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?
So. I kind of want to go on a small rant about some things and I feel it is a little appropriate having read the #Ferguson article (which I really enjoyed) by the way. I liked the links to the “Why hasn’t #OccupyWallStreet trended in New York?” Article and it explained in greater detail why steady trends don’t ever become a an actual trend. Apparently it’s only things that burst into popularity that get to be “trending” which is how that stupid picture of that dress got to be so talked about. God that discussion made me feel so disgusted by what we have become. Honestly who could have possibly cared for more than a second. But I digress….
What I wanted to talk about was how dumbed down facebook seems to be, especially since easily likable things can trend so easily… and by easily likable, I mean pictures, things that you can see quickly and deem cool or not. I took some nice pictures at a fancy studio in hollywood and one picture got over 100 likes…. but every time I post an article that I think is meaningful and worth reading…. 0 likes.
It honestly makes me so sad.
From this “Trust Engineers” story someone posted about in the FB group I learned that FB changes questions it asks people to see what gets to best response and so small changes can have big effects in what is done and what is not done. It’s all very conditional, if one thing happens another thing happens because of it to get a certain outcome, and it’s the same with big TV channels and mass media, a lot of them tend to go for the shock factor and want to express it through their channels point of view. So in the Trust Engineer’s FB study on how different questions change responses, a lot of mass media networks claimed that Facebook was doing evil things and could have possibly killed people if they were having a bad day and somehow it made them more depressed (really FB was just trying to keep everything friendly and see which statements work when asking someone to take down a picture they didn’t like).
Anyway, that sort of reminds me of the article on immigrants and how they rather go through their own small radio stations and unite that way so they can avoid getting their perspective skewed.
Also, sorry this post has been all over the place…
I’ve been kinda bummed out about FB’s terribleness in the last few days and my mind is also…. all over the place. :/
I feel like this is the perfect week to discuss the topic of online activism, considering that the FCC officially passed Net Neutrality just last week. Like Tufecki said, Net Neutrality is very much a human rights issue. Without it, Internet providers could give higher speed channels and priority to institutions or organizations who could pay the highest—making only certain viewpoints, political opinions, or groups easily accessible online. (http://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now) As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “(Net Neutrality) is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept”.
The passage of Net Neutrality is a victory for Internet users everywhere, but particularly one for minority interest and rights groups. As Costanza-Chock discusses in her book, immigrant movements avoid main media platforms because “they’re going to tell their story their way,” meaning that the dominant culture that is portrayed by the media will fit immigrants’ stories to fit their own determined narrative of who they are and what they want. With the rise of the Internet and social media activism, these immigrant and other minority groups have taken their grievances online, using it as a communication platform to rally for their cause on their own terms and in their own words. Net Neutrality maintains everyone’s access to these sites, allowing these peoples’ voices to be as accessible as the main media’s, in theory.
With this accomplishment passed, I think that the next goal online activists can work towards is learning and mastering the viral culture of the Internet. Certain groups have already done so, but it is much harder for groups whose interests do not have a direct connection to the popular media to garner attention. I wrote an magazine article this past week for Her Campus UCLA that questions our generation’s online interests, pointing out that #TheDress debate and the rogue llamas in Arizona dominated the Internet on the day that Net Neutrality was passed, stealing the spotlight from what was supposed to be huge news. (http://www.hercampus.com/school/ucla/net-neutrality-thedress-and-llamas-oh-my) These things that tend to go viral are seemingly so random, that it is our job as Digital Humanists to study and hopefully learn what drives certain things to go viral over others. With this knowledge, civil activists can better understand the target audience they would like to reach with their campaign, and ideally spread a viral message that can lead to real social change.
Prior to reading Zeynep Tufekci’s piece What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson I hadn’t really heard the term “net neutrality”. I realized quickly what it meant – as we had heard a little bit about the concept from Safiya Noble. On a “meta” level, the term directly manifests the tension that Digital Humanities presents. How do the digital and humanities world collide? Can they coexist? How do they affect each other. In the example of #Ferguson, net neutrality stands as a solid example of this relationship.
Safiya mentioned during her talk that as a suggestion to Apple, she would hire people in the sociology/humanities fields alongside qualified programmers. Tufekci argues this lack of sociological foresight in algorithmic filtering, in that it “controls what you seen on the Internet. Net neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention, coverage and control”. It shocked me to discover that there are certain mechanisms built into algorithm filter settings like “term frequency inverse document frequency” which Tufekci explains as “as people in localities who had not been talking a lot about Ferguson started to mention it, it trended there though the national build-up n the last five days penalized Ferguson”. This technical function of Twitter, for example, most likely has some reasoning to it. But when something like this, a national/international controversy sparks, how does that fit in? It seems as though it would have trended nationally – but it didn’t (or for a very brief amount of time, according to Tufekci).
