Power & Surveillance

Photo: Alexander Hayes

Photo: Alexander Hayes

On the 5th July 2019 I presented at SAE Institute in Perth, Western Australia. The topic was power and surveillance and as a visiting researcher I was invited to speak of the findings of my PhD research investigation.

Filmtaking

In discussions with the Chief Investigator and Supervisor, Professor Katina Michael and listening in conversation with researcher and Filmmaker Dr. Magali McDuffie, the researcher struck upon where distinctions can be made between those engaged in the trust based relationship of filmmaking where the subject is aware of (and interacts with) the filmmaker in the role as an actor, versus that of the distrustful relationship with those who have ‘become-the-camera’ and are ‘film taking’.

Photo: Alexander Hayes

Photo: Alexander Hayes


Filmtaking, (opposite to filmmaking) that is ‘film’ or digital video that is ‘taking’ in a distrustful manner (not a trust based relationship) is taking away information purporting to be for the subjects best interests and even claiming that it protects the citizen rights, personal security and well being of the camera bearer, lifelogger, officer. The human (for the subject) is no longer visible and all that others then question (user known as bearer) in its absence is where then is the camera? In many cases, where it the camera oscillates from overt to covert in effect it then disappears into the human…and those around them dismiss that bearer (human wearer become camera) as simply another node in a surveillance society. The same claims that surveillance positions itself in society, a presence that engenders trust is in fact an orchestration that perpetuates distrust, with many accounts through my PhD research providing evidence of this phenomena. Likewise sousveillance which is nothing more than the inverse (yet not opposite) and despite all the claims of its power differential contribution is just another camera in the grid, a half-cocked blunderbuss staring down the barrel of a failed recalcitrance…wearing it essentially means you become it in a Heideggerian enframement.


The researcher in an effort to describe the transition as a researcher to that of the ‘filmtaker’ in the following three key positions; (1) that of the OBSERVER; (2) transitioning to that of PARTICIPANT OBSERVER; (3) and finally that of the PARTICIPANT ACTUATOR.


'“… As an OBSERVER from afar, I sat and looked in wonderment at humans who seemed to be doing something rather interesting with cameras and to achieve their goals they were strapping them onto themselves. I was looking at them from a distance and not understanding what they were doing I took a step closer. In some instances I kept my distance and whilst I attended forums and workshops or conferences or events I did not participate in the observable use of nor active engagement with the technology. Geoff Lubich was the first in 2004 and then I followed many others.”


“…As a PARTICIPANT OBSERVER I went about engaging with people who were experimenting with these body worn camera devices and secretly (privately and unknown to the others) I began testing the concept of wearing the camera to understand it in entirety. With some degree of creativity upon using it to create learning resources I was then considered to be an informant of the phenomena, an expert in knowledge of the field, a BWC contemporary across my own cohort. I was observed actively engaging with others during events and interacting directly with the technology, creating digital resources with the technology in a detached but tool oriented manner where the camera and its computations remained separate to my identity. I was disconnected with those who had already become the camera and lived their life by it, such as Cathal Gurrin, Steve Mann, Gordon Bell and countless others. I hadn’t yet become the camera although I had been avidly using handheld smartphones like a weapon for long enough, yet still able to put it down and retreat if I wished.”


 “…Then one day I received a camera that I could wear. In fact not just wear but attach to my body and forget about and it automagically transformed me into one more of itself, the framework on which it could be carried and operated no longer of any importance to its own mission. In effect the camera transformed me into a PARTICIPANT ACTUATOR, chilling my personal relationships considerably and cannibalised my thinking around data, value and community. The camera and its computations had become a large facet of my identity, now a total photoborg (as my daughter called me) and as others were referring to me as a cyborg. I had ceased to inform others of its workings and as I have described in many differing journal entries I noted a substantial shift in the way others related to me, engaged with me or 'acted' around me. I even refused to take it off and wilfully disregarded the objections by those who indicated they did not wish to be in my relational and objective field of view, not even subjects any more…just a sea of faces to feed the national security and corporation whereabouts machine with.”


So, as a participant actuator in a self confessed failed experiment from which I decided to retract (I have enough references there to defend it as a 'new' conceptual and perceptual finding) I’m considering breaking down the background chapter and renaming it OBSERVATIONS split down into two phases; (1) immersion in which I describe all the roles and events and then; (2) reflection through the 'eyes' of the journal and through the multitudes of eyes of the borg camera which is secondary evidence… hundreds of hours of film and hundreds of thousands of photos I took throughout that period.

Then, to finish the chapter up as Professor Teemu Leinonen and Leigh Blackall have likened it to an ‘expose of the disingenuity of an interview society’ I can examine all the differing points of reflection I now have to inform what I discovered in digital land versus my naive and often recalcitrant REFUSAL to conform to the cameras wishes...the many times I BROKE as a result of becoming that photoborg….actually being vulnerable about what failed heaven (for all of you who believe in one) forbid!!!

The authentic....and juxtapose the lot with Jean Rouch perhaps even signaling that surveillance and BWC is the death of filmmaking, positioning it rather as becoming FILM-TAKING.


