Monday, January 30, 2012

Reading, Thinking, & Reflecting Notes - January 30, 2012

This week, I began reading Lingua Fracta.  Though Chapters 1-4 were assigned, I began with the Preface, and I am glad I did.  The preface helped me prepare for what was to come by introducing a couple of important concepts that are essential for comprehending this text.
The first important term I encountered in Lingua Fracta was "hypertext." So, I found a short video tutorial that provides a definition of "hypertext" and how it is used.

Next, it was necessary to familiarize myself with Aristotle's Five Canons of Rhetoric.  I am basically unfamiliar with the theories of rhetoric, so I had to give myself a crash course... I found Rhetorica: Canons of Rhetoric to be a helpful resource in getting a quick overview.

Lingua Fracta takes the canons of classical rhetoric and assigns new meanings to provide a framework for the rhetorical analysis of new media.  Chapter 1 of the text introduces the concept of using the interface (as opposed to the text) as the unit of analysis. The chapter refers to an electronic essay that was published in the online journal Kairos in the late 90's called Hypertext is Dead. Brooke notes that the essay is "a distinctive example of scholarship in the field of rhetoric and composition, partly for the multiple layers of mediation it passed through to arrive in its published form." Brooke also refers frequently to hypertext criticism in this chapter. Finally, in Chapter 4, I began to understand why traditional rhetoricians might not like the idea of the hypertext, because it does not lend well to traditional methods of analysis for pattern or arrangement in a text.  The analogy of collecting building materials for a home without concern for structure really helped me to visualize what this might mean...
Is this what rhetoricians imagine when they think of hypertexts? 
Just a bunch of "building materials" with no structure or order?
(Source: AgentInsure

Sometimes I wonder - are we wrapping our mind around technology?
Or is technology wrapping its "mind" around us?
(Source: my vedana)

The main focus of Chapter 1 was on the interface. The author argues that "new media challenges us to reconceive our basic unit of analysis; the mutability of new media means that we should be shifting our focus from textual objects to medial interfaces." (p. 6) Traditionally, criticism and analysis of "isolated individual texts" were conducted based on a set of values determined within the discipline, but due to the fluid nature of new media platforms, "closed reading" is often not possible.  Therefore, one must analyze characteristics of the interface itself.

"...the excess of media becomes an authentic experience..." (p. 16)
"...the content of any medium is another medium..." (p. 16)
(Source: Smashing Magazine)

Another important concept introduced in Chapter 1 was that of remediation.  Remediation is a defining characteristic of new media - essential, an "old" technology is manifested into a "new" technology.

The author best illustrated this point for me when discussing the essay by Brooks, Nichols, and Priebe (1994) called "Remediation, Genre, and Motivation: Key Concepts for Teaching with Weblogs."  In this study, they argue that three print genres (personal journals, academic notebooks, and note cards) have been remediated by weblogs.

The author offered a second example of remediation, which was that of a teacher using StorySpace for a research assignment in the classroom.  It seemed that this assignment did not go so well, and it sort of reminded me about times when I have "used technology for the sake of using technology," which can sometimes get in the way of reaching the desired learning objectives.  Students can sometimes become resentful of new technology when it is used improperly - sometimes they have acheived a high level of familiarity and comfort with "old media" technologies, so their motivation to use "new media" can be low, especially for those who are not so tech-savvy.  When I use "new" technology in the ESL classroom, I try to provide a rationale for its use, and I really try to "sell" the idea. I've found this is especially important when using technololgy or media that has a steep learning curve - especially since sometimes there is a language barrier in addition to that.
"Media Ecology" - Chapter 2 draws from work in this interdisciplinary field.
(Source: Bloggity, Blog, Blog, Blog)
Chapter 2 explains the rationale behind essentially rethinking the canons in terms of non-print technology, which will "allow us to both understand and produce interfaces." (p. 27)  The author describes how as an "ecology of practice, the canons supply a framework for approaching new media that focuses on the strategies and practices that occur at the level of interface." (p. 28)  Personally, having a background in biology, I feel quite comfortable with the approach of conceptualizing new media in an ecological sense - I can wrap my mind around the idea that new media should be seen as a "system" that is in a state of constant flux, with varying levels of stability.

Another term I was unfamiliar with was trivium.  So, after doing a quick google search, I found that "Trivium" is actually a death metal band...

(Source: Trivium -
After modifying my search terms, I found that trivium also refers to three of the Seven Liberal Arts - grammar, rhetoric, and logic.  The author lays out his own "contemporary version of the trivium - which [he has labeled as] ecologies of code, practice, and culture." (p. 47)
The Seven Liberal Arts - Quadrivium and Trivium
(Source: Tufts Magazine)
The author used "trackbacks" to describe an illustrate an "ecology of practice."  I had never heard of the "trackback" feature on blogs before... and I'm still not quite sure how they work, exactly.

