Don't Surrender. Don't Resist.
Kevin Kelly and Sven Birkerts take vastly opposing positions in their essays on the electronic hive. Kelly suggests surrendering to new information technologies while Birkerts suggests refusing them entirely. While these essays have merit, both positions assume an adversarial relationship with technology. Neither author shares my belief that technology is not an un-controllable external force threatening to sweep us away, but rather, a set of tools, over which we the users have control and for which we have responsibility.
Kevin Kelly argues that the Internet is similar to an electronic hive made up of many individuals, who together behave like a single organism. He also argues that the price we pay for belonging to this emergent hive mind is that we 'don't expect, don't understand, can't control, or don't even perceive.' He concludes that to participate we have to surrender.
While Kelly is correct that the Internet is a decentralized network he is incorrect in assuming that each node is considered equal. For example, consider the world of weblogs where what differentiates nodes/weblogs is the amount of attention each weblog receives and is able to bestow upon other weblogs in the network. In effect attention is the currency of the economy created by this decentralized network.
By having both attention and the ability to bestow it implies that these nodes can control and do understand the network they are members of. They do so by both producing and consuming which affects the outgoing links from their nodes which in turn affects their incoming links and ability to increase the attention they and others receive. This shows that some 'bees in the hive' choose to take up roles that are not surrendered and passive. In fact these webloggers are shaping the rest of the Internet communities' expectations, understandings and perceptions.
Consider next, Sven Birkerts' argument that while humans are adept at adapting to new technological innovation, these innovations add yet another layer of abstraction between people and the natural world. He then argues that people trade their habits of the past for these new technologies, therefore widening the gap between people and the wisdom that gives them meaning and purpose. This, he concludes, results in a shallower individual. To fight this widening gap he urges people to resist technology.
While it is true that society is abstracting itself away from the natural world, this has been happening since people moved out of caves and into dwellings of their own creation. As with anything, humans will need to find the appropriate balance between technology and Birkerts' 'natural world'.
Resisting technology will no longer be an option for individuals such as Birkerts because those who do not adapt to technology will be disenfranchised by our increasingly modern society. Certainly this is a fate worse than the widening gap of which he writes. Those who wish to resist would do society more benefit by voicing their concerns and showing people how they can bridge the gap between their abstracted lives and the natural world.
While Birkerts' essay does a good job of raising the alarm on our willingness to blindly adopt technology, suggesting only resistance is not a realistic option. It would have been better to suggest ways that people can lessen the inevitable gap. Examples could have included suggestions of adopting personal 'disconnect hours'. These hours would allow people to turn off their connections to the network in order to spend time with their families, or themselves reading, exercising or meditating.
Whether it be considering the attention economy of the weblog world, or taking a timeout by disconnecting, my opinions stem from being an early member of a new generation where I first experienced interconnectedness with bulletin board systems and local area networks and finally with the Internet through the 90s. Not only has the Internet been a learning experience, hobby, and a job but also a way of life.
Experiencing the Internet from its pre-World Wide Web days up until today, I have a sense of both what the Internet is capable of and what it is not. I also have a feeling of being not only in control but also responsible for technology. I feel neither the need to surrender to it nor do I worry of it washing over me, because my relationship with technology is a symbiotic one rather than an adversarial one. I feel since I am in control that I can find the balance necessary to connect to what Birkerts' refers as the 'natural world'.
As with anything, people must approach new technologies with a realistic view of what they can and can not do. They must also approach new technologies with an open mind instead of taking an adversarial stand against it simply because at first glance it appears complex or abstract. Technology is something people created and it is something people can control, and moreover it is something we should all benefit from. Neither surrendering nor refusing should be options people consider as they face new technologies.© Copyright 2005 Matt Goyer.
2/23/2005 - 1:45 am GMT - [guid]
Work on Windows Media Center
Want to work on Windows Media Center? We're hiring across almost all disciplines!.
One of the job perks is you get a Media Center to take home and run the latest and greatest software on.
4/11/2005 - 3:13 pm GMT - [guid]
Can anyone help out Mike?
