Author Archives: Grace Chimezie

Applied Cryptography in Electronic Commerce: Impact of DRM on music consumption and perception

Grace Chimezie
FALL 2017
CCTP 820

Applied Cryptography in Electronic Commerce:

Impact of DRM on music consumption and perception

Abstract

Digital Rights Management (DRM), has been an area of continuous discuss in the music industry, with music streaming companies constantly at loggerheads with the rest of the industry which includes users and consumers. In January of 2017 the ¹Financial times wrote a report with headline “How streaming saved the music industry” while some arguments made by Anna Nicolaou, may hold weight, I feel strongly in the opposite direction towards that statement and here is why. In 2017, one would have thought that the fight would have come to an end with the removal of DRM licensing from major music platforms and Apple inc. leading the way a few years back. It turns out we thought wrong, few years later we are plagued with companies like Spotify and Pandora entrenching DRM in our daily lives in sublime ways through their online streaming platforms. This research paper tries to access the impact of these new trend and how it has shaped music consumption, from users and creative end. A major look at how the spiral effect of this has brought the new norm of recommender systems as a way of engaging and keeping users locked on their platforms. Users mostly are at the receiving end of the whole socio-technical complexities but we have those who are at the dual side of the table. These decisions are complex and affect human behavior on how music is perceived. It also highlights that cryptography in e-commerce in form of ratings exhibit different personas using the algorithms recommended, showing that it isn’t a one size fits all problem. This research intends to use the information and network theory to measure the implication of living with this complexity. The title makes it clear as to the intention, but the connections of the impact of relying on these companies and ratings as a means of e-commerce isn’t as simple as it may appear. Research on this is important in that it provides information as to how users and consumers are affected by open system architecture and the implementation of recognizable and automatic features. ²Hence, this paper will look into other studies that demonstrate the integration of information from multiple modalities which in turn is used by encrypted nodes to translate to transactable and interpretable data.


Keywords: E-commerce, cryptography, DRM,  ratings, consumption, music, information theory, socio-technical systems

¹https://www.ft.com/content/cd99b95e-d8ba-11e6-944b-e7eb37a6aa8e

²A Survey of Affect Recognition Methods: Audio, Visual, and Spontaneous Expressions

 

A maximum of explicitness leads to a minimum of understability

–Ungeheuer, 1982

 

{Introduction}

Making connections

Music like all forms of art is a way of representation of human feelings, emotions wants and needs John Street (2012: 1) and so is commerce, right there embodying the same qualities in a social system. Many have argued that music and commerce are two separate entities, but as we’ve seen over the years, our social systems are all interconnected in one form or another (McDonnell and Powers, 1995: Toybee, 1993; Whiteley, 1997). On the other hand technology has seen the coming together of these different systems in a streamlined way that makes discussing issues surrounding its impact and consumption worthwhile.

Commerce can be defined as the exchange of goods and services usually of monetary or economic value between different parties. E-commerce, connotes similar concept, except transaction occurs through electronic communication methods  such as mobile or internet networks. Primarily, e-commerce is being understood as transaction of business across the internet or mobile networks. Challenges however, followed this new socio-technical system, which are unique in the history of e-commerce. Unlike, the means of physical transaction between two parties, as seen in  traditional commerce, e-commerce, on the other hand is conducted without the physical presence and largely anonymous.

One of the many ways in which commerce happens online is through music, which is made through music streaming licensed companies having Digital Rights Management (DRM) e.g. iTunes, Spotify, Google play, Pandora etc. One of the best ways to ensuring that the artist whose contents is found on their platform gets the right exposure is through ‘recommender systems which are an important part of the information and e-commerce ecosystem’ Michael Ekstrand et.al (2010 : 1). They act as tools allowing for users to manage large information and product spaces’.

The argument is hinged mostly on users not being affected to the negative by as to what rules and affordances are provided them by online streaming platforms. At almost no cost, subscribers have immediate access to millions of songs not limited to their environment, on a single and easy to use platform. However, there are no real losers and winners in this and the spiral effect, affects us all.


E-commerce as defined by Information Resources Management Association USA 369

Michael Ekstrand et.al  2010: Collaborative filtering Recommender systems: foundations and trends in human-computer interaction. Vol 4

BACKGROUND (DRM)

Most people do not realise that their music is locked up and tied to a particular system. They experience issues like their system crashing and losing all their music as normal. Corporations claim that DRM is necessary to fight copyright infringement online and keep consumers safe from viruses. But there’s no evidence that  DRM does either of those. Long before now, people had to line up at their favorite stores and get CD’s that could only be played on devices that could accept it. From records, to cassette tapes, to CDs, ways of consuming music has changed vastly from what it used to be and continues to. Music streaming platforms have contributed a major deal to the dynamics witnessed in music and companies such as Apple music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play offering their streaming services in a different ways . This situation turns sour when you look at the different issues that arise from using these music services.

Problem

Outside the technological industry there isn’t a clear knowledge as to the function of DRM. Everything is black boxed and users are presented with software applications. Between 2003 and 2009, most music purchased through Apple’s iTunes store was locked using Apple’s FairPlay digital restrictions management (DRM) software, which is designed to prevent users from copying music they purchased. Apple did not seem particularly concerned by the fact that FairPlay was not effective at stopping unauthorized distribution and users could find a way of taking it off with public tools. But for the most part, FairPlay was effective at curbing most users from playing their purchased music on devices that were not made by Apple (Kim, Howard, Ravingdranath, & Park 2008; Sobel, 2007).

FairPlay permitted about five devices to accept music bought from different platforms, but was forced on users by a recording industry paranoid about file sharing and more importantly, by technology companies like Apple, who were eager to control the digital infrastructure of music distribution and consumption. In 2007 30% was charged to users for music files not using the FairPlay platform, they will need to pay per song (or % cost of album) to upgrade their music to a non-DRM iTunes plus version . After numerous lawsuits which were filed in Europe and in US, with years of protest, Apple took into consideration their users complaints and removed DRM from most of their iTunes music catalog. Unfortunately, after an obvious short lived victory, a few years later the return of DRM is no longer news and have appeared on several online music streaming platforms.


http://quantonemusic.com/2016/04/26/the-problems-with-music-streaming/

Research Question

My mind wanders around, and I conceive of different things day and night. Like a science-fiction writer, I’m thinking, “What if it were like this?”

