My personal blog: http://amstproject.wordpress.com/
The theoretical foundation to my project was JCR Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis Theory. The focus lay in the technologies that seemed to embody Licklider’s theory and to assess how close American society is to achieving Symbiosis as Licklider… Read more
My personal blog: http://amstproject.wordpress.com/
The theoretical foundation to my project was JCR Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis Theory. The focus lay in the technologies that seemed to embody Licklider’s theory and to assess how close American society is to achieving Symbiosis as Licklider imagined it and whether or not this would be a good think for American society. Based on the analysis of the technology I chose: Sixth Sense, Project Glass, iLimb, and Proto 2, and their individual capabilities I concluded that we are close to achieving Symbiosis but that it would not be beneficial to society. That conclusion was based on my reading of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, as he enumerates the effect the internet has already has on the brains of internet users. Internet is as ingrained in American culture as baseball and apple pie. And Symbiosis with computers at this stage would not doubt include a symbiosis with the internet. The hours America spends on the net now is doing damage to our capability to think deeply and focus for extended periods of time. If America were to be constantly connected to the internet deep thought, focus, and creativity would no doubt become archaic things of the past.
Anyway, enjoy the blog and start with the posts at the bottom or go by the list at the side. The order in which they should be read are as follows:
Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company, 2010.
Licklider, JCR. “Man-Computer Symbiosis.” IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, Volume HFE-1. March (1960): pages 4-11. Found online at <http://groups.csail.mit.edu/medg/people/psz/Licklider.html>
Mistry, Pranav. “About.” Sixth Sense: Integrating information with the real world. Accessed April 23, 2012. <http://www.pranavmistry.com/projects/sixthsense/>
“NPR Books” NPR. April 23, 2012. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11280318>
The feedback from my classmates lacked citation but did provide some links as follows:
“We all know the students at MIT love a good hack, but what’s better than playing a game while doing it? Last night, a team took over the side of MIT’s Green Building and turned it into a giant,… Read more
“We all know the students at MIT love a good hack, but what’s better than playing a game while doing it? Last night, a team took over the side of MIT’s Green Building and turned it into a giant, playable, multi-color Tetris game.”
I am exploring J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this… Read more
I am exploring J.C.R. Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis theory, the implications it had when Licklider published his 1960 article, where we stand now in our relation to technology, and based on research whether or not society seems to be fulfilling this theory. Licklider’s theory states that “man-computer symbiosis is a development in cooperative interaction between men and electronic computers. It will involve very close coupling between the human and the electronic members of the partnership.”
The research questions I started with were; what is the historical significance of Licklider’s theory? What technological advances are fulfilling this theory? How close is this to happening as Licklider imagined it? Is Man-Computer symbiosis a good thing for humans?
The natural roadblock to this is the fact that my project is capable of going in a lot of different directions. So it was a little difficult to narrow down what I wanted to focus on. When I was exploring another theory over the course of the semester, whose name escapes me, I was looking around on youtube for applicable videos. I found what I need but as I read through the comments I came across a recommendation for the book Feed. It was described as an example of where our digital age is taking us. Because I had an oceans worth of information I could explore I started with Feed, I knew it would apply in some way and might help me to narrow down my topic.(The following video discusses Feed briefly but portrays the essence of the book nicely.)
I was also told of a TED talk by my suite mates that described a new way of using computers. Seeing potential for this to apply to my project I investigated.
With Mistry’s Sixth Sense Technology, Feed, and Licklider’s theory I figured out how to narrow my project. I initially planned on researching Sixth Sense Technology but decided I wanted to expand that and explore prosthetics as well. This is where my classmates come in. I picked four pieces of technology; the google goggles, sixth sense technology, i-Limb, and Proto 2 by DARPA. I asked them for an explanation of what the technology is and does? How does it embody Licklider’s theory? What kind of innovation can you see happening that would further exemplify Man-Computer Symbiosis? I also found a senior thesis from MIT titled Pilot: A Step Towards Man-Computer Symbiosis that I asked for feedback on as well.
For the second half of the project I intend to learn more about the technology I have chosen and to finish Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky so that I can hypothesize the effects of Man-Computer Symbiosis on our society. Having read Feed it will be hard to keep that from giving me a bias however, Shirky should help counter that. In general, the project hasn’t changed much in theory, it was just difficult to put into reality.
4/24/2012 UPDATE: So my project has made some major shifts since I made this Phase 1 post, but I believe they were all for the better. I studied the differences between Godtube, Islamictube, and YouTube,… Read more
4/24/2012 UPDATE: So my project has made some major shifts since I made this Phase 1 post, but I believe they were all for the better. I studied the differences between Godtube, Islamictube, and YouTube, in relations to Islam/Christianity relations and what this indicates for American culture. You can read my blog HERE.
In a small section of the social media world, are Christian social media sites. These are sites that are committed to Christianity and its users commit to posting information and media that is family-friendly, uplifting, and of course, Christian. For my project, I have been looking mostly thus far at Godtube, because I just recently had Faithbook approve my application to become a member and have not had time sufficient time to look around there yet. I have looked through Godtube and watched many videos about Islam, looking at the messages that lie in them. There are hundreds of videos on Godtube that fit within the search guidelines of Islam. Of the ones that I have watched, the messages have been strongly negative, focusing on how Muslims are told in the Quran to murder Christians or any other non-believers. These are often coupled with images of Middle Eastern looking people holding signs about killing Americans, Christians. While the messages that are present are threatening, there is usually some reference to September 11, 2001, which makes it clear that the Americans may fear Muslims now more than ever because of the terrorist attacks.
I have listed the links to a couple of the strongest videos below (unfortunately I am unable to embed Godtube links into WordPress):
Both of these videos, and many more like them, have strong messages about Islam being anti-Christianity and therefore, anti-American. And the vast majority of the comments on these videos on Godtube are supportive of the messages in the videos. What is difficult about this project is it can be boiled down to a he said, she said argument, and it is very difficult to tell which side is correct.
For my question to the group, I asked them to think about the big picture and see if there was anything that I was missing in my research, any other avenues they thought I should look down. And then I asked them to poke around on Godtube and see what they found and to comment on anything interesting/unusual. (I did not ask them to go to Faithbook, because it would take too long for them to be approved by an administrator). Most of the responses that I received suggested that I look at the Muslim side of the issue, to look at Muslim social media sites and see if I can find anything similar.
This is a fairly large change in the project because instead of just looking at the one side of the issue, I am going to look at what the other side is saying too. No longer is this project devoted to Christian rhetoric about Muslims, but not Muslim rhetoric about Christianity and a comparison of the two. I hope that this will be a beneficial and fruitful change, but time will tell.
For the second half of the project, I plan to do just that. As I continue to explore Godtube and start looking through Faithbook, I will look at Millat Facebook, which apparently is the Muslim Facebook and see if there are any posts, forums, or any other content about Christianity. I will compare the messages that each sends with the way that they portray themselves and attempt to explain what this rhetoric says about American culture.
The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:
Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all… Read more
The focus of my project is slacktivism. In recent years, activism is changing as a result of the use of social media. Thus, I had many initial questions:
Does a shift in how activism is carried out, change activism all together? On a very basic level, what is activism today? Since it is so easy to become an “activist”, do individuals know what they fighting for? If activism is usually described as vigorous campaigning, is this new activism through social media too easy? What does pure activism lose when social media becomes part of the equation?
Obviously, these initial questions are very large brushstrokes when exploring slacktivism (a new theory in and of itself). Still, they have been very helpful in engaging slacktivism as each individual question acted as a jumping off point.
Like anything, my project has faced some roadblocks. First of all, slacktivism is a huge topic so I had to find a way to reframe my project on some more specific questions that were relevant to the notion of “Digital America.” My research was spawn by the eruption of the Kony 2012 campaign. Kony seemed to be a prominent example of how formal “take to the street” mentalities of protest have morphed into “click (or like) to support” campaigns. Thus, I engaged in Facebook and Twitter to understand the nature of this new activism, slacktivism. I then took it a step further and looked into three websites that encourage virtual protests, petitions and activism:
MoveOn.org Civic Action Center – SignOn.org
ai50.ca/smac (Canada’s Amnesty International)
Each of these three sites have a clear culture. Change.org seems to be the easiest to navigate which suggests that it is more accessible to the generationally-diverse public. You sign petitions on Change.org, but the site also provides tips on how to rally through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Trayvon Martin Petition Goes Viral on Change.org
Canada’s Amnesty International has a Social Media Action Center which “gives you the opportunity to take a simple action for justice every two weeks from May 2011 to May 2012. These actions link with Amnesty supporters from across the globe.” Thus, becoming part of the action center for AI takes a little more commitment since you have to sign up, but its nature is the same in terms of social media. The site explains that virtual events are online protests, which “take the idea of a traditional protest and [bring] it to the digital world. Virtual Events bring people together at the same time to speak out about the same issue. Each event is made up of digital actions, like signing a petition or posting a Facebook message. On [the day of the release] everyone’s posts, tweets and emails are sent out at the EXACT same time. The result? Networks and inboxes are flooded with the same message at the same time. Pretty powerful!”
It seems that MoveOn.org and SignOn.org are the least accessible and mainstream. Of course, both have users, but unlike AI and Change.org the users seem to be a much more specific group. Unlike the other two sites, it does not encourage its users to share in the same capacity (e.g. Facebook and Twitter).
