IFI7124 – Assignment 1 – Distributed cognition

  • Give some examples from the text of how people create affordances in the physical world and on a computer display to facilitate their work.
    Distributed cognition is a way for people to explain, how and why they keep important  information in their surroundings. It is a way to understand and see certain common ways and tools that we use, in order to easily access the information necessary. People have a tendency to give certain attributes to objects around them and in their everyday environment.
    Fom here comes the first sign of distributed cognition that peole tend to adhere to when using computers. Firstly we tend to name the objects on a computer screen the same that we do in the real world. Thus we have folders where we keep documents, we have shortcuts on our desktop to enable ust o find the documents etc. In a sense we project our experience of the real world onto and into the computer. It helpis ust o expain, how computers work and how they benefit our lifestyle, without having to explain the ones and zeroes.
    Nowadays the distributed cognition goes even further than the actual work that we do on a computer. The way we use computers in order to communicate, has changed the way we see the real world. A computer is as much a part of reality as god was and is for religious people. We tend to give real life statements to things that we do on the world wide web and the services that are universally provided. For example twenty years ago, sharing meant that people needed to divide something into parts and subsequently either one got a piece of whatever was shared. Nowadays we share everything from tweets, which are just letters on a screen, to youtube videos without actually doing nothing more than a click of the mouse. Likes and sharing and copying are just a couple of things that we do in order to build an understanding of the world within the computer and the way we connect it to our understanding and comprehension of the real world.

Give some examples of how people offload cognitive activity to the environment.

* For example if wone has a meeting at a workplace. People often do not know that there is a meeting taking place, if it is behind closed doors. If the meeting is private and the attendants do not want to be disturbed, there is a way to notify other people by talking to them. But as it often is, there are other ways of notifying people without actually talking to them. One example is by putting a “do not disturb” sign outside the door. It is not an actual way of letting people know, what is going on in the meeting room, but provides enough information to let them know the fact there is a meeting of sorts. The same way radio stations let people know, when there is a live session going on or someone is recording. There they mainly use a bright red light that people would most certainly see

One other way would be an old way of reminding oneself to do something important. People used to tie a knot around their finger to remind them of something. The knot itself did not mean anything specific, but by noticing it, people always remembered that there is something they needed to do.

Give some examples of internal and external representational states, and of how they are coordinated.

* A good way of showing different internal and external representations would be a to-do list. In that situation people put down different sentences which are often shortened versions of what is the actual continuum of different physical tasks to be performed. We might see a task there, which only has a meaning. The meaning does only imply to the representation of the task needed to complete. Only when a person starts to perform the task, the real external representation takes place. We often do certain on-demand things within a group or individually, which at that point do not serve an external purpose on their own. Only when combined with a real world physical action, we are able to see whether a computation or asolution enables us to complete the assignment.

 

Task 1 – Generative content creation

One of the defining notes brought out by Rockwell and Mactavish was that the academic study of multimedia should be distinguished from the craft of multimedia. In my mind it has the same constraints and flaws of interpretation that defining interactivity has. Though it is only one part of media and especially digital media, I will try to assess the statment and try to bring out its pros and cons.

Manovich says in his book „The Language of New Media“ that photography, which was widely implemented and used in the nineteenth century, had a profound and revolutionary impact on the development of modern society and culture. He also states that we are indeed in the middle of a new media revolution which shifts all of our culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution and communication. As far as interactivity is concerned, it does increase with the usage of multimedia, but to state that interactivity did not exist with previous mediums like books or television is a bit extremist. Although Manovich does not say that interactivity is only present in new media and multimedia, the differences between old and new media, be it defined as “new” and different from existing forms of entertainment and instruction or as to media „new“ to the twentieth or twenty first century, are huge.

