Media 6 Reading Reflection Week 1

Reading about the so-called ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, I was feeling how I always do when I think about the future; scared to my core. I’m not sure if I honestly believe that humanity is doomed. Sometimes I feel like Russia and the US are going to nuke us all to death during some sort of cyber war in which Mark Zuckerberg is held captive and made to livestream it on Facebook. Other times I like to think that we’ll all start meditating more and looking after the environment and the world will go on as it always has. But then that gets me thinking about the notion of infinity and I’m terrified again. Either way I don’t plan on living forever (even if that technology does become available) so I go back to watching Gossip Girl and focus on how I can make life bearable for the people around me.

In this reading, what really stuck out to me was the notion of the sharing economy. I use services that are considered to be the forerunners of this type of industry all the time, and I love them. I get Ubers weekly and I can’t remember the last time I treated myself while travelling to a hotel rather than an AirBnB. I like the idea of the move away from a single owner of the means of production –  Uber drivers own their cars, AirBnB leasers own their houses and apartments. While the platform may be owned by a single entity, they are nothing without those using the platform, and if they were to shut down, their uses would just find a new platform to sell their services.

One aspect of the sharing economy that I do believe to be problematic is that these industries are based on trust. Uber drivers have a 5 star review rating system, AirBnB owners rely on the words of their guests. While I think this leads to better service, and is better for consumers, these systems are delicate and one bad review can destroy a person’s livelihood. In the age of the Internet, nothing is ever forgotten. Sent out a tweet in 2007 that was considered fine then but can be taken to be incredibly offensive in 2016? Good luck ever having a political career. When these sharing economies rely so heavily on character reviews, the idea of doxxing and the longevity of things said online is terrifying.

While I was interested in the sharing economy aspect of this article, one other line stood out for me as well. When talking about tracking sensors for packages, Schwag states that ‘in the near future, similar monitoring systems will also be applied to the movement and tracking of people’. Yeah, no thank you. Got an abusive ex who’s already a pretty adept stalker? Well he can now follow you everywhere because you had a chip inserted into you at birth. Maybe that’s an extreme example, but it’s probably nor far fetched.

While technology is vitally important to all our lives, it’s also bloody scary and I don’t want to think about it anymore.




Klaus Schwab, 2016, The Fourth Industrial Revolution (World Economic Forum), pp.14-26, 47-50, 67-73, 91-104.

A Change of Pace

Out of dozens of readings that have been assigned in this course, this week’s second reading was just the first (that I can see) that was written by a woman. We’re in week 11 now. I’m not going to go in to what this may say about the industry we are looking into (an maybe even this course) but it is something to think about.

This introduction to Lisa Gitelman’s book Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture (2008) seemed like more of a week one reading that a week eleven extract. The author introduces the idea of using the word ‘media’ both collectively and singularly, and adds her own definition of what media are.

Gitelman believes that media are ‘socially realised structures of communication’ and that each has it’s own set of histories and rules that govern how it is used and how users understand it. Here is where I believe our prior learning in Networked Media comes in handy. Gitelman explains that though we may not know how the media came to be, or how it works exactly, we are still considered able users of a media, in much the same way that a scientist does not have to understand how a telescope works in order to use it expertly.

Throughout this course, many a debate has been had over whether or not it is important for us as media students to know the ins and outs of the technologies we should be proficient at using. Adrian likes to argue that, for example, a knowledge of how to build websites using HTML is important to using though websites professionally. This is contradicted by Gitelman and I have to say I agree. I believe that is possible to be proficient at using a technology, including in a professional capacity without knowing exactly how and why it works. I also believe that if a person is using a technology so frequently they will pick up the ins and outs. Yes, knowing more will always be better, but it won’t always be necessary.


Remember Neopets?

I’ll be honest right now, I have not actually read this week’s readings to completion. I skim read the last third of the first extract and opened the second extract in a new tab, so I’m pretty well versed on 2/6ths of Douglas’ ideas. But I’m going to write a post anyway, because it’s Monday night and I have class tomorrow.

Douglas explores some pretty cool uses of hypertext is his writing. I tried to think of examples of interactive hypertext stories that I know of, but the closest I got was The Sims, which meant that I took a three-hour break to be born, become and architect and have 6 babies. I thought of Pottermore, J K Rowling and Co.’s interactive website, but realised that it’s remains a linear story, and basically just a re-telling of the books. I struggled to think of anything else that I knew of, which shocked me, because Douglas had plenty of examples in 2000.

