Week 3 Lifestream Summary

 Bayne’s definition of transhumanism was really useful and it helped me to clarify the difference between transhumanism and posthumanism.

I enjoyed reading Nick and Mihael’s blog entries on TEL and very much agree that Bayne is promoting an anti-consumerist view of education and while the term TEL is problematic we do need to think about the implications of finding alternative models.

I posted the article about China as I think we need to remember that although information has lost its body and transcends power and national institutions, there are still countries which restrict access to it. (I do wonder though whether the Great Firewall is like a dam with a hole in it and there will be a point in which the Chinese government can no longer hold back the flow of information).

However, for the world of ‘free flow’ information, Poster’s image of ‘an emerging digital culture privileges the circulation of digital cultural objects though information networks, flattening relations of power in the sense that cultural objects are no longer fixed and the previous granularity of production/reception, encoding/decoding, human/machine no longer hold. The hierarchies of modernity or print cultures are thus effaced’.

I thought it was interesting how the media fluctuates between AI utopia and dystopia from week to week but often seems to play on dystopian fears. The headline ‘Robot chefs take over restaurant’ – implies that the owners were thrown out by the robots rather than them choosing to use robots to cut costs, which is what the article is actually about.

Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘technology enhanced learning’? Learning, Media & Technology 40(1): 5-20

Hayles, N. K. (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Halyes, N. K., How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics pp. 1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press

China blocks virtual private network use

China has blocked several popular services that let citizens skirt state censorship systems. Three providers of Virtual Private Network (VPN) systems reported that updates to China’s firewall had hindered people using their services.

Living in China last year, my VPN was the only way to get through the Great Firewall and find out what was happening in the outside world. Information flow is strictly controlled in China and even more so whenever there is an ‘event’ e.g. the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. On days like this even instagram and wechat suddenly experience ‘technical’ problems. Seeing this and reflecting on the following from Hand’s ‘Hardware to Everywhere’ reminded me that even though information travels fluidly today, it unfortunately only does so in part of the world.

‘Texts, images and sounds now travel at the speed of electrons and my be altered at any point along their course. They are as fluid as water and simultaneously present everywhere’ (Poster 2006:24).

‘In the context of informational globalization, culture, in terms of shared symbolic and material resources and relations, increasingly circulates as information, detached from national institutional structures, modes of representation and traditional understandings and operations of power’ (Lash 2002; Lury 2000; Poster 2006).

Hand, M (2008) Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat, chapter 1 of Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp 15-42. 

from Pocket http://ift.tt/1JO8BKa


Week 2 Lifestream Summary

It was fascinating to read about biohacking in Jeannine’s “The real Cyborgs” in the Telegraph, and the article prompted me to further explore ideas raised last week from the Miller reading on the human as a cyborg species and to reflect on the concept of cybernet extensions as body parts rather than devices. I had never encountered the term biohacking and had no idea that DIY biohacking kits are available online meaning that anyone today has the opportunity to become a cyborg.

While I was in Thailand this week I visited a temple and reflected on the Thai view of the body as the temple of the soul. Before starting this course I took this it to mean venerating the body and not enhancing it, but sitting looking at the how the temple was elaborately decorated and thinking about how women in tribes in the north use rings to lengthen their necks (technology as in tools not digital technology) made me realize that embellishment and enhancement really are part of human nature.

Watching Gumdrop and The Trail’s End made me think that it’s not so much a case of cyborgs being almost human but more human than human – at least in their way of thinking. Gumdrop’s shape challenges our perception of the cyborg created in our image and although she looks clearly out of place in the film clips, her performance is touching. I did wonder whether our dystopian view of cyborgs in general (think I, Robot) is because they are made to look like humans and whether this facilitates the projection of the dark side of human nature and our fear of losing control/other forces rising against us. Google’s new robot reflects a more utopian view with the Atlas robot being designed to provide useful human controlled assistance in disaster scenarios, entering dangerous situations where humans should not or cannot operate.

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The visual dimension is very much at the centre of cyber culture studies and the auditory dimension is almost always left out. Yet the virtual world is a multi-sensory experience, and ‘audialization’ (the process of making information more comprehensible by rendering it as sound) is just as important as visualization. We often take the auditory aspect for granted and only appreciate it when we have issues with microphones, echo and reverberation.

Stern, J. (2006) The historiography of cyberculture. Chapter 1 of Critical cyberculure studies. New York University Press pp.17-28.

http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/projects/the-future-is-android/index.html ‘The Real Cyborgs’ by Arthur House

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jan/21/googles-massive-humanoid-robot-can-now-walk-and-move-without-wires‘Google’s massive humanoid robot can now walk and move without wires’ by Samuel Gibbs