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A Curriculum of Proper Knowledge Consumption

an elucidation of the design exploration documented in the accompanying volume, Utopia/Dystopia

Copyright © 2013 by Gabriel Yuval Schaffzin A Curriculum of Proper Knowledge Consumption An elucidation of the design exploration documented in the accompanying volume, Utopia/Dystopia All Rights Reserved The chapter and section titles in this book are set in Nudista and the body copy is set in Teimer, both from the Suitcase Type Foundry. The latter is a revived version of a typeface deigned originally in 1967 by the Czech type designer, Pavel Teimer. The influence which his countryman, Vilém Flusser, had on this and the accompanying volume inspired the search for a typeface with Czech roots.

Table of Contents
7 Prologue 11 27 45 65 73 Seeking A Framework Point, Counterpoint Social Movement Information Design Philosophical Basis A Curriculum Of Proper Knowledge Consumption

91 Epilogue 95 Acknowledgments 99 Works Cited

Prologue
When I decided to go to graduate school back in the fall of 2009, I declared that it was “to improve my aesthetic.” I had spent the previous five years working on the “creative” side of the advertising business; surrounded by designers with degrees from schools like MassArt and SCAD, my undergraduate business degree didn’t really seem so relevant any more. Of course, once I got to the Dynamic Media Institute, it was the improvement of my aesthetic that would soon come across as irrelevant. There, I was provided the opportunity for the kind of critical thinking I had never attempted in any previous setting  —  academic or otherwise. Tackling foundational and contemporary considerations of dynamic media in Professor Joe Quackenbush’s class provided me with the reminder I needed of how much I enjoyed the rigors of scholarship, especially when applied to those topics close to my core

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interests. Working with Professor Sasha ConstanzaChock at the Center for Civic Media at MIT for two semesters introduced me to the theoretical and philosophical approaches to understanding media’s place in society. All the while, the “making” I was doing with Professors Brian Lucid, Jan Kubasiewicz, Gunta Kaza, and Katherine Hughes allowed for the expression of my interests and concerns through design, one of my original reasons for taking on the pursuit of an MFA in the first place. The document that follows outlines my belief that our current media-centric society’s regard for brevity and speed is leaving us without the ability for a discourse that is anything but facile and seriously lacking in nuance. As a result, we lose our opportunity for the kind of reflection that makes us human. This is an observation I was only able to come to after the kind of reading and writing I completed in my first two years at DMI, but it took my concurrent focus on making to help me tackle the question of what I’d like to do about all of this. A consideration of which lens I’d like to use to see the world around me, examples of what that world looks like, an exploration of design’s role in that world, a construction of a philosophical basis for my plan of attack, and an explanation of that plan all must be followed up with how the execution

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of that plan could look. As such, the accompanying volume, Utopia/Dystopia, does exactly that, offering up the thought process and products of my attempt at implementing “a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption.” Throughout both books, cross-references are made between each document, connecting the theoretical frameworks and philosophical arguments with the design decisions made (and vice versa). Of course, while the narrative structure of these two volumes may imply that this was a logical progression through an argument and process already developed in my head, this could not be much further from the truth. Rather, a considerable amount of thought was put into making sure the organization and physical form of these documents are in line with the pillars upon which the arguments presented are built. I hope you enjoy it.

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Seeking A Framework
In his 2010 New York Times bestseller, The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, Nicholas Carr tracks humanity’s transition from the spoken word, to the written, the printed, and the digitized. The work is compelling, often transitioning seamlessly between scientific findings and illustrative anecdotes. Throughout, he avoids presenting himself as a Luddite (the word appears only once  — in the prologue (3)) while still making the argument that today’s technology1 is leading to a required re-wiring, of sorts, of our brains. As Carr lays the groundwork for his larger argument, he turns to scientific findings such as Michael Merzenich’s 1968 work exploring and

1 At a public reading of the book at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, MA on 28 June, 2010, Carr noted that he uses the term “The Internet” in the title as a reference to technology as a whole, calling out the connected nature of most of today’s technology.

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mapping the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Carr points to the explicit plasticity of the organ  — a quality long rejected by generations of scientists before (24). Leaving no guesswork regarding the eventual direction of the book to his readers, he concludes at the close of chapter one that “the possibility of eventual decay is inherent in the malleability of our brains” (35). Each chapter thereafter tracks the changes that we are forced through as we accept technology into our lives. Beginning with centuries-old adjustments to the way we navigated (the map), the way we told time (the clock), and the way we transferred knowledge between one another (the written word), Carr then turns to our interactions with today’s technology. He notes how the screen is replacing the printed form, how the hard drive and the search engine are replacing memory, and how the computer as a whole is replacing human agency. He points to studies that prove that, as our new tools allow us to “multi-task,” we are, instead, spreading ourselves too thin, effectively missing out on the salient details of the information we consume and produce on a daily basis. He writes that “the price we pay to assume technology’s power is alienation” (211). Throughout, the author weaves scientific findings in with the teachings of theorists and philosophers

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such as Marshall McLuhan and Lewis Mumford. This is to remind his readers that the way technology affects us is not one to be observed solely in a laboratory. Alternatively or concurrently, his goal may have been to appease both the reader seeking scientific proof and the one seeking theoretical insight. Regardless of his motive, Carr’s work was well received. In addition to his Times bestseller status, the piece was widely acclaimed by reviewers (Amazon.com) and nominated for a Pulitzer in the general nonfiction category (The Pulitzer Prizes). In Slate Magazine, Michael Agger compares the book to Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, pointing to the way Carr presents his concerns about contemporary technology by “admirably subjecting his hunch to scrutiny.” Agger goes on to express some skepticism about Carr’s emphasis on science (“brain science is like the new freshman quarterback who shows lots of promise,” he writes), but eventually calls Carr “a realist in pointing out that the literary, attentioncapable mind, though it may not quite go the way of the chanting Greek poets, will no longer reign.” It is this emphasis on the mind of the individual that characterizes Carr’s analysis. “For the last five centuries, ever since Gutenberg’s printing press made book reading a popular pursuit,” writes Carr, “the linear, literary mind has been at the center

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of art, science and society” (10). This observation, made in the book’s opening chapter, is an effective introduction to the perspective from which readers are then guided through the author’s remaining arguments: how the mind of the individual, located at the “center of art, science and society,” is being changed. Carr seems to bypass the institutions shaping that individual’s mind, instead jumping directly into the center of the imaginary circle. Certainly, the relationship between the individual and society is by no means unidirectional, and Carr does not explicitly set out to imply that society as a whole should be excluded from consideration in his critique. In fact, in his chapter on the effects of technology on our memory, Carr touches on how “personal memory shapes and sustains the ‘collective memory’ that underpins culture” (196). He goes on to assert that, “to remain vital, culture must be renewed in the minds of the members of every generation. Outsource memory, and culture withers” (197). Still, this analysis of the mind’s relationship to culture continues to concentrate on the “I” in the equation and the work as a whole rarely touches on how the collective “we” acts. That subtle abstraction  , however—  from I to we  — does appear   in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, particularly in the form of, as the book’s front cover notes, an analysis of

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what “happens when society adopts new behaviors [emphasis added].” Shirky introduces us to the issues dealt with in his 2008 work with an anecdote  — a mechanism that he will use throughout the rest of the book. In chapter one, he tells the story of Ivanna’s phone, left in a New York City cab in May 2006, and the epic battle to retrieve it and shame the individual in whose possession the phone ended up. After Ivanna’s friend Evan posted her story to the Internet, he passed the link among his friends and family who spread the link further through their respective networks. Eventually, after a huge spike in traffic to Evan’s site, the broadcasting of email addresses, threats of physical violence against Evan, the arrest of the perpetrator, the return of the phone, and Evan’s decidedly smart choice to go into the public relations industry, some serious questions were still left unanswered. “Do we want a world in which a well-off grown-up can use this kind of leverage to get a teenager arrested? . . . a world where, whenever someone with this kind of leverage gets riled up, they can unilaterally reset all the priorities of the local police departments?” (13–14). These questions, Shirky notes, are rhetorical. “The real question is, What happens next?” (14).

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In the case of Here Comes Everybody, what follows is ten more chapters, each presented with another story from popular culture  —  be it how a website like Meetup.com came to be, how activists shined light on the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals, how Linux was created by both one developer and a community of developers, and so on  —  combined with a framework or tenet of our new organizing tools. Throughout, he points out that the tools we have today (or, at least, the ones that were available up to and at the point of the book’s publishing) are responsible for significantly lowering the barriers of entry related to accessing the energy, skills, and attention of groups of disparate individuals. By making it easier to organize, he offers, more people will do so: “One of the uncontentious tenets of economics is that people respond to incentives. If you give them more of a reason to do something, they will do more of it, and if you make it easier to do more of something they are already inclined to do, they will also do more of it” (18). As a prominent theorist himself, Shirky makes sure to reference those who have come before. He uses both the “Coasean Ceiling” and “Coasean Floor” to make his points  —  references to Ronald Coase’s essay, “The Nature of The Firm.” The former refers to the point at which the high transaction costs of managing an organization no longer make the

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existence of the organization worth it. The latter is the point at which the transaction costs become so low, that there is no payoff for the organization to exist to perform its function. Our new social tools, Shirky argues, enable us to break through the Coasean floor by creating loosely organized groups (he uses as an example photographers who happened to be at the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island, NY in 2005) whose transaction costs are so low, there’s very little incentive not to perform them (pooling photos from the event on the social photo site, Flickr.com). Including the work of social theorists such as Coase, Ethan Zuckerman (whose Global Voices site he calls out as a challenge to the “tempting” assertion that a “journalist would have to be anointed by some older form of media” (72)), and Yochai Benkler (for his theories on non-market creation of group value  — “the ways people are happy to cooperate without needing financial reward” (133)) grounds Shirky’s analysis in the frameworks that shape how many see present day society. In the epilogue of the 2009 paperback edition of the book, Shirky tells the story (318) of Aldus Manutius, the Venetian printer who invented the pocket-sized book in 1501  —  an historical reference made by Carr, as well (70). Calling the invention one of the “small revolutions extending the big revolution of movable type,” Shirky offers that “the lesson from