Through this semester, much of what we have read has contributed to the theory in which I have based my research. The shift in activism suggests Marshall McLuhan’s idea that the medium is the message—without the medium of Facebook and Twitter and other social media sites, slacktivism would not be possible. The fact that individuals can instantly organize and support throughout the world at the same time is another example of how powerful the medium is with regard to slacktivism. Additionally, Poster also suggest that multiculturalism or diaspora leads to global understanding which is turn can lead to the sort of activism we see today. On each of the sites I have engaged in, the causes are not located in any one location, the causes effect various and diverse places in the world. Like the causes, the supporters are more all over the world. This suggests that borders have begun to disappear relative to the increase in protest social media. The notion of feedback is also key. It is much easier to get an individual to support a cause, when their feedback shows that their friends also support the cause. This is the power behind the AI SMAC and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Shirky’s theories are also immensely powerful in this discussion. Through my research thus far, it seems that it is important that “Everybody knows that everybody knows that everybody knows” when it comes to slacktivism?
For my group assignment, I asked the group to look into one of the three above sites with these questions as a framework to look into one of the three sites: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I felt as those these questions would be crucial in reframing my broad research of slacktivism to fall more in line with the focus of the course. However, I also provided the group with my initial research questions to give them a background of my project. So far the feedback I have received has fallen in line with what I myself had found on the sites.
Phase 2 of my project will be focused on the questions I provided to my group for feedback: Is it “American” to want low-risk, low-cost, technologically mediated participation/activism? If it’s not “American” what is it? What are the positive and negative outcomes of such participate (slacktivism)? I am going to really engage more of Shirky’s theory to better address these questions. The following parts of Shirky’s theory from Here Comes Everybody will be particularly helpful:
“[B]ecause the minimum costs of being an organization in the first place are relatively high, certain activities may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in any organized way. New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action.”
“Information sharing produces shared awareness among the participants, and collaborative production relies on shared creation, but collective action creates shared responsibility, by tying the user’s identity to the identity of the group.”
“Our social tools are not an improvement to modern society, they are a challenge to it.”
As a final project for this class, I have created this blog which focuses on the theme of collective intelligence, specifically in scientific research. The blog represents several weeks worth of research exploring how CI currently works in science… Read more
As a final project for this class, I have created this blog which focuses on the theme of collective intelligence, specifically in scientific research. The blog represents several weeks worth of research exploring how CI currently works in science and what are the problems/prospects of CI in the future.
The initial questions which shaped my research were:
What is collective intelligence?
What can we learn from the history of CI?
How does digital media amplify our abilities to work collectively?
How has AIDS research utilized CI? Where was AIDS research before CI?
Is AIDS research possible without CI?
What is the relationship between CI and American capitalism?
How has CI changed the business landscape?
As social beings are we naturally inclined to think/work collaboratively?
Have we created a social system that goes against our own evolution?
Using the game Foldit as a case study, I examine how Collective Intelligence can enhance science. Foldit was a game created by professors at the University of Washington to utilize the human brain’s problem solving abilities in order to find the lowest energy structure of a given protein. Similar to the game of Tetris, gamers reshaped proteins and were awarded points for finding correct arrangements. In my description and analysis of Foldit, I incorporate different types of media by using screen shots from the game, a video of MSNC coverage of the results, as well as a video about the game made by the University of Washington.
Foldit is a great example of collective intelligence because over 200,000 players downloaded the game, many of the top players had no background in biochemistry ( in fact one player who excelled was a 13 year old boy who played under the name Cheese), and players could communicate and build off each other’s solutions. In addition, Foldit is a great example because without the game, scientists may never have found the solution. Scientists worked for twelve years, exhausting numerous different approaches. Once they opened the problem up collectively and tapped into the spatial reasoning abilities of volunteers, gamers found the solution in a mere ten days. I then talk about how digital media enhances the ability of collective intelligence by provided a third space that is free of time constraints, geographic limitations, age, gender, or sex qualifications, and provides access to a multitude of resources.
The next part of my argument deals with why collective intelligence is so difficult in science. My original intention was to talk about collective intelligence in business but I ended up talking about science because Foldit was more applicable. I may still extend the scope of my argument to include business as well. I use an article published in the Boston globe as well as the scholarship of Michael Neilson to argue that currently, scientists have a disincentive to share their research with others because they are competing to be the first to make a discovery and to publish their work. Publishing papers results in known benefits such as credit for their discoveries and securing grant money for future research. On the other hand, although sharing data is highly beneficial, the rewards of doing so are so far unclear and undefined. To date, the most successful examples of CI in science such as Foldit have been conservative in that they used collective means to find a solution but their final result was still a traditional academic paper. The rare exception is the Human Genome Project, which was successful only because top scientists in the field came together and formed an open data agreement which was backed by the grant agencies.
In response to the current structure, Neilson imagines a future where all scientific data can be made open and available through the use of the internet. He, and others who support CI, are the leaders in the Open Science Movement. They propose that any publicly funded science should be open science. According to Neilson, this can be changed in two ways. Firstly, scientists can get involved in open science programs, start an open science project, or encourage and give credit to their colleagues who are doing open science. Secondly, non scientists should create general awareness about the importance of open science to pressure the scientific community to work openly. These methods should be successful because the only current barrier to open science is the way that conservative scientists currently look down on CI as lacking prestige and being beneath them.
I then briefly engage psychology theory which demonstrates that our brains are designed to work collectively. And this leads me to the biggest question of my research which I will tackle during phase II. Given the fact that our brains are naturally designed to work collaboratively, and the system we currently work in does not encourage collaborative efforts, have we created a system which goes against our own evolution?
In contrast to my argument that science is structured away from CI, I would like to discuss how some businesses have realized that it is in their self interest to adopt collective intelligence practices. Perhaps as this becomes a larger trend in business (i.e. grant companies) it will become a more accepted practice in science as well. In addition I would like to use both Howard Rheingold and Clay Shirky to talk about the current state of CI and the prospects for the future. What CI projects are being created/implemented today and what is the potential of future projects? How far can we take CI in science or in other words, how open can we make science and what kind of discoveries could be possible?
For my group assignment, I have asked my classmates to help me format my blog. I have asked for advice on themes or formatting techniques which would make my layout reflect the theme of collection intelligence: i.e. less heirarchical and more web-like. So far the advice that I have received has pertained to specific themes to try out and a website that generates custom themes. I plan to test drive each of these themes and attempt to create my own.
For this project, I wanted to look, generally, at digital politics, and specifically at the reciprocal relationship between the two. Although my original research question dealt with the influence of American politics and the American political process on the rest of the world with the role of networked, digital technology, I decided to first dissect the tole of networked, digital technology and its influence on American politics and the American political process. Since this is such a broad topic, my research focused mainly on the influence of networked, digital technology on major political elections
My arguments were formed, for the most part, after reading the chapter “Citizens, Digital Media, and Globalization” in Mark Poster’s Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines. Mark Poster made a number of points in Information Please that I feel no longer represent the nature of digital politics. My research began, then, by attempting to highlight these points, and then to understand in what ways these points no longer hold true.
My first question came from the following passage on page 71 of Information Please:
“Critical discourse currently locates an antagonism between globalization and citizenship. The deepening of globalizing processes strips the citizen of power, this position maintains. As economic processes become globalized, the nation-state loses its ability to protect its population. The citizen thereby loses her ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue her interests” (Poster, 71).
My problem with this statement stems from the last sentence. In my opinion, American citizens have gained, rather than lost, the ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue their interests. My argument here is that the internet has afforded the American citizen unprecedented access to potential leaders, coupled with an extraordinary change in this relationship, from one sided (the potential leader speaks to the citizens) to bidirectional (through digital technologies like social media, the citizen now has a fast, easy, and efficient method in which to talk directly to their potential leaders; see: Obama’s Google+ Hangout)
My second question came from the following passage on page 73 on Poster’s Information Please:
“Self-constitution of consumers spills over into politics as citizenship becomes an extension of consumption. What is more, as consumption has become more political, so politics has become a mode of consumption. Candidates in elections campaigns increasingly rely on media t o reach their constituents. Political advertisements are the chief means of conducting campaigns. The primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set, bring politics to individuals in the same way they experience entertainment. The deep consumer culture of the television medium is merged with the electoral process. And celebrities from the domain of entertainment, a major aspect of consumption, become credible candidates for high office with no particular training or experience, as evidenced by the election of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger as governors of California. We are indeed in a postmodern world of the consumer citizen” (Poster, 73).
For the most part, Poster is actually helping me support my argument, in that he points out that politics has become a mode of consumption. My problem with this passage lies with the sentence “the primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set.” While statistics obviously vary depending on the source, I’ve noticed a general trend over the last ten or so years that illustrates a shift from television to internet in terms of where people in our generation get their political information. Furthermore, I would argue that culture of the internet medium is far more merged with the electoral process than the television ever was, given the ability of the citizen to access information whenever they want online, versus whenever an advertisement happens to play on television.
From these general questions, I was able to somewhat narrow the scope of my research question. By looking at the newer, bidirectional relationship between the citizen and it’s potential leaders, and by realizing that the average American between the ages of 18 and 29 has officially moved from relying on the television for information to relying on the internet, I decided to look at how effectively the American political process is using networked, digital technologies, and what the consequences of this relationship might be. Poster begins to answer this question by looking at some existing political formations:
“The objection to the argument for the netizen might be raised that the Internet promotes, even enhances, existing political formations. The Zapatistas and the neo-Nazis alike further their political ambitions by means of Web sites, Listservs, blogs, e-mail, chat rooms, and so forth. In heavily mediatized societies, political candidates of all stripes deploy the Net to their advantage. Reform movements in China and Eastern Europe depended on the Net… to spread their word and foster political change. Countless experiments could be named, such as the City of Santa Monica’s Public Electronic Network, which use the Net to extend democratic processes. The demonstrations in Seattle early in the year 2000 against the WTO and the World Bank, as well as the general process of globalization, benefited in addition by the ability of the Net to aid the work of organizing political protest. These examples all bespeak the ways in which the Internet can function within existing political structures” (Poster, 79).
