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Introduction to Digital Communication Lecture Week 9, Digital Issues: Risk and Control

This lecture explores the key themes of risk and control in the context of digital communication.

Benjamin Matthews

on 19 October 2012

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Transcript of Introduction to Digital Communication Lecture Week 9, Digital Issues: Risk and Control

- warmest decade
– 6min, hottest decade
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-nasa-web-page-sheds-light-on-science-of-a-warming-world-85062627.html - press release
https://market.android.com/details?id=air.org.molleindustria.phonestory2&feature=apps_topselling_paid – cool phone app NASA vids Digital technology, employed primarily as a function of communication, is a central feature of global societal change under the contemporary conditions of “insecurity”, whether these are inspired by “terror”, climate or resource decline. Understanding how the attempt to control risk through the use of digital technology presents complex social problems. A future OR present in which digital communication plays a central role in managing risk involves significant challenges to existing systems. In any case, risk and control demonstrate that digital communication is a vitally important context for understanding the function of communication practices. P4Analyses? In this 1984-like world, “smart-cards” would control access to vehicles, and people would live in high-density housing; individuals would be given “carbon allowances” as currency, dramatically reducing mobility as carbon is “rationed”.

Importantly for us, the authors argue that “virtual access” will replace and “simulate many of the features of physical co-presence” (p158).

The authors argue this scenario is problematic since: the technology does not exist in an unproblematic form; the systems required are subject to a complex interplay of variables; the infrastructure will be very costly, and therefore unlikely for the megacities of poorer nations; and the digital tech involved are intrusive and threaten civil liberties. P4Digital control We are primarily interested in ‘digital networks of control’...

Briefly, ’local sustainability’, involving a global shift to “a network of self-reliant (and probably semi-isolated) communities in which people live, work and mostly recreate” (p149). Long distance travel would be uncommon, and resentment toward the luxury of car-travel could lead to “cars being vandalized or drivers being subject to physical abuse” (p150). In effect, the current mobility will contract as resource depletion and climate change impact social order. Life will slow down under this scenario, but the authors – given our path dependent systems – don't see this as likely. They see the following as more likely... P4Scenarios – ‘local sustainability’ Digitisation will play a significant role in defining a future society, after the car. For Urry & Dennis, we are not presently moving to a system that will feasibly replace the mass mobility provided by mechanized transport rapidly enough to allow them to predict a future in which society continues in a “business-as-usual” fashion.

However, the most likely scenario under which we attempt to move beyond our intricate reliance upon mass movement, whilst maintaining a society as we know it, will rely on digital communication. This is the last of three scenarios Urry and Dennis describe as follows: “’local sustainability’, ‘regional warlordism’ and ‘digital networks of control’” (p134). P4Digitisation and transportation In chapter 7 – the extended reading material – they summarise the contents of the book, before attempting to outline three scenarios that may unfold through the middle of this century. We examine these below, because the premises for their scenarios bring together our themes of risk, control and digital communication.

The premises for their arguments about the future of mechanized transportation is four fold: “the possibly rapid heating of the earth and its many global consequences, the peaking of oil supplies, the increased digitisation of many aspects of economic and social life, and the development of massive, ungovernable and unequal cities through global population increases.” (p131) P4Why are we interested in After the Car? Dennis, K. and J. Urry (2009). After the car. Polity, Cambridge, UK. (Ch 7: ‘Scenarios’, pp. 131-64)
In this book, the authors trace the rise of the car, and point toward our ongoing reliance on the destructive and deterministic car “system”.

They suggest that our “path dependency” (created by a complex interplay of existing systems) leads us to continue using this (irrational?) technology/system, and conclude that we are attempting to move to an “after the car” system.

