Another React episode for y’alla: Teens React To 90s Internet. Very entertaining!
September 2014 archive
Evan’s post, which I must commend on its brilliant title, discusses an alternative perspective on how we might consider ‘centres’ in networked environments. He generally concludes that whether or not networked spaces might have a centre varies from one scenario to the next – for example, whilst train networks tend to have a centre (take Flinders Street Station in Melbourne), social networks (with Mean Girls as an exception) usually do not. An interesting idea he also raises is although there is no common, established centre of the Internet, the single page the user, or ‘doer,’ may find themselves on is the centre of their experience at that current time.
Michael touches on the amazing extent of connectivity that networked environments allow, as indicated by the ‘Kevin Bacon Game,’ aka the ‘Oracle of Bacon.’ He also embeds the hilarious clip from the Hamish and Andy Show where the pair purposefully contradict the aim of the game by attempting to reach a Bacon Number of 100. The immensely catchy tune is sung to Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ and features the ‘best bad’ animations I’ve ever seen!
Kerri’s discussion of egocentric online behaviours is painfully true, and it’s about time someone said it! I really couldn’t have put it better myself, so please, allow Kerri to hit you with reality:
“By posting photos on Facebook we’re saying “hey friends/family/acquaintances/that guy I saw across the room at a party that one time/my 11 year old cousin’s best friend, here is a photo of me eating my raw vegan lunch/at a kewl party/at the Kanye West concert/at the beach/with my bae/from where you’d rather be“. And then we wait for the likes to accumulate on the picture, especially if we “dp’d” it, for affirmation that we are loved/cool/popular/have swag.”
Whilst I realise the relevance of this text to the Internet’s networked system, I purposefully chose not to study physics and mathematics to avoid content like this! Somehow it has managed to work its way into my communications degree and I can safely say I am not a fan!
Putting my frustrations aside, I attempted to make sense of the information that this reading divulged. It firstly discusses Pareto’s 80/20 rule, a model sparked by the simple observation that ‘ 80% of his peas were produced by only 20% of the peapods.’ This rule has been found to apply to a wide range of other truisms, in and out of nature.
To my understanding, the 80/20 rule, when graphed mathematically, forms a ‘power law distribution.’ Unlike a random network, which is represented by a traditional bell curve, a power law distribution does not have a peak, and instead forms a continuously decreasing curve, implying that ‘many small events coexist with a few large events.’ This is supposedly the distinguishing feature of a power law. This diagram, sourced from the reading, really explained it for me:
So what does this have to do with the networked system of the Internet? Although I’m still attempting to get my head around this myself, here’s my understanding. It has recently been discovered that networks, like that of the Internet, do in fact follow a power law system, when previously thought to assume an entirely random structure.
The academics who discovered this used ‘a little robot’ (not sure if that means a literal little robot or something else too sciencey for my comprehension) to map out the nodes and links behind the Web and understand the complexity of it’s network once and for all. Whilst they assumed that the majority of documents would be equally popular, it was instead found that there were many nodes with a few links only, and a few ‘hubs’ with a extraordinary amount of links. This indicated for the first time that networks are far from random.
To me, this seems logical and I’m not sure why it was such a surprise to these academics. There are SO many websites out there that I would assume the majority of them would encounter minimal traffic, resulting from their mere number of links to other ‘nodes’ or webpages. But co-exisiting with these are a few immensely popular websites, like Facebook for example, that have millions of visitors each day due to their greater amount of links.
Am I missing something, or is it that simple?
In this week’s symposium, Adrian’s discussion of the following excerpt was particularly noteworthy:
How is it that assembling a large collection of components into a system results in something altogether different from just a disassociated collection of components? (p. 24.)
Similar to the workings of an ecosystem, individual components function differently than they do as a collective. There is no hierarchy, no centre and instead a networked space of relationships (links) between species (nodes). These relationships result in dependencies between species that can determine the efficiency of the ecosystems overall functionality. For example, if one species were to go extinct, the entire ecosystem may fall apart. It is like deleting a single node from any networked space – links to that node are consequently broken, causing interruptions to the flow of the system.
Furthermore, the point that networks such as these have ‘no centre’ was also something that was stressed in the symposium. Whilst you could argue that a node with the most links could form a central point, this is not necessarily true. This is where Kevin Bacon comes in. The ‘Oracle of Bacon’ ‘rests on the assumption that any individual involved in the Hollywood, California, film industry can be linked through his or her film roles to Kevin Bacon within six steps.’ Despite how this phenomenon may portray him, Kevin Bacon is by no means the centre of Hollywood, but is instead simply a dense connector.
