I second this.
Musings on the effects of media on cognition.
From Bits to Bullets
For a long time now, my views have been influenced by a remarkable editorial by Nicholas Negroponte in Wired magazine entitled “Bits and Atoms“. In that editorial from 1995, Negroponte spoke of how numerous goods were making and would make the transition from reality to the digital landscape and how the valuation of such digital goods was often wildly inaccurate because of our emphasis on things atomic. To make his point, he tells the amusing story of returning from abroad and having to declare the value of his laptop upon arriving at customs. The value of the laptop was, in his estimation, one to two million dollars. The security agents were, of course, skeptical and after examining the device, estimated its worth at about US$2000. What they missed were the bits. Negroponte, a well-known MIT professor, had a laptop with a hard drive that was no doubt packed with papers, published and unpublished, documentation and certainly software, perhaps even experimental unreleased projects. Surely all those bits were worth something. Still, today, We often overlook bits and how they change the value of goods, or in the case of the weaponization of bits, how they change the value of human life.
Whereas commerce has seen a sneaking and disruptive transition from atoms to bits with regards to its goods, war is undergoing a somewhat different change. That is, the bits of war are having a distinct affect on the material world; namely the de-localization of war and the disintermediation of the suppliers of weapons. Chief among the developments of the weaponization of bits are drones and 3D printers.
First off, some nice thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy finds its roots in the 1970s schism of behavioral psychology and cognitive psychology, and I suppose, in some ways, is an attempt to reconcile the two. In brief, strict behaviorists argue that thinking is merely a side effect of behavior that is driven by external stimulus. If an animal (including humans) receives some stimulus, there will be a resulting physical “output” which includes activities such as thinking. Cognitive psychology research, however, had its roots in reaction to behaviorism by focusing on things like language which appear to be mental activities capable of occurring without external stimulus. To see more on the differences, check out this nice video on the matter. My personal favorite demonstration of the incompleteness of behaviorist theory is Roger Sheppard’s mental rotation problems. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy then, in large part, makes the argument that thinking can change behavior, and in particular, thinking about your thinking. And Psychology Today has a nice summation of some of those techniques. Of interest to the concept of minds on media is that one common tool in all of these techniques is the use of media (yes, that includes paper) record objective measurements of thinking in order to reflect and act on them. The truth is, human memory is pretty shoddy and its easy to remember just the outliers of bad outcomes or be deluded into thinking that bad thoughts and actions are useful. Yet, the simple act of writing down three happy things in a journal at the end of each day improves your overall happiness. And, you guessed it, there’s an app for that and more.
I’m always grappling with why the concept of the monoculture bothers me quite so much. On the one hand, there is something unsettling about billions of people all going to the same restaurant to eat the same subpar meals. Where is the uniqueness of life in that picture. On the other hand, the idea that even McDonald’s is a homogenous thing the world over is pretty handily dismantled by this entertaining posting over at the Awl petitioning for the creation of a “McWorld” restaurant in Times Square that features all the different food fare from McDonald’s around the world.1. Still though—and I’m still scouring the science on this one—it seems to me that healthy brains like new things and the Monoculture seems to work against the creation of brain healthy environs in that regard. So, if you’re like me—a little suspicious of the monoculture—be sure to increase your awareness of corporate infiltration in your like with this excellent graphic from Visual.ly that illustrates how most of your household products are produced by only five firms: Five companies that make 60 household products
Droning On and On
When taking a McCluhan perspective on media (as this blog frequently does) one sees media developments as extensions of the human anatomy and senses. Writing extended (over distance) our communication and roads extended our legs. It is no wonder that one of the most powerful empires of the ancient world was Rome, which made extensive use of roads and writing. Turning to a more modern empire, we have the United States, and its particular brand of sense extension in the drone. Drones have been quite the trending topic this month with people becoming more and more aware that this is a weapons delivery system out of control of the usual checks and balances of the US government. Let me be perfectly clear: You, as a US citizen, can be put on a kill list by the CIA, by executive order, and executed by drone attack. That’s why there’s a lawsuit. And don’t think this couldn’t happen, it has and other innocent US citizens have been caught in the crossfire. If you want more details on the rise of the drones, I highly recommend this article from Time; “Drone Home.”
Of course, different by no means implies healthy. ↩
Boing Boing reports that a twitter account associated with Somali terrorists has been suspended. The terrorists have issued statements to the effect that they believe this has occurred because the West is afraid of them getting their message out through non-mainstream channels. From Reuters:
“They shut it down because our account overpowered all the Christians’ mass media and they could not tolerate the grief and the failure of the Christians we always displayed (online).”
Aside from it being somewhat humorous that they sound like incensed teenagers, I find it hypocritical that they don’t seem to recognize Twitter as an invention of the West. It’s kind of hard to believe that if they had their desired caliph-state (see Afghanistan pre-2001) that they would have come up with Twitter… or the Internet for that matter—kind of a Western-scientific invention, that.
