Author Archives: nklepper

Week 9: #Crazy #About #Hashtags

People don’t seem to understand the power of the hashtag. Not only is it a way to add sarcastic humor to an Instagram or Twitter post, but it is also a system of organization and categorization for pop culture references, worldly topics, and even geotagging purposes. In light of the discourse my group discussed in Digital Humanities 101, we found hashtags extremely important in creating parameters for our food truck data. By searching popular and relevant hashtags about specific food trucks and their food genres, we were able to create visualizations and timelines to plot data to enhance our understanding of our topic. The advantage of enabling geotag locations on each social media post allows avid food truck fans to track and follow the location of the truck per Tweet.

Not only are hashtags important in locating the hottest food spots in Los Angeles, but they also target and broadcast national buzz-worthy topics from pop culture references, dress color confusion, sports tournaments and celebrities, to natural disasters, outbreaks, and even heated political or social concerns. People want to be ahead of the game and know about events before other people do. It is natural to be competitive. With the introduction of social media networks to our daily lives, people are turning in newspapers and TV news reports for live streaming Twitter updates, Facebook posts and questionably credible Buzz Feed articles. In fact, I found out about the Connecticut shooting and Ferguson because of social media – not the news. Where the lines get fuzzy is when you consider sharing this news with your friends and followers, and when you engage in heated discourse. A relative of ours posts constantly about her very binary thoughts regarding Ferguson and at times, her content is very off-putting. This puts my family in a hard place because we have varying opinions of the subject matter, and to have a beloved relative scrutinize and bash people with a differing opinion than hers is quite offensive. Social media is another version of freedom of speech and although it should not be regulated, individuals need to understand the appropriate social cues when it comes to online discussion to avoid ostracism, or offensive language.

Week 8: Slacktivism and Global Movements through Social Media

The notion of adolescence and childhood has been in a progressing state of blurriness due to the rising Digital Native population and the concept of technology functioning as a necessary part of young adult’s everyday lives. Shah and Abraham discuss in Digital Natives with a Cause? how this generation of individuals has the potential to cultivate a new wave of activists who can be empowered through technology to develop new movements to change the world. Engaging with local knowledge within the context of one’s community while actively appropriating global paradigms into these digital campaigns creates a beautiful balance between local and global perspectives. However, to assume this generation of individuals truly understands, appreciates, and appropriates their power is definitely stretching our faith and trust in this group of young people.

Popularized by turmoil in the Middle East and the Arab Spring, the term ‘slacktivism,’ is the notion that the individuals who are updating social media about relevant news happenings aren’t actually the individuals directly participating in the action or the movement. It is a kind of “bandwagon” effect, where these users believe they are helping the cause by using digital resources to update their followers, but the extent of their physical assistance to the cause my reap little to no benefit. In a way, it represents a false sense of confidence and is considered taking the easy way out when we are referring to notions of hard campaigning and protesting. However, the beauty of social media is that if one person tweets about a news event, pop culture reference or global issue, someone is likely to see it and respond, or at least make a mental note and be more conscious and aware as a result. Social media represents a highly visible, digital platform for all the world to see, digest and respond to.

One of my personal favorite examples of slacktivism and as Shah and Abraham coin “e-activism,” is the Kony Campaign of 2012.

The video has collected over 100 million views, as of today, and was one of the first success stories of digital activism in our modern era, besides the grass-roots social media campaign for Obama in 2008. Participants and users of all ages contributed to the cause by just sharing the YouTube link on their profile pages. At the time, it seemed like everyone involved was actively helping to capture Kony and solve the problem at hand, while the reality is that frankly they weren’t contributing directly to the cause. Some may argue that by sharing the video, it created awareness and lead to donations, which is true, but when you boil it down to the actions, simply sharing a YouTube video doesn’t help to capture the enemy. We must consider the extent of involvement individuals play in online activism.

Week 7: Anti-Social Media

It’s kind of funny how the Internet was once considered a great “equalizer,” as it has ironically progressed to create the infamous “digital divide” and technology gap that many societies struggle to close. Senft and Noble reference in Race and Social Media that although society associates racial stereotyping with a negative connotation and fears being labeled as “racist,” our communities are ultimately uninterested in abandoning racial groups because it’s our social reality. Not only is this true in public environments and social settings, but it is also found true online. Racial stereotyping, segregation and targeting are found even more abundantly online. Although part of the intention of the Internet was created to close the gap between cultures with different socioeconomic statuses, it has evidently created a larger gap between racial groups because of its anonymity. Some may consider this a form of empowerment – the act of providing people with technology to spread ideas – however, not all online activity promotes well-being and positive racial interaction.