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Manutius’s life is that the future belongs to those who take the present for granted” (319). With this emphasis on moving past the present in order to understand the future, Shirky encourages his readers to see that our networks are stronger thanks to new behaviors enabled by technology. Consequently, he posits that there is a shift in the balance of power from the institutions that govern our lives to these technology enabled networks. According to Shirky, this shift is worth celebrating  —  and in many of the examples he offers, it certainly is. But a consideration of how we act in our new present deserves an equally important analysis of how we are acted upon. In considering the latter perspective, Shirky’s “rhetorical” questions above become less so  —  forcing us to question the ways in which the technology that we believe we control begins to take control of us. Twenty years ago, Neil Postman raised such questions in Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. By moving his reader through a continuum of technological changes, Postman establishes a taxonomy of phases: from tool-using cultures to technocracies to Technopoly. Much like Carr and Shirky in their respective volumes, Postman threads historical references with theoretical verses to present an argument on the new human condition

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that has begun (and will continue) to become the norm in today’s society. Postman, however, takes a more comprehensive view than his successors, preferring to see shifts in the flow of influence resulting in holistic cultural changes, rather than changes observed in the behaviors of the individual or collective. In observing the differences in which Carr and Postman portray the evolution of the mechanical clock and the subsequent changes due to its use, one can see quickly the varied modes in which the two authors present their arguments. After outlining the mechanical clock’s move from the monastery as a tool used by Christian monks to signify prayer times to an ever-present and critical tool of synchronization in the general community, Nicholas Carr notes that “The mechanical clock changed the way we saw ourselves . . . it changed the way we thought . . . our minds began to stress the methodical mental work of division and measurement” (43). Here we observe Carr’s aforementioned emphasis on the “I” when developing a framework for the evaluation of technological advancements. Postman also sees the clock as a major milestone in technologically influenced societal shifts. He notes that King Charles V ordered the clock bells be rung hourly rather than on prayer times (as had

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been the case with the monks). This shift, he argues, was indicative of “a tool being employed to loosen the authority of the central institution of medieval life” (27). It is this type of shift  — cultural institutions yielding to the development of those tools which were once an integrated part of that culture  — that characterizes a technocracy. “With some exceptions, tools did not prevent people from believing in their traditions, in their God, in their politics, in their methods of education, or in the legitimacy of their social organization. These beliefs,” he continues, “directed the invention of tools and limited the uses to which they were put” (23). As technocracy took hold of a post-medieval world, elements of culture such as, “consequence, tradition, social mores, myth, politics, ritual, and religion [had] to fight for their lives” (28). Technocracy, however, still allowed for these elements to coexist alongside technology. “The technological was the stronger, of course, but the traditional was still there  —  still functional, still exerting influence, still too much alive to ignore” (48). Not so, Postman goes on to argue, once Technopoly took hold; in Technopoly, there is no more room for alternatives. The powers driving advancement of technology throughout our cultural institutions yield to no traditions. Thus, whereas Shirky sees our current technological landscape as an enabler  — a

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framework that allows us to organize and act in new ways as a collective  —  Postman sees it as a force acting on us. For instance, both Shirky and Postman reference the concept of “information overload.”2 Shirky believes the best way to tackle this overflow of content from various media channels and platforms is to place the job of “filtering” that content into the hands of its consumers, rather than its publishers. “Filterthen-publish,” he writes, “whatever its advantages, rested on a scarcity of media that is a thing of the past. The expansion of social media means that the only working system is publish-then-filter” (98). The job of filtering, then, is tended to by individuals driven to participate out of emotional connection (what Shirky calls “love”), not money  —  the latter not being as important now that transaction costs to participate are so low. Shirky, of course, had the benefit of having seen various social media platforms (MySpace, Twitter, LiveJournal, et al.) in action when he wrote Here Comes Everybody. Not so for Postman’s Technopoly. Regardless, it is doubtful Postman would be so willing to trust the masses  —  or, rather, those under
2 Shirky never uses the term “information overload” specifically, though he alludes to the problems associated with it while outlining the new media landscape in chapters three and four of Here Comes Everybody.

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the influence of Technopolian forces  — with the role of filtering content for general consumption. After all, in Technopoly, “free rein” is granted “to any technology” (129), including those used for the publishing and filtering  —  even language itself. Postman argues,
The question with language, as with any other technique or machine, is and always has been, Who is to be the master? Will we control it, or will it control us? The argument, in short, is not with technique. The argument is with the triumph of technique, with techniques that become sanctified and rule out the possibilities of other ones (143).

The ease with which communities may filter the overflow of information being published, therefore, is of no use when the tools being used for publishing and filtering  —  language, machine, technique  — are operated under the forces of Technopoly. It is important to note the way in which Postman separates technology from Technopoly. Instead of pointing to how specific tools, such as an online search or text message, may affect our brains or inspire a social movement, he frames the concept as a “thought-world.” He outlines some of the tenets of

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this thought-world when writing of the “originator of scientific management,” Frederick W. Taylor:3
 . . . Taylor’s book The Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, contains the first explicit and formal outline of the assumptions of the thought-world of Technopoly. These include the beliefs that the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment; that in fact human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value; and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts (51).

Postman’s concerns are not with the tools used  —  otherwise he would not delineate “tool-using” cultures as a separate step in his taxonomy. Rather, it is the way in which society readily adopts these tools: without a thorough consideration of the forces acting on these tools  —  in particular, the motives of these forces.

3 Carr also writes of Taylor, though he does so in order to explain the emphasis on efficiency placed on the Internet and search engines such as Google.

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In her 2012 South by Southwest Interactive talk, “The Power of Fear In Networked Publics,” researcher danah boyd4 noted that
we fear the things  —  and the people  —  that we do not understand far more than the things we do, even if the latter are much more risky. For this reason, it’s not surprising that people fear technology. Its newness is confusing and no one’s quite certain what to do with the promises it offers.

Shirky and Carr have produced intriguing and thorough works which present theories and frameworks to turn technology  into something we do understand (Shirky certainly presents a far more optimistic one than Carr). But theories, according to Postman, “are oversimplifications, or at least lead to oversimplification . . . Their weakness is that precisely because they oversimplify, they are vulnerable to attack by new information” (77). boyd went on to reference Melvin Kranzeberg’s First Law of Technology: “Technology is neither good, nor bad, nor is it neutral.” She added that, “given this, it’s irresponsible to assume that the tools we’re building just wander out into the world with only

4 boyd legally changed her name to be all lowercase, noting that she prefers the “symmetry” of the d and h in her first name (Goodman).

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positive effects” As such, this critique of technology will continue with Technopoly as a guiding force, for it presents a framework through which we are not forced to see a good, nor a bad, nor certainly a neutral. Rather, it asks us to see the forces acting on that world into which our tools are “wandering” and enables us to consider the motives of those forces and the consequences of allowing them to continue as they are. As a first step, we must review some of technology’s most heralded achievements. As Postman writes in Technopoly’s first chapter, “a wise man  —  even one of such a woeful countenance  —  must begin his critique of technology by acknowledging its successes” (7).

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Point, Counterpoint
The Telegraph vs. The Nanosecond

Perhaps one of the most poignant examples of a technology not only altering the behavior of a populous, but also having a permanent effect on the trajectory of the “thought-world” of its time, is the telegraph. James Carey, in his essay, “Technology and ideology: the case of the telegraph” presents an excellent argument for that piece of innovation as America’s tipping point into the industrial revolution  —  acting as both an enabler for so many other advances as well as a catalyst in a shift of human ideology. The telegraph, argues Carey, was responsible for a reconceptualization of what a business looked like, what language sounded like, and what role electricity would play in the consumer goods market. Now that railroads need not depend on riders on horseback to change signals along the rails, trains could move much faster and at greater

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frequency. Humans could communicate with one another from across the globe, and do so, for the first time, without requiring any major travel by any party. A global synchronization began  — from railroad timetables to city halls to financial markets. In 1858, Charles F. Briggs and August Maverick explored the meaning of the telegraph to humanity. They asserted that (as cited by Carey), “It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for an exchange of thought between all nations of the earth.” The “annihilation of time and space” inspired more than just new business ventures. It inspired hope. Further, it enabled speed. Humans could travel faster, communicate faster, even trade faster. As Carrey notes, “time has been redefined as an ecological niche to be filled down to the microsecond, nanosecond, and picosecond  —  down to a level at which time can be pictured but not experienced.” This is due to a global time synchronization  — a product of our relatively new ability to travel quickly across time-zones, delineations developed only after the introduction of the telegraph itself  — and also of the synchronization of financial markets. Carey calls out the example of commodities traders in the American Midwest in the early- and mid-19th century. Markets whose prices lagged “two years

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behind Eastern markets” in the 1820s soon lagged behind by only months thanks to the speed with which prices traveled from New York or England. By 1857, however, the price shifts were virtually instantaneous. Today, the inevitable requirement to keep apace with the speed of electronic markets has lead to the advent of algorithmic trading  —  the tracking, buying, and selling of financial products via preprogrammed equations based on the logic of these markets. In the 1970s and 1980s, as banks and other firms began to turn their focus to the electronic modeling of these equations, it became imperative to make accessible to individual employees the technology to do so. Thus, when Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston released the first electronic spreadsheet software, VisiCalc, in 1976, the change catalyzed by the telegraph shifted into high gear. Along with the spreadsheet came the ability to complete “better analysis faster” (Wain). With repetitive cells, built-in equations, and instantaneous cross-references, calculations “were automatically checked by the computer” (Wain). Soon, the complexity of models allowed by the software (and its derivatives, Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, et al.) became a measure of value: those models with more complexity were heralded as more legitimate.

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Financial markets began speculating based on these
1 models, depending on sensitivities    to convey a sense

of sureness or proof. As one investment banker put it, “it was this idea that we could sit with [a client’s] ceo and say ‘we thought of everything’” (Saunders). This complexity required a new kind of thinking and individuals with the ability to do so. Firms began to bring in physicists to build models on a proprietary basis. One such individual is Emanuel Derman, a physicist who began his career at Bell Labs but quickly became “bored” and moved on to Goldman Sachs. In his 2004 autobiography he writes of taking a “many-sided view of risk” that was a “never ending enterprise.” He notes that “So much of financial modeling is an exercise of the imagination” (257). Nearly ten years later, it is not uncommon to read of “flash-crashes” within the market, brief but significant dips caused by a bug within algorithmic trading code (Nanex). Certainly, the financial collapse of late2008 can be blamed in part on an overconfidence in complexity within our markets (The White House). These occurrences are the product of the marrying of imagination with risk, especially in the context of our Technopoly  —  a place where our markets conform to the technology available to them. As Steven Levy wrote
1 Small models within models that try to convey what elements of a scenario can directly or indirectly affect outcomes.

