Attention to Infotention

Michael Goldhaber (1997) explains the internet to be “not only abundant, but overflowing,” in other words an economy that runs on information as humans are able to earn money through the distribution and management of online content. Goldhaper (1997) notes how online information competes for our attention because of the vast amount available, our attention metaphorically flows through the internet when we are speaking to someone else, for example via Facebook chat, email etc.

When I watched The Social Network in 2010, I became fascinated with the makeup behind Facebook – the amount of world-wide users, growth of the company and its social impact. I went straight home from the cinemas and Googled: ‘total active Facebook users’ – the figure was 550 million users. It’s been over a year and a half since I first watched that movie and the user figure is now over 800 million (Facebook 2012), this made me venture off to Google (2012) where 24,770,000,000 results  came up after searching the word ‘Facebook’.  This made me think of Goldhaber’s (1997) “information economy” and Howard Rheingold’s (2011) Mindful Infotention theory – How can one person possibly source the Facebook page of information (out of 24 billion plus results) that they are seeking and how much attention pertains to this?

Answer: It comes down to infotention, an individual must use their “mental ability” (Rheingold 2011) to narrow down their search through the online archive.

Rheingold (2011) explains Infotention to be the “psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today, a mind-machine combination of brain-powered attention skills with computer-powered information filters”. Basically, Infotention assists us to use our intellectual skills to decide what information on the internet is worth paying attention to and what should be discarded.

The ‘psycho’ part (of “psycho-social-techno skill”) I interpret to refer to the physiological function of our brains, we must sharpen our “mental ability to deploy (oranise) the form of attention appropriate,” (Rheingold 2011) and needed when filtering online media.

The ‘social’ refers to our online activity with others through social media; here we are given “recommendations [by other humans/friends] that make it possible to find fresh and useful signals amid the overwhelming noise of the Internet” (Rheingold 2011). For example, over social media sites such as Facebook “where attention and relational technologies develop via social networking,”(Kinsley 2011) we connect to friends and follow their posts. Therefore making it easy for an individual to “find fresh and useful” (Rheingold 2011) information through clicking on a friend’s Facebook post because the information is recommended.  Furthermore, this exchange of information over the platform of the internet helps build social relations.

‘Techno’ refers to the technological aspect, the use of “information filters from online tools like persistent search and RSS is the external technical component of information literacy” (Rheingold 2011) – for example Google provides a ‘refine search’ option allowing for the individual to enter detailed descriptions of what they are looking for in order to narrow the search results. If we merge the physiological, social and technological skills together it becomes much easier to filter online media content – which is what Infotention is all about.

References:

Facebook 2012, accessed 31 March 2012, < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book_reader>.

Goldhaber, M 1997, Attention Shoppers!, Wired Magazine, accessed 31 March 2012, <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/5.12/es_attention.html>.

Google 2012, accessed 31 March 2012, <https://www.google.com.au/#hl=en&output=search&sclient=psy-ab&q=facebook&oq=facebook&aq=f&aqi=g10&aql=&gs_l=hp.3..0l10.1637l2465l1l2688l8l8l0l1l1l1l315l1750l0j2j3j2l7l0.frgbld.&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=1e4575b7dd61de50&biw=1093&bih=521>.

Kinsley, S 2011, Revisiting Stiegler’s understanding of Technicity and Attentio, weblog, accessed 31 March 2012,<http://payingattention.org/2011/11/02/revisiting-stieglers-understanding-of-technicity-and-attention/>.

Rheingold, H 2011, Mindful Indotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters, weblog, accessed 21 March 2012, <http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/09/01/mindful-infotention-dashboards-radars-filters/%3E>.

Get the thermometer out… I have Archive Fever !

Archives… a word that ignites the image of an old dusty library or facility inundated with files and never ending documents that are preserved for record. This image is indeed an example of an archive, however, philosopher Jacques Derrida dives into the deeper concepts of archives, looking at the power archives have on society, the significance of their provenance and their ability to establish what is ‘”inside” and “outside” of culture (Murphie 2012) as well as the notion of “archive fever”. Any form of storing information or materials is an archive, even memory is an archive – it is a collection of an individual’s private notes and experiences which can remain private (to the individual) or be published to others at the individuals will.

Archives even have power over people and events, for example an archive such as a university course outline, once officially published must be followed by the students, tutors, lecture and institution and also delineates the events (e.g. the time of lectures, tutorials, lecture material and assignments) that will occur. Thus, conveying the power of the archive, the people must follow the archive (in this case a course outline) and therefore the lines of events are written. Furthermore, the notion that archives decide what is ‘”inside” and “outside” of a culture also extends their significance, they have the ability to document and record information as well as decide what can or can’t be accessed (Murphie 2012) by society.

