The Programming of Robotic American Culture
A Dissertation Submitted to the
Division of Media and Communication
of The European Graduate School
in Candidacy for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Daniel P. Beckmann
Table of Contents
The Provocation of Study
The Programming of Robotic American Culture Project as Explained[TM1]
Why American Culture?
PART I – Time Periods 13
1.1 PRE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION: Villages
1.2 THE BROADCAST ERA: Forrest Gump the Editor
1.3 DIGITAL REVOLUTION: 1998-2008
1998 The Aggregator
The Search Engine
2004-2008 Social Networking/Viral Video
1.4 PRESENT TIMES: An Obscure Time
Obscurity in Life or Death
Viral is Dead – There is No Such Thing as Viral
The Selfie (omg)
Venture Capital as a Study
The Unshared Economy
Self in the Age of Obscurity
1.5 NEAR FUTURE: Refinements
It’s All Slowing Down
Our Data Residue
The Tyranny of the Actuaries
What’s the BIG idea?
PART II – Theories in Programming
Robotic American Culture 38
2.0 PROGRAMMINGS & Homogenerator
2.1 Robots vs. Programmers
2.2 A Discussion in Robotic Culture
Alright everyone now-IN-FORMATION!
Robotic formations: Answers first, then proof
2.3 A Discussion in Programming
2.4 Robot Vs. The Programmer
2.5 Homogenerator: Applying Philosophy to The Programming of Robotic American Culture
The Role of Metaphysics
New Dimensions in Programming
2.6 Introduction to the American Mainstream as Model of Robotic Programming
Functionality of the American Mainstream in 2007
Theories in Programming for the American Mainstream Audience
PART III – Applications in the Real 58
3.1 THE 4 step PRO-cess for IDEA CREATION:
3.2 Subjectivities Accepted: The Formula for Finding Most Agreeable Programming
3.3 Ending Subjectivities
Broadcast Anchor Leaves
3.4 Real Potentialities for the Programming of Robotic American Culture in the Future
So Much Potential
The Pen vs. The Internet
The Egocentricity of the ‘New Media’
Infantile Stage and Here’s Why
Disruptive Technologies: User Generated Content
How to Program for the New Technologies
PART IV – Ephemeral Writings 73
The Robots vs. The Programmers
NYT’s Digital Report is BAD NEWS
Obvious Places have Obvious Faces
Contempt for Content
Kick the Bucket List
PART V – Projects in the Real 100
5.2- The Blindspot/ABC News
5.3- Beatniks Project/ABC News
5.4- Current Journalism/Current TV
5.5- Viral Videos/Supporter Generated Content/Obama For America ‘08
5.6- Schmooru Network
5.7 – The Narrow Show/Schmooru
5.8- Art as Life/Schmooru
5.9- Correlate For Congress/ IB5k
The European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland, is like no other place on earth. It is the only place a student like me, whose education embodies my entire life, can successfully execute my academic mission. I earned a traditional Master of Science in Journalism certification from Northwestern University. In most cases, this is the ultimate degree in my profession, and along with my wealth of work experience, would enable me to teach at many esteemed institutions of higher learning throughout the world.
Northwestern did not allow me to complete the research I needed to fully understand the work of a journalist. It did not encourage me to think, or question how the media works. I did publish what one might consider a master’s thesis, but the Northwestern registry labeled it a “special project”. This thesis entitled “New Business Models in Broadcast Journalism” provided the foundation for the first part of my journalistic career. It foretold of the downfall of traditional business models and provided for some of the new ones that I have tried to employ, and others have failed to attempt, over the last 10 years.
For the past decade, I have been working on this dissertation. While some have suggested I “finish this already” or thought I wasn’t serious about completing it, the truth is, I had not felt comfortable asserting anything that would stand the test of time, let alone even a few years from now. The 10 years since I started my work at EGS have been marked by tremendous upheaval in our understanding of how American culture is programmed. The pace of technological development and our reactions to it have slowed down enough over the last four to six years that I now have a reasonable basis upon which to build a foundation for my life’s work, which will be explained in the pages to come. As a result, an entire part of this paper will strictly deal with the changes that have taken place over the last 10 years since I began this piece. This is part of the experimentation I conducted since I began my work at EGS.