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in a 1984 Harper’s feature on electronic spreadsheets, “those who use them have a tendency to lose sight of the crucial fact that the imaginary businesses they create on their computer are just that  — imaginary.” Actual businesses constantly depend on the type of “imaginary” modeling performed using devices such as the electronic spreadsheet  — patents, customer data, sales forecasts, and so on  — for aid in decision making. The increased capability of our technology allows us to consume and process more information  —  information which is being produced by that same technology. But are we put in a better position to make decisions on our own or do our instruments interfere with our ability to do so? This depends on the forces acting on those tools.
Ted Turner vs. The Sensational Media

“I wanted to start the Cable News Network,” noted business mogul and cnn founder, Ted Turner, in 1979, “because I felt that America needed an in-depth voice in what’s going on in the news” (Oprah.com). One year later Turner launched the 24-hour cable news channel as a way to reach individuals who were not able watch the news on its existing schedule (5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 11 p.m.) of the “big three” networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC (Oprah.com). Having already built his television empire by taking advantage of the UHF

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broadcast spectrum (one that had been recently made available by the FCC; all of the major networks were on the legacy VHF), Turner understood what it meant to pioneer a new industry via a new technology. “With satellites today,” he noted, “there’s no reason why people should be ignorant about what’s going on in the rest of the world” (National Constitution Center). Without much programming available of which to speak on most cable providers, CNN broke ground by broadcasting what it considered to be valuable information 24-hours per day. With costs for both physical (shipping and traveling) and virtual (teleconferencing and Internet enabled sharing) connections so low thanks to new technologies, companies (including media networks) began expanding rapidly throughout the globe. Eventually, after expanding globally via CNN International, Turner’s network was sharing information across the planet, part of a much larger globalization trend seen throughout the business world. Turner and his contemporaries heralded this expanded network in a strikingly similar fashion to the telegraph’s advocates  —  the sharing of information would be a means through which humanity would find common causes and reduce violence and strife. “I am the right man in the right place at the right time, not me alone, but all the people

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who think the world can be brought together by telecommunications” (Henry). The means to communicate and share information gathered via satellite and broadcast into homes was a realization of Marshall McLuhan’s “Global Village,” a place where “electric speed [was] bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion [that] heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree” (5). Turner, at the helm for the network’s first 20 years, believed that CNN could be a catalyst in this heightening through its objective and “fact-based” reporting on national and international affairs. As the media landscape has changed, however, an emphasis on profit making has forced cable news into a different place than Turner envisioned. At the halfway point of 2012, CNN sat low in the ratings for 24-hour cable news networks, trailing far behind both Fox News and MSNBC, two networks which had emerged years after CNN’s initial launch. Much commentary was written about the “fall” of the once heralded cable news giant, often quoting official CNN spokespersons espousing the value of the network as a source for “non-partisan, quality journalism” (Byers). Certainly, this defense stemmed from the organization’s attempt to differentiate itself from the ideologically-driven Fox News and

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MSNBC (conservative- and liberal-leaning, respectively). But further criticism has been lobbed at the network for veering away from the type of “news-gathering” for which it was originally known (Byers). Even Turner himself stated in recent years that he would like to see less “fluffy” news and “more environmental news and more international news . . . a little more substantive” (Shea). Whether the root of the CNN’s ratings woes is based on the network’s lack of focus on “international news” or is too focused on staying “non-partisan,” the fact remains that it is unable to garner the share of audience it once could. “There’s tremendous pressure to get people to watch these channels so they can sell advertising for a higher price,” Turner told Tom Brokaw in 2011. “So they go to more sensational  — to me, trivial  — programming” (US Zeitgeist 2010). And, as the media industry consolidated, the type of disruption which Turner was able to accomplish in 1980 was no longer possible. In the July/August 2004 issue of Washington Monthly, Turner writes, “What will programming be like when it’s produced for no other purpose than profit? What will news be like when there are no independent news organizations to go after stories the big corporations avoid?” As with the telegraph, cable and satellite communication was viewed as a possible bridge

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between global parties who may not be familiar with one another’s culture. Informing these groups about one another could have been facilitated by the new technology. However, the considerations of capital complicated and compromised the original vision. But cable news is an inherently one way communication. The evolution of technology has led to the design and curation of “interactive” experiences  —  those which allow us to both consume and create, allowing us to realize more complex discourses across a plethora of channels.
The Memex vs. Facebook

Vannevar Bush’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s visions shared a lofty goal: the betterment of mankind. One innovator, having just finished developing the atomic bomb, felt that emerging technology at the time could usher in a level of enlightenment, one that would encourage humans to grow in the wisdom of experience  —  rather than digress and kill. The other innovator, with his penchant for tinkering with the latest software and networking tools, believed that a society with liberal policies on sharing personal information would encourage connections between neighbors and international strangers alike. Each of these innovators used similar building blocks to conceive and construct his respective

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tool  —  Zuckerberg’s Facebook having the luxury of nearly 60 years of technological developments on Bush’s mythical “Memex.” As Bush emerged from his work on the Manhattan Project in 1945, he sought out ways to utilize the era’s rapidly developing technological advances for academic, rather than military, objectives. He focused on research techniques, fueled by his belief that people were not equipped with the proper tools to collect, consult, and share findings. As he wrote in The Atlantic Monthly, “Presumably man’s spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems” (47). Bush was mainly concerned with using technology to replicate  — or supplement —  processes of the human brain. As such, the collective value of the individual technologies was fully illustrated once they came together in his vision of the Memex, a desk-enclosed mechanized system for collection, retrieval, review, and consultation of research. Central to the Memex concept were trails of data: associative, rather than alphabetical or otherwise indexed content. Designed based on the thought association process, individual pieces of research were collected from disparate sources, transferred to and from a storage medium (microfilm), and tagged

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with unique identifying “addresses.” These records of trails could also be shared or duplicated so that peers and colleagues would have the ability to view and annotate each other’s research (44  – 46). While never fully realized as a physical product, many features of the Memex have been implemented throughout today’s technological advances. Voice recognition software, camera and lens miniaturization, and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) can all be tied back to proposals Bush makes in his Atlantic article, entitled “As We May Think.” Perhaps one of the most encompassing contemporary examples of the Memex, however, is Facebook, launched in 2003. Just as Bush hoped that his Memex trails would lead to the elevating of “man’s spirit,” Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook was one in which “the world [is] more open and transparent, which . . . will create greater understanding and connection.” Zuckerberg and his team believed they could achieve this by encouraging the use of its technology to promote “Social Value,” “Common Welfare,” and “One World”  — among other principles (“Facebook Principles”). A Facebook user’s ability to upload thoughts (or “notes”), photographs, and videos mimics Bush’s vision of a multi-media recording tool for researchers. The site’s “Like” buttons allow users to mark any content

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they find online and place a reference to it on a Facebook profile page. This button, along with comment threads, act as consultation tools, allowing connections to declare if they share the same opinions on or approve of a piece of content. Finally, users are encouraged to share content via the Facebook platform, either to the general public (via the News Feed) or to a specific connection via a Facebook message. The Facebook platform (encompassing Facebook.com, mobile applications, and any technology utilizing its application programming interface) uses all of the data to which it has access and creates its own version of Bush’s Memex trails. If Berners-Lee’s World Wide Web is an implementation of “a sea of interactive shared knowledge” inspired by Bush’s Memex (1995 Vannevar Bush Symposium), then Facebook’s intelligent recommendation and filtering engine is a Memex trail, created on the fly. It is this engine that drives the core of Facebook’s value. Consider Neil Postman’s information glut versus Clay Shirky’s “publish-then-filter.” When the flow of information goes through a central algorithm that categorizes, prioritizes, and presents that information, there is no glut, no need for filtering on the side of the human. For Facebook as a corporation, building and maintaining this engine provides a

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twofold benefit: users are presented with what they believe to be the most personalized information, ensuring traffic stays high, a boon to advertisers; those same advertisers can draw on the data moving through the engine in order to better customize their ads to their target audiences (Pariser 194). Both of these selling points result in higher revenue possibilities. Bush, of course, never references revenue opportunities in “As We May Think.” This fundamental difference is where Facebook and the Memex’s shared continuum of mechanics (collect, consult, share) to philosophical goals (make the world a better place) branches: where Memex was focused on sharing information for the benefit of the academy and its endeavors, Facebook is focused on gathering, filtering, and presenting information at the behest of its advertisers. Does serving its paying customers counter-act the “greater understanding and connection” promised?

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A Technopolian Critique

The struggle to understand technology’s progression is not a new one. Sigmund Freud, in his 1929 work, Civilization and Its Discontents, highlights the dialectic between the problems solved by technology and those new ones raised by it:
But here the voice of pessimistic criticism makes itself heard and warns us that most of these satisfactions follow the model of the ‘cheap enjoyment’ extolled in the anecdote  — the enjoyment obtained by putting a bare leg from under the bedclothes on a cold winter night and drawing it in again. If there had been no railway to conquer distances, my child would never have left his native town and I should need no telephone to hear his voice; if traveling across the ocean by ship had not been introduced, my friend would not have embarked on his sea-voyage and I should not need a cable to relieve my anxiety about him (61).

