Archive | May, 2013

Ubiquitous Computing & Hauntology

22 May

It’s interesting that while reading about ‘ubiquitous computing’ and ‘hauntology’ (the word for the week) and thinking about ‘the future’ I continuously attempted to make sense of things through the science fiction films that I had seen. Ubiquitous computing involves the integration of processing technologies into inanimate and non-human objects. In a world where ubiquitous computing is prominent, users would most likely be unaware of their engagement with such technologies. In the useful summary on Wikipedia, a hypothetical example was provided where personal biometric monitors woven into clothing could possibly control light and heat sources in a room. This immediately reminded me of the Star Trek film that I had watched the previous night (in anticipation of the latest film about to be released) where members on board Starfleet could monitor the location, heart rate, oxygen levels etc. of members who weren’t wearing any obvious types of monitors and were outside of the ship. While witnessing this I actually considered how it would be possible, it seems ubiquitous computing must have been the answer.

‘Hauntology’ is a term that was initially coined by Derrida in reference to Marxism continuing to haunt history despite it often being declared defeated by liberal democracy. What has been taken from this is the idea that the present exists only in relation to the past, and when what he refers to as “the end of history” is reached, society will turn towards the ideas, and aesthetics that are thought of as vintage, curious or ‘old-timey’ (Derrida 1993). This brought to mind the most obvious science fiction example of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, which employs a ‘retro-futuristic’ or ‘tech-noir’ film style. This is similar to Andrew Niccol’s ‘Gattaca’ where, if not for the advanced technologies depicted, the setting could be mistaken for 1950s Las Angeles.

When researching the topic of hauntology I found Charles Beckett’s ideas regarding architecture and design and how they construct and help define ‘futuristic’ extremely interesting (and perhaps this relates to Easterling’s thoughts on the agency of architecture, I’m not sure). Beckett highlights that unlike technology, architecture and design from the 1920s up until the 1960s that were described as futuristic, still have a powerful hold in our imaginations as being ‘futuristic’. An example of this is Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for the ‘Illinois’ Sky Scraper in 1959. What Beckett suggests is that when we refer to futuristic in terms of an aesthetic, we are really referring to concepts related to “simplicity, efficiency, geometrical cleanliness and abstraction” and this is essentially connected to the imagery of a classical era. He suggest that it’s these features evident in the design of the Egyptian Pyramids, that are central to the mythological links made between Ancient Egypt and alien civilizations. Here, we see hauntology occurring (Beckett 2012).

So what will the future be like? Hopefully, it’s like a sci-fi/cyberpunk/retro-futuristic film, where everyone and everything looks like it’s from some period between 1920-1960 and ‘ubiquitous computing’ means that our houses, cars and workplaces will to talk to us, answer our questions and follow our commands. Like Tony Stark’s house in Iron Man. (I’ve realised now that I watch too many movies).

References

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Ubiquitous Computing’ on Wikipedia < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubiquitous_computing >

Anon. (n.d.) ‘Hauntology’ on Wikipedia < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hauntology> accessed 19/05/2013

Beckett C. (2012), ‘Hauntology’ on How to think about the future.com < http://www.howtothinkaboutthefuture.com/?p=75> accessed 19/05/2013

Derrida J (1993), Specters of Marx, the state of the debt, the Work of Mourning, & the New International, translated by Peggy Kamuf. Routledge: NY

Keller Easterling (2011) ‘An Internet of Things’, e-flux journal, < http://www.e-flux.com/journal/an-internet-of-things/

Open Science

14 May

I have to admit that until this week I had assumed that publishing in the world of science had undergone many of the same changes and shifts in established structures that other areas of publishing were experiencing in the twenty first century. In fact I had never really thought about it. After engaging with the readings for this week, I’ve learnt that this is not the case. Science, which is primarily responsible for the digital, the ‘information age’, web 2.0, P2P networks, and pretty much all other elements that have lead to the interconnected nature of modern life and modern society, has not yet fully embraced the nature of its creation.

Both Wilbanks (2011) and Pisani (2011) emphasize that the scientific publishing industry has not altered its publishing systems or structures so that it can be widely accessible. The industry has maintained the medium of print as its main form of distribution and this has raised issues associated with the limitation of public access and the ‘dissemination of vital knowledge’ that has become increasingly expected in the digital age. This differs largely from the nature of music and news publishing, which has changed significantly in the last 20 years because of scientific and technological advancements.

