Kamo & Entropy

Kamo no Chomei lived in Japan from about 1155 to 1216 AD, after some political upheavals in his Shinto shrine he decided to become a hermit and live in the woods. He built a “ten foot square hut” and turned his back on the world.

A key message in Kamo’s  “Life in a ten foot square hut” is that; boundaries form barriers between our unenlightened state of being and harmony with the universe, and thus enlightenment. More specifically, his philosophies proselytize, that to pour one’s energy into the construction of a boundary is counter-productive to the ultimate goal of enlightenment achieved through the dissolution of the illusion of boundaries.

Kamo’s hut is minimalist, an “unsubstantial cottage”, and provides only the bare necessities he needs for simple survival. It is impermanent and can be easily moved, “I can easily take it down and transport it elsewhere”. In this, we see that he has minimized the boundaries of his living arrangements to be in commune with nature to the bare necessities. He further tears down boundaries by rejecting fear, resentment, luxury and most notably desire, “I commit my life to fate without special wish to live or desire to die”. To relinquish the boundary of desire is one of the most significant achievements of any Buddhist seeking the path to enlightenment.

As Kamo is vigilant against self-delusion he invokes the wisdom of the Law of Buddha that “teaches that we should shun all clinging to the world of phenomena”. He laments that he likes his little hut and solitary life so much that it “may be a hindrance to enlightenment”. He views his attachment to a solitary life to be a folly. In Buddhism, the boundary of desire must be removed to achieve enlightenment.

Boundaries appear to instill order by stemming the expansion of entropy, but in reality they obscure your vision, making it difficult to discern emergent patterns. When we channel our energy into the construction and maintenance of boundaries we cloud our perceptions of additional realities by directing focus and strength into these artificial constructs, blinding ourselves to the beauty in the movements of o.ur world as it expands and into entropy.

Entropy is commonly misunderstood to mean a movement toward disorder; that is not an accurate description of the second law of thermodynamics. It is clearer to think of entropy as a method by which energy becomes more evenly distributed in an isolated system (in this case the universe itself). In other words, an increase in entropy is a process of energy dispersal. For instance in a region in which one area is hot and one cold, the entropy of the system will see the heat disperse throughout the system creating a uniform temperature. The ability of the system to react with itself decreases and a state of balance is achieved. The higher the entropy, the more even the distribution, and thus a reduction in the dichotomy of difference. In other words, a dissolution of boundaries.

Entropy, in our understanding of the universe, is as irreversible as the uni-directional arrow of time.  By removing all boundaries, including the illusionary boundary of external and internal, the mind can start to relax into the expanding patterns of entropy. On a microstate level, no laws of physics will be broken should the cream remove itself from the coffee and reassemble in the milk jug. It is simply a matter of probabilities.

Which brings me to another aspect of entropy as it relates to the philosophy of Kamo; the dispersal of energy measured by an increase in entropy whilst on the one hand, can be seen as a more balanced and uniform state, it is in no way a static or dead state. When energy is more evenly dispersed the next instant for each microstate has an increased number of possibilities. Therefore, maximum entropy gives you maximum potential. As a friend recently pointed out to me, at such a time there would be no more energy to move, giving rise to images of a crystalline universe; sparkling in its frigid state, with no further chance to breathe. When all energy is expelled, is there no possibility for a fresh influx? Are we given a finite amount to play with? Or perhaps does the very thought of existence give continual breath to movement? Is this the boundary between Zen and Nirvana?

We see that entropy is a measurement, a measurement not of disorder but of energy dispersal, assessed by the number of possibilities of each microstate in the next instant, or how many different ways the system can arrange itself in the next instant. If the energy is more dispersed it has a greater potential for new patterns. A state poised in anticipation of movement and potential.

In short, the dissolution of boundaries allows for an increase in entropy, which in turn provides a more balanced state and an increase in potential and possibility. I think this a scientific way of saying, “more enlightened”.

Heisenberg & Philosophy

The final chapter of Heisenberg’s  Physics & Philosophy (full text) is one of the most interesting pieces of thought I have read in quite some time. This excellent piece, which clearly shows the hand of genius, is an elegant extension of Heisenberg’s own scientific research and inspiration into the world of philosophy. In Heisenberg we see the Renaissance Man that many modern authors have sorrowfully lamented, as Heisenberg uses some of the foundational concepts of quantum physics to comment on the epistemological construct of human thought. He coherently demonstrates how science has become too narrow in its views since the Renaissance (notably the nineteenth century), which has led to a loss of macroscopic understanding of the nature of the universe and too heavy reliance on empirical observation. He discusses that this inclination to segment knowledge into complete and perfected units, was likely brought about by the need to separate empirical epistemology from theological doctrine – such as was necessitated by those wishing to avoid “the instruments of torture” of the Catholic church. From such origins we see an increasing reliance on empirical evidence, something that has been difficult for particle physicists until ever greater technological inventions grace the stage (such as the Large Hadron Collider).

The crux of the argument is demonstrated halfway through the chapter where we can hear overtones of the uncertainty principle as applied to general epistemology of reality. It is important to note that the uncertainty principle is not simply about knowing either position or momentum (a combination of direction and velocity) but that by knowing one more, the other becomes less known due to the constraints of Planck’s constant. This is expressed in the syllogism (paraphrased):

  • Scientific concepts are idealisations;
  • They are defined from experience obtained by refined experimental tools;
  • And are precisely defined through axioms;
  • Through these definitions they can be connected to mathematics;
  • Mathematics explores an infinite variety of possibilities;
  • Through this process immediate connection with reality is lost.

What this is saying is that as you try and pinpoint a reality with math (which is of itself a human expression of the universe by creating incomplete models), you are instantly creating a symbol for, and approximation of, what is actually happening. In effect you are narrowing a position and losing integrity of momentum. This argument is re-stated in a number of variations to ensure the reader understands the message and can appreciate the contradictions involved in capturing reality into language. For instance he makes an excellent point regarding the contribution of the Japanese to theoretical physics stemming from a culture that is founded on philosophies far more in line with quantum theory than the “naïve materialistic way of thinking that still prevailed in Europe in the first decades of this century”.

With the precision of reason of a master physicist, he then extrapolates this argument to demonstrate how our narrow-minded cognition has detrimentally impacted our society using Marx as an example of non-complex thinking. He ends with a warning about the nuclear arms race and touches on basic principles of complexity theory when he discusses unification and a shift in metacognition when the masses become conscious of the processes taking place.

The crux of the argument consists of a passage of five sentences, “On the other hand, the scientific concepts are idealisations….but the correspondence may be lost in other parts containing other groups of phenomena” for all of the reasons laid out above. It is saying that, if you try and define something too narrowly then it will loose its complex entirety. In otherwords, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Heisenberg is very clear that we should use the lessons of quantum physics to guide our own epistemological methods when exploring the world around us when he says, “In this way modern physics has perhaps opened the door to a wider outlook on the relation between the human mind and reality”. In this he is no doubt referring to not just the uncertainty principle, but other fantastical aspects of the world of quantum mechanics such as the double slit experiments used to explore wave-particle duality; this phenomenon is counter-intuitive to our understanding of the world, but an easily observed empirical fact nonetheless.

He enhances this argument by pointing out that the Japanese mind-set made it easier for their culture to embrace quantum physics, as it is more in tune with their philosophical beliefs. “relationship between philosophical ideas…and the philosophical substance of quantum theory”. In this, he is likely referring to the Shinto expression of Taoism in which the more one attempts to know the Dao the less one will actually connect with it.

With the shift in cognition about the way we can develop understanding of the world around us that has been enhanced by big data analytics, we have begun to approach problems in entirely new ways. For instance, we know that mathematics are representational constructs of reality and thus will only ever approximate reality, even if it is with extremely high statistical accuracy, that is still not reality. Heisenberg sums this up thus, “In the practical decisions of life it will scarcely ever by possible to go through all of the arguments in favour of or against one possible decision, and one will therefore always have to act on insufficient evidence”.

What we have developed – which is extraordinary – is artificial neural networks. This is a fairly new computer science which works to not only number crunch complexity but to also “learn” answers. A notable example of this is the Google experiment of June 2012. In this instance, a neural network was shown unlabeled YouTube stills until it could start to recognize common objects. The first object it recognized was, of course, a cat! hahahaha

The Google Cat

This is Google’s image of a cat, without knowing what a cat is. This is a constructed image of what Google thinks a cat might look like.

The point of this is that we are developing entirely new means of epistemological acquired knowledge, new ways of understanding the large amounts of data around us. The Google neural network is still very far from measuring up to even the most average human brain, but it is a significant step. What is even more significant is what this science will be able to teach us about our own nature of perception and understanding. Imagine the day when we have artificial neural networks powerful enough to compute what it thinks the Higgs field looks like! At that point will we be staring at the face of “god” as Hawking so desired in the 1980’s.

Our traditional linear model of empirical epistemology is outdated and inadequate in a world that is far more complex than Isaac Newton would have us believe. If there is a theory of everything, it is far more likely to look like a fractal image of a Google cat than a neat little equation – sorry Dr. Hawking. The fundamental methods we have been using to define the universe are demonstrating themselves to be no more than tools of broadstroke that can paint primary pictures for us but that cannot express the elegance of our complex universe. By employing a new approach to knowing, such as Heisenberg demonstrates is suggested to us by quantum mechanics or Japanese philosophy, we can come to appreciate the fluidity and intricate entanglement of the universe. As he so clearly states, we need to fundamentally change our approach to how we deconstruct and describe the world around us.

