Hope everyone had a nice week. I’ve been pretty stressed this past week myself. It’s crunch time for my thesis project and I’m feeling the pressure. I’m trying not to take it out on unsuspecting folk but please excuse me if I do. I’m cranky and I need a twenty-thousand hour nap.
Anyway, this week we began the treacherous trek into the world of Twitter bots. Honestly, I love bots and designing them is a lot of fun. Certain changes to Twitter’s policies have made it a little less fun, though. They definitely need stricter guidelines but these regulations make the creative process a little more bogged down (what with all the bureaucratic, look we’re actually bothering to ask questions like we always should’ve been tape.
I eventually managed to give a certain rebellious, misanthropic, misfit alchemist more of a voice so she can torment more than just me. You can check out the deets on that here. Please, let ya girl know if she’s a bit too…silent that means I’m going to chuck my laptop out the window ’cause don’t play with me Google spreadhseets.
So far, Vlada’s not so chatty in the #netnarr realm but we’ll see how that changes as time goes on…
The ability of bots to not be detected by an application like this one is both fascinating and vaguely horrifying??? To me, it means that AI is getting better and better at masquerading as/playing human. It makes me wonder if there really will be that tipping point, that “event horizon” where AI becomes the “human” voice of the Internet and human voices become flagged for being bots.
Speaking of vaguely horrifying subjects…
My research project.
I have complained the entire way through it thus far. Believe me, I’m aware. This week’s post is no exception. I mean, I do narrow down my topic and provide some evidence I have perused so far on the topic. When I began delving into how evaluative features on social media platforms affect us, I found a lot of very interesting sources about the concept of social curation. I feel like social curation encapsulates much of what I want to focus on. At least, it seems to cover all of my expressed concerns and provides me with a particular avenue to address issues of evaluative features on social media platforms specifically.
Check out the actual post for more in-depth analysis and discussion on why this topic is truly concerning, especially in an online context. And pro-tip: check the margins too….
In addition to narrowing down my focus in this post, I also narrowed down some of my main, lingering concerns for the field guide. They mostly revolve around the seeming expectations for the project and my concerns about time management and the workload. Typical student bs, probably, that educators are sick of hearing about. But, this class is supposed to be a conversation/democracy so I’m hoping my concerns will still be considered and only minimally eye-rolled at.
So, as for the trajectory of this project, I have a lot of reading and annotating to do still for some of my supporting literature. I want to take a creative approach to this project, though. I’m considering making a #finsta/Instagram account to explore social curation through a site based upon it. I’m not sure what kind of content I would want to share, though. I don’t know what would best open the dialogue rather than mock the enterprise outright–which accomplishes nothing. I’m thinking Alex Saum’s #YOLO project which used the confessional style youtube video to make a point about the increasing lack of authenticity in online spaces. I like how the design reinforced the message. What would be the anti-commodification of self look like in an online space like Instagram that is so reliant upon it?
I’m also considering just making a kind of frenetic site that uses gifs and whatnot to explore the issue and the literature around it. I could make it journalistic or style it like a public forum.
I want to see how others are designing their project before I make a final decision. I would ultimately like to have a contribution that is in conversation with the work off my peers. None of these issues we’re discussing exist in a vacuum and I think that should be emphasized more than anything. The Internet doesn’t have 12 easily identifiable problems. It is a burning dumpster fire careening violently towards a sheer cliff that overlooks an oubliette of spikes and toxic sludge. There are many problems holding the Internet precariously together. That shouldn’t be understated.
Daily Digital Alchemies
This week, I think I made a reference to Memento….
So, upfront, this is my blog. If you’re looking for commentary or “dialogue” about the content on my blog, I’d peruse the margins…
Hope everyone had a nice and healthy week. I’m back up and kicking. This week, I got the chance to catch up on a lot of work. One of the things I needed to work on apparently was refining my idea for the field guide (aka my research project(?)). After discussing my thoughts with Dr. Zamora and my concerns about this whole “finding a solution” thing a concept that I fundamentally disagree with, I believe I narrowed down my focus. I still want to investigate the performing vs. living issue but through the lens of social curation.
