Just A Brief Update….

Hey~

So, suffice to say, this weekend has been a bit overwhelming for me. I’ve spent most of it getting my final touches together for my thesis presentation at Research Days on Tuesday. This weekend was one of the first I’ve had totally off in a while so I got a lot of time to focus on these last-minute-but-very-important things. There’s never enough time for anything, is there?

Anyway, as far as my research for the field guide goes, I’m still reading through my sources and gathering information I can add onto my last post about social curation in online spaces. I think that post went into a lot of detail about my own thoughts surrounding the issue but I do want to incorporate more evidence to support my case. More, I need to look into more ideas about what a “humane” web would look like.

During our discussion in class, we talked about how to encourage personal responsibility as developing that seems to be important to the issue of social curation itself. Right now, there’s no personal accountability and nothing incentivizing us to not just “hit that like button” and move on with our lives without ever thinking more deeply on the content we are choosing to associate ourselves with/throw our “lots” in with. In my last post, I mentioned abolishing evaluative features entirely but that requires an entire paradigm shift, it seems, in interaction with the Internet and, increasingly, with the world. Our “likes” are fast becoming our votes. They don’t just validate someone’s opinion anymore; they affirm behavior and incentivize it to continue. Not to sound sensational, but I wonder when we will be “liking” our next government officials rather than strictly voting for them? We seem well on our way to that…

I’m trying to focus on how I would like to convey my concerns around this issue. I’m concerned about how it affects us culturally and seems to desensitize us but I’m also concerned about how evaluative features affect our sense of self. The experience of self is a social construct now more than ever, it seems, and I wonder about the long-term affects of that. In our discussion, I mentioned having this seemingly “innate” self of me and of my wholeness beyond the web. I think the web offers these amazing opportunities to extend ourselves and reflect upon all the different selves we can be but I also believe strongly that I am whole without the web. I can locate myself without turning on my GPS or checking out the snap map. It seems like people today, especially younger people who don’t remember a time before the web, may be less able to feel whole without that online connection and I wonder how that affects the experience of their lives in the long run.

One way I was thinking of exploring some of these issues is through making a fake social media account like a #finsta. It’s such a titillating concept and I think it gets at the heart of this issue: the you and the not you of it. To me, concerns around social curation in online spaces come down to fears about regulation of emotional experiences as well as fears about AI or computer intelligence not only replacing our presence online but controlling us through that replacement. These fears are about self and humanity disappearing into the digital abyss, swallowed up and spit out. Finstas encapsulate that idea of the hidden self, though, with all those hidden fears and anxieties. It’s kind of a subversion of a system designed to profit heavily off of the exploitation of insecurities. At least, it could be subversive.

Design was a big topic we discussed and, to be honest, I’m not sure I could design a whole system to replace the current one (tl:dr scratch that, I’m hella unsure I can’t). But, I do think I could design an account to be subversive. I would like to borrow some of the ideology from metamodernism probably to conceive of this project. Another name for this movement is post-postmodernism. It’s not really a formal movement yet but you may have heard of it if you’ve ever come across any of Shia LaBeouf’s art projects?

So, my understanding of the movement’s tenets is still a little shaky but the movement is a response to modernism and postmodernism and seems to be about re-injecting value of/belief in faith and sincerity and in all of these intangible virtues that modernism and postmodernism have rejected in favor of cold hard progress. To me, it seems this movement is about returning humanity to the people and, more, returning an appreciation for being human. Cynicism and callousness may be in vogue bit that doesn’t mean they’re the right ways to look at or conceive of the world. More, it seems that perspectives like them have not contributed to making the world or online spaces, for that matter, better.

I think it would be interesting to take metamodern perspective on the issue of social curation because I believe it may provide guidance for humane design. At least, that’s what I’m thinking about right now. It’s not a lot and I still have a lot of reading to do and conversing with my alchemist mentor, I know, I know. But, I can kind of see this project coming together? I definitely see a lot of brown paper bags over my head for the finsta…. 

Anyway, what do you think? Does anything show promise? Where are the gaps for you? Any suggestions?

Let me know!

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~Till next time~

If I don’t die during Research Days

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To AUC, What Are Your Thoughts on Social Curation In Online Spaces???

Hey~

How’s Cairo? Hot? Mild? Does it ever get sandy in the city? I’ve always wondered….

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. It happens.

I hear you’re working on projects about digital literacy? So have we! …Well, kind of. We’re each researching a problem associated with the Internet and increasing digitization of daily life. The focus of my research is social curation in online spaces. Specifically, I’m looking at how social curation in online spaces affects our emotional engagement IRL.

