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Concluding Post – How much *TIME SPENT ON*?

I began this journey by first analyzing the beginning of both Social Networking Websites.. At first I was skeptical as to where my topic would be bring me but now I realize how much of a big part of and time is spend on these sites.

So what REALLY led to the demise of MySpace. I believe that their was no demise and that MySpace and Facebook are two entirely different entities that cannot be compared. I don’t think that they serve the same purpose. MySpace has evolved from being a simple social networking site, to an atmosphere or creative sharing. Those who actually are MySpace users are a new generation of young people. Initially, Facebook was set up as a network for college students to contact each other easier. MySpace was the networking site people would go to catch on fun. MySpace as I stated before is a social hub for music, movies, marketing.

This is where my thought for the comparing/contrasting of the layout came about. Initially, the two layouts served the same common goal. You had a few friends, you left them comments, admired their photos and read about their info and who they “friended”.  The past few years this has changed dramatically.MySpace’s login page has a lot more options. You have the ability to see who is online without joining the community, surf through celebrity pages and catch up the latest music/movies. It is now used a marketing tool. Facebook as a different perception. They do have celebrity fan pages, but there is no media attached. The login page for facebook is simple and clean, and you MUST login to see most features.

I actually joined Foursquare this week and became more active on Twitter as well as a social experiment to myself. After hearing about Foursquare in class and at work, I got the itch to join. I haven’t used it much and figure it’s interesting if you want to boast onto your friends where you are or see if they are in the same place.

This week in my research:

I decided to put myself through a social experiment. Be active on all my accounts (minus MySpace) and see how much time I spent on these sites. On my twitter I “tweeted” about 50 times a day. Mostly all on Thursday due to Iran’s 31st anniversary of the Revolution. My Facebook account I had about 60 posts a day, and Foursquare I barely used only to check in to places so my Facebook friends could see. So you can a few hours were devoted to just updating information on my pages. Was I being paid for this – NO. Did I learn anything? NO – well I did learn that my ex’s mother has a facebook … I think MY IQ dropped a bit more..

Then I thought what purpose does this serve? Do people really give a damn what I think of what I’m doing?

There are those small few who do.. but by using my page as a news central did any message get across to these people.. Remarkably yes. In the past year I have received critiques, opinions, praises in the “PHYSICAL WORLD” through sms, calls and in person of how this information, had I not provided it to them, would have left them in the dark.

But those of us who don’t use these platforms as a broadcasting central.. What are they doing on there.
This is a great link to some information based on the time spent on these sites, it states

From April 2008 to April 2009, total minutes spent on Facebook increased from 1.7 billion minutes to 13.9 billion minutes – an annual growth rate of 700 percent. MySpace comes in second with 5 billion minutes in April 2009, roughly 2 billion minutes shy of time spent in April 2008.

So how much time do you spend on your social networking site? AND what are you doing on there? January 2009 – ages 25-50 spent an average of 3.5 hrs on FB.

An interesting find for the week – when search this topic in GOOGLE and you type “TIME SPENT ON” – see what is the first choice is ….SCARY!

JUMP ON A TRAIN!

I love traveling. I am mostly up to go anywhere.

However, there are some trips that I am really eager to plan.

I have this weird obsession for trains…It’s the most interesting way to travel. You can really discover the country. It’s not too fast, not too slow and locals are using it. And also stations are usually much more fun than airports! (see the  Scroogle article…)

For instance if I could I would go right now to JFK and catch a plane to Ethiopia.I was told that traveling by train there was astonishing!

But I also really want to experience traveling by train in India (supposed to be quite something as well!)

Any travel suggestions or experiences including train?

Speaking about traveling you should have a look at this ad it’s surprisingly good really think this advertising is beautiful…

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4femh

Individual vs Collective Freedom

The trap made me think of different concepts of freedom and I ended up pondering about religious freedom in Malaysia considering the recent burning of three churches by Islamists as the result of a religious discourse that had been going on for a while. The debate was that anybody who is not a Muslim should not be allowed to use the word “Allah” but a Catholic newspaper kept using it. The case went to court and the newspaper won its right to continue using it. Shortly after Malaysia witnessed an awful response; three churches were attacked. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/world/asia/09malaysia.html

Malaysians with all its different races, religions and ethnicities used to accept and tolerate the others’ freedom to practice their religion as they wished. What has happened with it? Is it a mistrust that spreads in unstable and uncertain times? Is it the media?
New media in Malaysia allows for more individual freedom to express thoughts and can serve as a buffer. Users can voice their opinions but may stay anonymous. But then, words might be said to easily without much reflection. Once “out there” it cannot be taken back and can easily develop into a heated debated. I am not sure if the “Allah” debate started online but it is likely that all the media networks helped to spread and stir the discourse.

