Facebook as Prosthesis

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Facebook as Prosthesis by Ruth Noakes 

(snippet from from my dissertation when I was a student in London)
Facebook, the social networking website, was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz from their dormitory room at Harvard, and within just two years it had twelve million users, which increased exponentially in 2008 with sixty-seven million users, and over fourteen million photos are uploaded daily[i]. Social networks can be seen to give people some control over projecting perceptions of themselves, and affirming current ideas of what the self consists of; ‘online social networks free us, in some sense, from the requirements of “real world” circumstances and permit us to try out various self conceptions to find ones that fit with what we would like to be’[ii]. Concedingly, Waters claims that ‘for the posthuman, there is no autonomous self that is given, because the self can only be made’[iii]

As a result of my research methodologies I was able to gather up to date, and currently relevant information to aid my case study. Therefore I needed a current media and technology example to illustrate my findings, and decided that the most prominent case within my research thus far was Facebook, because it remains somewhat mysterious and ever changing. I deem that Facebook acts as an interface, which enables common ground for people from a wide range of age groups and social backgrounds, and having gathered primary information from my participant observation, it seemed logical that this area deserved more focus and could aid me in answering the initial research question; to what extent can technology be seen as an extension of the human body or mind. If Facebook can be deemed a form of prosthesis to the human, then perhaps the same can be applied to other technologies.

Using the perspective gathered from having my own Facebook account, this primary research and participatory element should grant an accurate and detailed view of the current uses of Facebook, and the extent to which people allow it to represent them. However, I shall use other contemporary examples of human and machine interactivity to demonstrate how the ‘prosthetic impulse’[iv] affects modern society as a whole as well as in terms of individual identity.

From the detached yet directly involved perspective of my Facebook page, I was able to see why members of the focus groups I conducted spoke of how addictive they found it, and why going without technology was often mostly difficut because of the inability to connect with friends on Facebook. The Facebook ‘news feed’ updates automatically and perpetually, filling with status updates posted by my ‘friends’, including what their current actions are, who they are with, or where they are, this can be seen as ‘contributing to the creation of a permanent present whose intense pace knows no tomorrow’[v], and relates to Heidegger’s ‘presencing’ of what is present[vi], because the constant bringing forth of information, regardless of its purpose, holds meaning, a pre-existing need to share. Virilio is concerned with this speed, and need for constant information and entertainment, and deems that the distorted ‘time span is destroying the rhythms of a society which has become more and more debased’[vii]. If society is thus debased and flattened by technology, this seems to contradict the act of extending or adding prosthesis to the human self; rather Virilio seems to hint at the destruction of life as we know it.

Figure 1, (Permission from Ruairi Glynn) ‘Dancers 2008’ Emergencia Exhibition, Itau Cultural, Sao Paulo Brazil 2008.

The relation between biological matter and immaterial thought and meaning, which Merleau-Ponty explores, emphasises that our actions are not merely for survival, but shift to a figurative meaning that ‘manifests’ through bodies ‘a core of new significance: this is true of motor habits such as dancing’[viii]. Using Merleau-Ponty’s perspective, I deduce that dancing could be described as a secondary action, unnecessary for survival but elaborated or extended from our inner thoughts as a means of perceiving the outer world. A contemporary example that illustrates this ‘new significance’ is Ruairi Glynn’s ‘Performative Ecology’ project ‘Dancers 2008’[ix], as shown above in Figure 1. The Dancers, or robots, are built to intuitively react to human facial expressions, dancing in accordance to the emotions they detect through facial recognition software. They have the power to learn new dance routines as well as teaching other Dancers the movements they found to be most successful in inciting response from the human crowd. The Dancers are granted a significant degree of autonomy and intuition, yet remain dependent upon human attention, and reactive to human emotions that they cannot ever feel themselves. Similarly, Facebook seems to grow in its autonomy, as it is programmed to intuitively detect a user’s preferences; I discovered that whatever you type is detected by Facebook, which then proceeds to place advertisements on the home page, related to your words. Facebook encourages you to click ‘like’ on brand pages, and asks you to engage in polls determining your response to certain products. Facebook institutionalises culture to an extent; marketing ploys tell us to invite more friends, to perpetuate the Facebook brand. Facebook is about profit, but beneath the material profit lays meaning, of which Merleau-Ponty and Heidegger would encourage the exploration.

Niedzviecki states that ‘from Facebook to WebCams to blogs to Reality TV we are actively involved in trading our privacy for community, shared meaning’[x]; this was also the concession I gained during the focus group methodology. On the most part the older age groups claimed to use Facebook for business reasons or nostalgia, for example, some claimed it was to reconnect with lost friends or family, and reminisce on the past, whereas the younger age groups all emphasised the uses of Facebook as being for plan making, current updates and learning what events were happening in the future.