Heisenberg has a unique genius and possibly one of the best writing styles I have ever encountered. I wish that I could write like this! I was extremely impressed with his depth of construction of argument as well as his prodigious foresight into the nature of humanity and where we are headed. His argument is well balanced and without unnecessary emotions or personal agenda. In his conclusion I hear overtones of complexity theory as well as the potential effects of mass consciousness on the nature of knowing such as we are seeing now in big data and with personal Internet exhaust data. I immensely enjoy his ability to so clearly bring his science to a greater scope of thinking about humanity and how we interact with our perceptions of reality. If he was in the room I would have stood up and applauded very loudly.



The Belvedere Club

Whilst living in Calgary, Canada, I created and run a very unique little group called the Belvedere Club. This was based on the ideas of the coffee houses of Paris over the last couple of centuries. It took off extremely well and we had many actively participating members. Unfortunately since I left Canada, the person who took over the running of the club has let it lapse. The website can still serve as inspiration for a phoenix club to start, perhaps here in Sydney Australia.

The Belvedere Club

Take a moment to check it out!

The I Ching and the Higgs Field

Higgs Boson explained simply

The I Ching has been studied extensively since it’s misty origins thousands of years ago as an expression of “the Will of Heaven”. Whilst many of the mathematical connections to our modern, western mind that is highly empirically focused, are obvious, it is the underlying force to this math, which I wish to explore. It must be remembered that the assignment of numbers to the hexagrams is a relatively modern invention (Rutt, 1996) as numbers have been across many civilisations including the Ancient Greeks who were ill fond of the number zero, and indeed we find a binary representation of zero absent in the hexagrams of the I Ching. Zero, a pervasive force in mathematics, is by definition difficult to represent in a pictographic system that strives to communicate manifested realities of our perceived dimension. That binary and parity mathematics of the I Ching can be represented by fractal geometry, and that Chaos theory can duplicate the I Ching’s sense of Taoist Chi with real world analogs such as butterflies flapping their wings and affecting global weather patterns are to me, just the Western world of pragmatism and proofs coming to terms with the outer edges of something more fundamental. Like children, we are beginning to explore the underlying structure of our world by the use of big data, founded on the same binary system as this ancient exploration of the fabric of the universe.

An underlying theme of the I Ching has been described by Coward et.al. (2007) as “The beginning of all things lies still in the beyond in the form of ideas that have yet to become real.” In other words, the infinite sea of potential in unrealized form is where all things come from; this potential is what I will compare to the Higgs field. From the same text, “But the Creative furthermore has power to lend form to these archetype of ideas” is describing how the first hexagram, Ch’ien, is a gateway for potential to take shape. Thus it is fitting that the Ch’ien hexagram is often described as strength, or as dragons, or of time. A solid stairway of masculine energy building a portal if you will between potential and reality.

The first hexagram of the I Ching is Ch’ien, the creative, representation of heaven. I see this hexagram as another way of expressing our quest to understand and access the fundamental force of the universe, much the same as we now use fractal images, chaos mathematics, quantum theory and more recently, the Standard Model. It is the underlying cultural assumption of potential that most interests me. Quantum theory can bring us closer to this fundamental truth is by way of the duality (and multiplicity) of quantum states, consider “up” and “down” quarks as a case in point. The synchronicity expressed by the I Ching can be easily seen as represented in mixed quantum states, most simplistically in the spin of an electron being either “up” or “down”, but I seek here to delve deeper than even these basic dualities, beyond fermions (matter) and bosons (forces) to the field that lies beyond, the Higgs field.

The Higgs field is not exactly a widely held belief of the day, mostly because it is a fairly new concept and many people find it difficult to understand. It is a widely held assumption of particle physicists at this stage in our evolution and I hope that these understandings of the universe can eventually filter to the masses – although the slow shift of Einstein’s theories to high school class rooms over the last one hundred years does little to inspire confidence in this hope! In any case, I am going to use the Standard Model as a modern cultural assumption as even if most people can’t understand it or express it I believe that they feel it intuitively.

Essentially the Standard Model is about matter and force and how these two things interact. I see this as analogous to hexagrams and Chi (Qi). The resulting predictions from the I Ching are simply accessing the interaction of these two fundamental aspects of the universe with a basis in the belief that the synchronicity of the flowing patterns of Qi in the world will elucidate on the “weather patterns” around the seeker at the point of consultation. The text of Coward et.al. looks at only the first hexagram but it does say of it “Its energy is represented as unrestricted by any fixed conditions in space and is therefore conceived of as motion” (RER Pg 273). It then goes on to state that the first hexagram is specific to time but I would suggest that this may be a slightly altered Western interpretation of something far more flexible than what we would traditionally attribute to the notion of “Time”.

A bit deeper into the Higgs Boson

The Higgs field is postulated to be an all-pervasive force that gives underlying structure to all reality as we know it. The Higgs Boson is a manifestation of this field into a point to exert influence on the physical universe by giving it mass – or the strength of the dragon lending creative success. I see the Higgs field to be an exact analogy of the Qi force that underlies the I Ching.

The excitement of detecting the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider in 2013 was because we are finally beginning to come to an empirical understanding of the fundamental structure of the universe. It was dubbed “the God particle” by the media, as it does appear to carry such auspicious weight as to describe the underlying cause of the existence of all things in the universe including the existence of the universe itself!

When an I Ching reading is cast, some potential from the Higgs field is released giving force or mass to an actuality. This actuality can be harnessed by the seeker to keep them in resonance with “the Great Harmony”. The hexagram of Ch’ien could be seen as the doorway through which this potential achieves actuality.

Why does any of this matter (pardon the pun)? Because in ancient times I believe that humans were more connected to the ebbs and flows of potential and synchronicity. Through millennia of trying to understand our reality by quantifying our observations of it into hard numbers we have been digitalizing an analog universe of flowing Qi, culminating in a digital age where everything is being reduced to binary code. If we can start to use the empirical language of mathematics that we have come to have implicit, (and sometimes blind) faith in, perhaps we can bring back to the masses a sense of the importance and power of accessing the Qi or Higgs field with their own consciousness.

How wonderful would be the sound of resonance if all beings remembered that their very will, their cognitive volition of their consciousness could make the universe sing. At that point we would manifest the Great Harmony.

More about the Standard Model – from CERN

A neat book…

Coward, Harold G.. Readings in eastern religions. 2nd ed. Waterloo, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007. Print.

I have a blog…so now what?

So I started this blog thing last week. there are some pictures of my dog, I posted some papers I wrote at uni, posted some links to cool stuff and had a “little” rant about big data and privacy concerns. Now what?

I am new to this. I had friends that, in the 90’s were highly active on a platform called ‘Live Journal’; many times did they encourage me to join and take part in the Blogosphere. I didn’t. I had no judgement of their choice of expression. I just honestly have always felt “well who would want to listen to me anyway?”.

I never did answer that question, and indeed it is still prominent in my mind as I type. I mean, does anyone really care to take the time to read what I have to say? To digest the words that I may type, to care to hear what I think about how we currently interact and relate as a society; especially in light of all the really important and significant things that are going on in the world right now, such as wars in the middle east, privacy concerns, poverty and injustice; and would my total disinterest in pictures of cats be perceived as apathy to the plight of cat owners around the world thereby rendering me “unlikeable” in the social media world.

I have finally taken the plunge…still very uncertain about this whole genre of communication. What is the point? Will this effect any real change in the world? Taking the plunge into this form of media and communication makes me pause and  take considered thought on several different planes.

Firstly, I know that everything I write will be out there, forever, permanently imprinted onto the digital landscape. You think writing the first words in your shiny new notebook for the start of the school year is scary; when you write on the world wide web, it is there permanently. You must ALWAYS be cogniscent of the fact that it can never be retracted. No pressure!

And then there are the societal implications of your action of expressing your thoughts; a) will you make money from your blog, will people really want to know what shampoo you use?; b) will it enhance your chances of getting a good job; c) will it hinder your chances of getting a good job; d) will you be truthful to yourself or will you succumb to peer pressure to be ‘cool’ – whatever that is; e) will you be different, unique, innovative; f) will it be a complete waste of time, will you just be talking to yourself?

All of these are valid questions. For me, right now, my answer stands at this – well I’m just going to try it out, see if my voice makes a difference and above all express my individuality in just another form. I will look at this as just another way to live in the moment, embrace the current trend and explore, first hand, another aspect of human expression.

I see a major shift in the way that people expressed themselves on the internet in the 1990’s and how they image craft themselves now. For the most part it is a good difference. People are more aware now of the extremely high level of exposure that their musings may attract. I feel that those people that are under the age of say 20 years old have developed a keener awareness of this already. In the 1990’s people posted incredibly personal stuff about themselves, often under pseudonyms, exploring the ability to be someone other than who they were. You might like to think that was a liberating moment for the human species, however, much of what was being written in the chat rooms of those times was an exploration of self in a highly narcissistic and base form. Today I am seeing the emergence of a more digitally and infomatically aware generation.

Two decades on from the days of MUDS, forums and chatrooms, we live in a vastly different digital landscape. For the most part, people are becoming more responsible in what they write, they take more ownership of their writings. Hence, we often see a stronger propensity to more morally enabled writings. Now, a quick look at the inane comments on a social platform such as Youtube may make you think otherwise. I agree with you there. Many of the “comments” sections on social platforms are beyond me in scope of dire lack of intelligence, absence of coherence of meaning and basic moral eptitude. That is not to say that we should throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The way has been paved. The means enabled. The platform for free voice established. As a user generated and constructed digital landscape we have the power to affect the terra-forming and shape of our digital world. We must exercise this power, lest it be wrested from us by a self enabled hegemonic paradigm. In short I am saying YOUR INDIVIDUAL VOICE, YOUR UNIQUE EXPRESSION OF DIGITAL VOLITION IS SHAPING OUR WORLD, RIGHT NOW. This is happening with every click you make so for the sake of society and our future…make very click count!