Lastly, Poster hints at the fact that the consequences of the relationship between networked, digital technology and the American political process is a break down of American Politics and the creation of newer political structures:
“There is, then, at least one political novelty specific to the Internet that I choose to highlight. The internet holds the prospect of introducing post-national political forms because of its internal architecture, its new register of time and space, its new relation of human to machine, body to mind, its new imaginary, and its new articulation of culture to reality. Despite what may appear in the media of newsprint and television as a celebration of the Internet’s harmony with the institutions of the nation-state and the globalizing economy, new media offer possibilities for the construction of planetary political subjects, netizens who will be multiple, dispersed, and virtual, nodes of a network of collective intelligence. They may resemble neither the autonomous agent of citizenship, beholden to print, nor the identity of post-modernity, beholden to broadcast media. The political formation of the netizen is already well under way, bringing forth, as Heidegger, might say, a humanity adhering not to nature alone but also machines, not to geographic local identity alone but also to digitized packets of its own electronic communications. The import of these speculations is… to call to attention to the possibility for the establishment of global communications, one that is more practically dispersed across the globe than previous systems, one that is inherently bidirectional and ungovernable by existing political structures” (Poster, 84).
This passage aided in the construction of my final research question by bringing up the idea of collective intelligence: networked, digital technology is made up of both the citizens who use the technology and the technology itself, begging the question of not only how this online collective intelligence will influence the American political process, but how American politics influence the network? Embedded within this question are several key points, including the effectiveness of this utilization, the consequences of the relationship, and the future of digital politics.
Politics is a touchy subject, with a wide spectrum of views and beliefs. For this reason, a major roadblock in my research has been subjectivity. Any published research on the subject, despite a necessary need for unbiased analysis, has the risk of being somewhat opinionated or swayed. When attempting to gauge the effectiveness of various online campaigns, every analysis must be taken with a grain of salt, and I’ve discovered that I have to constantly fact-check many of the articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched. Unfortunately, twitter has been one of the biggest roadblocks for this project. As a massive social media site, I have spent a long time browsing political twitter users and the responses to their post. Being a personal-use site, however, there is a lot of bias and it is often difficult to sort through the opinion to find the facts. If anything, however, this roadblock will most likely end up becoming a part of the answer to my research question.
For this project, I have utilized a variety of social media websites, focusing on the networked aspect of digital technology. The sites I spend the most time on are Twitter, YouTube, and various political blogs and websites, such as Politico, the Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post. Of these, one of the most valuable resources has been YouTube’s political section, which organizes videos by candidate and also compares each candidate by the number of videos on their channel and the number of subscriptions to their channel:
For the group assignment, I wanted to try to eliminate some of my own bias in researching these questions. Because politics is such a polarized subject, I asked my group members to pick a candidate (Obama, Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum), and to do some general browsing of these candidate’s digital presence, such as on twitter, youtube, Facebook, etc. I was interested in how effectively or ineffectively these candidates have been using their online space, and what some of the pros and cons of their use were. I was most interested at this time in Santorum, considering the day I assigned this project was the day he suspended his campaign; I was interested to look at a possible correlation between a failed digital campaign and this suspension.
Cameron chose to look at Ron Paul’s digital campaign. Cameron pointed out that Ron Paul has an extremely active online presence, on websites such as twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Specifically, it seems as though Ron Paul’s supporters are the most active online when compared to other candidate’s supporters. In contrast to Ron Paul, Natalie reported that Newt Gingrich’s online campaign has not been going so well, and has been struggling to utilize the Web in an effective way. Lastly, Renee looked at the online campaign of Mitt Romney, and discussed how his online videos rarely speak to the issues, but rather either attack Obama or promote himself as a “family man.”
From this assignment, I plan on focusing in on specific ways in which the candidates use these websites. Natalie pointed out that many tweets relating to Gingrich were very wordy or linked to other websites, something that is seemingly detrimental to getting his message out there. I would like to compare specific uses such as this between the candidates as a possible way in which a lack of understanding of how people use social media may negatively impact a campaign, versus very tech-literate supporters, such as those that Ron Paul has, positively impact a campaign.
I feel as though the phrase “Digital America” takes on an enhanced meaning when speaking about politics. With an increased online presence of candidate campaigns, the election truly has moved online, and America that results from this presidential race will truly be one that, I think, will be decided in a completely digital way. The final phase of this project will require a much more in-depth analysis of the remaining presidential candidates, and how effectively they use networked, digital technology. Furthermore, I want to look at the opposite side of this relationship, and analyze how the networked, digital technologies utilized effects how the candidate’s shape their campaign. Lastly, I want to fully connect the theoretical points Poster made about the relationship between politics and the Internet, by more fully understanding the applications of networked, digital technology for the American political process and American politics; this will require diving into the scholarly research of the effect of the Internet on politics, and using my research of the candidate’s online presence as supporting media.
Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website.… Read more
Throughout this semester the topic of online anonymity keeps resurfacing in different avenues of the digital landscape. In my project, I have immersed myself in the US Message Board website. The US Message Board is an online political forum that includes many different categories of politically related topics (such as: politics, religion, healthcare, conspiracy theories, race/racism) as well as more miscellaneous/general topics (such as: sports, food and wine, etc). While some users can choose taglines that reflect pieces of their assumed-to-be-real names, most choose fictional tag names, incorporating to some extent the idea of anonymity.
Many people critique the educational value, or lack thereof, of discussion forums like US Message Board. During my digital travels, I have been reading discussions while thinking about the following questions: What causes people to feel this way? Do users accredit their posts’ information or educational background? How do users interact and are discussions advanced? How does the idea of anonymity play into the discussions? Would they be different without it?
When I began my immersion in the US Message Board (USMB) site, I began by reading their “Rules & Regulations”. While the overall tone of the page at times appeared humorous and sarcastic, there were basic rules that they regularly enforce. Among them: linking information to sources (citing), no pornographic/obscene/indecent images, all users share the right to express their own beliefs/faiths/opinions, and every user must not reveal personal contact information about themselves or others (full name, address, phone number, and e-mail address). This page ends with, “Currently whipping the hamsters to keep things running.” In a way, USMB acts a little like 4chan – except it doesn’t tolerate porn. Every user utilizes an anonymous identity, and they can say whatever they want (though USMB doesn’t tolerate as much language as 4chan does). After reading these rules and concluding USMB members might be like 4chan users, I braved myself for some low-level educational value in the discussions. However, the topics on USMB actually hold relevance and importance; unlike say the “Sexy Beautiful Women” category on 4chan.
Since the USMB features so many different discussion topics, I decided to narrow down my investigation to the current debate over taxes. The discussion titled, “So people who earn a million a year pay a lower tax rate than the middle class” has been my latest investigation. While the first post presented how much a person earning a million dollars a year would pay in income tax versus a person earning fifty thousand dollars, shutting down the seemingly naïve claim of the discussion topic. Then you get someone commenting about how most Americans do not pay their fair share, then comes a user commenting “Obama bin lying…”. This combination of substantial, “fact” filled posts with random comments that don’t seem to add anything has appeared to be a common pattern in USMB discussions.
However, I have found (much to my surprise) many posts that seem to contain factual, relevant information that sparks questions and feedback that advance the conversation (not always the original discussion topic, but the current conversation of the board). Contrary to the USMB’s Rules and Regulations, many of these statistics, “facts”, or quotes ever appear to be cited to referred to another source. How can I accept these claims to be true? Many of the USMB users seem to either agree with other users’ uncited claims – perhaps by either knowing them to be true (if it could be considered general tax knowledge) or by blindly accepting and trusting their community’s members.
That being said, there are some comments by users who seem to have the untrusting reader in mind. One user provided links to various news articles, providing a point of information he summarized below each. While you didn’t have to agree with his conclusions, the sources he was basing them off were there for you to see. This brave user was consequently shut down immediately by the next user who picked specific points from the various articles to dismantle the other user’s claims. Poor guy.
While people like Stewart Brand envisioned online communities to be a place of trust, growth, and educational expansion, I cannot confirm this ideal for the USMB – at least not yet. While many opinions are made on the site, the replies seem to most often spark a back and forth bashing of different viewpoints, never opening up the table for compromise or an understanding of opposition.
In a series of negative reviews of USMB, retired users explain how much the site has changed since they initially began using it. The changes described remind me much of what many of the hackers we read about in Vanity Fair. Many of the USMB users became trolls and hackers who threatened other users via private messages with physical violence – including rape. Other threats were made verbally (well typed) with obscene language, which is tolerated on the site due to users’ protest for “freedom of speech”.
As of now, it seems my original doubts about anonymous online communities being a place for positive educational growth have been mostly confirmed. While I, like retired users, admit to many discussion posts containing educational, worthy information, sometimes it seems these posts are overshadowed by the hackers who use it for harm or uneducated users who post solely to undermine opinions not aligned with their own.
In the next phase of my project, I want to explore more discussions on taxes in other digital spaces. I will compare discussions utilizing anonymous identities versus real ones. How will the discussions be different? Will people be more concerned with citing their sources in an effort to legitimize their comments? Will people be able to criticize other posts as easily as they do in the USMB? My thoughts now are that when people post under the anonymous mask (and without source references), they feel much more confident and free to write whatever they wish, while users utilizing a true identity take more precaution in their online posts.
Before starting my research I hypothesized that the intermingling between the strong emotional tie that runners have with running and the massive connectivity that new media offers has led to the growth and popularity of running. After hours of research it appears to me that the online running community is bigger than I would have ever imagined. Fitness and health is continuing to rise as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. One of the least expensive hobbies and ways to exercise is running. How has new media instigated this culturally change?