To understand the effect of any of these technological tools  —  the telegraph, cable television, social trails  —  on humanity as a whole is not in the scope of this document. Nor is the point of this chapter to call out these tools as having never facilitated world-altering events with positive outcomes. In fact, Facebook and other social networks have been credited with providing the

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channels through which the oppressed participants in the “Arab Spring” built revolutions to overthrow their dictatorial governments (Zuckerman “Civic Disobedience”). But the events in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and other nations in early January 2010 have also raised significant questions about what might happen as the governments become aware of and move on to these platforms (Zuckerman “Morozov”). While the networks hosted the content which motivated Egyptian revolutionaries, it was shutting off the country’s Internet connection that brought “protesters in larger numbers to the street” to participate in the Tahrir Square protests (Howard, et al.). And what of the commercial entities (some with relationships to governments) being the gate keepers to the data and content used within these revolutions? To whom do they ultimately answer? These and other questions illustrate the importance of considering the forces that have acted on these tools and the resulting implications on the way society is able (or willing) to use them. When the nanosecond becomes a unit of measurement for trade, a real estate boom occurs surrounding the optical fiber that brings data to buildings in such a small amount of time (Miller). When the news is always on, it is paid for by advertising driven by the fact that someone must always be watching  — even if

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that means tailoring that news to a specific ideology. And when, as Vannevar Bush notes, “there will always be plenty of things to compute in the detailed affairs of millions of people doing complicated things” (41), it becomes imperative to begin to compute, even, the details of the uncomplicated. In considering these forces, two themes punctuate the case studies explored in this chapter. First, each of the utopian visions driving the technological innovations were predicated on the belief that sharing information between unknowns would result in the betterment of humanity. According to danah boyd, this is, perhaps, a curious belief:
Exposure to new people doesn’t automatically produce tolerance. When explorers traversed the earth looking for opportunity, they pillaged and plundered even before they began colonizing. Fear ruled the seas. And let’s be honest...exposure to other people during great explorations did not magically produce tolerance. It bred anger, distrust, and hatred.

Secondly, as Carey notes in his analysis of the various ideological changes traced back to the invention of the telegraph, “Technology as such is too abstract a category to support any precise analysis; therefore, changes in technology go unanalyzed

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except for classifying them within various stages of capitalist development.” Here, he is calling out a fault in most analyses surrounding technology but also bringing to light one of the themes of both Postman’s work and this chapter: the requirement to contextualize a critique of technology with a review of the capitalist influences on it along the way. Each of the case studies presented above do precisely that.
Understanding Design’s Susceptibility to Technopolian Forces

That the focus here has been at the crossroads of knowledge transfer and commerce is certainly no coincidence. Surely, today’s “information” society places much value on both. From the roots of technological communication to today’s most populous virtual network, these are examples of communication systems in action, seen through the lens of their designed purpose  , eventually establishing their place in Technopoly. Each of the technologies discussed were heralded for the promised outcome of their implementation and use, as designed by their creators. But what of design itself as a Technopolian technique? Design, after all, represents the planning of converting the conceptual to the concrete. This conversion is observed distinctly in the information design field, in particular, as the concepts described by textual

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and numerical data is presented in a seemingly neutral manner. No matter the final form, however, that conversion must undergo scrutiny by interested parties. The conversion is, to reference boyd’s mention of Melvin Kranzenberg, neither good, nor bad, nor is it neutral, and provides for a rich analysis of its susceptibility to Technopolian forces, especially when applied to a usecase steeped in human motives and belief systems. As such, an examination of information design used in social movements—arguably, highly motivated parties with strongly varied interests based on specific points of view—brings to light the important question: Is a consideration of the forces acting on design inherently built-in to or excluded from the way the field is understood today?

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Social Movement Information Design
Even as some of its earliest examples were produced with social considerations in mind, information design has been particularly helpful in assisting designers of empirical data with economic and scientific endeavors. Today, however, sees its popularity among social movements  growing. This cross-pollination of the subjective design of information and a seemingly objective scientific approach to information gathering and organization has raised questions, especially as it serves both commercial and social interests concurrently.
Graphic and Information Design & Social Movements

Arguably, information designers are those who focus on using maps, charts, illustrations, graphs, and other graphic-heavy visual elements to convey their message  —  with a strong emphasis on the simplification of that message. Information designers’

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use of visualized data to convey messages in a universal form  — imagery —  traces back to DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, William Playfair’s Commercial and Political Atlas, and Dr. John Snow’s work mapping the cholera outbreak in London in the 1850s (Tufte, Visual Display). But while documentation of Snow’s maps or Playfair’s Atlas is relatively commonplace, there is little written about the use of information design in contemporary social movements. In order to gain a critical understanding of social information design, therefore, it would follow as worthwhile to apply contemporary information design principles to those graphics being produced for social movements today.
A Tuftean Framework

To begin, it would be helpful to review the work of perhaps the most prominent information design theorist of our time, Dr. Edward Tufte (Aston). His first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, originally published in 1983, presents a thorough overview of the history of information design. It also proposes a set of principles to be used in effective graphics which maintain the integrity of their respective data. Since the publication of Visual Display, Tufte has built up an empire of

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self-published work and self-orchestrated seminars. The New York Times noted in 1998 that, “his skills seem uniquely suited to the moment: he knows how to turn seas of information into navigable  — even scenic  —  waterways” (Shapley). His “Sparklines”1 and other mechanisms have made him a mainstay in the information design field, providing him the opportunity to have significant influence over the way corporations and government organizations present data (Aston). In his fourth and most recent volume, Beautiful Evidence, Tufte presents a list of six principles: Comparisons; Causality, Mechanism, Structure, Explanation; Multivariate Analysis; Integration of Evidence; Documentation; and Content Counts Most of All. A critique using these principles can be useful in helping to dissect a visual language from an analytical perspective  —  how well an argument is presented via the design of the data associated with that argument, or, as Tufte notes, “to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity.” The fact that social movement design’s subject matter may differ from traditional corporate or scientific presentations is moot according to Tufte’s assertion that “the
1 “A Sparkline is a small intense, simple, word-sized graphic with typographic resolution” (Tufte, Beautiful Evidence). They are tools meant to integrate the visual representation of data into text-based narrative.

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fundamental principles of analytical design apply broadly, and are indifferent to language or culture or century or the technology of information display.” He goes on: “Human activities, after all, take place in intensely comparative and multivariate contexts filled with causal ideas: intervention, purpose, responsibility, consequence, explanation, intention, action, prevention, diagnosis, strategy, decision, influence, planning.” For Tufte, applying his approach to any social movement information design would provide a fruitful understanding of those designs’ “quality, relevance, and integrity.” But what does this application look like using real-world examples? This analysis takes two movements featuring widespread use of infographics and data visualization  — the Occupy Wall Street and the anti-SOPA/anti-PIPA movements  —  and attempts such an application.
Occupy Wall Street

Generally speaking,2 the Occupy movement (sometimes called “Occupy Wall Street” or “OWS”) refers to a global protest against the economic and social injustices caused by what its members believe to be capitalism’s power over government and the
2 Due to the disparate nature of the Occupy movement, there is no official manifesto or handbook to reference.

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individual  —  a power which the movement posits has led to a severely skewed distribution of wealth throughout the developed world. Of particular note is the movement’s emphasis on “horizontal” organization, governed by consensus processes: decisions are made at “general assembly” meetings3 via predetermined methods that are designed to ensure broad agreement across the group. In September of 2011, occupations  —  or camps of protesters in public locations  — began appearing in hundreds of cities around the world. After the majority of camps were evicted by local authorities, the movement continued as a network of smaller groups, planning direct action protests and awareness campaigns. Each camp and associated social action share a general theme (representing the “99%” of the population who are affected by the unfair distribution of wealth). There is no official body which governs each one as a collective (OccupyWallSt.org).

3 General assembly refers to “a time and place for . . . announcements and proposals.” It is open to anyone and is governed by consensus process  —  proposals are made and passed via broad agreement, hand signals are used to indicate various points of process, and a team of at least 11 facilitators ensure the process is executed as previously agreed upon. For more, see: http://bit.ly/tsBIoE.

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Anti-SOPA/Anti-PIPA

In October 2011, the Electronic Frontier Foundation4 began encouraging constituents to contact their Congressional representatives to voice concern over legislation being debated on the floors of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, the Stop Online Privacy Act5 (SOPA) and PIPA (Protect Intellectual Property Act) (S. 3804; S. 968; H.R. 3261). The organization expressed fears over what they felt were over-reaching measures to protect intellectual property  —  measures that would, they believed, invade users’ privacy and censor free speech online. The following month, Congressional mark-up hearings were held, featuring five representatives from the media industry and one representative from technology giant Google. Taking note of the lack of representation, more technology companies  —  Facebook, eBay, and others  —  joined together in opposition of the legislation (Higginbotham). Google itself hired “at least 15 lobbying firms” to counter the bills (Wyatt). On November 16, the efforts of the technology lobby crossed over into mainstream attention when the online micro-blogging site, Tumblr, began
4 A non-profit advocacy group, described as committed to “confront[ing] cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights” (“sopa/pipa: Internet Blacklist Legislation”). 5 Formerly Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or
coica.

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“censoring” user dashboards by blocking out text on the site with black squares. Soon after, other online giants made similar gestures  —  all to protest SOPA and PIPA (Galvez). As coverage of SOPA and PIPA moved into the mainstream, more content regarding the legislation and the movement against it was being produced and distributed, especially online.
Comparing Occupy and Anti-SOPA/Anti-PIPA

Both social and political actors, as well as designers, would benefit from an investigation of these two contemporary social movements and their respective use of information design. On the one hand, there are concrete variations between the two movements: Occupy presents itself as a horizontal movement, while the roots of the anti-SOPA/anti-PIPA are cited as a technology lobby initiative, eventually gaining broader support via specific for- and notfor-profit organizations (i.e. Tumblr, Wikipedia, et al.). Additionally, Occupy resists assigning itself one singular message or goal, whereas anti-SOPA/antiPIPA rallied constituents around defeating two very specific pieces of legislation (Schwartz; Galvez). The two movements are not, however, mutually exclusive. In fact, one of the tenets of the Occupy movement is to support freedom of speech and resist censorship. As such, various groups within

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the movement expressed support for the SOPA/PIPA opposition, going so far as to encourage activists to “Occupy SOPA” by contacting local representatives (“Occupy sopa”). Even though members of the movement had previously expressed resistance engaging with the political system, the threat posed by these bills was enough to inspire action (Klein). Beyond the complications in comparing the two movements, a thorough investigation of every infographic associated with each movement is impossible; neither movement has an “official” producer or repository for promotional or informational content, let alone the specifically visual. One collection of Occupy related graphics (including a number of anti-SOPA/anti-PIPA focused designs) resides at OccupyDesign.org, whose administrators describe the site’s goal as “building a visual language for the 99 percent” (OccupyDesign.org). Produced and maintained by a group of volunteers, the site presents itself as a toolkit for both those who do and do not self-identify as designers. It provides visual elements that can be reproduced and distributed on signs, banners, or online. Initially, the focus of the group was on producing infographics and iconography for the movement  —  sometimes using data-sets received from constituents. Eventually, the site expanded into posters and other designed pieces related to

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the movement. When asked how “infographics” are classified as such by site administrators, team member Max Slavkin noted, “I guess it’s been more of a ‘know it when we see it’ approach.” This relatively liberal approach is noted beyond OccupyDesign, as well, when observing each movement’s respective design subject-matter (there are graphics describing the purpose of a movement, descriptions of its members and makeup, its goals and effects, and so on) and content (both movement’s causes are represented throughout various graphics in a quantitative or qualitative manner). An attempt to contextualize each movement’s visuals by aesthetic is similarly evasive: one observes a range of aesthetics from large blocks of text to pictograms, graphs, and even Rodchenko-esque “voice ripples.” 6
Application Of The Tuftean Framework

The highly varied nature of the information graphics produced for and by the Occupy and anti-SOPA/antiPIPA movements is indicative of the widespread use of information design throughout each movement’s media strategy. Even the pure volume of designs from which to pull a sample to analyze is an indication of both the popularity of the infographic form among
6 Please see http://occupydesign.org/gallery/all?field_type_tid=3 and https://google.com/takeaction/past-actions/end-piracy-not-liberty/.

