Lit 80, Fall 2013
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Ebocloud

November 17th, 2013 | Posted by Craig Bearison in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Ebocloud by Rick Moss transports us to a potential future in which one of our generation’s biggest creations, social networks, have continued to develop and grow in influence. In this society, the biggest and best social network is the Ebocloud. It is described in the novel as the anti-Facebook. Whereas Facebook is all about superficial judgments and individual status climbing, Ebocloud by design fosters altruism and group identity. People who sign up for the network are put into ebo families, tribes, where the members refer to themselves as cousins. They communicate with each other using all sorts of mediums, even text messaging and blogging like we have today. The purpose of establishing these close-knit networks is to work with other people to build a better planet (57). This is accomplished by incentivizing good deeds. Kar-merits are given out for accomplishing good deeds and used to establish rankings and elders who get to sit on the cloud council. All sorts of other internal review metrics and variables are factored in to the ranking system and matching people with projects. These checks and redundancies are employed as a means of security and verification, similar to things like Yelp that we have today where it is open to the public for content but there is an internal system of crediting.

As a ‘futuristic’ social network, ebocloud makes use of a lot of technologies people today predict we will have in the future. One of the most interesting and important ideas in the novel is the BCI, brain-computer-interface. In this Ebocloud project, ebocousins will be hooked into ‘computers’ via digital tattoos, dToos, so that knowledge and commands can be shared between people and improve the mechanism for matching cousins with group activities. Ebocloud, and BCI in particular, demonstrate the idea of singularity, bot not exactly the kind of singularity we have talked about before. Singularity in Ebocloud involves the joining of the individual mind to a group collective conscious rather than a computer. For example, the BCI can employ electrical stimulation or neurotransmitter release to manipulate mood, feelings, thoughts, etc. Used across tribes, this will create a network of group feelings that will give us a new language and help us attain global comprehension of objective truth (286). It is all about love for each other. As a class, we were mostly creeped out by this intimate connection to people we had never meet before.

The way Ebocloud supposes to utlilize the brain in its technology is very relevant to my final paper topic. One of my arguments is that in the future we will use brain scans to evaluate people. The physical brain is analyzed to decode thoughts, emotions, etc. In the novel, the BCI began with a big project to map and ‘chart’ the human brain. This information will be used in the BCI to capture the data behind a thought or impression and transmit it to your tribe where they can decode it and experience the associated feelings. Mapping the brain cannot only be used to read minds but the knowledge can also be used to manipulate them.

What if we lived in a world where the dynamic of families and the whole idea of social interaction changed completely? A world where people associated themselves with groups of ‘strangers’ more so than their biological families. This may sound like science fiction, but the idea as seen in Ebocloud by Rick Moss may reach reality faster than we are expecting. Ebocloud details a society in which people have become members of a ‘cloud’ society and the idea of loneliness is completely abandoned. This works through the setup of ebocloud.com, which when used, allows people to be assigned to ‘ebos’ or groups that serve as pseudo-families and strive for humanitarian gains. Unlike facebook, “ebocloud pulls you out of yourself rather than competing for who has the most friends” (Moss 203). Coinciding with the main plot of artist Ellison Luber trying to elucidate the mysteries surrounding his girlfriend, the reader begins to see the truly transformative power of ebocloud and its effects on society. For example, with membership to an ebo most members decide to tattoo their ebo logo on their arms. This changed many things, including the way people walked. “Pedestrians’ eyes, rather than straight ahead and unfocused, are directed at the left wrists of passers by, and those wrists are exposed to view…” (Moss 215). The reader can see how a simple online ‘social network’ could start changing the way society functions. Slowly, the cloud continues to expand to a point where people begin adoption “dtoos,” digital tattoos that can map the human brain and send signals to and from the cloud.

This is where the book becomes very interesting and delves into some ethical questions that we may face as a society in the near future. The creator of Ebocloud and dToos, Radu Cajal, states one of the purposes of Ebocloud as the “way to get us to a state of cosmic knowledge, something only religion could previously do” (Moss 289). Essentially with ebocloud and dToos, all of human knowledge and experience can be pooled into the cloud and projected back, sharing the knowledge with everyone. This leads to an extremely efficient, intelligent, and compassionate human race where everyone is skilled and animosity is essentially eliminated between people. This however, is if the ebocloud was to work perfectly. The ethical issues that are raised generally have to do with the downfalls of a system like ebocloud. What if someone cloud control the minds of everyone connected to the cloud, and foster artificial relationships between people, groups, ebos, and nations for ulterior motives? These are the reasons why systems like ebocloud or a ‘hive mind’ scare me. With everyone being experts at everything, the creativity of the human race will soon falter with people just moving from task to task. Overall, the novel Ebocloud by Rick Moss is a very frightening, yet interesting perspective on the future of human society with the exponential rise of technology that is taking place. If used properly and ideally, a system like ebocloud could elucidate the full potential of the human race and the power that comes with cooperation. It could end the idea of wars, fights, and animosity between people. But if left in the wrong hands or used improperly, systems like ebocloud could lead to the generalization of the human race and essentially eliminate what makes everyone of us different.

