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Facebook is celebrating its 10th birthday today amidst speculation of an impending decline. But the behemoth of social networks is showing no signs of flailing just yet.

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Facebook is one of the first things we check in the mornings and the last, before we go to sleep.

Whether its FOMO, addition or just habit, Facebook has become a stalwart pal for about one sixth of the world’s population, a staggering ‘citizenship’ which could surpass the number of people living in China, the world’s most populous nation, within the next year.

It seems the way people use Facebook is dependent on whether (or not) they grew up with the network. As Seth Fiegerman writes, ‘Facebook’s users seem to be divided into two groups: younger users who are forever connected to people from the past, and older users who are given a powerful tool to reconnect with those they’ve long since lost touch with’.

Having signed up to Facebook at the beginning of 2008, I wasn’t one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. But I did have an account before many of my friends, albeit one I saw as the inferior little sister to my, at the time, beloved Myspace. I actually got a Facebook account to keep in touch with new friends from interstate. Either myself or members of the Sydney clan had to make a move to the dark side (Facebook and Myspace, respectively), and I ended up caving to what I thought was the short straw. About a year later, Myspace became effectively defunct and I found myself pretty proud of my already established Facebook backlog and network.

Nevertheless, I still latched onto Facebook as a way of remaining connected, rather than reigniting long lost friendships from my single digit days. Simultaneously, my peers began to use Facebook as their primary social network, to the point where I’m now connected to hundreds and hundreds of ‘friends’ some of which I’ve either met only once, or haven’t spoken to directly in years. However, every now and then someone I might classify as ‘random’ (a word my mum thinks is ‘soooo Gen Y’) pops up on my newsfeed and I’m kindly reminded of their existence in the world, if not in my life as such.

At the moment, I’m still pretty dependent on Facebook to do what it does best and give me updates and a realtime tracker of what my friends and ‘friends’ are doing with their lives. Ironically, Facebook really shows just how much we’re not doing because we’re too busy updating our online presence through status’, photos and ‘checking in’ to places where we want to be (virtually) seen.

I am not out to diss Facebook. As I said, I’m still thoroughly engaged with, and through, the network to people I’d otherwise have lost contact with. Despite only being a few years out of school, there are so many people I’d have called close friends that I now, rarely see or even speak to. Facebook provides me with that virtual and emotional link to classmates with whom I spent weeks and years, side by side. Someone’s got a new boyfriend, someone else is on exchange, one girl is living abroad and another just qualified as a professional nurse and has already landed the job of her dreams.

When people announce exciting (or even terribly tragic) events on Facebook, there is an almost resurgence and instantaneous spill of camaraderie for those involved. It’s pretty amazing how quickly people come together for someone in need, or to celebrate and congratulate a new couple, job or marriage.

But Facebook also perpetuates a continuous disease of comparison between both strangers and friends. If the aforementioned friend got ‘the’ job while you lucked out, you might feel down. You see a group of old friends catching up without you and checking in somewhere for drinks, and now not only you know you’ve been sidelined, but everybody else in their network does, too.

And social networking is, ironically, incredibly self-centred. While each network proclaims to be about connecting people, they’re all centred around individual users creating a ‘profile’ through which they will portray themselves to the world. Yet whether by intuition, self-protection or devious scheming, what and how we choose to display ourselves online is overwhelmingly self-selected – and if it’s not, you can untag yourself or remove yourself from the group with the click of a button.

So people are choosing profile pictures where they’re pleased with their appearance. They’re checking in only at the places/with people with whom they want to be seen. They’re selectively creating a virtual profile of themselves filled with all the good bits, and only minimal (if any at all) aspects of their vulnerabilities. And as Brené Brown teaches us, there is so much power in vulnerability.

But with over 1.23 billion users worldwide, Facebook is clearly doing something right. The network also hosts thousands of support groups, allows for easy sharing of digital content, and makes inviting friends to your birthday soiree so much easier. Of course, sometimes you’re drowning in events from promoters or can’t see anything on your newsfeed other than bloody memes or videos of friends nek nominating each other, but being so privy at least means you’re kept in the loop… at all times… whether you like it or not.

