Monthly Archives: February 2012

Interactivity and Virtual Reality: What does this all mean?

So, when I was reading this, I couldn’t help but think how I had seen all of this before, either in class or in real life as it was happening, and the first thing I thought of was how amusement parks are starting to do the same thing with not only 3D rides, but 4D as well. They stared incorporating more senses into the rides which allowed the riders to actually feel what was going on within the ride. I found it interesting that in a media textbook, I was able to make all sorts of connections to with one subject.

The way that every element was broken down and given a specific example allowed me to fully understand each concept and create my own way of comprehending it. I was also really impressed with the comparison between Zork and Star Raiders. Even though I’ve never played either game, I’ve seen many other games that have been placed under the same video game genre, but just aren’t the same because they don’t allow the user to really form and use their own imagination and processes throughout the game. The whole sitting down for hours at a time to finish one game is so easy to relate to because so many games nowadays are ones that don’t have levels or rounds that you can finish and beat in 30 minutes; you honestly have to put all of your brain power towards the game. But I digress.

The six elements really made sense to me because each level does build on the one that precedes it or is a material that produces the next one. I’ve never looked at it that way before because I’ve always heard that some elements don’t go into every single thing that is made or written, but that’s not true. People don’t think about it everyday, but what would our world be like if we didn’t have certain patterns that make things clear for us; or thought that allowed us to go from one action to another without missing a beat? Things would be disjointed and just weird. Whether it be in a play, in real life, or just anywhere in any topic, everything has building blocks of some sort; and these 6 elements are the building blocks for a lot of things interactive with technology. I’ve never realized how much goes into planning video games, movies, and television shows, but the audience and the actors/players need more than just a script or a code; they are in a way living through the audience and have to think of what they will want to see.

Everything has a purpose when it comes to programming video games, and this planning has a certain process that needs to be taken seriously. Without this interactive technology, I don’t know where our society would be, because it has given us the opportunity to learn how to explore other options to choose the best decision, all because we have the right elements in place that allow these alternatives to present themselves.

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A look into the future.. via 1988

Towards the very end of The Six Elements and Causal Relations among them, Laurel mentions “The Knowledge Navigator”, a promotional video by Apple from 1988. My curiosity sparked, I immedietely went to YouTube to see if I could find it. I found myself thinking it would be a perfect place for a hyperlink. Almost immediately my mind jumped back and forth between the words iPad, Siri, Facetime. This “product of the future” seems to be a perfect combination of so many of the amazing pieces of technology/media we use today. Networking, internet, unlimited resources, immediate news/knowledge/sources, video chatting, touch screen, voice command. It is amazing to think that today’s cutting edge technology was first thought of 20 some years ago. I can’t help but wonder if people could actually get a glimpse at the future (2011), what would they think of our current technology? Would they be impressed? Would they have expected more? less?Anyways this video was totally cool to watch.  But don’t just take my word for it.. everyone, check it out! WATCH

I also really liked the slogan at the end. “The power to be your best.” I feel like that ties in nicely with what we have been talking about lately. What do computers really do for us? Is it the medium? A message? I like what apple is trying to say here. Or what I think they are. The computer is a tool. It may have human like capabilities, especially in the future (or today). But when it comes down to it, the computer is a tool for humans to use. It is not made to replace humans or do our work, but to make our work and lives easier. To aid us and make things more convienant. The computer is a tool that we can use a much of or as little of as we want. If we want  a lot out of it, we can get that. It is there to help us reach our goals, to help us reach our full potential.

One last interesting thought. The video was set it September 2011. Apple came out with siri in October 2011. hmm…

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Can computers think?

After reading The Six Elements and the Causal Relations Among Them there were less highlihgted passages than the other slections we have read recently. I found the connections between our class and this selection very small. The second selection was completely disjointed I felt like. But, there were several nuggets that I did select that I found interesting. The main one that I’d like to talk about first is on page 567 “Can computers think? There is an easy answer. Computer-based agents, like dramatic characters, do not have to think (in fact, there are many ways in which they cannot); they simply have to provide a representation from which thought may be inferred…was the system thinking?…The answer, I think, is that it doesn’t matter.”

