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1st Reading Notes for a New Semester_New Media

Welcome Back to the Wonderful World of Summer’s Reading Notes!

To begin the Fall 2014 semester, we are reading Nicholas Gane and David Beer‘s book, New Media: The Key Concepts, which focuses its exploration of the discipline of New Media by looking at six core concepts (though there are others) that “facilitate theoretical and critical analysis of the new media age”:

-Network

-Information

-Interface

-Archive

-Interactivity

-Simulation

These six concepts originally fell under material forms (networks, interfaces, archives, and information) and processes (simulation and interactivity), but “have taken on a particular conceptual or metaphorical significance in recent social and media theory” (1-2). So how do we begin to sort through these concepts and begin to understand why they are the foundation to critically analyzing the discipline of New Media?

Well, for this, Ganes and Beer weed their way towards the work of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, discussing their three types of “conceptual work:

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on  website for Mike Hoolboom.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Image hosted on website for Mike Hoolboom.

-“Universal concepts” – “encyclopaedic definitions that seek to give concepts a fixed, universal meaning”

-“Marketable concepts” – “concepts geared to the production of ideas that are valued purely for their economic worth” – “commodification of knowledge”

—> part of this are “concept-driven brands, which draw their value less from the physical aspects of commodities than from the concepts that underpin and justify their design.” This makes me think of fashion ads in which it is the “lifestyle” represented by the clothes that is being sold more so than the clothes themselves.

 

Chanel Ad. Image hosted on The Stylist Fashion Blog

-“Pedagogy of the concept” – “experimental in nature and uses concepts in a flexible, open-ended way to address research problems as and when they arrive” – “Junction of problems”

One of my favorite quotes from this first chapter was Ganes and Beer quoting Deleuze and Guttari’s comment that, “All concepts are connected to problems without which they would have no meaning…” (5). Too often, it feels like a lot of the concepts being taught in theory exist just because, so it was nice to see the idea grounded that our theoretical concepts emerge out of issues and questions that are being raised in practical settings and need to beapplied as well as discussed. From this idea of concepts needing connections to real world problems, Ganes and Beer declare that concepts are essentiallyintensities that “condense around problems,” which “prompt and stimulate conceptual work and with this give it its value” (5). Problems are at the core of conceptual work.

But, what does this have to do with New Media?

Taking a step back, what does the term New Media cover?

What makes something New Media as opposed to Old Media?

Ganes and Beer turn to Lev Manovich‘s explanation that, while there are similarities between Old Media (which ranges from print media like books to cinema media) and New Media is that New Media operates “through the production and processing of numerical (predominately binary) code,” and that “the representation of cultural forms (including art, music, text) in numerical codes enables them to be reproduced, manipulated, and transmitted with unprecedented ease” (6).

Key Traits of Digital Media, as Laid out by Tony Feldman

-“Information is increasingly manipulable, networkable, dense, compressible, and impartial”

When we think of how advancements in technology are reshaping our relationship with knowledge, it’s crazy to compare where we are right now with twenty or thirty years ago. Our devices are getting smaller, but their processing powers and memory storage outstrip devices from even five years ago. We are now a society where information is easily exchanged, portable and yet intangible. Take this course as an example. When buying my books, I was given the option of buying a physical or digital copy of the first textbook. It was in the restrictions I had on time and the prospect of a lengthy wait time for my book to arrive that I chose to go with the digital copy. While reading a book digitally isn’t my favorite method (I have to constantly keep myself from getting distracted by the other activities that are also available when I am on the computer or on my phone), the digital copy is more easily accessible and far more portable. With Amazon’s new whispersync software, I can alternate between reading the book on my laptop or on my phone, sharing highlights between the two devices and keeping both updated on what page I have read to. I can also share these books with others (like my sister-in-law who lives states away) without needing something physical to send to them.

Digital Media is both more ephemeral (mostly because I know how easy it is to lose digital data, as I have been reminded a few times with this software when forgetting to save the page before attempting to import media) and permanent (archives on the internet sometimes keep what a person may wish to be lost, which becomes a major issue with things like the leaked nude photos of celebrities hacked from the Cloud).