I suppose what it all comes down to is the power of social networking in creating, building and maintaining relationships between individuals and groups across the globe. In the words of TheFacebook’s multibillionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ‘It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways’.

Only time will tell if the network survives its terrible teens. Always reinventing itself, Facebook continues to keep up with if not, lead, the Joneses so if it continues to dominate global connectivity into the 2020s, here’s hoping we’re all still interested in those self-appointed popular girls from high school because, who knows? Maybe we’ll even see them settle down some day.

As mentioned in a previous post, part of our assessment for Networked Media is to create a speculative piece for our class wiki, ‘niki’.

My group’s first topic, or person of interest, is the artist and computer scientist, Jonathan Harris.

Harris is a young American based in New York who graduated with a degree in computer science from Princeton. He says he came to Princeton more as a formality and without a specific interest in the field, and that he actually kept sketch books and created visual art for years, and thought of pursuing a career in the arts. However, after travelling in Costa Rica and having his sketchbooks stolen from him while being held up at gun point, art fell by the wayside, at least temporarily.

His love for creating and sharing visual experiences never disappeared though, and Harris has emerged as one of the today’s leading internet anthropologists. On his website, Number 27, Harris says his primary interest is in exploring the ‘relationship[s] between humans and technology’.

From our primary research and discussion, my group’s understanding of Harris is that he’s an incredibly passionate, talented and generous kinda guy. He’s a documenter of human interest, thought and states of being, which is evident through his work.

His projects include an exploration of human emotion called We Feel Fine, a public library of human experience, Cowbird, and I Love Your Work, an interactive documentary about the lives of female sex workers.

Interaction and participation seem to be central to most of his endeavours, as does his love for authentic communication as opposed to propagandising his work, or creating purely for profit or business interests.

I’ll be sure to write about Harris more as our thoughts progress but a fellow group member, Mardy, has also written a post about her emerging ‘love affair’ with the guy, so head over there for some light, evening romance.

I’ll leave you with a quote in which Harris voices what he sees as the potential for growth, where technology and creativity collide:

I… see incredible potential in technology to deepen the relationships between people, not just to increase the number of relationships between people. But I don’t think there are really any great examples of things that have done that yet. I’m very interested in trying to show people that technology can be a beautiful thing to make our lives more meaningful, not more superficial. – NYLON Guys

Last semester I took a subject called International Human Rights and Law. While I entered the course with relatively little prior knowledge of what I imagined the subject would cover, I had actually picked the politics/economics strand of my degree as my contextual major, specifically to take this subject.

I’ve studied very little law or legal studies in any formal way. At school, in year 10, we were introduced to some of the horrific realities of honour killings, forced marriages and dowry penalties, and similar degrading practices that occur far too commonly, largely in developing nations.

I suppose that subject contributed towards me choosing to pick up Women and International Justice over the spring semester of 2012.

But, today I want to post my final essay for International Human Rights and Law.

While not directly addressed in our course, I chose to focus on the ways in which people with disabilities or mental illness are dehumanised and ‘psychosocially debased’, and how these practices are in fact, violations of their human rights.

It never fails to surprise me how much I can enjoy learning and doing ‘work’ when I’m concentrating on something of personal interest. It is with this realisation, I find even more reason for leading educators to consider the principles of Logan LaPlante’s hackschooling philosophy.

It’s a bit Convention heavy, but if you have the time to sit down and ingest the essay, I’d love to hear your responses.

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Discuss whether the dehumanisation and psychosocial debasement of a population or a sector of a population are always leading indicators of potential human rights violations?

Human rights have long been an issue of import and controversy across the globe. Within governments, industries, timeframes and communities, what constitutes a human right has been debated as cultures, generations and evolution bring new and conflicting ideas to the front of popular conversation. Despite this, it is commonly assumed, as recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), that dignity features as a primary concept across legislative instruments and cultural norms. Basser (2011) considers dignity to be an attribute of each person ‘by virtue of his or her humanity’ (p. 19), independent of social status, political affiliation, economic value, gender, ethnicity, or one’s ability to reason. This paper will work with a flexible definition of dignity, incorporating three significant elements of agency, control and worthiness. As such, any attack on a person’s agency, control or worthiness is inherently an attack on their dignity and thus is a violation of their human rights.  To quote Reaume, ‘[t]o ascribe human dignity to human beings… is to treat human beings as creatures of intrinsic, incomparable, and indelible worth’ without the need for further qualification (2003, p. 675). Therefore, one’s physical or mental ability or merit should not diminish the right to dignity and one’s inherent rights to humanity.

