Take the European approach

Some may believe that certain parts of the world have had things figured out long before other countries have had the chance to jump on board. This is very true for Scandinavia, more specifically Sweden, who released their Toys ‘R Us owned store Top Toy’s 2012 Christmas toy catalogue full of examples of gender neutrality.
In Sweden, women are required in the labour force in order to keep up with work demand, and men are taking on responsibilities that were traditionally for women.

“We want our catalog to reflect how kids are playing today. It’s important for us to be modern,” said Jan Nyberg, Top Toy’s sales executive.

This is a small step towards demonstrating cultural ideas about catering to children’s individual personalities and interests, rather than what is typically recommended for their gender.

Here is a Tumblr snippet of the catalogue. Incorporating widely recognised characters such as Spiderman also helps to generate a more relaxed approach towards pursuing personal hobbies.

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What do you think of Sweden’s attempt to #gendersurrender?

Fragmentation, flexibility, ubiquity

This week was a multifaceted topic on various aspects on the future of media technologies and how this is constantly changing.  I couldn’t fully make sense of the subject without doing the readings but this thankfully cleared everything up for me by going into more detail on particular parts of this area. In the lecture we talked about multiplicity – the different relationships between aspects of media. Relating this to David Bollier’s ‘How Will We Reclaim and Shape the Ambient Commons?’ got me thinking about the relevance of flexibility, multiplicity and the changes to my ambient commons (how you interact with your built environment). Bollier talks about how media feeds are all over the city, making it more ‘digitally legible’ and tracking our movements via smartphones. The example that popped into my head straight away was the smartphone application Groupon (apps also relating to the lecture). I use this shopping application all the time, it is updated daily with shopping deals including products, services, gym memberships, and my favourite, restaurant vouchers. This is an example of how media and communication technology changes how I interact with the city as I sit at home and buy a voucher for a restaurant that I think looks like, travel into the city, use my maps app to locate said resturaunt, they scan my voucher through my smartphone via another piece of technology and then I sit to eat my meal. If it weren’t for that application, or the smartphone itself I may have never been to that part of Sydney, let alone that restaurant. These shopping apps are a form of publicity for these eateries that record consumer desires (much like visits to a webpage, mentioned in Bollier) and augment how one interacts with their physical world. 

Public transport is a necessary evil (in my opinion) but the evil might not just be the inconvenience of a crowded but perhaps could be the in-your-face modern advertising that some vehicles have. Bollier also talks about  “frequently encountered processes include lots and lots of glowing rectangular screens yammering for our attention… force-feeding us ads and screaming at us” which led me to think about this advertising on buses and, in some case on trains, where they are like TV ads moving with sound on a screen. The daily commute is not only laden with print ads on the walls but sound and movement, making modern technology a serial offender of facilitating advertising and consumerism.

So whilst modern technology is merging together to create a network aiming to help us communicate and work more effectively, this multiplicity and virality is also adding to this consumerist world in which we live.

 

Affect and media

Understanding how affect works is vital in researching media and communication technologies and their place in our world. The affect an event or object relating to communication has on an individual or group determines what it will be used for and even how long it will remain valid. Affect determines our ability to engage with media and also how mediums connect with each other. Muster (in the lecture) noted that the more technologies and platforms connect with each other the more viral they are able to go; the spread can reach further and have an effect on a larger audience. I found this one of the most interesting topics of the lecture and would like to expand on it. Memes and YouTube videos that become viral spread to many platforms because of the positive effects they have on people. The affect of these viral happenings is usually that of joy, which is at the top of the vitality effect scale (Stern in lecture). One of my personal favourites is Unimpressed Chloe which originated from a video (youtube), was made into a meme (Social networking), there’s been an emoji created (texting) and has passed to physical interaction between people (unimpressed face). This shows the convergence of a networked society creating ‘virality.’ (Sampson reading)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGhuLkjl4iI (skip to 1.39)

Doge the famous internet meme is another viral image that has gone from a photo even to clothing, and in this instance is mixed with another major part of popular culture. I just thought this was funny and a good example of the viral nature of our society.

