Would you agree that most technological inventions are geared towards a certain group, to meet a necessary goal or task? In Chapter 13 of Culture and Technology: A Primer, Slack and Wise discuss the importance of identity and technology in a society as fast paced as ours. Although, Slack and Wise may not agree, they say, “what technologies are made available to a person depends in part on their identity (gender, race, class, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, and so on)” (149). This makes it very difficult for people with less money and less access to come into contact with the technologies that they may need or desire. I agree that technology can have a strong influence in altering a person’s identity through online social networking sites and other forms of online interaction and I also agree with Slack and Wise when they say that technology can be biased towards certain identities in society.
Companies invent new technologies to make profit, so the people that they aim to please are most often people with money, the people with the means to make their company excel. This makes it difficult for other people, such as the unemployed, the homeless, or the disable to gain access to these technologies. This makes it very difficult for the unemployed, for example, to find jobs because they may be unable to access a computer to apply for a job position or to perhaps find a used car to drive themselves to interviews. In order for new technologies to be produced, research and funding must be done. Some technologies may not be developed because no one is willing to fund them because there is no profit to be made. Most often this is because the technology being researched is intended for people who do not have the means to pay large sums of money for the proposed new technology. Slack and Wise offer the example of developing medicine that will cure a disease, but will not make a profit. Although the ethical standpoint would be to make the medicine regardless of what money there is to gain, it is often difficult to find companies to do so. The more specific example of this is the cure for sleeping sickness which is a disease found in Africa. Most of the people suffering from this illness do not have the means to pay for the treatment, so companies stopped making it. This is a harsh example but it shows how technology can be very biased towards identity. The majority of people suffering from sleeping sickness live in poverty and a large part of their identity is defined by this fact, making it difficult for them to gain access to the technologies they need. Identity can be changed through the influence of technology but it also plays a very important role in the development and success of technologies. As much as it shouldn’t be, a person’s identity very much affects their access to new and old technologies.
By: Ruby Flynn
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
While looking for more sources I stumbled on a rather good article by Scott Rettberg, about the future of E-lit within academic study. He is a professor at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Late in the post he says that it’s more likely to end up in the domain of studio art programs as opposed to creative writing. He offers a good argument for the issues facing e-lit and where and why it may end up fitting into the academic world. He mentions a few of the pieces and some of the others we dealt with in the ELC1. Although it isn’t totally on topic for my paper, it was a good read none the less and may be of use to someone else. Rettberg actually has quite a few good articles online about digital literature and video games among other things. Here’s the link if anyone is interested, First Person, Games, and the Place of Electronic Literature. If you go up a level to the posting board there are a lot more articles on similar subjects too.
Since prehistory human beings have used one method or another to record information; mediums as simplistic as charcoal and ochre smudges on cave walls to quantum computing by reading electron spin. The longevity of storage has become an issue with newer recording mediums. Writing either on or in stone has obviously stood the test of time, though logistically impractical. Recordings on printed paper (papyrus) stretch as far back as 2000BCE in the Prisse Papyrus, though in admittedly atrocious condition. Storage on paper does not have an indefinite life span, but given ideal conditions this medium can last millennia. More modern mediums, especially digital ones, have made dramatic improvements, most notably improvements in size. Today entire multivolume dictionaries can be stored on the head of a pin. Unfortunately there is a draw back to digital recording mediums; with newer mediums longevity has taken a back seat to size. The most obvious problem with the longevity of digitally stored media is that even under ideal conditions information will disappear. Magnetic storage (cassette tapes, hard disks, etc.) only lasts a few decades; even compact disks cannot last indefinitely. This however can be averted in much the same way it is with books, with reprinting. There is another issue that has already started to arise with modern storage methods, that is obsolescence of a medium. The transition from stone to clay to paper took hundreds of thousands of years and examples of each remain to this day, yet in the past fifty we have go from vinyl to magnetic tape to compact disks and beyond none of which are likely to last a century. The ability to access information is already an issue and will only get worse with time. How many of us still have access to a working 3.5” floppy drive? How many even care if they do? However if the only accessible form of Van Gogh’s or Oscar Wilde’s works were stored on floppy disks, we certainly would care. The idea of just letting go of great works is inconceivable. Unfortunately this is a possibility with some newer works which are designed in and bound to a digital medium. Electronic literature could suffer a sad fate if steps are not taken. Just as floppy disks have fallen by the wayside, the technology used to read e-literature could suffer a similar fate. All of the pieces in the ELC require a program to be accessed. If Quicktime, Flash or Gargoyle became obsolete and no longer available, almost all e-literature would be lost to us. The preservation of art, literature, science and philosophy; all the best of human culture is invaluable. The ability to access, use and enjoy this wealth should be available to everyone including future generations. Libraries, archives and museums need to begin taking measures to prevent the loss of digital culture in all forms. Whether by keeping all programs needed to access digital art forms or by transcribing them into newer technologies as they come. Measures must be implemented to prevent the loss of digital culture before it disappears.
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.