I'm trying to setup My TV to work on a channel other than 2, 3, or 4.
My cable is Qwest Choice TV (Cable TV provided over the phone line).
What happens is that there is one set top box for the whole house and then each of the TV's are assigned a different channel (in my case 3,
10 and 13).
I can get Live TV working on Channel 3, but there doesn't appear to be a way to select anything else (signal comes in over coax).
4/7/2005 - 6:51 pm GMT - [guid]
I hate my Gyration mouse.
Even though the receiver is only six feet away from my couch it still does not work reliably.
I literally have to be one foot away from the recevier for the mouse to work.
4/5/2005 - 12:57 am GMT - [guid]
Ben has some complaints about MCE
Ben has three compliants about MCE:
You can't search from the guide page.
Skipping forward is hard.
Can't switch inputs.
Have you tried using the skip and replay buttons while in the guide? That should increase the rate at which you skip forward/back.
As for your other suggestions...
Yes, possibly easy improvements, but we have to weigh every new incremental improvement not just against all known bugs, other suggestions but also new features.
How would you prioritize hooking up VCRs to Media Center versus implementing new ATSC/HDTV functionality?* While we are 'Microsoft', we are still resource and time constrained and have to make hard tradeoffs and sometimes seemingly easy little things get cut.
Update: * I don't mean to imply we actually chose ATSC/HDTV over input switching.
I was just using ATSC/HDTV as an example of a new feature that might have been prioritized higher than input switching.
4/5/2005 - 12:17 am GMT - [guid]
How to put MCE/DVR-MS content on your PSP
Do you have a Media Center and a new PSP? Barb has the low down on preparing and converting Recorded TV from MCE (convert to mpeg4) content to copy to a memory stick.
4/5/2005 - 12:06 am GMT - [guid]
New Expert Zone article on burning and archiving
Microsoft Expert Zone, Burn, Archive, and Share Digital Videos Using Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
Tim Muscott, a group program manager in eHome, describes how he shares personal digital videos with friends and family.
Learn how to burn, archive, and share digital videos using MCE.
3/31/2005 - 2:21 pm GMT - [guid]
Why I don't have Comcast
I would definitely try it out except that my building has signed an exclusive contrast with Millennium Cable, which is a huge bummer.
As for my setup.
I have a ATI x600 graphics card and an ATI ATSC capture card (I think it's unreleased?).
3/31/2005 - 12:44 am GMT - [guid]
Cool looking small MCE
MCE needs a better name
Scott Williams thinks Microsoft has lost it's groove with respect to product naming and points to Media Center, What's in a name?:
I think that Windows Media Center Edition 2005 is an excellent product, but sheesh, you practically have to take a breath while saying it and it sounds lame.
If Apple came out with a media center product they would probably call it iRock or something like that.
The last good Microsoft name I can remember off the top of my head is XBox.
It does a great job at sounding interesting and even manages to detach itself somewhat from the stigma of being a Microsoft product.
Yes, I'd love an XBox type name for Media Center.
I cancelled our cable subscription today
I called and cancelled our $80/month digital cable subscription from Millennium Cable today.
When the customer service rep asked why, I said that all the channels I wanted were available via over the air HD broadcasters.
He at first didn't know what OTA was but I explained it and he followed up asking 'what if there were a special promotion, would you stay?' and I responded that it certainly was hard to compete with free.
And not just free, but free and works with my Media Center.
Of course, HBO isn't available via either OTA or through Millennium so we're out of luck there when Six Feet Under comes back on.
We'll likely turn to an alternative distribution mechanism to get the shows and I'll feel a bit guilty, but not so guilty since it doesn't matter how much I'd be willing to pay I still couldn't get them in HD short of moving into a new building.
Millennium does offer HBO via standard def digital cable, but I'll be honest, I can't watch standard definition TV anymore.
I'm a HD convert and there's no going back.
3/30/2005 - 6:36 pm GMT - [guid]
mail *at* mattgoyer.com
Disclaimer: The posts on this weblog are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights. The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.
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|Updated: 4/11/2005; 11:08:37 PM.|