This leads me to think of individual freedom versus collective freedom. Where should one draw the line, if the interest and pursuit of individual freedom of a few go against the interests and endanger the freedom of many? Where does freedom start and stop for a nation and the individuals living in it? And which would be the best political system for it?

Not So Fast, Curtis!: Digging Deeper into Game Theory

Adam Curtis presents a rather interesting argument and somewhat dark and nightmarish look into our current society and how the ruling class–the economic and political elite forces–have come to transform people into cold robotic machine.  Into series of 1′s and 0′s.  Into rational, self-interested, cold, animal-like creatures.  While I found “The Trap” to be quite effective and thought-provoking, I am not sure if it was completely completely effective in achieving its purpose of enlightening me to the “dangers” and harsh realities that the society has transformed us into numbers, and–as Curtis argues–that the society has made people treat each other in robotic manners.  Overall argument presented to by Adam Curtis–while poignant and interesting–fails to–make the argument into a convincing one at least for me.

To the statement that modern society has made people into super-rational machines, I find this not too difficult to believe.  In fact, I almost found Curtis to be over-dramatizing the effect of game theory with regards to this aspect.  While Curtis chose to focus heavily on the development game theory since World War II with regards to this, the phenomenon was witness far before game theorist began to notice this robotic attitude of people towards each other.  In fact, American sociologist Louis Wirth noticed this phenomenon in society in “Urbanism as a Way of Life”, published in 1938.  Wirth noted that with growing population especially in urban areas, the lives of individuals became more segmented and thereby made intimate relationships more difficult to establish.  In other words, Wirth explained that the social interactions people have with one another became more transactional and economic, striving for utility over intimacy.  This concept is in line with what Curtis attempts to attribute to game theory as the main cause.  Seeing that academia world began to notice this shift prior to development of game theory, I am leaning more towards believing that while game theory probably had some effect–especially regarding its influence on politics and business–much of the phenomenon described by Curtis is in fact a caused more macro-social influence than just game theory.  It seems more plausible and reasonable to believe that the shift of human interaction becoming “rational” began much earlier than Curtis thinks, but probably accelerated by game theory.  In other words, the attempt by Curtis to picture the current society in cold, demonic, machine-like manner is to a certain extent exaggerated as an effect of direct influence from the political and economic elites.

