Tag Archives: Ruby Flynn

Are You Being Controlled?

I wake up in the morning to the sound of the radio blaring out of tiny holes in my alarm clock. Rihanna is singing about her umbrella. When I turn it off, I cannot help but lie back down in bed and nuzzle under my sheets. Until soon after, the alarm on my phone goes off. The sound of which I cannot ignore. Both of these are examples of technology that people rely on in everyday life. They help me get out of bed in the morning, they tell me the time and it would be rather difficult to get to school without them. In Chapter 4 of Culture and Technology: A Primer, Slack and Wise discuss the topic of technology and the control it can have over society. They start off with the example of Frankenstein and the monster that he created in the very popular 19th century fable. Frankenstein’s monster is used as an example of technology controlling its master, when the inventor intended it to be the other way around. People rely on technology for everything, I cannot seem to start my day without it, so is it true to say that we are being controlled by the things we create?

Although the example of my cell-phone and alarm clock can also be used as an example of how technology creates convenience, there are other forms of technology which only seem to exist as a means of control. “…technologies change how humans perceive and interact with the world; in many ways, this changes humans themselves.” This from page 52 of Culture and Technology: A Primer, brings me to the example of media and how it works as a means of communication but how it very much changes people and the way they behave. Not everyone pays attention to media and television but a large majority of young people do. And these young people are being shown how to dress, act and live through the many media outlets that surround us. Technology has allowed for magazines, television shows and advertisements to become a prime example for society and it has changed the way that people live. An example that Slack and Wise use is how violent video games and television may lead to an increase in aggressive behaviour in children. But if the technology didn’t exist to show kids this sort of violence, then they would not have to worry about becoming more violent as a result of watching them. Technology surrounds us and it is true that much of it allows the world to work more smoothly but it can also be said that it is controlling and with media being used as an example, it seems alarmingly true. So considering that technology allows for media to send out messages that alter the way people behave, we must also consider that technology can control us if we let it.

By Ruby Flynn


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To Steal or Not to Steal

A couple of months ago I sent my computer in to have it repaired. Not only was it no longer connecting to the internet, but it stopped turning on. I was furious and I made sure I expressed to the repair man that it would be the end of me if he lost any of my photos or my music. “Number one rule, don’t lose my music!” Oh my music. When my computer came back to me a week later I was happy that the computer man had followed my instructions, except for one thing; the program for downloading music had been deleted. This got me thinking about whether I should continue with my deviant ways of downloading music illegally or if I should finally make an iTunes account and purchase the songs I wanted. Then I remembered “RIP: A Remix Manifesto,” the documentary written and directed by Brett Gaylor. The documentary looks into copyright laws and the issues behind making mash-ups, his prime example being the artist Girl Talk. Although the video does look into the legality of downloading music, it more so focuses on artists using material previously made by someone else to make something of their own. On this topic, I side with Brett Gaylor. Girl Talk should be able to mash together the music that their fans so enjoy, without the side thought that they might get arrested.

So what makes Girl Talk such a perfect example for a documentary that discusses using work done by previous artists to make something new? Girl Talk makes original music, but he does so by taking seconds here and seconds there of songs previously released by other artists. He makes entirely new songs out of them, where afterwards they don’t have the same rhythm or beats as they did before. In the documentary, Girl Talk says that he likes being able to do whatever he wants with the “untouchables” and that he can “put Elton John in a headlock” if he feels like it. Well the issue is that he really isn’t allowed to be doing whatever he wants with the songs because there are copyright laws. People own the rights to the songs that he uses and if he were to purchase them (he uses about 21 different songs to create just one Girl Talk song) it would cost around $262, 400.

Brett Gaylor bases the majority of the documentary on the fact that culture builds on the past, and he does so by providing numerous examples. In music, artists are always dipping into the honey pot of artists that came before them. They influence each other, such as Led Zeppelin finding influence from a Muddy Waters song, rock getting influenced by folk music. And then there is Walt Disney; a man who remakes works to make them relevant for the present age. If Walt Disney isn’t committing copyright fraud, then I don’t think it is fair to say that Girl Talk is. Walt Disney took animated sketches and recreated them into new cartoons, but he didn’t face the strict rules of copyright when he was doing so. Times change, copyright was originally put in place to encourage people to make art, not to discourage them. In some cases copyright laws are needed, but in the case of Girl Talk, they are bringing him down. Girl Talk makes his own music out of the songs he uses and people love it. He is not using these songs as a way to harm anyone, he is making music, and he should be allowed to do so without facing the hand of the law

By Ruby Flynn

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In Your Business

        I know everything about everyone. I know that the boy with the red hair, sitting in front of me, has a fear of family gatherings. Every time a holiday comes around, he gets sick. It’s not that he’s pretending, it’s just that the thought of all his family in one space, at one time, makes him feel nauseous. So he opts out by sleeping on the couch, until it’s all over. This boy is not a friend or a companion, I know these things about him simply because we share the same bus route home. I sit and I mind my own business, but I hear things. People all around me are on their phones, having conversations with people miles away, it’s like I’m in a zombie land. In “Always On/ Always On You: The Tethered Self,” Sherry Turkle talks about the use of technology in public spaces. Places that were once public, have become private for people and what Turkle calls their “tethering technologies.”

       I spend a considerable amount of my day on public transit. People stare forward and talk, completely disconnected from the here and now. I may listen to my ipod or read my book but I am aware of what’s happening around me. However, I can’t say that for the majority of the people who I ride the train, or take the bus with. People that I have encountered seem to be completely content with sharing their weekend plans, life failures and current sexual fantasies while sitting next to me on rapid transit. Sherry Turkle talks about people being tethered to their mobile phones, but has it really come to a point where people can share things so personal in what you would call a public space?

        After hearing a man on the train leave a voicemail for someone, I was convinced that people were having these private conversations to attract attention. It was rush hour and the train was packed full. This ordinary man was leaning against the glass and I could hear him talking into his cell phone. He was going on about how he had just gotten out of the hospital, because days earlier, he suffered a heart attack. I wasn’t the only one listening, the entire train was engaged in the mans dramatic story. A woman even looked up at him to offer her seat. The man looked a little sad and shook his head. Clearly he knew that people were listening to his conversation, but did he care?

         Maybe it isn’t that this man was looking for attention, or the hopes of finding a seat, but he was doing what seemed important at the time. He needed to tell his friend what happened to him, and he found the time to do so while riding the train. Even if this was the case, I didn’t need to know that this particular man had suffered a heart attack, or that the red head boy felt nauseous at the sight of his extended family. I know far too much about the people of Vancouver because they are connecting to what matters to them, and they are doing so on the train and in cafes. There are no public places, only spaces where people go, always connected to their “tethered self.”

Ruby Flynn

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