I can’t possibly be the only one who was disappointed that we did not get to play jeopardy in the class, right? Surely, someone else has to mention that title in their blog as well. Then again, I’m not so sure if I need to play a game that reminds me of not being an intellectual…
Anyways… In my last blog post, I’ve briefly talked about the ongoing “living in the darkness” concept and how it was not something that I necessarily related to. Yet, I was still open to the possibility of learning something that I was unaware of and have my mind changed as a result. Well, it might have slightly changed now due to a TED Talk video by Zeynep Tufekci (a fellow Turk) that we examined in our class. Funny enough, this video was included in our Writing Theory class last semester, if I recall, but for whatever reason I do not remember some key points that I got out of it now. Perhaps, I did not watch the video with an utmost attention back then.
I believe, the most important point from the video that needs be addressed here is the exposure to exclusive info/dark posts that Dr. Tufekci mentioned. I had never considered the possibility that people would be sent posts that are exclusively “designed” for that person. My attitude toward the notion that organizations collect information about us based on our online activities has always been very dismissive. I had never considered the reasoning behind it any more than the potential commercial purposes. The idea of constructing some sort of political message based on that collected data is actually frightening. Especially, considering its exclusivity; nobody else sees or knows about it. Biased political concepts are secretly being planted into the minds of ordinary people. In our last class, we had a response activity in which I wrote “whisper the things you ‘need’ into your ear, so you act the way they need” as an answer to “What the state can do with [this] immense amount of data?” on twitter. I was thinking more in metaphorical terms but it seems to be occurring literally, and that is scary.
It is important to note that the context of exposure to the issue is crucial. It is something that we can easily observe online. Article publishers intentionally choose titles that are out of context but attractive (also known as clickbait) to draw in an audience. The title is the exposure to the issue; the details come later in the article. The problem is that not every single person reads the actual article. They simply see the title (most likely on their twitter feed) and immediately form a biased opinion. Sometimes, people even form opinions based on other people’s opinions. It’s like the game of telephone in which the original source gets jumbled and the important details that set the case are lost. Contrary to belief, not everything in our world is simply “black or white”. There are a lot of issues that fall into the “gray” area that require in-depth discussions for better understanding. Taking sides won’t solve the problem.
That whole issue reminded me of an episode of Parks and Recreation. In the episode, during a town hall meeting, the head of a fast-food chain who lost a branch in town makes the claim that local government simply stripped away the freedom of its citizens. The town’s people then suddenly begins to jeer at government officers because all they heard was that their freedom was being taken away. They were clueless about the fact that the head of a fast-food chain was only concerned about money and their health was being threatened by the company. They were only exposed to the issue through a certain pair of lenses. Similarly, I have also noticed that certain words or phrases online such as “ban”, “prevent”, “restrict”, forbid”, or “make illegal” attract an immediate negative response from the crowd. I guess, one way to conduct a friendly conversation among different parties is avoiding those particular (trigger?) terms.
Something else that I often notice on social media platforms is that people are easily irked by “you’re wrong” phrase. Of course, this could easily be generalized in real life as well but at least in real life people have the option to express their disapproval by simply walking away. You can’t do that on social media. You can choose to ignore the comment but it may actually come across as a “defeat” or you may feel as if you yielded. People don’t seem to like that. It is really difficult to keep a proper discourse online because tone or attitude do not translate all too well digitally. Luckily, people have found a simple solution for sarcasm by the addition of “/s” at the end of their comments. This discourse challenge is one of many reasons why people find it difficult to conduct friendly communication based on touchy subjects on social media. I don’t personally have a sound solution to the problem but it is something for everyone to keep in mind.
I seem to be going way off topic, so I guess I’ll wrap it up here. Before I do, however, I’d like to mention our first studio visit by Chris Gilliard, which was quite interesting. His example of how people utilize certain assertion tactics to get what they want such as asking “Why are you dressed up? What do you have to hide?” is an eye-opener. I’d like to categorize them as logic-on-the-surface questions. They sound somewhat logical upon hearing them at first, but they do have alarming intent hidden underneath. You can never be too careful these days as it seems. I guess, we’ll just have to be constantly on alert.