Archive for July, 2010


representing new media as a techno-social ecology

July 31, 2010

I have been preparing the lecture for introduction of new media, and reading Manovich and Castells. In the end i visualized how the techno-social ecology might be represented for students.

Actually, i will use it for explaining what is new media. I find that the explanation in wiki is not the most clear one.
Introduction to new media
Lecture 1
What is new media?

Questions to answer in the end:
What characterizes new media?
New media – a technology or culture?
Examine critically new media definitions – can YOU define what is new media?

I. New media history
Manovich (2008): We are largely ignorant of collaborators who have gradually turned computer into a cultural machine it is today.
They knew that they were turning physical media into new media with additional properties to interact with.
Alan Kay & Xerox PARC
Ted Nelson
Douglas Engelbart
Ivan Sutherland
Nicholas Negroponte
W. Russell Newman: Blurring private-public and interpersonal-mass media borders
Andrew L. Shapiro: Shift in controlling information and experiences

New media definition
…the amalgamation of traditional media such as film, images, music, spoken and written word, with the interactive power of computer and communications technology, computer-enabled consumer devices and most importantly the Internet (wikipedia)
New media characteristics (wiki page)

Some characteristics:
Blurring the borderlines & evoking interaction: technology, artifacts, contents and people
Mixed media
Interconnected and evolutionary
Creation, publishing, distribution and consumption are democratic
Creative communities
Participatory culture
Digital interactivity

Is it a good definition or should it be broadened?

a representation for explaining new media conception

Why: Creating new media for new types of interaction
The aim of the inventors of computational media was not to simply create accurate simulations of physical media but in every case the goal was to create “a new medium with new properties” which would allow people to communicate, learn, and create in new ways (Manovich, 2008).

Which ideas from the past have influenced new media development significantly?

Xerox PARC has been responsible for developments as:
personal computer
graphical user interface (GUI) featuring windows and icons, the “look and feel”
Ethernet local area computer network
Smalltalk programming language (object-oriented programming)

Alan Kay’s Universal Media Machine
Turn computers into a “personal dynamic media” which can be used for learning, discovery, and artistic creation.
Involve learner in a two-way conversation
He conceived the Dynabook concept (1968) which defined the conceptual basics for laptop and tablet computers and E-books
The democratization of software development was at the core of Kay’s vision
New media are expandable – Users themselves should be able to easily add new properties, as well as to invent new media.
Smalltalk object-oriented programming language
Kay calls computers the first “metamedium” whose content is “a wide range of already-existing and not-yet-invented media.”
These new media use already existing representational formats as their building blocks, while adding many new previously nonexistent properties.

Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin’s book Remediation: Understanding New Media (2000)
Bolter and Grusin define remediation as “the representation of one medium in another.”
New media always remediate the old ones
Remediation is a defining characteristic of the new digital media
Manovich (2008): Kay and others appear to have locked the computer into being a simulation machine for “old media.”
By developing easy to use GUI-based software to create and edit familiar media types software turned a digital computer into a “remediation machine”.
Manovich (2008): the pioneers of computational media did not have the goal of making the computer into a “remediation machine” which would simply represent older media in new ways.
Instead, knowing well new capabilities provided by digital computers, they set out to create fundamentally new kinds of media for expression and communication.

Branching experience: Vannever Bush (1945), As We May Think
Vannever Bush had the idea of a massive branching structure, a memex – as a better way to organize data and to represent human experience.

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual.

The human mind operates by association. Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized.
Consider a future device for individual use, which is a sort of mechanized private file and library. A library of a million volumes could be compressed into one end of a desk.
A memex is a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.

“Associative indexing”
Memex affords to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This process of tying two items together is the essential feature of the memex.
There is a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.
The user finds two items by association and connects them into a trail, and names it. When numerous items have been thus joined together to form a trail, they can be reviewed in turn. Occasionally a comment of his own may be inserted, either linking it into the main trail or joining it by a side trail to a particular item.

