jump to navigation

Chapter 52 ~ “Anti Anticonstructivism or Laying the Fears of Langdon Winner to Rest” by Mark Elam, with Langdon Winner’s Reply September 29, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Chapter 52 ~ “Anti Anticonstructivism or Laying the Fears of Langdon Winner to Rest” by Mark Elam, with Langdon Winner’s Reply (1994)

The first part of this piece is a write-up by Elam in which he discusses Winner’s anticonstructivist stance. Looking at Geertz and his thoughts on the “harmful pattern of intellectual dread” found in antirelativism, Elam picks up the gauntlet “to encourage a commitment to anti anticonstructivism” (612).

To try to define anti anticonstructivism, Elam states that “an anti antiposition entails a concerted effort to counter a view without thereby committing oneself to what it opposes (612).

To counter Winner’s view on constructivism, Elam examines one facet of Winner’s argument (makes sense) which that constructivists are hardly ever “prepared to take a stand ‘on the larger questions about technology and the human condition that matter most in modern history’” (613).

In his argument, Winner heavily critiques Woolgar for side-stepping “questions that require moral and political argument” (613); however, what Elam illustrates is Woolgar and Winner actually share many traits, thus the issues that Winner seems to have with Woolgar he could easily place upon himself.

At the end of his piece, Elam brings forth Rorty and the idea that not be illiberal we must separate private and public lives. It seems we have as much chance of doing that as we do in living in a utopian world where we and technology are so in harmony we forget what the “bad” life we used to have been technology dominated our existence. It’s just not going to happen. Not just because of technology, though that’s certainly a big reason, but because people aren’t wired that way. We connect to things, and when we do, our thoughts and opinions are often one of the first things to be displayed, for good or bad. To many, private and public lives are one and the same.

Winner’s response is quick and to the point, albeit a bit cheeky at times. He takes on most of Elam’s concerns and cuts them. For Winner, he’s not about being cruel or inflicting any kind of pain to anyone. He wants people to question technology and its existence in their world. He wants more than dissertations written and academic discourse on issues. He wants to be entrenched in the lives of people who are being affected to understand how this technological affliction occurred and how it can be remedied.

Chapter 51 ~ “Luddism as Epistemology” by Langdon Winner September 29, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Chapter 51 ~ “Luddism as Epistemology” by Langdon Winner (1977)

Winner begins his piece with a brief discussion of various suggestions (from Goodman, Bookchin, Marcuse, and Ellul) on how we can eliminate the problems that technology has brought (“brought” being a weak work in that we actually brought the technology into existence) into our lives.

Winner’s proposal contains the following suggestions:

  • The search for new technological systems
  • The development of these forms participation of those concerned with their everyday employment and effects.
  • Integration of specific principles to guide further technological construction: Technology be intelligible to non-experts, Technology be flexible and mutable, Technology be judged according to the degree of dependency they tend to foster
  • The understanding of technology as a means that can only be used when there is an understanding of “what is appropriate.”

Winner immediately offers up faults that might be seen in the suggestions, such as utopianism and unreality. Two barriers he sees with this notion are those people who ignore problems by not focusing on the problems with the system but by adding new features to the existing system and the fact that no one truly knows how to actually create a new system because no knowledge is present to do this.

He uses the example of the counterculture of the 60s to show how we can change the outward appearance of a problem, but it doesn’t eliminate the problem.

For Winner, the question of “means” must be examined for true change to take place, and here, he brings up the idea of dismantling systems in order to understand. However, this is not the breaking off machines or the smashing of machines and some believe Luddites to do. This is more self-reflection and examination because “the most interesting parts of the technological order in this regard are not those found in the structure of physical apparatus anyway. I have tried to suggest that the technologies of concern are actually forms of life – patterns of human consciousness and behavior adapted to a rational productive design” (608-9).

Luddism, in Winner’s mind, calls for using self as research. Disconnecting one’s self from technology and noting the needs, habits, or discomforts that arise because of the disconnection is important to understand how much we need a particular form of technology in our life and if there are other, more effective, less obtrusive forms of technology that can be built to blend better with our lives.

