Ariana’s Tree

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A few years back I began a story about a 25-year-old Italian migrant named Marco who moves to Australia. The tale tells of the highs and lows of Marco’s newly established life in a land far from his own. Apart from struggling to fit in, Marco constantly has one thing on his mind: Ariana. Who, what, where is this Ariana!?

Here is a glimpse of my short story Ariana’s Tree:

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For the full version of Ariana’s Tree please contact me (for contact details go to Marcy’s Corner).

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Social Organisation

Blog 8:

In my previous blog (Big Politics: The Fate of the State) I examined how shifts in media and technologies have caused changes to occur within government and large-organisations as a result. Thus, creating new communication techniques to emerge between political members and society, on a local and international level. In turn, this week’s blog will acknowledge similar concepts, but will explore how these shifts have created new ways of organising society by permitting a transversal form of collaboration and communication.

As new technologies and media continue to emerge, new ways of distribution are established between individuals and groups on a global scale, also resulting in shifts in the way society can be organised. For example, the rise of P2P (2013) (peer-to-peer) networks, which work by distributing workloads between peers and users, have given power to the public’s who use this form of media by allowing them to challenge the traditional “top-down” structure of government usually evident in large-scale politics and institutions – in turn, these networks operate as horizontal platforms for collaboration. Not only does this create virtual communities among these individuals networks as it brings people with similar objectives and interest together, but also allows the same people to work together in an open environment to achieve a collective goal – for example, a local community attempting to coordinate ideas on a local issue.  What is evident here is a form of micropolitics – as each network community, they transverse established frames through open collaboration, as Thomas Jellis (2009) describes, “they involve experimentation and an openness to be experimental”.

Indymedia (the Independent Media Centre) is an example of a participatory network which operates by employing transversal forms of collaboration. They are, as their website describes: “a collective of independent media organisations and hundreds of journalists offering grassroots, non-corporate coverage. [It is] a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth” (Indymedia  2013). Through using an open publishing process, they allow anyone to contribute. Furthermore, by operating as a global decentralised network they are able to transverse the procedure used by “top down” media organisations, allowing people to publish thier media as directly as possible under the shared values of honest reporting on social and political issues, working “for social, environmental and economic justice” (Indymedia Australia).

Conversely, as Douglas Rushkoff (2011) places forth, “the internet as built will always be subject to top-down government control and domination by the biggest corporations” due to commercial, technological and legal  “choke points” as well as the ability for them to “turn it off and shut us out”. He clearly states that the internet is built on a fundamentally hierarchical architecture, controlled by big corporations and government. And this is evident in such scenarios where Egypt in 2010 shut off its networks to starve off revolution (Rushkoff 2011). However, I believe if micropolitics pushes forth, if society continue to work across media platforms in such progressive manners collectively, then maybe one day they will be able to stop the big boys from ruling the internet, through such excuses as “policy” and “law”.

I also believe this concept of micropolitics and the interaction of society on a collective level in working as a unit towards a communal goal will be useful for my final assignment. I believe I will be able to look at augmented reality art and, as mentioned in my previous blog (7) how society used new media in the Occupy Wall Street event as a means of protest.

Word: Social Organisations

References:

Indymedia 2013, accessed 7 May 2013, <http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Global/FrequentlyAskedQuestions>.

Indymedia 2013, accessed 7 May 2013, <http://indymedia.org.au/about>.

Jellis, T, 2009, ‘Disorientation and micropolitics: a response’, Spacesof [aesthetic]experimentation, 19 November, accessed 7 May 2013, <http://www.spacesofexperimentation.net/montreal/disorientation-and-micropolitics-a-response/>.

P2P 2013, accessed 7 May 2013, <www.p2pfoundation.net>.

Rushkoff, D 2011, ‘The Evolution Will Be Socialized’, Shareable: Science & Tech, 2 July, accessed 7 May 2013, <http://www.shareable.net/blog/the-evolution-will-be-socialized>.

