Chell's blog

Thoughts, ideas, and other things 'a bit unkempt'…

Ten Dreams of Technology, Steve Dietz


This reading, is a speculative piece that comes from the point of view of art about technology.

I really like Adrian’s abstract about the reading:

‘Weird examples to help explain. Do you know of any racing car driver who doesn’t have a deep understanding of cars, engines, tyres and of course driving- they don’t just drive. Do you know of any dancer that doesn’t have a deep understanding of different sprung floors, points, slippers, shoes, ankles, knees, their own bodies and muscles? …” This is very true and correlates with a point I found interesting in the reading.

I was surprised to read that “Artists were among the earliest and most active participants to recognize the potential of the internet”; maybe because I am uneducated about artists and would make a too general connotation of them with drawing, painting, music etc… instead of ‘ideas producers’, ‘thought communicators’, ‘knowledge creators’ and ‘experience designers’ which we learnt to classify ourselves as in week four of Networked Media. This was interesting to me because I simply assumed that the internet was completely created by academia. Never did I think to consider the more artistic and creative minds that were behind its development.

I guess the lesson here is not to take things, or people on face value. So much more goes into the ideas, design and development of things than those who are directly associated with it and take the credit.



On actor-network theory, Bruno Latour


Latour discusses some of the misconceptions about networks. He says there are three main misunderstandings that are due to “common usages of the work network itself and the connotations they imply”.

The first mistake is to relate a network to a ‘technology network’ such as a train, subway, sewage or telephone network, “a technical network in the engineer’s sense is only one of the possible final and stabilised states of an actor network”. This is much different to the ‘actor network’, because an actor does not have the same characteristics such as compulsory paths or strategically positioned nodes.

The second mistake he describes is relating the ‘actor network theory’ (ANT) to the study of social networks. The study of social networks involves studying human actors and their frequency, distribution, homogeneity and proximity. The ANT aims at “describing the very nature of society”, but not just in terms of humans, but also non-human, non-individual entities. ANT builds, or “rebuilds” social theory OUT OF networks.

ANT asks us “to think in terms of nodes that have as many dimensions as they have connections”.

“ANT makes use of the simplest properties of nets and then add to it an actor that does some work; the addition of such an ontological ingredient deeply modifies it”.

Latour then goes on to describe some of the characteristics common of all networks:

– Proximity is not an issue; “elements which are close when disconnected may be infinitely remote if their connections are analysed”, and vice versa. Take the example of the technological possibilities that the telephone has created; you can be standing one meter away from your friend while you are on the phone, but be closer to another friend on the other side of the world by talking to them through the phone instantly.

– The size of the scale is replaced by connections. A network is never bigger or smaller than another one, it is just closer or looser in ints connections. IT does not care what is the top/ bottom of society, what is micro or macro or local or global.

Latour also describes that the word ‘actor’ carries many misconceptions as well. In terms of ANT, an actor or ‘actant’, “can be literally anything provided it is granted to be the source of an action”.

I found this half of the reading really useful and helpful to my better understanding of networks and found that I too made some of the common mistakes when thinking ‘what is a network?’

The reading then moves on to semiotics and reflexivity and I found it a lot less readable. So, purely so I don’t try and explain what Latour is explaining wrong, I’m going to stop my reflection here. 🙂


Recombient Poetics and Related Database Aesthetics, Bill Seaman


This reading goes into explaining database aesthetics. Seaman relates a database to a human. Much like the Manovich reading, Seaman describes a database as a storage system that has many processes. Like a human, the processes can include things like memory, thought, association, cataloguing, categorising, framing, contextualising, de-contextualising, re-contextualising and grouping.

Seaman also mentions interface design, and how human processes become operative.

I like Seaman’s explanation that “computation enables structural mappings across domains”. This to me helps understand internet web-sites as databases. All of which are structural and organised in either hierarchies, networks, etc… and each website links to several others, creating a web. These ‘media-flows’ depend on human activation, but again, there is no fixed narrative.

Database as Symbolic Form, Lev Manovich


Manovich introduces the idea of ‘new media’. Suggesting that we have moved in to a computer age, after having the novel and cinema as society’s main form of cultural expression, Manovich explains the concept of a database.

In line with what we have recently learnt about the internet being a hypertextual space, Manovich says that new media object such as websites, do not follow a narrative structure, they do not have a beginning, middle or end, and “they don’t have any development, thematically, formally or otherwise, that would organise their elements into a sequence”. Manavich highlights that instead, each item is valued as an individual piece.

A few key ideas to understanding databases:

– Databases use different models to store and organise data.

– Databases appear as a collection of items which the user can perform various operations such as view, navigate and search.