I think it’s interesting that the thought of a computer thinking even came in anyone’s mind. However, such communications like Siri have made this idea intriguing. I do wonder what makes the computer give me any answer, but obviously there has to be some sort of database. They don’t think. But, I suppose they are getting closer and closer to this. The isntantaneous rate at which you get responses from a computer make it seem much more “alive”. This is kindof what we were getting at in class on tuesday. The medium is the message simpy because of how fast you can get a response. So, although the computer doesn’t think, just the idea of having a medium that is so instantaneous at its response and the reliability of its answers makes it have an important effect on society in itself.

The second part of that nugget was what got me thinking about the medium is the message even more. We don’t need to think about how the rate or speed of the computer has an effect on society, just simply having it around says something about our society. We don’t need to think about whether or not the computer thinks, it just does what it does and it serves our need. Why think about how great the computer is when you can just use its greatness to complete your goal more efficiently and effectively than if you did not have a computer? I guess being a business major, that’s what I always go towards, efficiency and effectiveness. Computers do this and therefore, it doesn’t matter whether or not they think. They serve their purpose.

But, Dr. C. would probably disagree with this. One one hand, people use computers for their use. On the other hand, the one Dr. C. mentioned in class with the “penhand”, the medium becomes a part of you. So, the computer becomes a eyehandcomputer. Thus, because you are thinking about what you want the computer to do, the computer must be thinking right? I don’t know. An interesting question. What about the computer makes it a part of you? Are there any specific applications that really feed in to the mind of humans and the users of the computer? There’s got to be some kind of discussion on this.

Overall, I thought the reading was inteteresting, definitely not one of my favorites. But, the connection back to McLuhan  makes it probably the most intriguing. What did you gyus think?

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Thinking of Viktor Frankl and Teachers w/ McLuhan

If I understand McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” correctly, then I understand that an external object (defining object loosely), whatever it may be, carries an inherent message that we too often ignore (consciously or not), but are affected by.  No matter what we say or desire, the object, regardless of what content that object carries, can alter our minds.   McLuhan uses media examples, but I think of teachers.

Many of us can remember a good teacher, one that has had great influence in our lives, and not remember much of the content that the teacher taught.  The teacher was a medium for information, but it was the teacher that made all the difference.  The teacher, in that instance, was the message that altered our minds.

That was just one potential example.  There are so many instances that show how objects affect us, whether we care to admit it or not.  In Super Freakonomics or Freakonomics (I cannot recall which one, so read both- I highly recommend it), the authors discovered that simply having books in the home is correlated with test score success of a child.  Not reading the books- simply having the books.  This does not mean that buying a room full of books and putting a child in the middle of it will create a high test-scoring child.  The authors make sure to theorize that having books in the home is likely reflective of the parents’ opinions on education or the general intelligence of the parents and thus the general intelligence of the child.  I’m sure those aforementioned factors are the primary ones.  However, I still do not want to ignore the power of the book itself.  When students go to libraries to study, I think, for most, being surrounded by books gives the students some “message” that empowers them.  It’s one of the same reasons so many people want to study in coffee shops.  Or the reason people worry so much about their home, car, or clothes.  In viewing the coffee shop or library or the objects within those places as a medium, those objects can carry an inherent message that affects us.

Perhaps we should question our strength of mind.

This brings me to Viktor Frankl.  Whenever it comes to strength of mind (and the power of the mind), Dr. Frankl is always invoked.  Surviving three years in the concentration camps, Dr. Frankl wrote that-

“If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life- an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy.  Spiritual life strengthen the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.”

This was published in “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  This book is interpreted in many different ways for many different purposes, but one of the main interpretations that come from this book is that anyone can have the power to determine how circumstances affect them- and that if one has the strength of mind, one may potentially be impenetrable to external objects.  Of course, I doubt Dr. Frankl would agree with that (as do I), but we, as humans, love our silver bullets and thus created one with Dr. Frankl’s observations.  Think of the phrases “your attitude determines your altitude” or “what we think, we become.”  These sound great and empowering, and most definitely hold some power, but I know no one that has ever been able to “fully” accomplish this.

Why?

