Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Lori Emerson: An Interface Perspective

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

In an interesting interview with Furtherfield, Lori Emerson summarises her new book to explain how she is using the metaphor of the ‘interface’ to critique technological consumerism. Most interestingly, Emerson uses her Mcluhan-esque approach to technological mediation to discuss how we are increasingly ‘locked into’ using dominant social media brands.

“corporations are making it as difficult as possible to perceive these interfaces and to see how they’re mediating and even determining our experience.”

It seems to me that these corporations have established dominance not necessarily through their technological superiority but through the aggressive acquisition of successful social media start-ups and by then imposing restrictions on how they are connected. As Emerson indicates, these increasingly narrow options are then fed back to us through a culture of branding, in which “words like “seamless” and “natural” are code for “closed.””

Early notions of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) challenged existing monolithic platforms and institution-centric models of content delivery, yet subsequent forms of PLE reification coincided with the emergence of largely commercial and increasingly monopolised social media.

Perhaps some of the original notions of PLE live on in the guise of the technologically facilitated ‘life-hacks’ and ‘tool-kits’ that are routinely shared on the blogosphere, typically oriented towards increased personal productivity and workflow efficiency. Yet whilst some offer the potential for work-arounds, which may traverse the ‘locked in’ operability between multiple platforms described above, it seems many are often almost exclusively limited to Apple and Google products.

Perhaps a shift in thinking from a ‘personal’ paradigm to that of the ‘community’ is required here, but whilst Emerson acknowledges the alternatives offered by the rise of maker and hacker communities, she suggests these are also becoming increasingly corporatised.

Emerson advocates a shift away from an obsession with efficiency and productivity, towards more creative and ‘poetic’ adaptations of technology. However, it seems to me that such pursuits often remain limited to an elite; to the technology enthusiast or professional, with any attempt at scalability for the rest of us inexorably negated by the political and economic constraints of the organisations and systems in which they operate.

Shedding Our Fur

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

“Technologies have always changed us. Fire gave us a way to cook meat, essentially pre-digesting food and altering the evolution of both our teeth and digestive tract. Wearing fur allowed us to shed our own. Likewise, text changed the way we process and remember information, and television changed the way our brains relate to three-dimensional space. Digital media now extends some of these trajectories, while adding a few of its own.” (pp. 32-33)

Douglas Rushkoff | Program or be Programmed

Rushkoff, D. (2010). Program or be programmed: Ten commands for a digital age. New York: OR Books.

Don’t call that technology ‘Lifesaver’

Monday, July 18th, 2011

In a celebrated scene from The Jerk (1979), dim-witted Steve Martin – excited by a dog’s apparent ability to save lives – is rebuked by an aggrieved observer, who suggests he calls it something very different – which Martin proceeds to do for the remainder of the film, to comic effect.

Similarly, it’s easy to get enthusiastic and passionate about a specific technology, sometimes to the point where it seems we cannot live without it. But it’s worth remembering that we draw on our own experiences, knowledge and culturally defined values to determine the affordances of technologies, and that our desire to share our excitement with others might not always be appreciated.

I’m a Mac, I’m a PC

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Coming across George Lange’s photo of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates from 1991, I was struck by how well the postures, the attire and the interesting perspective capture what Apple and Microsoft represented at that time.

How different might a photo taken today look?

George Lange | Fortune Magazine (July 21, 1991) (Getty Images)

Wooh! New Adam Curtis

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

An Adam Curtis TV series is always something of an event, and his new work, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace (starting tomorrow on BBC2) promises to be a welcome addition to an already impressive resume.

His previous works include Pandora’s Box (1992) – on political and technocratic rationalism – The Century of the Self (2002) – Freud and mass-consumerism – and The Power of Nightmares (2004) – radical Islamism and American Neoconservatism.

Curtis’s distinctive style combines critical insight – typically delivered in a calm, reassuring voice – with a highly creative use of imagery and sound. Though hardly unique, his technique of mixing archive footage of reportage and popular culture with eclectic soundtracks pre-empted web-based mash-ups by years, and the effect is still disturbing, compelling and at times, hypnotic.

In this new work, Curtis takes on the internet, suggesting that the myths of utopianism and democratisation that evolved from ecology, systems thinking and the hippy counter culture, are serving to contribute to the illusion of social connectivity and the perpetuation of a global capitalism.

Much of Adam Curtis’s previous work is available to view at thoughtmaybe, and to download from Internet Archive. Hopefully, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace will be added sometime in the future. In the meantime, it will no doubt be available for viewing in the UK on BBC iPlayer. Adam Curtis also blogs at