The Friends that We Make on the Way

Is that “a GIF” or “a Meme” in “the digital sea”? Huh… So, it’s not that bad after all.

As I continue to work on my final project, my overall view on certain things begin to shift. If anyone were to go back and simply examine my first four or five blog posts, they could clearly see that I held a negative outlook on the internet as a whole. Is it truly a place where “the darkness” prevails as we’re led to believe? Or, I should probably say as I’ve led myself to believe. The truth is… no, I do not believe the internet is a place of eternal darkness. There might be shades of ugliness, but it wouldn’t be fair to overlook the good things about it. That image up there is meant to show that people can find amusement/contentment even in trivial things such as a funny meme or an awesome looking GIF that they encounter online as they surf through. The analogy of “sea” perfectly fits this notion that despite being dangerous, the vast “sea” is also beautiful.

I guess, I should provide an update on the project as well. I’ve finally began to annotate articles by using my Field Guide character’s new hypothes.is account. In our last class, I’d mentioned that I was beginning to see the merit of criticism against digital-dualism. So, I thought that I would start with Nathan Jurgenson’s article on Cyborgology in which he claims that “digital dualism is a fallacy”. Now, I should make it clear that I do not necessarily have a firm stance on the issue. I merely believe that there are certain cases for both the digital dualism and the augmented reality that could be considered intriguing.

Jurgenson’s article, Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality, starts with his claim that digital dualism is an “outdated perspective”. That made me think of the in-class conversation I had about alternative perspectives on the “issue” that included one perspective that supported digital dualism, another perspective that claimed there was no such thing (possible Jurgenson’s intended stance), and lastly the perspective that advocates digital dualism is a concept that once existed but no longer relevant as the two realities are becoming one. So, by saying “outdated perspective”, Jugenson might’ve revealed here that he used to be “a believer” but that is no longer the case. Regardless, he asserts (and strongly) criticizes the notion of “first self” in real world and “second self” in digital reality. According to him, what people (media users) do offline is simply influenced by their online activities. Moreover, their online activities tend to reflect their offline identities. Hence, the augmented reality is the one reality where the focus should be at. Do I agree with what Jurgenson is claiming here? I’d probably say: “Yes and no.”

I still see the concept (?) of augmented reality as a limited way of looking at things. The underlining assumption is that people tend to behave the same regardless they’re interacting online or in the real world. Jugenson makes the case by giving Facebook as an example, but what about the other social media platforms that allow, and perhaps even (unintentionally?) encourage, their users to remain anonymous, such as Twitter, YouTube, or Reddit? I do not believe that it’s reasonable to make the same generalization when this particular factor is at play here. Perhaps I should reverse each position before asking the same question. If anonymity was a possibility in real world, would people behave the same? Would they follow the rules and the etiquette of society in the same manner? Maybe, or maybe not. It is important to note, however, that conditions aren’t necessarily the same; different “settings”, different conditions, and thus different expectations of behavior.

As a follow-up, I decided to go over and annotate the article, How To Kill Digital Dualism Without Erasing Differences, by Giorgio Fontana who attempts to refute (to a degree) what Jurgenson claims in his article. Fontana starts his response by asking the point of view which Jurgenson had based his on, whether it‘s “an ontological point of view or a sociological one”. He places his emphasis on clear definitions of the terms used in the argument to avoid any sort of confusion, which is a great approach. He talks about digital/analog dichotomy and states that the real world and the digital reality do not necessarily fall into opposing positions. This misplaced juxtaposition could be one of the key reasons why the ongoing argument isn’t nearing a unanimous end. It is also quite difficult to define reality itself as everyone tends to perceive it in a different way. Fontana also states that although “in the future it will harder to distinguish analog origin from digital augmentation”, it “is not a good reason to think that all things are already digital”.

So… yes. There are so many interesting things to extract from these two articles for the Field Guide project and analyze them. I’ll be using this notion and argument of augmented reality as a driving force in “the story” that I’m conducting. The line at which “the digital sea” and “the land” meets, my character called it on Twitter during our “conversation”. The things are becoming more clear as I find time to work on it. We shall see how the rest of it goes.

