Question Forum 1

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The questions, responses and commentaries in this forum refer to the Introduction (1-10) and Chapter 1 (11-39) in Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture. For reference, the Dialogue Sequence assignment.

1. On page 2, Turner argues that a computer's mobility does not make it personal, but rather it's the computer itself and the computer networks that bring a person closer to a corporation. Do you agree with Turner or do you disagree; that a computer's mobility does brings a worker closer to the corporation? and why?

2. In class we discussed the increasing amount of collaborative effort in writing (i.e. Wikipedia). This collaboration is also discussed on page 19 in regard to the Rad Lab in which scientist, mathematicians, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs collaborated in their research to create new technology. When looking at the text, where do you find the benefits of their collaboration and can you think of an environment where collaboration is not beneficial?

3. On page 31, Turner asserts that in response to the pressures of a world overshadowed by the Cold War and a threat of nuclear weapons, the 1960's youth developed two distinct social movements each with varying opinions towards technology. While the New Left turned away from technology, viewing it as a perpetuation of a failed system, the New Communalists embraced it, associating emerging technology as a means to repair society. Given the circumstances if you lived in the era, which direction would you choose and why?

Wiki Forum Post #1: Courtney Carlson

The Rad Lab proved very beneficial for developing technologies across various fields. It provided people with various backgrounds and capabilities, including engineers, designers from the industry, and military and government planners, the opportunity to collaborate. According to Turner, “Specialized scientists were urged to become generalists in their research, able not only to theorize, but also to design and build new technologies,” (Turner 19).

In addition, scientists and engineers working in the lab were forced to be more entrepreneurial and become marketers for the new technologies they created in order to gain the respect and approval of funders and administrators. By doing so, they were able to better understand their product, because they had to apply their detailed knowledge of the product to how it would actually be used, and its benefits, outside the lab and its preliminary testing.

The Rad Lab also helped generate new ways of thinking and speaking, which Turner called “contact languages,” enabling the people working in the lab to collaborate and exchange ideas and techniques. According to Turner, “These languages ranged from “the most function-specific jargons though semi-specific pidgins, to full-fledged creoles; they also included nonverbal elements, such as shared tools, which could be used to demonstrate concepts across disciplinary boundaries or serve as sites for collaborative work,” (Turner 19).

This new language, if you will, afforded the engineers, designers, and the military and government planners the ability to collaborate and reach new heights in military technology.

Collaboration might not have been beneficial in instances where the development of these new technologies required knowledge of the military intelligence community which had not yet been released for the use of engineers and designers. In such a situation, a conflict of interest might occur, and the members of the intelligence community could risk allowing this information leaking out to the general public, which would certainly hinder the military capabilities necessary for that time.

Caitlin Laverdiere: Question 1 Forum
From Counterculture to Cyberculture (Intro and Ch. 1)

Question 2 Response: Collaboration has always been an important characteristic in the development and sustainability of any community. Hunter/gatherer societies understood the necessity of cooperation and mutual responsibility in their daily activities and to ensure their survival. This communal aspect was ingrained in communities throughout the centuries and across cultures, where people pooled their knowledge and skills in order to provide for the society at large, and out of a shared understanding that it is impossible for one individual to possess the knowledge – or the resources – to most effectively and efficiently provide for the community and promote its future growth and success.

In the twenty-first century we have a similar respect for reciprocity, but we also have a redefined and highly technical understanding of collaboration and resource sharing among individuals. The class example of Wikipedia illustrated the increasing reliance on collaborative writing to provide a comprehensive definition to the broadest audience possible. Collaborative writing relies on associations between relatively similar topics to hyperlink the reader to unrelated but distantly associated key words and phrases – making a wealth of knowledge available at your fingertips.