Ebocloud Novel Response

November 15th, 2013 | Posted by Shane Stone in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

As technology develops and becomes more and more advanced one question is evident. How will technology affect humanity? In an interview with Social Bling Rick Moss discusses how he has “two crazy ideas for saving humanity” and how he incorporated both of them into his novel, Ebocloud (Michele 2011). From the book, it appears that he is referring to how technology can save humanity. Moss speaks through Desalt to describe his two hypothesized ways. In reminiscing on a conversation with Arthur C. Clarke, Desalt explains how either a catastrophe will leave humanity to adapt physically to their new new circumstances (leaving technology obsolete) or that technology will “free us from ourselves [and our] physical bodies” (complete dependence on technology) (Moss 130). By the end of Ebocloud, humanity seems to be transitioning towards the latter extreme. According to Radu, his developments with the cloud will combine the micro (human) and macro (cloud) to create a meta structure, which will move “humans forward along their natural evolutionary pathway” (Moss 434). In the epilogue, Eli’s description of how “your [perception of] ‘me’ is blurred” during cloud connection suggests that humanity is on its way toward a meta-structure and one step closer to abandoning physical bodies (Moss 442). Despite the apparent positive advances of technology, there is still one critical downfall. Doug introduces the idea earlier in the novel when he expresses his concern about technology because he recognizes that “when we add something this big into our lives, we’re going to give up something equally big” (Moss 342). Although at the time it was unclear what “something” was going to be, upon the books conclusion the reader learns that traditional love is lost to a new form of ebolove. Advances in technology may have escalated humanity, but at a huge cost. With this in mind I leave the reader with a question: Is it worth it?

Moss, Rick. Ebocloud. 2nd ed. New Orleans: Aqueous, 2013. Print.

Moss, Rick. “EBOCLOUD: Dare to Imagine Life After Facebook | SocialBling: Social Workflow System Development.” Interview by Stephanie Michele. Web log post.SocialBling. N.p., 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 15 Nov. 2013. <http://www.socialbling.com/ebocloud-dare-to-imagine-life-after-facebook/>.

Technology continues to integrate itself into our lives on daily basis. New apps are frequently developed and the use of smart phones has given us access to these apps wherever we go. As a generation, we are becoming accustomed to being “connected” with the world—whether through our phones, apps, or the Internet. As our connections increase, we are given more access to the world, to information, to contacting others. In turn, we give out information about ourselves—willingly or unwillingly—to this collection of data. We post information on our Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and instantly that data becomes available to the world—regardless of the minimal privacy settings we are offered. What will become of this system of information sharing as technology continues to develop? How will this change affect how we live? How we relate to others? How our government is run? Already we can see how the threat of “siren servers” is increasing as companies such as Google grow.

In his science fiction novel Ebocloud, Rick Moss explores what our world will be like in a future dominated by Internet connections. He presents the idea of a “cloud”, a computer network that links together the human minds of its users. The users also have digital tattoos that connect the individual, the “family” you belong to, and the “cloud”. This level of connection can be seen as a blessing or a curse. Yes, you are opening yourself up and forming bonds with others that you would not have otherwise met. You surround yourself with this group of people who are open to helping you and whom you can associate with. You open yourself to opportunities to join organizations and projects to do good or that correlate with your interests. It doesn’t sound too different from social networks we have today. But to what level does this connection extend? There is no logging out—the tattoos keep you connected to the cloud, and thus you are giving up the ability to remove yourself from this cyber world. And how genuine are these bonds you are making? When people have extrinsic motivations—such as earning “Kar-merits”—does that affect the way they behave? Does that make them more self-absorbed? Or less so because they are participating in projects that better society? The concept of a powerful computer network connecting the world—which is far less of a fictional concept than we may believe—would affect the way we think, the way we interact, the way we make decisions, the way our world is governed. How much of your self are you willing to give up for the sake of a more connected world?