I recently received my fourth “follower” to this blog. A lovely young lady in her teenage years who is highly committed to her sport, she exhibits many of the attributes of a grounded and ethically maturing young adult in her approach to life. That following has given me more direction in my blog. I have spent many years of my life working with, training and coaching people in their adolescent and young adult phases of their life. I greatly enjoy the company of people in this age range as this is where I see the greatest potential for change and development of our society; excitement of life and an openness of mind and the ability to (not to say that it is always exercised) empathize with those around them and subsequently incorporate their observations into their world view. Their world view, their developing perceptions of society are forerunners to what our future society will be. It is imperative that they receive the best possible guidance in their approach to expressing their ideas on the WWW. They should be encouraged to use this new media to express themselves yet at the same time made aware that not only will everything they ever write on the internet be there forever – I think they know that- but that this is a format in which they can not only express their opinions and discuss topics of the day but also use this new platform to develop an even greater consciousness of the human state.

This in turn has made me think even more about what I post. I have lived more years, seen more things, tried out more ways of doing things, succeeded more times and failed more times than most people I know. I am a risk taker. I have lived life to an extraordinary degree. Sometimes that has brought me amazing experiences and sometimes much pain. My path is not one that I would advocate to anyone faint of heart, it has thus far been a complete roller coaster of life. What I can tell you is that I HAVE LIVED. People ask “have you lived without regret?”, well of course not. Hindsight is 20/20. But without taking risks and just really going for it I would never, in your wildest dreams, have achieved half of what I did. My life played out in accordance with my choices. There was some good luck and some bad luck. And from the wisdom gained I hope to incorporate some ideas, approaches and methodologies in my writings in this blog. I am one human in a vast sea of humans. My best hope is that some of my words can assist some people in the choices they need to make.

Shoot for the moon always. Because if you miss (which is most often the case) you will land amongst the stars. Sometimes disconnected and stunned, reeling from all you just went through. But you know what…if you do it all with the best possible intent, with care for those around you, and more importantly care for yourself, then just maybe, if you are determined, and you can weather the cuts and bruises, just maybe, you can skid into that gravestone sideways, sliding in the mud of life, yelling WHAT A FRICKIN RIDE WAAAHOOOOO!

So write about that!

Write about your human experience. Write it with truth and consciousness and I will for sure follow you. For those of us that are “awake” and even more so those of us that can articulate our state of “awakeness” are the most important and interesting people to me on the planet.

Be CONSCIOUS, be awake, be aware, be self reflective. So I guess that is the recipe I will follow for myself. Please pull me up if you see me failing in these areas; simple as it sounds I know it is not always easy. I love constructive, thoughtful and eloquent criticism. That is how we can learn and grow. Discourse, interaction, reflection, communication and the main skill I see lacking in the world today…listening, these are the things that will propel you to greatness.

I don’t know the purpose of this blog just yet…maybe I never will…but Miss HM (skier extraordinaire) has given me the impetus to make it as great as I possibly can!

Viva La Liberte!

Write while you can. Write as much as you can. Know that your voice will be seen. And even if it is only seen by a few then that WILL change the world!


Resources for understanding data mining and your privacy

Here is a small selection of videos and articles to give you an overview on the subjects of big data, data mining and privacy concerns. I highly recommend watching the first two at least, they are short and succinct and very informative.


Dr. Jennifer Golbeck, director of computer-human interaction at the University of Maryland The Curly Fry Conundrum


60 minutes broadcast on The Data Brokers 60 minutes report on the Data Brokers


How the NSA can turn on your cell phone remotely NSA turning on your phone


Facebook microphone app The Facebook microphone app


Facebook manipulating Newsfeeds for social experiments Facebook research article – Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences

Watching the watchers

We are all becoming more aware of how much of our personal data, our digital expressions of volition in the big data landscape, is being collected, used and sold. Our movements on the web, our page views, our likes, our social networks are mapped, categorized and transmuted into big dollars for large and often unseen corporations. For instance Twitter made around $70 million dollars in 2013 by selling off the data made by what you like, who you are friends with and what you hashtag.

The first step we must all take to arrest this runaway train of big brother hegemony is to understand just exactly how much of our data is being watched and collected. How many watchers are lurking on each page we visit. How much of our digital volition are they collecting.

To understand more about big data, exhaust data and data barons I suggest you visit here Digital terra forming

But this post is to give you some useful on the ground tools to start to monitor the activities of data collection tools on your computer, your browser and your digital life.

First I recommend you download and install Disconnect.me this is a great little app that can easily show you how many data collectors there are on each page you visit. When you install the app it will show in the top bar of your browser, a little red bubble will show you how many different agencies are collecting your information on that page. You can click on it to get more detailed information about these watchers. There is a short little video here that it explains what it does Disconnect.me video

The app is open source, pay what you want. That means you can download it free or make a donation. 

There are many names for what is going on right now and some people call it the Filter Bubble. A good article about what you can do to pop your filter bubble can be found here 10 things you can do to pop your filter bubble.

One great piece of advice I found on this was about the cookies on your computer. I use Safari on my computer so I found that if I went to Safari/preferences/privacy and clicked on more details I could see what cookies had been installed onto my computer from other people. Some of these cookies are helpful for logging in to frequently used sites but some were from sites that I had only visited once or didn’t even know what they were. By holding down the command button and clicking on all the ones I wanted to remove I felt like I was pulling sucking leeches off my computer.

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 8.36.22 AM


Well that’s a good start! 

I am stumbling my way through all of this just the same as many, many people out there. It is long past time that we took control of our digital privacy and start to make these steps. I hope that governments can be convinced and empowered to also protect us but until then we do all need to take responsibility as well.

If you have any suggestions or tips or tricks for protecting your digital privacy please comment on this post!.



Terra-forming the digital landscape

Terra-forming the digital landscape: Can Apple and IBM teach you how your digital contrails shape the big dataset, thus leading to a societal shift in metacognition?

Bec Johnson – University of Calgary, 14th August, 2014

Copyright: Canadian Intellectual Property Office, No. 1115561


Table of contents

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Background
  • Historical
  • Apple
  • IBM
  • Apple and IBM a birth of fire.
  • Technical
  • Big data
  • Cloud computing
  • Social context and analysis
  • The feedback loop: interact, create, define.
  • Exhaust Data
  • Human volition terra-forms the digital landscape
  • How the Apple / IBM partnership could affect this.
  • Education
  • Bridging the gap using Small Business as the Catalyst
  • Broader implications for society
  • Barons, Architects and ethics.
  • The individual and the State
  • Cause and effect cognition Vs. Correlative inference mindset
  • Conclusions
  • The master canvas
  • Pitfalls
  • Futurist postulations
  • What should YOU do now?
  • Bibliography
  • Images


Executive Summary


Big data has been in existence for sometime, however, it is now being used on such a vast scale that it is changing the very fabric of society. The purpose of this article is not to explore all of the possible benefits and pitfalls of big data, there are many excellent treatments on that already, but to discuss how this may affect society on a broader and far reaching scale.

The 15th July 2014 announcement of the Apple and IBM partnership acted as a catalyst to these thoughts. If this highly dichotomous partnership is successful and is able to achieve its full potential, Apple and IBM may directly impact and affect the evolutionary path of the global society in respect to the technologies of big data and cloud computing.

I posit that should the Apple / IBM partnership (or some other, equally suitable, computer and technology company) act upon the current situation and seize the opportunity to be market leaders in educating the general populous on big data; then not only would they develop an unprecedented level of trust with the superstructure of the dataset (the mass public), but that they may be instrumental in helping society avoid a hegemonic society ruled by data barons and algorithmist architects.

Educating people on the power of their volition, their expression of consciousness, to terra-form the digital landscape would lead to the development of a big data mindset amongst the majority of the people. This mindset would lead to a greater understanding of the correlation and inference paradigm employed by big data analytics as opposed to relying on traditional cause and effect paradigms of cognition. Ultimately the metacognition of society itself may change when the populous begins to understand how the very thoughts of its members shape the datascape and thereby shape the global village we call home.


Only July 15th 2014, a business partnership was announced that astounded many veteran technology users, and conversely, made the barest blip on the radar of the “app” generation; indeed it is likely that the majority of the world’s population did not even noticed this news as they busily went about their day checking emails, sending texts and surfing the web. However, I give to you that this may have been a day that marks a significant path correction for the evolution of society as it becomes increasingly dependent upon, and intertwined with, the progeny of technology, the ‘Big Dataset’. The new partnership was that of Apple and IBM, long rivals with entirely different perspectives on how to promote and employ technology within society. What change this may herald is one of both complexity and simplicity as the technology stanchions of liberal individuality and corporate homogeneity stand at a crossroads of technological determinism and human volition.

Notwithstanding the apparent ‘routine-ness’ of this announcement, a partnership outlining the benefits it will bring the customers of both parties, the potential for a prodigious change for society should this partnership achieve its maximum potential, is one of sweeping global change. Much of what I will discuss centers around the technology of big data and how its two main potential futures could lead to either an increasingly hegemonic state or alternatively facilitate greater control from within the superstructure of society which would in turn lend further weight to the argument of collaborative consumption. The most likely way that an Apple/IBM initiative (or some other large technology company that has the foresight to seize this opportunity) could facilitate a more egalitarian society as it moves into this new digital age, is by delivering education about, and access to, a big data mindset. I posit that the most effective delivery channel would be small business. For this reason it is important to look at both the potential gains as well as identify hidden pitfalls that may lie along this path.

