Week 2

Although simple linear models of communication leave a lot to be desired by those seeking an accurate theory of what really happens between a speaker and a receiver, early models, such as Shannon and Weaver's still help us to understand some of the aspects of signal-to-receiver communication. These simplistic and unnuanced models are somewhat useful for quantifying and articulating some of the actors and actants communicating. Models like Shannon and Weaver's, however, omit vital aspects of the communication process that might be even more important than what they chose to include. As Daniel Chandler notes, there are no temporal referents present in these models; they fail to acknowledge that signaling and receiving always occur at the same time, whether it is in a face-to-face meeting or in a large audience watching a televised debate. Thus simplistic models, and the abstract equations/formulas of which they are comprised, from their very inception lead a student of communication towards an incomplete picture of the process as a whole.

Similarly, what I find most distressing about early models of communication is their inability to articulate power relations inherent in the transmission and reception of messages. In these models, the receiver hears a phrase that was specifically chosen by the speaker. This system, however, leaves no room for articulating the position of power within which the speaker is situated. The same statement is not same once it is spoken by two different speakers or is received by two distinct listeners. Although later communication models, like those mentioned by McLuhan and David Foulger, account for feedback and effects, they still fail to completely account for differences in power. While they leave room for the discussion of it, they do not explicitly compute it into their equations.

Speech act theory is an area that has attempted to account for dimensions of power inherent in the communication process. As I wrote earlier, a statement obviously has different meanings for two different speakers, but as speech act theory shows, we must also account for considering WHO says the statement and how it is received. Commands withstanding, even statements that are linguistically benign can be understood as something else during the communication process. For example, a statement such as, “Will you open your trunk, please?” means one thing for a stranger to say to you (you probably wouldn't open the trunk) and another for a police officer to say it (you would probably open the trunk). Although without cause, a police officer has no right to ask this of you, the officer's situated position of power might cause someone to oblige his wish (note: not a command) without questioning him.

- Jen Feldman

Theories about communication are a tricky area, one that never feels complete or totally correct. Much of these problems stem from the fact that, when using many of the increasing number of official yet malleable definitions of communication, the areas that communication theories and the models that stem from them can become incredibly inclusive, and one can begin to feel like everything is communication or something that affects communication. When we look at an early and clearly limited linear model such as Shannon and Weavers, we see communication on a basic level, working within the modality of a one to one form. On the other end of the spectrum (in a sense), we see something like Debray's theory of Mediology, where communication is viewed as containing an incredible amount of influencers and, in turn, influencing many other aspects. Communication and its theories are hard to get a handle on, because there is no clearly marked boundary where the research and discussion stops.

In response to Jen's distress over a lack of articulation regarding power relations inherent in all communication, I would bring to the discussion the writing of Stuart Hall. While Hall focused mostly on communications in mass media, as opposed to the one to one modality, his work does focus on the encoding and intended decoding by those in power of the messages and communications they put forth. Many times, these messages and their intended paradigmatic meanings work to reinforce and recreate the hegemony. Stuart Hall's culture studies work to critically examine such relations of power within the dominate culture and its communications within society. He also works a bit to illuminate the different responses distinct listeners might have when receiving messages from the dominant culture , those with large amounts of power, thus creating the feedback/response loop. While these ideas do not speak directly to the models of one to one communication, such as the stranger or police officer scenario, they do work to examine communication and semiotics in relation to power relations.

While doing my own searching on the internet for various authors we read (a whole new novel way of communication that such thinkers did not have a chance to analyze), I came across this video of Marshall McLuhan. I was specifically excited by his interviews. While he may have been critiqued for his "technological determinism" stances, he sure was able to predict both technological advances we now have, as well as the sociology behind them. He predicts (in my mind) reality tv, ebooks, and internet search engines, as well as the social movement away from reading and towards a much stronger focus on audio-visual forms of communication. I wonder what McLuhan would say if he was alive today and able to see YouTube.

-Christian Storm

Since I am so interested in how video games communicate visually and otherwise, I was surprised and dismayed by how little the various charts and systems we read about this week matched how I believe games to work. In the case of Claude Shannon, the linear structure of his schematic eliminates the immediate and continuous interaction provided by a game, while the later revisions – the scribbled line that constitutes the complex system of feedback, or Saussure’s speech circuit – does not recognizably show the multiple layers I take advantage of and therefore take for granted in my daily life. Feedback does travel to the information sources, but I am more concerned with the smaller loop that is the gamer’s communication with the software. While in the cases of connected and online games this data does return eventually to the source (the production company’s research and development team, anyway) older and single player games have a communication going between medium and receiver that doesn’t really occur when you change the channel on a television or pick up a telephone. What does one call this particular interaction to fit it in one of the pre-established models?

