Screening information

Mark C. Taylor is among those very few writers and thinkers who are able to take many different disciplines of knowledge  and perform a compelling synthesis which creates wisdom. For me, “Screening information” is a precedent of how in today’s complex world of abundant information we should all be thinking and processing knowledge . Our thinking  process should be an unending examination of information in order for subjectivity and objectivity to constantly evolve. I really enjoyed how Mark C. Taylor studies the word “screening” and gradually creates a profound meaning of this word by drawing parallels with the study of knowledge and intelligence. As he quotes, “intelligence is the process of selecting relevant information carefully so it can skillfully destroy the rest”.  An interesting point he makes is how the excess of information becomes “noise.” But how can we distinguish between what is noise and what is relevant? I think that this distinction is mainly subjective based on our influences growing up, on our identity and also based on what we personally choose to absorb or believe. This unavoidable subjectivity in combination with the large flow of information also explains how there is so much miscommunication in our world nowadays. But when you think about it, can there ever be a single truth? Or are there multiple truths?

I believe that as things become more complex, people long for greater simplicity. People need filtered information and don’t have the patience nor the attention spam to examine information carefully and thoroughly. The concept of the “World Brain” and Well’s idea of the World Encyclopedia which will be “a sort of mental clearing house for the mind, a depot where knowledge and ideas are received, sorted, summarized, digested, clarified and compared” raises this idea of filtered information. As the world becomes more interconnected, the necessity for careful  cultural analysis increases. If in network culture, technology is an “indispensable prothesis through which body and mind expand” can technology act like a thoughtful agent that will create this codependence and coevolution of the  physical, biological, social and cultural systems? Imagine all information presented in the form of  a hypertext rather than linear. This is how people should be thinking of information and technology could help achieve that. Another way for the coevolution of nature and culture to exist is for educational institutions to collaborate with each other in order to create a new open system and curriculum that will merge different disciplines and will draw analogies from multiple streams of thought.

 

 

Thoughts on Understanding Media

The evolution of machine technology as well as automation technology have significantly changed how individuals perceive, assess and react to the power of information. Creation of new and transformation of existing media have incited the creation of a society much more complex and difficult to navigate on. As presented extensively in the text, the “the medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action. In the digital age, with the rise of the Internet the reach and scale of information has taken breads unconceivable in past times. Access to information has become very smooth, while the rise of smartphones has brought this power in the palm of the hand of each and every one of us. The power of medium has strengthened considerably, with consequences that we experience in our everyday lives. On the positive side, people can learn and educate themselves very fast utilizing relatively low levels of energy. On the negative side, the size and spread of so-called fake news is a notion that will trouble generation to come. Written and published content with the intent to mislead in order to gain financial or political power is something that we have all experienced to a certain degree throughout our lives. As the text states, “Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left“. Therefore, it may be fair to assume that it does not matter whether the “content” of writing or print is speech, since the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or of speech, however the notion of content does play in integral role on how we would like to steer our society in the future, in terms of how that content is perceived and acted upon. Unfortunately, in our society ill willed actions are prevalent and societies can be easily demagogued and manipulated. Examples of this we have witnessed extensively during the 2016 US Presidential Election, where specific foreign governments have been accused of coordinating intelligence campaigns in favor of a specific presidential candidate predominantly via the use of social media. Since content can be relayed to with no significant third-party filtering, fact-checking or editorial judgment, an individual with no track-record or reputation and reach very quickly as many readers as big incumbent news players. Furthermore, because usually fake news tend to involve content that is fairly exciting and vibrant, usually fake news tend to be more widely shared than the most popular mainstream news stories, thus achieving much greater virality and impact. It is alleged, that fake news might have been pivotal in the election of President Trump. I cannot comment on the assessment of this claim, one way or another, however, if a medium and its content may yield such an immense power over society, then this definitely raises my eyebrows, on how to best regulate and harness such a power. Therefore, proper regulations and boundaries need to be set, in order for the evolution and automation of technology not to become a medium of a few demagogues to manipulate and take advantage of public opinion.