Figure 2, Dancers 2008, courtesy of Ruairi Glynn.

What if technology has created a secondary or tertiary impulse, which I term as one that is not primary to survival, and has thus subverted our nature? During my participatory observation I noticed that mobile phones, such as the iPhone, encourage the use of Facebook through an application that is just one button click away, and introduced a new feature whereby you can ‘check-in’ to locations. Firsthand I observed, on the news feed, a person check-in at location tagged as their home, and also tagged was the person’s girlfriend. I was shocked that someone would go to the extent of revealing their home’s location on the Internet, but also including a link to the Facebook page of their girlfriend, and publicising such a seemingly private or intimate occasion. This would indeed support the notion of extending our sense of sharing, the Internet representing an interface where sharing too much matters less than it would if it were done face-to-face, and is exemplary of Niedzviecki’s term ‘overshare’. His book ‘The Peep Diaries’, describes our recently evolved ‘Peep Culture’, where we often interact more through machines than directly, essentially spy on others, and allow ourselves to be spied upon by ‘oversharing’ personal information via networking websites; ‘Apple released the iPhone 3G, and global capitalism teetered…yet that single ungainly word, overshare, may prove to be more significant’ for we ‘ushered in a new era: the Era of Peep Culture’[xi].

But perhaps the impulse to over-share is not one of prosthesis, and instead needs a new metaphor more befitting to its context. In ‘The Prosthetic Impulse’, Sobchack recognises Kurzman’s concern regarding the use of prosthesis as a metaphor in modern anthropology[xii]. Kurzman, who is an amputee deems that theorists situate an issue, then retroactively define it using prosthesis and artificial limbs in an attempt to expand ethnographic material, and emphasises that actually it is a reductive term when thus removed from context[xiii]. I am not entirely in agreement with this, because I think a word can be reconceptualised, granted new meaning or context, without having to change the word itself. Facebook certainly extends awareness in terms of current occurrences; as a participant observer I began to learn things about my ‘friends’ which I would not otherwise have known, or would ever before have had the desire to know. Perhaps Facebook is exemplary of the desire to transcend corporeality[xiv] in the paradoxical fashion Grosz demonstrated, and is powered by our desire to share and escape into voyeuristic digital interface. From a posthuman understanding, and the admission of dependency, and interactivity on the part of my focus group members, it seems likely that Facebook acts as a form of prosthesis, in that it offers functions the body could not attain alone.

References and Sources below:

The Walking Dead. Are you excited too?

The Walking Dead (TV) comes out soon, just in time for Halloween. Directed and part-written by Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, and Green Mile). It’s about time zombies came back to the spotlight, too much focus has been on sparkly vampires, like Edward Cullen in Twilight, in recent times. Don’t get me wrong, I love vampires, but I prefer the Anne Rice ones. The one thing I’ve always loved about zombies is that their mission is simple: eat brains. The brutality and necessary survival strategies that emerge in anything zombie related means that, even if the story sucks, I’m not left entirely disappointed. If you haven’t read ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies‘ by Seth Grahame-Smith this is a prime example of how even in book form zombies can make things awesome.

For the record, the story-line of this series seems good, just one man waking up in hospital to find the dead walking, his wife and kid missing, and he has to search for them at the same time as fighting for his life.

Check out the trailer: 

Is there mass danger approaching?

Please share your honest opinion!

Social networking makes you a liar?


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Social networking devices, such as Twitter and Facebook, are a daily part of people’s routines, which makes me wonder: how does it affect your honesty? Integrating your Facebook, blog, Twitter account, with all of your other social networking profiles (which we are all encouraged to do), means that we are more easily traceable across the Internet.

So, if someone turns down an invite to that “really cool block party” tonight because they’re “poorly in bed”, then later tweets about what a good time they are having somewhere else, the person who invited them to that block party immediately knows it was a lie. If you tell your boss you’re sick, forget you have them on your friends list, then you update your Facebook status about what a great time you’re having at Thorpe Park, you are immediately busted. Because of this, the ease of obtaining information, anyone with common sense knows either to hide their lies, or elaborate on the truth.

Even I have been caught out before, and I like to think I’m a bit savvier than that. I was never stupid enough to bad-mouth my previous boss anywhere on the Internet, or anything on parr with that. Mine was simple, I wasn’t answering someone’s calls or texts, but was active online, this lead them to realise I wasn’t too busy, or asleep, it meant I just didn’t want to contact them. But technically I never lied to them, I just ignored. Is that really so bad? Just because I want to reply to a few things online, doesn’t mean I want to answer a phone call right now.

