In many ways, the augment reality perspective on technology (i.e., that the digital and physical worlds are co-determining) is implicitly predicated on the assumption that people are capable of interfacing with technology as equipment. No doubt, even when computers were tools they influenced our offline social lives (and vice versa). However, the reciprocal relationship between online and offline experiences becomes more obvious and more significant when technology becomes invisible to us, so that we can simply drift online and offline with little notice of the transition. Ironically, this means that as we, smartphone-wielding cyborgs, become further enmeshed into this augmented reality, we are less consciously aware of our technological integration (at least, until this equipment malfunctions).
The personal computer revolution is not merely a technological development; it is an ontological shift (i.e., a shift in the nature of being). Human consciousness is expanding out from the realm of the physical into the realm of the digital and back again. As a consequence, it is dangerous to trivialize our online presence. This equipment—our profile, our updates, our “likes,” and everything else that functions as a mechanism of self-expression online—like all equipment, comes to constitute an important part of our very being. We are what we equip.”
On the day I stopped by his office, Schalk hit a button on his computer, and Pink Floyd blasted from his speakers. He was running an experiment to see what happens to people’s brains when they listen to “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1” (a question that has occurred to any stoner who ever contemplated human consciousness in the glow of stereo lights). Weeks before, Schalk played the Pink Floyd song for some of his epileptic volunteers and recorded the activity in the parts of the brain that process sound. Schalk showed me a volume meter on his computer screen — this was a brain, tracking the roar of a guitar solo. It worked just like any other volume meter, but in one experiment, Schalk found that the brain did something unexpected. When he interrupted the Pink Floyd song with moments of silence, the brain’s volume meter continued to tremble up and down, as if the song were still playing. This, Schalk said, showed that the brain creates a model of what it expects to hear — a shadow song that plunks out its tune in the player piano of our auditory system.
“Isn’t this crazy?” he shouted over the thunder of the bass. “We’re close to being able to reconstruct the actual music heard in the brain and play it. If we had several times more electrodes, I bet we could do it.”
But for Schalk — and many others in the field — the ultimate goal is not music. It’s language. Schalk dreams of letting people speak with their neurons, issuing silent commands to their machines.”
“We need a balance to this so-called triumph of publicity and death of anonymity (as the New York Times and Zygmunt Bauman recently declared). “Publicity” on social media needs to be understood fundamentally as an act rife also with its conceptual opposite: creativity and concealment. And I am not talking just about those who use false identities on blogs (see Amina) and pseudonyms on Facebook, those with super-strict privacy settings or those who only post a selective part of their multiple identities (though, I am talking about these folks, too). My point applies to even the biggest oversharers who intimately document their lives in granular detail.”
“Documents are undergoing an transition from object to data. The paper copies become physical instantiations of the data but they’ve stopped being the data itself. There’s this sort of adolescent transition in progress, while we – the users of the data – aren’t sure how to treat it, so we end up with these bizarre hybrid entities that slide back and forth between digital and physical, all the while leaving behind recycling bins overflowing with the dead husks of stale snapshots.”
“Putting down ways of communicating foreign to you as inherently less deep, real and worthwhile is a claim to power. It is a way to reduce the ‘other’ as less fully human and capable. Particularity troubling in this case is the fact that nonwhites are overrepresented in these new, mobile communication technologies (especially Twitter). If one is to claim that instantaneity equals a lack of depth, one must also defend the implicit point that nonwhites utilizing new technologies to communicate in new ways are inherently communicating less deeply than their white counterparts. Who benefits from defining one way -their way- of interacting with information as deeper and more true?”
“As social actors we expect authenticity in others, and in ourselves. In a time of constant documentation, our online personas become our reflections, and they must not only be ideal, but also truthful. As such, we do not document falsehoods, but preemptively create documentable situations in an effort to present a self that is simultaneously ideal and authentic.”