Digi-Reality And Environments In Our Present Technological Societies..
Cultural Dysfunction As Caused By Technique Enhancement
The media today has power far beyond our common understanding of the spirit of the times. This power and influence the media wields is by means of Technique. Whether we are talking about the printing press, radio, television, Internet or emerging technologies, the media's interests have always been profit and the shaping of men's attitudes.
These profits drove the development and the facilitated for the proliferation of nascent technologies. By craftily manipulating this technique of orchestrating and redirecting men's attitudes and behaviors, these new technologies were presented as the furtherance of democracy and modernizing of the way men communicated with their world and the enhancement of their appreciation of these new gadgets.
Jacques Ellul wryly observed: "Technique, as the universal and autonomous technical fact, is revealed as the Technological Society itself in which man is but a single tightly integrated and articulated component. It is a description of the way in which an autonomous technology is in process of taking over the traditional 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".
Ellul says that, 'technique has become indifferent to all traditional human ends and values by becoming an end-in-itself'. It seems like technique rules and controls and shapes men's attitudes and behavior.
It's easy to see that we are living in precipitous times. The media today is in the hands of the Corporate few suited for the shareholders and advertisers. It is known by many that humans possess the ability to alter their destiny than they did before, thus it's the duty of the democrat to regulate this technique and power, and to work so that social decision-making and power may be made as enlightening and egalitarian.
Jacques Ellul states: "Only the naïve can really believe that the world-wide movement towards centralism results from the machinations of evil statesmen. The intellectual discipline of economics itself becomes technicized. 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 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 technique 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 . As the political form best suited to the massive and unprincipled use of technique, dictatorships 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-or they will fall behind. Public opinion provides no control because it too is largely orientated toward "performance" and technique is regarded as the prime instrument of performance, whether in the economy or in politics, in arts or in sports."
Manipulation of Mass Consciousness
As Ellul notes in the excerpt above,technique or technicized environment, be it the state or spheres of communication/media operations, has no regard for the 'will of the people' nor justice. It is only interested in efficiency and effectiveness, to the detriment of public opinion, which becomes left out of the equation by both the politicians and the technician. Either the people fall within the matrix of 'propaganda' or 'centralized control' as set forth by both the technician and politicians, or the will be left behind and they will fall behind.
This affects the public view of culture and its role with regard to the state and the technician. The purpose of uniting all different races and culture, at times is sacrificed for those inflammatory and rabidly passionate ideas of divide and conquer. The public,viewer or cyber-user, in this case, becomes left out if they attempt multiculturalism or unity of races, or harmony amongst the races.
The history of how the media monopoly has become concentrated into the hands of the few, one needs to understand the geo-politics of information. Through slavery and colonialism, the people who decided what's news, were the very people who had the power to disseminate and control what is news.
Douglas Rushkoff encapsulates this perspectives in this way: "We live in an age when the value of data, images, and ideologies has surpassed that of material acquisitions and physical territories. Gone are the days when a person's social stature could be measured by the distance he had to walk to see smoke from his neighbors camp.
"We've finally reached the limits of our continental land masses; we've viewed the earth from space over national broadcast television. The illusion of boundless territorial frontiers has been destroyed forever. There's simply no room, nothing left to colonize". Technique has narrowed the gap between underdevelopment(backwardness) and modernization.
"Efficiency has replaced the gradual and slow change and evolution of technology and its application and consumption by the public. The public has been effectively pacified by automation having been fine-tuned to technique and efficiency, making man not understand what the rule of technique is doing to him and to his world, leaving man beset by anxiety and feelings of insecurity.
"The spirit of the times in the media today has long been put on re-set when the television children of the sixties were exposed to techniques of psychology, conditioning, sociology and marketing. When these 50s kids grew up with programming developed and produced by themselves products of media of the day.
"This included techniques of 'thought control, pattern recognition and neurolinguistic programming' and used them to create television that changes the way we view reality and thus reality itself'."(Rushkoff). This feat was achieved through smart packaging.
Rushkoff summarily posits thus:
"The messages in our media come to us packaged as Trojan horses. They enter our homes in one form, but behave in a very different way than we expect once they are inside. This is no to much a conspiracy against the viewing public as it is a method for getting the mainstream media to unwittingly promote countercultural agendas that an actually empower the individuals who are exposed to them.
"The people who run network television or popular magazines, for example, are understandably unwilling to run stories or images that directly criticize the operating principles of the society that its sponsors are seeking to maintain. Clever young media strategists with new, usually threatening ideas need to invent new unthreatening forms that are capable of safely housing these dangerous concepts until they have been successfully delivered to the American public as part of our daily diet of mainstream media.
"The more harmless or inane the forum, the more unsuspecting the audience". In this manner, then, the free flow of ideas is controlled and language distorted as to how we deal, address and understand our reality and politics.
"The viewing public has been lulled into a false sense of entertainment, information and data sphere trough technique and effective efficiency. We have been hardwired together through devices like cable television, telephone systems, personal computer; we have been rendered as remote conduits of Twitters, cell phones and other new and emerging technologies. The media and all its concomitants have become the extensions of ourselves as the nervous system extends itself throughout our torsos."
Rushkoff observes: "If we are to understand the data sphere as an extension of a planetary ecosystem or even just the breeding ground for new ideas in our culture, then we must come to terms with the fact that media events provoking real social change are more than simple Trojan horses. There are media viruses. This term is not used as a metaphor. These media events are not like viruses. They are viruses… Our present consciousness has been designed and controlled by technique embedded in present-day emerging technologies/gizmos.
The spirit of our times in terms of present-day media is packaged in several myths and half-truths zines and memes. The common lie being that we are giving the people what they want-the lie and myth that these new technologies will set us free. Yes, people are given what they want at an affordable prices, but being enslaved to the media programs and products. This is an era of technological dependency wherein all has been made to view everything with a herd mentality.
The First Amendment, the freedom of speech and democracy has been extended to and covers the corporate and commercial activity exclusively. McChesney says that: "when commercialism penetrates everything, and when noncommercial public life diminishes or merges with commercialism, the capacity to distinguish between the two is compromised". With The Corporate Media and their think-tank ideologues aggressively advertising they became the leading definers of memes/zines and behavior of this new age media.
In the age of Obama, we see now, more ominously than ever, radio, television, internet, television being used by some racist organizations to wreck all public good offered by the new president, in the wake of America's economic debacle, solutions towards reviving the melt down, met with vicious, vitriolic and rabid racism.
The Convergence of these nascent Technologies, has been used and coalesced negatively against the Health Care Proposal that has been bandied around by the Present Obama administration. Insurance companies and pharmaceuticals all jumped into the fray and are using every available issue to create discordancy and civil disorder, in the form of Town-Hall gatherings.
During the Presidential Primaries we saw the revamping of all media apparatus, phone banks, Shortwave radio and right wig web sites proliferate rapidly. Now of late, mid to late 2009, we saw the media used to create a Tea Party counterculture, hosted by right wing radio, television and internet groupies up to the motley crew of bussed in hecklers and sign holders(Most signs racist and unbecoming of civil order and society), racism boiled over.
Some on TV land and internet Blogs pointed out this is due to the fact that Obama is President and also African American; we are seeing gun-toting gunslingers, Deathers, Birthers, and the whole bit display vociferous race baiting and hate. This was achieved through emerging and converging and old technologies about in the Media ecology by corporate media moguls and their minions, by dictating discourse and dominant ideas, leaving an unhappy population dominated by technique.This can be gleaned from the Social Media environs.
The technique developed by mass media in dealing with racial minorities and others outside the mainstream involved symbols and stereotypes. The mass media, because they dealt with a wide audience, came to rely on symbols and stereotypes as shorthand ways of communicating through headlines, characters and pictures.