I wrote a whole post about social curation and my thoughts around it but for those of you who aren’t familiar, social curation is, “an organic activity that continuously aggregates and ranks content deemed most relevant, valued and of the greatest utility (e.g., “just in time” insight) to users. Sources of content can be published media, real-time information exchange (archived), or continuously evolving content (e.g., wiki, Quora). The social dynamic of content curation is individual and collective input, output and evolution of thought” (source). Essentially, social curation refers to how we organize and navigate content in online spaces. It is the way of the Internet currently. More than just organization content, though, social curation refers to how organization practices affect our interactions with content.

Social curation contributes to the development of so-called “echo chambers” as well as to the rise of Influencer culture. It relates to “trending” topics and includes things like evaluative features (“likes” on FB and <3s on Insta) on social media and reaction gifs. Often, these evaluative features make us feel that we are providing thoughtful interaction with content when, in reality, we are merely being provided the illusion of meaningful engagement by these platforms that profit off of our engagement. Our reactions and emotions are being curated/engineered, which could be affecting our emotional range IRL.

Much research has been done on the effects of evaluative features such as “Like” buttons on social media platforms. One study has looked at how social curation occurs on Pinterest, while another study (which won’t let hypothes.is run? I tried to download it as a PDF and tried to adjust my settings but nope so idk?) has looked at the effects of social curation on adolescent neurological and behavioral responses (to which an article has been written in response). Much of this research revolves around understanding user interactions in a socially curated system. What I find most interesting about this kind of research is the effects social curation has on emotional expressions as well as overall self-esteem and self-worth. More, I find that social curation is one of the processes that strongly contributes to this false sense of reality the Internet creates. This process is, in part, responsible for the creation of so-called “echo chambers” as well as for Internet virality in general. Influencers and the like are trying to tap into this “social curation” process and either become the content that is being circulated or become the subject that curated content revolves around.

Though social curation has certainly been around in varying capacities beyond/before the web, its use as an organizing system in online spaces presents some problems. Mainly, what is perhaps most troubling is the false sense of reality it can perpetuate. It seems very easy for someone to fall into a hole, so to speak, and not even notice that the information they are interacting with is being decided not by an objective audience but by a process of social curation conducted by like-minded peers. Often, evaluative features like “Like” buttons and ❤ buttons facilitate social curation On Facebook, there is a variety of react options to choose from which provides this false sense of diversified expression when, in reality, our emotional range is being curated for us by the social media platform. More, we’re being socialized by sites like Instagram (where only ❤ reacts exist) to react positively or not at all to online content. Rather than online spaces being these immersive spaces where discovery and disappointment can occur, they are becoming these heavily curated spaces limiting not only our emotional ranges but also changing how we respond to things in ways that can spill over into “real life”. I think this is problematic.

While it may be fun and more engaging for users in certain spaces to interact with “like-minded content” (like in an affinity space on Tumblr or in a hashtag on Twitter), having an entire Internet that is slowly being curated by social media seems like an over-reach and one that will affect perceptions of self and the world. Distorted images of self and the world are already prevalent in online spaces and have been prevalent in advertising practices since time in memoriam. We have seen the damage done thus far, especially to the youth who are growing up in a digital world where it is so easy to access platforms that may not be promoting the best perceptions. Addressing how social curation affects interactions and the overall environment of online spaces seems like an increasingly vital issue as digitization becomes more ubiquitous.

Alex Saum’s Ashes to Ashes #YOLO (2018) Epoetry piece seems to speak to concerns about the performance of life taking precedence over the experience of life as well. Also, it seems concerned about how Influencer culture curates what we value and how we value it.

At least, this is all what I believe to be the case and this is the focus of my research. What do you think, though?

Do you think that social curation in online spaces is affecting our own perceptions and emotions IRL? Can social media sites like Insta and FB be redesigned to not include evaluative features and still be functional? How could sites be designed to garner different interactions? To encourage less passive, shallow engagement and more active dialogue and discussion?

Let me know~

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~Till next time~

Exploring Issues of Social Curation in Online Spaces…

So, upfront, this is my blog. If you’re looking for commentary or “dialogue” about the content on my blog, I’d peruse the margins…

Discussion

Hello~

Hope everyone had a nice and healthy week. I’m back up and kicking. This week, I got the chance to catch up on a lot of work. One of the things I needed to work on apparently was refining my idea for the field guide (aka my research project(?)). After discussing my thoughts with Dr. Zamora and my concerns about this whole “finding a solution” thing a concept that I fundamentally disagree with, I believe I narrowed down my focus. I still want to investigate the performing vs. living issue but through the lens of social curation.

