Tuesday, May 25, 2010



A cyborg: “a flesh-and-blood human enhanced with tiny embedded computers, a man-machine hybrid with billions of microscopic nanobots coursing through his bloodstream” (Pg 1).

This is Ray Kurzweil’s dream, and his belief of the future. That humans and machines will morph together to create a new super-species. He calls this time ‘The Singularity,’ a time where technology will be so far advanced that robots will come to be superior to humans. Such a time is feared by most, but Kurzweil is excited, and is looking after his body carefully so when the day comes, he’s be able to live forever in silicon.

How does this related to cultural institutions? Of course, everything is related! This predicted convergence of human and machine will change everything. It is hard to anticipate the changes which may be made in the future by such technological advances, but there are two possible general outcomes. Either cultural institutions will advance with technology, or it will be dominated by it and disappear (or transform into something new). The latter, more pessimistic of the two, is the view of the future we had adopted for our wiki and podcast. We envisioned a thousand years from now everything is online, is electronic, is somewhat second hand.

This morbid prediction comes from the what Kurzweil calls “‘the law of accelerating returns,’ which holds that technology does not advance in a linear fashion but rather at an exponential rate” (Pg 4). While this may not be a vision of how we exactly see the future, it is definitely a possible one. What it depends upon is the development of ‘machine ethics’, not only in how intelligent machines act with and towards humans, but in how humans use and act towards machines.

LYONS, D. 2009. I, Robot. Newsweek, 153.

Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us
Bill Joy

Joy has a similar vision of the future as what is projected in the podcast. That what we know as humanity will end, and cultural institutions along with it. (Will super intelligent robots want/need/understand cultural institutions? Will they even have culture?). It is impossible to guess how such robots may behave, and so is impossible to predict such a future where humans are subservient to machines.

A very plausible future, Joy suggests, is one where humans become increasingly lazy, or dependent on machines, because it is no longer necessary to do any work themselves. While cultural institutions such as Universities and Libraries (or variants of these) may still exist, for their necessary in giving humans knowledge, it is possibly theatres and galleries will not because of this decrease human drive. Of course, what is being transmitted to us is that robots will make our lives so much easier and give us more free time to spend on the arts. It is impossible to make an accurate judgement, one can really only wait until it happen.

Joy explains Moravec’s view that humans are in grave danger of extinction at the hands of machines, and this is the future we imagined for our podcast. Speaking in the past tense, a robotic voice guides you (you, possible a robot) through the electronic site of cultural institutions. There is one institutions remaining, that being one which holds archives of all the now destroyed human institutions. The high rate of technological developments and convergence has squeezed them all out, pushing them all into one, tiny, stagnant space. The guide is not nostalgic about the past, rather viewing it as a novelty to show other robots.

In creating this dystopian future, “we [were] driven, instead, by our habits, our desires, our economic system, and our competitive need to know” (Pg 20). Such factors drive our cultural institutions. But do these also drive intelligent machines? Without a consciousness (though one might possibly be learned), would robots even think of taking power from humans? Again, questions without answers, only theoretical solutions. And what we have presented in our wiki and podcast is one of the worst possible imaginings (short of destroying the world), this future where robots dominate humans, where cultural institutions which make our society so rich are now gone.

While, at least, it is not the future I believe will occur, it is still a possibility and again, what is most important is ethics in ensuring that we do not go too far with technology and destroy ourselves. I would definitely disagree with Joy who sees that “the only realistic alternative I see is relinquishment: to limit development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge” (Pg 20). I believe that we can push further forward, as long as we are mindful of what is important and worth protecting - and to me, most of all this means cultural institutions.

JOY, B. 2000. Why The Future Doesn't Need Us. Wired, 8.

New Theatre Interview Questions

1. What is your role within the Theatre?

2. How do you see the New Theatre's role within, and relationship with the local community?

4. What percentage of ticket sales go towards theatre upkeep? Or is the theatre run primarily on donations?

5. Has technology changed the way New Theatre (or performances within it) operates? Do you see it as positive, negative change or a combination of both?

6. If there is a change, is in internal or external i.e is the change a reaction to what technological advances are, or do you attempt to stay ahead of the change?

7. Who decides what performances will be put on?

8. What happens to a performance if it doesn't generate enough income?

These questions were directed towards Luke Rodgers, the Theatre Manager, who promptly replied once I sent an enquiry about sending him some questions, but once they were sent through, did not reply again.

What does this mean?
Did he not think the questions were appropriate? Did he not want to answer them? Did he not have enough time to answer them?

Whatever the reason, I am disappointed...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Site Visit: New Theatre

When we went to visit the New Theatre, it was closed. It only opens for shows, and for its Kids Club events held on occassional weekends throughout the year. As a cultural institution, then, the New Theatre is not readily available to the community - despite the fact that it is and always has been community-run. Irony!

We did however notice a little sign on one of the noticeboards: an 'access savings here' sign. These signs are like the little paper enemies of UTS students, for they benefit University of Sydney students with their access cards. The New Theatre isn't the only one that offers discounts to Univeristy of Sydney students, though. Other cultural institutions such as Dendy cinemas also have special offers for access cardholders.

