Monthly Archives: September 2014

It is in our nature as humans to seek support within the things around us, sentient or otherwise. This invariably evolves in conjunction with the development of our world and, inexorably, our technologies. But there is a difference between support and dependence. As we rely more and more on our devices, perhaps we are impeding our own personal abilities and functionality in this world.

A study conducted by UK communications regulator, Ofcom, found that ‘37 per cent of adults and 60 per cent of teens admit they are ‘highly addicted’ to their smartphones’. (Ofcom 2011) An interesting case study presented itself recently when I didn’t have access to my mobile phone for two days. I immediately fretted that no one would be able to reach me. Each time during that period in which I found myself waiting for something, I would automatically reach for my phone, only to remember it wasn’t in its usual spot. It became apparent my propensity for relying on my phone, to avoid the unpleasant chore of waiting for something. I had a persistent anxiety which I couldn’t shake until I had access to my phone once more. My mobile phone is such an extension of my mental self that, with its absence, I felt a loss of a part of myself. Similarly, the ‘Hybrid by Nature’ lecture suggested that “technology is [now] ingrained in social standards” (J. L. Kasunic, lecture, 22 August).

Cyborg Anthropologist, Amber Case, presents a plethora of thought provoking concepts pertaining to this dependency during her TED Talk, ‘We are all cyborgs now’.

Case offers the thought that, while in the past tools have allowed for an extension of the physical self, our gadgets allow for the extension of the mental self. As a result, we greatly invest ourselves and our day-to-day livelihood in these devices. This causes the hitherto unheard of paradox whereby, if we lose a device, and in turn all of the data stored within it, we experience a sense of loss; that ‘something is missing.’ (Case, A. 2010) When the device is an extension of the mental self, the loss of that device equates to a loss of that part of the mental self. Moreover, with the constant threat of hancking upon our devices, there is an even greater threat to our mental state; “we are being dehumanised…by criminals who use the ubiquity of technology and its lack of security to steal from us” (Narayan, A. 2013).

Case further argues that people are no longer taking time for mental reflection. This is indeed correct. Time that was once spent in thought, such as waiting for a bus, or food in a restaurant, or in a queue at the shops, is now followed by the immediate response of pulling out a phone or other device. If we feel such dejection with the absence of our devices, it is clear that we are too reliant on them. We invest too much in these vulnerable pieces of metal and plastic, when we could be realising our true and complete selves with a little self-reflection. So, the next time I have to undergo the abhorrent task of waiting, I won’t pull out my phone. I will spend the time in my own thoughts. Will you do the same?


Brandon, J. 2013, ‘Is Technology Making Us Less Human?’, techradar, viewed 28 August 2014, <–1171002&gt;

Case, A. 2010, We are all cyborgs now, video recording, TED, viewed 28 August 2014, <;

Hoffmeister, P.B. 2012, ‘My Technology Is Smart, But Am I?’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, <;

Kasunic, J. L. 2014, Hybrid by nature: Social and persuasive technologies, lecture, UTS, Sydney

Narayanan, A. 2013, ‘Society under threat…but not from AI’, AI & SOCIETY, vol. 28. no. 1, pp. 87-94

Ofcom 2011, ‘A nation addicted to smartphones’, Ofcom, viewed 28 August 2014, <;

Rosen, L. 2013, ‘Game Changers But Not Brain Changers’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, <;



Big Data, the future of surveillance…

But how far away is this future exactly. Recent public uproar has out this notion into the eyes of the public as something already in play in our everyday lives. The new Facebook messenger application has come under fire due its extensive list of required permissions for the app to run. This list includes the ability to use the microphone to record and the cameras to take photos at any point in time  and can be seen in the image below.


I found a great example of this so called big data revolution on my very own iPhone. The control centre will always tell me how long it would take me to get “home”, and when I am at home it lets me know how long it will take to get to Neutral Bay – a place in which I spend a lot of time for work. How do you where “home” is? How do you know that I will be going to work today. With further research I found that the iphone data logs every place you go, every day. If you stay there for any length of time it will log this, taking note of places that you continually visit. This data logging and tracking can be seen in the screenshots below. This essentially enabled me to realise that carrying a mobile phone, whether you know it or not, is carrying not only the possibility to be tracked, but recorded, photographed and monitored.  And we don’t know where or to whom this information is being shared, stored and analysed.

