Unsymposium Week 10

My main takeaways this week

The 80/20 reading gives us a mechanism to understand how networks develop. It shows us the evolution from one node to an infinite number of nodes. These connections have never been random but they are not ordered either; power laws come into play and that’s why hubs count, they are vital and they are surrounded by infinite nodes.  Being a small player, or one of those infinite nodes, isn’t a big deal in the network because it takes so few links to get to those hubs. Just like Kevin Bacon is an achievable connection for all of us within 6 degrees.

Jasmine felt that the reading offered the idea that even though we’ve got these hubs that accumulate over time, new nodes can still flourish. Likewise over time hubs can become less important and be replaced by newer ones.

This discussion as a whole helped me to understand how blogs thrive online and that if we’re not linking to other people we’re not even trying to maximise our audience reach. It also shows how we can all help each other out by linking amongst the “little guys”  to help the long tail get some attention.

I feel like the remainder of the unsymposium was spent exploring the notion of technological determinism vs cultural determinism. It seems like we all have an obsession with the role of the author and authorial control. After once again exploring this notion yesterday I think I understand why we keep coming back to it.

Adrian has said several times that the Author doesn’t have complete control, we are subject to the technologies we use, the cultural influences on structure and communication and even the limitations of language itself. (I have no notes of the exact phrasing so I won’t claim this is an exact representation of what Adrian has stated on the subject). I don’t think anyone (or certainly not most of us) has too much trouble understanding that there are limits to the control an author has because of technological determinism and other factors like the subconscious mind vs the conscious mind and which one is representing us/offering insight into our minds. I think the reason people protest the notion of there being no authorial control is because there is some implication in the statement (whether intended or not) that to accept technological determinism and no authorial control as an absolute truth, means that the author doesn’t matter.

Sure, all the great authors have operated within the confines of their selected medium, and in that way they are subject to technological determinism. But it matters that Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities instead of Sarah Palin (or to be fair and less extreme, it matters that Dickens wrote it rather than Victor Hugo). Authors have an impact on their work, they produce something that in all likelihood wouldn’t have been produced as a carbon copy by anyone else in the world, and because of this I think we can claim that we get a taste of who the author is, even if the characters in their book in no way reflect them personally we get to see what their mind is capable of creating. Once again I’ve fallen into the trap of using literature as an example. But I guess literature is the area where we feel most license to interpret and project our own experiences onto the interpretation of an author’s intent so that’s why we keep coming back to it.

So I guess, even if I am representing only myself in this statement I would like to say that I understand technological determinism’s role in life. I no doubt am more able to articulate that role as a result of the discussion/debate through networked media. But I feel misunderstood in my protest against the notion of authorial control because I protest it as an universal truth with no grey area. Maybe this is because I’ve mistakenly taken Adrian’s assertions as absent of a grey area where the author matters but I feel frustrated to be returning to the subject over and over as if I don’t comprehend that there are restrictions within which we operate.


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