Human Machine

For my last blog I decided to reflect on the article entitled, “A human machine addiction.” This article definitely caught my attention as well as the discussion in class. I found Natasha Shull’s examination of the relationships between machine and human very interesting, specifically what caught my interest was her examination of people with gambling addictions. The interaction between the two caught my attention because of this “zone” it creates for the person, and how the person is able to disconnect themself from the surrounding environment. Being in “the zone” creates a sensory experience for the person, in a way I would describe it as a sort of trance, where you are unable to really focus on anything but the screen in front of you and perhaps in a way in generates a type of “high” for the person. An example of this would be how we looked at the pictures of casinos that are in Las Vegas. Las Vegas is definitely a place where gambling addicts can come and relax and forget their problems. I think it is really easy to do that because as we discussed in class there are no clocks on the wall, which is something I noticed when I myself went to Vegas, and there are people who wait on you and bring you anything you would like. This is the beauty of gambling; you do not even have to move (unless you run out of quarters). Something else that was interesting to me that I noticed when I went to Vegas was the fact that there are no balconies in the hotel rooms. I am not sure if this is 100% true but I was told the reason for that is because there are people who come to Vegas and if they drink a lot or gamble all their money away, some are prone to fall into a depression, and some are very likely to try to kill themselves, and also the does article mentions disordered gambling is associated with high suicide. Therefore, balconies were taken away. I agree with Natasha and the fact that she does not see machines as just an object or a materialistic thing for people, there is clearly a connection, a relationship that can become very deep between the two and it is important to look at why and how that happens. It may not seem like such a big deal but I believe that it can have great health affects and also isolate you from the world. Because these hobbies are so addictive you get into this state of trance, you are in the zone, some people are even so into it that they may even forget to take care of their pets, children, or even use the bathroom; that is how strong the state can be. Lastly, I also realized that the older generation likely to be gambling, while the younger generation has become more addicted to the Internet. I think it would be very interesting to compare to the two and do a study to see if they have the save affects on people or is there something different. Lastly, if this study were to happen I think it would also be interesting to compare why people are getting addicted to these devices and concentrate on what is going on in their lives, and what is pulling them to these devices, and see if it is possible to break this habit of getting into “the zone.”

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Response #2

For my second response I decided to comment on Sonya Lapin’s reflection on Emily Martin’s article. It is clear that many of us came to the same conclusion about the article, which is that gender stereotypes, as well as gender roles are hidden within the scientific language of biology. Our biological processes are not only effecting our bodies but also the way we act in society, as well as how we look at and think of one another. The egg and the sperm both have such powerful roles in biology, but yet they are defined and separated into these categories that for some reason define who we are and how we should act as male and females. The egg is portrayed as ‘feminine’ and the sperm is seen as ‘masculine,’ and both can be translated into how we fit into our gender roles in society. For instance, the sperm is seen as being powerful and having a job to achieve, while the egg is perceived as passive and does not contribute nearly as much as the sperm.

 This view of the biological process of men and women is of course problematic, and yet it has taken over society and produces powerful representations. But although we know that these representations are not accurate and do not represent us truly, it is still difficult to break habits and certain ways we are used to. But as Martin suggest, we need to become aware of these issues in order to deconstruct them and be able to change them. On that point I would like to answer Sonya’s question that she poses at the end of her reflection.

 “It becomes questionable whether we can truly de-naturalize social conventions about gender by becoming aware of their implications. If social stereotypes have become so deeply embedded in our culture that they occupy the realm of natural science, can this impact be reversed?”

 I do not think this question has one simple answer, I would say it depends on how you look at it and from what perspective. Optimistically speaking, perhaps if we were to identify and analyze the social stereotypes and discuss each one and what affects they have in society, perhaps we could try and remove them or at least try to be more aware of them, and not let them take over the way we act towards one another or think of one another.  Realistically speaking, I would have to say to take these stereotypes out of society would be very difficult. I think that they are so embedded within society and biology that it would be hard to just take them out or never make reference to them. If we really wanted to create change then we would defiantly have to become more conscious of how we act towards one another and what we say to one another. I would say that is very difficult as well, it is very hard to be aware and conscious of everything, because these things seem as simple and natural as the biological process. 