So, social curation, according to a comment left on a Quora query about it, “is an organic activity that continuously aggregates and ranks content deemed most relevant, valued and of the greatest utility (e.g., “just in time” insight) to users. Sources of content can be published media, real-time information exchange (archived), or continuously evolving content (e.g., wiki, Quora). The social dynamic of content curation is individual and collective input, output and evolution of thought.” Essentially, social curation refers to how we organize and navigate content in online spaces. It is the way of the Internet currently. More than just organization content, though, social curation refers to how organization practices affect our interactions with content.

Much research has been done on the effects of evaluative features such as “Like” buttons on social media platforms. One study has looked at how social curation occurs on Pinterest, while another study (which won’t let hypothes.is run? I tried to download it as a PDF and tried to adjust my settings but nope so idk?) has looked at the effects of social curation on adolescent neurological and behavioral responses (to which an article has been written in response). Much of this research revolves around understanding user interactions in a socially curated system. What I find most interesting about this kind of research is the effects social curation has on emotional expressions as well as overall self-esteem and self-worth. More, I find that social curation is one of the processes that strongly contributes to this false sense of reality the Internet creates. This process is, in part, responsible for the creation of so-called “echo chambers” as well as for Internet virality in general. Influencers and the like are trying to tap into this “social curation” process and either become the content that is being circulated or become the subject that curated content revolves around.

Thought social curation has certainly been around in varying capacities beyond/before the web, its use as an organizing system in online spaces presents some problems. Mainly, what is perhaps most troubling is the false sense of reality it can perpetuate. It seems very easy for someone to fall into a hole, so to speak, and not even notice that the information they are interacting with is being decided not by an objective audience but by a process of social curation conducted by like-minded peers. Often, evaluative features like “Like” buttons and ❤ buttons facilitate social curation On Facebook, there is a variety of react options to choose from which provides this false sense of diversified expression when, in reality, our emotional range is being curated for us by the social media platform. More, we’re being socialized by sites like Instagram (where only ❤ reacts exist) to react positively or not at all to online content. Rather than online spaces being these immersive spaces where discovery and disappointment can occur, they are becoming these heavily curated spaces limiting not only our emotional ranges but also changing how we respond to things in ways that can spill over into “real life”. I think this is problematic.

While it may be fun and more engaging for users in certain spaces to interact with “like-minded content” (like in an affinity space on Tumblr or in a hashtag on Twitter), having an entire Internet that is slowly being curated by social media seems like an over-reach and one that will affect perceptions of self and the world. Distorted images of self and the world are already prevalent in online spaces and have been prevalent in advertising practices since time in memoriam. We have seen the damage done thus far, especially to the youth who are growing up in a digital world where it is so easy to access platforms that may not be promoting the best perceptions. Addressing how social curation affects interactions and the overall environment of online spaces seems like an increasingly vital issue as digitization becomes more ubiquitous.

All this said, I do not know if there are exact steps that can be taken to fix this problem. More, I don’t feel comfortable providing one “quick fix”. If our discussions on issues of online spaces have revealed anything at all, it is that issues that concern the governing of practices and processes in online spaces are complex and not simply fixed. Because of those findings, I feel more comfortable suggesting steps that may help in alleviating the problems associated with social curation.

First, I think the models girding social media need to be changed to not rely upon evaluative interactions. Basically, ditch the “like” and ❤ buttons. Ditch all of those evaluative features. They are limiting interactions rather than expanding them. If interaction is the goal, comment features should be what is emphasized. Things that encourage and engage in discussion should be the focus. If Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are supposed to be public forums, then discussion in dialogue should always be the focus. Evaluative react buttons do not encourage discussion. They don’t expand or extend the conversation. I feel like a switch like this may instill feelings of anxiety similar to those around the whole texting vs. calling anxiety. Rather than comment or offer a “real” opinion or perspective, most people are probably more comfortable hitting a like button. In order for more measurably meaningful discourse to occur, though, I think evaluative features need to be removed from social media sites.

