“I don’t usually take this many selfies, but I’m in a long distance relationship”

This week’s reading struck a particular cord with me because like a great majority of couples today, my relationship is long distance, started primarily online, and is assisted greatly by text messages. Through this experience, my life has echoed the same issue of an honest and authentic social identity like that of which Baym accounts in New Relationships, New Selves?
I accepted my future boyfriend’s request on Facebook because we went to highschool together and while we knew each other superficially back then, we definitely didn’t know each other here ten years later. So I am very aware that the pictures, places, and events I’ve posted not only helped him get to know me but also sparked his initial attraction to me. He saw me as really similar and fun online and was interested in knowing me better because of that. Lucky for us, our relationship has provided connections that are deeper than Facebook post both emotionally and intellectually but I still honestly feel a certain amount of pressure to uphold that visual image of the cool, exciting, pretty and attractive version of myself he initial responded to.
I wouldn’t describe my Facebook or Instagram accounts as a highlight reel of my life that only depicts the most glamorous, enticing form of me but as Baym describes I often “…present one’s best look rather than my everyday appearances (103)” because well duh, I’m not that excited about the world seeing my worst or even my mediocre. But where this gets tricky is I am trying to form an actual authentic and lasting commitment that cannot and will not be aided by the constant editing or fabricating of one’s appearance. My significant other will eventually see my mediocre and my worst and I want him to see all facets of me and accept that. I want to be comfortable with being that transparent but if I’m posting my “best of the best” on Instagram, Facebook and flooding him with filtered pictures of myself, what message am I really sending? I can be emotionally giving and vulnerable but not physically in my appearance?
Baym explains that “When people meet online, it raises questions about whether they are honest about who they are, and whether they and the relationships they create can be trusted” (121). I thought I was trustworthy in this relationship because I haven’t misrepresented my personality, where I live or what I do but after reading Baym’s New Relatioships, New Selves?, I am a little weary about the image I am presenting and the consequences this may have. The selfies I send today may have to be a little different.

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!

Week Two: Communication in Digital Spaces

In Nancy K. Baym’s chapter on “Communication in Digital Spaces,” she discusses “what happens to communication itself…when it’s digitally mediated” (39). Many early studies on the effects of new media to express social cues found that while “mediated communication may be better than face to face for some tasks, but for those involving personal identity and feelings, mediation was depicted as inherently inferior” (42). Because of this, it was believed that mediation would make it “more difficult to maintain conversational alignment and mutual understanding,” as well as hide social identity cues, making interactants have greater anonymity and thereby making “gender, race, rank, physical appearance, and other features of identity not immediately evident.” However, according to Baym, it is seen that these studies are either problematic or just incorrect, as they do not fully express the multiplicities of ways that mediated communication functions to replace these so-called lost social cues.

Many groups that use mediated communication create social cues specifically for that group, effectively showing “what people do with mediated communication” vs “what mediation does to communication.” These groups build and reinforce social structures, as can be seen in a Facebook group called Cool Freaks’ Wikipedia Club. This group “is for posting cool/freaky Wikipedia articles that you find, and for discussion about them.”

Header of Cool Freaks' Wikipedia Club

Header of Cool Freaks’ Wikipedia Club

Screen Shot 2

List of Rules

While this seems like a fairly straightforward type of group that users can use to both find and share Wikipedia articles with others, it instead has a list of rules that users must follow or face being banned. These rules exclusively have to do with personal identity, and thereby illuminate the so-called anonymity of interactants, as they specifically state users to “feel free to help discourage racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, etc.”

Cool Freaks’ thereby attempts to create a safe space where all types of Othered identities must be considered when posting an article, with trigger-warnings and content warnings required for a list of topics as well as a list of banned topics that are considered inappropriate for the community, as they create an “unsafe” atmosphere. This group and their methods are an example of what people do with mediated communication in order to enhance a specific type of social interaction, as well as build and reinforce social structures, as people who do not follow the rules or who question the moderators are effectively banned.

How to Drive like an Assh*le? Check your phone.

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10155105393510112&pnref=story

Although I claimed to spend more time on Instagram over Facebook during the first day of lecture, for some reason I found myself on Facebook for a huge chunk of my day off from work. During my mindless scrolling—liking friends’ new photos, ignoring meaningless status updates, the usual Facebook routine—I stumbled upon a video titled “How to Drive Like an Asshole,” shared by a friend who framed it with the caption, “The reason why I grind my teeth every day in LA.” The two minute clip showed a video game animation video (reminiscent of addictinggames.com circa 2005) of different scenarios that would cause people to be considered a horrible driver. Watching it was hilarious, and I immediately shared it on my own news feed as “I’ve never seen a more accurate video of my life.” )However that’s not to say that I’m a horrible driver; in fact, I consider myself a great driver despite the tired stereotype.)

