Comment on Descending into Darkness… by helterskelliter

Hello Fellow Alchemist,

Thank you for traversing the Internet realm to my humble abode. I appreciate your comments and find myself challenged by the nuance they provide some of my initial arguments. The topic of “surveillance capitalism” is both fascinating and frightening. More, I think it is difficult to ascertain in some ways. The ramifications of it seem yet to be fully seen. I hope as we continue traversing this Internet realm of wonders and horror, we find some answers and broaden our own understanding of such deeply impactful issues ^.^

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Comment on Descending into Darkness… by karelnavyblue

Greetings Writer (Or rather ‘Alchemist’),

I find your response to the week’s activities very interesting to say the least. More surprising than all, you hit the nail in head with every single topic that was covered, and provided a nice reflection to each. This shows how affixed you were with the activities overall. I have to say, from reading your response, I found your opinion to ‘Surveillance Capitalism’ the most interesting. This is mainly because in this part of your response, you noticed one realistic thought: we are not completely sure of what is exactly being surveillanced from us, or even how it is taking place from day to night. Because of this, many of us feel the need to take precaution, while others feel hopeless. Still, one thing is not to be forgotten or ignored in all this: we should not just ignore this issues which affect us all.

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People Living in Glass Houses

This is going to be my first blog for our Networked Narratives class; a somewhat of a follow-up to Electronic Literature from last semester. Being described as an experiential type of class, I was definitely interested in signing up for it. I am still unsure as to what the main focus of the class is going to be about. I do have some guesses about the topics based on the final project indicated on the syllabus but… we shall see. It is nice to be surprised sometimes; experiencing the unexpected can be thrilling.

I do find the usage of terms such as Alchemy or Alchemist in the class intriguing… and tad bit puzzling at the same time. It is hard to find the parallels between an Alchemist and a social media user at this early stage but perhaps, as the time goes on, it will become much clearer to see. In our last class, we were shown a video about what alchemists do. One particular thing that I was concerned about was the load of work that they must sort through in order to discover old knowledge. I can’t help but think that modern-day alchemists appear to be spending too much time decoding these metaphorical directions mentioned in the video rather than utilizing them to further build upon that existing knowledge. I really hope that is not the metaphor in use for our own class titles.

At the moment, the biggest discussion that is going on in our class seems to be social media and the concept of privacy online. I must admit, these are fascinating topics. My choice of topic for the final project in Writing Theory and Practice class involved social media. I remember making the analogy of driving in it; it’s convenient and functional but also extremely dangerous if you are careless. Thinking more and more about it, I truly believe that social media has a much greater negative impact on people as a whole than its potential positive impact. Even, Equity Unbound (a collaborative online learning environment) from that Writing Theory class that promoted positive experience on social media seemed like a very small portion in comparison to the things that actually draw people in and create toxicity. People seem to be too concerned about their “opinions” being treated as “facts” rather than having an honest discussion where one could fine a middle ground. Instead, it often tends to be “my way or the high way”, and people simply attack each other for no other reason than to do so. Perhaps, they simply find being negative online cathartic; some sort of anger management technique, maybe? As I unintentionally develop this anti-social media attitude though, being an active user on twitter as expected for this particular class is going to be quite difficult for me. I do hope that I will be proven wrong eventually and that attitude will dramatically shift.

The ongoing “living in the darkness” concept is not something I necessarily relate to. A lot of people seem to be overly-concerned about “being watched by the government or private organizations”. At times, it comes across as paranoia. However, it is a topic that could not be easily dismissed. News about online hacking and identity theft tend to put people on edge. I remember reading an article about people living in boxes; homes, workplaces, malls, stores, and even vehicles are designed in cubical configuration. I believe, it just makes us feel secure. The idea that the box we live in is actually made out of something transparent, such as glass, would indeed make someone feel uncomfortable. That was something I thought of during our last class (and used it as the title for this blog) that people living in glass houses were actual conducted experiments. I wonder what those people felt like throughout the experiment. Although I take certain precautions to avoid an identity theft, I do not find myself too concerned with “being watched” concept as I’ve mentioned. It was funny to see others in the class express their apathy as well. Then again, certain details that I’m unaware of could surface and easily change my mind.

Lastly, I’d like to mention Hypothesis.ie tool briefly. I tend to find most of the articles published online to be very one-sided. The author basically writes down his or her beliefs or personal perspective on certain topics/issues (including their bias), and the reader is expected to just “take it or leave it”. Commenting at the bottom page does not do much as a response. The article writers, or even other readers, can simply ignore them. Certain websites do not even have a commenting section for their published articles. Hypothesis.ie seem to be a better method of responding. Highlighting a particular sentence, paragraph, or even a mere word (phrase) and writing a marginal response is great. I do not know if this tool is applicable for every article online but I’d like to think that as time goes on, and more and more users become aware of its existence, it becomes a common tool for every article publishing website for two-sided discussions instead.

Descending into Darkness…

So…. this past week was a bit of a mess.

I experienced some major and hella expensive car issues that made me wish for a self-driving car for the first time ever despite their numerous, reported issues.

