Everything is not what it seems.
No, that is not the theme song of that Disney show you can’t help but watch, but it is about the infrastructure of everyday life that links closely with technology. There is no doubt that technologies have been facilitating the way in which we act ‘so naturally’ (or at least we believe so). However, as Marshall McLuhan stated, ‘the medium is the message’ (Murphie & Potts 2003, pp. 13), the obvious such as routines or regulations are just simply the results of an extensive and complex process of development. And it is the process that matters. ‘Facts’ or ‘rules’ do not form by itself. Something became a fact only after it is accepted by the society. Therefore, it is worth looking at the elements within the ‘process’ and their interrelations to see how things are formed.
Scholars also look at the media that way. There is no singularity in the media sphere, everything is a ‘machinic assemblage’, or ‘machinic ecology’ as Deleuze and Guattari defined. The term is used to illustrate such factors like material, culture, individual and technology are all connected at a certain degree and together they facilitate the process of embedding knowledge into our minds (Murphie 2013 & Fuller 2005, pp. 5). To be more specific, they instruct the way we consume the media. Such techniques offer some degree of explanation of what is happening in the media today.
One issue that interests me for a long time is how identities are constructed in the media. Let’s take Google as an example. People can’t really use fake name on Google any longer. The Internet has allowed people too much freedom and there was not really control over identities for the past decades. However, as social media develops, cyber bully also became an issue. The issue is called ‘cyber bully’, but what are the causes? People do not just log on to the Internet and become a cyber troll.
– Means/location (?): The Internet
– Technology: Communication devices, i.e. phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
– Human factors: Anonymous/Pseudonymous/Cyber trolls vs. Victims
– Culture: (1) The belief of hiding behind the computer screens might protect the bullies from the threats of their true identities being revealed; (2) Democracy practices, i.e. people have the right to access and distribute information equally.
– Knowledge: The ability to use the Internet without leaving traces, possibly with other assisting software (link back to technology).
Indeed, identities and cyber bully are complex issues and could not be explained or resolved using just the idea of ‘machinic ecology’, yet such notion offers a basis, somewhat over simplified, ‘blueprint’ of what is involved in the problems.
Fuller, M. 2005, ‘Introduction: Media Ecologies’, Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture, Cambridge, MA, MIT Press, pp. 1 – 12.
Katse, M. 2011, ‘Who Are You, Really? Activists Fight For Pseudonyms’, NPR, 28 September, accessed 4 April 2013, <http://www.npr.org/2011/09/28/140879480/who-are-you-really-activists-fight-for-pseudonyms>.
Murphie, A. & Potts, J. 2003, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’, Culture and Technology, London: Palgrave Macmillan: pp. 11 – 38.
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(I’m not sure if it’s a correct example to use, so I just post it here)
Let’s take a look at one specific example: the publishing industry. It is an industry, but nobody put it there as it is right now. We cannot take the whole industry for granted. The publishing industry has undergone various transformations to reach to its current ‘position’ in our life. The industry is made up by different sub–industries, which are illustrated in the brief mind map below.
(Click to enlarge)
Different modes of publishing and their relationships with each other.
As we can see, those sub–categories do not stand alone, they are connected to each other. With the support of technologies, human knowledge and cultural practices, modern forms of publishing are born. They act with traditional forms to produce the media we consume in various formats. It is a network, in which the ways information flows across various channel that represent the development of an industry, not the final result.