Policy, productivity, passion and piracy: Drawing lines around innovation in a knowledge-based economy
This article addresses the notion of innovation as it is employed and deployed in the knowledge-based economy strategy within the United Kingdom, and considers the 'ways of being' with technologies that are both encouraged by and problematic for this particular vision. In the shifts from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy described within a range of UK government policy reports, the notion of innovation is of central importance. Innovation is held as central to economic and social prosperity and, closely bound up with this, identified in diverse aspects of economic and social life. Innovation will be addressed at the level of policy and personal engagements, and the interplay between the two. Specifically, innovation will be explored in this article in terms of the user. Drawing on examples of user-creativity or user-innovation, the article argues that the forms of innovation or 'new ways of being' emerging with media technologies such as DVDs and digital games can be radically and antithetically different to those encouraged within government policy reports. Piracy, as an offshoot of these personal passions and practices, is identified as revealing the limitations and priorities of knowledge-based economy policy on innovation. This tension is then highlighted to argue that innovation is instrumentally framed in government policy in ways that marginalise or channel personal and emerging engagements with media technologies.
Rereading Posthumanism in The War of the Worlds and Independence Day
The posthuman is associated with two different drives. On the one
hand, posthumanism denotes the moment when liberal humanism has become
universal to all mankind, the steady state of social order inhabited by
the 'last man at the end of history' to use Francis Fukuyama's term.
On the other hand, cybernetics and biology is continually changing the
physical constitution of the human, and hence the nature of the wider
body politic shaped by these technologised bodies.
In accordance with its manifesto, science fiction has naturally tried to imagine the forms posthumanism might take. However, in this essay, by looking at H.G. Wells' 1898 The War of the Worlds and its loose adaptation in the 1996 film Independence Day, I argue that once the future imagined by science fiction seemingly has become the present of the reader, our interpretations of the posthuman the fiction presents change quite radically. Read in the moment of the fiction's inception as an imagining of the future, the posthuman seems principally to relate to technological and scientific developments; read retrospectively, after the events imagined by the fiction appear to have been realised, the posthumanism it represents is more concerned with the social, particularly the failure of liberal humanism. The relativity of reading retrospectively also therefore implies the difficulty in constructing a stable definition of the "posthuman" to come.
Reconsidering Virtual Nuclear Arsenals
This article presents a three-part case for the unilateral adoption of a Virtual Nuclear Arsenal (VNA) in Britain. Part one, 'Practical Considerations', argues that a VNA is highly practicable within a British strategic context. This position is strengthened by the precedent of India's own recessed nuclear deterrent and its proximity to British strategic interests. Moreover, a VNA complements Britain's absolute reliance on Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBMs). In affording Britain an indestructible second strike capability the inherent strategic challenges to the adoption of a VNA are largely undermined. Part two, 'The Benefits of Virtualisation', explores why a VNA should be adopted in Britain. It is argued that the adoption of a VNA serves to complement the diplomatic aspirations of the British government whilst simultaneously improving national safety. Furthermore, the argument for virtualisation as a stepping stone towards disarmament is strengthened by the appropriateness of its timing and its newfound political expediency. Part three, 'Sustaining Deterrence', explores why a VNA need not undermine Britain;s nuclear deterrent or destabilise the wider nuclear community. This article finds that the utility of a VNA has been largely marginalised because of its assumed multilateral requirements. In considering a unilateral approach, a VNA becomes a viable alternative to Britain's present operationally deployed nuclear weapons posture. Whilst perpetuating deterrence to facilitate adoption, and thereby remaining distinct from notions of disarmament, a VNA cautiously begins to mitigate the inherent dangers of existing nuclear weapons policy in Britain.
McLibel to Mcspotlight: the impact of information and communications technology upon radical pamphleteering
To explore the political implications of the internet for grassroots
politics, this paper will focus on the complex influence of information
and communications technologies (ICTs) upon radical pamphleteering.
