Interpretations – Week 2


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.

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