–Claude Shannon (1948)

Looking at the task at hand few questions emerge to what extent has DRM influenced  how music is being consumed and perceived

  • What happens when one of the DRM streaming companies you’re subscribed to changes its mind?
  • How has streaming companies managed this?
  • how has the outcome influenced new features added on streaming platforms e.g recommender systems?

Moving from Consumer to thought leader

Source: Computer.howstuffworks.com

Fig 1.1 Online music streaming  serivces

 

iTunes

Itunes approach to fair use by working to integrate capabilities within its FairPlay DRM solution, developed by Apple for storage, categorization, and playback of digital media. While early versions of the software focused on music, the ability to manage and play podcast, television shows and movies, music videos, video games and other plug-in-applications, have been added to its portfolio.

iTunes has been also popular in supporting mobile access to managed digital media by offering support for both proprietary and non-Apple portable media devices. Some criticism over their DRM enabled digital media, and loss of revenue to competitors have enabled them to change their strategy to survive competition and remain in the market.

iTunes Approach to fair use

This software application is installable on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. It currently supports the following video and audio formats, WAV, MP3, MPEG-4. iTunes creates and maintains a library using two files in ITL and XML format a database to categorise information about the digital media in the library including: artist, genre, comments, ratings, play count, last played date, playlist used by the user, track numbers, location of file, and other media specific details.

The FairPlay DRM uses an MP4 container to hold a protected AAC file with most algorithms applied in the encryption scheme being public (AES, MPEG-4) with the exception of the user’s key database component (Grzonkowski, et al. 2007), another area of concern since the proprietary protection of Fairplay prevents interoperability.  

However, Apple needed to cash in to the raving world of online music streaming, hence its launch of Apple Music and the streaming service by 2016 already had 11 million subscribers.

Apple Music

Users with free accounts have access to Beats 1, an internet radio station. Paying customers can play any song on demand. Available on all its platforms, with users only able to use it one one device at a time for both free and paid version. However Family plans, allow up to six people to stream music. Paying subscribers can stream music when their devices isn’t connected to data or Wi-Fi networks.

Spotify

Spotify is a proprietary music streaming online platform using DRM, supported by many big record companies, such as Warner, Sony, EMI, Universal, giving instant access to millions of songs. By its Proprietary use of DRM its users do not enjoy spotify music freely, such as playing on car players, burning spotify to a CD and so on.

With over 75 million users, it’s difficult to miss this name created by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in 2005. Music can be played only on one device at a time, with up to three devices signed in to the service at any time, and has available playback offline for only Premium users

Pandora

The Pandora player is a free, Web-based Flash application. The availability of Flash 7 or 8 installed on the computer gives you the affordance to use it. With $36 per year and $12 for three months the user is provided a free add version.

Pandora delivers a 128-Kbs stream of music, and it only works with a broadband connection. It derives music license from the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998) guidelines for streaming internet radio. The use of DRM can be seen in notable ways. Pandora will never play a specific song on demand; if you add a song to a station, it will show up eventually, but Pandora can use that only at random. Users, can only skip songs in an hour this is so you don’t skip a song you intended to listen to. “The licence also limits the number of times Pandora can play a particular song or artist in a particular time period” Julia Layton, storing up music in your computers flash local storage history indicating that it has played.  Pandora also plays the explicit content of songs so as not to take away the artist original intentions for the song.

As all other streaming online music services it also stores your user data to provide recommenders. Pandora music recommenders are built to meet these two needs in balance users want to discover new music while also listening to music they know they like Herlocker et al. (2015)

One cool feature the company has incorporated into its platform is the Music Genome Project.  When a listener chooses a song for the radio station, the Music Genome project chooses the songs that have the strongest edges to the original song.

Google play

For Android users after purchasing an Mp3 on Google play, Google prevents competing applications and third party developers from accessing the file using technical and legal means. Making it obvious that DRM is being implemented on their platform, since music purchased can only be played on on Google’s Play app.

It goes further, to limit the number of devices which you can use to listen to your own music and allows you to “deauthorize” 4 devices per year, including phones and tablets. In addition, each time you flash your device with popular custom ROM such as CyanogenMod, you use one of your authorizations”, John Lech (2015).

It also doesn’t allow you to share your music library with members of your household and can only download the music twice from play music to play on PC or Mac, until the end of time.

There exist other online streaming music services such as soundcloud, tidal, google play etc


Computer.howstuffworks.com

HTTP://nanocr.eu/2015/06/16/5-things-google-doesnt-want-you-to-know-about-music/

Artist’s Discontent

The arguments are mostly streamlined to saying that users are the the ones with the most benefits, but once analysed indepthly there is no winner or loser. Both groups are facing similar issues which vary. For little or no cost the consumers are provided access to millions of songs, through a simple, easy to use platform. The most visible losers are the songwriters, producers, and others involved in the creative aspects of producing music. Most often than not, artist are paid peasantly (Future music coalition 2015), for streaming of their songs on platforms such as Spotify and Pandora.

A big part of the problem is that most consumers attribute very little value to the recording itself with available video and streaming services like Youtube or BitTorrent coming at Zero cost to the listener Paul Rensnilkoff , (2015).

Effect on Users consumption and Perception; From Arguments to Examples (Cases)

Lady gaga: The artist in 2015, through her manager, Troy Carter had decried receiving less for the millions of streams from platforms like Spotify.  He says Universal Music group had paid the singer nothing despite the amount of times her music was downloaded from their platform. However, “Spotify says they pay the labels, though this is often with huge, multi-million dollar advances and or equity positions attached” Paul Rensnlkolf, (2015). This unfortunately doesn’t get to the artist, either for legitimate or illegitimate reasons.  

Taylor swift: In June of 2015, Taylor Swift came under attack, ”when she objected to Apple’s plan to offer free trials at the expense of artist and labels”. Writing an open letter to Apple Music in which she made known that she would not release her album ‘1989’, on their streaming service due to their free 3 month trial policy which writers, producers and artist are not paid.  Explaining herself in this light.

“ This is not about me… This is about the new artist or band that has released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create”.

Not long after this she also had a similar issue with spotify, over similar circumstances.These are not the only stars who have been forthcoming about their experiences, we had Kanye West and Tidal, resulting in him pulling out his “Life of Pablo” from Tidals’ streaming platform.