Therefore, the user experience of databases is quite different to that of a narrative. To put this into perspective, Manovich uses the example of computer-games, which there is some argument about as to whether they count as hypertext or not. According to Manovich, computer-games are not hypertext, because they do follow some sort of narrative. There is always the underlying objective for the user to ‘win’ the game, by completing challenges, solving puzzles etc. But a true database on the other hand, such as the most common cd-rom encyclopaedias, are collections of masses of information where the user can choose to go in any order to learn, view, interact etc with the data stored on the disk.

Furthermore, Manovich goes to the extent of saying that the world is a database. “The world appears to us as an endlessand unstructured collection of images, texts and other data records”. This may seem like a very large-scaled example to describe a database, but it helped me get the idea; a database can continue to grow, be added to, change directions, and all unexpected events can happen to it.


Protocol: How Control Exists after Decentralization,Alexander R Galloway


This reading addresses very clearly what the title portrays. I liked how the first paragraph set everything out clearly and in context:

This book is about a diagram, a technology and a management style. The diagram is the distributed network, a structural form without center that resembles a web or meshwork. The technology is a digital computer, an abstract machine able to perform the work of any other machine (provided it can be described logically). The management style is protocol, the principle of organisation native to computers in distributed networks. All three come together to define a new apparatus of control that has achieved importance at the start of the new millennium. 

The information that resonated with me the most from this reading was about ‘protocol’. Protocol is at the core of networked computing systems. It is a set of rules and recommendations for the computer that outline the specific technical standards.

Prior to its usage in computing, ‘protocol’ referred to any type of correct or proper behaviour within a specific system of conventions… Now, protocols refer to standards governing the implementation of specific technologies. 

Galloway gives an analogy of a highway system to explain computer protocols. He describes how many different routes are available for someone to get from location A to B. But one route has more restrictions and rules you must follow (protocol) such as red lights, double lines etc.

Galloway’s main argument is that protocol is in fact how technological control exists after decentralisation. I tend to follow the author’s flow of thought here, but I find it difficult to analyse and summarise. I intend to continue this post after we discuss this reading in class this week. I’d like to hear other people’s ideas too.

Culture and Technology, Andrew Murphie and John Potts


This reading was of interest to me, I actually kind of understood it which was a nice change 🙂

So here are my main take away points on Culture, Technique and Technology:

– The current meanings of the word technology only come about in the late 19th century, before this prominent writers including Karl Marx did not use the word.

– It came about at the same time as terms such as ‘Industrial Revolution’ to describe the radical restructuring of Western societies that was underway.

– “Words can be sites of contests between competing social groups as they attempt to assign and control specific meanings”. For example, the word ‘Technocrat’ (emerged in the 1920’s), is an adjective that could both praise or insult a person, depending on the political point of view… *Culture*

– Furthermore, all “important” words carry the traces of social changes… *Culture is ever changing beacuse societal views and values are ever-changing*

– The ever-changing definition of the word ‘Technology’: a study of the arts> the system of mechanical and industrial arts> the application of knowledge to production> even individual machines such as computers are now considered technology.

– Technique as technology: technique is the way we do something, and technology is the the equipment.. on a most natural level, the way we eat, sleep, and run are people using technique on their own technology, the human body.

– Culture: ever-changing human values and views.

– The stigma of ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture: apparently, reading the Herald Sun newspaper is ‘low’ culture because it is the less prestigious and read by the less educated fraction of society… I really don’t like these terms, I started reading the Herald Sun because it was more physically managable than the Age, and now I am invested in the journalists that write for it.

– Fact I didn’t know (but feel like I should have): The internet was invented by the US military as a means of decentralising military authority incase of attack; but it became a public sphere/ a space where any citizen with something to communicate could put their ideas forward on a public platform. Hmmm…



The 80/20 Rule & Rich get Richer, Barabási, Albert-László


The first reading introduced the concept of the 80/20 rule, one which I had learnt in year 9 economics suggesting that 80% of a business’s sales are from 20% of their customers, and takes it further, applying it to numerous societal patterns. Some of which include 80% of decisions are made during 20% of meeting time, 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals and 80% of customer service problems are created by 20% of customers.

It then went on to apply the rule to networks, although the numbers are slightly different; 80% of links on the web only point to 15% of webpages for example. To me this seems quite accurate. I mean, how many ads with hyperlinks do you see that direct you to Facebook, eBay, Apple etc? Compared to those of small, unnoticed webpages such as our blogs for example? I think if a comprehensive study were carried out, calculating all the webpages online and all the links to every webpage,  the 80/20 (or 80/15) rule would be very close to the truth.

The second reading bought into context, how could you ever calculate how many webpages exist on the world wide web? It explains in terms of nodes, links, hubs, connectors etc, that the web started as a single node. And it eventually gets ‘linked’ to another node. All nodes are equal. Nodes can have many links to other nodes which are linked to several others and so on. The web is a network of nodes that is ever-increasing. Like my example last week about a spider-web, this reading helps put the foundation of the world wide web into comprehensive terms for me. See diagram below.