So, social curation, according to a comment left on a Quora query about it, “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.” 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.
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.
Thought 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.
All this said, I do not know if there are exact steps that can be taken to fix this problem. More, I don’t feel comfortable providing one “quick fix”. If our discussions on issues of online spaces have revealed anything at all, it is that issues that concern the governing of practices and processes in online spaces are complex and not simply fixed. Because of those findings, I feel more comfortable suggesting steps that may help in alleviating the problems associated with social curation.
First, I think the models girding social media need to be changed to not rely upon evaluative interactions. Basically, ditch the “like” and buttons. Ditch all of those evaluative features. They are limiting interactions rather than expanding them. If interaction is the goal, comment features should be what is emphasized. Things that encourage and engage in discussion should be the focus. If Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are supposed to be public forums, then discussion in dialogue should always be the focus. Evaluative react buttons do not encourage discussion. They don’t expand or extend the conversation. I feel like a switch like this may instill feelings of anxiety similar to those around the whole texting vs. calling anxiety. Rather than comment or offer a “real” opinion or perspective, most people are probably more comfortable hitting a like button. In order for more measurably meaningful discourse to occur, though, I think evaluative features need to be removed from social media sites.
The “secondly” through the rest of my suggestions all revolve around shifting the profit model behind Internet sites like social media platforms and the mindset that has propelled it. All of these sites rely far too much upon user interaction in order to make a profit. To this end, ethics and conscientious design have gone out the window. Whatever gets more eyes on the screen is what goes. That needs to change. It’s allowing for the formation of echo chambers that stunt/stifle development of self and perspective of the world. There needs to be more of an incentive for creators and platforms to provide diversified content. More, the algorithms need to be recoded to provide diverse content rather than similar content. That needs to be incentivized. The US government should consider following Europe in imposing stricter regulations on how online platforms can collect and store data in order to create user profiles and so curate content for them. Notices that clearly state that content may not be objectively organized should be placed on certain sites. (I don’t mean some wimpy “the opinions and feelings expressed on this site do not reflect the values of the yada yada yada…” That’s weak.) Sites that don not have clear warnings or do not abide by imposed regulation should be taken down. That’s not “stifling free speech” or “open discussion”. Even if it was, the 1st amendment is not an excuse to be an assh*ole anyway. Regulations on content and “breaking up” social curation processes are meant to create spaces where free speech and the free flow of ideas can actually occur. And it’s wholly necessary ’cause little meaningful discourse is happening right now.
This seems like an interesting video on the topic as well (though I can’t find a video of it in full on Youtube? Idk if you can only view it at a screening?)
For an artistic example, I’d also like to include Alex Saum’s Ashes to Ashes #YOLO (2018) Epoetry piece as I feel lit speaks to concerns about the performance of life taking precedence over the experience of life. Also, it seems concerned about how Influencer culture curates what we value and how we value it.
In addition to the sources mentioned in this post, I’d like to include the article I annotated last week about implementing more humane design in Internet places, social media platforms especially. I think it provides necessary background information on how the Internet became the burning garbage fire it is today. Also, it explains what humane design is concerned with addressing as it relates to online spaces.
I owe you two more sources (which I can hopefully get through by Tuesday). Scouring the web for six relevant sources that meet the proposed criteria for this assignment is not easy, especially when those sources must then be annotated. I will find the sources I need to complete this project but, if you’ll excuse my honesty, I wish the research component of this project were more spaced out over the semester. It feels rushed right now and I feel stressed because all of these expectations for a full-blown research assignment have been stacked up at the end of the semester when final projects for other classes are due and, for those working on thesis projects, thesis work must be completed. I would’ve appreciated spreading out finding and annotating sources during the semester. The field guide wasn’t fleshed out until later on so I wasn’t specifically looking for sources that would’ve helped me now. The shape of the final project was vague for most of the semester which gave us room to free-associate and imagine but not so much to strategize. For people who are picking topics like privacy or surveillance, they’ll probably have a lot more use of the field guide sources collected since that was an overt focus of most of the class. But, for those of us following our own research interests, we have to basically find all of these sources from scratch.
