Thursday, June 17, 2010

Evaluation of the digital process

I found the process I have implemented in the research and writing of this blog to be quite different than that of previous academic efforts. The methods included in this approach led to a much broader exploration of the topic. I learned a lot of things that I wouldn't have otherwise. This also means it was harder to figure out my direction. In my case, as well as others, additional research caused me to shift my focus and question my ideas. But when I got to my conclusion I think it was much more well-informed and had greater general value. The process also yielded some secondary conclusions and other food for thought. I think with a more traditional academic paper approach, I tend to create a more focused, straightforward product. And I think the language is tighter and more professional that way. But it's somewhat limiting. I think the traditional method is better for developing good style, but the online, open-scholar approach is better for generating ideas and learning more things. It makes it possible to learn collaboratively and contribute something to others. Some of us were able to initiate dialogue on our topics with new people. In this way, this approach has the potential to fulfill more of the learning outcomes of the course and the university. Although I think for myself as a digital scholar, and for this as a program, it's a work in progress. Like the process I had to go through, it's exploring how to realize these possibilities. But from what I've learned I think many of this ideas will be relevant in the future of intellectual discourse.

What constitutes good literary inquiry in the blog format?

Here is an analysis of my colleage Audrey's Blog:

Audrey's post clearly shows her learning and research process. It looks like she did a lot of research and tried different approaches and sources. Her research seems to be very thorough (almost did a Thoreau pun there, heh). She developed her ideas well and found something good to focus on. It looks like she made use of others' comments.

I think the focus is very clear. She focuses specifically on the Zapatistas as a part of Digital civil disobedience. Her comprehesive series of posts is very cohesive and connected. She always brings it back to Thorough's "Civil Disobedience"

She has expository posts and posts that show how she is exploring. She also shows that she reflects and evaluates. She reviews and discusses different sources, organizations, and an event-related post. She has good images and relevant video clips.

She has a sense of the community surrounding the topic and made efforts to find and communicate with those people.

Her posts have very thorough exposition. She covers the topic well. It's formal when it needs to be.  If anything I think there may be too much information. The posts get fairly long. I suppose it could be simplified a bit. It could have used a bit more analysis or even opinion.

Design: The design is good; reflects her personality/looks nice.
Overall it's a very well-written blog that deals with a relevant, interesting topic.

The Criteria: I think they address everything that could be necessary for a good blog. I don't think all of them are always necessary, though. For instance, videos, events.

Conclusions about borges and the digital world

This post will conclude my study of Borges' fiction, reality, and digital media.

Each of the stories mentioned in the previous post exemplifies a certain characteristic of Borges' fiction: ambiguity. He outlines theorems and hypotheses and maps out alternate worlds. But he doesn't tell us what to make of them. In each of these three stories, one of these supernatural ideas is realized, and it entirely changes the world of the characters in the story. Likewise, the digital can, and is changing our world rapidly and irrevocably.

But it isn't always clear if this change is inherently good or bad. I beleive this ambiguity is intentional. Borges realizes the artificiality of his fictions. They are thought experiments, like those of the the theoreticians of Tlon, and they are subject to translation and rearrangement and imagination. The ambiguity and open-endedness of Borges' fictional scenarios predicts that of digital paradigm that we are struggling to make sense of. It's a kind of  environmental identity crisis. We aren't sure what the digital world is. For the most part we don't understand how it works; we don't see the inner working of it's technology. But how that technology is utilized is dependent on us. It's shaped not just by computer programmers, but those who use the digital media to communicate and create. Like the theoreticians of Tlon, or the dream sorcerer, or the reader of Borges, we can make out of it what we want to.We really have considerable power to make things happen in the digital world, and by extension, the real world.

The Fiction of Borges

I will now discuss a few of Borges' stories and how they predict modern conditions brought about by the digital paradigm and the online world, as suggested in this introductory post.

Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is one of Borges' longer works. The narrator in this story discovers a mysterious and apparently anomalous encyclopedia article about a civilization called Uqbar, and does some research to find out if it really exists. Initially, it seems impossible to find other documentation to verify its existence. He later comes into possession of a volume that appears to be from an encyclopedia that originated in this imaginary world called Tlon. It becomes apparent that others have been scouring libraries for more information on Tlon. The content of the encyclopedia is so thorough that it must be the invention of a massive conspiracy of academics from various disciplines. The narrator describes the astounding linguistics and philosophy of Tlon in detail. A part of the description reads:
The world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is successive and temporal, not spatial. There are no nouns in Tlön's conjectural Ursprache, from which the "present" languages and the dialects are derived: there are impersonal verbs, modified by monosyllabic suffixes (or prefixes) with an adverbial value. For example: there is no word corresponding to the word "moon,", but there is a verb which in English would be "to moon" or "to moonate." "The moon rose above the river" is hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo, or literally: "upward behind the onstreaming it mooned."

The language of Tlon effects their epistemology and their entire understanding of the world. They reject and even have trouble understanding concepts of materialism and spatial reasoning. In Tlon, their perception of things is abstract and incompatible with the philosophies of the real world. This even effects the permanence of physical objects in Tlon. Matter is a transitive and inconsistent thing. It's difficult to summarize all of these ideas without quoting the whole description from Borges, but what they do is brilliantly convey an entirely new and foreign worldview in just a few pages.

The story ends with a postscript dated 1947 (several years after the actual story was published) which describes how the rest of the Encyclopedia of Tlon became known to the world, and it's ideas promulgated. The fantastic world of Tlon then intrudes upon reality, and the narrator sums up the results:

A scattered dynasty of solitary men has changed the face of the world. Their task continues. If our forecasts are not in error, a hundred years from now someone will discover the hundred volumes of the Second Encyclopedia of Tlön. Then English and French and mere Spanish will disappear from the globe. The world will be Tlön.

This story, published in 1940, is analogous in many ways to the the creation and proliferation of the internet. Like the creation of Tlon, the internet started with "a scattered dynasty of solitary men" and later grew exponentially to be embraced by the whole world. The internet and networking technology introduced new paradigms. Communication that was less physical and personal could be considered just as real and valid. Ideas could be shared in a manner that separated them from the physical attributes of identity and body language. Imaginary worlds like Tlon have been created online and many people inhabit them as fully as they do the real world. Jamie F. Metzl, in the World Policy Journal (2008 vol:25 iss:3),  predicts that " virtual worlds [such as Second Life] will, by 2033, have overtaken the two-dimensional Internet as the predominant system of non face-to-face human interaction. Communication that now takes place by phone or e-mail will by then be carriedout largely in these three-dimensional interactive spaces." This suggests, as did Borges decades earlier, that the world at large is able to change its understanding to embrace completely invented, abstract ideas, as an extension of reality.

The Circular Ruins

The Circular Ruins is another story that deals with accepting the non-physical as a part of reality. In this case, the topic is dreams, and their ability to affect the real world. It is important to note that the story is influenced by traditional Mayan spirituality and how it incorporates the world of dreams. I have previously discussed these connections in depth, but to summarize: The main character of the story is a magician of sorts who goes through the long and involved process of creating a man in his dreams, intending to bring him into reality. The character in the story spends a great deal of time sleeping and in his dreams he gradually constructs a man, who ultimately resembles himself, and with the help of the fire deity of the temple, is able to bring his creation into the real world.The magician then learns through supernatural events that he is also the the creation of the dreams of another. The Mayans also believed that dreams could effect reality, (and that they were in fact, real) and were an integral part of spiritual and daily life. What this story, and Mayan spirituality suggest is that it is common and even natural for humans to make something outside of the physical realm a part of reality. Therefore, integrating the digital into our lives can be a productive way to fulfill this human tendency.

