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Electronic Mediations

Author: Stanisław Lem
Publisher:
ISBN: 9780816689033
Size: 20.83 MB
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An engaging and caustically logical philosophical treatise about human and nonhuman life in its past, present, and future forms.

Summa Technologiae

Author: Stanisław Lem
Publisher: U of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 0816689040
Size: 71.72 MB
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The Polish writer Stanislaw Lem is best known to English-speaking readers as the author of the 1961 science fiction novel Solaris, adapted into a meditative film by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1972 and remade in 2002 by Steven Soderbergh. Throughout his writings, comprising dozens of science fiction novels and short stories, Lem offered deeply philosophical and bitingly satirical reflections on the limitations of both science and humanity. In Summa Technologiae—his major work of nonfiction, first published in 1964 and now available in English for the first time—Lem produced an engaging and caustically logical philosophical treatise about human and nonhuman life in its past, present, and future forms. After five decades Summa Technologiae has lost none of its intellectual or critical significance. Indeed, many of Lem’s conjectures about future technologies have now come true: from artificial intelligence, bionics, and nanotechnology to the dangers of information overload, the concept underlying Internet search engines, and the idea of virtual reality. More important for its continued relevance, however, is Lem’s rigorous investigation into the parallel development of biological and technical evolution and his conclusion that technology will outlive humanity. Preceding Richard Dawkins’s understanding of evolution as a blind watchmaker by more than two decades, Lem posits evolution as opportunistic, shortsighted, extravagant, and illogical. Strikingly original and still timely, Summa Technologiae resonates with a wide range of contemporary debates about information and new media, the life sciences, and the emerging relationship between technology and humanity.

On The Existence Of Digital Objects

Author: Yuk Hui
Publisher: U of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 1452949921
Size: 76.63 MB
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Digital objects, in their simplest form, are data. They are also a new kind of industrial object that pervades every aspect of our life today—as online videos, images, text files, e-mails, blog posts, Facebook events.Yet, despite their ubiquity, the nature of digital objects remains unclear. On the Existence of Digital Objects conducts a philosophical examination of digital objects and their organizing schema by creating a dialogue between Martin Heidegger and Gilbert Simondon, which Yuk Hui contextualizes within the history of computing. How can digital objects be understood according to individualization and individuation? Hui pursues this question through the history of ontology and the study of markup languages and Web ontologies; he investigates the existential structure of digital objects within their systems and milieux. With this relational approach toward digital objects and technical systems, the book addresses alienation, described by Simondon as the consequence of mistakenly viewing technics in opposition to culture. Interdisciplinary in philosophical and technical insights, with close readings of Husserl, Heidegger, and Simondon as well as the history of computing and the Web, Hui’s work develops an original, productive way of thinking about the data and metadata that increasingly define our world.

Program Earth

Author: Jennifer Gabrys
Publisher: U of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 1452950172
Size: 22.86 MB
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Sensors are everywhere. Small, flexible, economical, and computationally powerful, they operate ubiquitously in environments. They compile massive amounts of data, including information about air, water, and climate. Never before has such a volume of environmental data been so broadly collected or so widely available. Grappling with the consequences of wiring our world, Program Earth examines how sensor technologies are programming our environments. As Jennifer Gabrys points out, sensors do not merely record information about an environment. Rather, they generate new environments and environmental relations. At the same time, they give a voice to the entities they monitor: to animals, plants, people, and inanimate objects. This book looks at the ways in which sensors converge with environments to map ecological processes, to track the migration of animals, to check pollutants, to facilitate citizen participation, and to program infrastructure. Through discussing particular instances where sensors are deployed for environmental study and citizen engagement across three areas of environmental sensing, from wild sensing to pollution sensing and urban sensing, Program Earth asks how sensor technologies specifically contribute to new environmental conditions. What are the implications for wiring up environments? How do sensor applications not only program environments, but also program the sorts of citizens and collectives we might become? Program Earth suggests that the sensor-based monitoring of Earth offers the prospect of making new environments not simply as an extension of the human but rather as new “technogeographies” that connect technology, nature, and people.

Mixed Realism

Author: Timothy J. Welsh
Publisher: U of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 1452952019
Size: 37.14 MB
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Mixed Realism is about how we interact with media. Timothy J. Welsh shows how videogames, like novels, both promise and trouble experiences of “immersion.” His innovative methodology offers a new understanding of the expanding role of virtuality in contemporary life. Today’s wired culture is a mixed reality, conducted as exchanges between virtual and material contexts. We make balance transfers at an ATM, update Facebook timelines, and squeeze in sessions of Angry Birds on the subway. However, the “virtual” is still frequently figured as imaginary, as opposed to “real.” The vision of 1990s writers of a future that would pit virtual reality against actual reality has never materialized, yet it continues to haunt cultural criticism. Our ongoing anxiety about immersive media now surrounds videogames, especially “shooter games,” and manifests as a fear that gamers might not know the difference between the virtual world and the real world. As Welsh notes, this is the paradox of real virtuality. We understand that the media-generated virtualities that fill our lives are not what they represent. But what are they if they are not real? Do they have presence, significance, or influence exceeding their material presence and the user processes that invoke them? What relationships do they establish through and beyond our interactions with them? Mixed Realism brims with fresh analyses of literary works such as Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, along with sustained readings of controversial videogames such as Super Columbine Massacre and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Continually connecting the dots between surprising groupings of texts and thinkers, from David Foster Wallace to the cult-classic videogame Eternal Darkness and from Cormac McCarthy to Grand Theft Auto, it offers a fresh perspective on both digital games and contemporary literature.

How To Talk About Videogames

Author: Ian Bogost
Publisher: U of Minnesota Press
ISBN: 1452949875
Size: 48.89 MB
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Videogames! Aren’t they the medium of the twenty-first century? The new cinema? The apotheosis of art and entertainment, the realization of Wagnerian gesamtkunstwerk? The final victory of interaction over passivity? No, probably not. Games are part art and part appliance, part tableau and part toaster. In How to Talk about Videogames, leading critic Ian Bogost explores this paradox more thoroughly than any other author to date. Delving into popular, familiar games like Flappy Bird, Mirror’s Edge, Mario Kart, Scribblenauts, Ms. Pac-Man, FarmVille, Candy Crush Saga, Bully, Medal of Honor, Madden NFL, and more, Bogost posits that videogames are as much like appliances as they are like art and media. We don’t watch or read games like we do films and novels and paintings, nor do we perform them like we might dance or play football or Frisbee. Rather, we do something in-between with games. Games are devices we operate, so game critique is both serious cultural currency and self-parody. It is about figuring out what it means that a game works the way it does and then treating the way it works as if it were reasonable, when we know it isn’t. Noting that the term games criticism once struck him as preposterous, Bogost observes that the idea, taken too seriously, risks balkanizing games writing from the rest of culture, severing it from the “rivers and fields” that sustain it. As essential as it is, he calls for its pursuit to unfold in this spirit: “God save us from a future of games critics, gnawing on scraps like the zombies that fester in our objects of study.”