(Excerpt from Magali McDuffie’s PhD thesis) - Rouch viewed film as a therapeutic device, in which people would become aware of, and then “accommodate, the psychological disjunctions caused by colonialism” (Eaton,1979, p. 6). In this sense the camera takes on a performative role, and becomes active rather than passive, an indispensable witness to lived experiences, and a catalyst for taking action – enabling people to give their own evidence of history (Hearne, 2006), and to create their own archive (Bonitzer & Toubiana, 2000).

Rouch conceived of the camera as an “accelerator”, allowing people to reveal themselves more rapidly than they would have otherwise, provided that trust be the essential founding elements of their relationship with the filmmaker. In this process the filmmaker was not only accepted by the participants, but also integrated in the action (Eaton, 1979). - Eaton, M. (Ed.). (1979). Anthropology-cinema-reality: The films of Jean Rouch. London: British Film Institute


In Place Of God

In a series of emails which relate to the completion of the PhD thesis I picked out this particular moment as for me it defines the bigger picture or the ‘leap off point’ from where the PhD finishes and where the next part of the learning journey begins.


Email correspondence to Katina Michael, cc. xxxxx, xxxxx - 28th May, 2019

“... I hope the packing goes well. So much to remember and the superhuman you are becomes the human in such tiredness. What I was pointing out is that even at this late stage we have much to discuss. Place could be God. What I was pointing out is that what we put at the centre to a diagram must represented the core to the inquiry. The external variables will always alter in context the poster I created in 2015 with xxxxx emphasised that what is missing in western society is the capacity to grasp that ethically the way we consider life is based on blind faith. Moral mass. Consumer creation in the likeness of greed, wealth and more of it. You will recall the framework figure I put together with xxxxxx which put ‘country’ as central to what guides and runs this place, world. As an engineer, without any idea of what country means the xxxxx of this world see nothing other than what they can get. They contribute nothing more than how to make lifes conveniences which are tapping us to consume more. As I’m learning, in reflection I know what I don't know and in that space I’m learning more about what I consider to be of value or not. We are nearing the end now and the framework figure may never emerge anymore than what I know at the point of departure from it all. I just hope in some way to ‘nail it’ and this historical snapshot will be worth it all.

Reply from Katina Michael, 28th May, 2019.

“...Perfect. You have nailed it. Not because you mention God who I believe is at the centre of everything, but because the camera hungry body worn instrumentation attempts to sit in place of God...in place of ‘place’.”

Reply to Katina Michael from Alexander Hayes 29th May, 2019.

“... the camera by design colonises the human form and by wearing it, we become it, then in turn we lose our human sense of place. ”








Google Plus Communities

In all their wisdom, Google shut down its own history as is common in the tech world.

Google decided to close its G+ communities in 2019 which to the researchers disappointment also kills off those communities and the content which historically I had used extensively to engage with the Google Glass community as well as to host events through Google Hangouts and so on.

Here are some of the communities which I was the owner, co-administrator or participant.



Axon Discussion

In a discussion with a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous I asked a question regarding that persons recent communications with Axon, a law enforcement focussed body worn camera developer and supplier.

The response was;

“…Quite interesting. The person I spoke to explained how the data is actually ingested into the storage and how it is categorised and filed, so that was very useful to get my head around that. 

Asides from that, the responses were what I expected in relation to data security, saying that they have staff dedicated to monitor security breaches, they use Microsoft Azure cloud that has government security standards, and haven't had any breaches to date. 

And the guy was adamant that Axon doesn't have any access whatsoever to the data, and that it is controlled completely by the customer/agency who records the data. He said that Axon is simply the facilitator of the storage. So overall it was interesting.”

Thoughts On Place

Email to Professor Katina Michael

23rd September, 2018 - 5:27 PM

Place being that 'sense of place' - belonging to and grounded in and on Country. The disambiguation and separation between the human and place occurs first in language when ‘Country’ is referred to as ‘THE country’.

Location is a simple term, inanimate and only effective but not affective. The term is derivative of and informed by GPS and GIS in a digital context, as it relates to networks, connections and 'things' yet I would argue humans are not 'things'. The concept of 'things' as artefacts connected to a grid 'reveal' but largely, I would argue, misinform humanity.

It is like the friend of ours who still drives around Canberra using her TomTom GPS that barks orders at her. She says she is too frightened to turn it off as she would not know where to go, would not understand where she was. I argued with her that she never did and hadn't yet arrived in Australia :)

The whole 'method of loci' and the concepts of 'memory palace' bring humans to eternalising these concepts as memory. I think that's what the 'virtual' is...a means to escape the physical reality, the dirty and ethics devoid ways in which we have let placeless corporations take over our terra firma.

Corporations as placeless, largely ethics averse entities that exist in 'placelessness'. 

Minecraft

I have been invited to connect with participants in the 'Electronic Village Online' (EVO) upcoming events sometime in February 2018 [ change the date here and link to the online event ]

As a presenter I am going to explore the notion of how Minecraft is affecting our method of loci, reshaping (eroding?) our memory palace skills and with the onset and convergence of mixed reality wearable technology in this space how it may be contributing to the shift in humanity as we know it, especially in younger children who are heavily involved in that space (not place).

The following is how I plan to deliver my presentation and connect with that community of adults online as far afield as Dubai and Canada with me located in Australia.