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Sampson’s piece ‘Virality’ says “virality endeavours to eschew the organisational capacity of linguistic endeavour” (p4) as it is able to move around blocks that would otherwise be in place via network security. Virality of information gives freedom for it to be passed around on different platforms depending on the demand of the audience. He also mentions that “money can follow social influence as it spreads across a network” (p2) referring to the idea that fads, trends, influences and pretty much anything that can go viral influences the flow of money which can be both good and bad. There are many effects of viral media but it allows a freedom for things to change and to undermine capitalist society which tends to just “make use of an embedded network.” (p5)

Mircopolitics

This topic relates a lot to what we discussed in last week’s tutorial where we were split into groups and discussed different topics. My group had to talk about the issues of a decentralised government vs. a top down, hierarchical government, much of which relates to this week’s topic on shared communities and the future of new ways of living as mediated by new media.

Micropolitics deals with the idea of the creation of collaboration, openness and self-organised governance to help society to function in a more modern way, taking into account the desires of communities to determine their own way of living. For example, the creation of Kickstart where individuals can donate money towards an idea they support themselves, or Air bnb (which I have successfully used quite a few times over the world) where instead of forking out lots of money for a chain-owned hotel that probably doesn’t need the large sum you’re about to pay for a few nights stay, we instead help out regular people who have a place to offer. The majority of things today are hierarchical – they are run by a person or a small group of people who decide everything. New media is allowing for this to breakdown and for us to decide who is in charge, who uses our services, what goods we desire or want to contribute to creating. One issue that was raised in the lecture and then supported by the reading by Douglas Rushkoff, ‘The evolution with be socialized’ is the idea that even the internet that facilitates all these modern ideas of decentralising government is itself controlled by a higher power and that we have no control over the decision to remove this service. Douglass Rushkoff in his blog post (2011) suggests that the government actually can turn of the internet of their own accord (as seen in internet censoring by the government in countries such as Egypt) and mentions the creation of a summit called Contact.

 

“From the development of a new non-hierarchical Internet to the implementation of alternative e-currencies, the prototyping of open source democracy to experiments in collective cultural expression, Contact will seek to initiate mechanisms that realize the true promise of the networking revolution.” (Rushkoff 2011)

 

Through contact he aims to create an internet that is free from censorship and marketing which is what social networking has become and sees it as a “way to restore p2p value exchange and decentralized innovation to the realms of culture, commerce and government.” (Rushkoff 2011)

But is this actually attainable? For me its scary to think that all these innovations conceived and published over the Internet are still being seen and controlled by a larger body. It raises more questions of will ventures such as Contact ever be reached? Will we ever be free from forced advertising and control of what we search for and what services we use over the Internet?

The fate of the state

Issues such as privacy, corruption, control of state, leadership, politics and pretty much anything to do with the decision making in out country is something that for me, is becoming more and more concerning. As I start to get older and become more informed, especially studying a media degree I have begun to realise that you cannot trust anyone. The media are supposed to be the informants, the whistleblowers, the source that informs us about what is going on in the world but of course there are rules and rules create exclusions, meaning that there is a barrier to particular types of information. This raises more questions about the right to know or the right to privacy. The lecture spoke about the desire for a more open government; to incorporate more transparency to the inner workings of the countries decision-makers. People want to be involved and to know what’s going on. The idea of ‘government 2.0’ run by the people, for the people was mentioned in the lecture and Catherine Styles blog post. In theory this idea is great! We can “put it to users as to what issues should be put to the people” (Styles 2009) but in practice “we need to be able to peruse the full set of government functions – at federal, state and local levels.” (Styles 2009) If things happen that people are happy with they will go about their daily lives, but if they don’t agree with something that’s when they’ll speak up, and there will rarely be a unanimous decision on issues that the government deals with. It would take a lot to make this theory of governing practical. This would minimize corruption, and astroturfing, fears of personal data collection by government would subside a little, it would encourage community involvement, but to initially challenge the establishment is a feat within itself. I just don’t think its realisitically attainable. Although we have been presented with successful leaderless organisations (craigslist, Wikipedia etc) that needed a small group to start up but are now being held up by their users. An example in the Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom reading is Al Qaeda. Sure it’s not the nicest example but the decentralization and the apparent ‘leaderless’ functioning of the organization made it successful. A company needs a leader or group of to initially begin but those involved can keep it afloat, such as the joatu group discussed in the lecture. New media is facilitating that in a big way. A major example I know more about personally is Silk Road. This began with one man employing a few to create a secret online store for the black market, people found out via word of mouth and it became a secret community facilitated by a special internet server to keep it hidden. It continued to serve as a marketplace because of the users who interacted with it, it had a decentralized management which made it harder to track, thus making it successful in its endevours and this was all possible by the internet and new media.