Dramatic portrayals such as those of rich bankers, heroic cowboys, or old spinsters were used so audiences would understand the character the first time it appeared on the screen or in the short story. At the same time, newspapers used symbols such as 'right wing," "Left wing," and 'moderate " in headlines to characterize people or parties in different places on the political spectrum.
These symbols were a useful shorthand for the mass media, because they allowed the entertainment and news media to capsulize much more complex personalities and issues in a shortened character or term.
Thus, when the audience at a western movie saw a man come on the screen with a white hat, they knew he was supposed to be the hero in the western. Or when the term "leftist" was used in a headline that meant that the group to which the term was applied was on the liberal extreme, bordering on socialism/communism.
(As Obama is often accused of being, by the Tea "Baggers" Party) The terms themselves were useful because they became symbols that triggered stereotypes, which Walter Lippmann long ago described as "pictures in our heads." The symbol was the term that called up a whole set of characteristics ascribed to those associated with the term in the minds of the mass audience. It was those characteristics that became the stereotype/and vice versa, in the mentality of the audience.
Media Zeitgeist, Memes and Zines
Today's Media Zeitgeist, memes and zines compound the present day race and social relations. Genesis P-Orridge and other meta media activists feel that they can break the tyrannous linage that constructed the media sphere. Genesis succinctly states: "Studying, exploring, and exposing the gaps in our postmodern, highly edited media reality, virus formulators learn that the deepest, darkest power of the media is its ability to break through the perceptions of Linear Time.
"What I'm really saying is that the enemy resides in the concept of heritage and inheritance. The medium it uses to maintain its life is the culture. It's patently obvious that time is not linear. This is the imposition of an impractical and inappropriate construct. Things are really in chaos. But the policing of this inept construct damages and cripples us psychically, emotionally, intellectually and even physically".
Understanding the media, human communications will help plant the seeds of civility and social growth. Although we have been relegated to the back in terms of political discourse and production, we have the ability to deconstruct the news media that has been formulated and packaged for us by the professionals. With the spirit of the times, we can revamp and change media zeitgeist.
It is doubtful that anyone ever really changes culture in the sense that this term is ordinarily used. What happens is that small Informal Adaptations are continually being made in the day-to-day process of living. Some of them work better than others. These adaptations eventually become technicalized as improvements, and the improvements accumulate imperceptibly until they are suddenly acclaimed as"break-throughs." Steady, small improvements in airplane design have snowballed into machines undreamed of couple of decades ago.
If a person really wants to help introduce culture change, he should find out what is happening on the informal level and pinpoint which informal adaptations seem to be the most successful in daily operations. Bring these to the level of awareness. Even this process can only accelerate change, not actually control it in the manner desired by men of action. This is because the out-of-awareness nature of the informal is where all changes start. To paraphrase Dobzhansky. 'life is due to the dynamic interaction of living substance with itself and is not the result of either change or design.'
Culture Is Communication;
In considering man's total life as communication we see a spectrum covering a wide range of communication events. It is possible observe complete messages of differing duration, some of them very short (less than a minute) and others covering years and years. In general the study of culture deals with events of fairly short duration.
The study of government and political science may involve messages that take years to unfold. Sentences can be meaningless by themselves. Other signs may be much more eloquent. The significant components of a communication on the level of culture are characterized by their brevity as compared with other types of communication.
The fact that communication can be affected in so brief a time on the cultural level is often responsible for the confusion which so often occurs in cross-cultural exchanges. According to Berry: "The one cardinal error... is to assume that man is free to choose his own long-term future. He is indeed free to choose it within narrow limits. Like a snake compelled to move through a tunnel, he may move from side to side, experimenting with this way of life or that. But there is only one forward path to unending technological expansion."
According to Lorde, the future for race relations lies in teaching people about the existing realities in society provide mechanisms by which people can learn to function well in diverse contexts. Teaching and learning are essential future undertakings that will help facilitate a smooth transition to[and through] the twenty-first century.
Peccei(1981), president of the Club of Rome, an international body that is active in future related concerns, calls the: "creation of a movement of innovative learning on the broadest possible bases; promotion of the development of alternative projects for the future by mobilizing the creativity of the young; and stimulation of a fundamental renewal in our current way of thinking."
The appeal above points towards the importance of our commitment to learning as society becomes more and more complex. Peccei also stresses the centrality of learning and argues that we should learn "to live in consonance with new, fantastic, half-artificial world of our own creation."
By examining the new technology that has rapidly swept the global scene, we begin to discern that the global presence of the Internet has serious future implications for intercultural communication. For instance, it was practically impossible for social groups opposed to oppressive domestic policies of certain countries in the Southern hemisphere to communicate their concerns to groups outside of their countries.
Through the Internet, like-minded groups residing in different continents exchange views on democracy and human rights that are shaping political behavior in countries that were once isolated from wold public opinion.
With such power to access national and cultural groups in different parts of the world, the potential for collaboration is heightened. So, however, is the potential for the destruction of cultural norms revered by certain societies. A major dispute on the telecommunications law recently passed in the United States government is a case in point.
The dispute surrounds the transmission of cild pornography through the world wide web. Such content is offensive to some cultures. Even in the United States where freedom of expression is guaranteed, several groups fight consistently against the practice of using the world wide web for the sale of content featuring child pornography.
Besides the issue of child pornography and other controversial content, the Internet represents one of the most effective ways people can learn quickly about other cultures by visiting websites that specialize in providing such information. The potential for the new information and communication technologies for promoting intercultural understanding through rapid information sharing, places them at the cutting edge of information packaging that could help quell international tension.
And people becoming culturally depended children on the technology without any type of knowledge being siphoned and understood by those who would want to know more. The speed of information permeating all types of existing cultures and societies in its beginning stages, needs to be understood much more clearly as to its affects and effects in propelling all these societies into the technological cultures and societies cultures.
And this can only happen on personal level, family structures, neighborhood collectives, universally for culture and nations and within the spheres of human civilizations. For example, email exchanges between the governments of various countries can facilitate the clarification of issues that otherwise could lead to misunderstandings resulting in conflict.
We can take a few teachable moments from the election of Obama into Power by interrogating how technology worked how the media was controlled and dictated to by the masses within their social telecommunications and cultural miasma. Information sharing holds the best prospect for the future in terms of the positive impact of the new technologies on the promotion of intercultural communication and understanding.
By the same token, caution is required in determining the nature of the information that is transmitted so as not to cause unnecessary cultural damage domestically or internationally. Furthermore, as the level of complexity rises, it is becoming apparent that the future of intercultural communication rests on our willingness to learn from each other regardless of our origin, creed, race, gender, class or orientation.
McLuhan has another way of addressing the issue above, that of misunderstanding of cultures throughout the world, and the way information is disbursed and thus creating damage to local and other international cultures. It is well know that technology has spread its wings world-wide, and now most people are acclimated to its coming out, usage and not yet of its effects on them in a knowledgeable manner.
McLuhan writes: "Any approach to environmental problems must be sufficiently flexible and adaptable to encompass the entire environmental matrix, which is in constant flux. Effective study of the media deals not only with the content of the media but with the media themselves and the total environment within which the media function."
The reaction and self application of people to the new media zeitgeist is summed-up cogently by McLuhan when he says: "People are beginning to understand the nature of their new technology, but not yet nearly enough of them — and not nearly well enough."
Most people, as I indicated, still cling to what I call the 'review-mirror' view of their world.
"This means to say that because of the invisibility of any environment during the period of its innovation, man is only consciously aware of the environment that has preceded it; in other words, an environment becomes fully visible only when it has been superseded by a new environment; thus, we are always one step behind in our view of the world. Always Looking in the rear-view mirror of our past.