This on the other hand, sparked a national conversation in regards to the economics surrounding worldwide digital music. The digital market which is valued at around $6.9B is on most days not the center of controversy.

With these issues, companies are finding ways to keep their users on their platforms and there comes recommender systems, which has provided opportunities for users to be exposed to music of their interest at a wide range without regional boundaries.

Source: Digital music

Fig 2.1


HTTP://nanocr.eu/2015/06/16/5-things-google-doesnt-want-you-to-know-about-music/

the-music-industry-has-99-problems-and-they-are

Recommender System

With users who are unaware of what goes on behind the scene, one day, they are left to wonder what has become of all the music they loved. They barely have control as to the tides which these streaming services decide to tow. Rather they are bombarded with features which these software companies decide to implement to keep these users glued to their services.  One of which is the Recommender systems.

Many recommender systems are developed in particular contexts, and their evaluations will be on data sets relevant to that context or an internal data sets.

Recommendation is not  the only need users have with respect to their relationship with a recommender system. It can also be used to alter user experience and behavior. Cosel et al (Check year) Recommender systems are frequently “black boxes”, presenting recommendations to the user without any explanation of why the user might like the recommended item. Music streaming e-commerce sites typically uses recommendations to increase sales volume, increasing the importance of persuasion as a goal (Michael ). If the system however, has a reputation of recommending the wrong kind of songs, they lose the trust of users and they suffer in the long run.

Social Impact of Recommenders:

Due to the nature of recommender systems which include collecting data of users, in substantial volume, users of e-commerce platforms face important privacy and security challenges. I’ll love to highlight of one famous ways of recommending which is through star ratings

Analog-digital-Analog-continuum

Economics is recognizing itself as an information science, considering that part of its developmental arc is transforming from matter to bits, storing itself in large computer and magnetic strips. “Even when money seemed to be material treasure, heavy in pockets and ships’ holds and bank vaults, it always was information” James Gleick (2011).

In the bid to keep up and see that music is consumed and people have access to it at a wider range, software companies rely heavily on recommender systems such as the like button, rating etc. This is good for lower selling albums who do not have access to larger platforms, especially those in less developed regions. My argument, is that DRM gave rise to the use of recommenders. On the other hand the instability that follows the features and content on streaming platforms, which is being influenced by DRM is affecting how music is being consumed and perceived, with many users and music providers caught up with what happens behind the scene.

Network Dependence enabling E-commerce: Star Ratings

Source: Lifewire.com

“The emergence of stars as indicators of quality are, of course, not confines to music”.  John street (2012). Ratings have been used for different purposes an e.g rating of restaurants on a five star scale to the rating of books on Amazon goodreads, hospitals and so have university departments for quality in research, we also have rating of products from experiences. Colin Symes (2004:186) suggests that use of ratings in music may be the legacy Baedeker travel guides. Now part of a general process of audit culture or audit society (Power, 1997), … the star system has become a way of delivering new obligations.

Music criticism is one of the forces that have shaped the modern world, a flow from Europe, a flashback as far as the the eighteenth century. Since then criticism has come to encompass our choice for for a better standard in modern times.  A logic expounded by the economist Richard Caves (2000), who viewed cultural criticism primarily as a way of conveying market information to others. A concept that has been built into the recommender algorithm.

‘Ratings are so important because they influence what shows up on your recommendations. The less helpful the rating system the worse your recommendation will be.

After its disappearance in 2016, itunes returned later in that same year in a 10.2 Beta version,  proving that the star rating system may mean much more to users who tend to their playlist. The Itunes case isn’t a peculiar one. Netflix in march has swapped out its five rating system for a simpler one. ‘According to the online streaming service, its reason is a clear cut one. For it a 5 star rating impresses people and a thumbs up or down, is brutal honesty David sims (2017).

Most users use the star ratings for final control on what gets on to their playlist and synced to their devices .The star rating system has been implemented for different purpose on music streaming platforms. Some serve as recommenders as seen on Google play, but Itunes uses the star ratings to help sort out and arrange playlist of its users, while providing other features like the love and dislike buttons to aid recommenders. iTunes maintains the digital library it creates using two files of ITL and XML format as database to help categorize information on digital media available in the library, for Spotify, the star ratings.

Source: Spotify community


music-publishings-metadata-problemdraft.html

Michael Ekstrand et.al  2010: Collaborative filtering Recommender systems: foundations and trends in human-computer interaction. Vol 4

Brusilovsky, 1996: Methods and techniques of adaptive hypermedia,: User Modeling and User-Adapted interaction, vOL. 6 NO. 2, pp87-129

 

Sociotechnical systems and  Network Dependency of Ratings.

A system is understood to be an entity that can be separated into parts, which are all simultaneously linked to each other in a specific way.

                                                                                                                —  Pieter Vermaas (2010)

“Socio-technical systems comprises of the interaction and dependencies between aspects such as human actors, organisational units, communication processes, documented information, work procedures, processes, technical units, human-computer interactions and competencies” (Kunau, Loser and Menold, 2004 Jahnke, 2007).  

The starting point in this is to realise that in our socio-technical systems thinking, we come to understand culture and media technologies are co-produced or co-constitute and thus form a necessary system of co-mediation.

Rating system in itself does not exist as a physical property but depends on built in functions of physical technologies, such as PC and Mobile devices. Since, the main focus is on music we would like to focus a bit sociotechnical systems, is the ability to accommodate many users at any one moment and, secondly, that they involve people in some of the issues to be addressed are interoperability of DRM solutions, support, portability, choice in content provider, support for true archives of owned data.

The complexity of sociotechnical systems, revolves around the fact that it has many users, which is unlikely to be found in other typical technical artefacts e.g a calculator. The functioning of the rating system as a whole, as it appears to each of its users, not only requires coordination between the technical or hardware aspects of the system and the behavior of users, but also, and especially, the mutual coordination of the behavior of the many users. An example can be see in the recent return of itunes star ratings to its music player.

Rating an item isn’t limited to music alone. Moreso systems of ratings have been existing since the beginning. In  reply to that argument, one may likely excuse that while engineers are likely to anticipate uses they cannot  determine them Vermass et al (2011).