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these particular movements and the pervasiveness of information design in our visual culture. But does the use of a form which is often seen in datacentric communications distract from the motives or meaning of the designer? According to Tufte, “Evidence is evidence” (Visual Display). Encouraging a “comparative and multivariate” approach is best for economic or scientific considerations  —  fields in which empirical data drives much of what is taught. But what this approach ignores are considerations such as  — among others  —  the intangibility of movement objectives, the multichannel nature of graphic presentation (in movement literature, on posters, during collective action), and the importance of anonymity for some movement actors (especially those supporting contentious causes). For instance, an application of the Tuftean principles suggests that OccupyDesign’s information graphics are relatively weak: they normally only contain few pieces of data, they are presented with very simple visual cues (in black and white, without more than a few different icons, etc.), and they are weak when seen individually. These designs, however, were prepared for use in collective physical action  —  occupations and protests. The pioneers of information design were not able to take the channels

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and media we have available today into consideration: Playfair and Snow were sending their designs to be printed in books or journals. But as the use of information design moves beyond the medical and economic  —  and into commercial advertising, personal expression, and social advocacy  —  the ways in which we evaluate this design must adapt accordingly. Concurrently, a reevaluation of the field’s approach to “integrity” is also in order. Tufte promotes documentation as a requirement for strong analytical design  —  an assertion that is hard to refute when considering the importance of delineating between fact and fiction. But at what point does an emphasis on documentation overshadow an expression of belief? Does improper citation of sources regarding a movement’s reach, distract from the designer’s intent to portray a large scale action? On the other hand, an emphasis on expression through design  —  rather than on solely conveying scientifically accurate information about or for a movement  —  leaves perhaps too much in what Milton Glaser calls “the category of consciousness-raising.” He goes on to argue that “How can you penetrate people’s immunity is always the fundamental question of a designer’s work” (Glaser and Mayer). Does penetration without an emphasis on

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fact  —  turning to shock value  —  further polarize an already dichotomous discourse?
Challenges To Information Design’s Inherent Objectivity

To be sure, Tufte’s strong emphasis on science and empirical information in the design field has drawn indirect criticism from a number of designers. Two in particular, Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel, write in 2002 of the dangers of applying principles of what Tufte might call “well-designed graphics” to the scientific. “The appeal of information design is that it offers instant credibility.” They continue, “But it’s a false authority, particularly because we buy into the form so unquestioningly.” Robin Greeley also presents a similar warning, though she approaches the dangers from the perspective of the designer, rather than the observer. In her 1998 review of designer Richard Duardo’s “Aztlan Poster”, she offers an interrogation of cultural hegemony in graphic design. She argues that “Design in our present decade cannot be thought of solely in terms of an object or product; rather, it must be considered as a process carried out with a nexus of particular social relations (cultural, economic, symbolic)” (22). Further, she encourages current designers to consider the field’s “metapraxis”, a place where meaning becomes attached to objects, images,

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and words: “The ability to engage in this metapraxis is part of what sets designers off from nondesigners, especially in this age of personal computers and cottage industry design, when professional status alone no longer defines a field” (23). In raising the various considerations which must be acknowledged while designing information, and in focusing on the specific value of the professional designer, Greeley calls into question the very nature of Tufte’s mission, one which the New York Times describes as “proselytizing, winning converts and turning a profit in the process.” Tufte, in the same article, notes that he is “‘expanding [his] teaching to reach people directly’” (Shapley). This willingness to imbue the masses  with the values of “good” information design—  a willingness upon which his entire business model is predicated  —  stands in direct contrast to the work of a philosopher whose influence on the information design field dates back to nearly 60 years before the publishing of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
Otto Neurath, Isotype, and The Transformer

As a founding member of the Vienna Circle’s logical positivist movement, Otto Neurath believed that the expression of fact was of utmost importance, especially in a Europe having recently been ravaged

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by World War I. During his tenure as director of various local museums in Leipzig and Vienna, Neurath designed exhibits for citizens that explained statistics and policies about local communities and their various economic and social concerns (Lupton). Confounded by the complexities of expressing statistical knowledge through verbal language and the rules which accompany it, Neurath turned to a system of pictograms, designed and arranged (sometimes alongside written language) with a logic he felt unattainable through words alone. These pictograms addressed, too, his struggle to convey relevant information in a clear manner, to be consumed and understood by an international audience  — a “debabelzation” of sorts. Neurath eventually titled this mode of information transfer the International System Of TYpographic Picture Education, or Isotype (Lupton; Otto Neurath 12–15). Isotype presented a way for Neurath to balance his struggle with the form of language  — the rules and considerations associated with the written and spoken word  —  and his belief, as a logical positivist, that language could still convey universal fact. In his introductory text to Isotype, Neurath notes that “To make a picture is more responsible than to make a statement, because pictures make a greater effect and have a longer existence” (15). Considering

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the devastating effects of World War I on the world around him, it is no surprise that “responsibility” is a priority of Neurath’s. Developing a language based on the universality of imagery was of utmost importance to him, as he believed it could usher in, according to designer and educator Ellen Lupton, a more “egalitarian culture,” one in which “pictorial information would dissolve cultural differences” (50). As Marie Neurath (née Reidemeister), Otto Neurath’s wife and colleague, writes, Neurath wanted to develop “charts meaning something for everyone,” he wanted to make sure “that they excluded nobody, that they allowed several levels of understanding . . . as a means of education that is neutral, provides objective facts and leaves judgment and evaluation to the viewer” (26). This seemingly utopian vision required overcoming many obstacles. Neurath set out to take on the practicalities of building Isotype into a truly international language (all the while dodging the oppressive regimes of the pre-World War II nations of Europe) by building a team of designers  — most notably, Gerd Arntz, who had significant influence on Isotype’s famous wood cut aesthetic (Lupton 48). Nearly 80 years after Neurath’s introduction of Isotype, the language’s staying power is evident only in this aesthetic’s influence on current information

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design and data visualization pictography (and, perhaps, in the addition of the term “isotype” to design’s lexicon). In 1972, 27 years after Neurath’s death, Marie retired, depositing the full cache of the project’s documents and publications into an archive at the University of Reading, outside London (Lupton 48, footnote 4). But Isotype may have more to teach us, particularly on a philosophical or theoretical level. Neurath’s system was built around the premise that language exists as an object tied to nature, though still formed by the observer of this nature (Lupton 47). This belief can be explicitly seen in Isotype’s strong emphasis on the role of what Neurath called the “transformer.” As Robin Kinross writes in his book The Transformer, “Neurath developed the notion of transformer (it was ‘Transformator’ in German) to describe the process of analysing, selecting, ordering, and then making visual [emphasis his] some information, data, ideas, implications” (6). This process was a detailed one, with the transformer working with stakeholders and subject matter experts, gaining a strong understanding of an issue before building each Isotype “translation” to represent it. This included considering the audience of the language and what symbols would

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better resonate with them (Marie Neurath 75). When a disciple of Neurath’s, Rudolph Modley, took his knowledge of Isotype to the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, he opted not to include the role of transformer. Instead, his goal was to reach as broad an audience as possible by bringing, for example, the pictograms to school children as “symbol sheets.” In doing so, he alienated Neurath. As Eric Kindel, curator of The Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection at the University of Reading, noted, “it led to [a reduction in] the richness of presentation of information.” By removing the transformer and attempting to bring the principles of Isotype to the masses, much was lost in the development of and the resulting meaning of the language. As such, Neurath and his team sought to control every element of the design and production of Isotype.
Moving Away From A Focus On The Design Side

It can be said that this focus on control of production led to Isotype’s eventual downfall. This is not to detract from the system’s influence on the generations of designers who came after its inception amidst a war torn Europe. Neurath’s approach is contextualized when viewed alongside more contemporary theorists such as Robin Greeley; attempts at controlling or changing the way design

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or media is made is nothing new. This phenomenon is what Postman refers to when he notes that “no one can reasonably object to the rational use of techniques to achieve human purposes.” He goes on to call out the precise subject matter of Neurath’s efforts:
 . . . Language itself is a kind of technique  — an invisible technology  —  and through it we achieve more than clarity and efficiency. We achieve humanity  — or inhumanity. The question with language, as with any other technique or machine, is and always has been, Who is to be the master? Will we control it, or will it control us? The argument, in short, is not with technique. The argument is with the triumph of technique, with techniques that become sanctified and rule out the possibilities of other ones (142).