 

References:

Jurgenson, N. (2011). Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality. Cyborgology. Retrieved from https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/02/24/digital-dualism-versus-augmented-reality/

Fontana, G. (2012). How To Kill Digital Dualism Without Erasing Differences. Cyborgology. Retrieved from https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/09/16/how-to-kill-digital-dualism-without-erasing-differences/

“Work Work Work Work”

Image result for coming to america gif
When I look at my work and realize I’m almost done! (Movie Gif from Coming to America)

 

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend. Mine was filled with laughs, fun at church, reflection, and a lot of food! Now that my Easter weekend is officially over, I am ready to get back in the swing of things. So we are in the final stages of the semester, which means it’s crunch time! I am happy to say that I have been writing nonstop over the past week about my topic. What I decided to do is write out all my thoughts, opinions along with the research and notes that I collected from various sources. Now that I have multiple viewpoints and ideas, I am ready to write out the dialogue between myself and Xnirran.

Since my topic is deep and complex, sometimes I found myself drifting off into other subtopics of Blackfishing. For me to stay organized, I put my topic into four categories, that way I can stay on track.

  1. What is Blackfishing? (Minstrel shows, blackface, Halloween controversies turning into online blackface, internet blackfishing, and social media pressures)
  2. What’s the problem? (Two sides of the spectrum: One is for fun. One is wrong)
  3. Culture Appropriation vs. Culture Appreciation
  4. Deception

I’ll wrap up final thoughts and ideas on part five. Also, acknowledgments and other last words. After last week’s meeting, I felt more confident to tackle this issue. I was worried that because this is not only a new issue that is surfacing but it’s something that I really don’t have a solution to it. However, I was given the task to more allow people to become aware of this “phenomenon” instead of trying to find a solution to the problem. I have a lot of great content, ideas, and information that I will use in my presentation. Here is the link to my notes that I made from various articles. Unforantely, my hypothes.is was not working so I was only able to make comments on one or two of them.

In the final stretch! Until next time!

✌🏾

Just A Brief Update….

Hey~

So, suffice to say, this weekend has been a bit overwhelming for me. I’ve spent most of it getting my final touches together for my thesis presentation at Research Days on Tuesday. This weekend was one of the first I’ve had totally off in a while so I got a lot of time to focus on these last-minute-but-very-important things. There’s never enough time for anything, is there?

Anyway, as far as my research for the field guide goes, I’m still reading through my sources and gathering information I can add onto my last post about social curation in online spaces. I think that post went into a lot of detail about my own thoughts surrounding the issue but I do want to incorporate more evidence to support my case. More, I need to look into more ideas about what a “humane” web would look like.

During our discussion in class, we talked about how to encourage personal responsibility as developing that seems to be important to the issue of social curation itself. Right now, there’s no personal accountability and nothing incentivizing us to not just “hit that like button” and move on with our lives without ever thinking more deeply on the content we are choosing to associate ourselves with/throw our “lots” in with. In my last post, I mentioned abolishing evaluative features entirely but that requires an entire paradigm shift, it seems, in interaction with the Internet and, increasingly, with the world. Our “likes” are fast becoming our votes. They don’t just validate someone’s opinion anymore; they affirm behavior and incentivize it to continue. Not to sound sensational, but I wonder when we will be “liking” our next government officials rather than strictly voting for them? We seem well on our way to that…

I’m trying to focus on how I would like to convey my concerns around this issue. I’m concerned about how it affects us culturally and seems to desensitize us but I’m also concerned about how evaluative features affect our sense of self. The experience of self is a social construct now more than ever, it seems, and I wonder about the long-term affects of that. In our discussion, I mentioned having this seemingly “innate” self of me and of my wholeness beyond the web. I think the web offers these amazing opportunities to extend ourselves and reflect upon all the different selves we can be but I also believe strongly that I am whole without the web. I can locate myself without turning on my GPS or checking out the snap map. It seems like people today, especially younger people who don’t remember a time before the web, may be less able to feel whole without that online connection and I wonder how that affects the experience of their lives in the long run.