All this is made possible following concepts adapted from information and communication theory. And we we look at how it all gets connected by analysing Shannons, theory in his paper  “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”


Peter Kroes et.al, 2010: A philosophy of sociotechnical systems: Morgan & Claypool Publishers 

 

The Theory Behind Mp3

Uncompressed digital CD-quality audio signals consume a large amount of data and are therefore not suited for storage and transmission. “The need to reduce this amount without any significant quality loss was stated in the late 80’s by the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO)” Rassol Raissi, (2002). A working  group from with the ISO referred to the Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG), developed a standard that contained several techniques for both audio and video compression. The audio part consisting of three modes, with the third layer managing music compression from CD at 1.4 Mbits/s to 128 Kbit/s with almost no audible degradation. This technique, which is now implemented, has become popular and known as MP3.  

The theory of data compression was first formulated by Claud E. Shannon in 1949 when he released his paper. “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” proving that it was possible to compress data without losing information.

Information Theory and Transmission model of communication:

Perhaps coming up with a theory of information and its processing is a bit like building a transcontinental railway. You can start in the east, trying to understand how agents can process anything, and head west. Or you can start in the west, with trying to understand what information is and then head east. One hopes that these tracks will meet

                                                                                                                   —Jon Barwise (1986)

 

Transforming information

During his keynote address at the ACM conference in 2009, Martin argued that the algorithms are a small part of the problem. Some work well, there is still much work to be done on user experience, data collection, and other problems which make up the whole of the recommender experience.

Computers do more than just transmit information: they transform it. ‘Transformation opens many new possibilities, most notably the creation of new information’ Peter Denning (2003). Shannon’s classical information theory shows that information can be transmitted and received accurately by processes that do not depend on information meaning. Information depends on the observer

This brings us to Weaver and Wiener’s formulations, a significant formulation in regards to the recommender system is that Information theory

In Glieks “The Information” he gives a overview as to how we got to today’s concept and it shows how relevant his theory is today in the application of features and new concepts explored by the online music streaming services “ …Shannon proposed feeding “cultural things,” such as music, to an electronic brain”.


http://www.mp3-tech.org/programmer/docs/mp3-theory.pdf

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/servlet/opac?punumber=5431684

Ronald Day, 2000: “The conduit Metaphor” and The nature and politics of Information Studies: University of Oklahoma

James Gleick, 2011: The information: A History, A Theory, A Flood: Pantheon Books, New York

sony-develops-new-app-to-show-daily-earning-from-music-streams

 

MetaData might be the solution

According to Annie Lin, (2015) “Technology has made it possible to offer massive quantities of music to millions of users at once, making metadata more important than ever”. Music licensing which has a complicated structure becomes a difficult hassle when it comes to licensing. However, few companies are trying to find a middle ground For e.g Sony music is giving artist 100% access to their streaming data. The application built towards transparency provides data and shares key information of artist daily streaming earnings as well as the profile and category of people who listens to their songs.

Formerly, “No single comprehensive database of song ownership metadata exists, which means that identifying the owner of any single song requires a hint-and-peck search across multiple limited proprietary databases” say Annie Lin, in her article on hyperbot.com.

Conclusion

This paper has looked into DRM, its impact to the music industry and how recommender systems grew out of the desperation of companies of companies to keep users locked in. Looking at star ratings as one of the most used forms of recommendation. We also looked at how we got here through Information theory propounded by Shannon.

Technology is advancing too quickly for the world to keep up with, and with DRM still prevalent in music streaming the future of music becomes questionable.Online, various articles and softwares are paraded to aid hackways in which users can use illegal means to getting their music used freely, cutting away the financial gain. As more and more users pay more to be on more than one streaming service because of the different features available, music  moves away from one of its initial intent, which is to entertain or educate, to becoming more political.

Recommendation

More research needs to be done in the area of financial implications of online streaming application to its users. On the other hand it will be encouraging to see that substantial evidence and theories are recommended to seeing how metadata, will proffer a more enduring solution.

 

REFERENCES

Arthur, W. B. (2011). The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves (Reprint edition). New York: Free Press.

Gleick, J. (2012). The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood (2.5.2012 edition). New York: Vintage.

Murray, J. H. (2011). Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice (1st edition). Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.

Norman, D. (2013). The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition (Rev Exp edition). New York, New York: Basic Books.

Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, and Wybo Houkes. A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. San Rafael, CA: Morgan & Claypool Publishers, 2011

Regis Debray, “What is Mediology?” (Also as PDF.) Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.

Vermaas, P., Kroes, P., Franssen, M., Poel, I. van de, & Houkes, W. (2011). A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. San Rafael, Calif. (1537 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA 94901 USA): Morgan & Claypool Publishers.

Werner Rammert, “Where the Action Is: Distributed Agency Between Humans, Machines, and Programs,” 2008. Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR). http://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/handle/document/1233.

Clickable Links

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/02/25/the-music-industry-has-99-problems-and-they-are/

https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2016/03/04/sony-develops-new-app-to-show-daily-earning-from-music-streams/

https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/03/netflix-believes-in-the-power-of-thumbs/520242/

Netflix Officially Kills Star Ratings, Replacing Them With Thumbs Up and Down

https://www.polygon.com/2017/4/7/15212718/netflix-rating-system-disapproval

https://www.lifewire.com/sort-itunes-songs-into-star-rated-playlists-2438732

https://www.theringer.com/2016/11/29/16046480/itunes-star-rating-system-17268b9c057

http://www.zdnet.com/article/what-would-be-the-impact-of-drm-free-music/

Smart tools creating smart mobs: Thinking through iMessage functionality

 

Grace Chimezie

Introduction

Smart tools have made life easier and have been the edge to how companies appeal to their competitors consumers. These consumers are overtime indoctrinated to the use of a specific device, in how they communicate, view social status and think. Smart tools has therefore created smart mobs. Smart mobs? Yes, this consist of individuals who act in similar despite unknowingness with each other. These people unite in ways previously unattainable because they bear devices that posses both communication and computing capabilities.

Their mobile devices connect them information devices in the environment as well as with other peoples telephones. When they connect the tangible objects and places of our daily lives with the internet, handheld communication media mutate into wearable-control devices for the physical world.

The iMessage texting platform has helped individuals coordinate actions with others around he world and, perhaps more importantly, with people nearby. The groups of people using this tool have gained new forms of social power, new ways to organize their interactions and exchanges just in time and just in place.

What if your text message box was blank?