  • Introduction - formal titles, past experience, current projects, links

  • Caveat - technological skeptic / techno-optimist statement

  • Concepts - realities - augmented / virtual / augmendiated / mixed

  • Technologies - MagicLeap, Hololens, Occulus Rift et al.

  • Notions - Place, country, memory, time (relative)

  • Frameworks - method of loci, memory palace, Kalara, dadirri, socio-ethical

  • Hypothesis - Factions (Minecraft) as neural brain wash, placeless corporations

  • Discussion - power, control, privacy, politics, policing and perception

  • Context - based on links provided

  • Questions - open discussion


Presentation Title

Minecraft: My Experience and Your Dilemma

Abstract

As active agents of sociological change children now challenge the researcher stereotype amidst a battleground of virtual, augmented and mixed reality wearable computing. Fractals once closer to philosophical ramblings of the mathematical in the field of chaos theory are now an educative and neurological rearrangement as STEAM gets creative in Minecraft. A dilemma has emerged as participatory netnography reveals the longer term socio-ethical effects of corporations punching through our privacy firewalls, programming our minds and harvesting our creativity. 

Presentation

Recommended Reading / Viewing

Memory

Memory it seems is and has always been the greatest of power differentials for humanity. 

“For as long as I can remember” becomes a judicial call in judging others, in differentiating and socially sorting those who lack either the cognition for recall or who lack the capability for foresight. 

Cultural memory, personal memory and then a burgeoning digital memory comprised of a myriad of providers that in a conglomerate know more about you, than you of them. That digital memory, that retention of computational power of a changed state, those binary loops of change recorded, retained and replicable is a powerful means with which to challenge the memory of humans.

In recent times combined computational power and retention of the changed state is what is threatening this very fragile era of the anthropocene in what people claim is collapse of an analogue reality into that of a replicable, automated and inhumane Singularity. 

The core question then is what will if mean for humanity if technologies take away our capacity to remember place?  Will our human Memory Palace become a fearful void filled with dystopian nightmares, of science fictions and virtual realities reinforcing capitalist agendas as social factions?

The very same anti-ethical factions underpin plugins for the online game Minecraft which claims an ethos of community, a mirror for society made up of ‘blocks and adventures’ whilst others claim it is a ‘minefield’ for children who are being programmed and brainwashed.

“... With this plugin players group up in Factions. You claim land as your own and build your base. Factions is a self serve anti griefing system. Leaders control who can can edit their faction land. Factions is also about diplomacy and war. You declare wars and forge alliances. You fight over land and manage your monetary expenses.” - https://dev.bukkit.org/projects/factions

When we enmesh ourselves in a virtual reality we are eroding our capacity to connect with place and if we do that, we erode our capacity to retain our culture. Country is our location map for memory and culture is that memory being based on place, not just an inanimate location. Ostensibly, memory constructed as a connection with Country is at the core to culture, to who we are as individuals, of our collectives, tribes and families. 

So the story that is being told here is that it is likely the human computer experience will meld as a cyborg in networked virtual reality yet remains part of the natural environment, exploitative digitally enhanced regimes not separate to nature, rather as part of nature. A failure to recognise the inherent dangers of destroying natural environments is as much about power of those who don't care and those who care enough to stop them.

Trust Based

As we descend into an era of technology mediated insecurity, our blockchain constantly handshaking with provider, service and national security identity check point there is one thing apparent.


Engineers and information system developers have ensured our fundamental connection with each other as now compulsorily mediated, dependent on digital profiles we once dismissed playfully as inconvenient at worst. After all, who needs a password when we use the same one for all service providers except the bank. For those who seek ultimate expediency even trust has become a commodity, an embodied implant perhaps closer to an Uberveillance we once dismissed as science fiction.


We are led to believe as citizens that we have a right to question why each and every of our transactions are being monitored, retained, compared. If nothing more our right to know about ourself and the power for deletion must be maintained at all cost we claim yet where and when do we exercise such a right?

Nothing is more apparent, more important now in this Information Age than trust itself and so trust must be firmly foremost in any technological creation.

From an observation point of those less enamoured, we are lurching around now as Foucault posits, subject to a disciplinary surveillance exercised by the very institutions, corporations and services we once considered trustworthy, of moral accord or even remotely ethical by design.


If society by virtue of cultural association is largely disciplinary then what became of trust? In that regard, has digital, replicable technology eroded that trust by cannibalising control and become the very tool of oppression we sought to avoid?


My PhD at one time teetered dangerously to the hard right as I sought and fought to validate claims that head worn surveillance, human as network node, camera carrier would be of benefit to humanity. My attestations brought forward a null hypothesis that pitched technological determinism as default, a good.

If technology has been good for humanity such as life expectancy for those needing a heart pacemaker, then isn't a body worn camera simply an extension of that human convenience?

However, like a drug mule substantiating a gut full of powder filled condoms, a cognitive dissonance seems to be at play here, a trust mechanism that I once believed was "user" led and bred.

It became evident to me as the Internet crept steadily towards a 4G omniscience that creatives are at great risk of contributing to an Orwellian surveillant state. Likewise educational technologists drunk on their own outcomes efficiency stupor run the same risk by virtue of their own egoic need to share such data.

