Tag Archive 'internet'
Attention is one of the foundations of awareness. Without it, we have no protection against information which is poured into us. Without attention we cannot transform information into wisdom. Then without choice we ingest whatever is put in front of us.
Without attention we risk becoming servomechanisms of technology, clicking compulsively with no clear direction. An open mind without goals is very different from the lack of direction of a mind frenzied with the longing to be filled. Lacking attention we have no control over our intentions nor critical perspective for interpreting information.
Attention is an ingredient of mindfulness – the awareness of our inner state which includes our body, feelings, and sensations. Meditation techniques begin with focused attention and concentration.
With attention, awareness, mindfulness, “presence” and a quiet mind, we are nourished by our interiority instead of force fed by external stimuli. As attention is connected to our identity, weak attention produces a weak identity.
B. Alan Wallace, on page 6 of The Attention Revolution (Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006) writes that “One progresses through each stage by rooting out progressively more subtle forms of the two obstacles: mental agitation and dullness.”
The strenghtening of the inner attention and concentration is a requisite for the progress toward an expanded awareness, which, in turn, “being lucid harmony (sattva) in action, dissolves dullness and quietens the restlessness of the mind and gently, but steadily changes its very substance. This change need not be spectacular; it may be hardly noticeable; yet it is a deep and fundamental shift from darkness to light, from inadvertence to awareness” (Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That, Acorn Press, Durham, 1982, p. 271).
TV definitely tends toward dulling the mind, as documented by Jerry Mander and many others. TV keeps the viewer glued to the screen both by giving a linear narrative and by quick edits and visual stimulation that leverage our ancient instinct. We can’t help but attend to any changes in our visual space, which in ancient times gave better chances of survival against predators. This mechanism of mental stimulation is even more present on the Internet than on TV because of its multitasking possibilities.
Also, the Internet, being composed mostly of small pieces of information competing for our attention, has a less linear narrative. Furthermore, the Internet, smartphones, and videogames don’t have a temporal structure; thus, there is no clear “beginning” or “end,” as in traditional media such as TV, where programs start and stop on a schedule. Thus, there’s no inherent end to online interaction. Online, we expect answers immediately, and with that expectation reinforced, our endlessly curious mind is pulled further into the current.
The positive side of dullness is relaxation and the positive side of mental agitation is a curious, active mind. A relaxed though active mind is a marker of a receptive, creative, and balanced mind. TV and the Internet seduce us by simulating those states.
For some time, I thought that TV promoted mostly dullness while the Internet causes mental restlessness, but those states are complementary and support each other. The two media are coming closer to each other. TV is presenting more “multitasking” capabilities by running text on the screen and by using quick cuts and edits, while the Internet is becoming more passive due to the presence of videos and an endless “real-time” stream of information (news sites, blog entries, Twitter, Facebook, Google+) that we browse mostly in a passive way. A great majority of people are lurkers and don’t contribute to the user-generated content, and even the active ones spend more time in a passive state rather than commenting or writing their own entries.
Also, TV programs have now less temporal structure. Shows and news morph into each other in a continuous stream, where there’s no more “end.” Jerry Mander, considering an increase in hyperactivity among children due to TV, writes in In the Absence of the Sacred (Sierra Club, San Francisco, 1991) that “television viewing, if it can be compared to a drug experience, seems to have many of the characteristics of Valium and other tranquilizers. But that is only half of the story. Actually, if television is a drug, it is not really Valium; it is speed” (p. 66).
The world over, people using the Internet click on the same icons, use the same shortcuts in email and chats, connect with people through the same Facebook modalities. This is the globalization of minds. In the process of the digitalization of reality, regardless of content, we use predominantly the same limited mental channels and interact with the same tools.
We bring the same attitudes, gestures and procedures to working, dating, shopping, communicating with friends, sexual arousal, and scientific research. And most of these activities are impoverished by this phenomenon. Everything is seen as an information system, from the digitalization of territory (like Google Earth and augmented realities software) to our biology.