Implicit in human dignity and the inherent value of the human person, is an acknowledgement and acceptance of human diversity and difference (Basser, 2011). This paper will address how a disregard for this notion is very present in relation to people with disabilities or mental illness, and how as a consequence, they are collectively dehumanised – deprived of positive human qualities – and debased through the psychosocial, cultural, medical and legal spheres within which we exist. On many occasions, the rights of the disabled have been violated as they are considered to be non-human and are thus de-righted (Quinn and Arstein-Kerslake, 2012). They are often denied access to jobs, services and education, as is the case when children with disabilities find their choices are limited due to schools’ reluctance or inability to provide adequate support or resources to accommodate the child’s differences.

Lawson writes, ‘[t]raditionally, disability has not been regarded as a human rights issue’ (2006, p. 462), and the characterisation of ‘disability rights’ as a social issue was largely absent from global public, political, or legal debate until the early 1990s (Perlin, 2011). Those with disabilities are commonly objectified, and are considered to be a medical ‘issue’ or problem requiring management, care or control. While people with disabilities, like all people, may need care and medical assistance, it is important to highlight that human rights are relational, and that people live together in society where the extent to which any claim to human dignity can be met will be ‘constrained by the need to give equal concern and respect to other human beings’ (Basser, 2011, p. 21). Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘All human beings… are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 1), and yet many people with disabilities are denied this very first human right.

The issue of one’s ability to reason is in itself, contentious. Robertson (2012) explains the 19th century ‘rationalist fallacy’ where rights were only thought to belong to those capable of logical thought which excluded ‘women, dogs and lunatics’ from equal and professional life (p. 150). Perlin (2011) endorses this critique and locates it within a modern context, referring to it as ‘Sanism’. Perlin defines sanism as ‘an irrational prejudice of the same quality and character of other irrational prejudices that cause (and are reflected in) prevailing social attitudes’ such as bigotry based on sex, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity (p. 5). He deepens this definition stating that sanism ‘infect[s] jurisprudence and lawyering practices’ and is based on ‘largely invisible… socially acceptable [prejudices] based predominately on stereotype, myth, superstition, and deindividualization… sustained and perpetuated by our use of a false “ordinary common sense” and heuristic reasoning in an unconscious response to events both in everyday life and in the legal process’ (p.5).

The persons with disabilities most affected by such potential human rights violations are those with intellectual disabilities, mental illness or problems, or those with communicative disabilities, and it was not until 2006 that The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability was constructed in the hope to provide a guarantee that such persons should have adequate access to community services and facilities. The 1948 Genocide Convention outlawed the attempted destruction of a race or ethnic group, yet Robertson (2012) notes the Convention makes no reference to those judged as ‘feeble-minded’ by the popular 1920s eugenics movement in the United States and United Kingdom (p. 150), a category under which those with disabilities were constituted. In what may be considered a similar vein, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights made no reference to those with disabilities, until the European Convention on Human Rights took hold in 1953. After what the United Nations claims to have been ‘decades of work… to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities’ (United Nations Enable, 2006, para. 2), the urgency of a specific charter was finally met with the adoption of The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2006.

Perlin (2011) heeds the United Nations’ notion that society has an obligation to ‘remove the attitudinal and physical barriers to equality and inclusion of people with disabilities’ (p. 4). He considers the extent to which society was blind to the frequent and enduring violations of international human rights law particularly concerning the institutionalisation and legal inequities people with disabilities are so often subject to (2011).  Article 12 of The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ‘Equal recognition before the law’ states: ‘persons with disabilities have the right to recognition everywhere as persons before the law’ who are able to ‘enjoy legal capacity on an equal basis with others in all aspects of life’ (The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 12). Articles 12.3 and 12.4 refer to involved parties’ duty to ensure appropriate support and safeguards are in place for helping persons with disabilities exercise their legal rights and capacity, and that these structures ‘respect the rights, will and preferences of the person’, while being free from any conflict of interest. Article 12.4 specifically states these measures will be put in place ‘to prevent abuse in accordance with international human rights law’.