The Internet is after all a United States of America based innovation according to a technology skeptic. For others a more pragmatic claim that if we have nothing to hide then we have nothing to worry about yet as we well know, through history such claims have proven that governments only serve themselves and those elite minorities that prey on the demise of others.

For all their claims of counter-cultures, decommissioning and de-schooling under an Illich [ref]  inspired utopia educational technologists and their kin fall mute in the face of their actions and inaction. Of course, despite all assertions to the contrary, these head worn camera data end up disaggregated at the very least automatically rendered visible to the very corporations seeking an insight into their 100 million or so minute by minute user base.


If humans "become" a camera have we then simply lost our ability to see? Or, as some would have is believe, has humanity evolved into an übermensch, a super human made up of nodes in an electrophorus where trust is merely one number joined to the next?


It is apparent to me that a trajectory be articulated that seeks a way forward for humanity not simply a predictive analysis touting papal control, a singular dystopia and environmental degradation unchecked. Nor are claims that trust is a blockchain, artificial intelligence an inevitable, automated food farms an answer for a flailing anthropocene.

Trust is a handshake, an eye to eye human connection that brings all senses to bear. Without trust in a state led technologically mediated hope all we do is thrash around in a virtual reality unaware we have pissed in our own pants and wiped out a community in a single keystroke.

Significance Of Instinct

Here I am sitting  bare chested in the warm glow, faint light at night in a cabin I’ve hand built from mud pile to shiny tin roof.

The night air blows in on me cooling from a thirty nine degree day to something even half human tolerable. My partner's dog lays on his deathbed struggling to breathe. My cars windscreen cracked from a flying stone. Overdue for service 12 thousand kilometres ago we ferry children vast distances praying each time the car won’t give up.

My partners car lies still, immobile needing a new gearbox. Our credit cards maxed out till we are in arrears. My shoulders aching from scrubbing the floors of the adjoining shipping containers that we lie in and call our bedrooms. Hot box by night we run fans till we can’t stand the hum any more.

We still have no shower nor hot water but in relative terms at least we have the water now connected, saving us carrying six buckets a day from a distant tap to flush the toilet, wash dishes, fill the kettle, wash etc.

My instinct tells me that despite health scares, daily money worries and hourly emotional roller coasters that it will all be ok. I trust it will be ok as it would seem that anything else would be a preferable route with which to take life.

So what of the significance of instinct?


A first thought if that of our basic instinct as humans to protect others and ourselves. Perhaps a general idea that our instinct is ours and ours alone. What essentially is ‘instinct’ you might ask? I’ve often contemplated what a life might be if we were unable to ‘feel our way forward’ or as first nation people globally attest, to dream into existence our own reality, not simply think we have no power in doing so. (ref: Paddy Roe)


Whilst we may often be not conscious to the manner in which we make decisions on a moment by moment, hourly or daily basis there is a correlation, I believe, between that which we have learned and that which we instinctively recognise as significant.

The term ‘instinct’ it seems gives rise to a key facet of my PhD which upon the outset for me was seemingly irrelevant to the key subject area I chose to research. At the beginning of the research journey I was set on an outcome that would inform changes in education sector policies to harness the use of wearable cameras in the learning environment or workplace setting. How blindly naive I must have been to think that this outcome alone would have contributed anything to the body of existing science in the world.

As I near completion of the PhD I am struck with the instinctual feelings that arose as I immersed myself at the time as an avid education technologist, perplexed as to how I had not “seen” the bigger picture and the impact of my own actions at that time.

I was guided selfishly by a mantra that change is inevitable so those not keeping up with change as being redundant and superfluous as an employee to an organisation. At various points through that journey I witnessed fellow colleagues being made redundant as the switch to technology facilitated online learning and mobile learning gathered pace. I joined and sometimes led initiatives such as the Australian Mobile Learning Network (AMLN) and on reflection this was all in response to my own myopic version of vision for a technology facilitated society.

In essence I inadvertently introduced the very technologies that would lead to those redundancies. How could have I been so blind at the time to the trajectory and inevitability of implosion that my actions were likely to create?

So gradually I gained an understanding that whilst the Internet would bring about great benefits to humanity that it also had the propensity to give rise to great control, carnage and cultural genocide. Whole departments in the Australian Vocational and Education Training sector started to close as teaching switched over to learning on demand, remotely accessible via the internet.

“…instinct or innate behaviour is the inherent inclination of a living organism towards a particular complex behaviour.” - Wikipedia


I am bringing into focus within my PhD the direct correlation or relationship that arises from certain  professional entities coming into contact with others. In essence, for example, the innate behaviour of engineers as they socialise with science fiction writers.


“…the simplest example of an instinctive behaviour is a fixed action pattern (FAP) in which a very short to medium length sequence of actions, without variation, are carried out in response to a clearly defined stimulus.” - Wikipedia

If the FAP as described brings about a series of actions without variation then perhaps thats why these two cohorts frequent the same bars, laboratories, fetish establishments. Maybe, just maybe as one dreams the dreams the other follows and tries to bring these dreams to reality. Take for instance a science fiction author who pens some rancid prose, it passes through peers till it has hit a likes status befitting funding and finally ends up plugged firmly in the psyche of mid teen to late life male psyche, though film, gaming, merchandise and of course, upgrades.

