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Tag: social media


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Group 1′s Discussion of Chapter 5

// Posted by on 05/23/2015 (9:53 PM)

The WELL (located in the San Francisco Bay area) is an unexpected consequence for Stewart Brand who created the Whole Earth Catalog, and I think that Fred Turner did a good job explaining that where one stopped the other pick… Read more

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The WELL (located in the San Francisco Bay area) is an unexpected consequence for Stewart Brand who created the Whole Earth Catalog, and I think that Fred Turner did a good job explaining that where one stopped the other pick up the digital connection and spread it to a wider audience.  Larry Brilliant wanted to use the already established network that the catalog provided.  Like an over protective father, Brand was selective in what he would allow Brilliant to have.  Turner indicates that “…nearly twenty years after it served the back-to-the-land movement the Whole Earth Catalog became a model for one of the most influential computer networks to date…”  I like the name WELL as it conjures up images of a meeting place in biblical times.  Singular energy… close to God.  Stewart Brand and Larry Brilliant started the WELL which was a teleconferencing system within which subscribers (according to Kevin Kelly’s list -for a membership charge and specific rules of engagement) could hold conversations amongst peers and other computer savvy individuals.  This group of people (community) held likeminded interests as Brand and Brilliant but also included experts in the technological field such as hackers and journalists/editors who were associated with well-known publications such as New York Times and Rolling Stone.  The participants could communicate from multiple locations, real time or whenever time permitted.  The WELL was dug deeper as the celebrity interest grew.

According to Turner, one of the benefits of the WELL included a rise in a social network that built economic organization and in freelance patterns of employment.  Their employment depended on these connections and this textual forum became a place for business and community.  Turner uses words like “virtual community and electronic frontier” to describe the WELL. Turner attributes this to the expertise on Howard Rheingold and John Perry Barlow.  In an attempt to escape mainstream bureaucracy and it changes through the years, this virtual community was enticing.

Some similarities that the WELL has to modern day social media are the “McLuhan Equation” which indicates that the medium is the message.  The medium refers to mass forms of communication such as radio, television, the press, the Internet. And the message is the actual information.  They both started small and grew rapidly.  Information can be obtained, shared or disputed.  There is instant gratification when things go well and you get multiply tries as being “liked”.  They both have some form of governance, and they each have cost.  Once you put the information out there be it correct or incorrect… it is out there for all eyes.  However, the WELL seemed to solicit the attention of a specific audience where social media does not.

I have friends that post every minute of their day online “as if”.  Anyone that has this kind of time needs a real life.  Personally, some people become too self-absorbed and seem addicted.  Not only do they post but the expect you to respond timely and become offended when you do not. Some users will say or show almost anything to get your attention.  This being said…  I think parents, churches and schools have control over the actions of the next generation.  There should be limits placed on what social media usage.  Even the WELL had rules.   I think that one day users are going to wake up to realize that too much of their personal lives have been shared.  Especially as it starts to bring negative impact such as not being selected for jobs or promotions, difficulty running for office,  future mother-in-law knows a little too much about you.

 

 


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Community connection via social media

// Posted by on 05/23/2015 (5:57 PM)

In the spring of 1985, the first online community, known as The Well, was born. The Well was a communal dwelling, an intimate gathering where nearly everyone held a stake in almost every discussion topic. It was a place of… Read more

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In the spring of 1985, the first online community, known as The Well, was born. The Well was a communal dwelling, an intimate gathering where nearly everyone held a stake in almost every discussion topic. It was a place of words, and semi-private interactions that mattered. In today’s fast-paced world, online communities are still being used by individuals to connect with like-minded people to share their thoughts on a never-ending array of topics. Many use social media to communicate with friends and strangers, sharing their thoughts, photos, links, and even facilitating social and political change. The protests in Tunisia, which spawned the Arab Spring, were fueled and organized by social media.

Social media has the potential to link individuals from different cultures together into one global village. Interactions happen within seconds of sending and receiving messages making it an attractive medium in our fast-paced world. Social media lets individuals establish and maintain relationships and promotes a sense of interconnectedness with our culturally diverse world. Today, social media has transformed into an almost daily need for many individuals that seem to struggle to achieve a sense of belonging to something larger than them. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the third need, after obtaining physiological and safety needs, is belonging. Maslow’s third need supports that individuals desire a sense of belonging through support from relationships with others. Essentially, social media provides this opportunity where individuals can communicate with others via virtual communities on the Internet.


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The WELL, Community, Social Media, and Yogi Berra

// Posted by on 05/23/2015 (3:58 PM)

The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being… Read more

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The WELL was an online space where like-minded people could go and discuss a variety of topics whether they agreed, disagreed, or just had a general interest, they could go there to connect and to share ideas without physically being in the same space. While I know forums of this nature are still very much a part of digital culture today (the guy with the cubicle across from me almost always has some sort of gun discussion forum open), the communal nature of the WELL made me think about the groups I’m a part of on Facebook.

I’ve been provided an opportunity to be a part of a group discussion about a specific topic, in my case mostly craft beer, where we all have a similar interest, but we don’t all agree on everything. This leads to some lively discussion! Similar to the WELL, these groups have moderators, you can choose to not see posts from people if you don’t find value in what they are adding to the discussion, and the point of it all is to share ideas. I don’t know if it’s necessarily sharing ideas in a scholarly, Socratic sense, or like the prompt mentions “sharing” to score cool points, but it’s sharing nonetheless. Social media is a good example of this. I have managed to seek out others who share my interests on Facebook through Groups. I’ve certainly tried to use Facebook groups, or even just my “wall” as an outlet for scholarly debate, but it often just turns into a mess. Often it gets off topic, disrespectful, offensive, full of bots postings ads, or just plain old trolls. Not helpful.

I think that this ease that we connect with people is what gives the Internet the ability to make us feel united. You can see it in grassroots movements that need to raise awareness or gain support. You could see in in 2008 in President (the Senator) Obama’s election campaign and then after having such success he went in the same direction for reelection in 2012. I looked into this a little bit and I found some research done by The Pew Charitable Trusts that stated that while both candidate in 2012 utilized this method of communication to get their messages to their supporters, they didn’t really engage in the “social” part of social media.

http://www.journalism.org/2012/08/15/how-presidential-candidates-use-web-and-social-media/

I wonder why this is? I can only assume it’s because sifting through all of the comments and responses, finding which were legit and which were not, and then actually responding would have taken an amazing amount of time, money, and people.

We’ve also seen people unite internationally through social media. Twitter has been used to raise money for disaster relief. Social media was used last month to raise awareness of violent attacks on foreigners on South Africa.

http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/17/africa/south-africa-xenophobia-social-media/

 

I think we feel this unity because it social media offers an emotional outlet for whatever a situation might be — disaster, human rights, politics, whatever — and in doing so, leaves people feeling empathetic. The ability to understand another’s emotions will often lead to the desire to act, and sometimes even change.

I don’t think we “almost” need social media to feel like part of the world, but rather I think we absolutely need it. 90% of my news and information about what’s going on in the world comes from social media, not traditional news outlets. Granted, some of it comes from traditional outlets just via social media. TV news has commercials. Social media news is in real time, and users are provided more firsthand accounts. I don’t have TV, and, for me, I’d feel entirely disconnected without social media.

While this is normal for me, as with much cultural change, this could be entirely foreign and daunting to say my grandmother. While my grandmother is no longer with us, she got her news from The Washington Post twice a day and from Walter Cronkite in the evening. The 24 hour news cycle and the constant flow of information over social media would have likely terrified her. Further, if she wanted to talk to someone she would go to their house or vice versa. All the neighbors would get together and some would smoke cigars and drink scotch, some would gossip, and some would just talk. There is a tone of value in that, but with the rise of digital everything, a lot of that sense of physical community is gone.

Social media has likely led to a lot of what Robert D. Putnam discussed in his book Bowling Alone:

“In this alarming and important study, Putnam, a professor of sociology at Harvard, charts the grievous deterioration over the past two generations of the organized ways in which people relate to one another and partake in civil life in the U.S. For example, in 1960, 62.8% of Americans of voting age participated in the presidential election, whereas by 1996, the percentage had slipped to 48.9%. While most Americans still claim a serious “religious commitment,” church attendance is down roughly 25%-50% from the 1950s, and the number of Americans who attended public meetings of any kind dropped 40% between 1973 and 1994. Even the once stable norm of community life has shifted: one in five Americans moves once a year, while two in five expect to move in five years. Putnam claims that this has created a U.S. population that is increasingly isolated and less empathetic toward its fellow citizens, that is often angrier and less willing to unite in communities or as a nation. Marshaling a plentiful array of facts, figures, charts and survey results, Putnam delivers his message with verve and clarity.” 

-Publisher’s Weekly

Where with me, if I don’t know about something the moment it happens, it’s old news by the time I do find out. Just like in the YouTube video it’s fast. Information is fast, news is fast, baby pictures are fast and you have to keep up or you get lost…whether you think you are or not.

I bet this is not just me – when I’m at work and something big happens – someone famous dies, Boston Marathon bombing, royal baby has a name – it almost seems like a competition to be the first one to blurt it out to the office.

I’d like to end by saying that rambling was encouraged.

Not really, I’d like to end with a funny Yogi Berra quote that I found looking up some info on Bowling Alone (it’s been a while since I read it):

The Publisher’s Weekly reviewer who wrote the above stared his/her piece using the great Yogi Berra’s quote to “articulate the value of social networks.”

I’ll leave you with that.


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Online and IRL: Protesting in the Digital Age

// Posted by on 11/03/2014 (10:02 AM)

What lurks beneath the surface…?

While protests have occurred throughout time, the shift into the digital age has witnessed a new method of doing so – online. This media activism has spurned some successful and not… Read more

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What lurks beneath the surface…?

While protests have occurred throughout time, the shift into the digital age has witnessed a new method of doing so – online. This media activism has spurned some successful and not so successful protests in recent memory. Moreover, it has raised some interesting questions regarding the role of the Internet and social media as a tool for activism. Drawing on these ideas, the fourth experience that I found myself participating in was a protest – both on and offline.

Having never participated in one, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would we be aggressively promoting our cause? Or would it be a more peaceful demonstration? After voting to protest for a cleaner lake here at the University of Richmond, we were given the direction to bring along props to aid our demonstration. I decided against donning any sort of anonymous mask. While the idea behind making oneself anonymous can be very effective and has been utilised in protests such as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, I felt that given the subject of what we were protesting it wasn’t as relevant. Instead, I decided to wear a self-made visual sign with an image of Blinky (the three eyed fish from The Simpsons). I thought that this popular culture reference would be both humorous and easily identifiable for my peers in association to our concern regarding the lake.

Blinky the three eyed fish (see episode, “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”)

As we began preparing, it became clear that we would need to apply some ingenuity and flair in order to be noticed and truly heard. To some extent then, a protest can be seen as an advertising campaign. You must be able to sell your ideology or the movement won’t pick up enough of a following to make any noticeable difference. We deliberated as to what would be most effective? Fear? After all much of the American public’s attitudes and beliefs are shaped by fear (see recent cases of Ebola) Or would we use humour? Or perhaps be shocking and controversial? And we couldn’t forget the importance of visual material! But first we needed a name, hash tags and a slogan for our project. Looking to some of the more successful protests that were also rooted in an online environment we recognised the importance of a simple, yet effective name and associated tags. For instance, in the case of Occupy Wall Street, their slogans “We are the 99%” and “This is what democracy looks like” were short, to the point and easy to adopt.Drawing upon this approach, we decided on the following:

  • Name of project: cleanURlake.
  • Hash tag: #URecoli #cleanURlake
  • Slogan: I spy E-coli

With our name finally decided, we proceeded to create posters and flyers as well as setting up a variety of online environments whereby we could conduct our protest and spread the word. Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram and email accounts were all activated. A Yik Yak (a popular social media app here on campus which allows people to anonymously create and view posts within a 1.5 mile radius) was also sent out. By establishing a variety of different social media accounts we aimed to boost our online presence and increase our chances of the campaign going viral. After all, the importance of information going viral in the digital age is paramount. Our culture thrives off of the viral video, image, and other media formats. Given that so many individuals (at least in the Western world) primarily access their information via the Internet, and particularly social media sites, any viral content will be likely noticed. However, with that said, getting something to go viral is no easy feat. There isn’t a rulebook or guidelines to doing so, but involves a fair bit of ingenuity and luck. Perhaps if we had had more time we could have also put together a video, seeing as a viral video can provide unprecedented publicity, ‘…the movement has spawned celebrities – like LaGreca, who lambasted a Fox News reporter in a YouTube clip that went viral…’ (“Inside Occupy Wall Street” in Rolling Stone) and has even helped kick-start profitable careers (Grumpy Cat).

A few examples of our online presence

Our Yik Yak gains momentum!

However, the inherent difficulties of conducting a protest became apparent fairly quickly. While it was easy enough to go outside in front of the library with signs and flyers to give out to fellow students and faculty, the physical act of rallying IRL (in real life) does require one to be completely uninhibited. As a more reserved, non-confrontational individual the idea of chanting and screaming was difficult for me to immerse myself in. However, I was not alone as our predetermined chant, “Dirty lake, what’s at stake?” (Everyone loves a chant that rhymes!) remained dormant. Here, our small numbers (only seven of us) also perhaps hindered the effectiveness of our protest. After all, protests are often bolstered by “bodies, accompanied by noise” and in the case of Occupy included ‘…bongos and tablas and tambourines and full drum kits with snares.’ (“Inside Occupy Wall Street” in Rolling Stone)

Our protest site (i.e. In front of the Boatwright Library)

My fellow classmates in action

Further, while I thought the group’s horizontalism approach was a clever idea given its popularity among more contemporary protests (i.e. Occupy Wall Street), it was certainly no without its flaws. In implementing this method, it took a long time to come for my peers and I to reach a decision regarding what the core ideas of the protest were and what the name/slogan/hash tag would be. While we were all provided the chance to shape the protest, it ultimately highlighted how pertinent a single leader and voice can be in executing ideas, and ultimately a successful protest.