I think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell someone truthfully that I’ve been too busy to do a certain thing, but also don’t care if they Internet stalk me and find out I’m not too busy to send a quick tweet or reply to a comment on Facebook. I mean, who do people think they are, the cyber police? I try to always be honest, so if I belatedly reply to an email, I don’t excuse it with “I’ve been too busy” (unless that’s the truth), usually it’s just a case of wanting to be in the right mind-state or focus to reply adequately rather than rushing it before my daily film/TV fix. I could try hard to please everybody, reply with super-quick insincere paragraphs, but that would be false.

I realise this post makes me sound arrogant, in reality I don’t receive tonnes of phone calls, or have “fans” monitoring my online activity to see if I haven’t replied in 0.02 seconds, but I think we all know a couple of people who get touchy about your online whereabouts, and how it relates to their own ego. My point is that, despite the Internet creating the need to sometimes lie and say we’re just too busy, rather than “I don’t want to talk to you right now”, it also forces us to avoid blatant lies that would get us in trouble.

I just think we shouldn’t have to lie, it should be acceptable to be in the mood to tweet or update, but be too busy/not in the mood to reply to a certain email, answer a phone call, or update something else at that same time.

That leaves me with a couple of questions: 1) Has anyone ever queried you about your online activity versus the real world? 2) Have you ever been caught out in an online lie? 3) When you make excuses to people, are they genuine? 4) To what extent are you honest online?

You think Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is just hype?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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I deliberately resisted reading the whole book before watching; I read enough chapters to love the book, but avoid clouding my judgement of the film. I was hoping for another Swedish gem, something I could enjoy as much as I loved Let The Right One In (not the remake).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (“Män som hatar kvinnor“), was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. I loved the story telling within the film, the tale itself is irresistible, as is the heroine Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace). But again that is mainly credit to the book, not necessarily the filmmakers.

I admit the film was atmospheric, held my attention, and the story seduced me. But some chunks of the tale felt like they were included only to appease the book’s fans. For example, we probably didn’t need such routine intervals of Lisbeth’s past. Her past is vital of course, it grants context, but so much of it added nothing to the plot, and felt like it was there just to break the pacing between sub-plot and main-plot.

We could have instead been teased with briefer hints and flashes to her past. But I suppose they wanted to find a balance between her tortured past and tortured present. It felt too prescribed, too calculative, trying too hard to force us to see everything of what she is, rather than letting us interpret. I suppose I found it mildly patronising.

I was not offended by the more graphic scenes, which I won’t reveal as I don’t like spoilers. I actually liked the fact that she was portrayed as a strong, independent female. Her dynamic with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist (played by Michael Nyqvist) was effective, and there wasn’t anything startling wrong with the film. It just wasn’t everything I had hoped for.

I should refer back to the film I mentioned before. Hoyte Van Hoytema was responsible for the cinematography in Let the Right One In, his style is subtle but irresistible. Whereas The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite not being poorly filmed, certainly had no distinctive style or anything visually new to offer.

I think The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is living proof that the books are always better than the film. But I am glad they made it into a film, because it means more people are encouraged to read the books, which I have found to be excellent. I would recommend watching this film, but don’t do so if you’re expecting something groundbreaking or revolutionary.

Eat shit? The Human Centipede

Promotional poster for The Human Centipede (Fi...

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One of my best friends, Marie, stayed over this week and watched The Human Centipede (directed by
Tom Six) with me.

The worst (best) part was Dr Heiter, played by Dieter Laser. He was truly creepy looking, and his acting made you feel like perhaps he was this scary in reality too. The film was about his being a surgeon; he used to separate conjoined twins, but then becomes fixated with joining living things.

Naturally, this leads to his ideal of a human centipede, connected by sewing their mouths to each others butts, so that they share one digestive track. Implausible in the long-term, and hilarious, so I was glad when one of the three victims died from infection. That was the most medically accurate part.

The film was not scary, but hilarious. I just couldn’t stop laughing at what idiots the characters are. One of the two female leads had the chance to escape, but hides instead of smashing the window to escape straight away. And the Japanese guy, played by Akihiro Kitamura, who is also a captive, actually stabs Dr Heiter with a scalpel, but only in the foot and leg. He goes crazy and bites him, but instead of using his chance to kill the crazy Doctor, or knock him unconscious at least, he chooses to just attempt to run away (difficult with two girls surgically attached).

