Author Archives: ShanyaNorman

Twitter and Transmedia

This week’s readings focused on online activism, how it comes about, and whether or not this type of social movement is effective. Online activism is very present in my life, from seeing (and participating in) various hashtags on Twitter/Instagram to the use of Facebook to promote social justice causes within the UCLA community by changing cover photos, etc.

This week’s readings reminded me of a recent hashtag that trended on Twitter last month, #ChapelHillShooting. This hashtag revolved around the deaths of three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina. I remember discovering the hashtag on Twitter while I was up really late doing homework, as it was breaking news people were trying to spread awareness of the event and were also voicing their anger over the lack of coverage in mainstream media channels like CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. It was all over Twitter, so I turned on my TV and flipped through the big news channels and it was true, there was no mention of this particular breaking news. Twitter was the most active and mobile platform in which the information on this tragedy was spreading, as the online community kept spreading this hashtag until it was one of the top trends.

Another use of a hashtag, also involving discussion against religious stereotypes and backlash, is that of #Muslims4Lent. The idea behind it is to gather Muslims to show interfaith solidarity with Christians and Catholics who celebrate lent. An article on this can be found here.

These two instances, for me, relate to the idea of transmedia storytelling and transmedia organizing, as described in the Constanza-Chock reading. Both of these concepts play off each other and involve the use of multiple media platforms to create a unified story and mobilize/launch opportunities for action. The aforementioned hashtags were ways of bringing people together through online action to advance a greater social cause. They seemed to be effective in creating awareness and participation. They told specific stories through this online tool. Yet, the question still remains on whether this kind of social movement can be considered true activism. I can see and understand where the term “slacktivism” comes from, because does tweeting a hashtag really create physical change? However, is the spreading of knowledge and awareness through the use of transmedia storytelling/organizing through things like hashtags better than doing nothing at all?

Rock The Vote?

Millennials and Generation Y seem to be the topic of much discussion in today’s society. In particular, they are strongly associated with modern technological advances, which is when the term “digital native” comes into play. Shah and Abraham, in their report entitled “Digital Natives with a Cause?”, define and identify the various characteristics and perceptions of these digital natives. Providing working definitions, a digital native is thought to be a “youth significantly affected by the rise of Internet technologies” or part of an “emerging global population growing up with digital technologies central to everyday functioning” (7). There is both much criticism and much applause over digital natives, as mentioned in the report. Many consider digital natives to be self-centered and to be “consumers rather than citizens.” In other words, there is concern that this generation of people is using the Internet more for gratification, without much awareness or sense the political/social environment (17). However, others believe that the digital tools have promoted group mobilization/participation, information dissemination, and political engagement. This article on Elite Daily, “Rock The Vote: 5 Reasons For This Generation To Vote in the 2014 Midterms”, speaks against the various criticisms aforementioned and defends the power of this generation.

In particular the article points out how savvy Gen-Y is because “millenials have been equipped with the information, tools and technology needed to solve problems quickly and creatively.” The article even uses the term “digital native” to describe how 90% of Millenials are constantly online and on their phones, and thus to things differently. Due to the pertinent and permeating presence of digital natives in today’s technological society and the mastery of social media, they possess considerable influence in consumer habits, social behaviors, and political results.

The political aspect brought up in Shah and Abraham’s article reminded me of the popular “Rock The Vote” campaign that pops up every election season, encouraging younger generations to vote and make their voices heard. Celebrities are used to endorse the campaign and reach out to this sector of the population. Social media and the Internet becomes certainly becomes relevant, as it plays a big role in the digital native and the ultimate influence they can possibly have over matters like politics.

