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beijing-air-pollution-bike-riders-1.12.13-by-@miniharm

 

Humans are transforming the landscape in which we live. This includes landscapes in all cases of the word, from the design landscape to the environmental landscape. An important issue regularly discussed in relation to the new age of the Anthropocene is that of climate change. Climate change is readily being directly linked to the impact that humans have on our environmental landscape.

The rising issue of climate change has arguable risen for the wrong reasons, however its mass-discussed presence is placing light on important issues of futurity. The whole idea of looking after the world in which we reside is becoming increasingly more important, with climate change as a running frontier for many of the environment based changes throughout the human landscape. The climate change debate, from whichever stance you take, has provided a platform for which people become informed and begin to think and discuss the impact, we as humans, are having on our own environments and how this will effect our future stay on planet earth. Bruno Latour makes connection between this issue and Alfonso Cuaron’s film Gravity, and James Cameron’s film Avatar. Where in both cases humans travel into space or other planets and only wish to return home again, the characters have ‘literally, been metamorphosed from a human to an Earthbound’, ultimately placing importance on the well being of the planet in which we live, where there is ‘no escape route except back on Earth’.

Anthropocene by definition is the current age in which humans have had the dominant influence on our environment and climate. This notion in discussion with climate change has effectively shocked the public into action in varying ways. The effect of humans and industrialisation can be seen, very distinctively, in many cities around the world. A visible sign of climate change, as apposed to rising sea levels and a whole in the ozone, which are scary but not seen as imminently dangerous, is that of air pollution in cities such as China (fig. 1 ).This very confronting and direct danger, often on show in the media is a huge example of the idea of Anthropocene.

The idea of science vs. politics in this matter, discussed in Bruno Latour’s Telling friends from foes in the time of the Anthropocene discuss this mismatch between fact and ideology – where we cannot make decisions on policy based on uncertain science (Latour B., 2013). He rightly discusses the fault in this method and the loop in which it creates for itself, living in a world were people are constantly working to approve and disprove science based on their own ideology’s. This in itself clouds the facts of climate change which can clearly be seen in the issue of air pollution, and is clearly human induced, with evidence.

This example shows the importance of the idea of the Anthropocene as a way of thinking about the future – that where the future is in our own hands and not that of anyone else or any other entity. This forward way of thinking needs to be utilized by the public in order to create a stable future.

Reference list:

Latour, B. 2013, ‘Telling friends from foes in the time of the Anthropocene‘ – Draft of a lecture prepared for “Thinking the Anthropocene”

Jason. 2013, Beijing air pollution exposes China’s health & environmental risks, Global Sherpa, 16th August 2014, <http://www.globalsherpa.org/china-air-pollution-health-environment>

Stromberg, J. 2013, What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?, Smithsonian Magazine, 16th August 2014, <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/?no-ist>

Kate Smith

With the rapid development of technology in present day society, and the continual ease and accessibility of it; it has transformed from an initial entity of convenience as an appliance- considered focus, to an active portion of an individuals daily makeup- arguably both physically and metaphysically. As a nation, we are at a point in history where very few people have genuinely considered the new social realities created by technology and the impact of such realities for the individual and society. “They take us from an interaction that is based on the notion of technology as a tool that is separate from, and totally under the control of, the human mind to an understanding of embodied human subjectivity generated in and through an engagement with the technologies experienced in our everyday lives.” (Cranny-Francis 2013) While the original computer networks were never designed as a human communication medium, they have come to penetrate society for communication purposes in various forms- from mobile phones, to internet banking, hand-held computers to “intelligent” agents and voice-recognition at human-machine interfaces.

Metaphysical interaction between humans and technology exists via avenues such as social networking sites. Web-based virtual communities have been defined as social aggregations that emerge from the internet when people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” In this day and age with networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people are continually becoming involved in an abundant number of relationships through technology, but sometimes the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty. Perhaps overcoming a sense of isolation is one of the greatest appeals of online communities and virtual worlds. The 2013 critically acclaimed Spike Jonze film ‘Her’ presents a futuristic take on modern-day relationships, following a man who falls in love with an operating system- a prime example of the metaphysical interaction that takes place between humans and technology based upon isolation and emotional dependence.