Judæo-Christian culture places nature and the world of matter at man’s disposal. Acting on them is a way to garner good deeds and regain the lost perfection of Eden. In this culture that has considered miracles as proof of the existence of God, we have developed technologies that resemble the miraculous and the divine. We are compelled to welcome the advent of new technological tools with the rhetoric of peace, progress, prosperity and mutual understanding.
The telegraph, telephone, radio, TV and other media have been regarded as tools for democracy, world peace, understanding and freedom of expression. The Internet is just the latest in a succession of promising messiahs. Yet we don’t have more democracy in the world. In fact, big media and big powers are even stronger, while freedom of expression has ceded to control by corporations and governmental agencies.
The Internet, like TV, is entertaining, dumbing people in their own separate homes where they will be unable to question the system. More than TV whose attractions are framed between the beginning and ending time of a show, the Internet, video games and smartphones have no structural pauses or endings. Hooked on a “real-time” stream of information, they take us farther away from both the real and the appropriate time frames.
The Internet might already be the new soma for a society experiencing economic and environmental degradation. But with the huge economic and psychological interests connected to it, criticizing its effect is akin to cursing God.
The techno-nihilistic capitalism, interview with Mauro Magatti
Ivo Quartiroli: Prof. Magatti, how would you define techno-nihilistic capitalism, the subject of your book, Libertà immaginaria: Le illusioni del capitalismo tecno-nichilista (Imaginary freedom: The illusions of techno-nihilistic capitalism), and what are the differences with the previous stages of capitalism?
Prof. Mauro Magatti: The idea is to give a complete picture of the last 30 years which began with the coming of so-called neo-liberalism in the Anglo-Saxon countries. My book traces and develops the hypothesis of authoritative colleagues, especially the works of Boltanski in France, Bauman in England and Beck in Germany.
The idea is that those 30 years represent something as unitarian, which is detached from the previous stages (which I call “societal capitalism”), and is based not only on the nation state, but on the social and economic effects which the nation state is not able to load and which are usually referred to as “the welfare society.” The fundamental peculiarity of techno-nihilistic capitalism is a kind of new vision of the world, a new weltenshaung, which makes nihilism, traditionally a philosophy which expresses itself in stages of decadence when the established values had to be destroyed, a useful vision for accelerating both economic and technological growth on a planetary scale.
There’s a capitalism which tries to free itself from the cultural background which the national state established. This capitalism defines itself in an alliance between a technique which is supposed to be intangible, in a very thin cultural setting, or even when it is absent and, on the other side, a full availability, a full manipulability of every cultural meaning, which has to be continuously redefined, transformed, and overcome.
Quartiroli: You affirm that technology gives an imaginary freedom, yet many people, based on this very interview, could well say the opposite. I came to know about your book on the Net, sent you an email and you graciously agreed to be interviewed by me. We use Skype for the interview and then I will publish it in my blogs. This gives us a broad freedom. We don’t have any editorial limitation regarding space or length and we don’t have a director to approve our conversation. Online, we don’t even need to publish it before a certain date. And even better, we can reach hundreds or maybe thousands of readers in every corner of the world directly.
Kevin Kelly, one of the most passionate supporters of technology, in his recent article “Expansion of Free Will” says that, “Technology wants choices. The internet, to a greater degree than any technology before it, offers choices and options.” And more, “the technium continues to expand free will as it unrolls into the future. What technology wants is more freedom, expanded free will.” The idea of freedom and expansion of our possibilities is chased by every technological gadget and by every software which interacts with us. All seems very pleasurable, free and fulfilling, so what’s wrong in this expansion of our options?
Magatti: Kelly’s quote is excellent and gets to the point. Techno-nihilistic capitalism, passing the previous stage of societal capitalism, legitimates itself through this increasing of possibilities, which then is connected to the expansion of choices.
Nobody can deny that, in general terms, to go from a condition where we have less opportunities and choices to one where, instead we have the possibility of expanding our doings, in a way expands our freedom. For instance, when we can move easily and quickly from one part of the planet to the other, we get more chances to “do.”
