Category: Unlectures

Unlecture #12

The final symposium of Networked Media served to sum up the course as a whole, and gave a chance for each tutor to detail their thoughts on how it has gone, and what has stood out for them.

I found this format very useful for a Week 12 lecture, especially because most of my other classes don’t run a lecture at all. It was good to be able to detail the trajectory of the course, and how everything links in together (in a network if you would), and although this would have been very useful to see at the start of the course, it probably would have been difficult given the ‘speculative’ nature of it.

I liked the discussion about the internet being transparent, open and public, and how making anything online closed or secure fundamentally contradicts the basic ideals of the internet. The quote from Adrian was nice, describing how individuals are like sponges that soak up new information and techniques, while universities are like bricks, that form a wall to stop people accessing these new things.

The course began with ideas of learning and different techniques of education, such as double-loop, moved on to a whole lot on hypertext and narrative, then to protocol and their influence on the network, and finally to database and their effect on narratives.

I really liked using this style of lecture to sum up the course, and it helped to show that there actually was a method to the sometimes ‘madness’ of the course, and helped to show the coherent links between what we have been reading and discussing, both in the tutes and the lectures.

Unlecture #11

The second last symposium/lecture of the course discussed the origins of the internet, patents, democracy and the internet, and social manners.

I found the first question the most interesting and thought provoking: ‘Why didn’t Tim Berners-Lee patent the web?’.

Most of the answers revolved around the fact that Berners-Lee at a utopian-like view of what the internet could be: an open, universal and free network. Claiming a patent, something that is intended to control and monetize things, would be in direct conflict with these ideals.

Adrian also identified the ‘gift economy’ that the internet is based on, where people freely gift things with no assumption of getting something in return. This was seen from the vert start of the internet, with the American government paying for the research of the internet that is now freely used by anyone that can access it.

Adrian also detailed how the entire infrastructure of the internet is treated as a public good: no-one can actually own it.

Wikipedia is probably the best and simplest notion of the ‘gift economy’. All of its content is contributed by individuals for free, with no expectations of getting anything in return, and it is now one of the huge ‘hubs’ of the internet network.

The idea that most interested me out of this lecture was what the internet would have looked like today if Tim Berners-Lee had in fact patented the web back in 1989.

I found this interesting article from TechDirt that addresses this scenario, and presents an unsettling scenario where the Internet is more of a commodity, something that is own and run by large, wealthy companies.

If it had been patented, the internet may well have been a much more strictly controlled realm largely run be large corporations, rather than by individuals and ideas as it is now.

The level of innovation that the internet encourages and nurtures would also be drastically limited, mainly to just the ideas of the big players, which isn’t usually where the most interesting ideas come from.

Google and some social networks also may never have taken off, due mainly to the legal constraints and limited nature of hypertext and the network.

As the article states, “the use of the internet would be more ‘consumption’ than ‘communication'”. If it had been patented by Tim Berners-Lee, we wouldn’t see the revolutionary, two-way system of reciprocative communciation that we do today.

In fact, if Sir Tim Berners-Lee had decided to patent his creation, the World Wide Web, we probably wouldn’t be participating in a course called ‘Networked Media’.

Unlecture #10

The tenth lecture covered a very wide range of relevant issues to networked media, including the open nature of the Internet, Kevin Bacon, and the fact that technology is everywhere and is everything.

I really liked the start of the lecture with Adrian showing us the ‘Faces Of Facebook’ website which has recently gone viral, and relating it to our course. It is an example of a free form creative practice, on that has taken advantage of the fact that social media sites like Facebook are so public and open; even if your page is on the most strict private settings, people can still see your profile picture.

This is an interactive and interesting site that was not made or endorsed by Facebook at all, one individual has just utilised the opportunities that social networking presents, and things like these exemplify the inherent contrasts between traditional and new media.

Traditional media doesn’t utilise the ‘database’ form, information isn’t easily accessible by everyone, like the example that Adrian used, it’s impossible, and somewhat ridiculous to imagine, that we could access the information of people using Coles/Myers cards, but this is what we can do with new media, allowing sites like this to be made.

‘Faces Of Facebook’ incorporates the profile pictures of all of the site’s 1.2 billion users, allowing you to zoom in one an individual’s picture. It was created by Natalia Rojas, a Miami-based ‘creative technologist’, who said simply that “I accidentally discovered how to access all the profile pictures from everyone on Facebook when I was playing around with their API”.

The site also updates in real time as new users sign on to the site, adapting to the ever-changing realm of the internet. The site has well and truly gone viral in the last few days, gaining much attention from the media, and it serves to display just how huge and all-encompassing this network that we are studying is. Just look at the opening page of the site, it’s just a messy collage of different colours, but upon zooming in, it becomes a structured and ordered network of the internet.