I guess most of us have never really considered that because we were already caught up in using our phones a certain way and not any other way.

The recent affordances of text messaging on new devices cannot be over emphasized. One can only imagine if we still had Prior means of texting without recent adjustments. small screens and then text message notification consuming the whole screen space etc.


Just until a few years ago, text messages where a bore. A pop up consuming almost a large part of your screen to indicate a recipient has received a new message, longer time spent replying, just because the device only afforded you that much. Woe to you if you lived in Africa, then the means of sending EMS, MMS only existed for fancy.

Fast forward a few years later and companies like Apple are changing the view of what text messaging should look and feel like. The new social forms of the last decade of the twentieth century grew from the internet’s capability for many-to-many social communication.

One unique capability of the iMessage, which is fostered by agents such as having the capacity to receive messages from other mobile devices but not in the same capacity as Apple devices.

The driving factors of the mobile, context-sensitive, internet-connected devices are Moore’s Law (computer chips gets cheaper as they grow more powerful).

Built in functions/ combinatorial functions.

Apple mobile device
Ability to link to the web
Contact
Maps
Link to other applications
Media function; image, music

According to Irvine “This new combinatorial media system is based on ongoing reconfigurations of material technologies, software, content, and the institutions and industries that enable and sustain the internet as such”.

Conclusion
Like every previous leap in technological power, the coming together of these computational and social communication will improve lived in some ways and degrade it in others.

 

References

The Future of Apps and Web

 

 

 

…THE DISCOURSE IS CONTINUOUSLY CHANGING

Grace Chimezie

 

Introduction

This weeks reading is a beautiful climax from our understanding of our media, symbols and how we got here. One thing to note however is that the discourse around the internet is one that continuously changes. The change in the discourse over the years have led us to the internet we have now and this week’s reading unraveled the puzzle and games that the everyday consumers wouldn’t care to know.

Despite years of using the internet, I’ve never really dwelt on the internet as not being the information base but  a transfer protocol. Its just one of those mediums you get soaked into that the complexities elude you. Asides from the marketing and other obvious forces, some of the answers to knowing what we need to about the internet is hidden in plain sites.

According to Irvine “What we have access to and experience as users is the outcome of agencies, actors and forces that make the technologies possible or not. Again, the invisible things are often the most powerful”

“The web today is a growing universe of interlinked web pages and web apps, teeming with videos, photos, and interactive content. what the user don’t see is the interplay of web technologies and browsers that makes all this possible”. These messages are broken down in bit packets and packages before they are delivered to us.

However, over time the discourse continues to change and issues around the internet and its use takes a new dimension. We’ve come from the age where resource sharing and data storage seemed to be a big issue, which brought about the internet and we moved to discussing issues around normalizing its use. Then the quest for dominance by market forces one that saw Bill Gates (a rather interesting scenario) in murky waters with the US department of Justice in 1998.

At this point in the semester, its no new fact that nothing just exist by itself lest alone function and the internet isn’t an exempt case. The internet would be nothing than an empty space without the devices, meta-mediums, applications and built in compatibility softwares that run on our devices, which in turn makes this information available to us. If the standard layout and framework laid out for these mediums and devices where to be done in a different way they won’t function.

Conclusion 

At the end Technologies are an extension of mans capabilities because somehow we got tired of carrying the burden alone. In recent times argument around internet neutrality has become a rising issue to be addressed, this will be over soon and another discussion would ensue, shaping ideas about what we know now. one grateful thing to consider is that the internet belongs to no one really, even though ownership is held by individuals in tiny frames.

Technical terms I’m getting to familiarize myself with in use: Loops, relay, reliable, utilization, installations, processors, sockets, nodes, interface message processor, debug, tested, display console etc.

 

References 

Janet Abbate, Inventing the Internet. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2000. Excerpts.

Martin Irvine, Introducing Internet Design Principles and Architecture: Why Learn This?

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.

 

BUILDING COMPUTATION FROM EVERYONE’S IDEA

Grace Chimezie

Introduction

How did computers become digital information processors and metadata platforms, how did it develop beyond earlier computation and context? To become a general purpose computer like our PC’s. In a way, computation, as we have it now, was and is a continuous build-up from everyone’s idea (those who contributed to the technologies and present means of computation). The war may have been a great force to implementing some of this ideas that were already in the pipeline, I want to argue that without the war, technology may have still gotten to this point of technological exposure. Why? Because the human mind is constantly developing ideas around general interaction and new ways of solving problems.
Computation has developed beyond designs for military, government, and businesses because of a continuous underlying theme of finding new ways of creating technologies that are understandable, simple in its complexity and solves our everyday problems from social interaction to living.

All of the breakthroughs in human design concept Although these earlier minds had blueprints and visions to making computation and software available to people, they would not have imagined it at the stage at which it is today.

Building on the development processes of computation

Computing has become a multimedia platform for creating transforming, transmitting and displaying all forms of digitizable content from simple text and photographs to high definition films and 3D. This is a fascinating story of creative development that takes basic models of computation and combines them with a more user-centered interface to software functions to becoming, Douglas Englebart Famous phrase “Augmenting human intellect”.

Manovich proposes three concepts that have brought us here media hybridization, evolution and deep remix. Furthermore, he argued that the process of translation from physical and electronic media technologies to software, all individual technologies, and tools that were previously unique to different media met within the same software environment.

This meeting had fundamental consequences for human cultural development and for the media evolution. It disrupted and transformed the whole landscape of media technologies, the creative professions that use them, and the very concept of media itself. E.g. 3D computer graphics, animation, social software search.

The next major wave of computerization of culture has to do with different types of software, social network, social media services and apps for mobile platforms.

The graphic user interface was justified using a simplistic idea that since computers are unfamiliar to people, we should help them by making the interface intuitive by making it mimic something users are already well familiar with, the physical world outside. This builds up to the kind of computational design we are left to interact and be exposed to

One of the conceptual developments came from the HCI community that develops out of an awareness that computers are cognitive artifacts and can be taken in any direction that we can design.

Conclusion

None of what we have now, in regards to computation and its development to being multi-purpose, was the sole idea of one person or organization but a combined efforts of creative geniuses some who didn’t start out on this path. These individuals built on already existing artifacts, some thought about new ways of improving what was socially acceptable and others pushed boundaries with it to what we have now. It is important that as we draw out our inferences in computation that we look into Kay’s body of work and his special interest in children and their usage of these technologies, and learn a thing or two about being free to learn new ways and implement our own ideas to the already existing body of work in regards to computation. come to think of it Englebart had a first prototype of what your google docs does.

