“The dinner table… is practically dead.”

The dinner table, an idealised space where families come together to enjoy each other’s company over a warm meal, to connect and converse, is practically dead. Bowles and Turnbull (2015) talk about the mother’s role in the home as the moderator of her children’s contact with technology and say that with the advent of portable technologies, it is becoming harder for her to track the whereabouts of her children. This is especially true if we take into consideration that when people are on their devices, they are not in fact present in the room, physically maybe, but mentally they are in the world of cyberspace.

Frendo (2013) talks about technology and says that with its becoming more mobile, it has infiltrated the dinner table, making it easy for parent and child alike to become distracted from the company of the other. She goes on to say that technology disrupts the moments of connection when we are together and that we should develop a balance and limit when we use technology (Frendo 2013). Frendo (2013) offers the solution of placing our respective technologies in a basket before sitting down for dinner. “Regular conversation, eye contact, and laughter strengthen our brain’s capacity for human connection – but those things can be difficult when distracted by the allure of technology (Fredo 2013).”

But what about those who eat dinner standing up? For Macdonald (2013), “the family dinner is an archaic ritual that’s almost dead and buried. In fact it exists almost entirely in fantasyland.” Macdonald (2013) says that when she insists her family sit together it rarely works as her son gags at the sight of vegetables while her daughter, regularly disappears beneath the table to feed the bottomless pit known as, the family dog. Macdonald (2013) believes that when the family dinner is set up because it is the proper thing to do it becomes artificial and a chore, in contrast, she believes that family dinners are respected more when they are occur during rituals, because they are the rare occasions where the family mutually comes together, such as for birthdays or Christmas.

Macdonald (2013) goes on to say that the best conversations you have with your children are at the times when they don’t feel it is an inquisition, such as when you are grilling them at the dinner table. For her, the modern family dinner involves watching the TV while eating, using this space as a site for developing ideas and insight, hosting discussions about the show and the various themes it employs (Macdonald 2013).

The family dinner at the dining table is an outdated institution that I believe a majority of families forgo for the now, arguably intimate, TV dinner. As a space, the dining table feels more appropriate for a formal setting rather than an everyday site for the engagement of family, which is where the informal and comfortable space known as the lounge room excels.

Resources:

Bowles, K, Turnbull, S 2015, BCM240 – Media, Audience, Place 8: Regulating Audiences, Echo360, viewed 26 September 2015, https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/blocks/echo360_echocenter/echocenter_frame.php?id=6402

Frendo, M 2013, Plugged in or Tuned Out: Technology at the Dinner Table, Michigan State University Extension, viewed 26 September 2015, http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/plugged_in_or_tuned_out_technology_at_the_dinner_table

Macdonald, S 2013, ‘The death of the family dinner,’ Daily Life, 4 June, viewed 26 September 2015, http://www.dailylife.com.au/news-and-views/dl-opinion/the-death-of-the-family-dinner-20130603-2nlrx.html

The Viral Infection known as the Internet

Hello DIGC202 fellows and any others who should find this blog. During this week in DIGC202, Global Networks, we examined the evolution of the world’s nervous system thanks to the advent of electricity and the telegraph. With the arrival of Samuel Morse’s dot dash style telegraph in 1838, an easier system to use than the more complex telegraph created in 1837, a need for mass wiring arose (Mitew 2014a). This resulted in the first undersea cable across the English Channel linking Great Britain and America in 1851 and the laying of the more successful trans-Atlantic cable in 1866 than its faulty 1858 counterpart (Mitew 2014a).

However, this technology was expensive and as such, preserved for the elite who could afford to send messages across the divide. But, this would all change with the arrival of the radio telegraph in 1895, a much cheaper medium that allowed the masses to shoot messages across the world via telegraph offices (Mitew 2014b). Mitew (2014b; 2014c) explains that this technology brought forth the imperialistic notion of the world as a “…single body, wires and cables – its nerves.” What Mitew means is that the telegraph obliterated the notion of duration and distance that occurred at this time, bringing people around the globe together with a network of wires and cables that allowed people to communicate and obtain news about different events happening in countries other than their own, unifying the world.