The lecture also discussed the power law distribution that explains the network of the internet, and how this results in ‘hubs’ emerging. We heard how Hollywood is a great example of this, with actors and directors and the likes usually sticking together and groups, resulting certain actors becoming hubs (KEVIN BACON) and creating connections between two seemingly unrelated people.

This results in these hubs having ‘weak connections’, it is structured and far from random, but usually we don’t actually know who is behind these hubs personally, creating less strong nodes.

At the end the lecture also touched on the all-encompassing term of technology, and the contest between technological determinism versus cultural determinism.

As Elliot discussed, in nearly every case, technology is developed for one reason, and is ultimately used for a completely other purpose. This was seen with SMS, which was originally thought to be just for business notifications, but is now the major form of social communication, as well as just the internet as a whole, which was created by the US during the Cold War in order to have a system that would avoid complete destruction in the event of a nuclear attack.

I really liked Adrian’s concluding statement, calling out people that claim to go on ‘technology free’ detoxes, when in fact technology is unavoidably everywhere.

Unlecture #8

This week’s symposium focused on the actual process of writing a hypertext narrative, the problems of a Long Tail-style free market model with recommendations, and the centrality or lack thereof, of networks.

I liked the discussion about how when writing a hypertext narrative, the structure naturally emerges from the process of creating it, as opposed to an essay, where you will inevitably have a plan or structure before beginning to write it.

Before writing something, you may not know what is the most important piece of information, or what will be most relevant to the reader, so writing in a hypertext form allows this to happen naturally, with the most importance/relevant piece of information becoming the one with the most links to other bits of the writing, or to things outside of this narrative.

I also that it was useful that with a hypertext narrative, the process of research and planning becomes much more transparent and easy to navigate, with the ability to provide direct links to full quotes, articles that were cited, or notes that were used to write the actual piece.

The biggest thing I took out of this lecture was how Adrian described hypertext, and I think this was the point that I fully ‘got’ this new concept. Adrian compared hypertext to cinema, saying that the nodes are like each shot used in a film, and the links are the edits used to join the shots. As opposed to film, hypertext as multiple, near-unlimited ways to edit this piece together, and there is always the very real potential for meaning to be altered when something is edited differently.

As has been discovered with film, the meaning lies in the relationship between one shot and another, and Adrian labelled this as “hypertextual logic”, because the meaning in a hypertextual narrative is also primarily derived from the way in which the nodes are linked together.

The lecture also included a discussion on the idea of the Long Tail, and whether it was problematic if recommendations hierarchies emerged. This would involve one opinion dominating others,, and lead to others being hidden.

Many internet sites, such as Amazing, Spotify, and iTunes, utilise this recommendations system to ‘help’ users find other things they may be interested in, but many argue that this means that some will have more influence than others.

This hierarchy can be seen on Triple J Unearthed, where certain users with some sort of influence or a large amount of reviews, are labelled ‘power users’, with their reviews appearing at the top and inevitably having more of an affect on a possible downloader.

I don’t necessarily see this as a problem, because nowadays much of this content is tailored reasonably well for our interests, and a hierarchy is usually a good way to ensure the content is consistently good. I think this only becomes a problem when it is manipulated or hijacked by advertisers, and the recommendations are no longer ‘real’.

Unlecture #7

The ‘Unlecture’ format, or the symposiums, are finally up and running, and I’ve usually found that there are at least a few key take away ideas in each one for me.

Unlecture #7 again focused on the revolutionary nature of hypertext, and its affect on narrative and authorship, as well as how it can be incorporated in the genre of documentaries.

I really liked the idea of how with hypertext, it is much easier to ‘get started’ with writing. You can start from anywhere, and this will inevitably link in with other ideas and introduce others. Hypertext is much more open to this form of writing then the more traditional means, and also allows this non-linear writing to be the end product if you want. As Adrian showed with his hypertext essay, it doesn’t need to have a traditional ‘essay structure’ of intro-para-para-para-para-conclusion, but instead can be a ‘train of thought’ of type, with links between similar ideas and concepts.

The unlecture also discussed the influence of hypertext on the documentary genre, and how this allows them to become more accessible and more interactive, as all hypertext apparently does.

Adrian again pointed out how ridiculous it is that Wikipedia is so frowned upon as a resource, just because of its interactive, community-based approach. But as he pointed out, many studies have found that it is just as accurate, if not more, than Encyclopaedia Britannica and the like, and the fact that anyone and everyone can contribute to it merely ensures that most of the time someone will get it right. Even when someone does cheekily mess with a page and deliberately uploads false information, it is usually so quickly edited by another user that it’s near impossible to actually see it online.