The most significant alternative in Luddism is not this, however. It is simply not fixing technological systems as they break down. To Winner, society seems to see this “fixing” as “growth,” but if we actually refused to fix these systems, we could possibly develop new technologies that benefit us.

Winner concludes his essay by taking us back 2,500 years to Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound,” to illustrate that these problems are not new. We just find new ways to reinvent the problems, or to escalate them. And perhaps it’s time to truly think about what we can do to help ourselves. “Perhaps means can be found to rid the human world of our self-made afflictions” (610).

Chapter 50 ~ “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto” by Chellis Glendinning September 28, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Chapter 50 ~ “Notes toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto” by Chellis Glendinning (1990)

Though there are those that believed Luddites were “reckless machine-smashers,” that’s not the complete picture for Glendinning. Luddites were fighting against a capitalistic society bred on power, resources, and wealth while trying to support their view of a world that connected work, community, and family. Technology threatened their way of life, the quality of their lives, and so, in almost desperation, they fought the machine.

Neo-Luddites of the 20th century echo this calls in their roles as activists, workers, neighbors, social critics, and scholars.

Glendinning uses Mumford to illustrate a definition of technology. Technology, because it consists of machines, techniques, and social organizations that make a machine workable, is a worldview that supports a mechanistic way of life where humanity is replaced with efficiency, ownership, supremacy. In order to stop technology and its destructive ways, we must create a new worldview.

There are three principles of Neo-Luddism

  1. Neo-Luddites are not anti-technology; there are just against any kind of technology that strips humanity to nothing more than rationality.
  2. All technologies are political; all technologies are built with an agenda. Reading about television in this section definitely makes me think about the internet and its ability to bring entertainment and information to households, its offering to corporations “a surefire method of expanding their markets and controlling social and political thought” (604). And considering how much times families actually spend “together” anymore when they could easily touch base via text messages or Twitter, I can definitely see the breakdown of family communication and the mediation of reality.
  3. The personal view of technology is dangerously limited; we have to be technocritics. We have to examine technologies through their “sociological context, economic ramifications, and political meanings” (604). It’s not just about how we gain from technology but also how we lose, and how the technology will affect our overall life.

Glendinning illustrates a program for the future that entails four things Neo-Luddites are in favor of.

  1. The dismantling of destructive devices, to include as nuclear and chemical technologies, genetic engineering technologies, television, electromagnetic and computer technologies.
  2. The search for new technological forms; using Winner, Glendinning asserts that these technological forms should favor the creation of technologies by the people who use them. The technology shouldn’t be hard to understand and should be flexible in so to “foster independence from technological addiction and promise political freedom, economic justice, and ecological balance” (605).
  3. The creation of technologies in which politics, morality, ecology, and technics are merged for the benefit of life on Earth.
  4. The development of a life-enhancing worldview in Western technological societies.

Wonder if we can tag this on to Mitcham’s three ways of being-with technology chart. It seems the Neo-Luddites want the best of both worlds, the rationality with the creative expression; definitely is a way of being-with technology and isn’t connected fully with the three ways Mitcham describes.

Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault September 27, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

Chapter 49 ~ “Panopticism” by Michel Foucault (1978)

Foucault begins with a discussion about the plague and what happened in a town when the plague arose.

1- strict spatial partitioning
2- ceaseless inspection
3- strict purification

It is a town of segmented discipline. The chaos and uncertainty of the plague demanded a power structure be developed that secured society…and the plague itself.

Foucault then mentions lepers and illustrates a distinction between the leper and the plague-filled town; the leper initiated separate societies; however, the plague called for disciplined societies.

Foucault likens this disciplined society to Bentham’s “Panopticon,” in which visibility is a trap.

Individualizing the surveillance, which is done in the Panopticon, helps to avoid the angry mob syndrome, keeping individuals from coming together as a group to fight against “the machine.” In doing this, the “the major effect of the Panopticon: to induce in the inmate a state of conscious and permanent visibility that assures the automatic functioning of power” (592).

So, unlike the plague, in which its effects have a top-down mentality of power, the Panopticon works as much as the people being watched work (within the minute exertions of discipline). Because no one person, like a king, controls it, this mechanism can be utilized in various ways – the prison system, the health system, the school system, and the work environment system, to name a few.