I also believe that instinct as a literary term is a shallow, Anglo-celt expression which only touches on the surface of what we actually mean by ‘gut feel. Think for instance how many times today you have been guided by that ‘gut feel’, how many times you consciously made a decision or took a path to a result that was based on that instinctual feel forward feeling.

Sure, technology interrupts that by having the convenient answers when we need them but how many times today did you actually ‘feel’ and then make a decision based on your hunch, knowing, suspicion or any other term that co-joins that of instinct.

So at best, instinct is ambiguous, neatly abstract, sufficiently far enough away from our liberal selves as ‘just a feeling’. The purpose of this PhD is to dissect circumstances, reflect on learning from experiences, develop an understanding of the moments where I broke through old instinct and embraced a better way of grounding reality.

For me, at this present time, sitting in a cabin, seeing the faces of my happy sons smiling back at me from a photo frame, adjusting in my chair to better see the smoke from the Indian incense that my partner punctuates the air and ambience of this little wooden home with, my triggers take me to visualise past times and to bask in the incredible time of the present moment.

My instinct tells me that there is a time and place for it all, but the hardest and most rewarding of life journeys are grounded in a collective consciousness, a humanity that extolls the virtues of basing life breaking decisions on instinct. Even as I write free form I know that more changes are ahead as I sift the the piles of literature before me. Perhaps what I’ve discovered is not unique nor contributing yet I have a hunch (pardon the pun) that there is much to be gained by paying greater attention to the way we feel of life, acknowledging the deep divides we observe around us as our children argue with us about screen time, shaking in rage with withdrawals, exhibiting behaviours and physical manifestations akin to that of an autism, a schizophrenic and techno-bipolarity.


It begs another question. What of the significance of instinct - is it enough simply to say it sometimes guides us in our decision making or as I will argue, instinct is as ‘litany’ is to Australian Aboriginal people. Our ability to tap into that energy, that connection means we have a better way of seeing our way forward, responsibly living a life worth living, not simply a capitalist virtual dreamscape.


Power

At the centre of what I have enjoyed for most of my life is as a creative, a teacher and the mixed and decadent world of the artist, the aesthete. When I see things, hear things, smell things, touch things I gain memory from the experience, not simply a reaction as some might without memory. Those experiences I’ve conveniently always thought of as attributes forming my own ‘self’, my own personality, not operating alone though rather individual as a member of a community and part of a greater society. 

Read More

The PhD Research Journey

For those who exist in the lockstep, sleepwalking world of consumerist society the research journey seems only a fast way to another ticket, another accreditation. That reality though is an experiential mission, through moments of critical reflection, the hovering self, the form that is part of the physical body on the ground but the spiritual capacity to see oneself out of body so to speak. Without that capacity to reflect on our actions, take responsibility for our behaviours and change our course in life regularly all we become are ground level dwellers, basement jacks with a lack of connection, tiptoeing around the real issues in life and making others life hell in the moral meantime.

Read More

Social Cooling

Image: Social Cooling

Image: Social Cooling

There is also a very compelling website which summarises the concept of social cooling as well that hits home as to where my research fits in the grander scheme of schema and the real realm of digital reputation - Social Cooling.

That freedom to circumvent social credit is also within the confines of the very same capitalism humanity sought to escape and so yet…this….a burgeoning control of our humanity, so this is why this research is important as it explores how identity, power and whereabouts all contribute to our collective and individual sense of freedom, not our subscription to a highly organised society.

Dreaming Our Reality

I have just watched Aboriginal Nyikina Elder, Paddy Roe speaking with Frans Hoogland in the short film which was directed by David Maybury Lewis in 1992 called ‘Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’.

It’s in a grainy 4:3 format as it was produced for Canadian television with a long list of co-distributors including Biniman Productions Ltd; Adrian Malone Productions Ltd; KCET; BBC TV; The Global Television Network; Rogers Telefund; Telefilm Canada.

Maybury-Lewis, D., 1992. Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, Canada: Adrian Malone Productions Ltd; KCET; BBC TV; The Global Television Network; Rogers Telefund; Telefilm Canada.

{ Millenium Series - Paddy Roe > quote that segment from Paddy talking with Franz }

You must understand it this way, as Paddy and Frans are not in any way a natural fit. 

The conversation between Paddy Roe and Frans Hoogland opens up the most cogent examples of how we can connect the loss of human spirit as a result of the abstraction of living amongst computational intervention. In other words, location is about land, Country speaking into people, not location as computational place marker, rather an instinctual relatedness with the geomorphology and biosphere in which humans exist.

Frans speaks of the holistic expansion of the universe from a physics analogy, an “awareness"  that despite all that western society has tried in abstraction, it is already, always has been, in totality the dreaming that Aboriginal Australians speak of. For example, instead of a boundary marker denoting what is ‘their’ land and what is ‘our’ land as is customary in Western society Aboriginal communities ‘know’ the boundary through an awareness in fluidity as to where those boundaries exist, an instinctual relationship with Country.