Reference

Lev Manovich, 2012: Software Takes Command: Bloomsbury Academic

I once saw it as just the less than < symbol now I refer to it as open tag…

Grace Chimezie

 

Moore’s law is a violation of murphy’s law.

Everything gets better and better… Gordon Moore.

 

Introduction

I’ve always had interest in computing but for some reason never felt inclined to indulge myself in the process, since mathematics wasn’t my strong forte and when I saw people adding greater than to normal grammars or alphabets I was done with the whole process.  

This week’s reading was interesting, Evans brought back those same emotions I had in regards to computing and the principles that underlie it, except this time I didn’t have a choice. At the beginning it felt like I was reading a lot of understandable jargons and I had to pause at some point and try out the code academy, then the scale fell off. What I once attributed to < greater than became, open tags and I could finally relate to some of the codes I was familiar with from all my years of blogging (a story for another day).

In previous weeks of seeing the recurring term of Semantic and Semiotic, for the first time I had to revisit with those words with a different view and knowledge. Now I see my own humanistic attributes in my computer playing out before me. However, I’ll today duel more on the programming principles of this week’s reading and how I could understand the hierarchy existing in our everyday social structure also existed within the computing family.

<!DOCTYPE html>

I need to <br/> this conversation into <div>or

<p>.Now let’s get to the <body> or is it <body> </body>of this argument.

<!– This is what happens when you code, you get –>

some of the terms I was able to clarify

Hypertext markup language (html), self closing tag, Doctype, head, page titles, body and the list is endless. I learnt that to program computers, we need tools that allow us to describe precisely and succinctly. Since procedures are carried out by a machine, every step needs to be described.

Conclusion

Computing changes how we think about problems and how we understand the world. Programing languages come in many flavors. It is difficult to simultaneously satisfy all desired properties since simplicity is often at odds with economy. Every feature that is added e.g <div>, <p>, <body></body> is to increase its expressiveness incurs a cost in reducing simplicity and regularity e.g <br/>.
A better constant practice with book and words and a host will relieve the fear that computing or programing is left to those who wear prescribed glasses although our professor Irvine doesn’t wear one, its a lot of hope for people like us  

Reference

David Evans, 2011: Introduction to computing: Explorations in language, logic and machines: University of Virginia Chapter 1-3

Achieving a common ground on Information and Meanings

Achieving a common ground on Information and Meanings

Grace Chimezie

 

Introduction:

I intend to use diagrams to explaining critical reasons on the need to achieve a common ground in information and meanings and other factors that contribute to the means of communication we have present in our artifacts.

As socially symbolic beings we always live in technically mediated symbolic systems and use information to exchange meanings. Where do meanings come from one may ask? All the information encoded and transmitted as digital data always presupposes the initial context of meaning  and the background of assumed knowledge that motivate, and frame the message or communication we encode.

Main features of the Signal transmission theory of information

Part of social science of information theory is grounded in a common culturally accepted series of tropes and narratives, if it quantitatively test the meaning of these tropes and narratives in a society constructured by them, and then, if it arrives at a certain reasonable conclusion based on those test. Information science then provides a somewhat ironically useful function of social self validation  ( for the information profession).

Information theory which provides meanings behind information technology acts as a technical devise for transmission, not screening the message for content, but simply, technically passing them from sender to recipient.

The role of information theory is not only to foster the development of transmission apparatuses, but more importantly, like a transmission apparatus or conduit itself, information theory is to transmit message of some sort without interference. The measure of success for information theory and cybernetics are their ability to preserve the system or organism from a hostile environment (e.g. Aircraft)

Take for example an Aircraft communication system

Diagram 2. 

Meaning systems 

The problem occurs however, when these tropes and narratives are given privileged authority over all other explanations and phenomenon in the field of information studies and in culture and society in general, and when the conduit model is used to evaluate and determine values that are contradictory or exposed to what it prescribes.

Understanding the limitations of technically important models when it comes to analysing the meanings and values of what we exchange in all our messages, communication and media systems.

The meanings of our messages come from the human symbolic systems that surround them and the social uses of technology mediated expression. We create meanings when we perceive signals, meanings are not properties of information signals.

Each single bit can be represented by a signal element. Each signal element takes some time to send. Bit rate: the number of bits that can be sent out per unit of time time.

According to Irvine (2014), We can’t separate the technological from social and collective cognitive meanings. Meaning is not a location it is an event. It happens in the process of using symbols collectively in communities of meaning making making.The meaning of information depends on the observer despite designers, scientist look to software to generate meaning.  Semantic networks and social functions of digital are not present as properties of the data.

To put in simpler terms

Meanings are the perceived signals we derive from an information. This is transmitted through binary codes called digitzation sent in bits through conduits. The argument as to which form takes greater precedence doesn’t weigh much, as social symbolic beings we cannot operate without the understanding of both.

On a lighter note it is great to see that most of these arguments originated from a teacher student relationship between Weiner and Shanon 

Conclusion

Historically, insofar as information science has been largely concerned with issues of information retrieval it not only has utilized the technology of electronic information transfer, but it has also tropically extended the notion of transmission and re-presentation from a technical to semantic and social level.

Both the professional and the social realms are professionally important because, from an ethical and political standpoint, professional knowledge must acknowledge the responsibility for social and political conditions and for historical developments not only within its traditional field but outside of it.

References:

Irvine’s Youtube video 2014: Understanding Key concepts in Technology 

Ronald Day, 2000: The conduit metaphor information: the nature and politics of information studies: University of Oklahoma

Shannon, C.E. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. In The Mathematical Theory of Communication. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

Wiener, N. (1950). The human use of human beings: Cybernetics and society. Cambridge, MA: The Riverside Press.

Contemporary Images on Instagram: a case for Facetunes 2

Grace Chimezie

Introduction

According to Murray (2012), Digital design is about shaping interaction within new combinations of the format and genre conventions that make up a new medium. New media technologies such as Facetune or the Instagram applications are attractive to us because they offer new opportunities for the defining human activity of symbolic expression. Design can be directed at objects, for pleasure or utility.