When Derrida discusses ‘archive fever’ he is referring to the significance that archives have in ordering experiences, the notion of building and rebuilding archives (e.g. people like to arrange and re-arrange their archives such as a photo album) as well as the desire of arvchiving (Enszer 2008). Carolyn  Steedman’s (2002, p.5) explains this desire as “the desire to recover moments of inception: to find and possess all sorts of beginnings”. Steedman (2002) places into perspective society’s prevalence not to forget the past, to hold onto memories. Thus, this is why people have archive fever – they constantly archive in order to preserve these memories and events in which they can refer back to and be reminded of when they access an archive (or their archive). Derrida himself explains ‘archive fever’ to be a “nostalgic desire…an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement,” (Enszer 2008).

The concept of ‘archive fever’ is very true, everyone finds themselves doing it – I often use my Iphone to write notes in (when on transport and have no pen and paper which is my preferred method of note keeping) frequently about ideas that have popped into my mind and have potential use for an assignment or personal project. I then refer back to this archive (Iphone) to access this exact idea. On the note of the Iphone, archives can be found within archives and I believe the Iphone (or any Smartphone really) is a good example – the Iphone is an archive that has access to multiple archives such as apps, music lists, text messages, photos and so on. I started to think of what my oldest archive is (besides my memory which has stored some interesting and cheeky things I did as a youngster) and it is an album full of Tazo’s (not sure if you guys remember these things?) goodness does that bring back some memories…

 

References:

Enszer, R 2008,Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida, weblog, accessed 25 March 2012, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian-impression-by.html>.

Howard, S 2007, Reposted: Archive fever a dusty digression, Early Modern Notes, accessed 25 March 2012, <http://emn.sharonhoward.org/2007/09/reposted-archive-fever-a-dusty-digression/>

Murphie, A 2012, ARTS2090 2012, Publics and Publishing in Transition, Course Outline, accessed 25 March 2012, <http://arts2090.newsouthblogs.org/course-outline-readings/>.

Steedman, C 2002, Dust: The Archive and Cultural Histor, e-book, accessed 25 March 2012, <http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1455701.Dust>.

 

How to assemble the theory of ‘assemblage’

When assembling something, you pull various elements together as one in order to have the final product work successfully. I will be looking at the theory of ‘assemblage’ based on the work of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Manuel DeLanda and extended by Bruno Latour’s Actor Network Theory (ANT). Our everyday activities and actions compose these theories, your very action to read this blog  is a part of assemblage and the ANT and I’ll tell you how.

An ‘assemblage’ through the ANT is described as: a network, a network that looks at all the relations and elements that occur (within this network/assemblage) in a flat ontology as relatively equal to one another (Actor Network Theory 2012).This includes human and non-human actants (Actor Network Theory 2012). This means the role of each element, human, and non-human actant in the network/assemblage is of equal importance and agency (Actor Network Theory 2012).

Let’s look at Facebook (FB) as a publishing platform and organisation as an example of assemblage. FB is made up of actants of human (e.g. users, code writers, web designers, advertising coordinators etc) and non-human nature (e.g. multiple servers, the web, advertisement pockets etc) which are both fundamental elements to the networks ability to function. From here we can recognise how all actants, social, natural (human) and technological (non-human) are of equal importance in this assembled relationship. For example, if FB doesn’t uphold a functional server and encounters multiple system crashes (non-human), users and advertisers (human) will become less enticed to use FB as a publishing platform, and eventually cease to utilise it. Hence, here we can see the equal magnitude of both human and non-human actants in the ability for a network to function successfully – FB must rely on a successful server (non-human) to maintain user (human) interest.

Furthermore, Latour describes how actor-networks are possibly transient, that they are existent in a constant making and remaking (Actor Network Theory 2012). This implies that the roles in a network need to repeatedly be performed and re-performed, otherwise the network will dissolve. Let’s look at FB again, if one doesn’t continuously update their profile, comment, like or uphold their digital social relationship in some way, then that user will become lost in the network, because if no social activity is evident then other users will forget about your profile as there is no reminder of your social presence through status updates etc. Thus, your actions need to be performed and re-perfromed (continusly update your profile in some way).

Reverting back to my opening comment, your very action to read this blog is part of an assemblage – you are a human, sitting in a seat (non-human actant) viewing this from one of many possible non-human actants, possibly a PC or Apple device in which a web browser (non-human actant) has allowed you to find this blog designed and maintain by web developers (human actant) from wordpress (and the list of elements and actants goes on). Therefore, demonstrating how an assemblage is created and all elements are of equal importance, as non-human actants have to rely on human actants and vice versa.

References:

Actor Network Theory 2012, accessed 17 March 2012,<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory>.

Ancient and Modern Publishing Modes

With the push of technology and advanced digital platforms of today’s era, various modes of publishing have come into existence.

This is not to say that the world didn’t already have a significant array of publishing methods. If we travel back to the era of the Roman Empire, let’s pick Julius Cesar’s period (100-44BC) as an example, means of publishing were already vast – public announcements and speeches were often made to the public in order to broadcast news and current events. The display of public executions was also a method of publishing as a way of stating to society that if you break the law you will be executed.