Conversely, human interaction with technology on a physical level has also come to a dependent style of relationship, particularly within avenues of medical research and the use of technology as a bodily aid e.g. prosthetics. Melbourne-based artist Stelarc experiments with the limitations and capabilities of the human body when fused with technological mediums. One of his most notable works was the ‘Ear on Arm’ project, that involved the artist getting an ear surgically inserted into his forearm that was internet enabled, making it a publicly accessible acoustical organ for people in other places.

Stelarc has explained his reasoning behind such works: “It manifests both a desire to deconstruct our evolutionary architecture and to integrate microminiaturized electronics inside the body. We have evolved soft internal organs to better operate and interact with the world. Now we can engineer additional and external organs to better function in the technological and media terrain we now inhabit.”

With future-envisioned examples such as these, one must question the future of humanity and technology and whether it is true that technology has taken over not only our physical, but metaphysical and psychological makeup. With technology continually advancing, one must consider where to draw the line, and place certain boundaries between humans and technologies to prevent this takeover from taking place.

 

Stelarc 'Ear On Arm'

Stelarc ‘Ear On Arm’

Written by Harriet Wolstenholme

References:

Cranny-Francis, A. 2013, Technology and Touch: The Biopolitics of Emerging Technologies, Palgrave Macmillan, Australia

Stelarc, 2014, Ear On Arm: Engineering Internet Organ, Stelarc.org, viewed 20th August 2014, http://stelarc.org/?catID=20242

Stahl, B, ed. 2007, Issues and Trends in Technology and Human Interaction, Idea Group Inc, Calgary, Canada

Governments and their agencies allow access to fundamental information, ‘Big Data’ which, for their purposes, points toward threats and other terrorisations upon their civilians and administration. For this reason, tracking of internet usage is necessary. The intent is for our safety and wellbeing. But who are the real beneficiaries?

Well, marketers, for the most part. Within the current epoch, the true currency is hits. If you’ve ever wondered how websites like Facebook can even turn a profit, it’s from the advertising they enable on their sites. Such advertising is targeted by way of Cookies. Cookies are a form of digital code stored by your browser which allow websites to track some of your activity. Such a prospect is remise of ‘Big Brother’, however, consider the position of Evan Reiser, CEO of AdStack, who believes that if you can “make advertising more relevant, it becomes less like spam and more like content.” Reiser raises an interesting point. While internet tracking is our reality, perhaps it isn’t so bleak. AdStack allows businesses to send emails, the content of which they may change until users open them, in order to cater content. As writer Adam Tanner explains, “if you open a restaurant promotion in the morning it might advertise a lunch special, or later in the day, dinner.”

So if you can put aside the invasion of privacy, it’s indeed quite helpful. All the same, do we really have the right to be vexed by this invasion of privacy and our right to confidentiality when we’re blasé about our privacy in other situations? American comedian, Jack Vale, played an insightful prank on unsuspecting café goers to illustrate just how much of our information strangers can access.

The disturbed, even aggressive responses of some of the targets demonstrates the level of discomfort people have with personal data access, despite Vale only accessing publicly available information. So what right do we have to be angered by internet tracking when we provide so many permissions to, and direct provisions of personal information, to websites and applications; the result being an “increasing volume and detail of information captured by enterprises… fuel[ing] exponential growth in data for the foreseeable future” (Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011).

Well, every right, one may argue. With the prevalence of the Cookie’s sibling, the Web Bug, it is becoming increasingly easy for advertisers and trackers to discretely access our information. The Web Bug is imbedded in pages and registers who, when and where from a person accesses a webpage. Each time you access the internet, the data collected adds to the increasing digital profile you inadvertently create. This, coupled with the extensive profile collated through everything from “digital CCTV [to] the recording of retail purchases” (J. L. Kasunic, lecture, 15 August) is leading to an unprecedented lack of privacy, and a call to action to combat this. An example of how this may be done is through the introduction of a private property right on the big data that exists pertaining to each individual (Fraser, M. 2014).

