Tag Archives: position paper

Simulated Authenticity

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
February 5, 2010

SIMULATED AUTHENTICITY

“Authenticity in the age of digital companions,” an article by MIT professor Sherry Turkle, explores the ever-changing landscape of human-machine interactions and delves into the issue of relational authenticity. Evolving technologies have allowed for the development of increasingly complex and sophisticated “relational artifacts” (Turkle 502) that are designed to communicate with humans realistically. The interactive nature of these digital companions can potentially allow users to experience therapeutic benefits through their relationships with these devices. However, as relational technologies continue to develop, spawning more faithful recreations of human characteristics and emotions, the “erosion of the line in the sand” (512) between humans and machines could forever impact the way we view and develop personal relationships.

Many studies, including those conducted by Turkle and her colleagues, have demonstrated the therapeutic ability of relational robots in a variety of settings, particularly in elder-care situations. By modeling a user’s behaviour and feelings, robots such as Paro are able to provide sick, elderly, or depressed people a means by which they can comfort themselves and attempt to resolve personal issues. Despite the fact that these relational artifacts are unable to understand or care about their users’ problems, their ability to respond to environmental stimuli and “push our Darwinian buttons” allows them to “inspire ‘the feeling of friendship’” (511). Even though the robot has lacks the capacity to understand or care about its user, it is interesting that people are able to experience beneficial effects based on the illusion that a digital creature appreciates and cares about them.

Although using digital companions may be advantageous for therapeutic purposes, this shift from human-to-human relationships to developing simulated relationships with machines marks a paradigm shift in the way we view authentic relationships. As the exposure of each successive generation to computational objects becomes more widespread, so too does the tendency to forge relationships and feel complex emotions towards these devices. The experiences that people have with digital companions could potentially result in less value being placed on authentic emotions or aliveness as a prerequisite for relationships. Another concern with integrating robotic technology into our culture is that we as a society will delegate more tasks to robots, becoming more reliant on the technology to handle responsibilities such as caring for the elderly.

The human desire to interact and build relationships with robots and other relational artifacts despite their lack of ability to understand or care about their user’s thoughts and feelings “indicates that traditional notions of authenticity are in crisis” (502). With the advent of sophisticated robotic technology, humans are no longer restricted to authentic relationships with each other, but rather they can interact and simulate relationships with machines. The continued expansion and development of relational technology will inevitably lead to closer replications of human emotions and abilities, blurring the line between authentic human relationships and those experienced with computational objects. This phenomenon illustrates the growing potential for a revolutionary shift from relationships based exclusively on human interaction to those which involve machines that simulate the authenticity of a human relationship.

Word count: 498

WORK CITED

Turkle, Sherry. “Authenticity in the age of digital companions.” Interaction Studies 8.3 (2007): 501-517.  Communication & Mass Media Complete. EBSCO. Web. 3 Feb. 2010. <http://web.mit.edu/sturkle/www/pdfsforstwebpage/
ST_Authenticity%20in%20age%20of%20digi%20comp.pdf
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Guns Kill People: Advocating Technological Determinism

In their book Culture + technology: a Primer, Jennifer Daryl Slack and J. Macgregor Wise arise the debate on whether guns kill people , or people kill and argue that technological determinism falls on to the perspective that guns kill people. According to Slack and Wise, technological determinism, a belief that puts technology as a base for our society and cultural change is caused mainly by technology, is widely engaged in contemporary people’s discourse regarding the relationship between technology and culture (43). Although technological determinist position is accepted as convincing in today’s discourse, they claim that it is far from the truth because “technologies do not, in and of themselves, determine effects” and there are always people behind the technology creating, developing, and using it (45). If I read the entire book , I might change my view about technological determinism, but at this point, I am holding on to the position of technological determinism and I do not like the way Slack and Wise criticize technological determinism.

Going back to the ‘’guns” example, I want to ask, “What makes a gun a gun?” or “For what purpose was a gun made?” Answering these questions indicates a very important fact; guns were made for killing; if a gun is to be a gun, it has to kill people or animals. This “killing” attribute in guns make guns real guns and once they are made, regardless of the complexity of cultural context they were created from, guns have their own driving force. The very existence of a gun, ready to be used, waiting to be picked up, is inducing people continuously resulting in increased probability of people killing using guns. So, we say guns are affecting people or even forcing people to kill; however, we do not mean that guns are killing people literally. We know guns are not pulling triggers by themselves and it is people that pull triggers. Likewise, Slack and Wise’s claim that guns “did not drop from the sky” and people made them shows the same misunderstanding of rhetoric (45). To most people, it seems that guns dropped from the sky because they did nothing in making guns, and guns appeared suddenly out of nowhere. So, when we say guns appeared suddenly like dropped from the sky, we know somebody made them, but we are expressing the shock of guns’ coming into our lives without any warnings. Also, when we say guns are responsible for killing people, we not only blame guns itself, but people who use guns, our culture that needs guns and made guns, and social systems that allow guns to circulate so easily. Ironically, Slack and Wise’s criticism about widely used expressions that show technological determinism position reinforces the strength of technological determinism. As Slack and Wise argue, our everyday expressions regarding technology include languages such as, “technology is affecting”, “changing”, “causing”, or “revolutionary” (45). Leaving out those languages is not possible without alternative perspectives, which I anticipate the authors to suggest for us.