Response #1

Response to the reflection of Sabrina Munir entitled “Life as an act of play”

After reading Sabrina’s reflection on the topic of Play, I have to say that she definitely has some interesting points and insights. I agree with her that play does not have one simple definition and that it differs between cultures and countries, and is expressed in various forms.  Before I further reflect on Sabrina’s blog entry I would like to mention some examples of play that I have had through out my life, in particular childhood, and how I believe it affected my life. From the Western perspective, I believe many things such as gender and media can affect the experience of play. Just to give an example, if you look at med, girls are playing with dolls and boys are playing with hot wheels, or in kindergarten I remember playing house or cooking with a pretend kitchen set while the boys played with trucks and dinosaurs. Because I have not experienced play in another other society but my own it seems as if the way we played also had a connection with our gender roles, and the way we were supposed to act as male and females. Boys were supposed to be tough with their cars, and girls were supposed to be taking car of the dolls as if that doll was their own child. Both ways of play prepared us for our roles in life.

 I even remember when I was little and would take care of my dolls I would think that this is my baby, I have to bathe it, play with it, and take care of it. I even remember my mother telling me that that one day when I grow up I will have my own real baby to take care of. Now when I look back I guess you could say that that was “training” for my life as an adult if I chose to have kids. However, when I look at play now, I can see how it can be very excluding, and it meant to teach children societal norms. But what about boys who want to play with dolls? Or girls who want to play with cars? Play should not have limits and should allow anyone know matter what age to express themselves in the way they want, regardless of norms.

 Going back to Sabrina’s reflection, she mentions that play is a way of knowing and is used as a tool in different cultures. I just wanted to comment on this point and provide an example of the Aboriginal community.  In another class of mine we discussed how through stories and play some communities (such as the Aboriginals) believe this is the best way to educate their people and pass on their knowledge depending on what they are teaching. I thought this was really fascinating because we are so used to this Western style of education such as sitting in class and raising your hand, that if we did things different such as educated ourselves through some sort of play it would seem strange.  But I think that’s the beauty of play it can be used in so many different ways and for so many different purposes.

 Lastly, I would just like to mention how play makes you feel. Although play can be used and interpreted many ways depending on culture, society, etc, it creates similar emotions that I’m sure we all share.  As Sabrina mentions, “…Could be either good or bad but it is lasting and passed on to generations to experience the old in a new way.” Although play can change one way or another we share certain emotions when we play, whether that is happiness, sadness, or a sort of rush. I think it is something that connects us all together, and even though each culture can experience play differently I think we are connected by our emotions when we experience play. We can always talk about play and understand what the other one has felt when they were playing even if they are somewhere else in the world, I think play is interesting like that, it feels universal, and it can be expressed and shared with everyone. 

Sensory Substitution Systems

After our exhibit in class I thought the article by Schmidmaier, “Sensory Substitution System” would be a good article to reflect on considering that it represents many of the sensory technologies that we displayed in class. As the article discusses, for a long time there seems to have been enthusiasm from scientists to be able to invent different types of technology to enhance senses, or produce certain senses for those who have lost theirs, and help them regain their use of them.

Before I touch on the article I would first like express how I feel about sensory substitution systems. I believe that if I had lost one of my senses and technology could help me gain it back, or at least create an alternative for me to be able to live my life normally I would of course consider the option. However, depending on which sense you have lost it can be difficult and for this reflection I would like to focus on loosing the sense of sight.

Although there have been several advancements in this field I believe that once sight is gone, all that technology can do is help people see, but with another sense. Touch seems to be a very powerful substitute for those who have lost their sight, and from most of the article I have read it seems as if for those who have lost their sight if they are not able to touch something and feel it, they cannot see it. In this way, as the article states, “sensory impaired people are enabled to compensate their impairment.”

The article presents several fascinating technologies that can help people who are impaired, however as I was reading this article and also thinking about the technologies we presented in class, all I could think about was accessibility to these great inventions and new technologies. For instance, they mention the HyperBraille that helps visually impaired people navigate the internet. If you take a look at this amazing technology below, and even taking into consideration my own technology present in class, the Eye Stick, I cannot imagine the visually impaired having easy access to have any of this technology, sadly.

Image

I think that there is great future potential for sensory substitution system however, I think it is important keep in mind how a. people who are impaired will be able to afford them, b. who will teach them how to use these devices, c. the architecture of these devices need to be designed in such a way that easy to use and/or carry. Every one of these technologies seems to be very useful and would help many people but I feel as if because many who would need these technologies, because they wouldn’t have accesses to them would just restore to living life the regular way with seeing eye dogs, or white canes, etc. If this were to happen its unfortunate because it leaves people our of the social world and they are not able to communicate in the same way as everyone around them.

Although none of these products will produce full compensation to the sense that a person has lost, it is a step in the right direction in trying to help people regain what they have lost in the best possible way. I personally have never had any interaction with any device such as this, the closest I have come to is going to Playdium and playing 3d video games where I am wearing the game and everyone sees me shooting something they cant see. I believe they are called stereoscopic video games, but I am not exactly 100% sure.  Regardless, at the end of the day I am glad I can take off that technology and still be able to use my senses. However, for those who can’t I hope they can use a type of technology that will help people function the way they want to, and not the way society wants then to. Sometimes when these technologies get designed the designer is deciding what is worth seeing and what is not, and what is worth experiencing and what is not.