However more importantly with regards to the validity of statements made by Curtis, in certain cases, Curtis overplays his cards and ultimately makes his argument weaker by making the documentary sensationalist.  For example, in the second segment of the documentary–”The Lonely Robot”–Curtis tries to explain to the viewers that companies fictionalized their revenues and profits.  Is his statement completely out of line?  No, he does have some point.  For instance, try going to on-campus recruiting information sessions for investment banks.  Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Evercore, Houlihan, Citi, RBS, Credit Suisse, whichever one you attend, they will tell you that they are the most successful and most profitable firm.  And they will do this by showing charts and graphs with actual numbers.  How can this be?  How can different firms be number one in the same category.  Well, look closer and you will see that how they slice and dice numbers are different in each chart.  Is this misleading to a certain extent?  Yes.  Is this wrong?  Well, I would argue not.  The notion Curtis dives into here is similar to this logic.  Companies do have different ways of calculating their revenue and income under the guidelines of GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) or any other standardized accounting framework.  Does this make looking at numbers confusing?  Yes.  Can it be misleading?  Yes.  IS it misleading?  Maybe not.  Take for instance, how each company calculates inventory.  Some companies find it more convenient to calculate using LIFO (Last-in, First-out) where as some companies use FIFO (First-in, First-out), and some even likes to take averages.  Certain industries and certain businesses have found the best and the most convenient method for each of them.  And while this can make comparison between them somewhat inconvenient and misleading to a normal person, this is not actually misleading or presenting wrong information.  Accounting frameworks forces companies to consistently use the same method in each reports which makes each numbers reliable and stable to be compared back to past historical reports.  In fact, I find this to be completely acceptable and somewhat noble.  Attempting to present your company and your performance in the best light is only natural as long as you do it within the rules.  Going to back to the example, Curtis presents in “The Trap”, companies are abiding by the rules and contrary to the argument Curtis attempts to make, the rule in this case is not trying to purposely mislead and lie to people.  In fact, if they cannot decipher the numbers and look into the second and third and later pages of the financial report to know what the numbers mean, the fault is on the lack of effort and laziness of the public and people rather than the system.  If you bought a nice birthday gift for someone, it is only natural that you want to wrap it in a nice wrapping paper, with your own flair and touch of personality.  It is unfair and stupid to ask everybody to wrap all the gifts in same bland wrapping paper, just so nobody gets confused that they are gifts.  In addition, Curtis makes himself look stupid at the end of this particular segment by saying that behavioral economist are counter-game theorists by studying “if people really do behave as the simplified model says they are”.  In reality, behavioral economics is an evolved form of game theory that builds very much on the basis of game theory concepts.  It is not counter-game theory nor is a “new” discipline as Curtis states.  Yes, it is true that in the past decade or so, behavioral economics has gained enormous popularity in academia and in the private sector, but the concept was established by Adam Smith himself–who Curtis pretty much dismisses as obsolete ironically right before he introduces behavioral economics–in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, actually written before his all-famous Wealth of Nations.  Curtis most definitely went overboard trying to make his argument and by doing so makes himself unconvincing and almost trivial.

In addition, I personally found Curtis to be over-stressing certain aspects of game theory.  For instance, Curtis misrepresents Nash equilibrium by associating it merely with the Prisoner’s Dilemma game.  While the Prisoner’s Dilemma is the most popular, and perhaps most interesting case to present Nash equilibrium, in reality Nash equilibrium is much larger than just the Prisoner’s Dilemma game.  Prisoner’s Dilemma is unique in that it is a game in which Nash equilibrium does not equal Pareto optimal solution.  Pareto-optimal solution refers to a the situation in which neither party involved in the game cannot do better than the solution presented.  For instance, in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, the Pareto-optimal point would be for both parties to deny any wrong doing.  However, Nash equilibrium–the game theory solution point that takes into account the action of the other player–is for both parties to defect in the Prisoner’s Dilemma game.  This is only one example of game theory and Nash equilibrium.  There are plenty of example in which Pareto optimal point is equal to Nash equilibrium unlike Prisoner’s Dilemma.  In fact, there probably are more cases of Nash equilibrium being equal to Pareto optimum than not.  When Nash equilibrium equals Pareto optimal solution, game theory in fact is serving to the better of all parties involved in the game.  While it does not negate argument presented by Curtis that game theory assumes people to rational, it does somewhat contradicts Curtis in that this view of society serves for the betterment of society as a whole, benefiting all parties involved without sacrificing one for another.

Moreover, Curtis completes neglects to mention mixed strategy concept of game theory.  In most game theory solutions, there exist pure strategy game and mixed strategy game.  Pure strategy game is in simple terms, a simplified version of a game in which choices are either Option 1 or Option 2.  When looking at game theory as a whole, pure strategy represents a smaller portion of the discipline than mixed strategy.  Mixed strategy is a case where one considers the probability and preference of the other party choosing Option 1 or Option 2.  In other words, it is not always the case in Prisoner’s Dilemma that a person as 50/50 probability of denying guilt or admitting guilt.  Mixed strategy takes this into account.  While economist might state that and in reality true that mixed strategy still implies assuming the people to rational decision makers, I believe it inherently also assumes and values the individuality of each human being and that heart–or the irrational side of human–should be taken into account in each game’s probability.

Ultimately, I find what Curtis is saying to be interesting and true in its essence.  However, I do believe that the approach Curtis takes to make this argument is not the most effective way to make his case.  By being over-aggressive (bordering the lines of sensationalism), I found “The Trap” to be propaganda-like, neglecting to present a complete picture of topics being discussed and narrowing the vision only to those that fit his argument (which is natural).  Moreover and more importantly, I do not necessarily find the phenomenon or development of society that Curtis presents with regards to game theory to be disturbing as he presents.

