October 2007


“The Medium is the Message”, by Marshall McLuhan, describes the medium in which a message is delivered. The medium, in his opinion, is the most important part to analyze in delivering a message. His example included the concept of electric light. The light is thought by most to be obsolete as a method of communication, because it has no “content”. McLuhan points out that the use of the light is indeed the message. “Whether it is used for brain surgery or night time baseball games is a matter of indifference.” states McLuhan. It is the activities using this medium that are the “content” of the electric light. The fact that this is generally over looked highlights McLuhans belief that media is not being studied properly. I agree with McLuhan’s beliefs on the medium being a crucial part of the message – to an extent. In most forms of communication, the medium does have a huge role in how the message comes across to its viewers. But in certain instances, mostly typography the messages themselves can stand alone and still be taken in properly. An example of this are the war time propaganda posters from World War II. Yes, there were often large images on these posters that were eye catching, and let you know what it was you were viewing. But the messages accompanying these images, in that heightened time of public interest, were the most important part of the posters.

This takes me to another form of medium that is now directing our political and world views : the internet blog. I look at these types of blogs as a more in depth version of those old time WWII posters. And what makes them even more useful (and dangerous to governments) are the fact that they allow discussion among readers. McLuhan reported something Napoleon had held enormous foresight : “3 dangerous newspapers are far more deadly than 1,000 bayonets”. Not only does the blog allow for criticism and opinion towards our political leaders, it allows us to engage in a town hall-style discussion about them. The article I chose, “Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies, and…Blogging?”, states that one third of America used the internet to track down or swap information regarding political viewpoints during the 2006 midterm election campaigns. Now, as soon as candidates have uttered their replies, bloggers are discussing them. For those under 35, the internet has been cited as the leading source for information, and the 2008 election is predicted to tip the scale in the Internet’s favor as far as online debate is concerned.

The blog as a medium fits into McLuhan’s views perfectly. Most people liken the blog as a political tool to when Nixon was running against Kennedey, when the television played a huge role in the debates. Nixon may have had better content, but Kennedys poise and telegenics stole the show. Kennedey used this medium to help win the debates. Now, the blog is set to become this game breaking medium. The use of video online, such as youtube.com, is also becoming a tool in online debate world. Candidates have had videos stating their views and respones posted online, but videos ridiculing them have popped us as well, making the internet a double edged sword.

And what about those videos? Does McLuhan’s beliefs apply to them as well as a form of medium? Absolutely. A video can relay a far different message than a text or image based form would. It would take many images arranged in a very particular order to portray a message that was embedded in a video.

For this discussion, lets take a look at content that is displayed in three different types of medium : text, image, and video. The content will be the topic of the word “SWARM INTELLIGENCE”.

1. TEXT

Lets look at what the word swarm means on wikipedia:

The term swarm (schooling, swarming or flocking) is applied to fish, insects, birds and microorganisms, such as bacteria, and describes a behavior of an aggregation (school) of animals of similar size and body orientation, generally cruising in the same direction.

and swarm intelligence:

SI systems are typically made up of a population of simple agents interacting locally with one another and with their environment. Although there is normally no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local interactions between such agents often lead to the emergence of global behavior. Examples of systems like this can be found in nature, including ant colonies, bird flocking, animal herding, bacterial growth, and fish schooling.

2. IMAGE

Some images of swarms and swarm intelligence retrieved using google.com:

bees

Swarms are starting to look a little scary eh?

3. VIDEO

Heres where the message gets totally clarified in the medium. I made the following video on my view of swarm intelligence. The use of video relayed how strong (and sometimes deadly) the swarm concept can be.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQAjF9LX6PM

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Citation for article used

Shannon, Meg (September 2007). Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies,
and…Blogging? Communications of the ACM, 50(9), 21-24.

This article relays how blogging has become a new and very popular (and very effective) medium of relaying matters of all sorts. Personal information as well as professional information can be found on blogs easily, and if the blog is kept up to date then daily information can be reached through the blog. This article uses the example of online blogs for information on candidates. For any given election the public would get their information on a candidate from debates and public media sources. Now all points of interest for all presidential candidates can be found organized on a blog, along with comparisons in viewpoints, past ideas and quotes, as well as comparisons between candidate. And all this information can be updated by the hour. The article makes a point to say that for the 2006 midterm elections over one third of all Americans used blogs to get their political news and viewpoints. This is a sign of how the medium of information can be as important as the message it relays.

Shaking Hands, Kissing Babies,

Chapter 3 “The Gates Come Down”, from Dan Gillmor’s book “We the Media”, was an interesting assertion about what blogs and other forms of online communication are doing to change the traditional ways we receive the news.  For the most part, I have looked at this in the same manner that Gilmore described it as, and I agree with what he was saying in this chapter.  Bogs and their ilk have changed the news reporting landscape forever, and for the betterment of all.  Yes, there may be a lot of false or skewed information to sort through, but this massive amount of news makes important information more accessible to people all over the world, and at a much faster rate.

For the governments and large media outlets of the world, this can be a bad thing.  Any slip up, or mistake these organizations make, will be reported almost assuredly and instantaneously.  There is no hiding from anything these days, so the best course of action for these entities to take is to fess up and come clean on every matter.  Because if they do not, they will be paying the consequences in the court of public opinion as news of their mistakes spreads across the world like a wild fire.