IMG_7876  IMG_7911 IMG_7912

Malte Spitz (2011, TED TALKS) comments on the ability for big data to “spot business trends, prevents diseases (and) combat crime.” which correlates directly to scenario related to no borders and high surveillance. Where immediate immigration no longer poses disease and crime threats. The data sets that are now being collected from each and every indivudal are now too large and too complex to be processed by humans they need to include “capture, curations, search, sharing, transfer, analysis and visualisation. At this point strong connections can also be drawn to many “sci-fi” and “futuristic” TV shows and movies such as Person of Interest. The idea of connecting surveillance with big data is clearly seen in the opening monologue of every episode –

This idea also explored in The Simpsons: Season 21 Episode 20 – To surviel with love.

Every aspect of the town is monitored by cameras, and a speakerphone system is used to publically name and shame any misdemenors, this high surveillance results in a commune of citizens in a found “camera blind spot”.  This brings up the question of legality in the matter of surveillance, whereby in a system such as the one presented in The Simpsons, how strict is the system, are we living in fear all the time of being fined for jay-walking, arrested for minor speeding offences and so forth… where does the “big brother” draw the line.


Spitz, M. 2011, ‘Your Phone  company is watching’, Talk for TEDTalks

Hyponnen, M. 2011, ‘How the NSA betrayed the worlds trust — time to act, Talk for TEDtalks

Brooke, H. 2012, ‘My battle to expose government corruption’, Talk for TEDtalks

May, K. 2013, Joel Selanikio’s system for collecting big data on global health: A tale of two playlists, TED, 11th September 2014, <>

2014, ‘The dark side of data‘, TedTALKS playlist, 11th September 2014, <>

Shamah, D. 2014, How big data means big changers for location-based services -or at least save your battery life, ZDNet, 11th September 2014, <>

Groenig, M. 2012, ‘The Simpsons’, Season 21 Episode 20 ‘The surveil of love’ , video link

Stepney, S., ‘Big Data, Big Insights’, SDG Blog, 12th september 2014, <>

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2011, ‘Person of interest – Opening credits’, 12th September 2014, <>

As we look toward the future, our sight must be trained firmly on sustainability. As a society, we are almost entirely reliant on finite resources which are depleting at an unmanageable rate. To prevent their extinction, we must focus on the development of renewable and sustainable resources, technologies, and holistic lifestyles. With analysis of past measures, as well as future oriented design innovation, this prospect – and necessity – is possible.

One lifestyle which successfully conserves the environment, substantiated by tens of thousands of years of realisation, is that of Nomadism. The culture of Nomadism is one of utmost preservation while still drawing from the environment for sustenance. It is a lifestyle that contemporary societies should look toward for inspiration, implementing the most successful elements from this historical regime within the current epoch. The answer is not to simply amalgamate the current destructive lifestyle of consumption in the West with perpetual relocation. Were we to do so, we would simply spread out our destruction of the environment. Instead, nomadism must be combined with an utmost environmental conscience in order to maintain the biological balance as best we can.

As a developed society (in the Western World) it is unrealistic that we could suddenly change our behaviour and society as a whole and become a nomadic, rudimentary civilisation. However an advantageous approach would take on the ideology of existing nomadic societies such as Mongolia where there has been a resurgence of nomadic practices; ‘the core idea of nomadic culture is centred on an awe of life, respect to nature and harmonious co-existence of humans with nature” (Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007).

We should place focus on accommodating population growth and expansion by drawing on the past means of nomadic living, appropriated for a contemporary society. One approach to developing a sustainable lifestyle comes from the Fashion Designer, Lucy Orta. Orta’s work DWELLING X MAQUETTE looks at mobility of dwellings. The structure created was only a mock up of a potential technology, however it illustrates the potential embodiment the form may take. It also opens a dialogue for the real world application of this design and how successful it could be in the Western World, or alternatively in areas of homelessness, poverty, disaster relief and other more immediate areas. Such a concept, and the nomadic lifestyle on the whole, is plagued with issues such as mobility, sustainability, economical and environmental implications, as well as the modern concept of a dwelling versus a home.



