Archive for October, 2008

Human vs. Non

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by writeinbk

It’s easy to say that the line between technology and human has blurred given that its almost impossible in this day and age to live without technology. Its not by choose, but more by necessity. Thus it would have been important to maintain the distinction when theorist first realized that technology would overpower our society.  At this point, when were are so dependent on our computers, cars, and cell phones, it seems like belated topic to discuss.
The biggest advantages to humans and technology  being part of an integrated system is our ability to share knowledge. As Boczkowski explained in his work, sharing our knowledge is “…the backbone of social, economic, and cultural life of many societies today” (Boczkowski, 899). What would this school be with out computers? How would this very class operate if we could not download our weekly reading from scholars around the world. How would we share our opinions without weekly blogs. Technology feeds off of us the way we feed off of it.
This is in direct relation to McLuhan’s theory about the medium being the message. If the medium was technology as a whole, than the message is clear: we wouldn’t exist without technology and technology wouldn’t exist without us. In the Latour’s piece, he compared NRA’s argument toward its critics. The NRA refuted the slogan “Gun’s kill people”, by suggesting that “the gun is a tool, a medium, a neutral carrier of human will…”. If you examine this argument closely, you’ll see that the gun is a man made tool. The gun does not choose, the decision is in the hands of its maker. It is merely a medium, but the “message” to kill or not to kill, is dependent on its user. This analogy could be used for all technology, whether we choose to or not to use our computers, cell phones, and cars is a message in itself.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by xypeter

I’ve always kind of thought — or should I say realized? — that people are just biology, that is they are just items. Really, I guess, there is no difference between me and a computer. That’s certainly what Latour is saying.

The question (which some other people want to ask, especially religious people I guess) is whether there is a fundamental difference with people. That question gets to whether people have a soul, and things like that, a question which is both beyond the purview of this course, and beyond people generally (presuming one is an agnostic).

It seems to me that we are going in a direction where technology and people merge. It must be only a matter of time before we have all kinds of communications and computing (e.g. thinking) devices integrating with us in all kinds of now unfathomable ways — then who will we be? Or that is, will we create machines that will lead to our undoing or permanent enslavement to our past? Downey notes that danger comes dominium, meaning lordship or sovereignty. (… “the power of a lord or master… to hurt or harm” …)  But I can’t analyze either these essays or the future to figure out whether they will harm or hurt.  We can’t know that any more than we know whether God exists.

Regarding Boczkowski, I have always had a problem with STS, since it seems to look much more at Science and Technology and less at Society.  To understand STS, you have to understand the economic and social causes and consequences of popular culture (e.g. Britney Spears), since STS is the ultimate expression of popular culture.  These STS researchers never seem to look at the real society beyond their ivory tower, when doing so seems to me to be the only way to rationally decide what to do with technology.

Humans and Machines

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by andrewsmrz

Nearly every time I ponder technology, especially when I learn of some new advancement, I imagine how fragile it is – physically and systemically.  The ancients carved words in stone and wrote them on papyrus and many (though not nearly all) of these messages from the past are still around for us to read and learn from.  Epic stories, agriculture records, words of advice, struggles to understand the world around them are written on durable materials for us to read hundreds or even thousands of years later.

But what of our time?  What of the blog?  What of the Excel spreadsheet?  Where are they really?  Are these words in the computer?  In a network somewhere?  What the hell is a “network” anyways?  It wouldn’t even take some catastrophic accident or chronic condition (like nuclear war or the ocean levels rising or a pulse bomb) for these words to simply go away.  As I understand it, one of the great dark secrets of the digital age is digital decay, where the information typed into computers simply disappears if it is not backed up somewhere or the logistical support system runs out of money or otherwise fails.  If and/or when these things that humans have made go, what will we humans do?

Therefore, I believe that it is important for us to both maintain a distinction between humans and their technologies and for us to understand the integration of the maker and his machine.  Human beings are human beings whether they exist in a time or place outside of our understanding of modern technology.   It is this ‘human element’ that frequently comes up when we try to study how we relate to new technologies.  Older generations (perhaps even the generation which actually made the technology) often react negatively to how the younger generation seems to be diabolically shaped by the new technology.  They react negatively because the younger generation seems to be missing something perceptually ‘human’ in them.  The blank faces, the shallow pleasures, the disconnect!!! that comes with every wave of new media technology is creepy to anyone observant while the technology is evolving and totally repulsive to most who are older and are on the outside of the media mainstream.