The concept of Native Title as it is known in Australia is therefore “white" man speak and is just acts of parliament that force first nations into compromise and with no right of veto for what will occur to themselves and the Country on which they live. The only outcome that Native Title provides is income for a minority who separate themselves from all others who reinforce they are entitled to live on their Country undisturbed, yet in reality mining and rampant destruction of their culture, communities and country continues unabated. 

 In this short film Paddy Roe speaks of how Frans "gets it" or has the capability of being and carrying story forward, as a element of transmergy, like a virus. This whole story Paddy emphasises needs to be spoken of by those who are in ‘essence’ that carry that ‘liyan’ which is a term that most intercultural understandings relate as our ‘instinct’, our own individual moral compass.

The Aboriginal dreaming Paddy explains is the relatedness between people, law and land and that Frans Hoogland became a carrier. The manner in which this knowledge is transposed is that Paddy spoke that into Frans, the past, present and future as spatio-temporal fusion.

This awareness of living and connecting, knowing and being on Country, is together in one ever present reality, not segments of knowledge. So, location is shown here to be critical, in the most accessible way with no satellites, no tracking, no GPS, no GIS, no devices, no networks……

Aboriginal people have for tens of thousands of years by listening and observing known exactly what was happening around themselves, by looking at patterns and shift in patterns across nature. We could get lost on the mythological language barriers however the lines and the story that Paddy draws into the sand to describe how Frans was allowed to hear story is about parallels, not homogeny and a way of being a human existing without colonisation.

The end of the film depicts the two men walking together in their Dreaming as Paddy relates, walking in that dream and that the Dreaming manifests itself in what we put out before ourselves as a humanity. Frans goes to great lengths in the film to reinforce that instead of following the road as we commonly relate in life that it is there already and that we are sending that out ahead of ourselves.

In summary, in western culture humans are obliged to follow a certain path whereas Paddy is relating that humans dream their own lifeworld path forward and it becomes reality. That will be the centre and fullest message that my PhD could ever hope to realise, that we have a freedom to dream our way forward and that all of these western ways of paths to follow are nothing more than illusions.

Sleepwalking through society by contrast comes with a loss of instinct and those who choose to ignore that loss do so at their own peril.

As it is all about location, time and circumstance it is that there is a massive gap here in the social and ethical listening to story....different law....different altogether as Paddy states. With emphasis that point is laboured and by doing so Paddy points to difference as the way out, not homogeneity as the way forward.

As I relate what Paddy Roe has to say in this film with my own research I equate the concepts that Paddy speaks of with deep listening. The converse position will be disastrous for humanity if engineers don’t listen to any more than a western science fiction. As Paddy and Frans relate in listening to Country and being connected fully with our own liyan, humans will come to the realisation that the technology is US, not separate to us. In essence, - humans are responsible for ensuring that humans listen to more than an empty western dream as the way forward.

As humans we can learn from the wisdom of those who have a deep connection to Country, who recognise that we manifest what we dream. In dreaming we bring to creation, not just lockstep in following technology that takes us away from reality, knowing that loss of reality denies us of the opportunity of dreaming that reality.

Implantable Technology

“... On the eve of my flight out in a few hours time to Broome, Western Australia from my home in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory as a Researcher I now reflect on recent news regarding the proliferation of implantable technology sweeping across medical, banking & finance, insurance and social services sectors in the world.”  

On Singularity

If Singularity was a supposed benefit to humanity then why are we all losing our ability to see, hear and feel our way forward as human beings?

I suspect that it is far more insidious than the Singularity nirvana we are being told is technology led and determined. How about we work away from that idea and actually focus on humanity rather rather another brand and corporation mantra?

I’m thinking that this utopia of corporation led upgrades, super-size-me's is all a farce and that the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots is wider than ever…that those alienated from digital connection as oppressed further by virtue of a need to eliminate this not technology corporation controlled.

So from these observances I posit that technology is at fault in many of the ways in which we now attempt to relate (as different to connection).

It is apparent to me I’m also aware of digital technology skepticism as a treated like a chronic medical condition, so, as a Researcher I have to somehow straddle the fence and say everything is a mosaic of greys, not a billion pixel black nor white. 

To acknowledge something new in our lives we must it seems resist, put the camera phone down, be conscious to breathing, to patterns in nature, to detox and feed our brains with stillness. Quite unlike what our would be Gods of the fake spiritual club would be telling us. Both previous sentences would suggest I have a position of this topic and others would claim an outright and abject bias.

I didn’t pick the fight, simply have a personal opinion which seems it places me on a specific side.

The position of technology at fault, that of eradicating humanity and replacing ourselves in the midst of that which we are not suggests we may have to give up trying to make a change and yet as I know all it takes is in listening in on our own feelings when we scroll through Facebook posts, Twitter messages and countless emails only to feel empty and sad thereafter. 

A Singularity of mapped nodes in a network of quantified nothing seems as far from what humans need right now as we strip, rape and pillage the very environment of which sustains us and for how long? Computational zillions of zeros and ones all stacked up to extinguish the Anthropocene and thats a good thing?

I think there is a lot to be said here about the way traditional members of the Australian Aboriginal community disregard digital connections in preference for country led thinking and learning “on country” as it is described. Paddy Roe, Nyikina elder and Traditional Custodian posits that to survive we can’t live a life where we abandon dreaming our way forward that is country connected.