I’m not entirely sure, but in the right column of 593, it seems as if Foucault is implying that even those at the top of the Panopticon mechanism become trapped within its casing.

Foucault spends a few pages comparing the system derived from the plague and the Panopticon mechanism, one of which is that with the plague “an exceptional situation” occurs that mobilizes power against its extraordinary evil; whereas, the Panopticon is “a generalizable model of functioning” (594).

A great deal of manipulation occurs in both, but that manipulation seems to be finessed in the Panopticon as if each movement is tested and analyzed and reconfigure to increase power, disabling the ability for it to break down. The mechanism – unlike most power structures in which those in power keep the knowledge strictly among themselves – is transparent, allowing outsiders a glimpse into how it works, making the power not so much about one person but about the society as a whole. This connection of society also illustrates that the individual is not disconnected from social order but “fabricated in it” (596). Makes me wonder, in this scenario, if something does go wrong all we all to blame because we are about the knowledge that makes and generates this power.

The Panopticon, with its efficiency, has the ability to make power more economic. It doesn’t seem that its ultimate goal is to develop humanity despite outcomes such as the spread of education and of public morality.

I read this and take things such as power, the “gaze” mentioned early on, and the individualistic coercion and think about the classroom as a sort of Panopticon. There is a structure that’s intrinsically connected to a classroom, very transparent, but when the one person stands before a classroom of students, line of power are almost immediately drawn and understood. And though there might be the chance of a mutiny against the teacher, the classroom is very individualistic as each student knows he/she is being watched and analyzed by the instructor.

In regards to technology, I wonder if the Internet is the Panopticon…if that’s what we’re supposed to get from this reading. Does the internet individualize us? Does it exert a sort of power of us that conforms us in so subtle a way that we fail to realize our part in the development? And if we are to like the Internet as the Panopticon, then how is this power structure spreading education, public morality, the economy? I can see education and economy, but public morality? No.

Chapter 48 ~ “Anonymity versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet” by Hubert L. Dreyfus September 23, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Chapter 48 ~ “Anonymity versus Commitment: The Dangers of Education on the Internet” by Hubert L. Dreyfus (1999)

I have to keep reminding myself that this was published in 1999. Even if the Internet were as Dreyfus imagined (or as he imagined Kierkegaard might imagined), things have changed in leaps and bounds within the last decade.

Essentially, Dreyfus takes Kierkegaard’s thoughts on “The Press” and holds them against the internet to show that the gluttony of information available can lead one away from commitment (involvement) and from connection and from growth.

According to Dreyfus, Kierkegaard saw three stages a learner must pass through if he or she is to have a meaningful life: aesthetic, ethical, and religious; the aesthetic and ethical, Dreyfus makes notes, could be integrated with information technology; however, the religious sphere could not. And of course, it is only this sphere that makes meaningful learning possible.

Overall, people take interest in everything but are not committed to anything. Through this, there is also no responsibility – for the lackluster information that grows or for the people who waste their time muddling through the lackluster information. With no responsibility and with anyone being able to disseminate information, relevance and significance disappear.

And there’s even a notion that we all can become godlike because we can now, like God, have an omnipresent view of the world. This thought has never dawned on me, and it still doesn’t. All I have to do is take a peek inward to know I know nothing. Information online will not make me God or be godlike.

I get the feeling that Dreyfus (and Kierkegaard through Dreyfus) sees people as awfully gullible. People don’t care if information is reliable (579) as if they just accept is as face value, and though there are some, not everyone is like this. No one assumes responsibility for consequences of information. Again, some may not – others do. And when you get situations like Wikipedia getting in trouble for “publishing” erroneous info on their site or a woman being threatened to leave her apartment for tweeting something derogatory about the complex, we can see consequences of misinformation.

Dreyfus even takes aims at interests groups as the height of irresponsibility because they are not rooted in particular problems, which results in endless gossip. I think of some of the tech discussion groups/forums I visit where the sole purpose is to discuss problems and relay information to fix those problems. I think of internet radio shows, podcasts, and specific blogs catering to a specific problem and using the media to discuss solutions, and I see Dreyfus – again – as overstating the issue.