Anyway, just stating my opinion for the record. I’ll get as much work done as I can for class on Tuesday. I’m wrapping on my thesis project, though. That is my main priority and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve been working very hard on it and I want to have a bomb presentation. It’s where my passion lies and that’s my future.
So, heads up, this week may not see everything requested fully completed. Not cause I don’t want to but I have no idea where I’m going to find the time to do it.
Just like Whitley, I need to “Relax, Relate, Release!”. It’s harder than it seems for sure. I was feeling “all over the place” after last week’s class. Honestly, I felt more lost when it came to my topic for my final project instead of moving in the right direction. So far, my topic is “Blackfishing,” which is the modern day “Blackface” in an online setting (specifically Instagram) where women who are not of color manipulate their physical features to appear to be a person of color. As compelling and disturbing this topic is, it’s still too broad. I need to be specific and figure out why a person would do this, what’s the purpose of it, and is there a solution to it? There are a lot of questions to weave through before I get to the root of the problem. (Or the heart of the matter). On the positive side, I do, have a strict plan for structuring the final project. Which is this:
April 9: Gather articles and resources for a basis for finding information about Blackfishing.
By the following week (April 16): Have a collection of notes and information from the articles and resources I have gathered. Also, figure out my specific question and concern about Blackfishing.
April 23: Begin structuring how I’m going to present my final project.
April 30th: Presentation and Showcase Day!
I don’t have much time before April 30th, but I am a hard worker! So I am signing off, and I will see you all next week!
Hey everyone! So, last week I had the idea of Catfishing, which is using photographs to form a fake identity (persona) for their personal gain, fame, money, identity theft, etc. I wanted to be more specific on a type of Catfishing, which is Blackfishing. Recently, women on who are not of color are posing as women of color on Instagram. Example:
In my last post, I called it “Catfishin with race.” There are a few concerns that come to mind such as the general cultural appropriation, inappropriate, and extremely offensive. After having my one on one meeting about how to be more specific about this topic, I have to get past the shock factor when looking at these images and getting down to the “why” and “purpose” behind Blackfishing. The thoughts I have about identity online in 2019 comes down to how looking at images can cause various forms of identity concerns, misconceptions, and misguidedness. In my last post, I also talked about how you can’t switch off and on your skin color or facial features. Being born black is something deeper than skin color and big hips. Another concern I had about Blackfishing is when a young girl of color scrolls through their Instagram feed, what would they think or how would they feel when they discover that who they saw on Instagram is fake.
There is still a lot I have to think about for next week and to narrow down exactly what I want to say. (The internet in 2019, truth versus fake, identity and online, specific argumentation, problem and solution, the modern “Blackface” and how does that play a part, consequences of Blackfishing, racist myths, technology, come up with a specific question and concern, risks, what’s the endgame?, mainstreaming racist culture, etc.) So as you can see, I dipped into a deep pool with this topic, and I am hoping I did not get too ahead of myself.
I think what I need to do to find what my question, concern, and solution will be; I have to do my homework. By researching this topic and finding out more about what others have to say about it, then I’ll be able to focus on a more specific concern. I have a lot of articles to grab research from, and I’m hoping to find more on this topic. That is where I am going to start my research. As far as how I’m going to represent it as a conversation between my alchemist mentor and me but I will figure out that part too!
[…] She’s a little rough around the edges but quite thoughtful and very resourceful. After I wrote about my ideas for what I want to focus on in the Field Guide and tweeted some inquiries @vladaslaughter, I was able to engage in some thoughtful […]
Despite what my featured image says, I was, in fact, not feeling okay.
I’m glad to report that I’m not yet dead. glad may be an overstatement but eh I’d like to get my M.A. first after all the trouble Unfortunately, though, I have been very sick for the past few weeks. Flu. Upper respiratory infection. 103 degree fever. Hacking every other minute. congestion. insomnia. The whole nine yards. It can really slow you down.
