The use of technology and how dependent we are all to it now days is a topic I really wanted to look at for this blog post. I decided to interview my younger brother Lachlan (9 years old) about his views on technology and the future. I thought a child’s perspective would be interesting, particularly since children are so easily influenced and I wanted to see if his perspective was different to what I knew at his age, ten years ago. I firstly asked “what is technology?” his response was “Ipads and gadgets…anything that uses power” As a kid who loves playing on his ipad and family computer for hours, I think this actually sums up the question really well, especially considering the answer to the same question in the Hybrid By Nature lecture was “gadgets, devices, machines, appliances and electronics’ Comparing this to myself and how often I used technology at his age 10 years ago, the use of technology has dramatically increased. I used to play on the computer for 1hr or at 2hrs being the absolute maximum time limit, comparing to now, 10 years later with not only children but adults becoming so dependant and ‘hooked’ on technology and gadgets using them for hours and hours daily. There are great benefits for my brother using the ipad frequently such as the ability to skype one of his close friends who moved to china last year, as well as educational games and games that allow him to be creative. However I think children are starting to use technology as a source of entertainment more often, instead of using their imaginations or playing outside and being creative with toys like I used to. My brother and his friends all play sport together as a team and have fun playing with scooters or jumping on the trampoline outside, just as I used to as a child, however technology is something they are still all addicted to as well. It’s about finding the right balance between the two. I further asked his view on global warming/The Anthropocene and what he knew about it. He told me that he knew pollution contributed to global warming and therefore heats up the world. When I asked “what do you think the future will be like?” he responded with “there will be cars that are better for the environment”. I was pleasantly surprised with this answer as I was half expecting to hear something along the lines of space ships and floating cars, but mentioning environmentally friendly cars being something mechanics and scientists are actually working on for the future was a really great answer to the question. I think it’s great a school is teaching about global warming and environmental sustainability as the actions and choices we make today do have an impact on the world and the future.  I was not sure what would happen when I asked a child some pretty big questions however I was really pleased at all the responses.

References

L. Ronning (2014, pers. comm., 16th October)

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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?

References

Brandon, J. 2013, ‘Is Technology Making Us Less Human?’, techradar, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.techradar.com/au/news/world-of-tech/future-tech/is-technology-making-us-less-human–1171002&gt;

Case, A. 2010, We are all cyborgs now, video recording, TED, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.ted.com/talks/amber_case_we_are_all_cyborgs_now&gt;

Hoffmeister, P.B. 2012, ‘My Technology Is Smart, But Am I?’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-brown-hoffmeister/technology_b_1885650.html&gt;

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, < http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/news/a-nation-addicted-to-smartphones/&gt;

Rosen, L. 2013, ‘Game Changers But Not Brain Changers’, Huffington Post, viewed 28 August 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-larry-rosen/game-changers-but-not-bra_b_3543201.html&gt;

 

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.

facebook-permissions-7

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.

http://seasonwars.com/the-simpsons/s21-20/

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.

References

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, <http://blog.ted.com/2013/07/02/joel-selanikios-system-for-collecting-big-data-on-global-health-a-tale-of-two-playlists/>

2014, ‘The dark side of data‘, TedTALKS playlist, 11th September 2014, <http://www.ted.com/playlists/130/the_dark_side_of_data>

Shamah, D. 2014, How big data means big changers for location-based services -or at least save your battery life, ZDNet, 11th September 2014, <http://www.zdnet.com/how-big-data-means-big-changes-for-location-based-services-or-at-least-save-your-battery-life-7000025076/>

Groenig, M. 2012, ‘The Simpsons’, Season 21 Episode 20 ‘The surveil of love’ , video link http://seekcartoon.com/watch/28476-the-simpsons-season-21-episode-20-to-surveil-with-love.html#.VBtXMi6SzkY

Stepney, S., ‘Big Data, Big Insights’, SDG Blog, 12th september 2014, <http://solutiondesign.com/big-data-big-insights-2/>

<IMG> <http://www.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/styles/large_wm_brw/public/article_images/2014/08/facebook-permissions-7.jpg?itok=443EJczP>

2011, ‘Person of interest – Opening credits’, 12th September 2014, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBfVndEtDyY>

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.

image_413_thumbnail_en

Lucy Orta, DWELLING X MAQUETTE, 2004

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.

References

Gaffney, O. 2013, ‘A nomad in a city of nomads’, The Anthropocene Journal, viewed 15 September 2014, <http://anthropocenejournal.com/2013/02/06/a-nomad-in-a-city-of-nomads/&gt;

Orta, L. 2004, ‘Dwelling X Maquette’, ORTA, viewed 15 September 2014, <http://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/23/Dwelling-X-Maquette&gt;

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.

References

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, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28MH3jZlucc>

Orta,L., Studio Orta, UK, viewed 17th September 2014 <http://www.studio-orta.com/en/artwork/29/Connector-Mobile-Village-I&gt;

Wahlquist A. 2014, ‘Climate change refugees a reality’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18th February, viewed 18th September 2014, http://www.smh.com.au/national/climate-change-refugees-a-reality-20140212-32hvu.html

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