Category: Symposiums

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.


Unsymopsium Wk 7 – General

When we were discussing hypertext today, I found Elliot’s comments really helpful. It seems like I am not alone at comprehending the magnitude of hypertext and how one even approaches creating one. Elliot was discussing causality and how we as human’s are prone to looking for links and a causal relationship.

All narratives have some diegetic environment – even if you can’t control the structure, you can control the world – so first create the world.

This made it all much more comprehensible to me. A valid starting point for hypertext was provided. I’m sure it’s not the only way but for those of us who are defeated by the thought of even knowing how to start, it’s a no doubt helpful approach.

Adrian, conversely said the key was just to start, and i think that’s the case for any work really. If you are unwilling to give it a go without any clear direction, chances are you’ll never find the direction. Hypertext seems to facilitate this method more than standard linear constructs. It’s very nature allows you to form links as you go; to identify which elements are linked to frequently versus which elements will roam on the edges only just affiliated with the content.

Adrian also spoke about Plot and Story, that the plot is the timeline of the story. We can accept flashbacks and nonlinear representations of story via the plot, so it is helpful to view hypertext as a heightened version of this.

Brian brought it back to ideas I connected with, and was reassured by. He spoke about codes authors can use to try and help illustrate their meaning to their audience. Communication’s very purpose is to share ideas and connect with people and there are tools we can use to maximise our meaning.

When the discussion was focused around Documentary and hypertextual documentary fitting into genre I think the important things that came from that was:

– To be a documentary there must be a truth claim about the world.

– documentary can make a truth claim that can be disputed

– genre is not just about textual form

– Our media literacies are what limits our understanding of work within a genre, not the work itself. i.e. Brian’s anecdote on Rap music.


Unsymposium Week 7 – Author’s mind

This week’s symposium left me with conflicting responses. Sometimes I feel like questions are being asked because they can generate lively discussion rather than that the answer is actually unknown to us. But then that leads me to wonder if I’m missing something and have oversimplified the material so much for myself, that I’m not venturing far enough into my thinking process over the material to discover the mysteries others see. So I can get frustrated by the things we’re discussing. I don’t dispute that they’re important to be discussed and we wouldn’t know the answers if the ideas were never explored though – so there’s my internal conflict right there and I come to the symposiums to give the format a chance and sometimes I do learn a new perspective and other times I hear the perspective I expect to hear, articulated in a more succinct way than I would be able to.

Yesterday I arched up at Adrian’s comment that writing is never an insight into an Author’s mind. Probably because I’m prone to protesting any absolute terms, or universal “truths”, but also because I do disagree. I don’t claim that author’s have any control over how their material is interpreted once they put it into the world, but I definitely believe there’s plenty of opportunity to convey vital aspects of one’s sense of self through writing, and that some of the readers will correctly interpret that, particularly if the author has a facility with language.

It is impossible to know someone completely because like Adrian said, we all have our unconscious minds that no one has access too. As human beings though, we crave connection and I do believe writing and reading can offer the opportunity to gain insights into the mind of the author as much as knowing your family or partner and understanding who they are is possible. Yes there’s a limit and I don’t claim that the insight possible is achieved 100% of the time or even 20% of the time.

I adore Stephen Fry. I watch QI religiously, I pour over his blogs, nothing delights me more than discovering a new youtube clip where I can listen to this man with this incredible mind. Recently he announced to the world that he’d tried to take his own life as recently as last year. He has been public about his mental health for many years but it’s easy to forget this brilliant man is undergoing a constant battle with his illness. He wrote this blog post to address both his illness, the experience and the reaction of the public. This piece is written to give his audience access into his mind and illness. No, it does not encompass him completely, but it does offer an insight.

The other thing that struck me about insights into the mind of the author is that writing is also a way to understand our own self and maybe the author offers an insight into his mind as much to himself as to his audience. Because it was subconsciously done does that make it less of an insight?