Concepts that will be touched in in this article include: the impact that a ‘data mindset’ small business culture can have on the superstructure of society; the potential for individualistic data terra-forming versus government and big corporate dominance of data landscaping; a shift from cause and effect cognition to one of correlative inference marks another milestone for human control of their environment; and lastly where the diametric tensions of diversity and homogeneity can lead society in the way it metacognates and evolves.

Essentially this article aims to zoom out to a high macroscopic level to find correlations, draw inferences and cast predictions on the interplay of some of the largest concepts humankind has ever had to deal with. A thought experiment modeled on the nature of big data itself. Using the insight and research of some very intelligent women and men we can create broad brush strokes and develop a canvas that may help us, just a little, in deciphering what the heck is happening to us in today’s world of dizzying technological advances and daily information overload.

As our map we will be using the writings of technology theorists such as Nye, Schonberger & Cuiker and Golbeck. As our compass we will be using the knowledge and wisdom of two of the most powerful companies in the world, Apple and IBM.





Countless books and articles have been written on Apple but perhaps the best summary of Apple’s philosophy, an approach that laid the foundation for its phenomenal success, was spoken by Steve Jobs himself at an internal meeting at Cupertino on September 3rd 1997. The meeting was held to mark the launch of the Think Different campaign. During this meeting he re-iterated the need for simplicity, for “doing the basics really well”. At this meeting Jobs said, “this is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world…we have to be clear” (Jobs, 1997). The success of this approach shows that Apple is uniquely adept at taking something highly complex and making it easily available to the general populous. Since its inception, Apple has aimed to make computers accessible to the common people. Examples include their 1981 advertisement with a “typical American housewife”, and their 1977 campaign headlining “ready to use” which was a novel concept at the time, (Pop History Dig, retrieved August 2014).

Apple has shown their propensity for creating partnerships since the 1980’s. Partners have included Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, Intel, Motorola, Hewlett Packard and many more, however, the business world had become skeptical of the long term viability of a partnership with Apple after many of the deals ended up with Apple cannibalising sales of their partnering company (Burrows, 2007). This is another factor that has economists and technologists eyeing this new partnership with reservation.

“The Simple Stick symbolizes a core value at Apple”, notes Ken Segall in Insanely Simple: The Obsession that Drives Apple’s Success, “it’s a reminder of what sets Apple apart from other technology companies and what makes Apple stand out in a complicated world.” (2012). Segall gives a great explanation of the success arising from the simplicity approach, wisdom gained during his time as a creative director working alongside Steve Jobs.

When we delve even deeper into the soul of Apple we see that it sits in something more fundamental than simplicity itself, it rests in the most prized of human possessions, individuality. Jobs eloquently summarises this in a 1995 interview with Robert Cringley (now a documentary called Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, Jobs philosophises), “What causes people to be poets instead of bankers? When you put that into products people can sense that. And they love it.” (1995). Jobs’ belief that the computer is a medium for human expression is what defines Apple and has developed a worldwide followship amongst the mass society that sometimes borders on the realms of religious zeal.


Where Apple may be seen as the quintessential user-friendly computer experience designed to enable you to express your individuality with hipster street cred, IBM could be placed as its antithesis. IBM’s history section of its website traces its origins back to 1888; of its guiding principals throughout its history it says, “Nearly all of the company’s products were designed and developed to record, process, communicate, store and retrieve information” (retrieved 5th August 2014). Theirs is the history of big data. The over 100 years story of one of the world’s most prestigious companies has had an incalculable influence on modern society. Often nicknamed “Big Blue”, the company’s archives show that five Nobel prizes have been awarded to their employees. IBM has been instrumental in developing major advances in main-frame hardware and high level programming languages, and in funding research laboratories at many of the world’s most respected universities. Their strength comes from their immense infra-structure, conversely they are the very definition of corporate path dependency. IBM is often cited as the current world leader in big data; Wikibon reported an annual income at IBM in big data processing in 2012 of $1.352 billion.

big data vendors 2012

Figure 3 includes the largest contributor, the ODM’s. These are companies that design and manufacture products specified by other organizations. All the major Internet companies use ODM’s, system integrators (SIs) and other integrators. The three-letter federal departments also utilize these organizations. “ Wikibon (2013)



Whilst IBM is an excellent player in this highly complex, big corporate field it struggles in simplifying its language to small business and the average “person on the street”. Their marketing and communications style is paradigmatic of a corporate vernacular bordering on Orwellian “Newspeak”, as demonstrated in an article by Paul Zikopoulos, Vice President of Information Management Technical Sales and Big Data at IBM, Big data for small and medium-sized business (2013). Whilst this article is very well written, it certainly misses the cachet of simplicity and opiate “must have” quality that are hallmarks of Apple advertising. By its very nature, big data is highly complex and difficult to communicate to the mass public, but then so were computers half a century ago, it is not to say that it cannot be done.

From 2012 to 2014, IBM slipped from 19th place to 23rd place on the Fortune 500 list, whilst Apple climbed from 17th place to 5th place. Ginni Rometty was installed as CEO at IBM in January 2012; a partnership with Apple is seen by many as a way to arrest IBM’s plummeting shares, (Fortune 500 ranking, retrieved August 2014).


Apple and IBM a birth of fire.

If the advertising and marketing of a company can give you insight into their beliefs and opinions, certainly it was clear for decades that Apple held IBM to represent all that it opposed. There have been numerous campaigns in which Apple has sought to mark their difference from IBM. Apple cast this difference as one of individuality and diversity as opposed to homogeneity and repression. The most famous example of this is the 1984 Apple campaign that aired for its second and final time during the Superbowl in January 1984. Whilst the ad does not mention IBM per se, Steve Jobs made it clear in his December 1983 keynote address that IBM was the subject of his upcoming campaign. “It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers…now fear an IBM controlled and dominated future” (Jobs, 1983).


Apple 1984 Superbowl Ad (image retrieved from Imperial Management Review 5th August 2014)


IBM was represented by George Orwell’s’ Big Brother, the bespectacled image intoning, “My friends, each of you is a single cell in the great body of the State” (Orwell, 1961). This advertisement clearly shows Apple positioning itself as the savior of individuality from a world of corporate drones, hegemonic control and homogeneity.

Despite this intense rivalry the companies did try to partner during Steve Job’s hiatus from Apple in the 1990’s, “The companies had three failed attempts at working together during the ’90s with various software projects; each attempt failing due to the inability of the companies to reconcile differing objectives” (Australian Financial Review 21 July 2014)

Thus the 15th July announcement this year came as something of a surprise and is even now being met with skepticism as we are yet to see any fruits of this partnership.


Apple and IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced an exclusive partnership that teams the market-leading strengths of each company to transform enterprise mobility through a new class of business apps—bringing IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities to iPhone and iPad. The landmark partnership aims to redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change—grounded in four core capabilities:

CUPERTINO, California and ARMONK, New York—July 15, 2014


The initial flurry of speculation from technologists and economists centered around whether the deal was better for Apple or for IBM, using examples and forecasts of sales of phones and tablets. Kosner, writing for Forbes magazine, succinctly sums up the partnership “the deal will offer Apple access to IBM’s customers and data analytics capabilities to power enterprise apps. IBM will have something sexy to sell.” (2014).

There was little written about farther reaching societal impacts and in subsequent weeks the news item lost fervor. That I can find little published speculation about the potential for long term implications may indicate that the partnership is struggling to find lift after years of rivalry; or perhaps there is more significant work going on behind the scenes and Apple is waiting to dazzle our socks off. Regardless, the following thought exploration could be useful should someone be successful in bringing big data to the fingertips of the people. The following observations and inferences could just as easily be picked up by another large technology company, which leads one to wonder what Bill Gates is thinking about all this right now.



The array of technologies that could be covered in this section is vast and it is well beyond the scope of this paper to even attempt to be exhaustive. Thus I have focused on the two aspects that I feel have the most import under this thesis.

Big data

Humans have been generating data since the dawn of civilization. From the Library of Alexandria, to the Doomsday book (1086 A.D.), the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and the New York Stock Exchange, humans have been constantly developing new and improved ways to store and process data, to extract deeper meaning of the world around them. Big data is an old concept, it’s just that now it is so enormously behemoth we can barely discern its shape anymore and instead most of us merely sense its presence by the shadows it casts. Today’s computing power has enabled us to move far beyond the two dimensions of rows and columns to analysing data in an infinitely more complex manner; this in turn creates more data by developing inferences and predictions by perpetuating a positive feedback loop.

Big data is used in a wide array of fields including: health science, meteorology, finance and security, to name just a few. The applications have had many positive and far-reaching impacts on society. Specific examples are numerous and not the subject of this paper. I have found the treatment of this by Mayer-Schonberger and Cuiker in their 2013 book Big data to be an excellent source of information on how big data works and how exactly it is being used today. Some examples they explore include: Google’s’ tracking of flu outbreaks; the ability of the chain store Target to not only assess which shoppers were pregnant but also predict their due date; the ability to predict premature infant births long before traditional symptoms present; and the ability to predict which residences in New York city were most at risk of fire hazard. This book clearly outlines the supervening social necessity that the technology of big data satiates; the ways in which big data can be employed to solve seemingly unsolvable human problems are endless.

To try to conceive of the computing power we now have, I have chosen this example: in the final decade of the 20th century it took thirteen years to unravel the entire human genome, in 2012 big data was capable of performing this task in two days.

