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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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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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It’s Just a “Boyish Hoax” Ladies, Relax!

// Posted by on 03/24/2014 (6:53 PM)

After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly… Read more

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After our class discussions last week, I wanted to continue to focus on the topic of women and the Internet.  After reading Amanda Hess’ article, Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet, it became just how important this issue truly is in our current society.  In our digital age, it is far more likely for individuals to feel comfortable expressing themselves more freely than they normally would in face-to-face conversation.  This is, simply put, because we are able to hide behind a screen.  We do not feel the direct affect our words have on others, have control over who sees what we post, and do not have to take the risking our confidence.  Although this ability for open expression does yield various positive results, it is also poses very serious threats to individuals’ emotional and physical safety.  Where do we draw the line?  When is a threat made online taken as seriously as one made in person?  Whose responsible for this content and what shall be the repercussions for it?

One set of statistics in Hess’ article really stood out to me: Feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day while Masculine names received 3.7.  Similarly, she references a survey that Pew conducted gathering data from 2000 to  2005 which showed the percentage of internet users who participated in online chats and discussion groups.  Participants dropped from 28 percent to 17 percent, “‘entirely because of women’s fall off in participation’” (Hess).  After receiving both morbid death and terrifying rape threats, it is understandable why a woman would turn away from the Internet- delete her Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  Should women really be so uncomfortable to the point where they have to do so?  Where they feel there is no other option than to “digitally disappear”?  This position women often face does not seem fair to me.  The use of the internet will only continue to expand and women should not have to choose between using the Internet and feeling safe.  The Internet is a crucial resource for work and social communication between family and friends.

A big part of this dilemma is the lack of law enforcement in regards to digital threats.  Hess discusses the experiences of numerous women who had been continuously threatened on the Internet.  Even after consulting the police, however, the situations largely remained unresolved.  As Hess asserts, “the Internet is a global network, but when you pick up the phone to report an online threat, you end up face-to-face with a cop who patrols a comparatively puny jurisdiction” (Hess).  With police dismissing online threats as non-immediate and therefore not serious, women are left alone with no real resolution or justice.  With this common pattern of police response, it seems as though they are suggesting that women should take online threats lightly.  Obviously, a woman can experience harassment anywhere, not just on the Internet, however, as our society continues to increasingly depend on the Internet, it is no longer something we can overlook.  Today, harassers are able to remain anonymous and target women for no reason whatsoever.  Who is to tell women that their fear and anxiety is not real?  Why is the seemly discrete message seen to be, just forget about it and move on?  Something is fundamentally wrong with this picture…

The Internet is not a safe place, and even less safe of one for women.  Although there have been various efforts to prevent online harassment and bullying, there are no laws that allow women to bring claims against individuals.  This is because the Internet is not an official workplace, but a never-ending universe that lacks individual accountability.  Even if multiple users attack an individual, there is no way to group them into one and take action.  The Internet allows a sense of mobility and liberation that causes—even encourages— individuals to say whatever they want to without any repercussions.  Although I understand the challenges of holding anonymous screen names accountable for their words, I think that it is something that needs more focus as it will only continue to have an effects on our society, on an individual level and on a larger scale.  The Internet has become real life and we need to start treating it accordingly.


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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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#WeAreAndiola

// Posted by on 03/31/2013 (6:31 PM)

Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo,… Read more

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Slacktivism is a relatively new term that combines the terms “slacker” and “activism” and is used to both represent and criticize digital activism for its lack of real, physical, and/or time-consuming action. Slacktivism is anything from tweeting, sharing a photo, or wearing a color or symbol that represents or supports a specific cause. Prominent examples of slacktivism are the Kony 2012 campaign and the Trayvon Martin case. More recently we have seen slacktivists take up the Mexican-American immigration cause.

This past January the police showed up to Erika Andiola’s house and both her mother and brother were handcuffed and detained in immigration detention centers, ready for deportation. Ms. Andiola is the co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a group that fights for the rights of immigrant children brought illegally to the United, as she was. Immediately after her mother and brother were hauled away Ms. Andiola posted a video on Youtube.

This video is a prime example of how digital media can turn local issues into global issues. As Ms. Andiola says in the tearful video, “this is not just happening to me, this is happening to families everywhere”. Ms. Andiola’s message was heard by the digital world and her family was released shortly from custody after the Obama administration was put under severe pressure from activists. Activists tooks on Ms. Andiola’s cause through phone calls, e-mails and online petitions, but primarily on Twitter, where they mobilized support under the hashtag, #WeAreAndiola.