Chapter 3 dealt with the first canon - invention.  Essentially, an invention is anything that creates something from nothing.  The author went into great detail about the differences between hermeneutic and proairetic invention. 

Chapter 4 discussed the second canon - arrangement.  The author focused on the concept that with new media, it is better to consider arrangement in terms of pattern as opposed to sequence.  My favorite quote from this chapter was from Weinberger (2002).

"Real-world space is a preexisting container in which the things of the world exist...
Web space is created by the things in it."
~David Weinberger, 2002 (p. 95)
(Image Source: New World Notes)


Brooke, Collin Gifford. Lingua Fracta. Creeskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press, Inc., 2009. Print.

Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey, 1968. Print.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reading, Thinking, & Reflecting Notes - January 23, 2012

Key Concepts Chapters 5, 6, and 7 covered the following topics, respectively: archive, interactivity, and simulation.  The eighth chapter concluded the book, and reflected on how the concepts covered throughout the first seven chapters could and should be considered together as a "network of concepts." Figures 1 and 2 (pgs. 123-124) provided of framework in graphic form of the interrelatedness of the six major concepts covered in the book (network, information, interface, archive, interactivity, and simulation).

When I hear the word "archive," this is the kind of image that first comes to mind ...
(Source: Rebel7ibrarian)
Obviously, I need to wrap my mind around the fact that nowadays, it's more like this...
(Source: Digital Production ME)
Part of this change in how we conceptualize archiving has come about through the existence of digital media. Digital media is defined as "a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital (as opposed to analog) form. It can refer to the technical aspect of storage and transmission (e.g. hard disk drives or computer networking) of information or to the "end product", such as digital video, augmented reality or digital art (Wikipedia 2012)." 

Here is a link to an opinion piece about some of the ethical issues related to "new media" vs. "old media." 
(Source: Bright Side of News)

"Electric Sheep" Digital Art by John Edwards
(Source: Fine Art America)
Since I did not write much about DADoES in my last blog post, I would like to take the opportunity now to define some of the important vocabulary from the novel. I always like reading novels that have "invented" vocabulary. First of all, an andy is an android.  The Penfield mood organ is what the humans remaining on earth can use to regulate their emotions on a day to day basis.  Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter, who uses a Voigt-Kampff testing apparatus that measures empathy in individuals to determine whether or not he/she/it is an android.  A chickenhead is a human with an abnormally low IQ and lives a marginalized life away from society. Mercerism is the belief system that the humans on earth have - it is like a moral code or religion. Wilbur Mercer is a God-like figure with whom the humans communicate by merging with an interface. The Nexus-6 is an android with abnormally high intelligence and has the ability to feign empathy.

Chapters 6-10 in DADoES had a few surprises.  For instance, John Isidore met one of the "Rachael Rosen" clones called "Pris Stratton"; Rick Deckard continues down his list of targets and begins running across a couple of the Nexus-6 droids, including Luba Luft the opera singer; and Deckard ends up in a "police department" that he has never heard of and has never heard of him.

One of the things that stands out to me the most in DADoES, in general, is the fact that in this novel, living beings are so highly valued.  "Everyday" animals they we take for granted like squirrels, raccoons, and spiders are highly valuable (even the lowest of vermin), and canned vegetables are a delicacy.  On a personal note, as a hardcore environmentalist and conservationist, this particular theme in the novel strikes a chord with me.  It reminds me of a Bob Marley quote that says, "You ain't gonna miss your water until the well runs dry." It's hard for people to see the intrinsic value of living beings such as plants and animals until they simply aren't among us anymore.  Some things just simply are not "fixable" or "replaceable." 

I grew these tomatoes and peppers in my garden last year.
The paw-paws (left box) came from my neighbor's tree.
I can't imagine earth's conditions deteriorating to the point
that such a bountiful harvest would be impossible. 

My dog, Bueller
My cats, Karly (front) and Molly (back)

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. New York: Berg, 2008. Print
Dick, Phillip K. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? New York: Del Rey, 1968. Print.

