Monday, 30 May 2011

A Strange Morphology

I opened my eyes and the cabin had changed; an oxygen mask was wrapped and fastened tightly around my head; I struggled to breathe; before my burning eyes the gigantic fluorescent vision of an air hostess grinned rapturously as if showing off her flashy orthodontic work from a famous clinic in Taiwan.  What was going on, the words had changed on all the signs, the uniforms were different colours, and the air hostesses looked like attractive lady boys; was I even on the same flight?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Digital Existentialism? Writing, Freedom and Responsibility in Social Media Use

Dear Readers,  After a somewhat turbulent take-off, several delayed flights, false starts, a crash landing, future visions, a wedding, an SOS and more excruciating metaphors, it appears that this flight is again airborne, assisted by a new Internet Service Provider with more comprehensive network coverage. Yes, it turns out my former provider had not updated the local tower and now customers are flocking to the competitor. The mundane problems of unreliable network connections that may be experienced by any Joanne Blogs on the open frontier of the Blogosphere, and corresponding emotions of uncertainty, frustration and even temporary paranoia or alienation felt by the hapless user, are, it seems, an increasingly familiar part of the new techno-mindscape of communication in cyberspace that global social media communities chatter of. Such experiences can lead to the question: who or what controls users’ use of the internet?
Whilst Jo Blogs may go to her local mall and buy a better connection; for others in the new global Digital Age, access is not so straightforward. On the ‘other’ side of the digital divide are those who do not have access to computer technology, through social and environmental circumstances of poverty, distance, locality, and education level. Behind the scenes, or the screens, in what some researchers term ‘surveillance society’ is regulation. According to a recent research article by Australian law researcher S. Lloyd-Jones in Pacific Journalism Review, communications industry regulation by Internet Service Providers and industry stakeholders, works with governments, in a role that researcher J. Hills terms,‘rough censors’ (Hills, 2006:198). Internet regulation has a comparatively short history, L. Bennet-Moses, another researcher in the field writes:  “Technologies such as... computing and the internet, were not designed to evade the law or employ it for gain, but rather were created for independent reasons. Their relationship with the law is not intentional” (Bennett-Moses, 2007:4). Now, as we know, everyone who buys a new mobile device is required to agree to fine print rules of use-although with print so fine it may be hard to read it...
There is a strange paradox to digital writing in social media forms that many users report; writing on a computer, gazing into your words on a screen, produces an illusion of writing in the solitude of your own inner-world, yet the words are globally public. Whereas internet extroverts may delight in the 21st Century prospect of ‘cradle to grave’ observability, it is important, especially for young people and first time users, to remember that this freedom brings an increased, although not necessarily immediately obvious, need for personal responsibility in online behaviour. A thought that suggests the philosophy of Sartre...With freedom comes responsibility... Could it be that the rebirth of millions of authors in virtual reality is also bringing new forms of existentialism into digital writing? 
Copyright © Ruth Skilbeck, 2011.
Bennet-Moses, L. (2007) ‘Recurring dilemmas: The law’s race to keep up with technological change.’ [2007] UNSWLRS 21, 18 May 2007: 4.
Hills, J. (2006). ‘What’s new? War, censorship and global transmission: From telegraph to the internet. The International Communication Gazette, 68(3): 195-216.
Lloyd-Jones, S. ‘Where the wild things are: Evolving futures of communication regulation in the current national security context.’ Pacific Journalism Review, Vol 14(2) 2008: 50-72. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Post Script. Dr Z and I

Dear Readers, Many strange things have happened as I have attempted to post the words I believe I have so far posted. In the end I have let the machine have its say, and it may say otherwise. However I seem to now have a better connection (having switched this afternoon in Newcastle to another ISP) and maybe at last my words will be able to make some sense....if not exactly that which I intend... please bear with me!!!!
Beleaguered Author assailed by

                                 forces beyond my control

www.SOS. Dr Zhivago and I

Friday night, running through the turnstiles at Central, 3 minutes to catch the 10.15 to Newcastle. Carrying my life in a backpack, an overarm bag and a small suitcase on wheels, holding my big black hat, long red scarf tangling with my luggage. Two trains to the same destination on adjacent platforms face me. Is that the train to Newcastle? I ask a group of blue uniformed, muscular and tall Transit Officers with their backs to me.  No, that one, he says. Just in time. The carriage next to the guard’s van is crowded. Find the last double seat and slink in, for the three hour journey home.
This is the Sydney to Newcastle service, stopping at Strathfield, Eastwood, Epping, Hornsby, Berowra, Cowan, Hawkesbury River, Woy Woy, Koolewong, Tascott, Point Clare, Gosford, Narara, Niagara Park and then all stations to Newcastle...the rhythmic chant crackles over the PA system, a female voice, singing the country.
Ssssshhhhh ker-lunk ker-lunk kerlunksssshhh The train pulls out of Central, swishing along at a regular pace...At night I travel next to the guard’s van, the famous blue light of safety in the darkest hour. The carriage hums with passengers’ ambient chatter...  male and female transit officers patrol the aisles, I’m glad they’re here. The long distance train journey from Central to Adamstown reminds me of the film Dr Zhivago  (long ago in Northern Ireland), with a few subtle differences that make it uniquely Australian...
C: only subtle differences?!
Koolewong. "Would the person who's boarding the train with alcohol please get rid of it!" the voice of the female guard crackles over the PA. There was a female guard last Friday night too. But the biggest difference is no snow.  
B: is it still the ghosty green-grey interior?
B: who gets off at Woy Woy?
I am trying to chat on FaceBook but the utter inadequacy of the connection only adds to the surreal montage that has become the familiar mode of my prepaid ‘communication’...
@B the green and cream interior blends a certain utilitarian aesthetic with symbolic hint of bushland vistas... The fluoro flicker and the surround-sounds...long slow hissssss and rocking motion, the repetition of certain phrases "doors closing please stand clear' sssssssssssssss has a soothing quality and we're off again 'next stop Warnervale'... de-de-da; de-de-da; du-du-da dededa..whirrrrrrrrrrrrururu
distorting audial perspective of figure-ground-field like a futurist-industrial sound poem, luigi russolo’s art of noises hissing, roaring, pounding through the night, but we’re heading now into the post-Industrial future of Newcastle. What will we do now?