The point is, what happens in a world where the freedom of choices, where this increase of opportunities is being produced with the speed we experience in our personal and collective lives? We should ask ourselves whether this increase has any effect on the very freedom we want to achieve.
A tangible example to make the point: freedom is somehow like the eye. The eye opens to what is in front, is a sense organ somehow indeterminate since it is connected to what is being seen. The fast-increasing choices in the individual experience give us an excess of things we can see, as fundamental changes in our way of seeing, and we are even subject to the powerful systems which are there to put things in front of our eyes.
This brings the risk of becoming people who are driven from the outside: something is being presented as a choice, which is pleasurable and which increases our power and our fulfillment, but with the risk that freedom implodes on itself and that will deliver us completely to something which is external of ourselves.
To this first problem there’s a second one: all of those opportunities presented to us aren’t as real for most people as they are supposed to be. Therefore, the opportunities in front of us are kept only in an illusory and fantasized state and we withdraw them in. To give a banal example, miraculous or even magical solutions, as would be winning 130 million euro on the Lotto which would allow us to do anything we wanted to, at least in our fantasy.
Because of those two reasons, that world with expanded possibilities which is theoretically associated with an increased freedom, then carries the risk of encaging freedom again. In the book I don’t envision a world where we go back in limiting our opportunities, but to ask ourselves about our freedom and understanding if we are as free as we think we are.
Wired author Ryan Singel wrote an article about the Huffington Post “being accused of slimy business practices by a handful of smaller publications who say the site is unfairly copying and publishing their content.” Singel quotes Moser, an editor at alternative weekly Chicago Reader, saying:
If the future of journalism – which everyone keeps telling me The Huffington Post represents – is a bunch of search-engine optimization scams, we have bigger problems than Sam Zell’s bad investment strategies.
Let me quote Plato in Phaedrus:
Socrates: At the Egyptian city of Naucratis, there was a famous old god, whose name was Theuth; the bird which is called the Ibis is sacred to him, and he was the inventor of many arts, such as arithmetic and calculation and geometry and astronomy and draughts and dice, but his great discovery was the use of letters. Now in those days the god Thamus was the king of the whole country of Egypt; and he dwelt in that great city of Upper Egypt which the Hellenes call Egyptian Thebes, and the god himself is called by them Ammon. To him came Theuth and showed his inventions, desiring that the other Egyptians might be allowed to have the benefit of them; he enumerated them, and Thamus enquired about their several uses, and praised some of them and censured others, as he approved or disapproved of them. It would take a long time to repeat all that Thamus said to Theuth in praise or blame of the various arts. But when they came to letters, This, said Theuth, will make the Egyptians wiser and give them better memories; it is a specific both for the memory and for the wit. Thamus replied: O most ingenious Theuth, the parent or inventor of an art is not always the best judge of the utility or inutility of his own inventions to the users of them. And in this instance, you who are the father of letters, from a paternal love of your own children have been led to attribute to them a quality which they cannot have; for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.
Nobody challenges the importance of letters in our world any more, not even philosophers who use them for elaborating their thoughts. Socrates was not an ordinary philosopher, but a wise and enlightened man who reached spiritual heights beyond conceptual thoughts.
L’autore della rivista Wired Ryan Singel ha scritto un articolo a proposito dello Huffington Post, un famoso blog di informazione “accusato di scorrette pratiche commerciali da alcune pubblicazioni minori che affermano che il sito copia e pubblica ingiustamente i loro contenuti”. Singel cita Moser, un editor del settimanale Chicago Reader che afferma:
Se il futuro del giornalismo, che tutti quanti dicono che lo Huffington Post rappresenta, è un insieme di trucchi e truffe per ottimizzare gli accessi per i motori di ricerca, abbiamo dei problemi enormi.
