Piecing Myself Together

Am I in pieces?

“This was the hardest thing to internalize; that something permanent but invisible had happened.” The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

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In Juliet Davis’ Pieces of Herself, the embodiment and construction of feminine identity as well as the relationship of the female self to public and private space is explored. This work of Elit operates through a drag-and-drop interface which allows readers to comb through different environments of the work for icons that can be “dragged” and “dropped” on the female, paper-doll-like motif adjacent to her environment. In this way, readers are able to see how a woman’s environment inscribes itself upon her. More, readers are able to explore how different contexts, such as home, community, and work, affect construction of identity and perception of the self. “Dropping” an icon on the paper doll triggers an audio clip that typically reveals something about how the space being explored imprints itself emotionally or physically on the woman. The icons themselves, paired with the nearly 400 pictures used to create this piece, seem to denote more than their mere connotation would suggest as well (i.e. blood drop icons in the shower room, diary entries and hidden keys in the bedroom, a fetus en-wombed by a church, a sex toy behind a discreet couch cushion etc.). The mere act of uncovering these icons seems reflective of the many layers of feminine identity and the further act of layering these icons atop the paper doll motif seems to suggest the multiplicity, the mutability, and precarious balancing of feminine embodiment. How each sound is layered atop another until there is a steady cacophony of steadily increasing headache-fuel seems to only further illustrate how jarring and overwhelming a task it is to be all these women–at once. Though seemingly simple in design, operation, and presentation of its ideas, Davis’ work is quite a compelling and profound exploration of the intricacies at work in constructing feminine identity as well as a frightening one in how accurately and heartbreakingly it articulates how social and cultural contexts can be all-consuming.

Perhaps it is because of my own context–my gender identity, my age, my education–but I found this work to be particularly poignant. Especially as I combed through the unspecified, female narrator’s private spaces–their bedroom, their bathroom, their kitchen, their living room–I felt this growing lump in my throat, this increasing ache in my chest. The diary entry in the hamper–“In my dreams, I’m home but it’s not really home. And I don’t recognize the town but I know where everything is. So why do I keep running into things…”–reminded me of my own journal, sitting beside me as I write this post, and all of the secret parts of me inside its pages no one will ever know. The rain cloud in the bedroom reminded me of the nights no one will ever see. The narrator recalling how hard they tried to but never could quite recreate their own mother’s passed-down recipes–“In the kitchen, where she was forever looking for the right ingredients”that hurt. It hurt me but also made me ache for all the girls and women I know who–secretly–try so hard to be half as good as their moms. Who are are always almost but neverI wonder if my own mom aches like this too? The mask at the front door in the living room and the narrator’s recollection of the monetary worth of what they’re wearing–of who gave it to them— made me remember a time when I was showered with all the gifts babe’s money could buy. I remember finding out the return on that investment did not equal love. Maybe it never could have.

 

 

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Who I became~

To me, this work, in its content, purpose, and design, is one of the most powerful and compelling pieces of Elit I’ve come across. There’s something so inherently moving about making an unseen, hidden process–such as social inscription; more, construction of feminine identity–visible. Maybe that’s the voyeur in me but I’d also argue that Davis is placing us purposefully in the role of voyeur. But, it’s like we’re spying on ourselvesIs that really spying???? Questions of ownership of the self are raised in this piece and authenticity as a construct seems to be challenged here. Rather than constructing who we are from navigating our environments, Davis’ work seems to posit that our environments navigate us, that our navigation of our environments is decided long before the question can be posed. According to Davis’ work, we are not imprinting ourselves on our environments. No, our environments are imprinting upon us until we are, essentially, composed entirely of pieces of our environments. This work seems to ask readers to really consider the nature of feminine agency and autonomy in a culture that poses so many, often conflicting, restrictions upon women.

Maybe my reading of this work is singular, a response to the many interactions of my life that brought me to experiencing it. But, if anything, I believe Pieces of Herself is trying to communicate the significance of lived experience. Of all women’s lived experiences.  Of my lived experience. I think that’s an incredibly profound message. More, I think it should not be as revolutionary as it is and yet…. How ’bout that Kavanaugh hearing, right??