Focusing on the 'McLibel' campaign's use of information technology to
coordinate a campaign against the McDonald's corporation, it will
examine how a local campaign was transformed into an international
network of activist groups who collaboratively developed a critique of
multinationals, and practically enacted this critique through a series
Actor-Network Theory (ANT) will be used as a means of exploring the way in which activists sought to construct a 'project identity' (Castells 1997) for their cause; an identity designed to actively transform existing social structures. The use of post-feminist concepts of performativity by theorists working with ANT will be used to trace how such an identity has been articulated by activist websites that seek to mobilise the public to 'perform' McDonald's in a new way: as an unethical corporation that should be boycotted, as opposed to legitimising it as an acceptable family restaurant.
However, the shortcomings of activists' use of ICTs will also be explored in order to argue that the significance of websites such as McSpotlight is not solely their capacity to function as counter-hegemonic sources of information about multinational corporations, but their potential to 're-territorialise' issues in local contexts, providing resources and information to conduct local campaigns.
Microfilm, Mormons and the Technology of the Archive
This article investigates the notion of the archive - in particular, archival custody - as a form of technology. Viewing technology and humanity as interrelated, it focuses on the microfilm projects of the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU). It is argued that these projects not only pre-date the development of online access to archives, but also that they represent a re-negotiation of archival custodianship. The GSU's microfilm projects have opened up other ways in which British archives could be accessed and used. This is not purely a technological development, but is one that raises political, ethical and religious issues. In contrast to the GSU's involvement with British archives, the use of information technology by the Nazi regime is referred to in order to highlight the power of the technology of the archive, which in turn, emphasises the interaction and joint responsibility of both technology and humanity in the creation and custody of information.
Holding it Together: Postmodern Modes of Cohesion
The postmodern paradigm stresses plurality and decentredness, seemingly at the cost of a cohesive, concrete self. Especially with the advent of cyberspace and the conceit of Donna Haraway's cyborg, this would seem to present a crisis in the constituency and cohesion of bodies real and imagined in the digital age. If bodies are textual machines that are contingent and flat, rather than specific and deep, how are texts, social groups and individuals (all 'bodies') imagined as possible within the postmodern ideologue? How can the textual/sexual body function as a cohesive whole within larger bodies, such as the individual within a community and the narrative composed of disparate parts within a novel? Can a close reading of three postmodern novels (Vurt and Falling Out of Cars by Jeff Noon, and Woman on the Edge of Time by Margie Biercy) illustrate plurality as cohesion?
Beyond the perils and promise of human enhancement: The social shaping of enhancement technologies
Human enhancement, the idea that through biomedical technologies, human bodies and minds can be made faster, stronger and longer-lasting - better, in fact, than human - has emerged in recent years as a significant conceptual and cultural force. A wide range of existing biomedicines, including Prozac, human Growth Hormone, Ritalin and Botox are considered to be enhancing or to have enhancement uses. The idea of human enhancement is also shaping the development of new technologies aimed at improving human cognitive capacities or extending lifespan. This paper traces the origins of the idea of human enhancement, as something distinct from the standard therapeutic use of medical technology, to the bioethical debates on gene therapy. This original formulation draws heavily on the idea of an acultural, biological body described through instrumental measurement and acted upon by value-neutral technologies that can be put to good or bad uses by social actors. Drawing on the broadly constructionist approach of Science and Technology Studies (STS), the limitations in this framing of enhancement as a category for understanding technologies will be examined. The limitations of the current model of enhancement and the potential for novel insights provided by an approach paying greater attention to the social shaping of technologies will be illustrated using examples from the case of human Growth Hormone. I argue that these considerations are important because the concepts of enhancement and therapy are pertinent not only to the study of contemporary technologies, but also to the future development of novel biotechnologies.
White Men with Scalpels: Technology, bodies and 'male melodrama' in Nip/Tuck
Nip-Tuck is one amongst an ever-increasing range of television shows centred on the investigation and technological manipulation of human bodies and their viscera. This paper considers the expressive role played by the interfaces between technologies and bodies on contemporary television. Drawing together Linda Williams' arguments about melodrama, Vivian Sobchack's arguments about affect and Mark Seltzer's discussions of technology and agency I argue that Nip/Tuck (FX 2003 -) uses the fleshy exposures produced in its plastic surgery sequences as a form of melodramatic heightening. In Nip/Tuck's gory melodrama, the anxieties and traumas of the show's white male protagonists are dramatized through a relationship to the bodies of their patients. The bodies on these shows are increasingly depersonalized through the 'slicing and dicing' undertaken by the surgeons and can therefore operate as an affective site for the melodramatic expression of white male victimhood. In addition, the relationship set up between men and their technological implements suggests their innocence and victimhood in another way. Surgical implements come to stand for a loss of agency and enslavement to a system of labour and capital. By this device the white men on this show are exonerated from culpability for their (violent) actions.
