Technology & Agency

Concepts: agency, technology, agents, process, mediators, mediating, mediate, transformation, actors, delegation, prescription, network, technology as articulation, technology as assemblage.

Summary: This week’s readings focused on more intricate aspects of the relationship between humans and the technology we utilizes. The first chapter focused on agency in the context of technology. The second reading focuses on two concepts: technology as articulation; technology as assemblage. Overall, the chapters add to our understanding of how technology as extension but also how technology results in changes to us by its meer existence.

Quotations:

Actors are “any element which bends space around itself and translates their will into a language of their own” (140)

“When humans delegate tasks to technologies, the technology does something a human used to do (direct traffic, open doors, assemble cars, carry a message) or performs a task that humans could not but wished they could (fly).” (141)

“According to Latour, once the technology has been inscribed with tasks and is released into culture, it prescribes tasks back to us, with tasks and is released into the culture, it prescribes tasks back to us, with the inevitable work of translation.” (142)

“A network is a ‘summing up’ of the relations among actors in relation to processes of translation, delegation, and prescription. Networks are maps of these relations and connections, which involve both the processes and the effects.” (143)

Commentary:

This week’s readings were really interesting in the context of our continued conversation and debate around the effects of technology and our reflection upon our potential dependence on it. I honestly found Chapter 11: Agency to be really useful as a framework to analyze our relationship to technology.

As I wrote my post I realized that the points raised by Slack and Wise were unfolding before my eyes. I would put my drink, paper, pen, etc. to the right of my computer acknowledging that I am right handed and would need to be able to look at my notes and add new ones during this process. This proved that the technology is an actor. It was bending space around itself. It was forcing me to choose my placement of other objects around it but even further it was forcing me to make sure I was connected to wifi, and also connected to power so that my battery wouldn’t die. All these choices forced me to consider how technology was acting upon me in these instances.

Second, I noticed the network of actors involved in this: the charger, the notes, the coffee, the human. And how those actors were all involved in my being able to type up my post to medium.

Third, I noticed the constant delegation of tasks. I noticed that I would delegate my my physical transcription of words to a word processing platform. I noticed I would delegate reminders for appointments to iCal. I noticed I delegated correspondence through the mail application on my Macbook. I delegate almost all of my tasks to some kind of technology. As I reflect I also had delegated the process of washing clothes to a washing machine, the process of washing dishes to a dishwasher, etc.

However, these delegations led to the process of prescription. The way I interact with colleagues results in a lot of emails. The way I clean has a lot to do with the technologies I used to clean. The way I cook has a lot to do with the technologies I use to cook. A lot of the delegations led to a lot of prescription towards my behavior. I had to carry my computer at all times if I wanted to complete any of these tasks, I also had to make sure I had my phone which allowed me to access some but not all of these technologies. Basically, how I used technology dictated what technologies I carried but also how I carried, and used those technologies.

Overall, super helpful framework from Slack and Wise.

Why do you like what you like? Authenticity and the question of big data.

Keywords: big data, privacy, algorithm, ideological bubbles, selfies, news feeds, etc.

Summary:

This weeks readings focus the implications of big data on privacy and authenticity. The article Oremus focuses on Facebook and its algorithm. More importantly on how its developed and why it has many shortcomings. Baruh and Popescu’s article focuses big data and its effects in the changes of industries and our consumerism. The Silverman article focuses on the concept that selfies are a tool for facial recognition software and further lead to complex questions about law and privacy.

Quotations:

“ privacy understood as an individual good, which decrees that consumers should be free to negotiate their acceptable levels of privacy, and privacy understood as indivisible collective value that can be enjoyed by the society only if a similar ‘minimum’ level is afforded to every member” (2)

“Facebook’s news feed algorithm can be tweaked to make us happy or sad; it can expose us to new and challenging ideas or insulate us in ideological bubbles.”

“At a time when Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants increasingly filter our choices and guide our decisions through machine-learning software…”

Commentary:

In the article from Oremus, we are forced to consider the way algorithmic data affects our daily life. In the article Oremus, is invited to meet the team that develops the many level, many part, complex algorithm that compiles things in our newsfeeds. In that meeting they discuss the idea that the main reason the algorithm fails is because of the information we feed it. The outweighing point being that Facebook’s shortcoming are a result of the data it mines is fundamentally human. Further, the algorithm also takes a lot of factors into account. According to Alison, the Facebook employee in charge of the algorithm, it takes into account hundreds of features. This shows that nothing is static. It constantly changes to adapt.

Further illustrating this point is the article from Baruh and Popescu. In this article the writers use the example of cars and insurance to show the way this kind of is reflected in market practices. Baruh and Popescu explain, the development of sensors, Global Positioning Systems, and wireless communication, moved the insurance industry from risk based models to that of habit based models. However, the idea of privacy is very apparent due to the fact that the way these habits are coded relies on data mining and the collection of big data. More specifically they need to grab specific information in order to develop the types of habits they deem good or bad.

Moreover, this issue of privacy arises agin in the reading from Sullivan about selfies and facial recognition software. Sullivan articulates, “We’re increas­ingly using data about our face to authen­ti­cate our iden­ti­ties to our smart­phones and user accounts. That’s reason enough to be skep­tical of wide­spread deploy­ment of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nolo­gies and the prolif­er­a­tion of name-face data­bases. Like pass­words, faceprints can be compro­mised. They’re a data secu­rity risk.” As such all technology from GPS to the practice of taking selfies incure an added risk to our authenticity, our privacy, and more importantly our safety.

Questions:

What do you think about the practice of facial recognition? Do you think you should be notified if you enter a space where this is a practice? If so, how do you think the law could address this privacy concern?

Do you think that your right to privacy does, can, or should extend to all aspects of social media? If so, what do you think this would look like?