Paul Otlet (1934): forefather of information architecture
He envisioned a new kind of scholar’s workstation:
This new research environment would do more than just let users retrieve documents; it would also let them annotate the relationships between one another, “the connections each [document] has with all other [documents], forming from them what might be called the Universal Book.”
Otlet imagined a day when users would access the database from great distances by means of an “electric telescope” connected through a telephone line, retrieving a facsimile image to be projected remotely on a flat screen.

Everything in the universe, and everything of man, would be registered at a distance as it was produced. In this way a moving image of the world will be established, a true mirror of his memory. From a distance, everyone will be able to read text, enlarged and limited to the desired subject, projected on an individual screen. In this way, everyone from his armchair will be able to contemplate creation, as a whole or in certain of its parts.

Branching experience: Jorge Borges (1941) The Garden of Forking Paths
The book is questioning of the idea of history as a single path or linear process; posing instead the idea of history branching out in an infinite number of different directions at every point in time and space.
Every space-time node is the center of a system of branching or forking paths, an ever-recurring moment/place of choice with profound effects on and links to everything else.
In terms of cyberspace, potential hypertextual journeys and branches are possible at every underlined link, every particle event.

Douglas Englebart & The Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect
Developed modern office environment as it exists today (1968):
System included word processing with outlining features,
Documents connected through hypertext (rather than using links to drift through the textual universe associatively and “horizontally,” we move “vertically” between more general and more detailed information).
Online collaboration (two people at remote locations working on the same document in real-time), online user manuals,
Online project planning system, and other elements of what is now called “computer-supported collaborative work.”

Ted Nelson’s “hypertext”
1965 – in the article A File Structure for the Complex, the Changing, and the Indeterminate Nelson talks about new complex interconnectivity of texts and pictures without specifying any particular mechanisms that can be employed to achieve it.
Let me introduce the word “hypertext” to mean a body of written or pictorial material interconnected in such a complex way that it could not be conveniently be presented or represented on paper (1965).
’Hypertext’- is not technology but potentially the fullest generalization of documents and literature (2007).

Nelson: ”hyperfilm” and “hypermedia”
Nelson also introduces the terms hyperfilm and hypermedia:
Films, sound recordings, and video recordings are also linear strings, basically for mechanical reasons. But these, too, can now be arranged as non-linear systems – for instance, lattices – for educational purposes, or for display with different emphasis…
The hyperfilm – a browsable or vari-sequenced movie – is only one of the possible hypermedia that require our attention.

Ted Nelson’s “hypertext” and “strechtext”
Technical realizations:
1965 – “chunk style” hypertext – static links that allow the user to one-way jump from page to page.
1967 – an idea of a type of hypertext which would allow a reader to “obtain a greater detail on a specific subject” which he calls “stretchtext.”

Nelson: The Xanadu hypertext project
The Xanadu Model allows

Nelson: Consequences of hypertexts
Nelson (1965) understood well what his “hypertext” ideas meant for cultural practices and concepts:
“The philosophical consequences of all this are very grave. Our concepts of ‘reading’, ‘writing’, and ‘book’ fall apart, and we are challenged to design ‘hyperfiles’ and write ‘hypertext’ that may have more teaching power than anything that could ever be printed on paper”.

Manovich (2008): Nelson clearly dislikes “ordinary text” and his emphasis is on complexity and interconnectivity and on breaking up conventional units for organizing information such as a page.

Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad (1962)
Sutherland’s PhD thesis: Sketchpad: A man-machine graphical communication system.
a communication system between two entities: a human and an intelligent machine to draw images
The commercial desktop applications that made software-based media authoring and design widely available to members of different creative professions and, eventually, media consumers
Word (1984), PageMaker (1985), Photoshop (1989)

Negroponte (1995), Being Digital
Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT Media Lab
One Laptop Per Child
The back page for WIRED columns
Book Being Digital, 1995
Humanity is inevitably headed towards a future where everything that can will be digitalized
touch-screen technology as a future interface

Bits from Being Digital, 1995
In the post-information age, we often have an audience the size of one and information is extremely personalized.
In being digital I am me.. Me includes information and events…But that unique information about me determines news services I might want to receive. True personalization is now upon us.
The next decade will see cases of intellectual-property abuse and invasion of our privacy.
As the business world globalizes and the Internet grows, we will start to see a seamless digital workplace
Think of hypermedia as a collection of elastic messages that can stretch and shrink in accordance with the reader’s actions.
Being digital has four very powerful qualities that will result in its ultimate triumph: decentralizing, globalizing, harmonizing, and empowering.

