic depressions: "There is one additional factor that has helped to control depressions, and that is a better understanding of their development."
So that, examination of the origin and development of the individual extensions of man should be preceded by a look at some general aspects of the media, extensions of man, beginning with the never explained numbness that each extension brings about in the individual and society. (McLuhan)
As Africans, the world over, we sometimes do not really dig deeper into the meanings and realities brought about by these new technologies which we use as leaders of our people, and our people, en-masse, use them too. Studying the effects and affects these new emerging and merging technologies should be studied as to what their intentions are, what their techniques are, what it is that they do to us and what can we cannot do anything about but by becoming aware of them and their existential effects and affects.
We have to begin understand that these new technologies and techniques(for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity-and should be adapted to our own advantage. Its characteristics are new; the technique of the present has no common measure with that of the past; and new technologies bring along with them Techniques. According to Jacques, "Technique is a 'blind' force, but one which unfortunately seems to be more perspicacious than the best discernible human intelligences."
The term technique," Jacques writes, as he uses it, "does not mean machines, technology, or this or that procedure for attaining an end. In our technological society [technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency-for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity. Its characteristics are new; the technique of the present has no common measure with that of the past."
Understanding the media then is understanding the definition of terms that apply and operate within the present technological societies in a global mosaic and extending man in all directions, shapes, form, existences and realities-within multiple environments. In the case of South Africa and elsewhere Africans, barely surviving from domination, colonization and Imperialism, these technologies come into this post-slave environment called 'colonization,' and these new media technologies are now enabling and resuscitating long established cultures.
Wilson informs us that "Fundamentally, a people's culture is a mental behavioral system used by them to rationalize and justify, organize and regulate, give meaning and purpose to the individual group behavior, social relations, lives and existence. Culture is essentially a way of thinking, perceiving, evaluating, and interpreting the world; a way of relating to others and to the physical-metaphysical world, and involves an explicit and implicit set of rules of conduct which orders the overall social relations, arrangements and attitudes of a society.
"The power generated buy such social relations, arrangements (alignments) and attitudes is utilized for maintaining and enhancing the well-being and integrity of the society; for procuring, processing and producing the material and non-material products characteristic of the society; and for substantiating its abilities to defend and advance its interests in cooperation with or in opposition to other societies or groups."
The media as we know has had the ability to destroy the African family in many direct and indirect ways. So that, Wilson informs us that, "Dominant groups, in seeking to achieve and maintain their power over subordinate groups, are for this reason compelled in some ways to constrain, restrict, reduce, destabilize, misdirect, or destroy the family systems, and along with those, the communal and cultural systems of the groups they subordinate."
The oppression, distortion and destabilization of the African Families in Africa and the diaspora by White Colonial/Imperial/Corporate white power began with enslavement, colonization followed and is still being run by Imperialism and Corporations, and continues unabated to this day.
The use of the media and its systems is controlled by the former enslavers, colonialists and present Imperialists to maximize their profits and re-enslave and control their former slaves, colonized and imperial side-kicks and quislings of today lording over us.
Once we can link this disparate events and cobble them cohesively from a multi-disciplinary context and stand-point, which will enable to begin to come to terms with the present-day media, and from our cultural and historic perspective, deal with them decisively, and with a finality of a people who have awakened to the glitz and blitz of media and its gizmos-that we will find our own culture up to stuff when it comes to the new media and and their tehnological gizmos.
Also, for us to begin to use these new technological societies and knowledge about the media and its gizmos to upgrade Africans/familiarize them with, and inform Africans and empower all with easy and affordable access to the internet for African people-would be a goal worth achieving. This is one topic that is still ongoing and needs to be interrogated more extensively and intensely as it affects, effects and related to African people globally... Understanding The Media... Having a clear knowledge of our own culture, the media becomes our ally in many instances if we can own and control/disseminate it ourselves.
Thie Gist Of Understanding The Mdia And The Media Being The Message
Let's look at the definition that experts have given about the term Mass Communication, in order for us to have a much more concrete perspective why this article has been addressing the audience as being segmented and in what type of media environments has this been target to and applied in Napli in SAGE in a researched piece below, reports:
Origins of the term
It is difficult to locate the definitive origins of the term ‘mass communication’. Chaffee and Rogers (1997) tentatively attribute its origins to Rockefeller Foundation official John Marshall, who, from the 1930s through the 1950s was instrumental in bringing together scholars from around the US with an interest in communications research and funding a substantial amount of early research in the nascent field. Buxton (1994) similarly speculates that Marshall’s use of the term in a 1940 memorandum may have been the first use of the term as an analytical concept, though the term itself predates Marshall’s use (see Hettinger, 1935; Kaempffert, 1931).
It is within the context of these convening that Harold Lasswell’s (1948) well-known framework for the field: ‘Who says what to whom via what channel with what effect?’ was developed. There has been speculation that this framework also originated with Marshall (Buxton, 1994). As historians of the field have noted, the effects component of this framework came to dominate, and thus characterize, early mass communication research.
This tendency reflected concerns about domestic and international opinion formation and influence that were prominent at the time, in response to events such as the two world wars and the Cold War (Gary, 1996; Peters, 1986). It is also important to note that, in light of the accumulation of findings over the next two decades indicating low levels of the types of media effects that were being investigated, some observers asserted, even at this early point in the history of mass communication as an academic field, that the field was essentially a dead end (Berelson, 1959; Klapper, 1960).
Such assessments obviously approached mass communication as an academic field with much narrower parameters than were articulated by Lasswell (1948).
While a review of all of the definitional approaches to the term mass communication is beyond the scope of this article, it is important to recognize that, even in its earliest incarnations, the precise scope of the term was contested territory. In 1953, sociologist Eliot Freidson outlined what he perceived as the predominant definition of mass communication, which included four distinguishing features of the mass audience: (1) it is heterogeneous in composition; (2) it is composed of individuals who do not know each other; (3) the members of the mass are spatially separated; and (4) the mass has no definite leadership and a very loose organization (1953: 313).
An oft-cited definition by Wright (1960) emphasized the following three elements of mass communication: (a) content is directed toward large, heterogeneous, anonymous audiences; (b) content is transmitted publicly, and often reaches audiences simultaneously; and (c) the communicator tends to be, or operate within, a complex organization that may involve great expense. Early on, the concept also was strongly associated with the broader theoretical notion of the ‘mass society’ (e.g., Wirth, 1948), which tended to emphasize audiences as an aggregate of somewhat passive, atomized individuals highly susceptible to mass mediated messages (see Beniger, 1987; Peters, 1996).
A concept in decline
By the 1970s, scholars began to question the applicability of such formulations of the concept of mass communication to the dynamics of a changing media environment, in which a greater proportion of the media system was composed of outlets serving relatively narrow segments of the audience (e.g., Maisel, 1973). In a 1977 article in the Journal of Communication, Robert Escarpit described the notion of the ‘mass’ as ‘rapidly dissolving to be replaced by the puzzling yet far more workable image of an intricate network of communication channels’ (1977: 47). As Maisel noted in 1973:
... we must begin to think of, and study, the individual in our society as a communicator having access to a very powerful set of media tools and as a recipient of a wide range of equally enriched communications directed to him by others. (1973: 170)
Certainly, these statements from over 30 years ago are quite reflective of the dynamics of contemporary communication. Underlying them, however, was the premise that the mass communication concept does not — or cannot — account for communications dynamics that extend far outside of the mass society paradigm.
This impetus behind the decline of mass communication as an orienting term accelerated in the late 1980s and picked up increased momentum in the 1990s (Turow, 1990). During this time, the evolving media environment, with its ability to facilitate the targeting of small, homogeneous audience segments due to increased media fragmentation (particularly the growth of cable, the VCR and, later, the internet), and its ability to facilitate more interactive forms of communication, increasingly became one in which perceived traditional notions of mass communication, involving the one-to-many dissemination of content to a large, heterogeneous audience who simultaneously received the content, represented an increasingly rare form of communication (Chaffee and Metzger, 2001; Neuman, 1991).
Such critiques affected the self-image of the field, as many academic departments renamed themselves, abandoning the mass communication label in favor of terms such as ‘media studies’ or ‘telecommunications’. In 1996, one of the field’s major academic associations changed its name from the International Association for Mass Communication Research to the International Association for Media and Communication Research (Nordenstreng, 2008). In 2001, one of the prominent journals in the field, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, changed its name to Critical Studies in Media Communication. Clearly, the term mass communication has been on the wane.
The above account represents the fairly standard narrative of the decline of mass communication as an orienting term. It is important to emphasize, however, that some scholars have sought to defend mass communication from decline by offering reinterpretations that better position the term to capture contemporary communications dynamics (e.g., Budd and Ruben, 1988). Turow (1990, 1992) proposed an approach in the early 1990s that stripped away many of the term’s (perceived) traditional definitional elements and focused instead exclusively on the industrialized production and distribution of content.
Such an approach foregrounds a scholarly focus on the structure and behavior of media institutions and the consumption of the content they produce (Turow, 1992). This ‘re-positioning’ of mass communication can be seen as an effort to maintain the relevance of the term in the face of the fragmentation taking place in the media environment in the 1980s and early 1990s by ‘shifting the primary focus of the word “mass” from the nature of the audience to the nature of the process’ (Turow, 1990: 16).
Obviously though, Turow’s effort fails to maintain the term’s relevance in the face of the ways that the dynamics of mediated communication have changed since the pre-internet days of 1992, in which the diminished prominence of the institutional communicator and the rise of the individual as mass communicator are defining characteristics. However, efforts such as Turow’s do suggest a level of persistent definitional ambiguity and flexibility in the term that allows for, and perhaps even justifies, continued reconsideration in light of ongoing technological changes.
The interpretive flexibility of the term is further reflected in the alternative narrative of its intellectual history that has been convincingly constructed — one in which the logic of the term’s decline seems much weaker. Historical research has revealed the prominence of a much richer conceptualization of mass communication, even in the term’s early, formative stages. Peters (1996), for instance, argues that it was only after the Second World War that the dominant approach to the process of mass communication involved the simplified one-to-many exchange between media outlet and a large, undifferentiated, largely passive, audience. Prior to, and during, the war:
"Thinkers who pondered broadcasting were attentive to the potential for interchange within large scale communication.... Many were fascinated and alarmed by radio’s apparent intimacy, its penetration of private spaces, and its ability to stage dialogues and personal relationships with listeners. The question was often less how radio amassed audiences than how it individualized them. (Peters, 1996: 109)
Along similar lines, many histories of media audiences have emphasized that the arrival of what are typically termed ‘mass media’ operated early on with much more robust, individualistic and interactive conceptualizations of the mass audience than is commonly assumed (Butsch, 2000, 2008; Lenthall, 2007; Newman, 2004; Ross, 1999).
As this discussion suggests, the meaning of the term ‘mass communication’ has not been as rigidly narrow as is often assumed. Ultimately, the extent to which one sees the concept as having diminished relevance depends upon what one embraces as the concept’s key defining characteristics.
For instance, some approaches to defining the term have downplayed the centrality of simultaneous delivery of content, given that the long shelf-life of content allows it to aggregate audiences over time (Webster and Phalen, 1997). Similarly, the centrality of an undifferentiated, anonymous audience has been critiqued as more ideal-typical than realistic, given the history of efforts to segment audiences according to identifiable criteria (Webster and Phalen, 1997).
A number of scholars have taken issue with mass communication ever being exclusively associated with the one-way dissemination of content among a large, undifferentiated, and largely passive audience (Cantor and Cantor, 1986; Corner, 1979; Mosco and Kaye, 2000). Such perspectives extend back almost 60 years. Like many later scholars, Freidson (1953) questioned these somewhat limited interpretive approaches to mass communication, emphasizing instead the innately social character of being part of a mass audience.
Beniger’s (1987) overview of the theoretical perspectives that characterized mass communication research from the 1930s through the 1980s illustrates the prominence of theoretical approaches (ranging from uses and gratifications to audience decoding to framing) that extend well beyond notions of one-to-many dissemination of messages, simultaneously received, and similarly interpreted, by large, heterogeneous and largely passive audiences, that came to (mis)characterize the field in many circles. Thus, it would seem that mass communication has always extended beyond the limitations inherent in the mass society paradigm.
This continues to be the case, as many assessments of the ‘de-massifying’ effects
of the new media environment prompted by the emergence of the internet have concluded that the concept of mass communication maintains a position of relevance – and even prominence – in the online realm (Chaffee and Metzger, 2001; Downes, 2000; Napoli, 1998, 2008; Roscoe, 1999).
The prominence of this perspective reflects that many of the more critical approaches to the term have tended to significantly oversimplify its meaning, and that these oversimplifications were misleading in terms of the characterizations of the media audience produced by the field and in terms of the range of scholarship being produced under the ‘mass communication’ heading (Beniger, 1987; Lorimer, 2002).
As should be clear, at the very least we can see that a precise definition of ‘mass communication’ has long been contested territory. Indeed, the main point here is that this is a term whose definitional origins are sufficiently ambiguous, and whose definitional history has been sufficiently dynamic, to allow – and even to warrant – contemporary reconsideration.
Reconceptualizing Mass Communication
The concept of mass communication can effectively account for the dramatic changes taking place within the contemporary media environment when the term ‘mass’ is conceptualized a bit more inclusively, to account not just for the receivers of content, or for the nature of the production process, but for the senders of content as well. The communication dynamics reflected in Web 2.0 (see Mabillot, 2007) applications such as YouTube, Facebook,
MySpace and Twitter increasingly foreground an approach to mass communication in which the individual audience member operates on nearly equal footing with traditional institutional communicators. The new media environment is one in which the tools of participation in public discourse and creative activity are much more widely distributed (Beer and Burrows, 2007; Benkler, 2006; Kendall, 2008).
Mass communication is now a much more egalitarian process, in which the masses can now communicate to the masses (Fonio et al., 2007). The one- too-many dynamic at the core of the meaning of ‘mass communication’ persists here — there simply are many, many more instances of it. This proliferation of the one-to-many capacity represents the communication dynamic that was largely absent from previous incarnations of our media system, in which the capacity to mass communicate was confined to a select few.
