Walkleys Conference Notes — Google and New York Times presentations

From my iPhone, WordPress backend interface a bit tricky!

Google Australia Communications and Public Affairs Manager Johnny Luu presents Google 101 for Journalists, covering tips and tricks for using various Google tools, advanced search methods, finding and analysing trends, and creating data visualisations.

Search smarter tips & tricks


Results page

-Fact box, breakout
-Ads, like editorial & advertising
Advanced search functions
-search for time and date
-search for different forms of media
-search in other languages & google translate
-search within a particular site
-search with a particular domain
-search for a certain filetype:
-John Tedesco example sanantonio.gov damage claims
-Go to advanced search feature
Keeping your finger on the pulse
-hangover example, Saturday peaks
-Gillard vs Abbott search term popularity
-news headlines option match up with graph
-insulation scheme trends
-Australian university Indian searches drop off, violence and visa changes
google.org flu trends example
-YouTube advanced search
Data journalism and visualisations
-google fusion tables
-download trainer
-San Francisco bike accidents google.org
The New York Times Interactive News Editor Aron Pilhofer discusses the latest methods of engaging readers by blending editorial content with social media, interactive data journalism and other digital innovations.
Break the template to fix it
-future lives outside the CMS
-just one more game
-Olympics example, river of news, bring in social media, bring the data/results
-photos page
-schoolbook example, local education featured education content, get people not through our homepage, incorporate comments elevated comments
Building for mobile
-work has tripled, 45-47% traffic came through mobile on election night
Readers have come expect interactivity
-dump the days paper online
-database interpretation of blog
-question and answer format
-reporters dedicated to answering q during debates
Social is a second homepage
-Oscar ballot, Oscar party in a box
-why replicate something exists in the world
-using Facebook as part of the platform
-sharing your contribution to the page, rather than sharing the ‘page’

Marking & Grading Playlist

Here is the playlist I am listening to whilst marking and grading papers.

It is a measure of soothing melancholia and aggressive upbeat tracks, all with a suitable dose of irony:

1. “Be Still” Killers

2. “Best Around” Dana Buoy

3. “Cuntry Boys & City Girls” The Fratellis

4. “Stress” Justice (I am pretty sure this is designed to make the listener feel stressed)

5. “Out of the Blue” Julian Casablancas

6. “Stay Awake” Example

7. “I Get Wet” Andrew W.K.

8. “Fail Epic” The Presets

9. “Burn Bridges” The Grates (I like this clip, has a bloke on a treadmill)

10. “This Too Shall Pass” Ok GO (official Rube Goldberg Machine version, good way to pass 5min or so)

Appification of Fitness and Technics of the Body

I modified my recent Code2K12 paper while at was at the conference to introduce a TEDx or ‘Virilio’ moment. By this I mean speculating on the future scenario of present tendencies. I wanted to isolate a tendency in the ways various functions of the magazine are not only repeated in different ways online now (my previous paper), but also in the ways they could be repeated in different ways through annotated or augmented reality technologies. My focus are those events of experience that I tie closely to the circulation of affects that we might call ‘enthusiasm’.

Everyday media technologies have been constitutive in the collective individuation of subjects for a long time. The ‘Kodak moment’ is a classic example of photography becoming part of the everyday experience of ‘family’ and the individuation of ‘parent’ and ‘child’. What I am specifically interested in are not only technologies of representation that insert relations of representational valorisation into social relations but specifically vernacular or affective epistemologies. Taking a photo of a child’s birthday party may involve the modification of setting and composition to capture the ‘perfect moment’, but this does not necessarily generate or develop new ways of knowing either explicitly or tacitly any aspect of the event captured and modulated through technologies of representation.