Lev Manovich: The Language of New Media
Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media The MIT Press, 2001.
The computer, as the new universal media machine, is producing new discourses and new terms, and thus a new “language”

New media may look like media, but this is only the surface.
Wrong trend to treat the cultural products of computer (word processing documents, cinema with digital special effects, hypertext) as nothing more than old media enhanced by the flexibility and transportability of digital code and a global network.
The computer suggests the relative autonomy of computable information from its media “surface – computer running software produces digital code which simply is not a medium.

The “trasncoding” zone between culture and software
Manovich (2001): The five principles of new media characterize that zone between, across which the transport between computer and culture is happening
His topology of new media is based on a self-conscious analogy to the conventional “levels” of the computer hardware and software (from microprocessor through operating system to high level application).

Manovich (2001): The five principles of new media
First, through numerical representation, a new object can be described formally (mathematically), and subject to algorithmic manipulation: “in short, media becomes programmable.”
Manovich (2001): The five principles of new media
Second, new media objects have modularity at the level of representation and at the level of code.
Thus, new media objects are composed from an assemblage of elements that sustain their separate identity, and can be operated upon separately, without rendering the rest of the assemblage unusable.
Modular programming speeds the development and maintenance of large-scale software.
Thirdly, numerical coding and modularity “allow for the automation of many operations involved in media creation, manipulation, and access.”
Fourthly, while old media depended upon an original construction of an object that could then be exactly reproduced (for example as printed book or photograph), new media is characterized by variability.
The variability of new media allows for branching-type interactivity, periodic updates, and scalability as to size or detail.
Fifth, new media finds itself at the center of the “transcoding” between the layers of the computer and the layers of culture.
The “computerization of culture gradually accomplishes similar transcoding in relation to all cultural categories and subjects.”

“cultural interface”
The interface is habitually the crucial boundary, or zone of articulation and translation whenever a computer would communicate with technological devices or the human user
“Cultural interfaces”, not just the diverse software interfaces of new media but also the formal traits and user practices with the printed word and cinema, can migrate into, and become part of, the interfaces of new media.
“While operations [like selection] are embedded in software, they are not tied to it. They are employed no only within the computer but also in the social world outside it. They are not only ways of working within the computer but also in the social world outside it. They are… general ways of working, ways of thinking, ways of existing the computer age.”

From media studies, we move to something which can be called software studies; from media theory — to software theory.
1. Specify the software technique and underlying technology of new media
2. Open these techniques and technologies out to the broader cultural practices

Lev Manovich. Software Takes Command – 2008
In the end of the 20th century humans have added a fundamentally new dimension to their culture. This dimension is software in general, and application software for creating and accessing content in particular.
“Adding” software to culture changes the identity of everything which a culture is made from.
Software: Search engines, recommendation systems, mapping applications, blog tools, auction tools, instant messaging clients, and platforms which allow others to write new software – Facebook, Windows, Unix, Android – are in the center of the global economy, culture, social life, and, increasingly, politics.
Software (with the exception of Open Source movement) is still invisible to most academics, artists, and cultural professionals interested in IT and its cultural and social effects.
If we don’t address software itself, we are in danger of always dealing only with its effects rather than the causes: the output that appears on a computer screen rather than the programs and social cultures that produce these outputs.