Dreyfus states that for Kierkegaard, the only alternative “to this anonymity and lack of commitment was to plunge into some kind of activity – any activity – as long as one threw oneself into it with passionate involvement” (579). Hard for me to see the Internet of 1999 as a wasteland lacking in passionate involvement. Granted, in any society, you will see dispassionate people, but even in the Internet “society” of 1999 important things were going on and people were using the Internet to connect with others.

In discussing the three spheres, we learn that the aesthetic sphere is where we just have sheer joy in information, and we can’t live only in this sphere. Gluttony of information is not a way in which to live.

In the ethical sphere, however, we are committed to involved action; it’s where we turn information into knowledge, and it’s where we finally get to talking about education. Reading this section, I get the sense that Dreyfus thinks students are just plopped into a vast, dark space with no guidance, no connection to others, and because of this will be swept into information overload. In the end, the idea of making a choice of information to consider “reliable,” “sufficient” leads us to falter in this sphere, too.

What is needed, ultimately, is the religious sphere, for here is where we make one unconditional commitment, a comment that represents who we are and what we stand for and that (I assume because of this) narrows our scope of what’s important, thereby narrowing the information we take in.

In the end, Dreyfus sees true learning coming from work represented “in the nearness of the classroom and laboratory; never in cyberspace” (583).

Chapter 47 ~ “Information and Reality at the Turn of the Century” by Albert Borgmann September 21, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Chapter 47 ~ “Information and Reality at the Turn of the Century” by Albert Borgmann (1995)

We’re inundated with information – we get this from Borgmann’s first paragraphs before he asks, “Where does all this information come from and what is it doing to reality?” (571).

He first presents to us how information first arose, through the interplay of three factors: a messenger, a recipient, and a message (each of which also has a list of alternative words). This triad represented “information about reality.” But information is rather hard to grasp because throughout history, it has morphed from something quite simple to something rather complex and technical.

After quickly tracing through signs throughout history, Borgmann that in addition to these signs providing information about the past, they also bring the signs closer to those receiving them. However, it takes comprehension to take the message of a sign and apply to the here and now. Information can also illuminate “what is remote in conception and imagination” (572) and doing so changes the information. It’s no longer “information about reality”; it is now “information for reality.”

Information about reality takes comprehension, but once understood, it makes the world simple, clear. It takes what is far removed from us and makes it understandable; however, those things we come to understand are not connected to us in any meaningful way.

Information for reality, on the other hand, “calls for realization and makes for a more prosperous” and rich world (572).  Skills are needed to “realize,” and once those skills are mastered, the world becomes richer, more intricate.

In order to have this rich, intricate culture of “information for reality,” one needs discipline to acquire the skills necessary to “realize” and competence in the skills. A world build on information for reality, according to Borgmann, “engenders a vigorous sense of continuity, community and intimacy” (573), and in order for us to live in this world, we have to be intimate with every nuance of the world.

Having set up the distinctions between information about and information for reality, Borgmann brings up a third component: “information as reality,” something which has come along through technological advancements.

Borgmann uses Shannon and Weaver to help develop this idea. The threat to how we saw information and our world was threatened when Weaver erased the distance between nearness and farness. [Today’s social media helps me to see this; what CAN’T we do today, no matter the distance?] For Weaver, distance didn’t matter, for we received access to people through information. And not just people – the world, whether through touch, sight, sound…even, I would imagine taste and smell.

And this disintegration threatens not only the notion of nearness and farness, but also the notion of “discipline and competence the world of traditional information used to require” (574).

From here, Borgmann discusses the idea that everything thus becomes information, becomes data, and we tend to lose the ability to understand the information, the message that’s within the information. He makes interesting comments about the internet toward the end of his essay, culminating with the statement, “The Internet, for the most part, is a dump of wasted time” (576). And as much as I love the internet, a part of me agrees. It does provide information that we might have never thought of about thinking we needed – this could be a good or bad thing. Good in that we can take that information and learn and grow from it. Bad in that we come information receptacle bins, in which we dump information, but nothing worthy comes out of us.

