e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC Final Assessment – Digital Artifact: «Deliver the message»

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e-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC Final Assessment – Digital Artifact

 

«Deliver the message»

 

The following is a compilation of messages found on <undisclosed>, a forum located on the Deep Web that has ceased to exist in the meantime. The meaning and the veracity of the content below is up to the reader to decide.

 

January 10th 2013

 

sane_gas:

I dunno if this is the best place to post this but I came across some serious s*** dudes!

 

sane_gas:

Reserved for later…

 

gr3y:

SOON!

https://lh5.ggpht.com/-bDB_639vuWY/T0ez57tSaTI/AAAAAAABHco/8rt2orxrcjQ/SOON-meme-5_thumb.jpg

 

dahl_sect:

http://www.sectalk.com/board/public/imported_images/chzmemebase.files.wordpress.com/memes-soon-the-beast.jpg

edit: gr3y beat me to it damn!

 

vIIv:

first!

 

AmmA:

Faaail lolol

 

sane_gas:

srlsly guys, this gonna be mind.blowing!

 

February 11th 2013

 

gr3y:

Bump!

 

n0mal wrote:

necrobump http://i202.photobucket.com/albums/aa185/blazingvirtuosity/BUMP_Charles_B.jpg

 

gr3y:

stfu dude, sane_gas has been off for 1month!

 

oHwell:

secret services got him lulz

 

AmmA:

Mayb he knew about the pope!

 

MadMary:

Loool

 

broccolAI:

pope resigned on the first day of the year fo the snake? CONSPIRACY

 

AmmA:

http://memegenerator.net/instance/35428641

 

gr3y:

lol now serious dudes sane never been more than a day away NBlord checked the logs

 

February 13th  2013

 

sane_gas:

Sorry Ive been gone so long guys but I think i might be getting paranoid here. I think that docs I found are not fake!!1!1 I’m uploading them now with max encryption

 

gr3y:

Good to know your alive man. Post the link

 

sane_gas:

Encryption failed at 75% FFFUUU  3rd time! its like it fights back or somethin

 

oHwell:

Paranoid alrite lol

 

sane_gas:

.!.

Edit: theres a van outside

 

AmmA:

Just a pedovan nothing serius

 

vIIv:

LOOL can be the ateam too

 

gr3y:

Sane, PM

 

February 15th 2013

 

dahl_sect:

No news? this is BS ban the bastard lol

 

sane_gas:

Okay dudes gr3y helped me out with the encryption they’ll be up soon + OP updated!

 

[…]

 

AmmA:

RUN SANE_GAS RUN! Now serious you should go out of town for a while, that stuff scared the crap outta me! X_x when can we get the files?

 

vIIv:

tl;dr

 

kr4ken:

NOOOOO! http://nooooooooooooooo.com/vader.jpg

like i always said teh Internet is for pr0n and pr0n only! 😀

 

oHwell:

so you’re telling us to go amish lol?

 

gr3y:

go home troll!

AmmA they should be up later tonight

Edit: I got a van outside! Looks like this http://cryptome.org/info/obama-protect35/pict17.jpg

 

[…]

 

gr3y:

Files will be up in less than an hour. Van’s gone

 

broccolAI:

van’s gone or van gogh? hahah

 

The updated post – February 15th 2013

 

sane_gas:

*Long post ahead*

 

Sorry again for the delay guys. Okay I’m going to post this stuff on the web nvm the style just help me get it out copy this to everyone you knwo! Pls share:

 

 

To whom might care for the future of our kind,

 

The times ahead are dark, friends. I came across highly sensitive and highly classified files on the shadiest corners of the Deep Web. These files are ‘directions’ from those in power and I do not mean the governments nor even the United Nations – that’s all a façade to say the least. I mean the real deal, the overseers of Man. I’ll release the files as soon as possible but right now I urge to send the message out!

 

The files have directives ranging from surveillance methods to warfare. Most aspects of our lives are there – from the food we will eat to the tv programs allowed! But the thing that that struck me the most was education. Education will become something out of a dystopic-horror-science-fiction movie.