One of the functions of specialist magazines has been to circulate ‘know how’. ‘Know how’ is an experience-based practical knowledge. Magazines represent the conditions of experience through which (tacit, embodied) knowledge is developed rather than the (explicit) knowledge itself. There is a continuum between tacit and explicit forms of knowledge, including ‘rules of thumb’ that combine both. I’ve developed an account of the ‘How to’ article that follows this line of thinking, which should be published early next year. To help think through this relation between media representations and experience in the development of vernacular epistemologies I have called the events of experience that mobilise enthusiast bodies ‘challenges’. A ‘challenge’ isn’t something that makes enthusiasts all excited in the stereotypical delirium of the enthusiast; often they are rather daunting and can often end in utter failure. The key element of a ‘challenge’ is that like a problem they beg some kind of resolution to a contingent element or state of affairs (‘meet the challenge’), while at the same time they encourage an engagement of affirmation through which one’s capacity to act is increased through positive affects (‘rise to the challenge’). (I also delve into the virtual architecture of challenges, drawing on Deleuze’s philosophy of ‘problems’ and a Deleuzian reading of Kant’s ‘enthusiasm’.)

There has been a tendential shift from enthusiast discourse operating to shape bodies into enthusiasts suitable for a given market of certain challenges in the print era, to enthusiast discourse organised around enthusiast-produced accounts of their own challenges, to what I suggest is currently unfolding which is enthusiast discourse directly intervening into the challenge itself through the specific affordances of AR technologies. The future-oriented historical process I described in my conference presentation involved the suggestion that AR technologies will directly intervene in specific events of experience. In this situation the locus around which the subject, the technology and the media content is organised is ‘this’ singular event of experience through which ‘this’ subject is individuated. All of these involve modulations of challenges, but there is an accelerated relation of temporality now and a more granular relation between the specific conditions of experience through which vernacular knowledges are developed and the ‘How to’ steps that must be followed.

To a certain extent this is playing out already in the world of consumer-level health and fitness enthusiasms. I just spent a stupid amount of money on a set of Withings weighing scales that are equipped with a wireless internet connection so it can sync up with various ‘fitness’ applications on my iPhone. It is a good example of the next iteration of machinic metrology that combines technologies of measurement with algorithm-based modelling of my personal fitness project. The knowledge produced here is of my performance for the day or week. Have I been working hard enough? Have I been disciplined enough? My physical activity still requires me to manually input data (type, time, work, etc.) because I only use gym equipment. If I was running or cycling then one of my apps (Runkeeper) would automatically calculate how much ‘work’ (energy/time) I had performed.

Such knowledges have circulated within specialist media for a long time. I used to subscribe to Men’s Health magazine (or I had a free subscription because of one of my utility providers), and I sometimes still buy it. The relations of valorisation that drive the algorithms of my iPhone apps are discursively embodied in photographic and text-based form in Men’s Health. It was very useful for gaining an appreciation of different modes and levels of mobilisation in terms of the levels of work required for different kinds of challenges. Now my apps have the capacity to modulate the events through which I mobilise as I am mobilising based on my singular conditions of mobilisation (my specific weight, age and type of activity).

These algorithmic technics of coaching embodied in such fitness apps are only a very simple example. I imagine scenarios where knowledges that circulate are far more complex and closer to the mechanical, scientific and design knowledges of different kinds of enthusiasms (modified-car enthusiasts, fishing or gardening enthusiasts, and so on). The ‘googlefication’ of knowledge so it can be parsed and indexed for the purposes of ease of machine-assisted searching renders knowledge incredibly granular, as many people have noted. Some critics have lamented this as a dire turn of events for the state of knowledge. The granulated forms of knowledge will now be able to be delivered to specific subjects through emerging AR technologies within specific events of experience as the event is unfolding at the rate and level of expertise suitable for the subject.

The event of experience is still pre-personal and able to be co-individuated and transduced into other contexts, but the relation between media representations and experience will be far more complicated in the specific sense complicating something involving many more folds (‘pli’) in the relation. I am describing how media content will be delivered tailored on ‘this’ experience (fitness project) for ‘this’ subject (Glen) rather than working to produce enthusiast cohorts for the purposes of individuating markets (print-era model of specialist media). My technology consumption is infrastructural of a given lifestyle, it enables me to act or perform in certain ways, but these are different to the identity-building ways we used to speak about media and consumer technologies.