One thing is true, all the previous developments in media, like the invention of the printing press or photography, only changed one specific type of cultural communication. One affected the distribution of information and the other one still images. To compare it with the developments in computer sciences is quite hard. As Manovich puts it, computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulating, storage and distribution; it also affects all types of media — text, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions. Still interactivity remains in the olden ways of doing things too. We do look at pictures and thus interact with them by holding them or memorizing different aspects, and we do the same with books or television for that matter. It is indeed a more psychological viewpoint, but there is not a lot different in looking at a photo on a computer screen or within a frame, as far as the interaction part is concerned.

So to come back to the first statement by Rockwell and Mactavish stating that the academic study of multimedia should be distinguished from the craft of multimedia. They state that learning to create multimedia works is important to the study of multimedia in applied programs, but it is possible to study digital media in theory without learning to make it. I do agree with the statement in a number of ways, but I also disagree with it. Firstly it is often said that one can go through many years of college and graduate without actually learning anything. Information can be memorized without understanding the principles or bottomline ideas. I am not saying that it is impossible to study multimedia without being exceptional in producing or making it, but as far as I have seen, it is not easy. By that I mean, if people study digital media without having any knowledge of how to actually produce it, they might not be able to comprehend the building blocks behind it all. It does not require much from a digital native to play through or upload a video to the internet, but to aquire the strengths and information necessary in order to fully explain and understand the makings of digital media takes more than reading a book on it.

To sum up, I believe that it is important to generate a full view of the surroundings and possibilites of any kind of media, be it multimedia, new media or old media. Nowadays  the capabilities of computer systems seem to be limitless and they develop at a frantic pace, so it might seem to people that absolutely everything can be done and by whatever means. This is true to some extent. If a person studies and perhaps is involved or planning to be involved in projects that include desingning, crafting or implementing multimedia/new media, they should be familiar with the processes behind it. Either because they would have an idea on how much and what has to be done to achieve a goal, or what is possible to do with the resources at hand. As far as multimedia and new media go, it is extremely hard to define these as something that would be thoroughly and unmistakably valid in a couple of years time without knowing the trade and keeping up with the developments.

References:

* Rockwell, Geoffrey, and Andrew Mactavish. 2004. Multimedia. In A Companion to Digital Humanities, Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell

* Manovich, Lev. 2001. The Language of New Media. Massassuchets: MIT Press

Task 3 – Example of generative art

The first example that I would like to share is from a blog that can be found at www.veryinteractivepeople.com. The example is a program written by War De Langhe. It is a simple algorithm that controls the actions of the system that follows the spectrum of an audio file to generate an image. By going through the steps one can actually see and manipulate the algorithm in a way that the person wishes to. The program does not require anything from the user while it is running. The colorization is taken from the actual picture selected before and music is used to distribute the colors. The audial spectrum of the audio file adjusts the colorization while the algorithm is carried through over and over again. There is also a noticable change in the algorithm when it is running. That is due to the audio. That is where the disorder comes in. Audio changes the outcome of the visual art.

The program can be seen and used here:

http://www.veryinteractivepeople.com/lab/audiobasedgenerativeart2/

I sincerely believe that it is a simple and easily comprehensible. By going through the steps one gets a good understanding of the actual processes that make up the creation of generative art. By changing the way that the algorithm works, one can create new and unexpected results. Although the algorithm works the same way, the music used and changes made to the line to be followed, creates new visual images every time.

An example created with the same program:

It would be a good idea to try out some changes to the algorithm in the future. At this point it mostly allowes movement in a curved line but it would be something to explore if it used different lines. Also an opportunity to add pictures in order to create different colours and of course the ability to change the soundtrack would create all new imagery and new vision.

References:

  1. Galanter, Philip. 2003. What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory. In In GA2003–6th Generative Art Conference
  2. www.veryinteractivepeople.com

Task 2 – Generative Art and Literature

First of all we should determine what is generative art, in order to avoid latter questions on the matter. Philip Galanter suggests that generative art can be looked at from two perspectives, from the bottom-up or from the top down. He brings out a list of different activities that are a part of the generative art scene. It includes computer graphics and animation, the demo scene and VJ culture, industrial design and architecture. It must be pointed out that this list is not consecutive in any means and the main part which keeps it generative is the autonomous part of the creation process.