Turner discusses mutual collaboration between scientists, mathematicians, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs in MIT’s Rad Lab – one of the most prominent examples of military-industrial-academic collaborations that arose from the OSRD initiative. Prior to World War II, “science and scientists seemed to stand outside politics… they maintained clear distinctions between science and engineering and between military and civilian research” (17). The war presented the need for specialists to communicate and collaborate with specialists in other fields – pooling their knowledge and resources to discover innovative ways to approach military challenges.

The technicians who were responsible for the wave of innovation and technological improvement that came out of the Rad Lab represented “a distinctly nonhierarchical management style…[and] a collection of interlinked research projects ” (19). Their professional collaboration gave rise to improved military technologies that revolutionized the military’s ability to strategize and intersect enemy operations. This greatly improved the way the US engaged in the war and laid the foundation for the postwar scientific/ knowledge revolution. Turner states, “The new networks helped generate new ways of thinking and speaking” (19). He describes the Rad Lab as a trading zone where disparate disciplines came together and engaged in an exchange of ideas and discoveries that propelled them towards a common goal of improving US weapons systems.
We see the benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration within our own university. Especially as liberal arts students, we understand the depth and creativity that arises from cross-disciplinary study. English is itself a diverse discipline that is comprised of “different professional subcultures” that merge diverse literatures, ideas, and research approaches to provide students a comprehensive course of study – one that encourages reflection, lifelong learning, and integration of ideas. We are creating our own “interdisciplinary networks within which to work and live” (19).

Collaboration appears to be very beneficial when used for the betterment of society and to propel a community forward through knowledge sharing and technological innovation. However, this type of collaboration can have adverse effects when used for unethical or inhumane purposes. This was the case in Nazi Germany, where a collaborative, systematic approach was used to annihilate millions of people. The same was true in Rwanda, where one communal tribe collaborated to exterminate another tribe. Acts of genocide necessitate group collaboration, but the motives of such groups are diabolical and far from beneficial. Thus, professional collaboration and knowledge sharing is beneficial only when the means and the end are morally sound, and if one group is not made worse-off in the attempt to advance another group.

Rachel Burch: Question Forum 1

Answer for Number 1:

While we want to believe that having our own personal computers makes us feel independent and special, in actuality that is far from the truth. I completely agree with Turner that a computer’s mobility only allows for the individual to be closer connected to the corporation, as he states. Yes, the computer I am typing on is my own, only my information and data can be found on its desktop, but that does not make me a separate entity from my roommate with the same computer. In these times, we are so connected through not only wall phones and mobile phones, but through computers and their networks. We can communicate with someone half way across the world at such a fast speed that it’s almost mind-boggling. We can stay connected to the world on a 24 hours, seven days a week continuum

On a literal meaning, being linked up to a system while working for a company allows that company access to every single move you make on the computer. They are able to track what you do, as well as communicate through the device itself. We use computers to stay connected to our co-workers, bosses, and clientele if need be. We have that access at such a fast rate that there is never a time when we cannot be connected, unless of course the server is down. We can now even use our cell phones as ways to stay constantly connected to the Web. These abilities via amazing technology allow the worker an extremely close tie to the corporation.

On another level, having the network be so mobile allows for an immense amount of advertising and research, as Turner mentions. Networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube, as well as the infinite amount of blogs, are an advertiser’s dream. We put all of our information out there for the world to view, with almost open access. Basically, we may set up privacy screens, but if someone knows what they’re doing, they can see access into anything. We are now closer with not only our specific company, but also everyone. No longer do companies have to send out surveys, or stop people on the street. All they have to do is make an account on Facebook and voila! Any information about most any topic people find interest in can be found on the site.

While we may be able to stay connected on the smallest device yet, and while it may be my own personal device, having this quick mobility allows for the individual to stay closer connected and monitored by the corporation.

Kristen Walker: Question 1

I agree that the mobility of personal computers absolutely brings a person closer to the corporation. On page 2, Turner says that just because a computer can be placed on a desktop and used by one individual "does not make it a 'personal' technology," and I think that's very true. Although this computer is my property, I use it daily to stay connected to numerous other people and corporations.

