Websites Have Stories Too

I found the Manovich article very confusing, and I am not entirely sure that I correctly understood the point of the article. If I am correct, the main point is that interactions with media that used to be “narrative” or “story” based have now lost their narrative element due to the nature of databases and mass media.

Manovich uses the “antinarrative logic of the web” as one example, stating “If new elements are being added over time, the result is a collection, not a story. Indeed, how can one keep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory through the material if it keeps changing?” (Manovich 2010). As a counter example to Manovich’s argument, simply look at the ancient Greek oral storytelling tradition. The Trojan War occurred around 1200 BCE, yet the Homerian epics were not written until the 700s BCE.

Source: https://giphy.com/gifs/11W78Fy059zQKQ

Prior to Homer, the story of the Trojan War was recounted solely through spoken word, with little additions and subtractions to the story occurring frequently. One can argue that the factuality of the story suffered from this, but to say that the Homerian epics did not “keep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory” before Homer wrote them down would be a foolish claim. Narratives can maintain consistent storylines even with constant additions, meaning that websites can maintain a narrative feature in spite of their malleable nature.

I am not claiming that all websites are always consistent, indeed, the inclusion of The Undefeated on ESPN’s website marked a change in the direction of their narrative. But some websites remain unchanging, ever faithful to their story and their narrative.

Sources:

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. MIT Press, 2010.

My source of knowledge about the Trojan War is my Classics 280 course.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Why Treat Bots Differently??

There are bots that tweet random sentences, bots that report earthquakes, bots that report journalistically on congress, bots that spread false information, bots that encourage political transparency, bots that do nothing other than appear comically inhuman, and bots that perform so many other varied functions on the internet (particularly twitter). The article “How to Think About Bots” mentions several of these bot species, for lack of a better phrase, in its analysis of the bot infested social media world we now live in. Yet the article does not come up with a seemingly obvious conclusion. If the bot world is so complex and varied, shouldn’t we just deal with them on a case by case basis???

The authors state, “Platforms, governments and citizens must step in and consider the purpose, and future, of bot technology,” as if some legislature or rulebook could possibly cover all possible actions bots will make in the future (Wooley, Boyd, & Broussard 2016). The truth is, it is impossible to predict precisely what semi-autonomous bots will do, and this ambiguity makes any type of preemptive policy pointless. A better solution would simply mirror the steps taken towards the accounts of actual humans who tweet dangerous or libelous things.

Source: https://leapfroggr.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/new-twitter-account-suspended.png

If a real person tweets something incredibly offensive or blatantly false, Twitter can simply look at the tweet as a case by case event and delete the tweet. If the real person repeatedly tweets inappropriate material, Twitter can suspend the account. Why not follow the same steps towards bots? If a bot tweets something illegal, Twitter can delete it. If it keeps tweeting illegal things, Twitter can delete the account.

Sources:

Wooley, Samuel, et al. “How to Think About Bots.” Motherboard, 23 Feb. 2016, motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/qkzpdm/how-to-think-about-bots.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Think Before You Post

The article We’re the reason we can’t have nice things on the internet, from Quartz Media, makes a great point with the second section of the post. Part 2 is titled “Stop Incentivizing Problematic Online Behavior”, and the main argument is that media coverage creates publicity and attention for the trolls, which is exactly what they are after. We have all seen it before – the mass media fixates on one social media phenomenon for a week, never letting the subject go – but when the phenomenon is a troll, the media is doing exactly what the troll wants. Trolls rely on responses to survive, for if their is no response then their incendiary tweet, post, or share fades into ignored obscurity on the depths of the internet. Media coverage of trolling efforts bring attention to these inflammatory posts, prompting people to respond to them and thus giving new breath to it. This is what the author means when she writes, “Every retweet, comment, like, and share extends the life of a given story. So we need to pay careful attention to what we share and spread online” (Phillips 2015).

Source: http://robertcatalano.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Think-before-you-post.jpg

Fixing this problem is not as simple as it seems. The media cannot simply stop covering these stories – it is their job to do so. The author realizes this, and encourages people to look over their posts and responses so as not to unintentionally give life to a trolling maneuver. She suggests this on an individual level, however, and in our new age of omnipresent technology, we need a cultural shift to truly solve the problem. My parents used to tell me to say something in my head 3 times before speaking it out loud if I thought there was any chance of it being rude. Today’s parents need to teach a similar lesson on social media. It sounds cliche, but today’s parents will mold the next generation, so they have the ability to shape manners on social media. With any luck, they can help decrease the success of trolling in future generations.

 

Sources:

Phillips, Whitney. “We’re the reason we can’t have nice things on the internet.” Quartz, Quartz Media, 29 Dec. 2015, qz.com/582113/were-the-reason-we-cant-have-nice-things-online/.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Lab 3 – Animated GIFs

Reaction GIF

Source

Counter-Reaction GIF

Analysis:

The typical reaction GIF emulates the raw emotion (usually exaggerated for comedic effect) that occurs the instant someone reacts to something. Reaction GIFs focus entirely on the RE part of the word reaction; that is, the GIF gives no context as to what initial action caused the reaction. This is where I got the motivation for my counter reaction GIF. My GIF displays a Newton’s cradle, which visually illustrates Newton’s third law – “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The special part of my GIF is that I cut out the reaction of the Newton cradle entirely. Instead of showing the reaction where the stationary ball on the end flies up into the air, I cut the video so that the initial action of the first ball falling repeats over and over again, thus never allowing the reaction to happen.