An interesting using of big data to gain insight into the social landscape of the world was published in Nature by Preis et al on 5th April 2012. Using the Google Future Trends Index, they found a direct correlation between a country’s G.D.P. and its citizens’ predisposition to look forward. On the use of big data for social science research they state, “Analysis of such ‘big data’ opens up new opportunities for a more precise and extensive quantification of real world social phenomena that was difficult to attain using complicated and expensive surveys and laboratory experiments alone.” (Preis et.al., 2012)

The most ubiquitous use of big data is in targeted advertising guided by the actions of the ‘targets’ themselves on the Internet, most notably on social media platforms. By monitoring consumers’ browsing choices and other manifestations of their online presence, companies have been able to very precisely market their products to their desired audience. This aspect will be discussed in depth in the Social Context section of this paper when the concept of “exhaust data” is explored.

Doug Laney is VP Research, Business Analytics and Performance Management at Gartner Inc. and has been credited with developing the 3’vs of big data in February 2001; these are Volume, Velocity and Variety, referring to three aspects or dimensions of big data. Since then other V’s have been proposed such as Variability and Value (Wigmore, 2013). IBM specialist Zikopoulos, in the article previously discussed, proposed the 4th V to be Veracity (2013). This banter of terminology demonstrates the early stages we are at when discussing the big data phenomenon of today and hence the timely nature of this paper.

Technical jargon aside, a key point to note with big data is that its primary structure is one of correlations. When vast amounts of data (Volume) are fed into supercomputers, even in their raw and “messy” state (Variety), algorithms are applied to look for trends, propensities and relationships. When correlations are found, inferences are made which often lead to predictions. Thus we see a shift from a traditional cause-effect paradigm to one of correlation-inference-prediction. A caveat is placed on this by Schonberger & Cuiker when they state, “Correlation never actually proves causation. This is because it is always possible for the connection between the variables to be entirely coincidental” (2013).

The importance of the algorithm applied to the data cannot be understated. It is the algorithms that direct how and where correlations will be found. Algorithms are the tools of architecture of the dataset. So who then are the Architects? The short answer is either computers or people. Either answer has significant connotations for the future of our society as will be discussed in the Social Context section of this paper.

What is clear is that to grasp this level of complexity certain skills are required. One is best served by developing a “data mindset”, enhanced by a high analytics IQ. Naturally there is a bevy of articles and advice bouncing around the Internet right now on ‘what this is’ and ‘how to get it’. One oft cited article is that by Zettelmeyer of the Kellog School of management, in this he defines the big data mindset as “essentially, the pursuit of a deeper understanding of customer behavior through data analytics” (2013).


Zettlemeyers four elements of a Big data Mindset, Kellogg School Management (2013)

Whatever the exact parameters of a big data mindset are, there is no doubt that those who possess it, or can cultivate it, will be well placed to achieve financial success in the coming years.

Open source software such as Google’s 2004 Map Reduce, Apache Hadoop have facilitated many start ups in big data enabling easier access to the datascape to companies with a range of budgets.

Cloud computing

Another key technology to consider in the Apple, IBM partnership is Cloud computing, a vital component of mobile computing in this post PC era – essentially moving primary services from hardware and in-the-box to a broader infrastructure of shared services. These could include software-as-a-service (Saas), storage facilities, applications and other utilities. Computing in this way enables small companies to have access to larger computing power; “Building data center infrastructure is extremely expensive, to the point that it is cost prohibitive for smaller companies…large companies may not need all of that capacity and computing power at all times…as a result, they began to rent out this capacity to smaller companies”, (Phillips & Niu, 2014). The same article goes on to state, “the global cloud computing market is expected to grow to over US$120 billion by 2015”.

This represents another watershed moment in the way society develops along with its technology. That it comes at a time when we are launching into the big data digital landscape is serendipitous as it enables access to large computing power to a wide socio-economic sweep of society, thus giving the superstructure another weapon against a hegemonic state. Mobile computing also enables rapid adaptability and can help businesses divert from path dependency.

Understanding how these two metatrends are shaping society and how a partnership between IBM and Apple can impact this digital terra-forming is the primary basis for this paper. “Established firms are usually too committed to a particular conception of what their product is.” explains Nye (2007), who then continues to demonstrate this point by showcasing IBM’s slow move to the personal computer as an example of path dependency.


Both of these technologies are worthy of extensive discussion on their impacts on society, but it is the combination of the two that brings vast computing power, available to low budget startups and the prosumer of the collaborative consumption era that hold the greatest potential for large societal impacts. What is really lacking right now is a simple and effective delivery of (high quality) versions of these technologies to the general public along with simple design, easy to understand mechanics and…a sleek little package in a range of colour choices to reflect your individuality.

As previously stated, I believe that the current climate provides a prime opportunity for such a business model; it is really just a race now amongst computer hardware and service suppliers to see who will stake their claim first and draw in the early up-takers of the general populous.


Social context and analysis


The feedback loop: interact, create, define.

The feedback loop caused by our interactions with the digital landscape, the subsequent mapping of our volitions used to build structures in the virtual world, and from the effect on us by the new realities of our self created building blocks are fundamental to understanding the individual’s and society’s interplay with the Dataset. We leave cognitive artifacts in the Dataset every moment we interact; the echoes of our consciousness rippling into the datascape, creating repeating loops and blooming patterns like the arms of a Mandelbrot set. This idea is a macroscopic echo of morphisms and strange-loops as explored by Hofstadter in Godel, Escher and Bach back in 1979. Understanding the basic mechanics of the global dataset feedback loop is absolutely imperative if the superstructure of society is to maintain any semblance of control of where the future is heading.

Exhaust Data

Exhaust data is “the trail of digital information you are leaving behind every time you go online”, warns Deloitte principal Reagan (2012). Understanding this concept of exhaust data is paramount to understanding how each one of us shapes the big dataset. The real value to big data companies is not in our direct interaction with the digital world such as creating a website or crafting a Linkedin account, rather, it is the shadow impressions we leave behind every moment we are in contact with the digital world. Just a very few examples would be when you: “like” a cat video on Facebook, share a funny picture on Instagram, browse Amazon for a bicycle lock, Google search the Kardashians, check the weather, map a route, watch something on Netflix, use an ATM, use a credit card, make a call, send a text, pass a toll booth, when other people tag you on social media, and every single networked app you have ever used.

What is more unsettling to consider is that this digital exhaust is not created just when you are typing at a keyboard, it happens any time you have any electronic interaction. Every human with a smart phone is a node in this developing nexus. With many personal health apps you are even sharing how many times your heart beats every minute to the global dataset. Did that make your ticker take an extra beat?

Wired Magazine initiated a movement in 2007 called the “Quantified Self”. It is a way to embrace the collection of personal information and takes image crafting to a whole new level. Founders, Wolf and Kelly, advocate to “share an interest in self knowledge through tracking and recording every nuance of their lives, from the number of bites they take while eating to the type of brain wave patterns that occur while sleeping, and everything else in between.” (Annalect, 2014). Nomenclature associated with this movement is self-hacking, life-logging and auto-analytics; it demonstrates a unique digital narcissism.

The technology behind this is fairly complex but essentially it can be viewed as someone collecting all of your digital vapour trails, electronic footprints and cyber traces, then combining and collating all of this and selling it to advertisers. Standard laws are eons behind legislating against this, not only because the vast majority of people don’t really understand this, but because most of them are unaware that it even exists.

The value of exhaust data is enormous. The access to it via cloud based big data software is essentially fairly easy for a startup with a bit of brainpower behind them; and with few governing laws in place your digital exhaust is fair game. Questions to ask are: will it be traded on the stock exchange, how many people are making money off your digital exhaust right now and how is your personal information being used by strangers?

Just as an ancient hunter gave thought to how his scent might be left on the shrubs he passes and how his footprints may lead a predator to him; in this age of the Dataset Wild West, we need to become more cognisant of how our digital expression of our volition creates an ethereal substance that not only speaks volumes of who we are, but by its very essence shapes the cyber world around us.

Human volition terra-forms the digital landscape

Essentially if you live in society you are “on the grid”, thus you are part of the big dataset. If you don’t like it your only real option is to go and live in a cave, giving up everything that the modern world affords you. However, it is not all doom and gloom and I am in no way advocating a Luddite reaction; by embracing this change and really using cloud computing nodes, subgroups of society can gather into virtual groups and effect power in real time more effectively than via a political rally. Should everyone in your group simultaneously decide to exercise their expressions of volition in a particular way you would be creating a breeze in the system, a sea change, the flutter of a butterfly’s wings rippling through the chaos of the datascape.

Nye discusses this when he speaks of the early Internet, “through the Internet every citizen does have the potential to communicate with a large number of other voters at almost no cost” (2007). Taking this a step further consider an educated public understanding how they impact and interplay with the Dataset. The implication for the rise of digital “political groups” to affect the datascape by unification of numbers and harmonizing of intended exhaust data is significant.

As a user’s volition percusses the datascape, his or her digital exhaust is collected, collated, and then re-packaged into new advertising and marketing campaigns. In real world time this can affect the economic success or failure of companies, what products are being produced and, thus, manufacturing/production schedules and lines, employment numbers, and a whole outreach of cause and effects in the physical world. Human will, on a very grand scale, is what is terra-forming the digital landscape and in turn the digital landscape shapes and forms us. Technological determinism becomes an archaic term as you recognize the symbiosis of the situation.

Developing a self-awareness of how your digital interactions form your exhaust data may ultimately alter your volition patterns. It’s a bit like opening the box to see if the cat is alive or dead, once you develop a data mindset, your actions will be permanently altered as you become aware that your actions are the box and without the box the cat is just an idea, disconnected and without contextual correlation. It is by the metacognitive power of one’s self that true control can be wrested from the state.


