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Grasping the Locus

September 29, 2010 Leave a comment

There is a concept which seeks to trace the source of human motivation. One is either motivated by an outside force or external locus, or one’s acts trace inwards to a locus set internal. Where does one’s every action spring from? Is it for the inner sense of goodness, the notion that an action is a benefit to society as a whole or just in pieces. Or, does one move to grasp the great reward: the million dollar mansion or the fame and love, the world’s respect? Indeed it is the locus which determines this and forms, at least for this author, a keenly formed arrangement of brightly colored circles. I have set this locus as my target.

I will not argue that the notion of the locus is incorrect. You will not read that the human animal is too complex for such a narrow device. Nor will you read that I feel the human mind is too compassionate for an external locus of control. Indeed I feel there is a valid perspective on the locus: of course it does exist; though, not as argued or at least at widely accepted. Instead I argue that the internal locus is the real motivator and that the external locus is only a minor device to serve the reluctant or those who crave a greater reward than initially offered. It is the internal locus that creates action and, if culled by those in crucial positions, can be utilized to exact a significant effect upon society.

The internal locus of control feeds on abstract concepts. The need for “doing good” for “pride” or simply “pleasure” rule the power stemming inside of all humans. One can argue that the internal locus is more worthwhile and valuable to the individual. Such a distinction stems as a difference from the external locus of control which functions with material goods as the basis of reward. With the external locus one moves to get the better item or the “X” device which gives them pleasure.

Though in this I see the distinction with the loci. The external locus is merely a step stone to the internal locus. Where does the true motivation lie if in having “Device X” or by possessing a greater amount of money one will function in whatever means it takes to earn these items? Is not a deeper sense of pleasure at play? It is not “Device X” that truly makes them move. Instead it is the status of possessing “Device X” that inspires action. Herein lies the great distinction. The external locus of control is merely the hidden material representation of the internal locus of control. In fact the only form of motivation comes from the internal locus of control which exists, for some, in hidden forms and concepts.

All human beings function with a desire for the abstract concept of “happiness”. Even our Constitution notes our right to pursue it, but by the very nature of its abstraction we fall victim to a maze-like game of hide-and-seek and find distorted forms in our toys, our cash or some assorted item. In possessing “Device X” we feel content and sense the rush of reward that comes from achieving a goal. This is real and purely human, but by the nature of our emotions we are unable to distinguish this quick fix high of feel good with a deeper sense of purpose which suggests a purpose to existence. This is evident in the incessant craving for the newest device. We see lines form outside retail stores on the night before a device is released to stores. Indeed our chase for happiness sends us out in mad-man panic with our patience disregarded as we hunt and stalk the newest burst of instant feel-good action.

This is sad, but oh so common and understandable. We are programmed for this reaction and the deeper internal locus is far harder to achieve. It takes time and work to have a sense of purpose. We must move beyond our comfort zone and likely violate the norms on which our society is formed. We are a culture that celebrates the instant pleasure pulse, “Just relax,” they’ll say or “You take yourself too seriously,” and some will falter. Some will fall back to the couch and grip the credit card and make a purchase. There is an instant high inside the external locus of control, one deeply enriched by our culture and society. The external locus is an essential one; indeed our capitalistic system derives a significant portion of power from these quests for instant pleasure.

There is; however, a greater quest to ponder. In order to feel happy, in order to have a sense that one has value in society, one must seek out the deeper rewards contained inside the internal locus of control. And while this is difficult and uncomfortable, one must pause and invest every drop of mental energy on the things that lie within. We all have these things. Inside our hearts there sits a sense of what determines the valuable life. They exist, but we have left them. Some have turned an eye away or mocked them as delusion or distraction. Though in disregarding these items one is not an oddball; indeed, such actions are expected and the normal mode of behavior. There is a challenge in seeking out the internal locus of control. One must swap the mode of thinking and slide from disregarding inner desires for the trends contained in culture to the mode of focusing on the higher goals and twisting a turgid blind eye towards the million eyes and voices which would rather see one stupid and distracted.

This is the task that I have charged you, dear reader. It is your homework to consider the deeper needs within you and move to make them real. You are the only one left. You are the only piece still on the board.

But what about causation. How did we get here? Whose responsibility is it to establish a system where the higher goals are what society pursues. I do not blame our government, our artists or the vague collection of “authorities” who function in our world with power and yet continue to function in such a sad, distorted system. Instead the fault lies with the critics. In those who dare to express an opinion on what defies our culture there lies a significant finger of blame. It is here I point my finger.

I lie all blame with those who hold a power over the distribution of culture to our youth. In those who say what’s good and fill our numerous media channels there lies a responsibility to distinguish between a healthy pursuit and a move for silly pleasure. Our critics must center some splinters of criticism on the value of the goals expressed inside the form of artwork under consideration. If a song is catchy, so be it. Reward it with a glowing review, but one must note the message of the material. Does it advertise a stupid goal of silly temporary pleasure? Let us call out bad art on the floor and offer our youth a note on what is shallow and what is silly to consider.

