May your light burn bright on this longest night and continue to keep you safe, happy and warm in the days ahead.
Oh yeah. And don't eat the yellow snow.
Described in the article as more Wal-Mart than Ford, their focus on efficiency conjures Dickensian workhouses. But competitors like Sun and HP explain that with this efficiency comes a loss of product innovation and quality. One of the ways Dell keeps costs down is to spend only 2% of their budget on research and development, while their competitors spend between 5% and 8% on R&D. And others point out a decrease in employment opportunities.
I have to admit that this kind of cultural (re)appropriation and commodification weirds me out a bit, but I'm thrilled that electronic communication is being used to produce material artefacts. When I think of all the digital photos and email messages that we won't ever be able to (re)discover in someone's attic or yard sale, it's small efforts like this that give me hope.
In the case of student loans, we would do better to avoid the language of systems (the term I let slip out) or process (the bank's favoured term), both of which imply some sort of predictability and stability that are absent. What we are all embroiled in is a network in the Deleuzian sense. We are not dealing with enclosed spaces where someone is responsible; we're dealing with a fluid space where no one is accountable. The university says it's the banks and the government. The banks say it's the university and the government. And the government says it's the university and the banks. The network encourages a constant state of movement, continuously avoiding being bound and continually passing responsibility to the next module.
This type of control is particularly insidious because there is no panopticon. Control is diffuse and we can't locate - or fix - responsibility and accountability long enough to affect change. And it's particularly dangerous because it allows each of us to play the victim of an imaginary structure.
Update: I just got news that an edited version of this was selected as the CBC Letter of the Day for December 14. And we're off to a good start!
For example, Ericsson's research says that when people want to capture a significant event in their lives, they use a digital camera; if they want to capture a moment in everyday life, they use a camera phone.
I'd like to understand more about how that works. Especially how events differ from moments, and how technology plays a part in those differences. I'd also like to see if and how Ericsson turns this knowledge into marketing strategies, and how that plays out in terms of consumption and identity.
My research falls within the second strand, drawing on "hybrid 'nonessentialist' ontologies" and spatial concepts of flow - all outlined clearly and concisely by the author. But the rest of the paper is where it gets interesting, as it focusses on "the degree to which a language of geometry infuses the discourse."
The author argues that while the types of geometry favoured in these concepts of networks, flows and fluids is much more unstable and messy than Cartesian space and Aristotelian place, they similarly result in a "universalization of spatial form (or movement) indifferent to the (human or nonhuman) entities they connect." Ostensibly predicated on the understanding that it is impossible to talk about space as something separate from social processes and practices, ontologies or paradigms based on spatial elements like networks, flows and fluids can have the effect of returning our focus back to matters of space rather than the social.
If I agreed that the spaces of networks, flows and fluids are "indifferent" to humans and non-humans, I would have to agree that this is a possible, and unfortunate, outcome. But I don't think they are indifferent.
I've definitely been suspicious of the language of geometry and systems -- not least because I think it does, inadvertently or not, lend a positivist authority that is neither necessary nor compatible. But as I understand things, hybridity does not imply any sort of absolute lack of difference, and especially not indifference in the sense of impartiality, neither right nor wrong. (Hyper)Relativism has always been criticised because of the implication that all things are equal - or even worse, that all values are equally good or true. But relativism is not the same as relational thinking, which I understand to be at the heart of theories of networks, flows and fluids. The very premise of relational thought is to understand the relations between people, practices, objects and ideas -- or, more precisely, the ways in which difference is organised over space and time in these hybridised mangles and messes.
I think that we can do better than rely on the language of the complexity sciences in our explications of the social - and if not, at least admit that what is being proposed is neither particularly novel nor enlightening.** But to claim that notions of networks, flows and fluids ultimately demote the social is to misunderstand the arguments and stakes at hand.
** Okay, that's harsh and not really so. But my point is that this language, this rhetoric, makes social and cultural theory appear fashionable and sexy - and I don't think that should be our goal. Plus, it puts the complexity sciences on a pedestal where they appear beyond the reach of critique - and that's not productive for any discipline.
I don't particularly share his views, but I've always liked his Griefcase, and for anyone interested in technology and socio-cultural agency, this is a worth-while read.
Sweet! In the attempt to reposition play as something not wasteful or frivolous, to establish it as a viable and valuable activity, theorists like Huizinga and Caillois turned play into something productive and functional - but not particularly playful or full of fun. As I've written many times before, I believe the sort of structural-fuctionalism found in Csikzentmihalyi, Huizinga and Caillois attracts folks interested in "social software" precisely because it meshes so well with traditional computer sytems thinking about networks and control. And as Mortensen explains, Csikzentmihalyi's theories on flow mesh nicely with ideas of the "self-made man" or the individual who works hard to shape her or his life. Unfortunately, this view tends to ignore external social and cultural power relations that influence quality of life.
By focussing on the ludic - by measuring the pleasure of games and play by functional and productive criteria - we miss the chaotic, voluptuous, and seductive qualities of play. As Mortensen concludes, the real dangers of gaming are not exposure to violence or social isolation, but rather in promoting a "society where delight is used to reach goals" and seduction is rendered empty and meaningless.
More papers from
last month's the happening-right-now (thanks Matt!) Other Players Conference are online here. (via)
If you're interested in these sorts of things, you might also consider submitting a paper to the Pervasive and Locative Arts Network (PLAN) conference and workshop taking place in London in February. Deadline for full submissions is Friday 10th December.
And since cheap flights can be had from London to Berlin, why not then head over to Transmediale 2005?
Update: Adriana de Souza e Silva also recently won the Opinion Award in trAce and Writers for the Future's New Media Article Writing Competition for her article, Are cell phones new media? (via)