"Because we are benumbed by any new technology — which in turn creates a totally new environment — we tend to make the old environment more visible; we do so by turning it into an art form and by attaching ourselves to the objects and atmosphere that characterized it, just as we've done with jazz, and we're now doing with the garbage of the mechanical environment."
Everyone is affected by the proliferation and the new technologies and techniques embedded within the media, regardless of where human beings are, their beliefs, culture and day-to-day existence. As McLuhan has so expertly observed "Because of today's terrific speed of information moving/streaming/splurging, and this has affected early man who led a complex, kaleidoscopic life precisely because the ear, unlike the eye, cannot be focused and is synesthetic rather than analytical and linear.
"...By their dependence on the spoken word for information, people were drawn together into a ' tribal' mesh; and since the spoken word is more emotionally laden than the written — conveying by intonation such rich emotions as anger, joy, sorrow, fear — 'tribal' man was more spontaneous and passionately volatile.
"Audile-tactile tribal man partook of the collective unconsciousness, lived in a magical integral world patterned by myth and ritual, its values divine and unchallenged, whereas literate or visual man creates an environment that is strongly fragmented, individualistic, explicit, logical, specialized and detached."
Man is Homogenized by Culture
McLuhan tells us that:
"Look a bit closer at both nationalism and industrialism and you'll see that both derived directly from the explosion of print technology in the 16 Century. Nationalism didn't exists in Europe until the Renaissance, when typography enabled every literate man to see his mother tongue analytically as a uniform entity.
"The printing press, by spreading mass-produced books and printed matter across Europe, turned the vernacular regional languages of the day into uniform closed systems of national languages — just another variant of what we call mass media — and gave birth to the entire concept of nationalism.
"The individual newly homogenized by print saw the nation concept as an intense and beguiling image of group destiny and status. With print, the homogeneity of money, markets and transport also became possible for the first time, thus creating economic as well as political unity and triggering all the dynamic centralizing energies of contemporary nationalism.
"By creating a speed of information movement unthinkable before printing, the Gutenberg revolution thus produced a new type of visualized centralized national entity that was gradually merged with commercial expansion until Europe was a network of states.
"By fostering continuity and competition within homogenous and contiguous territory, nationalism not only forged new nations but sealed the doom of the old corporate, noncompetitive and discontinuous mediaeval order of guilds and family structured social organization; print demanded both personal fragmentation and social uniformity, the natural expression of which was the nation-state.
"Literate nationalism's tremendous speed-up of information movement accelerated the specialist function that was natured by phonetic literacy and nourished by Gutenberg, and rendered obsolete such generalist encyclopedic figures as Benvenuto Cellini, the goldsmith-cum-concodottiere-cum-paiter-cum-sculptor-cum-writer; it was the Renaissance that destroyed Renaissance man."
In the end, McLuhan synergizes his perceptions as follows: "The electric media are the telegraph, radio, films, telephones, computer,television, internet, cellphones, and so forth, that, all of which have not only extended a single sense or function as the old mechanical media did — i.e., the wheel as an extension of the foot, clothing as an extension of the skin, the phonetic alphabet as an extension of the eye — but has enhanced an externalized our entire central nervous systems, thus transforming all aspects of our social and psychic existence.
"The use of the electronic media constitutes a break boundary between fragmented Gutenberg man and integral man, just as phonetic literacy was a break boundary between oral-"'ribal' man and 'visual' man."
The change of visual man has been extended and replaced by media that has become social media, which in turn integrates man with machine, and machine erases and dictates a new culture that is beholden to technology and technical memes and zines. In the final analysis, technological technique and its gizmos has become human communications and culture.
It is important that we begin to realize that as mass consumers, that as we imbibe on the new communication, writing and print cultures we'd be better off understanding and knowing how this process came along and how and why we say it homogenizes us. Postman writes:
"As the twentieth century began, the amount of information available through words and pictures great exponentially.
"With telegraphy and photography leading the way, a new definition of information came into being. Here was information that rejected the necessity of interconnectedness, proceeded without context, argued for instancy against historical continuity, and offered fascination in place of complexity and coherence.
"And then, with Western culture gasping for breath, the fourth stage of the information revolution occurred, broadcasting. And then the fifth, computer technology. Each of these brought with it new forms of information, unprecedented amounts of it, and increased speeds (if virtual instancy can be increased)." This gave rise to and spawned the present technological zeitgeist we are all part of and participating in, by being enabled by these new technological techniques and their constantly merging and emerging gizmos.
Postman goes on to give us a structure of the media and we can now begin to get a picture of how and why we get sucked-in wholly and completely and made part of the culture and communication systems, and as consumers, become homogenized by the magnanimity and depth, breadth and extension (in the McLuhan sense) of all forms of media and communication entities along with a new language and its meanings and effects on the mass media consumers.
Postman informs us as follows:
"It is also worth noting that the proliferation of all the media and communication system bring along with it environmental zeitgeist infused with the memes and zines which are a by-product thereof. Postman informs us about the architectural structure of these forms as follows: "In the United States, we have 20,000 billboards; 11,520 newspapers; 11,556 periodicals; 27,000 video outlets for renting video tapes/[DVDs]; more than 500 million radios; and more than 100 million computers.
"Ninety-eight percent of American homes have a television set; more than half our homes have one. There are 40,000 new book titles published every year (300,000 worldwide), and every day in America 41 million photographs are taken. And if this is not enough, more than 60 billion pieces of junk mail (thanks to computer technology) find their way into our mail boxes every year.
"From millions of sources over the globe, through every possible channel and medium — light waves, airwaves, ticker tapes, computer banks, telephone wires, television cables, satellites, printing presses — information pours in. Behind it, in every imaginable form of storage — on paper, on video[DVD], audiotape, on discs, data tapes, film, and silicon chips. ...Information appears indiscriminately, directed at no one in particular, in enormous volume and at high speeds, and disconnected from theory, meaning, or purpose."
This has a debilitating effect of rendering all who use and depend on these gadget, and the viral world closer to ignorant and incapable of thinking for themselves. Postman observes:
"All of this has called into being a new world. I have referred to it elsewhere as a peek-a-boo world, where now this event, now that, pops into view for a moment, then vanishes again.
"It is an improbable world. It is a world in which the idea of human progress, as Bacon expressed it, has been replaced by the idea of technological progress. The aim is not to reduce ignorance, superstition, and suffering but to accommodate ourselves to the requirements of the new technologies[ultimately being held hostage to them]. We tell ourselves, of course, that such accommodations will lead to a better life, but that is only the rhetorical residue of a vanishing technocracy.
"We are a culture consuming itself with information, and many of us do not even wonder how to control the process. We proceed under the assumption that information is our friend, believing that cultures may suffer grievously from a lack of information, which of course, they do. It is only now beginning to be understood that cultures may also suffer grievously from information glut, information without meaning, information without control mechanisms."
Understanding Culture of the Internet
Hall talks about culture in its entirety as a form of communication. He sees culture as formal, informal and technical and understanding what all these mean. "Since man progresses from formal belief to informal adaptation and finally to technical analysis," writes Hall, "a theory of change is also implied in this tripartite division."
Hall feels that, "Little is said about mass-communication media such as the press, radio, television and the Internet, which are the instruments used to extend man's sense." He mostly investigates and writes that he is focused on the one of the ways in which man reads meaning into what other men do.
"Language is the most technical of the message systems. It is used as a model for the analysis of the others, In addition to language there are other ways in which man communicates that either reinforce or deny what has he has said with words. Man learns to read different segments of a communication spectrum covering events of a fraction of a second up to events of many years.
"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 with 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 more serious than most of us care to admit."
