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 As Adrian elaborated on in the symposium, scarcity is an outdated concept when it comes to anything digital so the idea that I have to jump onto an article before it’s sold out is silly; digital media will always be available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.

Digital existence; yes and not

One particular line in this post from Jackie Matthews tipped something over in my impossibly existential mind which responded to Adrian mentioning how our blogs do not necessarily ‘exist’ continuously, but only form when somebody requests the page. Jackie said, “I had a cool epiphany when I realised that my blog doesn’t really exist, the page isn’t there waiting for me, it just appears when someone seeks out its content. Trippy.”  Theres a bunch of technical stuff involved with blogs and servers and all that, but lets for a second take the abstract concept of that: is this perception of the world not true for everybody?

Now I studied Descartes as part of my VCE Philosophy class and we looked at his famously misquoted statement, “I think, therefore I am”. I won’t go into the full details of the premise and arguments but after a long spiel he concludes that due to the limited and variable nature of our perceptions – namely dreams seeming like reality, reality sometimes seeming like dreams – we cannot fully validate our own perception on the world. Hence, the only true thing is our own thoughts because thought is the only self-authored thing. At least in his arguments. Lets roll with it.

So when I want to look at a blog, I request it, and the server says, “Right, I’m gonna need this text, this image…” etc. and puts it all together for the lovely user. The same process can be said for ourselves; nothing exists until we look at or ‘request’ it from the world. That basketball behind you? Doesn’t exist, at least not until you turn around and look at it. Then it does. You’ll then say, “Well I know it’s there because I see it all the time! I used it yesterday for a sweet match with my friends!” which is very true, so I’ll say, “Alright. Prove to me, without pointing to or otherwise giving me direct visual access to it, that the ball exists.”

If you can do this, hell I’ll give you a medal, but in essence this is a thing known as qualia. It is the subjective, individual experience of a thing. A simpler example: explain – to somebody who has never seen, heard of, or experienced it before – the colour red. Experiencing colour first hand is an example of a qualia.

Your blog doesn’t technically ‘exist’ as such, but neither does the world outside of your peripheral vision, and for all you know it could all just be a dream.

Blogging for the modern day lunatic

Blogging is generally a more alien thing for me. Over the course of my formal education at Primary and Secondary level the standard of archiving information was analog – paper, books, pens, pencils, filing cabinets, textbooks (redundant editions) etcetera etcetera – and with very limited motor skills in the handwriting department I became very quickly jaded of writing things down. Towards the latter end of High School I was long past sick and tired of having to manually scrawl out 2000 words using the diminishable and lossy medium of pencil and paper, where I could type the same 2000 words at least twice as quickly, ultimately leaving me more time for proof reading and editing. Unfortunately that was the standard, and it put me off my learning just a weeny bit because of it.

This left me with a rather sour habit of not taking notes on a regular basis, and subsequently, it’s made me very mental, quite literally. I think fast and talk fast, so analog inscription is insufficient for note taking or writing. Unfortunately, I have also neglected a digital medium to achieve this. 

How does blogging come into this then? Well after about 6 or 7 attempts at it, all eventually failing by the ways of quiet starvation I feel this current blog – as a requirement to pass the subject, hence the degree, and I do want to pass spectacularly – will finally kick me in the arse and prompt me to properly articulate my ideas in the form of media be it the English language, visual, or aural media. Ideally this will encourage me to be more thorough with any ideas I have, and decide to capitalise on; blogging then, I feel, is the perfect medium for me to properly articulate them, share them, and best case, receive feedback and criticism, which encourages further refining of the original idea.

Likewise I am very glad that RMIT in particular is embracing a more digital mode of teaching – such as the recent addition to the system allowing us to print from any device to any printer – which simply gives us more freedom as students. A strong, multi-block wi-fi signal is immensely useful when outside of class for communication, and I would love to see the Blog become a standard for personal academic notation and discussion across all subjects, as to replace some more basic marking systems like weekly reading logs to force students to engage with readings, rather than encouraging them to relate it to their own knowledge.

Edit: I noticed after writing this Adrian poses reasons for using blogging in education (in a much more articulate way) and it’s benefits in his article Blogs in Media Education