In reflection of this course, I can’t say that I found this subject to be of much benefit or interest to me. As an IAS – Communications major, I initially signed up for another course on digital media, with the understanding that, the course would be about and emphasize effectively using digital media. I was not prepared for what this course turned out to be. I felt lost through most of the course because of the emphasis on history (most of which, I was not knowledgeable about) with a distinct point of view and theory that did not lend itself to addressing my needs for/purpose in taking a course on the subject matter. In my personal opinion, this course did not offer me useful material to help me with my professional goals as I had expected.
With that being said, I did come to understand a bit more about the origins of the modern Internet, World Wide Web & the infrastructure that makes it all possible. I have also come to see the use of technology has greatly impacted every aspect of our lives and society, in a lot of cases, in ways that was not apparent before. I was never one passionate about technology, but rather, appreciative of the seeming benefits without being aware of the costs with which those benefits came. I am now much more aware of how we, as a society, have been commodified to make a very small minority very rich. It has also made me aware of the many dangers that could potentially be unleashed with wide spread deregulation. We cannot blindly support technological advances without thinking about and addressing the the ways in which technology is and will be used.
The initial ideas of people like Brand and others, may have been to create a new technology that is for the betterment of human kind and give humanity tools by which all people can share resources and information for our collective greater good, but common sense regulation has not kept pace with technological advancements, to the point that, laws and understanding about technology is woefully inadequate for our needs today, let alone as we continue to move forward in the future. The philosophy of the New Communialist about totally cutting government out and allowing technology to develop unrestricted or unregulated is not only unrealistic, but irresponsible and dangerous. Not all people, or technologies for that matter, are about the betterment of humanity. Therefore, we must be smart and give serious thought to the ways and purposes of the technologies that we create are used. More people need to be aware of the real impact technology, and the people behind it, can/does have on our lives and the direction of our collective society.
In response to this week’s hybrid assignment question – I can’t say that I understand the relationship of the question to the subject matter enough to be able to form a response. I have read this a few times trying to relate it to the question, but it has eluded me. I am hoping to understand this relationship between the question and the reading through our class discussion, after which, I then may find it possible to answer & repost for this response.
In this chapter, Turner talks about the WELL (a computer system, that was a predecessor of modern social media platforms). The “self-governing system”, Turner ascribed to Brand when he set up the subscription service for the membership of the WELL, would seem to work in a manner that we have become use to now in our daily interactions on the Internet. The goal was to create a forum where like minded people could come and part take in discussions and posts on topics of interest. However, the point of the subscription fee was to help deter domination of discussions by members who were likely to do so, if given the chance; while at the same time, encourage greater interaction and participation by members in general. This would make for a richer environment to/for everyone.
One of the interesting examples turner used to illustrate how this self-governing system worked, was the connection McClure, Coate and Figallo had to the Farm (a 1,750 acre commune in Tennessee). They hoped to create a community of interpersonal/shared openness. “Members were encouraged to challenge one another, to make it possible to drop their defenses and become part of a transcendent collective”. This was important because, as the commune had to change to be remain solvent (“its members voted that year to stop pooling all their resources communally and to reorganize as a cooperative to to which individual members paid dues”). This change in the way communal resources were used, made the transition to the cyber world, which was becoming the place that New Communalists were migrating to. “The communal imperative – the need to build and maintain relationships between people and to preserve the structure that supported those relationships;” this way of thinking is evident within the system Brand put into place.
The WELL was basically a cybernetic experiment, where the perimeters were set and then left one to see what it would become. As explained by Figallo: “Principles of tolerance and inclusion, fair resource allocation, distributed responsibility, management by example and influence, a flat organizational hierarchy, cooperative policy formulation and acceptance of a libertarian-bordering-on-anarchic ethos were all carryovers from our communal living experience.” Figallo also said that, “in perserving and supporting the exercise of freedom and creativityby the WELL’s users through providing an open forum for their interaction,” was of vital importance to the WELL’s evolution.
This weeks reading was rather interesting, after having gotten the understanding from last week’s class discussion. That insight helped me to grasp the concept relating to Brand & Fuller. The idea of the comprehensive designer by Fuller, represents the idea of the symbiotic relationship of technology and the human capacity for creativity. Fuller describes the “Comprehensive Designer” as people with the technological knowledge to utilize the various products of science, technology, big business, etc – but, who is not a total adherent to just one discipline, but rather someone with the ability to see, understand and imagine new and beneficial ways of translating these concepts into useful applications for the benefit of humanity in diverse ways.
