In response to the unlecture, where Adrian attempted to blow our minds with the notion that the internet was not, in fact, a virtual space, but was actually very physical with very real world consequences.

I think the question was, “What does it matter if there are more mobile phones with internet connections than there are people on the planet? Does the internet actually exist if we aren’t using it?” In essence at least.

Adrian responded by giving examples of all of the reasons that the internet existed in physical space, and how there was a literal, measurable, carbon footprint for every email that we send (and that, it is reasonable to describe spam emails as physical pollution).

(One of the things he failed to mention, in terms of how large Google was as a company – “Google uses more electricity than Melbourne” – was how it is storing some of it’s most recent data farms. They eliminate the problem of real estate costs by floating their servers in the ocean.)

In response to this, I agree, the internet does have a physical presence on the world. However I think the distinction lies in the fact that is is the infrastructure that takes up the physical space, and the internet itself (I suppose this really comes down to a definitional argument; what is the internet?) remains virtual. I cannot touch Facebook any more than I can touch this blog post. I can touch a server, or a screen, but not the literal thing in itself.

Similarly, I cannot access the internet without a computer or a smartphone. The internet can still exist, in terms of the fact that servers, fiber optic cables (oh Tony), data centers, technicians and electricity can exist, but without a medium through which to access it, it doesn’t exist in a practical sense. And if a person is only able to access the internet through one medium at a time, there seems little point in championing the fact that there are more mobile phones than there are people on the planet.

It seems a little like owning more than one pair of the exact same glasses so that you can read different books while wearing them. One pair for fiction, the other for biography. An iPad for social media and a computer for working.

It almost becomes an existential argument, “If a tree falls in a forest…”, and ties quite will into what we were talking about in philosophy and quantum theory, and how perception of a thing alters the physical state of the thing (Schrodinger’s Cat), but that isn’t what I imagine Adrian had considered when he was answering the question.

(Strange how we inevitably alter the context of a thing in order to suit it best to our field of specialty/interest.)

Unlecture No. 4: The First Symposium

The lecture yesterday was without a doubt the most interesting lecture of the year, probably of university so far.

I think finally, after the first few weeks of talking about it, and waiting for Brian to return from wherever he was (holiday?), the dialogic structure has fallen into place. It needed to happen this week, as people were getting slightly miffed at the fact we were being told about a revolutionary method of teaching that treats us (students) like capable human beings (as opposed to blank but vaguely keen slates that need to be written on in order to make us appear employable), but the ‘unlectures’ had a distinctly lecture-like feel to them. We were still listening to one person speak for at least half an hour (though we were allowed the enormous privilege of asking one question at the start that may or may not have been answered in that half hour).

(forgive the parentheses)

Things I loved about how this unlecture/symposium was run:

  • More that one person spoke. Not only this, but there was less of a sense of hierarchy among the tutors. Brian seems to have balanced the numbers to achieve zen.
  • Students in the audience asked questions when they weren’t necessarily asked to (“So, does anyone have any questions about that…?” *crickets chirp and a dust ball rolls across the front of the room*). This, I think, will give other students the confidence to engage more openly, with less fear of being made seem like an idiot in front of the rest of the cohort.
  • The content was very interesting. Not to say that the last few weeks have been dull, or that what Adrian was saying was things I already knew, but I think having the other tutors to bounce off made what he had to say a lot more fresh, and much less rehearsed. As the tutors have different ideas about the subject, and the material within the subject, they challenged each other when they spoke. Everyone was thinking, rather than reciting.
  • We rehashed over things that we had already talked about from previous weeks. I think this is important in university subjects more generally, as the content that is covered is usually so massive. My friend studying Nursing at La Trobe said they covered the entire content of year 12 psychology in one week. I understand that you are expected to do much of your learning out of university hours, it is still helpful to go over things, just to make sure they were understood, or even to elaborate on them as a segue to the next topic, rather than segmenting each week as a different section of information.

For me, the most interesting part was the last example used by Adrian, about how you intend to get paid in this industry and what you have to do to achieve that. His example was that of a wedding photographer (a past student’s plan for a business).

Why on earth would anyone in their right mind (even if they had cash t throw around) spend $10,000 on hiring a photographer for their wedding when they can just ask Uncle Clive with his digital SLR and iMovie to make it for you. Clive would be keen to do it; then we wouldn’t have to buy a wedding present.

His answer? You must sell the experience, not the product. You must sell the fact that you can film an entire wedding, ceremony and reception, without being noticed by anyone so they feel they are being filmed. You sell your discretion, not your hour of footage. You sell that you will archive the footage of their wedding forever, for free (in case of housefire, flood, loss of the dvd, etc…). That you will send them uncut, additional footage every anniversary to remind them of their special day. You have to do the things that Uncle Clive won’t do.