The “secondly” through the rest of my suggestions all revolve around shifting the profit model behind Internet sites like social media platforms and the mindset that has propelled it. All of these sites rely far too much upon user interaction in order to make a profit. To this end, ethics and conscientious design have gone out the window. Whatever gets more eyes on the screen is what goes. That needs to change. It’s allowing for the formation of echo chambers that stunt/stifle development of self and perspective of the world. There needs to be more of an incentive for creators and platforms to provide diversified content. More, the algorithms need to be recoded to provide diverse content rather than similar content. That needs to be incentivized. The US government should consider following Europe in imposing stricter regulations on how online platforms can collect and store data in order to create user profiles and so curate content for them. Notices that clearly state that content may not be objectively organized should be placed on certain sites. (I don’t mean some wimpy “the opinions and feelings expressed on this site do not reflect the values of the yada yada yada…” That’s weak.) Sites that don not have clear warnings or do not abide by imposed regulation should be taken down. That’s not “stifling free speech” or “open discussion”. Even if it was, the 1st amendment is not an excuse to be an assh*ole anyway. Regulations on content and “breaking up” social curation processes are meant to create spaces where free speech and the free flow of ideas can actually occur. And it’s wholly necessary ’cause little meaningful discourse is happening right now.

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Media

This seems like an interesting video on the topic as well (though I can’t find a video of it in full on Youtube? Idk if you can only view it at a screening?)

For an artistic example, I’d also like to include Alex Saum’s Ashes to Ashes #YOLO (2018) Epoetry piece as I feel lit speaks to concerns about the performance of life taking precedence over the experience of life. Also, it seems concerned about how Influencer culture curates what we value and how we value it.

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Concerns

In addition to the sources mentioned in this post, I’d like to include the article I annotated last week about implementing more humane design in Internet places, social media platforms especially. I think it provides necessary background information on how the Internet became the burning garbage fire it is today. Also, it explains what humane design is concerned with addressing as it relates to online spaces.

I owe you two more sources (which I can hopefully get through by Tuesday). Scouring the web for six relevant sources that meet the proposed criteria for this assignment is not easy, especially when those sources must then be annotated. I will find the sources I need to complete this project but, if you’ll excuse my honesty, I wish the research component of this project were more spaced out over the semester. It feels rushed right now and I feel stressed because all of these expectations for a full-blown research assignment have been stacked up at the end of the semester when final projects for other classes are due and, for those working on thesis projects, thesis work must be completed. I would’ve appreciated spreading out finding and annotating sources during the semester. The field guide wasn’t fleshed out until later on so I wasn’t specifically looking for sources that would’ve helped me now. The shape of the final project was vague for most of the semester which gave us room to free-associate and imagine but not so much to strategize. For people who are picking topics like privacy or surveillance, they’ll probably have a lot more use of the field guide sources collected since that was an overt focus of most of the class. But, for those of us following our own research interests, we have to basically find all of these sources from scratch.

Anyway, just stating my opinion for the record. I’ll get as much work done as I can for class on Tuesday. I’m wrapping on my thesis project, though. That is my main priority and I’m not going to apologize for that. I’ve been working very hard on it and I want to have a bomb presentation. It’s where my passion lies and that’s my future.

So, heads up, this week may not see everything requested fully completed. Not cause I don’t want to but I have no idea where I’m going to find the time to do it.

Update/To annotate:

This article

This one too?

~Till next time~

The Usual Suspects…

Hey~

Sorry I couldn’t join everyone in class this week. Unfortunately, I’ve been very sick lately and apparently it’s getting worse before it gets better. I would not have been my usual pleasant presence had I been in class in-person this week.

Anyway, I am sorry I missed getting to discuss different ideas for the field guide with everyone. I’m sure that would’ve been fun and constructive ^.^

As far as that subject goes, btw, I am thinking of focusing on digital identity (duh). Specifically, I want to look into how social media platforms may be encouraging us to perform our lives rather than live them. It’s kind of a fringe topic to what I’ve been researching for my thesis and I think it’s something interesting to consider. The topic is also something Alex Saum has been exploring in her E-poetry projects. I think there are plenty of ways in which new digital platforms encourage us to be more authentic, rather than less. But, I also know that there are a lot of people who rely on social media to create a life and personality for them which I don’t believe is healthy. This section of the field guide, then, would cover the issue of living one’s life vs. performing it as well as, perhaps, exercising moderation in using social media platforms. Again, while I definitely believe in the abilities of digital interfaces to extend who we are, I also understand that these sites can be addictive and overwhelming. It is important to remember that you are still you after the screen goes dark.

Another topic I’m interested in is also related to my thesis and may veer too far off from what the field guide’s intention is. In the course of doing research for my thesis, I learned more about shitposting and meme culture and I just don’t think the current definition of it in Know Your Meme is accurate. At least, I think it’s outdated and should be updated to include more of the actual purview of shitposting and memes. The current basically identifies both mediums as a kind of interruption to otherwise sensical discourse. In this way, it sort of brushes these very prevalent online mediums off to the side. I think it would be interesting to come up with an updated definition of shitposting and provide sources that support this updated definition and explore new forms of digital content as part of meaningful online discussions. More, I think it’s important to define and validate these new forms of communication as they are becoming a part of our mainstream discourse. It’s all part of the cultural milieu.