Nevertheless, the experience did raise a pertinent issue in the digital age as to whether activism online can ever replace a physical protest. I’m not convinced it can. While it is easy to like or follow an online protest movement, the problems of such “slacktivism” arise. Just because an individual hits ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ on various social media sites, does not solve the issue at hand. It may generate buzz and therefore garner attention in the media, but how long that attention will last is questionable. A new issue may arise and simply push it to the background. This flaw in online activism has seen the failure of such campaigns (I.e. ‘KONY 2012’ and ‘Bring back our girls’ among others). Moreover, online activism is just as risky as real life protesting. While many may think they are safe behind a computer screen, this is certainly not the case as demonstrated most recently in the current protests occurring in Hong Kong. As reported in The Wall Street Journal (October 19 2014) by Gillian Wong, ‘A man was arrested on suspicion of posting messages online that urged people to gather and agitate at a protest site…’ Wong further goes on to note the impact of such an arrest, stating that, ‘The move—one of the first such arrests during three weeks of demonstrations—could potentially chill the protesters’ use of the Internet and social media to mobilize large crowds.’ Thus, it is clear to me that the two (online and IRL) aren’t mutually exclusive and work far better when utilised together (again demonstrated by Occupy, the Tunisian protests, etc.).

While it was difficult to document during the protest given that we were so actively involved, I did manage to take a few screenshots and pictures to aid with writing this reflection. Also, in order to remember some key facts while protesting, I typed them into my phone using my notes app. However, what was particularly useful as a piece of documentation was an article written about the protest by a reporter for the University of Richmond’s independent student magazine, The Collegian (to read it, click the following link: http://www.thecollegianur.com/article/2014/10/e-coli-levels-in-westhampton-lake-inspire-protest). This article also served as a reminder of the protest and provided a more objective view of the event itself.

Our protest appearing on The Collegian’s Instagram page

Ultimately, while we may not have introduced a deafening noise into the signal, I believe our protest certainly brought to light a genuine environmental concern on campus. After all, while protests at my home university are a daily occurrence, with students constantly lining the main pathway chanting various slogans and bombarding any passers-by with flyers, here there seems to be little to no student activism. While many (including myself) often try to dodge the constant harassment and groan about the influx of information, this experience certainly provided me with a new perspective on just how hard it is to effectively protest – whether it be IRL or online. Next time I’m approached or handed a flyer I will certainly think twice before hurrying off!

For more information, check out the protest online:

  • Twitter: #cleanURlake
  • Instagram: @cleanURlake
  • Facebook:
  • Email: cleanurlake@gmail.com

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Welcome to Diaspora*

// Posted by on 09/21/2014 (5:50 PM)

Diaspora*? What?

In keeping with a social media response theme, for this week’s experience I joined Diaspora*. Established in 2010, Diaspora* is a social media site that allows users to join or create their own servers (called “pods”) to share… Read more

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Diaspora*? What?

In keeping with a social media response theme, for this week’s experience I joined Diaspora*. Established in 2010, Diaspora* is a social media site that allows users to join or create their own servers (called “pods”) to share content ranging from text, articles, photos, and videos. There are pods all over the world; some larger than others. Users have the option to create their own pod to post their content to, or join one based on their size and location preferences. Unlike other centralized forms of social media like Facebook or MySpace, users own everything they post on Diaspora*, which means they have control over how it is shared and distributed.

 

For our experience, I was assigned the character of Edward Snowden, the infamous former NSA employee who stole and subsequently leaked classified documents to the press. Guided by the belief that the government was infringing on the privacy, internet freedom, and basic liberties of its citizens with a monumental surveillance machine, Snowden methodically searched through close to two million documents, selecting those that would best expose the absence of federal transparency (Greenwald, MacAskill, & Pointras). Trying to keep in character, I googled “social media sites” and pulled up a Wikipedia article that had compiled a master list of social media websites, including a description of their focus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites).  I wanted to join a site that shares Snowden’s values of privacy and freedom, and Diaspora* fit the bill. Committed to decentralization, freedom, and privacy, in many ways it is a direct reflection of Snowden’s opinions on the ideal relationship between technology and society.

Using the site

Signing up to use Diaspora*, I was prompted for my email, a username, and password. I was never asked for my real name, age, location, or gender. Once I signed up, I was directed to a page that asked me “What Are You Into?,” giving me a space to type in searchable hashtags that other participants had used in their posts. I typed in #snowden-nsa, #edwardsnowden, #glengreenwald, #transparency, #nsa, #chelseamanning, #wikileak, #julianassange, and #surveillance. After hitting “enter,” a Facebook newsfeed-style page appeared with posts that contained those hashtags. Originally, I had planned on sharing something or commenting on a post. I realized that these hashtags relate to matters of national security, and in a panic I had a vision that my words would land me on a government watch list. Perhaps my new friend Edward Snowden is to blame for the paranoia?

Below are screen shots of some posts that appeared on my page. If anything, the conversations captured below should do something to assuage Snowden’s worry that the public has become numb to NSA disclosures. People are talking, and they want to be heard:

 

 

What does Diaspora* have to do with our experience?

In Information Please, Poster endeavors to examine the ways we spark confrontations between culture and media. He argues that culture can no longer be understood independent from technology, and that the relationship between culture and technology has made the national global by facilitating new types of interactions across the world. Both Diaspora* and our experience on Wednesday reflect this global interconnectedness. Because of technology, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, Glen Greenwald, Hong Kong, Russia, Chelsea Manning, and the NSA are intertwined in ways they never would have been in its absence. During the experience, we were able to see how the actions of individuals impact entire nations and organizations. Users on Diaspora* are able to weigh in on these matters in a way that doesn’t stand to threaten their beliefs in decentralization, privacy, and freedom. Is this the direction social media is heading in? I don’t know. What I do know is that as our experience and this site clearly demonstrate, opinions, actions, and their consequences will never again be confined to the borders of a single nation.


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Parenting in the Digital World

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (7:59 PM)

 

 For my final project, I have been exploring the past, present, and future of parenting and assessing the impact that technology and digital media has on parents and parenting methods. It is a clear fact that parenting has… Read more

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 For my final project, I have been exploring the past, present, and future of parenting and assessing the impact that technology and digital media has on parents and parenting methods. It is a clear fact that parenting has changed in the past 25 years. While this change does somewhat stem from sociological shifts and the variations of the family paradigm, the change is intensely fostered by the increase in the use of technology for both parents and children.

I began my research by exploring the changing family paradigm, more specifically the breakdown of the nuclear family and societal norms in regards to the roles of moms and dads. More parents nowadays are practicing “tag-team parenting,” a non-overlapping shift work strategy for balancing family and work time that allows parents to cut costs on child care and allows the parents to provide for their children on their own.

While initially I had thought that with more moms working (The number of stay at home mothers has decreased to 22.6% in 2009 compared to nearly 25% in 2007) and the increase in the amount of single-parent families (In 1980, 18% of children were living with one parent; while in 2007, the number increased to 25.8%), that the amount of parenting time has decreased. To my surprise, a 2010 study found that moms spend about 12 hours/week with kids, compared to 21.1 hours/week in 2007. Additionally, Men spent 9.6 hours/week in 2007, up from 4.5 in 1995.

From here, I researched where the extra time was coming from. Tying into my earlier research on the changing family paradigm, mothers now are spending less time cooking and cleaning the house and spending more time with their children. Additionally, shifting societal norms has loosened the pressure on couples to have children; as studies have shown that children are no longer considered essential components to a healthy and happy marriage. It is assumed, then, that those that do have children are prepared to invest quality time into parenting.

For those that do choose to have children, they have placed an increased valuation on parenting. One of the roadblocks that I have encountered is trying to pin-point why exactly parents are more involved in activities such as playing with and chauffeuring for kids as well as organizing and attending kids’ extracurricular and education-related activities. The answer to this matter is a complex one. One explanation is that the increased prevalence of 24-hour news shows and journalistic strategies such as “fear mongering,” in addition to shows such as CSI and Law and Order, has cultivated a “Culture of Fear.” The events of 9/11 have further enhanced this fear, and stricter safety laws (such as required bike helmets) are indications that society has become more safety-conscious. National safety measures tightened, and people became more fearful of strangers. Alas, this cycle of fear is motivated by real safety concerns and media coverage.

All of my posts thus far on my blog, piperbrighton.tumblr.com, have been researched-based and have been focused on the changing structures of families and societal norms thus far. The arrangement of the posts is exactly as outlined in this post– so that the viewer can go through the journey with me from the past, to the present, to the future of parenting, by scrolling down.

From here, the questions that I am going to explore in Phase 2 will be how the influx in the use of the Internet and cell phones in the household has affected modern parenting methods and patterns. Specifically, I will be drawing on the affects of: social media, Pintrest/blogs/etc., child-tracking apps, and the overall increase in information access. A potential perplexity I will have to balance is the pros and cons of the prevalence of technology in the household. Changing family practices do not just point to technology as the instigator, there are other factors that can lead to overparenting, for example. In Phase 2, I am excited to explore these factors and highlight how technology has enhanced or changed parenting methods in an increasingly plugged-in world.

*Questions for the class*

  1. Do you think that “overparenting” (basically, parents micro-managing/controlling kids) is a problematic parenting pattern? How might it affect their kids?
  2. Do you think that technology facilitates “overparenting”?
  3. What surprises/concerns you the most about current or future parenting practices/methods in regards to technology?

For any of you that are babysitters or have younger siblings, could you please answer these questions:

  1.  Do the kids have restrictions on the amount of time they can use the Internet/TV/phones etc.?
  2.  What types of technologies are the kids “into” that might be different from what you grew up with?
  3.  Do the kids have social media such as Facebook, Pintrest, Twitter, Instagram etc.?
  4. Do their parents have social media?
  5. Do their parents have restrictions on what they are allowed to do on social media/the Internet/cell phones?
  6. Do any of them utilize “tracking apps” so that they can keep tabs on their children?
  7. Do one or both parents have a job/work?

*It would be useful to know their ages, too.

 

 

 


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The Politics of Social Media

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (6:27 PM)

My project focuses on how social media has affected the ways we think about and engage with politics in the United States of America.  Essentially up until the most recent presidential election, the majority of political material was conveyed… Read more

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My project focuses on how social media has affected the ways we think about and engage with politics in the United States of America.  Essentially up until the most recent presidential election, the majority of political material was conveyed to the general public through news and print media sources (both online and directly).  However, as we become increasingly entrenched in the digital age, the best practices for campaigning have shifted to accommodate a greater concentration on social media advertisement.  In my initial research, I found that 76% of the sitting members of congress have some sort of social media account that they use to relay information to voters.  In many ways, this can be considered a positive development because it allows both current politicians and prospective politicians to deliver a message directly to the voting population, as opposed to relying on the media to properly portray their political stances.  But nonetheless, there is evidence that the integration of social media has done much more than simply expose the general public to a new source for political news.  By increasing the emphasis placed on social media campaigning, the criteria for a successful campaign and the ways in which political standpoints are communicated to a voter base have also been altered.  For example, a recent study released in the journal Social Abstracts states, “Social media like Facebook and Twitter place the focus on the individual politician rather than the political party, thereby expanding the political arena for increased personalized campaigning” (Enli and Skogerbo Social Abstracts, 1).  This is mainly due to the fact that individuals have different expectations regarding the type of information they will pay attention to on their social media pages.  Generally, social media posts are intended to be immediately enticing, and if a given post does not meet this criterion, then it is often quickly passed over without being absorbed by the users.  Thus, in order to be effective politicians must not be long winded and dry.  Rather, they are expected to post material that will instantly grab the attention of the social media user, which in many cases pertains closer to their personal lives than their actual legislative goals.  As a result, best practices for a successful campaign aimed at the average voter has drifted away from the nuts and bolts of a political standpoint and shifted towards the characteristics of the individual politician.

My investigation has shown that this shift is especially critical when campaigning to younger individuals.  PR week stated in regards to the most recent presidential election that “Republicans, with 31%, are also more likely to get their election news on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter than Democrats, 19%, and independents with 25%.”  This information shows that every political group in the United States has a key demographic that relies heavily on social media sites to receive election news.  As a result, posting material that will stand out to these individuals amongst the thousands of other tweets and posts each day is critical in attaining their votes.  And this change in direction also extends to news journalism companies which are also trying to adjust to the needs of this growing social media population.  Especially given the increasing drop in the actual purchase of newspapers and magazines, media outlets are beginning to rely heavily on social media posts to draw a customer base.  They engage in this practice of developing catchy posts that will grab social media users’ attention because otherwise they continue to scroll through a seemingly endless newsfeed without choosing to click on the displayed news link.  However, I interrogate whether this is a beneficial practice, in regards to both politicians and news sources.  It seems that it may be detrimental to our understanding of politics to diminish our political investigation to 160 characters of a catchy Facebook posts.  In many ways, it seems that our political decision making could be better facilitated through sources that fully explicate a candidate’s political plan, as opposed to focusing on details of a politician’s personal life or enticing political anecdotes through social media services.  Thus, in my project I am pinpointing the exact changes that this growing concentration on social media has brought to American politics, while critically analyzing these changes and determining how exactly we should choose to engage with social media when attempting to be well informed voters.

My research problem is primarily in regards to determining how we should view the effects of social media on our political culture.  Initial questions I’ve had in regards to this process starts with wondering how influential social media really is on our understanding of American politics.  The changes that social media have brought to politics are clearly documented, but I still wonder to what degree this shift is actually influencing our political decision making.  Furthermore, I wonder how much more likely Millennials are to use social media as their primary source for political news in comparison to older adults (roughly ages 35-50).  I believe that these social media services can be a valuable supplement to our political understanding, but perhaps the real danger is allowing these services to be one’s primary source for political news.  And finally, I have consistently found myself questioning how whether social media is chiefly responsible for this fascination with the individual politician.  Although some of my sources have argued that is the case, it seems that Americans have concentrated on the individual politician long before the rise of social media (such as one of my sources discussing Bill Clinton’s 1996 presidential campaign).  As far as road blocks to answering these questions go, it seems that I have struggled to provide solid statistics regarding the effects of social media on political culture.  I need to find polling more specific to a certain presidential election in order to strengthen my final claim.  Also, I have struggled with acquiring tweets from differing news sources to compare head-to-head in order to display how catchy titles developed by news outlets can be misleading.  This is mainly because these news sources all tweet and post so frequently that I have run into a bit of information overload and found it difficult to pinpoint particular stories.  However, these twitter and Facebook accounts still provide extremely beneficial supporting media, and now it is more so a matter of narrowing this media down to a couple particular stories.  It has also been useful to look at politicians social media accounts for additional supporting media.  For example, Joe Biden has just recently opened an Instagram account and Barack Obama posted a selfie with the Vice-President to his personal Instagram account in order to help Joe generate followers.  These social media sources, in addition with television news reports on the growing phenomenon should provide ample evidence to support my claim.

