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Welcome to our weekly segment on Publics and Publishing. Last week we spoke about the physical book in comparison to the e-book with John Naughton and NPR Correspondent, Lynn Neary. They had contradictory views on the matter, but one thing they agreed upon was that, when publishing changes, so does society.

Today, we are in the midst of a new media revolution, and I’d like to pose the question, how has publishing transformed education? From the invention of the Printing Press in 1440 to the invention of Wikipedia in 2001, I’d like to consider the impact these two publication technologies have had on how we transmit and accumulate knowledge.

When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, it was widely regarded as the most influential event in the second millennium. It transformed education, politics, science, entertainment, and revolutionised the way people conceived and described the world they lived in. The printing press made it possible for the common person to hold a book in their hands for the first time.

Previously, books had to be copied by hand, which meant that they were extremely expensive and often dominated by political and religious despots. By the close of the 15th century, there were over 250 printing shops scattered all over Europe, producing more than 30,000 different publications, circulating among one hundred million Europeans.

Before the printing press it was only the privileged elites, such as priests and academics who were able to gain access to books. Printing stimulated the literacy of common people and eventually came to have a deep and lasting impact on their private lives. Libraries were able to store greater quantities of information at much lower cost. And by giving all scholars the same text to work from, it made progress in critical scholarship faster and more reliable.

Now let’s fast-forward to the launch of Wikipedia in 2001. Wikipedia has played a major role in the democratisation of knowledge, attracting over 400 million viewers across the globe.

Co-founder, Larry Sanger states that, “professionals are no longer needed for the bare purpose of the mass distribution of information.”

To talk more about Wikipedia and how it is transforming education is Australian writer and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies, Megan Fairway. Now, Megan, you’ve talked a lot in the past about how publishing is transforming society, can you start by telling us what is happening now?

MEGAN: What we are experiencing is the collapse of the corporate monopoly of publishing and the rise Web 2.0.

David Gauntlett defines Web 2.0 as the advent and rapid maturing of so-called social, or open, media. No one owns these digital spaces and in comparison to traditional media, they are barely regulated.

In Clay Shirky’s book ‘Here Comes Everybody’ he discusses the ways in which the action of a group adds up to something more than just aggregated individual action. He writes about “algorithmic authority,” which describes the process through which unverified information is vetted for its trustworthiness through multiple sources.

Jay Walljasper and Stefan Meretz see the possibility for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society, known as a commons-based society.

NIKITA: In terms of education, do you think this is having a positive impact?

MEGAN: I think it’s potentially very positive. Web 2.0 is in sharp contrast to 20th century technologies like television, and newspapers, where people had to have what they were given, made for them by media professionals. We are no longer passive consumers, but creators of form and content. Wikipedia is perhaps the single best example of Web 2.0 at work.

NIKITA: Joe Salvo says the Information Age is being taken over by the Systems Age. Can you elaborate?

MEGAN: The Systems Age involves sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision. The ubiquity of computing has meant that archives have become increasingly powerful, as this is what drives our engagement with publishing. Jacques Derrida suggests that archives are always important because they become the basis for what counts within society.

NIKITA: Could this be potentially negative, as the archive essentially determines the archival material?

MEGAN: It becomes necessary when there is so much information.

NIKITA: Information that anyone can contribute. How can we know what is fact and what is fiction?

MEGAN: How can we ever know? Open source software allows us to share our resources. It is our task to focus our attention on what seems valid. Some of the material on Wikipedia is of a higher quality than anything else of its kind precisely because of its radically open model.

NIKITA:According to Thomas Mandel and and Gerard Van der Leun , attention is the hard currency of cyberspace. Do you think children today have shorter attention spans, because of this abundance of information?

MEGAN: Definitely not. Howard Rheingold came up with the term infotention to describe the psycho-social-techno skills we need to find our way online. I think most kids today have this natural ability – to pay continual partial attention. Education is transforming. We are working with a new toolkit and if we tool up, the possibilities are truly exciting.

NIKITA: Thanks Megan. That concludes this week’s segment. Please tune in next week for our report on data friction in climate change.

REFERENCE LIST

Dodson, Wes (2009) ‘Dawn of the Systems Age’, Page 3.14 <http://scienceblogs.com/seed/2009/12/dawn_of_the_systems_age.php#more>

Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian- impression-by.html>

Gauntlett, David (2010) Making is Connecting (watch the video) <http://www.makingisconnecting.org/>

Glaysher, F 1998, Publishing in the Post-Gutenberg Age, viewed 26th May at <http://www.fglaysher.com/Post_Gutenberg_Publishing.html>

Heffernan, Virginia (2010) ‘The Attention Span Myth’, New York Times, <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/21/magazine/21FOB-medium-t.html>