One way I was thinking of exploring some of these issues is through making a fake social media account like a #finsta. It’s such a titillating concept and I think it gets at the heart of this issue: the you and the not you of it. To me, concerns around social curation in online spaces come down to fears about regulation of emotional experiences as well as fears about AI or computer intelligence not only replacing our presence online but controlling us through that replacement. These fears are about self and humanity disappearing into the digital abyss, swallowed up and spit out. Finstas encapsulate that idea of the hidden self, though, with all those hidden fears and anxieties. It’s kind of a subversion of a system designed to profit heavily off of the exploitation of insecurities. At least, it could be subversive.

Design was a big topic we discussed and, to be honest, I’m not sure I could design a whole system to replace the current one (tl:dr scratch that, I’m hella unsure I can’t). But, I do think I could design an account to be subversive. I would like to borrow some of the ideology from metamodernism probably to conceive of this project. Another name for this movement is post-postmodernism. It’s not really a formal movement yet but you may have heard of it if you’ve ever come across any of Shia LaBeouf’s art projects?

So, my understanding of the movement’s tenets is still a little shaky but the movement is a response to modernism and postmodernism and seems to be about re-injecting value of/belief in faith and sincerity and in all of these intangible virtues that modernism and postmodernism have rejected in favor of cold hard progress. To me, it seems this movement is about returning humanity to the people and, more, returning an appreciation for being human. Cynicism and callousness may be in vogue bit that doesn’t mean they’re the right ways to look at or conceive of the world. More, it seems that perspectives like them have not contributed to making the world or online spaces, for that matter, better.

I think it would be interesting to take metamodern perspective on the issue of social curation because I believe it may provide guidance for humane design. At least, that’s what I’m thinking about right now. It’s not a lot and I still have a lot of reading to do and conversing with my alchemist mentor, I know, I know. But, I can kind of see this project coming together? I definitely see a lot of brown paper bags over my head for the finsta…. 

Anyway, what do you think? Does anything show promise? Where are the gaps for you? Any suggestions?

Let me know!

****

~Till next time~

If I don’t die during Research Days

Comment on Exploring Issues of Social Curation in Online Spaces… by helterskelliter

Thank you Alan for your feedback! I’m sorry I always take so long to get back to you (I kind of forget about comments on WordPress).

Anyway, I like the idea of a “dumb twitter” and think it could be one of the ways we navigate the digital world. Like we talked about today, it seems that a lot of this issue comes down to personal responsibility and how we make responsible choices in a space that is being increasingly designed to exploit our insecurities and weaknesses. Making decisions and being mindful is a challenge for a lot of us.

As usual, you gave me a lot to consider moving forward with this project!

Best regards always,

Kelli~

Like

To AUC, What Are Your Thoughts on Social Curation In Online Spaces???

Hey~

How’s Cairo? Hot? Mild? Does it ever get sandy in the city? I’ve always wondered….

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. It happens.

I hear you’re working on projects about digital literacy? So have we! …Well, kind of. We’re each researching a problem associated with the Internet and increasing digitization of daily life. The focus of my research is social curation in online spaces. Specifically, I’m looking at how social curation in online spaces affects our emotional engagement IRL.

I wrote a whole post about social curation and my thoughts around it but for those of you who aren’t familiar, social curation is, “an organic activity that continuously aggregates and ranks content deemed most relevant, valued and of the greatest utility (e.g., “just in time” insight) to users. Sources of content can be published media, real-time information exchange (archived), or continuously evolving content (e.g., wiki, Quora). The social dynamic of content curation is individual and collective input, output and evolution of thought” (source). Essentially, social curation refers to how we organize and navigate content in online spaces. It is the way of the Internet currently. More than just organization content, though, social curation refers to how organization practices affect our interactions with content.