How the Apple / IBM partnership could affect this.


Following logically from an understanding of big data and digital exhaust one can now see the crucial need for developing big data mindsets in the general public. Here is where I see the Apple / IBM partnership as holding the potential for being a key player in determining where this next stage of society will go should they seize upon this opportunity. IBM, one of the strongest forces in big data, has thus far been unsuccessful in communicating the importance of the dataset to the mass public; they are simply not renowned for their ability to speak clearly to the individual. Conversely, Apple is the master of delivering new technology into the hands of the people, the computer illiterate and children. If Apple can facilitate a true understanding of big data to the common people (the mode of production of big data) then a safer future would seem to ensue. Of every corporation on Earth right now, Apple has the best chance of getting this message across.

Simply posting articles, blogs and newsfeeds on what big data is, and how it impacts individuals and society has been met with limited success. To truly enable a big data mindset in the general public it needs to be brought right to them, in a hipster chic package with an easy to use and attractive application.

Dr. Jennifer Golbeck, from the University of Maryland, a specialist in human-computer interaction, explores other educational options in her illuminating TED talk The Curly Fry Conundrum (2013). In this talk she abandons the idea that we will be able to pass effective exhaust data laws in a timely manner and posits a solution that involves the education of the public on how to more responsibly interact with social media. As a scientist who works in the field of using exhaust data to make inferences and predictions of people, she proposes the solution is to “develop mechanisms that can say to a user, ‘Here’s the risk of that action you just took’.” (2013). Golbecks proposal places the control and responsibility in the hands of the educated user.

Bridging the gap using Small Business as the Catalyst

The uptake on this new paradigm by small business and the mobile workforce will be a decisive factor. Whilst it is important to give access to big data to individuals, on a large scale they have shown a propensity to trivial games about mal-content birds and crushing candy; they use the marvel of the Internet to post selfies on dating websites; and they share a seemingly infinite stream of pictures of cats (usually alive and sometimes in a box). If the superstructure of society is to have any real power in the big dataset landscape then they must also practice and exercise some formalized patterns. Small business is the most suited facet of society to bridge this gap as it is grass roots enough to access a wide cross section of the general populous and also relies on some formalized systems for fiscal success.

Current texts and marketing of big data to small business is like watching two people with no idea of each other’s language trying to build a rocket ship together. Here is an opportunity for Apple to bridge this gap and not just act as a translator but also a facilitator of a two-way flow of communication and intent.

There are numerous articles written about the phenomenon of business-driven social change. An excellent report recently released by the Canadian Network for Business Sustainability explores this topic in depth using hard statistical research. In this report the first key finding is listed as, “Business-driven change is an emerging and fragmented field” (2013). Whilst this report does not mention big data, it does list the three key components of social change to be: motivation, capability and opportunity. These exact same principles can be applied in bringing a big data mindset to society through the members of the small business community. If an Apple / IBM partnership were to harness these principles when developing a method of delivery of big data capabilities to the mass public the benefits would be symbiotic.

By educating small business on how to effectively use big data capabilities to enhance their opportunities you are developing amongst the members of that business a big data mindset. In this focused environment their new skills can develop quickly and be transferred to their personal lives, which are otherwise constantly bombarded by information (good, bad and useless). The opportunity for education of the public by an Apple/IBM partnership is enormous and cannot be understated. Assisting people into the dataset age will garner deep public support. By projecting an image of benevolent interpreter and facilitator and providing the means with which people can begin to understand the dataset, how they can data farm it, and most importantly how their actions are terra-forming it, will establish a strong level of trust from the consumer. Additionally this new way of thinking about the dataset could lead to a lasting cognitive shift.


Broader implications for society

Barons, Architects and ethics.

As mentioned under the technical description of big data, the algorithms that guide how correlations are made and thus what inferences will be drawn and which predictions will be cast, are the framework upon which dataset is built. The people who design these algorithms are experts in statistics, computers and mathematics with highly developed big data mindsets. Schonberger & Cuiker dubbed these people “algorithmists” (2013); they posit that this group of people will be under an obligation to act in an ethically professional manner. I am afraid I do not share their faith in humanity, just as in the same way I cannot express a high degree of trust for the owners of the datasets, the “Data Barons”. I do not feel that the rate of human ethical practice has evolved at the same pace as technology. This paradigm of Data Barons and Algorithmists can be seen as an interesting parallel to Ancient Egypt with the Pharaohs and the High Priests and their dominance over literacy; just another repeating pattern in human societal structure. Certainly it is easy to see the propensity toward a fascist state when knowledge is contained to an elite level.

Which leads us to another vitally important question; who owns the Dataset? Who are the Data Barons? There appears to be no clear answer on this. Social media platforms have intricate legal pages with multiple links that usually essentially say that the user retains ownership of their primary data, but one has to look deeper to find how your information may be used.

We may provide advertisers with information when we have removed your name and other personally identifying information from it, or combined it with other information so that it no longer personally identifies you


Data Use Policy – Advertising and Facebook Content

Updated Nov 15th 2013


There are few, if any, rules governing the use of exhaust data. Our ownership laws are inadequate and archaic when we start to view the world in this way. Those that place themselves at the cross currents of the movements of data, collecting the plumes and contrails left by users, will be the most well positioned to acquire real world wealth.

As Nye explores Marxist theory in Technology Matters (2007), we can see many parallels with the current structure of society and big data. The workers have become the nodes and contributors of the dataset and the machinery is big data itself. Marx predicted the fall of capitalism due to “mechanization producing greater surpluses [than demand]”. In part he may have been right. As more people understand the dataset, another level of equality could arise, potentially resulting in a new economic paradigm of collaborative consumerism. However, in this digital revolution we will have data barons and prosumers battling it out in cyberspace.

Returning to our problem of the creation of the algorithms by a subset of the population creating an elite class in this digital war, we see that the alternative would appear to be to let the machines create the algorithms themselves. However, not only would these algorithms be opaque to the majority of humans it does raise the question of artificial intelligence. The nature of artificial intelligence is beyond the scope of this paper and has received significant treatment since the inception of computers, however, key themes that arise when discussing A.I. are the ability to receive information from one’s environment, process and analyse it, draw inferences and posit conclusions and thereby come to understand the environment, and (most importantly) learn from these processes. Certainly leaving the creation of big data algorithms to immensely powerful supercomputers with access to the entire world’s data, would be a strong step in that direction!

The individual and the State

Since Sophocles crafted Antigone, expounding his thoughts on the importance of the individual to society in the face of the seemingly omnipotent power of the State, this theme has been played out in a myriad of permutations with a plethora of backdrops. It appears an essential theme to humankind to retain a degree of individualistic power as some type of assurance (whether this be real or imagined) against a dictatorship of power.

In the Apple / IBM partnership we see the dichotomy of cultural conformity and individual diversity. Big data or IBM, can be see as conformity and homogeneity resulting in a technology that is unrivalled in its power to help solve some of the world’s biggest problems; conjoined with the liberal expression of individuality, represented by Apple, which allows us tremendous outlets for diversity. If these two leading companies can construct a balance of diametric tensions they could become one of the most significantly powerful influences on society in history.

Consider the enormity of change coming for society in the form of big data and the two main paths this change may take a) it remains the domain of government, big corporation and thus perpetuates a hegemonic society or b) it is delivered into the hands of the public, educating them to develop big data mindsets, thereby ensuring a large measure of control remains across the Marxist superstructure. If Apple can sell big data and the power of IBM to small business and the individual, that will bring big data out of a hegemonic state and into people’s hands via their iPads, iPhones and other post pc devices.

Cause and effect cognition Vs. Correlative inference mindset

Assuming for now that the partnership will be successful, how may this impact our very thought processes? For millennia human thought has been based in a cause and effect paradigm, this permeates and underlies everything that we do. The big data mindset is a complete paradigm shift; it is based in correlations, inferences and predictions. What this new mindset could mean for humans could be a next seminal step in evolution.


Major human milestones (in the authors view)

  • 125,000 years ago fire, controlling the environment
  • 50,000 years ago mouth, tongue and larynx changed enough to enable speech
  • 12,000 years ago, changing the landscape with agriculture
  • 8,000 years ago use symbols to represent words and concepts, written comm.
  • 1760 birth of the industrial revolution, heralding changes in the way we communicate, control our landscape, and the way we think.
  • 1970’s Digital revolution and information age. The Internet.
  • 21st Century Information revolution Big data, Cloud computing
  • NEXT?? The nature of big data moves from a thinking process of cause and effect to one of correlation. This is a paradigm shift of thinking. The scope of this cognitive change depends on implementation of big data mindset to mass society. Collaborative consumption or invisible hegemony?


All of these milestones are about us controlling or changing our environment in some way. Each time we have enhanced our ability to change our environment our thought processes themselves have undergone a change. This is the result of feedback loops on a master scale. Before now, we have stumbled from one milestone to another, feeling our way in the dark as we try to understand the impact of the new self-imposed change to our environment. We are at such a stage right now, the Hillary step of our societal Mt Everest. With the help of the many people referenced in this paper and the many more who are cogitating this problem, perhaps we can be, just ever so slightly, more graceful as we move into this new age.




This has been an over-view of several large concepts and technologies with some rather sci-fi sounding postulations and conjectures. However, the science is real and the technology not only exists but is being interacted with every day by virtually all 7 billion of us. The implications are enormous both on an individual level and as we continue to grow as a global society. To draw together all of the threads I have explored in this paper I will attempt to paint a master canvas using the “Simplicity stick”.