For Brand, a proponent of the New Communal Movement of the 60’s counterculture, which was evidenced by his involvement with the USCO, Fuller’s concept of the “Comprehensive Designer” helped shape his work, tempered by his group’s creative and technical knowledge. Brand was whole-heartedly against growing up to be an adult stuck in mediocrity and becoming a mindless drown of the bureaucratic hierarchy. The freedom and almost nomadic concept of the Comprehensive Designer, represented the all encompassing aspect of embracing technology and the products it produced, with the freedom to bend and shape these tools to creating useful and beneficial expressions for humanity. This meant that, he was free to collaborate with people of diverse knowledge and backgrounds, to achieve new ways to implement and utilize everything that was available. Looking at these products and concepts from new and different viewpoints, could/would allow for visionaries to collaborate and imagine/design advances yet thought of; and, ultimately to share these new and innovative advances for the betterment of humanity.
To Brand, whose idealized vision of human society was a harmonious, nonhierarchical world – the idea of interdisciplinary collaboration would have seemed a natural fit to his world and way of thinking. The abilities to process vast amounts of information, while being removed enough to see/imagine ways in which this technological information and industrial/military tools can be used, amazing benefits and ground breaking advances can be achieved. Brand was captivated by and looked to the Native American Indians as his ideal for the “authentic and alternative community. Brand’s ultimate goal was a de-institutionalized freedom from the constraints of government and to create a way of living that encompassed the totality of knowledge towards a “cosmic consciousness” equally and freely shared by the communal whole.
I have to say, I don’t understand what any of this was talking about. I was lost throughout this entire reading. I didn’t understand the whole New left stuff, etc. I have no understanding of/interest in the political sphere. That being said, I will attempt to try to wrest so sort of explanation of what I guess all of this was talking about.
The New Left represents the establishment and the old way of doing things. This structure is based on a hierarchical power structure, with the power being focused at the top and being filtered down through established channels. The New Left embraced the idea that through the use/vehicle of politics, a change could be created in the way bureaucracy operated and transform people from individuals, into a collect force with a shared purpose.
The New Communalists, seemed to feel that bureaucracy was not the way in which the collective consciousness would be changed – rather, it would require an in depth integration of cybernetics and systems theory, as an alternative means/way to stabilize the social order through shared and the free flow of information through open communication. The idea that a top-down hierarchy was not the most effective way to motive, stimulate and inspire an environment where a solidarity was forged by the unrestricted flow of the information and communication through emotionally invested people.
Like I said, I don’t know if I am at all, on the right track, but this was the most sense I could glean from this reading. I’m finding this readings and ideas are becoming increasingly abstract and that what they are trying to say is lost on the common reader.
In her essay “Whatever Blogging,” Jodi Dean discusses the “new modes of community and new forms of personality anticipated by the dissolution of inscriptions of identity through citizenship, ethnicity, and other modern markers of belonging.” The way that I was able to enter into/access this idea, was by understanding that what she was referring to is the multitude of ways society has had to self-identify traditionally, rather than the ways that self-identification is thought of today. She used the illustration of the ways in which we identified during the Cold War, between the US and the Soviet Union. There was a definite “us and them” mentality, that was a collective identity we shared as a collective body. In American cinema, the Americans were always portrayed as the ones working for the greater good, against the evil Russians. Our collective social way of life was extolled as being the ideal for the American way of life and the standard that we all are measured by. This diversity of freedoms, inversely is was formed a unifying identity for the masses within the American culture. However, the homogenized culture of the Soviet Union is exactly what made them so different and a potential threat to our way of life.
The blogisphere that has become to be a contemporary expression of individuality, has eroded the collective sense of identity provided for society previously. The measures by which we judged ourselves and in turn, connected with others to embody a like-minded communal self-identity, has been undermined and made a 180 degree change – that now thiese things are exactly what makes our self-identity and experience unique and individual. We now have the idea that “we are with them, but we’re not really with them.” The concept has moved to say, “whatever happens to me matters – in and of itself.”
Ayhan Aytes’ explanation of’ Amazon’s Mechanical Turk by its comparison to the 18th-century Automaton Chess Player, was quite clear – the crowd doesn’t see all the work the people who work for these big, multinational powerhouse crowdsourcing apparatus, rather the false image that has come to be the comfortable and familiar way of interacting with the apparatus, that you don’t see them working furiously behind the scenes.
Immediately, this reminded of the Wiz (or the Wizard of Oz, too); where Richard Pryor is this frail looking man, though to be this great, magnificent power. He sits way atop his skyscraper, hidden away from everyone else and working furiously behind the scenes, operating the machine by buttons and levers. inside the big head (that is in his audience chamber as his public face). He does all of this to maintain the personification of what the people believe him to be – though it is all a facade.
the truth is that, these crowdsourcing apparati are intricately linked to the multitudes that offer bit intellectual labor. The apparatus could not exist without this very type of relationship. It makes the illusion of effortlessness possible. The mechanical mind that people see as the power of the Mechanical Turk, is not mechanical at all, rather it is the intellectual power and labor of all the intellectual workers supporting the machine. Humanity has had a long standing attraction to the idea of the autonomous mechanical mind, but the realization of a viable automated intelligence still has not become a functioning reality, but this frame work seems to be slow falling into place through the crowdsourcing apparatus – a psuedo artifical intelligence, powered by the human element.