I had no real sympathy for the characters because their survival instincts were poor, I like it when characters truly try their best and are beaten down, but these three were mainly moronic and therefore deserved it. The very few chances they had to escape they wasted completely.

As ridiculous as this film was, it’s worth watching because it’s one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time, and wasn’t too badly shot.

“Paris Hilton mauled to death” [Terrible Thursdays]

Mug shot of Paris Hilton.

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“I’d punch Paris Hilton in the face, she’s so far up her own arse, and her voice is the most annoying I’ve ever heard.” – Gill, at lunch today.

Many people share Gill’s view, because Hilton is famous for being famous, which equals infamous. This means we have to hear about her new love interests; her most recent being Cy Waits. And we have to see her smug smile all over the magazines as she laughs off the recent Las Vegas cocaine bust. And don’t even mention her attempts in the film industry.

Just by writing this blog I am hypocritically perpetuating her infamy. And these little facts I’ve included are things I know but simply never wanted to know. Because I absorb media, and she’s all over it, I am forced to hear about her.

I really don’t care about whether she’s a nice or deep person inwardly; her vapid media presence is what bugs me. I can’t hate someone whom I do not know, but I can see why Gill and many others can.

So, on this Terrible Thursday, my evil thought is about the funniest ways in which Paris Hilton could die. Note: I do not wish anyone’s death, I’m just thinking about the funniest titles that could crop up in the media announcements of her death.

Example: ‘Paris Hilton mauled to death by pet piglet’

So, if you dare, what do you think is the best way she could die, or funniest news headline?

The Wolfman, Ruthbug’s Review

The Wolfman (2010 film)

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I’ve decided to at last review The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston.

It lacked the charm of older supernatural movies, but offered a modern take, and the atmosphere was mildly reminiscent of Sleepy Hollow.

Emily Blunt and Benicio Del Toro made great performances, and had obvious chemistry. Needless to say Anthony Hopkins was on usual top form.

Best Parts: 1) In the forest when Del Toro (in wolf form) catches up with the gentleman stuck in a bog, the man tries to shoot himself in the head before Del Toro kills him painfully, but there are no bullets left, so he has his head savagely sliced off by the wolfman.

2) I loved the trippy montage within the asylum.

Visually impressive, well cast and atmospheric, but it didn’t grip my attention the whole time, and I am still trying to work out exactly why. It felt like there was an ingredient missing, or perhaps it was just too long, like not enough butter stretched over too much bread. The plot twists did not feel very surprising, and I do not think the film offered anything new to me. Still, I don’t have any serious complaints, and think it’s worth watching.

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Multiple personalities and Shelter

Shelter (2009 film)

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[contains mild spoilers]

It’s nearly 4am and I can honestly say I haven’t been this spooked by a film in a long time. I just watched Shelter (2010), directed by Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein. And written by Michael Cooney.

Julianne Moore, whom I adore, plays a forensic psychiatrist whose patient (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has multiple personality disorder…or so she thinks.

The fact that each of his multiple ‘personalities’ are that of actual murder victims, causes her to question herself. An inward battle between science and religion reigns as she tears through experimentation and research, finding nothing that makes sense to her.

What starts out as a psychological thriller becomes supernatural horror, which was quite interesting as it works as both. Some people complained about the ‘switch’, but in actuality there was no transition needed; it was always evident that this was more than just a man with multiple identities. Maybe some people are just a little slow in the brain tank. The filmmakers even showed the supernatural darkness very early on in the plot, leaving no doubt in anyone’s mind other than Julianne Moore herself.

I was impressed with Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s handling of the multiple roles, especially when he had to behave as a little girl crying after her wounded mother. He had the hardest task of balancing the many characters that made his part.

The film had a subtle style which never intruded on the plot; every voice over or scene transition was smooth, and the music haunting in all the places it needed to be. I did wonder why only the spine was fully changed when each of Meyers’s identities switched, whereas everything else was left the same, but I guess that doesn’t need to be explained. The convenient thing about supernatural genres is that they minimise the need to explain what is synonymously unexplainable, or without reason.

8/10 is a very fair rating I think. But I wonder if maybe I was only so jumpy during because I am sleep deprived, and alone in a cold dark house.

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Seven Deadly Sins, I must be purified

Last night I knocked back a few gins and stumbled across Seven Deadly Sins, the Canadian mini TV series that first aired on Lifetime Movie Network. Set in two parts, it’s meant to be based on the popular Seven Deadly Sins novels Lust, Greed, Envy, Wrath, Gluttony, Sloth and Pride by Robin Wasserman.

