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COMM 458 final


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Cybernetics calls into question the study of information and information systems. Cybernetics suggests that the artifacts in our lives become an extension of our brain. Material objects like walking sticks and eye contacts all become a part of our informational feedback loop. Furthermore, humans don’t need to remember as much information as they used to. Rather, we store them into artifacts (for example, cell phones). Haraway suggests that this changes the boundaries of who we are. This idea of objects becoming a part of the human body calls into question the idea of where the human ends, as well as what it actually means to be human.
Neural Networks
Neutral Networks is the concept that was mentioned in the context of Galatea 2.2, and is relevant to the construction of Helen’s artificial intelligence. From a networks perspective, the brain operates as a system of layered nodes. This layered organization facilitates parallel computer, allowing intense complexity to emerge in the brain. The computational basis of this perspective reduces/captures the brain’s potential in algorithms, permitting the construction of A.I. such as Helen. Helen’s network of nodes is able to become epistemically autonomous (creating her own models from what is learned) through the reinforcement-based learning Powers provides her.
Collective Intelligence
Collective Intelligence is the idea that audience members come together to combine their knowledge of a particular subject to help answer unanswered questions. “Survivor Sucks” is a work of collective intelligence to spoil the popular TV series “Survivor”. Essentially, the website allowed people to pool their knowledge and resources together to figure out who was going to win the next season of “Survivor”.
Convergence Culture
Convergence Culture refers to the proliferation of a story through multiple media. It is a culture in which multiple texts are integrated to create a narrative so large that it cannot be contained within a single medium. For example, the Star Wars extended universe has many other side stories that all fit into a larger, over-arching story of a far off galaxy. One can get a sense of the larger story by analyzing various media such as books, comics, video games, films, animations, and more. Furthermore, the creators of each division of the story have some degree of ownership over the complete story itself—it’s not necessarily grounded in what the creators had in mind, but rather a sort of collective work that brings in new and different points of views and keeps the consumers engaged for however long the creators choose.
Transmedia Storytelling
Transmedia Storytelling is a method of storytelling that utilizes a wide range of media to convey a story and enhance the overall experience for the consumer. Each medium furthers the plot or develops specific characters, allowing the consumer to be even further immersed into the world of the original film/book/TV series. Henry Jenkins observes the interconnections between the various Matrix texts. In the animated short, Final Flight of the Osiris, it is imperative that the main character sends a message to the Nebuchadnezzar crew. In the video game, Enter the Matrix, one of the player’s first missions is to take the letter to the crew, the same letter discussed in the animated short. In The Matrix Reloaded, the characters discuss that they received the message of the Osiris.
The Turing Test
The Turing Test is a test designed to see if a computer can simulate human intelligence. If a person is unable to distinguish between the computer and a real human being, then the computer is considered intelligent and passes the Turing Test. Sherry Turkle, for example, talks about a computer program named Julia, who tries to adopt human speech online, including spelling errors and the ability to flirt. Many people were fooled and thought she was an actual person. However, the Turing Test has fallen out of favor in recent years because the test is unable to always accurately distinguish a computer from a person.
Informatics of Domination
Informatics of Domination is a movement in which biotechnologies become indistinguishable from communications technologies, in part because both are structured like networks, and both rely on "the transmission of code" for their functioning. This refashioning of the biological world takes in the social science world as well; so much so that it is now impossible to speak of things like economics without resorting to the language of the network and the code. Donna Haraway discusses how the transformation from modern culture to postmodern culture and beyond is resulting in new systems of thinking and living. One of the systems that is beginning to dominate our way of life Is the change from the representation of artifacts to the simulation of artifacts. Another system is a change of emphasis from depth to an emphasis in surfaces and boundaries.
ICE comes from Neuromancer and stands for “intrusion countermeasures electronics.” It is protective software. Black ICE, an infamous hazard for hackers in the novel, can be lethal to any hacker lacking the proper expertise (and software) to break through it. Case has to penetrate it in order to access information so that he can unleash Neuromancer. Wintermute’s plan is to merge with Neuromancer so they can be released into the matrix.