Terms such as ‘prosumers’ and ‘produsage’ have been coined to capture the ways in which the media audience is evolving, and the ways in which content production and distribution are migrating beyond the traditional industrial paradigm (Bruns, 2007; Deuze, 2003). As Beer and Burrows (2007: 8) note: ‘Perhaps the key defining feature of Web 2.0 is that users are involved in processes of production and consumption as they generate and browse online content, as they tag and blog, post and share.’ One forecast estimates that, by 2010, 70 percent of the content available online will be created by individuals (Slot and Frissen, 2007).
What is surprising about many user-generated content discussions is that the focus is often misguidedly on the revolutionary or disruptive aspects of users’ abilities to produce content. Even the term user-generated content reflects this misplaced emphasis. This is not the aspect of contemporary developments that is new or of the greatest significance. Users’ capacity to generate content has been around for some time, due to the long-established availability of technologies such as home video cameras, PCs, typewriters and home recording equipment. What is different today is the ability of users to distribute content, to use the web to circulate their user-generated content (as well as, to media companies’ dismay, traditional media content) to an unprecedented extent.
Shifting our focus to the distribution issue highlights how the increasingly global reach of the internet eliminates any notion of the relevance of the mass communication concept being undermined by the dramatic fragmentation of media audiences that has taken place over the past 15 years. As fragmented as the media environment may be, it is still possible for homemade videos produced by individuals sitting at their computers to be watched by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people world- wide via YouTube, or for a song produced by an unsigned band to attract a similarly large listenership via online distribution. The globalization of the potential audience available online serves as a counterweight to media and audience fragmentation. A study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company indicated that the primary reason that people post user-generated videos online is to achieve fame and recognition (Bughin, 2007). Clearly, the intention here is to reach as large an audience as possible — not to target narrow niches. In the contemporary media environment, the masses often seek to reach the masses.
Shifting our focus to the distribution issue highlights how the increasingly global reach of the internet eliminates any notion of the relevance of the mass communication concept being undermined by the dramatic fragmentation of media audiences that has taken place over the past 15 years. As fragmented as the media environment may be, it is still possible for homemade videos produced by individuals sitting at their computers to be watched by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people world- wide via YouTube, or for a song produced by an unsigned band to attract a similarly large listenership via online distribution. The globalization of the potential audience available online serves as a counterweight to media and audience fragmentation. A study by the consulting firm McKinsey and Company indicated that the primary reason that people post user-generated videos online is to achieve fame and recognition (Bughin, 2007). Clearly, the intention here is to reach as large an audience as possible — not to target narrow niches. In the contemporary media environment, the masses often seek to reach the masses.
The Diminishing Importance Of Institutional Communicators
This re-orientation of the mass communication concept runs contrary to some previous efforts (e.g., Budd and Ruben, 1988; Turow, 1990, 1992) in one very important way — it suggests a definition of the term that is not dependent upon the involvement of an ‘institutional communicator’. Though the notion of mass communication emanating from some form of complex organization has been central to many definitions of the term (e.g., Budd and Ruben, 1988; O’Sullivan et al., 1983; Turow, 1990), it has not been central to all of them. Some definitions do not directly address the nature of the source of the communication, focusing instead on the nature of the content and/or the audience (e.g., Freidson, 1953). In other instances, the presence of the institutional communicator has been expressed as a tendency, rather than as a fundamental component. Wright (1960: 606), for instance, states that: ‘the communicator tends to be, or operate within, a complex organization that may involve great expense’ (emphasis added).
An approach to mass communication that eschews the centrality of the institutional communicator does not seem to contradict the term’s intellectual history. In addition, to the extent that the de-institutionalization of mass communication is a defining characteristic of the new media environment, such an interpretive approach to the term is fundamental not only to the term’s continuing relevance, but also to its logical consistency.
An adherence to a definition that accounts exclusively for the institutional communicator is one in which, in assessing two different speakers utilizing the same medium and transmitting the same type of content to an audience of the same size and composition, we would — based solely on the characteristics of the speakers — determine that one is engaging in mass communication while the other is not (think, for instance, of a record label’s and an unsigned band’s use of the web to distribute music).
Utilizing the institutional communicator as a point of distinction made more sense when the institutional communicator had exclusive access to communications platforms that other speakers did not. Of course, online this is no longer the case.
The point here is that the traditional institutional communicator has no status of exclusivity within the mass communication concept. That being said, it is important to recognize that many of the de-institutionalized forms of mass communication that are now taking place still involve traditional institutional communicators — only in more ancillary roles as content aggregators, navigation services or platform providers (e.g., Google, YouTube, MySpace and Facebook). These forms of integrated activity between the institutional communicator and the individual user are, in fact, central to the emerging significance of the ‘work’ of the audience.
The New Mass Audience And Its Work
The previous section suggested an approach to mass communication involving a definition of ‘mass’ that encompasses both the senders and the receivers of messages. This redefinition strikes directly at the notion of the ‘mass audience’ that has long been a central element of the concept of mass communication (see e.g. Neuman, 1991; Webster and Phalen, 1997).
One important outgrowth of this proposed re-orientation is the way it resurrects a line of thinking about the mass audience that has been largely dormant in recent years. Specifically, when we consider an approach to mass communication that incorporates the mass audience not only as receivers of messages but also as senders, and when we also look at how the place of the audience as mass communicators is now being integrated into our media system, we are confronted with the issue of the ‘work’ that the audience engages in the new media environment.
Revisiting The Audience Commodity And Its Work
The notion that media audiences work began with Dallas Smythe (1977), who, in providing the initial influential formulation of the media audience as a ‘commodity’ manufactured and sold by ad-supported media, argued that the act of consuming media represented a form of wageless labor that audiences engaged in on behalf of advertisers. According to Smythe (1977: 6), the work that audiences engaged in was to ‘learn to buy particular “brands” of consumer goods, and to spend their income accordingly. In short, they work to create the demand for advertised goods.’ Smythe’s observation was central to his critique of what he saw as a failing by Marxist theorists to adequately account for the production of audiences in their analyses of the political economy of the media, which, according to Smythe, tended to focus overwhelmingly (and misguidedly) on content production.
Smythe’s notion of the work of the audience was taken up and expanded by Jhally and Livant (1986: 127), who, with a focus on television, argued that the advertising revenue programmers earn that extends beyond the costs of the programming represents ‘surplus watching time’. Jhally (1982) and Livant (1982), in earlier iterations of the ideas that would be central to their later collaborative piece, emphasized their departure from Smythe in the extent to which they saw audiences working not for the advertisers but for the mass media (Jhally, 1982: 208; Livant, 1982: 213). The viewing audience, having already received their ‘wage’ in the form of free programming, was now, in their program viewing, working on behalf of the programmer. The programmer is then able to convert this surplus watching time into additional advertising revenue.
This perspective on the media audience was the subject of substantial debate and discussion at the time (e.g., Livant, 1979; Murdock, 1978; Smythe, 1978). In the years since, however, this perspective has received relatively little attention in communications scholarship (Artz, 2008; for exceptions, see Andrejevic, 2002; Cohen, 2008; Shimpach, 2005). However, just as contemporary developments in the media environment have invited a reconsideration of the concept of mass communication, so too do they invite reconsideration of this corollary notion of the work of the mass audience.
Again, the key driver here is the way that the new media environment empowers the audience to serve as both receivers and senders of mass communication. Specifically, the notion of the work of the audience, which may have been a bit more tenuous when the work being monetized was isolated to media consumption, becomes more concrete in an environment in which the creative work of the audience is an increasingly important source of economic value for media organizations.
This brings us back to Web 2.0 applications and the ways they help the masses to mass communicate. Here, the concern is not just with the fact that such communication is taking place, but also with the fact that the communication itself often becomes a revenue generator for media organizations. The dynamic under consideration here is well-expressed by Cohen:
Web 2.0 has altered the terrain of the media business, notably by adjusting consumers’ roles in the production process. Business models based on the notion of the consumer as producer have allowed Web 2.0 applications to capitalize on time spent participating in communicative activity and information sharing. In mass media models, the role of consumers has been just that, to consume, or to watch and read the product. Web 2.0 consumers, however, have become producers who fulfill a critical role. (2008: 7)
The advertising revenues that sites such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace generate are derived substantially from audience attention captured with content produced by members of the user/audience community. Aggregating or providing a common platform for user-generated content, and then selling advertising on these platforms, represents the core business model of most Web 2.0 applications. User-generated content such as comments, ratings and reviews has also become an important source of added value for organizations involved in the production or distribution of traditional institutionally produced content. Examples along these lines include the user ratings/comments on sites such as Netflix or Amazon, and the increasing extent to which newspapers’ websites incorporate reader feedback and comments into their presentation of traditional journalism.
The work of the contemporary media audience can be taken one step further. Increasingly, not only are the audiences contributing content that can be monetized by content providers, but it is also increasingly the case that audiences engage in the work of the advertisers and marketers who traditionally support these content providers. Audiences today assist with the marketing of products in a variety of ways, ranging from producing commercials to engaging in online word-of-mouth endorsements, to integrating brand messages into their own communication platforms (e.g., their MySpace or Facebook pages) (Cheong and Morrison, 2008; Deuze, 2007; Spurgeon, 2008).
Contemporary marketing and advertising strategy increasingly focus on taking the value of consumer ‘word-of-mouth’ to entirely new levels and developing new methods for encouraging consumers to do the work of the marketers and advertisers in the dissemination of brand messages. Thus, the early division between those who perceived the audience as working for advertisers (Smythe, 1977) and those who perceived the audience as working for media organizations (Jhally and Livant, 1986) seems to have been bridged in the new media environment, in which audiences seem to be working for both.
The nature of these extensions of the work of the audience highlights one of the most distinctive, yet under-examined, aspects of the economics of media — the extent to which individuals engage in the production of media products absent any guarantee — or even expectation — of financial compensation.
This has always been the case, ranging back to unpublished novels and short stories stashed in desk drawers, to garage bands toiling away without a recording contract. What is different today, of course, is that producers of content now have access to potential audiences that was largely missing in previous generations. Another distinguishing characteristic of the activities of today’s audience is their demonstrated willingness to allow others (typically media organizations) to capture the revenue generated by their aggregated efforts.
This latter point reflects the value that individuals place on enhancing their opportunity to reach audiences. This need helps to maintain a role for the institutional communicators
who typically manage the Web 2.0 platforms that provide an opportunity (via the aggregation of content and the investment in marketing resources) for greater audi- ence reach than individual communicators could likely achieve on their own. Thus, it is this enhanced ability to access an audience with one’s creative expression that online media organizations are now providing in exchange for that creative expression – which they in turn monetize. This is obviously a very different con- tent production/distribution/exhibition/consumption dynamic than has characterized traditional media, and one that requires substantial further research.
As Morris and Ogan (1996: 42) noted in an early assessment of the internet: ‘A new communication technology ... allows scholars to rethink, rather than abandon, defi- nitions and categories.’ In engaging in such an effort, this analysis has focused on why the concept of mass communication can effectively reflect the communication dynamics of the new media environment. However, it is also important to address the question of why it should continue to be used; otherwise, this analysis is primarily a semantic exercise. Maintaining the use of the term ‘mass communication’ in the new media environment is, in many ways, a corrective to the narrow approaches to the term that, as this article has illustrated, to an extent misrepresented and over-simplified what the term actually meant throughout its history, and the nature of the academic field that emerged around it. Maintenance of the term reflects the continued relevance and analytical utility of associated theoretical approaches such as uses and gratifica- tions and agenda-setting (regarding the latter, for instance, we are only just beginning to understand the complex inter-media agenda-setting effects taking place between the mainstream media, the ‘blogosphere’ and the public). The concept of mass com- munication has never been the poor fit for the communications dynamics of the new media environment that many of the term’s more recent critics have asserted.
In many ways, the field is at an historical moment today that is not unlike that nearly 50 years ago, when the absence of evidence of powerful attitudinal media effects was seen by some as signifying the death of the field (Beniger, 1987). However, mass communication was always about more than narrowly defined media effects, as Lasswell’s original framework makes very clear. Thus it was a mistake to define the field of mass communication purely in terms of its ability to document sig- nificant, empirically measurable effects on attitudes and opinions. So too is it a mistake – in terms of mischaracterizing the field’s history and in terms of mischarac- terizing the historical meaning of the term – to define the field of mass communica- tion purely in terms of the analysis of the mass production and one-way dissemination of messages by institutional communicators to audiences. In this regard, then, reasserting a more robust, well-rounded – and historically grounded – conceptualiza- tion of the term and its associated field highlights the relevance of both to today’s media environment.
Towards Cybersociety and "Viral" Social Relations
Digital Viral Soup: Life In The Presentism And Converging/Merging Techniques And Technologies
After having cited heavily on Napoli's research above about the Hisotry and evolution of the "Term" Mass Media" and the "Targeted and segmented Audiences, above, I would like at this juncture to cull from a research on "Megatrends" And "The Implicatons on Understanding Social Theory", by Hans Geser.
The Counterveiling Developmental Trends
Evidently, the contemporary media system is undergoing rapid and fundamental change caused by two very different (even contradictory) developments. On the one hand, the long-term trend toward economic concentration and monopolization continues: resulting in a loss of many smaller scale (local) media (e.g. newspapers) as well as in a shift toward supranational TV-stations. This implies that
- the number of independent actors in the media system is shrinking;
- the average size of each player is increased;
- media tend toward heterogeneity and moderation (and toward independence from specific parties or other groupings) in order to appeal to a very wide audience;
- access to public expression becomes more unequal and more highly controlled: so that most individuals, groups and smaller-scale political actors (like communities) lose any chance to articulate autonomously their views;
- integrative media functions become more pronounced: manifested in the global spread of identical news or series as well as in live events watched by hundreds of million people worldwide.
On the other hand, we see the emergence of new media based on networked personal computers: giving rise to the global public net of networks known as the "Internet", but also to a rapidly growing diversity of semi-public networks on the meso-level of organizations and groups (intranets) as well as to completely private networks (based on mailing lists or email addresses). The most general function of these new technologies in to provide low-threshold access to worldwide information, communication and publication for any user irrespective of time, space and social affiliation. Ideally, "low threshold" means particularly that fixed costs (in terms of money or the acquisition of prior qualification) are very low and that the need for intermediary agencies vanishes because authors are able to act themselves as editors or publishers without making use of organizational and/or professional support. In addition, the rapid worldwide spread of computer networks (even in underdeveloped countries) is facilitated by their rather low infrastructural and organizational requirements (compared with traditional "snail mail" and conventional telecommunications).
