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Parsing Technology-entanglement for Thick-things: The Complication or Complexity of Media and Technologies

Can an interpretive framework untangle distributed forms of technology-enabled media? The thesis develops an interpretive framework to provide an antidote to reckless imaginations that privilege concealment and encourage explanations of technology-enablement as social or automagical. The framework is a response to Latour's call to modify explanations given simply as 'social' and Kittler's observation of software as an unrecognizable layering of linguistic extensions. The interpretive framework is developed from successive encounters with technology-enablement associated with a particular geospatial use of Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality that accesses photos embedded with geospatial information depends on multiple distributed technologies ranging from smartphones to satellites. This contemporary form of technology-enabled media is demonstrated by a Panoramio geospatial layer of tourist photos accessed using the software product Layar. The encounters are with an image collection, WIFI router, 3G cellular data network, iPhone, geospatial location service and Layar. These enabling technologies have been gathered and inspected for human and nonhuman agencies during project encounters that followed an ethnographic approach. A dialogue with technology practitioners informs the analytical engagement with Augmented Reality to provide an alternative vocabulary for theoretical access to those vastly distributed and indescribable technology-enablers. The framework is developed through successive propositions. The encounters pursue the trajectory of a digital image from a technology-enabled visual representation that can be created or consumed with ease to distributed image collections that operate as a contemporary site of interoperability. Photos are transformed in proposition 1 from a visual surface to a realm of specificity that is a stratified and expansive construction of exchangeable data. The second proposition establishes technologies as constructed from atomic building blocks that are combined in either complicated or complex formations. The second proposition asserts that it is necessary to distinguish between complication and complexity. Propositions 1 and 2 are extended by a debate between respective positions of an extremely flat ontology and an expansive materialism represented by Bryant, Barad, Latour and Bennett. The flat ontology is rejected and a thick account of things is asserted as a position that better accounts for the entanglement of humans and nonhumans interoperating amongst a synthetic ecology of media technologies. The third proposition is that the technology-enablement of media is a complicated or complex form of technology-entanglement. The thesis demonstrates this interpretive framework before concluding with a ‘how-to’ that guides researchers adapting this methodology for their own projects.
Type of thesis
Nicholson, S. (2016). Parsing Technology-entanglement for Thick-things: The Complication or Complexity of Media and Technologies (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/9976
University of Waikato
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