Big Politics: The Fate of the State

Blog 7:

This week’s readings delved into the concept of new media in relation to politics and governance. Touching upon where the government may lie in the future, and how their prospective project plans are being influenced through media.

Lawrence Lessig (2010) examines the concept of transparency in relation to governance and politics; the idea of transparency in terms of a liberation of government information and data. He acknowledges that the public should have a more active engagement and knowledge of the government and their projects through the increased accessibility to this material. This notion of transparency in government behaviour, I believe, has become evident and more accessible to society in the last decade, as we see online news organisations such as The Guardian dedicating sections of their website to government data. Thus conveying how new media are changing the relationship between society and government. Even Lessig (2010, p.1) identifies this shift, describing what he calls the “naked transparency movement”, that is: “to liberate…government data so as to enable the public to process it and understand it better, or at least differently”.

In saying that, however, Lessig also credits that there are both positive and negative implications to this type of transparency. The negative lies in the idea that society’s trust in government may be lost due to how information may be misinterpreted by the media (this also ties with my blog on Data and Media- An unexpected Love Affair and how information can be translated incorrectly when data is transcribed).  As Lessig (2010, p.6) explains, the “systematic misunderstanding” can occur when necessary attention to detail is bypassed.  This can also been seen in the growth of political communication via social networking, where an emphasis on this form of communication has become evident in recent years. For example, after the Barack Obama election, Obama used Twitter as a means to gain a more “intimate” relation with the public, and at the same time to provide information in “bite-size” forms. But as Lessig (2010, p.2) points out, simply “listing and correlating data hardly qualifies as such a context” for neutralising misunderstanding. And thus, I believe, it must be asked whether such social media networking is the most appropriate manner in achieving transparency in government.

On the topic of social media, Bob Ellis (2010) highlights the notion of how we exist in a “24-hour news cycle”- in which he critically looks at the role that social media plays in politics. In essence, with the Obama example previously mentioned, it is evident that politicians use media as a way to communicate to society on a more personal, intimate landscape – as if the tweets, and Facebook updates are coming directly from the politician (which in most cases they are not). What also needs to be examined in this context as Paul Masson (2011) points out is that social media has authorised this same public with tools that allow them to “express themselves in a variety of situations ranging from parliamentary democracy to tyranny”. Therefore, these tools have given society new avenues of provoked thought and question on the role of their government.  An example of this is that given by Nikki Usher (2011)  – the Egyptian uprising in relationship to “media events”, where we see that Twitter and Facebook were used as a means to incite rebellion by allowing mass-communication and organisation. These media forms were also the first to initiate the distributing images and news regarding the uprising, which were then picked up by mainstream media coverage. It seems, that today the “media ecology now involves a complex interplay between social media, streaming Internet, and mainstream media – all working together to create a much larger, more nuanced picture of the live broadcasting of history”, (Usher 2011).

I found this topic quite intriguing and will defiantly examine the concept of new media in my final assignment as I will be looking at how such new media forms as augmented reality can, and have been used for political activism reasons as a means to create political awareness. Such examples include that which was used in the Occupy Wall Street events.

Word: Transversally

References:

Ellis, B 2010, ‘Sleepless in Canberra’ The ABC, Drum Unleashed, ABC, June 23, accessed 1 May 2013, <http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/35116.html>.

Lessig, L 2010, ‘Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government,’ New Republic, October 9, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.tnr.com/article/books-and-arts/against-transparency?page=0,0>.

Mason, P 2011, ‘Twenty reasons why it’s kicking off everywhere’, Idle Scrawls BBC, 5 February, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html>.

Usher, N 2011, ‘How Egypt’s uprising is helping redefine the idea of a “media event”’, The Nieman Lab, 8 Feburary, accessed 30 April 2013, <http://www.niemanlab.org/2011/02/how-egypts-uprising-is-helping-redefine-the-idea-of-a-media-event/>.