On That Note
The Internet is going to transform the way that government works. No, seriously, it is, one day. That’s sort of the topic of Clay Shirky’s engaging Ted talk. From Ted:
“Clay Shirky argues that the history of the modern world could be rendered as the history of ways of arguing, where changes in media change what sort of arguments are possible — with deep social and political implications.”
Clay Shirky’s best idea yet (IMHO) is that the Internet is creating spare cognitive cycles that he calls a cognitive surplus. In short, the human race (in first-world counteries, anyway) have been largely a consumption-oriented group because of the nature of our broadcast media. The Internet has largely turned that idea on its head and is maker producers of us all, as well as allowing for the coordination of groups across the world to create markets that would otherwise be relegated to obscure micro-niche status. How McCluhan! He details this in his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. I haven’t read it yet, but this is definitely on the short list of books to review here on Banapana.
Is Siri the Future?
This one’s been being bandied about for a while. I wrote about it in 2005 along with DJ Adams over at Openp2p primarily asking the question if a language user-interface (LUI) might be the next real option to the graphic user interface (GUI). I think so, but the cognitive power behind these systems really still has a ways to go, as evidenced, I think, by the fact that we were asking this question in 2005. Still, Kontra, of CounterNotions adds to the debate pointing out some new developments such as Siri operating without a screen in cars as adopted by nine different automakers. To me, processing power in the client device is still a big stumbling block for this interface. Play a game with a friend to see my point. Arm yourself with iPhones and try to answer some inane question1 like “What was the name of the comedian that starred with Kevin Bacon in ‘A Few Good Men’?” All results will get you to the IMDB page for “A Few Good Men”—definitely where the answer is. (Hint: the comedian’s name is Kevin, too.) To put it mildly, Siri will take longer, but not, because the answer is elusive, but rather because parsing that particular question takes a while—it’s a long question is my point. I suppose that if you’re not great at thumb-typing, the advantage is moot. Looks like it’s time to update my LUI editorial.
In a world where many of us have our attention dominated by computer screens, debates rage about whether doing so has made us more productive or less, Are they helping us to socially connect or keeping us from making deep connections? These screens of ours have helped us calculate, helped us to communicate, but there is a new category of computer application that seems to be on the rise: applications that help us to decide things. They can be as simple as telling you to bring an umbrella to how to get where you’re going. So far so good, but is there any way that this breed of decision apps might work to make us healthier, happier or wiser by strengthening our willpower?—or perhaps even substituting for it.
I’ve been away from the blog a bit working on an academic project for graduate school, but how could I not take time out of my day to comment on Google Glass? This blog is subtitled “Your mind on media,” isn’t it? And the idea of this project couldn’t be closer to that theme. So here’s my comment: I would rather have my eyes removed than put Google in charge of them. Their wonderful little concept video (seriously, Google, do you even make things anymore?) is nothing what this interface will ultimately look like. After the advertisers and marketers and spammers and trolls have had their way with this project, it will likely look much more like this and that concept video should make you want to shed virtual tears. This is Google we’re talking about. They don’t say it outright, but openness to them means curated as little as possible. Anyone can put their software on the Android system and if it happens to exploit your phone and steal your information, that’s your problem. Do they really believe that they can create a clean, curated augmented reality experience? They simply don’t possess the corporate psychology to do so; they’re motives are simply not aligned with such a design project. First known for search, their search results aren’t even that great anymore. Why? Because they are an advertising company, plain and simple. What they are motivated to do is put ads in front of you. Aren’t we kidding ourselves a little bit when the concept video for this technology contains no ads served by the Google Goggles? Yes. We are.
Update: Someone has created a more genuine version of the Google Goggles project video.
Yeah. Social-Butterfly-no-more should be the name of this category. When I signed up for your stupid service—which you only goaded me into signing up for by getting all my friends to sign up—you didn’t know I was watching. But that’s right, when I signed up for your service, I used an email address specific to you. Like firstname.lastname@example.org
So guess what? When you sold my email to cybercoders.com or some other crap web site, I knew about it. And that is why we are parting ways. You treat my privacy like you own it. But I’m one step ahead of you.
And that, friends of mine, is why I am not on Friendster or Linkedin or Facebook anymore and won’t be signing up again to get your invitations. Sorry if my email address is too inconvenient, but as they say, if you’re not paying someone for the product, then the product is you. The best social network is the one you build yourself.
Don’t believe me? Ask Chris Hardwick
“Aaron” can paint works of art for you. It’s just that Aaron is not a person. And this haiku isn’t by a person either:
Sashay down the page
through the lioness
nestled in my soul.
Both art and poetry were created by machines—artful machines. Add to that list, “Emily Howell,” a computer program that writes modern—and sometimes haunting—orchestral music. You can read more about her development and her designer, David Cope, in this solid article from Miller-McCune.com and author Ryan Blitstein. I, for one, have been put off most A.I. generated music. It’s always felt stilted or overly repetitious, or just too close to noise. “Emily Howell” is different. The two examples you can listen to in the article are really quite different. And for piano solos, they are uncharacteristically nuanced for a machine.