Various other technologies later developed which helped unify the world even further, but the only one which closely mirrors the creation of the original global nervous system, the first global network, was the internet. What brought the internet into fruition was the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union in 1957, which presented an issue for America as they wondered how a post-nuclear America would allow authorities to communicate (Sterling 1993, pg. 1). Paul Baran came to their rescue in 1964 with his idea of creating a network which should be assumed to be unreliable at times, be able to transcend its own unreliability, that all nodes in the network would be equal in status, and that each node would have the authority to originate, pass, and receive a message (Sterling 1993, pg. 1). In addition, these messages would be divided into packets at a specified node, each separately addressed, and then sent to a specific node via random routes (Sterling 1993, pg. 1). With this strategy, it didn’t matter whether some nodes were destroyed as the message would just take another route to its destination.

By 1969, Baran’s idea came to fruition with the formation of ARPANET, with four nodes linking four computers together (Sterling 1993, pg. 1). As technology advanced and computers got faster and cheaper, the masses began to gain access to ARPANET. Eventually ARPA’s original standard for communication, NCP (Network Control Protocol), was succeeded by TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol), a more sophisticated standard that converted messages into streams of packets at the originating node before reassembling them again once they had reached their destination (Sterling 1993, pg. 2). IP (Internet Protocol) sees that the packets are sent across multiple nodes across multiple networks with multiple standards e.g. Ethernet, FDDI etc. (Sterling 1993, pg. 2).

As TCP/IP became more common and access to more powerful computers was gained, people began to link their computers to a growing network of networks now known as the internet. Sterling (2013) describes this phenomena as the original, ARPANET, being superseded by its mutant child, the internet, making such a phenomena mirror the process of a parasite taking over its host. This viral infection known as the internet is not necessarily a bad or even inherently a bad thing, it is made bad by those who would abuse it. Such abuse comes into the fore when we consider the spread of media literacy.

Stadler (2005) looks at how the spread of media literacy has expanded the range of people able to consume media/cultural objects produced by industries and everyday people (pg. 14). With the advancement of digital technologies, the differentiation between cultural objects and cultural exchanges is shrinking (Stadler 2005, pg. 14-15). Cultural exchanges, once fluid, can now take on a form, although not always physical e.g. books, audio files, video files etc. which presents a problem for the authors and artists of today. Because these pieces of cultural exchange can take on the form of a cultural object that is also fluid, it is easier than ever for the “…processes of telling, re-telling, changing and transforming… (Stadler 2005, pg. 15)” to occur. This means that people are now equipped with the technology to exchange fluid cultural objects with each other, and more seriously, exchanging fluid cultural objects on an illegal basis such as copyrighted music files.

With the steady advancement of technology and the arrival of the infection known as the internet, it has become easier than ever to steal fluid cultural objects, such as music files, under the guise of exchange, and the truth is, there is not much we can do about it. Except, of course, believing in the inherent moral goodness of those around us not to download or give people access to copyrighted media.

References:

Mitew, T 2014a, A Global Nervous System: From the Telegraph to Cyberspace [Part 1], online video, 04 August, YouTube, viewed 6 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sVoe9lZEBOk&index=2&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j

Mitew, T 2014b, A Global Nervous System: From the Telegraph to Cyberspace [Part 2], online video, 04 August, YouTube, viewed 6 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5oAlHZMgX8&index=3&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j

Mitew, T 2014c, A Global Nervous System: From the Telegraph to Cyberspace [Part 3], online video, 04 August, YouTube, viewed 6 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0-kqEicKaU&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&index=4

Mitew, T 2014d, A Global Nervous System: From the Telegraph to Cyberspace [Part 4], online video, 04 August, YouTube, viewed 6 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAZru-SPuNI&list=PLiPp71qLKusXOU1bKxHVappCbRNN3-J-j&index=5

Stadler, F 2005, Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks, Futura publikacije, Novi Sad

Sterling, B 1993, A Short History of the Internet, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, viewed 07 August 2015

Taylor, E 2014, Internet and the World, image, Emily Taylor Internet Research, viewed 09 August 2015, http://www.emilytaylor.eu/internet-governance/