Final Project Abstract: Joy

November 11th, 2013 | Posted by Joy in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

LIT80S ABSTRACT

Purpose:
– The purpose of my project is to explore ideas of self, the body, and embodiment, particularly as it relates to the continual integration of technology within our daily human lives. Does our co-evolution with technology merely allow us to understand these concepts in an augmented manner, or does it leave us less capable of differentiating between real and imaginary? How does technology as a medium transform how we interpret and interact within these different realms, and what are the potential social, personal, and political implications or repercussions of this transformation? I will utilize Lacan’s theories on the real/ symbolic/ imaginary and self-identification through the “Mirror” stage as tools for critical analysis of Neuromancer,- as well as the pertinent articles we’ve read to forward discourse about the “real-life” implications. I will posit that by analyzing Neuromancer through the speculative lens of the “Mirror Stage” theory – specifically the character’s interaction with technology as it relates to the body/ an extension of the body – that technology replaces Lacan’s “mirror” as a medium for self-recognition and understanding. This realization, one that is displayed within Neuromancer, plays a critical role in making sense of the seemingly ambiguous nature of the real world vs. the virtual world, and can allow one to more readily differentiate between the real, the symbolic, and the imaginary.

Media Element:

As far as my media element is concerned, I’m still brainstorming – there were some good ideas presented to me in class, such as making a timeline or map of the evolution of bodies as technology continues to advance. Since my paper will have a heavy literary component, re-imaging Neuromancer in a way that augments my thesis would be interesting – then I would be able to incorporate electronic literature analysis as a component instead of merely using traditional theories and forms of analysis. I will continue to edit this as I come up with more ideas!

Video games are often dismissed in the artistic community for being driven by player action rather than the strict vision of the author. However, the inclusion of choice enables games to leave impactful impressions on players that would not be possible with more conventional media. A film can tell you something about its creator. A game can tell you something about yourself.

 

The defining aspect of video games is the most crucial part of anything that might be considered a game — choice. Choice is defined in two complementary ways — by what is possible, and by what is restricted. Possibilities imbue the player with the empowering perception of free agency, offering the player a personal stake in the world of the game. When the player makes a mistake, they feel regret. This agency also comes with a sense of responsibility. The consequences of a callous decision are much more impactful when it was the player’s decision to begin with.

 

However, a game can also disempower a player by emphasizing the constraints they are held within. Players go into a game expecting agency. Having it removed or checked can force the player to experience powerlessness, or demonstrate when a choice may be barely a choice at all.

 

I will be exploring how choice, or the illusion of choice, allows games to connect with the player directly, making games an excellent tool for encouraging introspection. For my media element, I will be making a simple text-based game designed around giving the player choices and exploring their consequences.

 

Brain Imaging

November 8th, 2013 | Posted by Craig Bearison in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

In the past, people understood the mind in terms of dualism as a nonphysical entity, separate from our physical brain. Generally, the brain was still considered responsible for many neurological functions and characteristics, but ‘higher order’ things like consciousness transcended physical basis and existed in the immaterial mind. This theory has since given way to a physicalism view in which the brain itself is the sole basis for mental faculty. People now think of the brain as encoding and being responsible for all mental traits: personality, emotion, skills, intelligence, morals, consciousness, etc. etc. etc. Brain imaging technology has contributed to this notion, as it demystifies the brain and allows people to visualize the brain’s composition and activity.  Importantly, technological innovation in the field of brain imaging has also contributed to the idea that we can not only view brain activity but also analyze and interpret it to make conclusions about the nature of an individual’s brain and, consequently, their characteristics.

fMRI and PET scans are two of the most prominent imaging techniques in neuroscience. They both measure brain activity and display the results as differently colored areas on a cross-sectional view of the brain. The amount of activity across the brain can then be analyzed to make conclusions about brain functioning. This technology has become extremely popular in society because it is able to produce aesthetically pleasing and easily understandable pictures. fMRI and PET scans are being increasingly employed outside of the laboratory to help assess the traits and characteristics of real individuals. For example, in 2010 fMRI made its debut in court where it was used on an accused murderer. The neuroscientist designed tests for his memory and emotions in an attempt to determine pre-mediation. fMRI will soon replace the traditional lie-detector test in the judicial system.