Ultimately, Davis’ Pieces of Herself operates on many levels but, perhaps most importantly, it seems to read as almost autobiographic, allowing the reader to assume the unspecified narrator’s identity as they simultaneously engage in the process, navigation,  and negotiation of constructing that identity. Davis achieves this level of engagement through the drag-and-drop interface of the work, the use of audio and commentary, and the visual/design aspects working in tandem in this piece to create an inviting and immersive experience. This work left me feeling overwhelmed and naked(?) as well as left me with many questions about the complex nature of the self and its complicated presentation and representations. How much of me is me? How much is what others want me to be? How do I tell the pieces apart? And, am I broken into pieces? Scattered? Shattered?

Mostly, though, I was left wondering this:

Can I be a mosaic?

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References

“Pieces of Herself” – ELMCIP

“Bookish Electronic Literature: Remediating the Paper Arts through a Feminist Perspective” – Jessica Pressman, ELMCIP

“‘Pieces of Herself'” by Juliet Davis – Cynthia Roman, I ❤ E-Poetry

Fun Fact

I actually wrote about this piece a while back, during my first Elit “rodeo”. I decided to read what I had previously written after I finished this post. Let me tell ya, it is wild. Like, reading something you wrote when you know you were an entirely different person than you are now is wildSlightly cringe-worthy. Anyway, I figured I’d provide you with a link to that initial post for your own entertainment. Also, I think it’s interesting, in the context of reading Pieces of Herself, to compare and contrast who I am and who I was in writing. It was fun revisiting her. I miss her, who I was. I wonder if she sees who I am now and wishes she could’ve done more.

Anyway….

BTW

So, this work reminded me of a couple songs I thought I’d share with the class~ I couldn’t help singing them in my head as I was reading this piece and so I thought I’d share that particular level of my experience as well….

Pretty Little Head – Eliza Rickman

Francis Forever – Mitski

Copycat – Billie Eilish

Gasoline – Halsey

~Till next time~

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Working with Audio???

I think I’m funny~

Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^

Empathy or Lack Thereof

One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.

At least, that’s theory.

Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.

Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.

See, I believe designers can direct their messages so that they are received within IRL context. But, I also believe:

My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.

That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.

In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>..

I had a blast:

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I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??

What can I say?

I got into it.

Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.

But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”,  how do you feel?

Amping Things Up

Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.

Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.

That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.

For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:

 https://soundcloud.com/kelli-hayes-365566554/frustration-1

It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)

Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.

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I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~

Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~

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My view while workin’ on those bars~

My Make

Did you get that message??? Or, could it use some work?? Let me know and maybe you’ll get a ping-back 😉

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This Week’s Spells:

*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~

*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it? ❤

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Goodies

*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!

What Does It All Meme????

Tbh, I’m going to miss our discussions on digital art~

Arrested Development Crying GIF by HULU - Find & Share on GIPHY

Sad Will Ferrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Kim Kardashian Crying GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Gif that Just Keeps on Giving

Before I get into my reflection on digital art, I want to talk about our last hurrah for the Make Bank.

This week, we used what we learned from last week’s experimentation with Giphy to make two different kinds of gifs which I pronounce with a soft like in graphic image format fight me.

The first make asked us to gif a process. Of course, I chose to make a gif illustrating one of the many metalworking processes familiar to me. (For anyone who’s come to know me, I doubt that’s shocking~)

Anyway, here’s my gif-take on soldering:

Art Soldering GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

***Please do not attempt at home or in any other place not properly ventilated***

So, soldering is the process by which pieces/sheets of metal can be joined. In order to solder, you must first have *drum roll* solder (of which there are 3 kinds–hard, medium, & soft). Typically, start with hard solder and work your way down (the designations don’t refer to the composition or sturdiness of the solder but the temperature at which it melts, hard solder taking the longest to melt and soft the least; so, you want to start with hard solder and work your way down because you don’t want your solder to re-melt and flow every time you attach a new piece of metal to your project–it’d be constantly falling apart, yeah?) Anyway, my gif starts with me placing my chips of hard solder down (technically I should have sweat soldered this but tbh I couldn’t be bothered~)

From there, I torch the piece (soldering temperature is around 850 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, once you see the solder flow and melt, you have to quick quench the piece in water and then in the Pickle–which is a cleaning solution. Metal gets very dirty once heated–it’s a chemical reaction. After letting your piece sit in the Pickle for a few minutes, you can take it out–with copper (absolutely no steel in the Pickle) tongs!!! Don’t touch a piece of metal with Pickle on it!! It can cause your skin to peel–and run it under some water and clean it with a brass-bristled brush.

Ta-dah~ My last image shows a (relatively) cleaned and soldered piece.

