Monthly Archives: April 2013

Week 7 – Making The Invisible Visible

This week I will be talking about ‘making the invisible visible’, in particular, the process of visualization. Visualisation enables us to understand how archives are used to create forms of content and expression, whilst also impacting how we interpret the excessive amounts of information society produces. Visualisation has impacted many arguments through the use of information graphics, which are able to visually represent data and help individuals better understand information and how it can be utilised in everyday life.

Visualisation’s purpose is to help discover the unknown and make the invisible visible. Visualisation allows the use of images to structure new meaning and relationships between information sources, often leading to the discovery of patterns within these sets of data. These patterns can either be portrayed through aesthetic means, which often attempt to portray experiences, or through methodology, which can show how patterns are organised. Often aesthetics can give a biased approach towards data, but this type of visual organisation always attempts to make a point or discover something obscure. Visualisation attempts to make data that is not easily accessible to the eye more visible, sometimes leading to a greater sense of control over this information. With the changing technological nature of publishing and society in general, the increase in the functionality of invisible things (e.g. WiFi and Bluetooth) shows us the ever-present nature of wireless connectivity in our lives today. Overall, we can see the impact of visualisation on everyday life, as well as its capacity for pattern recognition and its ability to establish relationships that haven’t been seen before. Very interesting!

Following on from that large (and boring) amount of theory, I want to give you a few practical examples of visualisation from one of my favourite sports, soccer! Below are two visualisations, one involving the passes of Barcelona player Xavi Hernandez in the Champions League Semi FInal versus Inter Milan in 2009, and the second involving Chelsea player Frank Lampard and a visualisation of his record breaking 203 goals for the club.

Visualisation of Frank Lampard's 203 Chelsea goals.

Visualisation of Frank Lampard’s 203 Chelsea goals.

Visualisation of Xavi Hernandez's passing statistics during the 2009 Champions League Semi Final versus Inter Milan.

Visualisation of Xavi Hernandez’s passing statistics in the 2009 Champions League Semi Final versus Inter Milan.

The information presented in the graphics above are simple, accessible, convenient and aesthetically pleasing, making it easier to understand the data and how it is interpreted. From my personal experience of following, watching and playing soccer, this type of data visualisation appeals to me as I am able to discover a sense of the unknown, or rather see information in a visual form that I would have previously missed or disregarded when watching the game as a form of entertainment. These two infographics have enabled me to make the invisible visible, and have also been used by soccer journalists and statisticians to discover and present data patterns through the medium of publishing. Visualisation plays a huge role in the world of publishing as we know it today, and in certain circumstances, data can be represented to interpret certain trends that were not previously apparent.

References:

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Week 6 – The Commons & Attention

This week’s blog will be on the ‘commons’, or more specifically, the collection, (re)distribution and assembling of attention. ‘Commons’ are collectively produced archives that create the possibility for interaction, such as sharing and market exchange, for users and publishers. The new technological and social digital commons have had severe implications on both publishing and knowledge production in the recent past, in the process assembling different kinds of attention from different kinds of publics and media.

O’Malley writes that attention is a human constant and we will naturally seek new forms, hence creating distraction. No information is useful without attention, whilst it can also be argued that one form of attention can be a distraction from something else! Now, we are able to form, break or maintain habits, both good and bad, from assemblages of attention and distraction, which often create media and social change amongst publishers and publics. In an increasingly technological world, attention is becoming scarce due to the variety of information sources and publishing forms available to users. It’s almost as if attention is now a form of currency, motivating publishers to grab our attention through their products! With this collation of information comes an economy of knowledge, that is able to collect, arrange and distribute information to help grab the consumer’s attention and help make our individual lives work. This is where the commons come in!

The Social Media Landscape - the 'commons' that allow us to share information through our own social networks!

The Social Media Landscape – the ‘commons’ that allow us to share information through our social networks!

