Part A – Cyberculture and Digital Time Lords-What’s the Connection? Part B – On Becoming Cyborg!

We experience cyberspace in all its spectacular and mundane manifestations by mediating the material and the symbolic. [T]hinking about what cyberspace ‘is’ and what it ‘means’ involves its own hypertextuality, as we mingle and merge the hardware, software and wetware with memories and forecasts, hopes and fears, excitement and disappointment. David Bell (2001)

Having already made a preliminary investigation into the realms of my digital artifact topic (see We Are Just Digitised Time Lords At Heart) I now find myself grappling with theories surrounding time travel and cyber conundrums. I am primarily concerned with making the connection between us as ‘digital time lords’ being fully enmeshed with our technological devices and various forms of time travel . Firstly, I wanted to gain an understanding of where our fascination with time + travel originates from? James Gleick, in his book Time Travelpostulates that time travel is an invention of ‘the modern man’ and that it was H G Wells who first devised the notion of a machine that could travel to different time zones and interact with them.

One way or another, the inventions of HG Wells colour every time-travel story that followed […] 

The onset of industrialisation and advances in technology gave us the notion of progress which in turn fuelled imaginings of what was possible and that we could invent fabulous ‘things’ using new industrialised methods of production.

 

Kieren Tranter (2013), theorises on the ‘concept of time’ in his essay In and Out of Time: Memory and Chronology discussing the interweaving of  ‘timelessness and timefullness’ within the long running sci-fi series Dr Who. He states that ‘the show can be seen as being performative of Western accounts of time […] trac[ing] the tensions within Western time […] offer[ing] hope; a way of living as being gifted with memory and chronology.’ Cool! So the notion that the Doctor is an alien fully loaded with human characteristics, who can pop in and out of time at whim leaving his mark on history’s annals, is an appealing utopian viewpoint and one that inspires hope and a sense of adventure.

Dr Who – Utopian delight!

Secondly I want to show how continually advancing technology acts as an ever present catalyst providing a medium through which we express our digitised ideas and desires. This is exhibited by our ready adoption of social media platforms and constantly engaging with the manipulation of time on our network connected devices.

On each of our digital devices, and within our social platforms, we are constantly traversing through the past, present and future by way of content. Every day we are connecting to old photos, tapping into current conversations and researching upcoming trends.

Technology is also cathartic for science however, Gleick comments that ‘[t]he rules of time travel have been written not by scientists but by storytellers’ and I would like to explore the connection between fiction and scientific research into time travel. Marc Millis, an Advanced Propulsion Researcher and head of NASA’s “Breakthrough Propulsion Physics” project, was inspired to follow his career in part from growing up with time travel screen fiction such as Star Trek. Apart from generating a massive fandom base and its ongoing screen success, Star Trek has influenced the development of several modern technological devices.


As I have already discussed in a previous blog, I will endeavour to make a series of vlogs addressing this topic and from the research I have done, I imagine I have enough material to make at least 50 episodes! Currently I have four vlogs planned:  Science Fiction & A History of Time Travel, Social Media & Time Travel, Time Lords Of Science and Time Travel Through Memory-My Own Journey. I will add another two titles, as yet to be decided, in the next week.

Part B: Becoming Avatar.

Apart from the content, there are the tools of delivery which are proving to be a tad problematic. I had decided to build an avatar which would act as the narrator for my blogs. Introducing Michelle!

Michelle_v1- not saying a word!

This model was built in Adobe Fuse. My plan was to export this avatar to Mixamo where it would be rigged for animation including facial animation that could be synced in real time via Mixamo’s FacePlus software. The rigged model would then be downloaded into Unity where the animation scripts would be configured. Great plan and soooo easy. Right? Unfortunately, since Adobe had acquired Mixamo, they had decided not to develop the  FacePlus software and no longer supported the online launch of the program required to use its real time facial animation capabilities. None of this information is readily available and in fact the FacePlus package is still available on the Mixamo site.

The no longer supported FacePlus program

I have experienced a dystopian bummer! Not to mention the time I spent trying to figure out why my software wasn’t working. Grrrrr. Anyway, there is another program, CrazyTalk (now at version 8), which has auto motion including lip-sync and I am hoping this will do the job. I may not be able to use Michelle_v1 and there will be another learning curve which is usually time consuming but I have not given up. This has caused a delay to the production schedule of my vlogs however I will give this one last shot before I surrender and choose another method for the narration.

Will this be the life support required so Michelle_v1 can talk?

Apart from the animation angle, I will need to learn how to become a good vlogger. Ian Betteridge, who has been my first stop for expert advice on how to be a successful YouTuber, says that ‘the first ten seconds of any video are crucial to hook in viewers’ and that ‘it’s not uncommon to lose 15% of your audience in the first 10 seconds’. Scary stuff for a novice.

Ian Betteridge-YouTuber and Technology Writer

At this stage other areas of interest for my research which I may or may not include: Philosophy of space and time, Quantum mechanics of time travel, Time travel claims.

Resources:

Bell, D 2001, An Introduction to Cybercultures, Routledge, London.

Tranter, K. 2013, ‘In and Out of Time: Memory and Chronology’, In G. I. Leitch (Ed.), Doctor Who in Time and Space:Essays on themes, characters, history and fandom, 1963-2012, (pp. 82–96), McFarland & Company Inc, United States.