Media Technologies, Cognition And Consciousness-Expansion

What are some of the way in which technology changes us? Aside from being a technological determinist there are many way to think about the growing evolution of us, the environment and of course… the machine.

The following is an abstract for a thesis examining what potential links lay between the human and technology.

Abstract (Media-Technologies-Cognition-and-Consciousness-Expansion)

Our attitudes towards and relationship with technology is increasingly becoming a ground for debate as to the positive or negative effects upon society. The development of newer forms of media communication technologies are continually redefining the ways in which we interact and participate in symbolic systems.

This Honours Thesis examines the fields of philosophy, developmental psychology, neuropsychology, cognitive theory, semiotics and media theory to explore our human relationship with technology and provide an integrative approach for re-examining our attitudes towards technology.

An investigation into various cultures’ relationships with technological tools as a means of seeking knowledge will reveal how various technological artefacts can be used to amplify cognition and lead us to internalise mental skills, expanding our consciousness. From the loom to the written word we shall see a relationship emerge between human cognition and self-conception and the development of technology.

Investigations in developmental cognitive theory will reveal criticisms of the current developmental model as proposed by Piaget which states there is an end-point to human cognitive development. Examining an alternative developmental theory, we focus on the developmental model as drawn from Vedic psychology and practiced in the technique of Transcendental Meditation (TM). This technique operates as a ‘cultural amplifier’ for cognitive development beyond language based conceptual levels of thought to post-conceptual higher stages of consciousness. Reflecting on the work of Walter Ong and his notion of writing as a technology as consciousness-expanding, we pose the question. Do new media technologies (such as video games, virtual reality and multimedia environments) hold the potentialities to act as a ‘cultural amplifier’ towards cognitive development and what is regarded as higher states of consciousness? A notion such as this blurs traditional lines between the mental and material, cognitive and non cognitive and biology and culture and provides an understanding for re-examining our attitudes and interactions with technology.

Download Paper Here: Media-Technologies-Cognition-and-Consciousness-Expansion.

Review: The Rise of the Network Society

Manual_Castells_Information_Age_Vol_1In this first of three volumes on the ‘Information Age’, Castells attempts to grasp what clearly is a wide ranging, evolving change surrounding technology, people, labor practices, consumption and economy. While suggesting that in a sense we have always been a society organised by networks and information, he compels the reader to conceive of the drivers of the post-industrial revolution and beyond to the global economy as the embodiment of the Information Society. A series of ever increasing changes in communication technology and technological applications in general has been a conduit for dramatic changes in how we function.

From flex-timers, network enterprises, blurring of life cycles, timeless time, space of flows and a virtualisation (from labor to reality), Castells divulges these changes by conducting a wide ranging examination of global economic changes. He empirically illustrates the emerging (and by the day ever more emergent) social structures of the global economy facilitated by technology.

An encapsulation of the notion of what the information age comprises of is a difficult task, one in which Castells has had to commit over 1,500 pages across three volumes to exposure trade and labor practices and their relationship to socio-technological environments. Citing specific studies he traces economic development (including a segmented breakdown) across advanced economies and emergent economies from the post world war two era.

Castells sees the transformations of trade markets primarily from national or localised to the global and inter-connected. Including and beyond the traditional resources trading of oil, minerals, gas and weapons, we see financial, manufacturing, agricultural and services under-go fundamental reorganisations.

An examination and comparision on the national level illustrates a stratification, or separation of modes of production. One general trend, that many cite as the implication of globalisation, the loss of jobs to offshore and the degrading of the nations economic prosperities, in part reflect a reality, but not the whole picture.

While human labor production is being integrated and distributed into global system in an effort to avoid labour costs, streamline larger productions networks. Where there is a lack of employment opportunities in certain production industries (primarily human labor) Castells illustrates there is corresponding growth in other production sectors. The inverse trend is that in ‘high technology’ producer states experience a surge in information production, management sectors.

The example of the United States financial industry sector or as the Burero of Labor Statistics defines it as ‘Producer Services’ (which includes Banking, Insurance, Real Estate, Engineering, Accounting & Legal Services) can be show to have experienced the highest level of growth relative to all other sectors accept Social Services from the period stretching from 1920 to 1991.

Castells (2006) Table 4.1 United States: Percentage distribution of employment by industrial sector and intermediate industry group. p.304

This confluence of many factors still, does illustrate the changing dynamic and the multivalent make-up that is the globally networked information society.

What informs these transformations is the development of communication technologies and the underlying applications of technology. All within a social political framework, there are flows of production and consumption battling for a supreme network position, to be key in production of flows in order to secure future production flows, wealth and security.

