Monday, 18 March 2019

Netitations

Sonic Screwdriver by deck5 on Replica Prop Forum.

There is a Hungarian proverb "When your only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails".

The word tool, I think is a problematic and erroneous term in describing what web technologies and digital applications represent. It's as problematic as when people refer to an edited image as being photoshopped, but that's another issue altogether and an adjunction to my focus here; but it does, however, tend to inhibit ubiquitous approaches to ways of rendering technology. One can say a fork is a tool for eating, it is also a kitchen utensil, an instrument for picking up food, a pronged device used in the transference of edibles to the mouth, a meal mover.

For instance, within education students and teachers alike will sometimes refer to an image editing class as a photoshop class. However, Photoshop is the main program that perhaps is being used here, is hosted and enhanced by an operating system, plus web technologies such as Google might be employed to enrich the experience of resourcing inspiration and research for the editing of the image, or discovering hints/tricks on using the software; therefore is it more accurate but yet even more ridiculous to say that the class being undertaken is a 'Mac OS X Photoshop Googling' class? It's not just picking at hairs, it's preventing branding from monopolising how we approach creativity. This branding becoming generic verbs or proper nouns

Teachers and Educators by force of habit seem to refer to web technologies as 'tools' and I can't help but wonder if it derives from the days of classroom protractors and calculators. What they mean is that if you call something a tool, it will produce something or provide a function where the outcome is seemingly productive. This being the desire but as Bukowski said in an interview, "We are nailed to the processes", in that by calling these applications tools we limit our imaginations on what is possible with the digital technology at our disposal.

The inspiration behind rephrasing this term stemmed in part from W. Charlton in his introduction to aesthetics. "We might say that a pen-nib is a small, thin piece of hard stuff, longer than it is wide, tapered at one end, and curved longitudinally into a half-cylinder. Or we might say that a pen-nib is an instrument for writing in ink. Although we are giving two different accounts, we are not describing two different things". I shall further elaborate on this using the Blog as an example.

A tool is a device primarily concerned with operational functions asserted by manual motion (Shakespeare punned it in reference to the penis). Reeling in a citation from the Concise Dictionary 1886, a tool differs from an implement in being more general or less specific, and from an instrument in being always used in reference to the manual arts. The word 'tool' however as a label for emerging web technologies and software applications I feel is a regression towards a sort of misunderstood geofact adopted to fit into the preconceived parameters of the user who treats such a technology as a hammer and the resulting issues ensuing with its use as nails. FaceBook is not a Social Media tool nor a marketing tool only, and the only reason it can control its content and users is by encouraging it to be thought of one.

Is a Blog a tool? Or what part/s of a Blog could be considered as tools? Is it the WYSIWYG editor or the actual HTML code within the Blog template? A Blog is abundant with connectedness, syndication, aggregation, mobility, labels and tags, comments, embeds, backlinks, subscribers, trackbacks and other features which in themselves are not necessarily needed to be leveraged manually by the Blogger in order to experience the blossoming productivity found navigating the Net noosphere from tending a Weblog.

The settings are coordinated, the networks intertwingled, the metadata crawled, the linkage anchored across a hypertextual milieu - the Blog suddenly becomes increasingly non-manual, and a Blog is considerably different from a Video Streaming Channel, or a Social Network profile, or a trolling avatar on a niche forum. What I have aforementioned in my previous paragraph are two different accounts of the same thing, my alliteration of some of the processes at work is an alternative description of what might otherwise be called a Blog.

The word tool brings to mind labouring with some device to fix, build, or construct an element of something in its pure form that represents an entirely different thing in its entirety. Yet, we as Teachers and Educators are stuck on this idea that web technologies and software applications are tools, thus the dependable Rubric.

So, I think that once we remove this idea that the general term tool should be applied to digital technologies, we shall actually be able to go somewhere with it, perhaps even experience it taking us somewhere. And as an epilogue endeavouring to encourage the creative process behind thinking upon how we reflect upon these things, I'd like to recall a remark made by English Baptist minister Robert Hall, "Call things by their right names...Glass of brandy and water! This is the current but not the appropriate name: ask for a glass of liquid fire and distilled damnation."