My Truth

 If you had 3 minutes to communicate your truth to 100,000 people what would you say, show, and or play? 

This would be my 3 min speech:

My name is Alexia and I grew up in Athens, Greece.

I am very fortunate because I grew up in a great family with parents that loved me and supported me very much and they offered me everything anyone could dream for. I really had the perfect childhood. However, in the age of 7 my grandfather died from cancer. Even though I was really young, I was really close to my grandfather. In the beginning my parents were hesitant to talk about his death and its cause. But they decided to be honest about it and not tell us the typical lie that parents usually tell their young children like “your grandfather went on a long long journey” or “he went to heaven.” They just said the truth:  “He.Died.from.Cancer.”  I think that was the first time I heard the word “cancer” and the word “death”. I remember in his funeral even though my parents didn’t want to, I followed the crowd after we went to the church up to the point where they buried him. I didn’t understand what was really going on at first but it was definitely disturbing.

After my grandfather’s death, I started questioning almost everything around me. I was constantly over thinking things. There were nights that I couldn’t sleep because I was obsessing about the tiniest of details and role-playing different situations or scenarios about how the future may or may not play out. Therefore, I started developing many many fears especially around death and serious illnesses.

When I was 20 years old, in a span of 2 years, I experienced the death of a really close friend of mine, my mom’s battle with cancer and a major heartbreak. While I was going through these difficulties, I really tried to block all my emotions and all my negative thoughts. Everyone would tell me all of these clichés such as “think positively” or “everything happens for a reason” and I really did try to think positively. I was strong for my family, my friends and myself.

But all these suppressed emotions finally found their way out… So one day, which was probably one of the most relaxing days I had in the past few years at that time, I was literally in a Greek island with my friends on the beach, I suddenly started having difficulty breathing, my heart started racing so fast that I could hear it in my head. I thought that I was having a heart attack. I felt like I was going to die. My friends called an ambulance and I went straight to the hospital. The doctors said that everything was ok and that I just had a panic attack so I went home. However, I was so traumatized by this experience that I was constantly afraid that it was going to happen to me again and again and again. And it did happen. I suffered through panic disorder for 3 years. There were days that I couldn’t even get out of my house because I was afraid of having another panic attack. I felt depressed and helpless.

These self struggles and bad experiences have definitely hunted me for a long time and to some degree tortured my existence, however I think they have definitely shaped me, not only on the negative side but also have provided me with positive attributes. Namely a great sense of empathy towards individuals as well as the society as a whole. I found a way to use that empathy when I came across a humanitarian crisis that was unfolding at a great extent in my home country Greece and which has provided me with a sense of purpose, responsibility and impact. In February of 2016 I went to the island of Lesvos and worked as a volunteer at a refugee camp for one month.

By interacting with people that are experiencing serious loss and trauma I found a way to channel my struggles into something constructive. I could feel that even though my issues were obviously so small compared to the refugees’ struggles,  these people really felt that I could empathize with them in a different level compared to other people that had never experienced personal trauma before. We had a different kind of connection.  What really gave me strength was the smiles of those children who had lost their parents and their homes; yet somehow, their playfulness and bloom of childhood remained. Being able to give these people a reassuring smile in uncertain times and expressing my deep love and compassion for the refugees’ struggle  made me find my inner strength and control.

As one of my favorite Greek writers Nikos Kazantzakis once said “In order to succeed we must first believe that we can” so this experience I had made me gain that vital first step of believing in myself.

I realized that by worrying about something that does not yet exist I create it and every time I feed my fears I’m making them stronger. But, when I don’t obey my worries, when I talk back to them, challenge them, correct them, that’s a win for me.

So the silver lining in all this is not that I completely surpassed my anxieties because they will always be a part of who I am but it’s about adapting, finding new paths to use these anxieties into something effective and really understanding who I am and where I stand.