I found this activity to be rather fun and engaging, kind of like the Most Fascinating Subject in The World make. Perhaps that’s because both projects ask us to remix and create digital work (memes and gifs) of subject matter from our own lives. To me, projects like these illustrate how memes and gifs, while ubiquitous and rather universal, start off in the personal and individual. It takes one person to notice something or tilt their perspective just so to create them. More, these projects provide opportunities for participation in remix culture in ways we can relate to on a personal level. I mean, we’re remixing parts of our lives, right? Adjusting the lights and the angles and making magic~

My Make

The other make we did this week asked us to reflect back on digital life or on digital art in gif form. How could we imagine one in gif form? What would that look like?

I chose to gif my experience/thoughts on digital art. Again, for those of you who know me, I doubt you’re shocked~

Anyway, check it:

Digital Art GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I’ve noticed that a lot of our discussion in class and in our blog posts has revolved around whether or not digital art is “Art.” Pointless conversation to tbh but I digress~ So, I made a gif to represent my feelings on the matter–Art is what you make of itIt’s what I make of it. It’s what we make of it. Just the ideal that real art has to be on a pedestal and labelled probably has every artist from Van Gogh to Duchamp to Rauschenberg to Roth and then some rolling in their graves.

Honestly, get out of here with that elitist nonsense. Art is what you make of it but it’s also historically been about challenging preconceived notion and the status quo and about calling bullsh*t on bullsh*t. If selfies, memes, and, of course, gifs aren’t doing at least one of those things, then idk what is???

Gotta stay hip with the trends, yeah???

My Make

Missed any of my other Makes? Don’t fret! You can catch up here. Currently holding steady at 3rd~ Started from the bottom….xD

Reflecting on the Gif of Digital Art

On that note, I think it’s time to get into that reflection on digital art…

But first *ahem*

Logic GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

(Had to get that out of my system~ Moving on….)

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts on digital art, I’m pretty sure you know my stance on it by now:

I dig it.

In my first post exploring digital art, I compared it to a kind of neo-Dadaism, calling it Degenerate Art 2.0. In the rise of this new medium, I see traces of a desire to respond to the growing absurdity of the world and the action’s of world leaders >.> with absurdity and nonsense which is something Dada itself sought to do. In many ways, Dada the 1st was a response to the absurdity of WWI, to all of these countries typically regarded as pinnacles of culture and of society fighting over 50 feet of mud. How do you create art after that? Dada showed us how.

From there, I explored the place of the selfie in digital art. In my post breaking down the history of the selfie, I talk about whether or not the selfie even constitutes as work of art. Survey said: not only yes, but that it constitutes a whole new genre of art. For the first time in a long while, new digital media has lowered the boundary for entry into the art sphere as well as created a whole new genre for it. The selfie is the art of the people, created for us by us. More, it has created a whole new kind of communication between us as well as a new way to be introspective. For those of you who have reservations about that claim, I highly suggest you check out my post on the matter as well as check out the Selfie section of the Digital Art Referencium~

If you still have doubts, I suggest you explore the #SelfieUnselfie make. To me, this is one of the most meaningful projects I’ve participated in. I explain why in more detail in my post reflecting specifically on the project but, in short, I think this project captures the essence of what selfies could be while also emphasizing their limitations. If there’s one thing our segment on Digital Life revealed, it’s that’s it is very easy to get caught up in the innovation and the glitz and the glamour of new online spaces and forget that we’re all still people behind our screens with insecurities and agendas and flaws and faults and so many other aspects of ourselves that would look damning under a microscope. More, there are parts of ourselves to appreciate and that can be appreciated without the easy outside validation digital platforms can so easily provide. The internet allows us to be so much more than ourselves but that doesn’t mean who we are offline matters any less.

After discussing the seflie, came good ol’ memes and gifs or, as I like to refer to them, the sprinkles of the internet~

I discuss my thoughts more in depth about memes in this post and about gifs in this post but ultimately I believe that gifs and memes truly embody that neo-Dada essence I mentioned earlier. They tap into that seemingly universal acknowledgement that the world is a pretty absurd place and turn it into art. And though many corporations are beginning to use memes and gifs for advertising purposes (as mentioned by Amy whose style I love ❤ and Michael in our studio visit this week), they are fairly democratic medium, another form of art that is made by the people for the people. A culture of remix and reciprocity has really risen up around these mediums as well, memeing the meme a fun make but also popular practice these days.