My mobile phone, facetune, and Instagram make up a joint attentional scene. When it comes to creating content with images in a contemporary and aesthetically driven world, everyone has cultural biases, expectations, and value judgments that are the result of associating with a particular subgroup. It is the job of the designer to identify and consciously examine these biases so they can become the subject of active choices rather than passive acceptance.

Image 1. Instagram Layout : @t2pitchy 

Design Principles of Facetune/ Screen Based Interface:

Norman’s use of affordance (1988), not “affordance” what is physically possible, but perceived affordance what actions we perceive as possible is what interest design. He states that in graphical, screen-based interfaces, all that the designer has available is control over perceived affordances. The smartphone display screen (e.g touch screen) affords to tap, launching an application and clicking on every pixel on the display screen.

Image 2. Icon interface of Facetune 

Facetune 2 photo- editing application launched early January an updated version of Facetune, their mobile photo editing software. Although launch icons for both versions came out looking similar, the affordance of both bore a great difference.  The photo editing application affords you the luxury of getting your picture to fit into the contemporary narrative of how a photo should look like, especially when you’re constrained in the skilled use of software like Photoshop, and Lightroom to alter raw image file.

Adaptive/ Responsive Design

Adaptive design  Introduced in 2011 by web designer Aaron Gustafson in his book, adaptive web design where responsive design relies on changing the design pattern to fit the real estate available to it. Using this concept I believe same applies to a software application when an app detects an available space, it selects layout most appropriate for the screen.

The term response design was first coined by the web designer and developer Ethan Marcotte in his book, Responsive web design. Responsive web designs respond to changes in browser width by adjusting the placement of design element to fit in the available space. On smartphone or tablet devices, the process is automatic, the application checks for the available space and then presents itself in the ideal arrangement.

Responsive design is easier and takes less work to implement, it affords less control over your design on each screen size. Adaptive design unlike responsive design, where a screen flows from desktop design into a smaller device’s adaptive design offers tailor-made solutions. As the name suggests, they adapt to the user’s situational needs and capabilities. It allows users to be in tune with their needs on a mobile device by making designs touch friendly.

Choices not properties

In order to make truly intuitive interfaces, designers must be hyper-aware of the conventions by which we make sense of the world. The four-dimensional properties of digital environments (the participatory, procedural, spatial and encyclopedic affordances) that provide the core palette for designers across applications within the common digital medium.

Despite the great ratings of the app, Facetune 2 does not give you a full user experience if you do not have some sort of payment plan. This constrains you from having access to the main elements and features that the app provides which differentiates it from the earlier version.

Image 3: The difference between a subscribed and unsubscribed version 

Affordances/ Control

The application comes with a demo on how to use some of its features using our already existing human capacity of senses; touch and sight e.g the Spot removal tool, heal, brightening, lightning and whitening tools are activities you can use easily once you download the software app. These are part of the design affordances the app allows for human capacity and symbol expression which prompts for full-screen takeover

To use the application to it best ability which most people rarely do, one needs to use full thinking and creative skills with clear knowledge of what the intended outcome will be. These would require manipulating the filter choices and other tools to suit the contemporary style you intended as the final look of the photograph

Conclusion

Designers should consciously exploit the user’s pre-existing knowledge by looking for familiar interaction patterns that will be easy to learn and will quickly become transparent.

References:

Gibson, J.J. (1977). The theory of affordances. In R.E. Shaw & J. Bransford (Eds.), Perceiving, Acting, and Knowing. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Murray, J. H. (2012). Inventing the medium excerpts Introduction 1-2 pdf.

Nielsen, J. (1993). Usability engineering. Boston: AP Professional.

Norman, D.A. (1988). The Psychology of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books. (The paperback version is Norman, 1990.)

Norman, D.A. (1990). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Doubleday.

Thinking about us: Agencies, mediums, communication in the use of technologies and artefacts

Grace Chimezie

“It is impossible to treat the communication level of authority separately from its means for communicating or to treat sociability separately from technicity (Debray 1996)”.

Introduction                                 

It is obvious to most engineers that systems are made not simply of technical bits and pieces but also include people. When we begin to think of the stories and the interaction behind uses of artefacts or technology, it spurs our creative and innovative senses. This enables us to create technology for the immortal relationship that is created using it. This lies in simple uses of artefacts like a typewriter, One one hand the love letters printed on them today holds a great value to a 68-year-old mother whose husband is away and has a similar effect to the 18-year-old who just received a love e-mail from her college boyfriend on her computer. The systems that are in place lay the groundwork for mediation.

Photo a Typewriter by me

Physical agencies e.g Postal office that guide the uses of this technology aids the relationship that people attach to it and the communication that flows. The guides to the uses of artefact are embedded in the need to communicate.

Is it possible to devise a set of concepts that could replace technology/society divide? This set of new concepts association and substitution might help rephrase some of the traditional questions of social order and especially that of the durability of domination of power. Technology should be seen in the possibility of it being whole and the interactions holding societies together as a durable whole.               

                           E.g.  furniture equipment

Little tiny innovations commonly found in artefacts we daily interact with like chairs, gives a user the idea of what setting and purpose it’s being designed for. Where people fail in their moral obligations to follow rules in design, little innovation can succeed in enforcing this. However, this comes at a price and by aligning with forces from the innovator to the material used has formed a hierarchical institution (Agencies).

Image. 3 A furniture setting

language and the technology vs. society dualism

Mechanism of transmission:

According to Irvine, the starting point in this version of socio-technical systems thinking is understanding that culture and media technologies are co-produced or co-constitutive and thus form a necessary system of co-mediation. The understanding of these systems as a whole helps prevent dichotomy. A socio-technical system is a system of interconnected agency and co-dependency.

It is impossible to treat the communication level of authority separately from its means for communicating or to treat sociability separately from technicity (Debray 1996). It goes without saying that the field is complex. One speaks more appropriately of interactions and bipolarity than of entrenched antinomy. Bruno Latour and others have shown there is no discrete technological object purely technological and totally inhuman or reducible to a purely instrumental neutrality. Technology is freighted with positive or negative values, fitted into institutions or social networks   (like the speed bump or the alarm clock)

How we need to think differently for participating in design decisions

The grammatical imperatives attached to products we use, gives us the choice between incorporation and excorporation. Let’s say a hotel key that a manager needs to be dropped at the front desk when a customer checks out and is written down on as a sign on the desk but has been ignored. By making the key attachment really big, some customers simply oblige to the instruction, not because they read the sign but because they don’t want to leave with the big keys in their pockets. This little innovation then changes the implications of the word, action, and object. This example illustrates that the fate of a statement is in the hands of others (Latour 1987).

