Visionaries and Notions of Cyberspace

Cyberspace: ‘A term introduced by the novelist William Gibson in 1984 to describe an abstract virtual space created in part by networks of interconnecting computers and in part by the human imagination.’ (Oxford Dictionary of Communication and Media, 2011)

The contemporary concern of cyberspace and virtual reality is something that William Gibson regards as a consensual hallucination. We have categorically labeled demographics, aiming to represent and stereotype behaviours associated with technology and the Internet. However, this assumption of generational difference regarding media consumption is somewhat inaccurate. Generation X and Generation Y are simply measured by the way they have adapted through mass transitions of technology and media forms. Generation Z (“The Google Generation”) may have only ever been surrounded by a digital environment, but this does not necessarily mean they are more or less dependent on technology or that their media consumption is higher.

The way I see it, all demographics are in the same boat, with a different view over the edge. Generation X has had the privilege to grow through decades of technological convergence, and whether they choose to keep up-to-date and participate, ultimately comes down to personal choice. Vannevar Bush examines past inventions in his article “As We May Think”,  reflecting that even back in 1945, scientific developments have benefitted humanity in ways never thought possible. The stereotype that Gen X is inadequate with relation to new technologies perhaps evolved from the majority being comfortable in their already non-technologically dependent lifestyles. They lived for so long without tech-savvy gadgets, and may not see the need or convenience. Gen Y have been familiarised with new technologies at an imperative time of mental growth, presumably connecting them more dependently to new forms of media, in particular social networking. The emergence of selfies is an example of Gen Y’s obsession with self-representation and the need for constant validation. Behaviours of Gen Y on networking platforms typically surround issues regarding attention-worthy online and offline identities.

GOOGLE_chappattImage source

This paves a way for Generation Z. The concern here is that without knowledge of life with no online profile, social identities are being completely constructed on social media platforms. Furthermore, educational concerns are at an all time high, as The Google Generation’s  general attitude toward online content is the infinite ability of having ‘facts at their fingertips’. The immense amount of information being scanned through immobilizes a creative and independent thought process. With Gen Z deeming search engines such as Google as an Internet brand,2014 being the fourth year in a row it has topped the most trusted Internet Brand List. Research libraries have no option but to adjust to the enormous transformation in the way that scholarly information is being sought and used electronically. Social media platforms have conditioned the young to expect dynamic and personalised content experiences, which research libraries are struggling to compete with. The shift from the library as a physical space to a virtual environment has immeasurable implications. With high demand for around-the-clock accessibility and immediate answers, librarians are anxious and threatened by having to match these services provided by Google. The materialization of social media is altering the nature and fabric of the World Wide Web. We have strayed from an Internet constructed by certain authorities to one where content is being generated by millions. This notion is of specific interest to librarians and publishers as it blurs the line between information producers and information consumers, by users having the ability to create and share their own content.

‘In a real sense, we are all Google generation now: the demographics of Internet and media consumption are rapidly eroding this presumed generational difference.’ (Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future: A Ciber Briefing Paper, 2008, p21)

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If You Can Think of It – It’s About to Happen.

In the not-so-distant future, everyone and everything in the world will be connected to the Internet. This phenomenon is already in its early stages – and is known as the “Internet of Things” (Kevin Ashton, 2009). There are approximately 2 billion people using the Internet right now, however the Internet contains a larger number of data. Our ability to produce information has far exceeded our ability to control it. We know that the Internet has extreme potential, now it’s just a matter of developing an effective way to harness it. Technologist John Barrett states “Every major global government, and every major economic block, is investing heavily in the IoT”.

Since the emergence of the Internet, we’ve recognised a unique sense of harmony to the dimensions of life. Now, by accessing real-time data of the way systems are interacting, we can better understand global dynamics and thus make more intelligent decisions. From space, the world is visible as a neural network with cities as nodes, a literal image that we are a system of systems. We can see it, hear it, and capture it – the world has virtually developed a central nervous system, it is early days but the planet is speaking to us. Ongoing accessibility and innovations make for a very efficient society, and with the matrixing of services we will generate more resilient systems.

outer-space-internet-lights-planets-earth-europe-network-HD-WallpapersSource

The Internet of Things cannot be simply explained, so I recommend watching this lecture by Dr. John Barrett. Barrett describes the Internet as a digital cloud or universe, 4000 Exabyte’s in size (whoa). All of our lives are about to change – by merging the physical world to the Internet. We will be able to control and communicate with everything from anywhere – goods, objects, machines, appliances, buildings, vehicles, animals, plants, soil and even humans will become a part of the IoT (we kind of already are). The possibilities are only restricted by our imagination… so buckle your seat belts, hold your horses, and put down your Smartphones. Actually pick them back up, because soon you will be able to point your device at anything or anyone and learn as much as you can about it through embedded circuits. Barrett quotes, “Facebook will look like a minor event”.  So if you were concerned about privacy issues on social media… think again. One major concern regarding the IoT is the devalued notion of privacy. Google has the potential to become a real life search engine as everything will be tagged, locatable, and can give us information about itself and its surrounding environment (via RFID – Radio Frequency Identification).

