Formatization Unleashed

Formatization Unleashed

Ulrich Gehmann (University of Karlsruhe (KIT), Germany), Marco Zampella (University of Arts and Design, Germany) and Matthias Wölfel (University Furtwangen, Germany)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8679-3.ch017
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We propose the thesis that the evolution of information technology, which promises nearly unlimited possibilities, is actually not leading to an increase of individual freedom, but to the very opposite. Since a seemingly increase in individual user-freedom is accompanied by a de facto-increase in preformatted devices for achieving it, and hence, does lead to the actual decrease of this very freedom. All in all, the evolutionary process of information technology described in the following has led to an increasing number of abstraction layers the hierarchy of which can be interpreted as a pyramid of formats. The top of this pyramid is a format in itself that builds upon formats of lower layers. As the final consequence we as the users of these technologies are losing our actual degrees of freedom, with every layer introduced.
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Critical Patterns Of Development

As in other historical processes, a relatively high variety existing at the processes’ start declined during that processes' course. As a systemic phenomenon, such a pattern has been observed in the late 1970ies already, in investigations of the emergence of city-states and related historical phenomena (Pfeiffer 1978). The general pattern underlying such processes was that a rich variety of entities present at the start of the process – e.g., of city-states in early Sumer (Sumer was an ancient civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age.), of enterprises at the beginning of industrialization, of cultures before globalization – was increasingly narrowed, due to factors generating certain path dependencies the process in question had to follow, in its further course. An important variant of such processes was that a cultural and economic variety present at the start of a process consequently declined, sometimes even up to the point where the society in question doomed; as recent investigations of the matter reveal, comparing different cultures and historical times (Diamond 2005).

At least as cultural variety is regarded, the process we postulate in our thesis seems to follow that very pattern; based on the premise that phenomena of cultural variety can too be addressed in terms of actual freedoms of user-specific possibilities. Our sketch of an evolutionary process focuses on computational devices which serve as frameworks for different ways of software-based information processing (referred to in the following as “systems”), of processors and last but not least, of “users”: the very individuals who should play the central role for those systems, according to their own advertisements.

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