Despite this, one of the first interventions denied to a person with a disability is their legal capacity to exercise their moral agency, including and especially, a right against forced treatment and an authority to give or refuse consent to various procedures, medical or otherwise (Quinn and Arstein-Kerslake, 2012). Quinn and Arstein-Kerslake (2012) cite Blackstone’s (1765) naming of this to be effectively a ‘civil death’ (p. 42), where the individual is automatically subject to being treated as ‘less than’ equal to other human beings. Medical or legal decisions are substituted to a third party, much like the protocol observed when caring for a minor. However, unlike when caring for children, it is assumed that these lost or diminished capacities will not return to those with disabilities. Quinn and Arstein-Kerslake (2012) note that ‘[t]here remain many laws, practices and policies throughout the world (including in Europe) that unduly restrict the legal capacity of persons with disabilities to make decisions for themselves’ (p. 43).

A large proportion of human rights violations of persons with disabilities are calculated through medical examinations and protocols. A significant proportion of persons with disabilities will be faced with institutionalisastion, where they are confined against their will, as a result of a ‘negative’ medical analysis that has deemed them to be somehow unfit to look after themselves. Perlin notes that despite formerly hospitalised individuals and their supporters taking an active role in advocating for mental health reform, ‘there is little evidence that these groups are taken seriously either by lawyers or academics’ (Perlin, 2003, pp. 699–700). Thus, routinely, persons with disabilities are deprived of their freedom, dignity and basic human rights in violation of Article 14.1b of The Convention on the Rights of Persons that states that ‘the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty’.

Article 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights condemns torture, including ‘inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’. However, as mentioned above, persons with disabilities are sometimes considered to be ‘inhuman’ themselves and are consequently placed in situations of restraint or seclusion undermining their worthiness and human rights. In early 2013, United Nations’ torture Special Rapporteur, Juan E. Méndez, stated that torture is the ‘most serious violation of the human right to personal integrity and dignity’, where the victim is thought of as powerless, is deprived of their legal capacity, their liberty, and is ‘under the total control of another person’ (Méndez, 2013, p. 7). He called for ‘an absolute ban on all coercive and non-consensual measures, including restraint and solitary confinement of people with psychological or intellectual disabilities … in all places of deprivation of liberty, including in psychiatric and social care institutions’ (McSherry, para. 3).

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the improvement of Mental Health Care in 1991. Principle 9.1 mandates patients be treated in the ‘least restrictive environment’ and Principle 9.2 states that treatment shall always be ‘directed towards preserving and enhancing personal autonomy’. This, however, becomes more complex in relation to Principle 11 that deals with consent to treatment. Richardson (2011) notes standards published by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in 2004, of which paragraph 4 states ‘[t]he admission of a person to a psychiatric establishment should not be construed as authorizing treatment without his consent’ except in the cases of involuntary admissions were the person’s condition poses significant risk to their own health or to others’ (p. 140). It is imperative to remember here, that persons with disabilities or mental health problems must be considered to have the capacity or potential to make a full recovery, or to return to a place of stability in which they could regain greater agency and personal control. Richardson (2011) also highlights that ‘the intensity of some mental disorders can vary over time and a patient’s level of competence may fluctuate over the course of the disorder and its treatment’ (p. 152). Throughout treatment, whether voluntary or involuntary, the patient is to be respected and treated with dignity, and as an equal before the law. Under no circumstance should the person be dehumanised, exploited or coerced. If any of the aforementioned was to occur, the individual’s fundamental human rights will have been violated.

Ultimately, The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities seeks to reverse disadvantage faced by people with disabilities through ‘empowering rather than a constraining approach to human dignity’ (Richardson, 2011, p. 155). At present, United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on the 134 states that have ratified the Convention to ‘energize the international community to move from commitment to action [giving] greater recognition… to the issue of disability in sustainable, inclusive and equitable development’ (UN News Centre, para. 3). People with disabilities make up nearly 15 per cent of the world’s population (UN News Centre, para. 4), and are considered to be the ‘world’s largest minority’ (Perlin, 2011, p. 14). Fortunately, there are many established organisations and foundations worldwide seeking progress and activity surrounding disability and human rights. One such organisation is the World Network of Users and Survivors of Psychiatry, that recognises the need for care and communication continues post-active treatment. Similarly, there is an International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as well as efforts by the United Nations to mainstream disability and recognise the inclusion of disability into the Millennium Development Goals as integral to their prevailing success.

