The Net // CTS

In this particular lecture we discussed areas around the evolution of technology used for communication. We looked at how it has changed language in order to keep up with modern times. Also, we looked at image and how they are dispersed and used online.

To begin with, we was shown a series of images that appeared to be from google street view. They all had unusual events happening in each of them and all appeared to be unstaged. They were I fact all from Jon Rafmans series called “9 Eyes”- am ongoing collection.

As a passionate photographer I really enjoyed looking at these images as, personally, I thought that it demonstrated perfectly the importance of capturing individual moments.

After this, we were told that the lecture would be split into four different parts; networks, media and communication: Manuel Castells and Marshal McLuhan – Photography and the refugee crisis: Susan Sontag – Image culture and the internet: Hito Steyeri, circulationism and the poor image and finally – Graphic Design and image sharing.

The internet is a huge platform that is easily accessible by millions. Within the internet there is a wide range of information such as text, image, video and sound. This opens up an immense network with many connections. This makes it is much easier to communicate quicker and easier than ever before.

“The potential integration of text, images and sounds in the same system, interacting from multiple points, in chosen time (real or delayed) along a global network, in conditions of open and affordable access, does fundamentally change the character of communication and communication decisively changes culture…” – Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (2000)

This links hugely to the fact that media is taking over and changing our society. It is often referred to as ‘the extension of man’ which is fitting as in today’s society, nearly everybody is holding a phone, I front of a television, online or even at a computer for most of their day. This has evolved mankind to speak through technology or social media rather than face to face. Many businesses now hold interviews, conferences and meeting through video call. This is a huge difference compared even to just ten years ago. The question arises whether social media is destroying the intimacy of social interaction by allowing us to do everything online. As well as this, with things such as social media and other online interaction platforms, networking has become a huge factor to how we communicate and to whom we communicate with.

“The medium , or process, of our time – electronic technology – is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence  and every aspect of our personal life. It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action and every institution formerly taken for granted” – Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage (1967)

With the internet fuelling our main source of communication in modern-day, McLuhan also stated that we, as a society reconsider everything we do thinking purely about how we will be perceived or portrayed online. With things such as the media constantly relaying information to the public in order to create a specific view or opinion, we understand how easy it is for information nth at we put out, to be taken the wrong way or portrayed in a false sense. This also sparks the debate of whether who we are online creates a true likeness to who we are in real life; we share opinions, videos of our lives and selfies to the online world all of the time. Are we doing this for pleasure or approval?

Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” – Marshall McLuhan. The Medium is the Massage (1967)

From here we moved onto the next part of the lecture. We looked at Susan Sontag’s book “Regarding the Pain of Others” where she discusses ideas about the impact of photography. The first focuses on the influence on public attention. It is stated that the media plays a huge part in what we think which means even our perception of an image in controlled. It also plays with the idea that photography is some sort of approval or proof. For example if it is stated that there is a war, people may question; but when supported with an image, it suddenly becomes more reliable or true even if we know nothing about the image in particular.

The second theory in the book discussed the fact that there are so many images that we are exposed to, that the ones with true meaning and importance often get lost in the chaos. Also, regarding the media as a platform for sharing image, we are often shown the same images countless times. These images are initially shared to create impact and get reaction , but, after being shown the images numerous times, we often become immune to the image and it has less of an impact than originally intended. So the question arises – is the image that makes an impact, or sharing it?

Sharing image can have two effects, the image can go viral and it often loses it’s impact, or as a modern-day example, images such as memes can go viral and be reused and adapted to suit different situations. Often this is light-hearted humour but if successful with a serious image, it could be offensive and taken the wrong way by the public. This leads us onto the fact that photographs are influenced hugely by their captions. The same photo can have lots of different meanings depending on what is written underneath them. Regarding the media, this could be a huge factor to how we feel about a particular image and could therefore alter our opinion.

When sharing an image, it is often changed many times throughout its existence. This can sometimes create a poor image. It highlights the fact that we transform quality into accessibility. Hito Steyerl states this in her publication “In defense of the Poor Image” (2012). This brings up the fact that at a sacrifice to the image being accessible, this then breaks the promise of digital technology and it’s assurance that we will get the best quality and resolution of everything.

The final part of the images and internet section of the session raised ideas about sharing image and graphic design. In summary we spoke about production and reproduction, the speed of information and the call and response system within graphic design and the fields within it.

It was from here where we discussed language and the net. We began by looking at how language has evolved. For example, cavemen used symbols and pictographic language to communicate.  From here we look at different platforms and physicalities that language is available on. New technologies bring new language with them, for example, 18 th century literature and modern-day text talk have huge differences that have come with the evolution of technology.

In saying this language is something that we all share and understand as a race. It is a universal way of communicating even with the different variations existing all over the world. With technology and the internet being our main source of communication, our language has changed to suit it. Communicating through these means is mainly for speed, accessibility and ease. This has caused for certain words and phrases to be shortened or abbreviated. Even things such as emoticons and emojis allow us to express ourselves with a single image.

In this part of the lecture there was two short activities. One to demonstrate that the way we think and the way we speak are two variations of the same language. We were asked to think of a sentence that had never been thought of or said in the history of human communication. We were then asked to write it down.From here we were told to say it out loud to our neighbour. After this we had to put it in an instant message to somebody who had no idea that it was an activity.

Here are the results.

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The next activity was to interrupt a different language, that being the language of code. We were asked to save an image from the internet and change the extension of the file. We we then changed the code for that image by inserting the sentence from the previous activity. This then changed the code for the image. From here we converted the file back to its original extension and noticed a huge difference in the visual appearance.

Below is the comparison between the two.

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Overall I really enjoyed this lecture as it opened my eyes to many different arguments about technology as well as communication. I find it fascinating that we as a society are able to be so easily influenced just through the means in which an image or story is shared. Also, I find it bizarre that we have been able to alter our whole language and understanding just through using things such as smartphones and computers. All of this was supported well by arguments and points made by McLuhan and Sontag and I believe it would be a subject that I would like to further explore in the future.

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