Tide Ad GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Tide Pods, anyone??? Stranger things, huh??

Overall, I find digital art to be an emergent and exploratory new medium for creation and reimagining and remixing. There has been and will continue to be a lot of trial and error but I think it is coming into it’s own. I mean, look at how many gif artists there are now? You or I could be the next big thing~

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

DDAs this Week:

*(This might be my fave DDA I’ve done in a while~) I made this one using the linked program to reflect how I feel a semester and a half into grad school~ #haven’tsleptin3days #ihatemyself~ #aesthetic

*For those who don’t know, I also write poetry. This semester, I’m actually taking a course on poetry. In this image, you can see some of the poems I’m working on for my collection. For me, every poem is both a beginning and an ending–I live my poem, yes, but it’s also where my feelings end up. More than that, though, poetry is what life sounds like, yeah?

*So… dis my cat~ Her name’s Dove and she’s kind of dopey and likes to chew on plastic. #imhallingherout #sorrynotsorry (On a serious note, what’s Felix got against cats????!! Lol for real this time, I took a photo of Dove with my phone, uploaded it to my computer, and then edited it in Paint, of all things. It wasn’t very difficult at all. The shapes are pre-made and the text is easy to overlay. 10/10 would recommend~)

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*Check out the twitter-chatter activity so far Spoiler I’ve got a big mouth:

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In the thick of it per usual lol~

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Queen of my own universe~

*Played the Garfield roulette and this is the comic I came up with. Funny? Savage? Thought-provoking??? None of the above?

*Found this gem in the Garfield as Garfield archive and had to share it~ (Also, relatable to the grad school experience)

Giphy

Goodies

*I made a thing! For anyone who doesn’t know, the open participants of NetNarr have started a project we are all welcome to participate in as well. It’s a great opportunity to practice some digital alchemy~ I remixed an old story of dark, ravenous magic. Hope you enjoy ^.^

*CrashCourse on Youtube (an educational channel run in large part by John and Hank Green) has just started a new course on Media Literacy. I think it’s pretty relevant to our course and worth a watch. Maybe an episode or two will be good to watch for class?

*Artsy Gifs is really cool to follow on Twitter. They share art-inspired gifs that I think are beautiful editions to any feed~

*I’ve almost finished reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read. I highly recommend you check out this book. It’s so relevant to the reality of racism and police brutality in America right now and it’s told through the lens of a 16-year-old, Black girl. These kinds of books that explore this kind of subject matter areso important.

Can You Hear M–Yeah, Loud & Clear~

The Name of the Game

So, I’ve had a bit of a change of heart from last week. It’s come to my attention that I may have been far too ambivalent about my feelings toward online data tracking. More, I believe I let the internet ideals I hold in high regard cloud my judgement of the realities that currently rule the digital landscape.

When confronted with the realities of third-party tracking servers and learning algorithms, it is almost impossible to believe how unconscionably and irresponsibly online sites and Big Business corporations are allowed to operate in the digital sphere.  It’s disturbing just how much information about me is not only readily accessible but profitable–big time. (I voiced some of my concerns in regards to Robert Heaton’s post on the ins-n-outs of online tracking here and here.) What concerns me most is the lack of privacy and the lack of consent. These sites are making stupid money selling my information to the highest bidder. As Zeynep Tufekci says in her TED Talk, we are not consumers in this financial equation. We are products. Hot products (emphasis mine).

And, I’m aware it is because of this current system of practice that the internet and most social media sites are freely available to the public but does that access offset the cost? Is the exchange from human to commodity, soluble as it may be, fair?

Hell no.

Power Plays

I credit my initial ambivalence toward online data tracking/mining to my prior perception that I wasn’t really sharing all that much personal information on the web. And, what I was sharing, was non-consequential at best. Who cares that I follow a poetry page on FB, a pro-legalization page, or that I retweet sappy quotes, right? lot of people.

Let’s take a look at that Twitter data and at just how easy it is to compile and create a profile of me from:

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For some reason (I’m sure someone has created an algorithm to figure out), I have a propensity for tweeting heavily on Thursdays around 6AM & Fridays around 1AM???