The New York Times article argues that, “their swift releases underline the power of the youth-immigrant movement and their social media activism”. But slacktivism, or social media activism, such the movement on behalf of Ms. Andiola, is often highly criticized. Gabrielle Corvese, from the Brown Daily Herald, writes, “The vastness of social media makes these acts incredibly easy. You can share a picture to let your Facebook friends know you care. Twitter has a hashtag for every cause. But what is the actual effect of these actions? Though social networks allow the easy spread of information, a problem arises when the only support for a cause is a photo with a few thousand shares. While it is satisfying and convenient for the individual to show concern for an issue, those in need of support receive little benefit.”

To reply to Ms. Corvese’s statement I would argue that the Erika Andiola case clearly illustrates the power and effect of “slacktivism”. A single tweet alone may not cause change, but thousands and millions of tweets can attract enough attention and support to put pressure on our politicians to enact political and legal reform. Digital activism can more than often lead to actual, real life action.

While I take the side of these “slacktivists” arguing that any and all activism is positive there are still many, like Corvese that would not agree with me. What do you think are the positive and negative outcomes slacktivism? Do you slacktivism proves that our digital generation has become lazy? Or do you see it like me, as activism naturally transitioning alongside with our culture into the digital realm?


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Occupy London

// Posted by on 03/25/2013 (1:24 AM)

The Occupy Movement that began in 2011 as Occupy Wall Street became an international call for mobilization of “the 99%.” Hundreds of websites around the world were created to represent the total movement along with individual branches of Occupy. The… Read more

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The Occupy Movement that began in 2011 as Occupy Wall Street became an international call for mobilization of “the 99%.” Hundreds of websites around the world were created to represent the total movement along with individual branches of Occupy. The feelings of social and economic inequalities were so strong that the movement continued for years, resulting in camp-outs all over the US and far beyond.

occupylondonday1

This is the video from the “About” section on the OccupyLondon website.

In London, the Occupy movement used the #occupylsx, #occupylondon, and #olsx as trending terms for twitter. Their website, occupylondon.org.uk, has all the information about events, social media, getting involved, and donating. On the homepage is a declaration of sorts that declares their 10 initial statements, agreed upon by the hundreds of people that gathered on October 26, 2011 in front of St. Paul’s. October wasn’t the only uprising though – in May 2012, Occupy protesters at the Bank of England were arrested on a global day of action. During this day, thousands of people in cities including Athens, Moscow, New York, Barcelona and Madrid rallied their forces in protest of inequality. BBC News referred to the event as a powerful symbol. Protesters named the march “visiting the 1%” and stopped at the largest banking institutions, including Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.

Given all the so-called power of global influence, exposure, and support, how successful was Occupy London? Did the constant tweets, updates, and physical presence In a BBC article from after the removal of the tents, the sentiments are mixed. Overall, there is a sense that the movement was too disorganized, with too many ambitions and protesters with far ranging objections, which made the outcomes unrealistic. Occupy London focused on income inequalities, to which David Skelton, the deputy director and head of research at the Policy Exchange think tank, replied “Whether or not [the concept of the 99% and 1%] would have come about without the Occupy London camp is another argument.” (Cacciottolo, 2012) Another article from 2012, a year after the camps, found that the sentiments were mainly that Occupy London was ineffective in having real changes in attitudes and actions. The movement brought issues to policymakers attention, but further than that could not boast any tangible changes in feeling.

Right now, @OccupyLondon has 38,420 followers, almost 13,00 tweets, and thousands more re-tweets and tweets under their trending terms. @OccupyWallStNYC has close to 150,000 followers (for comparison). From the information I’ve uncovered in various articles, social media had a limited impact on the Occupy London movement. This is different from what I expected, considering that the London Stock Exchange is such an important piece of the global market.


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Hacked.