There’s just so much to talk about on this interesting, wide-ranging topic!

Algorithms/data

When I heard the word algorithms my mind immediately flashed back to year 10 maths class where I struggled to comprehend the amount of numbers (and various letters) that my teacher has scribbled on the board. That was the last year I took a maths class and hope it would be the last time I would encounter the word ‘algorithm’. I was wrong, but an algorithm was not what I had originally expected it to be – it is an equation (not necessarily mathematical and not that I’ll necessarily have to figure it out and be tested on it) that dictates how things work. Yes it does govern how computers, software, data structures work scientifically but this also governs how we interact with these things. Software is everywhere and it is the medium by which we connect with media and is constantly changing, it needs to be dynamic to be able to be relevant in the modern world. All of these technologies use data.

This is an interesting topic that we discussed in the lecture and also in the online readings. Data collection is a controversial topic as the methods used by large companies such as Google and eBay are often debated. Our online behaviour is constantly monitored by companines through various means such as click-rate and ‘browser fingerprinting’. This follows our online usage to target advertising towards us through Facebook, pop-up as, advertising and toolbars and so on. The reason it is frowned upon as the thought of our every move being watched by people and organisations is scary, plus what are they going to do with this information? This article http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/08/how-i-achieved-better-sleep-with-the-help-of-technology/ that we were given in the readings presents the positives of a type of personal data collection as it assisted the writer in getting a better sleep after giving that information to the companies who created the apps. Data tracking is often used to advertise products to us based on our previous online consumption. It is worrying that that informations is accessible but I personally don’t mind it too much as the organisations are advertising products to us that we may very well be interesting in. Sure it makes me spend a lot more online shopping than I would, but if I didn’t want the product I wouldn’t buy it. Something that does worry me and scares me is this things called Bongo. For $5 you text your name, suburb and a question and within a few minutes you get a text back with an answer or lots of personal information bout yourself that I have no idea where anyone would get. It often comes back with your friends, your favourite colour, school etc. This is why many (young) people are spending lots of money on this number; because it is scarily accurate. Just goes to show that data collection methods are getting stronger.  

Interaction

In my opinion interactivity is clearly the way of the future. Audience involvement is becoming more and more common in the media and is, at times, the basis for a medium’s popularity. For example, the convergence of media technologies helps to boost their popularity such as radio shows having interactive stories, competitions etc via a website or their Facebook – through convergence interactivity increases, thus furthering the media’s reach. More importantly, the future of media technologies can be predicted at the rate of interactivity that they offer. From the introduction of the iPad as a recreational plaything to it becoming an essential tool for certain jobs (data collection, club promoters etc). This creates an augmented reality where “interaction moves from being directly focused on the physical machine and more of the user’s world and the social setting in which the user is embedded” (Dourish p170). I interpret that as, in a way, we are not using the machines as an add-on in our life but it instead becomes a part of our life; a necessity. The world of the iPad is joined with our actual world. When discussing products that bring even more interactivity into the world like the Google Glass John Havens says “the very nature of such technological immediacy will very quickly change human behavior” supporting my idea that interactivity (at a level that will augment reality) is where we are headed. This discussion on augmented reality and the application of it to everyday life worries me in a way. Where do we draw the line? How long will it be until we lose the ability to differentiate between reality that’s augmented and not? A study by Kristie Cope-Farrar in the US on violent video games (virtual reality) proved that exposure to violent games will prime a series of models associated with violence and aggression and this presents the opportunity for transfer of aggressive thoughts to action. The embodiment (participative status) of technology, whilst there are many positive possibilities, could present some challenges. This was just a thought that crossed my mind after reading the various (even somewhat farfetched – ie Lauren Drell) possibilities of augmented reality. But I guess as technology grows so will we and so will our ability to adapt to augmented parts of our reality – we need to “‘see and understand’ rather than ‘understand and see’” (taken from lecture notes, Murphie).