People with disabilities must be given the opportunity to prosper and exercise their legal capacities through consolidated support from the global network. Sanism, discrimination and questionable treatment of persons with a disability are all undeniable indicators of potential human rights violations. It is those who are most vulnerable who face continuous denials of their agency, control and worthiness, yet they are as human and as equal, as individuals living free from disability.

***

References

Basser, L A 2011, ‘Human Dignity’, in Critical Perspectives on Human Rights and Disability Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden, pp. 17-36.

European Court of Human Rights, 1953, European Convention on Human Rights, European Court of Human Rights, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Convention_ENG.pdf.

Lawson, A 2008, ‘People with psychosocial impairments or conditions, reasonable accommodation and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in Law in Context, vol. 26, pp. 62-84.

McSherry, B 2013, ‘Targeting isolation and restraint in mental health facilities’, The Conversation, 9 September, viewed 22 September 2013, http://theconversation.com/targeting-isolation-and-restraint-in-mental-health-facilities-16519?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+10+September+2013&utm_content=Latest+from+The+Conversation+for+10+September+2013+CID_a1e59d76a2229c3e1581ca325f634a89&utm_source=campaign_monitor&utm_term=Targeting%20isolation%20and%20restraint%20in%20mental%20health%20facilities.

Méndez, J 2013, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, United Nations, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session22/A.HRC.22.53_English.pdf.

Perlin, M 2003, ‘You have discussed lepers and crooks: Sanism in clinical teaching’, in Clinical Law Review, vol. 9, pp. 683-729.

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1991, Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and for the improvement of Mental Health Care, United Nations, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.equalrightstrust.org/ertdocumentbank/UN_Resolution_on_protection_of_persons_with_mental_illness.pdf.

Quinn, G & Arstein-Kerslake, A 2012, ‘Restoring the ‘human’ in ‘human rights’: personhood and doctrinal innovation in the UN disability convention’, in Human Rights Law, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 36-55.

Reaume, D 2003, ‘Discrimination and Dignity’, in Louisiana Law Review, vol. 63, no. 3, pp. 645-696.

Robertson, G 2012, Crimes Against Humanity, 4th edn, Penguin Group, London.

United Nations, 1948, Genocide Convention, United Nations, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html.

United Nations, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml.

United Nations, 2006, The Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability, United Nations, viewed 22 September 2013, http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/convention/convoptprot-e.pdf.

United Nations News Centre 2013, Countries must increase commitment to rights of persons with disabilities – UN chief, media release, United Nations, Spain, 9 September, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45800&Cr=disability&Cr1=#.Uj0YkBZ7m0u.

In a recent post I mentioned the process of semantic memory. I was again reminded (pun unintended) of this neurological remembering mechanism when reading about the emergence of hypertext navigation, an idea coined by Theodore (Ted) Nelson in the 1960s.

Nelson characterises hypertext as non-sequential writing ‘that branches and allows choices to the reader, best read at an interactive screen’. Text chunks offer the reader different pathways through which they may follow their interests or current train of thought. Hypertext allows for the reader to follow their intuition and pursue one thought at one time, and then to return to their prior position and pursue another thought, sprung from the same original trigger, at another time, and again, and again.

Most importantly, hypertext ‘allows us to create new forms of writing unrestricted by sequence which better reflect the structure of what we are writing [or thinking] about’. Furthermore, hypertext enables multiple users to contribute to a discussion on a single topic at the same platform, and the initiatives of many are assumed to be worthwhile.