// Posted by on 02/17/2013 (11:31 PM)

Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried… Read more

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Identity theft and computer hacking are becoming increasingly prevalent in society. I have multiple friends who often have credit cards cancelled or bank accounts compromised because somebody accessed their information and either used the credit card with authorization or tried to alter accounts. I have been fortunate enough for this to not happen to me, despite being somewhat naive with my accounts at times. The more I hear about these occurrences though, the more paranoid I get. An article in Wired from last year tells just one tragic story of a personal hacking victim. Mat Honan, a normal American with a family, a job, Apple products and an Amazon account, had his digital life erased for the sake of a practical joke. I found his story somewhat heart-wrenching and indicative of how scary the potential for collateral damage is. Honan’s hackers got access to his Amazon account and used the Amazon information to reset his Apple ID password. The two companies require different information to verify identity, allowing the hackers to get through without knowing the answers to security questions. With the Amazon account information, the hackers deleted Honan’s Gmail account. The Gmail account was only deleted after the hackers obtained access to Honan’s Twitter account. With the Apple ID information, the hackers remotely wiped all of Honan’s devices using the “Find My” application.

Once the Twitter account was taken over, the hackers used it to start trouble and send racist and homophobic tweets to Honan’s followers. Honan created another Twitter account and sent the hackers a personal message @ his old Twitter handle. As it turns out, the hack was not a personal attack, but rather a quest to gain control of Honan’s Twitter handle. In the process, Honan’s entire digital life was erased.

Interestingly enough, almost all of Honan’s frustration and anger about the situation was directed at himself, Apple, and Amazon. He was upset with himself for not backing up everything into the cloud and for using the same prefix for his email accounts, etc. Honan recognized that his accounts could have been more secure. The frustration with Apple and Amazon exposes both of the companies for having a weak security framework. The people at Wired were able to replicate the scenario with instructions from the hackers within minutes.

The implications of Honan’s story are scary. I found myself feeling emotional during the article and frantically thinking about where and how all my information is shared and stored. Just the mere thought of losing all of my songs, photos, documents, and emails is enough to send chills through my entire body. Today, we put so much trust in the Internet and associated entities, but how safe is that? I think it’s definitely too late to transition back to physical/tangible data storage, but how can we be sure that the companies we’re trusting with our “lives” are keeping our best interests in mind? The article made me feel like a slave to the system – just another pawn on the chess board. How can we (as the average consumers) protect ourselves and get the power back for security?

I really recommend reading the entire article!


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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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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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Digital Politics- Phase 1

// Posted by on 04/14/2012 (6:04 PM)

My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

For this project, I wanted to look, generally, at digital politics, and specifically at the reciprocal relationship between the two. Although my original research question dealt… Read more

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My final blog can be found at:

Digital Politics

 

Digital Politics

Research Problem

For this project, I wanted to look, generally, at digital politics, and specifically at the reciprocal relationship between the two. Although my original research question dealt with the influence of American politics and the American political process on the rest of the world with the role of networked, digital technology, I decided to first dissect the tole of networked, digital technology and its influence on American politics and the American political process. Since this is such a broad topic, my research focused mainly on the influence of networked, digital technology on major political elections

Theoretical Foundation

My arguments were formed, for the most part, after reading  the chapter “Citizens, Digital Media, and Globalization” in Mark Poster’s Information Please: Culture and Politics in the Age of Digital Machines. Mark Poster made a number of points in Information Please that I feel no longer represent the nature of digital politics. My research began, then, by attempting to highlight these points, and then to understand in what ways these points no longer hold true.

Initial Questions

My first question came from the following passage on page 71 of Information Please:

“Critical discourse currently locates an antagonism between globalization and citizenship. The deepening of globalizing processes strips the citizen of power, this position maintains. As economic processes become globalized, the nation-state loses its ability to protect its population. The citizen thereby loses her ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue her interests” (Poster, 71).

My problem with this statement stems from the last sentence. In my opinion, American citizens have gained, rather than lost, the ability to elect leaders who effectively pursue their interests. My argument here is that the internet has afforded the American citizen unprecedented access to potential leaders, coupled with an extraordinary change in this relationship, from one sided (the potential leader speaks to the citizens) to bidirectional (through digital technologies like social media, the citizen now has a fast, easy, and efficient method in which to talk directly to their potential leaders; see: Obama’s Google+ Hangout)

My second question came from the following passage on page 73 on Poster’s Information Please:

“Self-constitution of consumers spills over into politics as citizenship becomes an extension of consumption. What is more, as consumption has become more political, so politics has become a mode of consumption. Candidates in elections campaigns increasingly rely on media t o reach their constituents. Political advertisements are the chief means of conducting campaigns. The primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set, bring politics to individuals in the same way they experience entertainment. The deep consumer culture of the television medium is merged with the electoral process. And celebrities from the domain of entertainment, a major aspect of consumption, become credible candidates for high office with no particular training or experience, as evidenced by the election of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger as governors of California. We are indeed in a postmodern world of the consumer citizen” (Poster, 73).