The top down approach is more philosophical and focuses on the pair of words that identify the scene, „generative“ and „art“. The definition, in Galanters mind, must contain two parts. Firstly art, which is in a way a fuzzy set theory, which is often recognized as a social and historical notion that changes over time. As for the generative part, he is more straightforward and identifies it as a subset of art, a subset where potentially multiple results can be produced by using some kind of generating system.

Altogether, Galanter defines generative art as any art practice where the artist uses a system, such as a set of natural language rules, a computer program, a machine, or other procedural invention, which is set into motion with some degree of autonomy contributing to or resulting in a completed work of art.

A very important case brought up by Galanter is the fact that we often do not distinguish between random and chaotic behavior of systems. That for it is very important to keep in mind, especially within the context of generative art, that chaotic systems are not the same as random systems. Natural chaotic systems may be difficult to predict but they will still exhibit structure that is different than purely random systems. For example weather is very hard to predict in the long run because it behaves in a chaotic manner. But it can be predicted a shor time ahead. The weather cannot be just random so that if today it is as warm as 30 degrees outside and tomorrow it would be -40 C. It might be raining in a weeks time but that is within certain confines 

An important aspect in creating generative art is the combining of order and disorder. The autonomous system that is used in order to create generative art provides the necessary part in order to balance the order of things. We do now know the different generative art forms that we are surrounded with every day and most of them include computers or computerized devices to create the works of art. But it is also important to mention that generative art existed long before computers. Many different ways of creating generative art have been used in the past. One does not need a computer in order to create generative art. It is important, as said before, to have an autonomous process within the creation of the work. It may well be another person who uses the system created by the artist in a random way as Galanter puts it.

Similar traits to generative art can be found in generative literature also. Jean-Pierre Balpe has defined „generative literature“ a literature where the texts are produced through a computer by means of a set of formal rules, the use of any kind of algorithm, specific dictionaries and eventually knowledge representations. There is also a similar question with the authorship of a creation. Because a computer for example gives out the text with regard to different rules but the final text is not created by the original author. The author has only set the rules and boundaries for creation. But the set of rules is extremely important in this case because a computer does not understand the meaning of the text. A computer only sees the text as a series of numbers and meaning has to be given to the text again by the reader.

To sum up, it would be important to mention that generative art is often considered and approached as a style of art. Actually it is more a referral to a way to create art rather than an art style. And in order to create generative art or generative literature for that matter, one must find a way to import an autonomous component into the creation process to balance order and disorder.

References:

  1. Galanter, Philip. 2003. What is generative art? Complexity theory as a context for art theory. In In GA2003–6th Generative Art Conference
  2. Balpe, Jean-Pierre. 2005. Principles and Processes of Generative Literature. Dichtung-Digital

IFI7144 – task 14 – final reflections

Finally I would like you to reflect back on the entire course and think of what you have learned during these weeks. What is it you are going to take with you from this course, be it negative or positive experience, content-related or organisational aspects and so on?

To sum up the course,

I do understand the importance of different views and aspects concerning scientific research and definitions on a subject, but obtaining a view on the whole field by reading text is a bit hardcore for me. Not to grumpy all the way, I did obtain a lot concerning interactivity and the theories behind the concept. I especially enjoyed the evaluation of definitions and creating an understanding for ourselves. Just the overall part of obtaining the concepts was a bit dull for me, thats all. As Seen in my previous post, I find the dry reading a bit tiresome and ineffective.

I also enjoyed the online classes we had, just because of the interaction. It brought the subject “out of the books” and added a bit more flavour to it. I certainly wish there were more online chats during this course. The online interaction helps to obtain the views better and also gives the opportunity to check ones arguments concerning a topic.

Overall I think the course made me think about interactivity on a deeper and more philosophical level. Also the activity theory and aspects associated, help to define processes better, so we dont only see the surface.