This video, with an uncanny accuracy of my commute, also connected with this week’s reading for me. As I watched the video, it struck me how inapplicable the smartphone scenarios would be to my parents when they were my age. For example, the video shows a scenario of checking “for email, or really just do[ing] whatever” at a red light and forgetting to go when it turns green. This scenario is really only applicable to recent times with the rise of new media i.e. smartphones. This may be a bit of a stretch, but the same way the Atlantic’s Nick Carr asserts that Google is making us dumber in the reading, smartphones could be making us worse drivers? Per the reading’s example of technological determinism, “something, or someone,” changed the way young people drive, and that thing is the smartphone, according to the video. Now obviously, aside from anxiety of impatient drivers such as myself, the smartphone has caused anxiety regarding a cultural change of more careless, distracted drivers.

It’s funny how a video that sums up my rush-hour frustrations connected with this week’s reading, but for me, it illustrated new media’s causality for cultural change. If it were 20 years ago, I doubt anyone would pull the “slow down on the freeway on-ramp to open the Maps app for directions before actually driving like a sane person” situation; but that’s my reality today.

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!

Spy Clothes #TV #ads #online

Archer inspired clothes

Nice.

Nice.

I recently was sent an email by a clothing and lifestyle company and for the first time in my life I saw advertising in a new way: I clicked on the link because I thought I would see clothes that would be suitable for a spy, and have features like secret pockets and maybe glasses where you can see the people behind you… but instead it was an entire wardrobe inspired by the adult cartoon TV series Archer. It was not shirts with the character on it…. like advertising, but it was clothes that he would wear if he existed in real life. It’s sort of made of people who think they show is cool and wish they could be more like Archer.

I feel this relates to the reading because it looks like a form of “remediation in which we blend and incorporate styles from conversations and writing with stylistic and formal elements of film, television, music videos, and photography, and other genres and practices (54).” The example adds another layer which is advertising, but I feel like the language in the ad is meant to be funny and is more like speaking one on one than a formal paper. The move towards informality is something we see on a lot of popular youth sites such as Buzzfeed.
The offer of…. being able to dress and look like Archer, even if you don’t buy the clothing, still unties the fans and gives them something to laugh at and enjoy as it is a “playful convention” and “in-joke” that “create insider symbols that can help a group to cohere” (51). The article states that these “phenomena are only enhanced by the additional cues found in shared videos, photography, sound…” etc (51). I personally have never seen anything like this and it is a pretty great way to market to people who may prefer to sit and watch TV than go out and shop and sift through things they don’t want. For a lot of people Archer is a funny sort of ideal man and it’s cool that you can sort of play dress up yet still buy modern things that would look good on anyone.
It’s interesting to see how these ties and cues continue to further develop.
I’d be fun to see a wardrobe inspired some funny actress or cartoon character that I like, it definitely gives the purchase more emotional ties because it reminds you of something you fondly admire and like.

Week 2: Brilliance Through Boredom

tumblr_n6mdjecibW1qdae4uo1_500http://37.media.tumblr.com/0166c424deba0924d7a9877d47563cad/tumblr_n6mdjecibW1qdae4uo1_500.jpg

In Personal Connections in the Digital Age, Nancy Baym explores the effects of communication technology on the relationships and interactions amongst people on and off these media platforms. Communicative technologies are hardly ever embraced unanimously by consumer-driven societies and Baym reveals this recurrent pattern all throughout our cultural history. She even traces back to Socrates’ denouncement of reading and writing, who warned that writing is only a resemblance of truth. The mind-bending notion is truly loaded and questions all the triumphs of human knowledge as well as pointing towards to daunting issue of communication. The development of communicative technologies never seem to satisfy our society, throwing us into a somewhat vicious cycle of “technological determinism”, where we need resolve technological issues with more technology.

While driving to school this morning, I heard on the NPR program a brief discussion about the connection between our boredom and creativity and how our smartphones are interfering with this process. This immediately reminded me of Baym’s reading, more specifically about the idea of the machine’s capability to change us and dumb us down. Nick Carr’s Atlantic article amongst others stroke up much conversation about how technology seems to be using us, more than we are using them to our advantage. I traced this NPR conversation to the Brian Lehrer Show where I found an 11 minute segment titled “Brilliance Through Boredom”. Manoush Zomorodi joins Brian Lehrer to talk about our need to rethink the way we use our phones. She lauds the times when we used to “stare into space and let our minds wander” and questions whether consuming our phones with every free second we have is an issue. Research shows that boredom is a key component in our creativity, whether it be problem solving or coming up with fresh, new ideas to advance our lives. The segment, although brief, touches upon key ideas found in Baym’s reading and Zomorodi attempts to initiate a new embracement of boredom. As an avid consumer of my phone, the segment was truly a wake up call for myself. Although I was aware of how communicative technology affects our psyches, I did not realize the importance of boredom. It also lead me to think of times when I am forced to be phone-less, which most often is in the shower. Even within those 10 to 15 minutes, my mind usually wanders to strange and curious territories, and often times I have thought of problem solving solutions. In our consumer driven society, boredom is perceived so negatively, especially amongst our adolescents, when it actually could be the kick-starter of great ideas.

http://www.wnyc.org/story/brilliance-through-boredom/

“Gimme A Break”

While we have the inherent culture fear of falling behind, we also become fearful of the unknown.  Throughout the years the pros and cons to new media have drafted many radical opinions.  We see the Internet as this unlimited resource.  But being unlimited, and so readily available is it too much of a good thing?  “Rather than ‘using’ it, people maybe become ‘used’ by it, (Fischer, 1992).”