Smile (or Not)- You Are Being Watched!

Do you think that you are an anonymous nobody, or do you secretly elaborate strategies to finally become famous and divert public attention on you? You are wrong! In fact, let me tell you that you are already all over the place! Especially since you have become a NYU student. There is no need to participate in Big Brother or other television reality shows; a slow stroll from Washington Square to the sports center is enough. My latest experiment will prove you why. Unfortunately (or fortunately for you), my project „Zero Camera“ has desperately failed.

Adam Curtis’ documentary has addressed a fundamental question I was asking myself for the last few weeks. What price has freedom? If we want to preserve and protect our so-called free and open society, is it inevitable that we will have to give up large parts of our privacy and personal rights? The failed terrorist bombing of the Northwest airplane on Christmas day has once again shown how vulnerable our society is. More important, it has made clear that fear has become the governing rationale of our living-together. I am shocked with was ease and speed civil liberties are revalued and curtailed in the name of national security. Although the efficiency and legitimacy of the draconian security measures adopted after the 9/11 events have been questioned by the public in the last few years, after Christmas, invasive „preventive“ actions have been taken without a blink. Full-body scanners will soon be installed in every airport. For now, this new measure still provokes outcry and is heatedly discussed, but within little time it will be largely accepted – as it occurred with the security/surveillance cameras systems in the past.

To make it clear, I don’t want to blame terrorism as the sole reason for this situation. In the last decades, there has been a unbreakable trend towards the „securization“ of our society. Private security companies have mushroomed everywhere on the globe, especially in industrialized countries, and became an integral part of our daily life. Today, it is completely normal- and even regarded as necessary- that surveillance cameras accompany us 24/7. But how true is this statement? Are video cameras really ubiquitous, at least in the cities? I asked myself when I was filmed in my daily life. Sure, I knew that banks and stores use video cameras, and in the subway I also had spotted several models. But around the university campus, it couldn’t be so bad, could it? Walking on University Place, I started to direct my look into the air, and suddenly realized that I was walking on a red carpet. On only eight blocks, I discovered ten cameras!

That is when I wanted to make an experiment. Could I get from Bobst Library to the Sports Center Palladium without being taped? With the help of i-See , a web-based application elaborated by the Institute for Applied Technology, I calculated my „Zero Camera“ route to trick the system, and find a way for not being taped on my way. The plan seemed simple: after some detours and small side-streets, I would arrive at my final destination on 14th street without being videotaped. With the city map in my hand, I left the library full excitement.

Half a bloc later, my first deception. Kimmel Center. Four cameras on one corner! Even worse, a quick inquiry with the security guard revealed that the building has approximately ten outdoor cameras. On Thompson street, the situation was similar. Clearly, i-See needed a huge update! Therefore, I changed my plan again, and decided to count all cameras on my „Zero Camera“ route. About twenty minutes later, and a nice walk in the East Village (by the way, the church at 10th street with 2nd Ave has a very nice garden!), the result was stunning: I discovered over 25 cameras. On practically every segment of my route my un-trained eye had found video cameras. The real number must be much higher, as a lot of cameras are hidden as lamps, and aren’t easy to detect.

According to a report published in 2006 by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) called “Who’s Watching? Video Camera Surveillance in New York City and the Need for Public Oversight,” the number of video sur-veillance cameras has skyrocketed in the last ten years. Whereas in 1998, over 2300 cameras were „visible from street level in Manhattan,“ in 2005 almost the same amount was counted in the area of Greenwich Village and SoHo only. Five years later, the current statistics must be even higher.

Of course, the purpose of video camera systems isn’t to turn common citizen into non-stop filmed celebrities. The proponents of video surveillance systems claim that the use of cameras deters crime, and enhances public safety. On the other hand, critics denounce that this technology undermines fundamental civil rights like the right to privacy, speech, expression and association. For example, the NYCLU has reported abuses of police monitoring powers in this regard, and raised awareness about the discriminating practice of racial profiling. The New York based performance collective called Surveillance Camera Players also protests against public video cameras, and makes a direct parallel to George Orwell’s surveillance society depicted in 1984.