“Algorithms have consequences” writes Tufekci. Like she notes, this issue is multifaceted. It does not just have one consequence in one field. It has a multitude of implications, in a multitude of fields. One in particular that really strikes a chord for me is the issue of free speech. Algorithmic filtering stands directly in opposition to the “voiceless being heard”. Around the time that the Internet was shaping up to be what it is today, there was this idealized dream that it would be a place in which everyone could discuss anything. It was to be the most free form of communication of all time. And as with this example, it is clear to see that this ideal is not quite the case in actuality.
As Tufekci notes at the end of the article, Ferguson illuminates so many burgeoning issues in this country. “I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country. But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue”. Not only is the issue of net neutrality coming to the surface, I think it is one of the strongest forces working against these other issues that come up with Ferguson – race, police, employment. It seems that this is the most burning and easily approachable issue to begin dealing with.
Zeynep Tufekci’s article “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” rang a similar bell that Dr. Noble’s guest lecture did two weeks ago. When Dr. Noble came in, I was very unfamiliar with the problems of net neutrality and algorithmic filtering, but after reading this article I feel as though it is pretty clear to me that, like the real world, the Internet is not fair. As I was first beginning to understand this, I felt somewhat overwhelmed, maybe it was because of my own naivety, but thinking about Google and these other superpower cyber-entities that rule most of the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and how powerful and manipulative they can be without consequence is quite frightening. I knew that my Facebook feed was filtered, but I haven’t noticed it much until now because I am more digitally-self-aware. Now that the problem is identified, I do not really know how to contribute to (or what exactly is) the solution. I know Dr. Noble mentioned that she stays away from Google, but after reading Tufekci’s article, are we now supposed to stay completely away from Twitter and Facebook because their algorithms aren’t as truthful as we would like them to be?
I remember when the Ferguson incident and aftermath originally happened–or actually I don’t. During the summer, I went on a retreat where I completely separated myself from social media. I stopped using Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and Instagram for an entire week because I was out of service, but also for meditation purposes. After this retreat, I kept up this anti-habit of not using social media very often–which was also right around when the shooting of Michael Brown occurred. I did not really understand or even hear about what happened in Ferguson until maybe a week later than when it had happened. Although this was not directly influenced by algorithmic filtering or net neutrality problems, it was a direct result from how news in this day and age travels by one route–social media and the Internet. Sure, the news still reports all the same, but it seems, at least to me, more and more people (including myself) rely on social networking for news–that’s why people follow CNN or MSNBC on Twitter. I am curious why not many people were spreading the news orally. Maybe my co-workers and friends aren’t as news-conscience. Relating this back to my original thought, it’s scary how manipulative and these powers on the Internet can be through their filtering techniques–although it is even scarier how reliant we (including myself!) are on the Internet for our facts in the first place.
In Tufekci’s article “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” she discusses the role of twitter into political movements and overall events in the world. My roommate is very active on twitter and she was very active in the #ferguson, #icantbreath, and #blacklivesmatter movement. She went to protest in the streets and she has credited Twitter as her main form of communication with other fellow activists. I have read her Twitter feed and she is having important discussions and also trying to educate people. She is posting links to articles and encourages everyone to inform themselves. I do now have Twitter anymore and primarily use Facebook as my main means of online communication. I really feel like Facebook is not a good way to inform yourself of political issues because it is heavily filtered. I am always seeing the same 20 people post on Facebook and I know I have way more friends than that.
An incident that came to mind while reading the Tufekci article is the #ChapelHillShooting. I found out about it because of the “trending” section on the side of Facebook but I feel like I found out too late. I know things circulate way faster on Twitter and if I would have had Twitter it would have came to my attention faster. That is not to say that Twitter is heavily filtered, like the article states. The #ChapelHillShooting really broke my heart because of the news outlets. I saw the shooter’s wife on the news crying and explaining how a good man he was but I did not see the deceased’s families. News outlets were weary of calling him a terrorist or racist but if it would have been a Muslim killing three individuals it the news outlets would have painted the picture very differently. Sometimes I feel like personal accounts of news via Twitter are less disheartening than the things I see on TV or formal news outlets. Everything is filtered, yes, but we have to know what we should listen to and learn from.
Even though all these hashtags annoy me, I am so happy there are spaces where important events are being discussed, especially those trying to counter the popular media. Even though Twitter + Facebook are heavily filtered, I am glad people can post articles (and I hope I can see them!) and things that should be talked about are trending!
The title was a heading from the Out of the Shadows. It’s something I agree with and represents a similar idea. For example, the strongest friendships in my life, have less carry over in social media presence. Meaning our friendship is only strengthened in person and occasionally posting on their wall or a photo with them. It’s almost a silent understanding that its tacky and superficial to over-present a friendship online. Private text messaging aside, perhaps those who do heavily communicate via public scope of the internet, are friends that haven’t yet crossed that threshold of sincerity and depth. Sincere friendships may be tweeted, but tweets alone do not make sincere friendships.