Initial Questions: New Media Leads to Rise in Popularity of Running; Digital Road Race
Initially I was particularly focused on how new media stimulated the increase in popularity of running. I was interested in the idea of a Digital Road Race as that seems to me the epitimy of use new media impacting the sport. A person would sign up for the race, receive a T-Shirt in the mail, and on a specific date and specific time runners would go for a run wherever they were located. This concept completely takes away the physical barriers needed to participate in a run. With this concept it is clear that new media has broken the physical barriers to runner a race. People can run in the same race at the same time all across the globe. Therefore, while new media brings people together in conversation, it appears that it can also break physical contact. So does media bring us together or pull us a part? Ultimately, I think it brings people together. I don’t know many people who participate in digital road races. Most people sign up for races do so for the community experience—to be with people, to test yourself, to bring out your competitive edge.
Roadblocks: How does the online running community connect with American culture?
Professor Rosatelli prompted this question on my proposal and it completely changed the shape of my research. As I read blogs, running boards, various websites dedicated to running, scholarly articles, and even perused Pinterest I realized that there was a call from the American people for discussion about fitness and running. Currently, more than one third (35.7%) of adults and 12.5 million children and adolescents in the United States are obese. This reality is tragic, yet social media has brought this American struggle to the forefront of many people’s lives.
Several of the blogs that I found are written by people who either currently struggle with weight loss or began writing their blogs as a testimonial to their success in maintaining physical fitness. Some bloggers even blog about their struggles with disordered eating and how running has helped them handle and even over come their negative eating habits. In my research I discovered that food is one of the primary topics in all aspects of runner’s social media. Bloggers and forum users a like suggest the best fueling techniques for optimal performance. No longer do you need to see a certified nutritionist to tell you how to fuel your body, you can simply read people’s blogs to see what has worked for them! Recipes sharing is also a major component of runner’s blogs. In fact, many of them even have a separate tab viewers can click on to just view their recipes.
Perhaps most surprisingly, I discovered that there appears to be a shift in what makes a beautiful body. Typically people think of women as desiring to be super model thin, but with the overwhelming push towards physical fitness in America is seems to me that it is becoming more desirable to be strong and fit. Pinterest’s Fitness page for instance is littered with images of women with strong bodies and workout regiments with an emphasis on weights lifting.
In my research I have looked at numerous blogs including Twenty Six and Then Some, Run Eat Repeat, Chic Runner, and Runner’s Rambles. Most of these bloggers also use Twitter so I followed them and found that most of the tweet about their workouts and recipes they enjoyed. I think that keeping a public documentation of their work holds them accountable. I have also perused Pinterest (yes—it’s research!) Read the message board at Letsrun.com and perused Flotrack.com and digitalrunner.com. I even came across a great collection of Lululemon motivational youtube videos!
I am primarily focusing on Hansen’s theory of interdependence of content and form—essentially how runner’s use the new media and for what purpose. In his book Hansen discusses McLuhan’s theories about how the adaptation of a particular medium impacts the experience at a greater rate that it used to. This relates directly to runners because as they use new media to document and communicate their experiences the feedback is instantaneous. A runner can blog about his or race experience, ask a question about fueling or shoes and he or she will get inundated with responses from readers. As Hansen’s states “By taking full advantage of the many to many connectivity facilitated by the internet, the explosion of user-generated digital “content” had refocused the function of computational media from storage to production, from archiving of individual experience to generations of collective presence of connectivity.”
What did I ask from my group?
I asked my groups to look at some of the media sources that I have been using my research and give me feedback about how they viewed the information. I wondered if they saw any connections to some one the theory that we have been studying. I asked them to do this because I felt that I had become so immersed in it that perhaps I wasn’t seeing the full picture anymore. Just like when you’ve lost your keys and you search the entire house for them with out any luck, but once you ask a friend to help they are right in front of your eyes!
Molly looked into two well read blogs, Twenty Six and Then Some and Run Eat Repeat. She too noticed that they were both primarily about running and food yet one seems more personable than the other—something I had not realized. However, she does point out that the lack of anonymity makes the blogs much more personable than if you did not have a name or a face to put to the author. Both of these bloggers provide pictures and some details about their daily lives outside of the running world. In that sense, the reader truly feels like he or she personally knows the blogger.
What will I continue to explore? What questions are left to answer? How has the project changed thus far?
While I was originally interested in how the popularity of running soared because of the internet, I am know more focused on how the American culture and Digital World—Digital America—have come together to shape the existing running culture. I still need to dig more into the theory, especially some of Shirky’s ideas about social media.
Below is part 1 of my project. You can see the final product at my blog HealthyLifelines.
I became interested in my topic after a family friend was diagnosed with Leukemia. My brother and I received online invites… Read more
Below is part 1 of my project. You can see the final product at my blog HealthyLifelines.
I became interested in my topic after a family friend was diagnosed with Leukemia. My brother and I received online invites to join her support page at MyLifeLine.org where we were able to follow her treatment and diagnosis and send her messages throughout the process. It was nice to have a link to her while she was so far away at home and I began to wonder how many other people seek comfort in these types of services. All of this inspired me to begin the project and led me to create my research problem:
How do online communities impact the recovery of patient’s suffering from cancer?
I chose to focus on my friend’s webpage with My Life Line and the website Cancer Support Community. I began visiting these sites on a weekly basis and created an account so that I could sit on discussion boards and read what members were saying. I chose a few guiding questions to direct my search.
- How are online communities different than other support groups for cancer patients?
- Does anonymity play a role in these communities?
- What ways do patients seek support, are they seeking guidance during their diagnosis/treatment or are they looking to make friends?
- Are there any negative repercussions to this style of therapy?
I continued to visit these sites on a weekly basis, to check in with my friend and visit the discussion boards. Cancer Support Community offers a news bulletin and a radio show that I also wanted to look into and make a part of my project; however, I found that there was less of a community dynamic with this aspect of their site. Consequently, I spent the majority of my visits looking at the discussion board.
One thing that I noticed over my weekly visits was the main discussion topics did not change much during the weeks. The threads remained active; however the number of views was always greatly disproportional to the number of posts that were made on each thread. This began to address my initial question of anonymity: obviously lots of people enjoy reading the posts on the site, which requires an account to be made, but not as many feel comfortable sharing in the conversations.
There were lots of posts where people shared their own personal stories, such as I’m in my 20s and just was diagnosed with breast cancer. Several of the comments would be inspirational, such as “just have faith and you can get through this” and others would be responses from other patients who were recovering form the same thing. I found a lot of posts made by younger people who were nervous about the social side affects of having cancer, such as dating, and wanting advice. The younger users wanted more guidance and support on these types of social issues, whereas some of the older users wanted expert opinions with medical questions, such as the best OTC drugs to help with pain or lotions to use on dry skin from radiation therapy.
Lots of patients use this platform to discuss the frustration that they have with their doctors and the medical system in general. This was refreshing to see because lots of the research I had done prior to this project surrounded studies done at hospitals on patients using a physician provided digital community called CHESS. They cited that this program exponentially helped patient’s recovery, even more so than in-person group therapy. What had intrigued me about the CHESS program as that it was set up by the hospital staff to reduce the amount of time physicians needed to spend with patients, so they could look up diagnostic information and therapy tools on the internet without monopolizing a doctors time. The side bonus was that there was the socializing and the community provided as well. I imagined that it would be difficult to talk about your physician in this type of network system; however, the sites I visited had lots of this type of discussion.
Another framework that I built my research off of was the WELL history that was discussed in Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture. His analysis of how housewives found a way to connect and discuss with others on an online forum made me think about the opportunities online communities provide for isolated individuals. It is a gateway for those who do not have an immediate link with others around them and can meet friends through an anonymous discussion board. Turner expressed how in the greater view of the WELL women were often discriminated by men so I did want to find answers about how these cancer sites could have negative repercussions. I was unable to find answers to this so this is something I’m still looking into.
One aspect of the community that I was surprised by was that the number of people who do not have cancer that utilize the site. Lots of friends and family members utilize these online forums to ask questions about their loved ones and provide support for others suffering. I suspect this allows them to have a space to divulge their fears and emotions without placing them on the people they love directly. They can get as verbal about their fears without stressing out the people in their life who do have cancer.
I asked my group for help researching the negative side affects of these sites. I gave them my log-in information so they could peruse for any potential negative repercussions. I also wanted to know of any other personal stories the group had from these types of sites. One person volunteered that they had used a site called “Caring Bridge” when a friend was going through treatment for cancer and they had found it useful. Some of the feedback said that the site does allow people to have pity parties for themselves, which is not always the best solution for depressed people. Since the site is not run by professionals, it does allow the users to feel they can speak uncensored about medical issues, but at the same times people crying out for help may not be seen.
In the future I want to look more into studies and see how these sites influence patient’s mental recovery. Is it safe to have a pity party online when you feel you have already overwhelmed your immediate family with sadness? These are issues I want to look into further. I want to find a direct link to a CHESS simulation if possible as well to see what the medical professionals are using for online therapy. I would like to find a therapist in the area with experience in online communities to see if they have any insight as well. I think that there are several obvious benefits from these types of sites but I have been unable to find any counter arguments, which I would like to make a larger focus on the future. I have seen all of the great sides of these sites, especially since I am biased with my friend’s webpage on My Life Line. I need to do more research to know if this is the reality of these websites. If anyone in group B has comments please let me know.