(Word count:500)

Work Cited

Slack, Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise. Culture + Technology: a Primer. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

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The Verdict on Electronic Literature

Electronic literature has been around for the past couple decades but it continues to remain relatively unknown. In the simplest form it is literature that originates in a digital environment. Hypertext fiction, interactive fiction, installation pieces, generative art and Flash poetry are among the many types of work which make up this category of literature. It seems to be a largely unexplored strand of literature that hasn’t seemed to take off. In the world we live in today, technology advances at such a rapid pace. In fact, in many cases it advances before certain pieces become widespread and available. Electronic literature producers and the organization just don’t have enough support, resources, money or man-power to update and remain dynamic and cutting edge in the ever-changing technological world. Not only does it have trouble keeping up, it is almost entirely overshadowed by more advanced technology. Professionally produced video and computer games are much more aesthetically and interactively pleasing to the general public. The appeal to engage in these pieces is far more alluring than that of electronic literature. E-lit can’t seem to compete with print either. There seems to be a type of nostalgia surrounding traditional print. Readers enjoy having their own concrete library of print books. In addition to these books having a solid, effective system of archiving, there is just a comfort around the physical tangibility of novels running right down to the feel of it in the reader’s hands. Especially coming from a print-based background for the consumption of literature, readers face many difficulties in consuming e-lit. Frustrations such as not being able to “turn the page” in their own time for example, create feelings among many readers of automatic rejection. Many of these readers are unlikely to continue exploring electronic literature unless prompted to for reasons such as class requirements. Overall, electronic literature just can’t seem to compete with the giant electronic gaming companies or print-based literature. This has placed the branch in a stifling position with little room to successfully expand and appeal to the masses. Although there were vibrant and exciting intentions in breaking literary production into the electronic world, it seems to be a creative dead-end.

-Alysha Rohla

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I wrote this position paper today – Does it makes sense? I was sugar deprived at the time.

I have always been, and always will be a lover of pen to paper and cover to cover. Although the traditional method of writing a poem, story, essay, or even a grocery list has changed over the years and now includes input by typewriters, computers, handheld PDA’s and blackberries I will never stray from the simple basic method of writing and reading literature – word only.

Adding pictures and sound to literature is in no way a new revelation. Yet for as long as I can remember these added images and sound were still enclosed in a book, and were not flashing across a computer screen in a bold and intrusive method  as thought they were saying, “look at me.” No thanks. I have given it a chance. I struggled with the click through tabs, the abode upgrade downloads, the self navigation, and worst of all the 10 minute trickling of letters down the screen that at first developed a sense of intrigue in me that maybe somehow something might happen. But then at a point where it appears there is no end.. it does end, and rather abruptly thereby leaving me desperate for the wasted ten minutes of my life back.

As a child, my mom bought me the books that had a soundboard along the side. The reader, me in this case, is usually under the age of 5 and is instructed to push a button on this soundboard and a little speaker at the bottom would blast some sort of animal sound, Disney character quote or plane, train and automobile noise. They did not hold my interest; even then it was my opinion that you can’t use bells and whistles to detract from your lack of content. I have concluded that there is a reason that pictures are reserved for children’s books. They are there to aid in the development of a child’s creative side, to stimulate interest and promote a child’s own imagination. I don’t need this. I prefer to create my own images, to get lost in the writing, and to develop meaning for the words myself. That being said, I am also the person who abhors the thought of seeing a Hollywood adaptation of a novel I love. Why on earth would I want to erase the beautiful images I have made for myself and replace them with some Hollywood hotshot nitwits idea of what the novel should look like. For example: White Oleander: Novel, spectacular; Film, horrid. Blindness, a book that impacted my life so much so that I gave it as a gift to everyone I loved for Christmas that year, and the film adaptation was tragic and despicable. Please don’t even get me started on the upcoming adaptation of Alice Sebold’s “The lovely bones” I may just cry.

Maybe it is for this reason that I loathe the E-Literature. The only film adaptations that have ever been successful in my eyes are those of children’s novels. Novels that are designed to be entertainment like “Twilight” and “Harry Potter” I will welcome with open arms to the screen. Yes by all means, create e-literature for children, but give me words on paper enclosed in two covers. I need the definitive beginning and end that comes with such a format.. So no, I do not see E-Lit as a vibrant exciting strand of literary production. All the flash, html, image, sound, and click through nonsense is another way to distract the reader from actually looking at words on a page and deciding what to do with them. Sure e-lit does hold a place somewhere in the land of literature, but that place should be reserved for children.

Yours Truly,

Alexandra “Anti-E.Lit” Loslier

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The Moment Literature Danced

Not too long ago, literature was a pretty straightforward concept for me to define. Literature can be poetry, stories, books, newspapers, indeed, literature to me was anything that I could read, and, for the most part, that stayed put as I read it. Ever since taking the Culture and Technology English course at Capilano University, however, my entire conception of what literature is has shifted.

