How to use this book
H.1 What is this book?
This book is intended for use in a large introductory class in new media in a program that covers the “full-stack” including critical/cultural studies, media management, diffusion of innovation, and synthetic media production. The first half of this basic sequence covered new media and democracy, finance, intellectual property law, basic games, and transmedia. The second half of the sequence covers many topics related to aesthetics, design, technology, and methodology.
To that end, this book needed to be written so that it would be helpful for many different professors and trajectories of study. This book is in neither engineering, social science, nor the humanities, but also all of those. At the same time, this is a program in the Communication Studies and Media Studies traditions of the United States and that texture will come across.
From another perspective, this book is intended to prevent another book from being written. There is no major textbook in the area of communication futures, and texts regarding production are typically quite expensive. This book should offer a free alternative to what would likely be an expensive textbook.
H.2 How can you use this book?
If you teach a course in media futures, this book likely has some resonance for you, if you do not teach in this area, the book can be useful in a number of different ways. I see it as a supplemental text for courses that are moving into new territory.
You may notice considerable overlap between sections two and three. Ideally, the descriptions in section two concern the physical base of a thing while section three deals in the context of an enfolding. Ideas are thus covered twice.
H.3 This book doesn’t make a lot of predictions
For many good reasons. Predictions are often wrong. Why would I take that risk?
H.3.1 Here Are Some Predictions
To avoid quickly dating this book, I avoid making very specific predictions. Instead, the space for conclusion and prediction is left open for the lectures and class activities. There is a full list of potential activities included to help you plan.
If you need predictions from me, here are a few:
- Increasing television resolution is a game with diminishing returns
- Fully immersive body suits will not be widely adopted
- We will be much better at getting information out of the brain than directly putting it in
- Anything like a singularity will be hacked
- Big Data is a bubble that will pop
- AI discourse will revitalize humanism
- Content will continue to be King
- Governments will be very good with technology, much better than independent technologists
- Technologists will continue to falsely believe that they are more capable than the state
- Simulations will never be satisfying
- Ethics will continue to hinge on aesthetics
- Nationalism will only grow deeper
- We will continue to invent discourses that excuse or explain the fundamentally political nature of disaster
- The future won’t be as great as was promised
- Nothing will taste quite as good as it does in your memory
- The same old intertextual references will be made
H.3.2 About the Provocations
I view the provocations as ways to conclude units or ideas, I also view them as Futures takes on major problems in communication, in their essence:
- The Truly Alien: how do we account for post-semiotic futures?
- Torn Enfoldings: are any sensations outside of symbolic interaction?
- The Impossibility of Alterity: what about all the things we don’t say?
- The End of Work: what if foundation cultural forms like the importance of “work” disappear in the future?
- The Nightmare of Satisfaction: how would we move forward if desire was actually satisfied?
- Hacking the Mind: are the benefits of new communication technologies worth the cost of lost agency?
- Without Plurality: how can we overcome the gravity well of groups and nations?
- Infinite text: should we continue to assume that most thoughts and discourses are intrinsically worth circulation?
- Me and My Bots: how does the world change if we flatten the ontology of speaking?
- As Good As It Gets: what if the present is the best possible allocation of experience?
The provocations can also be conversation starters and offer chances to discuss collective action, ethics, and aesthetics. Many of the discussions of these questions are in contradiction.
H.4 Problems with this Book
It is likely that this book has problems, all textbooks do. This is intended for use in a frosh-sophomore level course. As I often tell colleagues, students take more than one class. This book is not intended as a multi-level text that could be used across an entire major. As such the descriptions in this book could easily be seen as superficial and unimportant. I plead guilty. This text is an ambitious attempt to make the grounds for an emerging variant of the communication discipline coherent.
There are three problem areas that could be useful for teaching against this book:
- This book presumes that academic production practices are treated as roughly interchangeable. Design and argumentation are equal. You could easily teach against this book in such a way that you elevate your disciplinary practice. Be that argumentation, dialogic listening, or design. Defend your discipline while you use the conceptual resources of this volume.
- Like things are not together. It is likely that you will want to assign pieces from different sections on the same day. The chunks in the book are intentionally small so that you can deploy them like academic Legos.
- Construction may trump deconstruction. You likely notice flavors of Derrida, Lacan, and Kirkegaard in this book. I can easily see objections to this framing from Hegelians on the right and the left. If your version of positivist social science resolves the problems of passion and desire, teach against this text from that angle. I hope I have provided a formidable shadow to box. If you are a humanist who finds too much of the outside in this text, I hope you find a wily social scientist playing hermeneutic games that trouble the class.
Furthermore, I have intentionally avoided writing this book in Law & Order, “ripped from the headlines” style. There are likely many examples I have omitted of cool new stuff that happened while I was writing. There will be many more. This is why you prepare for class by adding new examples and extending the text.
If there are major issues, or if the science really shifts, I will post an update on my website and change the next edition. It is also possible that the book will expand in the future.