Sunday, September 27, 2009

'Love is watching someone die'

Sarah introduced me to "What Sarah Said"
where 'Love is watching someone die'
Mum has significant bruising to half her face having fallen on Friday and is increasingly fragile.
Today talking, sipping through a straw and breathing all seem too hard for her.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I are/we am

I remember an early school experience where i felt humiliated being made to stand and read aloud some of my writing while other children in the class were asked to point out the mistake made. I was about 6 and had written I are, and attempted to defend this grammatical error by saying but I am always more than one, my twin brother and I are always together... Didnt work, the plurality was not anticipated and got drummed out of me. It is a pleasure to be reading Latour on Tarde, and feel vindicated that while grammatically incorrect,
philosophocally i are very astute!

This article by Latour seems to be arguing that identity cant answer questions of behaviour because identity too is made in contexts

"...whenever you want to understand a network, go look for the actors, but when you want to understand an actor go look through the net the work it has traced. In both cases, the point is to avoid the passage through the vague notion of society....
So far, all of philosophy has been founded on the verb To be, whose definition seemed to have been the Rosetta's stone to be discovered. One may say that, if only philosophy had been founded on the verb To have, many sterile discussions, many slowdown of the mind, would have been avoided. From this principle 'I am', it is impossible to deduce any other existence than mine, in spite of all the subtleties of the world. But affirm first this postulate : 'I have' as the basic fact, and then the had as well as the having are given at the same time as inseparable" (Latour citing Tarde)

And Latour expands further, saying
"Here goes Hamlet, as well as Descartes with his cogito, Heidegger with his Being qua Being, together with thousand of homelies about the superiority of what 'we are' above what 'we have'. Quite the opposite, Tarde instructs us. Nothing is more sterile than identity philosophy —not to mention identity politics— but possession philosophy —and may be possession politics ?— create solidarity and attachments that cannot be matched. "For thousands of years, people have catalogued the many ways of beings, the many kinds of beings, and no one ever had the idea of cataloguing the various kinds, the various degrees of possession. Yet, possession is the universal fact, and there is no better term than that of 'acquisition' to express the formation and the growth of any being'' p. 89. If essence is the way to define an entity within the 'To be' philosophy, for the 'To have' philosophy an entity is defined by its properties and also by its avidity� No way to escape from Tarde's logic: take any monad [individual, atom, unit of measure], if you look at what are its properties and its proprietors, you will be led to define the whole cosmos, which would be impossible if you had only tried to define the essence of an isolated identity."

Brings back a Latourian tenet I had earlier had difficulty with 'existence precedes essence'.
Here I seean application for identity does not precede what makes it.
Identity is made, it is plural...the body is multiple in more ways than that described by Annemarie Mol.
And then to take this a step (or several steps) further, and here's a new thought (for me) in the making:
If "The whole outside universe is composed of souls different from mine, but, in effect, similar to mine'' p.44 (Latour citing Tarde again).
And if we/you/I concede that in knowing something, I only know it in as much as I can fathom, recognise and/or project my beliefs about its being anything at all, then part of me is in everything I meet...
"if you don't want to share avidity and belief with the things you have, then also stop to say what they are. The accusation is upturned and the burden of proof shifted to the accusators. Abstain from the ridiculous solution to say that things exist in themselves but that you cannot know them. Either you talk or you remain silent. But you cannot possibly speak and say that the things you speak about are not in some ways similar to you: they express through you a sort of difference that has you, the speaker, as one of their proprietors. What looks like an impossibility with the philosophy of identity, offers no difficulty with the philosophy of 'alteration'. Possession is another way of talking about translation.

To paraphrase Latour's discussion further: After this brief brief brief brief presentation of some of Tarde's and Latour's thinking on the metaphysics of social theory, you/we/i may now understand why so much of ANT appears difficult:
you/we/i don't want to be had.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What's new? and can I get some.

what's new media?
I tripped over this question on a couple of blogs this morning (Jenna McWilliams and Julie at new media power) and seems to me it's a subset of a question I address in the early parts of my thesis. An opportunity then for clarifying my own thoughts since my thesis is about new and emergent technologies in a Youth counselling centre as at some stage I am going to have to clean up that section...

In popular parlance, a new technology is anything invented after you were born.
I quite like Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law, "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic".

E.M. Rogers pointed to the use of the word innovations and technology being used synonymously as many of the ideas analysed are technological innovations. He defined innovation to be an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new. So it's something in the eye of the beholder.