As a consequence, the public sphere is drastically enlarged by layers of peripheral information and communication: stemming from a multitude of (mostly unprofessional, often even unidentifiable) sources. Even extremely small and poor collectivities (like tiny communities, extremist groupings or intraparty fractions) are able to present themselves independently in public, and long forgotten informal folk traditions and local identities may re-emerge in unexpected forms and constellations. This implies that the factual heterogeneity of cultures and views existing on grassroots levels is more likely to become manifest, and that any kind of consensus-building becomes more cumbersome because a larger variety of positions have to be combined.
Given the aforementioned exodus of conventional media from lower levels of society, the Internet is likely to fill this ever growing vacuum, and by giving a voice particularly to more educated population segments skilled and motivated to make their views heard in a competent way. Looking at the present online-scenery in Switzerland, we already see that the Internet may revive the "opinion press" wiped out in the last decades (e.g. "Biwidus"( http://www.biwidus.ch/), or "CH libre"(http://www.stacher.ch/chlibre/chlibre.htm), or that it may give rise to a rich flora of small-scale media on the communal or neighbourhood level (e.g. "mattezytig"(http://www.matte.ch/zytigealt.htm )or "der Oberhasler"(http://www.oberhasler.ch/) While the conventional media have high potential capacities to influence public opinion and political processes, their societal impact is curbed by the fact that their mere size forces them to abstain from high-profile opinions and ideologies and to adapt opportunistically to a variety of preferences and pressures.
On the Internet, we find the contrary constellation of actors: very weak in terms of money, organization and public visibility, but rather strong in terms of goal specificity and internal homogeneity. Nevertheless, online groupings typically remain "weak publics" insofar as they contribute to a fragmentation of public attention to a multitude of issues at the same time: so that no focused public discussion on single salient issues can be enacted, and no unified "public opinion" (as a supreme source of political legitimacy and guidance) may emerge.
In sociological terms, Internet surfing can be conceptualized as the sequential enactment of very peripheral (fully reversible) roles (VPR) and the short-term actualization of very weak social ties (VWT). The major function of these is to provide individuals with a broader range of information and behavioral options without sacrificing autonomy and without being drawn into more enduring and demanding types of social relations. In the realm of politics for example, we may see the spread of a very noncommittal type of "mouse-click - activism": by signing petitions or (p)referenda by email or by initiating one's own very little campaign (without the need for helping hands or formal organization).
Certainly, the Net does not create equal publication chances for everybody, but the nature of these inequalities is severely transformed. Up to the present, inequalities were based on different opportunities for accessing channels of publication (= a correlate of money and social controls); in the future, inequalities will result from different skills in attracting public attention (= more a matter of reputation, the possession of relevant information or mere communicative skills). Basically, the common good for which all media are competing is "individual attention": a scarce resource not expandable much on the level of each human being because of all other role-requirements of modern life. The capacity of the Internet to absorb attention is particularly high because wherever surfing occurs, it is a dominant activity beside which almost no secondary activity can be exerted at the same time. Absorption is particularly high to the degree that interactive potentials are exploited: (e.g. by writing newsgroup messages or participating in online games.). These interactive features are also making the internet a serious competitor for face-to-face interactions to a degree never attained by books, radio or TV.
Functional Complenetnarity As A Basis Fi Inter-Media Specialization
Given the pronounced functional complementarity between conventional mass media and new computer media, we may expect that both will specialize more and more on those tasks where they are particularly strong:
1) Mass media will concentrate on real "broadcasting": aiming at extensive mainstream audiences with highly "popular" content and disregarding smaller-scale social systems (as well as lower levels of societal institutions and meso-social organizations). Computer media will specialize on "narrowcasting" to a multitude of tiny minorities with highly divergent (also quite exotic and extremist) preferences and views. Consequently, the (global) public sphere will become more comprehensive by encompassing a wider spectrum of social collectivities and by reaching further down to very low levels of society (e.g. the level of tiny communities and insignificant voluntary associations). On the professional level, we may well see the emergence of a new type of narrow-casting journalism: small teams of free lancers selling their specialized or "customized" news (e.g. covering a local area) online to paying subscribers with whom the will cultivate interactive relations. As they don't need any organizational infrastructure, they will remain independent from capitalist elites and large-scale bureaucratic institutions; on the other hand, their dependence on recipients will be notoriously high.
2) Mass media will emphasize sender-dominated "push-information" (like announcements of new products or political propaganda) aiming to provide basic new information or changing attitudes; computer media will specialize in "pull-functions": providing data-bases (e g. advertisements about job openings or vacant apartments) for client-oriented use. Consequently, all mass media heavily relying on pull information (e.g. daily newspapers) will tend to lose income, while push media like Television will be less affected. Generally, net publication reinforces the dissociation between encoding and decoding behavior, because users enjoy all the freedom to navigate in any preferred direction. Hypertextuality in particular makes it less probable that messages are decoded in the same sequences as they were encoded: thus lowering the sender's chances of controlling the process of communication. Consequently, senders are in a position of helplessness and uncertainty. In particular, they lose control over the sequential orders of verbal transmissions: making it impossible to transmit very complex chains of logical reasoning or complicated literary plots which require that a strict sequence in decoding is maintained. While it becomes very easy to be sender, it may well become less motivating to send anything, because no control over reception processes can be gained.
3) Mass media will articulate the integrative aspects of society: providing widespread common experiences, homogenizing opinions, offering intellectual leadership, transmitting information generated at top levels of societal institutions. They try to focus public discussions on single salient topics and create a strong "public opinion" able to influence societal developments and political decision making. Contrarily, computer media will express aspects of cultural heterogeneity and social complexity: constituting an ever growing "variety pool" of information and views hitherto not available within the public sphere. They give rise to a multitude of volatile "weak publics" (Nancy Fraser) deliberating on a broad spectrum of (also quite "unpopular") issues at the same time.
Methodologically speaking, the Net is a rich source of basic sociological data because it mirrors rather truly the (changing) conditions in various settings of society. In particular, many new phenomena (e.g. embryonic social movements) may be seen first on the Internet before becoming visible in the mass media sphere. While mass media increase widespread homogeneity by providing identical information and experiences to very large populations, computer nets catalyze inter-individual heterogeneity and social atomization because every net surfer follows his own idiosyncratic paths and acquires his/her own particularistic mosaic of information. Consequently, wide-spread use of computer-nets will undermine face-to-face interaction by reducing the likelihood that any congregating individuals will share common backgrounds of information and meaning and that they will easily find common topics of discussion. (See for instance: Josef Wehner: Interaktive Medien - Ende der Massenkommunikation? (in: Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 26, 1997: 96-114).
4) Given the costs and limits of transportation or terrestrial propagation, most conventional mass media will remain confined to territories, while computer nets specialize on trans-territorial communication (e.g. catalyzing solidarity among geographically dispersed ethnic or religious groups). In the political realm, the net may facilitate the emergence of nonterritorial actors (e.g. worldwide ethnic movements) as well as the formation of "heteromorphic" actors (combining territorial states with emigrant populations). Culturally heterogeneous countries (like Switzerland) will experience additional centrifugal forces, because the diverging transnational solidarities of different population segments may become reinforced.
5) Mass media will specialize on the one-directional diffusion of information without feedback provisions; computer nets will be used for bi-directional (and multilateral) communication. Together, they create the chances that a more equilibrated relationship between (1) top-down information, (2) bottom-up communication and (3) horizontal multilateral communication is maintained within political systems, parties or other organized social units. Paradoxically, mass media will be more able to maintain their highly centralized regime: because the Net functions as a "safety valve" by providing free publication opportunities to all those who have no access to the conventional channels.
One of the fascinating challenges of computer nets results from their capacity to support multilateral communication without some of the known handicaps of face-to-face interaction: scarcity of time, unequal opportunities for talking and "irrational" nonverbal cues. In fact, higher degrees of "communicative rationality" may be realized insofar as complex statements can be fed into discussions, replications can be related to any preceding message and thoroughly thought over before sending, discussion results can be synthesized, stored and transmitted (e.g. to newcomers); attention will focus on message content (instead on personal attributes of their originators) etc etc. Taken in a value-free literate sense, the USENET may be seen as the first historical realization of "communicative public space" ("kommunikative Oeffentlichkeit" in Habermas' terms), because it supports multilateral discussions open to anybody's observation and anybody's active participation. On the other hand, computer-mediated discussions are known to encourage emotional flaming and to contribute more to pooling information and enriching the range of alternatives than to consensus-building and decision-making.(7) See Hans Geser: Wiederbelebung vergessener Traditionen oder Aufbruch ins Dritte Jahrtausend?http://socio.ch/intcom/t_hgeser04.ht
From a methodological point of view, the study of online communication can contribute much to a better understanding of the potentialities and shortcoming of face-to-face - interactions on the one hand and of unrestricted public communication on the other. In a practical perspective, systematic research will be needed to assess the functional capacities of different online arrangements; for example: what difference does it make whether discussions are moderated or unmoderated, or whether access to discussions is open to everybody or selectively restrained?
6) Mass media will increasingly emphasize their capacities related to journalistic professionalism, expensive technology and complex organization (e.g. collecting and analyzing complex data or displaying sophisticated presentations). Computer nets will be crowded with semi- or nonprofessional publishers and communicators which exploit their capacity for "authentic" and "empathic" responses or their access to highly informal information. The Internet may strengthen the level of primary grass-roots - information sent out by victims of wars and riots, by insiders of marginalized minorities or by inmates of closed institutions which hitherto had no voice in the public sphere. In the realm of social movements and political campaigning, the mass media may still be used for "top-down mobilization" (initiated by charismatic leaders and "social entrepreneurs"), while the Internet may facilitate "bottom-up" mobilization processes based on self-selective recruitment and horizontal communication. On the other hand, the proliferation of different voices can be self-defeating for democracy because processes of consensus-building and decision making are more cumbersome (and only effective when they are highly segregated from the public sphere.)
7) Mass media will represent more than ever the more volatile component of the public sphere: concentrating on outstanding present events and short-term developments which are quickly outdated and deactualized when news programs have ended or when tomorrow's daily newspaper appears. Computer nets will provide the "memory" of the public sphere by keeping all past information available in easily retrievable form. As a consequence, we see the emergence of a public sphere which has the capacity to learn and to evolve, because new information does not wipe out the old. Politicians as well as political groupings will experience higher pressure to show consistency in thoughts and action over time, and there may be a "neotraditionalist" trend of relating identities to past actions or events.(7) See Hans Geser: Wiederbelebung vergessener Traditionen oder Aufbruch ins Dritte Jahrtausend?http://socio.ch/intcom/t_hgeser04.htm)
8) Mass media will continue to be (or become) fully commercialized media because their fix costs (as well as variable cost) are very high. While computer nets (particularly the WWW-section of the Internet) will also certainly be colonized by commercial media firms, there will always be a large "amateur section" reigned by noneconomic values. In theoretical terms we may expect that in a fully wired society, there will be a more pronounced segregation between the economy and other institutional orders: because whoever wants to spread information without commercial motives (e.g. for political, scientific of religious reasons) can do so without making use of commercial publishers. Given the ease of entry and leaving, we may see a proliferation of "amateur journalists" : e. g. retired elderly citizens contributing to local news coverage or students reporting about highly specialized cultural developments and events. The Internet may also become a natural breeding ground for young journalists undertaking their first career steps and experiencing their first phases of professional socialization.
9) Mass media (particularly Television and the Tabloid Press) will even reinforce their contemporary trend toward "personalization": focusing more on human individuals (with all their idiosyncrasies) than on collectivities or more objective aspects of culture or social institutions, . Instead, communication on the Internetwill concentrate far more on depersonalized topics (e.g. ideology or artistic artifacts) because - given the incapacity to transport nonverbal cues - communicated messages are likely to become highly dissociated from their senders. Thus, mass media may remain important in the realm of political leadership and political elections, while issue-related discussions may become more highly developed in online settings than (for instance) in TV-talkshows or volatile newspaper reports.
Emerging Trends Of Inter-Media Cooperation
"Digitalization" is the Megatrend producing a growing convergence of almost all technical media on the most basic technical level. All digitalized data belong to a single, coherent universe insofar as they can easily be transmitted and transformed from one mode (or sector) to another. Within seconds, entries of most private diaries or minutes of secret executive sessions can be made available worldwide in the Internet, while public documents may be integrated into personal archives or forwarded a email messages; oral speech may be transformed in written text (or vice versa) and hitherto isolated groups or organizations may coalesce by sharing their data bases etc. While the generation of communicative boundaries is still essential for the differentiation of social systems, such boundaries are basically permeable and have to be maintained by artificial efforts of self discipline and social controls or by special technical provisions (like firewalls and encryption). "Permeability" also means that internet users adopt an undifferentiated "polyvalent" role by changing quickly between phases of passive reception and active communication; and that firms and institutions dedicated to specific media (printing, TV, radio, film, software etc.) may give way to multimedia enterprises exploiting all modes of digitalization. Finally, it explains the explosive speed with which the WWW is filled up with contents from the grass roots level (e.g. family snapshots) on the one hand and from the sphere of mass media and formal institutions (e.g. electronic journals) on the other.
While the Internet may be potentially able to absorb all other media (e.g. telephone or Television), we may still envisage a future where all conventional media may persist: but only when they accept their more restricted, specialized domains and when they enter into symbiotic relationships to each other. Two major strands of symbiosis are easy to identify presently:
1) By making use of their "push-capacities", conventional mass media provide the basic information needed to search for something specific on the net. For example, they report about crucial events which then give rise to extensive net discussions (e.g. Princess Diana's death); or they endow individuals and institutions with high public visibility and reputation: so that their websites are likely to find widespread resonance. Belonging to the secondary media", the Internet flourishes most in social settings where mass media have already produced rather converging views and interpretations.(Josef Wehner, op. Cit.)
2) By constituting a rich "variety pool" of all sorts of information and cultural productions, the Internet is a major resource for any journalists seeking to acquire detailed knowledge of some sort or keeping up with current events and developments in any social setting (particularly in more marginal spheres uncovered by major news agencies). Future newspapers and TV-programs will evoke interest insofar as they make use of these basic materials for enriching their own news coverage, and when they provide competent guidance to internet resources (e.g. by reporting about informative websites or fruitful newsgroup discussions). Adopting a new professional role model, many journalists may see themselves as "information brokers": mediating between the in transparent jungle of online information and the very limited receptive capacities of typical media consumers.(For an elaboration of this new role of the "referendarist" see Marcel Bullinga: Decision-maker/Teledemocracy: Dutch model for teledemocracy via Internet...)