Framing vs. Transversality

Blog 6:

When we reflect on traditional forms of news media, information was communicated to the public either through speech or some form of print (if we go back to ancient times, then engravings). Today, however, with the never ending array of technology continuously blossoming, communication techniques have changed and more than likely will proceed to. The traditional framework of print publication such as newspapers, where layout (arrangement and relationship of press images, articles, headlines and advertisement) is essential, has crossed over to digital platforms. We now see news organisation have turned to the internet, with online journalism flourishing – with tablets and Smartphone’s providing quick access to news content, either through free means or paid for subscriptions.

This transformation of traditional print media to the online environment can be described as ‘transversality’. The process of which pre-established frameworks become challenged, changed, or even destroyed as new technologies and their related behaviours cut across other lines or fields (Murphie, 2006).  Thus, with online news platforms, traditional lines of expressing and displaying news content (through hardcopy newspapers) have crossed against pre-established frameworks.

As new platforms for displaying news content came into fruition, including such mobile devices as tablets and smart phones (as previously mentioned) – the media world went into panic. Why? Well they went into panic the very same way they did when VCRs came out back in the day… remember in the 1980s when audiences began to watch films on their home VCRS?  Of course this sent film studios into frenzy because they thought this would be the death of the cinema. It (obviously) wasn’t; if anything it provided (and continues too) further means of profit and turn over for the movie industry.

Sound familiar? Just as traditional forms of displaying film were challenged through the invention of VCRs, now dvd, blu ray players and other mobile forms (Smartphone’s, tablets, laptops etc) we again see this notion of transversality with news organisations turning to the online as well as electronic platform. As I was saying, the internet caused media organisations to spin out; they believed crossing the line over to the digital world would cause newspaper factories and the printing presses to shut shop. Just like the VCR scenario this did not happen – what has happened is that news organisations have had to tweak their business models, change the way they display news content due to the online environment (providing multiplatform journalism: video content, photo galleries, articles and so on) and cater for different layouts (e.g. electronic newspaper subsritptions for tablets and smartphones). At the same time, many news organisations (Fairfax, Murdoch) have survived and are able to maintain their original business models too – that is, good old ink of your fingers news papers.

This notion of transversality, that is, the idea of surpassing traditional forms of communication will defiantly be examined in my final assignment, as I will be comparing traditional art forms and communication techniques (looking at Renaissance) to new emerging artistic forms such as augmented reality art. By looking through the lenses of transversality I hope to understand and see if, how, and to what extent such media forms as augmented reality art cross against the pre-existing notions of traditional art, such as Renaissance. It should be an interesting topic to delve into!

Word: Data

References:

Murphie, A 2006, ‘Editorial’, [on transversality], the Fibreculture Journal, 9, < http://nine.fibreculturejournal.org/>.

Data and Media – An Unexpected Love Affair!

Blog 5:

Global warming – a hot topic (excuse the pun) by all means! It’s one of those issues that constantly appears in the media. But how do we know about the concept of global warming? It all comes down to data – data that has been collected from various and multiple studies that have looked at past and present climate and weather patterns. Paul Edwards (2010) delves into this very issue of global warming in “A Vast Machine”, where he looks at the reliability of the sources and basis of information from where global warming theories have derived. Edwards (2010) acknowledges the significance of models in collecting weather information, clearly stating that “without models, there is no data”. What intrigued me about this reading was that it allowed me to gain an understanding of how weather forecasts are predicted. In saying that, to predict future weather, examination and investigation of past weather patterns must be conducted. As Edwards explains, “models we use to project the future of climate are not pure theories, ungrounded in observation. Instead, they are data – data that bind models to measurable realities.”

Data to the everyday person (like myself) can be boring, more so it can be confusing – facts and statistics on topics you may or may not know. This is where the media dive in and (I believe) create a beautiful love affair with data, because they “act as the bridge between the data and the people” (Rogger, 2011) – they research, clarify and explain the data in terms that can be understood by the general public. This is known as “data journalism”, and as explained by Rogger it has been around as long as data itself. I’m particularly intrigued by the vast amount of analysis this form of journalism requires, as explained by Rogger’s (2011) it can take anywhere from weeks of investigative data management to grab an incredible scoop. However, due to the incredibly fast pace that news clocks over, a new short-form of data journalism demands journalists to swiftly analyse key data, and present it to readers in a comprehensive manner while the story is still current.

