Separation, the Most Challenging Part of Ubiquitous Media

Having reviewed the topics we’ve been through, I tried to conclude the whole idea in the word ‘separation’. Though the mass media tell us about ‘Earth Village’ or how Internet and other computing technologies bring us together, we actually experience an opposite feeling. It’s not only about how interpersonal relationship has been reduced, but also about how the integrity of an individual’s mind and body is broken down, with the involvement of ubiquitous media.

Think of the surveillance technologies. The report about how citizens monitor each other still shocks me. It sounds like a plot in 1984, by George Orwell, but the truth is even harsher, with pervasive CCTV around the city and all the data collected from every citizen, and the check mechanism of online information. People then have to try their best to protect their privacy, cause everything could be collected and some day turns them in, and that’s how surveillance separate us.

Cloud, the Enclosure 3.0, is also an evidence of separation of interpersonal relationship. It’s kind of like monarchal social stratum. People are more involved in a relationship with official platforms with gigantic database, but less with other people.

Apart from the foregoing separation of interpersonal relationship, with increasing digital technologies in our life, smart phones, wearable devices, we may foresee a possibly separation of mind and body. Think of the concept of brain in a vat proposed by Hilary Putman. We are actually facing with the similar situation. In a near future, we may stop writing or typing anything because computers will generate our ideas. We don’t walk, we don’t go to work, and we don’t have parties. And then those pragmatists may claim that our physical bodies are no longer useful, but a waste of resources. We surely could run the intelligent function well without legs and hands. Is human intimate relationship necessary? We can fall in love with computer programs anyway.  

To make a conclusion, separation is the most important reason I think ubiquitous media challenging, and perhaps the most profound influence it’s going to have on our social behaviors.


Message is Everywhere

Message is everywhere. Walking on the street, looking around, you can see that people waste no space to convey their ideas. It is comforting to find some vivid tangible messages around us, when we gain most of our knowledge staring at our phones and laptops in this ubiquitous media era.  Some handwriting ones are even cuter. 

Logos on their vehicles, of course, and posters along the streets, for commercial purposes.

Those with less budgets, paste their ads on any plain stuff, wire pole, mailbox, bus station board... When people walk by, they may have a look of it. 

 Some notes are made in a mysterious way, that I can barely understand. But they do seem to serve some particular use.

 Sometimes people simply write down their feelings then.

Some walls are meant to be doodled!


The Commercial Monopoly in Enclosure 3.0

Having read the concerns of the cloud service in the Cloud: Boundless Digital Potential or Enclosure 3.0? , I find myself fall into the same negative angle of viewing the flourishing cloud service, especially in the commercial monopoly respect. As I plan to discuss in my final research paper, the development of new type of technology might be an exciting progression for large companies, but for most small struggling companies whose budgets are relatively limited, it is no doubt another drawback comparing to the upgraded companies.

Many large companies distribute their apps on IOS and Android platforms. For example, Wechat, the largest standalone-messaging app in China, initial released in January 2011 and speedily occupied a large market share. One of the most important reason is it’s produced by Tencent, the forth-largest Internet company in the world, which promises it sufficient budget of the development of app, the purchase of server and the maintenance fee. However, it is unaffordable for small companies. Even though they do have developed their apps, the expensive developing and advertising fee excludes them from being excellent and well known, which makes them impossible to compete with large Internet companies like Tencent.

From Internet era to Cloud era, the surviving possibilities diminish for small companies also because of the different characteristics of Internet and Cloud. Comparing to Internet era, Cloud era stresses more on convenient information stream rather than the share of information. People are more likely to upload and download things from a certain server instead of browsing around the Cloud, which decreases their chances of encountering something new. It is not hard to imagine that very soon, several large companies would divide the whole Cloud up and provide us information only profitable to them.


Participatory Panopticon

I like the concept of ‘participatory panopticon’ for it clearly suggests the well-developed pattern of interpersonal communications in the ubiquitous media era. Participatory panopticon, according to Mark Andrejevic in Ispy, means ‘a form of consensual submission to surveillance in part because the watched are also doing the watching.’ It could be widely adapted to various aspects of our daily life.

Social media platforms are apparently good study objects for lateral monitoring. It is interesting to observe some common but unspoken social psychologies there. For example, there’s a function on Renren.com, a Chinese social networking service, called ‘invisible visit’. It enables us to set up a list of people who will not find our visits in their ‘Recently visitors’ list. Therefore, we can go to his or her personal page, view every texts, pictures and even others’ comments on them, without leaving a trace. It delicately reveals our desires of surveillance without being found out. However, it is also part of ‘participatory panopticon’, because while you invisibly monitor someone, the others are watching you in the same way.

Part of reason why people spend so much time on social media, as for me, is the mutual lateral monitoring. Before social media gets popular, the way people get to know each other is based on face-to-face communication. They did google someone when they want to have a better idea of him, but what they can get are his fragmentary traces online. However, social media save this situation. Take Facebook as an example. For the first time, up to 1 billion people with their true identities are gathered in one communication platform, carefully building up their virtual images by posting words and pictures of their lifestyle frequently. It greatly satisfies our voyeurism. When we are interested in someone, we are likely to ask for his Facebook account and look through every posts of his page.


