Here is the presentation from my talk at 6 Billion Ways, you can make it full screen and explore by clicking on items and zooming in and out (a scroll wheel is handy). Or use the controls in the bottom right corner to follow a pre-defined path.
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Johnson, Steven. 1997. Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way we Create and Communicate. Basic Books.
[NB These are notes to self, they become pretty ungrammatical towards the end!]
This interesting and erudite book starts from the position that the collision of technology and culture is nothing new, but that with the increased pace of technological change the collision has become more obvious. That is, new media have always intersected with cultural change but major innovations have lasted for millenia (cave painting), centuries (printing) or decades (television). As media technology change begins to happen within the span of one lifetime the relationship with culture becomes more obvious. An important point here is that the invention of the technology is itself a creative cultural act; engineers have always been artists and vice versa. Thus, the modern science/art of interface design and its relationship to culture is the topic of the book. Obviously, this is a very technologically led (even determined?) point of view, but well put nonetheless. (more…)
Short talk for the ‘Internet for Activists’ day organised at SOAS, 15 March 2009.
The purpose was to outline two different ‘ideal typical’ attitudes that activists typically bring to their engagements with technology. Within recent anti-war activism most people have approached technology as users, interested in the technology itself only to the extent that it makes the ususal organisational and communicative tasks quicker or more efficient. The talk outlines a few examples of the hacker attitude in action in order to show some of the possibilities inherent in stretching and blending communication structures. This is not to say that we must all become hackers, rather that an awareness of what we intend with technological solutions should help us approach technologies in an appropriate manner.
The slides for the talk are available here: SOAS talk (PPT, 740 KB).
This talk was a short version of a book chapter published in Net-Working/Networking: Citizen Initiated Internet Politics. A pdf version of the chapter is available here: Diverging Attitudes to Technology preprint.
How could I better manage my finances? Couldn’t my bank help me? A first step must be to better understand how I’m actually spending my income, and it strikes me that my online banking should really have a variety of ways of interacting with my financial data by now.
Chapter to be published in the forthcoming book, Net Working/Networking: Politics on the Internet, edited by Tapio Häyhtiö & Jarmo Rinne (2008, Tampere University Press).
This chapter works with the categories of ‘hackers’ and ‘users’ that have developed out of sociological analyses of the adoption of new technologies. These terms have sometimes been used to describe particular technological subcultures such as Sherry Turkle’s work on the mainframe hackers around MIT in the seventies. More generally useful, however, is the indications of particular attitude – what Graham Kirkpatrick describes ‘computational temperaments’ – that structure the ways in which people engage with technologies. In this sense, the notion of the ‘hacker’ may be of much wider relevance than those who carry out highly esoteric modifications in computers’ hardware or software.
This chapter explores these notions in relation to data gathered for a book on Anti-War Activism, asking to what extent user and hacker attitudes to technology were witnessed among activists opposing the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. As the book argues, many movement groups were steeped in a highly mediated information environment, making use various technologies to gather information, organise activity and represent their views. Mostly, as this chapter shows, activists engaged with the technology with a user attitude. That is to say, technologies were adopted in order to make use of their most obvious, advertised benefits. The chapter also details a number of cases in which activists have applied a recognisable ‘hacker’ attitude to the technologies they work with. In activist circles we see this attitude applied at the level of the communication system, rather than a particular device, and often with an explicit aim of creating a horizontal communication structure that transcends the intended uses of the system. It is those areas where activist groups differ most significantly from the intended market of technologies (usually businesses or public sector bureaucracies) where the hacker attitude seems to hold most promise.
You can download a preprint of the chapter here: Attitudes to Technology and Innovation, preprint.
You can find out more about the book from the E-democracy webpage: Net Working / Networking.
Article to be published in Information, Communication and Society.
Abstract:This article uses interviews with committed anti-war and peace activists to offer an overview of both the benefits and challenges that social movements derive from new communication technologies. It shows contemporary political activism to be intensely informational; dependent on the sensitive adoption of a wide range of communication technologies. A hyperlink analysis is then employed to map the UK anti-war movement as it appears online. Through comparing these two sets of data it becomes possible to contrast the online practices of the UK anti-war movement with its offline ‘reality’. When encountered away from the Web recent anti-war contention is grounded in national-level political realities and internally divided by its political diversity but to the extent that experience of the movement is mediated online, it routinely transcends national and political boundaries.
An electronic preprint of this article is available here: Anti-War Movement Online, Preprint. The authoritative final version will be available online at: Taylor and Francis, ICS.
Paper presented to the 8th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Glasgow, September 2007.
Abstract: Significant activist groups see information and communication technologies (ICTs) as offering substantial potential in empowering social movements in organisation, mobilisation, and communication of their critiques and demands. Academic studies have begun to demonstrate some of the creative and technologically sophisticated uses to which activists have put new media. However, emphasis on the novel tends to overshadow the degree to which activists’ everyday lives are structured by interaction with new communications media. This paper analyses informational practices among UK anti-war and peace activists, demonstrating a far more complex picture of the value of new media to campaigning organisations. On the one hand, we see informational practices that utilise the manifest functionalities of new technologies as absolutely pervasive in contemporary activism. On the other hand, we see some activist groups discovering the latent functionalities of ICTs through stringing together multiple modes of communication or combining technologies with the social and political networks in which they interact. Through such practices activists produce relatively novel communication structures that potentially offer new ways of exerting the power of collective action.
This paper may be downloaded in pdf format from this link: Anti-War Activism and New Media.
Paper presented to the international research seminar ‘Politics on the Internet’ at the University of Tampere, Finland, 23-24 November 2006.
This article uses interviews with core anti-war and peace activists to offer an overview of both the benefits and challenges that social movement actors derive from new communication technologies. It shows contemporary political activism as intensely informational; dependent on rapid communication by a wide variety of means. A hyperlink analysis is then employed to map the UK anti-war movement as it appears online. Through comparing these two sets of data it becomes possible to contrast the online representation of the UK anti-war movement with its offline ‘reality’. We find that, to the extent that one’s experience of the anti-war movement is mediated online, it appears as a continuous network across national and political boundaries. This is in sharp contrast to activists’ experience ‘on the ground’ which is both politically divided and demonstrably tied to a national-level focus for action.
Please download the paper in .pdf format from this link: The UK Anti-War Movement Online.