Archive for March, 2011

The Real World?

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

In a world infiltrated by advertising, ‘reality’ TV and expontential advances to virtual technology … where exactly is ‘the real’ world?

Virtual reality has often remained a fantasy. The product of novels and Hollywood movies. Where robots take over the world and artificial intelligence surpasses human capacity. Where people fall into the world of computer games, desperate to escape. One recent example is Hollywood’s remake of the 1982 movie, TRON.

But, virtual reality is no longer just a thing of the imagination. Rather it is a rapidly developing technological field. Tapped into by big businesses the technology has been utilised to help boost internet sales, allowing consumers to virtually place products in their rooms or virtually explore products online before choosing to purchase. These developments have been further explored in Chris Grayson’s blog ‘Augmented Reality Overview’.

One unique example of business exploiting virtual technology is a new tourism ploy in Rome allowing tourists to virtually transport themselves into the history of the eternal city.

Big business is not the only area where virtual technology has proven useful. It is also slowly finding its place in the world of medicine. Studies in the United States are examining the effects of virtual technology on severe burns patients in the military.

But, there are fears of a dark side to virtual technology particularly in the world of gaming. Wikipedia notes that there have been several games and movies which reveal ‘the potentially dangerous side of virtual reality, demonstrating the adverse effects on human health and possible viruses, including a comatose state which some players assume’ (Wikipedia, ‘Virtual Reality’).

It is this fear of loosing our reality to a virtual universe that leads us to questioning – what exactly is reality, what is the virtual and where does the real world fit in all of this?

If we examine the world and everything which operates or inhabits it for example media, society, politics, your family, church, school, the environment as different ecologies all operating amongst each other in constant different feedback loops. Each one unable to exist without the other and each one having an effect on the others development. Then it becomes possible to understand the concept of the virtual. The virtual being the ecologies of potential which surround every situation. It is therefore all the potential outcomes of any interaction within a given context. As Murphie explains, ‘the virtual, as the complex structure immanent to any interaction'(Murphie 2004, p 121).

This leads us to a deeper understanding of the virtual. We are able to acknowledge that the world of Facebook chat is another facet of the virtual which directly interacts with our reality. Possibly an example of Massumi and Delanda’s virtual which possess its own reality (Murphie 2004, p 121). The world of Facebook through photos and comments creates its own version of reality, sometimes very different from the life led away from cyberspace.

So with an understanding of the virtual then what is ‘the real’. Actualised potential? Well the real is slightly more difficult to define. In fact Immanual Kant believes that it is actually impossible to experience ‘the real’ rather we all experience a ‘reality’. Reality being our experience with the world around us and our interpretation of it.

Through this information I argue that the virtual does exist and we live floating between it and our own reality. The real although essentially there is never truly experienced by us. As Murphie notes, we all come with our own virtual, our own potential, created by our past, memory and all our possible interactions in a given circumstance (Murphie, n.d.). Our perspective of every situation we encounter creates our own reality. Each person experiences their own form of the same event and therefore we are unable to fully comprehend ‘the real’.






Wikipedia 2011, Virtual Reality, <>

Grayson, Chris 2009, ‘Augmented Reality Overview’, GigantiCo <>

Murphie, A 2004, ‘The World’s Clock: The Network Society and Experimental ecologies’, Topia: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies, 11, Spring (you can also download it here – <>

Murphie, A (n.d.), Is the Virtual Real?, <;


Categories: Uncategorized

“I think therefore I am” Or am I?

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Is our understanding of the world around us entirely the product of our thoughts? Is our memory strictly locked away and bound within our mind? Descarte’s famous quote seems to suggest just that. It is our capacity to think which forms our reality.

But, this age old saying is facing some opposition in contemporary theory and philosophy. Two key theorists in the extension of the mind are Alva Noë and Bernard Stiegler. Each argue that the human body is completely embedded within the environment. As Noë explains in ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, ‘we are embodied and also bound to and embedded in the world around us'(Noë 2010). Therefore it is the combination of the mind, the physical body and our environment which allows us to build memories and perceive the world.

This can be seen in Doug Liman’s 2002 movie, ‘The Bourne Identity’, where Jason Bourne a government trained assassin suffers amnesia. Throughout the movie Bourne slowly rediscovers his idenitity as certain places and people ‘trigger’ his memory. It is this notion of physical objects being able to ‘trigger’ our memory which has led Stiegler to suggest that our memory has always been essentially ‘technical’ (Stiegler, n.d.) or partly externalised. Stiegler believes that there are two different types of memory Anamnesis or ‘natural’ memory and Hypomnesis an ‘extended’ memory; one that requires external ‘triggers’ in order to be recalled.

As technology has evolved more and more of our memory has become externalised with the development of devices, which have the capacity to store memory, such as a mobile phone (capable of storing phone numbers, important dates, text messages). These technologies are known as ‘mnemotechnologies’.