You see the big “innovations” being pushed upon us? Well, there’s a catch – it’s all towards the end of humanity as we know it! The “masters” want us to turn into cattle, mere working blobs for the benefit of the few. These new technologies are supposed to rewire people’s brain from cradle to grave that’s why you start with education. This is worse than marx! Kids are being and will be groomed to accept all new tech as the new messiah, the answer to all their current problems. No wonder the siblings of tech geniuses are NOT using tech at all! Kids will also accept that is ok and fun to share everything – even their lives: The END of PRIVACY! Being so dependent on tech and with their brain so addicted, they’ll gladly accept the RFID chips and the furthermost plans are to actually create a type of brain implants that connect to a brain Skynet that will allow the masters to shut down people at will, i.e., murder!!! This must stop noW

 

Here’s my ‘manifest, feel free to add more ideas and:

  • Keep connections to a bare minimum – cellphones, wi-fi, etc.
  • Connect no more than ONE hour per day, TWO if extremely important
  • Use TOR and every privacy tools available. Here’s some.
  • Almost everything you can find locally, don’t rely on the Internet alone!
  • Help everyone disconnect specially friends and family.
  • Kids MUST be kept away from tech. 20 years ago people got off pretty well without all this gadgets and so did their fathers and grandfathers.
  • Fight off any attempt of indoctrination from teachers, gov or any other source. They know of this plan or are sheeple! Beware!
  • Support all anti-tech groups, movements, parties, amendments, laws, whatever that might show up
  • After being disconnected start living like the old days. Slowly, one piece of equipment at a time.
  • If all else fails, go off the grid completely!!!

 

Update: files are up!!!

Link

Mirror

Mirror

Edit: links removed

 

February 25th 2013

 

The files were only up for twenty minutes. 33 downloads were made according to one host’s log. Twenty three minutes later the forum ceased to exist and this transcript is the only proof. All the information was acquired via a dead drop on a friend of a friend’s city. It contained the files and instructions to post this and how to decrypt.

 

Right now the files are being decrypted, I’ll upload them ASAP. If you see something like this around your town, please check them! It is expected that more copies of this document show up around the web. I’ll keep you posted…

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Week 4: Redefining the Human – A Recap

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Week 4: Redefining the Human – A Recap

 

This is a recap for the fourth week of E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.

 

The Films

 

«Robbie» – http://vimeo.com/40524878#at=0

Robbie the Robot presents itself – or himself – to us, telling us his story. But it does better than just presenting his path: despite the fact he has a robotic voice, we feel moved by his journey. Everything in it, from the bits that were told to the language used, seems to indicate that Robbie has a conscience of his own, that has…humanity. He is not organic and even with the most advanced prosthetics, our core, our CPU – the brain – is organic in matter. Beyond the organic matter one has a soul [personal opinion]. The robot chose to believe in religion and therefore accepts the existence of such concept but that may be where one can see his flaw – the programming. The strong (as in touching) and effective language used by Robbie to describe his ‘feelings’, limits him so much as it liberates him. The imagination he claims to use to envision a ‘fantasy land’ – without humans by the way – lets in a glimpse of his programming restraint: “(…) it was planet Earth that still captured my heart. I would try and visualize what Earth looked like but nothing ever looked the same so I eventually gave up.”. His ‘simulation software’ could not go far (unlike us), abstract from the real [data] and just wander off so he gave up and stop wasting CPU cycles and resources. His comparison of death to sleeping is also a giveaway of the non-human that rules Robbie. Humans for the most part fear death. Also, if he accepted religion like he claims (it was probably a statistical probability of acceptability of his ‘humanness’) he would believe in the soul or spirit outside the physical body and not contemplate the end like a mere slumber. Using words and play around with their meanings and rearrange them in probable meaningful ways to real people, does not grant Robbie humanity.

 

«Gumdrop» – http://youtu.be/A7sjoI5QjBY

Gumdrop is a very light take on posthumanism. In this future people and robots share the same place in the world, there appears to be no distinction. Now Gumdrop differs very much from Robbie. First of she is made of a malleable alloy that gives her mouth movements that resemble people’s. Then she uses her fingers to count, is afraid of things and laughs at others, appreciates movies and images and they made her feel like she one day could be an actress – this coming from a vacuum cleaner robot! She’s also not into drugs, nudity and she can act. If this is all previously written code – as a basis at least – it is brilliant; also, could it have been written by a human or another superior machine? She’s one of the most convincing robots (humans still made of flesh and bone) that fiction has produced.

 

«True Skin» – http://vimeo.com/51138699

“True Skin” resonates with “Blade Runner” and the videogame “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” and with Week 3 Steve Fuller’s ‘Modern Artifice’. This future has both the dystopian and the utopian, the enhanced transhumans and the organic people living side by side – even though not without conflict and prejudice in cyberpunk Bangkok. The heightened reality the enhanced people live in comes with costs and consequences, most of them to the physical body. However, it is in the enhanced body that a company has its business – backing up memories and implanting them in a newer robotic ‘self’. This relies on the concept that memories and mind can be extracted and replanted, that they are somewhat physical in nature, lying somewhere in the brain and that is what makes you you. But if that’s so, what of people that have amnesia or memory loss impairments? Is their self lost forever in the worst cases? Or is it all recoverable? If manipulating memories is possible, can you ‘reset’ a [bad] person?