Technology and the Internet have not created a "leveled marketplace" (3) as was expected; instead, they have caused a surge in marketing and contact with consumers. Not only has the Internet become a new venue to sell products, but companies can advertise and research consumer desires through social networking sites where millions of people openly express details of their lives. Corporations can look at people's Facebook profiles or read their Twitter or daily blog to determine the best way to market to them, and so these people are often unwittingly becoming more connected to the corporation.

It also works the other way around, though. Individuals can find out more about a corporation in seconds by doing a quick Google search of the company's name. Having an online presence is critical for any corporation now. No longer do people drive around town to find the closest Target; instead they find the closest location by searching online. Or maybe they won't drive at all and choose to order the product they want through the Target website from the comfort of their home. Corporations without an online presence may as well not exist in today's increasingly digital marketplace.

Not only do companies reach out to consumers, and consumers to companies, but many corporations use computer networking to maintain communication among its employees. The use of forums and wikis is becoming more standard in the workplace for collaborative projects. Co-workers will often exchange e-mails instead of walking to each other's cubicles. Some companies are using instant messaging systems to allow employees round-the-clock immediate communication. And all of these forms of inter-corporation networking are monitored so the company always knows what's going on.

I agree with Turner that computer mobility only creates a greater connection between individual and corporation.

Laura Gooch

I agree that it is not a computer’s mobility, but its network that connects a person with a corporation. Just because a computer is portable, does not mean that it connects the owner with the world; that’s what the Internet does. Unless there is Internet on the computer, the machine no more connects with a corporation than a book. I could take my computer with me on a safari in Africa and it would be of no help in connecting me with the world unless there was a wireless signal somewhere out on the Sahara (which I doubt).

It is through what I search for and look at and shop for on the Internet that connects me with corporations. For example, if someone were to hack into my computer right now, they would know that I go to Virginia Tech, that I live in Virginia Beach, and that I check the weather obsessively. It is what I do and search for on my computer that connects me with the corporate world, not where I take my device.

I will concede, however, that having increasingly fast Internet access in a growing number of places worldwide does contribute to the ever-rising connection with corporations. With inventions like the iPhone and the Blackberry, it is now possible to do your Christmas shopping almost anywhere and at any time. Unlike businesses and retailers, the Internet never closes.

Though these tiny portable devices make the Internet much more readily and easily accessible, it is still the Internet and not the mobility of devices that connects us with corporations. My parents own a desktop computer and a cell phone each. The cell phones, though turned on for perhaps one hour out of the year, go with them everywhere. The computer stays stationary and turned on at all times, with the seat in front of it occupied nearly every minute of every day. Computers need not be mobile to keep people connected to the corporate world, as long as people can move to get to the computers, there will always be a connection between us and corporations.

Megan Quigley: Question 1

I agree that a computer’s mobility and its networks bring a person closer to a corporation. The computer allows consumers to be connected 24 hours a day and as the technology continues to improve, we can physically hold this capability in our hands, via cell phones. Some may question if this 24/7 connection is a positive feature or trend, but either way one cannot ignore the fact that computers bring workers closer to a corporation and a corporation closer to its workers.

Most corporations use computers and the internet to stay connected with each other and other companies. I agree with Shoshanna Zuboff that “in the office, desktop computers and computer networks can become powerful tools for integrating the individual ever more closely into the corporation” (2). Rarely is written correspondence the norm in business today; it is now all about e-mail, web conferences and seminars, AIM, and Wikis. From personal experience at a large corporation, we communicate within the company mainly using AIM and e-mail, only occasionally stopping by someone’s office for a quick question or chat. While this may sound impersonal, the computer actually brings the corporation closer together because we have the ability to communicate and visually see, not just hear, our coworkers across the country. My company is also currently developing a Wiki so everyone can collaborate and share their information and knowledge. These types of websites bring a worker closer to the corporation because it promotes the free flow of discussion and information sharing from everyone. However, it is interesting to watch as this technology and its features are implemented. As it tries to become part of the company’s culture, it is meeting resistance with the older generation who seems more unwilling to share their information and therefore resisting making a more personal connection within the company.