Furthermore, artworks, sculptures, murals and mosaics from that era are still existent up until this very moment serving as informative platforms of historical events and information, allowing for archaeologists and scientists to learn from. So too are hand written documents by historians such as Suetonius and Tacitus which aid current studies on Ancient Rome. The list of publishing methods goes on, and that’s just the process of one culture – the Egyptians used hieroglyphs and wall paintings/carvings (just to name a few) to communicate, and just like today’s era, also had some of the same modes of publishing as the Romans.

Tools of publishing, however, have leaped through the aid of technology opening new avenues of making information known to the public. Through this leap we have seen the shift to digital publishing – even print industries such as newspapers have surfed their way onto the digital platform of the internet.

The need to supply both print and digital articles by newspapers has been necessary to keep afloat the journalism industry. However, with this online shift have come paywalls. A paywall is simply a webpage that is only made visible to the user if they have paid a subscription (Salmon 2011). Not all newspapers use paywalls, many offer their online content free and many offer a bit of both (free as well as subscriber only content) and then there are some online newspapers such as those of News International (The Times, The Sunday Times and News of the World) that can only be accessed if you’re a paying subscriber.

There has been some controversy to paywalls, editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger (Busfield 2010) believes that the focus of online media should be on good journalism and that diverse business models should be experimented, including staying relatively free while offering subscriptions to special content only (if you visit The Guardian you will notice that most content is free).

The New York Times (NYT), however, has taken an interesting approach to paywalls – although some content can only be viewed by paying subscribers, the NYT makes it incredibly easy (on purpose, I imagine) for readers to get around this blockage, thus allowing the content to be viewed free. Journalist Fix Simons (2011) describes that “the thing about freeloaders: if they value what they’re getting, a lot of them will end up paying anyway,” and this is exactly what has happened with the NYT – readers have come to value the quality of journalism produced by the NYT and have subscribed (online subscription has reportedly doubled for the NYT with over 1 million subscribers). This is grand news for the NYT and the journalism industry, which has been under threat since the turn of digitalisation.

Before I rap up, I just wanted to finish on the idea of YouTube as a publishing platform – YouTube serves as a stage allowing anyone from anywhere to publish content of their choice to the viewer. YouTube videos create a physical engagement with the viewer through social activity which is created through such components such as the generating of comments or responsive videos e.g. responsive videos: people publishing videos in response to another user’s video or to make a political comment about a matter occurring in society.

References:

Busfield, S 2010, ‘Guardian editor hits back at paywalls’, The Guardian, accessed 10 March 2012, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/25/guardian-editor-paywalls>.

Salmon, F 2011,  ‘How The New York Times Paywall is Working’, Wired, accessed 10 March 2012, <http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2011/08/new-york-times-paywall/>

 

The Wonders of eReaders and Tablets

Long passed are the days where reading a book meant picking up a paperback or hardcover, or rather yet, where picking up either one meant a nice strain on the back from the sheer weight of some books.  With the ever evolving technology of today’s error has come the eReader.

A device that allows individuals, through a shift from print to digital publishing to read books (known as eBooks) and any other kind of printed material, such as newspapers, travel guides, maps etc on a computer programmed screen.

Now, the first example that may pop into mind is an iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.0 – but no, these are known as a tablet. Yes, they function in a similar way to an eReader, in the manner that you can read off iPads and Galaxy Tab’s, but they also have many other functions (access email, music, take photos/videos and the list goes on) which is what differentiates them from the eReader. Whereas an eReader has one sole function – it stores books. An example of an eReader is Amazon’s Kindle (see video below).

One of the main advantages of this new publishing platform is the use of electronic paper technology to display content (Ebook Reader 2012), which means no glare appears on the eReader screen when in intense sunlight (unlike tablets) – just like a real book.

The differences that such advanced platforms as the iPad and eReaders have made upon society are immense; for one, unlike traditional books, newspapers or any other printed matter these devices allow the reader to change the size of text at the push of a button. This means, for some, no more reading glasses (dependent on the individual). However, what I believe is most impressive about these platforms is the idea of having a bookshop in your bag, because that’s exactly what they allow for.

Both tablets and eReaders give the individual the option to buy and download eBooks; in some cases they are even free! It’s as simple as visiting such online eBook stores as Amazon.com or Apple’s iBook store (just to name a few), flicking through the catalogue and choosing a nice read. Some libraries have even caught onto this and allow eBooks to be borrowed from their library catalogue.

Other enticing elements about eReaders, in particular, is that they are lite and thus ideal for travellers, and frankly the idea of having a collection of all your books, articles and so forth on these devices (eReaders and tablets) for easy accessibility is also impressive.

Furthermore, the 24 hour cycle of an eBook store allows individuals to buy anytime and in any location (as long as you can connect to the internet). This is, however, affecting traditional book stores with more and more people reverting to such devices.

I don’t, however, see books phasing out – there is an authentic feel to touching the pages of a book, writing notes in shorthand through those pages, and adding one to your home library. In addition, many children’s books are designed with interactive pages such as fold outs, touch and feel and more – In which I cannot see the digital realm taking away print publishing from this demographic.

                                      

Amazon Kindle (eReader)                                  Apple iPod (Tablet)

References:

Ebook Reader 2012, accessed 3 March 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-book_reader>.