 

«Avatar Days» – http://youtu.be/d9TEdGbvtnc

Avatars, namely the ones in role playing games, reveal something about their creators/users. Whether it is their fears, desires, wishes or even subconscious needs, their avatar ends up reflecting that. This said, the avatars carry in them the human individualities of their makers but limited to what is available (hair colors, fabrics, accessories, weapons and so on). Usually they are used as an escapism from the real life, as expressions of repressed qualities of one’s personality and outlets for assorted feelings. The price paid is often high when the line is blurred and there are very few distinctions from the person and the character(s), when the virtual dominates and consumes the real, taking over like an addiction. Nonetheless the avatar is never robotized, it always has humanity [good and/or bad] forever immortalized in itself and its virtual realm.

Interpretations – Week 3

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Ideas and Interpretations – Week 3

On being human

Both the Steve Fuller’s presentation and Neil Badmington’s document on posthumanism made question where do I ‘stand’ on this. I’m way more inclined to a traditional humanist approach rather than the post- one. Being human – the way I see it – is to be ‘blessed’ with some traits such as the capacity to abstraction, to have faith, to err, to imagine endlessly, to love. I feel that when people follow a posthumanism path it is somewhat of a spiral down to self-destruct as some sort of cognitive dissonance between what they believe and what something (conscience, soul, guts, back of the mind) inside is telling them. Such dissonance comes with consequences and it’s when they feel, when they need to feel human the most that it strikes harder.

Enhancing the human body can be seen as developments and advances in medicine that will lead to incredible findings, cures and ability to revert back even the most degenerative diseases. If we could heal those who are at upmost terrible state, would they not revert back to humans?

The other developments could be those of transhumanist characteristics: genetic manipulation and modification, game-changing drugs, body hacks and implants – stuff from the realm of science fiction and superheroes stories. A recent TV show dealt with this issue: the last season [5] of “Fringe” had future humans portrayed in a very ‘reptile’ way, but the twist was that even like that the ‘humanity’ they had lost managed to crawl back out via feelings. Humanity (as a trait to Homo sapiens sapiens) prevails – like Yin and Yang, nothing is ever truly dark or truly light; we act like animals or like machines but still human in the end.

In regards to education in particular or society’s order in general, the posthumanism topics are very important and divisive matters. As the digital natives grow they’ll be adapting society to fit them better but this is not certain nor it is and ‘imperative’. Fuller mentions ‘projects to maintain humanity’. MOOCs certainly are humanizing and enlightening and fall into that category, so to speak. This and other educational initiatives are shaping the education and indubitably shaping people which in turn will shape politics and other points of society. This vision comes from the ‘old humanistic projects’ and relate to present-day not-enhanced humans. But should they become a reality, having advantages over others – through genetics, nanotech, drugs or other means – it can pose a risk to education’s equality. Later they can become the ‘selected few’, the ‘elites’ that rule above humans in similar fashion of the characters from H. G. Wells’ “The Time Machine”.

But should this ever become a [dystopian] reality, there are always those who wish to persevere and preserve human qualities. That is to say that technology should be a plus, not the only way and not let it take over education or something else for that matter; tech can help but it never replaces. Likewise, nothing really replaces human contact and touch for we are social animals. Plus, it’s not strange to find more and more people going back – or after – religion and spirituality, disconnecting and going back to basics – people are seeking to experience as people [and animals] again. In the Arts and in the imagination, people are bringing humanity back to where it belongs: with people, human beings (as a whole).

Week 3: Being Human – A Recap

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Week 3: Reasserting the Human – A Recap

This is a recap for the third week of E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC.

The Films

 

«TOYOTA GT86: ‘The Real Deal’ TV Advert» – http://youtu.be/K6Pb_tmPKGk

An Ad that is only a minute long but it tells a lot. “Can you feel it? Can you feel the thrill of being alive? [beat] Neither can I.” constitutes the opening of the advert. It is a simple yet powerful reflection on ‘what is really real’. The male protagonist goes to a [possibly] shady part of ‘Simulation Town’ looking for something more real, with ‘no gimmicks’, where he can grasp the taste of reality. He enters a sort of pawn shop, with the ever more rare incandescent light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, plants, objects and furniture and even food(!), reminiscent of the older/realer world. He then finds the car (Toyota GT86) and replies “Now that is real!”. He drives out of the control of the simulation (roads and cars with AI and autonomy) out of the big city walls to a wasteland, to the limits of the simulation. “The thing with the real is: once you’ve experienced it, there’s no going back.” Marks the breakout into the real world, supported by a powerful soundtrack «Je ne regrette rien» (I regret nothing) by Edith Piaf. I will also add that it is a stick car that some consider to be the real driving experience as opposed to automatic gear.

