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Predicting hyperbole

A quote from a blog post dated 2 June 2006:

The CEO of the world's second-largest media company, Publicis, say "In a couple of years, most of the information you share, most of the advertising you read, most of the messages you send and most of the music you listen to, will transit through your cell phone." (Ahonen)

Note that we are now February 2008 and I have yet to notice the demise of television, internet, billboards, mp3 players, the radio, etc...

You have to wonder what planet that guy is living on? I suppose it's the planet of high-flying advertising agency directors who spend their time convincing themselves and their clients that their 'vision' is the next 'blue ocean', 'flat earth', 'synergistic competitive collaboration', 'strategic pro-active pre-positioning preparation', 'glocal event horizon', or whatever term required to seem different from what was 'the future' six months before...

From linear to circular

The concepts of linear and circular time fascinate me. The most well known is, I suppose, is the Abrahamic eschatological concept of the ‘end of times’: i.e. as in Armageddon, the Day of Judgement, etc. The belief that the world was created, had a beginning, and that it will one day come to an end.

This is linear – i.e. in a line. Linear time makes sense to me, until someone produces a time machine. Even considering the relativity of time, Einstein only proved that time can be relatively slower in one ‘frame’ compared to another – not that one can go back in time.

Another widespread concept; particularly in Hinduism (and by implication Buddhism, but not necessarily), and apparently in Maya cosmology too, is the concept of cyclical time, or ‘ages’. Again, expressed in terms of cosmology, it means that there was no beginning point, and will be no end point of the world. It will simply carry on changing.

The Big Bang theory lends some credence to this, given that the universe is constantly expanding, and will therefore in theory eventually contract back to the initial compressed point.

For me, one problem with the circular, at least using a diagram in the way I have, is that it implies that things go back to the way they were initially. Which is why I like the idea of a spiral better: the way I see it, things tend towards equilibrium, and thus many things seem to repeat themselves, but on every ‘pass’, they have changed from before.

The spiral is really just another line, with a beginning, and never repeating itself; but the advantage of the spiral is that it reminds us that the past can ‘catch up’ with us. Everything has a consequence; and we’re not advancing straight into a virgin future, untrammelled by the past; nor can we just carry on because everything is going to be wiped clean and we start over again…
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Social software – social intelligence?

Some thoughts…

Consider this quote from Castells, talking about the difference between data, information, knowledge, wisdom, and judgement:

"we must consider how much the recurrent interaction between computers’ programmed decisions and the feedback from their environment can influence future programs, thus modifying the information base and, with it, the knowledge base for decision. In other words, is there self-evolving programming capability?... this does not seem to be the case nowadays. However, there is a co-evolution between the human brain and the computer, learning from each other, but learning from an individual human brain, so that the co-evolution is always specific to a given personality system. So a computer cannot become a subject in its own right, but I could have (actually my grandchildren may have) a computer as an extension of the mind, whose reactions and help affect the mind, inducing individualized co-evolution between people and their machines. So knowledge-management software is a low-level application for routine operations that can be truncated and distributed, but cannot respond to an evolving context, where the critical decisions have to be made.” (Castells 2003:137)

Interesting, and it makes sense to me. My computer has become like an extension of my memory: my memory is not very good, but one could argue that depending on computers has made it worse. How many of you out there know another person’s telephone number off by heart? Apart from your own that is; you probably know a few, but not many. Maybe the ones that you do remember are the ones you have to physically dial a lot (at the office, on the home phone). If you had to depend on your memory for numbers, and didn’t have autodial and all that on your handphones, you would probably remember a lot more. And when your brain has to do the same thing a lot it actually physically changes, different connections are made, and so on – especially when you are younger (see this interview with Jay Giedd, for example).

Therefore, the more we use computers to extend our brains, the more our brains will become less able to perform those functions that the computer takes over. The pessimistic possibility is that we just develop the skills of using a computer (like when you spend ages trying to fix a bug in the wireless connection just so you can send an email…); the more optimistic option is that our brains get liberated from the more mundane tasks and reach ‘higher levels’ – whatever they might be…

Anyway, to get to the social software part. If there is such a thing as ‘social intelligence’, i.e. a form of consciousness that specifically develops with and through dynamic social interaction, then as we use more software to manage our social life (from the contacts function in Outlook, to dating via social networking sites, where ‘compatible’ potential partners are selected for us), what ‘social intelligence’ that we now take for granted will become atrophied? What will replace them? Will it make any difference?