With the computer’s mobility and networks, communicating across the world is made simple and traceable. Companies can easily contact you, know what you type in your Google search bar, who emails you, where you shop, how many friends you have on Facebook, and so on. As companies gather this information, they are becoming closer to you and tailor their good and services towards a specific audience. But, it works both ways. With a simple click, workers can also find out about their company, its latest news, how its stock is doing, and so on.

Kaitlin Cannavo
Forum 1 Question 1

A computer’s mobility allows for individuals to feel more independent and freely able to express themselves while actually only feeding corporations with the valuable information necessary in creating control of the individual. The corporation, whether the individual already works for the company or not, is able to find out every bit of personal information that individual has shared on the internet. Individuals tend to fall back on false notions that if you share information under an unidentified screen name for online purposes one is automatically anonymous. These false names as a result leave the individual feeling even safer with sharing personal thoughts and opinions on forums, chats, etc. Most internet sharers are naïve to the fact that corporations actually do searches to gain the individual's knowledge and information for their own benefit.

In the Introduction, Turner spoke of the 1960’s Free Speech Movement at Berkeley. In the same manner the students at this university “felt as if American political leaders were treating them like bits of abstract data,” American corporations today hold the same views of American citizens utilizing the internet. (Turner 1) Opposing viewpoints claiming the internet’s ability to create a culture of “harmony and togetherness” to allow the individual to become “self-sufficient and whole once again” do hold some accountable truths, but this freedom combined with a corporation’s ability to access this information reverse the role entirely. (Turner 6) Their form of “social change” only forced corporations to change their form of managing to coincide with this new cyber society, eventually leaving the corporations with the upper hand. Of course big corporations, such as Shell Oil and representatives of the Defense Department and U.S. Congress, would convert to this new social network because they began to discover the long-term benefits of this rapidly growing culture. Individuals are willing to share any and all knowledge on a network accessible to any and all individuals…and corporations.

The computer’s mobility only convinces the individual of the freedom of sharing of more and more information and the freedom from authority, while in reality it brings the corporation closer to the individual.

Sarah Tavernaris

Personally, I dislike collaborative writing because I prefer to do my writing alone—because I feel I have a solid comprehension of techniques and style, I am less inclined to share the duty of writing with others. However, I am not opposed to collaborative research, simply the precise method of recording it. I think the benefits of collaborative, multidisciplinary research sought out by intelligent and motivated individuals working towards a common goal or theory can be more productive and less biased than individual research or efforts. I am an advocate for solitary writing (although the review by many is absolutely crucial); stylistically, I am interested in flow and consistency of language in text, which I don’t believe can be fully achieved with many writers. The areas where collaborative research is beneficial depends on the theory in question, the desired outcome, and the minds involved. It is entirely subjective. Even though I prefer writing alone, collaborative writing may be beneficial in areas such as textbook writing, writing for a specialty that requires a SME (subject matter expert), writing legal or political documents, or writing large academic articles.

Turner quotes Wiener rather nicely on pg. 20: “We had dreamed for years on an institution of independent scientists…joined by the desire…to lend one another the strength of that understanding.” In order to create the swift advanced, competitive technologically-stable world power that the politicians of the 40s and 50s desired, the combined efforts of many disciplines (naturally, generously funded) was needed. As the integration of people and information became more complex and more structural and intellectual boundaries fell, the need for a neutral, open space where this information could be shared arose.

