Posts Tagged ‘Networks’

If you had asked me a year ago if I thought objects were able to communicate with other objects and with humans, I would have said no. An alarm clock is only an alarm clock, it cannot possibly know that I must get up 15 minutes earlier today because there have been an accident on the road, and therefore I must drive a longer way to work. Well guess what, I have just been told and convinced, that this is today a fact. How incredible is that?

Through the use of radio frequency identifiers (RFID) and networked sensors, objects of all sizes can now be connected to the Internet and contribute to the flow of information online. Once an object is connected it will be branded with its own unique IP address so it is identifiable as well as locatable, it will register changes in its environment through its sensor which it can store and process, and it will be able to communicate this information to humans and initiate action (Mitew 2012).

I see so much potential in this! There is the fun and practical aspect of it, like the example of the alarm clock which communicates with the car, which knows that it needs gas, and therefore you are woken up 10 minutes earlier. There are visions of having a whole smart-house where everything communicates with each other as well as with you through your smartphone. There is no doubt that it can be done, but I am not convinced that I will adopt this life-style where I am literally stripped of responsibilities; my coffee is finished when I wake up, the dishwasher goes on automatically when it is full, the fridge tells me when I am out of milk, the vacuum-cleaner has cleaned my house.. well I will probably conform to the latter.

But this technology can also be used for many good things. Julian Bleecker in “Why Things Matter” talks about “pigeons that are equipped with some telematics to communicate on the Internet wirelessly, a GPS device for tracing where its been flying, and an environmental sensor that records the levels of toxins and pollutants in the air through which they fly.” What he is saying is that through this technology we can learn very much about our environment, important facts that can help us predict future issues. Imagine doing this with fish, plants, or even buildings, imagine all the valuable information we could retrieve.

The Internet of Things has truly come to grab my attention. But I take notice of one more thing. We invent and develop new technologies all the time, most of it today in relevance to the Internet, everything goes online, but when are we going to see changes in our privacy laws? With these tiny censors on cell-phones, t-shirts, pets, cars etc. we are more than likely to be traced and recognized wherever we are. So although I enjoy the exciting ride of new technology, I will not truly enjoy it before someone steps up and develop a privacy law which is adapted to our new digital age.

Reference: Mitew, T 2012, The internet of things, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 22 October.

 

The Arab Spring was revolutionary in one way or another. The question being debated is; what role did social media play in the revolution? Social media is relatively new to us, and therefore I think that none of us are educated or experienced enough to know what it will come to mean to us yet. We have no history or similar technology to compare it with, and so we are not in the position to give any scientific or academic views on the matter. We are “guinea-pigs”, creating history and experience for the next generation’s academics.

When looking at it from this perspective, social media’s role in the Arab Spring becomes impossible to define just yet. It feels like jumping to conclusions without having the evidence. It becomes a discussion between cyber-utopians and those critical to the power of the Internet.

The Internet has come to be our new public sphere. It is a space in which everyone is welcome to participate, and so it may facilitate a perfect place for political debate. During the Arab Spring I believe that social media became a major hub for exactly that. People who had been suppressed for a long time finally found a way to communicate with each other as well as across borders. There is no doubt that social media made is possible for peripheries to make a central (Mitew 2012).

I think we need to ask another question; what would have happened if social media networks did not exist? Would we then have witnessed the Arab Spring? I think that if the Tunisians were not able to share videos, tweets, pictures and blogs in real time, it would not have spread to Egypt, Algeria and other North African countries in the same way, at least not in the same pace. The communication between and within the different countries became a trigger for the different protests. The anger and desperation have been present for a long time, but I think communication through Facebook, Twitter and YouTube sparked cooperation, comfort, support and information. Social media networks presented to them a new possibility and potential to be heard.

So I believe that social media played a big part in the Arab Spring. Why else would the Egyptian government censor the Internet? Individuals like Wael Ghonim and Asmaa Mahfouz exploited the potential of social media at its best. Using it as a tool for information sharing they managed to create awareness of the situation worldwide.

The Internet is indeed a political space, but we have still much to learn about its potential. The Arab Spring leaves us one experience richer for further knowledge.

 

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, #mena #arabspring, the social network revolutions, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 8 October.

“Industrial work is set to the rythm of the machine, while knowledge work is set to the flow of information” (Mitew 2012).

There is a lot of talk about a digital revolution, or a technological shift. The change from industrial production to knowledge production, and the new global economy that comes with it. It all sounds promising doesn’t it? But do we ever stop to think how this affects us negatively? We always strive for the better, and many times I believe we are so eager to advance that we fail to see what can go wrong.

In my post “The Power of Networks” I describe how the new flow of information and the Internet has changed our organizational structure. Networks went from the top-down management to a flat and more efficient pattern. The pace in which we exchanged information accelerated, and before we had time to reflect, so did the expectations of efficiency.

For the information to flow, every “node” in the network has to act on received information. Email inboxes are packed with emails and requests, all in a hurry to be answered and sent to the next recipient. Instant messaging and social media even makes the line between work and leisure a bit blurry! People have started to take their “office” to their home, thinking that they have more freedom, but really, what they are doing, is making themselves available 24/7.