Is it because that we live in a world where objects carry their own messages?  That they invoke emotions, actions, decisions that we cannot initially control or understand.  If we live in a world where the medium is a message that “alter(s) sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance,” then where is our strength of mind?  What role does it play?  Are we aware of it?  McLuhan wrote that only “serious artists” are aware of these effects.  Dr. Frankl was too and possessed the strength of mind to moderate those effects.  I think of McLuhan’s reference to Nietzsche’s observation that understanding stops action.  Perhaps the parallel between serious artists and Dr. Frankl was one of understanding.  And that the first step moderating those effects is understanding.

Enough rambling for now…

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What Does “The Medium Is The Message” Really Mean?

Reading “The Medium Is The Message” by Marshall McLuhan left me a bit foggy. I understood several nuggets of information but they seemed to float around within my mind. I wasn’t able to connect them. I think confusion may be an appropriate word to describe how I felt. However, I decided to do some addition research to better understand McLuhan.

After reading “The Medium Is The Message” by Jason Gross I gained a whole new understanding of McLuhan’s point(s). The first point was that “the medium through which a message is experienced shapes the user’s perception of the message.” The second point was that “a medium can be the message itself if it is delivering content that would otherwise be impossible to access.”

After coming to this realization a light bulb went off in my head. Everything FINALLY made sense. It isn’t the invention but the way we perceive the invention that helps us understand the message. It isn’t just the invention but the way we use the invention. This doesn’t just pertain to technology. We can bring this idea back to the some of the oldest inventions. What first comes to my mind is the invention of the wheel. Some may have viewed it as a strange rock formation. However, when the first person picked up that strange rock formation and allowed it to roll we had a completely new medium which created a completely new message. The wheel is our medium and the action of it rolling is the message. Our message is motion. Motion is of no use without the wheel. We view motion as it is through the rolling of the wheel. If we were to experience motion through another medium we may have a different perception of it today.  A more relevant example today may be with the invention of the computer. We were given this medium of the computer and through the message of the internet we have gained mass amounts of knowledge. Without the internet the computer would simply be another technological device. We would not have the level of communication that we would have today. The internet would be of no use without the computer. If we were to experience the internet only through applications such as the kindle, the iPad, or the nook, we may have a totally different perception of it. When thinking about how this medium has shaped the message it is mind blowing how it can go full circle and before you know it the message is shaping the medium.

 

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The Medium and the Message: An Obligate Relationship

I honestly had a hard time accepting the fact that “the medium is the message.”  The statement seems bleak and quite contrary to everything I have learned prior to reading McLuhan’s essay.  For me, the content has always been important.  When I am reading a textbook and trying to understand an idea, I am not thinking about the book in my hands, I am thinking about the content in front of my eyes.  I suppose I fall into the category of those who are “long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control” but in all honesty, who from my generation does not/did not belong to this category?  For it is part of our homogenized culture, the accepted and rational way of solving problems, of thinking about and viewing the world.  After all, McLuhan states himself that the “criminal appears as a nonconformist.”  Who wants to be classified as a criminal?  For that very reason, I am going to be the “nonconformist” here and voice my confusion with this material.  Hopefully I will work my way to the solution through the questioning of his ideas.

Why yes, I am a perfectionist and someone who revels in the feeling of “control” which for me has been achieved through a step-by-step, “sequential” process.  When did that become such a problem?

I guess it was in my senior year of high school, when words could not  simply be memorized anymore.  I believe I was reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and I realized there was no possible way I could memorize all the vast concepts that were discussed.  It was that moment that I realized my education was missing something, I had been numb to the information -  “…sounds did not echo nor thought develop” before this day.  I had read all of those words before, therefore the content was nothing new however it caused a shift in the way I approached learning, “a change of pattern” introduced to my every day customs.  Does that make the medium the message?  When considering the meaning of context, I think so.  If the medium is the channel through which an idea is communicated, wouldn’t that make context, the parts of discourse that surround a word or give meaning to a passage, a type of medium?  I think so.  If this crazy idea makes any sense to you then the McLuhan’s statement that the “content of any medium is always another medium” will provide some insight into my thinking.  Wouldn’t this sort of recursion indicate that the content is equally as important as the medium?  Again, I think so.  If this is the case though, how can one even decipher between the “medium” and the “message”?  Maybe that is the whole point of McLuhan’s signature phrase.

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What Makes Something Good?