“cultural software”
Definition: “Cultural software” means software programs which are used to create and access media objects and environments.
“Cultural software” is software directly used by hundreds of millions of people and that it carries “atoms” of culture (media and information, as well as human interactions around these media and information).
Cultural software turned media into metamedia – a fundamentally new semiotic and technological system which includes most previous media techniques and aesthetics as its elements

Types of “cultural software”
Such use of the term “social software” partly overlaps with but is not equivalent with the way this term started to be used to refer to Web 2.0 platforms
Applications for media development (or “content creation”) – It is a subset of application software which enables creation, publishing, accessing, sharing, and remixing images, moving image sequences, 3D designs, texts, maps, interactive elements, as well as various combinations of these elements such as web sites, 2D designs, motion graphics, video games, commercial and artistic interactive installations, etc.
The tools for social communication and sharing of media, information, and knowledge such as web browsers, email clients, instant messaging clients, wikis, social bookmarking, social citation tools, virtual worlds, and so on – in short, “social software”.
Tools for personal information management such as address books, project management applications, and desktop search engines. The boundary between “personal information” and “public information” has started to disappear
The programming environments also can be considered under cultural software.
The media interfaces themselves – icons, folders, sounds, animations, and user interactions – are also cultural software, since these interface mediate people’s interactions with media and other people.

Information society, knowledge society, or network society dimensions are enabled by cultural software.
The “knowledge workers”, the “symbol analysts”, the “creative industries”, and the “service industries” – all these key economic players of information society can’t exist without cultural software.
Software is what also drives the process of globalization.

Target of “software studies”
“I think of software as a layer that permeates all areas of contemporary societies.”
Software Studies has to investigate both the role of software in forming contemporary culture, and cultural, social, and economic forces that are shaping development of software itself.
I am suggesting “software studies” should not be confused with “code studies.”
If we are to focus on software itself, we need a new methodology.
“Software” is a new object of study which should be put on the agenda of existing disciplines and which can be studied using already existing methods – for instance, object-network theory, social semiotics, or media archeology.

“a long tail for applications”
New technologies allow people with very little or no programming experience to create new custom software
But we are far from a true “long tail” for software
How software is shaping our culture, and how it is shaped by culture in its turn?

Software culture and interactivity
Our contemporary society can be characterized as a software society and our culture can be justifiably called a software culture – because today software plays a central role in shaping both the material elements and many of the immaterial structures which together make up “culture.”
The most fundamental dimension of software-driven media experience is interactivity.

“software performances”
We now interact with dynamic “software performances.”
I use the word “performance” because what we are experiencing is constructed by software in real time
The final media experience constructed by software can’t be reduced to any single document stored in some media- we are engaging not with pre-defined static documents but with the dynamic outputs of a realtime computation.
When a user interacts with a software application that presents cultural content, this content often does not have definite finite boundaries.
– the user’s experience is only partly defined by the file’s content.
– the “message” which the user “receives” is not just actively “constructed” by her (through a cognitive interpretation) but also actively “managed” (defining what information she is receiving and how.)

Manovich (2008): As experienced by a user of interactive application, “representation” consists from two interlinked parts:
– media structured in particular ways and
– the interfaces/tools provided to navigate and work with this media.

“deep remixability”
The move from desktop applications to webware (applications running on the web), social media sites, easy-to-use blogging and media editing tools such as Blogger, iPhoto and iMovie and the addition of full media capabilities to mobile phones – have transformed how ordinary people use media.
What gets remixed today is not only content from different media but also their fundamental techniques, working methods, and ways of representation and expression.

“content wants to be modular”
Modularity is supported by the standardization of parts and how they fit with each other
Although we see a number of important new types of cultural modularity emerged in software era, it is important to remember that modularity is something that only applies to RSS, social bookmarking, or Web Services. We are talking about the larger cultural logic that extends beyond the Web and digital culture.
What seems to be happening is that the “users” themselves have been gradually “modularizing” culture. In other words, modularity has been coming into mass culture from the outside, so to speak, rather than being built-in, as in industrial production.