What does privacy look like to you on social media, in cars with added technologies, and in the digital realm?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there does it still make a noise? The question of technological ontology.

Keywords: opt-out, ontology, recognition, authenticity, documentations, sharing, visibility, rhetorical velocity, instinctual habits, continuous partial attention, multitasking, secondary orality, tribalism, reticence, implications, personal versus professional, permanence, temporary photography, scarcity, death, life, preserving.

Summary:

In The Guardian article, we encounter arguments that focus on social media’s impact on our culture. In the article on Facebook usage, we find a thoughtful discussion on how Facebook is currently used and who its used by based on some helpful PEW reports. In the final article, we realized the impact Snapchat has on human memory and the art of photography.

Quotations:

Continuous partial attention, “is motivated by a desire to be a live node on the network. Another way of saying this is that we want to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimise for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. To be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized and to matter” (The Gaurdian)

“In this way, social media can resemble traditional pre-literate societies where communication is purely oral and everything — culture, news, gossip, history — is comminucated through speech. When we retweet someone, we are just speaking their words again — ensuring that they are passed on and do not get lost in the flurry of communication.” (The Guardian)

“To understand the emergence of temporary photography, one must understand it in relation to the inflating archive of persistent images and their significance on how we perceive and remember the world.” (Jurgenson)

Commentary:

The Gaurdian article begins with a discussion of how social media leads to insecurity based on the desire for recongnition, sharing, and the continuous partial attention as discussed by Stone. It also discusses the idea of ephemeral interest being almost a cultural practice or goal. However, the most compelling part of the article focuses on the specific idea of retrival or reversal. The idea of reverting back to old mediums. The article states, “In this way, social media can resemble traditional pre-literate societies where communication is purely oral and everything — culture, news, gossip, history — is comminucated through speech. When we retweet someone, we are just speaking their words again — ensuring that they are passed on and do not get lost in the flurry of communication.” This quote is probably the more interesting note in the piece that really hones in on the way in which technology is extending our voices. I truly had never considered such an idea until reading this article and considering the concepts of reversal and retrival and how technology is never really obsolesced.

In the article about Facebook usage I found the most compelling aspect was that about permanence and ephemerality. I think these concepts have always been on my mind much to the point of the author about college aged students considering the implications of Facebook in contrast to that of Snapchat. These technologies seem to have a prescribed temporal purpose. Facebook has its temporal relationship to the persona of permanence while Snapchat is fleeting. Sum your life up in snipets of 10 seconds or less. Then let the world watch for 24 hours at a time. Then you must start again. The prescription of rules or conventions deters or empowers users to subscribe to certain social media platforms because they realize the implications of the actual utility of it however, I still believe we are completely in the dark about its implications on us socially, intellectually, and culturally. McLuhan’s point of needing deep reflection still holds for me after reading this article.

Further, we can see one such deep reflection in the piece by Jergunson in which they writer discusses the notion of how temporary photography such as Snapchat has changed the way we perceive and remember the world. One such point where Jergunson deeply engages me as a reader is in their various citations of Sontag. Sontag states, “there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” This is so profound yet I think the nostalgic gaze is lost when were experiencing for documentation as Jergunson points out. We can be nostalgic about something we truly never experienced. Further, I think the concept of seeing someone as they never see themselves truly disapiates when we have a fecundity in technology that has never before been possible. That fecund send button. That moment where we can share across space and time is altered. Except in the instance of Snapchat its fecundity has a limitation. While this might allow for a more experience for itself kind of situation it also sheds light on the very tension or the fine line that technological changes to our memory and our temporary ephemeral relationship with tehcnology create. I think the question that remains is the idea that while photography has always hinted at death and preserved life as Jergunson explains it does leave the notion that we dont truly know how we will memorialize those whose moments are permanently fleeting. How will we remember our generation? Snap stories are gone and Facebook usage is decreasing. Or does maturating change the way we use our technologies? Regardless, how will we be remembered? What is our legacy?

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, did it really happen? If I tweet, snap, share, and no one interacts with it did I exist? Will I be remembered?

Explained: The Grant Process

Many academics, professionals, organizations, and businesses seek out funding by searching for private or public grants. Grants are also known as funding opportunity announcements (FOA). These FOAs are numerated and announced on Grants.gov or through their private funding organizations. The public funding announcements, found on Grants.gov, are typically funded by various federal, state, and local entities, mostly federal. These federal institutions include but are not limited to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Health and Human Services, and many more. These institutions are the funding bodies of many grants which afford organizations and individuals access to funds needed to advance a certain goal.

Once the applicant finds a FOA they identify as fitting their needs, they read the announcement in its entirety to understand if they meet the evaluation criteria and the criteria for qualification. If they do, then they would begin gathering the necessary project-related documents and putting together a grant proposal. These are both separate parts but are critical to the successful submission of a grant proposal for consideration. The grant proposal is a highly technical document that requires a balance between informative writing style and persuasive writing.

The persuasive and technical aspects are often difficult for people to execute and at times many will seek out a grant writer. However, when selecting a grant writer the applicant has to be critical of their experience and knowledge but most importantly of their pricing. Many grant writers charge between 3000-5000 dollars for the completion of a grant proposal. Many will even say they guarantee the work. You should never work with someone who guarantees a process that is inherently not a sure bet. Instead, work with someone who understands your goal and shows a clear direction in how best to approach the grant process. If possible, hire the grant writer to help you find an adequate Funding Opportunity Announcement. If you need advice feel free to reach out to us via our contact form or social media.

Advice: Be sure to submit to multiple Funding Opportunity Announcements to increase your chances of funding.

Please submit any questions you would like answered to our contact form so that we can best provide any additional information you need in a follow-up post!