Our art has grown too shallow. It is the critics responsibility to assert the distinctions among human functions. One’s pursuits can be evaluated and if a work of art advertises moves to simple pleasure, let us call them out. We need no longer disregard the shallow art. In doing so we further confuse our perspectives on what determines the values of life. Until we recognize the cheap thrills of the external locus and gear our brains to pursue the harder rewards of the internal locus we are only creating a system where people are unhappy and lost inside our maze of cheap thrill pleasures.

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On Use: Determinism v. Instrumentalism

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment

How does one classify the role that technology plays in his or her life? To what depth has tech become entrenched in daily life? Is it merely a tool, a minor assistant in the daily challenges that strike us through the day? When looking to our devices should we categorize them as we do our hammers and our nails which, it seems, too few of us have continued to utilize?

Or, does tech play a far more significant role in our existence? Does technology in fact exist not as device or assistant, but rather as the controlling force that drives us into a deeper state of dependence. Where does the authority lie in such a situation?

Technological determinism argues that our technology drives the evolution of our values. We are blind to tech’s great influence and allow our devices to determine how society interprets and implements our progress with technology. In such a form we are beyond the control of tech and merely let the saddle take us where it desires.

Or, we can subscribe to the ideas of the instrumentalist philosophy which categorizes tech in a level of our hammers and nails and deems the human mind the single driving force. In such a system it is the human mind that remains in control and which utilizes the array of technological goodies to achieve a greater good.

In both there stands a single driving issue: the source of power.

Who is in control? Do our gadgets frame our mind or does our mind define our gadgets? Are we drowning in an endless sea of obsession and being driven ever further down a stream of lost awareness. Do our gadgets leave us blind and dumb. Are we lost and numb- unware that tech’s great assistance comes with an ever greater burden?

Text Reflection: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

September 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Somethings are just plain obvious: the times have changed, we love our gadgets and we have all allowed the internet to change the way we live. This, of course, is known. Is it bad though? Do we risk some deeper damage by using the internet and swath of devices which flood and fill our homes?

In The Shallows, Nicholas Carr suggests the obvious: our brains are being altered by technology. Is anyone stunned? Are we throwing gadgets out the window? Carr avoids asserting a solution to this problem and instead chooses to provide a judgment-free observation.  There is no gloom and doom here; instead its a glimpse at some growing dark clouds. Yes we see things changing but is it significant? Are such changes for the better or do they beckon something dangerous and risky? In The Shallows Carr cannot assist us in these questions- this is a text of simple observation.

One has to wonder whether Carr’s publishers stepped in when deciding the title. Did Carr refuse to use a panic-laden title and, in response, did his publishers add in a sizzling subtitle hinting at brain damage via technology? Are we victims to some ploy of publishing? One has to wonder because this book fails to address the major claims that line its face. Inside its author seems dead-set on downplay. Indeed beyond the book, the author’s statements gradually re-calibrate the book’s focus more in line with what’s been written.

The Shallows only value comes in its overview of technological development in history. Additional posts will follow based on the material mentioned in the text. The Shallows provides another road map through technological development and offers once again the guiding lights that moved the initial experimentation into the modern world of constant use and obsession. Carr reminds us of these changes, but we’ve known it all along. Each of us can testify to technologies major effects on our lives. Did we even wonder whether our brains were being altered? Did we ever need to wonder? If such changes are beyond our control what more can we do? Do we worry as Carr’s publishers seem to ask or do we sit back and watch it happen just as Carr and his text appear to do?

Beyond Distraction

September 20, 2010 Leave a comment

In our contemporary existence, we bathe our senses in a wash of comprehensive audio-visual stimulation. Whether this is good or bad remains beyond this post, but I would offer an observation of the depth of this inundation and observe the state of existing only at the “level of distraction.” First, the channels and the formats.

One simple way of categorizing our distractions is based on how we subscribe to the information. We either pay to have the media brought into our home or the material enters our home without our request or financial provision. We pay for TV and for internet, but we do not pay for junk mail or the advertisements neatly tucked away and coupled with the material we pay for. Though hardly insipid, this material has an effect upon behavior and is designed to inspire increased distraction and is formed precisely to enrich our bond with our pieces of entertainment. No matter the avenue these items have a simple goal in mind: the investment of our time.

The second detail of this inundation stems from the rich variety of the forms in which the material enters our home. Beyond our electronic devices, these distractions enter our home via the channels of paper transmission (USPS) or through the occasional introduction of community material in the form of community messages. In summary, the forms and vast and varied.

So what? Ok, so we have a lot of media coming at us in a number of different forms. Well, I argue here that it is far too easy to remain in the “state of distraction.” We are free from outside consideration and function on a schedule surrounded by the patterns and arrangements established by our electronic devices. Our meals surround our favorite programs, we decide to stay awake to watch a show or refuse to leave the house while the news channel covers a crisis in some far-away land. We are distracted and absorbed.

For some this is the only state. For some the “state of distraction” is the sense of what is typical and normal. This is easy and understandable. The human mind is attracted to the systems of patterns and organizations upon which our device’s programming is arranged. Furthermore, our culture is one of social interactions in which the topics and events of popular culture are a major source of discussion. To break way from the “culture of distraction” is to break away from a key component of contemporary human interactions.