Tricky questions, alchemist some people seem overwhelmed by new technology & are unable to use it responsibly while others are uninformed and more still find an escape to be who they can’t IRL #netnarr
I think we were able to narrow down more of my focus. Also, we discussed the idea of being an “antibiotic” more than an exact cure (inspired, largely, by my recent stint on doxycycline hyclate helluva a drug). In regards to digital well-being, it may be more apt to think of our field guide as more of an antibiotic than a prescribed “cure”. We’re trying to alleviate symptoms rather than eliminate the infection (as that would kind of mean destroying the Internet???). Getting rid of the bad bacteria so the good bacteria can continue to do its job. Idk. It’s something we’re thinking of~
Vlada helped me refine my focus further by providing some insightful commentary on a very interesting article about initiating humane design for the web. I think this source will be beneficial if I can pursue the topic I’d like to. This source doesn’t place the entirety of the blame on users. Rather, it places much responsibility on corporations and governments to regulate social media and intervene in our interactions with it. Some may find this invasive but I do think some changes need to be made in order to mitigate some of our interactions with social media right now which are definitely contributing to why some of are veering towards performing our lives rather than living them.
Anyway, that’s about all for me this week. I’m going to get back to resting for the time being. Don’t want to work myself to near death again. Being unable to breathe made me realize that I kinda like being able to actually???
Share any thoughts you have about anything I’ve discussed down below~
~Till next time~
Daily Digital Alchemies
I brushed off my poetry skills and shared a nice little work of book spine poetry this week (inspired by my new mentor).
I had another fun exchange with my mentor this week. Admittedly, this is a more fun exchange than one strictly about “business” but I do think it may be interesting to check out. Vlada’s snark may give mine a run for its money….
Sorry I couldn’t join everyone in class this week. Unfortunately, I’ve been very sick lately and apparently it’s getting worse before it gets better. I would not have been my usual pleasant presence had I been in class in-person this week.
Anyway, I am sorry I missed getting to discuss different ideas for the field guide with everyone. I’m sure that would’ve been fun and constructive ^.^
As far as that subject goes, btw, I am thinking of focusing on digital identity (duh). Specifically, I want to look into how social media platforms may be encouraging us to perform our lives rather than live them. It’s kind of a fringe topic to what I’ve been researching for my thesis and I think it’s something interesting to consider. The topic is also something Alex Saum has been exploring in her E-poetry projects. I think there are plenty of ways in which new digital platforms encourage us to be more authentic, rather than less. But, I also know that there are a lot of people who rely on social media to create a life and personality for them which I don’t believe is healthy. This section of the field guide, then, would cover the issue of living one’s life vs. performing it as well as, perhaps, exercising moderation in using social media platforms. Again, while I definitely believe in the abilities of digital interfaces to extend who we are, I also understand that these sites can be addictive and overwhelming. It is important to remember that you are still you after the screen goes dark.
Another topic I’m interested in is also related to my thesis and may veer too far off from what the field guide’s intention is. In the course of doing research for my thesis, I learned more about shitposting and meme culture and I just don’t think the current definition of it in Know Your Meme is accurate. At least, I think it’s outdated and should be updated to include more of the actual purview of shitposting and memes. The current basically identifies both mediums as a kind of interruption to otherwise sensical discourse. In this way, it sort of brushes these very prevalent online mediums off to the side. I think it would be interesting to come up with an updated definition of shitposting and provide sources that support this updated definition and explore new forms of digital content as part of meaningful online discussions. More, I think it’s important to define and validate these new forms of communication as they are becoming a part of our mainstream discourse. It’s all part of the cultural milieu.
So, anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about. I hope one of these ideas is viable. If not, I guess I’m open to suggestions. I wanted to pick a topic I am personally invested in and that concerns me. While these topics may not be the most flashy or be the most “pressing”, I do think they have their own merit and speak to the culture around new media and its usage. It’s important to open dialogue on these subjects, at the very least.