Considering the least controversial hypothesis, we may safely predict that the media system evolves toward higher complexity levels because new media are emerging while all conventional media are - in maybe diminished extensions - basically maintained. As a consequence, senders and receivers will have higher degrees of freedom in choosing media channels according to type of messages as well as according to their preferences, habits and goals. Focusing on those increasing populations who have access to all media channels, we may state that their actual use (or no-no use) of different media is increasingly indicative of the user's personal (or collective) preferences. Like a prisma, the media system will tend to amplify basic divergences between different individuals, groups, countries or regions by providing them with a broader range of selection. Particularly, the use of computer networks may correlate strongly with preferences for individual freedom and political decentralization: thus sharpening the confrontation between liberal and authoritarian ideologies (or even intensifying Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations").
Studying The New Media
It would be extremely misleading to see the "new media" as mere supplementary components of a given media system: making it more complex by providing some additional functions. Instead, Digitalization as well as Computer-Networking are more basic innovations pervading all technical media and generating a new platform for social and cultural evolution.
Thus, future media sciences will have to adapt to the following categorical challenges:
1. Acceleration Of Change
Developments in the contemporary media world are progressing with such speed that they can no longer be grasped with traditional habits of scientific research and scientific publication. For instance, studies on the Internet are only useful when they can be finished and made publicly available within 12 to 15 months. Consequently, typical research becomes small-scale and results have to be spread by means of online publications.
2. Potentialities And Options
As a second categorical change affecting research methodology, it has to be acknowledged that there is a rapidly widening gap between the current factual uses of the given technologies to be observed presently (or in the recent past) the future potential uses of the given technologies (to be projected by taking ongoing learning and diffusion processes into account). Methodologically, this means that empirical research has to be supplemented (1) by more prognostic endeavors: trying to preview how different social or cultural settings will probably make use of the new media in the future, and (2) by "constructivist" endeavors: sketching various scenarios based on alternative premises about values and goals to be implemented or socio-cultural traditions to be conserved.
3. Autonomy And Unpredictability
The new media reduce the degree to which various kinds of individual or collective activities (as well as their causal impacts) can be predicted, because they provide all social actors with a wider range of alternatives concerning the types, modalities, contents and targets of communication. For instance, very many tiny groupings are able to start a "cybercampaign" at any chosen moment, and every individual user can relate himself to anyone of 18 000 discussion groups at any hour of the day. The "low-threshold" character of the new media implies that very negligible subjective motivations can decide whether one or another given online behavior (or none at all) will actually occur. In a methodological perspective, it may safely be concluded that the new media make it more necessary to conceive of human individuals (and even collectivities) as "stochastic" actors whose basic micro-actions are characterized by erratic fluctuations (while their overall behavior may well show higher regularities over time).
The new public sphere is a vast arena where very different social actors meet on the same plane of interaction: individuals, groups, collectivities, organizations, institutions, public authorities and political regimes. In addition, digitalization of data encourages the blurring of authorship (e.g. by supporting cooperative text-production or by facilitating plagiarism (via "copy and paste")). Finally, we may see the emergence of "semi-virtual groupings" (combining face-to-face partners with online members) as well as "cyborg systems" which include artificial actors like software agents, chatterbots and the like.
For sociology, this implies that many theoretical concepts and propositions have to be redefined in a more abstract, generalized way in order to encompass all these different relationships (e.g. "diagonal" interactions between individual and collective actors or between human beings and artificial agents). Evidently, current frameworks based on "intersubjectivity" will not suffice because collective and artificial agents have no psychological existence. Methodologically, there will be more problems of defining the units of analysis and of attributing public messages to specific authoring actors, Thus, far-reaching innovations on the theoretical as well as on the methodological level seem necessary before the newly emerging media system can become the object of adequate scientific studies. On the other hand, studying the new media may be very functional to identify the fundamental new problems in the first place and to set these developments into motion.
Y2K Racism: From Ferguson To New York
RAW COVERAGE: From Ferguson, Missouri Before and After Curfew
The real problem in Ferguson, New York and all of America is institutional racism
Vincent Warren Writes:
In the wake of the protests following a grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, President Obama met Monday with civil rights leaders and, separately, with a group of young activist leaders and told them that the task at hand is to initiate a “sustained conversation” that addresses the “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.”
Two days later, a grand jury in New York City failed to indict the white police officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner as bystanders taped the incident. “We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability,” President Obama said on Wednesday.
Black men are not dying at the hands of (mostly) white cops – nor are those cops being excused from legal responsibility – because of mutual distrust between black and brown people and law enforcement agencies. To suggest so simply, and perhaps deliberately, mistakes the symptom for the disease.
Trust, or lack thereof, is based on lived experience, and it is the actions of law enforcement in communities of color that has eroded black and brown Americans’ trust. To present the situation as mutual distrust not only obscures the specific causes of that distrust – it intimates that everyone is equally responsible for the problem. The call for “conversation” as the solution then reinforces this idea that the legitimate problems with law enforcement vocalized by minority communities are really all just one big misunderstanding.
Our political leaders should not begin to offer solutions for a problem if they won’t even name it: systemic, institutional racism exists in police forces throughout our country.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Frederick Douglass famously said. “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”
From the prosecutor and the grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island to the halls of Congress – where reform ideas like the End Racial Profiling Act or the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act have hit a dead end – and a thousand places in between, our government institutions have been largely unresponsive to demands for real structural reform. Much like the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, grassroots protests in Missouri and New York and across the country – including the hundreds of actions of civil disobedience, bridge and highway shutdowns, and walkouts – are the engines of change, and communities and grassroots organizers are the ones providing the concrete solutions to the problem.
“As young people of color who are often criminalized for our mere existence,” explained Phillip Agnew, the executive director of Dream Defenders, “we are the experts in how our communities are treated by law enforcement. We accepted the president’s invitation so that we could present our expertise and needed policy changes.”
Ferguson Action, a growing national coalition of activist groups from affected communities, already has a national proposal full of needed reforms, including: a comprehensive federal Department of Justice review of police abuse; the development of use-of-force standards and recommendations for training; the use of DOJ funds to support and implement community oversight mechanisms; the withdrawal of DOJ funds from police departments engaging in discriminatory practices; and the demilitarization of local police departments.
We also need a national public database of police killings. Facts are a powerful tool, but they are only useful if they are known, documented and publicly available. When the Center for Constitutional Rights settled the 1999 stop-and-frisk case we brought against the City of New York in the wake of the Amadou Diallo murder, the NYPD was required to track and provide us with information on the stops it made going forward.
The resulting decade of data conclusively showed what black and brown New Yorkers already knew from experience: cops disproportionately stop people of color, and stop them without cause and with greater use of force. That data enabled us to bring a second lawsuit against the stop-and-frisk program, and a federal judge ruled that it violated both the fourteenth and the fourth amendments to the US constitution and the Civil Rights Act. The judge also ordered a comprehensive set of reforms, including a pilot program testing the use of body cameras on police (which is one of the president’s suggested reforms in the wake of Ferguson).
That desire for more facts and more supposedly indisputable evidence – and the hope that visual records can be a deterrent to police violence and harassment – has led to the many calls for the use of body cams nation-wide. Studies have suggested that there is a dramatic drop in abuse when officers are wearing body-cams.
But it’s not enough to slap a camera on every cop’s lapel. First, we need to answer some important questions: Who has access to the data? When? How can it be used, by whom? Where is it stored, for how long? Communities need to be sure we are using the technical capacity to gather data for accountability and transparency, not as a new way to violate privacy and civil liberties.
Finally, affected communities – and youth of color in particular – must be at the center of the process of crafting reform solutions. The heart of the reform ordered after we won the stop-and-frisk case is a joint remedial process that brings community members and other stakeholders together to discuss and hammer out the actual law enforcement and accountability reforms.
A similar model was used in Cincinnati a decade ago, after the city was torn apart by scores of wrongful death lawsuits, a city-wide curfew, a boycott, a DOJ investigation and the most violent summer in the city’s recent history. Bringing those groups to the table yielded a decrease in the number of racially discriminatory stops and the number of civilian complaints, and an increase in black residents’ perception of fairness and professionalism by the Cincinnati police department.
The community-based reform processes in Cincinnati and just underway in New York are the models to follow. But we have to acknowledge that we need far more than a conversation, and right now, the protests in the street are bringing the pressure that will make real reform possible.
The protests are the road to reform.
Police officers who violate citizens' rights must be punished. Accountability is the only way forward
Reddit Hudson In St.Louis Writes:
"I was a cop, and I know that the police are subject to a different quality of justice than they sometimes mete out to black and brown people." Hudson further adds:
There is one criminal justice system for citizens — especially black and brown ones — and another for police in the United State.
As a former cop, when I watch the video of Eric Garner being choked out, of him having his face smashed into the concrete as he told the officers that were on top of him he couldn’t breathe, there is no mistaking the truth: the only person whose life was at risk during that encounter was Eric Garner’s.
I’ve been shot at while enforcing the law in my state, and I have friends that remain with the department I worked for that have risked their lives as well; we all have tremendous respect for the job. But we all know — either from personal experience or the experience of someone close to us — that there are officers that will violate citizens’ human rights and civil liberties with impunity and who are comfortable in the knowledge that the system will protect and cover for their actions. And while the race of the officer abusing his or her authority may vary, the race of those whose rights and bodies are abused almost never does.
These inequities have led, inexorably, to the current national crisis in police-community relations — and the best way forward is to make sure we severely punish officers that violate the rights of the citizens they serve. They must be held accountable for their actions.
Challenging police wrongdoing is hard for some: many officers cover themselves in a narrative of heroism, sacrifice and risk whenever their actions are questioned. But, just because a person signed on to do a dangerous job does not give him or her the right to maliciously injure or recklessly take the lives of the people that police officers are sworn to serve and protect. And when an officer stops serving and protecting, he or she should be severely punished both for the violation of that person’s rights and the violation of the public’s trust.
In the longer term, the way to build relationships between police officers and black and brown communities is for both sides to come to the table ready to fully acknowledge what they themselves have contributed to the breakdown in the relationship. I’ve seen exactly that willingness in black communities, like here in St Louis, where community members take responsibility for addressing violence in black communities. Many of these efforts have been led by people I know personally.
But I have never seen or heard of a law enforcement agency anywhere making a genuine effort to first acknowledge the pattern of abuse that exists across the country — unless they are forced to under federal investigation — nor take any substantive action to address that problem. Training for officers can help, but officers have had plenty of training. Policy can be useful, but if it isn’t followed and there’s no consequences for failing to do so, it won’t help. Holding police officers and police departments accountable for their actions is the only solution. Insisting on accountability does not make you anti-law enforcement or pro criminal: it means demanding responsible law enforcement that is serving, not defending against, the community.
Our criminal justice system has been perverted (if not simply defined) by the institutional racism that supports it and is supported by it — and it will take time to change that. But it’s not up for legitimate debate that inequities produced both by the writing and enforcement of our criminal laws are clearly established, or that those inequities have injured black people and black communities.
Describing the racism that undergirds our criminal justice system should not be taken as an indictment of every white person in the United States: the racism that is under attack now pre-existed you, certainly, but it did not end before you and you are likely benefiting from it. Your (and our) responsibility now is to fully acknowledge the truth of continuing, systemic racial inequities and then do the work we need to do to build a society where we are all equally valued.
When prominent people like Rudy Giuliano and New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch go on cable news and on the radio to berate others who openly acknowledged black and brown people’s lived experiences with police abuse, they are being either willfully ignorant or deliberately uncaring — and neither is worthy of the platform they are repeatedly given.
They are more interested in scoring political points than saving lives or fixing a broken system. But for the rest of us, there’s work to be done. It’s time to stop making excuses for those who won’t do it.
Raw Coverage: The Eric Garner Protests in New York
Thing Have Not Chaged, And They Still Remain The Same
Contemporary Social environments are projected and carried thoroughly by the media, as in the case of Fergusson and New York in the wake of the murders of Africa American boys and men. This is a very toxic environment that did not only begin with these two murders talked about above. This is also a case of the Policemen being above the law, which is a spin-off and carry-over of years of oppression, suppression, division and Apartheid that has been the staple of life in the United States. The fragmented audiences, societies and many types of environs in America came to a head when these two murders happened in succession of one another.
The problem of separate races and racism has created different types of consciousness, environments and audiences. The police have been given the benefit of the doubt ever since the days of slaver, one might say. In the days of social media and the Internet, these have been brought to bear and in the front of society in the US. What this means is that, the many races and different communities, races, and so forth, snapped when the Grand juries, in different states of the United States found the cops not guilt or liable for the murder of Garner and brown, and these were captured on video. Modern day ordinary citizens of the US are now informal journalists and videographers; the Grand jury still remain within the unlawful enclaves akin to the Black Codes of the past centuries-These cops are upholding these unjust laws, and the Grand Juries are there to see to it that the cops are protected.
The comments of the viewers on Youtube in the Video about the Protest of the murdering of Eric Garner is but one example of how divided the US is on race matters. Others see a criminal was justly killed by police for selling 'loosies'(cigarettes, and Mike Brown an African boy, was shot with his hands raised up. The comments, on the YouTube videos above, just goes to show how fragmented and how differentiated are the consciousness of the different races when it comes to race matters.
It does not really matter what the live videos have captured about these events, or how real they might appear. The protests in New York have a new element about them, that differed from that of Fergusson. In Ferguson, the place, dressed in military-style garb and armed to the teeth with high powered military guns and vehicles and rocket launchers, was quite a different matter in New York. The were clashes in Ferguson between the police and the citizens; in New York, there was a more peaceful and very strategic demonstration against the cops, that has many people puzzled. The environments, or communities in both places are fed up with the kind of policing that has become the bane and modus operandi of vicious and racist cops. The other issue that the protesters in both place came up with, was that, "Black(African) Life Matters", and they incorporated that into their slogans, as weell as "I can't Brreathe', chants which were directed at the police and their bosses.
