Summaries

Same text, different digital eyes

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(ONE) Drawing a line on what is and what is not a particular entity is something our society craves. It is neat to fit things in boxes, giving distinct labels of what is a chair and what is a tree – but when more abstract concepts come into play, the same methodologies do not extend. What is education? What is digital? Formalising neat boxes unhelpfully forces us to make decisions on whether or not to put it in the box, which perpetuates the traditional black/white divide, of which many of these matters are not. To be digital may initially appear to the lay onlooker as an easy distinction to make, e.g. something made by (using) a computer; yet when you begin to unpick this definition, you realise the ‘digital’ is so interwoven in the fabric of our being that even a spectrum is redundant. Calling into question the digital, also makes us question the ‘real’ – what makes us human and is this the antithesis of digital. A fear of not knowing which box to place things in could be rectified through putting everything in the same box and allowing elements to naturally sediment for the purpose required, as it seems unlikely society is ready to let go of all parameters completely!

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(TWO) A helpful reminder that things change quickly, which often requires us to redefine what we have come to believe as possible or constraining. The stuff of science fiction is less fictional now than when first created, with data storage in our DNA and printers printing buildings becoming attainable. Yet the potential for new fiction (which inevitably could lead to future fact) is as strong as before, with these new attainments forming the foundation of new stories to inspire and potentially shape the future. Yet this reassessment can feel dystopic, with many feeling a frightening sense of identity loss through acclimatisation to the newly known. Greater connectivity can lead to a whole new future of possibilities… if we let it.

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(THREE) If a dance routine is choreographed and performed as a flashmob by a group of dancers in the same place but on different days, is it the same flashmob? Well, the ‘mob’ may be the same crowd, and the visual ‘flash’ may be very similar, but each performance will be viewed by different people on each day – even if they are exactly the same crowd watching, their reaction will be different every subsequent time after the first as they are expecting the dance to occur or will at least think ‘ah, seen this before’ once the music kicks in. Thinking about online artifacts, although the structure may be similar or the website page identical, the experience of the user will be different each time as they are building on a body of experience. Every instance of the same online course will be different because the time, the people and the experience will be different. The idea of recurrent courses like MOOCs may attract similar people, with similar discussion topics raised, but each archived course will be a very distinct digital artifact and in many ways could be seen as different for every user every time they access the site, which on a course of 42,000 is an awful lot of difference!

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(FOUR) A need to make things understandable. It is all well and good having a world saturated with information, but if it is inaccessible, there is no point in having it at all! Taking the time to slow down and appreciate our environments is important to make any sense of what we’re seeing – this time taking can also be to unpick the layers of mixed media we are exposed to and appreciating each layer in isolation to rebuilt an understandable picture of the whole. Communication types have often been used as filters to distinguish ‘types’ of people – academic prose being an example of the inaccessible, using superfluous jargon and embedded structures as a means to communicate only with the chosen few also in the field. However it has been highlighted that this practice is unsustainable – the only way to truly make impact is to engage, and if your comms is a barrier you will never succeed.

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(FIVE) Acknowledging what it means to be human and reinstating the human in technology is crucial in order for society to develop in the future. Without the personal touch, it is out of touch and potentially damaging. By disassociating the human and humanity’s limitations, we develop systems which degrade the potential usefulness of digital tools and perpetuate fear of the machine. By disassociating reality, digital artifact stagnate and are less appealing, especially as our eyes become more critical to these artifacts as we become exposed to ‘better ways’ of delivering the same experience. Through such disconnect, wider society (and those in power to influence change) lose sight of what is actually needed to survive and thrive in this current climate, shifting emphasis away from the key elements that make this culture so rich. The digital divide seems to be far less about the technologies employed and more about the understanding of how those technologies are part of our cultural DNA and appreciation that they have grown in partnership with rather than separate to humanity.