With an activity log like this one, corporations could time what ads would be most effective not just to the day but down to the minute. And, they would be able to find out what ads I as a consumer would be most receptive to through data like this:

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My outbursts @NJTRANSIT are not reflective of who I am as a person (unless you’re the CEO, then fight me IRL)

From this data set, anyone who wanted to could easily identify what news I follow through hashtag usage and what my relevant interests are through who I retweet as well as what my affiliations are outside of Twitter through what sites link back to me. All of this data can be compiled and associations can be made from it and cookies can follow up on its trends so that there is always an advertisement designed particularly with me in mind, no matter where my internet journeys take me.

The world wide web ain’t so much a democracy anymore, is it?

What’s almost more troubling than the idea that my digital self has zero to zilch autonomy or agency is that this same information can be used to affect the quality of my life outside of the internet. Institutions have invested heavily in this data and can use it to withhold certain services IRL. This is explained in episodes 2 & 3 of Do Not Track, a documentary series that explores online data tracking.

For instance, in episode 3, you are provided the option to connect your FB account to a risk assessment site (Illuminis) created, as you discover, by the creators of Do Not Track to illustrate how certain information could be collected digitally and could be used to affect your life and opportunities outside the internet.

The information it’s able to gather is mildly concerning, to say the least:

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The first screen that pops up after connecting your account

Not only is Illuminis able to show what pages I liked on FB, it is able to establish a personality profile from those pages I like as well as from other info from my FB profile.

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I dispute some of the conclusions drawn about my character~

Which is all fun and games until you see how this information is applied to real world situations. Because of something as simple as liking a post in support of decriminalizing cannabis or following a page that shares posts about traveling to exotic places or being female apparently, things so seemingly minuscule in the grand scheme of the internet, I could turn myself into a poor investment to some interested parties.

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Yahtzee! I was a “mediocre candidate” and a “risk” in both my financial and healthcare assessments. In fact, I was not a candidate at for healthcare because of my possibly propensity towards “high risk activity” as indicated by my social media profile~

This is problematic–especially when you see how many daily devices and platforms you use routinely make use of tracking software such as cookies:

And what is perhaps most troubling and most problematic about all of this is that there is very little you and I can do to improve this situation. Again, as Tufekci reiterates in her TED Talk, it is the system that has been put in place that needs to fundamentally change. More, it is the financial structures that govern that system that need changing and a reorganization of values. Unfortunately, those are not tasks that can be very well accomplished on an individual level.

At least, not unless the rules of play change.

Speaking Strategy

In our studio visit with Brett Gaylor, the director of Do Not Track, discussion revolved around what measures can be enacted to combat this online data tracking free-for-all pay to play suck it losers. More, we discussed how can anyone achieve any semblance of privacy in such a monitored environment and, while maintaining some kind of separation, be able to still participate in the digital sphere. Gaylor says, “Privacy is what allows us to be authentic people” after all. I would further argue that privacy and anonymity allow for activism and advocacy as well and when using a platform that has the capacity and capability to spread awareness that can facilitate necessary action, it is more than important certain protections be in place.

What our discussion ultimately seemed to come down to is consent.

Most tracking services and cookies rely heavily on implicit consent rather than an explicitly provided one, especially in North America. In episode 2 of Do Not Track(?), it is shown that European countries require websites disclose to users whether or not cookies are being used to track data. Even though the only option to being given that info is “OK” or leave the site at least it’s an attempt to inform consumers. That’s more than we can say here. 

It may be a small gesture but there is something powerful about returning responsibility, agency, and accountability, no matter the amount, to the entities that shouldn’t have had it stolen from them in the first place. It’s representative of freedom–that of choice and of digital self-determination, choosing who can use our data and for what purpose. More, the gesture is informing. While many people may be aware that they are being monitored through their devices and their social media, the extent to which is probably less clear. (As evidenced by my own beliefs and those of my classmates here. There seems to be a distinct disconnect between our perception of the surveillance and its reality, something Tiff(?) I believe touches upon. Also, questions about the “necessary evil” of tracking arise as well by Hailey–I mean, disconnecting from the internet now essentially means disconnecting from the world; becoming less relevant and less informed. To leave or not to leave is not an easy problem to resolve.)

For me, what it really comes down to though is finding a way to restructure the system to value the ethical more than the financial. Tufekci ends her TED Talk saying, “We need a digital economy where our data and our attention is not for sale to the highest bidding authoritarian or demagogue.” Side note: She kicks ass and I love her.

This shift has to be non-negotiable, though. There has to be not just regulation of but enforcement of ethical internet practices in some way. To me, this means there must be an incentive–the easiest kind of enforcement but also the most expensive $$$$.

