Final Assessment Task

When Publishing Changes, So Does Society

Daniel Kelly z3460665

Soundcloud Audio File

Comparing social networks and structures today and in the past.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Internet_map_1024_-_transparent.png
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Internet_map_1024_-_transparent.png
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ea/Social_stratification_in_feudal_Japan_(12th_-_19th_century).gif/453px-Social_stratification_in_feudal_Japan_(12th_-_19th_century).gif
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ea/Social_stratification_in_feudal_Japan_(12th_-_19th_century).gif/453px-Social_stratification_in_feudal_Japan_(12th_-_19th_century).gif

References:

Bruns, A. (2007) “Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation”. Creativity and Cognition: Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI conference on Creativity & cognition, ACM, Washington, DC.: 99.

Castells, M. (2010) Conclusion: The network society. In: Wiley, J The Rise of the Network Society. 2nd ed. United Kingdom: Blackwell Publishing. p28-35.

Derrida, J. (1995) Archive fever: a Freudian impression, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Maryland

Eisenstein, E. 1979. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.xvi.

Eisenstein, E. 2005. The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Moores, S. (2000) Media and Everyday Life in Modern Society. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd, p.1-7.

Shaner, S. (2014) ARTS290 Publics and Publishing, Scott Shaner, University of New South Wales

Blog Post Week 12

This week’s topic again is quite heavy conceptually so stick with me as I try to explore the realms of data and society and how they have become interconnected in the modern, digital world.

Before I began the readings I brainstormed of different ways in which data informs society and I found it to be quite positive. I mean, doesn’t data and information always inform the way society runs? They way a city is built, where transport networks are setup (albeit horrible) and a whole range of critical parts of society aren’t just randomised. They’re calculated and based on research and data on population and census data, for example. So I don’t think this concept of data and society influencing each other is anything new.

However after reading the readings and the slideshow, I saw how much more complex the issue was in the modern day. The reading “Colonising The Clouds” was quite a frightening look at the way big data companies could actually become, and in fact have all the properties of a state. These companies like Google and Facebook. The reading used the term “#stacktivism” (because everything needs a hashtag these days) in order to describe this “infrastructure state”. I was a little confused by this so I did some research and there’s actually a website Stacktivism.com, which doesn’t actually say much…which was helpful. But basically what it does say is that, “#stacktivism is a term that attempts to give form to a critical conversation & line of enquiry around infrastructure & the relationship we have to it”. On the website, it also says: “we cannot have a conversation about something whilst it remains unseen”…which lead me straight back to the idea of making the invisible visible. Anyways, back to #stacktivism. So the properties of a ‘stack’ are that they are:

  1. Huge (in terms of people and workers
  2. They are vertically integrated global software structures used by millions (what in the what now?)
  3. Stacks have new things corporations haven’t had before: Proprietary OS’s AND devices AND ginormous (that word looks weird when written) server farms – etc
  4. Wireless
  5. Users are considered “livestock”
  6. Advertising creates revenue, therefore knows all about you
  7. Contain social networks
  8. Live in the cloud
  9. Not new

Now back to how these stacks could also be considered states. What differentiates a company from a state is ‘territory’. However, it appears that territory online may in fact count. As the digital and the real become more blurred in today’s technological environment, we can see how online spaces are quite valuable – especially if we look as the push towards cloud storage space containing vital information. In fact, these stacks contain more information than states ever could, and as the reading says, “stacks know vastly more categorised information about you than the sate has ever done…”. This concept made me think of a book I read recently called The Circle by Dave Eggers, which is actually very similar. It’s about a large internet company and their control in a state-like manner. I would actually recommend it!

So we can see how data about us gathered by these stacks/to-be-states are vital in creating this hybrid of data and society. Data informs society and society informs data. It comes back to this principle that has dominated the course that everything is kind of important. Everything has a role and has influence and can shape things. Whether is be data and society, or visualisation and dance parties, or printing press and literature. Everything is influential (bring out the classic actor-network maps around here).