Not a hypothetical rather a manifestation of what exists in absolute reality.

Likewise Nyikina elder and Traditional Custodian Dr. Anne Poelina also suggests that these very technologies we pinned such great hopes on pulling communities out of poverty as nothing more that an edifice, an archetype and remnant of tools so insidious as to be irrelevant to culture, merely a distraction. 

"...Technologies cause us to be automatic, not realistic, They cause us to stop knowing our liyan, our instinct. They stop us knowing ourselves." 

Dr. Anne Poelina, Nyikina Elder, Fitzroy River, Kimberley Region, Australia - Balkinjirr Community - 18 April, 2016

Bringing into focus technology that is for humanity means acknowledging the social and ethical implications these BWC technologies have upon humanity, not simply a slogan that posits a determinism defined by the technology created by a few to rule and lord over many.

Reluctance Of Interviewees

I’ve now compiled a detailed list of the interviewees (confirmed participants) and the general setup, tools, backups and so on.

To do’s;

  • Write about the ‘reluctance’ of interviewees including [ removed ] who declined to be interviewed;

  • [ removed ] was repeatedly not contactable despite immediate response for all IASTAS’13 preparations through his PR team;

  • Those who didn't wish to be identified for cultural, privacy and personal security reasons;

  • Those who didn't wish to be recorded ie. Professor Teemu Leinonen;

  • Those who wanted everything to be transmitted live rather than a written transcript!

As per my conversation as Researcher with [ removed ] about those who don’t wish to be identified, well it isn’t ideal at all !!

This creates an awareness for the Researcher that will be written into the Interview chapter, that of the reluctance of people to engage in formal discourse where they could be seen to be speaking "away" from their own socio-technocratic indulgent selves. It often happens with those people under constraint of their employer, their position in government and their own personal lives which hinge on them having a technology permeated existence on an hour by hour basis.

The Researcher gets them aside to have a conversation and ask them the drilling questions that I have and what does it reveal? It reveals that they have in fact great reservations about technology and its impact on their own lives and yet they contradict themselves and trip over their own position when it comes to standing by what they said in a probing interview.

Fair Game For The Same

I am sitting here in Broome, Western Australia next to a young Aboriginal Nyikina man who is wearing a GPS anklet bracelet which confines him to the city limits of this small and isolated city in the far north west of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

I question myself, “…where are the papers written about the Aboriginal Australian’s in the context of colonisation of “body” by technological intervention (ie. the trajectory of ankle bracelets to the implantable) ?”

The room is bare except for a few mattresses and a huge television from which an Xbox gaming console is attached. An old woman lives in the same house and there is nothing to end in the fridge except a three quarter empty plastic container of Black & Gold margarine. To buy anything more means visiting the local service station that charges fifty percent more for every item other than cigarettes and Coca-Cola.   

The only way to purchase anything is with cash of the welfare ID card. I sit and listen outside with the old people on the front balcony to stories of hope and resilience despite the absolute carnage these human people suffer through on a daily basis.  

It occurs to me to ask myself as a researcher, in observance of human people simply struggling to cope with technologically facilitated genocide, to what degree does the State, the Government and more importantly the corporations who mine this country intend using these technologies against these very people? In observations of those humans in other parts of the world who wish to use this technology as a convenience by which to expediently and efficiently navigate and identify by in their lives, I sweat in the topics wondering how long it will be before all humans are subject to even the most “dumb” implantable to track, trace and trigger intervention in their lives.

To me it seems that the next level of intervention is not just of the lands that a community lives on, not the the possession of assets or control of movement of individuals but a colonisation of their own human transdermal state ie. implantable technology.

My partner points me to a book upon my return home, Joe Nangan’s Dreaming, and I turn to page 8 which contains a quote, “…because it was not tilled or harvested or grazed in European agricultural style it was considered ‘empty’ and available. The Government of the time recognised no Aboriginal land rights and encouraged the taking up of land for pastoral use.” 

It now begs the question whether what I am observing as a Researcher is now tied to the same concept where the ‘land’ is now the human body, that if the body is not being used productively then it is ‘fair game for the same’ and exploited by corporations and Government.  

Rage

I am writing this in one of the most foul moods I’ve ever experienced to date whilst trying to complete a PhD after so many interruptions and lifes challenges.

I have to trust that the people who have encouraged me to be more than a fat, unhappy and disconnected geek know more than I do of my own fate.

Trust that despite this boiling rage I feel inside me, this black anger and abject hopelessness, this psychosis of flailing mind, that despite what is now my current mental state, that it will all pass and that the thesis will be one day complete.

To unconditionally trust that writing, reading and analysing data to make sense of almost a decade of world wide inquiry, writing till eyes and brain fail late into the night, for years till a document that no more than a hundred people will read in a lifetime. A thesis that on review, within years, redundant in the minds eye of the writer often never read again, mute, viewed with contempt and rejection.

Long days and nights pouring over an abstract digital soup, answering children with an absent groan, grunting at his partner, terrified of the mounting bills, borrowing and bullshitting essential services to extend payment plans.

What drives a technology enamoured, complacent and socially awkward male to abandon a dream of big houses, five cars and a settled down life as director of a tech company, high paid consultant? What could drive a man a decade later to punch a vehicle door so hard he breaks his knuckle in two places, breaks five tonne of concrete by hand with a sledgehammer till blood pours from the callouses on his hands?