For the most part, Poster is actually helping me support my argument, in that he points out that politics has become a mode of consumption. My problem with this passage lies with the sentence “the primary means by which citizens obtain information about candidates is the television set.” While statistics obviously vary depending on the source, I’ve noticed a general trend over the last ten or so years that illustrates a shift from television to internet in terms of where people in our generation get their political information. Furthermore, I would argue that culture of the internet medium is far more merged with the electoral process than the television ever was, given the ability of the citizen to access information whenever they want online, versus whenever an advertisement happens to play on television.

From these general questions, I was able to somewhat narrow the scope of my research question. By looking at the newer, bidirectional relationship between the citizen and it’s potential leaders, and by realizing that the average American between the ages of 18 and 29 has officially moved from relying on the television for information to relying on the internet, I decided to look at how effectively the American political process is using networked, digital technologies, and what the consequences of this relationship might be. Poster begins to answer this question by looking at some existing political formations:

“The objection to the argument for the netizen might be raised that the Internet promotes, even enhances, existing political formations. The Zapatistas and the neo-Nazis alike further their political ambitions by means of Web sites, Listservs, blogs, e-mail, chat rooms, and so forth. In heavily mediatized societies, political candidates of all stripes deploy the Net to their advantage. Reform movements in China and Eastern Europe depended on the Net… to spread their word and foster political change. Countless experiments could be named, such as the City of Santa Monica’s Public Electronic Network, which use the Net to extend democratic processes. The demonstrations in Seattle early in the year 2000 against the WTO and the World Bank, as well as the general process of globalization, benefited in addition by the ability of the Net to aid the work of organizing political protest. These examples all bespeak the ways in which the Internet can function within existing political structures” (Poster, 79).

Lastly, Poster hints at the fact that the consequences of the relationship between networked, digital technology and the American political process is a break down of American Politics and the creation of newer political structures:

“There is, then, at least one political novelty specific to the Internet that I choose to highlight. The internet holds the prospect of introducing post-national political forms because of its internal architecture, its new register of time and space, its new relation of human to machine, body to mind, its new imaginary, and its new articulation of culture to reality. Despite what may appear in the media of newsprint and television as a celebration of the Internet’s harmony with the institutions of the nation-state and the globalizing economy, new media offer possibilities for the construction of planetary political subjects, netizens who will be multiple, dispersed, and virtual, nodes of a network of collective intelligence. They may resemble neither the autonomous agent of citizenship, beholden to print, nor the identity of post-modernity, beholden to broadcast media. The political formation of the netizen is already well under way, bringing forth, as Heidegger, might say, a humanity adhering not to nature alone but also machines, not to geographic local identity alone but also to digitized packets of its own electronic communications. The import of these speculations is… to call to attention to the possibility for the establishment of global communications, one that is more practically dispersed across the globe than previous systems, one that is inherently bidirectional and ungovernable by existing political structures” (Poster, 84).

This passage aided in the construction of my final research question by bringing up the idea of collective intelligence: networked, digital technology is made up of both the citizens who use the technology and the technology itself, begging the question of not only how this online collective intelligence will influence the American political process, but how American politics influence the network? Embedded within this question are several key points, including the effectiveness of this utilization, the consequences of the relationship, and the future of digital politics.

Roadblocks

Politics is a touchy subject, with a wide spectrum of views and beliefs. For this reason, a major roadblock in my research has been subjectivity. Any published research on the subject, despite a necessary need for unbiased analysis, has the risk of being somewhat opinionated or swayed. When attempting to gauge the effectiveness of various online campaigns, every analysis must be taken with a grain of salt, and I’ve discovered that I have to constantly fact-check many of the articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched. Unfortunately, twitter has been one of the biggest roadblocks for this project. As a massive social media site, I have spent a long time browsing political twitter users and the responses to their post. Being a personal-use site, however, there is a lot of bias and it is often difficult to sort through the opinion to find the facts. If anything, however, this roadblock will most likely end up becoming a part of the answer to my research question.