References:

Springett, Jay (2014) ’Colonising the Clouds—Infrastructure Territory and The Geopolitics of The Stacks’, Medium.com, July 8, https://medium.com/@thejaymo/colonising-the-clouds-4405d2d590b5

#Stacktivism http://stacktivism.com/ (there was literally no information on this website that I can reference, but there’s the link)

Blog #7 – Week 11

7/11 – lol. (Advance apologies for this blog containing no fun pictures to keep your attention).

When I first started engaging with some of the prescribed readings for this week’s topic, I felt like I was in a dystopic sci-fi flick, waiting for Keanu Reeves to save me. However, after persevering with more of the readings, I began to see how new idea of distribution, aggregation and how this effects social are quite interesting and are much more tangible than one would first expect. This idea of publishing being ubiquitous (a word I am not ashamed that I had to look up), and that now publishing exists in all spaces and places, irreverent of time of geography is something that is most of us do not recognise consciously in our daily life. But these changes are very recent, yet we adapt to them like they’ve been apart of our existence since cavemen roamed the earth.

The idea of publishing your own way through publications is a very meta (aka obnoxious, yet pretty) way of expressing the way we arrange our screen with different applications and widgets on our smart phones. However, it does make sense. I tried to critically think about it and make some sort of analogy that is less mind-fucky, and here is what I came up with. The way we organise something in our mind and in reality can be replicated through language or semiotics. Say on my smart phone I want to have the Sydney Morning Herald application, and that I use this app frequently, I might put it down the bottom of the screen, you know that part that doesn’t disappear when you swipe to another page of apps. Therefore, by doing so I am creating a publication (semi) of how I engage with other types of publishing. My “aggregation” of information is a new publication, albeit personal. And this publication helps me to navigate the now saturated mediascape. This ties with a previous topic we explored about archive fever, how we constantly created data storage for the sake of creating data. Perhaps we can deem this a ‘personal publication fever’ – am I actually onto something here?.

You may be asking, “Dan, why are you using so many, “I”s? You’re sounding very opinion based, and not reliable at all”. Well, that’s because this idea of personal publication of ideas and arrangements and “aggregation” of personal data is funnily enough personal, and individualised. We could link this to the idea of “networked individualism” where individuals are connected to a variety of different communities, and are no longer bound to a single group. The irony here is that we are becoming more isolated perhaps. As the reading says, we are “niche-ing” ourselves. Unlike cavemen who once wandered the earth and were bound to each other, forced to out of need to survive and eat and reproduce, we are no long constrained to these same rules of forced relationships. The fact that world has also become globalised doesn’t hurt too much either. The truth of the matter is, that we are so connected, and we are publishing how connected we are not only because we want to, but out of this drive to publish, almost a need to do so. And in doing so, we isolate ourselves. – End rambling blog.

Blog #6

As already discussed when it comes to visualisation, it can be used in a myriad of ways for a myriad of purposes. The thing with visualisations, and at its core, data sets, is that they can be interpreted, altered and taken out of context in order to prove whatever you want to prove. I think that is something we must always keep in mind; that there is a reason behind the creation of every text, and even though something may seem ‘scientific’, that the way the science is conveyed, or visualised, is done in a way to persuade. I’m not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing; sometimes people need to be persuaded in order to understand the truth of certain matters. However, we cannot discount the fact that history has proven that ‘science’ and the presentation and visualisation of science can be used negatively or exploitatively. This could be a major difference between data in a private, scientific sphere, vs data that is broadcast into the public sphere with intention.

For example if we look at modern medicine, we can see that there is some contention around the use of data sets in order to sell products. As Torres writes, “what passes for “science” today is a collection of myths, half-truths, dishonest data, fraudulent reporting and inappropriate correlations passed off as causation. Correlational studies can NOT prove causation, yet the end result of most scientific studies in mainstream medicine make a causal claim without any proof and then pass those suggestions to the public to sell the medical model to the public.”

It’s not only in the world of medicine where data can be used to exploit and manipulate consumers. Here are some more examples where regular conventions of graphing and visualisations have been broken in order to manipulate those viewing the data.