So, anyway, that’s what I’m thinking about. I hope one of these ideas is viable. If not, I guess I’m open to suggestions. I wanted to pick a topic I am personally invested in and that concerns me. While these topics may not be the most flashy or be the most “pressing”, I do think they have their own merit and speak to the culture around new media and its usage. It’s important to open dialogue on these subjects, at the very least.

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~Till next time~

Getting the Gif of Things~

Hello~

While scouring the Internet for cool gifs, I came across an interesting discussion about gifs, remix, and contemporary Internet culture.

How GIFs Became Embedded in Our Culture

The discussion is occurs during an episode of a podcast and occurs between Anil Dash (Function podcast commentator), Kenyatta Cheese (CEO of Everybody At Once & co-founder of Know Your Meme), and T. Kyle McMahon (lead digital and social producer from Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen) This podcast episode covers a wide variety of concerns, from the personal impact of the medium to how it has changed discourse in online spaces. More, this discussion seems to focus on how our culture in digital spaces has been totally changed by the onset of new media like gifs and memes.

I found their discussion on how intermediary platforms such as Youtube and Giphy are shaping and curating culture to be particularly interesting. Personally, because of the convenience of sites like Giphy, I do find myself overlooking the greater implications of their existence. Rather than creating a gif to demonstrate, visually, my own excitement, now I can just type the word “excitement” into Giphy or Twitter’s Tenor keyboard and find a plethora of images that the system has decided represent excitement. It’s a really peculiar shift and I’m not quite sure what it says about the direction our culture is shifting in but it appears we’re moving from remixing (active interaction) to recycling (passive interaction).

But, what do you think?

nightmarebeforechristmas1

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I think this is a great resource to have in our field guide as it addresses both the affordances of the gif medium as well as the anxieties surrounding its dissemination in online spaces. 8/10 ^.^

~Till next time~

Exploring Net Art~

Hello~

This week, we’ve begun to explore the emerging and fascinating world of Net Art. In order to help familiarize us with more of the purview of this field, we were asked to explore the works of different artists and collectives. (Heck yeah!)

I chose to explore the net art works of three very different people(?). Each work drew me to it for varied reasons. Mostly, I’m interested in how online spaces intersect with practices of identity construction so I gravitated towards works that explore that subject matter.

The first artist who’s work I looked at is one I am familiar with: Emilio Vavarella. For my thesis, I have explored some of his work. Of particular interest to me is his Digital Skins series. In this collection, Vavarella experiments with the manipulation of the human form in digital spaces. The purpose of this project seems to be exploratory. Vavarella seems interested in how digital spaces affect/challenge the boundaries of self and what is considered to be part of self. Interestingly, Vavarella also touches upon the idea of the skinwalker which is a creature from Navajo lore who was believed to be able to project themselves into your body and become you by just making eye contact. This ancient idea of identity theft is interesting to contrast against contemporary instances of the act which, also, often involve minimal contact with you but can have life-altering affects.

Of the importance of this project, Vavarella states, “In today’s network society, bodies have left that organic condition and are characterized by transient statuses: individuals have become di-viduals, data aggregates, samples, signals. The last boundary between us and the world, our skin, has become a transient membrane that changes along with the trans- and meta- human forms under it. The space that was occupied by the skinwalkers of the past has been taken over by infinite reconfigurations and mediations. What remains the same is that to be human still means to constantly shift through generative metamorphosis, corruptions, and de-generations that escape any clear categorization.”

I give this series a 10/10 and definitely recommend checking it out. I think it asks us to consider our evolving place in digital spaces and how digital spaces are changing our perceptions of self and what constitutes as self.

Toshiaki-2-PRINT-comp-e1454433469758 (evavarella)

 

Another work I explored is MouchetteTo me, this work really toes the line between art and Elit. I was interested in this work because it was described as a piece that explores issues of identity online. According to its entry in the Net Art Anthology, this is an interactive work that explores the fictional life of a young girl who is morbidly fascinated with topics such as suicide and death. (This work is inspired by a Robert Bresson film of the same name–which was based upon a Georges Bernanos book–in which a young teenage girl does commit suicide after a life of tragedy.) In this piece, you can respond to inquiries made by Mouchette (which means “little fly” in French) and kind of follow her oddly naive yet surprisingly serious thoughts. The text is often accompanied by grainy, provocative images that, at times, contrast with the textual content.