The Aleph

The narrator of The Aleph  becomes acquainted with a mediocre poet who is attempting to encompass the whole of the earth in a singular epic. His inspiration, he says, comes from The Aleph, a small sphere that enables the viewer to simultaneously view everything that currenty exists. The narrator describes his encounter with the Aleph:
I saw the Aleph from every point and angle, and in the Aleph I saw the earth and in the earth the Aleph and in the Aleph the earth; I saw my own face and my own bowels; I saw your face; and I felt dizzy and wept, for my eyes had seen that secret and conjectured object whose name is common to all men but which no man has looked upon -- the unimaginable universe.
The experience, obviously, is overwhelming.The Aleph is a powerful resource, but it is probably too much for the human mind to make sense of. The analogy to be drawn here is that, in today's ultraconnected world, people with a connection to the internet have, in a sense, their own Aleph. They have the entirety of the digital world at their fingertips, accessible from one place, with no limitations of space or distance. And although the digital experience isn't quite as universal or simultaneous as that of the Aleph, the advancement of networking technology is making it ever so much closer to it. Increasing numbers of people are becoming increasingly connected and bringing more data to the online cloud. Information and sources and becoming streamlined and aggregated with more sophisticated programs. The whole earth itself can be explored instantaneously in 3D on Google Earth, giving us a power startlingly similar in a very literal way to that of Borges' Aleph.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Intro to Borges, continued: Borges' medium of literature

This is a continuation of a series of posts that begins with an introduction in my previous post:

In an article about the life of Jorge Luis Borges (available here for those who have access to JSTOR), Alastair Reid describes him as a "mapmaker of imaginary worlds." This is a fairly comprehensive job description. To understand what Borges did with literature, it is valuable to see what literature did for him. Borges was intensely interested in books. One of the most important fixtures of his childhood was his father's library, which was largely in English, and introduced Borges to a wide scope of artistic and historical knowledge. He would spend long periods of time immersing himself in the worlds of books and libraries. He eventually became the director of the  National Library in Buenos Aires. His role as an avid reader and librarian colored his own approach to writing. His mind was wide open to the possibilities and the expansiveness of liturature, but he was also aware of the artificiality and astractness of the medium. Ficciones, his Spanish title for his collected stories, emphasizes the falseness of his linguistic creations. Although many of these stories play with the fabric of reality, Borges has made a clear distinction between this wordplay and reality. The literary metaphysicians in Tlön Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, of which a further discussion is to follow, as they set aside reality were able to freely determine how to define their imaginary world. Likewise, Borges, in his cartography of his own domain, the medium of books, showed that it could be sculpted into whatever the power of words could make of it.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Introduction to Borges

This is an introduction from which I will further explore the themes of Borges' stories, how they offer perspective on reality, and how they can be applied to our understanding of today's digital augmentations of reality.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), was an Argentinian author. The various short stories of Borges present to the reader a world of hypothetical  and philosophical possibilities. They explore everything that reality can encompass, limited only by Borges' imagination, which is expansive. His stories are often  ambiguous as to their message or their conclusions. These brief works of fiction are a means to transport readers to a place that offers a diferent view of reality; and there they are left to revel in the ambiguity, or to sort out the implications themselves. It has been said that Borges' work embraces the "chaos that rules the world and the character of unreality in all literature" (Bella Jozev). He understood and explored the possibilities of literature in his literary approach, and also as an explicit theme in some of his stories. He had a sense, which he conveyed in his stories, of the limitlessness of what the human mind could imagine. Borges' fiction has drawn criticism for lacking connection to reality,  however I contend that it offers insight into human perception of reality and even predicts the ambiguity and chaos that new conditions bring to the modern perception of reality.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Presciense of Borges

My original topic of discussion for this blog was centered on the fictional work of Jorge Luis Borges, particularly the story The Circular Ruins, so I have decided to spend some more time digging into his ideas. As a result of my efforts to connect with others online about the works of Jorge Luis Borges and his relevance in the digital age, I got a very nice response in the form of a blog post from someone interested in Borges. This insightful blogger suggested how some other Borges stories could give insight into modern conditions. For example, Tlön Uqbar, Orbis Tertius deals with a collaborative encyclopedia that recalls Wikipedia, and how it strongly effects the reality of a civilization. There is a plethora of possibilities to explore.