My take on this rather complexly worded and laid out style of this reading, Terranova seems to basically be saying that, these unique aspects of our cultural heritage seem to always find a way of meeting capitalism and eventually commodification, in its inspirational expressions of our creative work. I understand that to mean that, as we go about our lives, doing the things that we do online and off, it is essentially our collective nature to interpret that which we are familiar with in new ways and forms, then eventually, presenting it to others…where at some point, it moves completely from the privately held to the public traded. As an example of this, I look back to my own culture. I can clearly recognize the patterns of appropriation of cultural forms into the collective identity by listening to the contemporary musical expressions or by looking at the world of beauty & fashion.
The Black, or African-American culture has greatly influenced our collective identity. Popular music of today, has in its roots, that of Jazz, Blues, Gospel – all forms that were distinctly unique to the culture by which they were produced. And now, the so-called “Hip-Hop” culture, has become a socially acceptable way of self expression collectively. Whereas once, the Afro was seen as a negative and distinct cultural characteristic, it is now another cultural appropriation into the collective beauty standard. Or how about the bold, graphic patterns and colors inspired by/influenced from Africa that we see in magazines and on the runways. Therefore, it is but a matter of time that this same phenomena would occur in our online/Internet collective identity. The more that we authentically share of ourselves in a myriad of ways, those currents begin to flow from the depths and emerge to influence the surface.
In Ross’ argument where he is focusing on the digital media’s ability to “extract cheaper and discounted work from users and participants,” we can quite clearly see, in the examples of “crowdsourcing”, “white collar/no collar interns”, and “reality TV”, the relationship to his argument. By exploring the concept of “crowdsourcing”, we see that many people are tasked with smaller components related to a project and/or problem. The work derived from these smaller components, are then compiled by a managing entity that is the only one who knows all of the various parts, to create the final desired outcome and/or solution. In many instances, if at all, the compensation to the many participants is minuscule at best. In the now higher popularized “white collar/no collar internships”, many companies exploit the free labor of their interns. In most cases, interns receive no to little financial compensation, while being tasked with producing professional quality work for their employers. In many fields now, these internships have seem to become the way to build a professional resume, garner experience, increase social/professional connections, in hopes of being able to find a position in a chosen field; particularly, in a field like media. Education alone is no longer enough to transition from the academic to the professional spheres. The rise in the popularity and diversity of “reality TV” shows, is another example of this in the field of media. Many of the related fields to the production of television and film projects, use interns instead of established professionals (who are usually unionized and are guaranteed much higher, industry standardized wages). It has become a way of increasing the profit margin, while/by cutting production costs (and in most cases, production value). Also, these same people are aware that there is little to no job security related to this kind of work, which contributes to concept of “precarious work” environments. These production companies have no contractual obligation to the staffers and they can be replaced at any time (usually with/by someone willing to do the same work and/or more, for less). These productions do not utilize professional actors or writers. Instead, they use “regular” people and the writers engineer situations and/or circumstances that generally lead conflict to be exploited for ratings and sound bites for promotion. It is clear in these examples that digital media has indeed been able to “extract cheaper and discounted work from users and participants.”
In this long winded and extensive chapter, Ross is addressing the various ways the internet and technology have affected the ways we work and earn money. One example, that at least to me, eloquently summarizes this argument is the use and description of the term – “Precarious Work”. This idea bespeaks of the situation many professional and non-professional people are finding themselves in. For many, the traditional ways, means and fields of work have been systematically impacted by new technologies and how these technologies have changed the way people work; and thus, causing a lot of people to no longer be able to work in/or spend their entire work career employed by one life long employer. This has lead a lot of people to have to seek many short-term, temporary, or even piece-meal types of employment situations now becoming more popular in the larger capitalistic work-force, to eek out an existence. This type of work situation has also encroached on what use to be considered leisure time. People are finding themselves working longer hours, even requiring them to produce in their private time, in order to, meet the requirements and in some cases, quotas of production, for meager compensation. Also, this term relates to and encompasses the notion that, there don’t seem to be many fields that still follow the traditional paths to employment. It has become increasingly the responsibility of workers, to seek new and creative ways of distinguishing themselves, making themselves stand out and building notoriety, in order to find permanent employment in their chosen/desired fields.