Anyone in the public eye is having to change every aspect of their public relations, because now days, there are a million eyes upon you, ready to record your actions through photos and video.  The world of blogs has made it so any piece of information, no matter how miniscule or trivial, has the ability to reach anyone, anywhere, in the entire world.

questions

1.  What is your feelings toward those that lead public lives, and the way they have to deal with anything they do being recorded and reported?  We all have slip ups from time to time, but for most of us, these arent broad casted all over the internet the next day.

2.  How have blogs changed the way political figures handle themselves and their critics?  Anyone with a blog and a purpose can turn things into a huge backlash against someone they disagree with.

3.  Blogs have become a voice for so many people that otherwise would not have been able to share their information or ideas.  While most Big Media has to abide by certain regulations, blogs do not.  Do you see anyone in power trying to change this?

The common theme of Christensen, Bush, and Standage is the “full speed ahead” views of human kinds inventors and thinkers.  Ideas dreamed up one day go on to become the commonplace devices of the future.  It is a testament to our kinds resolve and determination that has allowed things that seemed practically impossible to be developed into reality.  The telegraph was one of the devices that pioneered our rise into the technology rich world that we live in today.  “The Victorian Internet” dealt with the desire to communicate with our brethren all over the world, “As We May Think” deals with Bush’s dream of communicating with the generations of the future.  Leaving a thorough record for those that come after us is of huge importance, and certainly ranks among man kinds greatest accomplishments.

Reading “As We May Think” and seeing how Bush envisioned the library of the future, it made me think of devices we dream of developing today that seem far from our reality.  Given the advances we have made in the last 20 years though, is it crazy to think that we are not far off from monumental victories in technology?  Think about things that might seem like a dream to us today- flying cars, phones that control entire houses, communication with other civilizations.  These ideas are no more far off seeming today than the idea of a completed telegraph did before the days of Morse.

Questions:

1.  Look at what has occurred in the last 20 years in regards to digital communication technology and describe where you believe the next 20 years will take us in the same field.

2.  Bush describes in sections 6 and 7 his envision of the future recording and indexing of information.  What do you think developed into his vision, and how accurate was he?

3.  In the Victorian Internet, the telegraph, as non personal as it may seem to us today, still resulted in romances between people that had never met face to face.  Nowdays, entire web sites are dedicated to services that result in romance.  Why is our society becoming more and more geared towards taking the traditional ways of face to face interaction out of our lives?

Both Christensen and Rheingold made some interesting points in their writings. Rheingold’s feature stated that advantages and disadvantages of new technologies are never distributed evenly among the population. This is echoed by Christensen’s chart of the three types of consumers in the technology market. There will be those that rush out to scoop up the new technology, and those that will wait until its on sale. The biggest group that miss out will be the non consumers, who will find it increasingly difficult to adapt to the new technology the longer they wait. These “stupid newbies” will be still be walking out to the mail box to check their email while the iPhone age surges forward.

As far as non-market factors accelerating or blocking innovation in today’s digital media environment, from a mobile standpoint, its all within the screen. Phones have become so slender and so small, yet so many features have continued to be added, its getting a bit ridiculous. One can go blind trying to read content from a web page on a phone the size of a bug. Until we find a happy middle ground between size and being stylish and chic, some important web content will still be out of place on our phones. However, once this middle ground is reached, and there becomes a way to translate web pages to the mobile digital devices, the sky is the limit.

Questions :

1. Tell what you think about Rheingold’s 8th point.

2. How do you feel mobile technology has changed your life?

3. Why do you believe there is a “matter of literacy” dividing those that use mobile technology and those that do not?

Kersting, N. Baldersheim, H. (2004). Electronic voting and democracy : a comparative analysis. Palgrave Macmillan

Retrieved October, 9 2007, from: UW Libraries Catalog.

This source will help me research internet and electronic voting, as well as how it has been used in Estonia.

The Estonian ID Card and Digital Concept 2003.
Retrieved on October 9, 2007 from
http://www.riigikantselei.ee/3qc/docs/id/Lisamaterjal_ID_card_04.pdf

This source will give background on the Estonian ID card, which contains a digital signature and is being used in everyday life as Estonia becomes more digitally incorporated.

estonia-_-a-digital-country.doc

2. What are tools of suppression?
-politics
-supporting legislation in favor of laws that protect company
-fear

Who Suffers?
-anyone who has content that can be distributed digitally

4. If you were the head of A T&T you would…..
-integrate VOIP
-convert landlines into fiber optics

Book Preferences
Chris & Adriana : The Death of Distance

The writings by Winston were an interesting look at the beginnings of the communication age as we know it. I found it interesting to read his work and then read the article by the Economist on how the internet killed the phone business. Is this communication continuing along its evolutionary path as our society moves toward being more dependant on the internet, or is it truly the “death” of the telephone as we know it?

 

I find it bizarre that eBay was the company that won the bidding war for Skype. Everyone knows how successful eBay has become, and the millions of users all over the world that buy and sell on eBay can attest to how popular of a service it provides. But is a company that provides a digital environment in which users purchase or sell odds and ends really the right company to provide a communication service that may replace our telephone services? I don’t believe that eBay is the company for this job.

 

The natural hesitations our society makes in regards to technological advances or inventions, as pointed out by Winston, will put up initial boundaries for VOIP services such as Skype. While I myself am excited about VOIP service, and fully intend to try it out in the near future, I can already see the main road block for this service. Unless companies such as Skype can smoothly integrate the VOIP service not only in computers, but as cellular phones as well, society as a whole will not fully buy into it. This country in particular has always been about being seen with your new toy, and the last I checked, no one was waiting in line to get into a night club with their lap top.

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