My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it would. Initially, I wanted to explore the similarities and differences in the hippie culture of the 1960s-1970s and the rave scene that is becoming a part of mainstream culture today. While trying to connect these cultures to theories that discuss digital media, I realized that the idea might be too broad to fully explore in the amount of time that we have. Simultaneously, I learned that electronic dance music, the epicenter of rave culture, is so deeply rooted in the Internet that without the technology we have today, the genre wouldn’t exist. EDM exists through the production, sharing, and reproduction of music on the Internet through podcasts, blogs, and artists’ websites. Additionally, the blogs that the genre relies on to spread the word about new music are technically illegal because they rarely pay for their music. Many popular EDM blogs have been shut down for posting links to illegal downloading websites, an issue that has been growing in the past few years.
My research problem is to discover what EDM says about American culture and how it gets the message across. In this aspect of culture, the medium is very important and the way that music is both produced and spread is essential to understanding what it is saying. Also, I want to further explore what each DJ or producer brings to rave culture and what that will do for it in the near future.
To start my research, I interviewed a few University of Richmond students who have EDM blogs and understand how music gets from the producer to the general public. My initial questions for my research were answered in these interviews and allowed me to continue on with a little bit more knowledge of how the genre works to generate music. I learned how people with these blogs find new music from producers, obtain the music (legally or illegally), publish the music to their blogs, and how they decide what is worth the legal risk and what is not. I hoped that the last of my initial questions would be answered after observing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world firsthand. This experience helped me understand rave culture and what aspects of it are helping American culture as well as what aspects may be a threat in the future.
Rave clothing at Ultra Music Festival
I haven’t encountered too many roadblocks since refocusing my project. One of the major roadblocks in the beginning of my research was not having the informal knowledge that I needed to fully understand the process of downloading and publishing music. Once I was able to interview a few people who could explain the initial process, I was able to understand what I was actually looking for. Another roadblock that I encountered is that the EDM that I am studying and is discussed on blogs is fairly new. There are very few scholarly articles in online journals so I had to find some reliable sources that weren’t necessarily published articles on a certain database.
My most useful supporting media for my project is artists’ and producers’ websites. From there, I am able to find additional information from their blogs, twitter, and facebooks. I am also following popular music blogs that are affected by the legislation that will be forming laws for digital media. One of the blogs, Electronic Life, is a guide to almost all aspects of rave culture and EDM.
The theoretical foundation for my project is coming from a few different theorists. Lawrence Lessig’s theories on the music industry today support the innovation of electronic music and blame the music industry for restricting culture. This theory is the foundation of the EDM genre and is the future that many of the producers hope for. Shirky’s writing on social media is applicable to the artists’ pages because they direct their fans to their other social media. Many of Poster’s theories apply to this genre of music and the idea of innovation in place of invention. Almost all of EDM exists in Poster’s “third space” that has created its own culture. Poster’s critiques of the music industry are almost exactly what many individuals involved in EDM are saying about the music industry. The theory of a consumer becoming a producer and therefore a user is also a foundation of the EDM genre. Consumers of the music often become producers because the genre has a feeling of a community and many people feel that they can participate and contribute to it. Applications such as Figure are promoting the idea of easy-to-create music. This participation changes people who were once consumers into producers and creates a cycle of contribution to the genre and the culture as a whole.
My plan for the second half of my project is to go deeper into my research of the music industry to better understand what role EDM is playing in it. I think this research will lead me to better understanding the role it is playing in American culture and where it may take it in the future. Additionally, information about copyright laws and newer laws that are being created to restrict illegal downloading will help me further understand the future of the genre of digital music.
I still have many important questions to answer such as: what will happen with illegal downloading in the future? How will these laws affect the genre of EDM? How will these laws affect both rave culture an American culture? How could ideas from theorists such as Lessig and Hansen be applied to this genre of music and make a difference? One of the biggest questions in the future of EDM is what will happen to it in the future and who’s hands will it fall into. This New York Times article explains what may happen to EDM in the future and who will try to control its growing popularity.
My final blog can be viewed here. The background information posted below is also overviewed on my blog.
For my final project, I decided to explore further the idea set forth by Jane McGonigal in her Read more
My final blog can be viewed here. The background information posted below is also overviewed on my blog.
For my final project, I decided to explore further the idea set forth by Jane McGonigal in her TedTalk “Gaming can make a better world.” When watching her talk for the first time, I found myself considering our current United States culture and society today and whether or not these problem-solving ideas were applicable to all issues, no issues, or just some. We are all taught to be individuals from a young age: getting ahead is about individual goals and individual skills, and the goals or aspirations of a group mentality are not focused on when being taught how to problem solve. This issue kept coming back into my head, and I began to apply it to greater walks of our society. I found myself wondering if individualism was so ingrained in us that it could never be replaced, or if a movement towards collaborating with others was possible. I thought about these issues on small and large scales, whether it be from the teachings of a kindergarten class to our economic system as a whole, how it functions, and what values it promotes in us as citizens and as workers. I wanted to explore whether implementing a system of teaching young children to work collaboratively instead of individually from an early stage would be beneficial later on, or if there are some issues which are simply too polarizing to be solved by groupthink and all that could be done with it already is. To explore these issues, I searched further into what McGonigal has published about her theories and explored the frameworks of those she has drawn from in her exploration.
Throughout my search, I came across (once again) one of the most exciting examples of collaboration used to solve a major issue to-date. McGonigal introduces the idea of collaborative intelligence in her case study Why I Love Bees as a way of demonstrating how problems are solved with group work. Collaborative intelligence could be applied to solve anything: but could it? An example of success is the scientists who, after grappling with a problem that had stumped them about AIDS for 10 years, decided to develop a program called Foldit which allowed users to download, play, and solve problems they put in front of them. The users took this program and solved the 10-year battle scientists had been waging in just 10 days. (More about this here). This is one of the most perfect examples of collaborative intelligence: gamers came together, formed groups, and solved a major, previously un-solveable issue. After exploring the Foldit website further, I came across their “Groups” section. The groups are ranked from highest-scoring to lowest, and each has a profile that describes their methods and ways of working as sort of an advertisement to join. One of the top groups is called “Contenders” and its mission statement reads: “We are a team of like-minded individuals, interested in discovering new methods and philosophies about folding, and doing things a little differently. There is no hierarchy; we have no dedicated soloists or evolvers or even a team ‘captain’. We possess a range of experience and ability, and recognize that each of us can ‘bring something to the table’. Encouraging discussion and questions, all are free to express themselves. We play our soloist games our own way; but if someone finds sudden success, it’s posted for the benefit of the group, detailing what was done to get there.” Collaborative intelligence at its finest: having no “dedicated soloists” and recognizing that “each of us can ‘bring something to the table’.” In a collaborative group, “all are free to express themselves” and one person finding success is “posted for the benefit of the group.” Below is a video about Foldit, who uses it, how they use it, and why it was developed:
I was sad to realize that, while reading the Contenders mission statement, I found myself a little surprised that people advertise working this way. I’ve considered many times the fact that, when in the “real world,” group collaboration is essential to success, and the benefit of whoever you are working for is the group goal to be achieved. But it has been so ingrained in us from the beginning of our schooling that collaboration just isn’t the way to get ahead; you get ahead individually, not moving forward in a hive. You get the promotion, you and your 6 coworkers do not. I had this mindset in full force when I read McGonigal’s article “SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community.” Supergaming, McGonigal says, consists of “experiments in massively scaled, public collaboration” which create “an emerging constellation of network practices that are both ludic, or game-like, and spectacular--that is, intended to generate an audience.” Supergaming “Harnesses the play of distributed individuals in a high-performance problem-solving unit,” or the “hive mentality” set forth by Kelley in Why I Love Bees. McGonigal overviews arguments set forth by Clay Shirky (hey, that name sounds farmiliar…) in an essay he wrote called “Communities, Audiences, and Scale.” Shirky argues that these supergames create massively scaled communities which collapse due to the inability of humans to maintain more than a certain number of connections with others. Shirky argues that once this number is exceeded, the community becomes an audience, which is “typified by a one-way relationship between sender and receiver, and by the disconnectino of its members from one another- a one-to-many pattern.” Communities, however, are set up so that people “send and receive messages, and the members of a community are connected to one another, not just to some central outlet- a many-to-many pattern.” Shirky argues against the ability of these new supergames to create massively scaled communities. He writes, “Because growth in group size alone is enough to turn a community into an audience, social software, no matter what its design, will never be able to create a group that is both large and densely interconnected.” Massively scaled group collaboration as a way of problem-solving, therefore, is not looking so good.
For the next phase of my project, I will explore McGonigal’s theoretical foundation even further and apply it to our society in ways I’ve come up with throughout my research. I will continue my academic search of articles on education and how groupwork is both useful and detrimental and come up with an answer to the question of whether or not it would be beneficial to implement programs to promote the hive mentality in youths. I will explore the question of whether or not those who tend to play games are just more open to group work than those who do not: is it a psychological difference? Is there no difference at all? Is McGonigal’s suggestion that we spend 21 billion hours a week playing games going to improve the collaborative efforts we’ve already learned from games, or are some issues still on the table to be solved just too polarizing for collaborative efforts in coming up with solutions? How is the digital media that we use today making this movement towards collaboration easier? Is it potentially making it more difficult? Have we developed types of technology that make it more possible on a massive scale? Does collaborative intelligence put the world on the verge of an “epic win,” as McGonigal puts it? Will all our faces look like this in a few years, when we discover that working collaboratively really can save the world?
Research is done, a conclusion has been met now new questions are raised read more here.
Social Media has grown. Immensely. Facebook is the third largest country. Ninety Percent of… Read more
Research is done, a conclusion has been met now new questions are raised read more here.
