... because life's too short to do anything ALL the time . Creativity and positivity are my "hiraeth"

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Digital Human

One may have noticed by now that I am indeed a big fan of BBC Radio 4.

I have 2 goals in life, one is to do Judy Dench's make up, the other is to present Woman's Hour.

I love this series by the glorious Radio 4 Digital Human. Does make my blog post seem a bit crap though.

When we started discussing this topic in our lecture we tried to establish what being just a human is. And we couldn't manage to come up with a lot. Well we did, but what we did come up with could be argued against - on just about every point.

From Wikipedia:
"Humans are distinguished from other primates by their bipedal locomotion, and especially by their relatively larger brain with its particularly well developed neocortexprefrontal cortex and temporal lobes, which enable high levels of abstract reasoninglanguageproblem solving, and culture through social learning. Humans use tools to a much higher degree than any other animal, and are the only extant species known to build fires and cook their food, as well as the only known species to clothe themselves and create and use numerous other technologies and arts."

"Humans are uniquely adept at utilizing systems of symbolic communication such as language and art for self-expression, the exchange of ideas, and organization. Humans create complex social structures composed of many cooperating and competing groups, from families and kinship networks to statesSocial interactions between humans have established an extremely wide variety of values, social norms, and rituals, which together form the basis of human society. The human desire to understand and influence their environment, and explain and manipulate phenomena, has been the foundation for the development of sciencephilosophymythology, and religion."

Some of these characteristics are not exclusively human. Primates share so many characteristics, as do family pets that take on human characteristics (controversial - I'm dog obsessed) through living as part of our families.

So a digital technology and it's effect on the human is only going to be a good thing, seeing as it's been created as a tool for humans, by humans?

Part of human nature is to be lazy, (the tiny amount of reading I have done on human evolution tells us that it's so that we can reserve our energy for chasing animals so that we can eat them) and also to take things for granted. We all do this all day every day as we have the power to affect our environments. I can't imagine giraffes "taking things for granted". They merely work with what they have and respond to the environment they live in. They are natives, responsive. The digital age hasn't reached the giraffe population.

But our generation (define generation?) are not natives to the digital era. We are "digital immigrants". We remember how society functioned before we had all these incredible tools available to us. Within the next 20 years, realistically, most media professionals and professionals in general, will be digital natives and they'll be writing blogs (if they still exist) about what it must have been like to live before the World Wide Web.

Or will they?

To me, one of the most useful and valuable aspects of the way that content is created and stored, we have a running social commentary of the entire time the WWW has been in existence,  and social media has brought so much information into it form so many "unofficial " sources that we have an almost infinite supply of information about what it is to be human and alive during the time the internet and computing as a whole, and for some time before.

One of my favourite quotes about technology is that in order to get man to the moon, the Americans used the computing power that is the equivalent of 1/6 of the power of the technology contained in our chip and pin cards. That's one hell of a statistic and it was years ago I heard it so it could be hideously outdated.

There are actually loads of articles about this but I do not understand most of it as my tech knowledge is limited, to say the very least. 

This one's quite good: Comparing the Apollo Guidance Computer to an IBM PC XT So in a nutshell, there's a lot of information out there. 

An awful lot of people both on and off TV (you know, that thing we all used to sit around and watch the Dukes of Hazard) spend a tremendous portion of their lives, time and energy researching what it was like to be alive in days gone by. We don't have to do that any more. Documenting social history is one of the most important aspects of social media, and media as a whole. To me, anyway.

So what do we mean by "digital immigrants"? Simple. People who know what it is like to live both in and before the digital revolution. And "digital natives"? People who have been born into the digital revolution. They know no different. Whilst relatively obvious and simple a concept, the repercussions and implications are huge when you think about human adaptability and being affected by the environment.

I often think to myself when using one of the many appliances we have readily available to us (mainly the dishwasher and washing machine) "how on earth did people cope before washing machines were available?". I then berate myself for being reliant on this technology when I remember my Grandmother hand washing smalls in the sink, every single day. But life was very different then. The demands were different (she didn't work) the expectations were different (child, teenager, work a few years, marry, have children, retire) and the world was a very different size (as big as the life they lead, no bigger, no need). 

Even as a child, the impact of global society was having an effect. I grew up with Michael Jackson, the Brat Pack, Freddie Kruger on TV, video, magazines, cinema. It encompassed growing up life at 10 years old and then when a group of pop and rock stars get together to create a worldwide simultaneous concert flying people across the globe and coming together globally for the greater good - as a child it's more difficult to be unaware that global society exists. Up until that point in time, in order to integrate with the global community, one had to work quite hard to seek it out. Before this, of course, the Americas had a massive influence, it just took much, much longer to filter across. We were on different sides of the world. We're not now. Not really. 

You couldn't simply share a silly picture with somewhere in Sierra Leone. I could do that right now if I wanted - I probably have at some point today without even knowing it. 

One of the arguments against social media that we hear all the time is that it creates seclusion. Episode 1 of the Digital Human podcast Adaption discusses and illustrates both sides of this argument beautifully. 

One of the subjects is a blogger. A fashion and beauty blogger. A very good one. It turns out that she has agoraphobia. The argument is used that modern technology is facilitating this mental disorder - allowing her to be successful in her field without forcing her into social interaction. She eloquently explains that the technology has allowed her to gently and safely build her confidence and push her boundaries to the point that she's now able to go out of her front door. Not very far, but out never the less.

And anyway, hermits have existed in caves since the dawn of time. Does that mean they have no right to participate in society in whatever way they are able?

When I started writing this blog I found it quite difficult to get going. I can honestly say I could talk about this all night. But I won't, you'll be pleased to hear. Not JUST because I'm currently listening to a podcast about the effect of technological light on the hypothalamus  in the night time.

The people that seem to be finding the digital revolution the hardest are a new category that I've created. "Digital Illegal Immigrants". The guys who are reluctantly trying to get a tiny handle on technology simply because they have to and not because they want to. I do think it must be very hard as it's difficult enough for an immigrant of average intelligence and a keen desire. When the TV analogue signal got turned off, I was a care worker. Not every person I cared for had someone to set up their digital switchover for them. Several people that night were left without their only company other than 15 minutes with me as a result. For some, this lasted days and caused great confusion. That's not good. 

All in the name of progress. Reminds me of a sickly sweet ride at Disney World that shows the "wheel of progress" (I think that's what it's called)

I loved this! And "It's a Small World" too, obv.

I think we're in an age of massive change and rules and procedures we've followed for generations are becoming obsolete. Well, not obsolete, just changing. A lot.

Some of the other arguments against the digital revolution are unknown dangers, stranger dangers, unwanted attention and information theft.

Well, the way I see it, there have always been unknown dangers. They key is in the name. Strangers have been lurking behind trees and posing as others for hundreds of years. People have been subject to unwanted attention since they've been subject to attention and information theft has existed since information existed.

The dangers and the negatives are still the same - they just present in different ways. In the future, children will be taught how to cross the information super highway at the same time as Tufty has taught them how to cross the road. Information security will improve at the same speed as it did when money came into existence and people realised that keeping it under the mattress wasn't the best place to keep it.

Same, just different.

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