The car system is not just made up of industry and infrastructure, it is central to cultural identity around the globe. It is a symbol of wealth and an iconic demonstration of the ideal of individual “freedom”. P4After the Car Well known sociologist John Urry argues that we have entered a new epoch of digital control. Before 1990 there were only two major contexts for human life: the ‘natural world’ and the industrial revolution. He argues that “from 1990 onwards, a third background emerges. This is the background of ‘virtual’ or ‘digital’ objects” (2011, p141) . Accompanying this emergence have been “growing fears over security and safety”, and Urry writes that this new context has given rise to “digital worlds” we must inhabit and that:

“[d]igital worlds have initiated a ‘battle zone’ where security issues of surveillance, tracking and identification are played out through new ways of tracing populations. This battle zone is especially found at transport hubs where meetings proliferate and travelers are rendered temporarily static. Future transportation will build digital security into the infrastructure and this will monitor and regulate ‘mobile individuals’ and assess the potential threat of attack…. New virtual objects will be built both into ‘vehicles’ and into street furniture, roads, lampposts and meeting places in major cities.” (2011, pp141-3) P4John Urry and “digital worlds”

http://contentious.newsvine.com/_news/2011/09/15/7776645-sarah-palin-cocaine-adultery-and-hook-ups P3Examples
Mythen: “Clearly, the diversification of formats means that the media landscape is in transition and public habits are in flux. In particular, young technologically literate consumers augment consumption of traditional media with news drawn from ‘new’ media sources, often accessed via the internet and mobile phones (see Roberts and Foehr 2008). The process and the space of risk communication has therefore become dispersed as new media technologies widen out the modes and channels through which risk issues can be reported and purveyed.” (p47) P3risk in the context of new media and citizen journalism...

“Second, trans-national media outlets are increasingly drawing upon citizen accounts of risk incidents, as indicated by the web portals for uploading footage deployed by CNN, the BBC and Sky News.” (p47) P3risk in the context of new media and citizen journalism...
“Firstly, formative images of global risk incidents are invariably recorded by members of the public close to the epicentre, using mobile phones and digital camcorders, as opposed to professional journalists (Anderson 2006, 115; Lee 2007). In a fluid, technologised culture, media devices such as mobile phones are influential in the circulation of images and information about risk... the swiftness of media response means that catastrophic events from around the globe unfold instantaneously. ” (pp46-7) P3risk in the context of new media and citizen journalism... Quotes from.... Mythen, Gabe(2010) 'Reframing risk? Citizen journalism and the transformation of news', Journal of Risk Research, 13: 1, 45 — 58

Mythen describes risk in the context of new media and citizen journalism (excerpt...):

“new media technologies clearly alter both the moment of public engagement and the quality of information transfer. In this regard, if we consider some of the most iconic news events of recent times – 9/11, 7/7, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina and the Mumbai attacks – three observations stand out.” (p46)

These three observations are: P3Risk and new media Risk is built on threats of terrorism and ecological disaster through to unemployment or depression. Giddens argues this reflects how risk is built on perception, as much as reality:

“Preoccupation with risk in modern social life has nothing directly to do with actual prevalence of life threatening dangers… people in the developed societies are in a much more secure position than most were in previous ages” (Giddens, 1991: 115). P2Risk and perception… Ulrich Beck (a sociologist) has argued we have entered a new epoch in Western society, where Industrial society is being replaced by a new modernity, one in which “Being at risk is the way of being and ruling… being at global risk is the human condition at the beginning of the twenty-first century” (Beck, 2006: 330). While early modernity was marked by rationality and a belief in our capacity to harness scientific knowledge, the late modern world is perceived to be dangerous: full of opportunity and risks. P2 Why “Risk”? As Fuery argues, the immateriality of new media “is a nasty kindle for the operation of subjection”. Here, the very absence of answers to the questions “Are we being watched? When? By whom?” mean we experience anxieties that place us in a knowledge void and invites the question: “Have all these new technologies (internet, mobile phones and so on), that have become such an integral part of our daily habits in terms of communication, working life, and socializing, created the instrument of regulation?”

We can take this question as a primer for our investigation of the modern context of our experience of a society that appears to be increasingly defined by risk and control... P2 Surveillance, Technology and Paranoia Fuery argues that the deception executed by the design of the Panopticon, is similar to the effect of new media: “It is easy to describe and identify the structures of surveillance and how they may control and regulate social behaviour both through technology and its usages (such as spyware, firewalls, anti-viruses, passwords and other security protocols). However, it is more difficult, and not quite as clear, to identify the modalities and functioning of power as it occurs in between these systems of governing” (p67).