The police are accused of abuse; there are those who still protect the police, either than the Grand Juries. The comments above, in the vidoe about the New York protest, are just a smattering of the views that dominate the consciousness and fragmented environments, now splurged throughout the Youtube video streams. There is a strong denial of the reality that the videos I have posted above project and show. There are still those who think the dead victims deserved it; there are those who protest this injustice.
The coming of Obama into the presidency of the US, saw the rise of right-wing militia, a recalcitrant cCongress bent on impeaching and obstructing him, and the burgeoning of conscious or unconscious racism that has long been Americas reality and way of life, right up to and beyond Ferguson and New York. The hatred of African people in America, the dissing of the first African president in America, emboldened all the racist elements and enclaves that would still like to see race matters remain as horrid as they are depicted by these events.
There are White people who are also fed up with these matters of race, and they too were holding placards, attended the rallies with signs that stated: "Black Life Matters". The arrogance and mien displayed by the cops are just part of the life around the different and fragmented societies all over the United States. The police departments are manned mainly by white men and women with a paltry Africans to give a pretense to mixed police forces.
Like I have stated above, the Black Codes of the earlier centuries America, are in full display today in America. "The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws," - Tacitus. this is so true, because, the police are supposedly upholding some ancient laws on race relations. With the changing societies and the birth of the New Technological societies, the techniques of social control and policing are those of the Jim Crow era in 2015. There is still a vehement and strong denial that this is what constitutes modern American society. On one hand, America is the police of the World(literally and figuratively); on the other hand, America is a model of a so-called-Democracy, which in reality is nothing else but a lie, farce and not happening.
I guess the videos above are but just one tiny speck of a myriad issues affecting and effecting American Shamocracy, as I would prefer to call it. It is only a bluff and a ploy to begin tot think of America as the No. 1 leader of democracy in the world, when the real democracy in America is not observed, and the voting rights of the Africans in America are quickly being whittled aways. As I had begun talking about Obama and his ascendancy into the presidency, this has irked and riled a lot of Racist Whites who can wrap their heads around the fact that Obama is president, now going for the end of his second ten as President.
What has Obama becoming the president of the United Stated borne for America Today? Well, we see scenes like the Ferguson and New York saga; we see an increase in White supremacist groups; there is also a sharp spike in racism against different races that are not of European descent and whilst Obama has assiduously been working to better the poor and the middle class, those in cCongress, opposing him on every time, disprespecting him on any available opportunity, has seen the down-spiral of American life, wealth, and societies. the very same Congress has worked very hard to make sure that Obama fails so that they can point out and say, "See, we told you Black people do not know anything about being presidents" and the whole bit.
As I have stated above, one needs to read the comments on the video on the New York protest against the Garner murder to get a sense of what I am talking about. The hatred is vapid and very much alive in America against African people. There are still biased stereotypes that abound against Africans people by many Whites. I am not just saying this to simply wirte my Hub ... I encourage the readers, whilst they are listening to the Videos on the New York Protest to read the various comments below the videos and begin to see waht I am talking about when I say that the present and existing fragmented audiences, consciousness and socieities/audiences, are real and alive in America, and this will not end now-It has only gotten worse with the election of Obama, and the GOP has retarded growth and the economy of America-just because they hate and loath Obama so much.
The truth of the matter is that America was built on Racism, and Racism is going to be around for a very long time to come.
RAge And Demonstration At Ferguson
There is a very frightening transition in the US where the police is militarized to suppress reasonable, rational dissent, Dr. Mark Mason, who was part of the Occupy movement, told RT.
Last year the Pentagon donated more than $400 million of military-grade equipment to police departments in the US, Mason claims.
The initially peaceful protests in Ferguson, Missouri, were prompted by the police shooting an unarmed teenager over a week ago. The Ferguson demonstrators faced heavily armed police who at times trained weapons on them from armored trucks. After tensions flared again late Friday Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a state of emergency and a curfew and later extended it. Nixon did not mention if authorities were planning to cancel the curfew any time soon, adding it depends on the community.
RT: Are these protests an isolated event or part of something bigger happening across the United States?
Mark Mason: This is really big. This is the most important political statement, political uprising in the US since the Occupy Movement in 2011-2012. There is no question that the energy for social justice and human rights is centered on the activities, and this uprising in Ferguson as we are watching it day by day.
RT: Can you see the protests in Ferguson snowballing into something bigger? Or will they die down after some time?
MM: We will have to watch. The real leadership is coming from the African-American community. They understand police oppression, they understand the oppression of the 1 percent, and they understand that the police work for the ruling class, for the 1 percent. The police protect the Wall Street bankers, who own the City Hall, the City Council, the State House, the Federal government, the President of the US and the Congress. They own the US. And nobody understands political oppression better than the African-Americans.
We have heard a lot of talk about looting in Ferguson, but we have not heard a word about the biggest looters in the US, and that is the Wall Street bankers. They looted the public treasury of $16 trillion, and that is a bit of change, and they are now out to try and loot the whole economy of Ukraine. So this is what the real political context is here, it is very important and we may see other activities far beyond Ferguson. We have to watch it very carefully. Because the governor instituted a curfew again, he is basically poking a stick in the eye of the African-American community, because they came out last night very carefully and I heard their cheers from the street saying "No justice - no curfew."
Ferguson Smoldering And Smoking
The Phoneix On The Rise.. Again
RT: Do you think that the militarization of the police force across the US was spontaneous or were the authorities prepared for this unrest?
MM: It radically changed the status quo. The corporate media in the US was giving one message about how bad and poor the middle class were, how bad the firefighters and teachers were, and then we heard the message breaking through about the criminal activities of the one percent on Wall Street. I think that is a very significant message that got out from the Wall Street Occupy movement. And that movement was suppressed in the same way that the police are trying to suppress the uprising in Ferguson - through police violence.
RT: The Occupy movement brought a lot of attention to some of the issues at the heart of these protests, but did little to change the status quo. Will anything come of these protests in Ferguson?
MM: This began in early 1990s with the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton. What we have now on the streets are not police, these are paramilitary troops. You go to Central America and you are sure to find the same thing. I am old enough to see a very frightening transition in the US where the militarization of the police is a movement by the owners of this country, to suppress reasonable, rational dissent that they [the protestors] need jobs, housing. It is really breathtaking to me that we have paramilitary troops on the streets. Only last year the Pentagon donated more than $400 million of military-grade equipment to the police departments in the US. That is one year alone. They are not trained to use this material, they do not know what they are doing with it, and we should not have it in the streets of Ferguson and not in the streets of Central America either. This is a clear violent state suppression of dissent.
RT: Are the measures brought in by the authorities in Missouri infringing on the constitutional rights of the American people?
MM: Absolutely yes. The task of the police is to protect private property. On the face of it sounds like a reasonable job. But if we talk about who owns America - that is the one percent. They own the workplace, they own the small convenience stores, they are gouging overpriced goods in the stores, and they are ripping off the poor African-Americans through fraudulent mortgage lending practices. So we see political oppression and the economic oppression.
The task of the police is that when people go into the streets and say, "No, I'm committing civil disobedience" this goes back to the long history of civil disobedience used appropriately to advance social justice. In 1955 the Montgomery Alabama bus boycott — people were saying that they were not going to the back of the bus anymore. So everyone in America understood that going to the back of the bus is degrading, racist and economic oppression. Today, as we see Ferguson we see African-Americans coming out to the street saying, "We are not going to the back of the bus on this police brutality issue." A recent study has shown that every 28 hours a black male in the US is killed by the police somewhere.
Iam Ferguso;I am New York- I am both Brown and Am Garner
Rife Protests Against Injustice Everywhere In America
The following article was written by the Editorial Board of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch"
Since Wednesday night in America, Ferguson has been everywhere.
In New York and Oakland, in Seattle and Denver, in Washington, D.C., in Clayton, in St. Louis.
The decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict a New York City police officer in the choking death of 43-year-old Eric Garner spurred another round of civil rights protests in a country still trying to understand the justice system’s handling of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson.
“I can’t breathe” — Mr. Garner’s last words as he was taken to the ground in an arrest for allegedly selling “loosies,” untaxed cigarettes — joined “Hands up, don’t shoot” as phrases gravid with meaning.
Justice itself is on trial when it comes to white police officers facing little or no accountability when they kill black men and women — or 12-year-old boys like Tamir Rice, killed while playing with a toy gun Nov. 22 at a Cleveland park by a police officer who fired before his car even came to a complete stop. In failing to indict individual police officers, no matter the circumstances, the nation’s prosecutors and grand juries instead indict the system. There will be no peace until that system changes.
Yes, Ferguson is everywhere.
How the nation reacts now determines whether a new civil rights movement brings a still young country closer to the dreams of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or whether it deepens the yawning gaps that still separate white from black.
We believe the Ferguson movement can change the nation. It has to.
The seeds of hope were planted over the first three days of December.
It began on Monday with the inaugural meeting of the Ferguson Commission, the body appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to delve into the root causes of Michael Brown’s death and the unrest that followed. The meeting was punctuated by an overflow of emotions from some Ferguson residents frustrated that they had to wait more than three hours to be heard, but what happened before and after is significant.
The commission listened to everybody. Its members let the community vent. They committed to long-term change. They hugged the very people who were complaining about them. When is the last time you’ve seen that at a public meeting?
“I am committed to sitting in discomfort until real change comes,” said the Reverend Traci Blackmon, one of the commission members.
Discomfort is the reality now in our community, and, indeed, in our nation.
That’s one reason why the reaction to the Eric Garner grand jury decision could be an important turning point. Some of the same white conservatives who showed little sympathy for Michael Brown on Wednesday saw injustice in the failure to indict in the death of Mr. Garner. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, for instance, called the decision “totally incomprehensible.”
For many African-Americans, there is fundamentally no difference in the cases. They see them as part of a fabric of a justice system that doesn’t value black lives, in which Driving While Black or Walking While Black or Shopping While Black leads to harassment which leads to legal problems which leads to unfair arrests which leads to death. The evidence is on their side.
It shouldn’t take a video to make obvious to white America what black America has been living for generations.
But if this new civil rights movement is to take root, it will have to find ways to meet people where they are, to compensate for disparate backgrounds and experiences. It must overcome the blatant racism of Rosebud, Mo., residents meeting Ferguson protesters on the highway in white hoods while littering chicken bones in their path. It must overcome the implicit bias of white football fans in St. Louis criticizing NFL players for standing with their black brothers. To overcome, we must seek out common ground, no matter how narrow that common ground may be.
Rich McClure, the white Republican business leader who co-chairs the Ferguson Commission, understands that.
“Everyone is part of our region and this is everyone’s problem,” he said Monday. “We cannot expect others to change if we remain the same.”
So, welcome to the revolution, Charles Krauthammer.
Lasting change, of course, won’t come from the Beltway, though Washington, D.C., must help it along. The real change will come from the next generation, from young people who demand that injustice ends today.
“Every step to change has a beginning,” wrote Jennings Junior High School student Tia Hudson on Tuesday, as her class worked through their reactions to the protests in their own community through poetry. This week, Post-Dispatch reporter Elisa Crouch and photographer Laurie Skrivan took St. Louis inside that class to see how kids in North County already have been changed by the events that have played out daily on their streets since Mr. Brown was killed on Aug. 9.
Those black children fear violence, but want justice. They want a future, but see a divided nation. How will America answer them?
For some, the first step to real change in America was taken Aug. 9 when grieving friends of Michael Brown walked from Canfield Drive to West Florissant Avenue and began a movement.
For others, it was last Sunday, when five St. Louis Rams players raised their hands in solidarity with Ferguson protesters. Or maybe it was Tuesday when high school and college students across the nation walked out of school with their hands in the air. For others it came Wednesday, when even some of the whitest, most conservative members of a divided political system couldn’t stomach the betrayal of justice in the unpunished death of Eric Garner.
Whenever your first step was, that was your beginning.
In a nation holding its breath, Ferguson is everywhere.
The Decisions Of The Dred Scott Case Are Still With Us Today
Remembering And Reliving Dead Scott in 21st Century America
Contemporary Social Movements for Justice thorughout the United States and the World are on the move, and slowly, albeit slowly, growing and expanding. There's a new generation of youth that has no patience for the old and tired ways of old. Those that refuse to change, and want to remain the same, as old as the US is old. Change portends destruction to many of those who horde these racist feelings. White privilege has made many to feel entitles that the oppression of people of color is well and good so long as they have their 400+ years White privilege intact.
Once one were to read the Dread Scott Decision, in it one would find the underlying truth that White people felt as expressed by Judge Taney in the Dread Scot Decision of February 14, 1857:
"Just two days after Buchanan's inauguration, on March 6, 1857, the nine justices filed into the courtroom in the basement of the US Capitol, lead by Chief Justice Taney. Taney was almost 80 years old, always physically feeble, and even weaker as a result of the effort he had put forth to write the two-hour-long opinion; therefore, he spoke in a low voice that Republicans deemed appropriate for such a "shameful decision." He first addressed the question of Negro citizenship, not only that of slaves but also that of free blacks:
"Can a Negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guaranteed by that instrument to the citizen?
"One of the privileges reserved for citizens by the Constitution," argued Taney, was the "privilege of suing in a court of the United States in the cases specified by the Constitution." Taney's opinion stated that Negroes, even free Negroes, were not citizens of the United States, and that therefore Scott, as a Negro, did not even have the privilege of being able to sue in a federal court.
"Taney then turned to the question of the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise. The territories acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Taney stated, were dependent upon the national government, and the government could not act outside its framework as set forth in the Constitution. Congress, for example, could not deny the citizens of the new territory freedom of speech. Similarly, Congress could not deprive the citizens of the territory of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law," according to the Fifth Amendment. Taney continued:
"And an act of Congress which deprives a citizen of the United States of his liberty or property, merely because he came himself or brought his property into a particular territory of the United States, and who had committed no offense against the laws, could hardly be dignified with the name of due process of law.
"The Constitution made no distinction between slaves and other types of property. Taney reasoned that the Missouri Compromise deprived slaveholding citizens of their property in the form of slaves and that therefore the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. Scott's case had one last hope: the Chief Justice could decide that Scott was free because of his stay in the free state of Illinois.
"Taney made no such decision, instead stating that, "the status of slaves who had been taken to free States or territories and who had afterwards returned depended on the law of the State where they resided when they brought suit."
The Africn Slave was commododity worth less than the goods that were bought and sold.