So I decided to check out another Borges collection from the library: The Aleph and Other Stories. The titular short story deals with a man who has in his basement an "aleph", a strange artifact which allows him to perceive everything that currently exists in the world simultaneously, and his misguided efforts to describe it all in poetry. The experience that the Aleph brings is overwhelming to the narrator in the story. And here I find another analogous idea. The way information technology is developing is giving us an experience progressively closer to that of the aleph. We are becoming increasingly connected to more information from more of the world, more easily and more instantaneously. This idea, along with the comments some of my colleages and others have made, has suggested that there is a dark side to the hyperconnected digital life. I didn't really consider these implications in my more comprehensive post on the topic, even though my own recent online experiences have hinted at them. There are many millions of people and  ideas online, and a lot of things to sift through, many of them not relevant or necessary. The digital experience can be overwhelming and time consuming, and we can lose our grasp on the smaller, more local realm of experience(as did the character in the story). In spite of my efforts to flesh out a strong argument, I find myself falling into a disempowering ambivalence.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"When games invade real life"

I've been trying to find events and conferences that are relevant to my topic. It's been hard to find exactly what I'm looking for but I found something relevant on TED : a talk from a conference called "When games invade real life" by Jesse Schell. The talk is mainly from a video game designer's perspective. Some of the things Schell discusses support the ideas I've been working on. Games that that connect with reality have been  highly successful in recent months compared to those of a more traditional style of gaming. One example is the surprisingly overwhelming success of the Wii platform, with "Wii Fit" in particular, which involves real physical activity. Also Facebook-based games have been incredibly lucrative. There are more Farmville users now than Twitter accounts. Games like this integrate one's real-life friends into the gameplay. They also can involve using real-life money to pay for digital products or to get digital "points". The philosophy of gaming is spilling over into real life experiences: Fantasy Football, which depends on real-life sports gameplay; and geocaching, a GPS-based treasure hunt with a physical "treasure box". The idea of accruing "points" for accomplishing specific objectives has also spilled over into marketing in many ways. Schell predicts a future where this concept

The talk also stressed that marketing "authenticity" is the most successful strategy in selling all kinds of products.
The talk mentioned Avatar, which I have previously discussed, and how it, being the most successful movie ever, focuses on the question of technology and how it can effect reality, or facilitate a "real" experience. 

What does all this evidence suggest? That it's becoming less true that people turn to the digital as a form of escapism, as the traditional view of video gaming has held. Maybe it's worth exploring how fantasy in literature need not be about escapism either. Much of magical realism, as utilized by Borges, supports this. Fantasy elements (or digital elements, in our experience) are just a part of daily life. I just had a thought: Maybe this attitude accounts for the popularity of the fantasy literature that is most successful today: "Harry Potter" and "Twilight". Unlike traditional fantasy, these stories occur in modern day settings that are connected with the real world and reflect modern issues. Is this a new development in popular culture that has been facilitated partly by modern digital culture? Or is the not-so-escapist (not to say these books are entirely un-escapist) approach something that has traditionally been successful in mainstream culture?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Current online discourse and the tweetstream

A powerful tool is the ability to follow and participate in the current online conversation about a topic. The topic I'm exploring is the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and how the themes therein are relevant to today's digital society in order to expand upon what I discussed in my last post. So I've been searching and researching by way of Google's blog search to see what people are saying. It's a bit challenging to find exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for, but I've been able to find blogs of people that are thinking about similar things, and make some comments. I also started a topic about Borges on a messageboard. Hopefully these things will facilitate some conversation.