I am going to be completely honest in that I have had a super crazy week and didn’t have a chance to absorb these week’s readings as closely as I would have liked. But as I was skimming over “The Media is the Message” by McLuhan, in between studying for my chemistry test, sorority initiation and preparing for my alternative spring break trip in Nicaragua, what caught my eye was the comparison of modern science to apple pie and small pox. When first reading the quote from General David Sarnoff

“We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value.”

I completely agreed with this statement. Computers and technology aren’t intrinsically good or bad. It is how we use them and what we use them for that should determine their value and virtue. If we use them for progressing research or knowledge, they are good. But if they are used for hacking or stalking, they are bad. But then as I read the next couple of sentences I changed my mind.

Can apple pie not be named good or bad, except in the context of its use? As a major foodie and owner of the biggest sweet tooth possible, I disagree. Then continued with smallpox virus. Is that not good or bad? Does it really just depend on how it is used? I sure can’t think of a whole lot of ways it could be good. But then again, what about firearms? Couldn’t they be bad or good? Depending on their use? I think they could.

I also found myself drawing a comparison to philosophy Morality and Justice lecture today. We have been talking about virtues. What makes virtue virtuous? Is it that is is seen as good? What makes something good? Also, how does a person become virtuous? Does trying to be courageous give you courage as a virtue. To what degree must you have courage to be virtuous? We talked about that people are born with the the ability to be virtuous, but they are not automatically virtuous. Thus, being virtuous is not for or against nature. It is not unnatural to be virtuous, but it is not immediate. I think of this similarly with computers. They have the ability to do good, but they are not necessarily good. The same goes with technology being bad.

Ultimately, I am not sure which side I completely agree with. I keep flip flopping around, but I think it must depend more on what kind of object we are talking about. Personally, I think I do believe in the computer’s case, it does depend. I am going to stop rambling now as I am afraid I’m too tired and not making sense, but needless to say this piece has caught my interest/sparked some thinking and I am excited to look into it in more detail in class!

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Medium does matter

During this reading by McLuhan, I understood the “Medium” piece more than the Gutenberg one because of one) the language and 2) the references were things that I had heard of, but not really studied well enough to understand the connection on the same level.

One thing I found interesting in “Gutenberg” was the discussion on invention and the invention on the method of invention. The part where the McLuhan relates invention to a dam breaking and how once invention starts, it never stops. This sort of solidifies what we have been taught in multiple classes across varies fields; that everything builds off of something else. I believe that this can be related back to many different things in history, but it especially makes sense in this essay because like they said, the car didn’t bring on the wheel and axle, but the wheel and axle helped to create the car. It goes back to the simple saying that you need to learn to crawl before you learn how to walk.

In the “Medium” piece, I was able to relate more to what he was saying because I understood where he was coming from. I learned in my leadership class that only 7% of the meaning of written words is understood by the reader. People understand better when there are pictures or emphasis on certain words to really comprehend what is being conveyed to them. When I was reading this essay, I thought about how many different ways media is used in the classroom, and how many different mediums are used as well. With videos, books, the internet, and powerpoint presentations, students are exposed to many different mediums, which allow them to figure out the best way that they can learn the material. I agree with the not every medium has content but every medium does have importance somehow.

I was very confused in reading most of this, so I’m hoping that class discussion will help me understand everything a little bit better. Overall, I thought this brought a new light to what I have learned before and what we have discussed in class, and I look forward to hearing everyone else’ opinions on it.

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Also, here are the wordles from my seminar presentation!

article wordle blog wordle

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Finally getting that “Aha!” moment

 

I must say that these two passages (The Galaxy Reconfigured and The Medium is the Message both by Marshall McLuhan) were so totally different to me that I have no idea how the same person wrote them. The first one had so many different quotations from people I had never heard of, I felt like I was not gettign many new ideas. He was simply taking other people’s words and kind of giving you a background maybe of what he was saying? It seemed much less ingenuis than the second passage.