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Look at the graph above. What do you think it says at a glance? This line graph that aims to demonstrate the level of gun deaths in Florida at a first glance appear to show a decline in these types of incidents. However, if we closely analyse the graph, we can see that the y-aixs, or the one running vertically, is counting down as apposed to counting up. By breaking this convention, it gives the appearance that gun violence is going down when in reality it is on the rise. It seems fairly obvious, but when it comes to data visualisations, we really only look at the information presented to us for a brief period; six seconds if we are to believe the theory of our attention spans (The Guardian, 2014) or just think of ‘Vines’ (kidding…sort of). So therefore, the creation of such a convention-breaking graph was done in order to trick, or fool those who saw it.

Here’s another way we can see visualisations created in order to trick a responder. By truncating a y-axis, you can alter the way information is perceived. For example the graph on the left gives the illusion that interest rates are increasing astronomically. However, if we set the y-axis at zero, and use an appropriate scale, then we see the information in a completely different light.

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The way we perceive visuals is based on preconceived ideas of what certain symbols and signs mean. When we see a line moving up, we automatically assume something is on the rise. It is by subverting these assumptions that people who create fraudulent visualisations off the back of real data sets try to convince us of what they want to convince us. That is why it is important to know basic ideas behind data, graphing and visualisation so that you can remain aware, and protected to the pitfalls of data visualisation that are out there.

References:

Torres, M. (2014) False Science – How Bought And Paid For Propaganda Masquerades As Scientific Progress, Prevent Disease, http://preventdisease.com/news/14/022414_False-Science-Propaganda-Masquerades-As-Scientific-Progress.shtml, date accessed 25/9/2014

Weatherhead, R. (2014) Say it quick, say it well – the attention span of a modern internet consumer, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2012/mar/19/attention-span-internet-consumer, accessed 25/9/2014

Blog #5

Week 8 Blog:

Visualisation:

The way we see the world depends on the way we actually see the world. Visuals and signs as forms of expression and content are a really interesting and engaging way to view any type of information. When numbers and words are transformed into diagrams, charts and even art works, it makes understanding the information we are presented with much easier. If we break down how we as humans actually learn, statistics show that around 65% of us are visual learners (Sahyoun, 2010). What this means is that for the majority of us, the best way to learn, understand and memorise content is through visual and spatial reasoning. The best thing about visualisation is that it is so open to creativity and experimentation. There’s nothing really concrete about the way you should visualise information. Using various colours, shapes and patterns are all inherent parts of the process, which are also inherently interesting visually. I mean, there are basic rules that govern how much impact and effectiveness different forms of visualisation have for different types of information. But ultimately, there’s a myriad of options, which makes spatial learning more engaging than reading or writing that are fairly cemented (see this heat visualisationof the Internet when Beyonce’s most recent album dropped: http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/watch-the-exact-moment-beyonces-album-blew-up-the-internet#nblz73).

This whole semester we’ve been learning content in this course through visualisation. From the mind maps about actor-network theories, to creating tables about perceptions of different debate topics, and even to basics like power point slides in lectures; visualisation works, because it stimulates our minds in more than one way. There are even archives for data visualisation, such as this website http://visage.co/category/data-visualization/ which, perhaps in the rush of archive fever, have popped up in order to cater to the 65% of us who understand information better graphically.

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One of the best uses of visualisation is when it translates what would otherwise be boring and dry information, into somewhat less boring and dry. For example, politics is something that tends to disengage general audiences, particularly around elections. To combat this, the media and political parties themselves disseminate information through info-graphics in order to capture an audience’s attention. We see information presented from all sides of parliament and even from the fourth estate, trying to either influence or educate audiences in a simpler fashion.