Kanye West’s Face and White People

This week’s readings all revolved around the pertinent issue of race and how the concept has developed through online platforms in modern society. Race and racism has always been a touchy subject, but I feel like the Internet has definitely transformed the way both these subjects are presented in society. One particular way is through the integration of race and humor on social media and online activity. I remember stumbling upon this article, Kanye West’s Super Bowl Selfie Face Perfectly Captures How Everyone Feels About White People, that discusses infamous Kanye West’s Super Bowl selfie face in the context of race, overlaying his face on certain situations that are meant to poke fun at white people. One example:

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Obviously, these images are meant to provoke laughter. Senft and Noble, in their essay “Race and Social Media, bring up the SWGSBG video, the concept of micro-aggressions, and how examples like that  ‘use humour to say something smart and discomforting about race,” which is definitely related to this article’s aim. Yet, I feel like it also defines a sort of racial divide, one that identifies a specific racial community by communities of other races. It speaks on racial stereotypes as well. Senft and Noble also point out examples of racial activity online, like Black Twitter, that show how the Internet is used to perform racial identities, which I feel is what’s happening through this article.

In terms of the idea of reverse racism, which is also discussed by Senft and Noble, this Buzzfeed article definitely acquired some backlash in the comments section. Examples:

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I just think that the fact that humor is so often used on the Internet in the context of racial relations is a very important thing to note. Because all of this is happening in the Cyber world through jokes, Vines, etc., has it desensitized people on the real issues of racism in this society? How can this sort of approach to race online affect the discussion around it in the real and physical world?

Report the Harassment?

This week’s readings revolve around the various risks and dangers of online activity and the moral panic that has ensued among the older, parental generation in regards to the Internet use of their children online. Danah Boyd explains how this type of panic has changed an evolved through history from the beginning times of Rock & Roll to sexual predators in online forums in today’s society. The category of teenage and adolescent girls is also very prominent in this discussion, especially in regards to sexual harassment and dangers online. As explained in the articles, females are seen to be at the highest level when it comes to risk and danger online.

I found this Buzzfeed article that pertains to such an issue, as it announces Twitter’s recently-added feature in which women, in particular, can fill out a form to report online harassment.  The article contains various screenshots of what would qualify as online harassment, like when a women posts a simple, serious question about the availability/use of tampons in other countries and is then subjected to 24 hours of comments where her appearance, anatomy and politics are mocked and degraded by other Twitter users. Along with some other examples of these instances where women seem to be unfairly attacked online, the article includes some statistics from a Pew study that report that 25% of young women have been sexually harassed online and 26% have experienced stalking.

In reaction to these instances and in collaboration with WAM, a nonprofit dedicated to gender justice in the media, Twitter added this form in which women could report such online attacks. Relating back to the readings for this week, this type of form and action by Twitter/WAM falls in line with the moral panic and the discussion of Internet risk and danger, especially around young females. With this, they are recognizing the risk/danger women are subjected to and are attempting to alleviate it. My question is, how has this form changed or altered such harassment? Does this kind of action really work? What are the consequences for those that are caught doing the harassment? Also, does this bring up issues of gender equality online, as a whole? I’m sure males get harassed and bullied too, maybe especially those that are young and/or identify with the LGBT community. How are those cases being dealt with in today’s Internet realm of Twitter and other social media outlets?

You Took A Selfie Where?

Within this week’s readings, the issue was raised revolving around appropriate vs. inappropriate times to take selfies. These appropriate or inappropriate times can depend on the current circumstances, the location, the people involved, and more. In Elizabeth Losh’s essay discussing feminist media theory within the Selfiecity site,  she describes the cultural conversation about when selfie-taking can be seen as taboo or one that tip-toes the line between the private and public sphere.

This question of when is it right or wrong to take a selfie in this day and age reminded me of this Buzzfeed article that reported the online reaction to people taking selfies at one of the most recent tragedies, that of the Sydney Siege in late 2014. As many recall, a cafe in Sydney was taken over by a lone terrorist and hostages were taken during the standoff, which resulted in the deaths of two and injuries in others. This Buzzfeed piece, entitled “Outrage as Bystanders Take Selfies at Sydney Siege,” collected and reported on various Twitter reactions to people, mainly tourists who were visiting Sydney, who had been caught taking selfies in front of the cafe scene during the 16-hour standoff.