I find it nearly impossible to choose between the New Communalists and the New Left, because both veins of the counterculture hold to appealing ideals. I would be more inclined to live socially like the New Communalists—live simply and close to nature, forming intimate relationships with the people around you (“Beware of structure freaks” from the Seed, 1967, pg. 36) That philosophy of life is appealing to me; yet I am also more inclined to reject technology as the New Left did (because yes, I believe it has had an effect on the degradation of our society). Even though I am “wired” and use a computer and cell phone daily, I am digital because I live in a digital age—all of my peers and all of the people around me communicate and center their lives and habits around technology, therefore if I want to survive in this world, I have to plug into the network. I really don’t think highly advanced technology and instant communication is another “single, “free” culture that once stood outside the mainstream” (pg. 34), analogous to the counterculture movements in the 1960s. It is a highly accessible, instant, and public method for sharing information—and sometimes too much information. If we continue to pad our lives with all these neat electronic gadgets, we move farther away from the true nature of things.

Stephanie Keymont
Responses to Questions 1 and 2:

I completely agree with Turner, namely that computers bring the individual closer to corporations. Not just in the work environment, as he originallystates, but through other means as well. An interesting thought to consider is one that we mentioned a few class periods ago: who decides what goes onto the Internet? Furthermore, who decides the programs or free-trial programs thatarrive, already loaded and working on a new, unused computer? Granted, things like wikipedia DO allow for public involvement, but SOMEONE SOMEWHERE is policing that information (granted that is a strong word, but you get the general idea). Thus, though an individual may be searching for information he or she is personally interested in, or buying software that he or she personally chooses, that person is only getting what certain other people (governments, corporations, etc.) allow him or her to get. When thought of at that standpoint, the Internet (computers, etc.) does not allow for as much de-centralized, free-thought as you might think. Yes, I know. I sound totally paranoid.

In a quick response to question two, isn't this kind of collaborative thought what knowledge management is all about? People working closely together, sharing ideas and innovations, etc. It certainly seems like a good idea at first. Why not combine forces? Two heads are (generally) better than one, right? Not always. Was the Manhattan Project a successful collaborative effort? Yes. Should it have been? … That's debatable.

Amanda Thomas

Turner writes, “The fact that a computer can be put on a desktop, for instance, and that it can be used by an individual, does not make it ‘personal’ technology. Nor does the fact that individuals can come together by means of computer networks necessarily require that their gatherings become ‘virtual communities.’” (Turner, 2). He argues that computer mobility does not make computer usage more personal, but that personalization is a result of computer and computer network use. I believe that the two, working together, have facilitated a stronger connection between individuals and corporations. The mobility of the personal computer, be it a desktop, laptop, or even cell phone, and people’s uses thereof have become almost necessity. Our culture has become technology dependent; we constantly communicate information about ourselves through programs like Facebook, Twitter, and even search engines like Google. The Internet provides vast amounts of information at the click of a button or the touch of a screen. Corporations have learned to use this flow of information to their advantage in marketing.

Without the mobility of computers none of this would be physically possible; however, without user friendly computers and enticing computer networks no one would connect to these “virtual communities.” Corporations have certainly done well to adapt to their usage.

Jessica Razumich

Answer to Question #1:

I agree with Turner that computers cannot bring us emotionally closer to the corporation. However, I disagree with Turner and declare that it can bring us physically closer to the corporation.

Turner states that a computer can be put on a desktop and that an individual can use it, does not make it a "personal" technology, nor does the fact that individuals can come together by means of computer networks necessarily require that their gatherings become "virtual communities." However, I feel that computer mobility brings us physically, not emotionally, closer to the corporation. It is as if someone you are not close to calls you on the phone, you can answer it and talk to them, but it does not bring you any closer to them on a social level.

Computers have become powerful tools for integrating the individual ever more closely into the corporation (Turner 2). No matter where we are, if the corporation needs us for something they have multiple ways to get a hold of us, be it e-mail, cell phone, or web page they will be able to contact us. We are constantly communicating whether it be from corporation to an individual, and individual to a corporation, or individual to individual, ect. There is constant communication through web pages, and text-messages, and emails. It is as if since we have a computer we do not have a choice if we do are do not want to be physically closer to the corporation or not.

