Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Month: April 2008 (page 1 of 3)

Lollipop Ladies and Ubiquitous Surveillance

2096797717 60Db06C726Just a quick note, but in Britain lollipop ladies may soon be outfitted with cameras to monitor traffic at dangerous intersections. It’s the children, of course, who are motivating this new deployment of cameras – cameras will presumably cut down on dangerous drivers. Whether attaching cameras to little old ladies will be effective, it has been shown that traffic cameras have been incredibly effective in some areas of the US in reducing dangerous driving. These cameras have been so successful, in fact, that cities are removing their cameras because drivers are committing fewer crimes; the cameras are simply not profitable.

I wonder if Britain will treat cameras attached to old ladies the same way?

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Boost Up Your Net With ISP Injections

2327009749 9D387846E6I’ve written about Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technologies before, and their various potential privacy issues. Generally, I’ve talked about how the possibility of having your ISP persistently monitor your online actions could stifle the substantive abilities exercising of autonomy, liberty, and freedom of conscious. I won’t revisit those issues here, though I’d recommend checking out my earlier post on DPI. What follows examines how ISPs are injecting information into the webpages that you visit, which prevents you from viewing webpages as they were designed.

Web Tripwires

When you visit a webpage, your computer downloads a little bit of code and renders it on your screen – the web is an environment where visual stimulation necessitates copying data. Recently, researchers from the University of Washington and the International Computer Science Institute have discovered that about 1.3% of the time what is displayed on your computer’s screen has been altered. This having been said,

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Social Networking: The Consumption?

Facebook CorruptionA little while ago, the New York Times ran a piece where they discussed the ‘Sticky-factor’ of Facebook. Effectively the article boiled down to the fact that it’s a nightmare to exit the Facebook ecosystem – actually removing your data from their ecosystem borders on being a Sisyphysian task. The most poignant part of the article reads:

It’s like the Hotel California,” said Nipon Das, 34, a director at a biotechnology consulting firm in Manhattan, who tried unsuccessfully to delete his account this fall. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

The Obligations of Social Networking

Imagine this: you adopt some service or another and it doesn’t require you to exchange the popular unit measurement for access to that service (i.e. you don’t shell out cash for access). That said, you do provide an alternate form of capital – one that tends to elude a clear monetary value – your personal information. You give information concerning your religious orientation, your gender, relationship status, etc. Now, you’re not required to put all of that information into a public space, but what you do provide should be accurate to improve the service for both yourself and – this is the catchy part – the other people who are using the service. The system is more valuable both to others, and to yourself, by providing as much accurate information as possible.

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The Digital Workshop and Analogue Drill Presses

One of the memorable things about my Grandfather was his workshop. There were tools absolutely everywhere (perfectly organized – he just had a lot of them!). As someone who’s never really enjoyed using power tools, his workshop was a pure expression of bored terror for me – they didn’t hold any appeal, but i was always worried that I’d come out with one arm less than when I walked in. I don’t know if it was something someone told me (“Power tools can hurt/maim/kill you – don’t touch your Grandfather’s!”) or the commercial in the 80s where a robot had its various limbs cut off with the rejoinder at the end “I can replace my limbs. You can’t.”

Maybe it’s just a genetic deficiency of some sort.

The Mediation of Digital Content

Regardless of any genetic aberrations, I’ve always been drawn to reading/writing/producing literary content. I’ve developed incredibly crude websites (this one included) that are functional without being ‘cool’. My digital creations and content spaces have never paralleled the plaque that was created for my Nanny and her cat, Puss, for example. There is something that has (and seems to continue to) alway impressed me about physical creation; its very tangibility and physical being-in-the-world, where it becomes clearly ready-at-hand is impressive. That’s not to say that a digital creation can’t operate on the same metaphysical levels – I’d argue until I was blue in the face that there were clear ontological similarities – but it doesn’t strike as direct, perhaps because accessing digital creations seems somehow further removed/mediated by technologies. This mediation, in turn, prevents the subject from fully comprehending what they are creating if they are using ‘short-hand’ (i.e. programs that automate a significant element of the more challenging aspects of content generation, such as the code that this blog sits upon) and enslaves them to their technology.