Throwback Wednesday… Reminiscing about our school trip to the Northern Territory in 2012. Craving a holiday!
So unfortunately I ran out of time last week to properly reflect on the reading this week… But here are a few key take aways:
‘How does individual behaviour aggregate to collective behaviour?’
‘What makes the problem hard, and what makes complex systems complex, is that the parts making up the whole don’t sum up in any simple fashion. Rather they interact with each other, and in interacting, even quite simple components can generate bewildering behaviour.’
By network, we ‘could be talking about people in a network of friendships, or a large organisation, routers along the backbone of the Internet or neurons firing in the brain. All these systems are networks.’
‘Real networks represent populations of individual components that are actually doing something – generating power, sending data or even making decisions.’
‘Networks are dynamic objects not just because things happen in networked systems, but because the networks themselves are evolving and changing in time, driven by the activities or decisions of those very components.’
Emma Watson has taken the UN and the world by storm with her astounding speech on gender equality for the launch of the new campaign, ‘HeForShe.’ Watson stresses the need for men to be advocates for gender equality as it not only a woman’s issue, but a human rights issue. Being a feminist myself, I completely agree with everything Watson has to say and think everyone should get behind this campaign. I must say it has also risen my respect and admiration towards Watson a great deal – what a woman!
Nethaniel opposes the technologically determinist view in saying that the creator’s role is crucial in determining how technology will be used, as are the ways in which a user consciously chooses to utilise the tools that the technology offers. This, in turn, can determine further events, rather than technology doing all the ‘determining’ itself.
Mia attempts to make sense of technological neutrality by comparing it to a more frequently used sense of the term – carbon neutrality. However, the concepts do not seem to directly correlate, which makes the definition of technological neutrality even more ambiguous. Her overall contention is that nothing in this world exists independently and thus, nothing can be neutral.
Angus discusses how we should not be able to name something as being neutral, as that mere reference in itself defeats its apparent signs of neutrality. Anything we have a knowledge or understanding of has inevitably had an influence over us, thus proving not to be neutral. Therefore, it is seemingly impossible to name a neutral device. Woah!
Some great points raised by all!
In this week’s lecture, the discussion primarily revolved around the concept of neutral technologies. Looking to my notes, the very first thing I’d scribbled down was ‘what does a neutral media mean?’ A good place to start, one would think. Scanning through however, I found myself lacking in a definitive answer. Adrian outlined the fact that ‘technology has affordances’ and that ‘nothing exists independently.’ I agree with these statements completely, however I was still somewhat confused as to what a ‘neutral technology’ actually was. I suppose it is difficult to define as it is unclear if a neutral technology can ever truly exist, also too because it is a mostly subjective matter.
We continued the analysis the following day in our tutorial, and the meaning of the concept became clearer. To my understanding, if ‘neutral technologies,’ should exist, they do not motivate cultural movement or change, nor have positive or negative effect over a society. We also established the idea that technologies can mean different things to different people – some devices may seem neutral to particular cultural groups whilst grossly influential over others. This I found particularly interesting as I began to research isolated tribes and consider how they remain unchanged by technologies we rely upon on a daily basis.
Consider the most isolated tribe in the world, the Sentinelese – indigenous people of the Andaman Islands of India. They live in complete seclusion from the rest of the world, and are most noted for their resistance to contact from outsiders. The tribe follow very traditional and out-dated means of living and actively maintain a hunter-gather society. This in itself indicates how their relationship to modern technologies is seemingly neutral. The tribe remain unknowing, by choice, of so many technologies that we utilise everyday – proper housing, cooking and cleaning utensils, cars, phones, computers etc. If you were to hand them an iPhone, I am sure they would have no idea of its purpose or function. Obviously, this piece of technology much more neutral for them than it is for western culture. Considering it from this perspective, you could assume technologies/ideas are neutral until we discover/understand them.
This is merely one way you could look at neutral technologies.
Take a news story and unintentionally hilarious interview subject. What do you get? A ridiculously viral Internet sensation! You may have heard of and/or seen the currently globally known clip ‘Apparently Kid.’ Check it out below:
Five-year-old Noah Ritter has since had his world turned upside down, featuring in interviews on The Ellen Show, Good Morning America, Today News and recently starring in a new Fresh Pet advertisement. It’s crazy how being in the right place at the right time can pretty much get you what some people work for their entire lives, overnight. Sigh. Anyway, props to the kid!
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