The master canvas

  1. Each person is a node in the big dataset, forming part of the digital landscape.
  2. Their exhaust data is more valuable than their actual intended data. It is the by-product of their volition that creates the exhaust data.
  3. Rather than acting as just sensors at the peripheries of a nexus it is their very actions and expressions of their volition that power and shape the dataset. Beyond developing agricultural techniques for the physical landscape around us we are now data farming and terra-forming the digital landscape.
  4. The more that big data mindsets can be created in the mass populous the more self-aware each node becomes and therefore the expressions of their volitions changes at a core level as they better understand the consequences of their input into the system.
  5. Development of a big data mindset may lead to a change in metacognition from cause and effect to correlative inference.
  6. Education to aid in developing big data mindsets will be the most effective way to maintain some control of the dataset by the superstructure and avoid a hegemonic state of data barons and algorithmist architects.
  7. A partnership between Apple and IBM is potentially an excellent way to facilitate the required education to the general populous by combining their strengths of big data, cloud and large computing power with those of simplicity, marketing and the cachet of expression of individuality through diversity. Should Apple / IBM pass up this opportunity, it is likely another computer company may seize upon it.
  8. Due to the complex nature of the cognitive shift required, an initial development channel through small business would likely be the most successful approach.



The pitfalls are numerous as they always are with any large changes to society. The pitfalls themselves should be the topic of another paper(s). I have listed here the three primary pitfalls that arise from the above discussion. There are many more.


  • Perpetuating a hegemonic state by leaving power of the dataset with the elite classes of data barons and algorithmists (the architects of our own matrix) as currently people with big data skills and mindsets are not mainstream. Regulating these industries is ultimately futile as the legal system works at a snail’s pace compared to advances in big data. This can easily lead to market control by a select few resulting in a monopoly and reducing further innovation.
  • Moving to a correlative, inference cognitive state implies a risk of removing context. “Big Judgement” by humans should remain in place to protect ourselves from our own creation – although this is disputed by McAfee of the Harvard Business Review.
  • Correlation and inference is future based. There is a concern that too much focus on the future can lead us to forget to learn from the mistakes of the past.


Futurist postulations

Just as life was once single cells in a pond of sludge and the coalescence of these cells into organisms such as stromatolites enabled mats of connected data, which in turn eventually led to higher cognitive processing of data and eons later to humans, we may be witnessing the birth of a new shift. As nodes in a nexus of big data landscape are we poised to herald the emergence of a new type of consciousness? As Orwell foretold, “My friends, each of you is a single cell in the great body of the State” – does not the uniformity of huge datasets only re-iterate Newspeak into the new language of “Dataspeak”? Perhaps we have evolved to a level of metacognition where we can begin to recognize the complexity of a dichotomous state of homogeneity and individuality as being the next step toward us understanding large scale structures such as the cognitive artifacts we create as a society. Certainly the transparency afforded by a stripping of privacy would lead each individual to consider his or her actions more carefully and, ideally, act more truthfully and responsibly.

Predicting the future is a tricky business, our global societal system is immensely complex. What is important is to explore the ideas of where things can go so that when the future does unfold we can say “oh yes I saw something like this in one of my thought experiments, I think we should try reacting this way.” There will always be a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere, messing up our carefully blueprinted futures. It could be something Google throws at us, it could be a new social media from the next 25-year-old mega-billionaire, or it could be as simple as a sunquake EMP pulse reminding us that, ultimately, we are still at the mercy of our environment.

What I do see is that we are at a crossroads. Never before has it been so important to bring such big ideas to the common people. Placing the power of big data in the hands of the people and educating small business how to effectively use and understand this power will be crucial to avoiding a hegemonic regime of algorithmists and data barons.


What should YOU do now?

It is easy to dismiss all of this as something that is beyond your control. Or something that will never happen as it just sounds too far fetched and the product of a Timothy Leary vision quest. It is the most easy to believe in technological determinism, to blame the technology bogey man, to believe that this is happening to us not because of us. By now we should be more mature in our reasoning and take the responsibility of our actions and our lives within ourselves. This is not the time to wait for some benevolent super hero government to come in and save the day. It is time to take the initiative to educate ourselves, and those around us with what is happening. I am not talking about fear-mongering, crying doomsday or watching for a falling sky. I am advocating considered and thoughtful use of the amazing tool that you have called the Internet and the even more useful tool, your own brain, to monitor your own actions with the digital landscape.

Before you download the next app, share a link or ‘like’ curly fries, simply be aware that as you extend your musculature to press that button you are instigating an act of volition that will leave a digital contrail; and this vapour trail will become forever part of the BIG DATASET. The dataset that you interact with every single day, the dataset that shapes the world around you.


As the hunter is aware of his movements through a forest, be aware of your movements as you terra-form your way through the digital landscape.





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Electric Fairyland – July 2014

Electric Fairyland 

musings by Bec Johnson – July 2014

The close of the 19th century saw technological progress take leaps and bounds, dragging along the constituents of society giggling and shrieking with simultaneous delight and apprehension of what the future was to bring. The world was changing at an unprecedented pace and this graduation of human achievement over environment deserved celebration. The first such was the Crystal Palace exhibition in London of 1851 where the focus was on the scientific revolution. Never to be outdone on a party, the French exploded this celebration to a gaudy and glamorous “Electrical Fairyland” extravaganza at the 1900, Parisian World Fair.

The 1900 exhibition was far more than a showcasing of scientific achievement, “[it] provide[d] a scale model of the consumer revolution” (Williams, 1986). At this fair the focus was shifted to the art of selling the dream, and capturing the imagination (and purse strings) of a new class of society, the consumer. Under the glow of electric light, exhibitors at the 1900 fair took merchandising to new heights accomplished by “appealing to the fantasies of the consumer. The conjunction of banking and dreaming”, (Williams, 1986). Ong’s premise that “sight isolates” (1982) is never so emphatically disproved as it is in this example of society uniting as a collective consumer consciousness under the lighting spectacles of 1900 Paris.

Consumerism among the masses had been primarily a result of necessity since the dawn of time; based on the trading of food and other commodities required for sustaining life. The physical needs of people almost always coming before the “needs of imagination”. With the technological revolution the general populous had more dispensable income, products could be more cheaply made and it was only a tick of the electric clock before the astute business people of society sought to profit from this new world order. “The lesson of things…was that a dream world of the consumer was emerging”, (Williams, 1986).

This paradigm shift in the nature of consumerism also lead to department stores and fixed pricing, ironically divorcing the buyer from taking an active part in the creation of the sale, at a time when the buyer was also experiencing an expansion of consciousness through this new technology. “[A] simple touch of the finger on a lever, and a wire as thick as a pencil throws upon the Monumental Gateway” (Corday, 1900, as cited by Williams, 1986). This sentiment can be compared to that of Carey’s on another technological revolution, “The telegraph permitted…a thoroughly encephalated social nervous system in which signaling was divorced from musculature.” (1989). McLuhan takes this train of thought one step further, positing that “With the arrival of electric technology, man has extended, or set outside himself, a live model of the central nervous system itself.”

In this new “Electrical fairyland”, a world in which the imagination within is lighted by the glow of electric light from without, the inner desires of the buyer are tempted with the promise of manifestation of their fantasies. Williams says of 1900 Paris, “Glowing pleasure domes…a collective sense of life in a dream world”, words reminiscent of Coleridge’s “sunny pleasure domes with caves of ice” (1786). Villiers dry remark “Heaven will finally make something of itself” (cited by Williams 1986) demonstrates his “forebodings of the moral consequences when commerce seizes all visions” (Williams, 1986).

And here we stand, a century later, to view the resultant leviathan of consumerism. An age in which, material gain has become a religion. An age in which people buy imaginary objects in the imaginary electrical fairyland of online gaming; long since abandoning any pretense at necessity other than the promise to fill the existential void of self with something external, sparkling, new and….electrifying!

The First Age of Consumerism


These Neolithic clay tokens found at Susa currently reside at the Louvre. It is believed these tokens were used for trade and commerce, likely for things such as sheep and wheat. (Schmandt-Besserat, 1992). This is the age of consumerism as necessity.

The Second Age of Consumerism


The Trocadero Palace at the 1900 Paris world fair ushered in a new age of consumerism selling dreams as merchandise under the glow of the electric light. People are convinced of necessity of manifestation of their desires where before they had been complacent with these inner thoughts as purely fantasy not reality.

The Third Age of Consumerism

second life

These virtual boots (that only exist in an online gaming world) can be purchased on Second Life marketplace for L$24,000. That is roughly $113 real US dollars according to the Virtual World Bank. They were sold out on the day of viewing, 12th June 2014.

#TheSelfie, Gone_Viral @Performativity – june 2014

#TheSelfie,  Gone_Viral  @Performativity

musings by: Bec Johnson, June 2014

The “Selfie” is not new. Since Robert Cornelius created a daguerreotype self portrait in 1839[1] humans have enjoyed this extension of self through the indifferent gaze of technology. The burgeoning of new media in the early 21st century with social platforms such as My Space and Facebook, as well as the continuing popularity of chat rooms, saw a new form of online personal portraiture. Often, the primary purpose of this new agency of performance was to make oneself look desirable and attractive to friends and potential sexual partners. These images were generally of poor quality, often taken in a bathroom mirror, sometimes in sexually suggestive poses and commonly reflecting the male gaze of society.