The notion of an external memory and the development of mnemotechnologies help to comprehend Noë’s  theory that our perception and feelings surrounding our environment and interaction with it are not just created within our mind. Rather they are inextricbly linked to our physical experience of our environment. As Noë states experiences are “something we achieve, something we do actively”. More technically put perception is created through ‘neural correlates’ (Noë 2010) that is ‘the activation of systems in the brain and nervous system'(Noë 2010). Therefore it is both the combination of the mind and the body, which forms our understanding of our environment.

It is also important to note that our perception is effected by our memory of previous events we have encountered just as our memory is effected by our perception of our experiences (Murphie, n.d.).

There is no denying the importance of the mind in our ability to comprehend our surroundings but, the mind would be unable to hear without our ears and we would be unable to walk without our legs. In order to experience the world around us fully and develop both our own perceptions and memories the mind is extended into our physical bodies and beyond. So maybe ‘I interact therefore I am’.





Chalmers, D 2009, ‘The Extended Mind Revisited [1/5], at Hong Kong, 2009’, <>

Dalton, S. (n.d.), ‘e sense’ <>

Kay, A <>

Murphie, A (n.d.), ‘Some notes on Memory, Media, Time and Perception’,


Noë, A (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture<>

Noë, A and Solano, M B (2008) ‘dance as a way of knowing: interview with Alva Noë’, <>

Stiegler, B (n.d.), ‘Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation’ <>

Wikipedia 2011, The Extended Mind, <>


Categories: Uncategorized

Media Ecologies, Social Media and the Egyptian Revolution

March 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The recent revolution in Egypt or “Revolution 2.0”, as it has been labelled by Wael Ghonim – the founder of Facebook page, ‘We are all Khaled Said’, is indicative of the power of rapidly developing social media and its uses in society.

One method of understanding how this event was able to take place and technology and society’s role in it is by looking at it through the concept of media ecologies.

There are currently two main theories, which dominate the study of media ecology. These are generally referred to as the North American and European schools of thought. The North American understanding draws much of its theory from Marshal McLuhan’s concept of technological determinism.  Focusing on the development of technologies and how their developments effect each other and society. But, this seems to ignore the effect, which society, politics and culture have on the development of the technology and its reception (Murphie and Potts, 2003).

The European school of thought takes much of its understanding from Gregory Bateson and Felix Guattari. Bateson believed that everything is interconnected. He explained media ecologies as a “pattern” of relations (Harries-Jones, p 123). Describing the media ecology as ‘three cybernetic or homeostatic systems: the individual human organism, the human society, and the larger ecosystem’ (Murphie and Potts 199, 2003). This suggests media is not static but, a constantly changing environment that is effected by everything which surrounds it.

Guttari expanded upon Bateson describing a media ecology as ‘nonlinear systems governed by feedback loops and nonlinear casualty'(Guttari in The Three Ecologies – Felix Guttari 2008). In other words each system has an effect upon the other, which in turn effects each system.

With this understanding of both views of media ecology it is possible to reach the conclusion that a media ecology is a broader term which looks at all human activity as the ecosystem. Within this there are several ecologies (cultural, political, social, media). All ecologies are interconnected and like the traditional environmental ecosystem unable to survive without the other. Operating in constant feedback loops between each other and within itself.

Therefore a media ecology is all media technology, its developments and uses. When studying or understanding a media ecology it is important to take into account its surrounding ecologies as none can exist without the other and each are constantly effecting the other.

This idea of media ecologies can then be used to examine the Facebook beginnings of the recent Egyptian Revolution. As seen in the chart below.

Illustrates some of the ecologies involved in Egypt's Facebook Revolution





Deitz, M 2010, ‘The New Media Ecology’, On Line Opinion: Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, accessed 16th of March 2011, <>

Fuller, M 2005, ‘Introduction: Media Ecologies’ in Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and TechnocultureCambridge, MA; MIT Press: 1-12

Harries-Jones, P 1995, A recursive vision: ecological understanding and Gregory Bateson, Canada: University of Toronto Press, p 123

Levinson, P 1997, ‘The First Digital Medium’ in Soft Edge; a natural history and future of the information revolution London: Routledge, p 11-20

Murphie, A and Potts, J 2003, Culture and Technology London: Palgrave Macmillan, p 11-38

Media Ecology Association (n.d.), ‘What is Media Ecology’, accessed 16th of March 2011, <>

Rawlings, T 2011, ‘Games as a Happening, as a Service (Notes from my Talk at Goldsmiths)’, A Great Becoming<>

The Three Ecologies – Felix Guattari 2008, Media Ecologies and Digital Activism: thoughts about change for a changing world, accessed 16th of march 2011, <>

‘Wael Ghonim: Inside the Egyptian Revolution’ March 2011, Online Video, TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, accessed 16th of March 2011, <>

Wikipedia 2011, Media Ecology, <>