Authority and Authorship in a 21st-Century Encyclopaedia and a 'Very Mysterious Foundation'
This article explores the reconfiguration of scientific authority and authorship in the digital age through a case study of a recent dispute between the World Innovation Foundation (WIF) and Wikipedia, a user-built online encyclopedia. An organization attempting to solve global crises through the deployment of scientific knowledge, the WIF seeks to embody traditional standards of excellence - reminiscent of Bacon's New Atlantis - by recruiting Nobel Laureates and other members of the scientific elite. Wikipedia, on the other hand, rejects expertise in favor of collective agency, creating an evolving repository of knowledge that resembles a Habermasian public sphere. Both the WIF and Wikipedia have come under criticism, in part due to their radical approaches to knowledge production and in part due to the claims they make about the authority and accountability of their contributors. The recent dispute between the two organizations culminated in mutual allegations of fraud. At the heart of the debate, however, are competing methodological and epistemological approaches to scientific authority and knowledge production based on differing notions of the realism of truth-claims. These approaches have developed defensively in response to new challenges to innovation created by a globalized world, and as such reveal something of the changing standards of scientific integrity at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
S1m0ne: Simulacrum and Simulation Incarnated in the Perfection of Humanoid Virtuality
Zsofia Anna Toth
The paper discusses issues relating to the creation, function, representation and interpretation of the virtual body. The argumentation aims to negotiate the complexities and problematic points of the post-human existence. The focus of the discussion is on the analysis of the virtual body and its problematization in the film entitled S1m0ne (2002). The basic concept applied in the analysis of the film and the title character is Baudrillard's simulacra and simulation as discussed in his seminal work entitled Simulacra and Simulation. Ideas related to post-humanity, post-biology, virtuality, digitalized, electronic (dis)embodiment and whether technology is taking over humanity in our digital age are added to Baudrillard's basic concepts in the discussion. Apart from the works treating the topic of digital technology and their role in the creation of post-human entities that might threaten human existence there are works consulted and concepts applied which approach the analysis of S1m0ne and her virtual existence from non-technological points of view. These are Otto Rank's The Double and Plato's Republic and such works which are brought as parallels like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Ovid's poem, the story of Pygmalion and Galatea from Metamorphoses. The paper argues that S1m0ne (2002) manages to encompass elements of all these diverse fields and that the title character, S1m0ne, is really a post-human, post-biologic, immaterial meta-existence. However, this existence seems to be more human and real than any living person within the story by being simulacrum and simulation 'incarnated' in the perfection of humanoid virtuality.
The Ecologist and the Alternative Technology movement, 1970-75: New Environmentalism confronts 'technocracy'
A feature of the Industrial Revolution has been the occasional
appearance of resistance to the nature and pace of change within
society. The spread of the 'dark, satanic mills' in the nineteenth
century prompted many, perhaps most notably Robert Owen, to search for
an alternative 'progress' for society. The founding of conservation and
amenity groups in Britain in the nineteenth century was perhaps the
least radical, but most enduring legacy, of organised reaction to
By the late 1960s a new environmentalism was emerging, inspired by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and encouraged by the counter culture movement. This new movement was a loose and incredible coalition of young politically motivated radicals, traditional environmentalists, respected scientists and economists, and some establishment groups and individuals. In the UK the new environmentalism was boosted by the founding of The Ecologist magazine in 1970. A key group within the new environmentalism was the Alternative Technology (AT) movement. Advocates of AT used a range of approaches to explore alternatives to the path of progress. This paper will discuss some of these attempts and show the key role that The Ecologist played in maintaining the momentum of the new environmental movement.