“The electronic media are to us, what ‘nature’ was to earlier times. That is to say, the electronic media are the inescapable background against which we live our lives and from which we derive our references and meanings.” (p.64). A certain sad truth emanates from this passage. That aside though, the truth of it makes it all more important to understand the systems that we live within. The electronic media makes up our lives because it’s the current mode of exchanging a wealth of ideas and where advertisers can reach the masses. If not electronic media, then billboards, posters, flyers, advertising in newspapers, etc. That is to say that the media is not a byproduct of the electronic age, only a new mode that they must mediate through, and it’s the users equal responsibility to take this with a grain of salt.
“You don’t go into the stacks expecting the precise answer to your burning-question-of-the-moment. It doesn’t work that way. In the thousands of times that I’ve gone hunting in the stacks, I’ve seldom found exactly what I was looking for. You know what I did find? I found books in close by topics. I found answers to questions that I had never thought to ask. Those answers took me in new directions and were almost always more valuable than whatever I originally had in mind.” (p.127-28). This was probably my favorite quote in the whole book. Although I have posted it before for a guiding introduction to my paper on “tunnels” it’s worth noting that we have entered a new epoch of information, and how we use that information. While there certainly are good things about the old, we need not fear technology. As is constantly pounded into our heads in the book, we need only ask the right questions. Be inquisitive and really learn rather than diving into an answer that satiates a need for knowledge.
There are many instances in “Rainbows End” where instances are shown that show how opting out is no longer an option, but one that takes it to the literal level is Rivera. Although he does it often enough, one instance can be found on page 165 where Rivera is trying to explain something to the group but just sputters out Mandarin. This is a result of his JITT (Just In Time Training) that’s said to have unusual effects on the user, especially in large doses. While I can’t argue the specifics in too much detail, it’s easy to see how social communication and other methods of data gathering have put information technology at a vast apex over the preceding years, let alone decades. As a result communication changes and now we have torrents of information at any given point, but that necessarily means that we have to be tied to the technology that provides this to us, no matter what the cost. Sometimes, even though the price is high, the opportunity cost of opting out is a devastating alternative in our modern age.
There was a moment in “Rainbows End” (which I can’t find the page number now) but basically Miri’s imaging software glitches for a moment and she remarks of herself as something of an “ordinary fat girl”. This part reminded me of “The Networking of Public Space” where Varnelis and Friedberg talk about how even our physical spaces are being removed for virtual space, such as how things like facebook have dominated the old malt-shop type scenario. Miri is not only avoiding the tangible and real body that is her self, but flicks out of it like it’s not even the real her. This mediation is so strong that this phrase is passed haphazardly and fades into the book as if it never happened; it was as if the glimpse of the real was only a glitch in an otherwise good thing.
“His shadow grew longer, the air cooler. And finally he had reached the beginning of nature. A little voice spoke in his ear, announcing that he was leaving the tagged section of the park. Beyond this point, only “low-rate emergency wireless” was guaranteed. Robert walked on, across the unlabeled wilderness.So this is the closest thing to being alone these days.”(p.77) I couldn’t imagine a more clear allusion to our digital shadows. I love the line “only “low-rate emergency wireless” was guaranteed” as it juxtaposes that it’s only guaranteed. The digital shadow, in this instance, is alluded to by Roberts actual shadow, but he literally cannot walk out of the technological boundaries.
In the first sections of “Rainbows End” we hear a constant echo of “ask the right questions.” Primarily this comes from Chumlig, the teacher, but this is one of the spurring points for my concept that I called “tunnels”. In the early stages of this idea, along with the early stages in the book, the idea is used basically to guide oneself around the cast wealth of information that is available to us. In what is basically an endless realm of potentially helpful, harmful, irrelevant, right or wrong answers it becomes important to guide oneself to the most conducive one.
In this section, a dialogue takes place between a student and a professor to answer the finer points of the ANT theory. At one point the professor asks, “What would be the use of adding invisible entities that act without leaving any trace and make no difference to any state of affairs?” In this he means, what’s the relevance? The result is not to teach the actors, or add a third explanation that supplants to previous explanations because that only means one thing: a poor explanation. “But that’s the whole point: in an argument is automatic, across the board, all-purpose, then it can’t possibly be scientific. It’s simply irrelevant. If a study is really scientific, then it could have failed.” This concept that’s acted out the through the student teacher role helps play out what it means to be an ANT, but it’s hard to put it in summary terms.
An interesting idea is brought up in this article about what makes a good text and the two furthest contrasting types are held up to a light: that of the well written account and that of scientific detail. The difference in these two writing styles vary widely, and in the professional world, to mix the two could be considered unprofessional. The social sciences, however, are argued to need the most to be well written because otherwise, the social aspect won’t be observable. Later the challenge is put forth that to include these narratives to the sciences necessitates that it is fiction. The retort, then, is that life does not play forth in the two dimensional drift so casually used in the sciences to ensure certain levels of certainty. Rather, the social sciences engaging in a new form of writing would ensure a more accurate approach for their respective science. “A good text elicits networks of actors when it allows the writer to trace a set of relations defined as so many translations.”
“Groups are not silent things, but rather the provisional product of a constant uproar made by the millions of contradictory voices about what is a group and who pertains to what.” (p.32). Any group is defined not only by what it is, but also by what it is not. Certain groups exist just to oppose other groups and so the opposition fuels the flame for a certain kind of unity within the masses. The anti-group is necessary to help define even the original group. All of these groups need to be defined by external forces.
“A new vaccine is being marketed, a new job description is offered, a new political movement is being created, a new planetary system is discovered, a new law is voted, a new catastrophe occurs. In each instance, we have to reshuffle our conceptions of what was associated together because of previous definition has been made somewhat irrelevant. We are no longer sure about what ‘we’ means; we seem to be bound by the ‘ties’ that don’t look like regular social ties.” (p.6). In this we begin to need a theory represented later, the “sociology of associations” as opposed to the earlier usage of “sociology of the social”. In the new form of re-assemblage, ANT is offered to basically rewrite the way that we consider assemblage.