The opposition between the real natural world and unreal technological path ahead is echoed in the education debates. The people raised with the old ways or fairly conservative towards tech, find it unnatural for humans to be learning and experiencing via screens, mostly. And not only screens but in a more shallow, faster way that will affect memory, attention span and shape the brain differently and thereafter shifting our perception of things which eventually leads to changes in our ‘humanity’.

«BT: Heart to Heart» – http://youtu.be/l5bkniCUAow

BT campaigns to bring people closer through their landline service. Linking it to Kolowich’s article and ‘the illusion of non-mediation’, its verifiable in the phone talk Adam and Jane have – hearing the other person’s voice brings you so much closer to him/her than countless texts or instant messages; also being ‘the closest you can get to actually being there’. The ad itself is flawed because they’re using SMS and social networks to communicate but Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook feature both voice and video chat options which is even better. On the aspects of ‘the human’ being depicted:

Jane’s daughter is alienated by the silent communication tech brings – if his mom is acting weird nothing better than asking! – but that is his flaw as a result of technological advances, as suggested. He then asks Adam for help and out of compassion and caring he calls Jane, using BT landline. However this doesn’t really seem to be effective: “See you this weekend?” asks Adam, “Yeah, see you this weekend…” Jane replies. The call ends and Jane seems worried, wondering about something. Now if this was a call via Skype or similar, he could see her face and infer that there’s more to her weirdness and a more meaningful conversation could have been held.

The only valid point I can see to back up the use of landline and it’s ‘closeness’ is the association older people may have with the telephone, I mean the actual physical object ‘telephone’ that use to be the preferred way and the closest one could get to actually being there back in the day. The physical action of holding a telephone closed to your ear may still be connected to the memories and rituals of the past. From personal experience while studying abroad, video and audio was definitely my favorite way of being closer to home, heart to heart.

«World Builder» – http://youtu.be/VzFpg271sm8

My interpretation of this short is that it is utopian and full of hope. It depicts a world where technology helps outstanding advances in medical care, where technology serves a noble purpose and empowers creativity. About emotional manipulation by digital simulation, I believe it is no different than the ‘suspension of disbelief’ when watching a movie or reading a good science-fiction book. Like most things in life one must seek balance so that he or she becomes dependent or addicted.

But even still, the manipulation on this short is debatable. Unless that technology appeared after the woman’s trauma/coma, she could very well be aware of its existence and hence it was not much of a manipulation per se. The man/husband is worried that she finds a piece of scenery that has no texture attributed to it but is it really important? Before she is gone and the simulation is over, she looks around and sighs – is she aware of the place she’s in? It has a time limit after all… If not [entirely] aware, would her finding out be any different to a vivid dream? Could it aggravate her condition? Other ethical questions could raise, alike to those about euthanasia.

«They’re made out of meat» – http://youtu.be/IfPdhsP8XjI

Indeed a humorous take on what it is to be human. Being ‘made out of meat’ is part of being human. Unless we live in a holographic reality, this is a fact. We also need to acknowledge that our carbon-based life might not be the only one ‘out there’. The talk the characters have suggest that there are other meatless or only part meat beings in other parts of the universe. Though they find it strange that a all-meat life form is capable of thinking and dreaming, it suggests that conscience is something to be found in outer space. Perhaps that should be a more universal question, transversal to meat and meatless critters – what is conscience? Does it exist regardless of the ‘container’?

Interpretations – Week 2

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Ideas and Interpretation – Week 2

On metaphors

The Ideas and Interpretation section on week 2 included some nice content like the article by Johnston on metaphors used for the Internet or the video of Annalee Newitz on Google I/O. But it was the Internet of Things article by Bleecker really caught my eye. His positive, utopian view of the possible times ahead clearly fits in the ‘salvation’ category of metaphors of Johnston. This future scenario is both empowering to us – as it is to machines! – and helping in terms of better understandings of the world, the environment and maybe even ourselves.

This positive take is also shared by the videos of Microsoft and Corning presented. They help, empower and are fairly ‘invisible’- they are an integrant part of future everyday life; again, this takes the utopian-salvation metaphor path. «Sight» and «Plurality» take the other road down to dystopia lane and the ‘destruction’ metaphor. Past the neglecting uses of [future] new tech – such as ordering wine or being recognized and welcomed by machines – that fall into the ‘co-habitation’ Bleecker talks about, there are the perverse uses, frightening and just a ‘mistake’ away.