A Different Dissertation
While I do intend this to be a philosophy paper, it will read dramatically differently from dissertations from traditional American institutions. There’s a reason I’ve chosen to do my studies on foreign soil at the European Graduate School. It is the only institution I have found that has tolerance for my study methods and the way I can best convey my ideas. EGS’s faculty is well known for their experimental nature, in addition to their groundbreaking and provocative work in their respective fields.
In particular, I was drawn to the ability to continue my daily work in an attempt to bring the theoretical to real, everyday practice. While it might have been nice to dedicate my entire time to academic study, my ability to apply theory in the real is a unique experience that is singular to EGS and made this dissertation like no other.
In part, this paper deals with the potentiality for writing or even starting such a task, an idea attributable to the influences of EGS professor Georgio Agamben. All we have in life is the potential that we work with for the future.
I have included an ephemeral section of writings and examples of my work over the last 10 years to remove the reader from a traditional academic perspective and closer to the front lines where media philosophies find their struggle and conflict.
This paper will never be completed, nor will my work. It serves as the foundation for the potentialities in further research and development in the areas I will outline. If this paper were to actually ever be finished, using the terminology of Wolfgang Schirmacher, homo generator will cease to generate. These dissertations and descriptions will indeed act as a guide for the enrichment of homogenerations to come.
Where are the footnotes?
It is never my intention to present anyone else’s ideas as my own. I will credit ideas wherever it is possible—conversationally as part of the text—so that acknowledgment doesn’t become buried as it so often is in traditional academic works. My objective for this project is plausible deniability. Few in my generation have had the chance to read enough to have full command of everything that is written on their topics before writing a dissertation. Furthermore, true understanding of another’s written or even spoken words is almost impossible in this writer’s view.
When EGS faculty member Jacques Derrida died while I was enrolled in school, but before I could take his class, it seemed that some philosophers breathed a sigh of relief because Derrida was no longer there to criticize them if they butchered his words and intentions to serve their own purposes in papers such as this. In order to respect the genius of Derrida and all who came before and after him, I will take great care to avoid inflicting similar damage onto their hard work. I will delineate when I am referring to someone else’s influence/programming whenever and wherever possible, but I do not claim to offer a total understanding of another’s work in this regard. Moreover, I cannot claim that there are no further and/or more representative examples from where these ideas were originally gleaned.
I will be as complete in expressing my philosophy, as I am able to do at this point. After the paper is published, I will continue to seek out continuous criticism of everything presented here. When the ideas presented here cease to be discussed, my work is no longer alive.
Please email me at email@example.com at any time to tell me what you think of my approach in writing this paper.
-Daniel Paul Beckmann
Omaha, NE 03/2007
Toledo, OH 07/2014
San Francisco, CA 09/2014
The Provocation of Study
I originally started my consideration of the programming of Robotic American Culture as people used to pass me in the hall at Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo, Ohio. It is customary in the Midwest for people to greet each other as they pass one another whether or not they like the person or even know them. Strangers always say “hi” to each other. This is part of the reason that the Midwestern United States has a reputation for being ‘friendly’- at least on the surface.
There is a significantly greater meaning behind why this greeting is such an important currency in the Midwest. I didn’t know much of the deeper context when I first started out. I did know that it greatly irritated me, and I began to react differently to it than my peers as my way of coping. I began to grunt at people as they walked past. It wasn’t always in such a negative tone – they still got the impression that I meant the same thing as saying ‘hi’, but my friendly grunting often elicited a different reaction.
At first, most people laughed. Laughter is an acceptable reaction when someone has perceived the truth, but doesn’t know how else to react. In this case, it wasn’t the truth I was telling them—at least not explicitly. Instead, the Midwesterner encountered programming for which there is no script. The truth was “why do we all feel the need to exchange these pleasantries when we may not actually even know or like each other at all”? But then, in place of ‘hi’, I grunted. It did not compute. The error message can come in three different forms—laughter, anger and no response.