The Egg and the Sperm Reflection

Emily Martin’s article, “The Egg and the Sperm” is one that really caught my attention. In particular because it focuses on the stereotypical male and female roles, and although she looks at the biological processes of men and women, it is evident in today’s society that these stereotypes and gender roles extend from outside the biological processes. However, understanding the biological perspective is a good place to start when it comes to understanding male and female roles, and how society has fallen into them.

 

I noticed that as I was reading this article many real life situations whether it be through relationships or friendships with men, the way she described the biological processes and their meanings reminded me of how men and women act towards each other and what they think of one another. I agree with her when she mentions that the processes both men and women go through should be homologous, and that one process should not be seen as stronger or weaker then another, they should be viewed as equally important.

 

I also agree with that a large part of the reason that the biological processes of men and women are looked upon differently is due to the language scientist’s use. Martin’s write:

 

“A look at language-in this case, scientific language-provides the first clue. Take the egg and the sperm. It is remarkable how “femininely” the egg behaves and how “masculinely” the sperm. The egg is seen as large and passive. It does not move or journey, but passively “is transported, “is swept,” or even “drifts” along the fallopian tube. In utter contrast, sperm are small, “streamlined,” and invariably active. They “deliver” their genes to the egg, “activate the developmental program of the egg,” and have a “velocity” that is often remarked upon. Their tails are “strong” and efficiently powered. Together with the forces of ejaculation, they can “propel the semen into the deepest recesses of the vagina. “For this they need “energy,” “fuel,” so that with a “whiplashlike” motion and strong lurches” they can “burrow through the egg coat” and “penetrate” it (Pg. 489).

An addition line that caught my attention in the article was:

“The egg is also passive, which means it must depend on sperm for rescue.” (Pg. 490).

(Is the egg a damsel in distress?)

 

After examining both of Martin’s points the way we are, and the way we act comes of no surprise.  Language plays a large part, what is said to us and what we read influences us, and what we say to people is important as well. With regards to the first point, I remember when I was in school learning about what happens to our bodies when we grow up, I remember more details about what the mans job was then the women’s.  Even as I write now, I noticed that I wrote “job,” it was a mans JOB to take care of himself, to be healthy, so that he had good “swimmers” ( as they called them in school) so that he could create life and children.  As wonderful of a story as that sounds for the men, sadly the women’s story sounded like our job was just to wait. As if we played no part in the story what so ever.

 

As it is written in the first point, it seems that men need to be strong and full of energy, and protective not only biologically but in the outside world as well. It is their responsibility to take care of women and protect them because we are just “waiting” for someone to take care of us.

 

This leads me to the second point Martin makes. The fact that the egg can be described as passive and depending on the sperm to be rescued, plays upon pretty much every romantic comedy in my life. How stereotypical. The woman is “waiting” for the man to save her. It seems as if the man always has to “go get her” because if he does not the whole idea breaks down.

 

Even when we look at a simple example such as the YouTube video we reviewed in class on Barbara McClintock, a woman who made a great scientific discovery but was rejected. She was brighter then most of the male colleagues she had, and what was more interesting is that they were not only afraid of her but they afraid of her brain as well. The way the scientific community acted towards her (mostly males at the time) was of no surprise for that time period, and what Martin’s discusses can be inserted perfectly into a situation such as this.  I believe in that time period women were looked down upon even more, and even though today gender roles have changed, in McClintock’s time women were seen as having no real place is academia along side men.

 

I know up until now I have been writing as if I am an angry feminist, but the main idea that I believe comes out of this article is that our social relationship with one another, and our gender roles are an extension of our biological processes within ourselves. However, it is unfortunate that one process is looked down on and another is seen as more important. Therefore, I believe it is important to examine this, and question it, and think critically as to why that is. If we are able to do this then we can break certain stereotypical male-female roles. 

Closing Entry

From the various senses that we have discussed in class over the semester I do not know what it would feel to lose a sense, but I can only imagine it would be a horrific sensations for many people. If I lost one of my senses I definitely do not think I would function the same way as a person depending on what the sense is, and life would be very different. Also, depending on which sense I lost I image that I would also be envious of others, they have fully functioning senses and I do not. Overall, I would imagine that I would be sad and disappointed, but then again the experience would be different if I at first had the sense and then lost it, compared to if I was already born without a particular sense.