Jenkins, Henry (2010) ‘Multitasking and Continuous Partial Attention: An Interview with Linda Stone (Part One)’ Confession of an ACA-Fan, <http://henryjenkins.org/2010/11/multitasking_and_continuous_pa.html>

Livergood, N 2010, Book Publishing and the Struggle for the American Mind, viewed 26th May 2011 at <http://www.hermes-press.com/pod_index.htm>

Meretz, Stefan (2010) ‘Ten Theses about Global Commons Movement’, P2P Foundation, <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/ten-theses-about-global-commons-movement/2011/01/05>

National Public Radio (2010) ‘E-Book Boom Changes Book Selling And Publishing’, December 21, <http://www.npr.org/2010/12/21/132235154/e-book-boom-changes-book-selling-and-publishing>

Naughton, John (2010) ‘Publishers take note: the iPad is altering the very concept of a ‘book’ The Guardian, December 19, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/dec/19/ipad-publishing-kindle-books-apple>

Rheingold, Howard (2009) ‘Mindful Infotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters’, SFGate,<http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/rheingold/detail?entry_id=46677>

Walljasper, Jay (2010) ‘The Commons Moment is Now’, Commondreams.org,  <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/24-0>

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Data Friction in Development

My favourite example of publishing is a visualisation shown to us in the Gillian Fuller’s lecture, which shows world development over time. More specifically, it shows the wealth and health of 259 countries from the year 1800 up until 2009. It uses a spot to represent each country, and a colour code to defines the region of the country. The video below is a short tutorial on how to use the visualisation.

You can click the data tab and see the raw data and more specific information, such as unemployment rates, and HIV rates, which is then broken down into age brackets. Another tab reveals a data blog, which publishes new data that has been added and updated, which has had an effect on the visualisation.

The initial purpose of publishing this data was to pursue the development of the Trendalyzer software. Trendalyzer sought to “unveil the beauty of statistical time series by converting boring numbers into enjoyable, animated and interactive graphics” (Gapminder, 2011).

Gapminder.org describe themselves as a modern museum on the Internet – promoting sustainable global development and achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. They produce videos, flash presentations and PDF charts showing major global development trends with animated statistics in colorful graphics.

As visitors to the site we are able to publish any of this material in books, blogs, newspapers, or exhibitions as long as its purpose is educational, informational or non-commercial and you give the source: “Free material from http://www.gapminder.org”.

The projects Gapminder publishes are sometimes collaborative with universities, UN organisations, public agencies or non-governmental organisations, but we are not able to edit the data. It is simply there to inform us of how we are progressing in alleviating poverty, which is a far more complicated a concept than it sounds. A lot of different data must be taken into account, for example GDP per capita, Life expectancy, education, disease etc. A number of International Organisations, such as World Bank and the International Labor Organisation, are involved in making the global data. The effort involved in making this data is what Paul Edward calls data friction in this weeks reading The Vast Machine. Organisations, researchers and academics build this knowledge infrastructure and we may reproduce this data, thus becoming part of the knowledge infrastructure.

There have been various different approaches to understanding development over the years. Many scholars consider economic factors as crucial to development. In the 60s and 70s neo-liberalists looked at GDP per capita as the sole factor in development. More recently, most believe this completely ignores basic rights, like education, the right to vote, and gender issues. The United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals are the most recent approach to development and aim to achieve the eight development goals by 2015. Unfortunately, it is very likely that the UN will not succeed in achieving these goals by 2015, but they serve as a model for future development planning.

Similarly, Paul Edwards talks about the models of climate change in The Vast Machine and how, despite the fact that they may not be accurate, they are still necessary in gaining a better understanding of the changes occurring and making more educated models in the future. “Everything we know about the world’s climate—past, present, and future—we know through models” (Edwards, P, 2010).

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Web 2.0

In David Gauntlett’s video below he talks about his new book, Making is Connecting.

He explains the concept of Web 2.0 by comparing it to arts and crafts, in that people are making things rather than simply consuming. Nowadays, people are using Web 2.0 platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Blogs, Wikipedia etc to express themselves and ‘make things.’ People are able to collaborate and interact in virtual communities.

An interesting point made in the video is that Web 2.0 is in sharp contrast to 20th century technologies like television, where people had to have what they were given, made for them by media professionals. We are no longer passive consumers, but creators of form and content.

The video below explains the concept of web 2.0 using a gardening analogy with lego.

He states that rather than have separate gardens, as in Web 1.0, we now have communal allotments where everybody pitches in and puts their ‘stuff’. The more people gardening, the better the garden is. Individually, this gives us a greater sense of ‘wonder, agency, and possibilities in the world.’

According to Gauntlett, Wikipedia is perhaps the single best example of Web 2.0 at work. Wikipedia is an open source in which we are all co-creators. This realisation that we are co-creators with those responsible for the manifestation of the entire universe is explained in the second reading as, living in the flow.

