NERVOUSystem by jonbailey
February.2.2009, 9:30 pm
Filed under: Networks, Technology, Theory


The network culture we inhabit is marked by the individual entrenched in reading, conversing electronically, surfing the internet, and watching television, all deeply embedded in the virtual. Individuals now use space as a common meeting place, mainly to share information, often initiated through the various electronic mediums. Within these social gatherings information is being shared, processed, and packaged, with a true educational process taking place, with no instructor necessary; rapid on-the-fly, unfiltered, informational input. In this, it can be said that our subjective nervous systems are perpetually under the influence of the virtual, which leads one to the question, what is the substance of reality? Without our minds we are non-existent, not real; if our cerebrums are plugged into the virtual, does this not become the real? Our bodies remain within the architectonic space of the physical as our minds engage a virtual space existing nowhere and everywhere simultaneously.
Much of this virtual information enters our nervous system as prefiltered content. The mediums that maintain the broadest market share and thereby exert the most substantive impact are increasingly conglomerated into the control of the select few, with companies holding stock in a diverse array of information distribution systems including; publishing companies, newsprint, websites, television, mobile phones, advertising companies, theme parks, and film. These data systems accompany us throughout our lives, exerting influence over generations of a family tree, continually interweaving our thoughts and opinions with information and input. Our nervous systems have potentially become externally managed through the flowing stream of information which has been carefully tailored for us from childhood to adulthood. With major media conglomerates controlling the information that one is persistently exposed to, has data been reduced to cut and filtered shades of information chosen by a board of directors?
Our collective trepidation of a wired future wherein the modes of information collection and dispersal have been aggregated into the totalitarian grasp of some nefarious corporation or government has been reflected in the literature and film of the past century. This trend has grown in recent decades, along with the accelerated pace of digitization and network distribution, exampled in the growing popularity of movies such as Blade Runner, Renaissance, and Minority Report. In these films of a dystopian future, the individual submits to constant surveillance in exchange for safety and personal longevity.
This dissociative negotiation between self and technology however, is not historically unique. The end of the nineteenth century has been viewed as “modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions. There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience.” It can be said that the cyberspace phenomenon of an environment located neither in the physical nor in the digital, arose alongside the advent of rapid long-distance telecommunication, and mechanized transportation. As existential reality becomes further enhanced and augmented through virtual technology the individual and their relationship to the sensorial environment gets distributed over an artificial network of information. A result of this process “is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realization. De-realization affects both the subject and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved. “
The crisis inherent in this evolution of perception becomes compounded with the addition of a fear that these networks have become systems of outside control. But this fear presupposes that the individual has acted as a free agent prior to an engagement with these virtual systems. Heidegger suggests that the substance of our being is not grounded in a fabric of our own development. “As this being, delivered over to which it can exist uniquely as the being which it is, it is, existing, the ground of its potentiality-of-being. Because it has not laid the ground itself, it rests in the weight of it, which mood reveals to it as a burden.” Concepts of masculinity and femininity, western and eastern, rural and urban, begin to shape our being prior to our ability to choose, they form the ground for our potential to be. Our concern over the inability to choose the fundamental characteristics of our own subjectivity is reflected in the fear of outside influence. We easily identify with Neo trapped in a matrix of external origin.
But what if we had the ability to reshape and exert influence over the matrix, over these systems of information distribution and collection? The conglomerate news and entertainment organizations which have made a phantom of the public are now being supplanted by the decentralized broadcast of information from individually controlled blogs which provide unfiltered news, deliver music from the artist directly to the public, and provide forums for the free exchange of art and ideas. Proprietary information is rapidly becoming an antiquated mode of product delivery that not only encompasses entertainment but also the tools that shape our environment. Software developers such as GNU/Linux have developed manifestos that ensure the users right to access to source code. In this sense “information is less the product of [externally controlled] discrete processing units than the outcome of the networked relations between them, links between people, between machines, and between machines and people”. The individual is reasserted as an individual in a network of individuals, no longer merely the receiver of a one-way flow of information.
With the advent of network culture we can now receive raw unfiltered information directly, replacing the directed flow of information from conglomerate to end user with the power of serendipitous information and intuitive knowledge. As network technology continues to advance, information will become virtually overlaid on top of reality. Immersive environments will intertwine with real objects, further blurring the line between the physical and the digital. The perception of tangible objects is simply the visually stimulation of nervous system. What we perceive to be space is an excitement to our sensory nervous system of sight, sound, and smell, all of which is intangible information. The architectonic spaces of formed masses can be augmented and mimicked through advanced technology and research in the areas of holographic visualization, where visual layers are superimposed on top of the physical world. Combined with sound overlay, environments can become fully explorative, interactive, and totally immersive. Virtual objects may be interacted with, become capable of “sensing” touch and respond according to your requested action. These objects may become so well enmeshed as to be undistinguishable from the real, driving augmented reality into an integrated reality
In this sense, classrooms could now be held at home, inviting holographic virtual classmates from across the globe, to sit down with you each night as you study the latest topics in real-time. Like information, the environmental source code may be adapted and customized, reconfigured, deleted, refreshed, and repackaged to fit the user’s preference. An entire group may get to interact in real time with events of information occurring all around them in a fully immersive environment as image is overlaid with sound and smell, generating new learning experiences. It is through this network culture that the methodologies of education will adapt and change along with society, and transform the spaces in which learning takes place as the traditional hierarchies of a central authority are displaced by a networked group of peers.