Honestly, I find the work to be morbidly fascinating in the same way that Jason Nelson’s This is how you will die is fascinating. As Mouchette precedes Nelson’s work, I wonder if any inspiration was drawn from it? That said, I do recognize that this work could be a little disturbing or triggering for some people (especially the feature where you suggest the best way for a 13 year old girl to commit suicide). I think being provocative and “edgy” is only part of the work’s purpose, though. More, I think the work is meant to be a reflective piece, one in which we can explore the darker parts of ourselves and our culture in order to better ourselves and our world. The digital aspect of the world seems also to ask us to consider how digitization affects the ways we relate to ourselves and our world.

I’m going to give this work an 8/10 because I feel like it really provides a meaningful experience in which users actively participate with others in the processes of identity construction.

2019-03-22 (3)

The last net art work I reviewed this week is the BODY ANXIETY project. I chose to review this work because the prescription of its purposes reminded me of the intent of the Guerrilla Girls collective. Essentially, both seek to challenge the male gaze of the world and, particularly, the male gaze of the female experience and the worth of that experience. The net art project seeks to accomplish this through female artists employing video and other digital mediums to capture their experiences and share them online. This project seems to be about changing the narrative around female identity in public spaces and, more, about reclaiming that identity by utilizing new spaces for diverse voices provided by the Internet. It’s about reframing female identity.

As a female-identifying person myself, I found this collective to be very powerful and inspiring. The featured approaches to gender expression are all so different and powerful in their own ways. I found May Waver’s contribution to be particularly compelling to me. The “glitchy” kind of replication she uses to distort her images reminds me of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe prints. I think Waver’s work, in some ways, re-imagines the mass production and commodification of the female experience in the digital age. It’s just a constant bombardment. The female form is used as an advertising tool so often we’re numb to it. Waver’s work explores how that affects our perspective on ourselves in our daily lives.

I give this collective a 9/10 because I think it provides an excellent lens on what the female experience is in the digital age. I think it’s focus on reasserting and a reclaiming a sense of sense from the so often toxic miasma of contemporary digital life is incredibly important.

For comparison

Some pictures of Guerrilla Girls work from my latest visit to the Brooklyn Museum of art.

I hope you enjoyed my perspective on these works and decide to check some of these pieces out for yourselves! Net art is definitely expanding what it means to not only create in the digital age but it means to be at this moment in time.

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~Till next time~

The Lifespan of Memes~

This too shall pass~

shallnot pass

Or will it????

Hey~

So, in the course of working on my thesis, I’ve read a lot of articles and research studies about memes. Some articles focus on the spread and replication of memes through a system while others focus on the sociocultural impact of the meme and its semantic and communicative applications. Very boring stuff. Not the topic–the writing on the topic. It’s almost like mimetic researchers have something to prove…

Anyway, rather than bore you with some of those useful but admittedly snooze-worthy sources, I thought I’d share one of the more “fun” articles I came across in my research on memes. This article by Lauren Michele Jackson, published in The Atlantic, explores why some memes are more fit than others and tend to have a longer shelf-life (i.e. remain in the public consciousness longer). More, this article looks at “meme-death” and what elements a successful meme needs to have in order to propagate in or current social system.

Though not an academic article per se, Jackson does draw upon mimetic research to define the internet meme as well as to critique the antiquated definition (calling Dawkins (1976) concept “deliberately capacious”–which is fair). To Jackson, though, it seems more apt to define the current Internet meme as a kind of joke. Jackson states, “memes as they’re popularly discussed nowadays often index something much more specific—a phrase or set of text, often coupled with an image, that follows a certain format within which user adjustments can be made before being redistributed to amuse others. Also known as: a joke”. While memes often inspire humor and laughter, that is not the main reason for why Jackson compares the meme to a joke. It is the shared quality of jokes and memes to “uniquely and deliberately make depth inconsequential to their appreciation” that Jackson cites as the main reason for why the two mediums are comparable. Essentially, counter to every proud mimetic theorist out there, Jackson believes that the most defining quality of the meme is that its meaning is shallow. Or, at the very least, it does not matter if a meme means anything deep or profound; people are not thinking that hard about it and that is the point. As reiterated multiple times in this article: jokes just aren’t funny anymore once explained. Once a meme has been explained or becomes so popular that it is no longer popular, it dies.