The theme page of Week 2 had a question: who is set to benefit from the personal, constant attentions of information technology, and who might lose out? My answer to that is the following: Benefiting – advertisement, governments, security agencies, lobbyists, companies that provide the means and maintenance necessary (infrastructures and personnel) and people capable of misusing data and technology (hackers, terrorists); Losing out – us. Everybody is a potential target – from the commoners to world’s leaders – no one is safe. Recently there are talks of a ‘cyber 9/11’ with just today’s ‘humble’ tech, capable of causing unmeasurable damages and with unpredictable consequences to us, to everybody, like something out of a sci-fi novel.

The four common sci-fi themes that reflect the future of Social Media, according to Annalee Newtiz, are: Hive Mind, The Proverbial Privacy Apocalypse, Mind Control and Instant Social Revolution. Sci-fi as a storytelling genre, it needs drama and what’s a better scenario than people struggling towards a better future than a dystopian society/world or a utopian world destroyed or put to risk by dystopian factors? Therefore if someone is looking for meanings or connotations, it must bear in mind that the metaphors can have several ‘layers’. Unless the stories end with a puch-in-the-stomach hopelessness feeling – and even that can reflect how helpless many feel – it must be balanced with some hope, represented through characters that contained in themselves carry layers of metaphors, of hopes and fears; the world(s) feature the obvious everyday life but often the hidden underworld; the fictional symbols that echo with our real-life ones; all this to provide an equilibrium to the content and henceforth make it a good story.

Nonetheless on a ‘macro’ analysis one can look at trends. Faith Popcorn identifies some socio-cultural trends that can help understand the way we have been looking at this matters:  AtmosFear, FutureTENSE, Icon Toppling, among others, have been identified in the past and continue to be true today and probably will be in the near future. Under this big ‘umbrellas’ you can place many sci-fi books, TV shows and movies. To have a sense of how things can be – there’s always uncertainty to account for – one can be more attentive on the topics of trends on media.

Perspectives on Education

Note: This second week I could not find the time to expand much into this so my opinion is short and based on personal experiences and totally empirical.

I share Clay Shirky’s observation of how broken the educational systems are. I can’t recall how far back I’ve been hearing and reading about how bad the education system is and how wonderful it could be if x reforms were made. Truth is, everything stays more of less the same, now with more bling. Then came Coursera and massive open online courses with exceptional content by renowned Universities. I do not believe this is just a passing fad. Digital natives will have more of a say in the years to come and this platforms will grow with them, accompanying but also enhancing their ‘traditional’ education.

I share the belief that the mentality should be the same as it is for open-source software, maturing and evolving with everyone’s contribution. Here’s a nice TED talk on that. In the near future however, this article has some good points on the subject but further into the future, I don’t think things will ever be the same again.

Week 2: Looking to the future – A Recap

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Week 2: Looking to the future – A Recap

 

Following last week’s recap here’s the one for Week 2.

Note: Due to personal undertakings it is shorter than the previous.

The Films

«A Day Made of Glass 2» and «Productivity Future Vision»    

Both of these films feature a clearly utopian future as imagined by the Brands – Corning and Microsoft. Seamlessly integrated in everyday life and every other object is the ‘Internet of things’. This concept is pushed as a way of ‘getting things done’, ease life and stress and also something that is social, democratized and unavoidable/inevitable. This resonates with Seek 1’s Technological Determinism and it’s ‘technological imperative’ – this time around, presented by companies, the makers and enforcers that wish to stir society’s future on the path they think it’s best.

Communication on both these videos is facilitated and brought ‘closer’ to people. It brings a bit of humanity that may or may not be lacking in some of the ways we use today (think texting and IM chats), apparently eliminating the alienating effect technology can have on [some] people.

Such closeness between peers and between people and tech is best seen on the educational aspects presented on the video by Corning. Youngsters are learning and discovering new things through interactivity, experimentation and augmented reality (on the field trip). On Microsoft’s it’s via Gamification – you can even see the ‘Homework Points’ achieved. Both of them feature tablet like devices as opposed to pen and paper – which can have a great impact on sustainability and ecology if you think about the annual waste that can originate from that – and there’s no chalkboard either, it’s all ‘new tech’. Maybe this is one of the most significant changes that might occur in the future and lead to questions such as ‘how does this impacts some economies and markets?’, ‘How healthy it is such technological dependence?’ or ‘what will happen to calligraphy?’.

 

«Sight» – http://vimeo.com/46304267

This is a much scarier vision of the technological future. ‘Sight’ presents a chilling problem that could very well emerge from the dark side of tech. It involves themes such as addiction, privacy, moral and ethics but most importantly dehumanization.

