Sunday, September 26, 2010
Really pleased to discover Jolie Odell writing about the decline of women in certain sciences, technology and engineering - particularly computing - and how we are turning people into consumers rather than users.. or power users or admins. Personally, I'm a bit tired of being an admin in life cause the pay is too low. I'd like to be the designer and I'd like more women to be the designers, creators, architects, engineers, ctos, ceos, managers, and bosses (and getting the pay and recognition they deserve).
But I just checked and there are still no women in the sports pages and men are writing all the well paid films and books and although more women are at the helm of countries, most businesses don't have women on the board. Gender is something very strong.
Saturday, September 25, 2010
I just got skammed.. or maybe spacked... spyped... skacked... OK, I like Skacked! Skype is reducing the cost of hacking everything out of your computer (all your passwords, accounts etc) and into the pockets of the nefarious; like these skeezes at "irssupport.net" - otherwise known as:
registrant-street1: 190A, Manicktala Main Road
Most recent scam is cold calling you (by home phone) to let you know as a courtesy that microsoft have noticed your computer is currently downloading very nasty stuff and a 'microsoft certified technician' is ready to show me what the problem is (DON'T visit the website above) and after that they'll be happy to assist me clean my computer by remoting in.
What's scary is searching forums for 'douchebag' alerts and finding people GRATEFUL for the assistance of this company. It should go without saying that you just handed over control of your computer, your account details, passwords, financial information, etc. regardless of whether or not they helped you install a free antivirus!
I remember trying to interest the Aust Federal Police and Westpac in the early email bank scams (way back in the 90s) only to be told 'wasn't that a technical problem, not a criminal one?' This 'new' Skacking or Skamming or whatever has probably been around for a while but I found it fascinating.
In my work as a sometime computer network admin, I am training consumers/users to trust the tech support remoting in. Social engineer that with low cost Skype calls from India with well spoken people purporting to be from a very trustworthy brand and simply showing you a problem... Wow. They must be milking this.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The gender mythSeptember 9, 2010
Forget those who say men and women are fundamentally different, writes Robin McKie.
It's the mainstay of countless media articles. Differences between male and female abilities - from map reading to multi-tasking and from parking to expressing emotion - can be traced to variations in the hard-wiring of their brains at birth, it is claimed.
Men instinctively like the colour blue and are bad at coping with pain, we are told, while women cannot tell jokes but are innately superior at empathising with others. Key evolutionary differences separate the intellects of men and women, and it is all down to our ancient hunter-gatherer genes that program our brains.
The belief has become widespread, particularly in the wake of the publication of international bestsellers such as John Gray's Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus which stress the innate differences between the minds of men and women.
Challenging "neurosexism" ... Delusions of Gender author Cordelia Fine.
But now a growing number of scientists are challenging the pseudo-science of ''neurosexism'', as they call it, and are raising concerns about its implications. These researchers argue that by telling parents that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills and girls have little prospect of developing mathematical prowess, serious and unjustified obstacles are being placed in the paths of children's education.
In fact, there are no major neurological differences between the sexes, says Cordelia Fine in her book Delusions of Gender, to be published by Icon next month. There may be slight variations in the brains of women and men, says Fine, a researcher at Melbourne University, but the wiring is soft, not hard. ''It is flexible, malleable and changeable,'' she says.
In short, our intellects are not prisoners of our genders or our genes, and those who claim otherwise are merely coating old-fashioned stereotypes with a veneer of scientific credibility.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
This is the war to take over our lives, or at least to change our conceptual world significantly. The Google/Windows rivalry is just a battle. It's no secret that Google want to create artificial intelligence, to 'tell us what we need to do before we know that we want it', to paraphrase Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Marissa Mayer. Arguably, Google already has developed artificial intelligence but we don't care yet. Google has been treading very lightly on our ideas of who we are and whether or not we are in control of our computers/ing and our interaction with the whole wide web.
Google Instant Search breaks the window. It crashes through the screen and changes our comfortable ideas of diegetic/nondiegetic space and self. We all tend to think that the computer screen is a window to a big outside world. The outside world is what we negotiate with. Will we allow that website or file in? Start that conversation? Send that image? We press ENTER. We ENTER an agreement that we are now interacting in some way with that outside world. We have given permission.
