Week 2: Foundations, Thinkers & Ideas

11 Mar


As media continues to emerge, we can’t help but notice not only an extension of various information technologies, but an extension of the interactions between humans and these machines. The reading for this week, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’ by Andrew Murphie and John Potts (2003) explores the relationship between technology and society and aims to determine whether media technologies are the tools that impact, shape and change the way we perceive and understand culture, society and the world we live in, or whether it is society and culture that affects the way we use these technologies. This blog will focus on the ideas and theories of Marshall McLuhan who believes that all technologies are extensions of human capacities that determine society and he therefore proposes that “the cultural significance of media lies not in their content, but in the way they alter our perception of the world” (Murphie & Potts 2003, pg. 13) McLuhans theory reflects not merely the importance of the content being delivered, but rather the characteristics of the actual medium in itself as being the initiators of cultural change.

This belief ties in with McLuhan’s theory of technological determinism. The viewpoint of this term holds that “a successful technical innovation, if implemented on a sufficiently wide scale, will generate a new type of society” (Murphie & Potts, 2003. Pg. 12) and is demonstrated though examples of such emerging societies including the information age and the age of electricity. (Murphy & Potts, 2003)

McLuhan theories also focussed on the idea that that all technologies are extensions of human capacities and he therefore proposes that ‘the medium is the message’. I found this idea particularly interesting and in order to gather an understanding, I thought about the ways I use certain media technologies and the reasons for which I use them.

In today’s society, new mediums such as Facebook now facilitate connections between people, businesses and social environments and it is these social connection that have become the message. We find ourselves constantly creating and sharing things that define who we are to the people we want to see it. Although we may be forming these connections through social networking mediums, at the same time we are isolating ourselves from each other. It is these mediums that are impacting the ways we connect in person, proving that these mediums are in fact undermining the reasons and goals for which we’re using them and therefore I agree that the way we use the medium is what matters and holds responsibility for the message and the way it is interpreted. 

Communication Evolution – Question 2

9 Jun

2. ‘But what’s happening today – the mass ability to communicate with each other, without having to go through a traditional intermediary – is truly transformative.’

Evolution of Communication

As civilisation continues to evolve, so does the technology in which we use to communicate. What we have come to notice is that the most basic forms of communication are consistently progressing into the more advanced and complex systems we have today. Today we find ourselves living in what has become known as the information age as various communication and information technologies continue to invade our homes as well as schools, workplaces and even ourselves. This is true because if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be here accessing or reading this blog post! We are so caught up in these communication networks that we never really give much thought as to how they got here to begin with as well as why we are finding ourselves no longer relying on the more traditional forms.

The following essay will focus on firstly the history of communication along with a definition of traditional intermediaries before moving on to a detailed analysis of technical convergence and the impacts it has had and continues to have on the methods in which we communicate today, providing examples of two linked key innovators in the communications revolution, the iPhone and Twitter, and how exactly they have had an effect on the information age in which we are now living in.

To begin, let us define the term traditional intermediary. To be intermediate means to be in between two things, therefore in regards to communication, a traditional intermediary refers to an existing medium used to deliver a message from its sender to the recipient. Before the information age, without such mediums it was almost impossible to communicate. For example, without ancient mediums such as stones, plaques or tablets, words could not be written. Without a telephone, one could not communicate with another from a distance unless it was delivered by foot, however there were limitations of physical transportation such as speed, cost and time. Nathan Ensmenger stated here that “Only by eliminating this dependence on physical movement—by abstracting the informational content of a message from its physical medium—could communications networks truly transcend the limitations of time and space” (Ensmenger, N. 2006). It wasn’t long after this issue arose that solutions began coming into play. One of the first solutions to enable to movement of messages was through telegraphy in the 18th century. This medium involved the transmitting and movement of information via the form of visible light.

Telegraphy in the 18th Century

From this moment onwards, slight advancements continued to be created. Telegraphy became the electric telegraph. As the historian Steve Lubar has suggested here, “telegraphy was the high tech industry of the late 19th century, creating new industries, new wealth, and a new culture of innovation”. (Lubar, S. 1993).

