Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Generosity of New Media

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“THE SCIENTIFIC PAPER HAS LONG BEEN THE UNIT OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE. NOW, WITH PRINT MEDIA LAPSING INTO OBSOLESCENCE, THE INTERNET IS POISED TO TRANSFORM SCIENCE PUBLISHING AND SCIENCE ITSELF.” (Seed Magazine)

Most media students would hardly consider science, let alone the way new media impacts progress in science. This week’s topic, the generosity of new media, brought to light the way in which new media has contributed to scientific developments.

To be honest, the idea that new media helps in scientific discovery makes complete sense, in the same way we have realised that we depend on new media for a variety of things. It’s not an entirely new idea. However, we never really think specifically of how it would be without new media. Elizabeth Pisani’s article in the Guardian comments on the differences.

“In the early 1980s, geneticists worked away in their different labs, racing to sequence genes and patent them before the neighbouring lab could. The result: duplication, very slow progress and a huge bill. ”

“Nowadays, gene sequences get posted on the web daily and scientists build on one another’s work. The pace of discovery has increased exponentially and, as a result, so have diagnostics and cures.” (Pisani 2011)

The title of her article, “Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds”, hints at micropolitical theory – the power of the people. Most importantly, we see how new media enables scientific knowledge to be quickly discussed and shared. Being a worldwide platform, we also experience efficiency that a printed journal or published document doesn’t provide. But scientists are hesitant to accept these new methods, and scared of the dangers that lurk beneath. Pisani explains that while there is efficiency and the benefit of collaboration, there are fears of people stealing research and claiming it as their own.

Seed Magazine states:

“EMERGING GLOBAL CHALLENGES DEMAND RAPID RESPONSESFROM THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY. THIS CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED THROUGH A REFORMATION OF THE CULTURE AND PRACTICE OF SCIENCE—AND ITS RELATION TO THE WIDER WORLD.” (Seed Magazine)

The fear that Pisani mentions holds scientists back, but in order to progress and have the same impact in the world, it has to change. Andrew Murphie drew upon Keller Easterling’s approach to infrastructure has what controls and defines the past, present and future.  This is the idea that our infrastructure, particularly in terms of new media, is determining our future.

I feel the idea that scientists are forced to interact with new media or their research is irrelevant and ineffective is similar to the social status of someone without Facebook. So many people are forced to join Facebook and the social network to stay connected with social activities; if there’s an event on they won’t know about it unless they are invited on Facebook. Andrew Murphie used the example that facebook wants to determine the future of social networks, and this is similar in the science world.

New media once again sticks its nose into everything.

Pisani, Elizabeth (2011) ‘Medical science will benefit from the research of crowds’, The Guardian, January 11, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/11/medical-research-data-sharing>

http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_science_publishing

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keller_Easterling

Reorganising the social

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Over the last few years, people have been becoming increasingly aware of the power and potential that media technologies and networks to be a catalyst in so many aspects of our society. This week’s focus zoomed in on micropolitics and the way technologies contribute to influencing social organisation, particularly politically.

What we see happening is less “Politics – with a capital P” (Himada & Manning, 2009:5 in Disorientation and micropolitics: a response) and more micropolitics. Micropolitics is the “use of formal and informal power by individuals and groups to achieve their goals within organizations, as opposed to macropolitics” (Wikipedia). The key difference, I believe is that “micropolitics operates transversally, activating the “affective potential of the interval between feeling and doing” (Himada & Manning, 2009: 5).” (Disorientation and micropolitics: a response)

What this means is that members of the public hold the power to communicate and instigate because they are members of the public. Their position as “little people” as opposed to the “big people” in the government means that they are on the same level. It’s our human nature to want to feel powerful, but also that we are being listened to. Why else do politicians now upload youtube clips and twitter on but to reach out to the common man?

I believe the fact that social organisation can be done locally, gives people the feeling that they are making change.P2P Foundation is a good example of this, and is embodied in Margaret Mead’s quote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. – Margaret Mead”. It empowers people. As we have seen previously, empowering people is both good and bad. Riots and revolutions like the recent Middle East events are an example of social organisation that relied on technological networks.

Coalition of the Willing is a volunteer network that recognises this power and on their homepage, they state: “We are interested in social technologies and innovations that accelerate processes of change, transition, and resilience.” The idea of “acceleration” is an interesting concept. In looking at new media, one of the key features is the temporal; the fact that communication happens a lot quicker since mobile media and internet. P2P Foundation’s homepage quotes Buckminster Fuller in “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” (Fuller), which builds on this idea. Is it possible that soon old methods of politics and social organisation will be so ineffective in comparison to new methods that they’ll be obsolete?

Just as we have seen in previous weeks such as the paradox of virtual realities and the potential harm it presents, social organisation through new media empowers the little people, but it can easily be abused.

References:

P2P Foundation

Disorientation and micropolitics: a response

Coalition of the Willing