This is what 200 hours a finger, an iPad Air, the app Procreate and immense talent will get you. Kyle Lambert.
Nearly a half century after Dylan released Like A Rolling Stone comes a crazy interactive video for the song that features various people on different tv channels lip-synching the song--you can change the channels as you watch, pretty out there and surprising after all this time. Here.
I've been thinking a lot about technology lately. For a number of reasons not the least of which is because I have been teaching a class on theology and media culture, half of it devoted to television, the other to digital technologies. The ultimate goal of the class is to think about theologies of technology and as we are drawing near to the end of the course, I am focusing my own thinking, tweaking old ideas, reflecting on new possibilities and attempting, as always, to refine my own thinking and approaches to the realm of technology.
One of the things I have noticed is the reticence from the majority of Christian thinkers on this stuff. The usual approach is generally one of caution and critique, apart from Mark C Taylor most of the reading I have come across has essentially painted a wary posture towards technology and culture, something that does not sit well with me. I am just not a culture-despiser, nor am I blind to folly, or for the need for critique, but I begin with enthusiasm not suspicion (that's the reverse of how I do all my thinking about church funnily enough-ha! must think about that:)). I think this is probably because I do not regard secular society as a problem, but rather as the condition, and secondly, I believe that secularity is a product of religion and therefore has a religious dimension or shape to it, so while I may find much to challenge, I cannot create the pseudo-objective, too prescriptive correcto-theology that often is the result of these engagements. I'll post my latest theological posturings in the next couple of weeks as I bring the class to a close, but in the meantime, you can enjoy these photos from Noodlez--Yes its a naked woman smashing technology-trite, predictable, unnecessary-maybe, but they are cool photos.
Time magazine had a fairly provocative cover article in a recent issue. The article was about Calico, Google's new venture whose commitment is to the solving the 'death problem.' The company brief is that it "will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases." Calico's CEO and founding investor is Arthur D. Levinson, the former CEO of Genentech, the biotech corporation, and Apple chairman. The basic drive behind all this is Google's belief that medicine is becoming an information science (something that Mark C. Taylor has noted in his great book, The Moment of Complexity, arguing that it is important to expand our notion of information to make it as inclusive as possible),as the article notes
"Medicine is well on its way to becoming an information science: doctors and researchers are now able to harvest and mine massive quantities of data from patients. And Google is very, very good with large data sets. While the company is holding its cards about Calico close to the vest, expect it to use its core data-handling skills to shed new light on familiar age-related maladies. Sources close to the project suggest it will start small and focus entirely on researching new technologies."
This idea should really come as no surprise, Google is a big company and has its eye on any number of ideas connected to the flourishing of life. Larry Page, one of Google's founders, is also one of the founders of the Singularity University, an institution committed to exploring a future,
"when a superior intelligence will dominate and life will take on an altered form that we can’t predict or comprehend in our current, limited state." So a desire to extend and prolong life might fit nicely with that perspcetive.
Personally I think that the idea of singualrity is more connected to America's fascination with a particular interpretation of apocalypticism, it's not too far away from religious 'end-of-the-worlders' in my mind, but to each his own, and there are some very interesting ideas and technologies coming out of this thinking. The idea that technology can solve the world's ills has always been a part of the human/technology equation, and let's face it, there have been advancements in the state of human affairs greatly benefitted by tech advances, but I am not fully convinced that we will ever fully 'transcend all the limitations of our biology,' as another founder Ray Kurzweil claims, I am in fact, not sure we should even try--life is lived in the shadow of death, and, in spite of our protestations to the contrary, I think that attempting to transcend all the limitations of our biology is a bit of a fairy tale dressed up in scientific-techno-babble for the most part. Of course I could, and probably am, wrong.
There was a quote from Page that I did find a little troubling,
"What’s certain is that looking at medical problems through the lens of data and statistics, rather than simply attempting to bring drugs to market, can produce startlingly counterintuitive opinions. “Are people really focused on the right things?” Page muses. “One of the things I thought was amazing is that if you solve cancer, you’d add about three years to people’s average life expectancy. We think of solving cancer as this huge thing that’ll totally change the world. But when you really take a step back and look at it, yeah, there are many, many tragic cases of cancer, and it’s very, very sad, but in the aggregate, it’s not as big an advance as you might think.”
I understand, I think, the larger context in which this is being said, and I might agree to a degree if my lens were simply data, but that's not the lens through which we uniquely see life is it? Life is not measured by data, it's measured by moments, by breath, encounter, experience, dust, dirt, grime, joy, sex, work, play and all the other immeasurable elements that make up what it means to be alive and spread out over mathematical equations and statistical probabilities these become inconsequential.
So perhaps he's right, maybe in the grand scheme of things a cure for cancer is small fish, but it's worth it if you ask me. It seems to me there are lots of things that could be done before resources are devoted to this pursuit--life expectancy could be addressed by things as simple as re-distribution of wealth, food, or health and medicine resources, but that cuts into systems of power and control?
Anyway, I don't have any real answers, I thought it was a very interesting article ( I am not even that down on the idea), that raises important questions about how and in what way we deal with the challenges of life and what we might perhaps prioritize in our pursuit of human flourishing.
I don't often write about apps, and I am not that into playing loads of games on my mobile devices, however, Device 6 is worth a mention. It's not exactly a game, nor is it exclusively a book, it's a bit of both, perhaps best described as a digital experience. It is a carefully crafted aesthetic experience, very 60s-like, you'll find yourself drawn into a Hitchcockian story with invitations to peer through windows, move your device around from portrait to landscape, all the while entering a curated and stylized world of mystery and intrigue. It's $4 well spent, worth it for the design sensibility alone.