Supporting Media

For this project, I have utilized a variety of social media websites, focusing on the networked aspect of digital technology. The sites I spend the most time on are Twitter, YouTube, and various political blogs and websites, such as Politico, the Drudge Report, and the Huffington Post. Of these, one of the most valuable resources has been YouTube’s political section, which organizes videos by candidate and also compares each candidate by the number of videos on their channel and the number of subscriptions to their channel:

Group Assignment

For the group assignment, I wanted to try to eliminate some of my own bias in researching these questions. Because politics is such a polarized subject, I asked my group members to pick a candidate (Obama, Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum), and to do some general browsing of these candidate’s digital presence, such as on twitter, youtube, Facebook, etc. I was interested in how effectively or ineffectively these candidates have been using their online space, and what some of the pros and cons of their use were. I was most interested at this time in Santorum, considering the day I assigned this project was the day he suspended his campaign; I was interested to look at a possible correlation between a failed digital campaign and this suspension.

Cameron chose to look at Ron Paul’s digital campaign. Cameron pointed out that Ron Paul has an extremely active online presence, on websites such as twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Specifically, it seems as though Ron Paul’s supporters are the most active online when compared to other candidate’s supporters. In contrast to Ron Paul, Natalie reported that Newt Gingrich’s online campaign has not been going so well, and has been struggling to utilize the Web in an effective way. Lastly, Renee looked at the online campaign of Mitt Romney, and discussed how his online videos rarely speak to the issues, but rather either attack Obama or promote himself as a “family man.”

From this assignment, I plan on focusing in on specific ways in which the candidates use these websites. Natalie pointed out that many tweets relating to Gingrich were very wordy or linked to other websites, something that is seemingly detrimental to getting his message out there. I would like to compare specific uses such as this between the candidates as a possible way in which a lack of understanding of how people use social media may negatively impact a campaign, versus very tech-literate supporters, such as those that Ron Paul has, positively impact a campaign.

Future Research

I feel as though the phrase “Digital America” takes on an enhanced meaning when speaking about politics. With an increased online presence of candidate campaigns, the election truly has moved online, and America that results from this presidential race will truly be one that, I think, will be decided in a completely digital way. The final phase of this project will require a much more in-depth analysis of the remaining presidential candidates, and how effectively they use networked, digital technology. Furthermore, I want to look at the opposite side of this relationship, and analyze how the networked, digital technologies utilized effects how the candidate’s shape their campaign. Lastly, I want to fully connect the theoretical points Poster made about the relationship between politics and the Internet, by more fully understanding the applications of networked, digital technology for the American political process and American politics; this will require diving into the scholarly research of the effect of the Internet on politics, and using my research of the candidate’s online presence as supporting media.


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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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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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Not just for sharing photos anymore

// Posted by on 01/16/2012 (7:52 PM)


When a person takes a picture with their mobile phone, they often want to share it with the world around them. There are dozens of ways to do this (Facebook, Twitter, email, print and send, carrier pigeon,… Read more

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When a person takes a picture with their mobile phone, they often want to share it with the world around them. There are dozens of ways to do this (Facebook, Twitter, email, print and send, carrier pigeon, etc.), but one used by millions is called Instagram. The mobile phone app used by many has not only become a popular way to share photos, it has affected the way people take pictures.

The author of this article in the January edition of Wired, wrote that when scrolling through the site, there are the typical pictures that would be suspected: cats, pictures of oneself, etc., but what was surprising was what else had been posted. The app and its filters allow and encourage its users to become artsy. Users are not simply taking pictures for documentation purposes, but because with the filters, they can make something ordinary, extraordinary. What they are using their cameras for has changed as well as what they are taking pictures of.

One simple app, constructed by six people, has allowed millions to share photos online and has changed the way many of them take pictures and even the way they look at their world. This article makes one wonder what else apps can do. Sure, apps can make communication simpler, can be used for entertainment, and allow us to connect with the world around us, but how often do they change the way we view the world?

Personally, I’ve never used Instagram. I have looked at friend’s pictures that they have posted, but have never used it for myself. After reading this article, I was intrigued and am curious to see what I can do with it, to see what kind of photographer it makes me. Have you ever used it? Has it affected the way you use your cameraphone or more importantly, how you view the world? We are becoming increasingly attached to our technology and it interests me, but also makes me worry about the future. Will there be more apps such as Instagram that benefit society or will new apps simply draw us closer to technology.

For now, I leave you with a couple of pictures I found on their site of stairs, different viewpoints on ordinary stairs. It sure will make me look at the next staircase I ascend differently.


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