Chapter 46 ~ “Hacking Away at the Counterculture” by Andrew Ross September 21, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Chapter 46 ~ “Hacking Away at the Counterculture” by Andrew Ross (1991)

Ross starts his piece by discussing the paranoia that surrounds hacking and how computer virus – through media – were compared to medical viruses, such as AIDS. As I read these initial pages, I can’t help but to say “Wow” or “Obnoxious.” I know a good metaphor goes a long way to connecting people to an issue, and I know with the newness of anything we can’t explain away into a neat little box comes fear, but something about this connection feels wrong to me.

Ross does take the time to make note the differences between viruses and worms and that although worms seems to have a life of their own, they are not the creator – the human who develops the virus, the worm – is the mastermind. We cannot place intention on the virus/worm itself but on the creator of it.

Because of this virus scare, two effects have occurred:

1- Many have made money from the virus scare, both hackers and software developers alike.
2- There has been a “closing of the ranks” in regards to information

In reading Ross’ telling of prosecution against hackers, I couldn’t help but think, “Extreme?” Why did the hackers deserve extraordinary sentences and punitive damages? If we can liken hacking to the breaking in of one’s home, why would hacking get a harsher sentence? Is it because it disturbs the verb fabric of our existence? Identity theft jumps to mind. Many call this a very personal, painful crime in that once someone takes our information – takes the numbers and words that define us – we are left with nothing. Do we see hacking in the same light? Or are the ones creating laws a part of the group who fears being hacked?

On the right-hand column of page 559, Ross lists several thoughts on hacking in his talk of the “war on hackers.” I read these and think, “Seems like hacking has positive qualities,” yet these seem to be the very things that aid in “obtaining public and popular consent for new legislative measures and new powers of investigation for the FBI” (559). Or am I wrong in this thinking?

There is a move in the piece in which Ross discusses redefining hacking, redefining what a hacker is. At once, it was seen through a romantic lens as man (youth) fighting against the machine, fighting against those determined to keep information locked away. We’ve also seen it defined as harmless, in which hackers are not trying to do anything bad with what they learn; they are only wanting to learn of other “environments,” much like “fresh-air enthusiasts who ‘visits advanced computers as a polite country rambler might walk across picturesque fields'” (559).

Ross illustrates other “definitions” of hacker when he goes beyond the typical “young, white, middle-class” characteristics. For example, on page 564, he talks about the office workers (mainly female, he observes) that create “unorganized sabotage,” the more-skilled operators who are “intent on evening a score with management,” and those workers “who are dependent upon the hope of technological reskilling” and take it upon themselves to educate themselves when their companies do not.

Ultimately, Ross seems to connect with past writers we’ve read. Many past writers wrote about humans needed to be critical of technology. In order to prevent getting lost in technology, we need to understand it and understand how we connect with it. Ross offers a similar notion. In order not to get sucked up into the paranoia of hackers and viruses and worms and media’s narratives on these things, we need to become critics ourselves. Technology, like the viruses, are not autonomous; they do not have “intention”; however, what technology “is” is intrinsically connected to who and what we are as individuals and collectively as a society. Knowing ourselves and knowing technology – to include the hacker counterculture – will allow us to see the negative and also see the positive in these venues. As mentioned earlier (from that right-hand column on page 559), there are positive (at least to me) attributes about hacking that we can utilize for good.

Chapter 45 ~ “Heidegger and McLuhan and The Essence of Virtual Reality” by Michael H. Heim September 21, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5369, Carter, Philosophy of Technology, TCR, Technology.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments

Chapter 45 ~ “Heidegger and McLuhan and The Essence of Virtual Reality” by Michael H. Heim (1997)

5 Heidegger and McLuhan: the Computer as Component

Heidegger and Computers
In the initial section of this work, Heim talks about Heidegger’s thoughts on technology and how technology and the looming development of computers could adversely affect and challenge “the legacy of human thought” as well as how we will come to process information — or if we even will.

Heim ends this section with the question, “Just what were the specific dangers of computers,” at which he states his initial “philosophical answer to this question was what I call the computer as opponent. In this approach, the computer appears as a rival intelligence that challenges the human being to a contest” (540).

The Computer as Opponent
Heim brings up Hubert Dreyfus, who argues “that we must delineate carefully what computers can and cannot do, lest we become unrealistic about computers and fall into a misunderstanding of the kind of beings we ourselves are” (540). Dreyfus also argued about information processing and the belief by some that human thought could be replicated because “human thinking operates in formal patterns” that could be easily replicated in computers.