Information design is a technique  — one that stands to offer significant aide to those working to understand a complex set of data. As media philosopher Vilém Flusser asserts, “Images are mediations between the world and human beings . . . the world is not immediately accessible to them and therefore images are needed to make it comprehensible” (Flusser Towards A Philosophy 9). Overwhelming data becomes digestible information when presented via imagery. But the trust we place in

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these images becomes dangerous as our critical eyes become lackadaisical and the techniques to produce them become sanctified. “They are supposed to be maps but they turn into screens,” Flusser continues, “Human beings forget they created the images in order to orientate themselves in the world” (Flusser Towards A Philosophy 10). The transformer’s perspective and inherent bias is forgotten in the perceived benefit of the convenience gained. To attempt a methodical or scientific evaluation of the information graphics produced by Occupy, anti-SOPA/anti-PIPA, or any social movements is a futile exercise  —  they are near infinite in number, produced by countless designers, distributed, cited, even modified throughout countless channels on a plethora of platforms. As graphics associated with movements, this is both expected and acceptable: the way the pieces are designed, viewed, and spread are all products of the nuance and meaning-making infused into them. The way they are understood is a product of the meaning their audiences seek. They need not be held accountable to the tenets of “truth.” We need not scold designers for not producing them in accordance with Tuftean (or any other) principles. Rather, we must remember what Otto Neurath already knew when developing Isotype: there is a translation that takes place between the feelings, the words, and

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the images that make up an information design. Then, perhaps, we can teach design consumers to do so with a critical eye and a willingness to look past technique. Nearly 15 years after Greeley’s “Aztlan” essay, designers are still faced with the fact that their field is inherently commercially driven. But in the era of Apple, Inc.’s dominance in the consumer market, in a time when “design thinking” is part of the business lexicon, and the “Technology, Entertainment, and Design” conference is perhaps one of the most widely consumed,7 surely the observers of all of this technique-celebrated design are ready for a reeducation regarding consumption: a framework, not to produce beautiful, “well-designed information,” but one to consume it responsibly. This framework would require the development of a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption, one that challenges viewers of design to answer Postman’s rhetorical query with an emphatic, “we will control it, and not vice versa.” Taking into consideration Technopoly’s current program, perhaps there are new ways to reach our design consumers, making sure that they understand what Otto Neurath once did: one must always consider the forces at work on the knowledge around us.

7 As of Jun 2011, the videos on TED.com reached over 500 views (Lawler).

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Philosophical Basis
Brevity & Speed

The examples presented in previous chapters focused on information sharing technologies which were developed with significant promise. The telegraph, cable news, the social network, and information design played the role of straw man in an argument focused on the negative consequences of Technopoly’s forces taking hold. But each of the transformations outlined offers insight into the values promoted by those forces: a high volume of information produced and transferred quickly. These portions may be packaged for man (as in the case of cable news, Facebook, and the infographic) or machine (as in the case of the algorithmic trade). There is little surprise that volume and speed are the qualities which appropriately characterize each transformation, especially as a profit motive takes hold of the technology. Business, after all, is driven by

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consumption  —  and success over one’s competitors is achieved when one’s product is consumed in larger quantities or at greater speeds (or both). As capital drives the ways in which we produce, transfer, and consume information, the units with which we measure that information become smaller. Even as the technological obstacles on content length are overcome, we continue to worship the short-form. The Twitter platform, for example, was built to be used over the 160-character-limited text message based SMS (Short Message Service). Today, as the majority of tweeters use desktop and mobile applications which could accommodate larger blocks of content, the platform’s 140 character limit remains (“The Evolving Ecosystem”).1 In 1964, media theorist Marshall McLuhan offered guidance on the relationship between information and the form in which it is presented when he asserted that “the medium is the message” (25). Nearly 40 years later, in 2002, theorist Scott Lash translated McLuhan’s aphorism literally: today’s preferred medium of communication is the message. “Previously the dominant medium was narrative, lyric poetry, discourse, the painting. But now it is the message: the message of the ‘communication’. The
1 The Twitter platform reserves 20 characters for meta-data related to the destination and format of the message (“New User FAQs”).

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medium now is very byte-like. It is compressed” (2). In his 2002 publication, Critique of Information, Lash presents a dense but thorough postmodernist analysis of what he calls the “informationalization” of society: a place where “media society’s paradigmatic unit of culture is the ‘communication’, which in its brevity, speed and ephemerality is taking over from narrative and discourse as the axial principle of culture” (viii). In our current state of “technological forms of life,” Lash argues, “information shrinks or compresses metanarratives to a mere point, a signal, a mere event in time” (1, 17). As such, the ability for reflection and critique are thrown into question. Narrative and discourse have given way to the “very byte-like” message  —  there is no longer room for “the sort of legitimating argument that you are presented with in a discourse” and power, which “was once largely discursive . . . is now largely informational” (3); when speed and brevity become qualities of communication which are heralded above such forms as narrative and discourse, the parties who either store or convey the most information in the shortest amount of time also hold the greatest amount of power. The institutions and traditions that make up our cultural foundation give way to these powers and Technopoly ensues. With his focus on the cultural, Lash provides the same conceptualization of the primary area of

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concern in our new technology-driven information age as Postman. But Lash also delves into the higher level dangers of the compression of time and space, marking speed and brevity as the primary drivers of the loss of our ability for reflection.
Reflection

But of what value to us is the ability for reflection? To understand this, it would be helpful to explore the teachings of the philosopher Vilém Flusser. Exiled from his home in Prague during the Second World War, Flusser was separated from his family, whom he would lose at the hands of the Nazis. A student of philosophy at the time, he eventually found himself working as an engineer for a manufacturer of radios and transistors in Brazil. His academic inclinations led him back to the academy, however, and in 1960 he began working with the Brazilian Institute for Philosophy in São Paolo. Soon after, he began teaching at the University of São Paolo as a professor of philosophy to students in the school of engineering (Flusser Writings 197–200). As such, his experience of teaching the humanities to students of an applied science makes him particularly relevant to the construction of a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption  —  one which is meant to

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adapt the teachings of the humanities to enlighten users of scientifically driven technologies. Flusser’s writings do not resemble those of the majority of other philosophers: they lack citations and footnotes2 and are often delivered as short, lucid essays. This my have contributed to his relative obscurity in the mainstream; he rarely appears beside McLuhan or Walter Benjamin in the annals of media philosophy. His essays, however, provide poignant critiques on the state of technology and communication during his time3. In particular, Flusser felt that humans are in danger of developing a “dislocated world view” as they are “programmed” by technology, rather than the being the ones doing the programming (von Amelunxen). This fear is outlined quite effectively in Towards A Philosophy Of Photography  —  a text which will be discussed in the following chapter. The basis for his fear of this programming, however, is elucidated in a talk he gave to the Brazilian Institute of Philosophy in 1963 entitled “Thought and Reflection.” In
2 In his review of Flusser’s work in the context of the philosopher’s contemporaries, Sjoukje van der Meulen notes Flusser’s “refusal to comply with basic academic requirements: none of his books includes a bibliography or any other reference system, because  —  as Flusser professed himself  —  this would deviate from the clarity of his thoughts” (181). 3 Flusser died in a car crash outside Prague in 1991 (von Amelunxen).

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it, Flusser critiques “the Cartesian viewpoint”  — a viewpoint taken on by “the West” in its ushering in of the “Modern Age.” In particular, Flusser sees as problematic the Cartesian distinction of “thinking thing  —  extended thing,” a process which seeks to simultaneously understand and modify the world through thought. Thought, in Flusser’s conception, is an advancement towards clarity and understanding. He writes: “Thought expands in accordance with the rules of language . . . We should imagine thought as an expanding web” (5). As thought expands, language comes with. However, we cannot help but connect it back to what has made us able to use it, our previous thought: “Through the meshes in that web we always dwell in the proximity of our origins, even though conversation drags us along, because, as we move on, we take our origins with us” (5). Seeking clarity and understanding, therefore, must be balanced by reflection  —  or, as Flusser calls it, “philosophy.” Reflection, Flusser offers, is a requirement to keep thought from devouring itself:
But should the web of language close completely around us, should the meshes of language disappear, should discourse become rigorous, (as it does in mathematics), we would lose our capacity for amazement. No new words, no new thoughts would then emerge, and we would revolve in the repetitive circles of idle talk (5–6).

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The “absolute boredom, mortal tediousness, [and] disgusting idem per idem” (6) of perfect thought, without reflection, eventually leads us to the end of thought  —  the end of our chances for amazement. In reflection, however, Flusser sees an opportunity for humans to continue on as exactly that: human. “We think, in order to think no more, we talk, in order to stop talking. Thought is absurd, but it is what makes us what we are, thinking things, humans” (7). In dissecting the West’s obsession with following Descartes’ wish to know and catalog everything in the world, Flusser calls out the true danger of allowing ourselves to succumb to the values of brevity and speed: we are left with no time or space for reflection, no possibility of discourse, with nothing else to try to understand. We are left with Postman’s Technopoly and Lash’s informationalized society, and to this list we can add Flusser’s “Paradise of idle talk . . . where nothing amazing can happen and nothing can therefore be doubted” (6–7). We are forced into a space of objectivity, where the legitimating argument surrounding information is the information itself, carried along in the bit or the byte. Opening up a space for reflection, then, is the ultimate goal of the curriculum of proper knowledge consumption. Achieving this goal, however, requires an understanding of what the curriculum entails.

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The use of the phrase “a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption” carries with it many possible implied judgments or meanings. But by breaking it down into individual terms, understanding what the curriculum as a whole brings with it becomes easier.
Knowledge Consumption

While the number of media messages to which we are exposed on a daily basis1 is shocking, the use of the term “consumption” here refers to the conscious ingestion of those messages which we have sought out or which have been presented to us  —  directly or indirectly. During interactions with

1 The multitude of various arguments regarding this figure makes it difficult to provide an exact figure. For an example of one such assertion, see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/8316534/ Welcome-to-the-information-age-174-newspapers-a-day.html

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media or other individuals, we are presented with information  —  whether or not we synthesize this information into knowledge is a choice made by us, the consumers. To be sure, there may be curricula which are concerned with the countless subliminal messages which our minds process throughout the day. This particular curriculum, however, teaches that consideration should be given to the motives and perspectives of those who produce and transmit the information being consumed. As this is not possible with media consumed subconsciously, the curriculum focuses on the media we read, listen to, or watch, as well as the conversations we have with one another  —  that is, the information we consciously consume and synthesize into knowledge. In his 2012 book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, Clay Johnson asserts that the concept of “information overload,” about which the likes of Postman and Carr have theorized, is non-existent. Rather, he argues, consumers are to blame for actively ingesting too much information into their brains.
Information is no more autonomous than fried chicken, and it has no ability to force you to do anything as long as you are aware of how it affects you.  . . .  It’s not the total amount of information,

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but your information habit that is pushing you to whatever extreme you find uncomfortable” (25).