The outcome of this ambiguity seems to obfuscate: because of the lack of a material guide to this governing, we don’t know whether we are “being watched”:

“The immateriality of the power-machine is the key to the maintenance of surveillance in the panopticon. The detainee must see the tower – the concrete signifier of power – at all times, but not know when or if he is being watched.... The ‘detainee’ become[s] his own guard” (p68) P2 Surveillance, Technology and Paranoia Fuery writes that for Foucault, the complex machinery of the Panopticon, with its mirrors and layers, is tantamount to the layers of governing and their various systems that intermix to generate a matrix of power with confusing “in-between states”. These are manifestations of power “at their most effective. They occur not simply through overt and dominant structures but via ambiguities, the gaps that have been created in order to continue and maintain social structures of power.... For example, in other writings, Foucault cites the categories of delinquency and masturbation as occupying indistinct areas” (pp68-9)

These are categories that illustrate the mobility of power structures, as they emerge and control the body in the discourses of crime and sexuality P2 Surveillance, Technology and Paranoia Quotes from.... Fuery, K. (2009). New media: culture and image. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, (Ch 3: ‘Surveillance, Technology and Paranoia’, pp. 58-82)

In the seventeen hundreds, Jeremy Bentham designed a prison called the Panopticon, in which the prisoners are able to be observed, without being aware of whether or not they are actively being watched

Foucault employed Bentham’s design in his influential book, Discipline and Punish (1987), to describe the complex manifestation of power in modern societies. He describes Bentham’s design as follows:

“The panopticon mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to see constantly and to recognize immediately. It reverses the principle of the dungeon” (cited in Fuery, p67). P2 A context: The Panopticon
Beck, Ulrich. “Living in the world risk society”, Economy and Society Volume 35 Number 3 August 2006: 329 345
Dennis, K. and J. Urry (2009). After the car. Polity, Cambridge, UK. (Ch 7: ‘Scenarios’, pp. 131-64)
Fuery, K. (2009). New media: culture and image. New York, Palgrave Macmillan, (Ch 3: ‘Surveillance, Technology and Paranoia’, pp. 58-82)
Giddens, Anthony. Modernity and self-identity: self and society in the late modern age, Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 1991
Mythen, Gabe(2010) 'Reframing risk? Citizen journalism and the transformation of news', Journal of Risk Research, 13: 1, 45 — 58
Powell, A (2010). ‘Configuring Consent: Emerging Technologies, Unauthorised Sexual Images and Sexual Assault’, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 76-90.
Urry, John (2011). Climate Change and Society. Polity, Cambridge, UK. Works Cited http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Panopticon.jpg
http://stfeyeearo.edublogs.org/files/2008/11/escherpeople-full.jpg Image Sources You guessed it... Climate change! It’s interesting to note that an institution like NASA is taking the lead on communicating risk in this context. The key challenge for the context is the inconclusive explanation science offers for a widely accepted scientific norm. Note the final observations made by the narrator in this video:
http://climate.nasa.gov/warmingworld/ (site is down) The best example? NASA and a Warming Earth Part5. Case Study In chapter one, they argue that “the increased digitization of life provided major opportunities as well as huge risks in moving to low carbon futures” (p131). P4As the authors note... “In this ‘barbaric’ climate change future, oil, gas and water shortages and intermittent wars lead to the substantial breakdown of many of the mobility, energy and communication connections that straddle the world and which were the ambivalent legacy of the twentieth century. There would be a plummeting standard of living, a re-localization of mobility patterns, an increasing emphasis upon local ‘war-lords’ controlling recycled forms of mobility and weaponry, and relatively weak national or global forms of governance” (p152).