But I wanted to get more current and see how rapid and even how close to realtime the conversation can get. So I decided to tap into the "tweet-stream" and even went ahead and made my own twitter account. I'm still not exactly sure how best to utilize this power. I'm not sure if i used hashtags correctly, but I made a "tweet" about #Borges. Obviously it would be good to acquire followers, and to find particularly worthwhile people to follow.  I searched for Borges using, which looks to be like a very useful tool. I would recommend it to anyone considering using twitter for research purposes. Apparently, quite a few tweets have mentioned Borges in the past 24 hours, although, not surprisingly, some of them are in Spanish, and some of them aren't referring to Jorge Luis. So now the question is, what does it take to create some buzz or at least provoke some twittering about a topic?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Digital World, the Dream World, and Reality

The advancement of networking technology over the past couple of decades has created a sort of alternate reality. The world-wide web became a sort of world in itself as it became inhabited by increasing numbers of denizens of the real world who began to utilize it in a variety of new ways.
The number of hours that the rising generation spends plugged into the digital network has increased substantially in these past years. A PBS Frontline special reports that the average young person spends almost nine hours with this technology. This drastic increase from years previous has obviously drawn concern from various critics. The traditional and most obvious perception is that more time spent online means less time spent in the real world, which is thought to be the more ideal and healthy place for interaction and activity. But this attitude towards modern technology, and the digital world created by it, must change, primarily because the distinction between the digital and the real is becoming less clear and less necessary. This paradigm shift is can be advantageous. It does not necessarily remove humans from their connection to reality, or their ability to cope with it. In fact, just the opposite is true. Many have integrated the digital with the physical to augment their educational, creative, and social lives to their advantage. This alternate, digital dimension is technologically but not conceptually new, at least not entirely. There are some compelling historical and literary examples that demonstrate that the idea of being connected to another world can be an important part of human life.

The World of Dreams

In the act of dreaming, something common to all humanity, we conjure up images, events and places other than what we experience in waking hours. In marginal states of consciousness, it can be difficult to determine or recall what is or was real. Various cultures throughout history have created ways to make sense of this other reality created by dreams, and have made them a part of their beliefs and practices. The ancient Mayans are an example of a society to which dreams were an integral part of spiritual life.

The Mayans believed that dreams were sacred. Dreams could give personal direction and foreshadow future events. Dreams were a part of introspection and self-discovery. The Mayans believed they each had a sort of spiritual alter-ego, which they called they called a way. The word way also refers to the act of sleep. Dreaming was a way of connecting with the way.
Various anthropological studies, such as this one have shown that that these beliefs have persisted into contemporary times. Certain Mayan communities maintain very similar beliefs about spiritual identity and dreams. Each person has an adiosich, which leaves the body during dreams and travels. It can go to other communities or even other worlds. It can communicate with the adiosich of others or with deceased ancestors. This adiosich is further described as the thing that makes one human, the consciousness that makes decisions, and without which a person cannot live. It is the soul, or the essence of one's identity. A great deal of light can be shed on human understanding of the world by the Mayan idea that the soul can, though dreams, exist and act outside of the constraints of the physical world, and that its true identity can be found only when disconnected from reality. Actually, it has been said among the Maya that "dreams are real, dreams are reality.

These concepts are strongly analogous to the online life. Internet access, like dreams do for the Mayans, allows the user limitless exploration without physical travel, and allows communication with other actual people anywhere in the world in a way separate from the physical self. Also, as the Mayans have no difficulty perceiving the dream world as merely another aspect of reality, natives of the digital world can call it a real part of their lives. Perhaps having examples like this shows that the new media paradigm fulfills some desire inherent in human nature, just as numerous spiritual beliefs did in other cultures. But there is a very important difference: the digital world is actually connected to reality and has tangible uses. We can't verify that human souls can communicate in dreams, but the reality of electronic networking is unquestionable. It is based on actual physical connections that are a part of the our world and have become necessary for its operation. There are no metaphysical ideologies to cast doubt upon.

The Dream World and Borges' Reality

The fiction of Jorge Luis Borges offers some explorations of perceptions of reality that predate the digital age. Borges wrote a number of short stories, many of which deal with metaphysical elements and provoke some philosophical contemplations. A prime example is The Circular Ruins. This story appears to have some strong Mayan influence. It is apparent in the setting as well as the spiritual themes, which reflect the Mayan beliefs discussed previously. In this story, a man who appears to be a magician of sorts goes through the long and involved process of creating a man in his dreams, intending to bring him into reality. He undergoes this endeavor in a specific place: the circular ruins referenced in the title. He understands that these remains of a destroyed ancient temple are necessary for the process. The setting recalls the Mayan concept of wayib, which is the place of the way. Mayan kings would go to certain edifices designated as such, where they would go to sleep and connect with their way.