By the end of the 19th Century, it was evident that the communications revolution was well underway as information was being mechanically transmitted from one medium to another, however it didn’t stop there and therefore it seemed as though the revolution had only just begun. Communication technology continued to develop and in 1870, the telegraph became the telephone whereby verbal speech was transformed into an electrical signal that was then transmitted to the recipient at the other end of the line. In the 1890’s the groundwork was laid for television, wireless telegraphy and radio as a result of the development of electromagnetic radiation.

Along with the 20th century came the digital revolution, which has taken this concept of communication and information to its very peak, converting almost all traditional forms of information such as text, image and sound from analogue to digital as a result of technological convergence. Writer Steven Wells defines technological convergence as “the tendency for different technological systems to evolve towards performing similar tasks” (Wells, S. 2009). The introduction and development of the Internet in 1969 was and continues to be perceived as a key milestone in the growth of information technology. On the October 29, 1969, computers at Stanford and UCLA connected for the first time on the Arpanet network. Following the establishment of the Arpanet network came the development of the email in 1971 by Ray Tomlinson. 1977 brought along with it the first PC modem by Dennis Hayes and in 1982 the emoticon was born and used after a joke was made. By 1987 there were around 30,000 hosts on the Internet, and in 1991 the very first World Wide Web page was created. It was from this moment on that the Internet became commercialized and as a result, the very first news story was broken online in 1988 rather than through traditional media. The 2000’s bought on the development of other major online innovators in communications including Google, Youtube, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter as well as the iPhone and the Mobile Web.

Before the Internet, people already had a medium that allowed for them to communicate and instantly get in touch – the telephone, and shortly after, the mobile phone. However, when the world went online, so did the mobile phone. This brings me to my first key innovator in the communications revolution, that is, the iPhone and it’s mobile web application. The iPhone has become an integral part of daily life since its introduction in 2007 as we are currently in the communication revolution; we are therefore seeking instant contact with others. This is where the iPhone comes into play as its delivers accessibility, mobility, technology and convenience for those wanting to remain in touch and has therefore had major impact on society. For example, 78% of business people are using their phones to check email. The ability of consumers to access their email via their mobile devices reveals that they no longer need to be at home using their PC as their medium for communicating or sending information through emails with others, let alone going to the post office and posting your mail. The iPhone also provides its users with instant messaging features therefore eliminating the need to use a telephone to engage with others and share information, especially if the sender requires a quick answer off the recipient. Face-to-face communication has also become digitized through the iPhone’s recent feature, Facetime. By using Facetime, users are able to engage in a video-based interactive call where each caller can see each other on their screens resulting in a more personal and intimate environment where the callers can feel almost as if they are in the presence of one another. The advantage of such a feature is that it enables users to communicate face to face without actually being at the same place. This has also eliminated and replaced the traditional intermediary of communication via physical movement mentioned earlier in this essay.

The iPhone additionally provides its users with various applications available for download. For example, the application for Channel 10 provide users with information regarding television shows including air-times, episode summaries, new season dates etc. By having this option, it seems almost unnecessary to pull out the old television guide and flick through the pages until you find information on the show you want. Not only can this process be time consuming, but the traditional print version of the television guide is now becoming almost outdated, in a sense, unless of course you do not own an iPhone or have access to the Internet. The application HeyTell also allows users to send instant voice messages to each other by holding down a button whilst speaking, almost like a walkie-talkie. Once you let go of the button, the voice message sends instantly. The benefit of this feature is that it is extremely quick especially if you want to say something urgently without having to dial the person and wait for the call to connect. These examples reveal that since the introduction of the iPhone, consumers no longer need to communicate via traditional mediums such as posting and sending written mail or watching the news on television as these can be done on the iPhone as it acts as a medium in itself which allows them to multitask and communicate in more ways than one

The video below is a quirky look at the evolution of communication dating back to the earliest days of mankind.

