Douglas Rushkoff explains in an online exert from his book ‘Present Shock,’ “our society has reoriented itself to the present moment, ” elaborating that the result of this is the, “diminishment of anything that isn’t happening now.”2 What is seemingly provoking this change is our ability to receive information live, John Haven’s explaining that, “the very nature of such technological immediacy will very quickly change human behaviour.”3
In particular, Augmented Reality (A.R,) has in recent years become one of the most trending mediums in the technology revolution. Two key factors contributing to the growth in A.R technology have been the accessibility to equipment compatible with the format, as well as an ever-increasing demand for autonomous and visceral technology. Using a variety of illustrations and theory’s this paper will attempt to examine the direction in which technology is progressing and the impacts that this is having on social order.
The term, ‘Moore’s Law,’ originated around 1970, the concept relating to George E. Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation. “The simplified version of this law states that processor speeds, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years.”3 While the theory has caused widespread discussion in regards to the accuracy of the formula, for the most part the law is valid, that is until transistors reach the size of atomic particles, which will leave no more room for the growth in CPU speeds.
Linking Moore’s Law to Rushkoff’s notion of acceleration, we begin to acknowledge how technology is influencing the break down between the present and the future. The most noticeable illustration as mentioned earlier is our ability to receive virtual information in real time. According to ‘Pew Research Centre,’ 56% of Americans now own some form of Smartphone, whilst 34% of the American adult population own a tablet computer, “such as an iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus or Kindle Fire.”4 With this increasing amount of connectivity comes a new level of dependency on virtual content.
Whilst the illustration of American figures are palpably subjective in accordance to the rest of the world, as developing countries mature economically and the cost of production decreases these technologies are becoming increasingly available. China for example, whilst 41st on the list of countries with the highest percentage of Smartphone ownership in 2011 (6% of the population,) had 23.9 million phones sales, whilst America only had 23 million in the same year.5
So, what exactly are the effects of this new wave of virtual interaction, and how have certain mediums struggled? One of the more obvious impacts of technological immediacy has been felt in the publishing or print industry. There has been a steady decline the print readership thanks to the way in online news sources can provide a level of immediacy. Even though this race for output of information has debatably lowered the quality of journalism, this has only in truth made a marginal impact on the way the public interoperates the news. Internally though, or to quote Eric Burdon from the ‘inside looking out,’ print companies have been hit hard, Fairfax Media reporting a 39% profit loss in February 2013.6 Clay Shirky explains in ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,’ “when someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution”7
On the one hand while, previously successful media outlets have been thwarted by the so called tech revolution, social media sites have in just under the past decade become in their own right means of news publication. With support coming in the form of a hyperlink or more recently the iconic ‘hashtag,’ sites such as Twitter and Facebook have spawned another dimension of news publication. What this relationship has triggered is a kind of hyper urgency for news websites in being the first to successfully upload a news story. Ultimately the frontrunner in this pseudo-journalistic race will win a succession of shares, likes, and hits leading to advertising revenue, Rushkoff labeling the time spent on these websites as “eyeball hours.” 2
Rushkoff observes that societies current relationship with the media, “is why blogs are being super-seeded by Twitter feeds.”2 Malcolm Turnbull was recently quoted at the Walkley Media Conference as saying, “if I write a blog, like I did yesterday complaining about you know the ABC’s reporting on the NBN, I can put that on my blog, post in on Twitter, and it is drawn to the attention of the possessors of 130 odd thousand devices. Now that is, that is vastly more than the readership of say the Fin Review…”8
Turnbull’s comment is tremendously symbolic of the growing attitudes towards the media cycle, as well as the weight of social forums such as Twitter. Turnbull’s statement while implicitly honest is also marginally warped. While the treasurer has ever right to boast such influence, it is undeniably worrying when someone in a political role, regardless of their political orientation has more communicative clout than some of the larger media organisations. Essentially we need a bipartisanship in terms of the journalism in order to mediate any story. Rushkoff cynically writes, “it’s how millions of young people can choose to embody a new activism based in patient consensus instead of a contentious debate.”2
Evidently there are far worse people in the world who could maintain such uncensored following, such as a certain Kardashian. Jokes aside though, it is astonishing to witness and be involved with such an intricate social change.
Not only has the expediency of information improved but also the depth of content has reached an uncharted level. Bernard Stiegler writes in ‘The Global Mnemotechnical System,’ “humans die but their histories remain – this is the big difference between mankind and other forms.”9 What Stiegler continues to claim is that, “technics is always a memory aid.” 9 By this, it can be presumed that the writer means all forms of technology right from cave paintings to the non-linear existence of the internet have in some way provided a platform for mankind to store information.
On ABC’s Radio National Podcast – The Philosopher’s Zone, Joe Gelonesi interviews both John Sutton and Prof. Richard Menary, who expand on their thesis entitled, ‘The Extended Mind Theory.’ Prof. Clarke explains that not only can, “the world be part of the mind,” but also technologies ranging from notepads to iPhones “can be constituents of our mental and cognitive resources.”10 To some extent this notion is applicable and undeniably intriguing, although if our smart-phone or iPad is kind of metallic cognitive appendage could we then be arguing that we should be allowed to use such devices in exam conditions or furthermore in any situation?
In a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Youth Skim Surface of Life With Constant Use of Social Media,’ Kelsey Munro makes the observation that, “today’s under 30’s live their lives, “mile wide and an inch deep,”11 due to the constant desire to check social media feeds. Challenging the ‘Extended Mind Theory,’ Munro argues that even though the amount of online content is there as well as the ability to surface information at any moment, technologies that were designed to reduce time spent processing content have instead done the reverse.