Technology as a Defining Element of Metabolism

I’m certain that at least one of my colleagues would suggest that that last comment surrounding the enslavement to technology would demonstrate an ontological-illness/blockage that has to be overcome prior to realizing the full ethical and ontological significance of technology itself. To suggest that technology, as a facet of our metabolic processes, can enslave us is as absurd as claiming that my hand, foot, or eye can enslave me. While true that any of these limbs is capable of momentarily diverting my attention as it comes into contact with the world, that diversion should likely be considered a regulatory biological process. Technology, once understood as an element of our metabolic existence, thrusts us before our traditionally understood selves, both in material and metaphysical senses. This said, understanding technology as an element of ourselves, just as our epidermis is an element of what composes us, involves claiming that technology (and as a result ourselves) are drawn forward before ourselves, only to be recognized for what we are and have been. We create and cannot comprehend its implications until it operates in the world – our comprehension of metabolism is predicated on our recognition of what has become, and less upon what will become. Our metabolism structures our very Being-in-the-world, and we can only understand it after being thrown into it; it is impossible to perfectly comprehend how we will be pitched.

Metabolism’s Digitization

So what does this mean for my digital creations? To return to my Grandfather’s creations, in the process of creating a facet of himself was necessarily injected into the project and then released into the environment. Retaining core facets of his project, just as a fragment of hair holds a person’s DNA, his technological creations blended with others’ metabolic projects. In doing so, a commons was created, one where technology served to bind those who necessarily participate(d) in the narrative of the self-that-has-been-projected. In other words, a facet of my Grandfather was in the sign he created for my Nanny, and that her usage and integration of that metabolic process into her own inextricably bound the two through a common expression of metabolism.

In my case, a digital creation functions in a similar manner, though seemingly with a significant difference. In the creation of the flash banner at the top of this post, a series of technological artifacts we taken, molded, and reshaped – I absorbed material from my environment and, through a metabolic process, those materials were fundamentally transformed. This transformation, however, was and remains predicated on the technological constructs of others – much as a tree’s limb requires the soil, water, sun, and other common environmental stimuli, my construct is predicated on the social, technological, and biological environment(s) that I exist in. Moreover, the extension of social and technological from biological, while significant insofar as it provides an analytic differentiation of terms and metabolic zones, is just that: it functions dominantly as an analytic differentiation. With an understanding of technology as a metabolic, and thus biological, process, we cannot differentiate the social, environmental, technological, biological, etc in a fashion that we would understand according to common parlance.

Is Digital Ontologically Similar to Analogy Metabolic Processes?

I did note that there was a difference between my creation of a flash banner and of my Grandfather’s plaque, though I’m uncertain precisely how to understand it. My creation is digital – it is a perfect logical sequencing of 1s and 0s, a creation that is analytically perfect. My Grandfather’s creation, however, is an analogue process that is riddled with the intricacies and uncertainties of life itself. Of course one could return by claiming that my process is as biologically ‘imperfect’ as my Grandfather’s process by the very fact that I am here, as a biological being, working within a metabolic structure to generate this life-embued artifact. I would have to question how strongly that ontological similarity can be carried, however – I don’t want to commit myself to either an affirmation or rejection of the metabolic similarity at an ontological level, but I do have my doubts that the digital and analogue creation retain an identical ontological form.

Whereas normally I’d like to end with a clear ‘aha!’ moment, where I reveal a clear solution/logical avenue that is compelling, I’m still left without a clear stance. Are my digital tools as ubiquitous as my Grandfather’s drill presses and saws? Is there genuinely an ontological difference between the cold math of 1s and 0s and the impact of a hammer slamming upon a nail if we understand technology as a core facet of our metabolic structures?

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