Monday, March 31, 2008

The Start, and the Finish

In Gumpert and Drucker's first chapter of "our bible", they discuss the effects and initial impact of cyberspace on society. They argue, as others have (Winner 1993 quoted in the chapter), that "conventional ideas about technology" do not take into account the effects a new media will have on society and culture. The idea that Mr. Alsberg can have a cyber-funeral is totally sweet and should not be seen as "artificial intimacy" but as the next step for societal connectedness. If this class has taught me anything, it is that every internet user customizes their level of involvement and their specific interactions with others in cyberspace. Gumbert and Drucker quote Richard Sennet who makes an excellent point when he describes city building as a way to keep people out more so than to keep people in. By creating "bland, neutralizing spaces", cities attempt to limit the danger of social interaction. On the internet, one's security is defined by the user's general knowledge of the internet, security and anti-virus software on their personal computer and their customized internet experience (some sites and activities on the internet are safer than others).

I enjoyed Phelan's chapter CyberWalden, in which John M. Phelan looks at the internet as a separate reality and compares the cyberspace of today to other mediums. The vividness of HDTV, Phelan argues, falls short of computer and internet because "the machine is part of us." The interaction and feedback that is instantaneous on the internet creates the feeling that the user is inside cyberspace. This "real time feedback" Phelan relates to the call-in shows and participatory broadcast media as the first step in creating feedback media. "What was a public, is becoming an audience." Awesome line, Phelan.

So I come to the end of the book, Communication and Cyberspace, and of course, Neil Postman is there telling me that everything that I just read doesn't solve any problems that the computer set out to solve and that...whoops...we already solved those problems. Sounds like a digital immigrant to me. I agree that the influx of large amounts of information on the internet make it more difficult than other mediums to pick through. But would we prefer that every time a user logs in they have channels/websites they can visit, one at a time? The beauty behind the internet is also its Achilles heel; the more information, the more responsible the user must be in searching. And just because no one would facebook friend Neil Postman, does he really have to take a shot at virtual reality, social networking, emails and TV and call them all an escape from real problems? The digital world is a world inside of our own, it is not an escape, it exists here and now and is the most efficient medium at updating and informing people on current events and news. So Postman, take a deep breath, have a drink, and maybe sign-up for an anger management community or something know, the fake escape world that everyone in the 21st century is enjoying so much.


Paul said...

Agree, I think i would be more personally connected with a computer using a very dull screen than watching something on a big screen HDTV. That Phelan's a good egg.

Andy Mac said...

Good Title! I like how you compare the first and last chapters of the book

Lance Strate said...

Luke,I would have preferred a different kind of tone in voicing your disagreement with Postman. After all, he is pointing out an alternative way to look at things, as opposed to the way most people think about technology. Even if you don't agree with it, it's food for thought, and it's worth respecting a thoughtful point of view. He's certainly not expressing any anger in the piece, he was a very gracious individual.