Progress

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IMS lecture for undergrads

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Progress

  1. 2. Here is some progress
  2. 3. Here is some more progress
  3. 4. Here is some more progress
  4. 5. Here is some more progress
  5. 6. Here is some more progress
  6. 7. Here is some more progress
  7. 8. Here is some more progress
  8. 9. <ul><li>Think about the nature of progress. It’s easy to problematise it and to consider the implicit ideology (way of looking at things that justifies actions) behind explicit claims for progress. More of good things, or less of bad things=progress. Only we have to be sure we know what is good and what is bad. This is where progress is constructed. </li></ul><ul><li>You might think about this when you study interactive media. You might think critically about the nature of progress you are suggesting or promoting, or even abandon the idea that the changes you make constitute meaningful progress and instead think of other ways to justify your work. </li></ul><ul><li>Is it just me or does something about that not sound right? </li></ul><ul><li>If you aren’t making things better, what are you doing? Can we imagine a society without an implicit belief if progress? Maybe this is just a game (there is some argument for that in the likes of Baudrillard , for example)? Maybe it’s just an elaborate way to avoid recognition that pretty much all we do has no meaning beyond the ones we attach. So we have to work harder and harder to maintain a reality that is meaningful. Complex markets are one way to maintain these illusions. We have ‘economic growth’ and ‘higher standards of living’. We have more and more stuff to remind us how much better everything is. We even create websites that allow us to count friends and accumulate more. If society can wrap itself up in increasingly complex markets, it avoids confronting bigger questions such as ‘what are we here for?’ and ‘where exactly are we going?’ Bauman writes a lot about this stuff. </li></ul><ul><li>We seem to live in a time where the promise of some utopian future – an ideal society – has been all but given up on. Yet we plough on with technology in some desperate hope that the latest developments will lead to better lives. </li></ul><ul><li>Here are some ideas that might be useful when we think about progress and when we think about how people deal with change </li></ul>
  9. 10. we might consider all the work that needs to be done to maintain a reality where we experience progress
  10. 11. <ul><li>Let’s take mobile phones for example. To experience mobiles phones as progress we need: </li></ul><ul><li>Mines for silicon, copper and heavy metals (and that means all that mining hardware) </li></ul><ul><li>Power plants to power factories (and so more mining, or drilling, or atom-smashing) </li></ul><ul><li>Research labs developing new processors, etc </li></ul><ul><li>A sophisticated education system to produce scientists </li></ul><ul><li>Factories that make various kinds of microchips, memory storage chips, led screens, batteries, etc </li></ul><ul><li>Factories that assemble the finished phones (and workers willing to work in them for low pay) </li></ul><ul><li>Designers who design the phones (with their CAD software) </li></ul><ul><li>Programmers who programme the phones (more degree courses needed here too) </li></ul><ul><li>Packaging companies </li></ul><ul><li>Logistics companies (and so a global distribution system of boats, trains and trucks) </li></ul><ul><li>Factories to assemble phone network equipment </li></ul><ul><li>Network operators </li></ul><ul><li>Network engineers </li></ul><ul><li>Site developers to construct networks and associated software </li></ul><ul><li>Lawyers for all sorts of contracts and transactions </li></ul><ul><li>Shops and websites to sell phones and contracts </li></ul><ul><li>Call centers to help customers with contracts and with phones </li></ul><ul><li>Credit cards and credit checks (complete with databases and security systems) </li></ul><ul><li>PR companies, advertising agencies and a system of media willing to carry these commercial messages </li></ul><ul><li>A society where people move about a lot, but desire to keep in touch with each other </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers with loose networks of friends </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers with a desire to talk, and to… </li></ul><ul><li>text and take pictures and videos </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers with a desire to move around in unfamiliar places </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers with a desire to use the internet on the move </li></ul><ul><li>Consumers who desire to express identity through privately owned technologies </li></ul><ul><li>We could add a lot more. All of this is ‘othered’. So much for technology being ‘labour saving’. Mobile phones form part of a complex and apparently stable network of humans and non humans (minerals, plastics, contracts, ideas). Normally we don’t think of such networks (see Law 2004 , or Latour 2005 ). When we do, we realise what an achievement they are. But also how fragile they are. How they constantly need re-making. How they could break or change at any time </li></ul>