Interesting Scholars and Concepts Introduced

Bruno Latour – “recalcitrant objects” – “concepts that make thought possible but at the same time are hard to pin down and analyze”

Nigel Thrift – “knowing capitalism”

Donna Haraway – “thinking technologies”

Citation

Gane, Nicholas and David Beer. New Media: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008. Kindle.

Kicking off the Semester


Seussing up Grad School

To de-stress from a very long, kind of grueling semester of my first year as a PhD student, I wrote this to capture some of the whackiness of grad school conversations. It’s not perfect, but it made me laugh to write. I wish I had the artistic ability to capture the images in my head as I wrote it, but this will have to do.

Dissertate On, Little Scholar of Mine

It’s time to go!

Pack up your bags.

Grad school awaits,

The committee said yes!

Your application stood out

Amongst all the rest.

An adventure is coming,

Despite the naysayers.

You’re going to go far, kid,

In your quest to be a scholar.

You arrive in the city

(Is it far from your home?),

And stock your pantries

With Vodka and ramen.

The apartment you’re living in

Might be small,

Might be cramped

But living in style

Isn’t in the plans.

Your stipend will grant you

Cheap living at best!

First day of classes.

Don’t be scared,

Don’t freak out.

The professors don’t want your soul,

Until the second semester, that is!

New things to learn,

New people to meet.

There’s no energy to squabble,

So say hi and pick a damn seat!

What will I learn?

You bravely ask the first day.

Why, a great many things!

You will start with some theory

And then add a whole lot more.

Add in some Grassman and Weed Boy, for sure!

You’ll tackle the hereness of here,

And the thingness of things,

And try to decide

If the there there exists,

For the thereness of there

Is a most contested thing!

Don’t panic!

Deep breath!

You can always write a haiku,

Every time you feel stressed.

You’re going to go far,

Little scholar in training.

Unless you start screaming,

Off with her head!

It’s a juggling act from here on out.

Presentations and conferences

And journals to boot!

Just keep passing your classes;

Brain cells have died for less!

Time for the show,

Little scholar of mine.

You have years of such trauma

Ahead in your life.

Just keep going, my dear.

On this quest to be learned

What’s another seven years?

When you can hobnob with scholars,

You’ll see I was right.

One step at a time,

In this twisty academic world,

And dissertate on

As if Foucault was on your heels.

Places to Go Once We Start Walking


The Mindmap and the Anti-Theory Tree Movement (Go Rhizomes!)

mindmap: http://popplet.com/app/#/1589875

Mindmap updated for April 20.

Mindmap updated for April 20.

This week’s mindmap update was a bit bigger than previous weeks (though not all previous weeks). I added nodes for Rainie and Wellman, Delueze and Guattari, and Scott (lonely man in this list, no?), and connected them as an extension of Castells’ Network Society Theory. I can definitely agree with Delueze and Guattari that the theory tree is dead; my mindmap is just a cluster upon cluster upon cluster, jutting out in all different directions.

For Delueze and Guattari, I included two quotes and a video I had found, focusing on the concept of Rhizome as a substitute for a theory tree as the organization is less clear.  Their argument reminds me a lot of Foucault (all roads lead to him for a reason) because the creation of new theories is not some neat passageway; rather, it seems like the creation of new theories takes a little bit from this theory here, tosses away something else, threads in a different theory, and loops back, reaching for a theory that seemed long since buried. I connected their theory to the Ecology Theory section as they draw upon ecological terms as a metaphor for the ways in which they see theory (hence the rhizomes).

When creating notes for Rainie and Wellman, I made sure to include a quote about the four elements of the networked individualism (personal,  multiuser, multitasking, and multithreaded) as it was interesting how these aspects are reshaping our own social interactions, which ties into the the second node I added for these authors. As I was reading their excerpt, what struck me was the idea that the information exchange going on between networked individuals is a microscopic exchange reflecting a much larger exchange going on between cities, metropolitan regions (*tips hat to Castells*), states, and nations. It was in this visualization of micro and macro levels of information exchange where I created a link between Rainie and Wellman and Castells.

For Scott, I didn’t add too much, but the node I did add was a picture of his sociogram. While I was a little fuzzy about this concept when I first read the excerpt (mathy looking stuff has never been my strong suit), after doing an activity where we compiled data to make our sociograms, the concept made a lot more sense. So, his figure became a node.

A Little Oncer Shipping for the Almost Finished Road Ahead