What would be most beneficial to receive from my classmates is the following:

  • Please answer the following poll questions:

Question 1: Is social media your primary source for acquiring political news?  If not, please state what you would list as your primary source.

Question 2: Do you believe that social media can adequately serve as a sole source for political news?

Question 3: Do you believe that social media can serve as a valued supplement for political news?

Question 4: When selecting a political candidate to vote for, are you interested in knowing the personal life of the candidate (i.e. their past, family, interests, hobbies)?

Question 5: Specifically in regards to social media, do you think you’d be more prone to pay attention to a post that addressed a politician’s personal life as opposed to their political standpoints?  Be honest, and elaborate if possible.

Question 6: When reading political news reports on social media sites, do you generally click on the link to the full story, or just read the headline displayed in the post?  Possible answers: a. Always b. Frequently c. Rarely d. Never

Question 7: Do you follow any political news outlets or politicians on any of your social media accounts?  If so, please list which ones.

Open ended question: If you voted in the most recent presidential election, what is it that led you to go to the polls?  Any feedback you can provide would be greatly beneficial.

  • Barack Obama recently went on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis in order to prompt more younger individuals to sign up for ObamaCare.  His efforts were actually pretty successful, but this approach to political progress was somewhat unorthodox.  The success of this appearance was largely correlated with the idea of “going viral,” meaning Barack Obama’s interview spread rapidly over the web and through social media sites.  Do you agree with using this sort of political tactic?  Also, what do you think it says about our culture today that it takes “going viral” to generate a spike in younger individuals participation in a political initiative.
  • The Barack Obama administration has been accused of being very closed off in regards to White House photography.  This angers various news sources because they only have the opportunity to use photographs provided by White House officials.  In many circumstances, these images provided by White House officials are taken very strategically to convey a certain line of thinking regarding the President.  Especially in the age of social media, how do you feel about the White House using such a closed off approach to presidential photography?
  • Can you think of any stories you saw on social media sites that we portrayed differently in the specific post than they were in the full story?  Any stories of this type you can lead me to would be great.
  • Can you think of any stories that were portrayed very in different lights by two different media sources?  I’m struggling somewhat with pinpointing specific examples, so once again, any stories that come to mind would be greatly appreciated.
  • And finally, how do you feel about social media’s relation to politics?  I know this question is extremely open ended, but I’d love to just get some ideas about how other Millenials view social media’s growing role in political campaigning.

Moving forward in this project, I really just need to turn my focus to more specific examples of social media and its effects.  I feel like I have done a pretty good job outlining the theoretical/big picture issues of my subject, but now I need to start analyzing specific pieces of social media.  Furthermore, I really think that I need to get some statistics to post to my blog page.  Hopefully classmates responding to the poll I posted will make that possible.  Once I select a few specific instances of social media to focus on that relate to my more general evidence, then I believe my project will come together nicely and paint a solid picture of social media’s role in our political culture.  I still have yet to answer how exactly Millenials feel about social media becoming a crucial campaign tool.  Furthermore, I still have yet to pinpoint the likelihood of individuals using social media as their sole source for political news.  In many ways, this project has morphed from simply observing social media in the political realm to critically analyzing their influence on our overall political culture.  Instead of just identifying these changes, I have begun to interrogate the effects social media has had on political campaigning and news consumption. Due to these advancements in my project aims, I believe that I will be able to develop a definitive standpoint on how exactly I believe social media should be utilized as a political tool by the close of my study.  Please refer to my blog to take a look at what I have been working on so far.  Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

http://kcdigitalamerica.wordpress.com/


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Exploration of the Digital Divide: Phase 1

// Posted by on 04/21/2014 (6:24 PM)

Over the course of the semester, we have continuously observed and discussed how influential and, often times, imperative technology is in our current society.  Our culture is undoubtedly a digital one as the Internet and… Read more

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Over the course of the semester, we have continuously observed and discussed how influential and, often times, imperative technology is in our current society.  Our culture is undoubtedly a digital one as the Internet and new technology are deeply ingrained into almost every aspect of our lives.  What I would like to continue to investigate for my final project is the role of technology in education, primarily in AmericaStudents in impoverished neighborhoods and who attend public community schools do not have even the most basic access to technology and the Internet.  Without technology, many of them are never able to learn what most of us take for granted: how to save a word document, how to choose a font, or how to properly format an essay.  In short, they are devoid of a kind of “common” knowledge that is seemingly necessary for survival in our digital age.  In turn, it these young adults are thrown into a world with a significant disadvantage.

 

-Considering the data above, is is apparent how low-income individuals have significantly less Internet access than their wealthy counterparts.  Without Internet access, these individuals tend to use the Web  for mostly entertainment purposes rather than online learning & educational opportunities.  

After many class discussions and course readings we have done throughout the semester, it has become apparent just how large of a gap there is in our society in regards online access.  This can be seen in especially in K-12 educationTechnology and the Internet have become so connected to our everyday lives, it seems almost impossible to successfully function in our world without them.  More than eighty percent of the Fortune 500 companies require online job applications, and even national chains like Foot Locker no longer allow potential employees to apply in person. With companies quickly beginning to digitize their application processes, it is/will continue to make it incredibly difficult for individuals without access to the Internet or a computer to have a fair chance of employment.

Furthermore, how is this affecting students’ education?  Without access to technology or the Internet, there is a world of knowledge and research that is completely absent from school curriculum.  The majority of students in high-poverty neighborhoods and schools do not have access to technology or the Internet at home or at school, let alone the mere knowledge of how to properly utilize the digital tools of the 21st Century.  Is this fair?  For me, the answer is no.  Most of the kids living in low-income households have parents who are working two or three jobs to make it by.  They are at an immediate disadvantage to their more affluent peers as they are not exposed to the many learning opportunities that other students have access to from an early age.  For many, technology is exciting, especially in education and something that needs to be incorporated into every classroom in America.

The knowledge of how to use technology and the Internet have indeed become a form of modern literacy and will only continue to become even more so.   High school students that do not have the opportunity to learn how to use it and feel comfortable in doing so are deprived of knowledge and opportunities that the majority of our generation has already developed.  Furthermore, this lack of access limits students from a whole world of knowledge and research that the Internet supports.  It seems as though doors are closed to them before they even know they exist.  I feel that, being a college student who has had unlimited access to technology and the Internet for the majority of my life, it is my responsibility to explore and understand the inequality that exists in our education system.  I think that a large part of my generation is ignorant to the fact of how many kids are without these digital privileges and how lucky we are to have had access to these mediums throughout our education.

By focusing on this particular topic, I hope to learn more about this issue and widen my perspective as well as help to educate my classmates and peers.  Phase 1 explores various opinions and stories on the “Digital Divide” in American Education and I would like to  further explore the technological gaps in our educational system and research more about the statistics and movements to make access to technology in schools a staple.  In Phase 2, I would like to continue to explore the ways in which technology affects students in the classroom.  Does it truly make a difference?  What methods are being used in high-poverty school districts?  What is realistic when thinking about changes we make in the future?  If we consider the ability to know how to use technology as a form of literacy, there all endless questions that arise.  Should all schools be required to provide their students with certain technology and access to the Internet?  What effect does it have on them if they do not?  Is it a human right for underage individuals in America to have this basic access?  For my final project, I will consult a variety of sources to delve deeper into the complexities and questions that this topic poses.

*A single assignment I would like for all of you to complete is to write a small piece on whether or not you think basic access to technology and the Internet should be considered a human right for students in grades K-12 in America.  If you do, please also include how you would contribute to solving the problem of the “Digital Divide” in the American education system (it can be anything you want…A small or big idea!)  I want to post your responses on my blog so be thoughtful & creative!

In responding to this question, keep in mind all of the way in which technology & the Internet effects one’s technical skills, web literacy, economic skills, and self-confidence!

**Email me your responses and any additional feedback you have on my blog so far (link below):

http://cgandryc.tumblr.com

(Also, for some of my posts you need to click on the title to see my full entry…don’t know why)

Sources for Graphs:

http://www.pewinternet.org/2010/11/24/use-of-the-internet-in-higher-income-households/

 


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Oversharing on Social Media- Another Case of Fractalonia?

// Posted by on 04/15/2014 (9:50 PM)

After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,”… Read more

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After reading Deirdre’s post this week on the Wired article, “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online,” I was struck by an opinion piece on Wired.com. The piece, entitled “Science Says: The Baby Madness on Your Facebook Feed is an Illusion,” (http://www.wired.com/2014/04/babies-on-facebook/ ) serves as a case study on whether oversharing on social media is a legitimate of perceived trend. Many people tend to complain that new mothers are constantly posting photos of their newborns, and it escalates to the point where photos of someone’s new baby are all over one’s newsfeed. However, “Morris discovered, new mothers post less than half as often… Photos grow as a chunk of all postings, sure—but since new moms are so much less active on Facebook, it hardly matters.” Based on your experiences, do you believe these findings to be true? If these claims are valid, then why do we still hear people complaining that others overshare on social media sites?

The answer can be linked to our perpetuation of the phenomenon and Rushkoff’s notion of fractalonia. According to Rushkoff, we try to see patterns and make links between things with such fervor that we sometimes end up drawing links that have no truth. Morris first cites algorithms as a probable cause indicating that “viewers disproportionately “like” postings that mention new babies. This, she says, could result in Facebook ranking those postings more prominently in the News Feed, making mothers look more baby-obsessed.” From what I have observed on Facebook, posts that highlight a significant event in one’s life tend to get the most “likes.” Such posts could be about a college acceptance, an internship, a job, an engagement, and yes, a new baby. We look to link the perceived increase in posts to the fact that the baby is new and the parents are excited, yet in the process, we lose sight of the reality that more “likes” on a photo makes Facebook advertise it to friends of the poster more ubiquitously. Thus, we fall prey to fractalonia by making a link between a cause and effect that is not necessarily the case, and we further perpetuate the perceived “oversharing” of the photos by continuing to show our support by “liking” them.

Another cause cited by Morris is a frequency illusion. A Frequency illusion occurs as “once we notice something that annoys or surprises or pleases us—or something that’s just novel—we tend to suddenly notice it more. We overweight its frequency in everyday life.” Again, we are guilty of fractalonia by engaging in this thought as we are drawing a link that does not exist in an effort to make more sense of things. Based on our class discussions on overwinding and present shock, I believe we commit fractalonia because in this day and age, “any and all sense making must occur on the fly” (Rushkoff 201). Information is linked in order to constantly create new information as we live in an age of multitasking and constantly being “plugged in.” It forces one to question what would happen if everyone cut back even just slightly on the number of times they logged into Facebook. Would we still think people are oversharing? Or would we see a photo of a newborn, like it, and continue scrolling without a second thought because the same or a variation of the photo has not already been seen the other six times we logged in that day?

It is important to recognize “the value of observing the world around us like a scientist—to see what’s actually going on instead of what just happens to gall (or please) us.” Rushkoff seems to agree in his statement that fractalonia “doesn’t mean pattern recognition is futile. It only shows how easy it is to draw connections where there are none, or where the linkage is tenuous at best” (Rushkoff 202). Based on this case study and the nature of fractalonia, do you think that oversharing on social media is actually a phenomenon? Or are we so consumed with checking social media sites multiple times a day that we begin to perceive a few photos as ubiquitous?


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The Rise of Social Networks Might be Making People More Private

// Posted by on 04/13/2014 (8:31 PM)

We all know that in recent years the use of social media has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. Seemingly everyone uses all of these various networks and apps to connect with other people. So much of our private lives… Read more

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We all know that in recent years the use of social media has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon. Seemingly everyone uses all of these various networks and apps to connect with other people. So much of our private lives have become public, and often is viewable to people we don’t even know that well. We can see thousands of personal photos of each other, our customized pages show all of our “likes” and interests, and we can even connect over a map that shows us the exact locations of our “friends” at any given time. Therefore, it would appear that privacy is dead.

Our generation is said to value personal privacy less than any group of people before us. In a Wired  article called “Why Privacy is Actually Thriving Online” Nathan Jurgenson talks about the explosion of personal information online and how our use of social media has changed our outlook on what is private and what is not. He suggests that kids of our generation post now with the intention of revealing something about themselves, but also with the intention of concealing things to leave a certain sense of mystery in our posts. Jurgenson also claims that Facebook has recognized a strange pattern among some teens:

“In a behavior called whitewalling, users post to Facebook—sometimes in great detail — but then quickly delete everything, creating a blank timeline. That’s a new form of privacy for the social media age: a mass release of information that eventually disappears.” (Jurgenson, 2014)

I agree that young people today are becoming increasingly wary of who might see what they release through social media, but I think that those who are majorly concerned with their privacy tend to hold back on their posts rather than, as the author suggests, adjust them to be more cryptic or delete them shortly after posting. Our generation is simultaneously public and private, but ultimately the influx of social media outlets throughout the past decade might have turned millions of us away from sharing. Furthermore, I think the pressure to participate in social media has even caused some people to be more public than they feel comfortable being in actuality- or for some people it’s the opposite.

I’m curious to see what happens in the future with social media. New networks could take off unexpectedly like they have in the past, or people could abandon this culture of publicity and sharing altogether. Sometimes I think that the moments I don’t document are more precious, and that participating in the excessive use of technology/social media is distracting me from the present. If you don’t document something you’ll never totally be able to relive it- but that’s kind of the point. ”It’s gotten to the point where choosing not to photograph something conveys respect for a moment, imbues it with significance. Pretty soon we might realize that one of the Internet’s favorite slogans can now be reversed: No pics or it didn’t happen,” says Jergenson.

Rushkoff’s book Present Shock talks all about how consumed we are with technology and these networks. His opinion on our generation is clear: we are in a state of shock and we better do something before it’s too late. The Wired article, on the other hand, suggests that our generation is indeed stepping back from certain social media outlets and technologies. A second Wired article by Mat Honan is mostly about messaging networks, but touches on Facebook and other social networks and their privacy flaws in the eyes of users. Honan says that Facebook has developed a “self-admitted” problem with young people: they are leaving.