If I had to choose a sense that I would give up is my sense of smell, I went back to moodle and looked at the first week of class where we wrote out the different senses on the board and I felt like out of all those I would do without smell. I think I could give this sense up because I do not feel that as of right now it would be a large price to pay if I did lose it, I image that everything would just smell the same and there would be no distinction between anything, and if I had to lose that sense I think I would be alright with that. Yes I would never be able to enjoy those great smells or even bad smells but I would sacrifice that sense for all the other ones that I use and enjoy even more.

Lastly, a sense that I could not live without would be intuition. My intuition is everything to me, my life, and I base 95% of my decisions based on my intuition and what my gut feeling tells me to do. I feel like it is the inner guidance within me, and I would never want to lose that in my life. As silly as this may sound my intuition helps me decide if I should go somewhere or not or what I should pick if I have some sort of choice in front of me. Overall, I could never live without my intuition because it helps and guides me to make the right decisions for my life.

Thank you professor for a great semester, I learned a lot. 

Food

 

The show that I decided to watch for this blog post is called Masterchef which is a cooking reality TV show, calling out to amateur cooks and home chefs competing to go from amateur cook to master chef. There are three judges who will decide who goes on in the competition every week by what they cook. These 3 judges are celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot from Chicago who at 27 was Americas youngest 4 star chef, and Joe Bastianich who owns 20 of Americas best restaurants. After just watching the first few episodes of the first season, I was already able to relate certain ideas and key concepts that the article discusses that I never realised before. I’ve always known that food and the senses have a unique relationship however, what I never realised was how food and the senses can be explored in various ways and not just through smell and taste, although those senses play an important role.

 

The first point that caught my attention was made by Douglas, who not only pays attention to the food itself, but also the structure and properties. I believe that food or a meal itself is important not only in how it tastes but also how it looks and feels. The owners and chefs do not just refer to the taste of the food itself but also to what the author refers to, things such as, properties such as temperature, colour, presentation, texture. These are all important aspects that go into creating the perfect dish to explore our senses. In addition to that, what is important in a dish is not only the person creating it, but also what that person puts into the dish. At one point in the episode one of the judges said, “I could taste the desperation in this dish.” However, with another contestant the feedback was that he could feel the warmth and love and effort she put into her cooking. They take into account multiple sensory dimensions of food.

 

I would also like to mention that just as we looked at how sound has changed over time; taste, flavour and food have changed over time as well. Not only has food changed just because of time but also because cultures have changed and evolved as well, and many different cultures do not eat the same way or the same food as they did many years ago. Also, food has also changed because we have changed the dynamics of it such as adding or taking out ingredients, and also the way we cook it has changed because of modern inventions that have arisen. In addition to that, the type of food that is cooked varies by gender as well, which is something that I didn’t think about until reading the article, but something that I definitely went back to check in the episode that I watched. As the author mentions that women tend produce sweeter foods with sweet feminine disposition, I noticed that the female contestants were generally preparing meals that were either pastries or salads that had fruit in them that created a sweater taste, or even tacos that had a sweet mango glaze in them. All in all, the food was definitely different by gender because I also noticed the males even seemed to great meals that were spicier or even larger such as lobster.

 

As I was reading the article and thinking about food and ethnography I wrote this down “food -> cooking -> culture” It probably doesn’t make much sense but it got me to thinking about how you can find out so much about people and culture through food and different practices they have when it comes to food. For instance, even in the show the judges could tell where the contestants were from or at least from what state by what they were cooking. Which I think is interesting especially when researching and mixing together ethnography and food. In addition to that, not only did they know where they possibly came from but through the judges synesthesia they were able to explore the food in a way that took allowed them to explore their own memories as well as the memory or idea the contestant wanted to convey to the judges through the cooking. “Finally, synesthesia has been explored as a key to food memories through the notion that memory has multiple interacting sensory registers” (218, Sutton).

 

Lastly, I would like to mention as I did previously that food is not just about tasting and smell, I think that food can explore your senses and create memories and make you feel things that perhaps other things cant, I find it very interesting in unique in the role food plays. As I was watching the show Gordon Ramsay said something interesting that I thought was worth mentioning, he said, “this looks good.” I sat there and said to myself, “but how does he know, he hasn’t tried the food yet?” I thought that was very interesting because this proves that it is not just about taste and smell, our other senses can completely be immersed in food as well as other things, and are not limited just to the obvious senses. I found it very interesting that the fact that our eyes, sight, could also be a sense that allows us to know something is good without even tasting it first. As the author says in the article, “Our eyes let us “taste” food at a distance by activating the sense memories of taste and smell” (218, Sutton).