Social Media has grown. Immensely. Facebook is the third largest country. Ninety Percent of people thirty and younger are on a social network sites like Facebook and twitter. That’s half the population of the world. Social Media isn’t a generational thing, that will become old like parachute pants or perms.It’s a revolution.
But is it a good one? Are we fighting for our freedom of speech, are we expanding are social horizons or are we simply just throwing all of our time into useless internet roaming? Everyone has something to say on the internet but do we say these things out loud in a room full of people or do we tweet about it followed by the all too common #hashtag?
Is there a reason we are looking into the future through the pages of Facebook and Twitter?
In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, he writes about how social sharing relieves some of the burdens when it comes to developing interest groups and sharing thoughts and ideas. But is it to much? From this comes my question of how much is too much and does it really help. After watching the Social Media Revolution 2012 video I took a hard look at the questions they asked and wanted to know if they could have an supporting truths.
One of the most thought provoking points of the video is when you see a quote from Erik Qualman, the quote simply reads “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media; the question is how we do it.” We are all somehow apart of the new age of social media; we have Facebooks, Twitters, email accounts, and LinkedIn Profiles. We tag locations is statuses, tweet about annoying professors, and Instagram every photo we snap.
But why? Why would we tweet about our annoying professor instead of turning to the person next to us and saying “Hey, his lectures are so annoying”? Why is it appropriate to tweet “Professor Han makes me want to ram my head into a wall #annoyinglecture”? Is it wrong to say these things out loud? Have we lost our ability to communicate?
My initial question started off as Is Social Media hurting the social skills of Americans or protecting the rights as Americans? As I’ve researched and looked more and more into Social Media and what it has become my question has changed with it. It took 38 years for 50 million people to have a radio. In one year, Facebook had 200 million users. So now my question has changed into where is this going to take us next, is it going to further our social education or are we going to become a world like the one depicted in Disney’s Wall-e?
Is this where social media will take us or will we use it to flourish in creating new ideas and reaching people across the country?
My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a… Read more
My May issue of Vanity Fair arrived in the mail today. While thumbing through the magazine, I stumbled upon an article titled World War 3.0. The article discussed the current question over who will control the internet. For a simple question, the answer is rather loaded. Interestingly enough, the article brought most of what has been discussed on this blog full circle.
The question over who will control the internet has come to the forefront of any debate regarding the internet. At the end of 2012, there will be a negotiation between 193 nations to revise a UN treaty pertaining to the Internet.
“The War for the Internet was inevitable—a time bomb built into its creation.”
There is no doubt that the question of control would eventually arise. However, it seems that no one is ready to answer it on a global scale now that the question has come knocking. The article clearly explains that the “Internet was established on a bedrock of trust: trust that people were who they said they were, and trust that information would be handled according to existing social and legal norms. That foundation of trust crumbled as the Internet expanded.” The issue of trust arises because of four crises regarding the internet: sovereignty, piracy and intellectual property, privacy and security. From PIPA to SOPA to Anonymous to MegaShare and WikiLeaks, the initial trust which the internet was founded on has begun to crumble.
Thus, the world of the internet lies in the midst of two polarized notions: Order v. Disorder and Control v. Chaos. The article explains that “the forces of Order want to superimpose existing, pre-digital power structures and their associated notions of privacy, intellectual property, security, and sovereignty onto the Internet. The forces of Disorder want to abandon those rickety old structures and let the will of the crowd create a new global culture, maybe even new kinds of virtual “countries.” At their most extreme, the forces of Disorder want an Internet with no rules at all.” What would the Internet be like with no rules at all? Would it function? Would the users of the Internet truly be able to self-govern? Could the entire Internet run like Wikipedia, where every contributor checks and ultimately balances every other contributor? Or is such a notion idealistic?
When thinking about the Internet and thus, control over the internet, why the internet was created must also be address. The Internet was intended to deal with a military problem, it was not intended to does what it does today. Vint Cerf a “father of the Internet” and the “Internet Evangelist” (his actual title at Google) along with Robert Kahn created the TCP/IP protocol which allows computers and networks all over the world to talk to one another. However, the development was initially created to help the military, not for you or I. Since it was designed to be undetectable in terms of a center, the Internet has no center.
Internet has no center
The testament to the nonexistence of a center for the internet was the creation of ICANN in 1998. ICANN “signaled that the Internet would be something akin to global patrimony, not an online version of American soil.” When thinking about the Internet, many people, especially Americans, think of the Internet as an extension of American culture. While American culture is widely dispersed throughout the Internet, it is not the only cultural that is shared. There exists a multiculturalism through the Internet that does not make it merely an online version of America. This perhaps is the reason why the Internet economy was grabbed globally. The Internet economy was not just an economy for American, it was an economy for everyone. However, with a shared Internet economy, nations lost old ideals of governance.
While it seems that the battle for control is driven by corporate ambitions, the real war is driven by governments. Cerf explains that “If you think about protecting the population and observing our conventional freedoms, the two [the Internet and Government] are really very much in tension.”
The DefCon Hackers Conference intended to bridge the gap between hackers and the government. Jeff Moss (or Dark Tangent), DefCon’s founder, uses DefCon to promote conversation between the Internet’s forces of Order and Disorder. Moss has become the go-between who translates his subculture’s concerns to the culture at large, and vice versa. Each year, increasing numbers of law-enforcement, military, and intelligence personnel attend Def Con. This is one unique way that the bridge between the world of the Net and the world of government have successfully and peacefully (without war) converged.
Among the things that are explained by Moss are the nature of hackers. Collective hackers, like Anonymous work as a hive. There allegiance is to the hive above all else. It is not to a government or corporation. Such a notion of a hive speaks directly to Jane McGonigal’s belief in the power of the hive. Perhaps the power of the hive is the true power of the internet. The truth that allegiances have shifted from nations to hives.
“Everybody always calls it rebuilding the airplane in flight. We can’t stop and reboot the Internet.”
Since the internet can’t be stopped, its challenges must be addressed. Vanity Fair suggests that there will be three issues on the table at the negotiations in Dubai at the end of the year: taxation (a “per click” levy on international Internet traffic), data privacy and cyber-security (no more anonymity) and Internet management (global information-security “code of conduct”). The article suggests that anonymity has contributed to, if not created, almost every problem at issue in the War for the Internet. Is anonymity really the issues? Would we need control if our real names were attached to over Internet habits? Vanity Fair suggests that currently “the task at hand is finding some way to square the circle: a way to have both anonymity and authentication—and therefore both generative chaos and the capacity for control—without absolute insistence on either.” Perhaps the greatest challenge with the internet is that there is no real absolutes. Black and white issues are much easier to address than those with shades of grey.
Many believe that the Domain Name Systems, the Internet’s only central feature, must be shielded from government control however, through organizations like ICANN governments will still be involved without controlling it. Arguably, the most important issue when debating the control over the internet is the need to preserve “network neutrality”. One thing that many agree on: The Internet is open to everyone, service providers cannot discriminate and all applications and content moves at the same speed– this should not change. If the Internet is one thing, it ought to be fair.
One of the biggest news stories that has been circulating for the past month is the story of Trayvon Martin, a story that gained momentum around a month after it actually happened. Now its front page news in every… Read more
One of the biggest news stories that has been circulating for the past month is the story of Trayvon Martin, a story that gained momentum around a month after it actually happened. Now its front page news in every newspaper and website. President Obama spoke of the case saying that Trayvon reminded him of his children, that if he “had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Representative Rush was removed from the floor of the House of Representatives for wearing a hoodie while speaking on the subject of Trayvon. The implications of a young unarmed black youth being killed by a neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman have made Americans everywhere rethink their feelings on racial prejudice and assumption. One of the most interesting articles that’s been posted on this subject focuses on the act by the Miami Heat where they all posed in hoodies, to create an image (above) which the article describes the effect it has upon a viewer: “…a devastating image. Thirteen men with brown skin and black outerwear, not looking at you. Your pulse quickens when you see it. Your heart stops. Your skin pimples — at the mournful sense of peace and containment of agitation. Your brain twists.” This description reveals just what we automatically associate this garment with: a type of street cred and a distinct identity. The article discusses how the appearance of someone dressed in a hoodie likens back to the 1950s when white kids were wearing leather jackets to emulate the rebellious Dean, Brando, Elvis and the Fonz.
This entire discussion of appearance and in this case prejudice made me think of how we construct our internet identities. Are interactions hurt or helped by their sometime anonymous nature? This concept is reminiscent of 4Chan’s Christopher Poole vs. Mark Zukerburg on anonymity on the internet. Is prejudice avoided by this anonymous nature? I found this case to be so interesting because of our constant discussions on how digital identities are created, mostly through choices that we make. Our digital identities seems to more complex that the things people assume about me if I wore a leather jacket to class versus a suit. Just as we spoke about how digital identities are constructed, perhaps the true appearance of certain identities are different in reality than how we construct them, such as George Zimmerman as the vigilante. That article discusses how Zimmerman’s case is similar to Bernhard Goetz, a vigilante in New York in 1984 who shot and killed four black teenagers he said were trying to mug him. Indeed, Zimmerman may have to thank Goetz’s caser (which was heavily involved in by the NRA) for his right to carry the very firearm he used to kill Martin. The article most poignantly says: “…we celebrate the vigilante on our screens, we tell ourselves it’s because of our healthy mistrust of corrupt structures, or because we’re genuinely vulnerable — not because of our more shameful tendency to sterotype others based on fear or hatred.” This news story seems to encompass many of the different concepts that are at the forefront of the creation of the digital age and in the theoretical base that we’ve used for this class.
Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal… Read more
Over the past few months, discussions of security have always been coupled with discussions of the goings-on in our new digital age. It seems that with the progression of Digital America has come a progression of decreased personal security of information when it comes to anyone who uses any kind of technology at all. The WIRED article about the new NSA data center being built in Utah (dubbed simply the “Utah Data Center”) both shocked and worried me. Anything about a person’s life, down to a phone conversation with their grandmother on her birthday, is subject to review by members of the NSA. Further, after the Utah Data Center is built, virtually ALL communications made over the internet, phone, basically any technological medium possible, will be recorded and available for future evaluation. My idea of constitutional rights, as pointed out in the WIRED article by the former NSA official William Binney, is being seriously challenged with this new practice. While the NSA has made statements (like in this article from Fox News) about how the Utah Data Center is “designed to support the Intelligence Community’s efforts to further strengthen and protect the nation,” I have not been convinced that what we as Americans are afraid of happening really is. I’m both disturbed and challenged by this Orwellian state that the WIRED article is depicting: the days of NSA being called “Never Say Anything” seem to be coming back, and everyone is a target.
In this Fox News Interview, the center is first and foremost called a “spy center,” a claim that is defended by a former CIA officer and current president of a global intelligence and security firm, Mike Baker. He argues that the size of the facility is what is creating the stir, because this new center is not the only physical holding that the NSA has. Baker claims that the number one threat to the United States is not Iran, but cyber warfare and the “daily, astounding number of attacks” directed at our country. He also says, surprisingly to me, that “there is a tendency…for the average American to think that their life is fascinating enough for the government to want to surveil them all the time, to collect information on them.” I guess I have never thought about it this way; that we, as average Americans with no terroristic tendencies, only fear the government spying on us because we think they would be interested. Why would they be interested, after all, in my birthday conversation with my grandmother? What Baker does not do a good or even mediocre job of defending is that, despite the government’s disinterest in personal conversations that pose no threat to national security, they still have access to them. If they wanted to know what Nanna and I were saying, they could. That ability is, in my opinion, a violation of my right to freedom. The interview can be watched in the video below:
Another article I recently read revealed an operation of the NYPD to “infiltrate” the lives of Muslim students in the Northeast. The article says that the mission was, reportedly, “part of police efforts to “keep tabs” on Muslims throughout the region, as part of the department’s anti-terrorism efforts.” If this isn’t a blatant violation of constitutional rights, I don’t know what is. The article goes on to claim that “The FBI is sending out pamphlets to military surplus stores, saying anyone who buys matches and a flashlight is a potential terrorist. Paying cash is suspicious. Shielding your laptop screen is suspicious. Lowering your voice if you’re having a phone conversation in public: also suspicious.” So, while Baker’s point about how the NSA simply doesn’t care about average Americans’ goings-on, I’m not totally convinced this is true. If I can’t buy a flashlight without being watched or having my “file” pulled at the new Utah Data Center, then how is this still the land of the free? Are we not living in a time where this ideal is still possible? Do you feel violated by these new happenings?
Mark Zuckerberg just announced on his Facebook page that Facebook agreed to buy Instagram for $1 Billion. In light of the recent WIRED article about how going public for companies such as Facebook could be detrimental rather than beneficial, I… Read more
Mark Zuckerberg just announced on his Facebook page that Facebook agreed to buy Instagram for $1 Billion. In light of the recent WIRED article about how going public for companies such as Facebook could be detrimental rather than beneficial, I am wondering if anyone with greater insight might have a sense of how this purchase will effect their stock? I imagine it would cause the value to increase, but I could be wrong! After all I would have imagine going public would be beneficial to the company in the first place. Any thoughts?
Throughout the past couple weeks of class we’ve been discussing the fact that most of us feel we have nothing to hide from trollers but that we’re also apprehensive to risk pissing anyone off and getting our site hacked. The
Throughout the past couple weeks of class we’ve been discussing the fact that most of us feel we have nothing to hide from trollers but that we’re also apprehensive to risk pissing anyone off and getting our site hacked. The article we read in Wired called Inside the Matrix makes the threat of anonymous 4chan trollers look like nothing. Sure you could be subjected to viruses and hate mail or something for years but now the government is building a facility that is capable of spying on basically anyone and can store yottabytes worth of data(10^24 bytes). This could mean encrypted codes from China and Iran to the emails we sent this evening about the paper due tomorrow morning at 9:00.
It was again mentioned that the average citizen’s email is not something the new $2 billion NSA base will really be after but the fact is they are capable and they have enough memory to store years of emails, text messages and phone calls, just in case. Can anyone else imagine Ben Franklin turning over in his grave? It’s almost cliche to bring up his quote anymore but the man had a point; “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” It is true that as long as you’re not a terrorist, planning to be one, or phrasing things in such a way to make the government think you’re a terrorist there really isn’t anything to worry about but, there is the argument about the principle of the matter. Our country won a war for independence sparked by a matter of principle. Our newly imposed taxes were nothing compared to England’s and it’s only fair to pay for a war that was waged to protect us from the French and Indians. But, by principle we disagreed. Since 9/11 and the fear that ensued from that terrible day we have lost that sense of principle and allowed our government to spy on us illegally and to eventually pass laws that make it legal. This fact led William Binney, a former senior NSA crypto-mathematician to leave the NSA when the agency started “violating the Constitution.”
It is highly unlikely that any opposition to this data center will arise and even if it did the government is not going to shut it down, especially after dropping $2 billion dollars to make it. Ans until it is operational the repurcussions of its existence remain open to speculation. Perhaps it will focus on what it is advertised to do, break encrypted codes, or to spy on American citizens or something in between. Maybe this will be the institution that can enforce the new law Arizona is likely to pass that will punish internet harrasment. They are certainly capable of it. I wonder if the music industry has suggested an area devoted to those who chose to illegally download music?
In case it wasn’t clear, I oppose this data center because it gives too much power to the NSA with no real check and I find that it violates the founding principles of our country. What are your reactions as a citizen? Reactions as a netizen? How will this change the dynamic of the internet and how we communicate with each other? Will we see a resurrgence of snail mail? Do you think Anonymous will try to do something about this?
It was once thought to be utterly impossible for your Apple computer to contract a virus. The Apple website boasts– “Why You’ll Love a Macbook? It doesn’t get PC viruses.”However, just last week over half a million Mac users discovered… Read more
It was once thought to be utterly impossible for your Apple computer to contract a virus. The Apple website boasts– “Why You’ll Love a Macbook? It doesn’t get PC viruses.”However, just last week over half a million Mac users discovered that their computers had a virus. The virus, known as the Trojan Horse, does not even require the user to click on a link or open up a contaminated file in order for the virus to spread. It simply downloads itself. Even more frightening is that once the virus has been downloaded, the hacker has access to all of the information on your computer.
ABC News reported on the subject, suggesting that the growing popularity of Macbook’s gave reason for hackers to invest time in breaking the barrier. Even last year, Macbook users were infested with smaller scale viruses that simulated users clicker on ads so that those companies would get larger kickbacks.
So is the reason why Macbooks users did not get viruses simply because hacking criminals were not targeting them because their population of users was smaller? Now that more people use Macbooks, it is more worthwhile for hackers to tackle Macbooks because the audience is larger. Is it not that they were built with a strong protection system? Apple claims that their built in defense system, OS X Lion, will stop hackers in their trackers. Now that it has been hacked, is it fair to say that no protective system will ever be good enough? If someone is intelligent enough to create the system, someone is intelligent enough to hack it.
As it becomes more and more apparent in today’s world that anything can be hacked and ultimately that none of our information is entirely safe, I wonder if our culture of privacy will change? It seems that in some ways it already has. Members of the younger generations are much more comfortable with the government listening in on our conversations—after all we have nothing to hide. Yet many other people feel that even though they have nothing to hide the government should not be listening in on their private conversations simply as a respect for privacy. Will future generations to come have an even weaker sense of privacy that we do? How will we be protected? Perhaps it’s possible that hackers will not be as enthused with hacking if it becomes less novel and everyone’s information is easy to access. Part of the drive for these hackers is the endorphins they feel when accomplishing a task or the “lolz” they receive. How will this culture change in the years to come?
I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author… Read more
I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author Angela Watercutter posted a few videos made by web editor Jo Luijten. The videos are of what Luijten imagines the social networking sites and video games of today would have looked like in the 80s and 90s. I think these videos are funny, informative and a great way to wrap up a semester of exploring digital America. The videos are meant to show progress in web culture as well as to preserve the memory of an earlier, less advanced internet. In order to create the videos, Luijten had to create a program to mimic what he believed an older version of these websites would look like. Ironically, he wouldn’t have been able to create the videos about a fictional past without modern technology. Here is a link to Jo Luijten’s video, “If Facebook were invented in the 90s.”
After watching a few of Luijten’s videos about social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, I realized that we are part of a generation that will barely remember the days of AOL, floppy disks and dial-up internet. My reaction to these videos is similar to watching a home video of my younger sisters and thinking, “they grow up so fast!” From the image quality to the few extra seconds it takes to load a page in “If Facebook were invented in the 90s,” I began to recognize how normal today’s internet has become to me. An unclear picture seems obnoxiously old fashioned and it frustrates me when a web page takes over a second to load. Normalcy is a photo on my computer as crystal clear as seeing the image in real life and an instantaneous change when I click on a link.
For something that has become such a significant part of our daily lives, we rarely remember that the Internet has just recently grown to be what it is today. I cannot imagine going back to Luijten’s Facebook of the 90s and feeling excited about the idea of it, if it were the way it is in the video. However, I quickly remembered that in the 80s and 90s, future social networking sites were the unknown that propelled the constant innovation and desire for improvement. Curiosity and imagination made internet culture what it is today. Though it is difficult to fully grasp the progress we have made from the 90s to the internet we know today, it is even more amazing to think about what will happen to web culture in the next 20 or 30 years.