Social curation contributes to the development of so-called “echo chambers” as well as to the rise of Influencer culture. It relates to “trending” topics and includes things like evaluative features (“likes” on FB and <3s on Insta) on social media and reaction gifs. Often, these evaluative features make us feel that we are providing thoughtful interaction with content when, in reality, we are merely being provided the illusion of meaningful engagement by these platforms that profit off of our engagement. Our reactions and emotions are being curated/engineered, which could be affecting our emotional range IRL.

Much research has been done on the effects of evaluative features such as “Like” buttons on social media platforms. One study has looked at how social curation occurs on Pinterest, while another study (which won’t let hypothes.is run? I tried to download it as a PDF and tried to adjust my settings but nope so idk?) has looked at the effects of social curation on adolescent neurological and behavioral responses (to which an article has been written in response). Much of this research revolves around understanding user interactions in a socially curated system. What I find most interesting about this kind of research is the effects social curation has on emotional expressions as well as overall self-esteem and self-worth. More, I find that social curation is one of the processes that strongly contributes to this false sense of reality the Internet creates. This process is, in part, responsible for the creation of so-called “echo chambers” as well as for Internet virality in general. Influencers and the like are trying to tap into this “social curation” process and either become the content that is being circulated or become the subject that curated content revolves around.

Though social curation has certainly been around in varying capacities beyond/before the web, its use as an organizing system in online spaces presents some problems. Mainly, what is perhaps most troubling is the false sense of reality it can perpetuate. It seems very easy for someone to fall into a hole, so to speak, and not even notice that the information they are interacting with is being decided not by an objective audience but by a process of social curation conducted by like-minded peers. Often, evaluative features like “Like” buttons and ❤ buttons facilitate social curation On Facebook, there is a variety of react options to choose from which provides this false sense of diversified expression when, in reality, our emotional range is being curated for us by the social media platform. More, we’re being socialized by sites like Instagram (where only ❤ reacts exist) to react positively or not at all to online content. Rather than online spaces being these immersive spaces where discovery and disappointment can occur, they are becoming these heavily curated spaces limiting not only our emotional ranges but also changing how we respond to things in ways that can spill over into “real life”. I think this is problematic.

While it may be fun and more engaging for users in certain spaces to interact with “like-minded content” (like in an affinity space on Tumblr or in a hashtag on Twitter), having an entire Internet that is slowly being curated by social media seems like an over-reach and one that will affect perceptions of self and the world. Distorted images of self and the world are already prevalent in online spaces and have been prevalent in advertising practices since time in memoriam. We have seen the damage done thus far, especially to the youth who are growing up in a digital world where it is so easy to access platforms that may not be promoting the best perceptions. Addressing how social curation affects interactions and the overall environment of online spaces seems like an increasingly vital issue as digitization becomes more ubiquitous.

Alex Saum’s Ashes to Ashes #YOLO (2018) Epoetry piece seems to speak to concerns about the performance of life taking precedence over the experience of life as well. Also, it seems concerned about how Influencer culture curates what we value and how we value it.

At least, this is all what I believe to be the case and this is the focus of my research. What do you think, though?

Do you think that social curation in online spaces is affecting our own perceptions and emotions IRL? Can social media sites like Insta and FB be redesigned to not include evaluative features and still be functional? How could sites be designed to garner different interactions? To encourage less passive, shallow engagement and more active dialogue and discussion?

Let me know~

****

~Till next time~

‘Blackfishing’: To the AUC Students

For my final project, I will be discussing and “investigating” the new phenomenon of ‘Blackfishing’. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, ‘Blackfishing’ is when a person on Instagram or Twitter (specifically a woman) who is not of color, changes her physical appearance (e.g. hair, skin color, etc.), in order to be perceived as a specific person of color (e.g. African-American, Mixed, Afro-Latina, etc.) Example images:

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 8.24.15 AMScreen Shot 2019-04-03 at 8.24.06 AMScreen Shot 2019-04-03 at 8.23.18 AM

This seems to be a branch of the ‘Catfishing’ tree. (Catfishing is when someone poses as someone else online by faking their name, appearance, online identity, and so on).

Speaking about the importance of identity and self on the Internet of 2019, I have a couple of questions for you when it comes to this topic.

