Week 2 – Social/Cultural change

This week we looked at media in terms of social and cultural change. This included technological determinism acting as an agent of social change, the cultural materialism that eventuates from this into society and the flow of media into multiple forms.

One important thing Andrew wanted us to take on board was that, “Media disturbs culture by bringing all cultures together at high speed. Powerful forces of media and technogly and culture all coming together in complex ways.”

Facebook for example demonstrates how social networking provides a platform for the world to put an extensive number of ideas and thoughts into society through pictures, links and blogs. I link this back to technological determinism as an agent of social change, it is provided by the numerous media platforms that exist today. The best example I can give this week, is KONY2012.

Political thoughts aside, this video is an example of how powerful the media is. Overnight, this video became a worldwide sensation, going viral on the internet, youtube, facebook, twitter, tumblr – every social media platform that exists. Over night, the youths of the world entered a new found culture where they were suddenly worldly politicallly-minded thinkers that were now in the campaign against Joseph Kony. That links back to the flow of media and just how rapid and almost instantaneous it can be.

The ‘machinic’ ecology focuses on how assemblages create and produces different flows – and how differently it occurs. It was interesting to see how the Kony phenomenon produced extremely diverse and radical responses to the video. Suddenly every person in the had thoughts and opinions on it, and the blogs started.. video responses on youtube were published by the minute, celebrities were involved, journalists wrote columns and social networking exploded with thousands adding their own context and spin on the topic. Seemingly, the more I read, the more I could see that the contexts changed as they moved so rapidly through space and time. In under 24 hours, what seemed like unwavering support from millions turned into speculation and controversy resulting in political backlash from the ‘supporters’ and the people of Uganda.

This machinic system of production demonstrated how more and more change occurred because so many media forms were colliding, each with their own different context which would then produce another batch of technologies each with their own context.. which in the end, results in, ‘a kind of massive complex flow.’

What I took from this is that, the machinic ecology impacts directly on the cultural and social flow of the media, that are ‘formed’ and ‘unformed’ depending on which way it is pulled or directed. It was an assemblage of different ideas and perspectives that resulted in a constantly shifting assemblage. Everything connects and in a matter of hours, a new culture was born – in a week, the video had over 75 million views.

In relation to the readings, I found the article on Friedrich Kittler very accurate in depicting how society has ‘adapted to the machine.’ Kittler argued that technology changed the nature of war: “It has become clear that real wars are fought not for people or fatherlands, but take place between different media, information technologies, data flows.” In old times, Jeffries says old wars were fought across distance with technology today destroying this.

I thought this point related to the issue that has recently arisen about the massacre in Afghanistan by American soldiers.  Afghanistan Massacre

As Andrew mentioned in the lecture, speed is becoming  a powerful source in technology. News on the massacre became wide-spread, circulating on news sites, newspapers and all over the internet – and the shores of the respective countries. Not long after, the Taliban militants vowed to avenge the deaths. Kittler points out that the cult of technology and speed will be the death of us all. Technology seems to intensify any sort of political situation when all sorts of new information and opinions are then released creating political controversy that begins to circulate into an endless flow.

Michel Bauwens on ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ says technology allows people from all over the world to come together to coordinate with each other over common value production – people are sharing knowledge. For an upcoming conference he asks what does it mean when people are freely contributing their labour but somebody else is making a profit from it – should we condemn it or accompany it? Again, I thought it related to the Kony debate, the ‘victims’ of Uganda and the volunteers of the project are freely volunteering their thoughts and time, while the filmmaker Jason Russell and his team are profiting from the success of the video.

[So one thought/idea taken from this week for the final project, task 3 – is the magnitude of cultural change that stems from social change.. which stems from the constant media and rapidly-innovated technology. Obviously I will need something alot more specific, and i’ll try to pinpoint that in the coming weeks.]

Word: Ecologies

Jeffries, Stuart (2011) ‘Friedrich Kittler and the rise of the machine’, The Guardian, December 28, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/28/friedrich-kittler-rise-of-the-machine>
Bauwens, Michel (2009) ‘The Internet as Playground and Factory’ <http://vimeo.com/7919113>