Of course the issue of ‘anyone’ being able to take data and transcribe it through free tools such as Google Fusion Tables, Google Charts, Many Eyes and Timetric conveys the flexibility of ‘storytelling’ (Rogger 2011) and can be viewed as increasing competition against data journalists because it is no longer a specialised procedure. I argue, however, that many (not all) amateurs would bypass what the journalists do – thoroughly investigate and analyse the data in order to visually present the correct translation of data. Not only do data journalistic have to be spot on with their data analysis but they have to tell the story in the best way possible, “sometimes that will be a visualisation or a map” or even a number/s (Rogger 2011).

The Guardian has a section on its website dedicated to data journalism – The Guardian Datablog. This is a good example of the various ways that data can be visually translated, mapped or put into easy to understand numbers. The image below is an example of one of The Guardians visual interactive guides.  The visualisation displays data based on government spending.

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Data Visualisation Example: Interactive guide to government spending (The Guardian 2012)

The simple, minimalistic approach to this visualisation makes it easy to comprehend and attractive to the user, in which a simple click on any circle provides further information on the topic of government spending (go here to see this visualisation in action). This data journalism example supports the idea of how data on government spending is being released on a much greater scale (Quilty-Harper 2010). As expressed by Quilty-Harper (2010) the more that data about how our Governments operate are published in an easy to understand fashion, will in turn inevitably put pressure on Governments to change – because data journalism allows more and more people to understand and see what was previously (as I mentioned) unknown, boring data through a diverse light – that is, through easy to comprehended visualisations, mapping or numbering.

Word: Augmented

References:

Blight, G and Rogers, S 2012, ,Public spending by UK government department 2011-12: an interactive guide’, data visualisation image, the Guardian, December 4, accessed 16 April 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/interactive/2012/dec/04/public-spending-uk-2011-12-interactive>.

Edwards, P 2010, ‘Introduction’ in A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: xiii-xvii.

Quilty-Harper, C 2010, ’10 ways data is changing how we live’, The Telegraph, August 25, accessed 16 April 2013,  <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/7963311/10-ways-data-is-changing-how-we-live.html>.

Rogers, S 2011, ‘Data journalism at the Guardian: what is it and how do we do it?’, The Guardian, Datablog, July 28, accessed 16 April 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/28/data-journalism>.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Blog 4:

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) use a lot of the same technology to provide users with an enriched experience. These two realities differ, in that VR is a complete immersion in a digital world, while AR is a digital overlay onto the real world (Anon n.d.). Games such as Second Life demonstrate how computer technology can create a simulated, three-dimensional world allowing (Anon n.d.) users to explore this VR and become immersed in this alternate world as if it’s actually reality. What is interesting about AR is that you still see the real world but through the enhancement of a virtual layer, and thus I believe this creates a much more exciting environment than VR, where everything surrounding the user is fabricated by the system.

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Virtual Reality: Flight Simulator
User completely sorrounded by invented virtual world

What I do find effective about VR’s are the functional and learning abilities they can provide. VR training such as flight simulators, have provided the basis of flight training for years by virtually recreating external environmental factors (turbulence, clouds, air density etc) and simulating control reaction to these elements through motion. Of course there is the gaming side to VR, where video games such as Microsoft Flight simulator and Nintendo Wii have provided the entertaining side to VR’s for years. Nevertheless, we can see VR’s have been vastly significant in training purposes (e.g. driving simulators) as well as for medical and scientific research for much time. An example of this includes anxiety therapy – a method often used by psychologists to treat phobias is to make patients face what causes their anxiety. In scenarios where psychologists are dealing with Iraq war soldiers, the only way to recreate war situations is by simulating them in VR’s (Goldmeier 2009).