As I touched on last week in my blog, The Age of Connection, the Information Age is being taken over. We find ourselves in the midst of the new media revolution. In the third reading, Joe Salvo labels this new period, The Systems Age, which involves “sensing, collecting, and manipulating data in near real-time with little to no human supervision.”

As Andrew stated in the lecture, data is key. Data transforms interactions; we extract data from bodies (from real stuff); we store it in archives; we arrange it with new forms of data (metadata) and this allows new forms of expression/content and for new forms of distribution/aggregation.

The Systems Age could not exist if it weren’t for ubiquitous computing, i.e. computing is everywhere, everything is networked and data flows everywhere. Ambient intelligence is embedded in almost everything. In the lecture, Andrew suggested that when publishing meets ubiquity the public extends to include non-human aspects and processes, like in Latour’s Actor Network Theory. “Publics will become even more dynamic and complex; we step off the page or screen into the network” (Murphy, A, 2011).

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The Age of Connection

The invention of the printing press was widely regarded as the most influential event in the second millennium AD, revolutionising the way people conceive and describe the world they live in. Fast forward to the present day or to ‘The Age of Connection’, as labeled in The Human Network reading, and we find ourselves in the midst of the new media revolution. New technologies have allowed us to connect with one another, which has major implications for society as a whole.

Marshal McLuhan first noted the retribalizing effect of electric technologies in saying, “they collapse space to a point, effectively recreating the continuous, ambient (aural) awareness of the tribe.  The tribe is completely connected.  All of its members have direct access to one another; there is little hierarchy, instead, there is an intricate set of social relations” (McLuhan, M. 1964).

The reading talks about hyperconnectivity, which refers to the number of people any given person on earth can reach directly. It explains the city as being a network as much as it is a residence. Hyperdistribution allows us to maintain and strengthen social bonds through language.

In the first reading, Shirky explains how social tools such as Facebook and Twitter support group conversation and group action in a way that previously could only be achieved through institutions. He argues that with the advent of online social tools, groups can form without the previous restrictions of time and cost.

This wordpress sight allows me to publish my ideas and opinions online, which is available to anyone who has the Internet. If I wanted to gain a higher readership I could tweet or update on Facebook and create a link to this page. Previously, to obtain that kind of attention I would have needed to submit a lengthy proposal to a publishing house like this one in order to even be considered.

Social networking sites, such as Facebook allow users to communicate to people within their network instantly and simultaneously. These sites have become part of the toolkit for people working in the media industry. PR professionals, Marketers, Advertisers etc are able to construct a temporary public in a matter of seconds.

The table below is from the book Connect!: Web Worker Daily’s Guide to a New Way of Working.” It shows some of the major contrasts between knowledge work and web work. As we shift into a world that is dominated by the Internet and less reliant on organisations,  it is interesting to see how we organise ourselves.


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Visualising Science

In my last post I spoke about how information graphics allow us to present complex data quickly and clearly. This week we were introduced to visualisation in the communication of science. To many, science seems like a foreign language. Pyridinium chlorochromate, phenyl, pyrophoric, riisopropylsilyl are just a few of the scientific terms I cannot even pronounce, let alone understand. Fortunately, I don’t have to.

Climate change, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly important for us to understand. The causes and impacts can be quite complex and require a fair amount of research to fully grasp. This is where information graphics can be of assistance. They visualise complex, scientific data, so that we are able to better understand concepts in a shorter period of time.

In the first reading, Struggling Polar Bears put on Endangered List, the picture of a polar bear below represents the species becoming endangered and, in a broader sense, the seriousness nature of climate change. The report states that, “two thirds of the species – 16,000 animals – could disappear by 2050 as global warming melts the Arctic sea ice.” This is quite an alarming statistic, but the image is what really tells the story. It illustrates the severity of the environmental disaster at a simple glance, and as a result the polar bear has become almost synonymous with climate change.

I particularly liked The Global Warming Skeptics versus the Scientific Consensus. Down the left hand side is a series of statements made by skeptics of global warming and down the right are the contradictory statements of the scientists who claim to have proof of global warming. Through the middle are visualisations of the data presented in each set of statements. It manages to condense a lot of information into short statements, but again the diagrams in the middle column, to me, seem to confirm the scientists statements rather than the statements themselves. To me the graphics speak louder than words, perhaps naively, I tend not to question the image as much as text.

In my last post, I also touched on Guy Debord’s theory from the reading Society of the Spectacle, wherein he considers that the visualisation of data is turning us into passive consumers of the spectacle.

The readings this week made Debord’s theory much easier to grasp. It also shed some light on the Art of Illusion reading in where Plato reveals a great distrust of the manufactured image. With the proliferation of digital technology, it seems more necessary to question the authenticity of the image.