Twitter is another new form of online communication that arrived on the scene in 2006 and was basically introduced as a quicker and more convenient form of blogging. Blog posts are particularly lengthy at times, therefore, twitter provided online users with a medium in which they could break down there thoughts and opinions into much smaller chunks. What this medium enables is fast processing and delivery of these posts creating the interplay of speed and quality. By following these short abbreviated posts from friends, you get a glimpse of what exactly they are doing or their daily routine and therefore would not think to grab the phone and make a phonecall asking how their day is going as you have already read it. Alex Iskold made the following statement in his own blog, “People are collaborating on Twitter in real time. They are discovering news, watching each other and getting advice”. (Iskold, A. 2007) An example of this is the famous hashtag. A few weeks ago when the death of Osama Bin Laden was officially announced, the majority of the population reported to twitter to see in fact if the news was true. Within 5 minutes of the announcement, users had created various hash tags that was used to bring users together to discuss his death. Once users follow a certain hash tag, it allows them to track and watch things as they are occurring no matter where in the world they may be. People following the hash tag were posting and sharing live videos, links to articles, live statements, other websites and images related to the topic and so by the time the evening news had aired at 6:00pm, Osama Bin Laden’s death was pretty much perceived as ‘old news’. What this shows is that people no longer want to wait for the evening news to be informed in detail about what has occurred that same morning. Instead they want to know about it as soon as it happens and continue following it on twitter as live updates are constantly being made right then and there.

Journalist Steven Johnson made this very interesting statement on the changes over-time in the ways in which his colleagues would converse. “Twenty years ago, the ideas exchanged in [a] conversation would have been confined to the minds of the participants. Ten years ago, a transcript might have been published weeks or months later on the Web. Five years ago, a handful of participants might have blogged about their experiences…”. (S. Johnson, 2009) Today, its a conversation via single tweets. The full article can be read here.

Visualising Communication

In conclusion to this blog post, we can quite clearly see that the communication evolution continues to invade and change our lives. Earlier mobile phone models were used so people could check what was going on in their personal lives by checking and making calls, reading text messages and emails from others. Nowadays with the development of new communication technologies, we are using our phones to check on and distract ourselves with the lives of others by reading what they are doing or where they are. The internet – originally introduced as a platform that allowed for students to share documents, now you can share and watch television, watch the news, send instant chat messages,video call and even communicate with the other side of the world in the blink of an eye as a result of modern innovation. As Steven Johnson puts it, “here we are — millions of us — sitting around trying to invent new ways to talk to one another”.(Johnson, S. 2007)


Information age definition – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Age (accessed 3rd June, 2011)

Nathan Esmenger – ‘The History of Communication (April 4, 2006: accessed 3rd June, 2011)

‘Telegrapgy’ definition – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telegraphy (accessed 3rd June, 2011)

The Digital Revolution – http://www.designhistory.org/Digital_Revolution.html (accessed 3rd June, 2011)

Steven Wells – ‘What is Technical Convergence?’ – http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-technological-convergence.htm (accessed 4th June, 2011)

Twitter hashtags – http://twitter.pbworks.com/w/page/1779812/Hashtags (accessed 4th June, 2011)

Alex Iskold – Technology Blog: ‘Evolution of Communication: From Email to Twitter and Beyond” (May 30th, 2007: accessed 6th June, 2011)

Steven Johnson – “How Twitter will Change the way we live” (5th June, 2009: accessed 7th June, 2011)

Image: ‘Visualising Communication’ – http://www.pdviz.com/the-evolution-of-communication (accessed 7th June, 2011)

Youtube video: ‘Evolution of Communication’ by FiaTheGreek – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJjvsGBjy2U (1st May, 2010: accessed 9th June, 2011)






The worth of Facebook to the Individual

18 May

Following our week on Visualisations, we were given the task to create our own visualisations on a topic of our choice. Preferably, a topic that consisted of data that we needed to make visible through our creations. After a couple of days of brainstorming, my group and I, consisting of Kady Holt and Luis Charalambos decided to base our data on the well-recognised social media platform, Facebook.

We figured that because the majority of our class do actually use Facebook, then this would definately be of interest to them. So what about Facebook? What about Facebook can we make visible to our audience? We came up with an idea to create a survey on ‘the worth of Facebook to the individual’ on SurveyMonkey, a free online questio

nnaire tool and then share it on Facebook in order to get atleast 100 people to complete it. Our questions were based on things that normally one wouldnt think of when using Facebook. For example, if Facebook started charging to use its features, how much would you be willing to pay? Our full presentation can be viewed here.