The 13th Amendment Of The United States Constitution
Does the 13th Amendment of the Constitution Really Matter?..
If one were to seek out some understanding regarding the social movements, and the individuals who made that possible, there's a lot to learn and know about its evolution.For example, studying and researching the history of American social miasma brought about by slavery, the events that happened, just so that we make the point more succinct, in 2014, are simply a rehash of the past centuries interaction of different races-manifest as today's social uprisings and demonstrations.
The events that took place in Ferguson and New York, and the story about Dred Scott above, are one and the same narrative of the past and present, that has not changed much. The White slavers felt empowered and entitled/privileged over the lives and bodies of their then and after former slaves, that, even with the implementation of the civil Rights in the 60s, that right, they have long enjoyed, of White Privilege, is the main issue that is plaguing and being protested by the oppressed people of color in the US-and is an entitlement to the present racist in the White societies.
As I have alluded to above concerning the Video in New York(The Protest) and the clash with the police in Ferguson, these were a vociferous push-back by the oppressed, and as it had already started in Ferguson, in New York, a new tact was used by these latter-day protesters, that of not clashing with the police, looting, burning and destroying property. What happened, they instead implemented and applied the use of the Social Media and coordinating the different varied marches in different areas-popping out of nowhere(as in New York), which ended up spreading the police thinly over the protest landscape. Violence, between the protesters and the cops, was absent as a result,
The Grand juries which absolved the police of any wrong-doing were acting in accordance with the laws of the Jim Crow era that did not consider the people of color as having any Rights to speak of. This has been happening over the decades, but nowadays, it has not abated. The interesting note to take into consideration when talking about the Ferguson and New York demonstrations is not necessarily the protests themselves, per se, at this juncture in the Hub, but the reason and the laws that made the oppressed finally stand up and say 'enough-is-enough' to archaic and arcane laws that are still in use today.
With the advent of the Internet and the social media, it is galling to see the rulings that were ushered-in and foisted upon the dismayed polity and the oppressed in particular-by the modern-day Grand Juries in the US. The videos that were provided to the media by ordinary citizens, of which in Brown's case only the audio of the gun sounds, was captured, and in the case of Garner he was seen being murdered on the pavement, so that these videos, have put the cops right in the middle of the fracas and murders without a doubt. It is the dismal and denial of the actual act(as in the Rodney King Case and many others), that, even given the videos, the secret Grand Jury, operating under the Jim Crow Laws, decided that the cops involved should be absolved of any wrongdoing.
Over the years, the cloak of silence and the different treatment of cops, has been the modus operandi of all cops' department. They could spin any claim in their defense of violating the rights of the denizens they are supposed to protect, and it was taken as legit. Nowadays, with the presence of the video-phones in the hands of ordinary citizens, the cops have resorted to the defense that they were fearing for their lives. This flew in the face of the fact that the murdered victim had had their hands raised; this despite the fact that Garner, pleading that he could not breadth, the choke-hold got progressively tighter, until he died.(And he died for selling losses). But the end results from the justice side was not forthcoming.
Okay, despite all the biased comments on the videos above by the racist viewers, was Garner supposed to be murdered on the pavement? Was Brown supposed to be shot multiple times for raising his hand? Was the 12 year old boy with a toy-gun shot within micro-seconds of the arrival of the cops in the park? These questions cannot be assuaged by flimsy excuses for they have no justification in them to say that the cops' 'lives were in danger,' nor were threatened by their victims. Instead, the cops not having any "compunction to respect any rights that the Africans they killed had"-have been supported by their criminal (in)justice system that the police were within their rights in their dastardly actions.
The Dred Scott decision, as issued by Taney in the 1800s, is what the cops and their ilk have going for them. Killing an African person in America is 'much-ado-about-nothing'. You never hear of such callous behavior being visited on White people, youth and children, and adults, ever. But, as in the video responses above, the people still blame the murdered victims, who never had a chance to do what their detractors said they should do-listen to the police.
The cops were hell-bent on killing these Africans, and those who offer comments against the dead victims, are conveniently ignorant of the African experience in America. They are merely living-out their White privilege-protecting it and justifying it; they still see Africans as hopeless, useless, thugs, disobedient, lazy(an old Racist adage and perception of Africans during and after slavery) and not taking proper are of their children, and disrespecting of the law. Yet, the Victim blamers, are the perpetrators of Racism against Africans, and continue wish and want to "keep Africans in the place".
But, what is conveniently overlooked is the whole sordid saga of chattel slavery, which morphed into the Black Codes, and right up to the Jim Crow operations and adjusted laws that we see coming down the centuries to contemporary America and such like countries. It is the segregatory reality of white and Black spaces(Segregated Living Environments) and racist consciousness-disrespect of the Rights of people of color-that has given birth to the milieu that they, the racist Americans, decry and blame their victims of having become.
It is like one is indoctrinated, abused, tortured and forced to be less than human, and the behavior resulting from such mistreatment, these end up being heaped upon and blamed on the apartheidized victims.This is why the national dialogue amongst races has become the Tower of Babel and beamed and highlighted by the Media. Everyone, of these racist crews, has a voice to their recalcitrancy and wishes not to change; and the very people who expect such life of enslaving others, expect their victims to shut up and bear their slave status, today.
For the mere fact so many Americans are still filled with hate despite the institution of the Civil Rights, the addition of the 13th Amendment-it is important that we revisit it:
"The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865."
This has been ignored nor either acknowledged, for the present-day action, do not abide by this Constitutional amendment. A lot of Americans swear by their Constitution, but they do not follow nor respect certin tenets of is stipulations, and they cherry-pick parts of the Constitution that reinforces their White privilege(Gun Ownership, being chief amongst these), but some other Amendments they ignore nor live by.
This causes the fragmentation of different communities, where the Bill of Rights is Violated with impunity-is what modern media pilfers and disseminates to their public. This can be seen in the events of Ferguson, New York and many such incidences where the people of color are wrongfully arrested, beaten, tortured, maimed, murdered constantly and consistently as if the 13th Amendment did not exist-and the media projects them not a victims, but as the causes of their own problems visited upon them by their oppressors. Also, on the part of the Bill of Rights of the American Citizens in the 14th Amendment are overlooked and flaunted, when it comes to people of color. Let's take a peek at the 14th Amendment, below:
"The Fourteenth Amendment addresses many aspects of citizenship and the rights of citizens. The most commonly used -- and frequently litigated -- phrase in the amendment is "equal protection of the laws," which figures prominently in a wide variety of landmark cases, including Brown v. Board of Education (racial discrimination), Roe v. Wade (reproductive rights), Bush v. Gore (election recounts), Reed v. Reed (gender discrimination), and University of California v. Bakke (racial quotas in education)."
This too is what has been violated if one were to read the entire 14th Amendment and its sections. Ignoring all these legal principles, this has created a racially conscious and unconscious American society, with its segmented and segregated living spaces/environment, etc., for the oppressed, based on skin color, and the denial of rights of the oppressed.
We find out too, that the Fourth Estate(The Press), is not doing its job adequately, and it is beholden to big Corporations/and political operatives, and susceptible to bribes and being bought off. That is why we see the demonstrations, which will continue until all are equal under the laws as laid out/stipulated in the American Constitution. The segmentation of the environment, since present-day technological media is the bane, has been thoroughly affected by Technique. This is what Mcluhan has to say about 'technique":
Technique advocates the entire remaking of life and its framework becasue they have been badly made. Since hereditary is full of chance, technique proposes to suppress it so as to engender the kind of men necessary for its ideal of service. The creation of the ideal man will soon be a simple technical operation. .. The technical phenomenon is much more complex than any synthesis of characteristics common to individual techniques. So that, we shall have to differentiate between the technical operation and the technical phenomena.
" So that, technical operations includes every operation carried out in accordance with a certain method in order to attain a particular end. On the other hand, every operation entails a certain technique, like the gathering of fruit among ancient peoples, climbing a tree and so on. Such techniques are not necessarily complex, but are instead more efficient and adaptable. Thus, technique creates means, but the technical operation still occurs on the same level as that of the work as does the work. The skilled worker, like the ancient huntsman, remains a a technical operator; their attitude differs only to a small degree".
My point being that the abuse of, and entrenchment of old racist ideas and the injustices that I have cited above, are one and the same thing: same racist techniques, a difference that is only a matter of degree, also, in these cases. The technique used by the media and all those who want things not to change but must remain the same, are still the same as it was in the Dred Scott times, and still is in the Ferguson and New York demonstrations of killings, and wrongful murder and incarceration of African people today in the 21st century America.
That is why I have already stated somewhere in my Hubs that, "Things Change Just So That They Still Stay the same". This dictum was true during the time of Dred Scott, and it remains true for Brown and Gardner, both murdered for no apparent reason, either than the fact that cops felt entitled not to respect any Rights that Brown and Garner Had under the Constitution of the United States. America has yet to deal with its Racist reality, and also, still has to brought about respect for all races under its laws ad the Constitution.
Autonomous Technology: Technique As A Form Of Life
Technique is an ensemble of rational and efficient practices; a collection of orders, schemas, and mechanisms. Technique is nothing less than the organized ensemble of all individual techniques which have been used to secure any end whatsoever.
“In our technological society, technique is the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency in every field of human activity.” Ellul emphasizes rationality, efficiency, procedure
By technique he means far more than machine technology. Technique refers to any complex of standardized means for attaining a predetermined result. Thus, it converts spontaneous and unreflective behavior into behavior that is deliberate and rationalized.
The Technical Man is fascinated by results, but the immediate consequences of setting standardized devices into motion. He is committed to the never-ending search for “the one best way” to achieve any designated objective. In our progressively technical civilization we witness the ever expanding and irreversible rule of technique extended to all domains of life.
The Technological Society is a description of the way in which an autonomous technology is in process of taking over the individual values of every society without exception, subverting and suppressing these values to produce at last a monolithic world culture in which all non technological difference and variety is mere appearance.
The main characteristics of technology or technique according to Ellul:
- It is the new and specific milieu in which man is required to exist, one which has supplanted the old milieu, that of nature. So we live in a new milieu and one which has supplanted an older milieu of nature. We are required to exist in this new milieu.
This new technical milieu has the following characteristics (from Hide, Philosophy of Technology):
- It is artificial
It is autonomous with respect to values, ideas, and the state (think about what it
means to be autonomous: to be free of or independent of these other things; how does Feenberg and Winner deal with these questions about the autonomy of technology?)
- It is self-determining in a closed circle. (Merton: technique produces all this without plan; no one wills it or arranges that it be so. Our technical civilization does not result from a Machiavellian scheme. It is a response to the laws of development of technique.)
- It grows but according to a process that is causal but not directed to ends (we need to think about the issue of ends and means in Ellul’s account of technology)
- It is formed by an accumulation of means that have established primacy over ends; (primacy of means over ends) technique transforms ends into means. What was once prized in its own right now becomes worthwhile only if it helps achieve something else. And, conversely, technique turns means into ends. “Know-how” takes on an ultimate value.”
- All its parts are mutually implicated to such a degree that it is impossible to separate them or to settle any technical problem in isolation
- The development of the individual techniques is an ambivalent phenomenon.
- All social phenomenon are situated in Technique.
Technique comprises organizational and psychosociological techniques. Ellul refers to
the adaptation of human beings to the technical milieu, modifying men in order to render them happily subordinate to their new environment (a la Huxley, who praised Ellul’s book).
- Modern man’s state of mind is completely dominated by technical values, and his goals are represented only by such progress and happiness as is to be achieved through techniques. Ellul points out that in light of the autonomous nature of technology, the human individual himself is to be an ever greater degree the object of certain techniques and their procedures (pedagogical techniques, psycho-techniques, vocational guidance testing, personality and intelligence testing, industrial and group attitude testing). “To say that man should remain subject rather than object in the technological society means two things, viz., that he be capable of giving direction and orientation to Technique, and that, to this end, he be able to master it. Up to the present he has been able to do neither.”
Technique's Relevance to Contemporary societies
This is what we learn from Merton point of view about Technique:
Only the naive can really believe that the world-wide movement toward centralism results from the machinations of evil statesmen. The intellectual discipline of economics itself becomes technisized. Technical economic analysis is substituted for the older political economy included in which was a major concern with the moral structure of economic activity. Thus doctrine is converted into procedure. In this sphere as in others, the technicians form a closed fraternity with their own esoteric vocabulary. Moreover, they are concerned only with what is, as distinct from what ought to be.
Politics in turn becomes an arena for contention among rival techniques. The technician sees the nation quite differently from the political man: to the technician, the nation is nothing more than another sphere in which to apply the instruments he has developed. To him, the state is not the expression of the will of the people nor a divine creation nor a creature of class conflict. It is an enterprise providing services that must be made to function efficiently.
He judges states in terms of their capacity to utilize techniques effectively, not in terms of their relative justice. Political doctrine revolves around what is useful rather than what is good. Purposes drop out of Sight and efficiency becomes the central concern. As the political form best suited to the massive and unprincipled use of technique, dictatorship gains in power. And this in turn narrows the range of choice for the democracies: either they too use some version of effective technique--centralized control and propaganda they will fall behind.
Restraints on the rule of technique become increasingly tenuous. Public opinion provides no control because it too is largely oriented toward "performance" and technique is regarded as the prime instrument of performance, whether in the economy or in politics, in art or in sports.
Not understanding what the rule of technique is doing to him and to his world, modern man is beset by anxiety and a feeling of insecurity. He tries to adapt to changes he cannot comprehend. The conflict of propaganda takes the place of the debate of ideas. Technique smothers the ideas that put its rule in question and filters out for public discussion only those ideas that are in substantial.
In Ellul"s conception, then, life is not happy in a civilization dominated by technique. Even the outward show of happiness is bought at the price of total acquiescence. The technological society requires men to be content with what they are required to like; for those who are not content, it provides distractions-escape into absorption with technically dominated media of popular culture and communication. And the process is a natural one: every part of a technical civilization responds to the social needs generated by technique itself. Progress then consists in progressive de-humanization and, in the end, suicidal submission to technique.
The essential point, according to Ellul, is that technique produces all this without plan; no one wills it or arranges that it be so. Our technical civilization does not result from a Machiavellian scheme. It is a response to the "laws of development" of technique.