Our generation looks back on Luijten’s fictional videos much like a child looks back on the toddler version of itself riding a bike with training wheels. It is mind-blowing to think that we will one day look back on our bike-riding selves, free of training wheels, happy with Facebook, Angry Birds and Twitter, and think: “Remember the days when we couldn’t drive!?”
I found this opinion piece in the NYTimes yesterday about how China is hacking our government’s systems to steal our secrets. I thought it was interesting as it follows with our discussion of digital warfare and the Stuxnet article… Read more
I found this opinion piece in the NYTimes yesterday about how China is hacking our government’s systems to steal our secrets. I thought it was interesting as it follows with our discussion of digital warfare and the Stuxnet article we have been discussing.Recently we have been focusing on hacking on a personal level with groups like Anonymous and teenage 4chan users, but we have drifted away from hacking as more of a national threat.
My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to… Read more
My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to a text. I’ve never understood what is so addicting about my cell phone or why other people seem to share the addiction, but I am well aware that a problem exists. Cultural analyst Sherry Turkle , has been studying technology and how it changes our lives for decades. In her TEDtalk she discusses how communication through a device, such as texting on a cell phone, has changed who we are. I have read articles and heard other people talk about ideas that are similar to Turkle’s, but her TED talk was by far the most interesting and easiest to relate to of them all. There were several statements in her talk that made me rewind, listen again, and think: “That is exactly how I feel.”
Turkle discussed the emotional attachment we have, not to the physical device, but to what it provides. One of the most interesting portions of the talk was when she discussed the “three gratifying fantasies” that texting creates.
1. We can put our attention wherever we want it to be
2. We will always be heard
3. We never have to be alone
The third fantasy was most interesting to me because Turkle elaborated on that idea and explained that constant connections through our technology create the illusion that we are never alone. Though this seems like a comforting fact at first, she explained that if we never feel alone because of our cell phones, we feel lonelier when we are actually alone. Our inability to be alone becomes a deeply rooted issue that forces us to confront the problems in our relationship with technology.
There were many points in Turkle’s argument that, like the aforementioned, startled me and made me realize that I possess this troublesome relationship with technology. Further proving her point, I took comfort in the fact that I was not alone and that almost everyone I know with a cell phone shares my problem.
I think this is one of the most important TED talks for our generation to watch because it addresses some issues that are serious, but fixable. Towards the end of her talk, Turkle makes it clear that she is not suggesting we turn away from our technology or view it as an enemy. She suggests that we act as we would if we were trying to fix any dysfunctional relationship: put in some quality time and effort to sort out the problems.
Do you agree that these problems exist between our technology and us? Do you think they are as fixable and Shelly Turkle suggests they are? If these problems exist, could they develop into emotional weaknesses for future generations?
I stumbled across an article, titled “Arizona Looks to Outlaw Internet Trolling,” about a bill in Arizona stating “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend,
I stumbled across an article, titled “Arizona Looks to Outlaw Internet Trolling,” about a bill in Arizona stating “It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person.” Although the bill has a pretty noble goal, to stop cyberbullying, and having already passed both legislative houses only needs the approval of the governor, I agree with the author that this probably won’t end up being as effective as lawmakers would like.
Chris Poole, the inventor of 4chan, stated in a TED talk that anonymity allows people to “be themselves” online, but this is not at all what it actually does. In actuality, it allows people to do whatever they want… Read more
Chris Poole, the inventor of 4chan, stated in a TED talk that anonymity allows people to “be themselves” online, but this is not at all what it actually does. In actuality, it allows people to do whatever they want and to hide behind the wall of anonymity. There are no repercussions, there are no limits, people can do whatever they want, but they are not actually themselves; they are anonymous.
Rather than being proud of themselves and owning up to their own opinions, they can hide behind the mask of anonymity. Rather than standing up for themselves, they are weak and cannot put their name with their thoughts. And this separation of their thoughts and their name, their identity, demonstrates that they are not themselves.
Mattathias Schwartz, a NY Times writer asked in an article, “Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it?” Of course free speech moves towards the truth; when people have the ability to say what they want, when they want, where they want, they are more likely to state what they believe to be true and pertinent. Free speech moves towards the truth, until people have the mask of anonymity. When there is no knowledge of the identity of the author, no authenticity of authorship; the writer can write whatever. This ability is free speech, but it allows for the dissemination of lies without repercussions.
This topic was something I had thought about for a while, but it was not until learning about 4chan that I began to see what anonymity truly brings. Maybe 4chan isn’t for me, maybe I should just stick with Facebook, which is all about identity and censorship, rather than the freedom to post anything anonymously.
Is there a benefit to anonymity or does it truly just give weak people a mask to hide behind? Why don’t users of 4chan share their names with their posts? I guess I would be ashamed of posting most of the things on that site too.
So for my post today I thought I would engage with the idea that we left class talking about. . .can gaming have positive societal effects?
I have to admit that my initial reaction was skepticism. When most gamers are… Read more
So for my post today I thought I would engage with the idea that we left class talking about. . .can gaming have positive societal effects?
I have to admit that my initial reaction was skepticism. When most gamers are busy playing games like Halo or Call of Duty, which often receive criticism for promoting violence and rendering a generation lazy and disengaged, its hard to see the benevolent qualities.
After reading I Love Bees and listening to Jane Mcgonigals TED talk, I started to become a little more persuaded. I could see how games could help to develop collective intelligence and how through the enlightened games that Jane was working to create, that collective intelligence could be harnessed for the greater good. But I was still caught up on the fact that those games “the games for the greater good” weren’t the type of games that most people were playing.
So I decided to look into it and it turns out there are a lot more than I previously thought. In an article titled, Can Games Save the World, author Steven Faris reviews a few games with potential. According to Faris, in games where there is international content, there has been a push for the game to abide by international law in order to promote awareness as well as understanding for what international law entails. In addition, there are games such as Darfur is Dying, a game created by MTV to promote awareness of the genocide in Darfur. 700,000 people played the game and a few thousand players transformed their gaming into real world action by writing letters to the White House of their Congressmen.
Then there is the website Games For Change which was founded by New York Times Columnist Nicholas Kristof. According to the website the purpose of games for change is “Catalyzing Social Impact Through Digital Games”. On the website you can play games, read books, connect with others, all in the spirit of fighting global poverty. Games for Change even has a pdf on its website about how and why to make meaningful games. Nicholas Kristof has a reputation for being ahead of the curve when it comes to journalists who use social media. In 2003 he became the first blogger for the New York Times, and today he regularly uses twitter and facebook spread the news. Follow Kristof on Facebook! In a recent interview he said ““Some people think games are just ‘what teenagers do’ or that they are too fun to be worthy of our attention. But there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time playing games online, so we in the news business would do well to think about how we can use games to attract eyeballs.” In the traditional news outlets, Kristof feels as though he is preaching to the choir and only reaching those who already care about global poverty, but through games, he is believes he can reach a much broader audience.
Even the Sims is getting into the trend. A recent press release announced that the new version of the Sims, Simcity 5, will “allow players to imagine the world around them in different ways”. Changes will include things like “if you put a lot of polluting power plants near your borders, your friends might start to get some smoke rolling into their suburbs. You might even start to contribute to global CO2 levels”.
Additionally, Call of Duty creators have used the game to promote community service in their charity event called Call of the Community. In the event, which they are now hosting their second one of this year, anyone and everyone is invited to create teams to participate in a live stream tournament which helps to raise funds for Thirst Relief International.
In retrospect (and after a little more research) I think I was being narrow minded in my initial reaction. I was looking at what I saw as the current gaming landscape and not the potential for gaming in the future.
The designers of I love bees built constellation prizes into the game, which meant that they anticipated that at some point the gamers would fail. But they didn’t. I love bees demonstrated that it is possible for groups of individuals to use technology to collaborate in ways that we previously thought was impossible. The only catch is, if they care about it. If game designers can find a way to motivate people to care about important “real world” issues, then the potential for gaming seems also limitless.
In her TED Talk Jane Mcgonigal is quotes as saying “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.” As a society we’ve already demonstrated through games like Cow Clicker, FarmVille, Sims, and Halo, that we love games. Now not only are game designers becoming philanthropists but philanthropists are becoming game designers. The world may never be a perfect place but I think that gaming may turn out to be a step along the way to fixing it.
After watching Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk on how gaming can make the world a better place it got me thinking. I dove in a little further and asked how is this possible how could the superheros of video… Read more
After watching Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk on how gaming can make the world a better place it got me thinking. I dove in a little further and asked how is this possible how could the superheros of video games become real life? McGonigal specifically talks about how much time we spend on video games and how you could be using that time to make a change as well as have fun. Video games bring people together. People from China are playing people in the United States and people from the United States are playing people in England. Video games have there own little web of five degrees of separation where in some instances, everyone knows everyone. There are the best players and the worst players, then the new ones and the old ones. But all these players have skills. So what if we harness these skills use them for good instead of evil in a sense.
Like McGonigal said we should create a video game that lets people help solve the oil crisis, theses gaming superstars could become superheros. They could help save the world in their own way. People try to be superheros all the time and people try to make a difference. Sites like Great Americans talk about average everyday citizens who make these incredible acts with no reward in mind, they do it because no one else is.
In this video a firefighter talks about how she saved a man and his son while driving home from work one late afternoon. She didn’t have to do it but she did. I think we are naturally inclined to help people so why wouldn’t a video game that makes a difference work? I think given the option and knowing it makes a difference we would be more inclined to play it and become that real life superhero.