The Posthuman
According to Baudrillard, we become so reflexive that signifiers start reflecting signifiers. Hayles says that just because a memory exists doesn’t mean the person is the same person. In posthumanism, consciousness is viewed as an epiphenomenon, “as an evolutionary upstart trying to claim that it is the whole show when it actually is a minor sideshow.” It is produced out of mistake. Jameson suggests in his discussion of historical materialism that it is our social relations in the world that produce our consciousness. We become a product of our environment, rather than an object that goes out an affects the environment. Hayles maintains that we must be conscious of information technological advancements while understanding information something that cannot fundamentally replace the human body but can only be incorporated into it and human life practices. Hayles suggests that the posthuman is something “other” than human and machine.
Drugs in cyberpunk fiction
In both Neuromancer and Snow Crash, drugs played a major role in helping us to understand how technologies work and how they are interpreted in these novels. The cyberworld in Neuromancer is not a replication of the real world (as it is in Snow Crash) and is described as sort of a drug trip. In addition, recreational drug use is common in Neuromancer and seems to be necessary for Case to perform well. In Neuromancer, dealing with things in a “real” or non-drug altered state does not exist because everyone has been altered in some shape or form (e.g., enhanced reflexes, artificial organs, etc.) In Snow Crash, snow crash is both a drug and a virus. The drug is one that affects the computer and the person using the computer biologically. The drug symbolizes an eruption of chaos in a computer-dominated world – humans are infected with virus, hallucinogen, religion, and infection. Computers and machines become drugs in and of themselves. Humans cannot live without them and they alter or human state. The Matrix, for example, is a drug in and of itself.
The Metaverse
The Metaverse is the virtual world in Snow Crash. People gain access to the Metaverse by connecting to computers and wearing goggles that display the virtual world. The world appears to the user as a 3D city known as “The Street”. It has buildings, businesses, and essentially functions like an extension of the real world in cyberspace. Users see the Street from a first person perspective, and appear to others in the form of an avatar (a personal character) that is used to move around the virtual world. The quality of the computer or terminal you use to connect to the Metaverse is reflected in the avatar’s appearance. In the Metaverse, people (via avatars) interact with one another in real time. One implication of connecting one’s computer to the Metaverse is that information can be passed from one computer to the next, which creates problems with the “drug” Snow Crash (a computer virus that affects the computer’s ability to operate, and makes the person connected to the Metaverse experience drug-like complications in real life.)
According to Baudrillard, hyperreality is “the simulation of an artifact that never really existed.” It is the simulacrum (photo of a photo) of the Mona Lisa if the Mona Lisa never existed (photo of a photo that does not exist). Baudrillard suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. Hyperreality can be anything from Disneyland to an airbrushed photo of a supermodel on a magazine cover. It is the representation of an idea that has no basis in reality. Disneyland cannot and does not exist outside of its gates, the perfect princesses, princes, and manicured lawns that cost money to see, do not exist in the real world. The same with the supermodel, she is an ideal that rarely can be achieved or found in the real world, yet she is on the cover of a magazine.
The Virtual Dialectic
The Virtual Dialectic attempts to resolve binaries by introducing a third term that preserves, and yet transcends, the first two. Virtual worlds can, in this sense, be seen as not real, nor unreal, but something "that is functionally real and, at the same time, not really real in terms of having some material or physical embodiment. Bolter and Grusin's remediation is an example: it argues that the opposition between immediacy and hypermediacy (with immediacy as the privelged term) resolves itself into remediation, wherein new media appropriate old media, and old media appropriate new media. People who write about ICT tend to fall between “is this real or not real” and then try to pick a side. Gunkel suggests that this dualism is flawed. Each generation of children can look at computers in different ways and show us some unacknowledged assumptions of what we think about them.

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