While Johnson’s belief that a consciousness regarding how information affects an individual is certainly on the right track, he too quickly ignores two important notions: that it is difficult for us, as humans, to block out the multitude of stimuli feeding us information (Novak); and that the media industry is predicated on the craft of making sure that messages are seen and processed. Thus the focus here will remain on consumed knowledge  — information that has been consciously synthesized.
Proper

Considering “knowledge consumption” as a single unit within the curriculum title, rather than two separate elements, allows for the two words to inform one another more clearly. But it also provides some clarity when trying to understand the context of the use of proper in the curriculum title  — that is, the goal of this curriculum is to teach the proper consumption of knowledge, not the consumption of proper knowledge. Defining proper knowledge consumption takes into account the philosophical basis presented in the previous chapter: a consideration that humanity deserves the opportunity for thorough reflection,

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something unattainable with Technopoly’s emphasis on brevity and speed. The synthesis of information into knowledge is not the same as reflection. The former indicates that information is being combined into something new  — knowledge —  while the latter is characterized by a consideration and critique of the knowledge consumed. This difference further underlines the importance of the addition of the adjective “proper” when titling the curriculum. Further, proper knowledge consumption acknowledges the inherent subjectivity of any given communication. This recognition is often jettisoned by the technique-happy actors of Technopoly; taking into consideration bias, motive, multiple viewpoints, and the like, is both time consuming and complicated. After all, as Frederick W. Taylor notes (as cited by Postman), “subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking” (51). Seeking Taylor’s clear thinking, on the other hand, wrongly empowers the producer of communication as to easily “right” or “truthful.” Given this,   it is important that “teachers” of the curriculum not only customize the content to their goals, but also imperative that they offer their audiences an elaboration on the values and motives driving this customization. The viewers of work produced through a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption should be given the opportunity to

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understand the perspective, influences, and reasons behind the construction of such a curriculum.
Curriculum

Finally, the term curriculum is used in order to imply a teaching opportunity  —  one that is built on the belief that any elucidation of the dangers of Technopoly will inspire a more critically consuming public. This opportunity may present itself in an academic setting, but it will also exist outside. Writers, artists, and community and activist leaders, for instance, all operate in societal institutions with audiences who may be easily empowered with the awareness of Technopolian forces. Building this awareness, notes Postman, would mean “reason to hope that the United States may yet survive its Ozymandias-like hubris and technological promiscuity” (183). Pairing a philosophical basis (outlined in the previous chapter) with the prescribed methodology described below should lead to the creation of a set of lessons working towards a common goal. As “lesson” is too specific, and “philosophy” too generic, the term “curriculum” properly represents this collection of pedagogical guidelines and tools. But making aware Technopolian concerns to any individual would require a curriculum born of the

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paradoxical struggle between taking advantage of the tools, channels, and media available today and illustrating the dangers associated with the flow of influence emanating from those same tools, channels, and media. This friction is apparent in Vilém Flusser’s career: he used his expertise as an engineer in order to enlighten other engineers to the philosophical considerations related to their field. As such, a brief analysis of his writing will inform the methods recommended for the enactment of the curriculum.
The Apparatus

Flusser’s Towards A Philosophy Of Photography presents “an attempt to sum up the essential quality of photography” (76). Breaking the field down into “image  — apparatus — program — information”, the media philosopher critiques the ways in which we produce and read imagery, specifically “technical images”: images that, Flusser notes, are abstractions of texts, which are themselves abstractions of the imagery that represents the world itself. These technical images have been accepted as objective representations of this same world, however, leading “whoever looks at them to see them not as images but as windows” (15). Flusser’s argument asserts that this same trust is placed in photographs  —  images created by the camera

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which has been programmed to create these images in a certain manner. The program is structured to serve the purposes of the camera itself, providing “for the realization of its capabilities and, in the process, for the use of society as a feedback mechanism for its progressive improvement” (46). In this programming, Flusser is aligned with Robin Greeley, Nicholas Garnham, and Postman when he notes that
there are further programs behind this one (that of the photographic industry, of the industrial complex, of the socio-economic apparatuses), through the entire hierarchy of which there flows the enormous intention of programming society to act in the interests of the progressive improvement of the apparatuses (46).

This personification of the camera driven by a motive to gather feedback from the photographer (thus “using” society for its own purposes), raises the question of what role the photographer actually plays: is she using the camera or is it using her? Flusser notes that the relationship between the user and the apparatus is, generally, a cooperative one. He goes on, however, to ask: “‘How far have photographers succeeded in subordinating the camera’s program to their own intentions, and by what means?’ And, vice versa: ‘How far has the camera succeeded in

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redirecting the photographers’ intentions back to the interests of the camera’s program?’” (47). Flusser adds that the stronger photographs are those in which the photographer has subordinated the camera. Writing Towards A Philosophy Of Photography in 1983, Flusser saw photography at the time as representative of the transition into a post-industrial world in which the apparatus was produced by strong social forces no longer taking the human into consideration (von Amelunxen 92). Bearing in mind his history as both an engineer and a philosopher, it is no surprise that he struggled with the changing physicality of the tools being produced and disseminated throughout society: “Their intention is not to change the world but to change the meaning of the world” (25). It is important to recognize that Flusser’s use of “camera” and “apparatus” throughout his work is not meant to imply that his argument applies only to the handheld device. In fact, the implications of the apparatus’ prominence have already been illuminated in this document through a review of Postman (and others) via the concept of Technopoly. Flusser’s elaboration on what it means for a photographer to subordinate the camera, however, is where Towards A Philosophy Of Photography provides the strongest value to any curriculum meant to work against that Technopoly.

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In the book’s final chapter, Flusser writes of the “experimental photographer” who is “conscious that image, apparatus, program and information [emphasis his] are the basic problems that they have to come to terms with” (81). These are photographers who are consciously playing against the camera, actively trying to break the program set for them by the programmers of the apparatus. Flusser is skeptical that these photographers know that their experimental approach attempts “to address the question of freedom in the context of apparatus in general” (81), but he is confident that by doing so, they will break open an opportunity for the ultimate goal: “A philosophy of photography must reveal the fact that there is no place for human freedom within the area of automated, programmed and programming apparatuses” (81). As media theorist Hubertus von Amelunxen notes in the afterward to Towards A Philosophy Of Photography, when Flusser suggests that experimental photographers must play against the program after becoming conscious of it, he is, in effect, instructing them to counter-program the apparatus (90). It is this counter-program that must inform the curriculum here  —  after all, the purpose of the curriculum is to inspire the kind of knowledge consumption that will subsequently create the place for human freedom

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for which Flusser calls. What, then, are the steps to constructing this counter-program?
Counter-Programming The Apparatus2

In order to build a counter-program, strong consideration must first be given to the current program: what apparatuses have significant influence over our everyday decisions? What is the camera which we seek to counter-program today? What is the mode in which we operate using a specific apparatus? What are the steps taken by any range of actors to bring us to this point? And what are the consequences of the decisions made by those actors, including ourselves? In the case of the curriculum of proper knowledge consumption, the content of the first four chapters of this document present a thorough outline of our current program: a Technopolian society where the trust placed in the technological and the scientific leaves humans at the mercy of those doing the programming and without the opportunity for reflection. Elucidating these observations effectively becomes problematic when the strength and trajectory of

2 This section seeks to recommend steps to enact a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption. The recommendations are based on the author’s experiences, as documented in the accompanying volume, Utopia/Dystopia.

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those forces are not taken into consideration. By acknowledging resistances to critiquing society’s apparatus du jour, for instance, respect is paid to the inertia of the program associated with that apparatus. But this trajectory also provides guidance on where to take the new version of the program: down the path on which it is already traveling, as interpreted by its critical observers, the counter-programmers. Fiction is a tool which has aided this author, in particular, in the process of developing a counterprogram. Having established the non-fiction  — a historical observation and interpretation of the path traveled to this point  —  speculating on the next phase of “progress” provides a recontextualization of the features  —  the perceived “benefits”  —  of the apparatus. “Fiction,” writes philosopher Jacques Ranciére, “means undoing and rearticulating connections between signs and images, images and times, or signs and space that frame the existing sense of reality . . . new trajectories between what can be seen, what can be said, and what can be done” (49). But fiction alone does not a counter-program make. A trajectory that predicts, for instance, the next logical step in an apparatus’ development may seem reasonable to both an executor and consumer of a curriculum, but by blending in well to the current path of that same apparatus, there is no opportunity

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for the criticality required to break the program. As National Book Award winning speculative fiction author M.T. Anderson notes, “if you know exactly the answers, then why write fiction?” Rather, considering an amalgam of absurdity and satire may push the questions asked into the realm of the unreasonable  —  breaking the program on a meta-level by shifting the conversation with “an even more ontologically confusing argument” (Anderson). What is sought is a program designed to interfere with society’s blind acceptance of the apparatus. Neil Postman offers that “we must also join the past and the present, for the ascent of humanity is above all a continuous story” (187). Certainly, the historical perspective is an important one. But a singular focus on the past leaves open the opportunity to debate so-called facts. By projecting the apparatus into the future, however  — by infusing absurdity and satire into predictions about where its programs are taking society, more questions are raised than answers are provided  — producing the perfect environment for awareness and discussion.
Design As Research

In their review of the benefits of what they call “arts based research,” Tom Barone and Elliot Eisner call out traditional research texts as lacking “certain aesthetic

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design elements that work towards a powerful transmutation of feelings, thoughts, and images” (96). Often, they note, these texts are focused on proving an argument. Arts based research tools, however, are “not aimed towards the quest for certainty. [Their] purpose may instead be described as the enhancement of perspective [emphasis theirs]” (96). The implementation of a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption based on the speculative design method moves important concepts such as Technopoly and the informationalized society beyond the formal language of the academic. By utilizing the same apparatus that it seeks to critique, the curriculum presented seeks to bring these concepts into the common lexicon by co-opting the language of the mainstream  —  one that is, today, based on the same values as the forces of capital and the technologies upon which they act: objectivity, fact, proof, benefit, and other seemingly “neutral” concepts. To be certain, this language does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it is propagated through the channels and media with which the perpetuators of Technopoly sell their wares  — product packaging, marketing materials, sales pitches, advertisements, and, most importantly, the programming of the product itself (be it analog or digital). At the helm

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of these channels sits the designer,3 trained to question critically the situation in order to design a final product or campaign that best addresses the needs of those seeking her expertise. As well intentioned or conscientious as our designer may be, however, as Robin Greeley offers,4 there is no escaping “that intricate web of social structures and practices within which the designer’s conscious  — and unconscious  —  decisions are made as to which set of forms will carry what significations” (22). There is no neutrality of production, no program-less apparatus. Fortunately, this lack of neutrality is that upon which the curriculum of proper knowledge consumption is based. In encouraging a designed approach to the final products of the curriculum, it is taking advantage of the same sets of questioning skills and craft used to design and develop the apparatus —  a device designed to obtain its users’ attention to begin with5  —  and doing so in order to teach a similar lesson as a formally presented argument. In
3 Or, more likely, a team of designers and developers, all working towards the construction of an “experience”  —  all of whom are to be held just as accountable for the resulting program. 4 Here, Greeley summarizes Clive Dilnot. 5 This is not to suggest, however, that only the trained designer may respond to the prompts of the curriculum. In fact, by bringing the curriculum to those outside the arena of design, the curriculum becomes even more potent.