In proposing and expanding this thesis, Ellul reopens the great debate over the social, political, economic, and philosophical meaning of technique in the modem age. We need not agree with Ellul to learn from him. He has given us a provocative book, in the sense that he has provoked us to re-examine our assumptions and to search out the Haws in his own gloomy forecasts. By doing so, he helps us to see beyond the banal assertion that ours has become a mass society, and he leads us to a greater understanding of that Society.
View Of Technology Today
Vetting The Tehchnological Technique And It Relevance To Modern Day Technological Societies
I would like to stretch this concept of 'Technique' as espoused by Marcel Mauss who writes:
"The very idea that there might be something non-technical about technology calls for a brief terminal excursus. Definitions of techniques as such are not really at issue here; almost invariable, these definitions involve considerations of materiality, artificiality, the appropriation of nature, the production of goods and the application of knowledge, usually augmented with references to society, culture and civilization.
In due course, Mauss's own conception of techniques as traditional efficient acts' can be, drawing attention as it does to the collective context of efficient agency, and embracing together material and non-material dimensions such as magic and aesthetics. So, Mauss once observed that, "In order to talk meaningfully about techniques, it is first necessary to know what they are. Now there actually exists a science dealing with techniques ... it is the science called technology. Among the ethnologists, therefore, technology has a great and essential role which corresponds to the fundamental nature of techniques"
Andregeorges Haudricourt deals not with the technologies or technologization of culture, but rather with the study of techniques from a cultural(anthropological) standpoint" This means then that we have to pay attention to the fact that techniques do have 'a science called technology' dedicated to their study.
This is why I prefer to defer to Ellul, at any point in this Hub when it comes to giving a definitive description as to what technique is all about, given the melange of definition coming from many disciplines. The following piece is culled from Wikipedia:
The Ellulian concept of technique is briefly defined within the "Notes to Reader" section of The Technological Society (1964). It is "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity." He states here as well that the term technique is not solely machines, technology, or a procedure used to attain an end.
What many consider to be Ellul's most important work, The Technological Society (1964) was originally titled: La Technique: L'enjeu du siècle (literally, "The Stake of the Century"). In it, Ellul set forth seven characteristics of modern technology that make efficiency a necessity: rationality, artificiality, automatism of technical choice, self-augmentation, monism, universalism, and autonomy. The rationality of technique enforces logical and mechanical organization through division of labor, the setting of production standards, etc. And it creates an artificial system which "eliminates or subordinates the natural world."
Regarding technology, instead of it being subservient to humanity, "Human beings have to adapt to it, and accept total change." As an example, Ellul offered the diminished value of the humanities to a technological society. As people begin to question the value of learning ancient languages and history, they question those things which, on the surface, do little to advance their financial and technical state.
According to Ellul, this misplaced emphasis is one of the problems with modern education, as it produces a situation in which immense stress is placed on information in our schools. The focus in those schools is to prepare young people to enter the world of information, to be able to work with computers and also not knowing only their reasoning, their language, their combinations, and the connections between them-but understand and master them for our betterment. This movement is invading the whole intellectual domain and also that of conscience.
Ellul's commitment to scrutinize technological development is expressed as such:
“[W]hat is at issue here is evaluating the danger of what might happen to our humanity in the present half-century, and distinguishing between what we want to keep and what we are ready to lose, between what we can welcome as legitimate human development and what we should reject with our last ounce of strength as dehumanization. I cannot think that choices of this kind are unimportant."
The sacred then, as classically defined, is the object of both hope and fear, both fascination and dread. Once, nature was the all-encompassing environment and power upon which human beings were dependent in life and death, and so was experienced as sacred. The Reformation desacralized the church in the name of the Bible, and the Bible became the sacred book.
But since then, scientism (through Charles Darwin's theory of evolution) and reason (higher criticism and liberal theology) have desacralized the scriptures, and the sciences, particularly those applied sciences that are amenable to the aims of collective economic production (be it capitalist, socialist, or communist), have been elevated to the position of sacred in Western culture.
Today, he argues, the technological society is generally held sacred (cf. Saint Steve Jobs). Since he defines technique as "the totality of methods rationally arrived at, and having absolute efficiency [for a given stage of development] in every field of human activity", it is clear that his sociological analysis focuses not on the society of machines as such, but on the society of "efficient techniques":
“Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity. ”
It is useless, he argues, to think that a distinction can be made between technique and its use, for techniques have specific social and psychological consequences independent of human desires. There can be no room for moral considerations in their use:
“Not even the moral conversion of the technicians could make a difference. At best, they would cease to be good technicians. In the end, technique has only one principle, efficient ordering.
This is a very difficult concept to fathom and ultimately wrap our heads around. Techniwue, embedded withing our present-day technologies is very important indeed. It is instructive at this point to read what Ellul has to say about Modern Techniques:
The ignorance of the technical phenomenon springs perhaps from an obdurate traditionalism which causes us always to live in the past and explain the present withut understanding it. Thereby, our grasp of soical events lags by half a century. Or it may spring from and unconscious repression. We simply will nto see whatever is too difficult for us to bear or whatever bulks tolerate for our understanding. However the case may be, it is striking to note that such political thinkers as Max Glass interpret the facts of the present by means of concepts that date from the turn o the century.
"At best, they talk about "technical barbarism" without taking into account that such terms do not represent anything real and that the term 'barbarism' in this domanin can only come out to the decadent 1900. If one quits this kind of traditionalism, one falls straightway into an extravagant metaphysic, such as that of the Jesuit Father Teillard de Chardin, which has no more substance. We are going to have to concern ourselves and apply ourselves to those causes which stand in direct relatiohsip to technique. ... From a certain degree of development onwards, every technique concerns the collectivity of men.
"So that, no matter how liberal the State may be, it is obliged by the mere fact of technical advance to extend its powers in every possible way. The second cause of the interrelation of the State and Technique is directly relted to the application of the techniques and is extremely expensive"
Biriefly state Ellul's observations above, are an effort on my part to point out to the depth and breadth of Technique. Technique, I am saying prevades our lives and existence. Technique is everywhere in our present Technological societies. Our emerging and merging gizmos enable us to upgrade from our analogic tech reality into the digital viral streaming metadata. As state above by Ellul, "Technique has only one principle, efficient ordering". This is very important to at least know about technique as
Embedded Technique And Efficiency
Evolution Revolution Devoluton
So, If Technology Is Not A Panacea - What Is Our Present-Day Technology?
Jennifer Justice writes:
I’m lucky. My love of computers and technology has been supported since childhood. I’ve gone to schools that were, if not exactly rich, still plenty wealthy enough to afford multiple computer labs (I played Oregon Trail on both Macs and PCs). Now, I study and teach at Purdue, where even the humanities are a haven for those who celebrate the potentials of technology.
Surrounded by all this positivity and support, it can be easy to forget that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t as gung-ho about computers, digital access, and multi-modal publications as I am. At least…until I go home for the holidays and listen to family members talk about how “Video games are the reason kids don’t know how to do real things, like change tires!” or I read an op-ed piece in the New York Times about how too much tech isn’t really a good thing.
It’s no secret that I’m a techie and a gamer (nor would I want it to be), but I’m also a teacher. The last thing I want is for my passions and enthusiasm to get in the way of my students’ ability to learn and succeed. And, ultimately, I think technology’s nay-sayers share those same concerns. They see this sweep of devices and new techniques and are worried that fad-learning will hurt the people they are trying so hard to help. So this is a letter to Susan Pinker, to my relatives, and to my colleagues. I hear your concerns. I empathize with them. But I want to explain why I don’t think exposing students to technology is just a hobby or one approach of many…but my duty as a teacher.
Technology as Panacea
Pinker begins her article by highlighting how technology is seen as a cure-all…and let me stress that she isn’t wrong. The thing is, education policies are rife with “quick-fixes” that are supposed to make all our issues disappear. Go talk to any K-12 educator in the classroom and ask them their thoughts on high-stakes testing, No Child Left Behind, or Common Core. I guarantee there will be a lot of swearing.
Even so, if you really examine these movements and policies, it becomes clear that they aren’t the ultimate embodiment of evil (though there were many times I felt that way about NCLB). They are based in solid practice and in good intentions. They want to get a big-picture view of our educational system, hold teachers accountable, make sure economically and mentally challenged children get an equal chance at success, and ensure that our children leave the classroom with critical thinking skills. Obama’s promise to “protect a free and open Internet” and “extend its reach to every classroom and every community” is from a similar vein. Giving learners access to digital resources is a wonderful idea. The problem isn’t with the premise. It’s with the execution…and that’s not a problem that is limited to technology. That is a promise with panaceas. They are over-simplifications to complex problems.
Texting Hurtz the Kids
Pinker points to a 2010 study from Duke University which found that gaining access to home computers actually had a detrimental effect on students (particularly African-American boys). Children who suddenly gained access to home computing between 5th-8th grade struggled and fell behind, presumably distracted by the many non-academic purposes computers could offer. In their conclusion, Vigdor and Ladd say that:
The very existence of a “digital divide” implies that simple attempts to infer the impact of home computer use on achievement in non‐experimental settings are threatened by omitted variable bias… Using local variation in the timing of introduction of broadband internet service, as well as the within‐student analysis employed in the case of computer ownership, we find support for the hypothesis that access is in practice more detrimental for some students than others. The evidence is consistent with the view that internet service, and technology more broadly, is put to more productive use in households with more effective parental monitoring of child behavior. (34, emphasis mine)
Pinker focuses heavily on that detrimental effect, particularly in lower-income households where she says that, “Babies born to low-income parents spend at least 40 percent of their waking hours in front of a screen — more than twice the time spent by middle-class babies. They also get far less cuddling and bantering over family meals than do more privileged children. They give-and-take of these interactions is what predicts robust vocabularies and school success. Apps and videos don’t.”
And here is where I think Pinker misses an important point…even if you removed all the screens from low-income houses, those children would not be getting more face-to-face time. Lower-income parents don’t drop their kids in front of a screen because they care less, or because they have a misguided view of the benefits of TV and computing. They do it because they are exhausted from having to work multiple jobs to barely scrape by, or because toys cost money and the TV is something the whole family can share, or because they are a single parent and they need a bit of alone time to be able to work/take care of the house/finish homework for night classes/what-have-you. What is actually being discussed here is a class barrier…not one of attention or technology.
Many middle-class or upper-class homes have access to screens much earlier than 5th grade. What distinguishes them from the cited students who “when their computers arrived, their reading scores fell off a cliff” is that they weren’t suddenly learning how to navigate a new system as they dove into middle school. Middle and upper class homes also probably have parents and siblings who are digitally fluent, so they can offer a support structure and learning environment where children aren’t forced to teach themselves the in's-and-outs of technology. If a lower-income student gains sudden access to a home computer, chances are that her parents may not have had experience with home computing either.
Therefore, no. Instant access is not enough. And yes, scores will probably take a backslide if students are suddenly overwhelmed with demands to conquer multiple systems at once. It’s like learning to drive. When a driver first begins to learn how to navigate a car, he has to think about everything. When to buckle the seatbelt; how to adjust the seat and the mirrors; when to look where; how hard to push on the gas pedal or the brake. Slowly and surely, these things become instinctual. If, later, you take an experienced driver and ask him to learn a new system (such as learning how to drive a manual transmission, or a semi), his driving will suffer, but only incrementally. The fundamentals of driving are already instilled, so it takes less time to get back to ground zero.
Let’s say, however, you take a novice driver. She’s only just beginning to find her feet with an automatic transmission when you drop her into a manual truck. She’s already faltering with the basics, and now there are two new systems to conquer on top of that. She is set up to fail. And heaven forbid that she had to teach herself, because no one in her family has ever driven at all…let alone with all those factors put together.
In this scenario, manual transmissions are not to blame. Trucks are not evil, or too prolific. The problem is that access alone is not enough.
Pinker does reach the same conclusion…kind of. According to her, “ Technology can work only when it is deployed as a tool by a terrific, highly trained teacher.” But she continues to say that technology, therefore, should stop where the teacher’s ability stops. No training? Uncomfortable with these new-fangled programs? No problem step back, teach to your level, and move on.
I get it. I really do. Teachers are massively under-appreciated and over-worked. K-12 instructors have to juggle state standards, unsympathetic parents, state-mandated tests, and a ridiculous number of assemblies and announcements that cut into class-time (…if anyone ever wants to talk about the struggles of teaching in public schools, come to me. We can bond over coffee). Graduate instructors and adjunct professors are often thrust into classrooms with minimal training on the course material, let alone supplemental resources, and juggle massive course loads (both teaching and learning) that make the idea of “free-time” and “self-guided learning” a joke…and not a very funny one, at that. I am in this boat. I understand this struggle, and Lord knows I don’t want another thing added to my plate. I’m already full.
But I have to say this. We, especially those of us at the collegiate level and in tech-centered institutions like Purdue, are privileged. We don’t have to like technology, but we have access to all the programs and training we could want. We are surrounded by experts who are willing to reach out and give us and our students a hand up.
The fact of the matter is that low-income students will NOT have access to these kinds of resources. By the time these kids reach our classrooms, they are so far behind the technology game that catching them up can feel impossible. Hell…it might even be impossible. But that doesn’t mean we are off the hook on trying.
We can only give so much (we are human, and there are limits to our time and our mental health), but technology is a huge barrier for our low-income students. If we care about minimizing class barriers, part of that battle is providing them with practical skills that will let them do that. We don’t have to love technology, but we have to try and teach our students how to navigate it. We have to be able to point them to welcoming places and people who will understand the structural barriers our students have to face, even if we ourselves aren’t capable of offering help. If we have reached the limit of our technological know-how, the answer isn’t to throw up our hands and give up…it’s to reach out to the people who do love this stuff and get them to join in the conversation.
Technology is not a panacea. Access is not enough. But computers aren’t going anywhere, and digital fluency is crucial to gaining access to those privileged circles and networks and jobs that are closed off to many of our low-income citizens.
If you are an educator and you don’t like technology, that’s okay. You certainly aren’t alone. But you have a duty to examine what it is you don’t like about it and whether you are refusing to include it because tech really is detrimental to your students…or because you don’t want to step out of your comfort zone so you can address the class barriers they deal with every single day.
Technology Is Controlling Humans Humans...