Of course, most of the reactions that were screenshot and presented in this article condemned this act of taking a selfie in front of a hostage crisis. Many claimed that taking such a photograph was selfish, disrespectful, and was just plain inappropriate at such a catastrophic event as this. Some even marked this showing as the end of decent humanity. Thus, this moment in history has definitely been categorized by a majority of people as an inappropriate time to take a selfie. Like some of the case studies within the reading for this week, like those on the Auschwitz selfie and selfies during funerals, these times have been designated as not the right time to take such a photo.

So, what makes a time appropriate or inappropriate to take a picture of yourself using your phone/camera? If all selfies are seen negatively as narcissistic, selfish, or egotistical, why aren’t all times in life considered inappropriate to take a selfie? I thought that this point might be an interesting one to flesh out, as I feel like my friends and I know what could be considered the right time to take a selfie or not. We can see and understand why there would be outrage over selfies during the hostage crisis. But how have we learned to know the difference between when/where is right and when/where is wrong?

Week 4: Selfies Can Be Good Things?

Rettberg’s Seeing Ourselves Through Technology: How We Use Selfies, Blogs, and Wearable Devices to See and Shape Ourselves, really resonates with the idea of identity in the Internet-driven times of today. Self-representation through blogs, tweets, status updates, and selfies permeate within most of our social media lives. Does that mean we are conceited or narcissistic? Are we too self-absorbed to an extent that it can be seen as harmful?

Many criticize the modern trends of self-representation through social media. I’ve had friends who don’t use Twitter because, from their understanding and perspective, it is a media platform that is arrogant in the sense that you are posting unimportant updates on your own life. “What do you even tweet about? Who cares what you’re doing at this particular moment or what happened to you?” Another form of media self-representation that takes a lot of criticism is the selfie, which Retteberg dedicates a whole chapter on.  Taking multiple photos of oneself and posting them on a public forum seems like the ultimate vehicle of vanity or conceit.  Because of such a reputation, as Ratterburg discusses, there is much disdain toward selfie-taking in pop culture, especially among young women who are deemed as the “stereotypical selfie takers”. This “selfie hate,” as Rattberg coins it, is ever-prominent in this society, yet the phenomenon continues to grow.  But why? Is there any good that can come out of all this public sharing of one’s self?

I came across an article on Elite Daily entitled, “Why This Generation’s Obsession with Selfies Isn’t Really a Bad Thing?” and I felt that it was an interesting counterpoint to much of the negative discourse we hear on this subject. It discusses many of the positive points of selfies, including selfies as confidence boosters, ways to save memories, and ways to see change over time (which relates to Rettberg’s discussion on the time-lapse selfie method). In any case, the author tries to spin much of the negative discussion around and find some of the positives that come along with this trend. As Rettberg expresses, this kind of self-representation stems from a history of diary writing and other tools of self-reflection, which don’t come with as negative a connotation as a selfie or status update.

Me, personally, I’m not one to take many selfies on my own to post publicly through social media. Maybe it’s because I haven’t mastered the art of taking them from the right angle with the right lighting or I’m just not comfortable with posting them because of the whole selfie hate that, admittedly, I engage in sometimes. Yet, I have plenty of friends who take selfiesoften and are totally comfortable. I even have one from high school who created a whole separate Instagram account that chronicled one selfie of hers per day for a whole year, as a personal goal to see how much she changed over the course of that much time. Although I may not visually post selfies all the time, I am a frequent Twitter user and I post random happenings of my life on the daily. Different ways of being self-absorbed? To each their own, I guess.


Week 3: Struggles of Social Media Addiction

            are you addicted to social media

In It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, Danah Boyd tackles issues of identity, privacy, and addiction within the realm youth online activity. Using numerous accounts, encounters, and examples of teens and their use across multiple online networking platforms, she draws conclusions of internet use amongst one of the most pivotal generations. While reading about Boyd’s studies on addiction, I was reminded of one of the many lists that I have seen on the popular site, Buzzfeed, which houses various social, online content relevant to today’s world. The list, entitled 26 Struggles of Being a Social Media Addict, seems to be a suitable and pertinent, albeit humorous, take on the issue of internet addiction that Boyd discusses in her writing.

