Gift Economy

I’ve heard this term before, but that’s about it, I’ve never actually known what it meant. Combined with an idea I discussed earlier this semester, “Content is not king”, the Gift Economy seemed to fit right into the Internet as a huge network. Where content and information is perfectly accessible and totally free it’s the services that are much more valuable; since content moves so freely it’s hard to demand money for it.
Music, movies and TV shows are a prime example. Online most are available for free through piracy or simply Peer to Peer sharing with others you might know, however this can be troublesome and requires some knowhow to be able to access the content easily. Take services like Netflix, Spotify and the like and you’ve got reliable, streamlined access to the content that requires a very basic knowledge of navigating web pages and a subscription fee. These kind of services, being legal, generally have more reliable financial and technological support too which makes them very enticing for the majority of users.
I think my main take away from the discussion of the Gift Economy was the reinforcing that services are the priority nowadays.

Technological Determinism

This is an interesting topic primarily because I’ve received two perspectives over the semester; Communications Histories and Technologies leans towards the anti-Determnism argument pointing out that we do indeed have control over technology and when we think otherwise it is due to a lack of knowledge surrounding it. Adrian pointed out during the symposium however that Technology can have control over us whether it’s to do with the way we travel or how we approach the creative side of things ie. physical limitations of the technology.

The argument that really got to me was when Adrian supposed that technology has become a part of us, a part of what makes us up as beings. This was intriguing to say the least, and with some reasoning I think I could agree. His primary example was that of the invisible waves of energy that we are constantly exposed to namely wireless internet signals, radio waves, even perhaps surveillance signals we are unaware of. Even if you travelled to the centre of Australia or a desert in the middle of nowhere there will more than likely be some trace of a wireless signal passing through your body, even if it is just latent satellite transmissions drifting into the atmosphere.

This is not exactly a strong argument for Determinism over our agency and everyday decisions but those invisible waves are physical oscillations in the air, electrical impulses that affect the atmosphere enough that they can be received by other technologies from hundreds of miles away. For at least the idea that technology is separate – a them and us situation – this blurs the line. The argument for whether technology determines our very behaviour is not entirely addressed by this though.

The thing is how can we claim that technology is entirely under our control when any technical invention is considered a technology. Right down to a neanderthal tying a sharp rock to a stick to fashion a spear, technology is almost ubiquitous. There may be a hidden assumption here though: we choose to live within a society that is built of technologies, what if we were to live without any kind of technical invention? Say we up and left our homes tomorrow morning with nothing, not even our clothes, and chose to survive in the wilderness with just our bodies as our only tool. We could, most likely, survive even if only just.

Do we then have to cordon off the idea of Technological Determinism to civilisation? We could very well choose to live in the wilderness and survive sans technology, but to survive within a civilisation without technology is, as far as I am aware, not possible. The very presence of technology influences how we would be treated if we tried to sleep on the street or if we tried to hunt for food from a farm. I figure then that Technological Determinism holds true under the broad assumption that living in the wilderness is not considered a valid lifestyle.

Personalised Newspaper; Pocket

I started using this service earlier in the week, but it ties in directly with some of the stuff we discussed in the symposium, namely Digitalisation, availability of content and the long tail, and hence the negation of scarcity – a recurring theme in the course.

Pocket is simply a service that aggregates media you want to view later. For example, I access 95% of the news I read via twitter. If I see a news report on Australian politics that I want to read later on, I’ll right click the link and add it to my queue of media. I can then access the queue at any time in the future to read at my leisure, usually when I have more time to read the article at a good pace.

This is great news for me specifically, or pretty much anyone to gets distracted easily. Rather than think, “I really should read that news article now, or I’ll forget about it later.” Pocket offers it’s service to bookmark those media in a succinct fashion, which makes it far easier to tuck things away for later.

What this creates is a digital, fully personalised newspaper. I highly doubt any person in the world who buys newspapers regularly reads every single article, commercial, classified, and comic strip. There is always something in the papers that isn’t of interest to that one individual, so those parts can essentially become waste. Being able to pick and choose the media – and I feel I should point out any kind of media, not just print – you want to view is nothing short of wonderful.

This is what Digitalisation of content allows for. Without physical or geographical restraints I end up with a publication of sorts that is personalised, globally aware, and accessible at any time from any place (with an internet connection, which is basically everywhere). As Adrian elaborated on in the symposium, scarcity is an outdated concept when it comes to anything digital so the idea that I have to jump onto an article before it’s sold out is silly; digital media will always be available (given the source is not isolated and not removed entirely).

On an interesting side note Adrian also explained the digital world – namely the internet – is not strictly intangible and in fact does take up it’s own physical space in the form of electrons, where if you weighed the entire internet’s physical electrical presence would weigh about 50 grams or the weight of a strawberry.

