Lisa Bu's J676 Blog

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Response to the Feed Challenge

I pick TV as the feed for this challenge. Other feeds such as cell phone, web and radio are simply indispensable if I want to get up on time, work, study or travel (a conference in Chicago on Friday). The first 48 hours was easy. I don't watch much TV nowadays anyway. And I was at the conference Friday listening and talking to people. Then came Saturday, the Badger football game day. That broke my TV fast. I was tired after a busy week of study and work, and an exhausting day in Chicago. My brain became lazy and needed some cozy, easy entertainment: time for TV.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Response to "Feed"

This science fiction novel paints a chilling picture what life would be like if our brain is online, i.e. if a transmitter is implanted directly into our brain, constantly sending "feed" from the network and transferring our thoughts and behaviors back to the network. It's very similar to the movie, Matrix.

What is feed? What is the network? The characters in the novel voluntarily allowed, even paid, to have feed go into their brain to make study easier and life more convenient. It may sound that they have made a dumb choice. But in real life, don't we also allow some form of media manipulation to happen? The biggest difference is that most people in the novel no longer realize that they have been manipulated.

Response to Part 8 of the Reader Book

In his article, Mark Poster gives the term, "the mode of information," to describe electronically mediated communication. I think it's a confusing term: which mode? electronic, print, or other? He argues that "the mode of information enacts a radical reconfiguration of language, one which constitutes subjects outside the pattern of the rational, autonomous individual. ... Electronic culture promotes the individual as an unstable identity, as a continuous process of multiple identity formation, and raises the question of a social form beyond the modern, the possibility of a post-modern society." (p398) He gave three examples: (1) TV ad creates a virtual connection between the viewer and the product, making the viewer feel as "the absent hero or heroine of the ad;" (2) Computerized database operates as a super panopticon, making us inescapable from its survey; and (3) electronic writing removes the distinction between author and reader but at same time allows individuals to have multiple identities. I kind of get his point, but his terribly scholarly writing style is intolerable. Why can't he write in ordinary English?

Realizing both positive and negative impact of mass broadcasting may bring to indigenous culture, Eric Michaels tried to answer this question in his article: "how to respond to the insistent pressure towards standardization, the homogenizing tendencies of contemporary world culture?" His analysis confirms local videomakers' claims that "TV is a two-edged sword, both a blessing and a curse, a 'fire' that has to be fought with fire." (p421). I like the criteria for aboriginal media that the local people use: "Can video make our culture strong? Or will it make us lose our law?"

Sadie Plant's article is very unique. I never imagined that computer and weaving are so much related, and women are so instrumental for both. Computer, in his analysis, does look very feminine from appearance to how it's used by man. But how much does it matter if computer is feminine?

Response to the Second Half of "Information and American Democracy"

For me, the most interesting part of the second half of the book is the analysis whether the latest information revolution will affect the level of political engagement by individuals. The answer is largely no. One feature of "information abundance is the reinforcement of patterns of political engagement and disengagement at the level of political individuals. Americans in the aggregate are not growing any more engaged in their political system as a result of new technology. On the whole, those who pay the most attention to the media of previous information revolutions are also paying the most attention to new media." (p229-230)

But information revolution does change how institutions and organizations operate on the political landscape. That will cause power shift and structure change, and then may impact citizen participation.

I'm also concerned about one threat that the 4th information revolution brings to the public sphere: "fragmentation and the loss of the common." (p245) Technology can unite but also divide people. With so many things and people competing for our attention, we find it hard to give full attention and quality time to people and issues around us immediately in the real world. What can be done about it?

It reminds me of Thomas Friedman's recent column on the New York Times talking about one of his taxi ride in Paris: "The driver and I had been together for an hour, and between the two of us we had been doing six different things. He was driving, talking on his phone and watching a video. I was riding, working on my laptop and listening to my iPod. There was only one thing we never did: Talk to each other."

Response to First Half of "Infomation and American Democracy"

Exploring the relationship between information technology and evolution of American politics in his book, Bruce Mimber identified four information revolutions in the American history that had deep impact on the characteristics of American politics (p23):
  • First information revolution (1820s-1830s): creation of U.S. postal service and mass oriented newspaper industry --> first system for national-scale information flow --> rise of majoritarian politics
  • Second information revolution (1880s-1910s): industralization --> interest-group politics
  • Third information revolution (1950s-1970s): broadcasting/TV --> mass audience then fragmentation --> A centralized system of market-driven organizations along with specialized organizations
  • Fourth information revolution (1990s-present): Internet --> post-bureaucratic political organizations
I find the author's angel new and interesting to me. He chose not to "invoke standard theories used by social scientists to explain the influence of technology on society, especially technological determinism and its theoretical opposite, social construction." I'm eager to find out how he deals with the topic and what conclusions he will draw in the second half of the book.