In an only slightly relevant example, this article details the way in which the consumer, in this case the player, can have a huge effect of the original intention of a product. Within the online game, Neopets, the game currency has had major inflation issues caused by large numbers of new accounts, large numbers of inactive accounts and players placing an increased importance on having the ‘best’ items. While Neopets is not strictly an interactive narrative in the sense that Douglas discussed, this example goes to show just how much power an audience can have.

I’m now off to play Neopets, so I guess my next post will be in about 3 years.

George Orwell, The Cloud, and Olivia Newton John

Theodor Holm Nelson was right to dedicate his writing to George Orwell. Both of the authors were, to use a terrible cliche, ahead of their time. The ideas they put forward are eerily familiar, though I am thankful that their predications on the fate of the human race itself have not yet been proven. While Orwell writes of a terrifying surveillance state, where your every move is recorded and watched, Nelson writes of a super-connected society, in which all information is stored in a shared network.

While reading Nelson’s extract a few familiar things ran through my head. Firstly, I though of the shared networks that schools, universities and workplaces use in order to share their files and make personal folders accessible from more than one device. Nelson talks of ‘universal storage of all interactive media’ and I feel that this was the aim of these types of networks, especially ones in the workplace. But in my experience, these networks are not used for file sharing, but rather to keep personal files accessible and convenient. Here is where Nelson’s visions for the future have been forgotten. Wouldn’t it be great if students saved their experiments with writing, video making and photography to public drives on these networks? It would be a great way to showcase work and get feedback. Workplaces still use fax devices to share files, but they have shared networks for years. I feel like the potential of these networks had never really been realised, at least not that I personally know of.

The second thing I thought of while reading Nelson’s chapter was the mysterious ‘Cloud’. I first heard about The Cloud from my uncle. He had paid a pretty big sum of money to get some space in The Cloud, and was storing things like photographs and work files there. He was excited at the prospect of The Cloud expect for one thing. Why did he have to pay to store something on what is essentially nothing? I don’t understand this concept either. I have a few things up there in The Cloud; my phone contacts and some music, because that’s what Apple put there for me automatically. Orwell’s ideas of the future were scary, but isn’t it also a bit frightening that huge companies like Apple are taking control and privatising an idea like The Cloud?

The final thing I thought of while reading about Nelson’s Xanadu System was Olivia Newton John. Enjoy.

All rights for the above video go to the original owners.

A Realisation

If you had asked me 15 minutes ago if I was ‘network literate’ I would have said “yes” without even drawing breath.

I am, according to something I read online, addicted to the internet. I spend a large amount of time online every day. I have various accounts on a multitude of social networking sites, and in some cases I am proudly popular in certain communities. I am adept at using different devices and solving my own online issues without asking anyone but google for help.

But Adrian Miles has set me straight. Just because I have three active twitter accounts and can manage them without going anywhere does not mean I’m network literate. RSS is a mystery to me. I really only use mainstream social network sites. And really, I just wing it.

Network Literacy is something that I want to improve. I want to know how to be all over my online presence, all the time. I want to learn. This course is setting me up to do just that.

Reading 1: Blogs in Media Education

Adrian Miles is our lecturer (or symposium leader) for Networked Media as well as the author of this week’s reading; a guide for teachers on using blogs as learning tools. I don’t know Adrian Miles too well, this being the first week and all, but it seems he may be in top of this ‘networked media’ stuff.

Whenever I read required chapters and excerpts for uni classes, it takes me a few pages to figure out why the section given to us students is relevant. With this weeks reading I knew immediately that the information would be useful.

One of the things I struggled with during my first semester at university was knowing exactly what is was that the tutors and lecturers wanted from me. At high school, teachers were clear with what they wanted, and always had time to sit down with you if you were confused. They could talk you through an entire exam if you needed it. They mostly always made time for you. At university, tutors see you once a week, and probably do not even know your name. The course and assessment guides can be convoluted and nonsensical. Other students give you incorrect information and sometimes harmful, albeit well-meaning, tips and advice.

In this reading, the first for the course, Adrian is open about his, in my own words, ‘blogging agenda’. His advice for other teachers is clear. His aims for his students are clear. The chapter keeps the relationship between teachers and students exposed. There are no hidden bits of criteria, no assessment traps. I feel secure in my understanding of the point of this blog. I do not feel as if it is a meaningless piece of assessment, written only with the aim of a passing grade. Rather I am clear in the use of this blog as a learning tool, as something that is public, and something that is intended to be a long lasting and useful resource.

I like this sense of security. I like knowing what I am meant to do, even if I don’t always do it. And I especially like understanding the aims of the teachers in terms of assessment tasks.


Words I didn’t know before this reading:
Pedagogical: of or relating to teachers or education
Loquacious: talkative; likes talking and finds it easy
Garrulous: excessively talkative, particularly about trivial matters