Hall continues: "Culture hides much more than it reveals, and strangely enough, what it hides, it hides most effectively from its own participants. ...Simply learning one's own culture is an achievement of gargantuan proportions for anyone. 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 his own frontier.
"Once I was addressing a group of principals on the subject of culture. We were discussing the need for Americans to progress in their jobs, to get ahead, and to receive some recognition so that they would know in a tangible way that they were actually getting someplace… One of the audience said to me, "Now you are talking about something interesting, you're talking about me."
When the man in the audience learned something about himself, the study of the culture got lost in the shuffle. He did not seem to realize that a significant proportion of the material which was highly personal to him was also relevant cultural data.
The best reason for the layman to spend time studying culture is that he can learn something useful and enlightening about himself. One other most effective way to learn about oneself is by taking seriously cultures of others. It forces you to pay attention to those details of life which differentiate you from them. It involves new ways of looking/seeing and knowing at things."
The masses become cultural hostages of the new zines and memes because most of them have not yet understood the role of culture as communication and understanding how it helps them to be able to deal with other and the new emerging languages and their meanings-that is, the environment in which these meaning or the new cultural and linguistic meaning that are emerging form the preponderance and confluence of these new culturally relevant ways of communicating given our new technical and communicative ways.
Man can only manage to escape the far reaching effects of the new techniques, gadgets and technologies by paying attention to the fact that they are also fully part of their modern and contemporary culture, which when experienced and understood might empower all to manage the coming and already here of the present technological future and societies which are all now clearly embedded/ensconced within the World Wide Web(Internet) - and have become extensions of ourselves.
Cultural Entropy Of The Media Ecology
The Culture of Emergent Media Ecologies and Digital Tools
Kahn and Kellner write: "Since the blossoming of hypertext and the Internet from the early 1990s, the emergence of a utopian rhetoric of cyberdemocracy and personal liberation has accompanied the growth of the new online communities that formed the nascent World Wide Web. While the initial cyberoptimism of many ideologues and theorists of the 'virtual community'(Barlow; Gates; Kelly),Now seems partisan and dated, debates continue to rage over the nature, effects, and possibilities of the Internet Technopolitics.
"This is about the innovative developments occurring between the Internet, other new media, and general populations, and how new World Wide Web forms are influencing and being influenced by technopolitics and culture." It is the memes, the inter-exchange disseminating, proliferated and affected within these systems that I say in this Hub, affects the mass-consuming public, and who ultimately become cultural hostages and enmeshed within these viral memes and zines.
The masses are held cultural consumers of converging media because of the preponderance of emerging, converging, interconnected and what Rushkoff calls "Trickle-down media". "Underground artists and writers can utilize mainstream cultural icons like Bart Simpson, the President, or Amy Fischer much more purposefully and pointedly than can their overground counterparts because they are unencumbered by the pressures of a corporate environment or mass media or mass-media censorship," writes Rushkoff.
Rushkoff further informs us thus: "There are two ways to market 'memes' without entering mainstream and being subjected to the scrutiny of overground exposure. The first is to use alternative formatting-low-status, 'trickle-down media,' including video games, comics, trading cards, and fantasy role-playing games(now of late, the 'Wii').
"This merchandising sometimes makes use of popular iconography like Ren & Stimpy, or major political figures, but twists it for more satirical purposes or even toward activist agendas. These media can be thought of as bottom feeders in the 'data ocean'. The other marketing style is to self-publish 'memes' that ate too radical for mainstream outlets in the hope that they might "trickle up".
"Thousands of 'zines' [self-published magazines] and independent book publishers have sprouted throughout the United States and Europe ranging fro income-tax avoidance to anarchy. The proliferation of self-distributed books and 'zines' has led to an entirely new philosophy of publishing, in which sampling with attribution or even downright plagiarism is encouraged and copyrighting is scorned.
"Alternative forums of all kinds give media activists low-cost, highly resilient, and provocatively interactive viral shells for the 'memes' they wish to disseminate The fact that these media are not taken too seriously also keep them from appearing too threatening. Like kids' television, which is not intended entirely for children, seemingly innocuous 'zines, comics, and games are packed with deeply threatening 'memes'.
"Moreover, the formats themselves are designed to reflect a value system in which the concepts of interactivity, interconnectivity, [and intra-activity] interactivity, feed back, iteration, and viruses are always of the universe.'(Rushkoff).
These clog and morph into the newly embedded meanings and message-systems which become the new cultural effects and affects and shows how people in a way people become handcuffed and through convergence and divergence, transformed and conditioned to the dictates of the new 'zines' and 'memes' cruising through the viral universe and language consciousness and development of the mass consuming culture and societies.
There are multi factors which are in play in changing and making the consumers of the new cultural communication cyber-surfing media hostages. One of these aspects are the techniques embedded with the new emerging Media ecologies which bring forth new language systems and meaning/realities which affect the users, who then end up creating a world and existence around and within or with these emergent media ecologies are experienced by them and people all over the Globe/Web World.
"Some claim that the Internet's role, as the primary engine driving the ecological arrangement of today's media, is simply to produce a proliferation and cyberbalkanization of 'Daily Me' news feeds and fragmented communities," writes Sunstein.
Kahn and Keller note: "In our view, the continued growth of the Internet and emergent media ecologies ultimately have to be thought together as a complex set of digital tools for organizing novel relations of information and global-local, cultural interaction" [ Kahn; Kellner], Contemporary "media ecologies" extend Marshall McLuhan's notion of 'media environments that constantly evolve as new media and technologies'(McLuhan).
While people have lived in natural place-based ecologies for a long time and have mixed elements of place with those of industrialized cultural space in modern urban ecologies. Today's media ecologies relate people throughout the globe and constitute a virtual world space that is a complex amalgam of ever-shifting global and local spaces and places.
In this networked and interconnected, [converging and merging], world, emergent media ecologies exert and contain a variety of sociopolitical, cultural, and historical forces that interact interface with people as they become media producers and consumers-A new reality and environ of media use and interactive communication.
If emergent media are to remain tools for human users rather than instruments of mass dehumanization, then the technoplitics of such emergent media ecologies must be virtually retheorized from the standpoint that is both critical and reconstructive and subject to active transofrmative practice (Kahn; Kellner). Knowing and Understanding Media Ecological Environments is going to be essential for the still coming future
Embedded Techniques For Media Hostages
The Emergent Cyber/Viral Ways of Knowing and Techniques
According to Disinfopedia, 'Echo Chambers' is a colloquial term used to describe a group of media outlets that tend to parrot each other's uncritical reports on the views of a single source, or that otherwise rely on unquestioning repetition of official sources. In the United States, the Republican Party uses a network of conservative foundations, coordinated by Philanthropy Round(the Koch Brothers and their ilk), to support an echo chamber of think tanks, industry-friendly experts and subsidized conservative media that systematically spread its messages throughout the political and media establishment.
Typically, the message starts when conservative voices begin making an allegation. for e.g., Democratic candidates are engaged in "hate mongering", and this time around it was spun by Glenn Beck who retorted in bellicose manner and trumpeted that "Obama was racist against Whites" such type of belligerent and irresponsible statements have been made by the Tea-Baggers, along with their placards, voicing their messages, 'memes' and 'zines'.
Columns start getting written on this theme, which spreads through the subsidized conservative media, and eventually begins appearing in places like the local newspapers and tabloids and becomes talking points and "accepted fact" throughout the media and social Media enclaves. There are a myriad techniques and ways of knowing that are applied to the mass media consuming, in-as-much as there are different discourses about the new emerging and social media from other media outlets as noted above, with their own applications.
We shall now look at the various way the 'spirit of the time'(Zeitgeist) manifests itself on the internet and the media and spirit of the media today on the web and throughout the social media, with their 'memes' and 'zines'-plus the effects and affects thereof of such environments and realities.