Sport GIF

Source

Counter-Sport GIF

Analysis:

When I think sports GIFs, I think of the viral clips of incredible sports moments that circulate on Facebook, ESPN, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Every Monday morning during football season I can count on at least one play from the slate of Sunday NFL games to make its way onto my social media feeds. These plays normally fall into one of a few categories. They are either athletically impressive, significant to the outcome of a game or season, or symbolically important outside of sports. To counter this canon of sports GIFs, I found the least impressive, least significant, and least symbolic moment I could think of from an NFL game: a standard punt. Yes, a punt could be featured as a typical sports GIF, but this would only occur if the punt is blocked or returned for a touchdown, both of which are exciting moments. A successful punt, on the other hand, is the type of play a fan misses to go to the bathroom or get some food at the concession stand. Therefore, immortalizing a bland, boring, successful punt as a GIF seemed like the perfect counter to the typical sports GIF.

Wobble GIF

Source

Counter-Wobble GIF

Analysis:

I’ll admit it – I’m taking a little bit of a risk with this one. My GIF stretches the boundaries of what can be considered a GIF, but in doing so it perfectly counters the standard wobble GIF. A wobble GIF often consists of some object gyrating back and forth over and over again. Imagine jello jiggling on a plate and you get a pretty good idea of the canon of wobble GIFs. A subset of the wobble GIFs I found on Giphy focuses on the wobbling of human bodies. In these GIFs, an (usually) overweight person moves the fat on his/her body back and forth to create the wobbling effect. My GIF is made up of two identical images of an overweight man caught in the middle of streaking. It is technically a GIF because it is an endless loop of multiple images, but there is no movement in an effort to counter the typical wobble GIF. Movement is a staple of the wobble GIF, and I took a person that would usually be the subject of a wobble GIF and changed it so there would be no movement whatsoever.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Are GIFs Really a Problem?

In my opinion, the article in Teen Vogue titled “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in Reaction GIFs” is a little bit of a stretch. It is a very opinionated article, which is fine, but opinionated articles need evidence to support the opinions put forth, and there is little evidence to back up several claims Lauren Jackson makes. The author states without evidence, for example, “For while reaction GIFs can and do every feeling under the sun, white and nonblack users seem to especially prefer GIFs with black people when it comes to emitting their most exaggerated emotions” (Jackson 2017). It is fine to make this claim, but Jackson should have more to support this statement than just her own supposition. To simply say that it seems like people prefer GIFs with black people is not a convincing argument because it is not an argument at all – it is merely an opinion.

Source: http://gph.is/1MbAxgX

After claiming without evidence that GIF users prefer GIFs with black people, Jackson then proceeds to declare, again with no corroboration, that “In television and film, our dial is on 10 all the time — rarely are black characters afforded subtle traits or feelings” (Jackson 2017). Again, Jackson takes what is merely her opinion and asserts it as an undeniable fact. She may actually be correct about both of the claims I just analyzed – I quite honestly have no idea what the data would say, but Jackson’s flawed rhetoric is not convincing unless she presents statistics to back up such assertions.

Without any evidence, the entire article becomes trivial. This article from the Huffington Post, on the other hand, presents three explicit examples of racist digital blackface. If one is truly trying to combat racism in the digital world, perhaps these clearly offensive memes are a better place to start.

 

Works Cited:

Jackson, Lauren Michele. “We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in GIFs.” Teen Vogue, TeenVogue.com, 3 Aug. 2017, www.teenvogue.com/story/digital-blackface-reaction-gifs. Accessed 2 Oct. 2017.

Lewis, Sedgrid. “Top 3 Types of Digital Blackface.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 Apr. 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com/sedgrid-lewis/top-3-types-of-digital-bl_b_9766412.html. Accessed 2 Oct. 2017.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

A Helpful “Nudge”

One of the main points of discussion in the assigned article revolved around the energy costs of computation and data centers. These energy costs could become a serious environmental problem as internet usage continues to grow, the article notes, with the main problem being the source of the electricity used to power the massive data centers that handle the public’s many technological needs. Until recently, many large tech companies used coal-based electricity to power their centers, but several have started to make the switch to renewable energy sources after facing pressure from pro-environment organizations like Greenpeace (Burrington 2015).

Moving to cleaner energy partially alleviates the problem, but it does nothing to address the fact that the general public does not pay attention to or care about how much energy their technology uses. Burrington writes, “The impact of data centers—really, of computation in general—isn’t something that really galvanizes the public, partly because that impact typically happens at a remove from everyday life”. She is correct with this assertion. When I stream a movie onto my laptop, the only energy concern on my mind is whether or not my computer battery will last through the whole movie. Not once does it occur to me that in some remote Netflix data center massive amounts of electricity are used to stream the content to my (and millions of other people’s) device.