 We've yet to put enough history and usage behind the internet to form cyber-cultural superstitions about it. In life, we have many, whether it is a black cat that crosses your path or the walking beneath a ladder, not to mention the thousands of customary and cultural superstitions. What will our web superstitions be? Will they be things like if a link doesn't work on the third click it brings bad luck? Will the position of links on your webpage foretell either fortune or misfortune? Perhaps placing links at the bottom of your page might signify risk of being hacked. Will a link directed to a Crowd Sourcing or Open Source site at the top left side of your page prevent Spam? Could an animated GIF bring more readership? Will soothsayers and oracles be able to read webpages like they do tea leaves?

You forget to put your computer to sleep before retiring, will this mean the next day you will lose several connections on your social network? Your password has a non-numeric symbol at the start, will this forebode a Phishing in the next few years? Will your server go down if you get a message in your forum which has no body text in it? Will checking emails first before direct messages on social networks signify the direct message of a special person? Will the use of Courier instead of Courier New or using Helvetica instead of Helvetica Neue cause your document to become unattached? What if I don't swivel around on my desk chair three times, will then my computer either hang or worse still, crash.

How we use and when, and for what reason we use our technology will no doubt alter our technological psyches as it already is doing so. Leaving your mobile phone at home causes some degree of insecurity, or not having the Internet handy unintentionally can cause us to quibble into some degree of panic or unease. Can't connect to the internet? How does it make you feel? The feeling is strange, the unknown at work, trying to fix the "problem", talking it over, working it out. What to do? And finally ... to adjust ... you tell yourself, it may mysteriously fix itself, and that an afternoon de-tech is about getting back to the 'real'; the cyber-cosmos is telling you to get offline and go water those pot plants.

Should tables on your website be slightly on an angle to prevent web witches from flying in? Will we begin placing an upside-down horseshoe image on our Splash Pages? Forget about the four leaf clover, will it be lucky to come across a four finder patterned QR code? Will some webpages forego the thirteenth page?

I'm sure that in the future, through associations, analogous behaviour, and collective priming, the web will have its own unique superstitions. Give it time for everyone to know it better, for it to become more pervasive and parallel to our psyches. As an example below, in the day of connecting the virtual world to our day-to-day physical life, we had to draw on what we already knew, and the business card was one contact "tool" that was explored as a bridging device for encouraging people we met to get connected with us online.

The Meishi is a traditional Japanese business card that is accompanied by a tradition of greeting and ritual in accepting and presenting the card. Virtual business cards have been around in many shapes and forms over the years, I developed my first probably well over twenty years ago now, once again it was an exercise only in research and creativity, most people at functions or network gathering were more impressed that I had it then able to do anything with it. They neither stored mobile cards on their phone or had the phones needed to view the virtual card.

Now there are many ways to go about creating a virtual business card. Mine in the day was an animated four-sided box that spun around with a lively musical score, displaying all my business details on each side of the cube.

These days you can consolidate your business card with a micro-blogging site like Twitter with twtbizcard, or by sms with contxts, and SnapDat has many features for sharing but retains the traditional business card format. There are also augmented reality business cards, which turns the whole virtual card thing into locative media sharing.

How contact information is shared depends on the available platforms and circumstances. The problem with any sort of mobile virtual sharing of information is time and technology based. Not everyone carries or uses technology in the same way, so sometimes a traditional business card is useful, and if you are dashing off from a place and someone wants your business details before you leave, it may not be feasible to fumble around with phones - instead being able to whip out a card and hand it someone, as you are swept away, is desirable.

Perhaps the augmented reality card is the way to go, two forms, one in hard-copy that can be enhanced virtually and the virtual version able to be shared when the occasion presents itself to use your electronic devices.

Feed me, Seymour!

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