The question is if these measures are effective and make us safer. But more important: Are the invasion of our privacy and the detriment of our personal rights the price of security? Do we have to be unfree in order to be free? In the end, it is a choice about what society we want. In my opinion, we are heading in the complete wrong direction.

Freedom Isn’t Free

I often think about the actions of how we treat one another. From the simple laughs on TMZ.com to the killings of innocent people in war, the human being is constantly joyed by another persons sorrow.

Adam Curtis’ “The Trap” is a realistic documentary that makes you think about how we as human beings betray one other on a day to day basis. And while we embed trust in each other through friends, family or common acquaintances we in fact learn from “The Trap” that there are preconceived motives in almost everything we do.

The saying “Freedom Isn’t Free” kept coming to mind as I was watching this film. The reason I chose to compare and contrast this saying is because ones freedom is always reliant on laws and individuals that merit what we do and don’t do. I believe what we are told though government and theory often manipulate to underlying meanings that are out of our control. Thus, after we are told one thing, most likely something else always happens. This brings a sensible argument to how we have fallen into this false sense of freedom or “trap”. A sense that has led to the rise of social inequality, the endless attempts to establish democracy in the middle east, and the war on terror in Britain, Europe and America.

I was intrigued by  Nash’s, “Fuck You Buddy” approach and how it easily relates in any situation. Though this film focus primarily on the betrayal of government and politics this approach is seen in everyday activity. After I watched this film, I realized much how much of savages we really are.  While some may disagree, it is evident that someone is always out to get you whether it be your government, your best friend or your credit card company. And in many instances, you are left without a choice. Consequently, a choice that limits your state of freedom i.e. Freedom Isn’t Free.

It goes on to how the rhetoric of freedom has been used by revolutionaries to justify violence, by the neo-cons to justify “shock therapy” in Eastern Europe and more recently in Iraq, with horrific consequences. To easily relate this film to today, we can look at the most recent red alert in Britain and how this affects the world hence the term, “global fear”. Global fear being how we as individuals create scarcity in one isolated region and it’s effect on the world. I am currently in Los Angeles for the weekend and just yesterday did I notice that upon leaving JFK I was put through a second security check at the gate right before boarding my flight. I would go in depth further on ones persons control over another however I have a feeling I can bring this up in a posting another time.

Finally this is one of the most thought-provoking and intelligent films of recent times. How the world would be so different if only we thought through things before acting upon what we “actually do”.

TV, the Tyrant – Travelogue-1

TV, the Tyrant

Three ways in which the TV affects you even if you switch if off

“They tell me that they have an ideal in their mind about what the normal person is,” psychiatrist Paul McHugh says in The Trap. “I don’t fit that model,” they tell him. “I want you to polish me down to fit.”

That model – Adam Curtis argues – is an ideal human that behaves in a completely rational and selfish way. A fuck-you-buddy champion. In an institutionalized enforcement of that ideal, according to the documentary, citizens are provided with a ready-made market-driven checklist of how they should behave. Individual situations do not matter. We must fit the model.

If the media are channels through which a society talks to itself, their role in the enforcement of this model is vital. The documentary provides a perspective in which the following question can be asked: Does a free market really supply media content that the consumers really want? Does it supply the content that is good for the society? Is it a matter of free choice at all?

Not really. There is no way you can talk back to your television. But even if you choose to switch it off, it will continue to shape your life:

Protestors burn TV

Protesters in India burn a TV set during a demonstration calling for stricter censorship. The Tribune India

1- It will shape your interaction with other people. This is not limited to simplistic concerns about whether violence in the media will make the consumers exhibit violent behavior, or whether kind of pornography you watch will determine what kind of a sexual partner you are. More importantly, it will provide the perspective in which you will see the others and others will see you – based on gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, body type, your fashion choices, and so on.

2- It will continue to inform or misinform other consumers about political matters. Their opinion will shape the warfare or welfare decisions that your government makes. That in turn will directly affect you.