Proponents of feminist theory were quick to condemn these images as “a cry for help” (Andreasson, 2014) by young women lost in a ubiquitous sea of online identity crafting. Other feminists countered that it was empowering women with “tiny bursts of pride” (Simmons, 2013) and facilitating them with a new tool of expression. In fact much debate has raged over the internet and in above-the-line media in the last twelve months about whether such images are narcissistic or empowering, reinforcements of the male gaze or liberating for women, good or bad. Ultimately, both sides of this debate have much to commend them. On Facebook, the Selfies Research Network group, founded by Theresa Sneft, a teacher at NYU, has 1,162 members as at 29th June 2014, and is aimed at academics looking for a forum to discuss the Selfie phenomenon; it has strong feminist perspective. Performativity of gender has dominated discussion of the Selfie to date.

However, something bigger is happening and it is happening organically, virally and in the global subconsciousness of the 3 billion people (Internet Live Stats, 2014) connected to the worldwide web, and it is happening right now. When Apple released the iPhone 4 in June 2010 with a front facing camera, did this represent technology bending to global pressure? Or, was this technological determinism at play, directing our performativity like a master puppeteer?

A movement gains strength and momentum when it has a label or a name to rally around; that was given to us by a drunken university student in Australia on 13th September 2002. The Oxford Dictionary cites the earliest known use of the word in this text message, “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a Selfie.” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2013). The accompanying image was a far cry from the hotly debated and stereotypical images of torsos, cleavage and seductive expressions. Perhaps this is why the word has stood the test of time (a veritable eon in the online world) and been taken up by a wider demographic as it carries broader implications than a simplistic myopia of physicality.

The article from Oxford Dictionaries on 19th November 2013, also proclaimed a 17,000% increase in use of the word over the previous twelve months, thus making it a clear winner for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year. The colloquial label for this visual self-narrative was made official and, through the power of symbol sometimes attributed to the most powerful words of rhetoric, we have tabled a new topic for discourse.

We have moved far beyond the narrow scope of performativity originally ascribed to what we, now term, the Selfie. The original exploration of performativity of this social trend was primarily in gender studies; as well as analysis of narcissism with implications of self worth; thus we must establish our nomenclature of performativity. Judith Butler has produced the bulk of seminal work on the subject.

“…[this] concept emphasizes the extent to which performance realizes, or makes real, identities and experiences. […]actions and identities are real only to the extent that they are performed…[…] This implies that performativity is not the mere representation of preexisting identity (or other reality); performativity means that it is in performance that we enact, or generate, the very phenomenon to which performativity refers.” (Butler, 1990; Diamond, 1996: cited in Wood 2004)

To understand the broader implications of performativity in the context of the Selfie we must look at the expanded parameters and elements of this unique visual narrative in play today. Selfies consist of layers of signs and signifiers that communicate in a moment what may take many, many pages of text. The levels of meaning that comprise a Selfie can be categorized as:

  • Facial expression: This aspect alone communicates volumes of information about you and how you are feeling at that moment.
  • Basic physical characteristics: Apparent age, male or female, with a physical disability, what race or colour.
  • Body language: Head tilt, hand gestures, photo bombing, striking a sexually seductive pose, mouth open or closed?
  • Presentation: clothes and hairstyle; wounds, physical disability, spectacles, type of spectacles, habit – a turban, a burkah, ski wear, a military uniform.
  • Accompaniment: Who with? Substances carried. Setting, i.e. alone, in a crowd, an intimate situation, a loved one, a famous person. Relationship with the person, turning towards or away or indifferent.
  • Surrounds: A personal space, bedroom, scene of an event, famous landmark. Buildings or objects, Starbucks, Samsung phone, a weapon.
  • Angle: Angle used, focus to chest or torso, above or below, just feet proving that you indeed “stood here”.
  • Filter: Use of filters, soft and vintage, sharp and monochrome; with or without a border.
  • Medium used: FB, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat.
  • Frequency of releasing Selfies.
  • Viewer’s context: Substance and cultural context. Call to action?


Who, then, is performing right now? Obviously the Kardashians and Beyoncé’s of the world took to the art of the Selfie as if it were their new religion; but, what is infinitely more interesting is the many other people on the world stage who have indulged in this performance agency of self in the last twelve months.

The first ever Papal Selfie was sent live in August 2013 and since then this new, more accessible Pope has appeared in a number of Selfies on his Instagram account. “Since the Pope was selected in March, he has made clear his intention to connect with young people, and to move the Papacy into a more modern, informal age,” observed the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph (Alexander, 2013) It would seem clear that the Pope is not seeking to make any statement about his gender or sexual preferences, he is trying to attract more ‘followers’ to his Instagram account …or church. He is image crafting via the most current and accessible magic bullet to bring youth into his flock

papal selfie Papal selfie

World political leaders were quick to grasp on this new, liberating Selfie, freed from the sordid connotations of an online dating profile picture. We have seen Selfies from the heads of state of: France, Singapore, Belgium, Israel, Russia and many other countries. The one that topped the charts in this category was that of Obama and the Prime Ministers of the U.K. and Denmark, a little trinity of power sharing a Selfie moment of merriment…at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Michelle Obama was just the first to express her displeasure at such childish joviality at the memorial service of one of the world’s greatest leaders for human rights.


So what was their intent of performativity? It would appear they didn’t pause to consider, being swept away in the Selfie moment. Evidence that discourse on the communicated intention of the Selfie is a vitally needed lesson for even the most powerful world leaders. A Tumblr page produced by Jason Feifer to explore the phenomenon of Selfies at funerals was closed when Feifer announced victory in the Guardian, “Obama has taken a selfie at a funeral. Our work here is done” (Feifer, 2013). This is a firm example of the performativity gaining more palpability than the reality of the subject. The subjects making themselves into the object of the performance.

In the last few months we have seen Selfies of tragedy and disaster. In January 2013, Ferdinand Puente’s crashed his plane into the ocean and took a Selfie whilst waiting for rescue. Note in the image the plane in the top right sinking into the ocean. Also note Puentes’ expression.

disaster selfieDisaster selfie

A journalist for Jezebel ponders, “One the one hand, one could argue that in the midst of a tragedy (or potential tragedy), turning the camera on oneself is blithely narcissistic and inherently myopic; instead of documenting the actual situation, it documents one’s face in front of the actual situation (or the aftermath)” (Stewart, 2014). Can we escape the hurricane-generated whirlpool of technology as McLuhan suggests in Understanding Media, or are we doomed to stay trapped in our self-created extensions of man? At this dark base of the Selfie we find individual narratives of lost souls such as Danny Bowman, a young man suffering body dysmorphic disorder who became suicidal after being unable to perform the ‘perfect selfie’ (Robinson, 2014).

Another interesting project is Selfiecity, a project created by academics and social theorists to provide raw data to the community for discussion. They have compared 3,200 Selfies (selected from 656,000 Instagram images) from five cities and contrast such things as smiling, head tilt, age, gender and mood (DigitalThoughtFacility, 2014). This is an excellent resource for academics to draw data from, remembering that the data is somewhat self-selective. The fact that Selfie platform Snapchat turned down a FaceBook buy out of $3 billion in November 2013, with Facebook then spending $16 billion on a competitor platform WhatsApp (Durden, 2014) verifies the economic reality of this addiction of performativity by Selfie.

Clearly the Selfie is now a far more complex method of communication with performativity implications beyond the blurry, bathroom ‘self-portraits’ of yesteryear. It has out grown the bounds of gender performativity (although this remains an important subset of study) and has become a lens into the performativity of the human race. In 2014 the very act of creating and performing a “Selfie” carries with it an agency greater than the constituent elements. It is an attempt to join in on the global game of Selfie, to lift one’s voice above the ubiquitous roar of humanity’s substance, transubstantiated into pixels of light. In a world of information overload when even 144 Twitter characters has become too onerous to digest, the Selfie is capable of screaming a trove of information almost instantaneously.

nasa selfieNasa selfie

On the Christmas Eve of 2013 Mike Hopkins brought us a truly unique visual self-narrative attempting to include all of us in it. His Selfie,[1] taken outside the international space station and uploaded to twitter from far above the Earth gives us fodder for a completely new dialogue on the global Selfie

no makeup selfieNo make-up selfie

The Selfie proved that it could go far beyond the narrow confines of individual and narcissistic parameters when the #NoMakeupSelfie Campaign was launched to raise money for breast cancer research. Prince Harry’s girlfriend, Cressida Bonas, jumped onto this cause which raised $3 million in two days. A powerful performance from women around the globe.

ellen selfieEllen selfie

The famous Ellen DeGeneres #BestSelfieEver, made at the Oscars, was re-tweeted two million times in one hour, crashing Twitter in the process. Was the impetus simply to outstrip Meryl Streep or was it a plug for Samsung (note the Samsung device in the center of the image)? Samsung denies it was behind this stunt… but it does show an immensely powerful new marketing platform

dalai lama selfieDalai Lama selfie

The Dalai Lama visually iterates the need for compassion in this Selfie with polio survivor, Ramesh Ferris. Ramesh has been hand cycling across Canada to raise awareness. In this image note the relationship between subjects.

kate selfieKate Middleton selfie

Kate Middleton photo bombs in New Zealand. Photo bombing carries its own agency of performativity.

global village selfieGlobal selfie

NASA brought us the uplifting #GlobalSelfie Campaign for Earth Day, 22nd April 2014; a 3.2 gigapixel compilation of 36,422 Selfies of people from over 100 countries, making a Selfie Global Village.



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Image 1

Harriet Alexander, The Telegraph, 31st August 2013


Image 2

Andy Soltis, the New York Post, 10th December 2013


Image 3

Dodai Stewart, Jezebel, 11th April 2014


Image 4

NASA 24th December 2013


Image 5

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Image 6

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Image 7

Nisha Kotecha, The Good News, retrieved 29th June 2014


Image 8

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Image 9

NASA, 22nd May 2014