The character in the story spends a great deal of time in this spiritually significant place sleeping. In his dreams he gradually constructs a man, who ultimately resembles himself, and with the help of the fire deity of the temple, is able to bring his creation into the real world. The creation appears real in every sense, but the magician knows that he is not, and he fears that his creation will discover that he is not real, because of his unnatural immunity to fire. Ironically, the magician himself, when engulfed in flames and unharmed, realizes that he is the created from a dream in the same sense as his own creation, and this results in his own downfall.

The story raises a number of questions about reality. Is the reality of a thing only determined by our perception of it as real? The only thing that made the dream son unreal was his creator's knowledge that he was a product of dreams, although it was through dreams that he was brought into reality in the first place. The story also blurs the line between the dream world and the real world. If the magician himself was the product of dreams and magic, which can exist in this world, what's to say the world of his waking life was any more real than the dream world?
Although in our world we can more clearly distinguish(most of the time) between our physical world and that that exists digitally, we can still ask the question: what makes the digital world unreal besides our own designation of it as something less real? Technology is quickly bridging the gap between the digital and the physical (see augmented reality), making it harder to answer that question. This might sound disconcerting from the perspective of those who would decry the proliferation of new media, but it isn't something to be afraid of. As humans, we are more in control of our world than ever in the digital age. And just as much as in past societies, we are free to define or redefine it as it we deem appropriate.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New media, old ideas.

So I feel like I've been getting lost in kind of an interconnected web of ideas as I've been talking with fellow writers about their topics and how they all relate in so many different ways. But It's becoming very interesting, and I've had some very helpful comments and feedback. And I'm starting to hone in on something. Much of these interconnected discussions have been about the conflicts that are raised by new media: regarding its effects on politics, academia, social interactions, and individual identity. But what I would like to suggest is that these conflicts are not new. The digital medium is just that: another medium of expression and communication that we are painting our pre-existing human nature onto. It's making changes in the way the world works, but it's not changing our core nature, or making us less human or less engaged with reality.

The metaphysical implications of virtual reality were explored before the internet became truly universal (1993, in that hyperlink), and a non-physical world has for ages been something that humans used to introspect and define themselves. The Iroquois and the Maya used it. Borges' magician in the circular ruins used it, and in doing so, discovered his inherent nature (for better or worse). Like the magician, the protagonist of recent-cultural-phenomenon blockbuster "Avatar" lived in a different world while his body slept, and as a result, arrived at certain conclusions regarding his identity. Maybe we should go and watch this movie with these kinds of things in mind or something. Anybody have plans tonight?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The mayan spiritual world and the digital world.

So l've been looking back at Borges and I'm pretty sure the Circular Ruins was inspired by Mayan spirituality. I did some more research on what David Byrne was saying about the topic. I found an interesting ethnographic study about the significance of dreams, a central topic of the Circular Ruins. The Mayans believed they had something called a way, which is a sort of alter-ego. It is manifested as a sort of spirit animal. The word way also translates as sleep. Mayan Kings would go to wayib, or sacred places of dreaming (like the circular ruins of the story) to connect with their way. Dreams were important source of finding truth to the Mayans, and still are to their descendants. They are considered to be very real in a sense. Many cultures find it easy to connect a supernatural world with the real. Does involvement in digital worlds or online communities today fulfill a desire to connect with something outside of our tangible, physical world?