Even though we were not able to fully explore the site on this particular day, we have visited the New Theatre before. I went to see King Lear there in year 12, as it was one of the HSC texts. Indeed, each year the New Theatre chooses its playbill according to the HSC English and Drama syllabus as part of its education program. Major productions, staged readings and a Brecht workshop are all offered to students and their teachers.

Library of the Future

The UTS Library has its own youtube channel, which it uses to post intructional videos related to the library. For example, there are videos to help users with the self service loans machine, the reserve collection, with book rooms etc.


The UTS Library also held a competition called Lib:DigiStory. The competition required contestants to create a short presentation that tells the story of the Library of the Future. The prize? $1,000 and the chance to shape the Library of the Future.

UTS Blake Library: the Staff of the Future

This is a great video made by some employees of the UTS Blake Library about what they think of the 'Library of the Future' - the UTS Library which is to be opened in 2015.

Site Visit: UTS Blake Library

The UTS Blake Library emphasis its huge online presence throughout the library. During our site visit, we found much evidence of this, such as in the photographs below. Pamphlets are offered for all of the different faculties, detailing how to find "your way online". You are also able to access catalogues, ejournals and databases from any computer, anywhere, thus almost eradicating the need to visit the library completely. Of course, when borrowing an actual book, you have to go to the library, but every other service provided is also available online. You can even ask a librarian for help online via email and even instant messaging.

The library installed a 'WallWisher' in late 2009, which acts as a digital suggestion board. It's located in the main stairwell on ground level. Basically it's a massive widescreen TV with a keyboard, and you can type in any suggestions or constructive (hopefully) criticims that come to mind. The library's staff reviews each and every one of these, answering questions raised and taking all comments into consideration. This is just one part of what the library's website terms the site's "ongoing improvement process". Users of the library were also surveyed in 2008, and the results page is named "You asked, we delivered". Emma posted these results earlier, which show just how much value the UTS Blake Library places on improving and as technology improves and as users expectations of the site's sevices increase.

An interesting thing we noticed during our site visit was the different levels of the UTS Blake Library, and how significant the choice in structuring these and deciding what went where was. For example, the International Cultural and New Centre is located on level four whilst the Australian Culture Lounge is located on the fifth floor. We found this, let's say, 'intriguing'. It certainly seems in character with UTS as a whole to value the international over the national, and we felt this was a great example of where both the univeristy's and the library's main interest lies.

The Baya Ng'ara Nura, which in the language of the Eora Nation means "read, listen hear think, place", is a space designed for Indigenous students to study and learn together and with other students. At least, this is what the UTS library's website says. On the day of our visit, however, the space was one of the few deserted areas in the building. There is also an exhibition being held at the moment, called 'Rivers and Resilience: Aboriginal People on Sydney's Georges River' . This exhibition is based on research from the book by Heather Goodall and Allison Cadzow, and it basically consists of a series of photos. It's interesting to note that the UTS Blake Library uses its space in such a diverse way, hosting an exhibition like a museum would. Especially an exhibition concerning the Indigenous people and history of the land, considering that UTS generally doesn't place any focus whatsoever on the past. At UTS and its Blake Library, progress is key and so the recognition of 'Australian' history is an interesting choice.

The UTS Blake Library also has a number of displays throughout the building which, like the Rivers and Resilience exhibition, are almost museum-like and thus kind of out of place. One way the library has found to integrate these 'exhibitions' with the university itself, which I think is pretty great, is to display students work. We found a display of digital cameras made by students in a Designer Image class. Not only was this interesting to see and read about, it was relevant to the UTS Blake Library. By this I mean it didn't feel like an attempt to be 'international' or 'national', but a university library. After all, a university library is undoubtedly a cultural institution.

Finally, we came upon a room during our Blake Library visit. We didn't go in the room, because people were working in there and we did not wish to disrupt the users of the library. However, we did take a picture of what really interested us about this room. There was a wall, with the words "This wall is usufructuary* Feel free to express amd write your ideas." painted artistically across the top. The wall, though, was completely blank apart from these words. Why?

First off, I had to look up what usufructuary means. According to dictionary.com, usufuctuary is a noun derived from Roman and Civil Law, meaning the right of enjoying all advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of thing not being destroyed or injured. So maybe this wall is saying to the UTS Blake Library users "sharing is caring, kids". Or perhaps it is commenting on the concept of copyright? Telling us to write our ideas, read others ideas, and learn from the experience certainly concerns the idea of intellectual property. And yet, nobody's written, read or learnt. What does this say about the UTS Library and its users?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Reluctant Actor

A snapshot of what it is like inside the New Theatre and Marie, a member and performer of the theatre

Marie Armstrong is an active member of one of Australia's oldest continuously performing theatres in the country -"New Theatre" in Newtown. Marie joined "New Theatre" at the age of 19 and has an uninterrupted association for over 60 years. Marie was awarded the Queens Jubilee Medal and the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her voluntary work at New Theatre. Marie's contribution has been on a variety of levels from acting, directing, choreography, drama and dance tutor. Her inspiring lifelong contribution gives a passionate insight into the relationship between "Politics & the Arts". Produced by Jamie McMechan Maritime Union of Australia Film Unit. http://www.mua.org.au