Because of this Kit Kat, paired us with the city of Amsterdam to create an advertising campaign for Wi-Fi-free zones. These zones are an escape for the constant hustle and bustle of a day filled with emails, texts, tweets, Instagram, Facebook etc. According to Kit Kat, “The world is becoming one big WiFi zone. There’s even WiFi on Everest. Result? People are always connected. Time for a break.” This advertisement takes the approach of going back to basics and being disconnected.  It is a chance to talk IRL (in real life) without having #hashtags and @randomwittyname flood your every conversation. As Baym highlights in chapter 3, with a face-to-face conversation we see that the other person is engaged by their facial expressions, like smiling or by their body movements such as nodding their head to suggest that they agree and are paying attention.

kitkat-no-wifi-bench

 

http://www.psfk.com/2013/01/kit-kat-wifi-free-zone.html

Amsterdam is not the only place you will find these Wi-Fi free zones, you will even find them here in you’re own native LA.  While some believe that these zones are to keep a face-to-face dialogue, other businesses such as cafe’s are using these Wi-Fi free zones to draw more business back into their shops. Many shop owners are noticing that when the Wi-Fi is turned on so are the screens, making space unavailable for new customers that come in each hour.   I am as guilty as the next person of sitting at a cafe for 6 hours and nursing one cup of coffee, but business owners are realizing free Wi-Fi may be harming their business instead of making it more enticing.

A few place where Wi-Fi is being taken off the menu include:

– New York’s Café Grumpy doesn’t offer Wi-Fi or allow laptops in four of their five locations.

– The Literati Cafe in Brentwood unhooks during the lunchtime rush.

“The Internet is a worm hole to the outside world, and we love that people use our space for that,” Eiswerth  (Manager of Literati) said. “We are just trying to please as many people as possible and find the middle ground.”

– Nook in San Francisco’s Russian Hill district is banning Wi-Fi in the evenings and on weekends.

– August First Bakery & Cafe in Burlington Vermont bans laptops and tablets.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/04/10/300518819/no-laptops-no-wi-fi-how-one-cafe-fired-up-sales

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/08/business/la-fi-cafe-wifi-20100808

 

Oh No! Not Innovation! | On “The Culture War” by Tom Standage

Photo credit: Jamie Grill/Getty Images

By some stroke of luck, a Facebook friend posted a link to this old WIRED piece by Tom Standage, an article that is perfectly relevant to this week’s reading. I’d read the article once before, back when I was in high school, and though Standage wrote it in response to a politician’s condemnation of video games, it’s a pretty succinct rebuttal to virtually any shallow criticism of new technologies.

It’s not hard to get caught up in the latest moral panic surrounding new digital technologies. “Cell phones are making our kids antisocial,” these modern Luddites mutter, quoting the latest research findings with a kind of reverence not unfamiliar to a member of a doomsday cult. “Video games are turning them aggressive. The Internet is making them stupid.”

These ideologies are as unwise as they are inevitable: since the dawn of civilization*, adults have irrationally protested the newfangled ideas and behaviors of the next generation. Every technological leap forward has been accompanied by the mad ravings of Good Ol’ Boys who love to hate change. The cycle is doomed to continue, forever and ever, ad infinitum and ad nauseum—after all, youths who once embraced new technologies (and happily ignored the baseless warnings of their parents) will grow older and learn to distrust the technologies developed by the following generation.

(For a quick overview of the cycle of moral panics in US society, see this infographic from Tor.com.)

In this week’s reading, Baym makes the argument that anxiety about new media in the modern era stems from a non-user’s difficulty in understanding new rules of interactivity, participation, relationship building, etc., which I think does a good job of explaining every period of moral terror in American history. Uninitiated people are unfamiliar with the new rules and behaviors associated with innovative technologies, and they connect that unfamiliarity to an emotional affect of revulsion and distrust and fear.

It’s easy for me to laugh now at old fearmongers decrying the invention of the automobile or the discovery of penicillin**, and soon, it’ll be easy to laugh at the contemporary doomsayers who grumble about how much “kids these days” use Facebook. Sure, it may be inevitable how new technologies are often viewed negatively by members of the previous generation…but it’s also inevitable that the technologies that are currently the subject of the previous generation’s ire will one day be seamlessly incorporated into mainstream society.

My only hope is that in the far-off future, when my kids are off using whatever new technology of the day has caught their interest, I won’t participate in this cycle of fear and will instead embrace the new technologies as wholeheartedly as the next generation does.

* Did anyone else laugh at Baym’s discussion of Socrates’s hatred for the alphabet? No? Just me? Cool, cool.

** No, not really.