Vorrei citare Platone nel Fedro:
Socrate: Ho sentito dunque raccontare che presso Naucrati, in Egitto, c’era uno degli antichi dèi del luogo, al quale era sacro l’uccello che chiamano ibis; il nome della divinità era Theuth. Questi inventò dapprima i numeri, il calcolo, la geometria e l’astronomia, poi il gioco della scacchiera e dei dadi, infine anche la scrittura. Re di tutto l’Egitto era allora Thamus e abitava nella grande città della regione superiore che i Greci chiamano Tebe Egizia, mentre chiamano il suo dio Ammone. Theuth, recatosi dal re, gli mostrò le sue arti e disse che dovevano essere trasmesse agli altri Egizi; Thamus gli chiese quale fosse l’utilità di ciascuna di esse, e mentre Theuth le passava in rassegna, a seconda che gli sembrasse parlare bene oppure no, ora disapprovava, ora lodava. Molti, a quanto si racconta, furono i pareri che Thamus espresse nell’uno e nell’altro senso a Theuth su ciascuna arte, e sarebbe troppo lungo ripercorrerli; quando poi fu alla scrittura, Theuth disse: «Questa conoscenza, o re, renderà gli Egizi più sapienti e più capaci di ricordare, poiché con essa è stato trovato il farmaco della memoria e della sapienza».
Allora il re rispose: «Ingegnosissimo Theuth, c’è chi sa partorire le arti e chi sa giudicare quale danno o quale vantaggio sono destinate ad arrecare a chi intende servirsene. Ora tu, padre della scrittura, per benevolenza hai detto il contrario di quello che essa vale. Questa scoperta infatti, per la mancanza di esercizio della memoria, produrrà nell’anima di coloro che la impareranno la dimenticanza, perché fidandosi della scrittura ricorderanno dal di fuori mediante caratteri estranei, non dal di dentro e da se stessi; perciò tu hai scoperto il farmaco non della memoria, ma del richiamare alla memoria. Della sapienza tu procuri ai tuoi discepoli l’apparenza, non la verità: ascoltando per tuo tramite molte cose senza insegnamento, crederanno di conoscere molte cose, mentre per lo più le ignorano, e la loro compagnia sarà molesta, poiché sono divenuti portatori di opinione anziché sapienti».
Nessuno mette più in discussione l’importanza della scrittura nel nostro mondo, neanche i filosofi che la usano per l’elaborazione dei loro pensieri. Socrate non era un filosofo qualunque, ma un uomo saggio e illuminato che aveva raggiunto delle vette spirituali al di là del pensiero concettuale.
Marshall McLuhan summarized his view of the media in a model called the tetrad of media effects. The tetrad asks the following four questions about any medium to evaluate its qualities.
1) What does the medium increase? For example, TV amplifies the view of the whole world from our homes.
2) What does the medium make obsolete? TV makes family communication obsolete.
3) What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolete earlier? TV provokes a re-tribalization and homogenization of cultures.
4) What does the medium turn into when pushed to extremes? TV can turn in a global Big Brother show where everybody is on the airwaves. TV as well can become a tool of social manipulation.
The number and role of the media in our lives having expanded exponentially since McLuhan’s times, both in terms of the time we dedicate to them and the scope of their applications in our lives, we need to probe the media with a broader range of questions.
I won’t consider the computer and Internet as individual media since they are sums of several media, both traditional and new. Using a computer to write, shop, program software, look at porn or read news are different modalities which involve different needs, though they share the same tool.
Marshall McLuhan sintetizzò le sue idee sui media in un modello chiamato la tetrade degli effetti dei media. La tetrade usa le seguenti quattro domande per valutare un medium:
1) Cosa permette di espandere il medium? Per esempio, la TV amplifica l’immagine che abbiamo del mondo dalle nostre case.
2) Cosa rende obsoleto? La TV rende obsoleta la comunicazione all’interno della famiglia.
3) Cosa recupera che era divenuto obsoleto in precedenza? La TV provoca una ri-tribalizzazione e un’omogeneizzazione delle culture.