The Buzzfeed list includes various situations that can arise for those people who are “addicted” to different social media outlets, the likes of which include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or even just texting. It uses different pictures and GIFs of references to popular culture that illustrate these struggles. The list has a light-hearted and sarcastic tone/feel to it, exaggerating and poking fun at these ridiculous “first-world” problems of people who are obsessed with online social media. Yet, it is one of the more popular lists because many of these situations are completely relevant to today’s time. I, myself, am definitely guilty of experiencing some of these social media struggles, like having an ideal following-to-followers ration, tweeting about my anger, and using an unnecessary amount of #hashtags.

In terms of relating to Boyd’s discussion of addiction, this list can be seen as exemplifying the oddities Boyd mentions about the use and abuse of the Internet. As she explains, the definition of addiction includes an “overuse” or “misuse” of a behavior, which in this case, is social media. The dangers of such an addiction are illustrated in this list, which conveys the shallowness that can arise from the overuse of these outlets. It might be seen as silly to be referred to by your Twitter/Instagram handle in real life, or to rather have a conversation online rather than face-to-face or on the phone. Yet, these are the realities for much of the teen generation that is so enveloped this type of online activity.

However, I really can’t be one to criticize. I’m one of those people who can’t put a self-timer or blocker on my computer/phone, preventing me from using social media during finals or other busy times. While I know that isn’t super healthy or ideal, I feel like I do so because I agree with Boyd’s point that humans are social beings and desire to be constantly connected with other people and their surroundings. However, because “addiction” has a negative connotation, there are some thin boundaries and dangers we must be aware of as the teen generation continues to move along and advance in this technological society.


Week 2: Moral Panic in Men, Women, and Children

Men, Women, and Children

Quite recently, I watched the movie Men, Women, and Children, a film released in theaters late last year. Based on a novel of the same name authored by Chad Kultgen, the comedy-drama stars notable actors such as Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris, and newcomer Ansel Elgort. The trailer can be seen here.

The film revolves around certain high school teenagers, their parents, and how they each deal with the Internet effects on their interpersonal connections and relationships, including parenting, love and marriage, self-esteem or image, etc. Various social media platforms are referenced, like Facebook, Tumblr, online dating/escort sites, iMessage/texting, etc. Throughout the movie, these Internet outlets play a significant role in the issues that arise for, and between, the characters. Overall, the film acts as a sort of social commentary on the effects and consequences the Internet-permeated age of today has on personal relationships within society. This idea certainly falls in line with the running theme of Nancy Baym’s Personal Connections in the Digital Age.

In particular, various aspects of the film reminded me of the concept of moral panic that Baym defines and analyzes within her discussion of the Social Construction of Technology perspective. As the film focuses on teenagers’ personal use and development alongside these Internet platforms, all with the parents being involved with some level of concern, it relates to the whole idea of moral panic that Baym describes. She specifies that these rhetorics of the dangers of new technological media focus on the well being of children, especially teenage girls. In Men, Women, and Children, Jennifer Garner plays a highly protective mother, Patricia, who pays insanely close attention to her teenage daughter’s Internet use. Patricia checks her daughter’s Internet history frequently, GPS tracks her daughter, and even goes so far as to install a device that connects her daughter’s mobile Internet and data use to her own personal phone that relays everything that goes through her daughter’s phone. Lastly, Patricia leads a support group for other parents in the community that advises other parents how to monitor the Internet use of their children. I related this storyline in this movie as a visual example of that “moral panic” that Baym describes. Patricia symbolizes the anxieties that, in Baym’s words, can come with these uncontrollable social forces that become the focus of efforts to understand a cultural trend (Baym, 31). Much more in the movie seems to be relevant to many of the concepts we will study in this class, so it’ll be interesting to see how it might continue to act as an example as we continue to go along through this quarter!