This video highlights how airbrushing can transform your everyday girl into a supermodel. It affectively makes the viewer question the authenticity of the seemingly “real” images in advertisments and magazines.

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Making the Invisible Visible

The Good website is a graphical exploration of the data that surrounds us. This website features, The Road Map to Harmony, an interactive information graphic that explores how our ecosystem is functioning. By clicking on various parts of the word ‘harmony,’ we are able to see how some parts of the world affect others.

Information graphics allow us to present complex data quickly and clearly. Essentially, they enable the publisher to make the invisible visible. The visualisation of data reconfigures publishing, and the organisations of our lives in relation to publishing.

In the first reading, The Dashed Line in Use Arnell uses the basic example of the dashed line. He points out that the dashed line can represent hidden geometry, pathways, movement, and much more.

Consider this weather map below. These dashed lines represent various meteorological features across a particular area at a particular point in time. Now consider the different kinds of dashed lines and how they are modulated to produce different meanings.

A surface weather analysis for the United States on October 21, 2006

In the book Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord traces the development of a modern society in which authentic social life has been replaced with representations.

“In societies where modern conditions of production prevail, all of life presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was directly lived has moved away into a representation” (Debord, G. 1967).

The spectacle are not the images themselves, but rather a social relationship between people that are mediated by images (Debord, G. 1967). Debord claims that in a society full of ‘spectacular images’, we must construct them, just as we do with text. I suppose we must consider what is visible and what is invisible and why. As Gillian said in the lecture the image is never neutral.

As someone who frequents concerts and festivals, I found the Rise of the VJ readings particularly intriguing. They discuss some of the concepts, techniques, and aesthetic qualities with a number of experienced VJs or live cinema artists.

Raquel Meyers VJing

In the interview with Jaygo Bloom, he considers an awareness of the present moment as a key theme in his work. He states that “video, as a medium, reminds you constantly of where you are, as opposed to film, which wants you to engage in suspension of disbelief.” Bloom seeks to create opportunities for others to interact and have a narrative experience, sometimes referring to his works as “participation devices.” This enables the VJ to reconfigure the public in real-time and rework public imagination.

As a parting gift, this is one of my favourite audiovisual performances of 2010. If for some reason you get restless, fast forward to the 4:45 mark and the 5:20 mark.

Dj Shadow live Au Foin de la Rue 2010 


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Pay Attention!

The Internet has undoubtedly had a great impact on our social expectations. With so much information at our fingertips and new ways in which to communicate it, society has changed drastically. Social change is not something that can be easily diagrammed, or even to explain. I will attempt to explain some of these changes through some of the popular concepts being discussed today.

In the reading, The Commons Moment is Now, Jay Walljasper sees the possibility for large numbers of people of diverse ideological stripes coming together to chart a new, more cooperative direction for modern society, known as a commons-based society. He suggest that people today are yearning for a more safe and sustainable environment and no longer trust the government to act on their behalf. How is the possible? The Internet has opened forums for us to communicate and share ideas and ideals for a more healthy planet.

Stefan Meretz defined the commons movement by saying that, “the global commons movement exists as an assemblage of movements spread around the globe beginning to become aware of its global and interrelated character. Where they are successful, market cannot evolve. Where they manage their own affairs, the state is not required”.

Social networking sites and open access sites have changed the traditional factory environment. These new ways in which we produce and distribute information is changing the world. Online material becomes common material and individual experiences become collective experiences.

A great example of this is Twitter. Twitter allows us to communicate to anyone who has an account, which is estimated at about 200 million. It is not just a social networking site, but a news source and a medium for social change. The Tunisian riots, were seen by many as a Twitter revolution.

What becomes incresingly important when ‘producing’ and ‘distributing’ online is reaching an audience. We write so that people will see this information on their monitors and most importnatly, pay attention. Attention, write Thomas Mandel and Gerard Van der Leun in their 1996 book Rules of the Net, “is the hard currency of cyberspace.”

Many of the readings this week suggested that attention will replace money as the main commodity in the industrial economy. It may seem like a radical idea now, but we are already seeing the power that comes with a great deal of attention. Everyone craves this attention. This takes me back to the Archive Fever reading in week five, which introduced me to the concept of search engine opitimisers. These are people devoted to improving the visibility of a website or web page through search engines like Google. In short, they are trying to get our attention.

Howard Rheingold came up with the term infotention to describe the psycho-social-techno skill/tools we all need to find our way online today. He says, the mental ability to deploy the form of attention appropriate for each moment is an essential internal skill for people who want to find, direct, and manage streams of relevant information by using online media knowledgeably” (Rheingold, H. 2009).

Some say the information available on the Internet doubles every second year. Everyone is demanding a piece of the attention. I think as a result, we are not getting dumber as some suggest, but are learning how to filter information. Rheingold puts it rather more eloquently in saying, “every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”

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