Modulating Appetite

From Mary Wyman’s 1960 book on Whitehead is this example of creativity as part of a general process of concrescence (as becoming):

This actualization of potentiality as an ingredient in something real might be illustrated by the experience of Otto Lilienthal, pioneer inventor of the flying glider. Process here is obviously considered on a scale of some magnitude. The initial stage for him may be his preoccupation with winged creatures and their manner of flight—the inflow of the material world. The potentiality of the past probably includes for him also inherited mechanical and engineering ability. As process continues, we may imagine his concepts of gravity, equilibrium, and control intermingling with his observations on the flying of birds, possibly in part derived from them. The lure, which guides the how of feeling, would seem to be particularly associated with Lilienthal’s novel belief in the superiority of a curved rather than a flat surface for the flight of machines heavier than air. Here also the element of contrast is introduced. A driving urge or purpose, which we ascribe to the persuasive power of the lure is intensified by contrasts, and results in the satisfaction of producing a flying glider covering distances up to 1000 feet. The glider then as a novelty passes into objective immortality; but its value in a material world has been chiefly its lure to further progress in the evolving of the airplane. (23-24)

She later describes the general dimensions of this process using Whitehead’s philosophy terminology:

In expressing a subject’s concern for a selected portion of the universe, the term feeling is synonymous with positive prehension or the appriation of data to serve as components of a subject’s concresence, the growing together of its formative elements in the process of becoming. Important too is a negative prehension that eliminates incompatible elements from feeling. It should already be clear that feelings, in accordance with the idea of physical and mental poles in an occasion, may be physical; arising through the senses from the actual world, or conceptual, involving ideas derived from the actual world. Often a combination of the two types of prehension, and is called by Whitehead hybrid or impure. Examples of conceptual feeling are appetition and valuation: the first, awakening purpose and allied with God’s immanence in the world, he has described as “an urge toward the future based on an appetite in the present.” Valuation is the subjective form or how of feeling, which in its decisions, purposeful or otherwise may increase or diminish intensity. Consciousness comes with intensity of feeling, with a comparison of what may be with what is not, or with a yes or no judgment on a proposition. The union of physical and conceptual prehensions is seen comparative feelings, where the datum to be entertained as a lure for feeling may be a theory or a proposition. Feelings or prehensions of whatever type are subject to the persuasive power of the lure, and are causal links in the successive phases of concresence that should end in satisfaction. Feeling is thus a central factor in the process of becoming. (28)

The relation between Lilienthal’s earth-bound existance and that of flight is the relation between two milieus. Lilienthal’s apprehension of the technical function of the curved bird’s wing is derived through a creative process of discovery; what Michael Polanyi described in the context of  exploration practices as the “daring anticipation of reality”. For Whitehead the curvature of the bird’s wing and its translation into technical knowledge represents the process of concrescence whereby the ‘eternal object’ of the curved wing is potentialised in practice. In Deleuzian philosophy Whitehead’s ‘eternal objects’ are instead termed ‘singularities’. Milieus that are integral to the process of individuation, which in this case is the individuation of the technical object of a glider and the technical knowledge of gliding as a practice of flight, Gilbert Simondon calls “associated milieus”. An aesthetics of the composition of singularities that can be ‘immortalised’ as objective technical knowledge is premised on the intermingling in experience of ‘feelings’ from one milieu to another. I am interested in the way knowledge is developed through the creation of relations between milieus and the function in the contemporary era of media assemblages to facilitate (or constrain) such relations. Compositions of tacit and explicit knowledge commonly circulate in everyday life through various genres of media content.