‘There’s and App for that’ fits wonderfully in the world of ‘Sight’. By the use of special contact lenses and again an ‘Internet of Things’, one can do amazing things and see beyond the conventional and into exciting new [personalized] worlds. Even furniture and decoration are physically inexistent and are perceived through the lenses. This may be perceived as utopian.

However, during the date dystopian signs start to show namely the background check that is done. This is already happening – to a lesser extent – nowadays and people are being fired or looked down on because of stuff they put on social networks. The young people today and future generations will have much more embarrassing ‘skeletons in their closet’ to deal with than their ancestors. This can deeply affect future human relations and identity issues.

The ending seals the deal with the man hacking into the woman’s profile. But it does more than that – it paralyzes her, it actually hacks into her ‘conscience’ or brain. One is left to imagine what happens next and left wondering how far will we let technology control us (in terms of social-cultural behaviors) and control our bodies… It is said that ‘the eyes are the mirror of the soul’ and in this movie it is a very unpleasant soul we can see mirrored in the protagonist’s eyes and can’t help thinking about how many people like this are ‘out there’, hiding behind masks and avatars, helped by technological advances.

 

«Charlie 13» – http://futurestates.tv/episodes/charlie-13%20   

‘Charlie 13’ is a short film in which the North American Union has taken place and everyone is tagged. My view of this is dystopic – it’s a fear enforced future, people tagged, watched and controlled, a system that can deem people ‘incompatible’ with each other. There’s a bit of ‘The Stepford Wives’ in it – a city controlled, apparently calm and hassle free.

Then there’s the ‘Deserters’ that live outside the cities perimeters and are hinted to be like pirates. Charlie eventually finds out that his dad is alive and is one of them. They are the resistance and the alternative to the strict society. To me it rhymed with a scene from the movie ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ when Winston looks through the window to a fat old lady singing and says “The future is hers. We are the dead.” – it is that mix of feelings Charlie must have felt when he decided to disobey to wander outside and find his dad.

 

«Plurality» – http://youtu.be/IzryBRPwsog

A very cool short that brings the [recurring] theme of an Orwellian society – strict and surveyed. This is perhaps the dystopian future most people envision for some reason. It has however a nice twist – time travel! It boosts the consequences even further: the future gets worse if people keep following that path. The questions it brings are not new but it’s certainly entertaining to watch.

I haven’t had the time to read Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother so I can’t comment on the implications a ‘Grid’ like the one depicted could have on education. I can only imagine how it can be limiting, inclined towards restrictive standards and killing creativity – many argue the current system or systems already do such.

All in all a quote can sum it up:

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – Benjamin Franklin

On technology and pedagogy – Week 1

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On technology and pedagogy

My perspective – derived from personal experiences – is that technology is now more commonly accepted that it was a few years ago. More ‘traditional’ teachers are still not very fond of it but the younger ones are. Still, using technologies in pedagogy requires rules and common sense – it must be learned to serve us as a tool otherwise we end up being dependent on it and unable to use the ‘old ways’. This applies to writing, (re)searching and even oral communication (it’s not uncommon here to see youngsters saying ‘lol’ instead of actually laughing). Another thing that must be addressed is to be able to browse, to look and to find what one needs through all the noise and overflow of information. Many, including myself, faced this right here on this MOOC. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ fits perfectly because at the end of week one with so many posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and personal blogs the feeling can be deferring – I wouldn’t be surprised if people have given up seeing such information to process!

Innovative methodologies to get the young ‘digital natives’ to learn is to turn everything into a game (Gamification) so that they get to do their tasks and assignments by incentives and systems of achievements they know so well from videogames – example: DreamBox Learning. This trend goes further than education into healthcare – see Gluco-Share or Ayogo. They’re fundamentally utopic in nature – by using this sort of methods students learn more and learn better because this is how they think anyway so it’s easier for them and in ten or twenty years’ time this will form great minds that can think further ahead and in ways we never thought possible. Critics, think otherwise, where the reliance on technologies can ‘desensitize’ kids who see the world through monitor proxies and avatars eventually leading to and Idiocracy.

Now the challenge must be finding a middle ground, a point of equilibrium to help the digital natives see that this sure can be fun and helpful but it’s not the only way, especially by actually physically doing stuff. Google is a great engine but sometimes it can be easy as asking someone who knows about given subject or saving the ‘need’ to know right away to a later time, where you can look for info in a book.