“Openness of new media”
“New media” is “new” because new properties (i.e., new software techniques) can always be easily added to it (Manovich, 2008)
Experimentations with media during the industrial era became the norm in a software society:
Phase 1: initial invention, new media form
Phase 2: everyday use
Phase 3: “opening up” for new use or inventions

“media hybridization”
Manovich (2008): I believe that we are now living through a second stage in the evolution of a computer metamedium, which follows the first stage of its invention and implementation. This new stage is about media hybridization.
I am not talking about something that already has a name – “computer multimedia,” or simply “multimedia.”

“hybrid media”
I’m putting forward the term hybrid media
Media hybridity is a more fundamental reconfiguration of media universe than multimedia:
In multimedia documents and interactive applications, content in multiple media appears next to each other, multimedia does not threaten the autonomy of different media
In contrast, in the case of media hybrids, interfaces, techniques, and ultimately the most fundamental assumptions of different media forms and traditions are brought together resulting in new species of media.
To represent something differently: to reconfigure media formats in order to create new representations of human collective and individual experiences which fuse objective and subjective dimensions
To provide new ways of navigation and working with existing media formats i.e. new interfaces and tools

Step 4
The replacement of mass consumption of commercial culture in the 20th century by mass production of cultural objects by users in the early 21st century
People build their worlds and identities out of these readily available objects by using different tactics: bricolage, assembly, customization, remix
Products are explicitly designed to be customized by the users

Co-evolving in larger techno-social ecology
the computer metamedium development is like a biological evolution, and the new combinations of media elements are like new biological species
some hybrids that emerge in the course of media evolution will not be “selected” and will not “replicate.”
Other hybrids, on the other hand, may “survive” and successfully “replicate.” Eventually such successful hybrids may become the common conventions in media design
I am not making any claims that the actual mechanisms of media evolution are indeed like the mechanisms of biological evolution.)
None of the software programs and web sites function in isolation but participate in larger techno-social ecology as a whole.
The particular elements and their relationship in this ecology are likely to change over time – for instance, most media content may eventually be available on the network; communication between devices may similarly become fully transparent; and the very rigid physical separation between people, devices they control, and “non-smart” passive space may become blurred

Changes at web 2.0
The new paradigms that emerge in the 2000s are not about new types of media software per ce.
Instead, they have to with the exponential expansion of the number of people who now use it – and the web as a new universal platform for non-professional media circulation.
“Social software,” “social media,” “user-generated content,” “Web 2.0,” “read/write Web” are some of the terms that were coined in this decade to capture these developments.
Functionally: aggregation of microcontents across domains

Richard MacManus and Joshua Porter (2005), “Enter Web 2.0, a vision of the Web in which information is broken up into “microcontent” units that can be distributed over dozens of domains.
The Web of documents has morphed into a Web of data.
We are no longer just looking to the same old sources for information. Now we’re looking to a new set of tools to aggregate and remix microcontent in new and useful ways.”

Changes at web 2.0
A much large number of producers publish content into “a global media cloud”; the users create personalized mixes by choosing from this cloud.
In the new communication model that has been emerging after 2000, information is becoming more atomized. You can access individual atoms of information without having to read/view the larger packages in which it is enclosed.
Information is gradually becoming presentation and device independent
– “conversations about media”
– “conversations through media”

Manuel Castells: The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture
The Rise of the Network Society (1996)
The Power of Identity (1997)
End of Millennium (1998)
“Our societies are increasingly structured around the bipolar opposition of the Net and the Self”

Manuel Castells (1989): the “space of places”, versus the “space of flows”
Space is not a refection of the society, it is its expressions.
Spatial forms and processes are formed by the dynamics of the overall social structure.
Social processes influence space by acting on the built environment inherited from the previous social-spatial structures.
A new industrial space is the changed formation of the space as a consequence of technological innovations

