Friday, February 1, 2013

EDC MOOC Utopia or Dystopia?

Having left my `study’ until this evening, owing to work commitments, I diligently refused to read anyone else’s blogs, tweets or postings on the topic this week, so that I could have an unpolluted view of the films and readings tonight.
What did I find?

Bendito Machine
I don’t think this film is actually about technology, I think it’s about the human need to find `god’ in something.
I think it’s about that frailty in humans – the need to perceive something as bigger & more powerful than themselves, to believe in something that is all seeing, omnipotent, until someone questions it and goes searching for a new `god’.  I think the film creator just used technology as a vehicle for the story.

A pictorial translation of online dating, including the letdown when the technology fails!  - A lesson in overcoming our `human-ess’ in which we hide behind anything we can find, yet still display our very human need to be playful, to flirt and to connect.

Chatter Thursday – lifes hard when you’re a blackbird
Even within the techno hum of the big city, humans still connect in a spiritual moment when viewing their town from `space’. The film’s defining moment is when baby BB hits window & eyeball connects with the human – representing the transcendence of soul across species and the human emotion of compassion.

30 years ago I used to read SciFi. I don’t think this piece necessarily is talking about technology utopia or dystopia. To me this is about aliens – war of the worlds, day of the triffids stuff. It doesn’t suggest to me that technology has created this situation. Perhaps it speaks about the distinction of humanity as opposed to alien life-forms and the survival of humanity.

The Machine is Us/ing Us
First time I’ve seen this and I love it as it starts to get at the heart of some thoughts that are slowly percolating in my mind as I partake of this massive social experiment. I’ve been thinking that this internet technology and all the aps and interfaces we are experiencing, are shifting cultures globally. However I also think that our humanity is becoming ever more evident through the use of these tools. I don’t believe that the technology is shaping us, I believe we shape the technology. A very simple example of this is the uptake of internet technology. We have constantly sought to produce tools which are smaller, more integrated, and portable, able to almost become part of us physically.  (and this will be the next generation of internet interface). This has led to Smart Phones.  Smart phones aid & support two of the greatest human needs. To access information and to communicate.  We want to be able to do this instantly, in the same ways that our minds instantly recognise, interrogate, analyse and compute data from all around us, we now use technology to expand that capability.

We have the capability within Smart phone technology to combine and use it to solve international problems. What do we do? We use it to further our own personal needs in whatever sphere we live/work in.  In politically stable countries, we excuse this behaviour by referring to the confines of our socio-cultural and political systems. In countries experiencing massive upheaval, we use the technology to shape pleas for international human help.

Notes on Chandler’s Technological Determinism 
Regarding the comparison of 'technology-push' theory rather than a 'demand-pull' theory -  I would argue that the current state of technological expansion is demand pull rather than tech – push. What the people want the techs will work hard to deliver – case study apple….  People want to `know’ and to communicate….

In presenting Leslie White’s example, (in the chapter, Reductionism), declaring that 'We may view a cultural system as a series of three horizontal strata: the technological layer on the bottom, the philosophical on the top, the sociological stratum in between... The technological system is basic and primary. Social systems are functions of technologies; and philosophies express technological forces and reflect social systems. Chandler gives me something to argue with! I believe that social function is the determinant of the cultural system. Our need to protect, thrive and survive is more likely to determine our development of tools to support that need.

Chandler’s use of the quote from the biologist Rene Dubos, 'the mechanical definition of human life misses the point because what it human in man is precisely that which is not mechanical' (Dubos 1970, p. 132), again gives support to my growing belief that humankind constructs society to ensure survival and that technology has multiple interfaces with the need for survival.

"The notion that technological developments arise to 'fill needs' is reflected in the myth that 'necessity is the mother of invention'. It presents technology as a benevolent servant of the human species. But as Carroll Purcell puts it, 'many modern "needs" are themselves inventions, the product of an economy that stimulates consumption so that it can make and market things for a profit' (Purcell 1994, p. 40)."
I have already stated that I believe Humans have two defining needs, one is to `know’ (seek information) and the other is to communicate. These needs serve the basic purpose of humans and all animals. That is to survive as a species. This also leads to the exhibition of many primal emotions including the need for power, (insert `money'), which is evident in our continuing lust for the development of technology.

In Technological Autonomy -  Wonderful wonderful wonderful – I love Paul Jennings resistentialism!

Certainly when it comes to cars and humans, we see the Technological Imperative in action! 

Some of the arguments such as Postman’s seem valid, however I still think that the values that technology assumes are still the values we put upon the technologies. Without the human interface they are value-less.

The alignment of advances in technology with `eras’ is a theoretical construct with little to recommend it other than being a handy way to chronologically tag various advances in technology. 

I need to further explore similarities in the social & cultural reaction to accessible information that came with the writing, printing and now the IT communication revolutions (think Egypt and Syria). This is about the promulgation of philosophies and inter-cultural concepts across the globe. Technology may allow the transmission of ideas, which influence social & cultural concepts, but I don’t think it changes the nature of what it means to be human. When we watch footage of the brutality of war in Syria, Mali, Palestine, Egypt the (victims) are as outraged as we are. 

Actually `progress’ to me would be the cessation of war, and the provision of food, shelter, medicine and education for all. This could be achieved without any further technological innovation.