Using Heidegger’s critique of technology to computers, Dreyfus seemed to see a combative stance between computers and humans, which caused him to see “the computer too narrowly as an artificial device” (541), and this notion moves us away from the real concern, which is not computers versus humans but we computers and humans can collaborate.

A part of me wonders if this “battle” they suggest between humans and computers is really a battle. Can you call something a battle if one opponent appears not to be fighting, but in fact creating an existence in which what they created (computers, other technologies) do all the work so that man can have more leisure?

By looking at how we work WITH computers, computers can now be seen as components instead of opponents. This relationship with computers also makes us ask an important question: how do computers, which have infiltrated every facet of our existence, shape our realities?

Going back to Heidegger, Heim concludes this section by examining that it’s not technology (or computers) that have the ability to overrun humans, but that humans by “being-with” technology (and computers) integrate technology, computers into our lives in a way that they affect the way we think, know, and will.

Heim also brings forth Heidegger’s notion of “the language machine” and equates it to the computer.

The Computer as Component
Heim discusses Heidegger’s criticism of the typewriter and its ability to remove “the word” from man’s hand. Heim disagrees with Heidegger’s assessment, stating how the computer (of which Heidegger was not around to see) actually brings the “hand” back into the interplay with words.

But he does state that Heidegger was right on the mark in regards to his fear “that electronic digital text might absorb his own work” (543).

Really love the quote “The word processor is the calculator of the humanist, giving its users the power to manipulate written language in new ways” (543). I recall hearing math teachers groan over the use of calculator. “Even for the most simplest of calculations,” they would say, “students are running to calculators for the answer,” moving the responsibility of thinking from the human to the technology. Are we not doing the same with computers? Sometimes, I think yes.

Toward the conclusion of this section, Heim asked, “What did he [Heidegger] mean when he said the language machine would ‘take language into its management and master the essence of the human being’?” (543). For me, I think again this is not about technology/computers taking over us so much as it’s about what “knowledge” humans place on computers and how this knowledge allows computers to do more and for humans to do less.

Because Heidegger never states clearly whether he’s optimistic or pessimistic about his thoughts, Heim likens him to Marshall McLuhan.

McLuhan and Computers
First, we learn of a few similarities between Heidegger and McLuhan:
1- Each man believed their reflections on technology were more important than their personal value judgments on technology.
2- Each man saw intimate connections between information technology and the way the mind works.
3- Each man was fascinated by the role technology played in shaping and defining reality.
4- Each man “considered the most awesome power of technology to reside in its newly achieved intimacy with language” (544).

McLuhan seems to agree with Heidegger “that language technology belongs to us more essentially than does any other tool” (544) because once something touches our language, it touches us completely.

Here, Heim moves from McLuhan to Walter Ong and examines two major shifts in knowledge storage – oral-to-literate and chirographic-to-print – both of which he states coincides with Heidegger’s history of being.

There is a trade off to typifying and standardizing things, however. For everything we bring into us as a gain releases a loss from us, too. And in a technological world, where everything is at our fingertips, we can receive a loss that’s more devastating than any loss we could have: the loss of process of discovery. [I’m not sure if this is Heim’s, Heidegger’s, or McLuhan’s thought; I’m thinking Heidegger’s.]

8 The Essence of VR
The second-half of Heim’s article focuses on virtual reality. In trying to define it, Heim realizes that instead of looking at dictionary definitions and looking at virtual reality for what it is not, it’s better to talk to pioneers of VR and look at the concepts, of which he talks about several: simulation, interaction, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and networked communications, and even discussing these concepts leaves us wondering still, “What is Virtual Reality?”

This moves Heim’s into a discussion on “reality,” in which he talks about how tentative people seem to be to actually discuss reality. Makes me wonder if reality is something we can really define anyway. There are too many examples that show us that some people’s beliefs are their reality, no matter what others think. If reality is something that we can individually create for ourselves, how can we begin to define it?