As stated in Gaylor’s Do Not Track, most of these sites make their prime revenue from ads and the amount many of us would be willing to pay out of pocket to use these services per month pales in comparison to what these sites can make through selling our data. With the state of net neutrality itself, I’m honestly not sure how easy it would be to accomplish some kind of endowment or fund for the internet to sway platforms using it away from the allure of data tracking~ There’s a political side to all of this as well, of course.

I’m not proposing a step-by-step plan here for how to go about fixing the internet but I think there are conditions that must be met or else the internet will continue to remain a lose-lose situation for consumer privacy.

Keeping the Game Going

When it comes to data tracking, that latter half–tracking–seems to steal most of the glory. But that data part is, arguably, the most important component here. Without the data, there’s nothing to track after all. And how are these sites accumulating data, you may ask? By keeping us on their sites for as long as possible, of course. And how do they do that? By providing lots of shiny buttons to click and sensational videos to watch and hot music to listen to, of course. And how do they choose those things? By analyzing consumer data, of course. Tracking trends. Tracking us. Full circle, huh?

That said, I disagree almost philosophically with articles that forward this idea that the increasing use of technology is making us stupider as a whole. Quite frankly I find the notion insulting, uninformed, and usually ageist. It has been my experience that most articles of this nature are pushing their own narrative or agenda without adequately considering the many beneficial applications of the technology and weighing them against the cons. They want to focus on the very worst aspects of social media and apply those findings to all new digital media.

And, of course, they blame the consumers wholeheartedly.

There isn’t one mention of the corporate entities or the learning algorithms that are largely responsible if not entirely so for how these social media sites are designed. In my humble opinion, the lack of ethical or conscientious advertising paired with the unregulated data tracking is far more egregious and should be of far more concern to our society than whether or not some people prefer technological amusements to someone’s IRL company. More, it reveals a distinct bias and a pronounced agenda that I have simply no interest in entertaining. (If you want to hear me get super salty about it, I highly suggest you check out this thread~)

An aspect of this problem I am interested in entertaining relates back to the issue of privacy online and how that affects authentic expression overall. I wonder to what extent all of this monitoring, this surveillance, has affected our behavior IRL. The recent uptick in content being posted to social media platforms that I believe wouldn’t have been uploaded a decade ago (i.e. the Logan Paul Suicide Forest video to Youtibe, or the brutal fights shared via FB live, that livestream posted to Instagram of a woman getting into a car accident and killing her sister, etc.) leads me to believe that we may all be becoming more performative–because we believe we are always being watched. In that sense, everything about ourselves becomes content for public consumption. We are products. It’s all some reality show. A performance art piece–neo-Dadaist style.

Removing privacy as a valuable concept from the social consciousness is a pretty good way to eliminate the issue of privacy from the data tracking discussion entirely again, in my humble opinion~.

It makes me wonder about authenticity. If privacy is what allows us to be authentic people, as Gaylor said, what is authentic expression in a world without a concept of privacy? How does living without a sense of a private self affect your self image? Because digital selves are so public, does that mean that they can never be private? Never be authentic?

I don’t know. I really don’t.

End Game…Plot Twist???

Ultimately, the issue of online data tracking leaves me dissatisfied–a little abjectly horrified too, tbh. (I’m not sure if that’s much better or far worse than feeling conflicted.)

I fundamentally disagree with it and have serious reservations with the system’s current business practices and ethics but I also understand that the internet can’t very well run without the current infrastructure. I mean, it’s entirely doable just not practical at this moment in time. I wish there was more transparency, though, and accountability. Right now, the onus is on consumers who are really commodities and so don’t even have the power that would be afforded to them if they were consumers. Simply, we’re not properly informed about what’s going on behind our screens and so we can’t consent.

It’s like we’re playing a game that’s been designed to beat us.

We’re being exploited for all we’re worth and most of us are gladly participating in our own exploitation.

Which is unfortunate because the internet really has the capacity to be this place where communities of individuals can gather and create, innovate, better themselves and the world at large. Just look at our little community here:

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Can you find yourself? Do we connect? If not, why not???? Drop a line and say, “Hey” ^.^

It’s hard to entirely dismiss the internet when it’s responsible for the creation of something like this. It’s the current system that has made our community possible. At the same time, the very system and algorithms that make our community possible are responsible for the creation of a lot of really toxic and problematic digital communities, ones that perpetuate falsehoods and often dangerous narratives and that profit off of it. Again, there’s not just an issue of consent but of oversight, culpability, and many other serious problems that have, unfortunately, in many instances, been politicized. This is another aspect of internet use I would categorize as of greater importance than whether or not we’re addicted to social media. (Though, I’ll grant this ties into whether or not the internet is making us stupider. More uniformed, really.) Its difficult to reconcile all of these many sides of the internet. Seems easier to let yourself get lost in the stream.