Today, network culture succeeds postmodernism. It does so in a more subtle way. It does not figure itself as an “ism” that would lay claim to the familiar territory of manifestos, symposia, definitive museum exhibits and so on, but rather servers as a more emergent phenomenon. ; Kazys Varnelis, The Rise of Network Culture,

Refer to NERVOUSystem Poster

“Claritas PRIZM, the first segmentation system of its kind, provides a standard way of sorting the population into similar groups by demographics, lifestyle preferences and behaviors to provide you with actionable target marketing information”. ;

Viet D. Dinh member of the News Corporation (Fox Broadcasting Company) board of directors “is a lawyer who served as the Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2003, under the presidency of George W. Bush. Born in Saigon, in the former South Vietnam, he was the chief architect of the USA PATRIOT Act.” :

See George Orwell’s 1984. ; Kirsta Anderson (Editor) ; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Cyberspace, of course, as the now-classic adage goes, “is where we are when we are talking on the telephone.” It is, in other words, neither in a here nor a there, but is a continual articulation process, relentlessly boring through us. ; p7, Sanford Kwinter, Virtual City, or the Wiring and Waning of the World ; Kirsta Anderson (Editor) ; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

p285, Martin Heidegger, Being and Time

Only when the sense of association in society is no longer strong enough to give life to concrete realities is the Press able to create that abstraction, “the public”, consisting of unreal individuals who never are and never can be united in an actual situation or organization – and yet are held together as a whole. ;p265, Søren Kierkegaard, A Kierkegaard Anthology
Free software is a matter of the users’ freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. More precisely, it refers to four kinds of freedom, for the users of the software:
• The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
• The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
• The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
• The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
-Jon Bailey + Jason Pierce


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Upon further investigation of the historical “timeline” there develops a pattern, from the dissemination of information throughout a peoples, in the evolution of networking systems. It can be noted that, although it may be taught throughout educational history, that what we now see as our linear frame of time is in fact non-linear, repeating and looping back onto itself. Beginning with the dawn of spoken-word, information was disseminated through a distributed network, passed down through generations from person to person, although modified and remixed as it may have been. With the invention of the printing press we see the network evolving into a centralized network, with the information primarily in the hands of the church, with monks writing and rewriting histories from multi-cultural texts. People in these times were behind the filter receiving information only deemed necessary by one primary source. The revolution, some deemed as ground-breaking as the discovery of fire, radio and television have seemingly taken over the populace, most importantly their nervous systems. The scenario changed as the governments seized control over the filtering of the programs, only once again to be filtered by the conglomerates controlling the media. Today we find ourselves in the midst of a decentralized network, receiving informational input to our neural networks via controlled and carefully prepared packages of information.

“In this sense, classrooms could now be held at home, inviting holographic virtual classmates from across the globe, to sit down with you each night as you study the latest topics in real-time.”
This quote does not negate the importance of the school as a physical space in which childran interact and learn important social skills. This is on emphasizes the role of school outside of the classroom itself. In the New Model of education, the lines between what a child has to learn and likes to learn will be blurred indestinguishable. The quote also tries to have you imagine a place where no one [living] ever has to say goodbye? A trip halfway across the world and they can still sit with you in the living room that night; a phone with visuals.

Comment by jonbailey

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