People have the right to autonomy and control over the access to information about them. Governments must uphold their responsibility to protect their people – the basis of internet tracking – and legislate the restriction of access by corporations to each individual’s share of Big Data.

References

Kasunic, J. L. 2014, ‘Data, data, everywhere: Week 3 Interdisciplinary Design Lab A’ UTS Subject 85202, lecture slides, UTS, Sydney

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Brown, B., Bughin, J., Dobbs, R., Roxburgh, C., Byers, A. H. 2011, ‘Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity’, McKinsey Global Institute Report 2011, MKinsey Global Institute, 

Reiser, E. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/&gt;

Rouse, M. 2014, ‘Web bug (Web beacon), SearchSOA, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Web-bug/&gt;

Tanner, A. 2013, ‘The Web Cookie is Dying. Here’s The Creepier Technology That Comes Next’, Forbes, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2013/06/17/the-web-cookie-is-dying-heres-the-creepier-technology-that-comes-next/&gt;

Vale, J. 2013, Social Media Experiment, video recording YouTube, viewed 19 August 2014, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P_0s1TYpJU&list=UUsDl6A77CrbkSJLtxQFVDGw&gt;

The Anthropocene: A geological period or time when humans have been responsible for changing the conditions of the planet.

The question that comes to my mind when I think about The Anthropocene is how do we know when it begun? Was it the invention of electricity that caused such change? The industrial revolution? Or perhaps it is today, how large our human population is and the use of resources and power in such high volume that are responsible for the condition of our planet.

Some believe The Anthropocene to have started when the extinction of animals such as the mammoth occurred. Others believe farming and the increase of agriculture that occurred 15,000 years ago as the starting point of The Anthropocene. However, a more supported point is the rise of the Industrial Revolution in 1760. This brought major changes to agriculture, manufacturing, transport and increases in the use of coal for power. More specifically, some scientists turn to the invention of the steam engine in 1784 as the start date of The Anthropocene. This is due to the fact the steam engine powered the industrial revolution and therefore increased the demand for wood, coal and petrol to keep everything running. The need for these supplies meant the planet had been changed as of excavation and logging to produce these materials, therefore with humans altering the planet, being a contributor to the Anthropocene. I have to agree with the industrial revolution being a starting point of the Anthropocene as until this point, the need for new materials/fuel and the gasses and fumes produced by machinery had never been so high and abundant on the planet. As the industrial revolution brought advances in medicine and improved living standards, this resulted in a population boom – growing from 700 million in the mid 1700’s to one billion in the 1800’s. Again, this meant the demand for resources grew, contributing to the increased use of manufacturing and deforestation resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and destruction of natural resources. With such change to the planet resulting from the Industrial Revolution, I think it is an appropriate time in history to look at as the start of the Anthropocene. As the revolution caused such damage to the environment, it could also be argued that this is the underlying cause of many other issues present in today’s world such as climate change and the melting ice caps, also part of the Anthropocene. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that greenhouse gases were being emitted to the atmosphere so with the levels of these gases increasing over time due to population growth, industrialisation and urbanisation it is agreeable to place the Industrial Revolution as the Anthropocene, the starting point of destruction and changes to the planet, which humans are responsible for.

References

Lorber Kasunic,J., 2014, ‘Change us to suit the world’: Living in the anthropocene and why designers need to
act now, lecture, 8th August

McLamb,E. 2011, The ecological impact of the industrial revolution, Ecology Global Network, 16th August 2014, < http://www.ecology.com/2011/09/18/ecological-impact-industrial-revolution/&gt;

Rafferty,J.2013, Anthropocene Epoch, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 16th August 2014, <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1492578/Anthropocene-Epoch/301071/Evidence-in-layers-of-rock>

Stromberg, J. 2013, What is the Anthropocene and are we in it?, Smithsonian Magazine, 16th August 2014, <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-is-the-anthropocene-and-are-we-in-it-164801414/?no-ist>