I think it’s only a matter of time until Wikipedia becomes a valid source that can be referenced in essays and the like, and this will probably coincide with hypertext and similar avenues becoming more commonly utilised in media, as well as outside of it.

Unlecture #6

Out of the very wide range of diverse issues discussed in the second ‘real’ symposium style lecture, two stood out to me: the idea of published work only being validated once it is viewed by others, and the ‘death’ of the physical book.

The question the interested me was: “Is the work we publish online only validated once it is viewed/consumed by others?”. I completely agree with how a lot of the lecturers answers this one, mainly that it is the fact that our writing has a possible audience that has an influence on the writing process, rather than if people actually read it. The fact that I’m writing this with the real possibility of at least one person seeing it means that I’m writing it in a different way than if I was just jotting down my thoughts on the lecture in a personal diary.

We know that the work we publish online is viewable to anyone, and this alters the way we write and the content of what we write. I don’t think people need to actually consume the work for it to be validated, the very fact that we published it means that it’s validated, at least to us.

I also liked the physical analogy, in that blogs technically don’t exist until someone clicks on it, and chooses to view it, and as Adrian said, if we write for an imagined audience, and write well, that imagined audience will become real.

I also found the discussion on the physical book vs e-reader a very relevant one. I’m one of those people that may not ever get used to reading for pleasure on a tablet or the like. I find it weird to read and annoying to not get the satisfication of turning the page, or checking to see how far you’ve come.

In contrast to this however, in the very near future I see none of my university books being physical copies. Even right now, only one of my four subjects as an actual textbooks, all the rest are online, and this makes every single aspect of this easier and more efficient.

Physical books still have a place close to my heart, but not in terms of my studies.


Due to the strikes, we didn’t have round two of the symposium this week, but we did get a trio of interesting and engaging videos to watch. All three focused on education, innovation, new media, and how these three must be combined in order to better prepare us for what the future may held. Each video acknowledges that we don’t know what the future will be like, so each is a form of design fiction in a way.

The first, a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson, was entitled ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ and definitively answered this as ‘yes’. Robinson identifies the “extraordinary capacity” for innovation that children possess, but how this is educated out of them through an education system that focuses primarily on industry, and maths and languages.

He explains that this model of education no longer accurately prepares people for what the future will hold, and (somewhat depressingly), claims that “degrees aren’t worth anything”.

But it’s almost impossible to argue with him. We’re all creative as children. We’re not afraid to make mistakes or make fools of ourselves, and we have no fear to try things that we may not be good at or know we will most likely fail. But as Robinson explains, we are quickly taught in education that mistakes are bad, they are ‘fails’.

He says that “we need to radically rethink our ideas of intelligence”, and defines creativity as the “process of having original ideas that have values”.

The second video was another TED talk, this time from Michael Wesch, titled ‘From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-Able’. This one focuses on the ability of new media in education, and the ideas of two-way conversations and active audiences. He explains the idea that students learn what they do, so what are they learning when they are seated as passive audience members to a dominant lecturer?

The final video was another one from Wesch, a quick four minute clip that details the extraordinary potential of this hypertext that we’ve discussed so much, made even more remarkable by the fact that it’s from way back in 2007.

I think all three of these videos relate directly to Networked Media. The first video seemed to describe exactly what Adrian is trying to combat in this course, and education in general. It plays on the idea of teaching knowledge and know-how, rather than information, and removing the hierarchical nature of teaching. We are encouraged to be creativity in this; we can write on literally anything on our blogs, and get marked on it for it’s quality, not necessarily its relevance.

This draws on info from the Wesch TED talk and how this new media can, and has to be, utilised in education. I particularly liked the quote near the end where he says that it’s ridiculously easy to create and publish things online now (through avenues such as YouTube, Blogging etc), but it’s also ridiculously hard to do it well and properly, in a way that actually engages an audience and promotes further interaction. This is the aim of our blogs; we are trying to create our own content in order to engage with the course and our peers, and this can be achieved through this technique of  ‘hypertext’ that Wesch describes in the last video.

Unlecture #4

Yes. After this week’s ‘unlecture’, it finally feels like this subject is properly starting.

Entitled the ‘Beta Symposium 0.1’, it was our first introduction to the ‘Q and A’ style lectures that the rest of the semester would see, and for the most part, I think it worked really well.

It was a refreshing change to be interactive and engaging with many different subjects, as well as allowing us to shape the content. It was my tute this week that developed the eventual questions, and I think, although I’m slightly bias, that they were interesting and diverse.

We were finally allowed to use laptops, and this helped me to take in many of the key points and take-away ideas, and fortunately, there were many of these.