Are we lost inside the “culture of distraction” or are others still capable of moving beyond distraction. What sacrifices must be made to break away and does the modern culture accept these Luddite roles as legitimate options?

The Benefits of Beta

September 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Via a community of dedicated users, software developers benefit from a system that avoids a demand for perfection and allows a slow progression of improvement. This system of releasing “beta” versions allows for a gradual evolution and benefits both the producer and user of a product.

Under this system, a user’s software is updated on a needed basis. If a product has a fault or if a development team has developed an improvement, an automatic update can be established and the update is performed. This is an ideal system- one that exists solely in the software field and one that creates a system of multiple beneficiaries. Just as the user benefits from improved software, the developer can tinker with adjustments and rest assured that the user base is a source of endless feedback. Such a system has rendered immense improvements in the technology culture and should be recognized as a system that other industries should foster.

This “beta culture,” or world in which developers and users work together to improve a product, is one of immense potential. The motor vehicle industry would be significantly improved if users could update the vehicle’s software every six months in order to improve vehicle performance or to simply to alter minimal details affecting non-critical factors of using the vehicle. Can the radio’s interface be updated to make it faster or easier to read? Can the vehicle’s odometer be calibrated to allow for a more accurate analysis of efficiency? With some development these possibilities could be developed and used as significant selling points.

Beyond the benefits of avoiding the need for perfection, the “beta culture” would allow developers to consider user feedback and improve future productions. What better market research exists than the feedback of users with direct experience with previous models. If asked what I want in a new product, I will likely think back to my experiences with a similar product, muster up some improvements and then suggest my mind’s notion of an improvement of what I want. Such a process diverts the responsibility of the developer from producer to consumer. A better process is one that asks better questions. The key is to ask the user what features of the current product don’t work and what things could make Product X better. As a user I can tell you countless things that are wrong with Product X. We need to move beyond the notion that Product X is produced and distributed and then Product Y goes into development.

The “beta culture” allows us to release Product X and then work towards Product X.1. Producers from all industries need to adjust to create this system and switch the paradigm from serial production to a goal of improving what already exists. No longer do we need to build a new trap or re-invent the wheel; instead, we need to improve what we have and let our minds focus on meeting the expectations that have yet to be met.

Assuming Skillsets

September 16, 2010 Leave a comment

I work with students under twenty. Young and savvy, they are skilled with all technology, they easily adapt to new tech evolutions and can sit down at computers and cull magic from the keys….right? Is it safe to assume that my students are great with computers simply because they’re young? Of course not. No matter the simplicity of the system and the depth of experience, my students spawn from a wealth of life experience and bring every minor ounce of baggage to each classroom interaction.

Though young, my student’s experience with technology stems largely from the directions formulated by popular culture and social networking. My students are Facebook wizards, some are likely acrobats of Myspace and still others can work an MP3 or video file through a complex set of filters that make mush become great music. One holds no safe assumptions though they’re young and fully enriched in the American culture of technology there remain a series of gaps and disparities that reveal the contradiction of our notion that youth and technology skills are automatically linked.

…more on this to come.

Text Reflection: Globish by Robert McCrum

September 13, 2010 1 comment

Robert McCrum’s Globish observes the growth of the English language through time and its recent establishment as the language of the globe. Globish is a term used to refer to the simplified form of English used by many international speakers whose use of the language stems largely from a utilitarian basis. Globish is a language of commerce designed to simplify business communication and facilitate a more efficient, globalized Planet Earth.

The majority of McCrum’s text traces the evolution of the English language. It reads as more a cursory overview of the linguistic evolution of English and less about the use of Globish. McCrum reserves the first and last cluster of thirty pages to dealing with this new form of English that he asserts to be a signpost for future global interactions. In this middle section he provides an overview of the many evolutions of the English language and traces the additions to the language brought on by the numerous invasions, conquests and myriad of historical events that established the English we all know and use. McCrum’s point here is to demonstrate that English is a living language which has changed and continues to change with every user who chooses to use English as the language of communication.

The portrayal of the French in the text is a curious point of interest. It seems that this British author was unable to move beyond the deep-seated awkwardness of British-French relations. Furthermore the love for President Obama is extremely rich in the text and functions as a screaming siren that the text was composed in 2008 when “Obama-mania” was in full swing. Unfortunately for McCrum, his enthusiasm for President Obama’s as-yet-unproven potential smacks of naiveté and leaves this reader of 2010 a little suspicious of such enthusiasm. Why the need to assert this sense of grandiosity in President Obama? Was our author unable to move beyond the media buzz and recognize the humanity of the man?

Though these details are trivial and unimportant. Globish is a decent book. It presents a rapid overview of the evolution of the language and presents an optimistic perspective on the factor that our language will have as the world’s power shifts to the East.  Despite the global recession and a Western world largely slipping from its goals and philosophical formulations, our lovely English language will function as a foot to hold the door to power open as we get our act together. We can pat all our pop stars, movie icons and athletes for this gift- it is from their global popularity and distribution that the influence of English continues to hold sway.

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