Monday, February 6, 2012

As We May Think: A Map To Our Present (except for cyborgs)

This was a very engaging read, especially for the "wow" factor of how many future technologies were imagined and nailed in the span of a few pages. Bush seems to have pretty much mapped out computing for the next hundred years to come. This makes one wonder, however, if he was indeed that prescient, or if "innovators," either consciously or not, have been mining this article for decades, bringing his vision to bear.

A few passages/concepts really stood out to me:

  • "...if the users are to free their brains for something more than repetitive detailed transformations in accordance with established rules." This gels the idea that both Justin and Greg mentioned at lunch last week; that our brains, adapting to the tools we now use regularly today, will begin to prune and repurpose themselves to a completely different mode of thinking and being.
  • On a similar note, he remarks that "inventors of universal languages have not seized upon the idea of producing one which better fitted the technique for transmitting and recording speech." Again, we see the tension of making the tools adapt to our humanity as opposed to our humanity adapting to a more tool-friendly way of operating.
  • Finally, when Bush talks about trails, he is trying to solve the problem of storing an item in a single place. These associations are not many to one, but many to many, such that the item can be "stored" in and accessed from one of many trails. To me, this sounds an awful lot like tagging. As it turns out, I'm not the first person to come to that conclusion. :)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Old ideas on new media

My very first impression before ever cracking the spine on The New Media Reader was one of skepticism. How is a book published in 2003 even remotely relevant to a discussion about New Media, when tools are morphing and emerging seemingly every week?

Thankfully, this book is not about tools (though some of the "current" technologies referenced are delightfully antiquated), but rather about trends; trends in communication, trends in how we relate to and organize information, and most importantly, trends in how we respond to change we don't fully comprehend. The analysis and discussion of New Media can happen outside of the context of tools altogether, which is a Very Good Thing.

As Greg mentioned in his first post, many of the references are inaccessible to those not steeped in all facets of the New Media discussion. One might catch the literary (Borges) and sociological (post-modernism) references, but not the computing nods like Turing and Berners-Lee. Murray assumes too much knowledge of the both "sides" of the discussion. While I believe the special symbols in the margin are meant to provide context for her references, they are strangely analog and out of place for something that could be better served by the digital medium we're discussing. I'm thinking of an eBook in which you can highlight a word and either define it or pull up Wikipedia (yes, I said Wikipedia) citation for the person or concept in question. Maybe that's reserved for The New Media Reader 2.0?

Oblique references aside, I think Murray does a great job of laying out the forces at work and the actors involved to talk about where New Media began and where it is going. Thankfully, this is also done without gushing about the virtues of one perspective, but rather represents the necessity of all perspectives.