Thesis Preface & Intro 4/4/12

Here is my preface and Introduction for my thesis as they stand right now. 

            I want to start by giving you some inside information as to why I find it important to be asking questions of technology. There could be a general concern for how people embrace the growing world of technology, or a simple fascination with how the virtual world is beginning to shape individuals’ psyches. But my interest lies on a much more personal level. I am part of the Millennial Generation. This generation is defined by being the first digital natives. They grew up with regular computer access. The World Wide Web hit mainstream and quickly became ordinary in daily lives. Digital technology became more present and accessible, bringing to life the science fiction of cell phones in everyone’s pockets and similar gadgets from forward looking novels. However, despite my date of birth placing me well within that definition, my siblings were a part of the previous generation, Generation X.  This generation was formed in entirely different circumstances. In relation to the digital technologies that so impacted the Millennials, Generations X’ers were introduced to its possibilities and promises, but did not witness it pervasiveness. Generation X saw the signs of the great transition from analog to digital, but remained rooted in the analog.
            There was a generational divide between siblings in my house that I believe in some respects gave me a unique perspective. My family would be classified as “late adopters”. They were not anti-technology or luddites in any way, their frame of reference was simply the physical world. That was their comfort zone. I can remember having a computer in the house when I was fairly young, but it was tucked away in the attic, out of sight, out of mind. Our first connection to the Internet frontier came in the early 2000’s during my high school career. I got my first cell phone in 2004, and it was the free one that came with the plan. The first time I used a digital camera was in 2005. I never owned (nor much played) a gaming console until 2007 when I was in college. All of this could mean almost nothing. There are plenty of other people with similar stories, but for me it allows me to start looking at the philosophical questions that have come about through this massive shift in frame of reference. I grew up in a home that was most comfortable in an analog world. I now live and work in the midst of the current society of digital connectivity. So, my research, the questions I ask and the work I make are not simply academic in nature. Essentially I am asking how to best exist in a world that is hurtling towards virtual existence.
            Changes in technology have an immense power to change us as people. Let me be clear, we do not set out to change ourselves through the tools we produce, rather our goal is often simply to find a better way of performing a given task. But each new technology in turn manufactures new ways of going through life, and the resulting behavioral shifts have a deeper impact on our identities than we could ever foresee.  In this paper I will address the question, “Does technology cause a shift in how we perceive our relationships and ourselves?” Then I will discuss two implications of that shift in depth in a kind of cost-benefit analysis of our current technology situation. It is within these two areas that my visual work is situated, asking the questions that I feel are being glazed over, ignored, or even covered up for the sake of advancement. However, I am not anti-technology; I am skeptical of all the marketing of shiny new things without being willing to ask difficult questions about how using them will change us. My conclusion is an ambiguous one. There are clear global and individual benefits to a life filled with technologies, but on the other hand, those things exert an unrelenting tug towards becoming something I do not want to become.

… There are about 24 more pages right now and I’m still going strong. Wish me luck. 
And don’t tell me about spelling/grammatical errors. 

Memory and Technology

A book I’m reading for thesis says that the “Internet is a technology of forgetfulness”. That sounds counterintuitive at first. Everything that can be archived, is, ensuring that nothing will be forgotten (as long as compatibility holds out, but that’s another issue). But with that as such a reassurance, I have no motivation to remember anything, ever. If Facebook didn’t remind us of our friend’s birthdays, would you still remember them? There are almost no questions that can’t be answered with a few taps on the keyboard, but what does that do to us as people? It separates us from any ownership of knowledge, of the stuff it takes to live life. We constantly rely on this external force to remember for us, and eventually it will come to the point where we forget how to be people and how to merely exist.

Anyway, I’ve been working pretty intensely back and forth on my written and visual thesis. I have found that they are informing one another in a really beneficial way, to the point that I think I’ll need to continue doing some reading and writing in future work.

These are two different versions of an image that I”m currently working on. They are created by combining an image from every single one of my Facebook friends’ profiles. I wanted to make it after thinking about identity, information overload, and the ambiguity vs. specificity that is at play online. It was a surprise (and a happy one) that a reasonably specific form was created. I was expecting a blur, but instead I got a new figure, that if they actually existed I think they would be recognizable.
Right now on my written thesis I’m working on filling out my section on Google as the “dialectical good evil”(Christian Fuchs, Google Capitalism). There are an awful lot of things at play, but when looking at the situation from one step back, we have to ask whether Google is actually holding to its slogan “Don’t be Evil”, or if its exploitation of the “audience commodity” reveals its true colors as just another money grubbing global corporation. You’ll have to actually read my thesis to find out more.

Thesis Mind Map & Translation

Here is my starting point for organizing my written thesis. Good luck trying to make sense of it all, but to me it actually helped to write out all the stuff that was trapped in my brain and to organize it on paper in relation to all the other stuff I’m thinking over. I’m excited about the directions my research and work are taking me.

A Mind Map is a terrible thing to waste
A Mind Map is a Terrible Thing to Waste

And believe it or not, all that turned into this:

Identity and Connective Technology
Table of Contents
1. Preface
2. Introductions
3. Colors that end with “urple”
            Technology Natives are Beating their War Drums
            How Technology is Reshaping our Brains (literally)
            Socrates Hates Calculators
            Why This is Different & the Same as Before & Why That Does not Matter
4. The answer is 42, now what?
            The Internet is a Commi!
                        Google as the “Dialectical Good Evil”
                        The Hyperlink Paradox           
                        “F” Reading
                        All Hail the Hive
                        Reorganizing is the New Innovating: the death of just about everything
           Identity Disorder
                        Centripetal and Centrifugal
                        Web 2.0 Gone Wild
                        Life is like a…
                        Blindly laying offerings on the altar of technology
That’s the current table of Contents for my written thesis. I’m sure it will change as I go along, but I got excited when I realized that if I were to pick up a book at the library and look at this table of contents, I would probably keep reading. I’m thinking that might be a good sign.