October 4th marked the anniversary of the death of Rembrandt, he passed from the earth in 1699. Some clever person has created a Facebook timeline for Rembrandt--it's an ad for the Rijk's Museum in Amsterdam, a destination that is reason enough for anyone to make a trip to the Netherlands by the way.
On September 30th, 1929, John Logie Baird, inventor of the televisor, initiated the first ever live tv broadcast in London. A fitting beginning point for the Fall term's class on theology and media culture.
The class is going to focus on two principle media lenses--the first half will consider television, the second focusing on the digital shift and concentrating on social media. There is communication, media and cultural theory, plus theological methodologies, thinking about the way various media re-direct content, transform how and what we communicate. It's ultimately about joining dots between theology, culture and media exploring the interplays between various artifacts.
I'm about to start a new term at the theology school and my focus this time around will be theology and media culture, divided into two sections: television and digital media. So I have been mentally gathering thoughts and ideas and genrally scouring corners for ideas and materials to supplement my own thinking. I have spent the past couple of years thinking a lot about the interface between technology and faith, I think we have underestimated the link in terms of how technology reframes the way we look at the world.
Yesterday I wrote a blog about Twitter and Facebook, encapsulating my thinking and feeling about their various contributions to my self-understanding and how I interact with them, but in the course of that blog I also confessed to being a bit of an Instagram addict. I love imagery, always have, in all the modes they come to us, painting, two-dimensional, three-dimensional, photography on and on. I live in a world shaped by my relation to imagery, in fact, I do much of my thinking using imagery of one form or another as a starting point.
I came across this image and I think it is pretty interesting. The photography archive at The Library of Congress is a tiny square, a single pixel in a huge sea of Facebook and other digital media repositories (now we can't discuss this in terms of quality, it may not necessarily play out the same way on a graph if we were to apply quality or style etc. to the issue). I'm thinking about this in terms of what it says about our broader cultural context, and what it says to me is that we are living in a time where there are new literacies emerging and one of them is a new visual literacy, perhaps we might even say, hyper-visual literacy. We are awash in images, it's part of our 'new normal' to follow on from another recent blog post. There was a recent iphone ad that talks about the number of photos taken everyday with iPhone 5,
What does it mean that so many images flood our lives, well, I think it means that the meaning of the images themselves has changed--they have shifted from being artistic artifacts or some sort of representation of reality and they didn't really contribute much to the structuring or constructing of meaning, that was left to text, but these days it seems that our visual literacy is different and we reagrd images as expressions of reality rather than simple representations, and they make meaning, or at least we use them to make meaing of our lives whether text is present or not.
The conversation about the rise of the image and the fall of the word, of text, has been around for a while now, but we may actually be closer to that reality now, in terms of how we think about various and ascendant/descendant forms of literacy, than when those conversations began and essentially ended. Like many ideas, it may have been slightly ahead of its time, and now is a better time to think it through.
I am a utilizer of social media like most of my peers. I have taken to Instagram like a duck to water, I love images and could spend ages, waste ages, just exploring images and the links to those who 'like' or 'comment,' but I also connect via Twitter and Facebook.
I spend time on Twitter (it has admittedly suffered because of my Instagram focus) and I have a Facebook page that I check in with occasionally and I don't post anything there. I left Facebook for a while, and didn't miss it, and only re-connected because of work obligations--I must admit that while I understand the appeal, I don't like Facebook very much. The reason is that Facebook is essentially about the past, and it seems a little obsessed with catching up on one's past. That whole Timeline thing drives me nuts, I just am not sure that I think defining ourselves by where we went to school or college etc. is the best way to understand ourselves. I recently said in a chat with Tripp Fuller, that I think Facebook is the new suburbia, what I meant is that there is this sanitized, organized, uniformity to Facebook and its interactions that feels like the suburbs to me, all manicured lawns and station wagons in the digital driveway--nothing wrong with it, it's just not for me really, I don't like to organize my life that way.
Twitter on the other hand is filled with people from my current life-people with whom I've mostly interacted over the past few years who are thinking things, doing things that excite me, who provoke and interest me now--whose thoughts about tv or music, films, art, ideas, etc., stimulate me. The funny thing is, my Twitter friends probably know less about me than many of my Facebook friends do, and I know less of them, but we don't need all that info, or maybe we discover it by other means, but we don't need an 'about' page, or need to know what high school we attended. It's not that I am trying hide anything, or am running away from my past, and it's not that I don't have old friends on Twitter, but only old friends with whom I have maintained a long and active relationship. I actually joined Facebook so that I could message people I wanted to contact and who had been slow to answer e-mails (soooo yesterday!!:)), and a friend told me that people who knew tended to respond to 'pokes' much quicker than e-mails, and he turned out to be right, to some degree Twitter achieves that with even more immediacy.
Twitter is all about immediacy, it has little to no memory, there is no history cache to mine, a stream of new information about right now, sometimes about the future, but always now. Facebook is a stream of history interrupted by cat videos and sunset pictures. I'm joking of course, the connections and functions are not that binary and either/or, but nonetheless, it seems to me that one is essentially concerned with the present and the other is principally about the past; one is devoted to crafting an orderly presence, to swim in a stream of orderly information, the other invites a more visceral and chaotic engagement with right now, and I like that.