Hypertexts offer ‘new pluralistic styles based on many people adding to the body of writing’, which is something we will be exploring in the coming weeks of Networked Media. As part of our assessment, our class has been divided into small groups to research and develop a hypertext on assigned topics of relevance. Utilising knowledge gained from readings, class discussion, research and brainstorming (which I’d like to think perhaps presents as a hypertext itself), we will contribute a collaborative work to be published on our class’ dedicated wiki, called ‘niki’. What’s pertinent about this project though, is that we are able to contribute to, and edit, the contributions of other class members, following Nelson’s idea that different contributions by different people are important. Furthermore, we will be able to alter and add to our niki entries continually, without restriction. Once we’ve produced some content for the niki, I’ll be sure to post a link on countingletters.

Hypertext will represent the true structure of information will all its intrinsic complexity and controversy, and provide a universal archival standard worthy of our heritage of freedom and pluralism. – Nelson 

What I found most intriguing about the Nelson reading (an except from Literary Machines 91.1: The Report on, and of, Project Xanadu Concerning Word Processing, Electronic Publishing, Hypertext, Thinkertoys, Tomorrow’s Intellectual Revolution, And Certain Other Topics Including Knowledge, Education and Freedom. Sausalito: Mindful Press, 1992) apart from the extreme long title of his publication, was the way the prose is structured.

Nelson has presented his (printed) book as a work of hypertext, itself. He explains this as following the ‘pretzel’ or ‘infinity’ model, and hopes that by constructing his prose in this way, he will be able to communicate some of the benefits of doing so.

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Hypertext allows the reader’s own freedom of association, being able to decide for themselves what their next move shall be. It allows for easy revisiting of older or previously read material, and facilitates the sharing of knowledge through associative indexing, rather than a system of alphabetical or numerical filing.

I came to this understanding of hypertext after reading Vannevar Bush’s proposition of the ‘memex’, a name he gave an imagined (and possible) ‘mechanised private file and library’ system which stores a person’s ‘books, records, and communications, and which is mechanised so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility’.

To me, this sounds awfully like the system we know as the world wide web, or the internet. But, Bush publicised these ideas in 1945, in response to physicists who, coming out of the war, were wondering what next to pursue.

Bush recognised and identified the problems with what were at the time, current mechanisms of recording and retrieving data. He acknowledged the economic constraints of the time but was certain these would relinquish their hold over technological production and advancement in due course. He noted that ‘If a record is to be useful to science it must be continuously extended, stored and consulted’. Referencing methods of writing, photography, printing, film, wax disks, and magnetic wire, he writes, with foresight, that ‘Even if utterly new recording procedures do not appear, those present ones are certainly in the process of modification and extension.’ He continues to project ahead and highlights the rapid development and constant improvement of recording mechanisms, but says there is an ineptitude present in ‘getting at the record… largely caused by the artificiality of systems of indexing’.

It is here, Bush proposes the memex, as a physical, mechanical representation of the way the human mind works and process information. Its basic idea, he says, will be ‘a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another’, where any item can be associated with numerous trails, and what is important is the association between the two items, or ‘tying two items together’. This then allows for a more natural, a more human storage process, dependent upon our semantic memory which is an inherent part of human neurology, rather than a process that is rather foreign, unintuitive, and to the human brain, disorderly.

Nelson envisions the world at 2020, which in the late 1980s, was (obviously) a lot further away than it is now. He says that despite environmental destruction and unsolved poverty, ‘there is some hope in the realm of human mental affairs, upon which the survival of humanity and the better parts of human culture depend’. Nelson says facilities to share products of the mind will have ‘reached a new richness’, and claims two hopes for the future, for this time.

  1. To have our everyday lives made simple and flexible by the computer as a personal information tool (which requires good design).
  2. To be able to read, on computer screens, from vast libraries easily, the things we choose being clearly and instantly available to us, in a great interconnected web of writings and ideas, (dependent upon a rebirth of literacy, a new richness and freedom coming to the human experience, and the cornucopia of ideas and writing pictures).

Nelson says at his time of writing, ‘Neither of these is happening’.

However, his call for a New Age changed by a universal repository hypertext network where stored text and graphics, ‘called on demand from anywhere, [have become] an elemental commodity, like water, telephone service, radio and television’ has, in the developed world at least, become a reality.

Now, if that’s not one ‘hyper’ demonstration of the value of design fiction, then I don’t know what is.

As a side note, Nelson also calls for an educational curricular structure that promotes initiative and understanding. I wonder what he would think of Bantick’s antics or LaPlante’s hackschooling philosophy?