Mainstream applications of these technologies will only increase as time goes on. The government is already working on developing brain imaging technologies as a type of pre-crime tool. For example, the brains of people in a large crowd could all be scanned to look for certain activity or pathways that indicate a predisposition to violence or an extremist belief set that might lead someone to commit a terrorist act.  Additionally, I will make argument that rather than take standardized tests or personality quizzes, kids will just have their brains scanned to be assessed.

This technology and its applications are concerning and problematic because they are largely misunderstood and misinterpreted by non-neuroscientists. Drastic and contrasting colors are used to differentiate between relatively small physiological differences in activity. People are given the impression that there are different brain ‘types’ that correspond to different traits (blue means caring, red means selfish) when really these discrete colors are being used to distinguish differences in a spectrum of activity. The other issue is what these technologies are actually measuring and how irrefutable our current knowledge of the brain actually is. I will discuss this skepticism surrounding the use of brain imaging technology in society.

For my media element, my first step is to compile a large collection of fMRI and PET scans. I plan to use these pictures to create a ‘flip book’ style video. I will order the images so that a blob is growing, shrinking, moving, changing color, etc. in a brain. This will create the effect that the brain is behaving erratically and spontaneously or being ‘attacked’. I will set this to psychedelic music to give the impression of a brain on drugs. Taking the very scientific and serious fMRI images and turning them into a funny art piece serves as a critique against them as a valid scientific measurement of characteristics or traits outside of the laboratory.

Final Project Abstract

November 8th, 2013 | Posted by David Hemminger in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Uexküll and Sebeok used the term “umwelt” in their semiotic theories to refer to each organism’s own self-centered world. They argued that different organisms sharing the same environment could still have entirely different umwelts, as they would each perceive and interpret their surroundings differently. In the current media age with companies that tailor internet advertisements to users and content available through countless different types of media, this idea has become far more relevant.

In this project I will study how digital augmentations to individuals’ realities and various media options create different umwelts. I will also demonstrate this concept by creating content that will be perceived and perhaps interpreted differently depending on the medium through which the content is viewed and however the user’s perception of that medium might be augmented. Finally, I will explore and critique examples of artificially-created umwelts, such as the recent xkcd comic strip.

Abstract:

According to Moore’s law the computing power of technology doubles every two years. Considering this, we are quickly approaching the time when the computational ability will be equivalent to human intelligence. With this time approaching, some questions arise. Will this increased ability increase human dependence on technology? If so, will there be a point when our dependence is our downfall? According to works of science fiction, the answer is yes. If this is the case, then we must determine at what point this is predicted to occur. To determine this I looked at science fiction novels and movies and see how the societies of fictional worlds became too dependent and what steps led up humanity’s downfall. Then I considered today’s technology, and how compared it to what is described in science fiction. Finally, I researched what today’s experts on singularity and related schools of thought feel about improvements in technology and how they’ll effect humanity. Taking all of this information, I determine an estimate for when our dependence on technology will betray us. To complement the written work, I have created physical timelines to help visualize what has occurred in science fiction novels. Additionally, I designed a program that provides the reader with a hypothetical situation and then asks the reader to determine what will happen as a result.

Final Project Abstract

November 8th, 2013 | Posted by Mithun Shetty in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Bob Kane’s Batman comic series is incredibly expansive; however, a steady, well-known constant in the universe is the relationship between Batman and his main nemesis, the Joker. The two characters go far beyond a clash between”good” and “evil;” the most important story arcs in the Batman universe explain these two characters from more of a yin-yang perspective, in that one’s existence justifies the other.  Certain story arcs on this topic are better received than others, and I believe that it in most cases this is due to that particular arc’s adherence to the original Batman canon. While each may slightly differ plot-wise, the majority of Batman and Joker story arcs begins and ends in quite similar places: two unwavering characters, with rigid moral codes that appear to be ideologically opposite, end up justifying the existence of each other, with no real long term resolution (no triumph of good over evil, etc).

My project aims to look at the various visual representations of their relationship across several media and observe the similarities and differences between them. This transmedia study will include analyses of the film, video games, and graphic novels. The works that will be studied are The Dark Knight film by Christopher Nolan (2008), the graphic novels The Killing Joke by Alan Moore (1988) and The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker and Doug Mahnke (2005), and the Warner Bros/Rocksteady video game Arkham Origins (2013). For a media element, I will attempt to analyze the major plot lines and story progression of each work by means of a visual map of the major stages of Freytag’s Pyramid, which will include examples from each of the works listed. By mapping out all these different story lines, I hope to emphasize the nature of the relationship between Batman and Joker, and note the importance of this aspect of the original narrative canon.