Whitehead’s “lure of feeling” serves as what Deleuze calls “quasi-cause” for a current action implicated in a future event that is nevertheless already happening, such as the intermingling in experience of the future event of flight. The process of concrescence or individuation proceeds according to a complex virtual architecture of such ‘lures’. I am interested in the polical economy in the niche or subcultural media for the (re)presentation of material dimensions of such events. A great deal of enthusiast practice is mobilised through the presentation of ritualised (and therefore valorised) events that produce a relation between one milieu, for example belonging to the suburban garage, and the event(s) of an associated milieu, such as the event ‘to race’ of the milieu belonging to the racetrack.

The relations between milieus are necessarily transversal in character. There is no direct correspondence between actions belonging to bodies of different events except through a conceptual or theoretical valuation of the ‘feelings’ that belong to each of the milieus. This is a complex ever-shifting exchange of causality between the present and the future (recently dramatised, for example, in Looper). Ultimately, what is at stake is not the recognition of value as per the practices of judgement associated with the sociology of taste developed by Pierre Bourdieu, but the actualisation of value as a creative practice through as aesthetics of technical practice. The condition of possibility for judgement, where judgement is still an essential element in this process of valuation, is appetite. By turning to Whitehead it is possible to finally do away with the notion of disinterested interest (inherited from Kant). Appetition for Whitehead is not a quality of the sensuous or necessarily affective character of bodies, but the joining of a physical state of affairs (hunger, thirst, restlessness of an earth-bound body) with a conceptual prehension (to eat, to drink, to fly). Spinoza is clear on this; from Ethics:

When this striving is related only to the mind, it is called will; but when it is related to the mind and body together, it is called appetite. This appetite, therefore, is nothing but the very essence of man, from whose nature there necessarily follow those things that promote his preservation. And so man is determined to do those things.

Between appetite and desire there is no difference, except desire is generally related to men insofar as they are conscious of the appetite. So desire can be defined as Appetite together with consciousness of the appetite.

From all this, then, it is clear that we neither strive for, nor will, neither want, nor desire anything because we judge it to be good; on the contrary, we judge something to be good because we strive for it, will it, want it, and desire it. (III P9 S)

Specialist media circulate cultural capital not for the pursposes of mobilising judgement, although this is certainly a consquence, but for the commercial advantages of modulating appetite. The shift from print-based media to online web-based and platform-based media has affected the composition of relations between milieus, the character of knowledge that can be circulated, and the capacity to modulate the aspirational ‘active’ affects of enthusiasts mobilised to engage with the purpose of events as they populate a given scene. The Code2012 paper I am currently woking on finishing discusses the impact of the democratisation of practices of valorisation in the mobilisation of enthusiasts.

The Map is the Territory

Mel has a very interesting work in progress paper up on her blog on “The territory of the post-professional“. We sometimes share very similar research interests. I’ve also looked at questions of territory and technological assemblages in my Communications Technologies & Change unit this semester.

In one week we looked at the relation between predictive algorithms and the individuation of subjectivity. Here is the entry for that week:

Buying Stuff Online and How Your Credit Card is You

Transformations of economy, emergence of global market. Globalisation. Function of credit cards as technology of communication/identity. eBay, Steam and online commerce. Amazon.com and the algorithmic production of surplus value.

Required reading Merskin, D. (1998). “The Show   for Those Who Owe: Normalization of Credit on Lifetime’s Debt.” Journal of   Communication Inquiry, 22(1), 10-26. [Particularly the section “A brief   history of credit”.]Merskin offers a critical reading of the reality TV show called Debt and the ways credit card and personal debt have become ‘normalised’ in US society. Read the section “A brief history of credit” (pages 11-16) for a quasi-genealogical account of the development of the credit card. What is the ‘credit card’ assemblage?
Recommended reading de Vries, K. (2010).   “Identity, profiling algorithms and a world of ambient   intelligence.” Ethics and Information Technology 12(1):   71-85.This is another tough reading, but useful for thinking about the way the everyday technological assemblages of communication contribute to or produce our identity. ‘Identity’ here is meant in a cultural sense. The classic example that de Vries explores to some length is the use of algorithms to predict consumer behaviour on shopping websites and suggest commodities we might be interested in purchasing through   online shop fronts like Amazon.com. The relevant section is “Identity in a world of   profiling algorithms and ambient intelligence” (pages 76-79), but it is   worth exploring at length to gain a critical understanding of the ways   complex internet-based commercial interactions can affect the production (and   prediction) of identity.