I remember studying Girl with a Pearl Earring in year 11 and hating every second of it because the text felt so contrived, metaphors so laboriously constructed and the feminist undertones so thoroughly explored in my all girls class. The year before we’d studied Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and that experience was life changing; I suddenly worried that I’d missed so much reading other books because I’d never read between the lines. I became consumed with wondering how many of the lessons To Kill a Mockingbird subtly provides were carefully constructed by Lee versus how many were arrived at by her subconscious mind. I digress. My point here is probably that there’s a spectrum and I will never know if the things I connect with in my favourite texts are an accurate reading of the author’s intent or if they’re reflecting my own state of mind and thought processes at the time, or, if both have fortuitously aligned.

So after all this rambling in response to Adrian’s comment I was left asking:

Really? It’s never an insight?

Does it have to be an absolute insight to be valid?

Can the Author not also gain insight into their mind in conjunction with the reader?

I did like Adrian’s discussion about treating texts as an object, that we are interpreting texts not authors and I think that is a valid distinction to make, but perhaps not mutually exclusive.

I also appreciated that context cannot survive with the text. What a succinct and valuable perspective to have gained! Leads me to another frustration of the constant debate over whether the “N word” should be removed from Mart Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The reason this debate continues to thrive is because the context we read this book in has changed. I wont get into my opinions/frustrations about it.

I guess I have to concede that you cannot use someone’s work as a complete insight into their mind. I don’t know that many of us would ever claim you could if confronted with the question though.

Maybe all this is just an insight into how unwilling my mind is to accept absolute statements. Probably I’ve become a perpetrator of my initial complaint of discussing things we already know the answer to, and ok… sometimes maybe it’s necessary.

Unlecture Week 6

It was good to be back in symposium mode this week. A lot of discussion on Hypertext and where the future is leading us. The discussion left me thinking that the whole Networked Media course is operating like hypertext, where we have to feed the beast to help it grow and if we’re not making our own links and explorations the course will be stagnant. – that we get to define where to next and which parts of the course we link together and build on.

I also really liked that Adrian pointed out literature is a key part of our nostalgia and attachment to print. I’d never made that link in my mind but while I LOVE books and the memories I can get from picking up a book I read on a certain holiday or the comfort from the well worn pages of my favourites, I have absolutely no issue with text books and essays etc becoming strictly digital media.

Week 4- Unlecture

It was great to finally get into the Unlecture this week. I really enjoyed the format and think it will only get stronger as the weeks go on and we get used to it.

One of the key things I took away from the lecture is that the idea of this course is to turn us into good problem solvers, to be willing to think outside the box. It’s something that has been discussed all semester but I guess I finally made the connection with design and how you train your brain to think.

Brian spoke about how there was a top down assumption in modernist thinking, he spoke about the planning of commission buildings and how the communities to be affected weren’t consulted at all. It’s interesting comparing this model to the reading Adrian posted about twitter and the evolution into “no management” operating where employees were given full information and consulted on decisions and encouraged to take responsibility where they excel, ask for help where they need etc.  (I am remembering this from reading the article over a week ago and may be incorrect- this is a perfect example of Elliot’s discussion about how the internet has changed how we think and remember so that we know where we got the information but not the information itself.)

Week 3, Unlecture

This week’s lecture left me eager for the unlecture model to take shape upon Brian’s return. I expect once the format has an opportunity to gain some energy and momentum within the class this new model of participation will really take off.

I wasn’t left with much else to take away from the lecture this week, only because I don’t feel any urge to resist this model of learning so while interesting, the unlecture was preaching to the converted in my case.

My First Unlecture

Having missed week 1 due to generously scheduled holidays, I found myself a bit overwhelmed with the unlecture of week 2. After taking the opportunity to relax into the unorthodox method of teaching I found it to be an engaging strategy.

For some reason I’ve always been interested in the learning process and find the overly standardised process of learning in Australia a little worrying.  I’m excited to see how the participatory nature of the unlectures develops through the weeks, we’re all a little reluctant at the moment.

I did find the lecture to be a little too focused on exposition rather than actually sinking out teeth into anything. Again I think this is probably to ease us into this learning/teaching model and to encourage us to participate to take full advantage of the benefits of this learning style. The most encouraging prospect for me is that the course genuinely seems staged to evolve to best enhance the learning based on (and reacting to) the participation of the students.