“The generation that has grown up with social media is also wary of its permanence—that picture you post today may come back to haunt you when you’re ready to find a job. Even the site’s central design, a timeline that literally begins with your birth, emphasizes the notion that Facebook is forever.”

I think this idea is central to the argument that our generation might flee from social media. Its permanence has made millions of us resistant to it or less active on it. When posting on Facebook in particular, it is inconvenient to adjust your audience, and you might question who will see your post, how they might receive it, and if they will think it’s directed at them (which it may not be). Honon suggests that in the past few years, messaging networks have taken priority or proved more useful for some people than social media outlets have. This is because they are less public, more intimate, and can be used more easily on a tablet or smartphone.

Do you think the efforts of social media companies will backfire, causing members of our generation to become more private- maybe even abandoning the networks altogether? Or will we just be slightly more selective about what we post? Will messaging networks take over, and how do you think that might impact our use of technology?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/privacy-is-dead/

http://www.wired.com/2014/02/ff_messagingwars/


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Refuge From the Internet: Does it Exist?

// Posted by on 04/02/2014 (2:03 PM)

This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship… Read more

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This week in class we discussed Rushkoff’s book Present Shock, in which he tells us that our preoccupation with technology is causing is to miss out on the “now.” Rushkoff’s book shows us that we need to reexamine our relationship with time before we a experience a future we didn’t expect. The constant use of technology and internet is stifling the creativity of our culture by making too much information readily available and holding our generation back from creating anything original. I agree with Rushkoff in a lot of ways; I think that we are extremely distracted from the present and that this could be hurtful to our generation.

I read a few articles from Wired that I think connect well with Rushkoff’s book and our class discussions about the constant use of internet all over the world. While it used to be hard to find a place to get internet connection and surf the wed, it’s now harder to find an escape from it. If we open up our computers to find that we don’t have wifi, we’re more shocked than we are if we find that we do have it. A long car ride used to be an excuse to sit back, relax, and listen to a few CDs. Now people have “hotspots” on their phones that allow them to get internet access on their computers and phones while in motion. It has even gotten to the point where certain people have anxiety if they don’t have access to their e-mails, texts, and tweets, even while they’re, say, in a plane thousands of feet above ground. This shows us that the places that used to be sanctuaries from the technological world and our always-on lives are now being invaded.

“[To get away] we go where it’s impossible to connect, no matter what. But quite soon those gaps will all be filled. Before much longer, the entire planet will be smothered in signal, and we won’t be able to find places that are off the grid” (Honan, 2013).

The quote above is from a 2013 article in Wired called “Can’t Get Away From It All? The Problem Isn’t Technology- It’s You.” The author talks about broadening internet access throughout the country, and how the places that we used to escape to are now places you can be completely plugged-in. Mat Honan, the author of the article thinks that if we can learn to resist the urge to go online, we can create these places of refuge for ourselves. But can these places even be considered sanctuaries from our internet lives if we can get in touch with anyone and search anything? Will we compromise our sanity in we continue down this road? Where can we get away from our online lives if we have internet access everywhere we go?

The image above shows the places that we have internet access in orange, and the places we don’t in dark red (as of September 2013). The places that aren’t orange are mostly uninhabited areas. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

The second article, by the same author, was about wifi on airplanes. Even if it’s possible, says the author, airlines might want to reconsider the degree to which we can access this. The article talks about how much we will probably disturb one another making phone calls, streaming movies, hogging the outlet plugs, or even skyping and facetiming with the people below. Is it really necessary to have access to these things while we’re flying? I know this might be convenient, but I still don’t think its healthy for us to have access to all of these in-flight gadgets.

“If you’re really looking to unplug, the connection you have to sever isn’t electronic anymore—it’s mental” (Honan, 2013)

I think that the novelty of the idea of having internet wherever you go has worn off, and just as soon as Americans realize the state of present shock we are in, we might all long to be in a place where we can’t have access to everything at our fingertips. Another aspect of this is the idea that we can “mentally unplug.” Even in a place where we have internet access, is it possible to shut everything off even when you know you can use it?

 

Articles:

http://www.wired.com/2014/03/honan-flight-risks/

http://www.wired.com/2013/10/honan/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2012/07/10/were-all-internet-addicts-and-were-all-screwed-says-newsweek/

 


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No Time Like the Present

// Posted by on 03/30/2014 (8:13 PM)

According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues… Read more

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According to Douglas Rushkoff, a media theorist and author of Present Shock, everything happens now.  So, what does that really mean?  In the first two chapters of Rushkoff’s novel, we are introduced to the meaning of “present shock”.  Rushkoff argues that individuals have lost their capacity to take in the traditional narrative because the future has become “now” and we are constantly adapting to the new and unpredictable challenges it presents.  As a result, he continues, we have developed a new relationship with time on a fundamental level.  We are so preoccupied with living in the technological now, which is always active and changing constantly, that individuals are increasingly losing their sense of direction, personal goals, and future altogether.

This idea of a widespread narrative collapse is a significant aspect in the idea of present shock.  The traditional use of linear stories to attract viewers through a sort of shared journey has been replaced with unintelligent reality programming and TV shows.  I think Rushkoff’s argument is a completely accurate one.  In my generation, individuals have lost their ability to fully absorb information through this kind of story / narrative form.  We constantly feel the urge for a change, a new piece of information, a distraction.  Although it is easy to relate this to our current and most popular social media networks, we can perhaps look at something a bit different.  Take music for instance.  Even a decade ago, the process of purchasing and listening to an album or CD was an experience in itself.  You waited for the release of this album, maybe even in line at a local music shop.  After, you might go home and listen to this album with friends or alone and listen to it from beginning to end.  When is the last time you did this? You saw a friend do this? You witnessed anyone doing this?  This imagined visual might even seem abnormal or even weird in our current world.  I believe this is why mashups were created and became so popular within the last decade.  Why would you listen to one song when can get pieces of a few of your favorites within only 2 and a half minutes?  Digital technology is responsible for this ongoing change among individuals attention span and ability to be present in a moment.  In our generation, there is a sort of tangible anxiety and impatience among us that is only perpetuated by digital technology.  Think about how many people you see daily, scrolling through their Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter every few minutes waiting, almost yearning for something to grab their attention or excite them. This never-ending digital feed has caused a lack of appreciation for quality over quantity.  In turn, it depreciates our ability to focus and separate our real lives from our digital ones.

With the creation of the Internet, it was largely assumed that individuals would have more time to themselves, not less.  People might be able to work from home, from their bed even, and complete tasks that they would normally have to go into work to take care of.  This assumption, however, was based on the idea that technology would conform to our lives when, in actuality, the exact opposite happened.  As Rushkoff suggests, human time has become the new modern commodity.  People can no longer extract themselves from our overpowering digital world—they are always at its beck and call.  Whether it is a buzz from a tweet, call, or text, the interruption of technology is a common and constant one.  In turn, face-to-face conversations and meaningful opportunities are diminishing.  These shared experiences are being replaced with the “shared” experience of being distracted by technology and our devotion to it.  This relates to Rushkoff’s coined term “Digiphrenia”: this idea that because technology allows us to be in more than one place, individuals are overwhelmed until they learn how to distinguish the difference between signal and noise information.  Again going back to this idea of quality vs. quantity, it seems as though we are starting to value quantity at an ever-increasing rate.   I found this idea of being able to live in two different worlds to be particularly interesting— not only are we able to dip into different worlds at any given time, but we are able to project a different “self” as well.  As we have previously discussed, individuals can create and advertise any sort of identity they choose to and shift worlds at any point in time.

In my opinion, technology has caused us to be increasingly absent from the real “now” in order to be present in the digital ever-exisiting one.  We are collectively sharing a moment of “not sharing” that is deemed acceptable under the guise of  technology.   In turn, individuals’ ability to be completely present, mentally and physically, in any environment or situation is becoming increasingly rare.  Rather than experiencing what is happening in the moment, we find ourselves wondering what is going on in another moments, moments somewhere else with different people.  This “present sock” syndrome is only propelling feelings of constant anxiety, impatience, and seemingly unattainable satisfaction in our world, especially among my generation.  We are letting technology dictate our lives and consume our real and valuable time in exchange for mere seconds of shallow excitement, gossip, or news.

 


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Is the internet too large?

// Posted by on 03/23/2014 (6:47 PM)

In Ron Rosenbaum’s article, “What Turned Jason Lanier Against the Web?” he talks about Jason Lanier and his beliefs that the internet is becoming to vast. Lanier helped create Web 2.0 and was one of the inventors of our current… Read more

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In Ron Rosenbaum’s article, “What Turned Jason Lanier Against the Web?” he talks about Jason Lanier and his beliefs that the internet is becoming to vast. Lanier helped create Web 2.0 and was one of the inventors of our current digital reality. He used to be a large supporter of the internet however he now wants to “subvert the “hive mind,” as the web world’s been called, before it engulfs us all, destroys political discourse, economic stability, the dignity of personhood and leads to “social catastrophe.” Lanier views the internet as this database that everyone and their mom wants to be a part of and socially locked in.

Everyone today is on the internet. No matter what form, we are all digitally dialed in. It is the way our world works now, but do you think the internet is becoming too large? Is it so big that we cannot control it anymore? Lanier believes that if the internet continues to expand the repercussions could be catastrophic. He fears that social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are expanding at too fast of a rate. I agree with Lanier. I believe that the Web is getting out of control and if the internet is not given restrictions the results could be incredibly harmful.

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/aug/16/facebook-riot-calls-men-jailed

After doing some research, I came across an article about a riot that was first constructed on Facebook. Two men, ages 20 and 22 were both sentenced to four years in prison due to the casualties of the riots. It is an example like this that justifies Lanier’s reasoning that the internet is becoming too large. People are using the Web to create more violence. But what step needs to be taken to prevent future crimes? I think Facebook needs to somehow create a code that can read your post before it is uploaded. If there is any sort of violent language in the post or comment than it cannot be uploaded. I do not know how that would be created but I think it could prevent many more hateful crimes. Do you agree with Lanier and his argument or do you think the internet should continue to expand? Even if we tried to control the internet, is it just too late?


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Computers in the classroom: Problematic or progressive?

// Posted by on 03/03/2014 (12:22 AM)

 

Before reading the article “The digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind”, I always thought of the digital divide more so as a distinction between age gaps and computer literacy, not so much by socioeconomic status.  The numbers speak… Read more

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Before reading the article “The digital Divide Is Still Leaving Americans Behind”, I always thought of the digital divide more so as a distinction between age gaps and computer literacy, not so much by socioeconomic status.  The numbers speak to the fact that America is indeed a nation digitized.  What is most concerning is the impact internet availability and usage is having on the political and social side of America.  Interestingly, the initial concept of the internet was created as a medium of unity, free of any hierarchy, however today it is now only further perpetuating the very things it intended not to, including a nation deeply separated according to socioeconomic standings. With jobs and college applications almost exclusively available online, homework assignments, news mediums and even healthcare, the need to be plugged seems to be more important now then ever. Susan Crawford telecommunications expert and former white house official even goes as far as to saying that fast and reliable internet is a basic human right. The digitization of America and this new dichotomy seems to only further disadvantage the ones who need help the most.  Do you think  the Internet should be considered a basic human right? Or do you think this is going to far? Do you think this is a “poor persons” problem? The markets problem? or rather a problem for society as a whole?

 

I also found it alarming that some middle and high school teens didn’t know what Times New Roman font was or how to save a word document, but can still maneuver their way through twitter and other social media sites. By giving students “smart phones” in hopes that it will be used to further education may sound good in theory, however I think can be problematic then anticipated.  Incorporating too much technology into education is a slippery slope, especially into social media, technology obsessed generations. I find it interesting that our generation specifically is targeted for being technology “junkies” and often criticized for being glued to our devices, but what do people expect, when we are basically required to be plugged in to function in society? I realize that incorporating technology into the classroom is just the evolution of education, attempting to adapt to the times, however I think it is beginning to take on to large of a role.  Ipads have replaced notebooks, “smartboards” have replaced blackboard and chalk, and “blogging” and other online resources are often required aspects of our curriculum, posing the question is society trying to keep up with us or are we trying to keep up with society? I think it is incredibly important to have technology play a role in education, but I do think it we are getting further and further away from some of the fundamentals of education, creating a whole new playing field, at the expense of poor, lower class Americans. Do you think technology has too large a role in education? Do you think this a good thing or a bad thing?

 


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Dating in the Digital World

// Posted by on 03/02/2014 (11:45 PM)

By: Caroline Andryc, Eliza Breed, Piper Brighton, Allie Deering and Mia Webber

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9zNvamo5z4

http://youtu.be/Y9zNvamo5z4

For our group project, we decided to focus on the impact of digital culture on romantic relationships.  As seen in the video, social media… Read more

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By: Caroline Andryc, Eliza Breed, Piper Brighton, Allie Deering and Mia Webber

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9zNvamo5z4

http://youtu.be/Y9zNvamo5z4

For our group project, we decided to focus on the impact of digital culture on romantic relationships.  As seen in the video, social media and technology are very present forces in our society and seemingly necessary for a relationship to function.  In order to explore this complex topic, we looked into the ways in which social media and technology both negatively and positively affect relationships. Advances in technology have allowed people to connect and communicate in new and incredible ways.  Applications such as Facetime, Skype, Twitter, and Instagram provide people with the opportunity to communicate 24/7,  regardless each individual’s environment.  According to Pew Research Center’s article  Couples, the Internet, and Social Media, young adults are more likely to report feeling closer to their spouse or partner thanks to technology.  According to their survey, 41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner due to online or text message conversations and 23% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships report resolving an argument using technology that they were having trouble resolving in person.  At the same time, young adults are more likely to report tension in their relationships over technology use, as 42% of cell phone-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together.  It is evident that digital culture can affect romantic relationships in multiple ways.  The aim of our project is to investigate its various influences while taking into account the recent Pew survey on how American couples use digital technology to manage life, logistics, and emotional intimacy within their relationships (Pew).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnuwjeTSksw

The following skit illustrates the positive impact of technology on relationships. The beneficial effects of digital communication are particularly apparent in long-distance relationships, as it allows the couple to connect regardless of their individual environment.  Through the mainstream digital networks such as: Facetime, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, couples are able to maintain a constant connection. These technologies have allowed couples to breakaway from the impersonal and monotonous phone calls to the face-to-face emotional video conferencing calls. Especially present in long-distance relationships, couples now have the ability to electronically see each other everyday, which can contribute to a stronger relationship. Technology only continues to grow exponentially, as subscribers to the new iPhone 5 have witnessed, people can now use Facetime without WiFi, a feature that was only recently released. This has allowed couples to communicate via video conferencing even more and be a part of each others lives no matter where they may be. Current technology helps with the logistics and communication of a relationship, making it easier to strengthen the bond between two people.

