Another Semester comes to a close
Here we are at the end of another semester of NKDA. Much as we had planned the course revolved around timely discussions of the nature of technology and its role in society, giving students an introduction to some of the social forces of the Internet.
We started with the question: Do tools matter? Here, the ideas of Marshall McLuhan, proved insightful. Mcluhan showed the world how it is 'we shape our tools and forever thereafter they shape us', and how 'we become what we behold'.
From there we used Weaving the Web, written by Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the Web, to probe and extrapolate its awesome power and that of internetworking in general. This course also asked you to do your part in directing our studies by taking on a research project which you completed in three formal iterations and a presentation. In this sense the course also focused on your writing skills, on how we use language and images to express ourselves, and on how the new networking age is affecting communication and expression. This semester I made a special effort to incorporate more web-based audio and video into our meetings.
Turning from the question 'do tools matter?' to the question 'does the structure, or architecture, of our tools (in this case our communication systems) matter' we explored the unique opportunities afforded by internetworking, and the bias of centralization and control among many traditional forms of media. As was increasingly noticed the word decentralized came be used ad nauseum! The powerful new modes of communication afforded to individuals by the architecture of the Internet stand in stark contrast to that of, say, broadcasting. Indeed, the structure of our communication tools matter -incredibly so!
Please take some time now to reflect upon these ideas now that they have each been, at least partially, explored and presented here together. In a recursive, rhizomatic way fitting of the very insights they help to illuminate, they reveal important forces of a very profound and ongoing sociotechnical (r)evolution. What do they say about today's media landscape? about society? about politics? And what do they say about our future?
Thank you all for a wonderful semester. Have a wonderful holiday. I hope that our discussions and these ideas have given you something further to think about and to use.
Public Good vs. Private Gain in the Networking AgeIP rights exist to reward creativity and stimulate new innovation. But when do ownership rights go beyond this role to actually stifle access, expression, and the common good?
Lawrence Lessig asks Who Owns Culture?
Let's take an introductory look at some of the broader social, legal, and ethical implications of the new mode intercreativity encouraged by networking. You may have seen Apple's advertisements awhile back that encourage you to rip, mix, & burn your favourite tunes using Apple's products. It suggests that we all are beginning to use sound and images, either by creating them from scratch or by reusing and repurposes those of others, as in a mixed tape, a web site, an avatar, a flash video, and so on as part of a new and growing shared vocabulary. As this mode of intercreativity becomes increasingly widespread and increasingly apparent we are seeing what might be described as a clash of cultures. Or maybe it's a clash over culture. The famous, and very symbolic, fight to enforce copyright protection may be the most lively and visible front of this war. Lobby groups like the RIAA, on the one hand, on behalf of the American recording industry, are using a variety of tactics to quell the sharing of files, especially through the use of peer-to-peer networks such as KaZaa and LimeWire. Lawrence Lessig, on the other hand, lawyer and writer, is a leader in a cause to defend the free and open nature of the Internet from the would be owners of digital culture.
We've been talking an awfully lot about the differences between a decentralized, two-way medium like the Internet, and the centralized, one-way broadcast approach of television. This post illustrates how the nature of a medium's content and user experience tends to correspond to its underlying technical architecture. It follows, perhaps, that by helping to shape cognitive, psychological, and social processes, technology plays an important role in shaping us.
Please make comment here that introduces your topic and points us to your research page.
Iteration # 2
The next iteration of your research paper is due on Wednesday November 9, 2005. Please start working on it now.
Mind to Mind?
In Chapter 12, Tim, expands on his two part dream for the Web.
Enhanced Communication Through Shared Knowledge
TBL (WTW p. 162):
"When I proposed the web in 1989, the driving force I had in mind was communication through shared knowledge and the driving "market" for it was collaboration among people at work and at home. By building a hypertext Web, a group of people of whatever size could easily express themselves, quickly, acquire and convey knowledge, overcome misunderstandings, and reduce duplication of effort. This would give people in a group a new power to build something together.
People would also have a running model of their plans and reasoning. A web of knowledge linked through hypertext would contain a snatpshot of their shared understanding. When new people joined a group they would have the legacy of decisions and reasons available for inspection. When people left the group their work would already have been captured and integrated. As an exciting bonus, machine analysis of the web of knowledge could perhaps allow the particpants to draw conclusions about management and organization of their collective activity that they would not otherwise have elucidated."
How does this weblog vouch for the greatness of his vision? How does this weblog contribute to the course?
More feedback on your 1st iteration
Another piece of general but important feedback applies to all of your papers. Rarely did I see you look to the technical architecture of our technologies to understand what is going on in society. A premise of this course is the theory that technology has a profound role in shaping communication and organization, and therefore all of society. We started off the course by asking the rhetorical question 'Do tools matter?' and we used turning points in history to highlight the fact that many periods of great change were preceded by great technological advances. Moreover, in reading Weaving the Web, we struck on the notion that not only do tools matter, they profoundly reconfigure social processes in a manner that reflects their structure. It is ominous to think that the broadcasting and industrial age, which gave rise to the production line and centralized institutions through hyper-extended technologies would create a bias toward a mass mono-culture. The structure or architecture of those dominant modes of communication and organization seemed to reshape social processes in their very image.
If there exists this intimate connection between our dominant modes of communication and our social processes, and if the structure of those modes gives us hints as to the ways in which they reshape us, how can we use this insight to make sense of this current period of transition we find ourselves in - between mass culture and internetworking? How can we use it to predict how our social institutions and our basic means of communicating will lead to change? Look to the basic technical architecture of the technology and you will find many answers.
Some General Feedback on your 1st iteration
I really enjoyed reading the first iteration of your research papers and I've now had a chance to meet with each of you on a one-on-basis. Though my feedback was different for each one of you a common thread runs through it all.