Nathaniel Sheppard wrote on this subject in 1998 in the following manner: "A Television program recently explored one on of the down sides of the Internet - the surreptitious gathering and dissemination of information that is used by some unscrupulous individuals or crime rings to steal consumers' identities.
"I looked up my own name with AOL's Net-Find and discovered several listings for Nathaniel Sheppard that included telephone numbers and street addresses with detailed nine-digit zip codes. Three of the listing included a middle initial I have seen on junk mail, but my parents did not give me.
"But they correctly included 'Jr.' in the name. One listed my current address, a second my former address and a third put me in Cincinnati, a city I have visited only three times. The other listings had me in Toledo, Ohio, Syracuse, NY; Berkeley, Ohio, and Denver. Investigation continues into whether these are mere coincidences.
"The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] says that advances in computers technology have made it easier than ever for anyone to get detailed personal information about others. That is a good thing when it helps law enforcement track down criminals or missing children, enables banks to prevent fraud and provides us with information to help us make intelligent decisions. But it also means we as individuals, companies, associations and even governmental bodies must safeguard that information."
Sheppard continues to inform us that: "A cottage industry of individual reference or 'look-up] services has sprung up on the Net. For a fee, they will provide detailed profiles on individuals, including spending and bill payment patterns,involvement in civil and criminal litigation, driving and property records, social security numbers and other intrusive bits of information.
"Identity theft — the appropriation of a person's name, address, social security number or other personal information for the purposes of fraud — goes to the heart of personal privacy. Identity thieves may use consumers' identifying information to open new credit card accounts,take out loans in the victim's name, or to steal funds from existing checking, savings, or investment accounts. Then numbers [of such cases] seem to be exploding and also the easy availability of information electronically creates the risk that tis will increase even further.
"Among those crimes are the submission of fake medical bills to private insurers and the running up of tens of thousands of dollars of debt under assumed names. A recent case brought by the Secret Service illustrates the problem. In 1997, a computer savvy Maryland couple pled guilty to running up ore than $100,000 in debt under stolen identities.
"They also admitted to routinely using Internet databases to select their victims. Congressional testimony has shown the impact of identity fraud on consumers can be substantial. Reputations and credit standing can be ruined. One woman became the target of an arrest warrant for a domestic battery crime she did not commit.
"A department store clerk whose identity had been assumed by a shoplifter spent years unsuccessfully looking for work in the retail industry. "Consumers mainly discover that they've been victimized when they apply for credit or for employment and their credit report is pulled," Medine said. By then the damage has been done" (Sheppard).
According to Sheppard: "Most people, accustomed to print and broadcast, have a high expectation of privacy, say Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center,, a Washington-based public interest research group. "You could read the morning paper, listen to the radio, or watch TV and no one would that you were doing any of those particular things," he says.
"This is not simply protection but the specific ability to withhold disclosure of your identity — the right to remain anonymous. Not so in Cyberspace. When you go on tour on the Net, many eyes may be watcing. If you visit certain areas, such as chat rooms or post to message boards, you may wind up on some junk mailer's list and begin receiving unwanted ads for sex and other services.
"And when you visit sites, information collected from you may be passed on to online database services that in turn sell the data. In a report to Congress in June on privacy online, the FTC said protection of consumers' privacy online is scarce and efforts to promote voluntary adoption of very basic information practices had fallen short."
Sheppard informs us thus: "The commission surveyed more than 1,400 Web sites and divided these into six samples representing all US commercial Web sites. Of these, 92% collect personal information on users but only 14 percent provide notice of their information collection practices and a mere 2 percent have comprehensive privacy policies.
"Most disturbing was the commission finding that 89 percent of the 212 children's sites surveyed collects personally identifiable information from children. The FTC said there are four information practice principles that are essential to making sure the collection and dissemination of personal information are conducted fairly: notice, choice, access and security.
"In June 1997, an association of look-up business known as the Individual Reference Services Group [IRSG] announced its intent to address Internet privacy concerns through self-regulation. The FTC said in its report to Congress that so far, those efforts have been inadequate."
Sheppard concludes with some advices: "So what can you do while the industry is trying to clean up its act? First, think twice about providing personal information or data online. Use a nickname as a screen name and don't use your full name in the personal information section of your internet browser.
"Ask the managers of sites you visit about their policy on collecting and releasing information on users and drop those whose policies make you uncomfortable. Fire up a Net Search engine such as Yahoo!, Alta Vista or HotBot, or use AoL Netfind to see what information comes on you. You also should should use the search engines to lookup "Internet Privacy." This will give you a list of articles and sites that provide guidance on the issue. And check out the FTC's site at www.ftc.gov.
"The FTC site will give you links to the three major credit bureaus - Equifax Inc., Experian and Trans Union Corporation - and forms you can send electronically asking them to not disclose your personal information for promotional purposes. Now that you have a little more information about road conditions on the Internet, continue to enjoy the ride. Lon on or be left behind." (Sheppard).
It is important for us to note that the issues discussed above are the 'spirit of the time' as this relates to the use of computers and people interacting with the probes in the sites they find the Net. The media ecology has changed drastically in the past decade, and the techniques, 'memes' and 'zines' are very quick to go viral, and until the users take notice, this will go on as it does today. Although the article above was written in the 1990s, it is still relevant to today's reality wherein a lot of people are suckered into scams that they are still not wary of, even today.
Health and the Internet
The electronic media ecology is not mostly a negative place as we learn from Sheppard about the fact that "Surfing the Net can be Healthy", article, wherein he writes:
"My wife says that I snore and my 7-year-old son concurs. I don't recall making noise in my sleep and tend to doubt the veracity of their assertion. I went online, nonetheless, to look for information on snoring just in case, I ever develop the condition. What I found was astounding. Not only was there a lot of information on snoring, and a more serious, related illness called sleep apnea, but a plethora of information on a wide variety of well-known and obscure medial and psychological problems.
"There are numerous "message boards" (online discussion forums) in which people and medical professional discuss illness and treatment options. It was like bringing an auditorium of medical experts and a well-stocked library right onto my desktop. I could probe a seemingly endless stream of health questions without the long waits and blood-pressure-rising costs such access involves in the real world.
"As with anything, though, there are caveats. Just as smut peddlers and obnoxious bulk mailers have invaded private e-mail boxes, some quacks have thrown their 2-cents worth of potentially dangerous nonsense into medical discussions."
Sheppard further informs us thus: "Science in cyberspace is no substitute for your physician, but it certainly can empower you with the knowledge to take a bigger role in the care of your body and mind. Using search engines such as HotBot (www.hotbot.com) and Yahoo! (www.yahoo.com), Alt Vista (www.altavista.digital.com) and the search term "medical" on America Online, I was able to zero in on several illnesses common among African Americans.
"HotBot turned up 1,574 responses to the search term 'high blood pressure and African-Americans' and these ranged from a simple description of hypertension and its causes to studies underway and recent developments in treatment. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure kills about 60,000 African-Americans each year.
"One of the many links from HotBot was to a page by the association site (www.amhrt/hbpfactor.html) that listed factors that contribute to high blood pressure, including high salt intake, being overweight, heavy alcohol consumption, use of oral contraceptives and lack of exercise. the search also yielded a report on a study published in October 1996 in the American Journal of Public Health, by Harvard researcher Nancy Krieger, which found a correlation between discrimination and high blood pressure in African-Americans."
According to Sheppard: "Another study, by a John Hopkins Hospital researcher, found that an increase in potassium, either through supplement or eating more potassium-rich foods, could help lower blood pressure. Using Alta Vista, I found more than 100,000 documents after entering a search for "diabetes and African-Americans," including a link to www.diabetes.com.