“space of flows”
The information age is ushering in a new urban form, the informational city.
The new society is based upon knowledge, organized around networks, and largely made up of flows.
Flow is a purposeful, repetitive, programmable sequence of exchange and interaction between social actors
The “space of flows” is the material organization of time-sharing social practices that work through flows.
“the space of flows” . . . links up distant locales around shared functions and meanings on the basis of electronic circuits and fast transportation corridors, while isolating and subduing the logic of experience embodied in the “space of places”.
In the network of interaction no place exists by itself, since the positions are defined by flows.
Places do not disappear, but their logic and meaning becomes adsorbed in the network.
The space of flow is not placeless – some places are exchangers, communication hubs; other places are nods of the network for strategically important functions.
A place is a locale, people still live in places but function and power in societies are organized in the space of flows.
The global city is not a place, it’s a process. A process by which centers of productions and consumptions of advanced services, and their ancillary local societies are connected in a global network, while simultaneously downplaying the linkages with their hitherlands, on the basis of information flows.

Marshall McLuhan: modern media theory

The Guttenberg Galaxy: the making of typographic man (1962)
Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man (1964)

“the medium is the message”
“transmission” view of culture describes mass communication (and sometimes culture in general) as a communication process between the authors who create “messages” and audiences that “receive” them.

– the centrality of the physical medium of communication: media (environment) determines (human) culture
– what media do in the mind

“You see, Dad, Professor McLuhan says the environment that man creates becomes his medium for defining his role in it. The invention of type created linear, or sequential, thought, separating thought from action. Now, with TV and folk singing, thought and action are closer and social involvement is greater. We again live in a village. Get it?”

“the medium is the massage”
the transformation of the 1st slogan into its somatic extension: emphasizing the way the physical contours of a medium conditions production, use and experience of media
how bodies can dispose themselves while communicating
The wheel…
…. is the extension of the foot
Shaped by the nature of the media
Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which men communicate than by the content of the communication.
In the name of progress our official culture is striving to force the new media to do the work of the old.
We approach the new with the psychological conditioning and sensory responses of the old.

New media encourages unification and involvement
The medium, or process, of our time—electric technology—is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.
It is forcing us to reconsider and reevaluate practically every thought, every action, and every institution formerly taken for granted.
Electric technology fosters and encourages unification and involvement.
our claim to privacy versus the community’s need to know
Electrical information devices for universal, tyrannical womb-totomb surveillance are causing a very serious dilemma between our claim to privacy and the community’s need to know. The older, traditional ideas of private, isolated thoughts and actions—the patterns of mechanistic technologies—are very seriously threatened by new methods of instantaneous electric information retrieval, by the electrically computerized dossier bank—that one big gossip column that is unforgiving, unforgetful and from which there is no redemption, no erasure of early “mistakes.”
Electric circuitry has overthrown the regime of “time” and “space” and pours upon us instantly and continuously the concerns of all other men. It has reconstituted dialogue on a global scale.
The old civic, state, and national groupings have become unworkable.
You can’t go home again.

“creative, participating force”
The public, in the sense of a great consensus of separate and distinct viewpoints, is finished. Today, the mass audience (the successor to the “public”) can be used as a creative, participating force.
The shock of recognition! In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained—ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.

The role of technology?
The environment as a processor of information is propaganda. Propaganda ends where dialogue begins. You must talk to the media, not to the programmer.
To talk to the programmer is like complaining to a hot dog vendor at a ballpark about how badly your favorite team is playing.

Temporary train station
If a traditional twentieth century model of cultural communication described movement of information in one direction from a source to a receiver,
…now the reception point is just a temporary station on information’s path.
If we compare information or media object with a train, then each receiver can be compared to a train station.
Information arrives, gets remixed with other information, and then the new package travels to other destination where the process is repeated (Manovich, 2008).

– new media drives the globalization
– the globalized public sphere
– making physical location much less significant for our social relationships

The Internet Galaxy (2001), a book by Manual Castells

Castells created the term “Internet galaxy” by analogy to media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s term, “Gutenberg galaxy.”
McLuhan used the term to describe a complex set of social changes in European society that resulted from the development of the printing press.
Castells’s book title implicitly signals that he believes the Internet is as significant as Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press.