As the Huffington Post declared in the article, “Long Distance Relationships May Benefit From ‘Hug Shirts,’ Other Technologies,” romantic relationships are now not as challenging as they used to be due to the abilities of mainstream social media: “As communication technology has improved over time, it’s helped long-distance couples stay in real-time contact and enjoy conversations almost as if they were sitting face to face.” With applications like, FaceTime and Skype which now have the capacity to work wherever the individual may be, relationships no matter the distance have the opportunity to evolve and become even more closely-knit. Without the assistance of video technology, couples would not be as eager and enthusiastic about long-distance relationships. USA Today’s article “More young couples try long-distance relationships,” supports this statement, as Sharon Jayson discusses how common and popular long-distance relationships are becoming. She interviews a couple, Rachel Goldstein and Ben Kuryk who met in college and have now decided to continue their relationship no matter the distance between their new post-graduate jobs. The 1,055 miles between Goldstein and Kuryk does not seem so far while they’re communicating via FaceTime and Skype three to four times a day. As Goldstein declares, “”We’re professionals at this.”” A recent study in the journal Communication Research discovered that “as many as half of college students are in long-distance relationships, and up to 75% will be at some point.” Due to the vast capabilities of technology, couples no longer have to put their relationships on pause. Goldstein and Kuryk have been together for six and half years and in more than four different cities. Their relationship has lasted and ceased to perish solely because of the innovation of technology and the vast opportunities presented within social media. As seen in the USA Today article, it has proven that couples can withhold the long and grueling weeks and months of being apart, because of technology. Without the remarkable aptitude of technology, couples like Goldstein and Kuryk would not have the ability to maintain their relationship and ultimately see what direction it takes in the future.

It is obvious that without technology many relationships, long distance or not, would not last as long as they do today.  Social media and technology places that connection with one’s significant other in the palm of their hand, literally.  In our current society, it is beyond just phone calls.  The visual elements that modern technology incorporates, such as facetime and skype, allow couples to communicate face-to-face, which arguably fosters a deeper connection.  Conceivably, one could be in a long-distance relationship in which they are always “with” their partner.  I say “with” in quotations because although facetime offers far more connectivity than a mere phone call, the relationship without physical contact is limited.  Still, with apps like Facetime you could technically sleep, eat, dance, watch tv, and engage in sexual foreplay.  This type of relationship is not for everyone, but for those that adhere to the cultural norms of the use of technology in relationships, a long-distance relationship would be much easier to maintain.  It is not surprising that long distance relationships are on the rise, our generation is accustomed to being able to communicate with their significant other whenever, wherever.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP56OBQ6yiA

http://youtu.be/VP56OBQ6yiA

In this scenario, the two girls are demonstrating the anxiety that technology can create in a relationship. Texting enables fast and instant connections between people, therefore, we expect quick responses: “As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers” (Turkle, Flight From Conversation). Our lack of patience in this matter can cause issues, as anxieties can amount if one sees that the message has been read, but a response has not followed fast enough. Additionally, texting allows us to “edit” what we want to say and consequently hide our feelings and true expressions to “present the self we want to be.” (Turkle). Social Media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have enabled people to “connect” with others indirectly; to gather “sips” of information about others that might not tell the whole story.

Zuckerberg claims Facebook was built to “accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected,” however, “connection” should not replace conversation (Techcrunch; Turkle). With Facebook’s mission in mind, we take what we see on social media to be the true representation of peoples’ lives. In this scenario, access to Peter’s Facebook allowed the girls to make judgements and perceptions about his life and relationships, that might or might not have been accurate, which can lead to unnecessary anxieties as trust can become questioned.

Trusting social media as the primary source of information can become dangerous, as catfishing has become more prevalent. A catfish is someone who creates a false online identity, usually with the intention of getting someone to fall in love with you or to scam people into giving you money, credit, or other gains. Just recently, Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o claims he was a victim of a catfishing scam. Even more terrifying is the idea that catfishing is not exactly against the law. While some states can criminalize those that impersonate an actual person, there are currently no laws that punish those that create a fictitious person (Merritt Web). The ability of social media to enhance relationships is evident, as we discussed earlier, which makes it much more emotionally difficult for one to realize that they’ve been duped by a catfish considering the amount of time and effort that was probably invested into the online relationship.

The videos that we created showed people using social media to connect with others, either to enhance a long-distance relationship or to decode someone’s actions. But, because we rely on social media to connect with others, we can choose who we connect with. For example, if a relationship ends between two people, one can “digitally delete” that other person from their lives by de-friending them on Facebook, unfollowing them on Twitter and Instagram, and deleting them off your Snapchat friend list. Additionally, the act of breaking up with someone or ending a friendship can be made easier by texting and messaging that person instead of dealing with messy, emotional, face-to-face conversations; Turkle argues this point as well: “Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology.”

It is virtually impossible in this day and age to find an example of a relationship exempt from the influence of digital culture. Because it has become such a widespread and mainstream mode of communication, it can be implied that the use of technology is inherently good, otherwise it would not be in constant use. Couples can use technology to keep in contact on a fast and consistent basis, which can lead to a deeper emotional connection. Technology gives couples in long distance relationships the opportunity and the choice to maintain the relationship they are in, and continue to see how it goes in the future. Yet the huge influence of digital culture on romantic relationships does not come without its downfalls. While technology can be a huge help in the search for a relationship and the maintenance of a relationship, it is not the sole factor that makes a relationship work. Websites such as Match.com and OKcupid may facilitate the search, but it still takes human initiative and eventual personal contact for a relationship to develop. And while constant communication may aid in maintaining a relationship, it can also set individuals up for unrealistic expectations on response times or the openness of their partner. Social media adds another layer of sharing to a relationship that can either facilitate the relationship or cause anxiety or a feeling of exclusion for one’s significant other based on what one shares with one’s friends on social media. While technology is a huge factor in modern relationships, its use and outcome is still greatly rooted in how an individual uses it. Technology may help with the nuts and bolts of a relationship, but it cannot create in-person chemistry and it cannot act as a substitute for emotional love.

Works Cited:

1. Dodson, Lauren, “Catfish and the Law.”

http://www.merrittwebb.com/b2-catfish-and-the-law/

2. Turkle, Sherry, “Flight from Conversation.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all

3. Shaw, Lisa. “What is Catfishing and Why You Should Care.”

http://parentingtodayskids.com/article/what-is-catfishing-and-why-should-you-care/

4. Constine, Josh, “Facebook’s S-1 Letter From Zuckerberg Urges Understanding Before Investment.”

http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/01/facebook-ipo-letter/

5. Couples, the Internet, and Social Media

http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/

6. Huffington Post:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/12/long-distance-relationshi_n_1271210.html

7. USA Today:

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/mentalhealth/2010-09-09-longdistance09_ST_N.htm


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This is What Democracy Looks Like

// Posted by on 02/23/2014 (8:03 PM)

After reading Jeff Sharlet’s article, Inside Occupy Wall Street, it is obvious how much power and influence technology has in our society.  The product of a simple yet powerful tweet, the Occupy Wall Street demonstration proved itself to be… Read more

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After reading Jeff Sharlet’s article, Inside Occupy Wall Street, it is obvious how much power and influence technology has in our society.  The product of a simple yet powerful tweet, the Occupy Wall Street demonstration proved itself to be much more than a mere protest as it inspired a media awareness that lead to Occupy movements worldwide.  After observing the movements growth over the period of a few months, Sharlet, someone whose spent years immersed in the right wing, refers to the OWS movement as “an incredible display of political imagination”.  Indeed, the movement was one-of-a-kind as it united diverse groups of people through technology, promoting a kind of shared voice while simultaneously creating a community that was truly unique.

It is not uncommon for one to as what was that something protesters were fighting for?  As Sharlet mentions, Adbusters had proposed a “‘worldwide shift in revolutionary tactics,’ but their big ideas went no further than pressuring Obama to appoint a presidential commission on the role of money in politics”.  Although they had initiated the beginnings of the protest, they were unaware that they had begun a movement that reached unimaginable heights.  What amazed me was the progression in size of the movement and protesters that loyally followed.  It had begun with around 2,000 individuals but quickly grew, attracting people from all over.  With the creation of a public clinic, library, and kitchen, the Occupy Wall Street movement had created a new whole.  It is almost as if they created a world within a world.  People committed to the cause considered this home and seemed to have this sense of shared generosity and spirit.  People were, undoubtedly, attracted to OWS for different reasons.  As protester Jesse Legraca admitted, he was first drawn to the park after seeing a topless girl.  And the addition of free food did not hurt either.  Fellow protester David Graeber, in contrast, was a radical anthropologist and anarchist who was committed to the cause and even created the theme to the overall movement.

This idea of unification is what drove Occupy Wall Street and allowed it to function for as long as it did.  As previously mentioned, Graeber created a theme for the movement, “we are the 99%”.  This movement was particularly different than past ones as there were no designated leaders or speakers.  People, rather, functioned as a large group and were excited by the idea that they were taking true advantage of democracy.  Thus, this feeling of genuine democracy is a significant aspect of the OWS movement.  As Shalret states, many Americans view “democracy as little more than an unhappy choice between two sides of the same corporate coin”.  With minimal agency, the chance to be part of a real decision—to make a change—is an exciting prospect. With no defined reasons or statements telling people why they needed to come to the OWS demonstration, it created this sense of liberation and open communication.  People came to the cause to decide as a whole what their aim was and what decisions to were to be made.  OWS protesters had one voice, literally, as they adopted a new form of amplification—the human microphone.  This only emphasized the idea that every individual could be heard and served only to further unify the community.

For a leaderless movement, Occupy Wall Street was an extremely unique demonstration of the power of technology in our society.  The movement in itself was created and further perpetuated through technology and media.  It is obvious that a movement like this could not have existed even twenty years ago and just highlights how quickly technology has progressed throughout the past decade.  The question is, what will come next?  How will protests or social/political movements function in a decade? How will technology continue to shape our world and will it be for the better?


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Occupy Wall Street

// Posted by on 02/23/2014 (5:35 PM)

This week we read an article by Jeff Sharlet called, “Inside Occupy Wall Street.” Sharlet shed some light on what Occupy Wall Street (OWS) really is and the enormous impact it has made around the world. I was never educated… Read more

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This week we read an article by Jeff Sharlet called, “Inside Occupy Wall Street.” Sharlet shed some light on what Occupy Wall Street (OWS) really is and the enormous impact it has made around the world. I was never educated or award of the magnitude of OWS and the amount of people involved in the movement. At first after reading the article and developing my knowledge on the situation, it is still difficult for me to really understand the whole purpose of the protest. Why are thousands of people camping out in this park for months trying to get Wall Street’s attention? Do they want business professionals to walk out of their building and hand these people jobs? I just did not see the end goal all of these protesters were aiming for. However after the class discussion, I am starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together a little more now. I understand that all they want is for them, “the 99%” to have a level playing field with the 1%, Wall Street businessmen and women. However, is that a realistic goal, to make everyone equal? How will the economy appreciate and grow overtime if no one is trying to work his or her way up the professional latter?

The first sentence of Sharlet’s article also blew my mind, as I was completely unaware that this global/universal movement came from one simple Tweet and hashtag, #occupywallstreet. It is events like this that truly show the world how incredibly powerful technology is becoming. Social media has changed the world forever. Would OWS been as big if people tried to form it in the 40s? There is no way. People around the world would not have heard about this protest without the type of technology we have today. It is due to things like Twitter, Facebook, online newspapers, etc, that these events get the media’s attention all throughout the world. With the knowledge of the movement through technology, more and more people began showing up to the park to help protest. Technology allowed Occupy Wall Street to reach the magnitude it did. Without it, the movement would not be talked about today and would have sizzled out long ago. It would not have become such a global sensation the way it did. Technology, with the help of social media allowed for all of these people to join together and be part of something larger than themselves. The dedication from these people, I will say, impresses me. I cannot believe some stayed for weeks, even months at a time to prove to the world things need to change. The efforts from these people are incredible.

After reading Sharlet’s piece and again seeing the powerful of technology and how persuasive it can truly be, scares me. Anyone has the capabilities to tweet whatever they want and develop millions of followers. This is exactly what happened when a male teenager posted on his Facebook page that he had a good idea to raid a mall and begin shoplifting and hurting people. The post received many comments and likes. Many of his friends and their friends began joining the group and were eager to help in his horrific act. Without the power of Facebook and the abilities it has to reach millions of people, this would never have happened. This is why when technology and social media falls into the hands of the wrong people it can become incredibly scary and harmful. But is there anyway of stopping it?


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A World Without Internet

// Posted by on 02/10/2014 (9:06 PM)

After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if… Read more

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After reading Mark Poster’s Information Please and watching Frontline’s “Secret State of North Korea” I found myself trying to examine the ways in which the internet has shaped the world as we know it, and what I would do if there was no internet at all. Certain people, in countries like North Korea, only see the information that the government wants them to see. I recently read an article in which the author referred to these countries as “black holes” of the Internet, in which the people have no access to what we now know is one of the strongest tools for social and political change.

We’ve talked a lot in class this week about revolts inspired by social media and how easy it is to begin these riots via Twitter, BBM, Facebook, etc. Now it has become clear that there is a disturbingly stark contrast between our power as citizens and people who live in places like North Korea. In his book Information Please, Poster states that “the speed, the rhetorical traits, and the connectivity of the Net can be used to organize social movements…the Net affords the possibility of new forms of political mobilization” (Poster, 80). Our ability to share information and communicate so quickly with one another has given us tremendous power to change conditions of society that we disagree with, even for those of us who think we have no real political power other than voting in elections. Seeing the Frontline video about North Korea was troubling because it shows us what we take for granted and gives us insight into how different our lives might be without internet access (which allows us to see information about almost anything we desire). The people of North Korea are desperate for exposure to other cultures and even simple information about their own country and its ruler.