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Another example could be in economics, which is also a very dry area of information. This diagram below almost tells a story about the financial crisis. But add a few colours, some lines and BAM, you’ve got yourself ready-to-process information, as if visualisations are the ‘fast food’ to information’s industry. I guess we can kind of compare it to the way people find it easer to watch a movie or TV show as apposed to reading a novel (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones).

the-global-financial-crisis

An issue with presenting information in graphics is that sometimes signs and symbols are easy to confuse, and therefore we could say information presented in a spatial way is more open to interpretation. Sometimes people could misunderstand information through purely visual means. Moreover, another issue I feel with visual data is that it doesn’t really go too deep in terms of understanding information. We know a lot about the ‘what’ of something. We know the ‘what’ of Beyonce’s album selling around the world; the ‘what’ of the Labor vs. Liberal party deficits, and the ‘what’ of Marshall from How I Met Your Mother’s love of pies and bars, but we do not generally know why. That is a flaw I see with visualisation, and it is why visualisation could never erase written, aural or tactile methods of understanding information in the long run.

Reference:

Sahyoun, Chérif P.; John W. Belliveau; Isabelle Soulières; Shira Schwartz; Maria Mody (2010). “Neuroimaging of the Functional and Structural Networks Underlying Visuospatial versus Linguistic Reasoning in High-Functioning Autism”.

BLOG POST #4

When I was reading the outline for this week’s topic on archiving, I read a few lines that included the word ‘Facebook’. That Facebook was a new archival form. At first, I thought that this seemed silly when we compare it to libraries, and legal documents and all those traditional sense of the words. However, the more I started to think about it, the more it started to make sense. All our personal information is stored there, photos, ideas, our social circles, places we’ve been. This first made me think (hope and pray) that a new social media site doesn’t bring down Facebook, seriously, because there’s already so much history of my life stored on Facebook that it would actually feel like i’d be losing my identity. And i am sure that that feeling would apply to a lot of other users as well. Publishing isn’t just about publishing ideas, or stories anymore. It’s about publishing us and who we are.

Then from this I began to start generally thinking about social media generally, and its ability to archive information. However what I found an interesting point is that because these digital archives are based on ‘real-time’ communicative talk and practice, response and commentary from readers – not only does do these technological archives gather information and data, and data about this data (such as time, location) but it also lends itself to gather responses and reactions to such information. A good example would be a video on Youtube as it allows for both people to comment in addition to ‘liking’ and ‘disliking’ the content. If we take Justin Bieber’s video for ‘Baby’ which is one of the most unliked videos of Youtube in the archives relatively short history (won’t bother explaining why…), we can see a the content, meta data about the content and responses and reactions from people decoding the content. What I find interesting about this is that in the future, say a century, when people come back and analyse information and data from the late noughties, they’ll find perfectly archived information. The issue here is that this data is already embedded with positive and negative attributes, in this the Bieber example, being negative. Ergo, those who view content which has had the ability to be rated on a scale of liking to unliking are already predisposed to either believe the content to be ‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’ purely based on the responses from people in a completely different context. This is a somewhat worrisome idea as it does not allow for people to decode information without bias.

If I draw comparisons to the way in which we decode historical texts, such as a Greek philosopher’s writings, we have the text and then we can look for other texts that critique it. They are separate. Now, texts and their critiques are becoming more interwoven. Of course, this stream of consciousness I’m typing on a rainy Tuesday morning has many flaws. For example, this would rely on the fact that audiences are passive, and as we know they are in fact active and decode texts of their own accord, bring their own ethnography to texts. Despite the flaws, we cannot ignore the fact that these new methods of archiving in the digital age now have different effects on the way information is viewed in the future, just as information archived 100 B.C. is viewed different now than how it is intended. It just goes to show that the evolution of publishing has implications for both the history of past publics, in addition the current publics that view these archives.

I’ll stop rambling now.

