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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Week Five (week beginning March 26): How we know what is real

When we are sitting in the library and looking through the window, how do we know the trees outside are real rather than artificial? The answers vary. For most of the time, it could be the colour, the texture, the growing pattern, the structure and their surroundings. The criteria are based on our knowledge, and depend on our vision or a sense of feeling that helps us to decide whether the trees outside the window are real or not. However, is seeing really believing? My answer is no. Because the physical limitation of humans’ vision fails to fully see what are actually there and tell what is reality. Sometimes illusion creates a sense of reality in which the illusionary scenes go beyond humans’ vision ability. As a result, illusion is considered as reality. Interestingly, people tend to blur the boundary between virtual reality and reality in the networked society nowadays. It seems that reality is no more restricted in the meaning of sense, rather, it has been updated to the affordances of objects. That is to say the functionalities of an agent regarding what can be achieved tend to be considered as the criteria of reality in today’s technology-intensified world. The reading’s example of monkeys only using brain and virtual body to “move an avatar hand and identify the texture of virtual objects”, try to achieve the fully interaction between the world of virtual reality and reality (ScienceDaily, 2011). To the monkeys, the reality is achieved and ‘sensed’ when the monkeys’ consciousnesses simultaneously move with the avatars’ hand.
How about our meaning of reality? Is it similar to the reaction of monkeys’ consciousnesses and avatars’ hand? My answer is similar and humans can do better. Here is an example of virtual reality training for coal miners.


The mining simulation dramatically reduces the potentiality of life risks during mining process, and increases the efficiency of mining. Moreover, if the presupposition of Nicolelis et al. (2011) (the ones did the ‘monkeys-VR’ experiment) became true – i.e. “Someday in the near future, quadriplegic patients will take advantage of this technology not only to move their arms and hands and to walk again, but also to sense the texture of objects placed in their hands, or experience the nuances of the terrain on which they stroll with the help of a wearable robotic exoskeleton,” then what I assume is that some day in the near future, miners will not participate in the underground risky mining process; instead, mining robots will complete underground mining tasks via merely humans’ brain commanding the avatars on the screen.
In this sense, the combination of Neuroengineering and media technology enable us to participate differently in the virtuality of the world, meanwhile, achieving the result that means reality to us is how we perceive reality in the technology-intensified world.
Reference:
Anon. (2011) ‘Monkeys ‘Move and Feel’ Virtual Objects Using Only Their Brains’, ScienceDaily, October 5, <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131648.htm&gt;.

O’Doherty, JE, Lebedev, MA, Ifft, PJ, Zhuang,KZ, Shokur, S, Bleuler, H, Nicolelis, MAL 2011, ‘Active tactile exploration using a brain–machine–brain interface’, Nature, 479, pp. 228–231.

‘Roof bolter’, YouTube.com, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lwvuYMe7c&list=UUo31uTgC9TbmPDNBUWTXBFQ&feature=plcp&gt;.

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Week Four (week beginning March 19): “Global Mnemotechnics”—Globalising Memory, Thinking and Action ; Key Word: Embodied

Think about the historical advancement of mobile phones to the domination of Iphone generations nowadays. Think about the advent of television to the micro-device enabled ‘walking TV’. Think about the numerous chips inserted into a computer to the chip transponder implanted into humankind to be a cyborg… We are constantly in relation with mnemotechnological apparatuses (Stiegler) of all kinds. Human beings themselves update their knowledge and skills of using technologies from zero to interactively immersing into the elements embodied in them. As a result, these technologies become integral parts of human body, which exteriorize the embodied thinking of humans. The tech-devices extend the visible by extending where we are as well as the reenactment of the basics of life and presentation of the mind as socially situated beings (Noë et al., 2008). However, humans’ increasingly dependence on technologies makes them more restricted within the capacity of the tech-devices as opposed to the further growth of memory and knowledge by individuals’ brains. Interestingly, this does not mean the fall-behind of human-beings. Instead, human-beings are now exploring alternative ways to try to upgrade human species by implanting the high-tech embodiment into human bodies.

Here is an example of the world’s first cyborg, Kevin Warwick, a researcher and professor of cybernetics at the University of Reading in England. He implanted a silicon chip transponder into his left arm and connected it to his nervous system in 1998 (Warwick).

