Learning from your mistakes.

September 13, 2011 § 4 Comments

Imperfections makes the world go round – quite literally.

This week in viral media we are reading Digital Contagions: A Media Archaeology of Computer Viruses by Jussi Parikka which analyzes the culture and history of the computer virus phenomenon. Parikka goes through a lot of information, but points out a couple of key points in his research.

Fear and security.

The technological world is driven by the need for security and the fear of our private information being stolen. We have to be thankful that digital virology was introduced into the world because they in themselves have led to the development of many important security protocols we use today. The accidental introduction of digital virology has also contributed to development of anti-virus software.

With any invention, accidents and breakdowns are bound to happen. When accidents happen, the magic begins. We can only find solutions when a problem arises, and there would be no progression if there was no problems.

Viral Life.

A lot of the concepts from Michael Oldstone’s Viruses, Plagues, and History and Steven Johnson’s The Ghost Map can be applied to the concept of digital virology. There is a number of factors that play a role in the life of a virus. Before the development of the internet, the spread of a digital virus was relatively limited and did not spread very far. However as the world started to interconnect, opportunities for contamination increased. Parikka describes the scenario with the spread of the Black Plague during the development of the Silk Road in the fourteenth century.

Consider the following video.

This video was created in 2006 when World of Warcraft primarily dominated the Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)  industry. It brought humor to a particular crowd and died down after a couple of months. Recently this video has resurfaced to be seen by millions more, why?

I attribute this to the fact that since 2006, the number of people that participate in MMORPGs has significantly increased. There are more games that encompasses a wider audience and therefore creates more possibilities to be exposed. In this sense, World of Warcraft (WoW) can be compared to the Broadstreet Water of Ghostmap, where the virus is contained to the city of Soho – except for the rare occasion of water being transported out.

Media Ecology.

If my understanding of media ecology is correct, it is the way media environment effects the development of concepts. For example, these micro-programs may have never been deemed “viruses” if AIDS had not been a huge topic. The term debugging evolved from the issue actual bugs finding their way into the circuitry and the process of removing them. Hence debugging is associated with the removal of inconsistencies from your computer. Media ecology is dependent on the social vectors around a particular topic and develop as vectors are constantly changing.

Media ecology can also be attributed to things like the typewriter. Originally created as a writing tool for the blind, it eventually, through changes in environment and social needs,  found it’s way to standardization. The same can be said about the development of computers as they started out mainly in large businesses and worked its way to general consumer use.


§ 4 Responses to Learning from your mistakes.

  • Courtney Cox says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea that, “If there were no viruses, there would be no progression.” To that sentence alone, I agree, but I can’t help but notice a bit of logical fallacy in this concept that the book tries to push.

    If there were no viruses or hackers, the progression that results from their existence would be unnecessary. It’s like the tree falling in the forest. Is it really a problem if no one takes advantage of it? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I’m not sure, but I think the question is worth asking.

    I’m just not willing to agree that viruses bring about positive change. Even when they do encourage improvements, those improvements also have weaknesses, therefore “accidents” can happen with them, too. The more improvements, the more complexity, the more angles at which an accident can occur.

    • Kim A. Knight says:

      I think Parikka’s point was more that there are helpful self-replicating computer programs but we distrust all of them and think of all of them as viruses. Wendy Chun does some interesting work on software daemons that get to this point as well.

  • catriarchy says:

    It is indeed interesting how social events directly influence the way we view rising technologies. It makes me wonder what digital viruses would be called today if AIDS had not had been in the picture. I actually cannot imagine a different term for them, as the word “virus” just happens to be such an accurate description of the phenomena.

    I also wonder, what other technologies are only used in certain businesses? Technologies not available to the general public? How long will it be until particular medical procedures will become something you don’t have to visit the doctor for? If something as important as the computer became “personal” to the average person, it’s exciting to think about other things that may become more readily available later on.

  • Kim A. Knight says:

    Nice post, Tommy. It is well written and connects the reading to our “real life” media ecology. Keep up the good work!

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