Plato and new media

Posted by jerry on March 8th, 2007 — Posted in History, Journal, New media, Technology, Theory, Writing

Plato, one of the first new media analysts was concerned about the then new technology of writing. And he understood the potential (and actual) pitfalls of this new operating system. The same has been true of all subsequent new technologies. Always there remains the need for a meta-helper – one who understands the new technology to help later adopters make full use of the new technology.

This wonderful skit on medieval helpdesk support to a new user switching from scrolls to folio books is truly one of the internet video classics!


There is a wonderful parable here that speaks to one of Plato’s greatest concerns with writing over face-to-face communication. And that is that when something is written you can no longer query it or interrogate it – a bit like the user manual in the video here.

Plato, writing between 411 and 406 BC in the Phaedrus noted five key concerns with new information technology:

  • Education will suffer because it presents information rather than promoting thought
  • Information security will be compromised
  • Authorship will be difficult to authenticate;
  • It will be nothing more than a shallow distraction, devoid of serious purpose; and
  • people will stop interacting with real people.

Quite prescient really when you consider the many criticisms of the internet and with web 2.0. His objections were raised almost 2500 years ago, but remain true today, and form the basis for the key themes of almost any information technology seminar whether about censorship or eLaw or online banking or copyright.

In popular discourse, the internet is often presented as a dangerous and anarchic space. At the heart of the arguments against the internet lies the issue of authenticity.

The point is that virtual communities, like SecondLife, are real communities that exist in a virtual space. But people are still talking to people, albeit mediated by computers. It is no different from peopletalking on telephones, excpt that the interface is different.

In addition, the real/virtual distinction breaks down because human idiscourse is already mediated through language and social conventions – we can no longer harken back nostalgically to a ‘state of nature’.

There’s a lot more about this in chapter 9 of my book Virtual States, but there are elements here that will form the basis for my next book – more on that later.

Thanks to Angela Thomas for the YouTube link (though I haven’t yet figured out how to embed it properly into my self-hosted WordPress blog) *sigh*.


Speech accent archive

Posted by jerry on March 7th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Writing

We deal so much on the web with visual literacy and linguistic literacy, but as direct oral communication gets easier on the web so much can be lost in translation – from English to English due to regional variation in accent. At George Mason University there is a great site for exploring an archive of accents from around the world.

speech accent archive

You can browse by region or via the world map and there are sound samples as well as a descriptive linguistic transcription. Fascinating site! Check it out 🙂

Thanks to languagehat for the link 🙂 and to Sharon for pointing it out to me
Thanks to

Bags of power!

Posted by jerry on March 6th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Technology, Travel

A backpack that recharges your laptop/PDA/phone – now that’s what I’d like! Great for folk festivals where the power isn’t always plentiful, but you really need to keep things running – like an MP3 recorder for the music sessions to help you learn a new tune. All you need now is a backpack that recharges with a little ray of sunshine – and in a five year drought there’s plenty of that in Australia 🙂

solar bag

The Reware Juice Bag is just that – a backpack covered with flexible solar cells. They come in bright colours and with a built-in car lighter socket to plug in your adapter for whatever you need to keep charged – your camera, your laptop your PDA or phone. The thing is water resistant, light and padded to keep your electronics safe. And they’re made from recycled drink plastic drink bottles woven into a strong textile fibre.
I guess there are two things that give me pause before jumping straight in with my credit card. The first is price – these things aren’t cheap at around US$275, and the second, and bigger concern is how they travel through airports these days. I can just see the security guys having a sense of humour failure as they run it through the x-ray machines and see all those wires … Anyone been through an airport lately with one of these? I’d love to hear from you if you have.

And for the more fashion conscious there are other more discreet handbags – that actually look more like fashion bags than technology.

Solarjo power purse

But it’s a question of taste – Sharon would prefer more of a shoulder tote bag than either a backpack or a bag that just keeps your hands full. So the technology is coming – but I guess the designers still have a bit of a way to go yet 🙂

Some go part way, like this Eclipse shoulder bag – but it kinda looks like an anti-fashion statement
Eclipse shoulder bag

But these Voltaic ones are starting to look the part

Voltaic bag

Either way I like the direction this is going – would’ve been really handy in the aftermath of the Great Fire of Canberra when we were without power for a week.

It has the potential to be great travel technology if they can keep it tough enough and flexible enough to take the wear. Thanks to Popgadget via Angela’s blog


Postie bike rebuild

Posted by jerry on March 5th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Progress! The Honda CT110 oversize piston kit arrived and the cylinder has now been rebored to fit the new piston.

piston kit

And with Sharon starting to be on the mend I took the opportunity during her sleep to start reassembly of Eve’s bike. First the new piston went on smoothly – the new piston pin slid neatly onto the connecting rod and the pisoton was secured with the new piston clips.

ct110 piston

After fitting the piston rings it was time to start on the barrel – there was a lot of rust and dirt on the barrel so I cleaned the exterior using kero brushed on and then a drill-mounted bronze wire brush.

CT110 cylinder

Then the tricky bit – fitting the cylinder without breaking the piston rings. After fitting a new bottom gasket I tackled the fitting. Not having a piston ring compression tool I used finger pressure to squeeze the rings closed as I gently lowered the barrel over the piston. This requires patience and eventually got it ride smoothly over the piston.

CT110 cylinder

taking care to thread the cam chain through. Then I fitted the cam sprocket to the cam chain and held it all in place with some thin wire.

Now for the head. I cleaned the carbon out of the combustion chamber and the valves, and removed the remnants of the previous gasket, before cleaning the outside of the head thoroughly and fitting a new head gasket.

I lowered this gently in place and then, after making sure the crankshaft was at top dead centre, I installed the cam through the cam chain sprocket and bolted it in place, using a small 10mmsocket wrench. I set the other socket wrench on the timing end of the crankshaft to stop the cranckshaft rotating when I tightened up the sprocket bolts.

Once in place it was a relatively quick process to install the covers with their respective new gaskets, so it looks nearly complete.

CT110 engine

Next step was to refit the carburettor inlet manifold – with its new gasket – and then the exhaust.

CT110 engine

Looks like a new engine now! And in many ways it is – it will need running in of course. But before I can test start it I want to get the footpegs and bash-plate back on – so more to come on this rebuild 🙂


Social Networking – here to stay

Posted by jerry on March 4th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

I would have to agree with Henry Jenkins where he notes in his video interview that social networking is here to stay – irrespective of whether it’s YouTube, Myspace or the new leading space FaceBook. Jenkins makes the point that as new young people join online spaces, they want to be in a space that’s not inhabited by their older brothers – making MySpace “so 20 minutes ago”.

Check it out on Angela Thomas’ blog.

Angela Thomas' blog