BLOG POST # 3

The discussion around actor-network theories is one that actually makes you think about the relationships between different ‘agents’ and how they come to form a larger network. Up until this point, our discussions around publics and publishing has had a large emphasis on the technical side of publishing and its effects on society, politics and other key abstract nouns. However, what is interesting about analysing the actor-network theory is that is kind of flips it around and you begin to break down the way that the actors/or agents in turn effect publishing. Not only this, through creating actor-network mind maps, you can identify the relationships between these agents, and furthermore can visually discern which of these agents carry the most weight/ or garner the most traffic in the network of your choice. Another key fact about actor-network theory is that Latour, Callon and Law (the cool guys who helped to develop the theory) leave the theory very open to its applicability to different networks. For example, agents are not specifically human or non-human, they can exist equally within the theory, their importance determined by the links between themselves and other agents. Moreover, the theory lends itself to be deemed ‘constructivist’ in nature, basically meaning that it knowledge and meaning comes from the interactions of experiences and ideas (Tobias & Duffy, 2009). So through the creation of a actor network theory mind map we link together different ideas and experiences to come to a logical conclusion and create new meaning and knowledge but these experiences and ideas. The theory isn’t about telling you what something is, it’s about giving you the tools to help you to discover and learn what something is, how it is and why it is which I think is particularly useful as it opens it up to so much interpretation and extended usage. However, it also could perhaps be too open ended and leads to confusion (and more often that not, messy mind-maps). The benefits for this theory in relation to publics and publishing is that we can garner the different relationships between publics (society, politics, legal etc) and publishing (online, offline, media companies, grassroots etc) and how these forces interact. Another issue with the theory however is the fact that it isn’t really a theory in the classic sense…therefore it allows to create a description of a scenario/network on a basic level (aka the connection between different ideas/things/agents/human/nonhumans) however it does not explicitly offer a meaty explanation for why these things happen. But I suppose that’s why other theories exist…

The best way to actually understand this is to create one yourself. So here is a (admittedly very basic) diagram I created using a funky mind mapping website. It’s about the ANT theory and it’s pretty meta.

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References (not so much plural, more singular):

Tobias, S.; Duffy, T. M. (2009). Constructivist instruction: Success or failure?. New York: Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9780415994231.

BLOG POST #2

When the Internet first came about, it was an untamed, undomesticated beast. You could view content you wanted, when you wanted, how you wanted, and generally for free. However, overtime, smart people start to realise that you can make money off of a necessity. It worked with bottled water, and so too does it now with the advent of the ‘paywall’. Paywall’s are by definition, “a system that prevents Internet suers from accessing webpage content without a paid subscription” (Radoff, 2009, p. 2). Paywall’s are by no means a new concept, with The Wall Street Journal being the first online newspaper to create a paywall system in 1997. However, in recent years it seems more and more online publications are beginning to implement various ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ paywall approaches as the transition from print media to digital becomes increasingly necessary.

In my last post I discussed my concerns that the Internet facilitates users to post and publish any content they wish online, however this week I kind of flip this concern over. With discussions around paywalls, it demonstrates the ability to increasingly monetise how it operates. My concern here is that this could begin to alienate users who are not willing to pay for such content whether it be on principle or being unable to afford to pay. This begins to broaden the scope of people unable to access information in the 21st century. Not only would it be people who cannot access hardware due to poverty, but then people unable to access some software/internet sites due to similar situations. Of course, it is not that expensive to subscribe to your favourite newspaper. For example local masthead Sydney Morning Herald has a paywall system that allows users to read the first 20 articles for a month free and then begins to charge based on the amount of articles read. In fact, according to Mumbrella.com.au, both News Corp and Fairfax online readerships have “remained strong, despite both implanting paywalls in recent months”. The Nielson Online Ratings from July 2013 highlighted that there was very little change at all (refer to figure A.) However, that is not the point. The point is that paywalls is just the beginning of the monetisation of the Internet, and seeing as the internet holds all the information in the world, it begins to monetise information itself. As Hackett (2006, pp. 6-7) write, “[paywalls] generate violations of the democratic norm of equality”. We could say that we’ve always paid for information, through books and education so on and so forth, and to create system that has the potential to alienate some of the online market due to economic disparity seems a dangerous path to tread.

Figure A. Neislen-468x258

 

Resources:

Hackett, Robert A (2006). “Remaking Media: The Struggle to Democratize Public Communication”. New York: Routledge. pp. 6–7.

Radoff, Jon (30 November 2009). “A Brief History of Paywalls”. Accessed 14th August 2014