“Networks are very old forms of human practice, but they have taken on a new life in our time by becoming information networks, powered by the Internet.
the Net is creating a new form of “networked individualism” by helping Netizens develop “portfolios of sociability” and “communities of choice.”

The elasticity of the Internet makes it particularly susceptible to intensifying the contradictory trends present in our world. Neither utopia nor dystopia, the Internet is the expression of ourselves – through a specific code of communication, which we must understand if we want to change our reality,”

Technological determinism?
“The culture of the Internet is made up of a technocratic belief in the progress of humans through technology, enacted by communities of hackers thriving on free and open technological creativity, embedded in virtual networks aimed at reinventing society, and materialized by money-driven entrepreneurs into the workings of the new economy,”
“Technological systems are socially produced. The Internet is, above all else, a cultural creation. The Internet culture today is characterized by a four-layer structure: the techno-meritocratic culture, the hacker culture, the virtual communitarian culture, and the entrepreneurial culture,”


Chocolate example: self-organized symbol-generation

July 2, 2010

In Web 2.0 systems people constantly interpret the world using digital technology to capture their impressions and social media to spread them in Internet. They signify the world with the navigational cues for themselves and for the others to come.

For example Monica Stelly wrote:
Chocolate will never judge you.
Chocolate goes great with any occasion.
It is always there for you no matter the situation.
It is something you can count on to help solve your difficult problems.
Chocolate can help mend a broken heart.
Chocolate is good for the mind, body, and soul.

A sign is the basic unit of meaning, anything that stands for something else, each twit and picture is the sign for the narrated perception of the reality.

For example twits for:

I am almost liking Jaiku as the dark chocolate.

This city is gonna be a chocolate city at the end of the day.

Love dark chocolate on a bad day!

Sometimes even dark chocolate has no effect.

They convey the meaning ranging from (for more see this):

Chocolate as pleasure ….. Chocolate as comfort

Such personal narrative acts (twits, images, blog-posts) being uploaded to the web accumulate in dynamic self-organized narrative ecosystems.
Each narrative act, as well as, the whole narrative ecosystem can influence the symbol- and thereby the identity-generation of the communities through feedback loops.

Symbol refer to something associated with and standing for, representing, or identifying something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible. A symbol can be embued with rich layers of meanings. A symbol has a narrow or wide ranges of meanings limited to an individual or for a community or culture.

In Carl Jung’s view, a sign stands for something known, a symbol stands for something that is unknown and that cannot be made clear or precise (Wikipedia).

For example: Chocolate as a symbol of status (which kind you can afford) or Chocolate as the symbol of love (supposed aphrodisiac properties)

or the more recent chocolate and the politic manifest:
Is There Slavery In Your Chocolate?

STOCKHOLM – The official chocolate sold in connection with the Swedish Crown Princess’s wedding is produced with the help of child labour, a Swedish public radio report charged Friday.

Shared identity is based on shared symbols. In communities the personal variation in the understanding of the same sign as a symbol allows constant dynamism in the narrative ecosystem.

For example: Sometimes even dark chocolate has no effect.

(for removing sadness or for creating love?)

So i am eating dark chocolate but it may be for because i am in spleen and sadly and it is the last try, but will help for nothing, or i am excited and it pleasures me and i am in love.

Dark chocolate: pleasure or suicide?

At the same time, the symbols provide the constraints to the meaning of the signs that develop community identity. The symbols serve as the community niche – those symbol interpretations that are more frequently used by individuals as the meanings of their signs will determine the present state of the niche and influence how each individual interprets the available signs in narrative ecosystem.

Here are some navigational cues from the Twitter ecosystem with 3 dimensions: chocolate, pleasure, sadness:

eating Chocolate!!….my guilty pleasure *__* ♥ I Looooooveee chocolate!

Milk chocolate is pleasure for a moment with a fast death

choose chocolate over sex, theres no feelins involved except pleasure and no pain afterwards

Scientific research has proven that chocolate release the same amount of pleasure that sex.