Jackson’s thoughts on the meme and a meme’s life are quite interesting. While I disagree with her on the “shallowness” of meme’s meanings, I do find myself agreeing with the idea that more successful memes are ones whose meanings can be easily co-opted. Essentially, the template can be recycled and the meaning swapped out for another but the impact still remains. This, to me, indicates that there has to be some kind of inherent, deep-seated meaning in a template that underlies any superimposed nuance. That inherent meaning, I believe, is dependent upon the cultural context in which the meme is dependent. This is something Jackson seems to agree with me on. According to Jackson, “Memes capture and maintain people’s attention in a given moment because something about that moment provides a context that makes that meme attractive”. Once that context passes, it’s time for new memes. If a meme is not attuned to public sentiment at a certain time, it is no longer relevant.

Jackson ends her article by stating, “We create and pass on the things that call to our current experiences and situations. Memes are us.” Which I think it a very provocative idea. When memes are looked at as extensions of ourselves rather than disconnected means of communication–removed, to some degree, from us–I believe memes become easier to understand. At least, it’s easier to accept the complexity and multiplicity of this emergent medium when the human element is introduced into the conversation rather than viewed separately. The relationship between human and meme becomes more symbiotic than parasitic.

But, that’s just what I think.

Let me know if you have a different perspective. I’d love to hear it~

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~Till next time~

Exploring the History of the Selfie~

So, I know this post wasn’t formatted exactly as suggested but I was in “the zone” and didn’t even think of writing this post as suggested. Sorry >.< Just know I contain plenty multitudes~

When it comes to discussing emergent forms of digital content creation, I think there are few more disputed or more controversial forms than that of the selfie. It has been vilified across the board, reaffirmed, vilified again, then reaffirmed….and so on. It appears we as a people can’t seem to make up our minds abut whether or not selfies are insignificant and vain or profound expressions of self and the experience of life in a finite form. (Perhaps selfies can be a little of both???)

Anyway, regardless of your personal feelings on the medium itself, I think many of us realize that selfies do constitute their own genre of sorts. There are standard conventions that guide selfie creation and proliferation as well as entire digital platforms designed to “house” these new artifacts. Most, if not all, of us can recognize a selfie when we see one. The specific purpose of the selfie may be subjective but we can all objectively identify a selfie as a selfie.

Some people, like myself >.>, have even begun to identify selfies as art.

In a Vulture article by Jerry Saltz, there is a case made for viewing selfies as their own distinct art genre, separate from the self-portraits of artistic tradition they have often been compared to. Saltz cites the cultivation of very specific conventions as well as the “cultural dialogue” selfies seem to engage in as prime evience for why selfies should be considered as their own artistic genre. In the article, Saltz states,

These [Selfies] are not like the self-portraits we are used to. Setting aside the formal dissimilarities between these two forms—of framing, of technique—traditional photographic self-portraiture is far less spontaneous and casual than a selfie is. This new genre isn’t dominated by artists. When made by amateurs, traditional photographic self-portraiture didn’t become a distinct thing, didn’t have a codified look or transform into social dialogue and conversation. These pictures were not usually disseminated to strangers and were never made in such numbers by so many people. It’s possible that the selfie is the most prevalent popular genre ever.

According to Saltz, not only do selfies constitute as their own genre that is distinctly different from traditional self-portraiture but selfies also represent new forms of communication and socialization. Selfies are not just images, removed from a particular context. No, they are these very present, immediate messages that have a kind of agency. Selfies can be responses or reactions or affirmations or assertions or any number of poignant forms of communication. Saltz states, “Selfies are our letters to the world. They are little visual diaries that magnify, reduce, dramatize—that say, ‘I’m here; look at me.” Selfies are becoming not just an extension of our own language but almost a language unto themselves. Which is fascinating.

One one hand, selfies seem to be about self-representation and extending self beyond previously imposed finite limits but, with their increasing ubiquity, they are also becoming this cultural phenomenon that is able to express something about who we all are. Which, isn’t that what are does? It speaks to something transcendent yet so visceral. Something we can almost touch, but can’t quite hold. Which, isn’t that what self is?

The line between art and self is blurry, at best. Even if you don’t see selfies as particularly artistic or expressive, I think it’s fair to say that they are, currently, culturally significant. Which, to me, necessitates a need to look more closely at them and at what it is about selfies that resonates with so many people. What are selfies saying that we want to say? Or, that we want people to hear? What is in a selfie that is so important to share? Or, for those of us who keep our selfies private, what doe a selfie capture that is so important to save? I think these are all important questions and ones that are worthy of our investigation and consideration.

To dismiss selfies as simply trivial or frivolous or vain is to ignore what seems like the experience of more than half of the world. Like Saltz says, selfies are a way to communicate the experience of being here, of being me experiencing me in this very moment and how absolutely wild and unfathomable it is to exist. How can you ignore that???

