MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL: TECHNOLOGY CREATED FOR US AND NOT WITH US

Grace Chimezie

…Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.

Alan Kay.

Image found on Google

Introduction

I am not looking into a case study this week. However, I am re-evaluating and taking stock of my thought process to make sense of all the information I’ve soaked in this week, in regards to technologies I interact and would interact with. These revelations give a better understanding of our technologies, and institutions in our society we now recognise which includes our cultural-historical continuum of symbolic representation on different kinds of physical substrates (material media from paper to TV screens and digital representations.

According to Irvine, We enact interpretative responses to representations by communicating with software process that are intentionally designed to facilitate further interpreting representations with the symbolic media resources we are using.

The technologies we’ve created are not to solve the continuous problems of mankind according to Alan Kay for many years it has been a tradition to attempt to cure our society’s ills through technology.

A look into  Blindmaps as a product

…Everything digital and computational is physical and material

Image: BlindMaps

One of the best ways I could deduce understanding of the whole process and principles being explained using a product was to refer to BlindMaps, which won the IxDA Award under ‘Empowering’ in 2015. It is a tool for the blind and visually impaired. Their “ basic idea is to make the white cane a connected device which can act as an interface to the urban environment and to the user’s smartphone.” This product is a great example of how new technologies like smart-phones and bluetooth-enabled haptic interfaces (touch sensors) can be integrated into existing tools to improve a long-standing problem.

This brings me to the idea of computation, which incorporates the history of using signs and symbols for representing levels of abstraction, for conceptual modelling and for creating the symbolic structures for the rule based operations and relations in logic and mathematics. All of our uses of interactive digital multimedia (on our meta media platforms) depend on standardized designs that enable interoperability (use in any appropriately designed device or computer system ).

On the other hand, we did not get here by chance but where opened up to this concepts by great minds such as Alan Kay and Englebert. As early as 1950’s selected artist, filmmakers, musicians and architects were already using computers. Developing their software in collaboration with computer scientist working in research labs. Most of this software was aimed at producing only particular kinds of images, animations or music that emulated the ideas of their authors.

The metamedia principle as explained by Manovich analysis, got me thinking of the affordances the combinatorial features of digitizable forms of media has provided us. Especially with the new wave of content creators and how these stand alone media, can be combined with softwares in more flexible, interpretable way and has become an open means for transformations beyond any initial physical or recorded state.

All these still fall under the substrate or design principles for maintaining the perceptible and interpretable forms of our collective, shared, symbolic repertoire.


Conclusion

A funny idea that I noticed this week is that the way computational way of black-boxing changes constantly with the knowledge users have of their mediums. Almost like a game of hide and seek these knowledge are most times hidden in plain site. However after all these years there has yet to be new ideas and implementation of one of the greatest principles and theories to the usage of our computational devices as proposed by Alan Kay and Englebert. Thanks to them the idea of using our mediums isn’t a luxury afforded to an opportuned few but open to as many as are willing to receive, understand and use them.

 

References

Kay, Alan, and Adele Goldberg. “Personal Dynamic Media.” Computer 10, no. 3 (March 1977):31–41. https://doi.org/10.1109/C-M.1977.217672. Reprinted in The New Media Reader, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort, 393–404. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2003.

 

Manovich, Lev. Software Takes Command: Extending the Language of New Media. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013.