And Heim, though through looking at the last 2,000 years and how we’ve grappled with this notion, agrees that defining reality isn’t going to happen overnight; therefore, defining virtual reality won’t happen overnight either.

Instead, Heim suggests when we look for the essence of technology, we are thinking about the essence of who we are and tying that to a vision because “behind the development of every major technology lies a vision” (550). And sometimes that vision is vague, but when it’s connected to the essence, it “calls forth the cultural energy needed to propel it forward” (550).

This eventually leads Heim to ask, “Where in VR is a counterpart to the space program’s esoteric essence? What is the essence of VR, its inner spirit, the cultural motor that propels the technology?” (552).

Two lines of thoughts arise: the cyberpunk writings of William Gibson and the Holodeck from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

And then Heim just seems to completely dismiss those looking for a real definition, suggesting that maybe more time spent IN virtual reality will enlighten these questioners.

I like the thoughts of the “Holy Grail” mentioned by Zeltzer and continued by Heim. I think all of this, this pursuit to do bigger, better with technology, this pursuit to understand virtual reality is all a part of some “quest” we have fashioned for ourselves. Can’t help but wonder what we would do if we actually “achieved,” retrieved the Holy Grail. We’ve been propelling at such an accelerated rate for so long, what do we do when we reach the pinnacle of a thing?

He uses Wagner’s “Parsifal” to show how the aspirations of VR (like Wagner wanted his musical dramas to be) are more than just about thrills, but about experience and the insight found within those experiences. It’s about being more than the thing; it’s about the thing becoming a part of the person and affected him/her, changing him/her.

Some advantages that VR can offer seem to be activity/passivity (VR can call forth greater participation with audience), manipulation/receptivity (a move from aggressive, first-person attitudes that traditional VR possessed to a more receptive experience), remote presence (the development of VR in which humans are more than spectators, and “presence includes an openness and sensitivity of the whole body” (554), and augmented reality (VR’s ability to offer a “smoother, more controlled transition from virtual to real and back” (554).

VERY COOL: Graphic Novel Textbook on Strategic Management September 18, 2009

Posted by Shon in Technology.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

Notice my surprise when I went to TTU’s website today and found this link: http://today.ttu.edu/2009/08/comic-relief-from-textbooks/.

It appears that Jeremy Short, the Jerry S. Rawls Professor of Management in the Rawls College of Business, has published the first-ever graphic novel textbook on management, which is just out this summer. The first chapter of “Atlas Black: Managing to Succeed” can be viewed online.

And this isn’t the first time Short has done something like this; Short also boasts the first-ever case study for Harvard Business School’s case collection in graphic novel format, co-written with Robert Austin. The case, which describes an information technology security crisis, and raises issues of risk management, preparation for crises, management of crises, computer security and public disclosure of security risks, is available at hbsp.harvard.edu.

All I can say is VERY COOL. Needless to say, this makes my mind spin with the possibilities. It seems no form is exempt from being used as a tool to educate. I think that rocks.

Paper Topic(s): 5363 September 18, 2009

Posted by Shon in 5363, Research, Rickly, TCR, Writing.
Tags: , , , , , ,
add a comment

For 5363, Introduction to Research Methods in Technical Communication and Composition, we have to do both a replication study and a micro-study.

For the replication study, I decided to imitate Maxine Hairston’s study, “Not All Errors Are Created Equal: Nonacademic Readers in the Professions Respond to Lapses in Usage.” What I liked about this study was its focus on nonacademic professions and professionals, and their thoughts on writing.

I’ve heard people in the industry say that we (teachers) were producing students into the industry that could not write; this – though I found fault with their thoughts – told me that people in the business world, detached from academia, cared about writing. The fact that teachers were being paid nicely to go into these businesses to teach employees (and employers) how to write effective memos, reports, etc. only strengthened my belief.

Reading this study added to that belief.

The study was conducted in 1981; it seems like a good time for a replication.

I plan to replicate Hairston’s study by doing a questionnaire of my own.

I’ve decided to continue looking at Hairston’s study for my micro-study by conducting interviews with participants, getting more insight into their thoughts and problems they face with writing within their profession.

I had another topic for the micro-study, which the professor liked, and I DO plan to move forward with it at some point because I think it might have the makings for a longer project.

We shall see.