The Long Trail Blog, Chris Anderson


An eye-opener. Check it out here.

A couple of things I thought about while reading this:

1. Old books/ singers/ movies coming back into the market. After being a “miss”, they can become a hit. Recently, I saw on the ITunes top 40 downloads of the week were 2 songs by the Backstreet Boys from the late nineties/ very early 2000’s. What?! And Disney is advertising their old movies like Cinderella and Snow White, they are back on store shelves at new release prices. They are eve taking these old movies which we haven’t seen sequels of in years, and bringing their stories back to like (Toy Story 4, Monster’s University). I am not against any of this, I just didn’t think it would happen.

2. I have a full day of work tomorrow -_-

3. My average CD costs $30. I get all the songs, but have also increased my carbon footprint, had to pay for the rent that cd was taking up in the store in terms of physical capacity, the workers, profit etc. However, if I buy just 1 song from that cd on ITunes, eliminating all those extra costs it takes $2.29 out of my account. I can get one CD with 15 songs for $30 ($2) each, or pay close to $35 if I purchase a digital copy of all the songs individually on ITunes. What benefit is this to ITunes? I can still transfer all the songs from my CD to my IPhone and I save money, so why should I, (and I admit I do) buy the digital version? Shouldn’t the digital copies be cheaper because they don’t require all that extra space and energy?

4. I have a full day of work tomorrow -_-


Six Degrees, Duncan J Watts


This reading was really long, and ventured into unknown territory for me… (the rhythm of crickets chirping…?), but I did know from the very start (or at least I think I did), why the reading was chosen for us in networked media. All the concepts Watts was discussing, from the power outage in New-York, to crickets chirping, to the notion of a ‘small world’ and that we are all connected within 6 steps, if you like to one everyone in the world, were all mechanisms of networks.
As was explained in last week’s unlecture, our blog is not a website. It does not exist until someone types in the specific URL. All our blogs are simply tiny pieces of a massive structure, which is the world wide web. A network. Think of a spider “web” for example, all pieces are joined at some point. That is like the internet, each little comment made on the internet is continuing to build this network of the internet, but all sites can be reached by being on one. This is hypertext. You could be on your own Facebook page, where your friend has posted on your wall. You click on their name which takes you to their wall. From here you can see that they have “shared” a funny cartoon, which you click on, which takes you to another site, which has an ad panel down the right hand side, advertising camping gear, and sponsored by google, you can keep clicking, and by Murphy’s law, although it would be a long process, you would eventually see everything the internet has to offer. On a more realistic scale, by clicking the ad for camping gear you might see that your Aunty Bess has “liked” this camping gear, or purchased this offer; so you click on her name, and see her wall, from which she has listed you as “family” and you can go back to your own page.
This reading reminded me of ‘Small pieces loosely joined’ by David Weinberger, even his title says what I am trying to explain in a more succinct manner 🙂 But I think I get the point, and I find it fascinating. I have a sudden urge to start a chain letter or email, see if I can get it to Taylor Swift or Rachel Zoe! Hehe 🙂

Books without Pages, Novels without Endings, J. Douglas


I actually just started reading this. Literally. Right. Now. (or 30 seconds ago), and felt the urge to start a blog post about this reading.

“What if you had a book that changed every time you read it?”- Michael Joyce 1991

This quote just blew my mind. There goes my excitement for ‘Winnie the Pooh and Friends- Create your own adventure’, that has a limit to its possibilities… its constrained within the pages between the covers. This makes me think about the title of this reading… “books without pages”… Hypertext has no limits when you take away the constraints of material things. With the aid of technology, we can create millions or trillions or billions (not sure which is bigger) of stories. Ok, time to continue reading… my thoughts as they come to me…

– The desire of the inexhaustible story

-Interactive fiction and reader liberty

– A book that changes every time you read it, responding to your moods, your whims, your latest fetish etc.

(Me: The film ‘The NeverEnding Story’ Is so not never-ending in my book anymore! )

– Ads that appear on your web browser side bars… I know that ad targeting traces your recent history of web searches etc to expose you to ads specific to your interests.

– Doesn’t there have to be some sort of order. I mean at its most bareness letters and words have to be linear to make any kind of sense…. This got to morning  straight went I gym the and…. doesn’t make sense and readers would just not read it… by the way, that was this sentence scrambled up ‘I got up this morning and went straight to the gym’. So does that mean hypertext isn’t inexhaustible? Does there have to be some sort or structure?

– ‘Hypertext is as much a concept as it is a form of technology’

– Need to abolish resistance? ( to things non-sequential).



« Older Entries

Skip to toolbar