Image 4. A hotel Key photo taken by me

To take these successive transformations into account, the very meaning of the word “Statement” must be clarified. By statement, it means anything that is thrown, sent, or delegated by an enunciator (latin for messenger). Sometimes it refers to a word, sometimes to a sentence, sometimes to an object, sometimes to an apparatus, and sometimes to an institution.  

Latour and other system thinkers want to overturn the narrow concept of passive, instrumentality, (things uses only as tools), a way of thinking that attempts to map “effects” between opposite or separable domains. These separate domains effects thinking needs to be replaced by more detailed descriptions of inter agency, which is revealed in our ability to bundle, recursively automate, many human intentions symbolic cognition and ordered hierarchical abstraction.

Conclusion

Any Vocabulary we might adopt that allow the engagement of non-humans into the social link should consider both the succession of hands that transport a statement and the succession of transformation undergone by that statement.

References:

Mediology

Debray, Régis. Introduction à la Médiologie. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 2000. Media Manifestos: On the Technological Transmission of Cultural Forms. Translated by Eric Rauth. London; New York, NY: Verso, 1996.

“Qu’est-ce que la médiologie?.” Le Monde diplomatique, August 1999. http://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/1999/08/DEBRAY/12314. Trans.: “What is Mediology.” Translated by Martin Irvine, August 1999. http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/Debray- What_is_Mediology.html

Transmitting Culture. Translated by Eric Rauth. New York NY: Columbia Univ. Press,

Systems theory, Network theory

Latour, Bruno. “On Technical Mediation.” Common Knowledge 3, no. 2 (1994): 29–64. ———. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford

To Inquire, to Know, to Use: How the brain works in understanding the Internet of Things

Grace Chimezie.

Introduction

Hundreds of million of years of evolution have produced hundreds of thousands of species with brains, and tens of thousands with complex behavioral, perceptual, and learning abilities. Only one of these have ever wondered about its place in the world, because only one evolved with the ability to do so. The doorway to the virtual world was opened to us alone by the evolution of language, because language is not merely a mode of communication, it is also an outward expression of an unusual mode of thought, and symbolic representation.

According to Terrance Deacon (1997) by internalizing the symbolic process that underlines language, (knowing how something originated) is the best clue of knowing how it works. Hence, the only way to understand a representation or process is by considering it in the context of an information processing system. Thus, instead of simply looking for correlations between stimulus or response properties and activation, one needs to think about the brain as a system and what that system is doing to accomplish specific task representation.

Lets consider the navigation Gps as a Representation and repository of information, but representations convey information only because the appropriate processes are available. As soon we start thinking in terms of information processing systems, one realizes that common sense can’t characterize the nature of internal representations nor how they are processed.

Image 1. A navigation Gps from Reservoir road to Georgetown

 

How do clever people naturally interact with and think about things, whether those things are connected or not?

Scene: Now let’s consider this scenario of my cycle as a graduate student on Wednesday.

After my morning home routine, I head to the  Lauinger library and pick up a book on cognitive science by Oliveir Houde to understand deeply human evolution. I write and make a long note on my takeaways from from the book on my google drive (storage device), the notes  contain images, concepts and writings. I am at Reservoir road and decide to find my way to Car Barn and I use my mobile google GPs to navigate my way through to my 820 class.

These interactions are with things too technological or physical. Things that a connected and that compute instances of the Internet of things (IoT). by comparing these three scenes one involving the book and library, the other navigation and the third storage, we can learn a lot about how the human mind  works, and how the internet of things can work in parallel.

That’s because research shows that we “adapt the world to our perceptual capacities,” especially when we discern that this approach will be faster and more accurate than adapting our preferred thinking style to fit the world.

Image 2. A cycle of the lifestyle of a graduate student.

 

Often the most salient and useful hints about the underlying logic of nature’s designs are provided when unique or extreme features in two different domains are found to be correlated.

 

Distributed cognition

Distributed cognition provides a radical re-orientation of how to think about designs and supporting human-computer interaction. As a theory it is specifically tailored to understanding interactions among people and technologies. It is important from the outset to understand that distributed cognition refers to a perspective on all cognition, rather than a kind of cognition. Cognitive processes involve coordination between internal and external material (material or environmental) structure. Processes may be distributed through time in such a way that the products of earlier events can transform the nature of later events. In order to understand human cognitive accomplishments and to design effective human-computer interactions, it is essential that we grasp the nature of these distributions of process.

Image 3. Philosophy of mind cognitive psychology

 

Culture and cognition

The theory of distributed cognition is that the study of cognition is not separable from the study of culture, because agents live in complex cultural environments. This means, on the other hand, that culture emerges out of the activity of human agents in their historical contexts, as mental, material and social structures interact and on the other hand, that culture in the form of a history of material artefacts and social practices shapes cognitive processes, particularly cognitive processes that are distributed over agents, artifacts and environment. This can be seen in the behavioral activity cited in scene 1. It is a norm to see libary in modern days as a place that houses artefacts such as books and computers, because this is how the culture environment embedded in the social structures has molded me to understand.

 

Conclusion

In knowledge-intensive environments, the smartest uses of the IoT will be those that enable the ingrained capabilities of human thinking to take center stage. Our brains perform these well-rehearsed shortcuts for a reason. And the smartest technologies will model themselves in the same way. All these boils down to adaptation each generation conceiving new ways using generated language whether natured or nurtured to understand the use of the things around them. In other to understand human cognitive accomplishments and to design effective human-computer interactions, it is essential that we grasp the nature of these distributions of process.

 

References

“Deacon-Symbolic-Species-Excerpts-1-13.Pdf.” Accessed September 27, 2017. https://drive.google.com/a/georgetown.edu/file/d/0Bxfe3nz80i2GaWVFZFhXaDhfWGc/view?usp=sharing&usp=embed_facebook.
“Hollan-Hutchins-Kirsch-Distributed-Cognition.Pdf – Google Drive.” Accessed September 27, 2017. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bxfe3nz80i2GUmZlZ1FBWEtMQ3M/edit.