Woah. I don’t often bother with movie reviews, but “Never Let Me Go” will affect the way you live your life. Part ethereal, part horrifying. Are you part of the machine or will you demand more? I won’t do spoilers, but this is the best kiss you will see in a long time. This kiss tempers time and longing and finality. An amazing a plot line unfolds through the lives of humans who are ultimately limited. But aren’t we all? It is an alternate history that begins in 1967. It is Orwellian in nature with buzzers and misplaced technology. It’s a story of love unvanquished; it is ungrim given the climate created. It is also awful, the results of a wayward history. From the moment that the pastel colors are put on the screen, you will be transported to a world that never was; is horrible—and love survives it. It is not just science fiction of the past, it is a fairy tale the likes of which the Brothers Grimm could not have imagined. Watch this movie and then go to the closest park you can get to and watch the trees in the breeze.
We’ve all found some article that we wanted to share with others, and what simpler way could their be than to just copy the URL from the browser and paste it in an email! Just like this:
Yuck! Well, I’m here to tell you how to solve this hobgoblin by giving you some information about the question mark “at the end.”—the one that I’ve highlighted in black. For that is not a question mark for the title of the article, but rather the gate to server world.
Feel free to try these yourself.
Google: FOX Broadcasting Company – FOX Television Shows www.fox.com/Search: What! No, fox the fucking animal!
Google: 5 Lovable Animals You Didn’t Know Are Secretly Terrifying … www.cracked.com/…/5-lovable-animals-you-didnt-know-are-secretly…Search: Fuzzy. Red. Foxes!
Google: Steiff 1542/35 Curled Up Ringel Fuzzy Red Fox 1977 35cm KFS … www.ebay.com/itm/Steiff…Fuzzy-Red-Fox…-/150716495372Search: What the hell does that even mean!?
Google: What the hell does this even mean? – Yahoo! Answers answers.yahoo.com › … › Education & Reference › QuotationsSearch: Well, that was close.
Google: Well That Was Close! – YouTube www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGhKw5rew1QSearch: You don’t really get me, do you?
Google: miserable at my best gummychocolates.tumblr.com/Search: Aw, poor Google.
Google: Loren Feldman – Google+ – Aww is everybody crying about google … https://plus.google.com/117245298692605482770/…/KMsENb2ke9…Search: Wow. That’s a lot of sympathy. You should be proud.
Google: Hunter S. Thompson Quotes (Author of Fear and Loathing in Las … www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/5237.Hunter_S_ThompsonSearch: I like him too! What a coincidence!
Google: He SaId:-“I love yOu” I rEpLiEd “WhAt A cOiNcIdEnCe.!! I love … www.facebook.com/…cOiNcIdEnCe…Too-/202517949818580?…Search: Love? Seriously, Google. I was just looking for a fox.
Google: Did you mean: Love? Seriously, Google. IT was just looking for a fox.Search: No, Google. It’s over. I have to go now.
Google: Logitech CEO: Google TV ‘cost us dearly,’ no Revue replacement … www.theverge.com/…/logitech-ceo-google-tv-cost-us-dearly-no-revu…Search: Don’t be so dramatic. I just wanted to see the wikipedia entry on foxes.
Google: The Dark Knight – Wikiquote en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Dark_KnightSearch: I loved Batman, too, Google. But… I gotta go
Google: Showing results for I loved Batman, to, Google. But… I gotta go?Search instead for I loved Batman, too, Google. But… I gotta go Search Results 1. Blades of Glory (2007) – Memorable quotes www.imdb.com/title/tt0445934/quotesSearch: That’s just pathetic, Google. Blades of Glory was medium talent.
Google: wedding – alanahines – Google Sites sites.google.com/site/alanahines/weddingSearch: Good NIGHT, Google!
Google: Google Maps Mania: Good Night Google Maps! googlemapsmania.blogspot.com/2006/…/good-night-google-maps.ht…Search: …
Google: Your search – … – did not match any documents. Suggestions: • Try different keywords.
I love this poster because the intended message gets so overwhelmed and even contradicted by aspects of it’s design. Despite a US literacy rate of 99%, the US adult population can be categorized into “half readers and half non-readers.” Reading is not exactly an American past time, is what I’m saying, and Britney Spears (as opposed to some famous author) is not exactly the best spokesperson choice for literacy, IMHO. And I wouldn’t have pointed out the U states reading stats but it’s sort of irresistible given the symbolic patriotism stretched across Britney’s boobs.1 And I suppose that Harry Potter is the pop fiction of the age, but aren’t there really more literate choices?2
“Hey!” (sounds out the inevitable disagreement) “Other options wouldn’t make reading as exciting and cool for kids.” Yeah! I agree! In fact, we should put the word “Read” right in the poster in an over-used trajan-like movie poster font that looks like daggers, cuz reading will cut ya’, man! And Britney Spears is more than an awesome spokesperson—–she is so radical that she should have an angelic gaussian light spilling down on her! We could even present the book over Britney’s nether-regions as if to say, boys, if you you finish this book, guess what else you’ll get? And don’t tell kids to go to the library tell them it’s “@ your library,” because @ is cool or something. Yes, I am certain—certain, I tell you—that kids read because of this poster’s placement in children’s libraries.3