Anyway, enough about my ever-growing list of issues. Let’s dive into the Internet’s f*ckery~

The Dark Substance of the Internet

This week, discussion started off light enough with an introductory reading on alchemy and the creation and nature of this ancient magic’s digital form. This reading was also meant to provide an exercise for those of us unfamiliar with hypothes.is. (I am clearly not I will give anyone a piece of my mind anytime, in the margins or otherwise). Anyway, I found this reading to be both nostalgiac and an informative refresher on the true history of what we are delving into in this class. I made some comments here and there that are informed by my own experience with this kind of “magic” as well as my by own perspective I have been developing on burgeoning digital practices of creation and communication in the course of my thesis (check that blog for some real nonsense). In my second comment, I liken the concepts of “alternative facts” and “post-truth” to a kind of modern-day alchemical process in which words and semantics are transmogrified to horrible effect. This generated some interesting discussion on the nature of truth and reality itself. I’m not sure if I really have any answers to the questions posed about the nature of realty and of truth but I do know there are some statements and facts we all agree are “true” and create something “real” and I believe that it is important to acknowledge when opposing statements made to these self-evident truths are made not just to identify a “glitch in our matrix” but with the intent to vindicate a perspective on the  deserves no consideration let alone vindication. Contemplating the nature of truth and reality is a fun, philosophical exercise but it is important to remember that many people these days are not challenging the nature of truth and reality to pose a philosophical argument or to play devil’s advocate; they are doing it to forward some reprehensible and downright disgusting agendas that have very real consequences.

Anyway, rant over, I also want to shout-out the shout-out our “Gandalf” gave Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, I hope. It’s always cool to find out that some thing we love is actually a part of meaningful and robust tradition ^.^

snappymustang

Enjoy a snappy Mustang~

In addition to exploring this reading, we also took a deeper delve into the dark upper, middle, and lower belly of online advertising. I read up on the history of the medium as well as considered the nature of “surveillance capitalism“. Horrifyingly enough, this concept is not just some Orwellian idea. (Though, perhaps it is Kafkaesque???) Essentially, we and everything we do becomes a marketable quantity for advertisers. When a system allows for this kind of advertising to occur, there is an incentive created for 24/7 surveillance. Me looking up pictures of megabats at 3 AM is very valuable information, you know??? Wouldn’t want to miss it.

Anyway, to be honest and, as I mentioned in my last post, I and I’m sure many other people, especially in my generation and younger, kind of already accept that we are constantly being monitored. If you’re living in a surveillance state and you know it, clap your hands. What many of us may not understand is what exactly is being monitored and why that information is being monitored. I think for many people, still, it is very difficult understand how advertising works in this 21-century, digital age. More, the process seems so utterly unbelievable as to be whole dismissed as “fake news”.

This thread by user @hypervisible provides a long laundry list of ludicrous facts about not only the ways we are constantly being surveilled but about the things that are actually able to be surveilled. I was asked to pick just one from this long list that stood out to be as horribly absurd and troubling but, honestly, I find myself simultaneously horrified and not horrified/surprised in the slightest by any of these facts. Certain students are encouraged by targeted ads to drop out? Of course more labor for the Capitalist machine. Jeff Bezos is deleting 1984 off Kindles remotely??? Ironic and of course. Apple and Google don’t care about their employees? Duh.

Our descent into this night has not been gentle.

Perhaps I’m jaded and disillusioned and I’m a bit too much of a nihilist at heart but so much of what is currently happening in the so-called “darkness” is something many of us have seen written bright as day on the wall for years. The Internet has always had this potential to be something so magical and to be something that can extend beyond its boundaries but it is these same qualities that seem to have made it into what it has become today. That potential and that magic came with a great responsibility that was not observed. Advertising in online spaces is only one of many evils/curses that has gotten out of hand due to a lack of foresight, oversight, and accountability. There is also this distinct lack of humanity and common decency that also seems to be propelling this evil further and further, out of the dark reaches straight into our homes and our hands. Nothing is ever going to change if we don’t decide to care. My disillusionment and resignment with the system is not merely a symptom; It’s also a cause.

I believe that there is a cure to every curse. If not a reversal, a nullification, at least. Perhaps that is the kind of magic we should care more about finding.

****

Daily Digital Alchemies

This week, I shared some bot recommendations. I had the opportunity to explore bots as well as making bots in early renditions of this course. I think they are a lot of fun and can be used as a tool to tell some compelling, nonlinear narratives ^.^

Also, I got to play around with one of my fave, little sites clash. I think it’s a really simple but interesting way to see how online spaces can be used in collaboration with other mediums.

Lastly, I decided to contribute in absentia and mad late to last week’s in-class DDA. I decided to share a picture of some of the thoughtful clutter cluttering my IRL space. In this photo, I have an old & beloved stuffed cat Beanie Baby (named Dicey) on top of a pop vinyl Dementor stacked atop a stack of Edgar Allen Poe books–the go-to gift when a family member doesn’t know what to get me. Overtly, there is contrast between the Dementor & the Edgar Allen Poe books and the Beanie Baby. To me, there is a contrast between the nightmare fuel and the object that brought me comfort from my nightmares as a child being grouped together.

~Till next time~