Rushkoff continues this examination in his novel ‘Present Shock,’ writing that, “Instead of having the opportunity to extract ourselves from the industrial ‘time is money paradigm,’ we founds ways to extend that obsolete agenda into the digital age.” 2
Ultimately instead of being able to have more time to communicate in more of an asynchronous form, we shaped these new technologies into consistently on, “value and time extractive technologies,” 2 ultimately designing for ourselves an attentive economy, which links back to the idea of eyeball hours and so on.
So how has all of this lead to the Augmented realm, and what are the effects of these changes on society? As touched on earlier John Haven explains in ‘The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality,’ “Augmented Reality is not just a technology, it’s a shortcut. Whether we interact with date through a pair of glasses or contact lenses, the very nature of such technological immediacy will quickly change human behaviour.”3
The reason why it feels as though Haven mentions human behaviour is because of the way in which technology is moving and how certain products are being designed and marketed. Earlier examples in this essay support this notion, the decline in language heavy debate regarding newspaper articles and the popularity of short and precise information highlighting the decreasing attention span of the online community. It is not the public that have demanded that we receive information in this way, realistically the infinite space for content has meant that we really have less time to give to one website or application in particular. The most successful mediums in the last year have ultimately been ones such as Tumblr and Instagram, purely for the fact that they are visually pleasing and extremely simple and precise.
Following on, an algorithm and technology designed by 17-year old Nick D’Aloisio was picked up by Yahoo for $30 million. The iPhone app, ‘Summly,’ is designed to take the most important parts of news articles, edit and re-contextualised them, so that people essentially have to read less.
AR companies such as Metaio, Bauer Media, Google and CacheTown are just some of the many organisations trying to tap into this visual AR realm, and so far the results have been quite inconceivable. An example of this is as Haven’s explains, “CacheTown, an AR technology initially being used to help retailers project offers for products or services in the virtual arena.” 3 On their website they describe themselves as, “a marketing tool that allows brands to create GPS location-based AR promotions, as well as n AR scavenger hunt game for consumers, allowing customers to win branded real-world prizes or offers by collecting virtual tokens.”12
Augmented eyewear also seems to foreshadow the direction of communicative technologies. Vint Cerf, recognised as one of the supposed fathers of the Internet, believes that, “there are consequences to the technology we’re using that we cannot predict.”3 Paralleling these consequences to Rushkoff’s idea of ‘Present Shock,’ the media theorist continues to describe the notion of “overwinding” 2 using the example of the derivative stock exchange, which is now grossly larger than the New York stock exchange. Under all of this, what is so fascinating is the way in which the human race relies on future growth and development. Cerf adds that, “we’re moving into a time we’ve never quite been in before, continuing to say that, “the information explosion has been with us for a long time, but the ability to process it has been les available to us.”3
Google Glass is another example of the revolutionary and wearable Augmented software that is coming to life. An article in Tech Radar titled, ‘Google Glass; Everything You Need to Know,’ explains that the device, “uses display technology instead to put date in front of your vision, directions become more intuitive and you can view real-time translations or transcriptions of what is being said – all on the fly.”14 Though Vint Cerf wrote that we couldn’t predict exactly where the future of technology was going, to some extent an assumption or argument could definitely be made that digital technologies are becoming more and more a part of our construct.
So, the question is really how are we holding up against this inescapable barrage of technology being filtrated into our social environment? If there is one key notion that has hopefully sits atop this essay, it hopefully would be that society is impressively flexible and malleable when it comes to learning and understanding new methods of communication. While it can be alarming to analyse the rate in which media patterns are shifting, this was essentially part of the contract that we somewhat blindly signed when entering from the industrial into the information era. Ultimately we must persist in questioning future social impacts of these technologies, and whether our relationship with them is a healthy one.
2 [online] Rushkoff, Douglas (2013) ‘Present Shock,’ http://www.rushkoff.com/present
3 [online] Drell, Lauren (2012) ‘7 Ways Augmented Reality Will Improve Your Life’, Mashable, December 20, http://mashable.com/2012/12/19/augmented-reality-city/
4 [online] Smith, Aaron (2013) ‘Smartphone Ownership 2013,’ http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Smartphone-Ownership-2013/Findings.aspx
5 [online] (2012) ‘What if smartphones were as popular in China as they are in the USA?’http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/23/what-if-smartphones-were-as-popular-in-china-as-they-are-in-the-usa/
6[online] Ahmed, Sim (2013) ‘Job cuts on the horizon for Fairfax, company looks towards paywalls,’ http://www.stoppress.co.nz/blog/2013/05/job-cuts-horizon-fairfax-company-looks-towards-paywalls
7[online] Shirky, Clay (2009) ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable,’http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-and-thinking-the-unthinkable/
8[online] Media Watch (2009) ‘Bypassing the Gatekeepers,’ http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3742728.htm
9[online] Stiegler, Bernard (2003) ‘Our Ailing Educational Institutions,’ http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/viewArticle/258/243
10 [online podcast] Gelonesi, Joe (2010) ‘The Extended Mind,’ http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/philosopherszone/the-extended-mind/2986780
11 [online] Munro, Kelsey (2013) ‘Youth Skim Surface of Life With Constant Use of Social Media,’ http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/youth-skim-surface-of-life-with-constant-use-of-social-media-20130419-2i5lr.html
12 [online] CacheTown (2013) ‘Location-Based Augmented Reality,’ http://candylab.com/cachetown/
14 [online] Rivington, James (2013) ‘Google Glass; What You Need to Know,’ http://www.techradar.com/au/news/video/google-glass-what-you-need-to-know-1078114