Most people would argue, why not just let it go and enjoy the hospitality? The problem was that the ‘hi’ didn’t really say anything at all about the greeters’ personalities, their real intentions or what they actually thought of me. The ‘hi’ was simply a means to keep the peace. The repressive Midwestern culture, still has not begun to completely boil over— although, it’s starting to show its wear, in places like Ferguson, Missouri where they are just now beginning to talk about the awkward non-greetings they’ve had between white and black people over at least the last hundred years. This repression is based in this scripted form of interaction. Passing on the street: “Hey what’s up?” Asking a waiter for something: “SORRY, can I have some ketchup?” Are you really sorry to ask for the ketchup? No. But you disturbed the silence and almost all conversations among strangers are awkward in the Midwest. People are not saying what they feel to each other—they’d mostly rather not talk at all. (Midwesterners are programmed to reject this hypothesis at ALL costs. Ask them about it. See how far you get. In the East—they tell you how they actually feel or nothing at all. The West, you may not even register to them, they’re into themselves. The South, they genuinely want to have a friendly culture among their fellow citizenry for better or for worse).
The Programming of Robotic American Culture Project as Explained
The example I’ve been using to explain this project to everyone with whom I have discussed this paper over the last ten years since the name was conceived is such a useful one that it deserves high billing in this preface.
When anyone enters a 7-11 anywhere in the U.S., no one ever fears that she will not be able to operate one. The customer goes inside and looks for her desired purchases. The clerk watches from the counter until the shopper puts the items on the counter, tallies the total, gives change, and says, “Thank you, come again”. There may be variances on that theme, but something or a group of things decided this cultural programming long ago—but what were they? 7-11 does not have to work this way. In other countries, things work differently at times. In some cultures, any discussion at all is offensive or perceived as a waste of time. In yet other cultures, not stopping and having a more in depth discussion with a live person in front of your face is perceived as quick and offensive.
I am interested in how these programmings originate, how certain ones catch on, and why others do not. What other programmings are already out there that I don’t yet perceive and which ones have already died out. The pursuit of the origination, dissemination, and the inevitable doom of these programmings will be my life’s work.
Why American Culture?
Why not human interactions overall? Why limit myself? Put simply, I have been a student of this culture and its programming from a code level to a folk capacity my entire life. I understand it well, even beyond what language allows. I’m certain some readers will want a larger area of focus. The Holocaust and World War II are a common period of discussion at EGS. There were certainly cultural programmings present that led to the mass execution of several million Jews, including a great many of my relatives.
Despite the American focus of this paper, I have to admit that this period evoked serious questions within me and has effected the foundation of this paper. I have often said that the reason I found my way to journalism and still work in this field in the capacities in which I do has a lot to do with the hundreds of relatives of which I am one of the only descendents, who had no one to hear their screams as they were swept from their homes, broken apart, dehumanized, and killed.
My grandfather was the lone survivor of a very large family of rabbinical Jews. There are many questions about why he may have survived. He had blond hair and blue eyes. He also escaped and joined the Polish partisans. Ultimately, it is unknown why he escaped. My grandfather probably only talked to me about his experience for a grand total of 2 to 3 hours over the entire 16 years that I knew him. He settled in the American Midwest, in suburban St. Louis, Missouri. His perspectives—even those not associated directly with the first half of his life—helped me to realize just how interesting our open, yet repressive culture is, but also how it could be used to program large groups of people to do inhumane things.
I’m motivated do this work to give voice to the people who are screaming right now, whom no one can hear. I write this dissertation and continue my life’s work to try to understand how these atrocities continue to occur. It is my view that we, as humanity, through our digital tools which often obscure the truth instead of refine it, are going farther away from understanding these questions and, despite the endless cheerleaders to the contrary – even farther away from a clearer, more enlightened point of view.