However it is a necessary discussion. Such a concept has significant implications for the inevitable geographical and numerical expansion of the population. In a domestic sense, the prospect of population growth in Australia will have great implications regarding population distribution requiring us to reconsider our current tendency to occupy the coast. As such we must consider, not the naïve idea that we could become nomads, but the adoption of the most practical elements and ideology of Nomadism, and of “reciprocal, respectful relations with nature” (Upton, C. 2010). If we pillage the environment we occupy, it will eventually become uninhabitable. We must unreservedly seek to increase the longevity of our environment and our planet as a whole.


Gaffney, O. 2013, ‘A nomad in a city of nomads’, The Anthropocene Journal, viewed 15 September 2014, <;

Orta, L. 2004, ‘Dwelling X Maquette’, ORTA, viewed 15 September 2014, <;

Travis, A. S. 2011, Planning for Tourism, Leisure and Sustainability: International Case Studies, Illustrated Edition, CABI

Upton, C. 2010. ‘Nomadism, identity and the politics of conservation’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 29. no. 3, pp 308-309

Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007, ‘Mongolian nomadic culture and ecological culture: On the ecological reconstruction in the agro-pastoral mosaic zone in Northern China’, Ecological Economic, vol. 62. no. 1, pp 19-26

As we look at the past approximately 250 years since the commencement of The Anthropocene being the Industrial Revolution, dramatic changes to our planet have occurred during this period. The large emission of greenhouse gasses causing climate change is a big issue that we as both humans and designers have to look at. As climate change over more recent times has caused a rise in the occurrence of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis; and devastation such as rising sea levels and flooding due to melting ice caps, we need to consider the effects not only to the environment and the planet but also have to understand, design and plan for future disasters and saving those who live in these high risk areas.

Environmental refugees are those who must leave their homes due to natural disasters. Climate refugees fall into this category as they too are forced to flee due to the effects of climate change – being increased flooding and natural disasters due to greenhouse gas emissions. As reported by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ‘36 million people were displaced by natural disasters in 2009…this number will rise to at least 50 million by 2050’ With this future prediction potentially devastating millions of lives, the need for survival plans, innovative designs and strategies for attack during devastation need to be developed and put into action by governments and corporations. The trailer for the movie ‘Climate Refugees’ is a great summary for the situation of these refugees that is currently happening and will continue to occur on our planet.

The article “Climate change refugees a reality” published by the Sydney Morning Herald raises the question of how do we plan for the displaced people of these devastated areas? One idea is to put forward the option of planned migration, moving those living in areas prone to the adverse effects of climate change to areas less likely to be affected by climate change. Some migration may be as simple as moving from a low lying area to higher ground in order to evade flooding however governments, in particular the Australian government needs to have a plan to accommodate for displaced people in the event of disaster to the neighbouring South East Asian countries, as Australia is closely situated to this region.

Looking at Lucy Orta’s piece labelled ‘connector motor village I’ a product like this would be greatly useful to environmental refugees who have been displaced in a time of disaster. This design is easy to transport and install making this item extremely practical in times of devastation. The product can be connected to other tents and rearranged to accommodate for more people. This product is also a much easier way to set up shelter and aid as it can accommodate for more people, particularly if an unexpected natural disaster occurred.

With an attempt at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, government planning and utilising innovative designs, climate refugees will be able to gain safety and security in areas less prone to natural disasters and devastation.


McDaniel, M., E. Sprout, D. Boudreau, and A. Turgeon. “Climate Refugee”, National Geographic Education. N.p., n.d. Web, viewed 16th September 2014

Nash,M. 2010, Climate Refugees Trailer, Video Recording, YouTube, Viewed 16th September 2014, <>

Orta,L., Studio Orta, UK, viewed 17th September 2014 <;

Wahlquist A. 2014, ‘Climate change refugees a reality’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18th February, viewed 18th September 2014,