Average user spends 1 hour a day on Facebook

The question for slide 8 was: On average, how many hours a day do you spend on facebook and is relevant to our overall theme as it gives us an idea of just how much time a day people are dedicating to facebook and social networking.
The use of the circles to represent this data basically uses sizing as a respective method to measure the percentages
from our data. The reason for this type of visualisation pattern is that sizing effectively portrays the
most frequent response from a total of 100 users which was 1 hour, therefore that circle is the largest.
The circles and arrows give the visualisation the effect of a clock which is relevant as our question is based on
time spent.

How dependant are you on Facebook?

The next slide visualises our data that we gathered on how dependant users are on facebook.
This question again reveals that people are becoming more and more attached to Facebook and are now using it for
various reasons that go beyond communication. i.e. creating/organising events, seeing what others are up to etc
The results were categorised on a scale, and, out of 100 users, 43 of them answered ‘fairly dependant’, which worked out to be a percentage of 43.4%. I chose to represent these 43 users by creating a block of 100 default profile picture images and then shading 43 of them in red. This type of visualisation gives a clear idea that almost half of the users are dependant and are relying on facebook to do simple tasks that could still be completed without it.

Would you still feel the need to use Facebook?

Our final question was whether or not the users would still feel the need to use Facebook if they couldnt access it on their phones. In order to visualise this data, we have used a method of colour and contrasting to distinguish those who would not still feel the need (dark blue shade), from those who would (white shade), along a u-shaped bar. The use of text also informs the viewers, giving them the basis for understanding what the visual is showing without any percentages present. This type of visualisation revealed to us that users are now accessing Facebook on their phones as a means of convenience and because of the fact that it is there which is definitely the main cause for the recent increase in Facebook mobile users.

Information really is beautiful…

8 May

Is this enough to fix climate change?

The readings for this week were quite interesting, particularly the one titled “The Global Warming Skeptics versus the Scientific Consensus” that can be viewed here. What I liked about this reading in particular was how it managed to summarise and break down the effects of climate change, a pretty major and complex issue surrounding us today, through simple methods of visualisation. Various tools such as bold font and interesting colours have also assisted in making this reading attention-grabbing. Science has never been one of my stong-points and if this sort of information was presented to me as a single, dull document with boring font I can tell you now that I definately would not look twice at it. However, the respective methods used have revealed this data in a much more condensed form, therefore making my task of reading the information on global warming not so painful for me and much easier to understand and grasp.

Another example of the power of visualisation to inform its readers is the images that were displayed on google after typing “Polar bears + climate change” into the searchbox. The images that arose showed Polar bears clinging on to a tiny peice of ice and included very minimal text. Instead of using text, the images are relying on nothing but the visual to send out a clear message on the negative effects of climate change. The message may be there and the visual may be imformative, but is it effective?

This issue was brought up in class, and after quite a bit of discussion, I do agree that using the polar bear as the main symbol for climate change may not leave that much of an impact on its viewers. The reasons for this being that not everyone is an animal lover, so for those who aren’t, putting a suffering polar bear in this image will not have that much of an effect on them as they will lack a sense of sympathy for these animals.

Another issue that struggles to get much attention is the death of the music industy. This visualisation, however, successfuly depicts the causes of its predicted death through graphs that continue to decrease in size as the years go by in an attempt to inform viewers on just how vital this issue really is.

I also came across this video below that explains how information overload can be avoided by turning complex data into eye-catching visuals.

Whether they be effective or not, it is safe to say that visualisations are definately becoming the a driving force in the media industry today as text-based data is slowly being replaced with the visual therefore transforming even the most complex, brain-busting information into something quite beautiful!

Week 8 – Visualisation

1 May

What does 200 calories look like?

This week was quite interesting as we were introduced to the concept of visualization which I suprisingly grasped quite quickly.  Well, atleast I hope  so! Basically what I gathered was that this concept of visualisation basically refers to the process of making an invisible practice visible through the use of a variety of image-based visuals. The process of visualisation is used to effectively represent and communicate types of data ranging from statistics, quantities and maps to information graphics. Various examples of these different types of visualisations can be found at http://infosthetics.com. These examples suggest that almost anything can be converted into visual data and they are usually things that are invisivle to us including doses of nuclear data and facebook users distributed around the world. Take a look at the Placebook application.

From the lecture, it was also mentioned that visualisations are also used for instructional purposes and use dashed or dotted lines to indicate temporal  positions and movement paths such as the direction in which to turn the knob to operate a a machine or the different stages to assemble an object. Examples of the dashed line in use in everyday life can be found here.