IFI7144 – task 13

And here comes the task. Think of one activity. It can be anything, from different fields, from your every day life, etc. How is it carried out now? Is it possible to redesign this activity to make its outcome more efficient, more reasonable? Is it possible to re-instrumentalise and re-organise it with the help of emerging digital technology?

One of my everyday activities that I would like to enhance and better is the way I address the study materials. Concerning the university studies we have been provided with a whole lot of information from various different sources. Firstly the gathering of the information is quite hard. One can use different feed programs to get the information needed to proceed with the tasks or just to bookmark the sources and go manually from there. Since I am not a fan of plain text that different RSS readers provide, I have been approaching the subjects and tasks by going through them, whenever I have time, one by one. This approach almost always means that I get stuck on a subject that needs my attention and than I try to provide it to the task at and. This straightforward approach keeps the one subject in my focus and unfortunately makes everything else secondary. When the subject or task is completed, I have time to concentrate my attention on other tasks but as it happens, the deadlines might have already passed by that time.

Of course, there are programs and assistants that can be used, in order to meet certain deadlines simultaneously, but I have not become familiar with them yet. The second thing, I would point out when going through interactive and mostly web based subjects, it is quite important to have mobile means to address the courses. By that I mean laptops, smartphones e.t.c. And of course, I have none of those. So as far as re-instrumentalizing goes, it should be a first step to obtain a mobile device to keep myself up to date with different dates and deadlines. Of course the device would provide the means to fulfil the tasks anywhere.

Efficiency could also be risen by communicating with the texts and information on a more personal level. Reading a 20 paged document from a computer screen, for me, is a big task. The attention span should be prolonged in some way or another, because I do find myself in a situation where pages of text have gone by and all I remember is the headline. Of course a good way of addressing the issue would be by printing out the pages, but the cost of printing paper would be enormous. So this is a task that I have to take a look at and hopefully solve, in order to successfully increase the efficiency of the text based information-obtaining tasks.

Ethics and law – weeks 4 and 9

  • Investigate and describe (in your blog) an illustrative case of digital divide in your country

Although Digital Divide is a bit more of a social problem, I do have an issue that has arisen due to geographical difference in Estonia. Furthermore, it is an issue that I personally am confronted with. Over the years I have tried out many different internet service providers (ISP) and finally found myself the most reliable one concerning constant speed and availability. Now that I have been using the connection for a number of years, the ISP’s came uot with new and improved connection speeds. The amount needed to pay monthly was very reasonable and I took great interest in the offer. But what turned out, was that I am not eligible for the offers of the companies. The main reason being that I am living in an area where there are no new or large apartement buildings. Therefore the infrastructure will not be updated in my area. When consulting with the ISP on the issue of timeframe or rather, when will the area be getting the necessary improvements, the answer was “possibly within the next four years”. Four years is a lifetime in the development of digital technology. So I am left with two options, to buy an apartment in a new building somewhere, whitch I am not going to do, or switch to an ISP that is inferior in my mind.

  • Analyse and describe (in your blog) Internet availability in your country. How big is the availability difference for urban and rural regions? Do you consider this a problem?

Nowadays, internet availability has no limitations or restrictions in Estonia. Mainly because of the development of WIFI areas EVERYWHERE and also the “attack” of dongles. Using a dongle is quite cheap in estonia and thanks to a relatively good range of 3,5G networks one is able to connect to the internet everywhere. There is always the issue of the connection speed, but that is mainly down to technology. To look at the availability of internet services to people without access to a PC or a personal laptop, I think we are improving. For example, a computer can be accessed for free in many large libraries. There isnt a large number of internet cafes around and the main reason being that everyone who has the necessity to use internet at a public location already has a portable device available, may it be a phone or a laptop.

