Making sense of assemblages

Assemblages attempt to explain the relationship between individuals, people, society and technology. The notion of an assemblage can be explored through Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network Theory that presupposes that networks are made up of human and non-human actants (essentially giving agency to non-living entities.) According to Latour each component should be treated equally or what De-Landa describes as a ‘flat ontology.’ The theory suggests that both social and technical agents have the ability to act and affect the world.  The entities within an assemblage cannot be isolated or seen from a solely technological or social standpoint. Depunctualization (the separating or disconnecting of a network’s parts) is likened to a box. “When closed, the box is perceived simply as a box, [a holistic assemblage] although when it is opened all elements inside it becomes visible.” [Both its social and technical actants.]

 

All of this sociological jargon however can overwhelm the typical 19-year-old second year media student. My first thoughts being, ‘now repeat in English please?’ So I have attempted (attempted being the operative word) to create a more fathomable real world example of this oh so foreign concept ‘they’ like to call an assemblage. So I begin. It is difficult to distinguish whether the mobile phone is a product of technological or social forces. Latour believes that there should be no need to distinguish between the two. The mobile phone is made up of both human and non-human actants, such as a camera, the keypad and the speaker– all of which are technical non-living elements, but which according to Latour still possess agency. There is also the social agents within the assemblage of a mobile phone that are generated by the human actants and reflect social concepts such as texting, making phone calls and browsing the internet. All of these agents work together to create what we know as the assemblage of the mobile phone. Without one, it would cease to function as the network that we know it to be. We cannot view the mobile phone as solely a technological entity as it relies on human agency (the social agent) to function as well as to have purpose and fulfil a need. With all agents functioning in the network the mobile phone is an assemblage, (a box) yet a phone without its user would simply become a piece of plastic containing a camera, keyboard and speaker (an open box.)

A spoof of the Actor-Network Theory created by sociology students:


References

[online] ‘Actor Network Theory’, Wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actor-network_theory

‘News 2.0’

72– the number of hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute

400 million– the number of devices with youtube access

1 trillion– the number of YouTube views in 2011

35 million – the number of Justin Bieber followers on twitter

750– the  number of tweets per second

Gone are the days when an overweight man with a bell and a feather hat was one’s only source of news. These days the news bombards us at a staggering pace. It fills our bins with paper, our newsfeeds with celebrity scoops and minds with unnecessarily  depressing facts on the inevitability of cancer.

No longer is it enough however to seek such information in one place, or possible in that matter to fill one’s entire scope of interests from a single source. I don’t consider myself much of a news fanatic, (as guilty as this makes me feel as a media student) however I alone read the morning paper, follow multiple newspapers on Facebook and Twitter, receive twice daily emails from ABC news and occasionally indulge in my guilty pleasure, The Project.  Each of these sources serves a clear purpose and satisfies a different appetite. For days when I’m looking for that little bit of crazy in my life I’ll often hop onto Facebook and read the ‘did that really happen?’ news stories for a session of what I like to call –my life is utterly boring, but wow I feel so much better about myself!  At other times when the University guilt creeps in I will go through my ABC news emails (which often build up as I tend to avoid them in fear of falling into a dark pit of depression.)

But one thing is clear, ‘the news’ is no longer run by those who work in ‘the news’.  Fully aware of the imminent new climate, journalists have launched a moral crusade against the guerrillas otherwise known as bloggers, or anyone with a video camera and access to YouTube or twitter really.  Not only has ‘News 2.0’ ignited a fire within traditional newspaper journalists, it has caused considerable financial damage to the industry as a whole. So what did they conclude? If you can’t beat them, join them (but force them to pay)

The Guardian editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger believes that forcing people to pay for news content online would disengage news organisations with their readers through removing them from the digital revolution. (Busfield 2010) This puts them at a critical disadvantage when so much news content is so easily accessed for free on news aggregation websites and so on. We are in a time where the news industry no longer monopolises our thoughts, with so much choice, we have become the gatekeepers, we hold the power. Every effort should therefore be made to satisfy the changing needs and habits of those whose say truly matters. Judging by the speed of which people have discovered paywall workarounds for the New York Times via twitter -just 12 hours, (Madrigal 2011) it just doesn’t seem as if people (besides the loyalist of readers) are going to go along for the ride.