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(SIX) Very often classification drives composition – we feel more comfortable knowing in advance what and when a particular classification kicks in and when to label a group accordingly. Yet interestingly, this is a post-modification – the entity exists first in order for the classification to be applied, not the other way round. Although things can ebb and flow over time, adopting new nuances triggering revision of classification, the entity seldom aspirationally self-defines then grows into the shape of the definition. It is exactly for this reason that we (as a species) have so many problems with understanding things that don’t neatly fit within our experience base of a particular entity. Online mediums are facilitating compositions we have not before experienced – are our words holding us back? Also are we becoming too fixated on making things neatly fit within our lexicon of understanding, rather than allowing things to be what they are and appreciate them as is?

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(SEVEN) Fluidity. The notion of entities not being perceived as static is crucial for understanding of the whole. The sense of belonging often coupled with communities can also be seen as largely subjective and subject to the personality(s) involved. The community does not shape the individuals – the individuals make the community. A community is far larger than the sum of the parts – everyone brings their own part to the community whilst equally bringing their own interpretation to their perception of the community they either belong to or are perceived to be a part of. What brings a community together can not be viewed as a stagnant, tangible – on the contrary, community is often centered around the intangible, a state of mind or thought that brings people together rather than something particularly concrete – even if concrete, e.g. kit car mechanics, it is still more intangible in being, being brought together on the theme of specific mechanics and sharing/learning within rather than due to the car parts themselves.

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(EIGHT) A sense of community is much like love – love, although transitive and thus requiring a direct object of the desire, thematically is something that is done to the host of the feeling. You might not actively label it but feel a strong desire to continue this feeling. Community like love is a feeling, a sense of hold, which is both difficult to explain in words and to define its presence from the outside – the individual alone holds the power. Yet unlike love there is a sense of in-group collectivity and association with one another as well as with the object that induces the togetherness – commonality and connection. Interestingly, there is a sense that those in the community are not a threat to the love, they are part of the sisterhood and valued rather than seen as stepping on the territory of another. This sense of belonging or pack mentality is at its strongest when their object is deemed at threat or its flow disrupted – moving as one rather than disassociated parts.

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(NINE) To the human, the human is the most important living thing. Top of the food chain, no natural predators. The superior being in an inferior world; a world designed to cater to the needs of this alpha species and thus rendered entirely at their mercy. Yet this inflated ego extends far beyond the feeling of right over resources – everything is viewed in relation to the human or viewed through an anthropomorphic lens. Even though bacteria were present on this planet long before man was even a twinkle in the eye of evolution, bacteria is viewed as of inferior importance to the human, neglecting to acknowledge we are fundamentally reliant on these inferiors to function. Contradictorily, when viewed in a petri dish and seen to be moving, the human mind is unable to comprehend the basic level of these entities – they are moving so they must be alive, and if alive, they must be thinking where they are going – rather than being able to remove the human comparison and appreciate beauty in simplicity and lack of additional reasoning skills. It is this superiority complex that is blinding us as a species from truly engaging with the world and feeling a sense of humbling to be but one very small part of a complex ecosystem. Everything in balance. Everything as equal.

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(TEN) Looking beyond what you currently and only see. In order to grow as a society for the future we require a greater sense of open mindedness with truly open eyes to learn as much as possible from the wealth of potential available. It is very easy to stop at your own gate and not realize that other people may have different gardens or indeed perceptions of what a garden should be. Often we are caught thinking that taboos are inherently wrong because we think them so, but instead they are culturally and often historically bound. Take for example pedophilia – our cut off point for when a child is a consenting adult has drastically changed over the past few hundred years – the now notion of child would have then typically been a mother of two or three by the age of our perceived adult standards. Who makes the call of when something is or is not a thing? As humans, we are limited by our own vision – we have a collection of senses and our perceptions of things have been developed over time, adding to our knowledge base of ‘stuff’. Yet we often take for granted how dependent we are on the visual for understanding – it is through these two like channels that the majority of understanding is gleaned. But when a different lens is applied or removed completely, we are at the mercy of our limited non-visual collective to explain the whole.