For me, the most enlightening questions was the first one, ‘What is the practicality of design fiction for people who are not designers?.

I think the answers really solidified for me why it’s important for us to be learning about design fiction, and how it can be used in whatever our chosen profession may be. As Adrian stated, “designers have a good toolkit for dealing with complex and wicked problems”. Looking to the future and asking ‘what if’, can help to solve problems in a productive and innovative manner in the present.

Design fiction provides a simple and flexible way to deal with problems that we will all encounter in the media industry, especially in how to adapt in a media world that is changing so dramatically and so constantly.

I also found the answers to the last question especially interesting: “What do you think the future of networked media will involve, and how will it benefit us?”.

I liked the statement that we can now “make things and build a reputation in our chosen areas free and easily”. We don’t have to find an avenue to publish our content, we can publish it ourselves almost instantly, just like I’m doing now. What we publish can also be viewed by anyone and everyone, and can help to build a reputation within our chosen profession. It’s about knowledge and how to use that knowledge, rather than just rope-learning straight-up information.

Overall, I really enjoyed this format for a lecture, and I think there was a lot of interesting and engaging content that relates directly to the course. It’s good to be finally into it.

Unlecture #3

Much like this week’s ‘unlecture’, this one might be a bit of a rant.

The third ‘unlecture’, and it was tempting to just call it a ‘lecture’, seemed to me like a lecture about being different, while not actually being all that different in itself. It mostly revolved around a select few’s complaints and questions on the subject and its apparent irrelevance. I think by this point, a quarter of the way through the semester, we should start focusing on the core elements of the subject, rather than trying to justify it to a handful of people.

I think this subject could be great, I really do. I love the idea of blogging about it, and this forces me to actually do, and more importantly, reflect on, the readings, lectures and tutes, as well as giving us the chance to interact with our peers and see their opinions.

I’ve found the readings very interesting, although slightly too broad, and I can see how they’re directly related to the course.

I like the idea of the ‘forum-style’ lectures, and hopefully this will begin very soon with Brian’s return. I thought both Elliot and Jasmine’s input was insightful and refreshing .

I’ve really enjoyed an array of the points and ideas that Adrian has developed in the previous two unlectures, and I’ve found that these are applicable to my other subjects, and my out-of-uni life as well.

But, a quarter of the way through the subject, it doesn’t really feel like it’s really begun properly, in its entirety.

I also think that it’s a bit of a ridiculous contradiction to not allow laptops. I completely understand the reasoning behind it, but to me, it’s all a bit counter-intuitive, and, dare I say it, resembles single-loop thinking. With the amount of freedom and responsibility that we’re endowed with in this subject, we should be relied upon to stay focused even while using laptops. There have been numerous points and quotes from Adrian that I’ve taken down, but I find this much harder when writing, and in a rush to transcribe it before the next point, it’s often illegible. The responsibility should be on us to still pay attention, and we should be allowed to use our laptops to take notes.

All in all, I found this lecture a bit disappointing, but hopefully it’ll pick up again by next week, and we can get in to ‘real stuff’ of Networked Media.

Unlecture #2

The second ‘unlecture’ for the semester was like diving into the unknown once again. This was the first week of the ‘Q&A’ still forum, with all the tutors and Adrian fielding our various questions about the course.

It begun with Adrian asking us all to put away our laptops, and while I completely understand why this was done (who of us can honestly admit they’ve never spend a whole lecture browsing their various social media), I think it was slightly counter-intuitive to the subject as a whole, one that’s called Networked Media. I think the opportunity to do a ‘live blog’ of sorts for a lecture would be interesting, a stream-of-conscious style post on the things we immediately take out of the lecture, and hopefully we’ll be allowed to do this in the future.

The most important thing that was covered for me was the concept of liability with our blogs, and how even if someone else comments with something offensive or copyrighted, we can get in trouble for it. This unfortunately often leads to bloggers just blocking comments completely (and fair enough), although they can often lead to worthwhile discussion. This is something that is crucially important to us as we’re starting up our blogs, and think we all have a better idea of the issues surrounding it now.

I like the style of a ‘Q&A’ lecture, but I think it will be much more effective as we get further into the course, and semester. A lot of the questions were very basic and revolved around things we can easily find in the course guide, and I think some of these were written just for the sake of writing a question. But the concept of a forum-lecture is brilliant and will definitely be useful later on. When we’ve only got 50 minutes, I think it’d also be better to do away with questions written on paper, and as suggested in our tute, something like a live Twitter feed could be cool and effective.

So far, I’m finding it refreshing and interesting to be taught in this way, and I think it will only get better as we all get used to it and adapt to this different style.