It seems like a message that humanity has been trying to communicate for so long. It’s like some Thoreau-esque, transcendentalist bull. Just writing these words sounds like I’m trying to get at something sublime. Something that is integral to the human experience but is ineffable. I’m not trying to say that selfies are a manifestation of the sublime or that they hold some secret to ultimate self-realization but they could. 

I think it’s important that we continue to investigate the selfie and other emergent forms of digital content creation if for no other reason than because they are us, they increasingly represent us. And, we’re important subjects.

Don’t you think so too?

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~Till next time~

Thoughts on Selfies

More Thoughts on Selfies

Following the Crumbs Can Be Crummy…

This post is late because of a certain snarky blog poster’s birthday this weekend #24on24

Anyway….

Hey~

This week, we explored the nature of truth in online spaces. Often, online, false news or misinformation spreads more rapidly and much further than facts or more honest news or truthful reporting of information. With this being the case, how is one to navigate online spaces and make decisions about the truth or “fakeness” of a source? Can there be any fake or real news in a place like America that has become so divided? More, does truth even matter anymore when it so easy to make up information that supports a false narrative and or straight-up choose to believe in facts or not?

Personally, I believe the truth will always matter. I believe it is important to question information and think critically about where information is coming from but I ultimately do believe that there are facts and indomitable truths. Maybe they’re not Plato’s capital “T” Truths but there are true things/people/facts out there. It is important to believe in the reality of the truth, to me, because if we can’t agree on a set of truths, then we can’t have a meaningful discussion. We could only engage in arguments–which seldom resolve problems.

What is causing division in this country, in my opinion, is a lack of faith in news organizations and traditionally heralded, respected sources of information. This lack of faith, I believe, is being caused largely by political pundits and agents of a particular political agenda who benefit substantially from the spread of misinformation and from generating distrust towards facts and critical information. How do we circumvent this, though? How do we identify misinformation online? And, more, how do we get people to care about misinformation?

That latter question may be more challenging to answer but I did come across some sources that talk about fake news and identifying misinformation online. One of them is a news articles by The New York Times. In the article, “Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News” some strategies are provided for navigating misinformation online. More, how false information spreads is analysed and discussed. Two other articles quoted in this article discuss the issue of fake news at length. One of the articles is “As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth” and the other is “How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study” Both of these articles talk about more specific details about fake news and how its spread operates in online spaces. The second article seems to use Mike Caulfield’s “Four Moves” method in order to determine whether or not a specific example (i.e that fake protesters were being shuttled to Trump rallies) is fake or not (It is–no one needs to be paid to protest the guy >.>). 

Anyway, I think these articles are good sources to provide to our field guide for navigating the web. They elaborate more upon the problem of fake news in our Internet landscape and provide examples for navigating this complex and complicated landscape.

I’d give these sources about 7/10.

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~Till next time~

Developing Digital Literacy (One Video at a Time)~

Hey~

Welcome to this week’s bonus post ^.^ I’m going to try to keep it short & sweet!

A big topic in class related to privacy, data tracking, and navigating online spaces as a whole is that of digital literacy. Data tracking, learning algorithms, and surveillance capitalism have largely been allowed to propagate and perpetuate and make a butt-ton of money off of all of us due in large part to a lack of regulation. Unfortunately, much of this has gone unregulated not because people do not care but because they do not know they need to care in the first place. A vast majority of the population, especially in the US, is simply unaware of the dangers online spaces pose to their privacy and other personal information. Most people don’t know that when a website is free, that means they are the product.

In order to enact meaningful change in regards to imposing regulations on the conduct of these digital entities, the public needs to speak up and elect officials who can make changes. But, in order for the public to speak up on these issues, they need to be informed and they need to know why it matters. To help better inform people at all levels on the issues affecting their relationship to the Internet and the Internet’s relationship to user information, I highly recommend Crash Course on Youtube’s Media Literacy series.

The series covers not only many of the topics we’ve already discussed so far in class but also discusses the intersection some of these concerns have with others. I think this series provides users with a good foundation from which to further develop their own stance on the issue. This source, too, I believe can be helpful for educating even younger users on the many issues affecting our interactions with the Internet.

I would give this resource a solid 9/10? There’s always room for improvement and I’m sure people have their own opinions on “educational Youtube”. Overall, at least, I think this is a useful tool to keep in our library.

More, I firmly believe that education is the spark that will light up the darkness of the web like a clear night sky.

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~Till Next Time~