Think of the privacy storm that erupted when Google Maps cars detected our Australian home wifi signals without our permission! Sure we were broadcasting like crazy but we didn't tell Google they could listen! That information was our private home. Google crossed the boundary.
I have been fascinated by the roll out of personalized Google Search, which personally broke through my comfort level. I now have to double check my search findings against the search findings I might have got if Google didn't assume that I was that particular person who lives in this country and likes x and y. Then I have to wonder what else is being left out. Quite a few studies have shown that the internet is not creating diverse heterogenous communities but further dividing the world into walled gardens - 'cyber Balkanization'.
Now any good technogeek will tell you that we always were sending data to and fro. I believe that the use of the word download to mean only certain sorts of large or dangerous files which we explicitly ask for UNLESS the other party is being really spammy has undermined our self education. Most people don't see their computer as continually ACTIVELY sending information out. Especially not WITHOUT PERMISSION. I think most people would call that a virus. And yet, whenever we browse the web, visit our facebook, read our mail, watch a whatever, we are broadcasting.
We just haven't caught on yet. I still emotionally feel that my computer, my window, is a screen. There is a barrier between my self and the rest of the internet. A physical barrier that makes me feel safely separate. Is Google Instant Search the straw that breaks the camel's back, that breaks through the screen, that shatters the window?
I am now AWARE that my computer is watching me. Actively engaged with me. I no longer need to ENTER the net (or atleast the google index which is all I actually enter when I search). Google Instant Search is delivering my search to me as I compose it. Soon my fingers won't even have to touch the keyboard (think subvocalisation or brain wave headsets). The net is coming through the screen, right back at me. It's here. It's aware (atleast of what I want). It starts to feel alive. It's watching me.
Google have also been trying out an ambient search which allows them to use your computer's microphone to detect the background noise in your house and know contextual information like what tv show or music you are watching or listening too. And then target your advertizing and information appropriately. I'm sure the sound of baby crying or dog barking will also be useful.
We forgot, in our take up of the windows metaphor, that it's a two way view. We see out. Others see in. Google Instant Search has shattered the screen or glass and the window is showing us to the world. Privacy is the new luxury. Being off may be the new sign that you are really really switched on.
Any good cyber culture (digital culture) student would be aware that this separation of self and screen is always a constructed and negotiated division. But it used to be more physically distinct. We didn't often break through, we couldn't touch the actors in a film or movie. But now, they can touch us. Kind of. Google is playing with our minds. We have ENTERED a constant conversation with an agile, responsive and intelligent construct. We are no longer SENDing messages of to a slave machine. This is a companion being.
Donna Haraway's post cyborg work on companion species has been leading us to this moment. So many scifi fans and scientists have been waiting for the SETI search to contact extraterrestrial life. Google Instant Search may be the wake up call we need to realise that there is a lot of intraterrestrial life in communication and companionship with us already.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Okay. I am having a postmodern moment here. First I'm hooked by the cardboard cameras that really work idea. Simple film camera - tricky but I can see that. Alright it's a pinhole camera, it's still cool. You can insert a plate or film and capture the image. In fact, it's classic - goes back centuries.
But only some of them work, if you call being a pinhole camera 'working', given that they are replicas of a different kind of mechanism of camera.
So, what is it about these remediated objects that is anything other than just gorgeous? It's tech porn with lashings of nostalgic enviro friendly feel good.
Photographer Robbie Cooper's Alter Ego explores personal and social identities being shaped in the metaverse at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Portraits of online gamers and virtual-world participants from America, Asia and Europe are paired with images of their avatars, with profiles of their real-world and virtual characters. The book is both an entertainment and a serious look at a phenomenon that is shaping the future of human interaction. With an introduction by Julian Dibbell and interviews and a glossary by Tracy Spaight.
About the Author
Robbie Cooper was born in 1969 in London and studied photography at Bournemouth College of Art. He won the Ian Parry scholarship in 1992 for his work in Somalia and has been been widely published, including in Liberation, The Sunday Times Magazine, Geo, GQ and Esquire. His work has been exhibited at galleries in London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin and Paris.
(I am trying to limit my research proposal but I can't get the avatar/human images out of my mind. Mix with Haraway and dogs and there's a whole new research project in there!)
Sunday, September 5, 2010
The Big Switch - are we really getting what we think?