For school we are asked to have/or create a Facebook page so that we may be contacted by our department for information and projects. We are asked to have active e-mail accounts so that we may be contacted. We are asked to join scholar, and blackboard web pages so that we may be contacted and informed and asked to complete certain tasks. We are growing closer and closer to the corporations.

Nichole Uiterwijk
Response to Question 2

The benefits from the Rad Lab are clear. In the words of Turner, "the new networks helped generate new ways of thinking and speaking" (19). The scientists, mathematicians, engineers, designers, and entrepreneurs, driven
by the fear of war, cooperated with each other to benefit the whole of society. Not only did they challenge themselves in new ways by becoming more general in their research and by learning what they normally wouldn't in
their specialization, they expanded their networks in a way that increased efficiency and effectiveness by decreasing the time it took to create something and the quality of that product. What they couldn't do themselves, they could do in teams developed through these interdisciplinary networks. They developed "contact languages" in which they could collaborate and trade ideas and best-practice techniques (19). This laid the groundwork for future collaboration and allowed them to produce weapon systems to protect the US during the war. Turner noted that cybernetics provided a "contact language through which work on weapons devices could be organized" (25). This language gave the basis for collaboration in a way that innovators from different fields could converse on the same basic level and exchange ideas, tools, and processes with each other. For what Bowker called "legitimacy exchange," experts were able to draw upon other authority experts in another field to justify their work and activities, which in turn allowed others to draw upon that work and collaborate for better and quicker results in their research (25). The government also saw the benefits of collaboration and poured money into universities that could teach students on a variety of topics that would further help fuel collaboration, technology, and scientific advancements.

Collaboration, in my opinion, is always beneficial. One finds the technical problems, the loop holes, the inefficient processes, the wasted resources, etc., through different perspectives. What one might not see, another will.
However, sometimes the amount of people collaborating can be overwhelming, but that can be solved with good management and a specific goal with a strategy and roadmap of how to obtain that goal. The environment in which collaboration would be unbeneficial is a workplace with bad management that does not know how to organize this type of collaboration.

Alex Orchard-Hays
Response to Question 2

On page 19 where Turner describes Rad Lab as a collaborative endeavor, he also describes it as being “flexible” and as having a “distinctly nonhierarchical management style.” These three attributes are linked together to create an ideal research environment. In that regard, the “collaborative” aspect is beneficial in that it means a lack of hierarchy, which in turn means flexibility. This flexibility allows for rapid progression of research and thereby greater productivity. This is because the researchers can form collective agreements instead of having to send proposals and the like through an extensive hierarchy for approval.

Another benefit of the collaborative research environment that Turner addresses later in the paragraph is that of the researchers’ quality of life. Alongside “cross[ing] professional boundaries,” scientists who collaborated to create new wartime technologies were driven “to routinely mix work with pleasure” and “form…interdisciplinary networks within which to work and live.” This refreshing notion suggests that the scientists were no longer bogged down in one highly specialized field; that they were able to spread their interests and explore new ways of thinking and applying their knowledge, which undoubtedly would have led to greater feelings of fulfillment in their work. Interestingly, Turner pairs “work” and “life” in this discussion, suggesting that the interdisciplinary nature of the collaborative work was indeed enriching enough to blur the distinction between “work” and “life” that oftentimes the jaded worker finds to be very strong.

In the next paragraph, Turner describes collaboration as also having the benefit of “generat[ing] new ways of thinking and speaking.” The Rad Lab is likened to a “trading zone” where distinct specialists can “exchange ideas and techniques to the common end.” The emphasis is not only the benefit of the end result of collaboration, but also on the process. Essentially, through collaboration, the scientists are able to develop and demonstrate the success of a new way of approaching research problems that sets a strong precedent to help researchers evaluate the best way to approach future projects.

There are a number of environments where collaboration may not be the most beneficial way of approaching a problem, but I’m having great difficulty finding one with regards to research.

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