As our class clicked through the multiplicity of electronic works in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume 1 site, I came to appreciate the more abstract forms literature could take; words forming in a dance of looping string, a story told through my curious clicks, a poem that immersed me in its textual, visual, musical painting. No longer is literature an activity where I simply sit and scan words on a page or screen, my comprehension dependent on the ability to decode words, but is a dynamic interaction with textual and visual elements, where comprehension may not be the end result, but, indeed nor is it meant to be like I used to believe.
In the earlier stages of interacting with this foreign world of words and stories, the frustrations of my confusion was indeed a common feeling. More often than not, the pieces evoked thoughts of loss, futility and anger. Why is it that I value this new form of literature then, if my experiences seem to be more predominantly negative? The answer is simple: because I felt something. The electronic literature collection not only forced me to engage with the texts presented to me (or that I had to find for myself), they manifested stronger emotions than I had experienced with any other assigned book, article, or poem in print or as a pdf. Never before had I felt like destroying a certain author’s work, and never before had I been mesmerized and fascinated by simple words on a screen, their meaning redefined through various motional or interactive elements, and the barriers of language and thought disintegrating through the imaginative execution of textual art. Not only has my aesthetic view to defining literature has changed, but my understanding of its emotional power has evolved as well.

Though I might have once seen the concept of literature as a finished and closed book, my recent experiences with the ELC-1 has reopened it to a chapter I had never read. My views of the what literature is capable of now exceeds that of the enthralling story, and informative essay, and acknowledges the artistry of literary presentation, as well as the involving and interactive characteristics literature can take. My relationship with literature has been changed for the better, my engagement one that dreams of the vast possibilities and interpretations written language can take. Forget plot outlines, trains of thought, the consistency my literary concept of yore described… the static view is gone; I now read for the thrill of the literary unexpected.

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Digital Reincarnation

Parker Busswood
CNET English 100
Aurelea Mahood
October 9, 2009

DIGITAL REINCARNATION

In her article “Always-on/Always-on-you: The Tethered Self,” Sherry Turkle makes reference to the widespread use of online social games as a tool for rethinking and experimenting with one’s identity. Users of such games are oftentimes adults who utilize these sites to gain a “feeling of everyday renewal” and escape for a few moments from their real lives. However, online games such as Second Life can also serve as a powerful means by which adolescents can shape their identities and self-images. Over the last decade, online role-playing games have evolved from simple forms of entertainment into influential devices for both adults and adolescents to experiment with and develop their personal identities.

Many believe that those who frequently delve into cyberspace through their avatars are lacking important social skills, negatively impacting their ability to fraternize with people they meet in the real world. The instant gratification and ability to experiment with one’s sense of self that Second Life and similar worlds offer is argued by some to be causing a dependence on these virtual worlds for social contact, potentially leading users to experience discomfiture in real-life social situations. Another characteristic of simulation games such as Second Life is that despite their efforts to faithfully recreate the real world, they experience, to some extent, a lack of verisimilitude in regards to their idealistic depiction of real life. This may not be an issue, however, to players who are eager to escape to an alternate and somewhat utopian vision of their lives and of the world in general.

In spite of these opinions, there is significant evidence to suggest that these digital 3D environments can benefit their users by allowing them to play out various scenarios and work out issues in their real lives, “often related to sexuality or intimacy.” People can utilize their virtual personae in an attempt to resolve certain dilemmas as they encounter them in life. This transference of aspects of people’s lives between the real and virtual worlds allows them to work through a myriad of challenges without experiencing real consequences as a result of their experimentation. The significance of these virtual worlds and their employment as self-help devices is alluded to by Turkle, who states that in these online settings, “the crippled can walk without crutches and the shy can improve their chances as seducers.”

The emergence of sophisticated online role-playing games whose purposes transcend entertainment has enabled users to resolve personal issues and develop their identities through the creation of online personae. Players are able to conceptualize an improved virtual life, providing them with the freedom to evaluate and experiment with various aspects of their lives in order to connect with themselves. These users are able to step back and view their lives from a different perspective and make changes to their online characters that can manifest themselves in the real world. This experimentation with personal identity in virtual realms effectively serves as a digital reincarnation that can have tremendous benefits on those who experience it.

Word count: 498

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Shelf Space for the Artist

By Chris Wilcox

Electronic literature (e-lit) seems very hard to try and place on the collection rack of artistry. It’s new and it can be seen as dangerous as it challenges us to do what we’re not normally comfortable with. This makes it hard for e-lit to have a voice in the world because of the way in which people are required to interact with it.

So where does e-lit find room to fit in our lives and how does it have a future? Currently e-lit seems to be a very small form of art yet has influences from all over the digital media realm. It’s biggest challenge as something small and new, lies within the viewer. This is because when people are faced with the “new” and “different” it can be hard to understand and easy to become frustrated. This is how I feel e-lit has been for me and I believe that because its hard to accept the “unknown”, e-lit will have a difficult time finding it’s way in the world.
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