George, Kim and I met together today to begin stringing together our metaphor footage. We were a bit concerned about not having filmed enough, but after chopping the footage up into labelled parts, we realised that we have a lot to work with. We’ve decided to try editing our own separate chunks without collaborating too much. This way we can all take part in the editing process, and can incorporate all three of our ‘visions’ into the finished product. Repetition of clips won’t be a problem, as we had always planned to include metaphor repetition in our video.
I have never used Final Cut (on my own) before, and had expected to be able to take the passenger seat (contributing verbally rather than practically) while my other two Final Cut-experienced group members take control of the mouse. But this way I get to give editing a try, and am rather looking forward to it (thanks to an encouraging nudge from Kim), especially after having fiddled around with Audacity at home, and noting the similarities. Kim gave me a quick Final Cut lesson today, showing me the basic tools and useful effects. All three of us now have access to all or most of the footage we will be individually experimenting with, so we’re able to work on the editing in our own time.
As you’re all now aware of from our group project presentation, George, Kim and I have chosen to produce an experimental video that explores aspects of Human 2.0 through computing metaphors. We began by brainstorming key metaphors and managed to come up with a decent list. The cool thing about this project is the way we’ve been able to add to this list as we - as ‘digital subjects’ - have since encountered more human-techno metaphors in our day-to-day activities and through communication with others.
We decided early on in the process that we’d film the metaphor concepts individually. I admitted at this stage that I had very little experience using the Department cameras, so I really appreciated it when we decided to have a group filming session at George’s work. This also meant that we could make use of each other’s acting and hand model talents. We filmed most of the office-related metaphors here, such as file, desktop, copy, bookmark and windows, and I learned a bit from the others about composition, lighting and a few other dos and don’ts.
While Kim was away on a field trip, George and I met up so that I could take possession of the camera. And then I was on my own! I decided to begin with the ‘cut and paste’ metaphor, as I had a pretty clear idea in my head of how I wanted to film it. Only took a few practice runs (pretending rather than actually pasting) and a couple of takes to get it right.
Over the few days that I had the camera the weather was pretty terrible, but thankfully most of the things I wanted to shoot were indoors. The gloomy weather also made everything look darker, so I had to fiddle around with the lighting a bit (much to the annoyance of my doting family). Everything turned out OK in the end, though, and Kim and George seem to be happy with the metaphors I managed to film (these include cut, cut and paste, mail, wall, threads, search, site, zip, thumbnail and wallpaper).
The presentation was a collaborative effort - we wrote our own sections that we planned to present, which worked really well for us in my opinion. Coming up with the material for the quiz was fun; George suggested that we took turns to suggest one metaphor at a time. Our memories were tested when our precious document disappeared, and we had to remember the 20 words we had just pulled out of nowhere (we remembered about 17 out of 20, which wasn’t bad!). Turned out the document was lurking under a different name, so we were all good.
At this stage, we’re thinking of doing some more filming before we get cracking on the editing. But for now we’re focusing on the individual research essays.
The idea that people have personal relationships with their technological devices is no foreign notion. Computers, iPods, cellphones and other devices come complete with customisation tools, encouraging you to make your technology more, well, you. We live in a world where iPhones are people’s ‘babies’, and the act of naming one’s laptop is considered as no threat to one’s sanity.
But, of course, along with all of this ‘doting’ behavior come the usual frustration and panic when our techno-babies crash, freeze, break and ultimately fail to perform in ways that we expect them to. This causes some of us to have limited trust in technology.
But is technology something that we can really trust? Is trusting technology even possible?
I stumbled upon this article, which discusses the difference between trust and confidence in relation to technology. According to author Norman Lewis, there is a tendency for people to use the word ‘trust’ in the place of ‘confidence’, yet these two terms are not interchangeable.
Having confidence implies expected outcomes; we are confident in something because we expect a specific result. We expect that the system/device/organisation will deliver what it has promised. Trust, however, is a distinctly human attribute, as it acknowledges the presence of free will:
"…the origins of trust are rooted in our recognition of the freedom of others to act freely. This is a fundamentally social act, which links trust to the ability to act autonomously, to recognise that in others, and to act outside of predefined or ascribed roles. In short, trust is a fundamental part of risk taking."