What cathartic, cataclysmic and life changing events could possibly drive a mature man to contemplate suicide, scream till his voice box collapses with strain at his own Father so vehement, so toxic and so determined that it scares his own nine year old son to collapse weeping with confrontation?

Grind his teeth in his sleep till they shatter? Write a life story of sexual abuse, violence and crime then publish it publicly via the internet?

Lie awake till he hears the first chirps of dawn herald another apocalyptic day filled with yet more things to do, to be, to achieve, to fail at.

I was told completing a PhD was a process, not a product. I was promised it would change my life forever and that process would provide a basis to live a life worth living.

I wasn't told of the countless attempts that people have made only to find that life goes on around them anyway and is always in the way of finishing neatly. I wasn't informed that many end up with physical and mental health issues, financially in trouble, socially isolated and very often divorced, alone, shattered emotionally.

Suffice to say, these are a small portion of things I have experienced, have endured and now share as an attempt to pull myself out of the nihilism, the self pityingly rancid quagmire.

That process of the PhD without scholarship, as a mature aged student with five children, living in a hand built cabin some say is no bigger than a bedsit for one. That process of enduring seven and eight out of ten points of continuous pain from a chronic rheumatological medical condition rendering me blind from acute iritis, almost dead from heart failure due to acute pericarditis, rendering my neck stiffer than a whiplashed car victim.

This process is killing me slowly or.....if I trust in what others say will win out, a rod with which to support my back not whip myself with it as it is at present.

What drives a man to scream into his own mirrored reflection only to find an exhausted version of his former self?

Terrified I write not knowing what this is about, where this will take me, despondent of the cost on all accounts that this process has had, is having. 

What happened to those who cookie cut their childless way through scholarships, through cocktail parties, high society affairs of the flesh and moral servitude? I suspect the process I've experienced won't be known by flaccid quant jocks, squeaky clean viperous bitches that suck cock for grade.

I don't for a minute expect my findings to be understood by apathetic, upgrades, singular self, cyborg automatons nor am I seeking a ticket to speak on lecterns made from the bones of the communities those 24 hour driverless dump trucks suffocated.

Who the fuck am I to speak of the social impact of technology having Xboxed my street kid students out of juvenile hall? Built a world within a world of Secondlife only to find my own son crying at my office door having missed the candles being blown out on his own birthday cake. 

What the hell would I know about the generational gap between Father and daughters as I ignored them for SMS messages, Tweets, Facebook pokes, Skype pings and Snapchat notifications? What was I to reply to "....Dad put that FUCKING PHONE away and actually communicate with ME" ?

Have I anything to contribute to society who can't find its own way from their capitalist castle to the mall without a corporation telling them which way to turn, street by street, one geo-pinned brainless u-turn after another? Have I anything to say of over fifty interviews of Google IO junkies sucking down the kool aid and attesting to how high resolution photos of their pre teens hairless vaginas in high resolution captured from their head worn computer goes live, daily, poolside from their head worn computer?

Is there anything I could possibly bring to bear on my watch as children as young as 12 and 13 are locked inside refrigerated cells no bigger than a cupboard, on remand, force fed their own faeces, tasered, gagged, tagged, digitally surveilled and water boarded to within a breath of their own First Nation selves?

What of the countless nights hand transcribing hour long interviews of leading figures in the engineering, science fiction and dystopian junctures in-between-worlds that these vultures inhabit leeching of their myopic merchandise mad mass?

Has this mad man, this pushed to the end of his limits and beyond candidate got anything worth saying as we careen towards a certain environmental  disaster, an anthropocene so impressively inept to see demise in a microchipped child, a geofenced recidivist only needing love and social inclusion ? What have I to offer a world whose own memory of the social impacts of technology, loss of connection with each other in a world of trillions of always on internet of things, bits.

What are the socio-ethical implications of head worn cameras, devices, masks that shut us off from seeing, only looking?

What of instinct, what of that basis for living that grounds us in country, in place far from any convenience?

Where does that anger as a candidate derive from? To point at peril? 

I trust that the process is worth every cent, every last breath even to visit a deathbed, every awkward rebuttal, every exclusion if it means that even one, just one person wakes up out of their Singularity, smells the roses and realises that it's not an upgrade, that they are actually experiencing an opportunity to connect with their soul, not triple whipped choc sundaes upsized with fries to go.

Living In Deep Time

Photograph: Alexander Hayes

Photograph: Alexander Hayes

On the 25th October 2016 I attended the Big History, Deep Time & The Age of Humans Symposium event on the 25th October 2016 held at the University of Technology Sydney as part of the Anthropocene Transition Project in the UTS Business School.

Dr. Anne Poelina was presenting ‘Living In Deep Time’ and also spoke on a panel at that event and made a great impression on myself.


“… to consider the anthropocene as Dr. Anne Poelina posits means contemplating the end of the anthropocene, where long after these ‘civilisations’ as we see them appear then they will also disappear and the only role we have as custodians and visitors to country is to leave it in as best condition as we found it, where the technologies of today must be considered in the fuller picture of what impact they have on each other now.”