Guns Don’t Kill People

I was particularly intrigued by this expert from Murphy, Andrew and John Pott’s, Culture and Technology (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Print.)

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I’ve been thinking about this in relation to a question that was discussed in the symposium about blogging and narcissism. I’ve often heard people suggest that the younger generations are become increasingly more self-involved/egotistical, always “uploading attention seeking images” or “posting attention seeking statues” to sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, personal blogs etc. It is interesting to question whether these technologies are mimicking the desires of an audience with increasing egos or whether the nature of the social networking sites themselves demands a narcissistic use.

There appears to be much research into whether or not Facebook and the likes encourage narcissism. Narcissism is defined as excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one’s physical appearance. Or in more psychological terms extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type. This article, by Lisa Firestone, discusses possible reasons for the spike in narcissism in up and coming generations, stating that “there is a significant amount of psychological research that shows that one’s personality is fairly well-established by age 7,” given that Facebook’s policy doesn’t allow users to register until age 13 “the personality traits of typical users are fairly well-ingrained by the time they get on a social network.”” This article and others I have read suggest that the narcissism spike is more to do with new forms of parenting and child education that focus heavily on constructing positive “self-esteem”. It is this emphasis of nurturing a child’s perception of themselves that encourages the praising of children even when they have not properly completed or accomplished a task. Firestone argues that “empty praise causes children to feel entitled while lacking the true confidence necessary to feel good about themselves. Our society’s shift towards instant gratification appears to be having a negative effect on our kids.”

While I do agree with Firestone on this, and understand that the use of Facebook and other social media sites can not cause someone to become a Narcissist per say, I do believe that our use of social media technologies is forcing us to constantly critique ourselves;, whether that be physical appearance, wit, prose or the number of countries we have visited. I can only speak for myself when I say that I know this use of media technologies causes me to think often about how others perceive me, and what I need to do to be received positively. Having grown up in a world of social networking, from having a Piczo at age 14, I am not sure if this self-reflection is actually just inherent, and most people experience the same social anxieties in the absence of social media.


Symp. #5: Bathing In Electromagnetic Data


I left the theatre last week with vivid imagery of electromagnetic data flowing through my body and filling rooms with blinding light. I’m not sure what these waves of data where supposed to look or feel like but immediately my skin was crawling the way it might if I thought insects were running up and down my arms but when I looked there was nothing there. I’d heard before that I wasn’t meant to leave my mobile near my head or my ovaries but that’s about as far as the thoughts had spread.

Talking about the Internet Adrian suggested that we service it, it doesn’t service us. There was a worker ant analogy thrown in there and I’ve been thinking a lot about that. The way we offer up our personal information to sites like Facebook, or to any site in fact that asks for it. Boxes come up, ‘name’, ‘D.O.B.’, ‘address’ and tap tap tap I type it in and click ‘I agree to terms and conditions”. I sometimes pause, my finger above the ‘agree’ button, but any cautiousness is blown off by a overwhelming surge of “fuck it” and I go about my day.

Me friend showed me this really interesting Ted Talk the other day. This was one of my first exposures to metadata. As far as I’m aware metadata is “data about data” but I’m not exactly sure what that means. There’s been a lot of debate in the Australian media recently about metadata and privacy. The Abbot Government supports data retention, allowing internet and phone providers to store users metadata for up to two years with out warrant. After some research I’ve learnt that metadata is more quantitative than qualitative, for example it is the duration, location and reception of my calls, rather than what was discussed within the call itself. Previously I wouldn’t have understood the extent of personal information this would relay about me, but after watching the Ted Talk I can see how simple graphs and figures about internet and phone usage can actually provide a lot of personal information.

My friend wrote an article about these proposed data retention laws and the petition that has arisen to demolish the regime called Citizens Not Suspects. According to Citizens Not Suspects proposals include:

• mandatory retention for two years of data relating to the internet and telecommunications activity of all Australians. This data could include records of your phone calls and texts, your location (if you use a mobile phone) and who you send emails to and who you receive them from. As Sir Tim Berners-Lee said when he was down under last year, retention of data on this scale “is so dangerous, you have to think of it as dynamite”.
• giving ASIO the power to ‘disrupt’ computers by adding, modifying or deleting files.
• giving ASIO the power to spy on a number of computers – including a whole computer network – under a single computer-access warrant.
• giving ASIS (Australia’s foreign intelligence agency) the power to collect intelligence on Australian citizens overseas.
• creating a new criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment for revealing information about ‘special intelligence operations’. This comes with no exceptions and would apply to journalists, even if they were unaware that they were revealing information about such an operation.

It’s crazy how much information we offer up unknowing about ourselves on the Internet, and who is able to access it. Websites tell me what other articles I might also be interested in, Facebook lines my pages with Ads it thinks meet my needs/desires, iTunes recommends new bands to me and you know what, I usually like them. While this all seems relatively harmless it’s got me thinking about how much data I put out there, the form it then takes and the way it can be thrown back at me. It’s easy to see it all as beneficial, technology catering to my own personal needs, but I guess that’s how it reels me in. And I’m not exactly sure who or what I mean when I say it but I better stop short of personifying the Internet as whole and claiming it’s out to get me.