What Singularity Point May Bring About?

Reading Alone Together, the thing interests me most is the definition of being alive. There’s a vivid story in the article that after a 12-year-old tamagotchi ‘past way’, its owner wrote a poem in memory of it. It might sound funny when thinking people mourn for a black and white pixel game in the shape of an egg, but if you regard it as a companion for quite a long time who would ask for your care and concerns day and night, you might find it reasonable.

As is mentioned in the article, the characteristics exclusively possessed by human being have disappeared. After 1990s, artificial intelligences are thought to have both feelings and needs, which were once considered unique to human beings comparing to animals and computers. It blurs the boundary between being alive or not. In the film A.I. by Steven Spielberg, a robot boy David is designed to be nurtured by families who lose their children or desperately want one. Monika’s son Martin is seriously sick in hospital and in great grief, Monika takes David home for accompanies. He completely rely on Monika because he is ordered to love her for his whole life. He cries when mom doesn’t love him, stand out to protect her when he senses danger, and he feels jealous when Martin comes back home and win back mom’s heart. He’s such a real boy, but also he’s consisted of rubber skins, electronic components and steel bones. The question is shall we consider him alive?

The thing may even gets more sophisticated when taking in the imagination of ‘singularity point’. As is described by the author, singularity point is when artificial intelligence gets the critical moment between they are limited-functioned and they are omnipotent. There’s a guess that after we get that point, we may merge with the robotic and achieve immortality, which again raises the unsolved issue concerning the definition is being alive. To think boldly, there’s going to be a various forms of the human-robot merging, like a disabled human with steel leg, or a physically dead person with wires connected to his brain, which keep him conscious. The latter one might seems reluctant to be considered alive, since we are not used to keep relationships with a brain soaking in nutrient solution, but how can I say he’s not alive, I mean, there isn’t any crucial difference between him and the guy with an artificial limb, is there?

Therefore, what singularity point may bring about, as for me, is a series of philosophical problems and following moral issues, like the legislation of the protection of A.I., or the social status of human being and A.I. or new rules of the distribution of recourses. Apart from being ‘technological rapture’, as is described by the author, it may also be an ethical disaster.


Dystopian Concerns of Ubiquitous Media

One interesting opinion of dystopian of high technology is about the adaptation of high technology. It is presupposed by me or by most of the young generation that it is not a problem to handle the ever changing operation systems of computers, updates of different kind of software, various dazzling type of apps used for every aspect of our daily life. However, when give it a second thought, I find the reality is not even close.

Taking my family as an example, which is a normal middle-level one with general background of education in Eastern China. Not to mention my grandparents who barely give any attention to the Internet concerning tasks, which keeps them away from the benefits and convenience brought by the technologies and live nearly unchanging life ever since twenty years ago, even my parents found it difficult to keep up with new lifestyle, though they try their best to plunge into it. My mother is driven by her will to “see” me after I go to a university away from home and learns to video chat online. And also, she strives to do the online shopping, hoping to grab something cheap and good like the others always tell her so. However, for her lack of knowledge of how computer works, it always frightens her and makes her nervous when every single error occurs, and then she turns to me for help, describing it as a terrible disaster.

Are there such situations that people who are not familiar with Internet live harder than before, because the old fashioned style has been completely replaced by the new one? Even they don’t expect to have that much entertainment or that attractive functions, their life quality has also been harmed? Right now I haven’t come up with an example, but if it exists, that should be a problem. And also, if the high technology blocks the elder generation from living diversified and meaningful life, even if it hasn’t harm their old lifestyle, that should be suspected as well. It reminds me of an old man who once told me in a short conversation, that his life means nothing but picking up his grandson from kindergarten.


Some Thoughts of Social System Theory

According to the social system theory, a human being could be divided into an individual body, an individual mind and an individual communication, among which there’s no hierarchy relation and are completely at equal position. It is easy to find it logical when talking about the relation of mind and body: After all, mind and body exist interdependently, you cannot expect a mindless body to work functionally, or any thoughts to be generated without a brain. However, as for me, communication doesn’t stand at the same height with body and mind. It is rare but possible that a human being exists out of any communication system but his mind and body still work normally. Just think of the very first moment of our birth: Body is there, mind is there, but communication is not. It seems to me that communication comes latter and only at the premise of mind-body duality, instead of the “mind-body-communication trinity” mentioned by social system theory.

To prove the communication system and psychic system are separated, the author illustrates that communication is never equal to what is thought and felt in the mind. I do agree with this single point, as is cliché that language barrier keeps us away from the truth, but I don’t consider it a tenable evidence of the separation of communication and mind. As for me, it merely proves that mind cannot be fully translated into communication, rather than the point that communication is independent of mind.

In explaining the operational closure of social system, the example of communist economy in Eastern Europe is appealing to me. Instead of bringing up those really detailed elements, like corruption or monocracy, It offers a general understanding of the failure, which is caused by the attempt for a economic system to play the role of a political one. I find it interesting because it somehow suggests the future of some other socialist countries, in which the economic system, cultural system are both taken over by political system.