What Warwick emphasizes and is trying to achieve is to make the external information physically inserted into human body with the connection to tech-devices to upgrade human species. Warwick implanted a silicon chip into his nervous system with 100 electros, which can plug into the computer and then send neuron signals from his brain to computer to control things. Excitingly, Warwick’s wife also implanted a chip into her neuron system, which link their nervous system together. As a result, their communication is telegraphically − nervous-system to nervous-system. Warwick claimed that “brain-to-brain communication will be the next step”.

One of the interesting point Warwick made is that we may not need schools or universities if knowledge could be downloaded into our brains. If brain-to-brain communication was achieved, individuals could improve or upgrade their own capabilities and intelligence that they were not gifted with by connecting with other better-developed brains. As a result, globalising memory, thinking and action were connected like a ‘global brain village’. Everyone within the globe could communicate super-efficiently through implanted chips, and that would be the legendary human revolution.

Reference:
Noë, Alva and Solano, Marlon Barrios 2008, ‘dance as a way of knowing: interview with Alva Noë’, <http://www.dance-tech.net/video/1462368:Video:19594&gt;.
Stiegler, Bernard (n.d.) ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’,  <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis&gt;.
Warwick, K (n.d.) ‘CYBORG LIFE – Talking to Kevin Warwick’, <http://www.infonomia.com/articulo/videos/110&gt;.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Arts3091

 

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Ecologies – Virtual Reality vs Reality

The word ‘ecology’ has been transformed into ‘ecologies’ in many cases, particularly when it comes to today’s networked society. The initial ‘ecology’ meaning living creatures within the ecosystem has been complicated by intertwining the livings with ‘artificial creatures’ (such as Internet and many other technologies) in various ecologies. In this blog, I am going to focus on media ecology and the three ecologies.

Media Ecology

With the advent of the technology ‘Internet’ in 1960s till its advanced application in a global scale, the relationships between human beings and machines are increasingly and dramatically changed throughout the history.  In the arena of media, the Internet affords virtual multi-platforms, known as online media, to facilitate immediate communication. The advancement of online media dramatically shapes individuals’ lives as mostly active online participants in the changing mechanism of media ecology. Meanwhile, the network tends to shift its virtual role into everyday real life. The boundary between virtual reality and reality is blurring. Here is an example of a marriage between a Japanese man in the real world and his virtual girlfriend Nene Anegasaki from a dating-simulation game called Love Plus. Enjoy the video and let’s think whether technological determinism is the main factor for this scenario?  Considering virtual marriage as a section of media ecology, will it facilitate or impede our chances of survival (Postman 1970)?

 

 

The Three Ecologies

Regarding the responses to questions raised above, Felix Guattari’s ( in Anon, 2008) in-depth elaboration and refinement of ‘Steps to An Ecology of Mind’ written by the influential theorist Gregory Bateson ( in Anon, 2008) might provide a more reasonable and well-rounded answer. The concept of the three ecologies exists at the scales of mind, society and the environment. Based on Guattari’s ( in Anon, 2008) reading, in the case of the Japanese man’s marriage with a virtual character, the leading cause of the marriage decision made by the Japanese man could be his epistemological system (knowledge and attitudes towards marriage) based on the understanding of the nonlinear system of online dating-simulation. Moreover, Japan, as a distinctive country, comprises certain cultural background and values leading to certain social change. The technologies afforded environment facilitate the circulation of media ecology, such as the gaming console and Internet in this case.

In a nutshell, individuals play as participants in personalized ways in the circulation of media ecology. Technological determinism is highly biased to understand human-technology relationship in various ecologies. The three ecologies provides a more well-rounded way in thinking ‘epistemological system based on an understanding of nonlinear systems’ ( in Anon, 2008) in terms of human-beings within various ecologies.

Reference:

Anon. 2008, ‘The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari’, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, viewed 10 March 2012, <http://mediaecologies.wordpress.com/2008/10/07/the-three-ecologies-felix-guattari/>.

Postman, N 1970, “The Reformed English Curriculum” in A.C. Eurich (ed.), High School 1980: The Shape of the Future in American Secondary Education.

ReutersVideo, Dec 17 2009, ‘Man marries video game character’, viewed 10 March 2012, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=26mWFuOWwuU&gt;.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2012 in Arts3091

 

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