Also connecting the Mayans' spiritual with our digital, I find the concept of way to be reminiscent of the avatar in today's digital world. We all create a sort of identity online that is more or less based on ourselves, or sometimes represents an idealized version of ourselves.. The internet generation is not the first to come up with this concept. The avatar or online profile provides us with a way to examine who we are and what we want. We've all had to fill out these things and perhaps introspect a little in doing so. How much do we tailor our online identity to fit the way we want to present ourselves? And how do those ideas and digital interactions contribute to who we ultimately become?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The whole world is online

This weekend I spent an absolutely inordinate amount of time on Google Earth. I'm not just talking about the Google Maps online, but the Earth application that you can download from Google. What's cool about this program is that you can freely zoom around the world in 3D . It maps photographic satellite imagery onto a 3D rendering of the earth's topography, allowing for a really detailed and thorough exploration of just about anywhere. The program has a lot of powerful and cool features, including a flight simulator. I was completely absorbed in this thing for hours. But why was it more fascinating to me than just a video game? Because it enabled me to explore the real world. I had the whole globe at my fingertips. I could go anywhere in mere seconds. I explored not only exotic places like the mountains of Hawaii and Nepal, but more familiar places where I lived or went on excursions. It was an entirely digital, online experience but it connected me with the real world.

Crystal ski area near Mt. Rainier, one of my favorite places

I realized that Google Earth fills in a huge gap between the real world and the digital world. One of the most interesting features is that there are little photo icons scattered across the landscape. When you click on one of them, it displays a user-uploaded photo that was taken at that location and hosted at, a social photo-sharing site. This feature adds so much depth to the experience and more thoroughly connects this digital world with the real world. On Google Earth, I found a small canyon near Moab that I explored last month, and seeing that there were no photos of it, I immediately signed up on Panoramio to upload the photos I took there and put them on the map. It was exiting to think about being a part of this online, collaborative documentation of the earth. I guess this makes the way we look at the digital world a lot closer to how we look at the real world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Something about Borges

I've been reading some stories by Borges and I'm going to write a paper relating his writing to modern day perceptions of reality and new media. In some way.

Some of my thoughts:
In "the Circular Ruins" there are possibly different degrees of "realness", and in light of modern technology it presents us with questions about whether more real, tangible things are of greater value. The character in the story creates a man in his dreams that becomes real in a perceptible sense, but is concerned with the creation being sad about his unrealness. When we create or acquire things like music, images and programs on computers, they are are less tangible and in a sense less real, but our perception of this kind of thing as valid property has changed, as evidenced by intellectual property laws and things like that. In the Web 2.0 era, digital matter has perhaps become even less tangible, with more network-based programs and cloud computing, the data is in a much less tangible place than the CPUs or disks we might have in our homes. The servers and networks we are connected to are invisible to us. We don't know where they are, and for the most part we have no idea how they work. As far as we can tell, the exist in a separate dimension from the real space that we inhabit.

I'm curious about how this generation is adjusting to this shift of consciousness and becoming increasingly entrenched in a different, less tangible world (not unlike the character in the story, whose life and work becomes increasingly invested in dreams as he sleeps). Is it worse to be entrenched in this digital world? Does digital property have the same value? In a brief moment, I could download an "album" of music out of thin air onto my laptop which is physically connected to nothing, whereas my father at my age had to go to a record shop and buy a physical record album. Does the record or even a CD have more value than an mp3? Digital sales have shown us that to many of the "digital natives" generation, it doesn't really. There's also a lot to consider about the nature of digital relationships.

So there are a lot of questions here but no answers. How do I feel about the "digital world"? Well, I'm kind of ambivalent. Personally, I'm trying not to live in the digital world so much. It's way too easy to waste time. But I can see the value and the power of it. I'm not opposed to using social networking and related technology. There's not really anything less real or less valid about ideas or artwork shared online.

(So, I did a google image search on "circular ruins" to find a cool picture, and came across the photo above on the blog of none other than the awesome David Byrne. It's a Mayan ruin from his travels to the Yucatan. He talks about this very story and how it relates to Mayan culture. I need to go back and check this out)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

First Post

So I have been told it is a good idea to narrate the process of writing and learning.
This way I can evaluate myself and participate in the interactive dialog of new media. Because collaborative efforts are the true path to literary success.