  11. 12. The market and progress <ul><li>Has the market become a a way of thinking that can tie together different aspects of progress? Or even the growth of markets as some form of progress in itself – a global neo-liberal utopia. </li></ul><ul><li>Or the Fordist deal as an ideal social system of ‘work-to-buy-more’. </li></ul><ul><li>Or material abundance as image of progress that hides alienation. See Guy Debord, Baudrillard, Marcuse. </li></ul><ul><li>With media and technology as tools of pacification that disguise a lack of progress with endless new spectacle. ‘New’ and ‘Better’ become conflated. </li></ul><ul><li>Or Bauman’s episodic progress in liquid modernity </li></ul>
  12. 13. Some things often associated with progress <ul><li>Scientific progress </li></ul><ul><li>Technological progress </li></ul><ul><li>Economic progress </li></ul><ul><li>Social progress </li></ul><ul><li>Political progress </li></ul><ul><li>Career progress </li></ul><ul><li>These ideas are so pervasive that they have become ‘givens’. They are ideas that we think with, but not about. Yet it is immediately obvious that they are problematic. </li></ul>
  13. 14. Technology as progress <ul><li>A society so determined by technology that it is the only thing we can look to to solve our problems. </li></ul><ul><li>Yet we become blind to the problems that technology may create. </li></ul><ul><li>And therefore live with the risk of a ‘progress trap’. </li></ul><ul><li>And make alienation a way of life. </li></ul>
  14. 15. <ul><li>>10 CLS </li></ul><ul><li>>20 Print “Technological Determinism” </li></ul><ul><li>>30 Print “ ‘First, ‘technology’, a term is reified , then we develop…” </li></ul><ul><li>>40 PRINT “ . . . the belief that technologies have an overwhelming and inevitable power to drive human actions and social change – is often taken for granted in technologically advanced societies. The opposing ‘social shaping of technology’ approach . . . contends that technologies are continuously remade by the things users do with them’, Lievrouw & Livingstone (2006)” </li></ul><ul><li>>50 Print “Hence a tendency to ‘impacts’ and effects’ rather than ‘practices’ and ‘culture’.” </li></ul><ul><li>> run  </li></ul>
  15. 16. Progress traps <ul><li>This is the idea that we might get so wrapped up in a particular type of progress that we don’t see disastrous consequences until it is too late. By too late I mean that the short-term cost to do anything about the problem seems too great. </li></ul><ul><li>So technology can tip us into catastrophe at any moment. </li></ul>
  16. 17. How the media deals with this as aesthetic drama (see Richard Schechner and Victor Turner) <ul><li>Rather than constantly unpack the complexity of technology-human networks, the media likes to represent technology through allegory and metaphor. </li></ul><ul><li>These are an acting out of our concerns about technology – our hopes but also our fears for the future. </li></ul><ul><li>Aesthetic drama as allegory can be seen in films and TV shows, but also in news reporting </li></ul>
  17. 18. How the media deals with this as aesthetic drama (see Scechner and Turner)
  18. 19. In the news however, technology is clearly our future
  19. 24. (only it might not be a very good one)
  20. 29. Do you remember the good old days?
  21. 31. No, not those good old days, these good old days
  22. 33. Simple and complex pleasures <ul><li>We may also find nostalgia pleasurable – a return to simple pleasures. But what do we mean by this? Gardening, farming, growing, catching food, hiking, singing and playing music. These are all really hard to do when compared to TV or Facebook. Or even WoW. </li></ul><ul><li>Maybe what we mean is that the network is smaller and has more human agency, or less machine agency. Think of the network needed for mobile phones. Then think of the one needed for growing vegetables on an allotment. </li></ul><ul><li>Also see Grant McCraken on displaced meaning </li></ul>
  23. 34. <ul><li>Maintenance of traditions (but not nostalgia). Rituals might be key key. Where did all our group rituals go? </li></ul><ul><li>Restoration of old ideas (but not like in a museum) </li></ul><ul><li>Quality (of life) as a focus. Downsizing and ‘alternative hedonism’ (see Kate Soper ) </li></ul><ul><li>Re-emphasis on social determinism (in this case it’s the humans that seem to lack agency in analysis. See ANT and the agency of things). Or maybe ontological politics is a better term. </li></ul><ul><li>Humanism (Like in Fromm’s ‘To Have and To Be) </li></ul><ul><li>Voluntary simplicity and sustainable consumption. See Duane Elgin, or E.F. Schumacher </li></ul>Resistance and alternatives?
  24. 35. Discussion points <ul><li>What narrative can you give about the world (and your role in it) other than progress? </li></ul><ul><li>What ideology underpins your approaches to technology? </li></ul><ul><li>Are you too easily being seduced by (superficial) progress? And therefore too dismissive of traditions? </li></ul><ul><li>What forms of resistance could you take? </li></ul>

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