However, there were a couple parts of the first passage that I highlighted and I’d like to just discuss my thoughts on those real quick. First of all, “Imagination is that ratio among the perceptions and faculties which exists when they are not embedded oroutered in material technologies…When the perverse ingenuity of man has outered some part of his being in material technology, his entire sense ratio is altered. He is then compelled to behold this fragment of himself “closing itself as in steel.” In beholding this new thing, man is compelled to become it.” I read that and I was like, wow well that makes so much sense. When I think of imagination I think of what we call in psychology symbolic play which basically just means that in early childhood you can take objects and think in your mind, truly believe, that they are something completely different and you play with them in that fashion. So, when McLuhan states how as soon as that imaginative property is realized in some sort of medium (maybe you think a stick is a horse, then you actually get a horse) now it’s completely consuming. All you want to do is ride the horse, it becomes who you are. But, it’s also very limiting. The horse has its own motives and you cannot control it the way you did in your mind. The parellel to our computers or any other medium seemed very astonishing to me. Yes, we have this vision in our heads of what we want our advertisement to look like. So, we use the computer to develop the advertisement. Well, the creativity that the advertisement is representing was made through the computer, limiting our imagination but also being the engine to drive it. Like, well what if we put this here, put that there. It’s very interesting this sort of give and take that your imagination and various mediums have.

I also just really liked the kind of general idea of having to incorporate the user/reading/audience in to the work. IT makes complete sense that art can become much more interesting and real when it is embodying the way we actually react to it/think about it. Bringing this idea into 2012, I see it all the time in marketing. So much of marketing is the research behind it-who cares about this product, who’s goign to use it, who looks at our ads, who acts on the knowledge of the product? Then, we channel that research into making our marketing catered to the individuals in our target audience. Ben touched on it in his post when he discussed how Facebook and Google are kind of doing this without us even being aware of it. Marketing does the same thing. So, that connection for me was very interesting.

But, the second passage was just amazing. I was reading it and I couldn’t put it down. Not because it was easy to read like Nelson, but because there were so many nuggets I wanted to highlight (I get very excited and excessive with my highlighting). However, I only have time to go over the most fascinating line that was coincidentally in the very first paragraph of this passage, ”..the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium-that is, of any extension of ourselves-result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.” I read that and the whole first passage made so much more sense. The way he throws in your face, “-that is, of any extension of ourselves-,” took me aback. My roommate was watching a documentary yesterday about how by 2029 humans and machines will be undistinguishable from one another.  I disagree with this statement, it’s too literal. But, in the way that McLuhan states it, that any medium really is just an extension of ourselves, well that seems much more realistic. First of all, of course it has to be. Why/how would anyone use/derive any meaningful concepts from any medium if it wasn’t in line with the way we think, if it wasn’t convenient to add to our daily lives, or if it wasn’t symbolic of the way that humans think and communicate. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about during my presentation when Ben was pointing out how the specific way that we do things, particularly on an iPad, is not directly like what we do on paper. But, it is trying to simulate the ease at which we do things. Such as, “I want this page to go up so I can read more” so you push it up to read more with your finger. It’s more in line with what you’re thinking than, “I want this page to go up so I can read more,” so I’m going to push on an up arrow through a mouse.

Just the idea that the medium is trying to convey its “content” through various ways of expressing itself is interesting. For example, when I’m in a new town, I don’t necessarily care so much about what the name of a restaurant is. It probably will tell me little about the menu or the dining area or the type of service I will receive. What I look for, is the way it presents itself. What kind of sign/logo do they have? Do I recognize it as a chain? I feel like most of the time this is kind of done without even thinking about it. But, of course, after reading this passage I was like well, yeah, I do that. The medium of the logo and the idea of the chain represent and are an extension of what you’re going to get when you enter it. Just like a website is a message in and of itself. If a company had a well-designed website, it will impress me more than the actual things it says in the passages describing how the company started and where it is now. I don’t care. If your site is presentable, your place and your content is probably presentable too. We just live in a world where we move so fast that we care more about how the media is presented to us rather than what it’s actually saying. I find this relevant when I have to post the same thing on 4 social media channels and get people from all 4 channels contacting me in various ways. People want to know things, but they want to know them (and they get the most out of them) when they are presented in a way that makes sense to them (is a way that is an extension of who they are/what they care about)

As I’m finishing up this post I’m realizing that I didn’t even dive into many of the other things I thought about while reading this post. Hopefully, we can have a very lively discussion in class tomorrow! What do you guys think?

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