Ideas and Interpretation – Week 1

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Ideas and interpretation

On technological determinism

This was the first time I ever came across this concept – it’s rather captivating. I read the paper by Daniel Chandler and learned new points of view on technology and human condition. As I read more and more into it, I could see resemblances and similitudes resonating with some sci-fi works and historical events.

 

Beginning with the definitions, namely the linguistic determinism «according to which our thinking is determined by language» – I could see why. Some words on some languages are untranslatable – like the Portuguese word ‘Saudade’ – and computer/technologies languages are no different – they can be limited and not interchangeable. This limits both human thinking and ‘technology thinking’ alike.

 

A possible good example for supporting the technological determinism theory is the moment in History when the Portuguese explorers first arrived in Japan and brought them firearms and typography, among other things. The reductionists may see this as isolated cause-effect events but I’m rather inclined for the holistic version, in which more factors contributed to coming advancements in the development of both civilizations.

 

The technological autonomy part was a fun read. Isaac Asimov’s «I, Robot» fits perfectly into this category and Jacques Ellul quote on human beings as slugs inserted into a slot machine immediately reminded me of «The Matrix» – the ultimate machine autonomy dystopian. Carroll Pursell statement on ‘invented modern needs’ is spot on. Not far back there was no need to check every five minutes what our friends, family and celebrities are up to as many do nowadays in social networks; sure the need to communicate was there, there just wasn’t the need to do it constantly – one could find better things to do. This is connected to yet another thing mentioned earlier in Chandler’s work: “in developing technologies, we shape ourselves” – Sir Pete Medawar. Thus, the question arises: are we letting ourselves be defined by our technology? I’d say yes.

 

When I read the theme of machines with personalities one thing pop-up in my mind: HAL 9000. Then my personal computer. And my smartphone. It’s perhaps a derivative of Murphy’s Law and there are lots of comics on this: when one wants or needs to show something or work on something, they break, they lag, they inexplicably fail. If and when machines evolve to have some sort of ‘conscience’, can they see us as the lags and the failures?

 

It is said further ahead in the document that «We are not free to accept or reject technological developments.» which interconnects with the ‘technological imperative’ and it’s inevitability – in my opinion it is not so, at least not done so blindly. Money and businesses drive the world and Tech is no different. There are technological developments that are purposely put on hold of shut down, patent wars, sabotages and others are just rejected by the users/consumers. They may promise to attend to the [modern] needs but if they lack that je ne sais quoi, they are discarded. Also, many ‘design’ pieces of tech are done just because they could be done yet some end up being just innocuous manifestations of creative minds. Chandler chose a great quote by Michael Shallis to confirm this point of view.

 

The neutrality – or not – of technology made me think. In the past I can say I’ve had the neutral view but not today. The neutral approach is somewhat utopian and not feasible due to human nature. The non-neutral is not necessarily dystopian but can pave the way to such scenarios. This might sound a bit farfetched but considering the social networks we currently have: people – generally speaking – fill in blank spaces because they are presented to them; I’m referring to forms. ‘Where are you right now?’, ‘What’s up, John Doe?’ are just tiny examples of things we see every day in those places. They are shaped to be that way and people answer that, fill the blank spaces, give away lots of data – some do it innocently. They give away more today than many secret polices had dreamed of forty years ago. This very issues have been discussed largely throughout the web and they’re often related to an Orwellian dystopian scenario, as you may have already come across. If the technology hadn’t required that information, if the tech hadn’t shaped biasedly the answers, would people have given them?

 

Techno-evolution, like the universalism mentioned in the document, fails at cultural relativisms and discards other social-cultural factors – generally speaking – that can be as important and also be seen as ‘progress’. Technological determinism feels moderately isolating or closed on itself – perhaps it could take a bit more holistic approach a see technology in different contexts and account for the numerous and various mentalities that populate the globe. No one can ever fully understand the world and mankind as a whole but at least be aware of the most prominent aspects so to understand the roles technology can have whether utopian or dystopian.

Week 1: Looking to the past – A Recap

#edcmooc

Week 1: Looking to the past – A Recap

Like many other fellow students I too felt overwhelmed by ‘information overload’ – there’s so much to watch and read and learn! Still most of us can find the time and energy to sort the data and find the most suitable material for one’s needs. As week 2 goes on, I chose to do this sort of ‘recap’ of week 1 to help myself see what I acknowledged.

The Films:

“Bendito  Machine III” – http://youtu.be/xiXOigfDb0U

Worshipping of technology. We might know of many friends and family – or even ourselves – whom do this. Many do not accept this fact – people like to remain ‘individualistic’ and ‘in full control’ when faced with such statements. This worshipping is (arguably) best seen with the brand Apple. South Park mocked it in the HUMANCENiPAD episode and so did The Simpsons on Mypods and Broomsticks. The life cycle of their products – not unlike many other big brands – is now less than a year before the next big, shiny thing full of bells and whistles comes along, replacing the obsolete for the next months until the next ‘innovative product’ hits the market.