It’s the link to the article that I mentioned in my previous blog post, which is titled The Straw Man of Digital Dualism and written by John Suler. I’m personally bringing it up because digital dualism is my chosen theme for our final project but I’d strongly suggest everyone to give it a read. It’s quite interesting.
The article starts by defining digital dualism as “the belief that online and offline are separate and distinct realms” and that people tend to have dual personalities as a result. In other words, the online personalities of people are considered quite different from the real ones. There is certainly some truth to it. The author mentions some other researchers who oppose that notion (apparently called anti-digital-dualists) and attempts to refute their position by asserting their ignorance of how virtual reality differs from our own reality. The analogy that follows, which is “difference between our minds when awake and when immersed in fantasy or dreams”, captures the viewpoint of the claim that people consciously (or unconsciously) create alternative personalities of themselves online; an idolized reflection that lives in ether. It could be either for escape or mere curiosity of the possibility. As the author suggests that the online world “allows people to express hidden and often unconscious aspects of identity in ways not easily afforded in the face-to-face world”.
There are so many questions that relates to this particular topic, such as “Who dictates the idolized form of a person?” or “Does the mob mentality play any role in shaping someone’s online personality?”, that I find intriguing. There is so much stuff to examine, but that’s my short analysis for the time being; it’s just a first step after all. I had not selected my particular theme before creating the fictional character or coming up with a story for the Field Guide project. However, when this concept of digital dualism was introduced during our last class, I knew that I had found the perfect theme for the project. I’ll definitely need to find a few more resources in upcoming weeks, but this given article was a great start to delve into it. I’d definitely give it a 9.5/10 usefulness score (if we’re still doing that).
Yes! We’ve finally gotten to the good stuff. Although I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing analysis-type pieces for the blog, I was yearning for a more creative/experimental type of activity in the class. That was one of the promises that I was missing since the class was originally pitched as a follow-up (of sorts) to the Electronic Literature. If I had known that the Field Guide project was going to fall right into that experimental type of activity, I would’ve shown a lot more enthusiasm whenever I mentioned it in my previous blog posts; there is the “I’m looking forward to it…”, and then there is the “I cannot wait for it!”.
The Field Guide project apparently consists of creating a fictional character with a Twitter account that helps me solve/analyze a specific topic related to the social media —a (pretend) mentor, if you will. The part that got me excited the most is obviously the character creation. Last week, when everyone else was working on the GIF activity in the class, I was fortunate enough to work on that character creation thing instead… because my computer had died —basically ran out of battery because of the streaming. You can see some sketches that I did on my notebook below.
The idea of using a seal as the character came from one of my earlier blog posts in which I used the figurative way of describing the internet as a “digital sea”. I figured that I could take that metaphorical approach a step further and possibly use various sea-creatures as representation of certain personalities on the internet, particularly the type of social media users (e.g., the trolls in comment sections as piranhas in “digital sea”). Below is the final form of the main character.
So, the story that I’m planning on is about that character, currently named Porter Phoca, closing up his Alchemist Laboratory in order to go on a journey to examine those sea-creatures I’ve mentioned above. He’ll keep in touch with me, as an ongoing story of sorts, and attempt to analyze their “behaviors”. The theme of the story is digital dualism, which is described as “the belief that online and offline are separate and distinct realms” in the article titled The Straw Man of Digital Dualism by John Suler. I’ll probably go more in-depth in my upcoming Field Guide post about that theme but you can probably imagine where I’m actually going with this; people becoming “sea-creatures” inside that “digital sea”. Are they the alternative personalities, or merely the same ones that believe otherwise? It’ll be interesting to study/play with potential answers —I personally do not have one as of now. I have to say that I’m really excited to be working on this project. I even have an interesting sort of ending in mind for this WIP “story”. Though, I prefer not to spoil it for the time being. Hopefully, the result will end up as interesting as it sounds… or looks in my head, I guess.
It’s time to go on a journey!
The official class site for Dr. Mia Zamora’s Fall 2018 Electronic Literature course.