The industry must not be about selling a thing. Because now, everyone can make these things with software that everyone gets for free on their computers. It must be about selling the experience of the thing. Which I personally, hadn’t thought enough about. It is not enough to just produce great videos, because there are thousands of teenagers with their webcams, with millions of followers, who are able to do the exact same thing, to a much greater audience.

It tied nicely into my conversation this morning with a friend who wants to start up a coffee shop. He was telling me about his connections in the industry and how he would be able to get discounts on the beans, how he has friends who would be willing to invest money into the business to get it started. And while you need these things (a coffee shop without premises or beans wouldn’t be a great coffee shop), you need customers. And you need a reason for customers to come back to your shop, as opposed to the one a block from their house that serves the exact same coffee, for the exact same price.

My answer (thank you Adrian), was the feel of the place. Everything from the decor, to the music playing, the staff that work there, the cups that people will drink from, and the sugar they will stir into their drinks. A customer must feel comfortable and at ease using a product (or buying a cup of coffee) or they won’t use it, because if they are willing to sacrifice comfort, they will find a very cheap solution to whatever the problem they face, or service they need.

The Moat, under the Wheelers Center, is where I go for coffee when I’m at uni. Why? The one on campus is cheaper. Druid’s Cafe is much closer. Mr Tulk serves the exact same stuff. And if I do a quick google search; “coffee shops swanston st”, this is what Google maps tells me.


My answer? The feel of it. I like the place. I feel comfortable there. At home even. I’d be quite happy to spend the day there, just reading or writing. I like that they play quite classical or jazz over the speakers. I like that there is a different kind of spoon with each jar of sugar. I like that I know one of the waiters is called Stewart, and that he plays golf and used to own his own restaurant. I like that he knows I teach children to swim and do triathlons. I like that I don’t even have to talk to them anymore, I just sit down, and within a few minutes, a flat white will appear in front of me. I like them enough that I have brought at least a dozen people there since the beginning of the year, who had never heard of it, and some of them have become regulars too. It is comfortable, and easy, and I will probably keep going there till I finish my degree, spending hundreds of dollars on coffees and snacks, and probably even go there if I get an office job in the city after I finish uni.

Why? Because as Adrian said, I’m not paying for the coffee, I’m paying for the experience.

Day 01: No sight of land

Well, I suppose after a week of wholeheartedly avoiding this blog, I should succumb and publish a first post.

In regards to the second ‘unlecture’, there did seem to be a slight contradiction in what we were told was expected in regards to this blog.

  • On one hand, we were unlectured about the possibility of going to jail on child pornography charges if we failed to or incorrectly set up our spam fliters (which would serve to delete hundreds of thousands of potentially criminal messages attempting to weasel their way into our online existences), and that we could serve as a platform for people with slightly different values to hurl abuse and hatred at each other (Justin Bieber tweens on one side, Slipknot fans on the other, ready to wage bloody war on the battlefield of the comments section).
  • But on the other hand, we must frequently and casually post on it, sharing and publishing whatever takes our youthfully enthusiastic fancy, and hope that it vaguely related to the course (a minimum of 5 times a week).

The crux of these two things being that we were responsible for whatever comments were posted on this blog, which, as Adrian reminded us repeatedly, is here forever and will remain as a permanent digital footprint of us.

I see the contradiction rear its confused head now, with half of my brain telling me, “Oh yes Nick, write on the blog! Look how eager Cat is when she sees another dog at the park! Why don’t you have that unreserved enthusiasm for life?” (Cat is my dog, a Kelpie, nearly a year old with enough energy to solve Pakistan’s energy crisis and still have enough left over to heat a 7/11 sausage roll.) The other part of my brain, however, is slightly more reserved, and tells me in a cautious but understanding voice, “You might want to pass university, but staying out of prison is also nice.”

The issue seems to be, that I am struggling slightly to muster enthusiasm for a thing that could land me in jail through no active behavior of my own. To which I imagine Adrian’s reply, “You are legally able to purchase a gun, join the army and kill people, vote for the leader of this country and drive a car, I’m sure you will be able to manage a spam filter.” To which I would agree, I probably can. But the idea is still somewhat daunting.

Then again, I suppose I’d rather be informed and safe than sorry and eating canned peaches from a mess tray in Port Philip Prison. I guess it has to be viewed like a high school sex ed talk in health class. It brings the worst possible result of a behavior into harsh sunlight for all to see, which serves to temporarily frighten us away from risk taking fraternisation (with the internet…), but most likely will never occur. Not, of course, to suggest that it will never happen, but that if you take the right protective measures (the buzzword, I believe, is ‘careful’), you can significantly reduce your chances of any wrong-footing.

Which seems like a reasonable unlecture to have to sit through, even if at the time my main thoughts were focused around Barry, the overweight, wife-beater sporting pedophile who would probably refer to me as “fresh meat”, and would be my cellmate for several decades after being convicted of child pornography for failing to correctly set up my spam filters on my RMIT prompted blog.