3- It will continue to claim to represent public opinion but in doing so it will in fact itself be determining the public opinion. People consume the media for education and advice. It implies that their own information is admittedly not adequate enough. When they are told what ‘the public’ wants (often influenced by what the advertisers want), they want it too. The claims self-fulfill.

The TV, as a conventional media tool, thus tells you what we should ideally look like, and what you should ideally feel like. It also provides you with the categories in which to box you individuality and therefore becomes the primary source of your identity. It does so even if you have switched it off. “What happened,” then, “to our dream of freedom?” Where exactly is our “right to choose”?

Travelogue 1 – The Trap/Adam Curtis

The Trap

This film brought up several points that most of us do think about subconsciously but never act on. The concept of people monitoring and strategizing against each other is very true in a humanistic way. Our first level of consciousness doesn’t believe in such a tactic but if we were to analyze our own minds in depth we would mind that it is the survival of the fittest in essence. The author’s idea of political control I believe is quite accurate in the sense that this type of control does prevent individualism and freedom.

Nash’s idea of “Fuck Your Buddy” or “Game Theory” struck me as something that can be applied to any situation that relates to two parties. In your own daily life you can see that those who are cut throat and not care for the outcome of others seem to succeed more. Now this opinion can be called into question by many, but it is a fact that if you are too nice to your enemy they will attack and you will lose.  Possessing a common courtesy for others can get you “Trapped.” Everyone should have the ability to pursue their own goals.  Nash proved that through this system of selfishness and suspicion a balance or sense of equilibrium can be created. If we were all to cooperate and become slaves to the government, it would actually be more dangerous for society. Each of us adjust to one another’s strategies, and we are all trying to gain our own personal advantage against each other.

Another part of the film I found interesting and was completely unaware of was the attack of the elite psychiatrists. This group of people was trampled on simply by one study of 8 fake patients. I was stunned to find that because they all stated they thought of the same word and acted normal they were all diagnosed with some mental illness. It made me doubt how dangerous the power of these doctors were.  As the documentary states, the categories in psychiatrity did change into a series of checklists that one can self diagnosis and calculate through numbers. I don’t personally believe this is entirely accurate either, it would cause an epidemic of people who would constantly find something wrong with themselves. A computer should not have the ability to calculate if one is suffering from depression. The concept of the checklists also led to dangerous consequences. A medicated society on anti depressants would make humans be just as the market is, a system of numbers that is automated and robotic.

The idea of freedom in the west – was deeply rooted in the paranoia and basis that develop in the Cold War – which led to corruption and inequality. We are really the lonely individuals that the cold war scientists had developed.

The attempt to liberate people has actually led to a system of complete control which might not be the type of people humanity may need. It will cause a dramatic collapse of social mobility, there will be great distinctions between social classes. There may be a reason why the middle east rejects the ideas of the western idea of democracy and freedom.

The idea that politicians that served the public was impossible. This documentary makes an interesting point in that one person cannot represent society or the “public good.” A politician that serves the public can only make decisions for himself, and represent himself and what benefit himself, not others as a collective. It is better to base our society on the market , similar to having a voting system, the author is documentary believe this is the only way one could have freedom.  I found the idea of market democracy to be very interesting because it is a system that actual works because it is based on what the people want and are buying into. It is better for the people and their interests run the market and then in return the economy will flourish.

Chagnon’s experiment was also very intriguing in development of models of humans beings, based on genes that guide people or “codes” or “instructions” that make people who are alike, act the same way. DNA is can explain why certain people act the way they do. People who have similar genetic makes up tend to gravitate towards defending one another more. This I personally believe is just a simple rule of human nature, but through Chagnon’s experiment and mathematical theory he was able to prove this as true.

Here is an interesting video I watched on the Naro – it actually elaborates on Chagnon’s research as well:

World without meaning, instead of re instilling freedom in the western thought, they have stripped it from us. It would be want Berlin would state as the transition from negative liberty to positive liberty which was questioned by the Cold War scientists.

Reagan’s policy on the Sandinistas was argued and questioned because we participated in giving weapons to Nicaragua supplement the global war on terror which the United States was against. Through the idea of “Perception Management” the American people could be convinced that the Sandinistas would threaten the American people and that we were left with no other choice but to retaliate.

These were my thoughts on the 3 videos – Enjoy!