If this indicates anything about social trends online, it can relate to political activism too. The real issues and passionate discussions happen in person, face to face. Our generation is quickly annoyed with “comment wars”, or heated political debated in the comment section of a Facebook post or any post for that matter. The mental reaction when watching a comment war unfold is typically “woah, calm down, it’s just a facebook post”. However that reflex says a lot about online activism and debate. It is something that isn’t rally taken seriously. Neither party in the debate is really going to change their mind or be in a position to learn something. The memes in this post are a comical way of showing how unproductive comment wars may be.
Maybe thats an indication of authority online, and our ability to take peers as a legitimate source. But in any case “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson”, brings up a good point about the difference between Facebook and Twitter as algorithmic filters. Facebook is too personal and Twitter offers a global perspective that is short and to the point. In either case, there are perks to simply having a discussion rather than it being invisible. However we must not mistake activity with accomplishment.
Net neutrality is finally and officially a thing, but leading up to this major descision, the internet was in a frenzy. I believe firmly in the net neutrality cause, so when I came across a Tumblr post asking me to call up this office, sign a petition, and most importantly share the post on my Twitter and Facebook, I immediately did as instructed. The only issue was, at the time I was logged into my boss’s Facebook on my computer (as an intern I’m sometimes responsible for her social media) and I forgot about that and accidentally shared the net neutrality post on her wall. Now, my boss is a social media famous quasi-celeb, so she got hundreds of likes, shares, and comments on the post. I quickly realized my mistake and re-shared it on my own wall, to a meager 2 likes. My own social circle was not tuned in enough, or didn’t care as much, about net neutrality as my bosses circle. I should have deleted the post off my bosses wall, but she thought it was funny (“I haven’t read any news in months that wasn’t from TMZ!”) so I left it there. I did way more for the cause by accidentally infiltrating someone else’s FB than I ever could have done on my own. It’s the sad truth that no matter how religiously you share and tweet about a topic, most of us just don’t have the following for it to make a difference.
The above video is the introduction to a YouTube channel called How to Adult. The channel was started last year and has over 60 videos dedicated to their motto, “Adulthood isn’t something that happens to you, it’s what you make”. The channel has almost 100,000 subscribers and popular videos include; How to ask someone on a date, do your taxes, ace a job interview, and how to manage living at home after college, plus all types of other things every burgeoning adult should know that your schools or parents didn’t necessarily teach you. The channel, its viewers, and creators all encompass this week’s concept of the Digital Native. This generation learns, teaches, interacts, and creates largely online and can barely remember a time when that was not the first option. Because of that we are innately different than generations before us but the idea that this someone creates this impossible rift between one generation and the next is comical. We are only using different mediums to communicate the same humanistic wants and needs we always have.
The term Digital Native has taken on many lives of its own and can now be seen with one simple Google news search as a divisively drawn line between us and them. Articles like CNN’s What Does it Mean to Be a Digital Native? , opens with the line “The war between natives and immigrants is ending. The natives have won “. What war were in ? Please explain, I was born after 1980, when have I been in this interweb combat you speak of?
There has definitely been a switch towards technology but this scare tactic of come with us or be left behind by the masses is problematic and mostly just silly. In authors Shah and Abraham’s Digital Natives With A Cause?, they explain that a Digital Native can be a person who has “realized the possibilities and potentials of digital technologies in his/her environment” (Shah and Abraham 21), can’t that be grandma and grandpa face timing? or your Aunt learning how to do a recipe she saw on Pinterest thru youtube? And no one was forced toward that, its just been this natural progression that we have all experienced just some of us sooner than others.
Like many of my fellow classmates here, I too acknowledge that I am a digital native. I have a difficult time thinking about what I did with my time when I was younger, you know, the pre-internet days. My memories only go as far back to when we had dial-up in our house. I remember my mom telling me to stop using the computer so that she could make a call. Good times, right?
I thought this week’s article was especially interesting. As an avid social media user, I constantly see social good campaigns online. Use this hashtag or do this dare and donate. The internet has become a place for social awareness for today’s youth. It’s difficult to get the word out without the internet, in my opinion. As mentioned by authors Shah and Abraham in Digital Natives With A Cause?, “…Digital Natives no longer want to be ‘subjects’ of inquiry and research. With an aesthetic of playfulness, irreverence, and a collation of the terrains of the cultural and the political, Digital Natives have often demonstrated their new aesthetics of political participation, cultural consumption and social transformation.” I do believe that digital natives use the internet as a way to promote social good. And though I agree that slacktivism exists, I think the power that the internet has brought us has truly sparked more political or social involvement awareness.
One of the most recent and interesting campaigns I have seen is the #HeforShe campaign by UN Women. They called for men to participate and proclaim their support for gender equality. But I believe that the most important part of this campaign, is actress Emma Watson’s speech back in September. She became the face for this campaign, and I believe it is her influence that made the video of her speech be viewed more than 1 million times. It’s what news publications were sharing all over the internet. Because she is a young woman with influence, it inspired other young people all over the world to care. Thanks to the internet, it helped get her message out. I can’t even begin to explain how many times I saw her video and young people supporting her message online. Emma gave another speech that told about the success of the campaign after her speech in September. It just shows that it isn’t uncommon for digital natives to make some difference online.