Before this weeks explorations on this concept, I never really noticed the power and importance of visualisations as forms of expression and was left amazed at their ability to make something that is invisible to the eye, visible! Also, in order to understand a particular image, we do not necessarily require written text or words as these visualisations themselves have the ability to convey deep meaning and connotations through the physical data.

So what exaclty does 200 calories look like? Just take a look at the image above.

Wikileaks: a new form of real media?

22 Apr

Before week 7, I really had no idea what Wikileaks was or its purpose for that matter. I was not until my group was given the task to debate against whether or not Wikileaks is a form of real media that I began my research and what I managed to find was quite interesting.

Just a new source of information really.

Firstly, Wikileaks can be defined as an international database founded by Julian Assange that aims to publish and expose private, secret news material from sources that remain anonymous onto the web. The news and materials that are published are media that Governments have kept hidden from its citizens. Although Wikileaks follows a similar publishing style as other regular news media outlets, the question that remains is whether or not it has become a new form of real media? Although many people do believe that it is a new form of media, others, including myself, strongly disagree for the following main reasons.

I believe it is NOT new media as Wikileaks came together via a collaboration of old-school investigative reporting and journalism and the internet, which is its most recent medium, however it has no real effect on the content. The internet is merely used as a method of distribution of the content onto the web. It really only is a form of online publishing as documents undergo the same process of obtaining and publishing content: information is collected and is edited before the data is published and therefore should be considered as nothing more than an already existing form of basic journalism.

Assange said that his organization has made a point of collaborating with news outlets also as newspapers can contextualize the information and synthesize it in a way that’s digestible to the average reader. The reason for this was to save people from having to sift through thousands of online documents. Again, the use of newspapers to publish leaks proves that old media forms are still used and have not been entirely replaced. The news organisations are also releasing these Wikileak documents through familiar, exisiting methods such as Google docsspreadsheets, and infographics.

WikiLeaks has previously stated in its operations that its “primary interest is in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations.”  During the unrest of the Middle East, Assange has stated that both Facebook and Twitter have played a major role, which are again two already-existing social networking platforms.

So with that said, I’m pretty interested in hearing what those who do believe it is a new form of real media have to say!

Digital archiving – a way of remembering.

29 Mar

What's on your mind?

Pretty much almost everything we do online, such as updating our Facebook status, tweeting, tagging, creating a photo album, saving a webpage, accessing journals, looking for directions, and posting comments are all considered as forms of archiving.

How have these forms come about?

Since the growing population of the internet and the introduction of various new technologies including portable web devices, the amazing iPhone, E-readers and Youtube (to name a few), forms of archiving as well as methods of accessing data and even sharing what we are doing to others have undergone major changes. Nowadays, it doesn’t take much to preserve information and data and as a result of these changes, it has become so much of a habit that it seem’s as though we are archiving to remember things!

As mentioned in this weeks readings, an archive is basically any way of storing and arranging information for future access. One reading in particular that made things a lot clearer for me was the blog post by Jon Stokes who uses web giant, Google as a metaphor for this notion of archiving by stating that if the internet is an archive, then Google is the catalogue. Whatever we type into the search bar, Google will present us with multiple direct links to that content.

Lets look at memory.

Whenever post a photo onto Facebook, what we are doing is digitally storing our memories for later access. Months later we may look back on these photos and re-live, in a sense, that memory. Bascially, all the data we enter and post on facebook is archived as digital memory. This idea of technologies relationship to human memory was also mentioned in the book ‘Archive Fever’ by philosopher Jacques Derrida who states;

 The technical structure of the archiving archive also determines the structure of the archivable content…archivization produces as much as it records the event.

 Most of us are not aware that everytime we share what we are doing, or upload a photo from a night out – we are creating a personal archive that allows for peices of our past to merge in amongst the present. We are creating, what Matt Ogle refers to as ‘a tool for remembering’.


Stokes, Jon (2003) ‘Reading Notes: Archive Fever’, Ars Technica, June 27

Ogle, Matt (2010) ‘Archive Fever: a love letter to the post real-time web’ – http://mattogle.com/archivefever/ (Accessed March 27th, 2011)

Facebook image – http://www.chocolatemintsinajar.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/What-is-on-your-mind-facebook.jpg