A lot of my current streams of thinking and researching talk about this notion of “globalization” and it is not a concept I have completely grasped. What factors have contributed to its development and what factors have been born as a product of it? Does it operate on a push or pull basis? Can the spread of ideas and the demand for them be organized into a linear cause and effect graph? Does globalization distribute its benefits and adversities equally across the globe? Is there really a homogenising of cultures occurring? The internet allows for easy dissemination of knowledge and forming of global social groups and networks and Wikipedia tells me that the Internet is “both a product of globalization and a catalyst of it”

I suppose what I’ve been thinking about is: is globalization good or bad and who for? I asked my housemates about it and one of them started talking about the global mélange. I looked it up on the Internet and it seems to be a book rather than a theory, but regardless the book discusses whether cultural life is possible after the “clash of civilizations” and “global McDonaldisation”. I’d never heard of McDonaldization before but turns out it’s a term coined by sociologist, George Ritzer, that describes a society mimicking the structure and ideals of a fast food restaurant, like systems based on efficiency and turning everything into small easily digestible portions repackaged in different way over and over again to make them appear new. The system is based on efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. This has leaked into sectors of society such as news and education.

Literary Machines: Newspeak

“Imagine a rebirth of literacy.”

Theodor Holm Nelson’s report Literary Machine’s discusses hypertext, “non sequential pieces of writing … that branches and allows choices to the reader, best read on an interactive screen.” He discusses how this degree of choice, lack of restriction and control of thought pathways by the reader allows greater degrees interaction between audience and text. The audience is no longer passive but plays an active role in the reading of a text. Readers are encouraged to follow their own line of thought, rather than one created for them. He states “imagine a new liberation literature with alternative explanations so anyone can choose the pathway or approach that best suits him or her; with ideas accessible and interesting to everyone, so that a new richness and freedom can come to the human experience; imagine a rebirth of literacy.”

Nelson dedicates the book and his vision of a world of hypertext to George Orwell, referencing Newspeak, a language spoken in his book 1984. Newspeak is an example of a language created to control thought. While the language we speak was not created with thought control in mind, it is interesting the limitations that words can have on thought. The Saphir-Whorf hypothesis for example suggests that the grammatical framework of your first language shapes the framework of your thinking, while Foucault’s discourse analysis, suggests power hierarchies in society are expressed and maintained through language. Though I think Derrida says it best when he states, “there is nothing outside the text” suggesting that the meaning is derived from the relationship of words to other words.

There is much debate on the effects of hypertext of both the reader and the writer and the relationship between the two. Literary critic Sven Birkerts believes that hypertext is destroying the role of literature in our culture, weakening our standard of writing and replacing order with chaos. Professor of English and Art History, George Landow suggests that audiences have not become active due to hypertext, reading has always been active, but rather they have become deliberate; reading a text in accordance with your own interests.

I’ve often thought about the effects that not only hypertext but also “literary machines” have on my writing and thereby the manner in which I think. I’ve kept a journal since I was six years old. When I was nineteen this stopped being in the form of a physical book, in pen to paper style, and transferred onto the screen, into a Word Document. Instead of thinking about what I wanted to say before letting my pen hit the paper I was now able to write freely and have the option to go back and alter my words or expression without consequence. I now prefer to write creatively on my computer rather than on paper. My fifteen year old self would be disgusted with this and I wonder if this has changed the way I think. Seeing words now in font, in neat lines, instead of scrawled chaotically in my own hand. Having freedom to erase words completely, leaving behind no trace of editing.

I do believe that the structure of language that I’m exposed to plays a role in not only shaping my own writing, but also my own thinking. Hypertext definitely plays an important role in my communication and research, allowing me to chose my own pathways and follow threads that interest me.

“Everything in contemporary society discourages interiority. More and more of our exchanges take place via circuits, and in their very nature those interactions are such as to keep us hovering in the virtual now, a place away from ourselves.”
― Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age

Hello world!

I realise that this introductory blog post is about 5 weeks overdue. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been working like a machine, or that I’m inherently lazy. But while these things are true about me, to be honest I think my lack of participation is more closely linked to some sort of intrinsic fear of failure. But I watched this video last night and I’m feeling proactive. So before I lose this rare mental state I’m going to do my best to catch up.

I had a sense of victory when I completed the html test in the tute the other day. I’m pretty frightened of computers and technology in general because I lack a sense of basic understanding and therefore control. I’m network illiterate I suppose is the appropriate terminology. All my prior html knowledge was gained from changing my layout on MySpace, but I lost all that the day I learnt a new meaning of the word ‘wall’.

I have mixed feelings towards the notion of blogging. Any sort of outlet for creating an online persona or voice makes me feel uncomfortable. I make a lot of generalised statements about what constitutes “real life” or “true identity” in regards to online expression and interaction, but I understand that these ideals are not only dated but also completely subjective. ** The world I exist in is partially online and I wouldn’t be doing myself any favours in my chosen industry if I disregarded this. As much as I find doing so comforting.

I’m going to start by just trying to pick a theme.

** I’ve been thinking a lot about that first automated post titled “Hello World” and on second thought maybe what makes me uncomfortable is having to present a singular self, for everyone to view simultaneously. Rather than change according to people I’m physically surrounded by. That’s given me a bit to think about anyway.