Encouraging people to watch how much energy their device uses could work in a way similar to posting calorie counts beneath food items on a menu.

NEW YORK – JULY 18: Calories are listed next to menu items at a Chipotle Mexican Grill July 18, 2008 in New York City. New York is now the first city in the country to implement a law forcing chain restaurants to post the calorie count of each food next to the items on their menus. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Both of these strategies would rely on a psychological phenomenon called a “nudge” by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their book of the same name (Thaler and Sunstein 2008). In Nudge, the authors discuss how simply calling attention to the quantity of an item being consumed (calories on a menu or kilowatt hours on Netflix) can act as a catalyst to encourage people to consume less of that item. Perhaps Netflix and other streaming sites could create something similar to a calorie count. Below each movie title, Netflix could list the energy needed by the data center to stream the entire video. By doing so tech companies may be able to encourage their customers to be more aware of their energy usages, thus reducing them in the long run.

 

Citations:

Burrington, Ingrid. “The Environmental Toll of a Netflix Binge.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 16 Dec. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/12/there-are-no-clean-clouds/420744/. Accessed 19 Sept. 2017.

Thaler, Richard H, and Cass R Sunstein. Nudge : Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 2008.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Technology as a Form of Vertical Relationships

In The Challenge of Absent Presence, Kenneth Gergen argues that our culture is moving from an emphasis on vertical friendships to a focus on horizontal registers (232). In layman’s terms, horizontal relationships are ones that barely scratch the surface of superficiality. A horizontally focused person may have 500 acquaintances, but is very close friends with almost none of them. In today’s terms, this person would have thousands of Instagram followers but few meaningful real life friends. “Relating in the vertical register,” on the other hand, “requires dedicated attention, effort, commitment and sacrifice” (233). Vertical relationships are ones where you would actually enjoy going on a 12 hour road trip together. A vertically focused person does not have a large number of friends, but he is deeply involved with all of the friends he does have.

Gergen argues that technology brings with it an absent presence – a phenomenon where a person is physically present but mentally or socially disengaged (in this case due to the use of technology). This absent presence, he further argues, is what leads to horizontal registers. We are no longer fully present around our friends, so we tend towards horizontal relationships as opposed to vertical ones.

I believe Gergen’s argument is flawed here. He needs to further develop the distinction he makes between dialogic and monologic technologies. Monologic tech activities (listening to music, streaming video, reading) are entirely disengaging, and Gergen is correct to assert that these activities lead to horizontal relationships. Dialogic technology, on the other hand, merely asserts a preference of one relationship over another. Consider the following example. A college student at a party chooses to text her best friend from her hometown instead of conversing with her friends who are physically present.

Gergen would say that this girl is promoting horizontal relationships with those friends that are present, but he would fail to notice that she could potentially be furthering a vertical relationship with the friend back home. I say potentially because it all depends on the situation. If this really is a true friend, then the girl is showing “attention, effort, commitment and sacrifice” by texting her hometown friend instead of socializing. On the other hand, if the friend is merely a common acquaintance then the girl would probably be better served focusing on the friends physically present.

Sources:

https://thumb1.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/1927106/532469638/stock-photo-beautiful-young-girl-looking-at-a-mobile-phone-while-at-the-home-party-532469638.jpg

Katz, James E., and Aakhus, Mark, eds. Perpetual Contact : Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. Cambridge, GB: Cambridge University Press, 2002. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 10 September 2017.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.

Leaving a Part of Yourself Behind

At the very end of Neuromancer, Case sees three people on the virtual beach of the matrix. It is not surprising to see the grey eyed Neuromancer boy and Linda Lee there – they were there the last time Case visited the beach. The third figure is very confusing, however. Case sees himself standing on the beach, which leads to the perplexing question why does he see himself in cyberspace?

I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that Case left a part of himself behind in the matrix when he finished the Straylight run. Specifically, he left behind the junkie, addict part of himself that craved cyberspace and drugs with reckless abandon. The last few pages offer some evidence to support this theory. Case spends most of his earnings on a new pancreas and liver, purchases that would not make sense if he planned to continue destroying them with drugs and alcohol. True, he also buys a new Ono-Sendai to access cyberspace, but Gibson clearly notes that Case also finds work. Instead of using his Ono-Sendai to feed his cyberspace addiction, Case uses it for legitimate work. Gibson also points out that Case finds himself a girl, which implies moving on from his drug addict ex-girlfriend Linda. It seems that Case has gotten his life together by the end of the novel, and therefore the Case we see in cyberspace symbolizes his past life being left behind where it belongs – trapped in cyberspace.

In many ways, Case leaving behind his addict self is like Harry leaving behind the horcrux part of himself in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt. 2). Both Case and Harry leave a bad part of themselves in a fantasy realm, and sometimes that is the only way to improve as a person.

Posted from My DIG 101 Blog by Matt B.