I have to admit I was expecting to hate it, and part of me does. But overall I just can’t resist the comedic indulgence into their teenage “highschool” dramas; love triangles/pentagons/octagons, especially where the twists got dark. If I had been the director I would have loved to have made it darker, like when *censored* character dies, I would have them haunt deliciously like in a Japanese horror movie.

Rachel Melvin was great as Kaia, and Dreama Walker worked well as Harper Grace. Overall Seven Deadly Sins was well cast, nicely made and paced, and it isn’t trying to be anything that it is not.

If I had to sum up the mini series with one description  I would say it’s a very loose hybrid of Mean Girls meets Murder by Numbers. Remember I said very loosely! This is really not my usual style, but it’s worth a watch when there’s time to kill and you’ve had a few drinks.

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Cannibals and Snowboarders

Today I watched Scarce (2008), directed by Jesse T. Cook and John Geddes, a film about a group of snowboarders on vacation. During a snow storm they are forced to seek refuge, but little did they know they are safer out in the storm. The people who grant them refuge are cannibals, surviving on what they ‘hunt’ throughout the winter.

Overall a pointless film with a very slow start, but the effects were cool, especially because it was on a low budget. I mean, of course I only watched it for the blood; I wouldn’t sit down and watch a film with that premise if I were looking for an intellectually challenging experience.

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Doctors and dentists with HIV/AIDs

Abacavir - a nucleoside analog reverse transcr...

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It’s something I’ve looked into before, but I found an interesting article tonight:

Click here to see

I have deep sympathy for anyone that contracts the disease, but particularly those who simply could not prevent it; rape victims, babies born with it, etc. What makes matters more complex is when someone within Healthcare has this disease. As stated in the article I linked, there are regulations on declaring positive test results, and prohibitions when it comes to surgeries, sutures, and any situation that may pose a risk of transmission.

In short, it is not legal to fire a doctor or dentist for having HIV or AIDs, but their career is effectively over nonetheless. What a terrible thing for them, to have gone through so much schooling and hardship only to be brought down by a disease. In any other walk of life they may continue relatively as normal; because improved medication generally means a higher quality of life, and the delay of full-blown AIDs stemming from testing HIV positive.

But it is necessary, for others safety, that transmission risks are minimised. I must admit I would prefer to be treated by a doctor or dentist whom was not HIV positive, and it would be nothing against the person. A disease shouldn’t dehumanise anyone. I just know that if I were HIV positive I would never want to risk infecting others, and would certainly never want anyone to infect me either.

The best thing anyone can do is protect others, ourselves, and encourage the progression of medical research.

End of my boring rant.

Black Dynamite, you jive turkey!

Cover of "Black Dynamite"

Cover of Black Dynamite

Black Dynamite (2009), directed by Scott Sanders, stars Michael Jai White as 1970’s action star Black Dynamite. When his brother is killed by drug dealers, he instigates a campaign of action and violence, opening a can of kick-ass on all of the local dealers to uncover whom was responsible.

Oozing with 70’s style, this homage to blaxploitation movies will have all of you jive turkeys booming with laugher, and wishing, just wishing, that you had your own soundtrack like he does. “Dynamite! Dynamite!” every time he enters a shot to do something awesome.

With the boom mic deliberately left in shots for comedic effect, and the hugely exaggerated facial expressions of the cast, you can’t help but laugh with them, and imagine how much fun the film must have been to make. For anyone still making Chuck Norris jokes, forget it, Black Dynamite knocks them out of the water.

Salli Richardson-Whitfield is wonderful as Gloria, Black Dynamite’s love interest. She has always been very good in anything I’ve seen her in. One of my favourite lines was where she disdainfully highlights how men think they can win a woman over with a wink and a smile, so Black Dynamite winks. She sardonically inquires where the accompanying smile is, and he says “I am smiling”, whilst his face is as serious as a funeral attendee.

Definitely worth watching, and made even better if it’s with a couple of beverages and friends on a Friday night.

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‘Knots’ – By R.D. Laing

(Sorry for posting so much today, keep finding old bits on my computer that never got published)

I read a really good psychology book today (March 19th, 2008): ‘Knot’s by R.D. Laing. Some parts I felt were sexist, but a lot of the book is cynical, insinuative, and intelligently ironic, so I concluded that maybe the ‘sexism’ was in fact just mocking sexism…thereby rendering it free of sexism. It’s a book full of delightful moderate contradictions, and explores the cycles of thought in a typical human mind, it does so through poetry and formulas of wording. It’s basically a case of ‘she knows that he knows that we know that they know that he doesn’t know that they know’