And, check out my classmate Kimberly’s predictions for our world, one century on. Our future’s in your hands.

Today, a friend sent me a link to The Scale of the Universe.

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While I’ve seen it before, I think it’s perfect to share with you, my readers and followers, today.

Whenever you feel your problems are unendurable, take a look at this interactive infographic. If you are feeling small, see how significant you are in a world, solar system and universe filled with so much and despite so much endless space. If you feel there is something blocking your path to success or preventing you from actively achieving goals well within your reach, this animation will reinforce your sense of self, and the power you have to get there and to achieve whatever it is you are seeking.

If you feel like your problems don’t matter, this also helps to reassure you that you are worthy of seeking help or guidance because you do play an important role in the lives of others and the ecosystem of our planet, our species and the universe as a whole.

 

The earth has seven billion humans living on its surface. If you met each living person on the planet for one second, it would take you 200 years.

The average U.S. house could fit 1000 people.

Two hundred million people have visited the Eiffel Tower. 

Despite being the smallest country, Vatican City is still larger than you or I. If you were to stretch your flesh across it evenly, the coating would be about 200 nanometres thick, less than even a single skin cell.

Also, straight hair is almost perfectly cylindrical, while curly hair is flatter, enabling it to curl.

An ovum is the largest cell in the human body, yet its diameter is still 1/400th of that of a chicken’s egg. 

 

So, see yourself as a unique and integral part of this world. Because that’s exactly what you are.

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss

It’s so hard to know where to draw the line, sometimes.

Do you lift a pencil before the procrastination can begin, or knock of the pen’s lid only to twiddle it between your second and third fingers? Drawing the line can be preventative or experimental. There’s the line separating the platform from the railway. The lines that run in perfect parallel (tautology?) across the pages yearning for your scrawl. The points of high and low across a musical score, the bars on a cell, the perimetre of your windows and doors. The lines created through positive and negative space when observing the heating vents on your floor. The pinstripes of your pants, the lines of the law. Script lines, spoken words, paraphrases, Southern drawl. Accents have lines and are lines. Exclamation points, marks on a page, seats on a stage.

What is a line? Are all lines straightforward, or are they up for interpretation? Some lines are a way of expression, they are creative, help us make sense of things.

girl-and-a-house

Sometimes things seem so black and white, with a definitive line separating two distinct parties. Good and evil, right versus wrong, high and low, speech and song.

I wonder if it all comes down to respect.

And just because one person crosses a line doesn’t necessarily make it okay for us to follow suit.

I saw a man yesterday. And I saw another man. The first man was in trouble. But he was troubled. He may have done wrong but he wasn’t wrong in himself. He needed help. And how can one be helped if one keeps to them-self? The first man was scared. He was under pressure. He was paranoid and upset. Then the second man took it upon himself not to offer support or a kind word, but to take out his phone and captured the first man’s pain. He literally filmed another man in crisis. And that cannot be okay. There has to be a line there. And man number two crossed it.

all-people-are-killing-themselves-preview

Today, a young person going through a rough time has found herself to be a headline act featured across newsstands worldwide. I am aware that by writing about this I too, may be partaking in the media frenzy. But I have chosen to voice my opinion for a purpose. If someone is suffering, don’t make jokes. You may think you know the whole story, but for better or worse, people do draw their own lines. There’s the stuff they tell you, and then there’s the stuff they don’t. They might do it to protect themselves, or to stop you from hurting. And suddenly, a single person transverses the line, whatever it may be, and the whole world knows everything person ‘A’ wanted to keep secret.

angry-sun

Boundaries are both helpful and unhelpful. But, put ourselves in the situation of another and many of them suddenly seem to make sense. Line’s are a protective mechanism, a signifier of privacy, a marker of difference, or a connector between two people or events.

Some lines are straight forward, clean cut, obvious and matter of fact. Practical, functional, statement, simple. Other lines are elusive, you can’t quite catch them, or if you do, you can’t properly grasp them.

But all lines have a purpose. So, if your lines are hazy, broken or you’re feeling uncertain, call another line for help. Because that’s a healthy choice you can make to expel, settle, and regain focus.