This Is What The Some Present-Day People Have To say About Technology
This is written in "Thinker's Jam:
We live in a world where the use of technology is accelerating at breakneck speed. From cell phones and video games to smart appliances and social networks, with each passing day, technology becomes more a part of everyday life. If you feel like you’re caught in a speeding current of bits and bytes that seems to be carrying you away from the world you knew, away from a place of comfort – know that you’re not alone. This is the lifescape of the 21st century. But is technology in control? Absolutely not! Society is no more controlled by technology than Bill was by Hillary.
The fact is that technology is a tool and nothing more. The history of the world clearly tells the tale of technology, and it’s obvious to the most casual observer that the great societies have always been those who took advantage of the technologies of their time. From the earliest of humans who first tamed fire, to contemporary times, the societies who best leveraged technology rose to the top. Did the wheel of ancient Mesopotamia control that society? How about the use of iron in ancient Greece and Rome? The steam engine, telephone, electric light, airplane? Has any technology ever controlled any society? The answer is a loud and resounding NO!
Society controls technology – period. It’s that plain and simple. If our current society found no utility in the technologies of our time, then those technologies would follow the path of the kerosene lamp. It’s no accident that the products of the past eventually either become extinct or relegated to some nostalgic use. Would you like to have horses and buggies impeding the flow of traffic on your local freeway? Would you prefer that we still fetched water from a hand pump or did our duty in an outhouse? I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the answer is “No.”
After all, I don’t see the ranks of the Amish threatening to deplete our urban populations. There doesn’t seem to be any mass movement to turn in our TV’s, lose our laptops or hang up our high-speed Internet. Mobile phones certainly don’t appear to be in any immediate danger (currently over 4 billion in use worldwide). Blackberries, iPods, plasma screens, Blu-Ray: the demand is consumer driven, and so long as the average citizen finds value in technology our society will continue to push it forward. Yes, even those family-focused Amish rely on technology, perhaps not modern computers and the like, but the technology with which they feel comfortable – the technology their society finds useful.
Since the dawn of humankind, each generation has been born into a given mix of technology, and each generation has experienced the inventions and technological progress of its time. I was born midway through the Baby Boom, and therefore feel reasonably comfortable with modern technology, but it is not my native environment. I feel nostalgic about old cars, free concerts, record players and the Wonderful World of Disney. My children, however, are Net Natives. They feel no such nostalgia. Their world started with computer technology and the Internet. They thrive on information and drink from the cup of always connected / anywhere access as easily as we took to television and air travel. What’s new to one generation is standard fare to the next. This transition is a natural part of life. We went through it, as did our parents and their parents before them.
So, why this notion that now technology is somehow taking control? Why the uneasiness? I contend that the root cause is twofold. First up is the rate of technological change. The simple truth is that we are living in exponential times. Things are changing faster now than at any point in history. Technological innovation is a synergistic process, and where it once took decades, if not centuries, for one innovation to feed the next, breakthroughs are now as regular as the sunrise.
For many of us, this new pace is a bit overwhelming, but whether or not we feel comfortable progress will continue to accelerate. Moore’s Law, dating back to 1965, states roughly that computing power will double every two years. More recent estimates set the rate closer to every 18 months. Butter’s Law, stated some 35 years later, holds that the amount of data possible to transmit through a fiber optic cable doubles every nine months. Both laws hold true to this day, and experts contend that they will remain relevant until they are replaced by the next computing paradigm a decade hence.
Yes, advances in technology are here to stay. They’ve been a part of life on Earth since we humans had our first thought. We are in control, not the technology. Technology answers our demands. It serves our purposes. Oddly enough, it may even be the answer to our worries over potential harm. It is the product of our thinking, and yet we worry – but it’s not really the technology that troubles us.
Do we really fear that intelligent machines will seize control, that the Matrix or Terminator may become reality? I think not. Fear of an uncertain future is without doubt the second of the twofold cause, but it’s not fear of technology controlling society. It’s fear of unscrupulous people of power using technology for purposes that do not serve the wellbeing of the many but rather the few. And at a foundational level, it’s fear of somehow losing our own humanity.
Within each of us lies the seed of these fears. We know too well the temptation of the siren’s song and the slow simmer into complacency. Who among us has not, at one time or another, taken the path of the pawn, choosing to do nothing, our only alibi our perceived powerlessness? We know that it takes discipline to resist the seduction of power, fortitude to maintain our principles against the throng, and dedication to engage when we doubt the impact. It is this knowledge that causes us to doubt, but it’s also this very knowledge that must spur us into action. If we are to prevent an Orwellian dystopia, then our voices must be heard. If we are to maintain our humanity, then we must connect as people.
It’s high time for all Non-Net Natives to cease their resistance and move beyond their nostalgic laments. Modern technology need not be feared, but if it is to serve its highest purpose, it must be controlled. We are not victims of the rampant spread of technology but rather its beneficiaries, and even more importantly, its conservators. Together we have the power. As members of society, it is our responsibility to ensure that technology properly serves our needs. It is our duty to minimize its misuse, leverage its potential and cast its place for posterity.
Contrary to what some may think, technology does not make people lazy, nor does it render its practitioners as a society of helpless people. Technology is what society makes it. Technology enables us to do things that are otherwise not possible. Technology has indeed made the world smaller. It has brought us all together in ways that would have been hard to imagine just a decade ago. We can now connect as never before. If used properly, technology will help us to create a better future. It will help to cure disease, improve communication, enhance understanding, solve our energy needs, and level the playing field for one and all. If misused, it could lead to the destruction of the planet. In either case, it won’t be the technology controlling that future. It will be, as it has always been: the values and actions of the society will paint the tapestry of its tomorrows.
MArshall McLuhan On The Mobile Phones
Marshall McLuhan on the Mobile Phone
This is what Peter Benson has to say about McLuhan's Predictions:
Peter Benson sees a prophet’s message come to fulfilment through net and cell.
“Is it not absurd for men to live involuntarily altered in their inmost lives by some mere technological extension of our inner senses?”
Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, (1962), p.183
Marshall McLuhan never owned a mobile phone. He died in 1980, before such gadgets became widely available. Yet the theories he developed about the effect of communications media on the human psyche can be applied to recent technologies which he could have known nothing about. In fact, in the age of the Internet and the mobile phone, many people are beginning to read McLuhan with renewed interest.
At the time of his death, McLuhan’s reputation was probably at its lowest ebb. The media research centre he founded at Toronto University had been closed down. The period of his popular fame – when he had appeared on TV, given numerous public lectures, and even made a cameo appearance (as himself) in Woody Allen’s film Annie Hall – all this was in the past. Within the academic world there was wide-spread doubt about his theories. Today, however, interest is reviving. His 1964 book Understanding Media has been reprinted by Routledge Classics every year since 2001 (three times in 2008). People are reading McLuhan, and it is not too difficult to understand why.
Theories in the social sciences are intrinsically difficult to verify. They generally lack the kind of repeatable experiments which provide a firm grounding for the natural sciences. Plausible descriptions of past social changes often prove strikingly inapplicable to future developments. It is remarkable and unusual, therefore, when a social theory seems to be confirmed by future events which its founder could not have anticipated.
McLuhan’s central theory is that human modes of thinking are altered by our predominant media of communication. He divided history into several successive eras, each characterized by its principle means of communication. Hence the era of the oral word was succeeded by the era of the written word, which was displaced in turn by that of the printed word. McLuhan claimed that, in his own time, a new era of electric media had been ushered in by the telegraph, radio and television.
The oral and written eras had lasted for huge stretches of time. The era of print stretched from Gutenberg’s invention of printing in 1440 to the dawn of the 20th century. And yet the electric era described by McLuhan has already been superseded, in less than 100 years, by a new age of electronic media – computers, mobile phones, the Internet. Perhaps it would be appropriate to describe McLuhan’s ‘electric era’ as a transitional phase towards this further situation.
The Electronic Age
In fact, if we consider what McLuhan had to say about television, we frequently find that his remarks would be more appropriate if applied to modern computer technology rather than to the domestic TV sets of the 1960s. It is often as if McLuhan were seeing visions of the future world, and was then arbitrarily fitting his prophesies to the newest objects around him. Whereas, he claimed, the printed word had been “the architect of nationalism” (Understanding Media, p.185), he believed that in the age of television we would “become tribal once more,” freed from the boundaries of the nation state (p.187) so that the whole world would become a global village (p.5). In terms of our increased awareness of what is happening around the globe, this might indeed be taken as one result of television. But television technology provides no means for us to have an effect on the situations we see. However, with the two-way communication provided by email and the internet, the once-passive TV viewer can now engage directly with distant events (in however small a way).
McLuhan’s characterization of television depended on his somewhat confusing distinction between ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ media (U.M. p.24ff). A ‘cool’ medium was one which requires participation from its recipient, in that it carries an incomplete message which needs to be filled-in to make full sense. Television was cool because its images were blurry and of low-definition in comparison to the ‘hot’ medium of cinema. The viewer’s brain had to learn to ‘read’ this electronic fuzz of light to discern the significance of the image. Needless to say, this distinction only makes any sense in relation to the poor quality TV sets of the 1960s. In our age of high-definition TV, McLuhan’s distinction seems irrelevant, and certainly not a necessary component of television. Even at the time of his writing, it seemed bizarre to see these limitations of the television screen as a positive invitation to ‘participation’. It is difficult, in fact, to find anything specifically participatory about television as a medium. This is why it’s generally thought to turn its audience into couch potatoes. On the other hand, the Internet is participatory, by definition – it serves as a medium of communication only when questions and comments are put to it. So it is only with our own electronic age that we truly enter McLuhan’s field of ‘cool’ interactive communications.
At this point a common misapprehension needs to be corrected. The hot/cool distinction was never intended to be evaluative, merely descriptive. Cool media are not better than hot media, they are simply different; and the psychology of their users, and the structure of the societies where they dominate, would be different. The most frequent misapprehension of McLuhan is that he was an enthusiast for the electric age which he sought to describe. Yet rather than being a cheerleader for the new tribalism of the TV generation, he was issuing a warning, and hoping to provide tools to moderate its potential worst excesses. A recent biography, Marshall McLuhan (2010), by the novelist Douglas Coupland, particularly emphasizes this fact. McLuhan, writes Coupland, “hated the modern world as he hated technology, but that never prevented him from being obsessively interested in the world it produced and fanatic about trying to understand it” (p.17). Coupland quotes McLuhan’s basic principle: “We shape our tools, and our tools shape us”(p.87). The only way to avoid being the dupe in this process was by understanding it, and thus being able to resist it. That is why McLuhan’s most important book is called Understanding Media. If we fail to understand the effects of the media we use, we will become the passive victims of a process we have begun but which has gone beyond our easy control.
The Mobile Phone
To illustrate this, let us consider some of the effects on our society of the use of the mobile phone. Walk down any street in a busy town, and you’ll see many people with a phone clutched to the side of their head, talking as rapidly as they are walking. It is now possible to engage in verbal communication with other people wherever they are. This major change in human behaviour has come about within a remarkably short time, but its implications need to be considered. Many people have willingly taken this option of continuous communication; and many more have been forced to accept it as a condition of their employment. To be continuously available for work-related discussion expands the condition of being an employee beyond the boundary of office hours, and beyond the office. Non-work time becomes increasingly colonized by one’s job, and the condition of subordinate employee becomes the permanent, all-encompassing condition of one’s existence. Even while making a meal at home, or travelling on the bus, one might be interrupted by a business call.
In the past, people sold a certain number of hours of their day to their employer. This was the social system Karl Marx analysed in Capital. But many analysts are becoming aware that this idea has less and less relevance to the field of modern employment, and that the mobile phone is one of the major factors that has changed the nature of work. For example, the Italian radical thinker Franco Berardi, in his book The Soul at Work (2009), notes that “The cellular phone is left on by the great majority of info-workers even when they are not working.” (p.89). As a consequence: “Cellular phones realize the dream of capital: that of absorbing every possible atom of time at the exact moment the productive cycle needs it. In this way, workers offer their entire day to capital and are paid only for the moments when their time is made cellular… They prepare their nervous systems as an active receiving terminal for as much time as possible.” (p.90)
These changes enabled by the mobile phone are merely social: they do not yet reach to the level of effect upon our psyche with which McLuhan’s theories are concerned. However, to the obligatory use of the phone in employment, we must add the extensive voluntary use of it in daily life. Among the people we pass in the street, many are chattering, not to work colleagues, but to friends, spouses, or lovers. They are willingly enacting a condition of permanent connectedness: a continuous co-habitation with others, following them through the byways of their days. The cellular phone in handbag or pocket unites them umbilically to their network of social contacts. This is a condition unprecedented in human history.
McLuhan was correct in discerning tendencies to try to re-establish aspects of village life in the modern world. Villages are notable for human proximity, nosiness, suspicion, and lack of privacy. This trend reverses the development, in the industrial age, of anonymous, isolated, secretive city dwelling. Separation from the pack has never been so rare for human beings as it is in the mobile/Internet age.
In McLuhan’s schema of human history, the trajectory up to and throughout the period of print is towards an increasing focus on the individual thinker. In his book The Gutenberg Galaxy McLuhan notes that ‘free ideation’ [‘free thought’] is “permitted to literate societies and quite out of the question for oral, non-literate communities.” (p.20) He gives the reason for this in the words of the psychologist J.C. Carothers: “Only in societies which recognize that verbal thoughts are separable from action… can social constraints afford to ignore ideation.” In other words, free thought can only be widespread in a society which separates thought from action, such as a written culture. Our notion of ‘freedom of thought’ as a universal right is therefore dependent on the domination of writing over speech. So the very possibility of philosophy as a serious enquiry (as distinct from the mere repetition of the prevailing ideologies) is entirely dependent on this freedom, and therefore on writing. Hence, for McLuhan: “Far from wishing to belittle the Gutenberg mechanical culture, it seems to me that we must now work very hard to retain its achieved values” (p.135). “The highly literate and individualist liberal mind is tormented by the pressure to become collectively oriented… Yet the new electric technology pressures him towards the need for total human interdependence… Print is the technology of individualism” (pp.157-8) whereas with mobile technology and the net, the tendency is once more towards interconnected thinking in a community of minds, and so perhaps less ‘free ideation’.
It is important to recognize the subtlety of McLuhan’s views. He is not saying that modern technology distorts an original human nature, which must be protected from such distortions. Instead, from the moment humans began to create tools, our nature was shaped by the tools we used. The silent reading of texts pro