McLuhan’s work I found a more adaptable model for my interests, but this might be because he includes play as a medium before video games existed in their current form; to McLuhan play represents a “cultural strategy” to respond to “the cool war and the hot bomb scare” and that “it is play that cools off the hot situations of actual life by miming them” (McLuhan 27). Mimesis or miming is only one of four types of play as defined by Roger Caillois in his definitive 1958 book Man, Play, and Games, but all four of his terms could reasonably be considered a medium as McLuhan defines them. Agon, or competition, represented in sports or chess, is a structured combat, cool for the participants and hot for spectators dependent on what medium they use to spectate (Caillois 14). Alea, or games of chance are a “hot” game precisely because all form of participation is removed, which is why we “cool” games of chance with superstitions, giving us the illusion of participation other than at the singular level (Caillois 17). Mimesis or mimicry is, as McLuhan already stated, a miming or play-acting that cools the hot situations of real life (Caillois 19). Finally ilinx, or whirlpool, “an attempt momentarily to destroy the stability of perception” illustrated by children spinning around in circles, derives pleasure from purposefully distorting one or more senses, relinquishing participation in favor of an emotional high (Caillois 24). Alea is more troublesome to define on the hot-cold continuum precisely because it both takes away the player’s ability to control or participate while at the same time manipulating the senses. I will argue alea is hot - by temporarily disabling certain senses you put one sense into a hyperdefined state. Not so coincidentally alea in large doses is considered analogous to a drug addiction.

Czitrom’s criticism of McLulan brings up another point of interest, one I didn’t think our excerpts of McLulan brought to the table. He mentions that McLulan considered television the medium that returned the sense of touch, the “long lost sensus communis of the tribal man” and an “interplay of senses” lost in the age of literacy; to me, this description of TV resembles video games far more than television (Czitrom 180). I’d like to bring in an example that highlights the tactile nature of games by removing it, forcing the fish to notice the water by removing it to use McLulan’s metaphor. In the independent game Braid the player must give up controlling the main character and watch the game in order to obtain one of the secret stars that give the player a secret ending. Despite the fact that other stars require immense feats of skill and can be difficult to acquire, waiting for the “cloud” bridge to get into position is the most agonizing and most widely talked about “challenge” the game offers. Using McLulan’s hot-cold continuum, we can see how replacing the relatively cool, participatory medium of gaming into the more highly defined, less engaging visual could cause consternation or “a violent effect” amongst players used to the former (McLulan 27).

Please keep in mind – the video above is not Braid. It is a Youtube clip showing the screen as a person plays Braid. On a time lapse no less. The entire challenge takes about 2 hours to complete in real time, roughly the same amount of time as our class.

- Tracy Carlin

(Inspired by a slide from Professor Irvine’s slides on VC Theory…you said to have fun!)

Watson, it has dawned upon me after reading, sometimes in a very frantic manner given the time constraints upon my schedule, that a very positive outcome is about to unfold from a hypothesis I formulated some weeks ago regarding a matter very unique and pressing. The matter, my dear man, is that of whether the combined educational endeavour of Conflict Resolution and Visual Culture/ Media Theory will benefit my understanding of and contribution to the field of peace and conflict studies. It is the manner in which the intermingling of these so called fields of study allows one to extrapolate the very workings of interactions between peoples and indeed with the “other" that interests me greatly. And the hypothesis which I make mention of is none other than this: if I was to undertake a very unchartered and bold exercise in combining my studies in the Government Department with those of the Department of Culture, Communications and Technology at the institution better known to all as Georgetown University, I will be able to unveil to the world the workings of world peace through determining the dynamics of how both Media affects cultural perceptions and how these very perceptions are reflected within Media.

You are aware, Sir, that I am involved in conflict transformation as a process within an organisation I founded some 6 years and 7 months ago named oneblue.org (www.oneblue.org) , the premise of which is that multiple platforms of New Media (social media especially) can be used to influence our ability to understand people across cultures and thus eliminate violence and destructive conflict as the menaces to society they pose. In effect, I may find myself being a “Mediologist” who wishes to explore what media does within a culture of conflict and to cultures that are themselves in conflict. Needless to say, I have found ample reference in texts by Mirzoeff that point to the notions of Visual Culture as a way in which we both represent our cultures and choose cultures of representation. Rather amazing, don’t you think, that after hesitating much as to whether Communications and Transmission would even be mentioned in a way that is relevant to my look at how Muslims are perceived and presented in Western Media (a dire example of that heavily “Anglophone” tendency of Visual Culture in the United States that lends greatly to latent conflict and often times overtly Realist approaches to conflict resolution)? I happened upon some very engaging concepts mentioned in connection to my interests - and I found myself especially delighted to identify many similar concepts and terms used in the study of Visual Culture as I have found to exist in Conflict Resolution Theory. A single example of which being the Marxist ideals vis a vis the “seeking of human attention” as a form of capitalizing on work performed. It is just as if this were a form of profit sought by the new “visual society” we live in, as noted by McLuhan. I deduct from this that we exist in a new world media paradigm which assumes that power lies with those who have the ability and means to communicate and transmit information in massive and effective ways to influence our cultures and thereby conflict as well.