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Augmented Reality: Google Glass
Real world, Google Glass virtual overlay

As I mentioned previously, VR users enter a completely immersive world – everything that surrounds the user is fictitious. AR on the other hand combines the real world with digital information, and this is where I believe technology has the ability to blur the line between what is real and what is computer generated by enhancing our sensory experiences. Google Glass is a prime example of AR – you wear the glasses normally, but the lenses are able to display and bring up information in a fashion similar to a Smartphone (basically they are glasses with a computer inside of them). This of course has brought up privacy concerns, privacy analyst Sarah Downey (Annear 2012) has suggested the glasses “could turn anyone wearing them into walking surveillance camera without anyone else knowing”. I do believe privacy issues as such do become a problem, anyone wearing Google Glass could look you straight in the eye and just simply record or photo you without your knowledge (tip: red light means they’re recording). However, that is not to say that such AR doesn’t offer extraordinary advantages – such as eye view GPS or urban exploration (Drell 2012) – ever wanted to jump into a map and follow it? Google Glass is on it!

Similar to what I mentioned about VR’s, augmented technology also provides beneficial aid to enhancing medical and military cause. Drone technology, a small unmanned aerial vehicle used for military purposes (surveillance, bomb/threat detector etc) is just one example of the positive aspects augmented technology has to offer (Hennigan 2012). Prior to this week’s topics I had never heard of the term augmented reality, but had considered the idea of virtual objects merging into the real world. Through initiating some of my own research and in essence with the required readings I now understand this alternate reality and would be interested in a topic that is considered as creating an augmented reality for the final research assignment.

References:

Annear, S 2012, ‘For Some, Google Glasses Raise Privacy Concerns’, Boston Magazine, 2 April, accessed 7 April 2012, <http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/04/02/google-glasses-raise-privacy-concerns/>.

Anon, n.d., Augmented Reality, Wikipedia, accessed 7 April 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality>.

Anon, n.d., Virtual Reality, Wikipedia, accessed 7 April 2012, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality>.

Drell, L 2012, ‘7 Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Your Life’, Mashable, December 20, accessed 7 April 2013, <http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/augmented-reality-city/>.

Flight Simulator, digital image, accessed 7 April, http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=google+glass&bav=on.2,or.r>.

Goldmeier, S 2009, ‘7 Virtual Reality Technologies That Actually Work’, Gawker Media, accessed 7 April 2013, <http://io9.com/5288859/7-virtual-reality-technologies-that-actually-work>.

Google Glass, digital image,  accessed 7 April 2012, http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=google+glass&bav=on.2,or.r>.

Google Glass User Perspective, digital image, accessed 7 April 2012, http://www.google.com.au/search?hl=en&q=google+glass&bav=on.2,or.r>.

Hennigan, W. J. 2012, ‘New drone has no pilot anywhere, so who’s accountable?’, Los Angeles Times, January 26, accessed 7 April 2013, <http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-auto-drone-20120126,0,740306.story>.

Project Glass: One day, 2012, online video, accessed 7 April 2012, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4&feature=player_embedded>.

It’s all about Memory

Blog 3:

A few weeks ago I found myself at the centre of my family dining table, squished between relatives, and surrounded by food. It was a ‘get together’ with family, thus the menu was better than the usual boring platter of pasta.  The aroma of sweet onion poured through the room as my father presented a dish of Pasta Genovese (a recipe that stews for eight hours), it was one of those moments – the scent and taste pulled me back to Italy 2003, that is, the last time I ate the dish to such a calibre (bravo dad!).  Hence, this scenario brings me to this week’s topics of memory, time and perception. The notion of memory being evoked through sensory reactions (such as my example) gives weight to Marcel Proust’s “involuntary memory” – memory that is unintentionally triggered by something (e.g. taste, smell etc), generating a rather vivid moment, so much so that “it is almost as if you are there”, in the place you created the memory (Collins 2012).

These sensations build a relationship between our mind and the environment and convey how our memories are indistinguishably connected to our external surroundings, as described by Stiegler (n.d.), “a part of ourselves is outside of us”.  Stiegler (n.d.) proposes technical supports are what jog our “natural memory” and provide the context for all memory.  He therefore suggests that the history of humans and memory is no longer in the sphere of genetic evolution but rather that of technical evolution (Stiegler 2006).