New Media : the answer to The Trap (Adam Curtis 2007)!

I found Curtis’ documentary interested to watch (despite its length and old fashioned way of filming!). The way it questions the western idea of Freedom is very relevant to the global context we are living in these days.

The concept of “negative Freedom” emerged from the Cold War when people were convinced they had to protect them from the communists who tried to deprive them from their freedom. But even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the failure of communism the negative freedom did not turn into a “positive freedom”. Freedom is not promoted in itself, it is always defined as something that has to be protected from an enemy. Even after the Cold War politicians and powerful corporation are keeping people in the idea that they have an enemy. It used to be communists, now it is terrorists.

Governments maintain an atmosphere of paranoia to achieve control over people. They believe that politicians are protecting them from huge threats such as bombings etc. Therefore people will not criticize or rebel themselves against it. According to Curtis, politicians seem to have interest in creating enemies.

We could think of Curtis’ documentary as very pessimistic. And it is obviously. Yet I disagree with Alexandra’s closure “Great job complaining about all the things wrong in the world – but that’s really only half of the job”. By pinpointing what’s wrong we are lead to answers. What if the development were a way of escaping the control that politicians have gain over us. It might be the tool to retrieve a positive freedom. The role of Twitter in 2009 Iran Revolution is a great example of the hope we could in the New Media.

YouTube Preview Image

Contrary to “the Invisible Hand” of economist Adam Smith, we could think of the New Media as the tool which forces people to stop focus on their personal interest and pushes them into taking into account the others. This reminds me of the movie the Lives of others, where the agent of the Stasi takes who is supposed to put a suspicious couple unde

“I know my Calculus: U+Me=Us”

For another class, I’ve been reading Horkheimer and Adorno’s philosophical treatise, Dialectic of Enlightenment. Certainly not my first choice in reading material, and absolutely not the most engrossing or lucid of texts, but I found its critique of the Enlightenment ideal of ‘man’s logical mind triumphant over nature’ to be a useful supplement when considering The Trap.

Without getting too deep into the argument, the basic premise of the book is that the Enlightenment was all about conquering man’s fear of the unknown by attempting to quantify and qualify everything. The goal was for man to become a completely logical being, whose actions and reactions spring out of rational self-interest; as philosopher Baruch Spinoza said, “the endeavor of preserving oneself is the first and only basis of virtue.”

Sound familiar?

Like the creators of The Trap, Horkheimer and Adorno are much better at offering a critique of this mindset than deploying any positive arguments, but one line in particular stood out to me as an “aha!” moment. They write:

“The reduction of thought to a mathematical apparatus condemns the world to be its own measure.”

Very Shakespearean; let’s contemplate.

What they’re saying, in short, is that reducing all of human life—inner- and outer- —to numbers and equations is painfully limiting, and completely rejects the possibility of miracle. And not necessarily ‘miracle’ in a religious sense, though they are gesturing toward the great Unknowns of existence that often becomes staples of religion.

Rather, they are speaking of miracle in terms of surprise, when people do things that defy expectation and rationality and all obvious laws of nature. When men and women run into burning buildings to save a stranger; when people travel into earthquake zones at the risk of life and limb to help rebuild; or, perhaps, when RAND secretaries refuse to turn on each other in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Spinoza argued that miracles are events simply following laws of whose rules we’re unaware, but that’s pretty childish logic. What has fueled thought for centuries is that there are so many intangibles to human nature that to simplify it into a matter of numbers vastly underestimates the species—whether we be animal, machine, or something other.

This sounds rather maudlin indeed, and surprisingly idealistic for someone who considers herself a cynic. But I find it ironic that those who embody the great unknown of genius (which, it should be noted, originated as a term for a person’s guiding spirit or fortune), like John Nash, are the same men and women who treat the human mind as if it can be contained by a set of equations with predictable results. Humans aren’t so easy to pin down, as witnessed by the fact that in The Trap, every single attempt at government has, in one way or another, been a giant fail, and even history’s most brilliant minds have been unable to come up with a proper and lasting solution.

Is this post yet another critique with no solution? Probably. All I can suggest is to take comfort in the little, ridiculous miracles that new media has put at our fingertips, because, if nothing else, YouTube is an archive full of people acting irrationally.

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