There are many questions, my friend, which I continue to ask as these readings prompt my mind to ponder. I do realise, however that as a scientific chap, you may take issue with my desire to view Visual Culture as largely a social construct that has no clearly defined empirical value. However, just as with the subject of Conflict Resolution, the phenomenon cannot be confined to a single theoretical or scientific approach and in fact, a healthy combination of both science and theory remain paramount in both cases.

It may benefit you greatly to humour me by viewing a collage of interesting pieces of visual art created by another dear colleague of mine (no fears, my man, you are by far my most beloved male friend) who goes by the name of Heidi Naguib. Ms Naguib is an Egyptian American Journalism student attending the American University in Washington, District of Columbia. Within it you will find Media depictions that address several issues, especially those of stereotypes of Muslims in America. I fancy you will enjoy them: http://vimeo.com/heiditnaguib/videos

And please pardon my limited aquaintance with the technical use of this Wiki page. I am a novice for now, but my genius never fails when applied diligently, as you know so very well, and I expect I shall indeed become an expert in its use once I find myself utilising its many aspects to the fullest extent. Then it will be nothing but elementary, my dear Watson.....

- Sarah Sayeed

If the linear communication model helps us understand traditional medium, McLuhan’s model is a description of the meaning for new medium. He thinks that people usually treat medium as a tool to deliver messages and keep their eyes on the content of the message, but ignore the medium’s meaning itself and the medium as content. As he said, The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph. If it is asked, "What is the content of speech?" it is necessary to say, "It is an actual process of thought, which is in itself nonverbal" (The Medium Is the Message, McLuhan 8).

In his point of view, medium itself is a kind of message. It is reflected by the new medium as a visual image. The Internet, as the most important media nowadays have totally changed the way of communication. If you searching the name ‘Marshall McLuhan’ in the traditional encyclopedia, you may get a image and a illustration like “Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian educator, philosopher… a communication theorist.” (from wikipedia) However, if you don’t know what is the meaning of philosopher, you need to go to letter P to search the definition of philosopher again. It is how linear model communication works. Different from this, we have Wikipedia on the Internet today. It will explained the Marshall McLuhan as this:
From Wikipedia:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_McLuhan

We can get the hyperlink of explanations of every single proper noun. For example, if you don’t know what is Canada, you just need to click the word Canada and you can get a definition of Canada. Wikipedia is a typical example of how "communication effects" model works. The message that the Wikipedia showed us via the Internet is a knowledge/information network developed by a key word. That is to say if traditional encyclopedias deliver messages as a one-way line, the Wikipedia covered knowledge as a multi-way area.

Similar with the encyclopedia, news has totally changed its format nowadays. In the past, traditional news is a report of truth and people treats newspaper as a tool to transfer information. If critics want to write comments, it will publish in another place (newspaper, issue, volume etc.). However, news nowadays is always like this:
[[image:www.washingtonpost.com_2012-1-25_8:4:54.png width="289" height="436"]][[image:www.washingtonpost.com_2012-1-25_8:5:19.png width="289" height="436"]]
(Image grabbed from:http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions)
News is not only the information of the fact, but also a topic or a theme. Experts, bloggers, critics, or common people publish their opinions about one topic. They also use images and videos to show others the truth they find out. Their words don’t need to be formal written language. Sometimes it is more like the oral speaking without complicated words. The Internet works as a media to build us a forum. As McLuhan argued, electronic medium make our society become a tribe again. The Internet here is like a tribe.

-Xindi Guo


Cybernetics and Mechanization of Thought

The Borg - Man as Machine :

McLuhan : media as an extension of ourselves-à technology
Context vs. content

Communication Theory vs. Media Theory
Communication systems comprising all media = information system

Things communicated: information, persons, goods
Input/output -----linear model
Messages as commands
Persons as addresses (receivers)
Goods as data

Shannon's attempted anatomization of communication through the use of his crude model was understandable given that he was bringing to light new concepts.
However, analyzing communication in such linear terms seems problematic. The process becomes spliced and slowed through the analysis of each modality; how content is transferred, processed and received or perceived. Through this dissection the intended purpose of the technology, its communicative capacity, becomes diminished, rendering models instantly obsolete.

Keeping in mind where McLuhan left off with the relationship of context to content, if something's materiality, it's thingness for example, is significant than so too is immateriality. By attempting to quantify communication based on cybernetic principals , you literally flesh it out and give it weight; it becomes encumbered. When considered in specific terms, written into formula, upheld to standards and made to embody processes, it becomes mechanized thought, rather than a boundless technology. It's like breathing, essential yet mundane. If I unpacked the process of breathing for every breath I would fail to be operating to my full sentient capability of maximum awareness. Similarly, it seems that if communication is a language, words are clearly inefficient. As we move closer towards semiotics as a way to communicate complexity faster we can begin to imagine what the evolution of communication will begin to look like; an extreme mediasphere that takes to heart Kittler’s concept of “communication as experience” and truly accepts visual culture as a language.

-Metasebia Yoseph