This proposes that we are entrenched and tied to the external world via mind, memory and perception. However, in essence with Stiegler, by aiding our cognitive process through reliance on technologies, e.g. a GPS for directions, or mobile phone for storage (e.g. numbers), we detach ourselves from our natural (internal) memory. In turn, risking and losing our knowledge as we become ever more dependent on technologies as a memory source (stiegler n.d.). I believe this idea is particularly relevant to today’s world with the mass growth of technology and fast pace society, it seems humans are becoming ever more dependent on mnemotechnical equipment as a storage tool.

I believe that the extended mind thesis can be viewed as an extension of mnemotechnical equipment as it acknowledges how external objects play an important role in aiding our cognitive process (Murphie 2013, p.21). The mind and environment work as a “coupled experience” (Wikipedia 2013) in which the mind uses certain external elements as a memory tool, which can be regarded as an extension of the mind (David Chalmers, The Extended Mind Revisited 2009). For example, when you park in a car park you take note of the colour, symbol, a certain object and/or number on that level in order to remember where you parked. Without fail every time I go shopping with mum the words: “listen carefully to what I’m about to say…” come pouring out, this comment signals that I should pay close attention to what follows –  “we are parked on P5 yellow, remember that!” , and without further ado I snap a photo of the signage (e.g. P5 yellow) with my Iphone. Not only is this an example of laziness, mnemotechnology and external memory but it also demonstrates metacommunication, that is communication about communication (Classle 2011). My mum communicated (through her warning) how her next point of communication (P5 Yellow) was going to be important.

This is where I find the practice of aiding the memory or mnemotechnics fascinating (Stiegler n.d.), because mnemotechnical equipment in some instances can be used to teach the mind and then eventually be disregarded. For example, children’s learning cards (mnemotechnical tool) associate text with image to teach children the alphabet, words and the ability to distinguish and associate these words with what a cat, dog or tree is etc. What they learn gets stored in their internal archive and eventually, without an external aid (learning card) they can recall what the word “cat” is associated to (image of furry animal) or how to spell it and so forth. Thus, mnemotechnical equipment at times helps us to learn and remember to such an extent that eventually we can rely on our “natural memory” for recall and not external objects.

COMIC


An example of how mnemotechnical equipment such as children’s learning cards work as memory tools and can teach children to correctly identify things. Double click to see larger version. Copyright Marcella Gallace 2013

Hence,   I don’t believe that memory is totally reliant on the outside world, if so it doesn’t explain how we know how to speak, or how we remember the alphabet, key dates and so on – this is something naturally and internally stored in our mind. Thus, I accept that memory can be internally recalled as well as triggered by external elements and technologies. I find the topics of memory, perception and metacommunication extremely interesting, prior to these readings and the lecture I hadn’t thought of memory in this light – I now see how memory is attached to technology, and the exterior world, aspects of research I will defiantly consider when looking at communication for the final research project.

Reference:

Classle 2011, accessed 26 March 2013, <https://www.classle.net/content-page/metacommunication-affects-meaning# >.

Collins, N 2012, ‘Smells can trigger emotional memories, study finds’, The Telegraph UK, 28 January, accessed 25 March 2013, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9042019/Smells-can-trigger-emotional-memories-study-finds.html>.

David Chalmers, The Extended Mind Revisited, 2009, Hong Kong, online video, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>.

Gallace, M 2013, pen drawing and photoshop.

Murphie, A 2013, “Arts3091, Advanced Media Issues: New Media, Cultural and Social Change”, Study Kit, University of NSW, pp.20-24.

Stiegler, B 2006, Cinema as mnemotechnics: Bernard Stiegler and the industrialisation of memory, e-book, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://www.academia.edu/1115989/Cinema_as_mnemotechnics_Bernard_Stiegler_and_the_industrialisation_of_memory>.

Stiegler, B n.d, Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation, arsindustralis, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>.

Wikipedia 2013, Extended Mind, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_Mind>.