"Another link was the Diabetes Texas World Wide Web site, which provided grim statistics indicating that nearly 6 percent of African American men and 8 percent of African-American women have diabetes and that Blacks experience higher rates than other groups for three serious complications of diabetes: blindness, amputation and kidney failure. Another site )www.expressnews.net/unauth/newsfiles/diabetes/day4.htm), also accessible through Yahoo! gives diabetes index on African-Americans, Native Americans, Mexican-Americans and other minorities.
"It focuses on diet, such as some African-Americans' apparent penchant for drive-through hamburgers and other fat-laden foods, as a major contributor to diabetes. Specific searches for prostrate and breast cancer, heart disease, glaucoma and plain-old heartburn also produced reams of material from experts."
Sheppard offers this final conclusive piece as follows: "For more general searches, try logging onto Yahoo! and then clicking on 'health' in its menu. This takes you to a page with links to health news reports, a listing of online chats and programs on health issues, alternative medical therapy such as acupuncture, herbology, chiropractic, holistic, homeopathy and gemstone therapy.
"Click onto "indices" on the same page, and you are taken to a page with links to 26 medical sites. among these are Achoo, a directory of Internet health care sites; Health A to Z, a site of health resources and topics catalogued by medical professionals; health and medical newsgroups (discussions between people with like illnesses); Mollykat's Survivor's Resources, which deals with sexual abuse, domestic violence. ritual abuse, depression, physical and mental health and multiple personality disorders.
"Yet another jumping-off point is the Virtual Medical Clinic (www.mediconsult.com), a site that lists its objective as To help patients make informed medical decisions in conjunction with their physician. The site, run by physician Michel Bazinet, provides information on more than 50 medical topics, such as AIDS, cirrhosis. brain tumor, Alzheimer's disease and Attention Deficit Disorder.
"It also contains a cancer support group. Or try the keyword search "medical" on America Online to get to its Medical Services Community and an impressive lis of medical information links. With each main site you have a chance to either look up information on medical problems, treatments and medicines or to forward questions to medical professionals who can answer them. But don't abandon common sense.
"If advice or information seems too hokey or too much like mumbo jumbo, it probably is. Always consult your physician before trying any online suggestions. By the way, I learned that in the remote possibility that I do develop documentable snore, I can undergo allegedly painless laser surgery and make sure that my entire household gets a good night's sleep.s Log on or be left behind
The Net is a place where man is finding out more about themselves and various things. How one find serious or not serious data or information on any topic, is what is at present the present-day zeitgeist... Here are Web Addresses for medical links:
alt.arthritis; alt.support.depression; alt.support.diet; misc.health.diabetes; alt.infertility; alt.support.stop-smoking; misc.kids.health; alt.support.anxiety-panic
Other Medical Websites
Medscape(www.medscape.com); Oncolink (www.oncolink.upenn.edu); MedicineNet (www.medicinenet.com); American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org); Minority Health Resource Center (www.omhhrc.gov) Hypertension Network (www.bloodpressure.com).
The Good And The Bad Of Verbal Convergence
Some Of It Is Information; Some Propaganda
It is important at this juncture to look at and consider the relation between good and bad effects, the press and Information; or, one may add how the converging memes and 'zines' collude and combined to culturally hold its users or agents hostage. For this, we defer to Jacques Ellul who informs us that:
"It seems to be a simple matter, for example, to distinguish between Information and propaganda. But, closer study of the problem reveals that it is practically impossible to make such a distinction. Considering but a few elements of the situation, the problem of information is today no longer that of the necessity of transmitting honest information-everybody agrees on this point. On the moral level it is a commonplace that we ought to transmit.
I merely inquire, "How do we get it?" To remain on the moral level is simply not to understand the situation. The concrete situation, to take but single example, is something like the following: Over the wires and into the offices of the Associated Press pass daily up to 300,000 words of World News , approximately equal to an enormous volume of 1000 pages.
From this mass of words,it is necessary for the Associated Press, in competition with all the other World Agencies, to choose, cut, and re-expedite as quickly as possible, perhaps a twentieth part of the whole to its subscriber.
Ellul continues to add: "How is it possible to select from such a flood just what should be retained, what is true, what is possibly false, etc.? The editors have no criteria, they are at the mercy of whatever comes in, and (even when they judge in good faith, and knowledge) they must essentially judge subjectively. Then again, even if the editor had only true news, how should he assign it a coefficient of importance"
"To do so is his business, and here the stereotypes of the editor are true enough: The Catholic editor will deem the news of the latest Vatican Council of great significance, information which has not the slightest importance to the Communist editor.
"What we have to do with here is not a question of bad faith, but of difference of perspective on the world. The result is that we never know, even under the most favorable circumstances, if a given piece of information is subjective. And we must always bear in mind that this information, whatever it is, has been worked over by at least four of five different Paris of hands."
Ellul concludes thus: "My reasons for maintaining that good effects re inseparable from bad are now, I trust, clear. And, as communications improve, the freer will be the flow of the news and the more available to all agencies concerned. These factors will play an ever greater role, making the difficulties of editing proportionately more difficult, and the chance of selecting absurd than sound news ever get."
We see that the words, the 'memes' and 'zines' that compose and proliferate in our vocabulary and semantics, have a way of making us cultural hostages to them and the means through which they are acquired. It is in this spirit that McLuhan wanted us to appreciate that human technologies, like all other artifacts (to adopt the Anglo-Canadian spelling he naturally used), are 'outerings', or "Utterings" pf our human faculties.
Technologies, whether they be devoted to communication or not, are thus extensions of our humanity, not the cold, alien, external forces envisioned by the paranoia of bad science fiction. Seen as utterings, technologies and thus be seen as utterances, as rhetorical tropes we use to express and enhance our humanity, and can therefore be read and analyzed for their cognitive, social and cultural effects.
True also to the medieval philosophy he knew so well, he wanted us to see that Nature, including humankind, is a book we can read, if we can only know and decode its language and analyze its significance. Such a methodology should have an interpretive power akin to that of the medieval four-level exegesis of the Book of God - the literal, the figurative (allegorical), tropological (moral), and the anagogical (eschatological) level.
McLuhan makes a distinction between "content" of a medium and its 'message,' as well as his observation that manifest content of any communication is always less important than the cognitive impact. The fact that technologies of communication exercise a large measure of control over the content of what is communicated.
In a nut nuts hell, McLuhan's extension of the research conducted in the relationships between orality and literacy may provide some reasonable explanations for many of the cultural changes taking place that give contemporary observers alarm:
"The erosion of "canons" of literature, the apparent decline in literacy among college students, and the creation of an arid postmodernism that denies the existence of intrinsic meaning in texts, to name but a few. We know that the key to understanding why the "achieved values" of "Gutenberg mechanical culture" are today being undermined lies in the ways in which our various technologies condition our senses and sensibilities." (McLuhan)
But perhaps the reluctance on the part of others to take such matter seriously is tied to their reluctance to recognize and admit that technologies, and even powerful, hybrid combinations of technologies, are fundamentally extensions and expressions of our deepest humanity which remains handcuffed by the 'zines' and 'memes' which are dictated to by the technique of the gizmos and their ways of dissemination these is a way that is held hostage, that is, what this media zeitgeist is all about, and its subduction of culture, in the process. I further discuss below, the Cultural aspects of Electronic Media Zeitgeist.
"Zeitgeist" means "the spirit of the times," and this again simply means "the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era."
According to Manuel Castells, "Because culture is mediated and enacted through communication, cultures themselves, that is our historically produced systems of beliefs and cods, become fundamentally transformed, and will be more so over time." We also come across this definition by Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall who write:
"Certain themes imbued with visual metaphors and terminologies of looking and seeing have become the staple diet of cultural and media studies: the society of the spectacle and the simulacrum; the politics of representation; the male gaze and the possibility of a female gaze; the 'mirror stage' fetishism and voyeurism; the reproduction of the image; the 'other' as the projection of racialized discourse.