It is a paradox really, that we used to say that the network coordination in a hierarchy was so slow that a lot of time was wasted. The price we had to pay was “lost time”, but is it really any better today? As far as i can see, we have even less leisure-time given that we never check out of work. We also seem to justify and accept this new behavior without considering the extra workload we are given. The price we pay today looks more like our freedom.

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, Liquid labour, lecture, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 13 August.

Our society have always been controlled by authorities, there has always been someone in charge making sure we stand by the rules provided. These rules or this sort of society are being challenged today. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 into space, the Americans panicked. The Soviets put the U.S. territory at their mercy by demonstrating that they were now able to bomb the Americans’ communication centre. Communications at that time were centralized, controlled via huge computers, distributed by IBM. In an effort to regain control, ARPAnet was invented by Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency, and little did they know, I think, that this was to become an ideological shift. Suddenly communication was decentralized and control was given to every end user of this product. A society of control took on distributed control (Mitew 2012).

What I find interesting is that every time our society changes political implications follows. Recently I discovered that even the digital revolution came with a sense of rebellion; “cyberpunk”. I say a “sense of” because it is not really a fight against this new shift, but more fictional stories about the future and the technological evolution. What relates it to the word “punk”, or what reveals the rebellion part of these stories is that the governments are often the bad guys, portrayed as weak and vulnerable.

Virtual reality, separation of mind from body and artificial intelligence (Mitew 2012) are examples of themes in cyberpunk. Personally I have not yet read a cyberpunk book, but I have been recommended that “Neuromancer” by William Gibson is an interesting one. I figure that next time I need a break from criminal literature; I might give cyberpunk a try!

Reference:

Mitew, T 2012, The Network Society, Narratives of global communication, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 6 August.

18th century; interdependency, change and time-boundness

A young girl is sick and a doctor is needed. A familymember rides his horse into town to alert the doctor. It is normal to provide home-visits so the doctor grabs his bag and rides back to the patient’s home. The doctors’ education is limited and his knowledge of the little girls’ problem is vague.

He sends a friend to the next city with a message asking for advice about the little girls decease, but by the time his friend returns, the little girl is already dead.

The message which was brought back to the doctor was new and very relevant information to him. He had never heard of bacteria before, neither did he know the sicknesses which could come from it. This little piece of information changed very much of his earlier knowledge of medicine, and helped him advance in his carrier. For this, the community was grateful.

2012; interdependency, change, time-boundness and differentiation

A boy is rushed into hospital after collapsing at school. The doctor is well educated and specialized in heart-failure which the boy is immediately diagnosed with. While operating, the doctor discovers another complication which he has only seen a few times before. To be sure, he immediately consults with his colleague in a different hospital. Thanks to the short video-conference the doctor succeeds in saving the little boy’s life.

The connectedness today made it easier for the doctor to discuss and exchange information needed to help the boy. Information is dynamic and changes continuously. Only because of, in this case hospital-network, the information was effectively shared. With our technology today it is expected of a business to be up to date and to act effectively. Wrongdoings due to lack of information and communication will result in a judgmental community and often a fatal result for the organization.

Time in the 18th century and time today are two very different things. After the appearance of the Internet, time has gotten a new meaning and people in general have become more impatient. We are expected to interact in “real-time”. It depends what work you do, but in the case of our 2012-doctor it was important that he got his piece of information rapidly. If the young boy died because of slow communication between the two doctors, the doctor and the hospital would be roughly criticized.

Many good things come from the Internet and our networks today, but the competition is hard. The business position of the doctor from the 18th century was not in danger despite the loss of the girl, because there was no competition in his town. Today businesses need to come up with new innovations constantly, if not someone else will outsource them. It is essential to be different, to be the odd one out, only then will you be noticed globally.

Technology today makes a lot of things easier, faster and more efficient. It is a long time ago since e-mails superseded the “snail-mail”, and we can see it again today in how business cards are being out conquered by online sites like the Professional Network of LinkedIn. In other words, technology makes it easier to establish and maintain networks. So why are networks so important to us?

In Afterword, Manuel Castells describes how networks matters in many ways to us. For example he mentions that by enabling us to connect with the rest of the world our cultures have met and mixed and eventually set off the issues of globalization, hybridization and/or homogenization. Castells also suggests that organizations that use the logic of networking outperform organizations which do not. By working through networks you have a “side-to-side” structure, not a “top-down” hierarchy, and it makes the organization expand faster and act more flexible. Networking between political institutions enhances cooperation and joint decision-making, activists are organized through networking and our way of socializing is even changing through social networking.

Networks and networking are growing to be our source for communication, socialization and information. Our public sphere used to be the newspapers, TV and radio, but as technology develops and we become more connected, information flows more freely. Looking at it from this perspective makes me realize the power of networks. But alongside with the positive development of a free and open public sphere, there is also a growing digital divide. Not everyone has the ability to connect. It can a physical, psychological, geographical or economical disability, and probably more reasons than I can think of. Networking and the online world has great powers for our society, but I am not sure if it gains all of our society or our public sphere.