I’m not sure where any of this leaves us other than in need of a drink but I’d love to hear your thoughts~

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Links

My fave DDA from the week~ I want you to know I’m aesthetically opposed to embedding tweets, though >.> much prefer linking but whatev, I’ll play by the “rules” for now~

Daily Digital Alchemies

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Hypothes.is

A Pesky Faerie (wonder where following her takes you….)

Goodies

*I’ve recommended this video a couple of times throughout my #netnarr travels but I think, especially in light of both our current class discussions and the current state of political affairs in our country, it is incredibly relevant. It’s from an educational channel and it’s all about how to navigate this post-truth error where such things as “alternative facts” exist. More, it’s an exploration of the relationship between social media, consumerism, and factual truth. Highly recommend checking it out~

*A documentary that I’ve watched recently and would recommend is Abacus: Small Enough to Jail. It’s different from Do Not Track but it is still interested in bringing an underlying truth to the surface. (Plus, it’s an Oscar nominee. (Double plus, it’s free if you have Amazon Prime))~

*We can record ourselves live movies through our dna…? Check it out~ (Plus, I thought I was clever so everyone has to know)

*This week’s musical artist of choice I listened to while hitting the grind was blackbear, if you want to check him out~

Till next time~

What Kind of Story Am I?

A #FakeNews one??? jk~ A best-seller I hope >.>

Cutting Through the Silence

For this week’s DDA, I imagined my navigation of my internet space as a bright, white line cutting through a chaotic and haphazard ball of scribbly static. It’s kind of like a radio signal–lost in the haze until the right frequency tunes in. Then, my movements have resonance, they create this larger picture. Tell a story. Reveal a larger truth. Reveal me.

But, what if those tuning in don’t care so much to hear you as they do to extract information about you and exploit it? (That took a dark turn, huh?)

Compare, Contrast, & Conflict

Do Not Track, a mini-documentary series/interactive digital project directed by Brett Gaylor, discusses the very real ways our internet meandering is not only tracked but compiled and used for economic gains–not our own, of course. I’m only one episode in so far but the tone is clearly different from that of a work like the Network Effect which is another interactive digital work that allows users to, I would argue, see just how much personal information is not only out there in the interweb miasma but also easily accessible to anyone and everyone. That isn’t to say the Network Effect is trying to do anything nefarious–in fact, it seems their purpose is rather the opposite–but Do Not Track is clearly trying to make a different point about the internet’s ability to not only observe our actions but collect and compile them to use for purposes we as users of digital spaces are not always aware of or able to control.

To be honest though, I found the contrast between the purposes of the two projects to be most interesting. Perhaps it is because I am a child of the digital age and can only remember a small window of time living without tech being an integral part of how I interact with the world, but the idea that I’m constantly being watched and tracked through my devices is not shocking nor does it make me afraid. If it were all more Orwellian in nature, then maybe. As it stands, I think Big Brother has a more invested interest in selling me out to Big Business for bigger bottom lines all around than it has a desire in anything more sinister. Yet, at least. Greed, especially of the corporate kind, disgusts me, but, again, it’s expected. Would I prefer not to see Amazon adds of things I was just perusing popping up on my social media feeds? Yes. Would I prefer Google not storing a story of me in their vaults? Yes. It’s disconcerting at least and paranoia-inducing at worst. It makes me wonder how else I’m being exploited without my consent. It makes me want to rip the power cells out of all my devices and sign off for good.

But, I can’t.

Again, this is the digital age. If you live in modern society with most of the rest of the world, you simply can’t disconnect. You wouldn’t be able to function in the world. Maybe I’m not so much anesthetized to being surveilled by microwaves even! as I am resigned to its being an inevitability of digital life. It’s the trade-off. (That continual debate of safety vs. freedom.)

That isn’t to say that some of this collective information or story can’t be used for good. The Network Effect is a primary example of how the internet’s ability to track people and their actions can be used to unify instead of to divide. I think now more than ever we all need to be reminded that, yes, while we may be unique individuals with unique stories, we also share a vast array of similar experiences that connect us. That can.