  • For Estonians: compare the current situation in Estonia to the four scenarios of “Estonia 2010”. Which one is the closest to the reality?
  • Looking at the four possibilities, I do see a strong resemblance to the final one, which is “Grand Slam” – the best realisation of both geographical location (transit) and innovative and educational potential. “Innovation/ICT Estonia”. Transit has been our bread for a long time and we cannot argue with the innovation part. Although the amount of transit has declined in the past years because of certain “monumental” issues, it is bound to pick up again. Also we have the educational potential, but thusfar it has not been realised and needs some very long steps to be taken, in order to bring it up to standards.

  • How important do you deem the social cohesiveness (or caring) in reaching ubicomp?
  • I do see it as an important part. Firstly the connection needs to be established between the participants and therefore better results can be produced. Secondly trust, which is very important in providing security and movement of relevant information as well as the legality and legislation concerning it.

    • Study the GNU GPL and write a short blog essay about it. You may use the SWOT analysis model (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats).

    As a strength I would bring out the difference between providing rights rather than issuing restrictions concerning the use of software. Proprietary software allows the user to perform certain tasks with it, but providing rights to do something, as the GNU GPL states. It allows users to act out and modify the software according to their needs. Also the GPL license provides the opportunity to benefit from the enhancements of the community of users. The rights have to remain the same when publishing a new and improved version of the software. The beneficial side includes the opportunity for use of the software with significant savings compared to proprietary software. It is indeed a two sided coin when looking at the reliability of proprietary and GPL licenced software, but if a community using the software is up to standards, the reliability will increase significantly.

    As a con, I would bring out the intuitive thinking towards “free software”. If something is free, it cannot be a trustworthy and reliable product. Therefor the acceptance and trust in a software might be cold. A threat might lie in the use of the software because of the deficiencies that lie within the code. If it is supposed to be free and support for the software is commercialized than it loses the point of owning the software. One might as well go with the proprietary one and use the support included within the price of the product. And when paying for the product, it seems logical that you get what you pay for. So the support and enhancements are there and will keep coming.

    • Find a good example of the “science business” described above and analyse it as a potential factor in the Digital Divide discussed earlier. Is the proposed connection likely or not? Blog your opinion.

    I would bring out the accessibility of different scientific works and papers that one might need or want to read in order to better their studies. I have encountered the issue quite often. When searching for relevant scientific articles on one subject you always come across the relevant information that is the foreword for an article. But in order to be able to read the article, one must pay a number of mostly dollars to get a piece of information. Furthermore the article might be a bit different than you expected and not contain the various facts that you were looking for. So by paying 5 dollars an article for example might become a hefty sum after finishing one research paper. The digital divide is here also, because if you do not have the means to access the material, you have to use information that is mostly five of more years old and that can affect the outcome of the product a lot.

    Task 12 – Digital technology – Tool or Medium

    is digital technology a tool or medium in our activity systems? Or both? Are we talking about just instruments or a specific form of societal activity? Is digital technology neutral, autonomous or far more than mere tools and instruments?

    As formulated in the task itself, this “dilemma” has been mentioned rather explicitly or implicitly by many of our IMKE group at different times. So before going into the actual question on my own, I decided to take a look at the article provided by our facilitators. The article was written by G. Rückriem in 2003 and titled “Tool or Medium”. The article itself brings out very specific knowledge and thoughts on different aspects of this question, on which I will try to formulate my own understanding.

    To start up, I really liked the idea brought up by the author that many of today’s appliances and technology isnt something that we cant live without. Like Gurjewitch (1978) or Judin (1984) put it about cars: „They are neither frameworks to any other existing technology nor historical paradigms of a whole epoch. In other words, they are not without alternatives, not unavoidable, not irreversible, not general and not universal.“ As far as my thoghts go, I totally agree with that statement. But as they moved on, I also agree that in some ways we cannot say so in characterising computer technology. They continue: „It is becoming more and more obvious that computer technology is in fact without any alternative, unavoidable, irreversible, general and even universal. It changes not only one specific concrete activity but revolutionizes the societal activity structure as a whole and the complete relations of activity and consciousness (that is the economic, social and psychic status of any tool available).“ Nowadays, everything that we do is somehow connected to computering devices and the digital technology behind it.