4) Cosa succede quando i limiti del medium vengono spinti agli estremi? La TV può trasformarsi in un unico Grande Fratello in cui la vita di ognuno è in diretta. La TV può anche diventare uno strumento di manipolazione sociale.
Poiché oggigiorno il numero e la funzione dei media si sono espansi in misura esponenziale rispetto ai tempi di McLuhan – in termini sia di tempo che dedichiamo a essi sia di loro ricadute nella nostra vita – abbiamo bisogno di vagliarli tramite più domande.
Non considererò i computer e Internet come media singoli, in quanto sono la somma di diversi media, sia tradizionali che nuovi. Usare un computer per scrivere, fare acquisti, programmare, guardare pornografia o leggere notizie sono modalità diverse che rispondono a bisogni diversi, benché usino lo stesso strumento.
It is said that in the ancient tantric traditions, some practitioners used to test their awareness by taking intoxicants or being bitten by poisonous snakes while they still kept their whole consciousness.
One of the tantric practices of our information society could be to be aware of ourselves while we are connected to the Internet and tend to lose ourselves in the objects of our attention.
Si dice che nelle antiche tradizioni tantriche alcuni praticanti testavano la propria consapevolezza assumendo sostanze intossicanti o facendosi mordere da serpenti velenosi, mantenendo sempre uno stato di piena coscienza.
Una delle pratiche tantriche della nostra società dell’informazione potrebbe essere restare consapevoli di noi stessi mentre siamo connessi a Internet e tendiamo a perderci negli oggetti della nostra attenzione.
Since the beginning, Internet has been regarded as an instrument of democracy and Internet activism grew over the years. The Net is considered a decentralization tool that gives the power back to small groups and individuals.
But are we really empowered through technology? The 60’s students’ movement was very influential in society and well organized, maybe not even in spite of the lack of technologies but because of that lack. People had to rely on personal connections.
Sin dall’inizio, Internet è stata considerata uno strumento di democrazia, e l’attivismo legato a Internet è cresciuto nel corso degli anni. La Rete viene vista come un mezzo di decentralizzazione, che restituisce il potere agli individui e ai piccoli gruppi.
Ma Internet aumenta davvero il nostro potere? Il movimento studentesco degli anni ’60 era ben organizzato e molto influente nella società, e forse questo non avveniva nonostante l’arretratezza tecnologica, ma grazie a essa. La gente doveva fare affidamento sui contatti personali.
The technological society permeates more and more every part of our life and we are downloading more and more parts of our real life onto the Net. Personal communications, finance, work, news, work, dating, shopping are just few of the activities that have been moved massively to the Net. Those are separate areas of our life where we usually apply different modalities of our mind.
Our attitude is different when we are at work, when we are shopping, when we talk to a friend or when we are communicating with somebody we are attracted to in a sensuous and intimate way. In addition, we usually have different settings for the different range of life activities. As we activate different parts of our mind, our body is involved as well. On the other hand, when we are stuck in front of a screen, our setting is always the same and the dynamic and tactile experience is missing.
La società tecnologica permea sempre più ogni parte della nostra vita, e noi stiamo scaricando come fosse un download sempre più parti della nostra vita reale in Rete. La comunicazione tra le persone, gli affari, le notizie, il lavoro, gli amici, la ricerca di un partner, lo shopping sono solo alcune delle attività che sono state massicciamente trasferite in Rete. Si tratta di aeree distinte della nostra vita che solitamente richiedono l’attivazione della nostra mente in modalità diverse.
Il nostro atteggiamento cambia a seconda che siamo al lavoro, facciamo shopping, parliamo con un amico o comunichiamo con qualcuno che ci attrae sentimentalmente o sessualmente. Di solito, abbiamo diversi ambienti e situazioni esterne per i diversi tipi di attività. E non solo attiviamo aree diverse della mente, ma anche il corpo ne viene coinvolto. Invece, quando siamo fermi di fronte a uno schermo, il nostro ambiente esteriore è sempre lo stesso e mancano le dimensioni dinamica e tattile. [/it] (more…)