Software Takes Command

Manovich’s paper on his propositions of understanding and working with this new world driven by digital communication has raised some interesting questions for me.

One of the theories he posits is that in order to use this new technology to its full potential, we need to understand the makings of the software, what happens behind the scenes. But this process is so intricate, involves so many facets, to what degree do we need to understand why and how a webpage is created? If we know just what we need to make it look the way we want it to, is that enough? I’d also like to understand his ultimate reasoning for why. Is it so that we can realize the potential with what we have? Or is it so that we more fully appreciate what it takes to make our communication look the way it does? In either case I can see the merits of both arguments. I’m sure my phone, laptop, and software have so much more capability than I’m using them for, but because I don’t spend the time to read a manual or go behind the scenes, I only scratch the surface of what they’re really capable of doing.

Another interesting part he explores is the role of technology in our culture and the different venues that we can now use to express our culture. What does this mean for the development of our culture? Does it mean it will grow and change faster? Looking back, there are always major periods in history on how people think and is defined by what is important to them at that point in time. Looking back in 200 years, will we see these phases happening more quickly and will it have something to do with technology? When we transfer our ideas so frequently through digital means, new movements can spread like rapid fire. Case in point, the Arab Spring, other revolutions around the country, and even elections have spread throughout the world at an astonishing pace, and I wonder how much of that gets captured into a part of our permanent identity.

Lev Manovich Article

Before reading the Lev Manovich article, I honestly did not know what to expect.  When first seeing in on the syllabus we had talked about the notion that everything we do had to do with software.  Naomi suggested that an everyday person-person conversation may not, but then retracted that and claimed that Manovich may argue otherwise.  Obviously that did not make me any more prepared for an article I knew nothing about.

While reading the article, I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with what Manovich was arguing.  I understood that people are ignoring the the software and internal design of something in favor obliviousness or the sheer simplicity of operating a machine they operate every day.  As I read on, I realized that I understood what he was saying because I was, in fact, one of those individuals who uses something like the Internet without actually knowing how it works.  Its a very interesting thing to thing about and, honestly, its something I never really thought about until reading Manovich’s article.  That admission right there, though, is exactly what Manovich is writing about.  Not only do I not know about the software that makes the internet work, I never bothered to find out.  Right this second, I am on the internet.  I am tapping away at the keyboard and words are forming in front of me.  Soon, I will click the publish button on the right of this screen and those words will be available for thousands to see, categorized and organized.  I am well aware of what is going to happen, but just as Manovich describes, I have not the slightest idea how.

If his point is unclear at any point, Manovich later breaks it down in a way that any teenager in this day and age should understand.  He describes the simple process of clicking the “Like” button on Facebook as using software.  That button is clicked millions upon millions of times a day by millions of people without a single one of them thinking about the process behind it.  Manovich, however, describes it as participating in the online information ecology by expressing preferences and adding metadata.  I’m glad Mark Zuckerberg and the guys at Facebook decided to go with “Like” instead of Manovich’s mouthful.  All jokes aside, I once again admit that I agree and disagree with Manovich.  He argues that, nowadays, understanding software is absolutely necessary to understand culture.  I can see how this is true with more broader mediums like the Internet or with giant search engines; however, I cannot see the importance when considering things as minute as the “Like” button.  Then again, I am not an expert on this subject, nor am I at all knowledgable when it comes to software; therefore, I don’t know if I can assuredly say whether I agree or disagree with Manovich.  I’m sticking with both!