A newly categorized term of racist commenting and promotion online has been dubbed “anti-social media” for its obvious reasons to detract from normative online conversations and interactions and instead create unnecessary messages and hype about race and profiling. This article by DiversityInc concludes that over 10,000 racist and derogatory tweets are posted per day, with 30% of them being directed towards a specific individual or a group. As social media platforms have grown, so has room for new perspectives and opinions on the appropriate usage of these various media. Who are we to limit the free speech of an individual online? However, what does it say about us if we don’t do anything? This sticky situation is one that many online users find themselves in on a daily basis. According to the concept of interpellation, individuals categorize themselves based upon others’ reactions to their specific racial group. Although this is more of a subconscious thought, how is that fair or equal to assume the stereotype others have put on you? For me, the best thing I would suggest is to stay out of it, but for you brave hearts, maybe you can take the chance and make a change to let people decide for themselves which group they want to belong to, aside from others’ beliefs for once.


Week 6: Save the Children, Save the World.

Children are being exposed to the Internet, social networks, and various digital media technologies much earlier in their lives than any generation ever before. With this premature exposure to online content comes parental fear and moral panic that author danah boyd* believes to be described as, “when the public comes to believe that a cultural artifact, practice, or population threatens social order.” This content surrounds issues of not only online predators and sexuality, but also of cyberbullying.

According to, our children and teens spend up to seven hours per day on electronic devices. “One in six 6- to 9-year-olds and one in five 8- to 9-year-olds have experienced what parents consider objectionable or aggressive behavior online.” Although girls are generally more targeted than boys on these technologies, both genders are subject to be active proponents and receivers of cyberbullying. In light of the serious mental health effects cyberbullying has on our children and teens today, websites and apps are taking precautions to prevent this online abuse in as many ways as possible.

Apps like, Mobicip, limit a child’s time on certain social networks and block adult websites from search results.


Other apps like, Safe Eyes, enforce strict and filtered search results to limit a child’s accessibility to profane and inappropriate website content.


One of the most severe, but effective, apps out there is called, SafetyWeb, and actively tracks all activity on social media networks, Internet searches, and even text messages. Although invasive, and potentially unethical, this app provides parents with the relief and overseeing abilities they need to protect their child from harmful online predators and peer cyberbullies.


The ethics behind these tracking sites is definitely a debatable topic. However, at earlier stages in a child’s development, there should be no reason for children this young to be on social media in elementary school, and potentially be exposed to inappropriate and unsafe content by peers and older acquaintances. Ultimately, this exposure shapes both child and teen behavior, and these apps take the extra step to help prevent any negative influences from becoming a permanent mindset on developing children in our societies today.

*danah boyd, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2014), chapters four and five.

Week 5: Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Copyright

With new and evolving technology, photography is more accessible now than ever before. With an increase in digital and social media usage over the past decade, there has been a parallel increase in online visual content. The amassing of images on the web has been a proponent of many legal battles concerning the copyright of certain images.

Case Study: Rachel Scroggins is an established fashion and portrait photographer based in New York City. Over the past few decades, she has shot at a myriad of runway shows and has a client list of popular fashion icons and texts such as Oscar de la Renta and Elle Magazine. She actively posts visuals for Oscar de la Renta’s social media accounts, like many emerging photographers. However, the capstone moment in her career occurred behind-the-scenes at a runway show. Scroggins snapped a photo of model Karlie Kloss mid-selfie and posted it to her blog. Just days later, Kloss naively reposted the image, sans photo credit, to her Instagram account – which has over 7k followers and up to 15k users who actively ‘like’ her posts. That is thousands of users who saw and ‘liked’ the image, but never got to see the credit of the rightful photographer behind the image. Acknowledging Scroggins in the post could’ve lead to many opportunities for magazines and publishers to pay Scroggins for her work; however, that image is now distributed – uncredited – virtually everywhere online and will be impossible to track and get compensated for.

Apologies don’t make up for thousands of dollars of hard-earned money, and although Kloss wasn’t deceptive in her actions, she instigated a never-ending copyright battle that Scroggins will never be able to escape. As an aspiring photographer myself, I understand the complications with not immediately copyrighting my images when they are posted online. I run my own photography business and have experienced many instances where my customers and peers post my images as their new profile image without crediting me. Every picture my clients have used has amassed the largest number of likes – comparative to their other posts – and it is extremely disappointing to know that I lost potential views and customers for my business because I wasn’t properly credited. Young photographers need to reevaluate business strategies earlier on to establish a sense of professionalism and get the credit they deserve.


The moral of the story is to be careful about what you post. Copyright your precious material because who knew that a selfie could be worth so much money?

Week 4: To Filter or Not to Filter, That is the Question

I found Rettberg’s multi-faceted definition of ‘filter’ to be extremely intriguing and dynamic. On the surface, our society sees filters as a kind of ‘net’ to capture impurities. In technology, a filter is used in a very similar way to metaphorically remove search content that is irrelevant depending upon the specific keywords and phrases searched. In an exclusively social media reference, a filter is a tool used to add or subtract certain light colorations to your images to enhance the appeal of user photos. Despite the abundance of valid definitions for this term, I find the most important definition to be related to a sociotechnical aspect of our societies. Cultural filters are quite possibly the most important filters to recognize, because they help determine the norms and customs of a society. In turn, abiding by these rules helps users gain more likes, followers and favorites. For example, in my community of UCLA students, we find it out-of-the-norm to post Instagrams more than once every few days. The individuals who decide to break this social norm are seen as undesirable or like-hungry.