Many of us complain that social media and the internet are lessening our social skills or creating a reliance on technology. Seeing one alternative, though, puts into perspective how lucky we are to live in the US, a place where we can spread information freely about whatever we choose. Although some parts of the internet are regulated, we can certainly begin to appreciate the freedom and ease with which we gain access to information and communicate with each other. In seeing the conditions in North Korea, it is clear  how horrible it would be if the rest of the world was evolving and getting access to the internet and social media while we were left behind. Looking at the map of the “black holes” of the internet, I thought of how strange it would be to live in one of those places. While I do agree that many of us rely on technology too much, I appreciate it for what it is: a tool to spread information without which I would be lost.



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Social Media as a Supplement to Conversation, and Why Bots are the Actual Threat

// Posted by on 02/01/2014 (6:01 PM)

This week, I have found the question of whether or not social media makes us lonely to be of particular interest. Most of us agree that we are generally too “plugged in” to our devices- we are constantly checking our… Read more

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This week, I have found the question of whether or not social media makes us lonely to be of particular interest. Most of us agree that we are generally too “plugged in” to our devices- we are constantly checking our e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name a few. This need to reach for our phones particularly occurs when we are actually sitting alone somewhere or if everyone else is on their phones as well. Doing this make us feel more in control of the situation and less like an outsider. So is social media isolating us or bringing us closer together? The following link is to a Ted Talk given by Sherry Turkle that I watched last semester for my “Advanced Theories of Interpersonal Communication” class, which discusses many of the points she makes in her New York Times article, “The Flight From Conversation.” http://www.ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.html While I understand Turkle’s main argument that we are in a culture of “being alone together,” I agree more with Tufekci’s argument that social media is just one aspect of communication that is meant to enhance connection, not replace conversation.

I agree with Turkle’s claim that the “sips of connection” we get through texting and social media do not substitute for real conversation, but I do not believe they are meant to do so. Indeed, forming a true relationship of any kind with someone via social media would be futile as you do not get an understanding of one’s true character strictly through those types of interactions. However, it cannot be denied that social media and texting have enabled us to maintain our relationships with friends, family members, and significant others while we are separated by distance. Even though we may look at their Facebook pages while we are apart, that does not mean that once we are reunited we do not engage in conversations about things that happened since we last saw each other. For the most part, I believe Tufekci is right in saying that “the people Turkle sees with their heads down on their devices while on a train somewhere are … connecting to people they deem important in their lives. They are not talking to bots.” Turkle also claims that social media and texting ruin our ability to self-reflect as we can edit and delete things before posting and sending them as opposed to fumbling in real time and exposing our true selves. I find several things puzzling about this claim. If we are taking the time to think about our responses to texts and editing pictures to post online, I believe there is a certain degree of self-reflection happening through that process. Personally, I do not post photos to Facebook or Instagram purely because I want others to see them, but rather because I can look back on the pictures to serve as a nice documentation of my life. In this sense, having photos online and writing tweets can be compared to having a modern diary of sorts. Also, taking a bit of time to think through a response to a text can be a good thing as sometimes it can save you from overreacting. The ability to reflect and think about an appropriate response is a learning process that can foster maturity. While Turkle notes that people are taking the time to edit responses, she also says we are demanding responses much faster due to these technologies. Features like read receipts that tell you when the other person has read your message or text can drive one crazy if they do not get an immediate response. Thus, there is a paradox in Turkle’s argument as she claims we take the time to edit ourselves so we can’t fumble in real time, but we also demand quick responses. Surely we are bound to expose our true selves if we are responding quickly to someone, thus maintaining that element of real time.

Turkle and Tufekci both address the prospect of bots in the future, and whether technology and social media should be lumped into the same category. Having just read From Counterculture to Cyberculture, I think it is undeniable that the culture fostered by these advances in technology has prompted people to wonder how far we can take it. However, I do not think it is right to place social media and technology in the same category. To me, technology is the actual iPhone, iPad, laptop, etc. It has many capabilities, however these would be meaningless if people did not want to access social media. Social media sites are websites, whereas iPhones, iPads and the like enable us to access these sites on the go. One could argue that the rise of social media made smart phones and iPads more appealing as there was now a need for their capabilities. When the iPhone first came out, I thought it was silly. I wondered why I needed to have my camera, phone and iPod all in one when I already owned each of the separate goods. However, now that I’ve owned an iPhone I don’t know what I would do without it. Bots, on the other hand, seem like a very strange concept to me that I do not believe would be healthy. After every quote in Turkle’s article from people saying they want to learn to have a real conversation, or would like a bot to get love and life advice from rather than a human, I could not help thinking how weird they sounded. Technology and social media are not a substitute for real-life relationships and conversations. I agree with Tufekci’s claim based on her research that correlation does not equate to causation. Those who are dependent on technology and social media to the point that they are lonely or prefer it to actual interactions are probably more introverted people who would be socially awkward even without social media. I believe social media was created with the intention of it being a supplement to in-person communication, and a way to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones despite distance. Conversely, bots would be created with the intention of being a substitute for human interaction, and I think this is where technology crosses the line into becoming dangerous to human interaction.


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My Generation

// Posted by on 04/25/2013 (2:57 PM)

Being born in 1993 I am now 19 and have never known life without technology. As a student I use it daily in forms such as online textbooks, social media, music, group projects, a social tool, and even a… Read more

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Being born in 1993 I am now 19 and have never known life without technology. As a student I use it daily in forms such as online textbooks, social media, music, group projects, a social tool, and even a tutor, to name a few. This generation is one that will change the world. As technology advances it seems that I, along with my peers, advance alongside. My parents however are stuck in the past, asking me to do simple things such as record a video, download an app, or god forbid send a text. What does this widening gap mean for the future of my generation, for my future?

It is interesting to think of my parents as less capable than me in any instance of my life, seeing as they have had 40 more years than I have had to master life skills. However it is becoming more clear to me as new advances in technology occur that my generation, the digital generation, is willing and more than able to take charge of the world and push it in a direction that my parents generation couldn’t fathom at our age, one that they didn’t even know possible.

My generation, like every generation before is rebellious towards, and misunderstood by our elders. The fact that my parents used to scold me for having my phone out during dinner, or playing music to loud is now comical to the extent that everyone I know is face down in their respective Iphone, Ipad, or laptop. While my father had to go to his library and look for a book for information, advances in technology have made learning and obtaining information as simple as a Google search. While I go to school and take four classes a semester with my classmates, I am constantly learning about the world and various other subjects by myself, on my own schedule, and to my own fancy. This is the most exciting feature of my generation, the inability to feel accomplished. With unlimited resources at my fingertips, available to me in a fraction of a second, I never feel like I have truly learned all there is to learn, or uncovered all aspects of a topic. This longing I feel for more information at all times is felt by all in my generation.

Jerry Adler wrote an article for WIRED entitled 1993, Meet the First Digital Generation. Now Get Ready to Play by Their Rules.In it he addresses an interesting point about social networks and the risky business that my generation undertakes using social networking sites to make our social lives completely transparent over the Internet. In it he interviews a girl in her 20s about her Facebook life. “She is casual about what some might consider the risks of oversharing.” He writes, “In the future, she says, it won’t matter if you did post a picture of yourself covered in chocolate, because ‘the people who care will all retire and the world will be run by my generation, which doesn’t give a shit.’” This is a testament to the attitude of my generation. What my parents find totally unacceptable, I find normal.

What does all this talk of a digital generation really mean? To me it signifies a defining moment in time, a point of no return. Whether older generations agree with it or not, technology has taken over and is here to stay. My generation is the first to have advanced technology throughout our whole lives, leaving a bigger gap than ever before between us and our parents.

My generation will be the ones to take the world into the digital revolution and the next chapter of time. We are at the frontier of the exploration and expansion of the digital space, the fore fathers of a changing world.  Whatever happens next is up to us, we have the power. The only question left is what will we do with this power? To that question I have a simple answer, whatever we want.


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Online or Offline, or Both?

// Posted by on 04/08/2013 (6:37 PM)

In the past, activist movements usually took place offline and had a lack of connection to the Internet. Nowadays these movements are taking place online more and more. An interesting article I found online speaks of the… Read more

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In the past, activist movements usually took place offline and had a lack of connection to the Internet. Nowadays these movements are taking place online more and more. An interesting article I found online speaks of the blurring of online and offline movements to create a more influential and far reaching movement. Mob Lab wrote an interesting article describing the move from offline movements to a more combined approach using both offline and online tactics to help expand their ideas.

One interesting example  in the article was that of the Belgium Food Bank. The organization used likes on Facebook to help donate money to the food banks. However in addition to that they put up a live feed that would show the picture of whoever liked the page being printed and then put on a massive wall. This technique worked well because the people who liked the page actually got to see their personal picture being put up on a live video that was accessible to the whole world. This helped to entice people to see that they had a bigger impact than simply clicking a like button on Facebook.

The opportunities that the Internet provide for connecting offline movements to online movements is a giant step towards online activism. I believe that incorporating both the offline and online aspects of any organization into activist movements will help to propel the influence of movements that would otherwise not make a big impact on the global community.

One thing that organizations must avoid however is the possibility of helping to expand slactivism. Slactivism could potentially become a major problem by delegitimizing movements that have a good idea at heart but lack the actual drive and motivation that is only possible by real people doing real things, not just clicking a button and thinking you are changing the world. As organizations start to blend the offline and online aspects of their respective movements I believe that it is important to remember that we live in a physical world and not in an abstract online based community.

While the Internet has undoubtedly helped to increase global participation and awareness I believe that it is important to stick to our roots offline and use the internet as tool to advance ideas instead of the only outlet for activist movements. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how organizations choose to go about raising awareness for causes and then actually taking action towards those goals in the real world, not just the Internet.

Check out this video for more info:


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A Brighter Future

// Posted by on 04/01/2013 (1:04 AM)

When the subject of US Mexican relations is brought up it is almost instantly turned to talk of intense violence, drug cartels, trafficking, and missing people. These problems are very real and in need of answers, however they are… Read more

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When the subject of US Mexican relations is brought up it is almost instantly turned to talk of intense violence, drug cartels, trafficking, and missing people. These problems are very real and in need of answers, however they are not easy problems with foolproof answers. A possible answer to these problems can be found in online activism.

Online activism is a new form of protest that takes place solely online in a 3rd space.  Social activism is being transformed by the web.  Some of the most creative forms of protest and philanthropy are taking place online. People who are powerless in the modern world now have a voice that can be heard and seen by millions online with the click of a button. Online activism has the power to change how the world runs, for better or worse. In the case of the border predicament I can see online activism doing amazing things for the growing problem.

Online activism has the potential to unite the common citizen against the violence that many border towns face everyday. A quote from an online article describes the power of online activism quite well, the quote goes “Once a citizen feels he is not powerless, he can aspire for more change. … First, the Web democratized commerce, and then it democratized media, and now it is democratizing democracy.” The web gives the average citizen power that he or she would normally be without. One such example of the possibilities that online activism can bring to the table is an organization called Center for Citizen Integration. This organization “aggregates Twitter messages from citizens about everything from broken streetlights to “situations of risk” and plots them in real-time on a phone app map of Monterrey that warns residents what streets to avoid, alerts the police to shootings and counts in days or hours how quickly public officials fix the problems.” It is a very interesting idea that has the potential to drastically increase the role of the citizen and hopefully decrease crime rates and drug related violence.

Online activism is a rapidly growing trend and now companies and organizations are popping up with the sole goal of aiding online activists. One such organization is Advancing Human Rights and is helping to reach out to citizens in countries that face injustices but do not have the power to resist them.

The two examples previously stated are a symbol of hope to the future of online activism, and a bright light that could potentially fight the war on drugs and the border relations of US and Mexico. When I read about the spread of the idea of online activism it gives me confidence that the web will grow as a force for good. It will be very interesting to see in the coming years how drastically online activist movements affect the violence and drug scene that has engulfed towns and cities on both sides of the border.


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The New Face of Television

// Posted by on 03/03/2013 (10:58 PM)

Is it a fantasy to believe that in ten years more than half of all videos streaming on moblie devices will be live? Not according to Steven Levy, who wrote the article “Living onRead more

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Is it a fantasy to believe that in ten years more than half of all videos streaming on moblie devices will be live? Not according to Steven Levy, who wrote the article “Living on a Stream”. Levy explores companies like Skype and Color, two companies that deal with online video streaming. In this shifting digital age people are able to stream and share live video through the internet opening up new doors for social media and increasing the role of the netizen to provide information to their peers.  Koozoo is a leading force behind the expanding influence of video sharing. This company lets you turn your old cracked iphone or your brand new iphone into a 24/7 live streaming video camera. An article published by Wired speaks of how this video sharing is changing the way humans interact. These webcams are being used in place of typical news such as weather and traffic reports. Due to new companies like Koozoo you are able to see live feeds of anything someone finds interesting enough to record, such as city views, traffic, concerts, and anything trending.

The ability of the netizen to be able to share images around the world with groups of people brings up many ideas and questions. One interesting point brought up in Graeme McMillan’s article found in Wired is the possibility of a downfall of television due to live streaming on mobile devices. Mcmillan starts his article by stating “With its new array of online options for viewing media — not to mention the increasing amount of original content created for online audiences — the internet has become a disruptive influence on the traditional television business, plain and simple.” With live media sharing on the rise people will start to look to their iphones for information such as weather, traffic, and news, all of which will be provided for free by one netizen for another. Is it possible  this new network could potentially become more popular than television?

A big concern when dealing with video streaming is the rights to privacy and invasions of such rights. If one is able to stream live video from anywhere in the world to an open group the possibility for abuse rises. The possibility of invasion of privacy increases dramatically with this new social network of live video, as does the possibility of pirated materials. While there is no doubt that video streaming will become bigger in the future, possibly bigger than TV, the lingering question of privacy is one that is sure to be debated as this technology evolves and expands.

 


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Is Cybercrime a Dominant Threat?

