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Spinning the Net Out

Pew Internet released a report on Social Isolation and New Technology contradicting previous studies on the subject:

This Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community survey finds that Americans are not as isolated as has been previously reported. People’s use of the mobile phone and the internet is associated with larger and more diverse discussion networks. And, when we examine people’s full personal network – their strong and weak ties – internet use in general and use of social networking services such as Facebook in particular are associated with more diverse social networks.

I also think that Facebook users have real-life connections as well, but since Facebook has spread massively, my feeling is that the pre-existing real-life relationships are being sucked into Facebook too.

In the beginning, TV used to show and describe reality, and people would talk about what happened on TV. Starting around 20 years ago, I noticed that TV talked more and more about what happened on TV itself in a self-referencing way. I saw that mostly through other peoples’ TV sets since I don’t own a set myself. Seeing TV only rarely makes me more aware of the macro-changes. At a certain point, TV didn’t just show and talk about reality any more, but made reality itself, which was then commented upon by TV itself and by other media.

The Net followed a similar but slightly different path. A few years ago, the Net was limited to a small percentage of the population and it was immediately self-referential, encouraged by the easy mechanism of the link system.

Then, as social networks spread, people populated Facebook and similar sites. Recently, I noticed that real-life conversations got more into “what happened on Facebook” and this in itself fuelled the growth of the social network itself. People didn’t want to feel “left out” so they flocked to Facebook. Suddenly, people would feel left out if they weren’t present on the Net and in its happenings, more than if they weren’t present in face-to-face meetings.

The Net got priority. Without it, many real meetings can’t happen anymore as they are organized as Facebook events. Since we spend more and more time online, without the Net, we could even become short of arguments in our real-life conversations.

Many people into technology welcome the interaction between the Net and real life, seeing that as something which balances both and which takes the Net out of a cage. The problem is that the process of digitalization of reality is quite greedy and tends to incorporate every aspect of reality, absorbing the wholeness of reality starting from the mental level, representing it digitally as if everything could be translated into bytes. So in the end, reality becomes sucked into the Net, which has to be lifestreamed or lifelogged in order to become realized. Reality can be considered real only when can become digitalized.

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Questions about the media

escher-another-world[en]

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.

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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.

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Brain waves facing a screen, and meditation

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Meditation and staring at a screen share the same brain waves, but are actually different internal states. It seems that looking at a screen hooks people seducing them with a fake feeling of relaxation through the presence of alpha waves and even lower brain frequencies.

This relaxation, though, not being integrated with an attentive and aware observation of the contents of the mind (as happens in meditation) gives rise instead to an internal restlessness and stress, often unrecognized until it becomes full-blown.
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La meditazione e l’atto di fissare uno schermo attivano le stesse onde cerebrali, ma di fatto corrispondono a stati interiori diversi. Sembra che osservare uno schermo porti le persone in uno stato di finto rilassamento, tramite l’attivazione di onde alfa e di quelle a frequenza ancora più bassa.

Tale rilassamento, tuttavia, non essendo integrato da un’osservazione attenta e consapevole dei contenuti mentali (come avviene in meditazione), provoca stress e agitazione interiori, che spesso non vengono riconosciuti fino a quando non esplodono.

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Neural reflexes and reflections on meditation

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At the bottom layer, both the television and the computer screens are about moving images. Looking at anything new moving in front of our eyes brings an ancient impulse to react through the instinctual fight-or-flight mechanism and our “orienting response.”

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Di base, sia la televisione che il computer sono immagini in movimento su uno schermo. Guardare qualcosa di nuovo che si muove innanzi ai nostri occhi fa riaffiorare l’antico impulso a reagire attraverso il meccanismo “lotta-o-scappa” e la nostra “risposta di orientamento”.

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Virtual worlds, mirror worlds, Second Life: backing up the messed planet

The path of enigmas[en]

In the 21th century ideologies collapsed, religions are showing their fundamentalist and darker side and war is still the response to political problems. At the same time the material world itself is experiencing ecological collapse.

Virtual worlds such as Second Life and mirror worlds as Google Earth are the new frontiers of the Net. It seems as though we are making a backup of a devastated world on the Net, reshaping it according to our dreams and inhabiting it as if we could alienate ourselves from the material world.

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Nel ventunesimo secolo, assistiamo al crollo delle ideologie, le religioni stanno mostrando il loro lato fondamentalista e più oscuro, mentre la guerra è ancora la risposta a problemi politici. Al medesimo tempo, il pianeta sta vivendo il collasso ecologico.

I mondi virtuali come Second Life e i mondi specchio come Google Earth sono le nuove frontiere della Rete. Sembra che stiamo facendo la copia in Rete di un mondo devastato, modificandolo secondo i nostri desideri e abitandolo come se potessimo alienarci dal mondo materiale.
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