It is important to note that, as argued in Seed’s (2011) article on Science Transfer that was included in the readings this week, it is in fact the conservative nature of science that has allowed it to exist over many millennia. Science has always involved the need for an idea to be considered commendable before it is widely communicated. In addition to this, publishing scientific papers provides credibility and funding for scientists. However, by not partaking in the shared nature of the digital age, science is preventing itself from reaching its full potential for advancement. An open scientific publishing system would allow science to progress faster in the next 10 years, than it has progressed in the last 50. A key element of the digital age is collaboration, and this has occurred in so many other areas of society. It must occur in scientific publishing. Science needs to include itself within the network culture that exists today, so that scientific knowledge is not limited to the confines of a scientific ‘paper’. Both Wilbanks and Pisani emphasize that in a networked culture, scientific publishing will have no confines, scientists from different areas of the world will continuously refine and expand on research, and this is ultimately beneficial.

References

Pisani, Elizabeth (2011) ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing > (Accessed 14/5/2013)

Seed (2011) ‘On Science Transfer’, Seed < http://seedmagazine.com/content/print/on_science_transfer > (Accessed 14/5/2013)

Wilbanks, John (2011) ‘On Science Publishing’, Seed, < http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing > (Accessed 14/5/2013)

Government 2.0

1 May

The word for the blog this week is ‘transversally’. I found this week’s readings highly interesting, particularly where the idea of Government 2.0 was addressed. I had not come across this concept before. Wikipedia always provides quite reliable definitions for the topics that we discuss in ARTS3091 lectures and this is also the case for Government 2.0. Wikipedia states that:

“Gov 2.0 refers to a government that utilizes collaborative technologies to create an open sourced, computing platform in which government, citizens and innovative companies can improve the transparency & efficiency of government, thus improving daily lives of the people. This movement incorporates Web 2.0 fundamentals with e-government, making problem solving and innovation a collaborative effort between both the public and private sectors” (Wikipedia, 2013).

I do agree with Lessig’s concerns regarding the problems with transparency, which don’t just stem down to an invasion of privacy (in some cases members of congress would have to make their calendars publicly available). A major concern for Lessig is the fact that a Government 2.0 structure or more specifically a ‘transparency’ policy, would most likely lead to misguiding the public. In his example of financial contributions made by big business to parliamentary campaigns being made transparent, he highlights that unsubstantiated conclusions will be made regarding policy making. He highlights that such financial contributions are an accepted norm in American politics and he emphasises that ‘naked transparency’ would lead to hypocrisy and finger pointing. People would assume corruption has occurred and opponents and the media will use transparent data, often taken out of context, to undermine political decisions (often with bias motives). He emphasises that for transparency to be successful, financial donations made by big business should not be allowed in American political campaigns (Lessig, 2009).

I agree with Lessig’s concerns however I believe that aspects of Government 2.0 are highly relevant and should be considered in all democratic systems. Government 2.0 involves the establishment of infrastructure that allows for direct collaboration between governments and the public in terms of problem solving and policy making. I believe that in a nation like Australia, where approximately 75% of the population has access to the Internet, the public should be able to contribute to this type of decision-making population (International Telecommunication Union, 2012). A Government 2.0 in Australia would mean that issues and policies would be decided upon specifically in regard to the opinion of the public. I understand the need for government intervention in some areas of Australian society (such as media ownership), but in a Government 2.0 the disagreements between political parties that prevent good policy making to transpire and which occur purely for the sake of conflict, would not be an issue.

An excellent area where a Government 2.0 would be useful is in the current discourse that surrounds gay marriage in Australia. While a majority of the population is in favour of legalising gay marriage, both political parties will not change legislation purely for the fact that certain influential publics are against it. The failure of all political parties to act upon this issue is primarily due to a fear of loosing popularity. If a Government 2.0 was in place in Australia, the data would speak for itself, and no layperson, or politician, would be able to argue otherwise.

Styles highlights that a starting point for a Government 2.0 in Australia would be the organisation of information from national archives. The objective of this organisation of data would be to “describe every organisation and agency, keep track of which agency does what, maintain a set of functions common to many agencies, develop sets of agency-specific functions and host the functions thesaurus” (Styles 2009).

References

Lessig L (2009); ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government’ on New Republic;http://www.newrepublic.com/article/books-and-arts/againsttransparency?page=0,0; (October 9 2009); Accessed 30/4/2013

International Telecommunications Unions (2011); ‘Internet Users’ in Key ICT indicators for the ITU/BDT regions, Geneva (16 November 2011); Accessed 30/4/2013

Wikipedia (2013), ‘Government 2.0’; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gov_2.0#cite_note-1; accessed 30/4/2013

Styles, Catherine (2009) “A Government 2.0 idea – first, make all the functions visible’ on Making Manifest, < http://catherinestyles.com/2009/06/28/a-government-2-0-idea/ > (28 June 2009)