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(ELEVEN) We are now entering a new realm of the human. Many of the things we have taken for granted in a fairly binary, human-led world are being questioned and thrown into new light. With a new way of looking at humanness, as it is equally questionable whether more than just the analysis mindset has physically changed, we are now facing problems of analysis of other elements relative to us, causing us to question and draw new lines on old concepts and boundaries. Yet posthumanism goes further than this, asking us to further question the relative nature of the analysis itself – why should the human be the centre of importance. We as a species have built our blinkered vision precisely on this assumption and thus have problems breaking out of this constructed environment. Nature does not have boundaries – elements seamlessly interconnect and interact with one another in a state of continuous flow. Boundaries are man-made. They are self-inflicted. Yet without radical cultural shift, this is unlikely to change quickly enough to serve purpose in the current domain thus rendering ourselves at the mercy of our own limitations. Although not necessary a major problem to content with in modern life right now, hypothetical scenarios for the future make us shift uncomfortably in our neatly defined chairs, causing wider concern over the sustainability of our current lens.

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(TWELVE) There is often a perception of ‘the right way’ of doing things. From this, we have developed a plethora of process-driven mechanisms for engaging, educating and controlling civilizations. Although this can aid systems of dissemination and standardization for the masses, many processes have been rendered inadequate for emerging need. People are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of being just another cog in a large unwieldy machine – people wish to be viewed as individuals and develop in ways best suited to their individual needs. Process driven focus removes all aspects of the human from the purpose, yet it is for the human that we as a species do anything! However, it is important to emphasise the power relationship here – the machine is man-made for the control over other men. Although it could be argued that we all exist and therefore are mere cogs within the larger ecosystem of Earth, this man-made machine currently sits above this natural process, still deemed in power over natural resource, rather than paired with appreciation of sitting within. Restoring a sense of control back to the those within the human system over their own develop is not only crucial for the sustainability of the species but has the potential for positive repercussions for the wider natural ecosystem – it is hopeful that with faith and respect reinstated in humanity, and ultimately empowerment of the human, will come a sense of humbling of being part of something bigger than just an individual man.

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(HYPER-SUMMARY) Education is all around us, if we look at it in an open, holistic way. Arbitrarily imposing prejudice externally on what or is not potentially ‘educational’, limits the potential of education as a whole. The tumblog is in itself a mixed-modality exemplar of limitless potential and richness – sourcing artifacts from around the web and collating these into something meaningful, bringing themes to life and surfacing new questions or areas to explore. You can make of it what you will – a learner-driven focus. Posthuman in structure, the platform also appeals to a feminist ideal of emergence and equality, facilitating the co-location and appreciation of mixed modality, making the user question their sourcing of more than just the written word.

Discrimination is rife across our current culture, imposing hierarchy on elements, arbitrarily deeming written word for example the human in mixed-mode ecosystem of communication – they were not the first, nor are they the most accessible form of communication of ideas, yet they are partnered with an academic snobbery of importance.
When openly accessible to all on the internet, you can invite comment, and through such invitation an academic community can be developed, built from a breadth of individuals, from a breadth of backgrounds, providing richness of new perspective, rather than simple proliferation and reinforcing of blinkered ideals and prejudice of pedigree ‘communities’.

An interesting counter to this notion of the communication tool has been this particular task itself – summarizing the tumblog within a 500 word parameter. Only words were mentioned, initially suggesting only words be used. Yet interestingly, absence does not mean denial – quite the opposite, a lot can be inferred from what is not said. The instantaneous blinkeredness imposed by the human lens reading words asking for words reemphases the need for the human to look beyond self-imposed limitations. However, through limit comes focus and the potential for reflection without distraction.

The process of reflection is time and context dependent – each time the pack is reviewed, a new inference of the matter can be made, different words used to explain the same thing or new words for a new thread chosen to unravel or follow. Inspiring. Organic. Emergent. It is more than just the sum of the parts present, it has the added dimension of the viewer and the experience base they bring with them, which includes developed lenses and biases. Every viewer will see different things; equally so, each viewer is subtly different each time they view the materials, never bringing the exact same experience-shaped lens. Each time a different, though the same, flashmob or webpage.

But is this distinction important? How useful is it in practice to look at things in new ways, when a culture has been built on assumptions of using shared terms of reference?

Simply put, unwillingness to question the things we take for granted is dangerous for future development, proliferating the stagnant whilst things around us may have changed and require inclusion – without the willingness to look beyond the current lens, we limit our own potential.