Works cited
Castells, Manuel, and Martin Ince. Conversations with Manuel Castells. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003.
Giedd, J. (n.d.). Interview with Jay Giedd. frontline: inside the teenage brain: interviews: jay giedd, m.d. | PBS. Frontline. Retrieved 27 July 2004, from

Purikura – maraysia-no

A while ago, a friend was visiting with her 6-year old daughter. While we were at one of the temples to consumerism that is 1Utama she spotted one of those sticker places (called ‘Dream World’), and she was all for it. And I got an excuse to check out the place, as I have long been curious about what it’s all about.

It is clearly aimed at female teenagers: the examples of what you can do, and the models used were all female; and the overall design style was clearly ‘feminine’ – i.e. cutesy, pink, etc. While we were there, there was one guy, but he was clearly tagging along with the girls he was with.

There were suggestions of what you can do with the stickers: decorate your phone, put them in keyrings, or swap them with friends. The general message was: do this with your girlfriends to have fun together, remember special events and be BFF...

One thing that surprised me was that there were no examples of stickers with a girlfriend/boyfriend motif – it seems to me that it would be a good marketing move, i.e. implant the idea in the girl’s head, ‘if you love me you’ll take a photo together with me’. It also seems like an obvious way for teen couples to declare their relationship (and not so teen… I have to confess I have a set in my wallet of me and my wife when we were dating – though my excuse is that it was in the British Museum as part of a display on Japanese popular culture…). Perhaps encouraging couples to sit together in shielded booths is seen as somewhat unsuitable.
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Facebook owns YOU!

If you're anything like me, and I guess 99.9% of internet users out there, you never bother checking those long and boring terms of service that you have to confirm you've 'read and understood'.

Recently, I decided not to accept Google Desktop tracking all my searches to 'give me better service', and although I have a gmail account (which I use for throwaway registrations and the like) I don't much like the idea of everything being scanned for advertising purposes. There are a number of issues, but basically it seems to revolve around Google storing loads of data for ages, and not giving you much/any control over what happens to it. Wikipedia, CNET and Google Watch comment on this.

"2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google" (Gmail Terms of Service)
does this mean minors cannot get a Gmail account?

This is a scary one:
"11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive licence to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This licence is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services." (Gmail Terms of Service)

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Jumping on the Facebook wagon

There’s been a lot of discussion about Facebook recently, most notably surrounding danah boyd’s exploratory essay discussing class and social network sites (SNS) Facebook and MySpace. At home, also, my spouse has become an avid ‘Facebooker’: she has been able to connect with numerous friends, as well as others who have not been in touch for a while. It’s been interesting to watch the dynamics of the whole thing – one thing that struck me is that, compared to blogs, Facebook provides one with an ‘instant network’. Blogs are also used as a way to keep in contact with friends, to accumulate a certain amount of social capital, but there’s a lot more work involved there – you have to understand a little html code to do your blogroll, search out other blogs and links, etc. With Facebook, it’s all there in an instant, and you don’t have to spend time writing posts either.

I’ve been avoiding joining, mainly because I can see it taking up more time, I don’t really see the point of being registered with yet another online service; also, I am one efficient procrastinator and don’t need any more excuses. But I have finally given in… I joined the Media Anthropology Network, and was told that other members are on Facebook, with details of their profiles and what they’re working on. This was the final straw: the Association of Internet Researchers’ email list (recommended, by the way) had also recently mentioned forming a Facebook network, and a friend recently joined and told me about other long-disappeared-off-the-map friends who are on it too.

This is what greets you when on the first page of Facebook. It’s interesting to look at the meaning of "the people around you", it could be read in a utopian, or dystopian way: a dystopian would ask: why do you need an online service to connect with people ‘around you’? This draws up images of people communicating via Facebook rather than talking face-to-face. The utopian would read ‘around you’ as meaning you now have the world as your clamshell, so to speak – i.e. wherever you are, as long as you have access to Facebook, everyone is ‘around’ you.

What is the more realistic likelihood? Well, my guess, much inspired by danah boyd and related discussions, is that the people ‘around’ you are probably the people ‘like’ you – i.e. similar social, economic, ethnic, etc, background.