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Archive for March, 2011

Reality, the state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear[i].

The concept of reality has changed significantly over the years, largely due to the introduction of new media technologies, for instance Facebook, iPhone, GPS, computer games, to name a few.  So then how have these media technologies challenged the definition of reality?

First, the terms  virtual reality and augmented reality come into play here.

“Virtual reality is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds.[ii]

Computer-simulated games such as The Sims or World of Warcraft (the latter of which I have had no experience entering this particular virtual world but I find it quite astounding) are great example of a virtual reality that exist. The simulated environments virtual reality creates are in some cases remarkably similar to the real world, for example aeroplane simulations. However as blogger Chris Grayson states in his post Augmented Reality Overview,“When it comes to Virtual Reality, I’ve had a mantra that none of this will really take off until we’re in there versus looking at there.”[iii]

I am more interested however in the nature of augmented reality.

“Augmented reality is a term for a live direct or an indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics.”[iv]

Applications across augmented realities are endless and change the way we see the world and how we can define reality. It seems new media technologies that offer an augmented reality are popping up everywhere and across many different fields. Augmented reality is applicable to many forms of retail that I find to be interesting. The example Grayson provides in his blog is that of the brand Ray-Ban who have developed a “virtual mirror” that allows you to “try-on” virtual sunglasses that their brand offers on their website.

What social impacts do these definitions of reality pose?  Accepting other definitions of the term reality tends to present a series of new challenges to disciplinary institutions. As Grayson notes, “We’re moving in this direction at exponential speed, the pace of progress is only going to keep moving faster[v].” This means virtual and augmented reality is firmly fixed within our society and culture and will forever change and evolve.

 


[ii] Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality>

[iii] Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html>

[iv] Anon. (n.d.) ‘Augmented Reality’, Wikipedia < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality>

[v] Grayson, Chris (2009) ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <http://gigantico.squarespace.com/336554365346/2009/6/23/augmented-reality-overview.html>

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“Consciousness, experience, life isn’t something that goes on inside of us or happens in us or happens to us… experience, consciousness, is always necessarily embodied”[i]

This week I delve into the philosophy of the consciousness and the mind, ideas explored significantly by philosophers of the mind Alva Noe and David Chalmers. I have discovered, upon reading into the philosophy of the mind that the notion that “you are your brain” is widely misunderstood. Alva Noe advises in his blog post Does thinking happen in the brain?, that if we truly want to understand our stream of consciousness, “we need to go out of our heads and look at the way we are embodied and also bound to and embedded in the world around us.”[ii]

Australian philosopher David Chalmers offers another way of explaining the ways in which the mind can extend into the world in his paper The Extended Mind, parts of which are touched upon in the Youtube video “The Extended Mind Revisited”[iii]. Chalmers’ key thesis in his paper develops the notion that, “When parts of the environment are coupled to a cognitive system in the right way, they become parts of the mind”.[iv] GPS technologies are a great example of this idea Chalmers has constructed. In everyday life, I tend to rely on GPS technologies to direct me from point A to B. This technology has in a way taken over many of my own cognitive processes and if it were taken away from me I would feel lost and directionally challenged.  Chalmers asks what is happening here – a lot of the thought processes that were initially done in our minds is being “offloaded into the world” with this piece of technology[v].  This idea that technology has replaced certain thought processes of mine is supported by this quote from Bernard Steigler’s text Anamnesis and Hypomnesis:

“Now, these techno-logical forms of knowledge, objectified in the form of equipment and apparatuses, also and especially engender a loss of knowledge[vi]

What can this mean though however? Can technologies within an environment really replace our mind, our memory? Will our thought processes rely solely on external tools (mobile phones, computers, GPS, etc) as opposed to our own cognitive systems? These are questions that definitely stimulate further exploration.


[i] Noë, Alva and Solano, Marlon Barrios (2008) ‘dance as a way of knowing: interview with Alva Noë’, <http://www.dance-tech.net/video/1462368:Video:19594>

[ii] Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture <http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/does-thinking-happen-in-the-brain>

[iii] Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

[iv] Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

[v] Chalmers, David (2009) ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>

[vi] Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>

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Media Ecologies

This week’s lecture and the related readings introduced and explored the concept of “media ecologies” which I have attempted to deconstruct and comprehend, which if I’m honest, found challenging at times. When I begin to think I have grasped the concept, I come across new definitions which seem to change the meaning of the concept again for me.  Perhaps this is because, even according to theorists and academics, this theory is broadly defined and thus has different meanings, particularly within North American and European contexts as touched upon in this week’s lecture.

I would say media commentator and educationalist Neil Postman‘s definition enhanced my understanding of “media ecologies” the most. Postman was one of the first people to coin the term “media ecology” and simply put, describes it as the study of media as environments, but of course none the less it is much more than that. Postman notes that it:

Looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival. (Postman, 1970) [i]

In one of this week’s assigned reading, “Introduction: Media Ecologies”, Matthew Fuller draws upon the idea that all objects, from the pen that I write with to even complex objects such as media systems, “make the world and take part in it, and at the same time, synthesize, block, or make possible other worlds.”  (Fuller, Matthew 2005) [ii] Here, Fuller is describing a kind of “environmentalism”, a term that Postman refers to in relation to “media ecology”.

I wanted to investigate the concept of “media ecologies” further so I used the medium of Youtube to research other definitions of this term.  I came across a video post titled “Introducing Media Ecology”[iii] by Corey Anton, a Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University (see video below), who drew upon the landmark technologies that are studied extensively in “media ecologies”, which are further detailed in another one of this week’s readings – “The First Digital Medium” by Paul Levinsen. Both Anton and Levinsen drew upon the Phonetic alphabet as a large scale social change which became, “the most explosive unintended consequence of an information technology in (recorded history).”(Levinsen, 1997) [iv]  This large-scale change is perhaps a topic I am interested in investigating further as part of my final research project for this course.

 

Corey Anton, Professor of Communcation Studies at Grand Valley State University, discusses lanmark technologies in relation to “media ecologies” –  2.43 – 4.07 mins 


[i] ‘What is Media Ecology? (Neil Postman)’, Media Ecology Association 2009, <http://www.media-ecology.org/media_ecology/&gt;

[ii] Fuller, Matthew (2005) ‘Introduction: Media Ecologies’ in Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture Cambridge, MA; MIT Press: 1-12

[iii] Anton, Corey (2009) ‘Introducing Media Ecology’, Youtube, < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IfxAdZgTyo&gt; 2.43 – 4.07

[iv] Levinson, Paul (1997) ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge:11-20

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