  1. There are two sides to ‘Blackfishing’. One is that some people don’t see the big deal. It is merely just someone appreciating the culture. On the other end spectrum, people are uncomfortable with this because of its almost identical connection to the history of ‘Blackface”, which is when someone who is not African-American, applies very dark/brown makeup and performs racial stereotypes of slaves. This would happen in the 1900s. My question is, Is there a difference between appreciation and appropriation when it comes to another person’s culture? 
  2. My second question is, online identity has become almost, if not for sure, as important to us as our real identity. When someone fakes who they are and deceives other people, how does that affect online identity?
  3. Does online identity affect how people see those online personas in real life?
  4. Who is harmed during this? (And by “this” I mean ‘Blackfishing’) or is this just makeup and fun, just like people believed ‘Blackface’ performances and caricatures were?

I can’t wait to hear your responses! Any other questions or ideas that come to mind to help me dive deeper into my project, please let me know! Here is my Twitter: @ColorfulWriter02

Thank you!

Socrates’ YouTube Channel Has Hit 1000 Subscribers!

I think the title of the post revealed which article that I’ve chosen to examine. I mean, come on… the title of Sacasas’ article is simply amazing and really hard to ignore. I hope that I managed to do some service with mine.

Although I had opened up an account for my Alchemist character on Hypothesis.is, I was reluctant to annotate anything because there were no other annotations available. I’m thinking that maybe we should start a private group for these intended annotations. I’m not so sure if public option is the best one. Anyways, onto the article itself.

Sacasas mainly focuses on the discourse online. It starts with a great analogy: “‘Don’t read the comments’ is about as routine a piece of advice as ‘look both ways before crossing the street’”, which perfectly captures the ignorance of people in general. Most people tend to prefer dismissing an issue rather than actually dealing with it. What else is new, right? The problem is that the online discourse is not something that could correct itself on its own, naturally. People, especially social media users, need to be conscious of what direction that “unlawful” discourse is heading. So, they can at least contribute to its expected course-correction instead of allowing the platform runners to enforce rules or conditions to automatically fulfill that role, and potentially cause a damage to its free nature. Then again, isn’t the free nature of the internet that allows it “to encourage rancor, incivility, misunderstanding, and worse” as Sacases puts it? He inserts that “anonymity has something to do with [it], and so does the abstraction of the body from the context of communication”, which I agree.

Sacases also claims that both the traditional discourse and the literacy aspect of writing on digital medium get unintentionally lost. The reasoning behind that claim is the public interaction among people that occur online by writing instead of speaking. Moreover, “expectations of immediacy in digital contexts collapse” the space in which the writing skill can flourish. Thus, “we lose the strengths of each medium: we get none of the meaning-making cues of face-to-face communication nor any of the time for reflection that written communication ordinarily grants”. Not to mention the “time limitations” set by the users themselves within that environment. The end product, therefore, is a communicative space “being rife with misunderstanding and agonistic” and “it encourages performative pugilism”. Fun times, indeed.

One last thing that I’ll mention about the article before wrapping up —I prefer the Field Guide posts to be short— that needs to be highlighted is the notion of identity clash. What I mean by that is social media users are unable to draw a line between a subjective opinion and “an attack on their views and ideals”, which forms their “internet identity”. So, basically, there is not room for a civil discussions but rather “my way or the highway” in a nutshell; unwillingness to be open to other perspectives, or at least find a common ground. Sacases notes that “we’ve conflated truth and identity in such a way that we cannot conceive of a challenge to our views as anything other than a challenge to our humanity”, which is pretty powerful.

As you can see, there are a lot of great stuff in the article that needs extracting and examining for the final project. I’m glad to have found it… at random, on Google search. Go figure. I’ll be adding the annotations as soon as I figure out the options.

Reference (I actually quoted stuff this time around):

Sacasas, L. M. (2014). Waiting for Socrates… So We Can Kill Him Again and Post the Video on Youtube. Technology, Culture, and Ethics. Retrieved from https://thefrailestthing.com/tag/digital-dualism/

The Train Has Left the Station… It’s on the Way, Just Wait

Chugging right along! What?