Instagram filters have been steadily declining in popularity as they have became too obvious and recognizable to users. In a Business Insider article that was posted at the beginning of the year, it reported that the new social norm is to not apply filters to images because it was the ‘uncool’ thing to do. Further analysis on this idea, combined with my experience and social participation in this group of millennials reveals that adding filters can seem like the user is trying too hard to fit in by making their photo as worthy to their followers as possible. From this, an emerging normality in the social media world is the use of the hashtag #nofilter and VSCO Cam. Despite the the dated popularity of using filters to enhance images, many millennials take pride in their budding photography skills and make it known to their followers that their image wasn’t enhanced with a filter, to show the natural beauty of the image. Another emerging technology is the VSCO Cam app. This app uses lighter filter options to add an old fashion filmy quality to photos to make it seem like the user isn’t overdoing it with lights and coloring additions, as seen below.



Week 3: Can We Auto-Correct Humanity?

Danah Boyd explains in her novel, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, that there is an inherent difference between technology addiction and overuse. In today’s society, the term addiction is thrown out without second thought by concerned parents whose teens are seemingly consumed by technology and emerging digital cultures. Although I want to believe that I maintain a balance between my online and offline lives, I am aware that my online activity is taking up an overwhelming amount of my day, and creating excuses to put off face-to-face interaction. I’ve noticed that I shy away from confrontation and rather submit to a technological interaction to solve problems. This isn’t a healthy way to live life. Where is the personal growth and development? This is what concerned parents should be worried about: how technology is a limiting agent to offline interactions and is beginning to replace traditional forms of communication, instead of monitoring their children’s actions are online.

In the YouTube video, “Digital Insanity: Can We Auto-Correct Humanity? Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me,” user ‘Prince Ea’ communicates the importance of social interaction in our world today, amidst our obsessions with our virtual lives and personas. “The average person spends four years of his life looking down at his cellphone,” he poetically declares.

However, as a member of this ‘new youth culture’, I’ve recently noticed that this decade is developing a proactive culture. The beginning of the new millennium saw the development of Facebook and other emerging social networking platforms. As the progression of these technologies have slowly incorporated themselves into our everyday lives, people have begun to realize and react to the technological “addiction” and have created movements, like ‘Prince Ea’s,’ to facilitate more real-world experiences, in place of virtual ones.

I have witnessed, first-hand, that this new decade is more aware of this idea and is speaking out to prevent others from ‘missing out on life.’ Peers are now seeing the importance of putting down their mobile devices and are becoming more PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE about their technology use. By no means has this proactivity stopped or solved the problem with technology overuse, however, it is an important step in slowing down the apparent dependence adolescents have on technology today.

Week 2: Alone, Together?

The development of new technologies in our society today has set a unique precedence in our everyday lives. Technology provides reason to be an oxymoron; facilitating both human connectedness, as well as a loss in human connectivity. There is an ongoing fear that media will substitute for face-to-face relationships. Social media networks and other technologies – like cell phones, Skype, and FaceTime – have allowed for efficient conversation and reconnection with old friends; however, in many cases, they have served as a substitute to relationships that should be sustained by face-to-face interactions.

Sherry Turkle, a professor in Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, boldly states that this new era of technology has encouraged the idea that we are alone, together. Essentially, through using social media and other networking apps, we create a sense of connectedness with others. Despite having the ability to talk to anyone of your friends at the touch of a button, the physical act of burying oneself in a phone and their personal – but virtual – life creates the feeling of ‘aloneness’ in the public sector. Many people rely on mobile devices as they fill the void that is created when all our friends are busy. ‘Temptation’ and ‘addiction’ have been words recently associated with new technology and mobile devices; they’re the non-prescription drug that will never let us down. This continuous interaction and dependency with technology has created a new generation of individuals who are more concerned with appearance and social standing, than the quality of interaction with acquaintances. These technologies are guiding our emotional lives and setting the tone that ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ are a kind of valid currency in our society. Turkle believes that as we depend more and more on the latest and greatest technological inventions and mobile apps, we expect less and less from people. In a sense, we are ‘being used’ by the technology because we are losing control over its presence in our everyday lives.

Nancy Baym sees our world as a dystopian society, because it is progressively more difficult to stop or effectively slow down the change that technology has sprung upon us. “We must recall human purpose and hope,” Turkle declares, “[because] technology has become the architect of our intimacies.”

Watch Sherry Turkle’s TED Talk below!