We can understand humans and their technologies in isolation in the purest physical way.  We can learn how the human body works and we can learn how a car works or how the machines that make up the internet work, but when it comes to questions of what it all means, then that’s where the barriers are blurry and we stumble with our words and arguments go back and forth.

In terms of how this relates to McLuhan, the media and the technology which make it up are simply extensions of our desire to learn, be entertained and, most of all, communicate.  The technology makes it possible to project or extend ourselves to the outer world where our thoughts can be evaluated by others.  The blog is a more efficient way to get our personal news and opinion out into the world where people can read it.  An equivalent technology of a blog before blogs came to be would be someone writing a statement, copying it out and mailing it to every friend he had and posting it on a bulleting board in every town square for miles around.  The technology makes such efforts logistically easy, nothing more.  If we were magic people and could project our thoughts to our peers without technology but with some weird telepathy, we would do that, but since that magic world does not exist, we have the internet.

Distinction Between Humans & Technology

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by katherineer

I find it very important to maintain the clear distinction between humans and the technologies they choose to incorporate into their lives. I think that many individuals in today’s society are aware of the power technology in this day and age is, and the evils it can portray. For example, children and video games is a great example of this because children become practically addicted to videogames and forget the fine line between game and reality. Although many individuals would like to associate themselves as anti technology Boczkowski states, “Indeed, it is difficult to identify any aspect of contemporary life that is not affected in some way by the development and use of media information technologies.” (Boczkowski 949).

An advantage of thinking humans and technology as one unit could possibly be how technology has paved the way for many different forms of communication between individuals. Today there are so many different modes of interpersonal communication, expanding how individuals communicate which is a positive thing. “Consistent with our framework, they broadly concern the relationship between technology and society, technology development processes, and the consequences of sociotechnical change.” (Boczkowski 966). Today society and technology is our culture.

You cannot walk down the streets and not see individuals on their cell phones or someone listening to their I-pod, technology today is inevitable. It is hard to think of a disconnection between technology and individuals, although I do believe that society shouldn’t depend on technology so much because it could one day fail. Technology is a man made, and if these devices one day fail to work, what will happen to society? Will be fail to continue working as a human as well?

My perception of how this concept of technology and society as one unit does relate to McLuhan’s theory on “the medium is the message” because what McLuhan states is that the medium embeds itself in the message. Therefore, individuals, humankind, created technology, embedding ourselves into technology. Technology is the overall message. I think what scares some individuals is the fear that technology will one day surpass the human capacity of life, and become more powerful running our every move in society. 

Man and Technology- A Coexistence

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by christinatx

I do not think that we can no longer make a clear distinction between us and our technological advancements. In my opinion, it is the way in which we utilize our technology that is in need of a definitive distinction.  By this, I am inferring to whether we apply technology as a means of product development in the information technology industry or the operation of these technologies for our personal use, work and school environments.  The purpose of technology should be used as an extension of our daily operations.

Technology, I believe can be abused and too often relied upon. It has the ability to advance and hinder us.  What is easier, walking over to your co-worker who is sitting 6 feet away from you to say good morning or sending an email? Our work has become not only more effective, but also time efficient with our technology. This too I believe can become a double edge sword because we allow ourselves to become accessible and available 24/7. I have personally been a victim of this in the past and know many people who still function this way.

Furthermore, there is almost an obligation to continuously change or further advance technology. I do find that at times tough that when we are introduced with new software programs that there always seems to be a newer and more improved version available not too long after. Other than the realization that I could have spent my money more wisely if I had only waited, it is an example of how swiftly our needs and demands change.

Given our society today “…it is difficult to identify any aspect of contemporary life that is not affected in some way by the development and use of media and information technologies” (Boczkowski & Lievrouw 949). We are immersed in a lifestyle that functions on the coexistence between humans and our technologies. 

Man vs. Machine

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by katiekoep

“By any measure, media and information technologies…are the backbone of social, economic, and cultural life in many societies today” (Boczkowski 949).  Media and technology has become so embedded within our culture today that lines blur.  It becomes almost impossible to think of the two independently.  A computer without a user.  Our lives without computers.  Both seem absurd.  We lose sight of the distinctions.

So then, is there any real value in trying to pull this perfectly integrated system apart?  Technology seems to be such a vital progressive asset to our existence.  Boczkowski notes that media and information technologies “support or extend human sensory perception and communicative action across time and space” (Boczkowski 951).  Our world has expanded and become so efficient and it is technology that allows us to do that.  Technology is human evolution and works much faster than natural evolution.  Think about life without computers, cell phones, cars, electricity.  We would be nothing without our technologies.  We would be lost.