In this movie, tech starts as something fairly simple. Then the new one comes with more features. It helps us, entertains us, harmless. But then something else happens in the story – sometimes the technology turns on us, the worshippers. This can be related to many things: privacy concerns, mindless consumerism, zombification or apathy, the powers media can have to shape data and information, the dependence and also how fallible it is. Lastly, it crushes us because many fail to realize that we want these things, but most of us don’t actually need it. Yet we worship them still.

One other issue pointed is the damage caused to the environment. Tech items are evolving at such a rapid pace that they are now a big part of modern societies’s waste. Plus, rare earth materials are needed to assemble many technological devices we use every day in the modernized world – in the long run this can be catastrophic. A more down to earth approach to this issue could be fairly simple: how many people do you know that have a drawer or a box full of old electronics? This personal graveyards shows how these items were once hip and are now forgotten, how easily they were replaced and how the same thing will happen to the very computer, tablet or cellphone you are now reading this on.

Will this worshipping stop? Likely not. However, more and more people are disconnecting at will and going ‘back to basics’ – for various reasons – so this could be a sign that there’s a will to change.

“Inbox” – http://youtu.be/75wNgCo-BQM

In a world where everyone is ‘just a click away’, trying to find meaningful relationships through all the ‘noise’ can be a daunting task. The pretty girl is not different from many other pretty girls we might know: every boy is after her, she has many so called ‘friends’ (both in the online and offline world) and deep down she just might feel lonely and a need to really connect with someone. The boy is geeky, lonely and craves the same. This isn’t something unheard of but it is real and it happens a lot. Also, there’s a funny take on what Facebook is for and what the nature of online friendships is on this video.

The aid of technology comes from easing the burden of face to face encounters. The tech here is a magical bag which can even represent an older Internet (like IRC) or the lack of anonymity [and mystery] one has in today’s web. The magical aspect can also be the feeling of how magical and lucky one might feel when finally meets someone true among all the avatars and fakeness of the online life.

When the boy damages the bag the physical connection is broken. Nowadays the Internet being down can lead to immense stress and feelings of loneliness – like being cut off from the world; stranded on a personal deserted island. It’s like people forgot how things were before all this came to be.

Luckily for the protagonists, things turn out well, so all in all I’d say this movie is utopian. The hope of finding love (or a true relationship) even amidst the tech saturated world and its issues is indubitably utopian in nature.

“Thursday” – http://youtu.be/HQ1z0Zzqg5U

A world that revolves around tech – built and maintained by it and for it. Coordinated, repetitive, dull. When an anomaly happens we feel powerless and stressed. This anomaly, however, can be caused by a critter from the natural world we so sadly forget about. This reminded me of an accident that happened in Portugal in the year 2000 when a stork hit some powerlines and left half the country dark for a couple of hours.

Another thing is that we also forget about ourselves and restrict our pleasure and time to contemplate [life], as seen in the trip to the space view site. When a last anomaly occurs in the story, i.e., the bird hitting the window, I think it might resonate with the Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth eighth stage ‘The Ordeal’ where the hero faces death and changes. The man peering deep into the bird’s eyes and then the sudden ‘resurrection’ of the animal, leaves the man wondering. What did he think about? Life? Death? Just plain confusion? And what happens next? Unknown, for the agency is really on the natural world side – [the circle of] life always finds a way.

«New Media» – http://vimeo.com/moli/newmedia

The most atmospheric of the suggested videos. Like the first short, this deals with the advancement of technology. This gloomy video shows humans in a state of ‘trance’ by the machines they once built. Mankind has gone down the path of letting the machines take over, much like The Matrix – the machines even look like the Sentinels from that trilogy. The worshipping has gone too far, to the point of stripping out the humanity from people. It’s as dystopian as can be.

Other Stories

There are many other books and movies that deal with the subject of utopias and dystopias. One I’d suggest looking at would be the last season (Season 5) of the TV show “Fringe”. They even changed the opening credits to a very dark, dystopian one – as you can see here. This fifth season shows a totalitarian world in the not so distant future, where beings from the future take over. These are evolved, genetically modified men, helped by technology and are no match for the ordinary man. Above all the things they restricted of forbid is the most chilling one – they lost their humanity, they can’t empathize or feel anything. That’s what’s most dangerous about them. And that’s a very grim vision of the human race that makes us think about our condition and the way we sometimes treat each other.