Doesn’t seem too difficult. A person gets past a paywall in 36 seconds!

Word of the week: Alphabet

References

[online] Busfield, Steve (2010) ‘Guardian editor hits back at paywalls’, The Guardian, January 25, accessed 15 March 2013,  <http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/jan/25/guardian-editor-paywalls >

[online] Dunn, Jeff 2012, Edudemic, accessed 15 March 2013, <http://edudemic.com/2012/12/14-twitter-statistics-you-may-not-know/ >

[online] Madrigal, Alexis (2011) ‘New York Paywall Workaround Springs Up Already’, The Atlantic, March 17, Accessed 15 March 2013, <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/new-york-times-paywall-workaround-springs-up-already/72631/ >

[online] Youtube, accessed 15 March 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html>

A Literary Romance

My 15-year-old sister had never read more than a handful of books in her life. She was a serial adulterer, never being able to commit to that monogamist relationship that a good book deserves. Her love of teen literature began two summers ago when a family friend suggested the now global teen sensation, The Hunger Games. I have never in my life seen someone sit in the same position with the same expression of bewilderment as she did during those next few days. I was truly watching a literary romance blossom. A week later and she had finished the entire three part series.

As the months past and her thirst for vampires, angels and apocalyptic hotties grew, so did the stack of books beside her bed. There seemed only one solution for her ever so increasing first world problem – a kindle e-reader. This small piece of grey plastic took her new passion to soaring heights, as well as mum’s credit card bills! This new platform allowed for an easier and more accessible way of feeding her cravings. Books can now be downloaded instantaneously, from anywhere in the world and it seems, as The Institute for the Future of The Book’s mission statement notes, The printed page is giving way to the networked screen.”

She began finishing books within 24 hours – that would have entailed way too many trips to the bookstore! However the more important consequence behind her new toy is that her increased engagement in literature lead her to pursue other aspects of the more modern book culture. She began to engage in literature on other platforms like YouTube and became involved in new publics such as active ‘fandoms.’ Not only did this expand her publics but also exposed her to new types of publishing and language. OTP (One True Pairing), Shipping (Matching characters together) and Feels (emotions) are just a few of the young adult fiction fandom slangs which I am increasingly noticing is a part of my sister’s vernacular. “Radio, cinema and television emerged in the last century and now, with the advent of computers, we are combining media to forge new forms of expression.” (The Institute for the Future of The Book) Something in which my sister is clearly participating.

Despite her love affair with the ease of the kindle, when questioned about whether she prefers the traditional printed platform over newer technological advancements, she responded, “I prefer reading books because it gives you the feeling that you’ve accomplished something…there’s a sense of euphoria  when you complete a book which you can never have with an e-reader.” In my opinion this notion of truly experiencing a book, going on a ‘metaphysical journey’ with it, trumps any increased accessibility or ease in reading which may be gained through e-readers. Quite simply, and as Jonah Lehrer agrees, there is still no replacement for a good old worn out book.

“Perhaps we need to alter the fonts, or reduce the contrast, or invert the monochrome color scheme. Our eyes will need to struggle, and we’ll certainly read slower, but that’s the point: Only then will we process the text a little less unconsciously… We won’t just scan the words – we will contemplate their meaning. “(J, Lehrer 2010)

The bizarre world of fandoms! (Be ready for the tween jargon! It’s also disturbingly catchy…)

We’re My OTP – Troye Sivan (Internet Vlogger)

References

[online] Lehrer, Jonah (2010) ‘The Future of Reading’, Wired, September 8,  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/the-future-of-reading-2

[online] ‘Mission Statement’, Institute for the Future of the Book, http://www.futureofthebook.org/mission.html“> http://www.futureofthebook.org/mission.html