But we still don’t like to think of our technologies and ourselves as a single entity.  We maintain the man vs. machine mentality to some degree because we fear becoming obsolete.  But will we?  Can machines function without man?  Man created the machine and controls the functions of the machine.  Or does he?  Perhaps the machine controls us.  Perhaps we are the invention of the machine.  The lines have become so hazy that we can barely decide any longer what we are controlling and what is controlling us.  It has become quite a chaotic mess of manipulation.  And it seems to be heading further and further in that direction.

So is this something to be feared?  Should we attempt to trump this evolution?  And can we?  Do we have the power to stop this technological tornado?  And if not, what have we really got to lose?  Our individuality, our freedom, it might be argued.  But perhaps, we are not losing this at all.  Perhaps this is simply a new opportunity to discover freedom and individuality in a new way.  It’s time we stopped fearing change and learn to embrace it and get what we can from it.  Make it into something we can use to become better.

So maybe technology is the future of creativity.  That’s how I’d like to think of it.  And creativity, in my opinion, is the one thing man will always have over the machine.

Humans and Technologies

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2008 by murtaza14

Humans and their technologies share a continually co-evolving intertwined relationship. In fact, technology is an important extension of the human psyche; forming a socio-technological evolution. Humans have always adapted themselves very well to technology, increasing its efficiency. Technology is imbued and created for a purpose, and that purpose is always to further a need or desire which is a part of humans. Technologies are and will be created to aid in the fulfillment of some aspect of humans and as such will be intricately tied to humanity for its purpose; for its very existence. Technology is a composite system, in which the everyday lives of humans is embedded. Thus, the two cannot be isolated.

The diverse themes in technology, whether it is information technology or media technology, is tied by a human thread that humans, whether as individuals, teams or societies, assume participatory or integral roles throughout all the levels of technological development. Humans design new technologies; people, in teams and organizations, at school and at home, use them; people anticipate and enjoy their benefits; and they learn about the outcomes of use and translate that knowledge into the next generation of systems. At the same time, new technologies and human societies advance, transforming each other in the process. As a consequence, the design of technology must be sensitive to human values and preferences.

What is specific to the modern, technological world can thus not be sought in traditional things. An important characteristic of modern technology is that the entire human habitat has changed along with the technological artifacts. Upon closer examination, modern technology is found not to consist of a collection of isolated things and processes, but the very environment in which the artifacts function has been brought within the realm of technology. Technology is therefore more than the sum of an array of technological components. Technology in modern society has become a complex system that can be viewed as the common house in which we all live together today. Technology today consists of more than a number of distinct and isolated components. In general we do not pay much attention to these things, but at times we become aware, usually when something goes wrong, that our existence, individually and societal, has become virtually entirely dependent on complex and, as a rule, susceptible technological infrastructures. In the book on bridging communication studies and science and technology studies, the author talks about the social consequences of technological change. The internet, for example has a profound influence both culturally and socially on the society. This supports the concept of cyborg anthropology (short for cybernetic organism) is a symbiotic fusion of man and machine; that technology transforms and mediates social relationships.

Today’s media revolution is announcing itself with a new and strange vocabulary. Blog, Podcast, Wikis, Wikipedia, Vlogs, and Folksonomies. A weblog, which is usually shortened to blog, is a type of website where entries are made (such as in a journal or diary), displayed in a reverse chronological order. Mostly blogs provide people a medium where they can provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as politics, local news, gossips etc. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Most blogs are primarily textual although many focus on photographs, videos or audio. These personal online diaries are gaining in reach and is a powerful tool to voice one’s opinion and for social networking. It is a great way to spread information, which is hard to find on the internet.

McLuhan’s most widely known work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964) is also a pioneering study in media ecology. In it McLuhan proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study –- popularly quoted as “the medium is the message.” McLuhan’s theory was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. McLuhan pointed to the light bulb as a clear demonstration of this concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” More controversially, he postulated that content had little effect on society –- in other words, it did not matter if television broadcasts children’s shows or violent programming, to illustrate one example -– the effect of television on society would be identical. He noted that all media have characteristics that engage the viewer in different ways; for instance, a passage in a book could be reread at will, but a movie had to be screened again in its entirety to study any individual part of it. For example, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less the individual news story itself — the content — and more the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner.

“The medium is the message” tells us that noticing change in our societal or cultural ground conditions indicates the presence of a new message, that is, the effects of a new medium. (McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: McGraw Hill, 1964).