Infrastructure collapses, no long range travel except for the super-rich, ongoing local war over resources, gated and armed-encampments, massive population decline (‘climactic genocide’), life “as nasty, brutish and short” in luckier areas. P4Scenarios, ‘regional warlordism’

The closest to “business-as-usual”, in which some as-yet unseen:

“organic digital system” consisting of “multiple, dense forms of movement of small, ultra-light, smart, probably battery or hydrogen-based, deprivatised ‘vehicles’. Flexibilized travelling would involve accessing such small, light mobile pods as and when required. Electronic regulators embedded in lamp posts and in vehicles would regulate access, organize price and control vehicle speed. Some such vehicles would be driverless. The movement of vehicles would be electronically and physically integrated with other forms of mobility.... It is organic because there is a mixed flow of those slow-moving micro-cars, as well as bikes, hybrid vehicles, pedestrians and mass transport. These are integrated into networks of physical and virtual access. There would be electronic coordination between motorized and non-motorized transport, and between those ‘on the move’ in many different ways.” (pp156-7) P4Scenarios, ‘digital networks of control’ Urry and Dennis map out growing risk: the risk of a sudden drop in oil supply, the risks associated with heating the earth, and the risks that accompany a growing population. The authors note that as a result of these “global insecurities” even the war on terror (war on risk?) has become subsidiary to a new war. As they write:

“this war on terror has done almost nothing to reduce the insecurities from such terror. Within Iraq and Afghanistan it has generated even more terrorism, unimaginable bloodshed and widespread degrading corruption... another war has come to occupy the world’s centre stage. It is also not without irony that this new war has been ignited by the US President that never was. Al Gore galvanised his troops for this new war, not with ‘shock and awe’ bombing of Bagdhad, but with the powerpoint slides of the movie An Inconvenient Truth. And many now argue even on Capitol Hill that the powerpoint slides indicated a greater truth, that the insecurities of climate change are indeed more important than those of contemporary terrorism.” (p136)

Eg: Climate wars – war over water, rather than oil? P4Risk, transport and global security http://www.youtube.com/watch?hl=en&v=pe-NMGgWv-A&gl=US
Video 32.50-37.30 – Lord Anthony Giddens (Feb 2010)

Giddens promotes a positive/functional attitude toward managing the risk of climate change in our discourse about climate change, he entitles “utopian realism”

He examples “transition towns” and the extended reading, After the Car (Urry & Dennis), but he presents this as part of his cautiously optimistic outlook. However, his summary is of the most optimistic outcome, which is not very optimistic. Giddens says we “must” be optimistic, we must imagine an “end to the end of history” notion described by Fukuyama. Lets look at what Urry & Dennis have to say about such a future in the book Giddens recommends. P4Giddens and future risk Part4. Digital Control

“Third, the internet has become an established forum for interactive debate and discussion about the causes and consequences of hazards.” (p47) P3risk in the context of new media and citizen journalism... Anthony Giddens (also a sociologist) argues that there is a growing connectivity between “globalising influences on the one hand and personal dispositions on the other” (Giddens, 1991: 1).

He asserts that “The intrusion of abstract systems into day-to-day life, coupled with the dynamic nature of knowledge, means that awareness of risk seeps into the actions of almost everyone” (Giddens, 1991: 111). P2 Global risk and the individual An American Panopticon; an interior view of a cellhouse, Illinois State Penitentiary Part2 – Risk
Opening image: Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon
1. Context: narratives of risk
2. Risk
3. Risk and New Media: citizen journalism
4. Digital Control
5. Extra Case Study: NASA and a warming earth (site down) Lecture Contents Lecturer: Dr Benjamin Matthews Risk and Control CMNS1000 Lecture Week Nine: Event - of course, the greatest loss of “Western” innocence, 911. This unfolded as a real-time event, captured by a news-net of citizen-journalists on digital tech and shared with the world in next-to simultaneous bursts of data. Inspiring the paradoxically risky attempt at control: the “War on Terror”... P3Examples citizen journalism Part3. Risk and New Media p1 Example http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/naomi_klein_addicted_to_risk.html (10m-17)

http://thoughtmaybe.com/big-brother-big-business/ (53.40-60)



http://www.adbusters.org/ As I write this lecture i can hear Torana fest unfolding in the park, the MC exhorts the participants to compete with one another in a revving competition: the sole purpose of which is to establish which engine//muffler combination makes the loudest, "sweetest" sound.
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