Nicholas Hildyard writes that the ‘commons‘ are now an everyday reality that provides security and independence for its users, and are often defined through their social or cultural organisation rather than their physical location. Good and Bauwens state that the commons ‘is something that does not belong to anybody in particular, that belongs to the whole community, of participants, users, and sometimes to the whole world’. Commons law has evolved significantly, to the point where ideas are now seen as commodities, inverting traditional intellectual property law. Examples of these type of commons include Google, Facebook, iTunes, and, of course, Wikipedia. The internet is a prime example of the rising popularity of the commons, and how it has changed the structure of the archive media world today. Meretz writes that the global commons movement is an ‘assemblage of movements spread around the globe beginning to become aware of its global character’, and to some extent, this is true! Creative commons provide legal, open licensing that allows the distribution of copyrighted works, while P2P (peer-to-peer) processes have become a major part of the public sphere. These forms of commons, particularly P2P, have created open forums for users to interact with each other on a social and cultural level, changing the way publics are able to publish and who they are able to publish to! These P2P processes allow people to form a network that enables information to be collected, (re)distributed and assembled for another person’s interest or attention.

Obviously, there is another side to the commons, and that is piracy! Examples of these ethical conflict include the unauthorized sharing of music and movies. There is much debate over whether this access should be regulated, and if not, what effect these forms of black market commons will have on the publishing industry. Overall, the commons provides people with the ability to interact through a social network of users, and it is through these commons that we can also see the consequences of media sharing moulding our attention.

References:

Hildyard, N., Lohmann, L., Sexton, S. & Fairlie, S. (1995) “Reclaiming the Commons”, The Corner House, <http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/reclaiming-commons> [accessed 17 April 2013]

Meretz, S. (2010) “Ten Theses about Global Commons Movement”, P2P Foundation, <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/ten-theses-about-global-commons-movement/2011/01/05> [accessed 17 April 2013]

O’Malley, M. (2010) “Attention and Information”, The Aporetic, <http://theaporetic.com/?p=228> [accessed 17 April 2013]

Week 5 – Archives, Theory & Practice

On to week 5 and this week’s topic is archives again! This week’s blog will have more to do with authority and memory, as well as the cultural and individual theory and practice surrounding this information. Jussi Parikka suggests that archives have always had an interesting aura surrounding them despite being thought of as obsolete and abandoned places, and to some extent, this is true, however, the concept of an archive is changing. Jacques Derrida writes in his piece Archive Fever that different media processes set up different kinds of archives, which often form the basis of cultural activity.

We are able to see archives as a link between memory and experience. Archives allow us to gain both of these through the one piece of information and distribute it through different forms of content and expression. Producers and users (or ‘produsers’ if you will) are able to use archives to both express their experiences and distribute them among different media platforms, allowing this information to feed into each other and flow through other information systems. This is where I believe our designated ‘word of the week’ comes into action, but more of that infotention (or ‘infotension’) stuff later.

Archive fever is able to influence our experience of media, as well as the theory and practice surrounding these topics. Experience depends on the way we deal with these archives, and how they are able to carry our past actions into the present and onto future possibilities. The theory and practice side of archives provides us with the approaches, methods and concepts used by people to link media technologies and techniques back to the archived information. Archives are able to change our conception of the world through theories and practice, and this link between media, theory and culture makes archives one of the three main aspects of publishing. Overall, archives are able to act as a theory and as a technology or technique all at the same time, forming the basis for possible future methods, approaches and practices in the media world.

Infotention - the forms of attentions and distractions that can change our habits, ideas, or even information

Infotention – the forms of attentions and distractions that can change our habits, ideas, or even information!

Now, back to my ideas on infotention. Howard Rheingold writes that infotention is the word he has created to describe the particular set of skills needed to find our way online today. He says it is a combination of both attention skills and computer information filters, which I believe is incredibly relevant to online media archives. Take for example my Facebook photo albums, a classic example of the online archive that is able to hold both digital memory and experience. Now while this may be easy for me to upload these photos online, my parents wouldn’t have a clue how to do it. Therefore, you could say that I have the infotention to post an online archive, as I have the necessary skills to carry out the task online, while my parents, although having both cognitive and social skills, lack the technological skill to create this type of archive. Overall, infotention is based around attention and distraction. These forms of thinking are able to influence our habits through media archives, which are often a form of either attention or distraction, depending on how you look at them!

References:

Derrida, J. (1996) Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, University of Chicago Press, Chicago

Parikka, J. (2013) “Archival Media Theory: An Introduction to Wolfgang Ernst’s Media Archaeology”, in Ernst, Wolfgang Digital Memory and the Archive, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 1-22

Rheingold, H. (2009) “Mindful Infotention: Dashboards, Radars, Filters”, SFGate, <http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/09/01/mindful-infotention-dashboards-radars-filters/> [accessed 10 April 2013]