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participating in the act of design as research, the hope is that the concepts of the curriculum will be given stronger consideration.
Revolution

“To chart the ascent of man,” notes Neil Postman, “we must join art and science” (187). The curriculum of proper knowledge consumption builds this bridge by encouraging the use of our technological advances for the elucidation of the forces acting on our social institutions today, be they academic, religious, governmental, or otherwise. It constructs, too, the bridge modeled by combining the teachings of Postman’s Technopoly and Vilém Flusser’s Philosophy: from the exploration of societal forces through a theoretical framework, to a critique of those same forces with a conceptualization using a consumer device. But following these two theorists’ line of analysis lands one at a place that feels just short of the bridge’s connection to the shoreline. The curriculum outlined here is an attempt at finishing the bridge, providing a recommended method for teaching these lessons. This is not to imply, of course, that the proposed curriculum is the be-all and end-all to breaking through the programming forces of Technopoly. There are further questions to be answered: where

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should a curriculum such as this be implemented? The academy is an obvious option, but one which may result in further insulating the issues considered inside the protective academic “bubble.” Perhaps new channels  —  ones only made possible by our new technologies, the same technologies being acted on  —  should be embraced. Further, at what point does the level of absurdity and satire of the curriculum reach a breaking point, completely alienating its “students”? These questions and many others should be considered as the curriculum is implemented. Nevertheless, as the forces of Technopoly and its actors become stronger, and the lessons taught by the likes of Postman and Flusser are jettisoned in favor of ones that embrace brevity and speed, it will be on the shoulders of the individual consumer of knowledge to consider these forces. But she will not be made aware of them without the opening up for, as Flusser puts it, “a space for freedom”  —  a counter-programming of the apparatus, a philosophy, he argues, that “is the only form of revolution left open to us” (82). It is, perhaps, no coincidence, then, that Postman, in proposing a strong role for education in fighting Technopoly, paraphrases Lawrence Cremin when he notes, “whenever we need a revolution, we get a new curriculum” (185)  —  a curriculum, in this case, of proper knowledge consumption.

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Conclusion

When Neil Postman made his observations over 20 years ago, he had no ability to foresee the force with which Technopoly would make its way through today’s society. But he did understand its trajectory at the time and was confident that it would be difficult to counteract. Even as he presents his recommendations for building a plan of resistance, he notes that he has “no illusions that such an educational program can bring a halt to the thrust of a technological thought-world” (199). Still, Postman’s critique is invaluable to those seeking to understand the changes occurring to our social institutions. A review of today’s communication technologies reveals only some of the ways in which capital changes the values driving the design of our new systems and tools. Our world must be forever faster and more popular. It must be easily consumable and always “true.” And, of course, it must be profitable. Our progress has been imbued so deeply with an emphasis on speed and brevity that our transformations occur at an alarming rate. We are rapidly losing our opportunity for the kind of reflection that allows us to be amazed by this world. Attempting to influence those who are building this world  —  the next generation of designers, “transformers,” developers, writers, and so on  — is a

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good place to start, but not if they are being told that they should (or even, can) produce “objectively” or from a neutral perspective. Rather, all members of society must understand that what they see, read, buy, or otherwise consume, is being acted upon by the forces of Technopoly. They should realize that the apparatus seeks to execute a program that may not have their best interests in mind. This realization comes only once the values of capital are taken in and turned around, exaggerated, projected, and instilled with satire and absurdity  — all in the name of envisioning new trajectories, fictional places rich with criticality and questioning. Only then will our next generation of consumers have their eyes opened to the forces of Technopoly, eventually moving to consider how to slow its thrust.

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Epilogue
In a meeting towards the end of my last semester at DMI, one of my thesis advisors, Professor Katherine Hughes, noted that she began to write “eek” in the margins of the final chapter of this document. To be sure, phrases like “counter-programming the apparatus” and assertions that we need a revolution to break the Technopoly are not necessarily the most uplifting. And there is little chance that the student who started at MassArt in the fall of 2010 after a few years in the ad business would have ever considered writing this thesis. Then again, who better to critique a Technopoly than one who has contributed to it on a regular basis? But the transformation I went through over the past three years should not be characterized simply as from believer to skeptic. I was given the opportunity to combine theory and practice, always using one to inform the other, and so I have also become a maker

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and educator—the latter of which I never actively aspired to be, but have come to regard as just as an important role as the former. Along the way, I read some brilliant pieces, learned of some brilliant work, worked with some brilliant colleagues, and had the opportunity to interview some brilliant people. There is a part of me that wishes I had gone to art or design school as an undergraduate, rather than get my degree in business administration. I am often in awe of the ease with which my colleagues can bang out a quick grid—complete with the perfect typeface choices and color scheme—or can list off a slew of historical references to a specific design movement. But my education also provided me the opportunity to know first-hand how the systems and forces I challenge in this book work from the inside. Before DMI, I saw the kind of writing found here to be counter-productive (great, you have problems with the world, what would you like to do about it?) and the kind of work documented in the accompanying volume as, well, weird (neat, but what utility does it really have?). Admittedly, I sometimes shy away from sharing my work with my fellow Babson alumni or advertising colleagues, at the risk of garnering similar reactions. But I also know that, as I continued with my research and my making, I reinforced my argument, strengthening my ability

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to walk others through it and explaining its various components with nuance. There are still more questions to be answered (certainly, more to be asked) when it comes to the construction of a curriculum of proper knowledge consumption which incorporates the speculative design method in order to elucidate the forces of Technopoly and the apparatuses acting on us. And after three years of academic rigor, I am convinced of its value. So I will continue to seek opportunities that allow me to find a balance between thinking and making, theory and practice, always reminding myself that, sometimes, you’ve got to cause your reader to write “eek” in the margins.

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Acknowledgments
There are very few people to whom I owe more thanks than Ellie Schaffzin and Lisa Oliver, who, from my initial declaration that I wanted to go to art school, through to my admission that I was too afraid to “weird people out” with my work, have consistently provided that slap in the face that I needed. I can also thank Ellie for beefing up my speculative fiction collection (and for convincing me that I could take that letterpress course after I took Intro to Civic Media) and Lisa for introducing me to Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Ranciére, Scott Lash, and the like (she also introduced me to — and convinced me to move past — Michel Foucault, though I’m not sure how thankful I am for that). Once Ellie and Lisa convinced me to seek out an MFA program, I have Brian Moore to thank for introducing me to the Dynamic Media Institute. Jay Williams, John Hargrave, and Professor Mary

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O’Donoghue helped convince an art school that an ad guy with a business degree could still handle the rigors of academia, and Barry Frechette helped make sure he could do so while still making a living. Along the way, Jayne Hetherington provided many free meals and Jeremy Ball and Luke Markesky provided many willing challenges to my thinking. Professors Brian Lucid, Gunta Kaza, and Joe Quackenbush opened up a plethora of channels I had no idea existed inside my head. Professor Sasha Costanza-Chock pushed that head to places I never thought possible, 40 or 50 pages of dense theory at a time. And my MassArt students let me use them as guinea pigs over the past three semesters. For the invaluable insight into each of their respective expertise, thanks to Daniel Bricklin, Tony Wain, John Saunders, Minh and Diana Bui, the good people of Occupy Boston, Max Slavkin of OccupyDesign.org, EJ Fox, John Emerson, Munish Puri, Jason Schupbach and the NEA, David Wright, Max Pfennighaus, and their team at NPR Interactive, Eric Kindel of the University of Reading in the UK, Marek Kultys, and M.T. Anderson. Thanks to all of my DMI colleagues, especially the boys of Skeptic, whose daily challenges may lead me to a state of baldness at a somewhat young age, but

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without whom the past couple of years would have been supremely lonely and relatively boring. Professor Katherine Hughes reminded me why I loved growing up around typography. Then she agreed to let me stop by her office every week and complain about my latest roadblock. Even after all that, she still signed up to read this thesis and help me design the final book — a piece I will be forever proud of, no matter how it turns out. Professor Jan Kubasiewicz nodded patiently as I espoused the virtues of visualizing one’s political beliefs and then walked that praise back. He smiled knowingly as I threw Foucault into a paper about information design and then never spoke of the French philosopher again. And he let me hand a summer independent-study paper in to him in October. He pushed me to explore further the intricacies of Otto Neurath’s Transformer and introduced me to Vilém Flusser’s work. I look forward to the opportunity to continue working with both Jan and Katherine in the near future. Thanks to my parents for instilling in me an appreciation for inquiry and criticality. Thanks to my father for the steady stream of inspiration (be it in conversation, email, or book form). And thanks to my mother (of whose current doctoral pursuit I am

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extremely proud) for translating John Dewey and sharing Tom Barone. Finally, the individual who deserves the most thanks is my wife, Sheila. There’s a slim chance I could have survived these three years without her, but even if I had, it would have been without any food, clean clothes, much-needed breaks, adventures around the world, or, for that matter, any remaining sanity. The patience with which she provides support astounds me every day. She agreed to marry a capitalist businessman and ended up with an artistic academic. I think she knew this transformation would happen all along, even if I had no idea.

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1 This list includes works referenced in the accompanying volume, as well.

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