"Digital Media." Wikipedia.  Accessed on-line Jan 22, 2012. Available on-line at  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reading, Thinking, & Reflecting Notes - January 20, 2012

  • New Media: The Key Concepts Chapters 1-4,
  •  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Chapters 1-5
Content Option #1 - Brief Summary
    The first four chapters of New Media: The Key Concepts introduced some basic yet essential terms, and began to provide a framework of concepts that will allow us to engage in the study of digital technologies.  Chapter 1 provided a general introduction of the text by including a rationale in its approach of using six primary concepts to analyze topics in new media studies.  The concepts to be covered in the text are network, information, interface, archive, interactivity, and simulation. Chapter 2 introduced the first concept, network. Chapter 3 introduced the second concept, information. Chapter 4 covered the third concept, interface. Some of the important terms and concepts found in these first four chapters are defined below in Content Option #2.
    The first five chapters of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? introduce several of the main characters and generally set the scene for the novel.  In this world, the World War Terminus has killed off millions of earth's living creatures, and a new "race" of androids is now living amongst the few "andys" (humans) that remain.  Chapter 3 gives somewhat of a historical background for how things came to be, while the following two chapters discuss some of the concerns and issues faced by the main characters.  So far, two of the most important characters the reader has been introduced to are Rick Deckard and John Isidore, but they live very different existences.
Content Option #2 - Key Terms/Concepts with Definitions/Descriptions (*from New Media: The Key Concepts)
new media - the definition of new media is a controversial one; some make a distinction between "digital communications" and "analog technologies" based on the type of processing each type involves (for example, continuous vs. discrete data), but others contest that the distinction is not so clear; however, one can distinguish 'new' media from 'old' media by considering that the former "operates through the production of numerical (predominantly binary) code."   (pg 6.)
continuous data - data not composed of indivisible units (pg. 6)
discrete data - data made up of distinct units such as pixels or bytes (pg. 6)
network - an infrastructre that connects computers to each other and to a range of external devices,... [enabling] users to communicate and exchange information (p.g 16); networks can have many different architectures or topologies (pg. 17)
LAN - a local area network; 'covers a small geographic area and connects devices in a single building or group of buildings,' and it can cover a 'larger area such as municipality, state, country, or the world' (pg. 16)
MIDI - Musical Instrument Digital Interface; enables a master device to communicate information to attached 'slave units' (pg. 17)
protocol - a set of standards; needed to enable different machines and devices to communicate with each other; necessary to ensure compatibility between different media, particularly where networked devices may be products of different manufacturers (pg. 17)
network society - a theory proposed by Manuel Castells (1996); the concept of network might be useful for the analysis of contemporary social and cultural change (pg. 20)
social network analysis - view 'relations' as the basic units of social structure; looks at the density and texture of relations or connections between nodes, which might include 'individual people... groups, corporations, households, nation-states, or other collectivities'; connections are then measured, modeled, and visualized (pg. 24)
actor network theory - the question of the connection between the technological and the social, along with human and non-human connectivity (pg. 28)
information society - an information society centers upon the production, exchange, and consumption of information, which in turn becomes the prized commodity of new forms of capitalism that have been described variously as 'informational' (pg. 45)
informatics - the concept that nothing, in essence, can be coded as information (pg. 42); the politics of information (pg. 53)
information - in the most basic sense, it can be definted as "code" (pg. 43)
informationcritique - a practice involving a critique of information in which there is no separation between the critique and its object (pg. 51)
interface - conceptual devices that enable us to think across and beyond the [virtual - physical ] dualisms by calling attention to the common boundaries between two systems, devices or programs (pg. 53)
cultural interfaces - AKA "human-computer-cultural-interfaces"; structure the ways in which computers present and allow us to interact with cultural data (pg. 56)
pervasive interfaces - spatial forms that are tied to a broader set of social and cultural dynamics; example, "intelligent technologies" (pg. 61-62)
urban informatics - take the interface, and particularly its design, as the focal point of analysis (pg. 65)
Content Option #3 - Defintion of a Term ("Media")
Here is a link to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of "media":
Content Option #4 - Quotes with Discussion
The definition of "information society" stood out me in the reading.  "An information society centers upon the production, exchange, and consumption of information, which in turn becomes the prized commodity of new forms of capitalism that have been described variously as 'informational.'" (New Media: The Key Concepts, Chapter 3, pg. 43).
This quote really made me think about the events over the last week (and months!) that involved the looming threat of the SOPA and PIPA bills, that were to be voted on next Tuesday on Capitol Hill.  Many of the opponents were concerned that these bills would really only benefit large media corporations, and specifically the effects of internet piracy on their profits. These bills are real-time evidence of just how prized information can be as a commodity, and how we would all be affected if the information we basically have free access to now were somehow taken away from us.  It is interesting how we have become so accustomed as a society to have liberal access to this resource... I'll be interested to see if/how/when these bills might resurface in the future.   Something tells me it's just not over yet!
Format Option #1 - Hyperlink to Resources and Discussion
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 
    Book Review:
    Study Guide
Format Option #2 - Representative Image and Citation