Helplines.

***

And, here’re some lines I wrote for artsHub this week:

‘Prince Harry Kills Me’ Banner Left Out of Biennale

Understanding Arts Audiences <— *this is really interesting*

On the train home from university this afternoon, I boarded a carriage with very few spare seats. I set up shop (read: positioned myself in a corner with The Age) opposite a distinctive group of individuals, who were chatting excitedly with smiles miles wide on their faces. Usually I try to steer clear of noisy groups, whether it be business men, school kids or screaming children, because I like to read in peace and relative quietness. But for some reason, I decided to stay put and have their conversation as a background soundtrack to my travel home.

The train took off and I started to read. But I was soon taken by the conversation this group of people were having. The first thing I noticed were their accents. Each person seemed to speak our mother tongue with their personal flavouring on top. Some were sweetened and drawn out, others spoke in sharp consonant soundbites. One man I found quite difficult to understand, yet another spoke clear and precise English, as if it was a language she’d known from birth, with just a hint of something special on the side. As I studied their faces, I noticed the diverse ethnicities they represented. Of the six people, some were dark, some of Asian heritage, and another appeared to be Middle Eastern. I heard one man speak of his hometown in Saudi Arabia. He was a hardware worker. One woman thought he’d said ‘hairdresser’ rather than hardware worker, and after clarifying his profession through adjectives they both understood, they had a laugh about their mixup. They bonded over their struggle to learn English but their pursuit of it, regardless.

I came to realise that among this group, one woman seemed slightly out of place. She was an Indian woman, significantly older, spoke of navigating Melbourne’s public transport system, and with correct grammar and articulation. She asked questions of the others, and stimulated conversation through these open-ended inquiries. The other members were only too happy to answer, practicing their English and enjoying the interaction and celebrating their achievements in managing to construct appropriate and coherent responses.

They discussed what might happen if they missed their exit station the next time they took the train, alone. The older woman pointed to the map on the train wall behind them, and used her finger to guide them along the line as she explained how to navigate the map of Melbourne. They were to get off at Parliament, today, and the group carefully named the stations before and after their stop, to familiarise themselves with the suburban stations surrounding the city loop.

As the train pulled up to Parliament, what I had thought to be a group of six suddenly ballooned into a group of a much larger scale. The woman turned around and announced to the seats behind her that they were arriving at their station, and to get their Myki’s out, ready to touch off upon exiting the station. As I scanned those I’d previously ignored in the nearby seats, I began to realise what they had in common. I can only assume, but I’m fairly confident, that each of those youthful individuals were new arrivals on our shores. These people were migrants from war-torn countries, others coming from backgrounds of poverty and hardship. Some had left behind their families and friends, and all were making an enormous change in hope of a better life in a land more prosperous and filled with opportunities, than their home.

It was incredible to see how excited they were. They were so full of energy, hope and delight. They were making friends, overcoming obstacles and making the most of what life has given them. And I was able to gauge all of this from about five minutes on a train. Not even speaking with any of them directly. Just overhearing their conversation.

As they left the train and stepped onto the ground at Parliament, my eyes turned back to my newspaper. I scanned the page titled World. Bombings, corruption, hope for basic human rights and democracy, suicide. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt. Bulgaria, Myanmar, Libya, and Syria. So much violence, and seems so far away. But it’s closer to home than many of us care to realise. We are a multicultural society, and it is so important that we continue to welcome people to our country. They may be escaping, fleeing, or simply looking for a better life. Some will stay, others may return to their homeland. But we should accept people not just for who they are, but because they are who they are. Everyone has a different story, and it is only through sharing these stories that we enrich our own lives and in turn, the lives of others.

These people appreciate what we take for granted, they persevere and fight for their human right to be treated with respect.

So in the midst the politics of 457 visas, stopping the boats, illegal immigrants and the like, maybe what we need to consider is the value of our culture as a melting pot. We should consider the risks people have taken and the choices they have made in coming to this country, and treat them as whole, and special, people. We need to stop treating people like abused animals; herding them, dictating to them,  mistreating them, and start to speak with them, as our equals.

Because that’s the right way forward for Australia. And politicians aren’t doing us, or themselves, justice, if they choose to act otherwise.