Well, sometimes life gets busy and you find yourself unable to spend as much time as you’d like on a specific project. Has that ever happened to you? Taking on four graduate courses all at the same time is proving difficult… at least time-wise. I like a good challenge, but I’ve never been good at time management. I’m just not a punctual person. Still, I’m confident that I’ll be successfully able to complete this project and (fingers crossed) on time.

Just to recap what I’ve done in our last class, I was able to come up with the six “distinct” themes below for the final project as I searched for references. I say distinct but in actuality they all overlap with each other. We’ve gone over them in class with Dr. Zamora. So, they’re “full-proof”.

* “Relationship between identity and truth” – This is probably the biggest theme of the whole project. The good thing is that I’ve already explored the concept of truth previously. I’ve also talked about identity online in couple of my blog posts, so I already have a head start. All I need now is finding the bridge between the two concepts and explore how that bridge is actually constructed.

* “The digital/analog dichotomy” – One of the first concepts that I extracted from my resources. This distinction is pretty important in establishing the idea of digital-dualism. The important thing to pay attention here is defining each term clearly before analyzing the contrast. Come to think of it, this might actually be a bigger theme than the one above? Well, maybe the potential longest, I’d assume.

* “Online/offline distinction – which one is ‘the dreamworld’?” – We can simply look at this as the combination of the previous two themes. The concept that needs to be emphasized here is “what is real?” and how it is defined in subjective matter by the individual, rather than the general/scientific definition. The individual perspective is the key.

* “Augmented reality” – This one is more of a refuting point. A couple of the articles that I’ve found mention this particular notion that the two realities (digital and analog) become one and create augmented reality; a place of existence, if you will, where the digital-self of a person lives on. This concept is often introduced by those who support anti-dualism. So, I’ll probably be going over it in order to oppose the idea —and I’m not the only one who does (check references).

* “Hyper-connection – distraction from reality” – Something that was mentioned in one of the articles. It was somewhat brief, which means I need to do more research on it. One or two of the new resources that I’ll be searching for, later on, could end up being focused on that very concept. You never know.

* “Materiality of thoughts” – This one was a bit confusing to elaborate. It made total sense to me while I was reading the article but then I wasn’t able to describe it to Dr. Zamora when asked. I guess, I’m missing some details in there, somewhere. So, it’s another theme that needs further researching before finalization.

I happened to find three solid resources for the project so far —one was already given…but still. I usually prefer to discover these resources as I write the paper, but this time around I figured that laying down some sort of foundation was the right approach. I’ll be going more in-depth with one of those articles on my following blog post for the Field Guide. Based on the analysis, I’ll be writing a dialogue for me and the Alchemist character on Twitter.

Just to include a drawing, and show there is a least some sort of progress, here’s some doodling that I did on my notebook.

20190415_214017

Besides the negative sea creature metaphors that I mentioned in my previous posts, I thought that I could also include some positive ones (the bottom three). The internet is not full of just bad people, after all. We have to keep that “lightness” going.

As of writing this post, I have not yet annotated any of the references… but I will, as soon as I can. It still feels odd to be interacting with… well, myself. I recall my mother telling me to stop talking with my imaginary friend when I was a little kid. Yet, here I am, in a graduate class, in which I’m assigned to talk with my imaginary friend. I mean, what do parents know, am I right? (Please don’t lower my grade!)

References (even though I didn’t quote anything from them yet):

[1] Fontana, G. (2012). How To Kill Digital Dualism Without Erasing Differences. Cyborgology. Retrieved from https://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2012/09/16/how-to-kill-digital-dualism-without-erasing-differences/
[2] Sacasas, L. M. (2014). Waiting for Socrates… So We Can Kill Him Again and Post the Video on Youtube. Technology, Culture, and Ethics. Retrieved from https://thefrailestthing.com/tag/digital-dualism/
[3] Suler, C. (2016). The Straw Man of Digital Dualism. Fifteeneightyfour. Retrieved from http://www.cambridgeblog.org/2016/01/the-straw-man-of-digital-dualism/