The conglomerate of interactions, influences and connections between the mix of labor, society, economy and technology can be seen to embody these changes that

Castells sees as facilitated by technology. And this can be hard to deny.

Far be it to argue for technological determinism or question individual freedom of use, what Castells is concerned with the ‘Network Logic’, a disposition of assemblages between embedded amongst our global system, a techno-socio-economic information production network.

Castells does not argue to define a static arrangement of the engagement between various institutions and modes of distribution but to illustrate and trace the forces at play intersecting across the multiple spheres of production, power and distribution.

A mix of social analysis and evidence from key global economic developments Castells provides a strong base for further incursions into what the network is comprised of, and what it could be.

With two more volume there’s plenty to discuss.

Disruptive Technology

What exactly is Disruptive?

As new arrangements of technological systems interface with our human and social world, does the descriptive disruptive practically provide a term to assist society to conceptualise these new transformative potentials?

Defined as, to rupture, throw into disorder and disrupt the normal course of unity, its first known use is in 1793(Merriam-Webster). It took another hundred years or so for disruption to find a place in late 19th century physics.

More recently in the 1960’s ‘Disruptive Selection’ also known as ‘diversifying selection’ became used in population genetics a part of evolutionary theory. As such ‘diversifying selection’ is regarded to be the central component to sympatric speciation (Smith, 1966), the process in which new species evolve from a single ancestral species within the same area.

The term ‘Disruptive’ was paired with ‘technology’ by Clayton Christensen in 1995, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School. Disruptive Innovation emerged as an area of focus in theories of industrial innovation to seek to understand what milieu of specific industries, products, technologies and market environments foster innovative practises.

With the focus upon innovation and retaining productivity within an economic market Christensen notes that disruption can be operating across multiple axes. As a subset of market ‘sustaining innovation’, ‘revolutionary innovation’ or ‘discontinuous innovation’ is characterised as not affecting the existing market, the classic example illustrated here is the automobile.

It was not until the Ford Model T in 1908 which became cheap enough through mass production transformed the car from a luxury item into a disruptive innovation across the transportation market. Indeed it was not the technology of the automobile that singularly defined the disruption of the horse and cart. Rather its was Fordism, the mass production line and petroleum extraction and delivery technologies in a milieu of other socio-economic factors, which enabled the automobiles disruption (Christensen, 1997, 2003 p.43-48).

This analysis maps innovation on an axis between market performances against the non-consumption disruption. This discontinuous innovation, fails to highlight the other vast number of potential exchanges and disruptions that may emerge from the innovation, until there is an impedance or opportunity upon ‘markets’ the analysis is not there. Indeed there exists social, cultural, psychological and agency exchanges which are not included in disruptions conception.

Disruptive innovation as an externality of a sustaining market creates a new market which applies a new of operational rules which govern its interaction. This new market eventuates in the overtaking of existing markets.

These analyses of Christensen are in themselves market sustaining innovations, in which attempts to explore the disruptive engagement. The relationship between technological artefacts and users are looked over in favour of higher level ‘market potential’ of revolutionary-sustaining innovation.

From the history of it’s usage, the term ‘disruptive’ occupies a place of change and transformation. This change can be seen as a rearrangement, a reorganisation, as change occurs it exhibits behaviour of a networked character. Duncan Watts identifies flows and cascades of changes across the network as they exhibit predictable change observable across networks. These externalities exhibit influence across its network altering its components ‘behaviour’ or methods of exchange and production.

For Watts the science of determining predictability and thresholds for change is in the nature of the relationship of the network’s parts. While Network theory is susceptible to over simplification, the base observable mathematical relationships between unit and whole describes the point at which change occurs through a system of influence of relationships or ‘network logic’.

To map the potential for change means to understand considerations of individual parts and sum of the parts into the whole. Such considerations are externalities that is, factors that engage with individual network parts to influence change. The many relationships the part has within, exists secondary and tertiary externalities almost ad infinitum.

Watts provides the example of Fax machine proliferation. For this, externalities exist from the fact that fax machine consumption and use requires people to want to talk with each other (Watts 2004, p.220 – 243). As with Christensen’s automobile, the externality of affordability for consumer and producer is dependent upon the efficient resource and capital supply to producers, manufacturers and consumer markets. Additionally, there exists the externality of human desire to travel faster than the existing modes of transport, and many more.

Our concern about disruptions can be understood as the potential for change, the arrangement of network parts in which change occurs. From the externality of a single part to revolutionary- sustaining innovation across the network, a chain of influencing externalities may result to create a cascading or overarching change in the dominant network logic.