"It may thus appear contentious to claim, as we do, that "visual culture" has been somewhat overlooked in the rapid expansion of cultural media studies throughout the past decade and a half. Contentious because, after all, the work of Barthes, Benjamin, Lacan and Foucault, with their clearly visual concerns — not to mention a host of others — forms the canonical foundations upon which much cultural and media studies rest."
So that, "Information society," "network society," and "media society" have become central concepts to describe the contemporary society.Recent technological and social developments seem to be characterized by a fast transformation that shakes the old traditions and steady structures of our communities.
Our thinking, our daily activities, and the very survival of homo sapiens are heavily interlinked with technological innovations and media cultural systems. The basic problem concerning communication and information technology continues, however, to be the lack of research carried out from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences.
Accounts based on technical and techno-economics premises — as well as various strategies by governments and central administrative agencies — can be easily found. Qualitative and critical research focusing on such issue as values, morals and social implications of technology is rare This despite the fact that the role of information technology can be considered so central as to justify What W.C. Zimmerli's view of it as the "Cultural Technology" or our time.
We have to really and incisively delve into the Cultural Media Zeitgeist in the context of this Hub as a critical, multi-disciplinary anthology that discusses, e.g., the theories, problems and possibilities of multimedia communication, computer interaction, hypertextual representation of knowledge, contemporary utopias, television broadcasting, semiotics of media, and sexuality in the cyber age.
Instead of technological determinism or trendy techno-optimistic rhetoric, this Hub has been an attempt on an analytical approach to contemporary media, future technologies, and electronic texts, which help to describe and clarify the information and media saturated culture or our time; the possibilities and problems it brings.
For instance, we read from Sherry Turkle that, "Computer technology not only 'fulfills the postmodern aesthetic' as R. A. Lanhnam would have it, heightening and concretizing the postmodern experience, but helps that aesthetic hit the street as well as the seminar room. Computers embody postmodern theory and bring it down to earth."
According to Castells, "It is obvious that semiotic, aesthetic and philosophical codes of contemporary media channels — both in the form of traditional 'mass media' and in the recent forms of s-called 'new media' [Internet, multimedia, hypertext, virtual realities, etc.] — define the millennial Zeitgeist of the coming years. Through the powerful influence of the new communication system, mediated by social interests, government policies, and business strategies, a new culture is emerging: the culture of real virtuality.
This culture of ('real') virtuality emphasizes the technical, psychological and dromological aspects of communication. What characterizes the new system of communication, based on digitized,networked integration of multi communication modes, is its inclusiveness and comprehensiveness of all cultural expressions. Therefore, we can expect to be immersed in all kinds of ever expanding communication — including masses of information overload, worthless data thrash, and seducing media soma.
When we begin to understand the breadth and depth of the Cultural media Zeitgeist, we then begin to wrap our hand around the technological, economical, occupational, spatial and cultural nature of how and why users or consumers are held hostage of these converging technological gizmos and their disseminated zines and memes: that their effect and affect on us and how this has changed and shifted the Media Ecology paradigm form the traditional modes of Mass Information.
According to Webster and Castells, "It is no coincidence that computers,information networks and media technologies in general have held a central position in the recent cultural theoretical and philosophical debate in which both sides of the 'information society' [Technological Society-a la Jacques Ellul], and the 'postmodern' state of culture have been emphasized."
"In fact," according to Poster, it seems that the philosophical analysis of new media and information technology brings up a conflict. These technologies (hypermedia,computer networks, virtual reality, etc.), are generally closely associated with cultural postmodern(ism), the indicators of which are, e.g., global databanks, electronic communications, and the principle of operating in real time."
Beyond this, "The media [cultures] appear to be sketching the sort of qualitative definitions which are often associated with postmodernism, such as the superficiality and brokenness of our world [view], as well as the fragmentary discontinuity of the surround field of phenomena." (Inkinen)
At the same time, though, the media are presented as the Meta Narrative of our time, the total conquest chaos(entropy)?, and an ambitious utopian landscape. Sherry Turkle informs us that, [m]uch of the conversation about electronic mail, bulletin boards, and the information superhighway in general steeped in a language of liberation and utopian possibility. It is easy to see why. To date, a user's experience of the Internet is of a dizzying free zone. Onit information is easily accessible. One can say anything to anyone. [...]."
Over the last few years, themes such as the 'new communication paradigm,' 'digital economy,' 'techno society,' 'interactivity,' 'cyber culture,' 'cyberocratia,,' etc., have been topics of never-ending discussion. Unfortunately, more often than not, comments have been focused on defending or criticizing.
Critics like Tom Forester, for example, consider the information society utopia to be unrealistic. Forester has shown in his biting article, "Megatrends or Mega-mistakes? What Ever Happened to the Information society? ("the paperless office," "the electronic cottage," "the cashless society," "computerized teachers,," , etc.), have failed to come to pass.
It appears, vice versa, that the computer has brought new social, psychological, and ethical problems into the Western society, examples of which are unreliable programs, computerized crime, copyright violations,hackers,crackers, computer viruses, questions of privacy, and general information overload. According to Forester:
"The truth is that society has not changed very much. The microchip has had much less social impact than almost everyone predicted. All the talk about future shocks, third waves, megatrends, and post-industrial societies must now be taken with a large pinch of salt. Life goes on for the vast majority of people in much the same old way.
"Computers have infiltrated many areas of our social life, but they have not transformed it. Computers have proven to be useful tools — no more, or less. None of the more extreme predictions about the impact of computers on society have turned out to be correct. Neither Utopia nor Dystopia has arrived on earth as a result of computerization."
The doyen of Media Ecology Marshall McLuhan gives us his take in the following manner:
"[...] Computers offer the potential of instantaneous translation of any code or language into any other code or language. If a data feedback is possible through the computer, why not feed-forward of thought whereby a world consciousness links into a world computer? Via the computer we could logically proceed from translating languages to bypassing them entirely in favor of an integral cosmic consciousness somewhat similar to the collective unconsciousness envisioned by Bergson."
"The Spirit Of The Age" - Media Zeitgeist Redux-Part Deux
McLuhanite rhetoric is well suited for expressing the "spirit of the age" ("Zeitgeist") stressing global media,electronic technology and transitional culture. Considering the society and technology of today. McLuhan's writings on electronic culture, television age, global village, hot/cool media, etc., have been prophetic…
And, as a creative dissident, his energetic vision, often seems unbelievable in its eloquence in the academic world and/or a theoretical realm with its many original and futuristic ideas(and this in the 1960s-which is still more than relevant today and into the future). This fact about McLuhan has be encapsulated by Benedetti & DeHart in the following manner:
"There are different reasons for McLuhan's revival. For the first time since television achieved domination of the culture in the fifties and sixties, there is a new wave of technological innovation that seems on the verge of radically remaking our world — a wave signified by the Internet and virtual reality.
"Personal computers, first used largely as glorified typewriters, now seem capable of linking individuals into an electronic, instantaneous, global communication network. These developments have sharpened our belief that an old-fashioned, content-based approach is inadequate to understanding technology.
"A comprehensive, effects-orientated approach — an attempt to grasp the whole pattern of change, including the innumerable and often ignored side effects of technological development — seems more fitting. McLuhan is the master of this approach."
McLuhan writings were ahead of his and our time, and this point is made clear by Kevin Kelly who writes: "Everyone thought McLuhan was talking about TV, but what he was really talking about was the Internet - two decades before it happened... McLuhan's strange ideas seem perfectly obvious in light of the Web, e-mail and cyberspace."