Considering that many of us don’t fully understand the nuts and bolts of artificial intelligence and the like, it’s not surprising that we regard technology as having ‘a mind of its own’. The trust/confidence confusion is a typical example of how language is used to bridge the gap between the familiar and the unfamiliar.
Among all of this McLuhan discourse that regards technology as extensions of man, how about an example of technology competing against man?
It’s Watson! The question-answering information-seeking tool that competes against human contestants on the game show, Jeopardy! Most significantly, Watson has a name, a gender, and he talks. He provides answers to questions that include puns and humour - questions that are intended for a human audience. Watson literally takes the place of a human game show contestant.
While the computer poses as a threat to human intelligence within the game show context, Watson does not do so beyond the game show environment. He may speak like a human (ish) and ‘think’ like a human, but interestingly no attempts have been made to make him look like one.
Regardless, the show’s format still frames Watson as a competitor in the same ways that it presents the other contestants. Whenever a contestant answers a question, typically a reaction shot follows. No exception is made for the faceless, emotionless robot. The media format does not distinguish between human and technology.
However, the game show format is interesting in itself, as it demonstrates how the notions of ‘human’ and ‘robot’ are perceived as two distinctly different categories. Jeopardy! emphasises human/technology rivalry (“Humans, Woo!”), rather than a collaborative, ‘cyborgian’ view of the future.
Of course, we can argue that human competitors on game shows such as Jeopardy! function more like ‘machines’ than humans anyway, delivering a solution (question answers) when presented with a problem.
Omigosh, a magician on TED! I actually came across this clip when searching for something podcast-related to discuss in week four.
First, Keith Barry shows us how our brains can fool our bodies - in a trick that works via podcast too.
Needless to say the trick worked on me (try it for yourself. You shall be fooooled!). Magicians specialise in deception, and those that use brain magic, according to Keith Barry, specialise in manipulating the human mind, incorporating techniques such as the “power of words”, “linguistic deception” and “non-verbal communication” into their performances.
It is clear from the video comments that some viewers feel ‘cheated’ by Barry’s performance (“to bad its all fake tho”), despite the fact that Barry warns his audience that he will use techniques to create the illusion of a sixth sense.
Digital media, particularly video clips, function in a similar way to magicians (bear with me while I have one of those ‘[insert metaphor here]’ moments.) Both specialise in deceiving an audience. While the magician may use a black table cloth to conceal gestures, video footage can be cut and re-strung together to conceal that and much more.
Barry’s first trick in the video above combines the two. At a crucial moment, the camera cuts away to the audience, and by doing so conceals the moment when the magician (spoiler alert) rearranges his hands.
Generally speaking, the higher the degree of mediation, the greater my scepticism. When Barry plays an MTV clip (an edited piece of footage) of one of his tricks on the big screen, this signals to me that I am being tricked by the medium, rather than the magician himself. Because I cannot come up with a reasonable explanation as to how a person is able to drive a car while blindfolded, I automatically assume that the cuts and chosen camera angles are distorting my perception. The camera footage replaces my vision (which is now limited and two-dimensional). Due to the high level of mediation – a screen within a screen – I no longer trust my own eyes.
Personally, I feel more cheated by the use of technology than by the magician. This particular magician admits to his ‘fakeness’ prior to his performance by acknowledging that his magic is a series of illusions. What is not acknowledged is the fact that the trick that he presents to his audience via video clip is mediated.
(I’m going to blame my current wave of technophobia on all this cyborg-related project talk.)
When delving into ideas such as authenticity or identity, the magic show could serve as a useful analogy. It has a surface - the ‘performance’ or ‘magic’ - as well as an authentic core - the techniques, strategies and tricks used to create the illusion.
Metaphor matters because it opens the door to discovery. Whenever we solve a problem or make a discovery, we compare what we know with what we don’t know. The only way to find out about the latter is to investigate the ways it might be like the former[…] By bringing together what we know and what we don’t know through analogy, metaphorical thinking strikes the spark that ignites discovery.