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 1.07.05 PMSource

Another major concern is if everything in the world is connected, issues of terrorism and hacking will be magnified. The IoT will be extremely vulnerable, creating immense opportunities for the security software industry. This may seem frightening and preposterous, but it is a reality. Pre-schoolers are now learning on iPads – young children brought into this technologically dependent world will embrace the IoT effortlessly. However, I think it will take us (gen X & Y) some time to get used to.

The Alternate Dimension… of Attention

The most important thing in the attention economy is relevancy. An article by Alex Iskold explores the way users interact with online content, and why their attention is valuable. Iskold states that the more relevant a website’s content is, the more likely visitors are to stay on the page, thus increasing sale opportunities. But what can companies do to improve the likelihood of visitors buying their products or clicking on an advertisement? Personalisation. Sites such as Google and Facebook use personal information to filter content specific to your needs. Consumers tend to forget that their favourite search engine or social networking site are businesses (because they are free to use) – and the more information they know about you the better. Iskold claims your tailored search results and ads are typically stemmed from browsing history, online profiles etc.

pay-attentionSource

While browsing websites is technically free, you are still supplementing their value. For the currency of the online economy isn’t money, but attention. And by having the freedom to select where your attention is, your attention has worth. This is the attention economy.

“We want a world where you don’t have to ask for help or permission to write out loud.”
Clay Shirky

While online content value may be depreciating, this is what makes blogging more significant. The overflow of content indicates an innovative and progressive world, where everyone has the freedom to express themselves. If there’s so much of it this suggests that we have found a way to make global publishing effortless, and seem natural. Sounds pretty good to me.

“Networks are the Matrix”

The significance of living in a network society is that networks provide fundamental structure to our lives. Only recently has the media become an influential public space of our time, forming and shaping shared societal experiences. In light of this, Manuel Castells from this weeks reading stated that technology does not determine society, however some social structures could not have developed without it. Communication comes naturally to humans and now the logic, interests and conflicts of this network society globally dominate us. It is not always the message we are sending, but rather the medium through which it is processed. For example, a common frowned upon message to send through social media would be the “break up”. Often in high school girls/guys would be offended and shocked if they were broken up with through social media sites, however if it was a phone call it seemed to not have that much of a detrimental effect.

Charles Arthur in an article for The Guardian referred to networks as the ‘Matrix’.  The first thing that came to my mind when seeing the words ‘network’ and ‘matrix’ together was Google. Google seems to be the center of the Internet. It monitors you closely through every use, pushing ads and even channeling results based on your browsing history. By purely signing up to a gmail (Google Mail) account you now have a YouTube and Google+ account. Regardless if you are actively using these accounts, Google can still track your every move just by being signed in. But it doesn’t stop there; artist Erica Scourti made a video called “Life In Adwords”. Scourti emailed a daily diary to her Gmail account for a year, and then created a collaboration of herself listing the suggested adwords made by Google. So even in what you think is a personal online space, the content of her emails were identified and turned into ‘sale-able’ advertisements. As we use sites such as Facebook and Google as a networking tool it is doing the very same thing by extracting our personal information for its benefit.

Another example would be that you now have to pay Facebook for your posts to reach all of your Friends – it only shows them to those who you interact with most. However, large companies and corporations can pay Facebook to share your post with everyone if you are to mention them in a positive way. For instance “My coffee from Gloria Jeans today was amazing” instead of only going to a handful of your Facebook Friends, Gloria Jeans will pay to have your status reach the maximum audience possible.

References:

Arthur, C 2013, Google+ isn’t a social network; it’s The Matrix, The Guardian, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.theguardian.com/technology/blog/2013/jun/04/google-plus-the-matrix

Castells, M 2004, ‘Afterword: why networks matter’ in Network Logic: Who governs in an interconnected world?, pp. 221-224

Killalea, D 2013, Texting, Facebook are the worst ways to break up with someone,
news.com.au, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/texting-facebook-are-the-worst-ways-to-break-up-with-someone/story-fnet09p2-1226669481242

Outcasting 2013, Life in Adwords / Erica Scourti, Outcasting, weblog post, 23 April, viewed 04/08/2013, <http://www.outcasting.org/2013/04/life-adwords-erica-scourti/