Term 1 Readings – Synopsis and Thoughts

Reading 1:

The Language of New Media (Chapter 1) by Lev Manovich (1999)

Chapter 1: What is New Media?

An interesting chapter discussing the definition of New Media, the different types of media, what distinguishes new media from other media forms, and a lot of other things. Manovich also discusses how the introduction of the computer and internet has enabled mass distribution of media and allowed greater access to it. He discusses that new media is the convergence of old and new media that has become accessible through a computer, leading to things like graphics, sound, and moving images. He then leads an extensive discussion on the creation of new media, discussing influential people such as Louis Daguerre and Charles Babbage, the pioneers of new media. A highly interesting read that helps one understand the very definition of new media and how it first originated.

Reading 2:

Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet by Sherry Turkle (1995)

A highly entertaining read about the multi-faceted abilities of computers and the ever-changing impact of them on human lives. More and more people are using computers to create multiple personalities and identities and moving interchangeably from one identity to another. Turkle argues that a new sense of identity is emerging as a result of how we interact with computers, leading to a shift in our ideas of self, machine, and the world around us. The book resonates very closely to the story of Lonelygirl15, a fictional online personality based on the life of sixteen year old teenager, Bree who made YouTube vlogs talking about her life and gained worldwide fame. It was later revealed that the personality was entirely fictitious and not ‘real’ as she initially claimed to be.

Reading 3:

Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in literature and electronic media by Marie-Laure Ryan (2001)

Chapter 2: Virtual Reality as Dream and as Technology

In this chapter, Ryan discusses the creation of VR, and its initial goal. The developers of VR sought to create a revolutionary piece of technology that resembled very much the Holodeck in Star Wars – a completely virtual room capable of full interaction, with realistic humanoids and detailed life-like artefacts. They wished to amaze and transform the technological world by its advanced capabilities. However, these dreams remained only as concepts and VR could not become the technology that the creators originally wanted it to become, technology just wasn’t as advanced. Ryan then discusses the concept of immersion and relates VR to exploring fictitious worlds, much like what we do when we read a book. She argues that the emotions, interaction, and experience we gain from this can be applied to VR to create a highly engaging piece of technology that people can utilise and enjoy.

Reading 4: 

Data revolution: big data, open data, data infrastructures & their consequences by Rob Kitchin (2014)

Chapter 1: Conceptualising Data, pg 1-26

In this chapter, Kitchin discusses the definition of data, a complete set of information gathered or ‘harvested’ from multiple sources. He discusses the evolution of data and what that entails, before going back to the different uses of data, from making further assumptions based on a given data to analysing and processing data in order to transform them into facts. There, he argues that data has multiple meanings and uses: ‘data are never simply just data; how data are conceived and used varies between those who capture, analyse and draw conclusions from them.’ (Kitchin, 2014) He distinguishes between different types of data, from qualitative to quantitative, structured to semi-structured and unstructured data, providing a detailed but accessible definition and discussion of each one, very useful for dealing with research or reports.

Chapter 2: Small Data, Data Infrastructures and Data Brokers, pg 27-47

An interesting chapter discussing the differences between small and big data and the pros and cons of using either one. Big data is simply more exhaustive and provides a bigger range of data to analyse than small data, although both are good at representing and sampling data, although on a different scale. Kitchin then discusses the factors that influence what data is shaped by such as the type of platform used to collect information and the context in which data are generated. Different forms of collecting and retaining data is discussed, including data holdings, data archives and data infrastructures. The latter is used to store, share, and consume data across networked technologies and has been greatly used in the last two decades. Much of the data is stored digitally through portals, directories, repositories, and cyber-infrastructures.

Chapter 3: Open and Linked Data, pg 48-66

In this chapter, Kitchin discusses the accessibility of data and refers to it as being ‘largely closed in nature’ requiring approved access or specialised tools to make sense of them. Open data seeks to challenge and transform this barrier, widening access to a larger population but ‘also providing easy-to-use research tools that negate the need for specialist analytic skills.’ (Kitchin, 2014) Open data revolves round three important principles: openness, participation and collaboration. Open data is a great way of sharing information and knowledge with the world and allowing others to collaborate in projects, sharing their knowledge and adding to an ever-growing data collection which is both readily accessible and non-discriminatory, allowing both producers and users to collaborate seamlessly.

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