    Therefore I do see the computer as a tool that is used for performing certain tasks and mechanising the surroundings to make society work better and more fluently. But if we look a bit deeper into the whole usage of digital technology there is a growing sign that it is acting as a medium also. The activity theory and media theory have different theoretical backgrounds, which also use different terms for the central concepts. Firstly ”tool” is a main concept of activity theory in our common understanding and secondly, “medium” is the central concept of media theory. Rückriem’s point was to see, if these two theories are compatible.

    After going through both aspects, I seem to agree with the author, that both of these sides see digital technology as that concept, either tool or medium. And digital technology allows these theories to do that, because the development in the digital world have become so vast in the recent years, that we cannot, but see the technology as a part of ourselves in a way. It differs a lot, as do people, but the senses seem to adhere to technology now, in a way that one would have not thought of a machine or a program before.

    Task 11 NIE – comparing components

    – did we come up with all the necessary components for analyzing and describing interactive systems?

    The amount of components is quite huge and yes, I do believe that we came up with all the necessary components to describe interactive systems. And because of the amount of the components we are able to account for and go along with the possible changes that take place during the interaction process.

    – what components seem irrelevant? Why? Also currently we have a long list of components, which can be definitely shorten. How would you do that?

    There are indeed a couple of components that firstly seem a bit irrelevant and also a bit too repetative. For example the timeframe, time management and schedule are quite close together and rule two out. And with that, we can remove the start and the end, because they are already in the timeframe. Interrelatedness is something that is a give component in every system, so I believe that it does not have to be marked up. Methodology is a bit vague and the main components of it have been put down separately. Tere are a couple more components like project manager, evaluation criteria, task, software, sequence, workmanship are either duplicated by another component or unnecessary to be mentioned in a component list. The main reason for removing a lot of these components is, for me, relevancy in the overall view of the interaction process and the ability to grasp and understand the build-up of the process.

    – do what degree the list of components is concurrent with the components of the activity theory framework?

    There are a lot of similar components to the activity theory framework although many of them in a slightly different wording. The main components of the build up system are still the same, like object(result), subject, tools, rules, community and division of labour(actors).

    – are there components which are not covered by the activity theory framework, but the activity theory framework could benefit from?

    If I take a look at the different components that could useful and beneficial in the activity theory, I come up with three :Trigger, quality, time. Firstly the trigger is not mentioned or adhered in the process as such. The participants are aware of the actual result, or object needed to fulfil or reach. Quality is also a very important thing to consider and, as far as I see, in the activity theory, the quality part is a bit left aside and the result in a sense is only kept in mind. Finally Time. Time is also not defined as a definite factor and timeline is not set as one of the components, which is very important in acheiveing tasks and results in a controlled and timely manner.

    Ethics and Law – week 11 : Free software vs. Open source

    • Analyse both free software and open source approach in your blog. If you prefer one, provide your arguments.

    Firstly I would like to point out that in my mind, neither of these programmes as such, benefit the common user in a sufficient way. If a choice has to be made, I would go towards a free software solution. It is a fairly ineffective way to create a program in a proprietary world, but it has the possibility of evolution, that we do not get from an Open Source software (OSS) or a proprietary one. By that thought, I mean that one person has the opportunity to be beneficial for other users of the program, by providing and programming solutions to improve it. There are, of course, ways to help and improve proprietary programs also, but the final requisition of those changes is still in the hands of the original creators and might have a very long „wait“ attached to them. Open source software in a sense is beneficial for people, who have the knowledge to read and understand the information that is provided, but when certain rights protect the source code to be used, it kind of loses the point. Unless one is able to use the code to develope a thought of his/her own , without just copying it. But overall, I see the usage of free software mainly in small circles, or when the software itself isn’t vast.