Video Games; ‘Winning’

I can say with certainty that games exist to be won is not true any more. Prani finishes her short response by saying, “…to be a game, a game doesn’t have to have a narrative.” which holds true. Games like the classic arcade cabinet ones – Pac Man, Tetris, Street Fighter etc. – are simply fun and do not use a narrative to engage with their audiences.

Continue reading

Video Essays: Alive and well

In the symposium a couple of weeks back there was mention of the video essay and how it’s not yet an academically acknowledged format. This immediately made me think about the video essays that exist as part of popular culture.

Regularly I watch several YouTube channels that don’t consider themselves, nor – to my knowledge – are called Essays. This includes channels such as Vsauce, PBS Idea Channel , CGP Grey , the plethora of TED channels, Minute EarthMinute Physics , and that’s not including the hundreds perhaps thousands of others that exist out there that I don’t personally view.

I wonder why this is so, and my first assumption would be the sloth like system of academia and the slow uptake of new technology, processes, and reliance of classic formats. I immediately considered however, should this kind of essay be expected to be included in the academic world? I mean it would be, eventually, I expect given that the videos provide thoughtful and logical discussion as the internet continues to grow, but with the speed at which information flows and evolves within the global network will academia even be able to keep up?

I expect it would have to redesign it’s regulations or whatever they do to call something ‘academic’ to do so, but even right now any piece of information is available via the internet which is inhabited by students and experts alike who are more than willing to share their ideas without hesitation. Just take a look at reddit with it’s numerous sub-reddit communities based on asking questions to experts (/r/askhistorians, /r/personalfinance etc.). Even Wikipedia which is relied on every single day by them asses to validate information without a second thought as to it’s source, could I dare say that academia in the traditional sense – writing, reviewing, publishing, updating – will eventually become defunct?

Symposium thingy

“Is the work we publish online only validated once it is viewed/consumed by others?”

Honestly I thought this question was a very simple one, with two distinct answers, based purely on how you quantify validity. Less -y words now.

One: financial. Physical and tangible benefits to you: the writer. External feedback defines the validity of the work.

Two: Personal. The classic artists’ struggle. The purely internal motivation. External criteria need not apply. It is valid for simply existing.

Hence, work is only valid by way of how you want it to be valid, usually falling into one of those two categories.

A lot of what else was discussed I agreed with. I had noticed the steep increase in eBooks recently, particularly on my train rides to Uni where I see more Kindles than paperbacks nowadays, in regards to the replacement of physical books.

One particular point however was somebody mentioning the ‘Simplification of language’ and the assumption that it is this generation that has become dumber. Adrian’s retort claiming that this generation is in fact the smartest, I also agree with.

What is simplifcation of language but condensing the assumed knowledge of the past? PBS Idea Channel looks at ‘exceeding our being’ at the 3 minute 30 second mark in the video below.

That brief graphic I feel best explains our continuing evolution as humans, and as knowledge. Where past ancestors would have simply known how to till soil to grow food to hence survive, today we understand – or have quick access to via google – this knowledge as well as understanding how to use Facebook and smartphones and how to operate a car. Knowledge carries through generations, so this ‘simplication of language’ seems to better represent a condensation of past knowledge, and a more efficient way of communication as we go forward into the future.

A New Education Paradigm; how?

Certainly another fantastic video outlining examples of how and where the education system is lagging behind modern technology. The ideas Michael Wesch discusses are reasonable and the examples are very real, showing that a different kind of learning and problem solving can take place in the world.

I began writing this blog by asking, “How does this sort of change come about though? Who enacts it? Who maintains it? How do we convince the traditions of generations that their form of education is lacking?”. I stopped myself though, and immediately I thought back again to Sir Ken Robinson’s statement about how people are being taught to never be wrong; the stigmatised mistake.

Change happens now, and through experimentation. Yet again why I am much for Adrian’s approach to the Networked Media lecture; experimentation is key to progress in the field of education. I have met a fair share of frustration in others with these sort of methods though, and it’s made clear that a subsection of people still clutch to the traditional values of education; of authority and the information drip. Continue reading

“Content is not king”

I’m not religious but the point touched on in this week’s symposium was nothing short of epiphanic for me. I’m dead set on one of two scenarios when I graduate in 2015, both however involve producing online media. These are to either start my own business, or to work in a small tightly knit team of like-minded people to work toward the same goal (I have trouble working to full potential with most people, only a few seem to follow the same eccentric trains of thought I engage with). My dilemma was, “Precisely what do I want to make, and what will make it unique? Continue reading

Unlecture | 06/08/2013

I think like a lot of other students the dominating idea that came from the lecture was looking at the attitudes we might have toward the subject and it’s delivery.

What I spent most of the lecture doing however was trying to focus in listening to Adrian without taking any notes. Respecting the request to turn off computers, I decided to embrace the change and see if I couldn’t take advantage of the situation and instead of taking down notes to archive my thoughts I would try and mentalise them. It really didn’t work (unfortunately). Continue reading