For Ursula Franklin, technology is 'the way things are done around here' so new means its new to the context. And i like how she expands on this in ways grounded in reality...Thats why i think it is better to examine limited settings where one puts technology in context, because context is what matters most. . one has to keep in mind how the practice of doing something defines the activity itself... precludes the emergence of other saves us from thinking of technology as part of the icing on the cake. Technology is part of the cake itself.

Taking those involved and the context then as a primary consideration, an actor-network analysis is helpful as looking at what makes things more and less real provides greater depth to understanding hoow some new things 'take off' and some fizzle. Bruno latour's take on what makes something real is that, “...anything can become more or less real, depending on the continuous chains of translation. It’s essential to continue to generate interest, to seduce, to translate interests. You can’t ever stop becoming more real.” (Latour, 1996: 85)

A new take on the story of the velveteen rabbit- Being played with makes it real.

Seems to me it is the process of becoming involved with something that makes for better questions in new innovations, technologies or media. In what ways are we both shaped and shaping when we negotiate our involvement; play, work or tinker with such things? And I really like how Chris Bigum and Leonie Rowan sum this up in saying:
"The key issue here is that innovation... is not determined by scope or scale, but by direction and effect."

Expanding this further, how then are we pushed and pulled, knowingly and unknowingly, as we work, play and tinker with new technologies and as new technologies work, play and tinker with us? For as Sproull and Kiesler have identified, it's not just the changes that we anticipate that may be important. And in areas where the changes are about communication, such effects become hugely important because, as identified by Sherry Turkle, '“The tools we use to think, change the ways in which we think.” (2004, p.1).And Clay Shirkey takes this further,"When we change the way we communicate we change society."

There are a lot of new ideas out there just fighting for survival, and in a Darwinian survival of the species mode, if they can get copied they will...using you and me as their propagation, copying machinery...we are the meme machines as eloquently expressed by Susan Blackmore on memes). What's new may be less important than how might we use it, and how might it use us?

Franklin, U. (1999). The real world of technology (Revised ed.). Toronto: House of Anansi Press.
Latour, B. (1996). Aramis: Or the love of technology (C. Porter, Trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5 ed.). New York: Free Press.
Rowan, L., & Bigum, C. (2005). Innovation chains; possibilities and constraints for critical perspectives on computers, difference and educational Innovation. Paper presented at the OQL Seminar, Deakin University, Melbourne.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here comes every-body. London: Allen Lane.
Sproull, L., & Kiesler, S. (1991). Connections. New ways of working in the networked organization. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Its a bit like doing health promotion in a war zone

The one laptop perchild programme (OLPC) is apparently 'not working'.
Providing deworming tablets at hugely lower costs can also be shown to have significant effects on school attendance and potentially also on income earning potentials in a population.
Not quite as sexy as a colourful laptop though.

An actor-network analysis might point to the laptop as suffering from faith in its technical determinism and forgetting that it needed to enroll human actors to also make it work. Not least of which is the telecos, internet charges were/are crippling. The laptop aimed to be provided as a one off charge US$100 per child and an initial charge in the first year of $1 for internet access....but then that vanishes and the costs come in, leading to more, rather than less, indebtedness.

For the OLPC project to succeed, it needs to accept that it's selling a $100 laptop with an $872 support plan, and find countries that can afford it as such.
says Jon Camfield

IT's all a bit sad really.
Pity the blogger condemning the OLPC campaign wasn't savvy enough to point to what needs to be done differently, 'cause things can always be different when the networks understood.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The problem of scale

Clay Shirky describes the problems of scale; when you have 20 emails a day, its no problem, quadruple this and its getting difficult, ten fold and there's a serious problem because bigger is not just about more, it's different.
Think about it; a two km walk every day is pleasant, a two km walk faster, to fit in 10 two km walks a day isn't.

Youthline (NZ) has had a 1280 percent increase in its text messaging in the last year.
Rapid learning curve; its not the same when it's faster.

Shirky cites Merlin Mann regarding the foibles of email, and I think the similarities here carry a portend of doom;
"Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn't take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that's taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can't handle that one tiny thing. "What pile? It's just a pebble!"

The ability to create conversational opportunity seemingly effortlessly seemingly creates its own capacity for failure as a means of conversing; it works up until the point that it cannot, that it becomes pointless.

The limiting effects of scale; the limits of human cognition will mean that scale alone will kill conversation.
Need to create a way of managing the scale; how to hold the conversations?