// Posted by on 02/25/2013 (2:20 AM)

 

 

In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We… Read more

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In class on tuesday we had a very interesting conversation about the online group that goes by the name Anonymous. Located on the Anonymous twitter is their mission statement which says “We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us. As official accounts do not exist, we’re an Anonymous account amongst many.” Anonymous is a hacktivist group of an unknown number of people who are very gifted with hacking computers and accounts. The group was creted over the internet thanks to the website 4chan, whos mission statement is “4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images. There are boards dedicated to a variety of topics, from Japanese animation and culture to videogames, music, and photography. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community. Feel free to click on a board that interests you and jump right in!”  This is the platform that the members of Anonymous first met and started the  group.

Anonymous is  a very interesting idea, members of the group pretty much pick and choose things they agree with and things they are against, and if they dont agree with someone or a company, they will hack it. The hacks can be mild such as taking over a site and changing things such as the pictures or information on the website, to a more intense hack such as shutting down a site for a few days. Anonymous is known most for  things such as Project Chanology, a youtube video that protested the church of scientology, their attack on the Department of Justice website, and their take down of the Master Card and Visa websites. Anonymous is a very serious group that as the potential to hack many important government documents and big businesses. This bring up the question, should we be scared, and if so what can we do?

This group has the potential to fight for things that ordinary people cant. It also has the power to abuse their hacking skills for legitimate online terrorism. The ordinary human has nowhere near the internet and computer prowess that the members of anonymous have, which makes us not only vulnerable but completely helpless if they decide to hack one of our computers.

Thinking about it we are all at risk from them and other hackers. How does the average person stop a cyberattack from such a powerful group? The sad but true reality is that we really are powerless. if Anonymous decides to hack your computer there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop it. Its a scary thought, to know that we are hopeless to the whims of an online group.

We talked in class about  increasing globalization due to amazing new technologies that are constantly being invented and upgraded. Culture around the world is revolutionizing to a digital world as technology continues to improve. I am interested to see how hackers, online criminals, and groups like Anonymous evolve as well. Will they become more efficient at identity left, hacking computers for information, and taking over websites as a personal vendetta. The group Anonymous is sure to be around for a while and with their future hacks unknown it will be interesting the path they decide to take.

 


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Twitter Acquiring Bluefin

// Posted by on 02/10/2013 (8:31 PM)


Twitter bought the company Bluefin Labs earlier this week for nearly 100 million dollars. Bluefin is a company that records and analyzes online interactions and chitter about tv shows, and then sells their findings. Read more

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Twitter bought the company Bluefin Labs earlier this week for nearly 100 million dollars. Bluefin is a company that records and analyzes online interactions and chitter about tv shows, and then sells their findings. The New York Times reported the purchase February 5th after Twitter and Bluefin both released blog posts confirming the deal had been made. Ali Rowghani a chief operating officer at Twitter said in a statement that, “We believe that Bluefin’s data science capabilities and social TV expertise will help us create innovative new ad products and consumer experiences in the exciting intersection of Twitter and TV.” Twitter spent over 100 million for this company, but why? Bluefin Labs will help Twitter take advantage of what is becoming a new “social TV experience.” This happens when people watching TV will communicate in real time over twitter over whats going on in the show.

A short video published by Marketplace.org helps explain how twitter will be able to find out what people are talking about and should in turn be able to turn a profit from using this knowledge about what is trending. This acquisition is taking place in a time where people already believe that certain internet companies have to much power and will end up hurting the consumers if they get to big for their own good. While Twitter is still not nearly as large as Facebook or Google this purchase is going to help greatly expand the company. The question that is put forth is whether certain internet giants are becoming to powerful and are threatening to monopolize their respective markets.  Google is a good example, it still accounts for 90 percent of  searches in europe even though other search engines such as bing and yahoo are available for use. Googles dominance of the search engine market will make it close to impossible for other companies to make any profit. And if there was a company that did show some promise to become a big influence in the market google could simply buy that company. Twitters recent acquisition of Bluefin is the latest example of the expanding internet giants and as our appetites for information grow it will be interesting to see how these companies continue to expand.


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The Rise of Google

// Posted by on 02/04/2013 (12:15 AM)

The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is… Read more

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The Google stock has reached its all time high as of February 1st , the stock rising 2.6% to reach $775.60. The Google stock price is itself a testament to the Internet giant that is Google. What is particularly spectacular is how Google came to fruition.  Google is a household name today, accounting for about 2/3rds of the Internet search market in the United States and closer to 90% in Europe.  It has taken over the Internet reaching over 1 Billion unique visitors a month. This is a number that is staggering, as there are 7 billion in the world, meaning one out of every seven people has used Google in the past month.

While Google is known around the world today, it came from humble beginnings. It’s start came in 1995 and was the brainchild of creators Larry Page and Sergey Brin.  Page was born in Michigan and graduated from the University of Michigan. Brin was born in the Soviet Union and graduated from the University of Maryland.  The two met at Stanford, both of whom were computer science graduate students. What brought these two vastly different people together to build Google? It was an idea.  An idea to, as Sergey Brin stated,  “tackle the internet, which represents human knowledge.”  Their shared passion for creating something new that had the opportunity to change the way the internet worked was the driving force of the co-founders to craft Google into what it is today.

Google began to gain recognition after it was mentioned in PC magazine in October of 1998.  “The site has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results. There’s much more to come at Google!, but even in its prototype form it’s a great search engine.” PC magazine was spot on in their predictions when they wrote there is much more to come from Google.

Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Douglas Edwards, who was Google’s 59th employee wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal called “The Beginning.” This piece is a first hand look at how the company was run and how a group of misfits were able to create the most used search engine in the world. They did this while maintaining the ability to stay true to themselves and their ultimate goals. After reading this article I gained more respect for Google and the people running it. The masterminds behind Google started this company with a vision and despite any negative feedback they were able to build a Internet sensation from the ground up. From humble beginnings in a garage to a fortune 500 company Google was a pioneer at the turn of the internet age. As technology continues to evolve I look forward to seeing how Google adapts and if they are able to continue their reign as supreme in the Internet industry. Google is taking over the Internet and it all started from the ideas of two graduate students. Some argue that the success Google has had is due to pure luck, while there is no clear answer Google continues to grow. As new Internet companies are being introduced into the web, I am interested to see how Google continues to adapt to new challenges and hardships. 

 


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The Girl Who Cried “Fire”

// Posted by on 01/28/2013 (10:27 PM)

This weekend, a terrible fire occurred in a Brazilian nightclub called “Kiss.” The club was filled far beyond its capacity, which lead to further chaos when the fire broke out. It spread faster and was difficult to contain. Over 230… Read more

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This weekend, a terrible fire occurred in a Brazilian nightclub called “Kiss.” The club was filled far beyond its capacity, which lead to further chaos when the fire broke out. It spread faster and was difficult to contain. Over 230 people were killed and the scene described in related articles is disturbing and tragic. Could the fire have been saved by social media?

The Huffington Post published an article about a 20 year old in the club who posted a Facebook status within an hour of the disaster. The post read “Incéndio na KISS socorro,” which translates to “Fire at KISS help.” The post received many comments, including one that said “the last check-in.” The girl who posted the status died in the fire, alongside hundreds of others. The fire appears to have been started as a result of pyrotechnics used in the band’s performance.

Another article in the Huffington Post about the incident says that the band that performed on this night feels threatened through social media sights.  People have been making claims that they will have to pay and the band fears retaliation.

In this instance, we see social media for good and for bad. Well, the victim’s post could have been better if her Facebook friends had perhaps reacted in a more urgent matter. Does this stem from that people make over-dramatic statuses? Then there is the flip side, that the band is now receiving threats through social media outlets. How will they keep themselves safe when (probably) all their activity is live-posted and geo-tagged thanks to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare…

I find the situation simultaneously hopeful but discouraging. Social media is such a powerful tool, even has the power to save lives; in the physical and the metaphorical sense (think about FB campaigns that raise money). That being said, so often it is used for harm or for scheming. It’s so vast and basically impossible to control. If people could learn to harness the positive potential of social media outlets, the internet could become a less threatening space. What if you could tweet @911 (or the equivalent emergency hotline) and get a call or help immediately? Or text your location to a “HELP” line if you are in a situation and unable to make a phone call, i.e. a crowded club or the back of a kidnap van? The possibilities are there.

Facebook Post

Brazilian Nightclub Fire


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Slacktivism (Phase 1)

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (9:29 PM)

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

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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:

  • Change.org
  • 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!”

Social Media Action Center

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).

SignUp.org

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.”

 

Here’s the link to my final blog!


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Twitter and Trolls and Cultural Shifts, Oh My!

// Posted by on 03/28/2012 (11:42 AM)

I guess I’ll be one of the brave souls to mention trolling in a post because recent class discussions have caused me to consider the impact of technology on our culture (our Digital America, if you will). Throughout the semester,… Read more

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I guess I’ll be one of the brave souls to mention trolling in a post because recent class discussions have caused me to consider the impact of technology on our culture (our Digital America, if you will). Throughout the semester, I have read articles that argue that social media sites have changed our culture for the worse; we choose to interact with people through computer screens instead of in person, we are distancing ourselves from “real” human interaction, we are forgetting how to socialize, etc. These articles make a compelling and significant point in that nothing can replace the interactions we have in person that make us humans, and the new digital culture we live in is moving us away from this. One counter point to this argument is that social media sites are new tools that actually improve our connections with people, both from close up as well as from far away. Using a site like Facebook or Twitter allows people to share more of their lives with both those directly around them as well as those possibly oceans away. It is the times when people sit next to each other and are constantly on their smartphones, however, that causes this question of whether or not social media is making or breaking our new cultural age of communication.

I recently read an opinion in mashable.com written by Josh Rose. Rose attempts to argue that social media has a positive impact on our culture by describing the way in which he interacts with his son, whom he only gets to see occasionally because he and his wife are divorced. Rose says that the “I don’t care what you had for breakfast this morning” argument against social media may apply to some people, but in his case, he dies for the moments where his son tells him exactly that. Rose notes how confusing social media can be for those who engage with it: “Social media simultaneously draws us nearer and distances us.” People feel both pulled closer to the people far away from them but sometimes distanced from those in their physical proximity. Rose makes an observation from the coffee shop he is writing in: four people are reading newspapers while four people are on their laptops. He observes the “juxtapositions of physical and digital going on,” and observes that “people aren’t giving up long-form reading, considered thinking or social interactions. They are just filling all the space between.” This is an interesting idea, “filling the space between.” People who interact with social media aren’t moving away from their cultural surroundings, they are merely filling the gap between interactions. After all, as Rose puts it, “the Internet doesn’t steal our humanity, it reflects it. The Internet doesn’t get inside us, it shows what’s inside us.” Social media gives us a medium through which to share our thoughts, feelings, goings-on, etc. instead of replacing them in some way with something less real. The internet is the medium which the message is conveyed, it is not becoming the message itself.

 

After reading Rose’s piece, I began to think about how this positive impact on our lives he cites contrasts with the impact trolling has been cited to have. For those who are unclear on what exactly “trolling” is, knowyourmeme.com gives a comprehensive definition of trolling to make it more clear. The New York Times simply defines it as “manipulating other people’s emotional equilibrium.” There have been many stories about how trolling has caused not just emotional distress, but emotional destruction to its victims. One man in the UK was arrested for “trolling” about a girl after she committed suicide because she was bullied. (Read the article here). This is only one example of a story like this, but there are many others out there. I then came across an article called Top 10 Trolls in Internet History, which details 10 results of “trolling” that, while causing annoyance and frustration, do not go as far as to insult a child who has ended their life. Either way, trolling seems to have only negative consequences for its victims; a point that makes sense because its intention is “emotional distress.” Further down in the knowyourmeme.com article on trolling, the “Rules of the Internet” on trolling, beginning with the statement “We are anonymous” and continuing down to “Nothing is sacred” and “The more beautiful and pure a thing is- the more satisfying it is to corrupt it.” What, now? Nothing is sacred? The more beautiful and pure something is… the more fun it is to ruin it? These ideas play into the theory of psychology that we all have a little evil in us, and under the right circumstances it can come out. It is what was seen in Philip Zimbardo’s 1971 prison experiment at Stanford University in which participants were randomly assigned to part of “prisoner” or “guard” and the guards became sadistic, causing so much emotional distress to the prisoners that the experiment had to be shut down early. The “Rules of the Internet” begin with the statement “We are anonymous,” significant because psychological distress of those who troll seems to be the gasoline on the pile of wood while anonymity is the match. What causes people to want to cause harm to loved ones of those who have died? In the New York Times article “The Trolls Among Us”, Jason Fortuny says that trolling will only stop when people stop taking it seriously. This may be true, but this type of bullying would not and is not tolerated in person; there is a word for it, and it is harassment. Anonymity makes people more likely to troll and too resource-consuming for authorities to track.

 

 

Taking both of these perspectives into mind, do you think the internet has created possibilities for more positive or negative impacts on our culture? How do you personally think our culture has been impacted by this digital age?


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A Case for Collaboration?

// Posted by on 03/26/2012 (10:21 PM)

Collaboration can be a powerful tool. However, is it in our nature to collaborate? Forbes says yes, at least for female collaboration. While musing over the general notion of collaboration, I looked back on my personal experiences. Collaboration is arguably… Read more

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Collaboration can be a powerful tool. However, is it in our nature to collaborate? Forbes says yes, at least for female collaboration. While musing over the general notion of collaboration, I looked back on my personal experiences. Collaboration is arguably frowned upon in schools (think doing homework or assignments collaboratively… in most schools this is considered cheating). If individuals are conditioned through education and collaboration is not encouraged, is it possible to expect collaboration through the internet to solve problems? Of course, there are moments—group projects— when collaboration is encouraged in schools. However, most individuals fear group projects because they cannot control every aspect. In group projects, every member should have an equal share in the work. While that’s wonderful theory, anyone who has ever been part of a group project knows that this is rarely the case. There is usually a group “leader” who usurps the power and probably does most of the project allowing the other members to merely write their names on it.

So this morning when I stumbled upon an article on Forbes.com that discussed the rise of social collaboration, I was intrigued. The articled discussed a theory of the owners of HACKEDit.com “that acknowledging a major difference between men and women will make all the difference for the tools of Web 2.0 being built today.” The difference is simple, four words:

Men network, women collaborate.