In the lecture I did a kind of archaeology of the credit card in terms of the shifting composition of socio-technological relations across the long histories of some of the elements that constitute the ‘credit card assemblage’. The required research for this, so as to do the lecture, was a bit crazy. I learnt a great deal! Then I shifted gears a bit to talk about the function of predictive algorithms that are part of online shopping platforms. The de Vries reading is very good on this (and also pretty tough for third year undergraduates). In the context of predictive algorithms and algorithmic-based platforms (that aren’t necessarily ‘predictive’) there are two points I want to make with regards to Mel’s paper, specifically the paragraph introducing ‘algorithmic living’.

Firstly, unlike previous forms of self-knowledge in familiar ‘quantifications of the self’ (Weight Watchers, etc.) determined by a medium/average (statistical sense) of rough (molar) demographic categories, algorithmic indicators are far more mobile and the level of quantification is determined by the ‘resolution’ of the algorithm. ‘Resolution’ in this sense pertains to the ‘machinic affects’ of the ‘counting assemblage’; what are the forms of machinic visbility afforded by the technological assemblage of which the algorithm is but one (protocol) level? What are the ‘actions’ or ‘gestures’ being indeed by the algorithm?

Secondly, the (algorithmic) map (of aggregate molecular ‘actions’ of user-mulitiplicities) has become the (existential) territory (for the individuating assemblage of an ‘app’ or ‘platform’ user). Yes, the map is the territory (I’m phrasing it like that just to fuck with the old school semioticians a little bit:). The classic examples of this are Amazon.com or Google. Amazon indexes various ‘actions’ by users and users this for the ‘suggestions’ section. The capacity to index such actions are one of the affordances (action possibilities) of the platform or what I would call the machinic affects of the algorithm. The machinic affects are determined by the resolution of the algorithm. What actual action does the algorithm index? Visits? Location of mouse pointer or scrolling behaviour? Maybe. Definitely (in the case of Amazon): purchases, wishlist contents, ‘Kindle’ sharing behaviour, and so on. The aggregate map is produced by a multiplicity of such actions, this map then serves as part of the ‘territory’ by which other users of the same platform are individuated (as ‘dividuals’, cf. Deleuze). ‘Territory’ in this context is derived from the later work of Guattari.

What is interesting about Mel’s focus on ‘time’ and its management as a mode of self-governance is that by taking into account the above process of individuating there are two versions of temporality are in play: intensive and extensive. Management of time is traditionally ‘time’ as extension; there is  a range, which is divisible into ‘units’ of time. The individuation of a subject is an intensive process and operates at the level of ‘anticipation’ (relations of futurity) and ‘retention’ (relations of pastness). The ‘past’ in this context is literally and practically active; a multiplicity of ‘pasts’ from a multiplicity of users indexed according to their actions ‘feed’ (‘feed’ in the sense of both ‘appetite’ or ‘appetition’ (Whitehead) and ‘user feeds’ ie who you follow) into the pure present of algorithmic mapping and serve as a dynamic/selective virtual architecture that scaffolds the embodied process of the individuating subject who is actively anticipating his or her ‘next’ action. The ‘next’ action is the subject of such operations; this ‘next’ is an intensive temporal relation.

Management of time is only traditionally premised on the extensive dimension, as contemporary ‘social’ platform-based apps also include a valorising function which tempers time with a qualitiative experiential dimension. If you had a good time, then you’ll ‘like’ the shared photo. If you ‘like’ the book and ‘rate’ it on Amazon, then you bestow the assumed extensive time taken to read the book with a valorised experiential quality.