And in a more expanded sense, Jonathan Miller provides a critical view of McLuhan in this manner:
"[...] In fact, he [McLuhan] sees the more recent developments in electronic technology as offering a God sent escape from the slavery exerted by wheels and levers. For in a somewhat confused way, he has identified the circuits of the electrical engineer with those of the human nervous system itself, and invites us to acknowledge that through TV and radio we have given ourselves the opportunity of communicating with one another through media that can reproduce the plural simultaneity of thought itself.
"Through these media images and sounds can be flashed upon the attentive mind with telepathic speed; and, since the various mechanisms cam be inked in a vast network, electronic man has reconvened the tribal village on a global scale."
A theorist of mass communication and media culture, McLuhan has been quite justly called a prophet in his own time. He saw the irresistible impact technological change had on the world and society, providing new ways to explain them. Such terms as "vortex," "sensorium," "sensory impact," "extension of man," "global village," originally coined by him, have become part of the language.
Particularly popular has been McLuhan's idea of a global village brought together by the mass media telecommunications infrastructure which seems to be an ideal analogy for picturing an Internet-style global information network.
It is this infrastructure with its communicating speech patterns that this Hub was exploring. As this Hub develops, we will now go much more deeply into how these 'zines ' and 'memes' function effect and affect us, change and modify our communication methods and lifestyle, along with thinking and doing things in our day-to-day lives. This will be keeping up with "the spirit of the times" [Zeitgeist-Cultural Media Zeitgeist].
Extending Friendships and Interests
Online spaces enable youth to connect with peers in new ways. Most youth use online net-works to extend the friendships that they navigate in the familiar contexts of school, religious organizations, sports, and other local activities. They can be “always on,” in constant contact with their friends via texting, instant messaging, mobile phones, and Internet connections.
This continuous presence requires ongoing maintenance and negotiation, through private communications like instant messaging or mobile phones, as well as in public ways through social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook.
With these “friendship-driven” practices, youth are almost always associating with people they already know in their offline lives. The majority of youth use new media to “hang out” and extend existing friendships in these ways.
A smaller number of youth also use the online world to explore interests and find information that goes beyond what they have access to at school or in their local community. Online groups enable youth to connect to peers who share specialized and niche interests of various kinds, whether that is online gaming, creative writing, video editing, or other artistic endeavors.
In these “interest-driven” networks, youth may find new peers outside the boundaries of their local community. They can also find opportunities to publicize and distribute their work to online audiences and to gain new forms of visibility and reputation.
Self-Directed, Peer-Based Learning
In both friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity, youth create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. In the process, young people acquire various forms of technical and media literacy by exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media.
They may start with a Google search or “lurk” in chat rooms to learn more about their burgeoning interest. Through trial and error, youth add new media skills to their repertoire, such as how to create a video or customize games or their MySpace page. Teens then share their creations and receive feedback from others online. By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning.
Others “geek out” and dive into a topic or talent. Contrary to popular images, geeking out is highly social and engaged, although usually not driven primarily by local friendships. Youth turn instead to specialized knowledge groups of both teens and adults from around the country or world, with the goal of improving their craft and gaining reputation among expert peers. What makes these groups unique is that while adults participate, they are not automatically the resident experts by virtue of their age. Geeking out in many respects erases the traditional markers of status and authority.
New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting. Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.
Implications for Educators, Parents, and Policymakers
New media forms have altered how youth socialize and learn, and this raises a new set of issues that educators, parents, and policymakers should consider.
Social and recreational new media use as a site of learning. Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technological skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning. Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access “serious” online information and culture. Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.
Recognizing important distinctions in youth culture and literacy. Friendship-driven and interest-driven online participation have very different kinds of social connotations. For example, whereas friendship-driven activities center on peer culture, adult participation is more welcome in the latter, more “geeky,” forms of learning. In addition, the content, ways of relating, and skills that youth value are highly variable depending on what kinds of social groups they associate with. This diversity in forms of literacy means that it is problematic to develop a standardized set of benchmarks to measure levels of new media and technical literacy.
Capitalizing on peer-based learning. Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads. Such learning differs fundamentally from traditional instruction and is often framed negatively by adults as a means of “peer pressure.” Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting “learning goals,” particularly on the interest-driven side, where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.
New role for education? Youths’ participation in this networked world suggests new ways of thinking about the role of education. What would it mean to really exploit the potential of the learning opportunities available through online resources and networks? Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally? Finally, what would it mean to enlist help in this endeavor from engaged and diverse publics that are broader than what we traditionally think of as educational and civic institutions? Taking note of the changed reality and environment from analogic to digital, that too, must be taken in notice.
A Sense of Wonder - Jason Silva - Zeitgeist Americas 2013
The Spirit Of The Time-Time Erasure of the Past
"When You give people too much information, they instantly resort to pattern recognition to structure the experience. The work of the artist is to find patterns." (Marshall McLuhan)
"The name of a man is a numbing blow from which he never recovers." (Marshall McLuhan)
"The Next Medium, whatever it is--it may be the extension of consciousness-will include television as its content, not its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual's encyclopedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a salable kind." (Marshall McLuhan)
The spirit of the time is nigh, and Marshall McLuhan was talking about this change. Even for us, as we see the change that is happening, we are aware that western media-driven societies began to morph, and quickly, to the point where around where in the twentieth-century that time not only seems to be moving more quickly, but is beginning to feel funny, too. There's no more tolerance for waiting of any sort.
"We want all the facts and we want them now. To go without email for forty-eight hours can trigger a meltdown. You can't slow down, even once, ever, without becoming irrelevant. Music has become more important because music is a constant. School reunions are beside the point because we already know what our old classmates have done. Children often spend more time in dreamland and cyberspace than in real life. Time is speeding even faster.
"And then the economy collapsed in a weird way that felt like a hard-to-describe mix of Google, New York times's website, pop-up ads for Russian pornography websites, and psychic radiation emitted by all those people you see standing by the Loblaws produce section at 6:15 on a weeknight, phoning home to see if spinach is a good idea.
"All this information and more has overtly, osmotically, or perhaps inadvertently damaged a collective sense of time that has been working well enough since the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the Middle Classes. This "time sickness" is probably what killed the economy, and God knows what it's up to next.
"Everywhere we look, people are making online links-to conspiracy, porn, and gossip sites; to medical data sites and genetics sites; to baseball sites and sites for Fiestaware collectors. To sites where they can access free movies and free TV, arrange hookups with old flames or taunt old enemies-and time has begun to erase the twentieth century way of structuring one's day and locating one's sense of community.
People are now doing their deepest thinking and making their most emotionally charged connections with people around the planet at all times of the day. Geography has become irrelevant. Our online phantom world has become the new us. We create complex webs of information and people who support us, and yet they are so fleeting, so tenuous. Time speeds up then it begins to shrink.
Years pass by in minutes. Life becomes the strange experience in which you zooming along a freeway and suddenly realize that you haven't paid any attention to driving the last fifteen minutes, yet you're still alive and didn't crash. The voice inside your head has become a different voice. It used to be "you." Now your voice is that of a perpetual nomad drifting along a melting landscape, living day to day, expecting everything and nothing." (Douglas Copeland)
In 1962 MCLuhan wrote:
"Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total independence, and superimposed co-existence."
With those words, McLuhan anticipated, four decades earlier, the Internet. And he added to this by saying, Environments are invisible. Their ground rules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception. McLuhan's "The medium is the message" means the ostensible content of all electronic media is insignificant; it is the medium itself that has the greater impact on the environment, a fact bolstered by the now medically undeniable fact that the technologies we use everyday begin, after a while, to alter the way our brains work, and hence the way we experience our world.