About 77% of Groupon’s income come from a female consumer base. The company just took their ability to tap into that market a step further through the creation of the Groupon Scheduler, which will allow women to collaborate online directly with the businesses they use. There is no denying that men network and women collaborate. Linkedin has done it’s own research and found that “globally, men are more savvy networkers than women.” Moreover, the Pew Internet Research found that nearly twice as many men use LinkedIn as women (63% vs. 37% respectively).

The article ultimately states that it is surprising that such a “lack of online social collaboration tools being designed for women” exists. I found this whole article rather interesting and surprising, since I do not usually view females as better collaborators than men. I think Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk on Gaming and her I Love Bees article, really challenge the legitimacy of this theory. From McGonigal’s viewpoint it seems that anyone can be an excellent collaborator if provided the right mindset.

What do you think? Are women natural collaborators? Can men be as well? Does Jane McGonigal challenge your initial beliefs?

 


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The Decline of the American Empire

// Posted by on 02/25/2012 (5:48 PM)

One of the programs I watched on Al Jazeera this week was an episode of Empire called “The Decline of the American Empire.” The description of the episode was:

“The… Read more

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One of the programs I watched on Al Jazeera this week was an episode of Empire called “The Decline of the American Empire.” The description of the episode was:

“The US has the world’s biggest economy, the most influential culture, and the most potent military machine, with a budget that equals that of all other nations combined. It is the only power with a global project defended and supported by more aircraft carriers, Fortune 500 companies, and more successful media-tainment conglomerates than any other. America’s post-Cold War optimism has given way to pessimism, forecasting a declining power and more crucially, the end of “the American era”. But the last decade has been problematic for the world’s only superpower. The rise of new regional and global powers, coupled with Washington’s recent war fiascos and financial crisis have worsened the outlook for the future of the US. So, is all this talk of the US decline premature? And if not, what role will the US play in a post-US century?

The first 20 minutes or so looks primarily at the military-industrial complex in America, and actually highlights many similar points outline in the 2005 documentary Why We Fight, directed by Eugene Jarecki, detailing the rise and maintenance of the “American war machine.” The first major point that the program “The Decline of the American Empire” deals with is the idea of U.S. strategic overstretch. Using the U.S. implementation of carrier battle groups (consisting of “an aircraft carrier, cruisers, destroyers, scores of combat aircraft … and a multitude of long and short range missiles and other weapons… it is so large the entire thing requires roughly 10,000 military personnel to operate”), it is pointed out that while we have 12 of these groups, no other nation on Earth has one, and the question of “why?” is raised.

The answer comes from Nicholas Burns, former U.S. under-secretary of state: “We are absolutely keeping America safe. The world is so complex right now, there’s so many threats and challenges to our national security. You can’t meet them in Boston, in Los Angeles, you have to go out to meet them to defend the country.” This is where I tend to grow a little skeptical. To me, defense implies reacting to some threat or adversity, not going out and looking for, or meeting, challenges. In the following video clip, starting at around 2:40, Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski echoes that sentiment by stating “If you join the military now, you are not defending the United States of America. You are helping certain policy makers pursue an imperial agenda.”

While certainly arguing a concrete political view, I think that Karen Kwiatkowski, among others in the documentary, makes a pretty bold statement about the military-industrial complex.

I think the root of the problem is closely related to the statement by Karen Kwiatkowski, that the military-industrial complex has led to a disastrous rise is misplaced power, with “people making policy who have no accountability to the voter.” This concept is elaborated on and really dissected in “The Decline of the American Empire.” Professor Andrew Bacevich states: “There is in a sense, a partnership, probably goes too far to call it a conspiracy, ’cause it’s wide open, but there’s a partnership between members of congress, the armed services and large scale defense contractors, all of whom benefit in different ways by maintaining very high levels of military spending.” This relates directly to the concept of defense, and whether we defend ourselves at home or out in the world, because, according to Nicholas Burns, “We can’t just retreat to fortress America you know and bring up the drawbridge and hope to defend our international security interests by bringing all the troops home,” and therefore, “The cycle is endlessly perpetuated. Wars need funding, funding creates jobs, jobs strengthen the economy. So perhaps the most important question of all, is whether geo-political instability is the excuse, rather than the justification. This is the essence of real politics.” I think it’s an extremely controversial topic and question, but it’s my opinion that this U.S. strategic overstretch, coupled with misplaced power due to policy makers acting more on an imperial agenda than strictly one of protection, is, in fact, contributing the the decline of the American empire.

An important thing to understand, however, is the current nature of this empire. Tom Engelhardt puts it into relative perspective by stating “There’s a kind of a madness to the situation which we’re discussing very rationally in a way, and that is this, I mean in the Cold War, a genuine major enemy, a giant nuclear arsenal, the Soviet Union, a giant army, an imperial power, that was that moment. Now, the Soviet Union disappears one day and the resulting period we end up with is a national security state, a Pentagon budget, a military intelligence bureaucracy, a national security state that’s staggeringly bigger in a world in which, at most, there are a few thousand scattered terrorists who wanna do something to us. We’re dealing unsuccessfully with a couple of minority insurgencies in the greater Middle East. I mean its extraordinary to imagine that somehow we ended up with this gigantic, call it what you will, imperial… behemoth.” I think our country has spent far too long attempting to deal with an actual threat (as in, the Cold War) to know how to handle even a minor threat (as in, “a couple of minority insurgencies”), let alone no threat at all.

I don’t want to come off as anti-American in anyway, but after watching these documentaries and programs, I feel as though we need to need to regain some perspective on the world and our particular role in it. While the general message of “The Decline of the American Empire” was that this decline is moving at slow speeds and might not ever lead to the downfall of our country, there are certain things that need to be done to ensure America remains a world superpower.

One of the things the program pointed out was the fact that both American education and American corporations are still dominating the globe, echoing the main idea behind the article “Are Companies more Powerful than Countries.” The narrator of the program states “But while America Inc. may have lost it’s AAA rating, American brands still dominate the globe. Coca Cola has a global revenue of $35bn per annum, Microsoft, $69bn and Apple a whopping $100bn.” Technology analyst Kate Bulkley elaborates by saying that “Rumours of the collapse of the US tech sector innovation is let’s say overblown. I think that there’s a lot of innovation still in Silicon Valley, there’s a lot of innovation in America full stop. You can’t count out the companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, you know they just keep coming.”

The last thing I want to talk about is the military-indisutrial-media complex. Starting at around 6:05 in the video below, the documentary delves into the role of the media in America’s wars.

Normon Solomon, in an excerpt from his book entitled “The Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” begins with “After eight years in the White House, Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address on January 17, 1961. The former general warned of ‘an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.’ He added that ‘we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.’ One way or another, a military-industrial complex now extends to much of corporate media. In the process, firms with military ties routinely advertise in news outlets. Often, media magnates and people on the boards of large media-related corporations enjoy close links—financial and social—with the military industry and Washington’s foreign-policy establishment.” While we might not have propaganda films like the original “Why We Fight” movies, we still have the news media, which, as an extension of the military-industrial complex, manipulate their audience by controlling the flow and content of the information presented. While this has its advantages, such as sparing the audience of brutal, violent images or videos when possible, is it ethical or moral to attempt to control how we think about the events being presented by not presenting the whole picture?

Obviously there is a spectrum here, and these are just my opinions based on the documentary we watched in class and the program on Al Jazeera about the decline of the American empire. I think that the U.S. military-industrial(-media) complex is still struggling to find its niche in the current geopolitical climate, and by continuing to operate as though we still have a major threat against our country (like we found in the Soviet Union during the Cold War), our country is steadily heading towards a decline in our power throughout the globe. I would like to know how other people interpreted the documentary, however, and if anyone actually watches the entire program “The Decline of the American Empire,” let me know how you would connect the two, or whether you think that there is no link between the major ideas presented both programs. Lastly, although I think that the news media is doing what’s in their best interest by limiting the information they relate to us, I think that there is still an opportunity to become as informed as possible via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Do you think the general news media reports on too little information, too much, or somewhere in the middle depending on the topic? Furthermore, how will the rise in social media sites influence the reporting by the news media, and do you think one or both of them will have to evolve to compensate for the other?

 


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Addicted to Facebook?

// Posted by on 02/20/2012 (6:19 PM)

I read this article earlier today and thought it was really interesting. I believe it was last week we talked about being addicted to social media and someone had brought up the possibility of going a day without technology.… Read more

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I read this article earlier today and thought it was really interesting. I believe it was last week we talked about being addicted to social media and someone had brought up the possibility of going a day without technology. Honestly, I do not think this would be possible or feasible for many of us who have part-time jobs in addition to taking classes, have leadership roles on campus or off that require constant updates, or have long distance relationships and technology is the only way to stay in contact. That was one topic in this story that I thought was interesting, but it was not the main reason that I am writing.

The real reason that I wanted to post this link was the idea of rehab for those who are addicted to Facebook. What constitutes being addicted to Facebook? I don’t think I would consider myself addicted, though I do check it often.

So what constitutes a Facebook addict? Are you one?


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Safer Distracted Driving?

// Posted by on 02/12/2012 (3:00 PM)

The discussions about a car that drives itself and the potential need to “unplug” from all technological sources in our lives piqued my interest about the war the United States seems to have going concerning cell phone use while driving.… Read more

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The discussions about a car that drives itself and the potential need to “unplug” from all technological sources in our lives piqued my interest about the war the United States seems to have going concerning cell phone use while driving. Would a car that drives itself be more safe from the standpoint of leaving us to be free to engage in whatever technologies we want while “driving”? How could we ever be sure that the car could really drive and react the way a person would? Is it really safe? All of these questions are still at the forefront of my mind. However, after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about things called “Connected Cars” that are now being designed to be able to tweet, check Facebook, purchase movie tickets, etc., I can’t imagine that a car that drives itself could be less safe than a car which is inviting its driver to engage in touch screen controls for social media sites while driving. Joe White, a senior editor at the Wall Street Journal, gives an interview on these new cars:

 

 

In the interview, Joe White states, “This technology race that used to be around safety is moving around into this arena of connecting your car to the cloud.” The fact that people are no longer capable of “unplugging,” even if just for a 15 minute drive, is also discussed in the context of this new realm that car companies have entered in which integrating technology into the driving experience is crucial for success. It is described as “safer distracted driving,” but safer than what? I am skeptical that looking at your phone screen is much less safe than fiddling with a touchscreen in front of you that is built into your car. Why grant people the ability to tweet or check Facebook while driving at all? I think this technology may be enabling more people to engage in distracted driving because those who may not be likely to check their phone may be tempted to begin using the technology that is built into the car. The interviewer in this video describes this new integration of social media into cars as “like groups who give heroin addicts clean needles…and at least with that you can say that it’s a real addiction, this is just feeding people’s need to tweet, it seems a little excessive.”

 

I can’t say which mode of engaging in technology while driving is “safer,” but this new race to integrate it into the driving experience poses an important question: why do you think, despite so much backlash about cell phone usage while driving, corporate America is giving in to this craving for technology? I guess making money is the obvious answer. Why is it that, despite knowing how much more likely we are to get in an accident while using a cell phone, we still refuse to let go of them? Why do we insist on finding different ways to integrate technology instead of giving up and accepting that driving is simply safer without it? Why is society “willing to absorb that cost, that safety risk, because we view this as important for the way we live our lives”? Why is it so important?


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Politics Online

// Posted by on 02/11/2012 (5:49 PM)

I don’t know if I paid enough attention to political ads before the last election (although I should have, since it was the first time I could vote), but the countless ads I just spend a couple hours going through… Read more

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I don’t know if I paid enough attention to political ads before the last election (although I should have, since it was the first time I could vote), but the countless ads I just spend a couple hours going through seem to me to play more like movie trailers than anything else. Towards the end, I found myself caring less about any “facts” (or opinions) the ads contained, and more about what type of music it was playing or whether or not the ad could hold my attention. In the end, however, I tried to narrow down the common themes in each candidate’s ads.

After watching Newt Gingrich’s ads, I got the feeling that most of the ads on Newt’s youtube page were geared at attacking specifically Mitt Romney by comparing him to Obama

After watching Mitt Romney’s ads, I got the feeling that most of his ads were geared at attacking a statement by Obama on his “one-term proposition”

After watching some of the videos on Rick Santorum’s youtube page, I realized that there really weren’t too many actual ads, but a lot of videos like this one depicting parts of his campaign

Ron Paul’s political ads were sort of unique in that the attack ads weren’t completely aimed at smashing his competition, but usually ended with a positive spin on Ron Paul and his politics, usually focusing on his “incorruptibility”

Of all the political ads I watched, however, the one’s that really stuck out to me were Barack Obama’s. I realized that his were different because he doesn’t really need to defend against any other potential democratic candidates, and can focus more on looking at this past term and what he has already done for this country. The main reason I liked these ads, however, had nothing to do with politics at all. My favorite example is this video, looking back at the last 5 years

I’ve realized that Obama, more than any other candidate, is embracing and utilizing the internet to a great advantage. Despite the fact that all of the political ads today are online, this ad takes it one step further by creatively moving back and forth between an email, a webpage, and youtube videos. If Obama’s use of the internet wasn’t already apparent, the ad makes sure it is by stating “he’s the first candidate we’ve ever seen that’s had an organization that brought together the internet and community organizing.”

An article on wired.com a couple weeks ago featured Obama and Romney’s adoption of mobile payments for donations. After briefly describing how this process works, the article goes on to state:

“The Obama campaign and administration has embraced technology to a much greater degree than most past presidents, and is also leveraging social media, a tool that wasn’t even available prior to the George W. Bush administration. In 2008, Obama complemented his presidential campaign with an iPhone app in order to help voters learn more about the then-senator. After he was elected, the president then began posting regular YouTube fireside chats, harkening back to FDR’s radio-transmitted fireside chats during the Great Depression. Most recently, Obama even took part in a Google+ Hangout.”

Since everything today is moving online, and we do in fact live in a “digital america,” I think that the use of the internet, among other forms of new technology, could very well make or break this upcoming election. My own personal political standing notwithstanding, Obama’s embrace of digital media is a big step, and a great way to reach a vast amount of people. When the pros and cons are compared, I tend to think that this utilization of the internet can do more good than bad for Obama, but could there be some negative consequences or unintended outcomes? Furthermore, I’d like to know what other people thought of the ads by the republican candidates, and any common themes or big points that I may have missed or misunderstood.


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