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Tag: communication networks

The power of networks: distributed journalism, meme warfare, and collective intelligence

These are the slides for what was perhaps my favorite lecture so far in BCM112. The lecture has three distinct parts, presented by myself and my PhD students Doug Simkin and Travis Wall. I opened by building on the previous lecture which focused on the dynamics of networked participation, and expanded on the shift from passive consumption to produsage. The modalities of this shift are elegantly illustrated by the event-frame-story structure I developed to formalize the process of news production [it applies to any content production]. The event stage is where the original footage appears – it often is user generated, raw, messy, and with indeterminate context. The frame stage provides the filter for interpreting the raw data. The story stage is what is produced after the frame has done its work. In the legacy media paradigm the event and frame stages are closed to everyone except the authority figures responsible for story production – governments, institutions, journalists, academics, intellectuals, corporate content producers. This generates an environment where authority is dominant, and authenticity is whatever authority decides – the audience is passive and in a state of pure consumption. In the distributed media paradigm the entire process is open and can be entered by anyone at any point – event, frame, or story. This generates an environment where multiple event versions, frames, and stories compete for produser attention on an equal footing.

These dynamics have profound effects on information as a tool for persuasion and frame shifting, or in other words – propaganda. In legacy media propaganda is a function of the dynamics of the paradigm: high cost of entry, high cost of failure, minimum experimentation, inherent quality filter, limited competition, cartelization with limited variation, and an inevitable stagnation.

In distributed media propaganda is memes. Here too propaganda is a function of the dynamics of the paradigm, but those are characterized by collective intelligence as the default form of participation in distributed networks. In this configuration users act as a self-coordinating swarm towards an emergent aggregate goal. The swarm has an orders of magnitude faster production time than the legacy media. This results in orders of magnitude faster feedback loops and information dissemination.

The next part of the lecture, delivered by Doug Simkin, focused on a case study of the /SG/ threads on 4chan’s /pol/ board as an illustration of an emergent distributed swarm in action. This is an excellent case study as it focuses on real-world change produced with astonishing speed in a fully distributed manner.

The final part of the lecture, delivered by Travis Wall, focused on a case study of the #draftourdaughters memetic warfare campaign, which occurred on 4chan’s /pol/ board in the days preceding the 2016 US presidential election. This case study is a potent illustration of the ability of networked swarms to leverage fast feedback loops, rapid prototyping, error discovery, and distributed coordination in highly scalable content production.

The Medium is the Message I: trajectories of convergence

These are the prezi slides for my opening lecture in BCM112 Convergent Media Practices [live twitter #bcm112 hashtag]. The lecture is an introduction to the state of play in digital media, and specifically the open-ended process of media convergence as mapped by Henry Jenkins. I use McLuhan’s work as a basic frame of reference through which to analyze the process, while focusing on the three distinct trajectories of audiences, industries, and platforms. It is a dual-layered analysis, where the interplay between the three trajectories drives the dynamics of the process, and changes in media platforms act as phase transitions shifting the process on another plane. I am illustrating this dynamic with a number of examples, ranging from papyrus to codex and hypertext, to the shift from newspaper to radio, and of course – the internet.

A conversation about the Internet of Things

This is a conversation on the Internet of Things I recorded with my colleague Chris Moore as part of his podcasted lecture series on cyberculture. As interviews go this is quite organic, without a set script of questions and answers, hence the rambling style and side-stories. Among others, I discuss: the Amazon Echo [Alexa], enchanted objects, Mark Weiser and ubiquitous computing, smart clothes, surveillance, AI, technology-induced shifts in perception, speculative futurism, and paradigm shifts.

Smart fabrics and networked clothing

I am working with a team researching the networking of carbon-nanotube [CNT] woven garments, and recently we published a position paper on the concepts of smart fabrics  and networked clothing. We are interested in developing a coherent conceptual framework for what is, arguably, a paradigmatic shift in networking technologies, physically bringing human bodies online.

From liquid labour to presence bleed [lecture]

Prezi from a lecture examining the influence of information networks on organisations and labour practices. To illustrate both dynamic, I am using notions such as network coordination and transaction costs, Mard Deuze’s notion of liquid labour, Norbert Wiener’s description of the feedback loop, and more importantly John Boyd’s OODA loop as a visualization of the way networks maintain themselves and coordinate the flow of information. The argument of course is that to understand the changes of organisational and labour practices one needs to understand the way networks deal with adversity (coordination and transaction costs); similarly, one has to understand how the length of the feedback loop inevitably leads to decentralization and decision making at the nodal level (Boyd). Crucially, references to sociological favorites such as ‘capitalism’, ‘power’, ‘the social’ are rendered irrelevant.

The Network Society: utopian narratives of global communication [lecture]

Prezi from a lecture on utopian narratives of global communication, tracing the roots of cyber-utopianism from the revolutionary influence of the telegraph, to personal computers and the technical architecture of the internet. The telegraph brought the metaphor of communication networks as nervous system, a metaphor also linking the separation of information from carrier to the separation of mind from body. These tropes are still with us more than 150 years later.

Global connections: from the telegraph to cyberspace [lecture]

Well, the time for leisure, travel, reading, and research is over – back to lectures, tutorials, and endless admin. Below are the slides for my first lecture for this session, tracing an outline of the history of communication networks over the last 150 years. A hasty trip from telegraphy to the internet, with an emphasis on the notion of information networks as a nervous system spanning space.