'Doors closing please stand clear' 'next stop Wyee' da-da-deDA  dada
'Doors closing please stand clear' 'next stop Wyee' da-da-deDA  I can hear Dr Zhivago’s theme song in the rolling wheels
'Doors closing please stand clear' 'next stop Wyee' da-da-deDA  Dr Zhivago is a  spectral figure rocking the tracks
Trying to chat on FaceBook:::: a surreal montage of missed cues and repetitions.
Hard to post these notes/green light- blue light- no light on/the mobile broadband stick/flickering semaphore of desire/anxiety/frustration/we all want Ecstasy of connection (Baudrilllard 1869) all the way up the coast  drops in and out/ roll on the ‘national broadband rollout’/ Save Our Souls//www.????/ no one wants to miss connections like Dr Zhivago/ the undelivered letter/ chance sighting after many years/from afar he catches sight of Her boarding a crowded bus/and again she disappears/
                                    HUSHAHushaHUSHAHushaHUSHAHusha  WHO OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH<<<<<<<///////////>>>>>>//^^^~~~~~~====OOO
                                              0 0     0 0000000000000000000000000
and on     it goes on
                                   for TOOLONG       
  1. SoS    ... drops out
  2.             watch out
                                                             random FX  

Dr Zhivago and I

Is that the train to Newcastle? I ask a group of blue uniformed, muscular and tall Transit Officers with their backs to me. 

Public Service Announcement

We are sorry to announce that flights to all destinations have been suspended. In this time of uncertainty for air travel Ruth Skilbeck is continuing her journey by train until otherwise advised.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Why Are We Here? Personality and Social Media Use

Calling Neurotic Extroverts And New Authors Open to Experience Online!  

Hey you, Social Media user! Are you an extrovert? neurotic? open to experience, or maybe you’re a mix of these - a neurotic extrovert open to experience, perhaps? Admit it, how many thrill at the thought of being secretly watched by an audience of unknown eyes, as you reveal ‘what’s on your mind’? How many just want to be ‘liked’ as we identify our selves with the digital symbols of our posts?  How many identify ourselves as author of our texts?  According to recent research from the University of Texas there are three main personality traits leading ever increasing numbers to engage in social media use: extroversion, “high levels of neuroticism”, and openness to experience.  The desire for anonymity that once was a dominant behavior trait of people who went online has been fast replaced by more overtly social, narcissistic, open and self-identified behaviours, as millions take to the web worldwide, according to a research article by Teresa Correa, Amber Willard Hinsley and Homero Gil de Zuniga,‘Who interacts on the web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use' published in Computers in Human Behaviour, in 2010.

Of course as Yours Truly’s ever increasing circle of FB friends may (or may not) agree, she says narcissistically to her Self and unknown digital Others, I use social media because I am open to experience and most definitely not because I am a neurotic exhibitionist!!  Check out my new Blog - a reflexive, if rather obviously sign-posted, experiment in taking flight in digital writing!!  Let’s move on...
What is also interesting to consider is how the medium of digital media and computer use shapes the content of users’ posts - a new form of digital dissociation, and how we embody our desires through multi-modal images and sounds to ground our experiences in sensation and define our identities to our digital communities, or audiences. 
After the Death of the Author, comes the rebirth of millions of authors in virtual reality...
© Ruth Skilbeck, 2011

Monday, 2 May 2011

Where Was I?

In no time at all she would be on her way. Alone, on a plane, heading into an unknown future. A shock of adrenalin surged through her nervous system; she felt terrified and exhilarated at once. It was a strange combination of sensations, but, after the time of Absence from herself, simply feeling herself in her body, without the blind need to escape, was reassuring.

The flight from London to Tokyo took off with no complications. At 32,000 feet, she lightly clutched at her neck the silver St Christopher medallion. He's the patron saint of travellers. Aunty Joyce's words as she gave it to her as a leaving present at Heathrow. Memories of Mum, Dinah, Joe, her best friends in the departure lounge, jumped up like rows of jack-in-the-boxes, waving and jumping and smiling, in her inner vision. She had no idea when she would see any of them again. The images dissolved in clouds in her wine glass, she was floating in the sky now. Way below ice flows and snow plains, the Arctic Circle, swirled in frozen loops and whorls like the marble patterns on the front and end pages of an old book. The ancient tome called the Earth. Don't give up on us now... light laughter floated down the aisle...

She's not afraid to cry
All of her friends called her Nebraska
when she lost speed they roared and asked her
'What is on your mind'?

Did she have permission to play words through her aural memory, she wondered? Would the Questioners take her off for an inquisition? Even that thought did not perturb her now. She was on her way, heading into a southern hemisphere. Far from the green fields and the Troubles. Everything would be different now. Down below in a cold world, far out of reach, ice blazed the last rays of an old day, but she was slipping into another Time. In a midnight twinkle of stars she reached for the cabin bag under her feet; she withdrew the 'Persephone' dossier. Pulling out a sheaf of poems she began to read.

No doubt some interesting Freudian interpretation could be made of these poems, but right now she didn't care. She replaced the sheets in the folder and leaned back in her seat. If she was lucky she might catch some sleep before they landed in Tokyo.

From Crashed, a novel. © Ruth Skilbeck 2011