Women who eat more chocolate find more pleasure sexually.

Kissing a chocolate might gives the highest pleasure

Ummm, chocolate indeed gives you more pleasure than kissing.

A bar of chocolate can actually reduce sadness. Says me

I wish I had a Belgian chocolate… this sadness is not going to go away on its own, you know!

chocolate cures broken hearts and sadness! (:

The empty sad hole in my heart needs to be filled with chocolate cement.

70%of women prefer to eat chocolate than have sex.

You make me sad. SUPER SAD! Way to break my heart! You owe me baked goods or chocolate now.


I was reading the paper that triggered the ideas above:

Emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication in artificial creatures
Action editor: Ron Sun
Angelo Loula, Ricardo Gudwin, Charbel Nin˜o El-Hani, Joa˜o Queiroz
Cognitive Systems Research 11 (2010) 131–147

Loula et al. (2010) created a digital behavioral ecology that allowed the emergence of self-organized symbol-based communication of artificial creatures. Such creatures inhabit a virtual world of unpredictable predatory events and behave as autonomous agents that can learn symbolic relations in an unsupervised manner, with no explicit feedback, and are able to engage simultaneously in dynamical and autonomous communicative interactions with other creatures.

Their main finding was:
In virtual worlds the artificial creatures, assuming the role of sign users and learners, learn symbolic relations in an unsupervised manner, with no explicit feedback and behave collectively as a complex adaptive system, where local self-organized communicative interactions play a major role in the emergence of symbol-based communication at macro level (Loula et al., 2010).

Signs may be viewed as competing entities trying to spread through a community of sign users.

A sign is anything that stands for something else.

The creatures behave as sign exchangers, which reproduce the learned signs, making them able to be used by other creatures, as signs disseminate in the community.

The self-organization is based on positive and negative feedback loops: the more a sign is used the more the creatures reinforce it (and weaken others), and, as a result, the frequency of usage of that sign increases (and others decrease); in turn, the less a sign is used the less it is reinforced, and, consequently, its usage decreases.

The stronger the sign association is, the more it will be used, and the more it is used, the more it will be reinforced. This positive feedback loop allows the self-organization of the community sign repertoire, with alarm-referent associations getting stronger, making it possible that, at some point, signs become symbols.

A symbol may have more than one meaning.
Symbols may have very narrow or quite wide ranges of meaning. The range may be limited to an individual, or perhaps to a small group. People other than the individual or group will not understand that meaning of the symbol. A symbol’s range may be cultural.

The system can be seen as moving in a state space defined as composed of all individual sign repertoires.

The system moves from point to point each time a creature adjusts its repertoire, i.e. when learning takes place. In this search space, attractors are defined as points in which all individual repertoires converge to a common one, thus stabilizing the system.

In this self-organizing system, a systemic process (symbol-based communication), as much as a global pattern (a common repertoire of symbols), emerges from local communicative interactions, without any external or central control. This complex system of communicative creatures can be viewed as a semiotic system of symbol-based communication with three different hierarchical levels.

The semiotic processes of symbol-based communication emerge at the focal level through the interaction of a microsemiotic level, containing a repertoire of potential sign, object, and interpretant relations within an interpreter or an utterer, and a macro-semiotic level, amounting to a self-organized network of all communication processes that occurred and are occurring. It is in this hierarchical system that things in the environment become elements in triadic-dependent processes, i.e., signs come to be associated with objects in such a manner that their relationship depends on the mediation of a learned association (i.e., they become symbols).

The environment also plays an essential role in the system dynamics by providing physical contextual constraints (visual cues). When potential sign relations are actualized, the environment in which the semiotic system is situated will establish specific constraints for the utterer’s sign production and for the interpreter’s sign interpretation (any surrounding entity). The system’s history at the macrosemiotic level establishes constraints for the system’s dynamics, which can be treated as boundary conditions, being the system variability reduced with utterers using established signs in its associative memory, and interpreters being able to use the same repository to interpret alarms, which ultimately become symbols.