In a post I made a year ago on my first experience of the Network Effect, I focused on the action GRIEVE and on how the amount of people tweeting about grieving tended to pique at 7am & later at 7pm.

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There’s something grounding and uniquely human about the timing. Or maybe it’s just the confirmation that we all experience loss and have so few words to capture it the 140 character rule never seems to be a problem~

First, this statistic made me wonder why. Because grief is most poignant upon first waking and then at dinner, a time typically spent with family or friends? Because first waking is the first moment a loss is remembered again? Because sitting at a table with an empty chair that wasn’t always empty is so unbearable it makes you want to scream into the void? Don’t I know it. None of the above? All this wondering (an act which I believe has merit inherent unto itself) led me to my second realization which is this: there are individuals that make up every bit of this data I’m viewing. More, this data isn’t just a static chart on a page. It’s video and tweets in live time. It isn’t just percentages–it’s story. It’s lives. Big Brother and Big Business may forget that but when it’s presented in such a way as it is through the Network Effect, I think that reality is undeniable and that is what makes this project powerful.

What’s Louder? Our Stories or Our Silence?

Ultimately, I feel conflicted about internet tracking/surveillance. While I agree with Do Not Track’s position that undisclosed or unwarranted tracking “dis-empowers” me and robs me of agency in that it makes choices for me about what content I’ll see on my internet journeys, I also believe or want to believe that there can be a benefit to having a digital collective or archive of the human experience like the Network Effect.

Not everyone who is tuning in to us is doing it with good intentions but I believe it is important and it is progress that we have a platform where we can all tune into each other.

“The people’s chant must be everything the people can’t be~”–I think the internet does a spectacular job of showing us all where we are as a people and how far we still have to go. It gives us a starting place, at the very least. It can. In recent years, yes, the internet and its many platforms have become weaponized and increasingly capitalized upon, creating horrible echo chambers in too many cases, but I think it’s important to remember all the possibility still inherent to the idea (think the Arab Spring or the Women’s Marches or the #MeToo movement which were all conceived of in internet spaces and then actualized). Allowing our stories to be digital can create stories that can exist beyond digital boundaries. And, to me, everything is story. It can be. In the digital age especially, there are so many opportunities to tell stories. We may not always be able to control who is listening to them or how they are received but I don’t think that should silence us. Should stop us from tuning in to each other. From trying to cut through the chaos and static.

Do you?

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Best-seller or what??? ^.^ Hope you enjoyed~

Links

*My Daily Digital Alchemies

*My Hypothes.is

*Twit 1 & Twit 2 (I meant to use only one this time around but I’ve already mixed it up Silly so here’s both~)

Goodies

*If you’re interested in short stories based off of Twitter bot nonsense, I recommend checking out my Killing It tag. I’m toying with the idea of reviving it~

*I posted this vid by Al Jazeera in the #netnarr tag about media literacy in the wake of fake news’ popularity on Twitter and then it was retweeted with the #netnarrlinks tag (for anyone who also wants to share cool content on Twitter).

*For anyone who was disappointed by season 4 of Black Mirror, I highly recommend checking out Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams. It’s an Amazon original series based off of works by Philip K. Dick (the title of the show is a play on the title of one of his more famous works Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? which is a classical dystopian I actually enjoy ^.^). and it’s free if you have prime. Like Black Mirror, it’s an anthology series that bridges sci-fi and the psychological through explorations of the intersection of life and tech.

*See The Post if you haven’t already! It is phenomenal and relevant to current events >.>

***I didn’t think about it till after but the Soundcloud link I shared to a Chance the Rapper song is oddly appropriate in that Chance is an artist without a label who rose to popularity and eventually mainstream prominence through the internet and digital media. People shared and promoted his music online and through apps like Spotify. Would definitely recommend checking him out if you’re looking for some good music. He’s more poet than rapper to me in some ways.

And that’s a rap.

Till next time~

***Edit: I’m Kelli btw~ Sometimes I’m a Faerie Girl wannabe and sometimes a Shadow Girl but I’m always an interested learner and digital alchemist in the making. (Labels are only fun to try on for a bit) Anyway, oft I get carried away and lost in the writing, forgetting even myself…. please don’t mind that and don’t be strangers~ (though I admit I can be a bit more shy than my writing might suggest)***