What I am taking away from Comm2F00…

Standard

The first thing I will be taking away from this class is that I am a produser. In many ways I am a stereotypical product of the information generation that systematically engages in the cycle of consumption that is social media. However, I am not only a consumer. I am also a producer of my own creative content, and the first couple weeks of this course forced me to analyze my own identity as a participant in social media and to deconstruct the ways I engage and participate. This distinction is important for me moving forward because I am starting a new marketing coordinator job and it is important for me to be knowledgeable of how I interact online and what others respond to.

The second thing I have learned is how my actions online and interactions with media can seem insignificant to me, but can be perpetuating negative, macro-level issues. We learned about how participating online is arguably participatory and can seem like it is for our benefit, however our participation makes sure someone gets paid, and perpetuates capitalism. Last week’s assignments also had me thinking of how my actions online reinforce social segregation and inequalities, which is something that can only be realized once you stop seeing your online participation as an individual situation. One week’s readings were on e-waste and the disposal of our old media devices. Although I am not so guilty of this, it still opened my eyes to how what may seem like just throwing an iPod to us, is multiplied by thousands of individuals and is devastating to those who live across seas beside the incinerating materials. This knowledge will definitely keep me more mindful of how I recycle my devices in the future and make sure others are aware as well.

The third thing I will remember from this class is the importance of being an informed consumer or participant. Similar to the things mentioned above, we need to be aware of how our individual actions affect macro-level social phenomena, but also of what we are actually consuming. We need to research the companies we buy products from, and deconstruct common sense thinking that tells us things such as Wikipedia being an open encyclopedia. We should know by now that almost everything we hear from top-down companies only works to serve profit and capitalism as a whole, without our best interests at heart. Therefore, we need to do our best to do our research before forming an opinion and investing in certain products and their corresponding lifestyles.

tumblr_inline_n5z0222kwx1rdkzjr

Advertisements

Digital Inequality

Standard

After working through this week’s readings, I do think that critically thinking about digital inequalities is important and necessary, although I do not know how much can be done about it. Hargittai argues, “socioeconomic status is an important predictor of how people are incorporating the Web into their everyday lives” (p. 1). She writes that those who are more privileged are generally more tech-savvy and use the online world for a larger amount of activities than those who maybe do not have a laptop, or easy access to a computer. Therefore, in some ways the differential access to online activity can reinforce classist inequalities. While the web appears to be an objective tool that can be used for school, it is important to recognize how it can be a very subjective experience. For example, Brock University uses Sakaii as a platform for all courses. It is where we get our syllabus, assignments, announcements, emails and even our grades. For me, I find it extremely useful. I think most laptop-owning ‘tech-savvy’ students like myself would agree, however, the usage and dependency on Sakaii for all things school could be extremely inconvenient and frustrating for others.

Last year, my laptop was having a sleepover at Future Shop for almost two weeks to get a face-lift, and I experienced my current lifestyle without a laptop. Not only did I miss important class-cancellation notices, but also I missed out on a workshop that would have really helped me with studying for exams. Of course there are other places where I could go to check everything online, but when you have to take two buses to get to the school just to check Sakaii, it becomes very frustrating. Also, then you have to actually find an available computer, which can be half of the struggle. My own personal experience of being a privileged student became very clear to me when I also experienced what it would be like to be disadvantaged by the school system when it came to accessibility. I cannot imagine what it would be like to take an online course as a student without unlimited access to the Web. I would find it very frustrating.

Boyd states that social segregation offline is often recreated online (p. 156). She also argues that many online tools are created with the bias of the designers and work to reinstate the existing social hierarchy or dominant society (Boyd, p. 156). I agree with her on this. For example, the creators and designers of Facebook only provided the two options of ‘male’ or ‘female’ when choosing your gender for your profile. This reinstates the ciscentrism that is evident in almost every corner of Western ideology and mainstream culture and works to further oppress gender-variant identified individuals, and maintain the status quo.

While I think that online courses, and online dependency can be fantastic tools for privileged folk, I believe that they can also be detrimental in the way that they continue to reinforce inequality, stigma and the reigning social hierarchy.

Wiki-what?!

Standard

This week’s readings have surprised me, and I am having trouble deciding if I agree with the inclusionists or exclusionists more.

I did not think I would ever be reading scholarly articles written about Wikipedia, but maybe that is the point. I have been told by almost every one of my high school and university teachers that Wikipedia is not a valid source of information, and we must dis-credit it with the knowledge that ‘anyone’ can write what is on there. I think the inclusionist in me likes the idea of a web page that people can start and edit freely—as a sort of information democracy—however Carr argues that Wikipedia is not, and never has been open to all (p. 197). “From the start, Wikipedia has pursued two conflicting goals: to be an open encyclopedia that anyone can edit, and to be a serious encyclopedia that is as good as the best print encyclopedia” (Carr, p. 198). From this weeks readings I have learned that Wikipedia is semi-protected and there are still scholarly experts writing the majority of the articles that are published and approved on the site. In this sense, I agree with the exclusionists or deletionists because it results in the ‘most reliable’ information.

When I am doing research for a paper, or even just looking up a definition for something, usually one of the first search results I get on google is a Wikipedia page. A Wikipedia page is easy to navigate with its click-through headings, and it is usually clearly worded and simple to understand. In my own use, I have always found it to be reliable, and it has frustrated me that I have to spend an hour looking for a peer-reviewed article to cite on my paper that tells me the exact information—just in more complex sentence structure. So personally, I do think that through exclusionary practices, many students like myself would benefit from the validation of Wikipedia articles.

One thing I do not agree with however is the deletionist perspective on importance. They are absolutionists, and take it upon themselves to rank the importance of articles into some sort of social hierarchy (Carr, p. 198). The importance of any given subject is always subjective, and therefore inclusionist perspectives represent that as they acknowledge that any piece of given information can be deemed both important or not important dependent on the meaning put to it by the recipient.

So while I cannot seem to stick myself on either side of this debate, Carr argues that you cannot be both an inclusionist and exclusionist at the same time (p. 198). Therefore, I think I would have to pick the exclusionist standpoint because I use Wikipedia all the time, and I wish I could actually use it for what I find it most useful with—school! A very similar, more-open platform that people use and know it is not trying to be exclusionary, is Urban Dictionary. I think Urban Dictionary could continue to grow along with our ever-evolving language and ideas, while the Wikipedia pages could do the same, but be considered a more valid reference, while remaining clear and concise.

I Exist Outside Of Facebook, But Maybe Not According To Everyone Else

Standard

I got my Facebook account when I was 14 years old, entering my first year of high school. Facebook started becoming popular a couple years before then, but my peers all viewed Facebook as an ‘old people’ site (because our parents were on it), and we seemed to collectively keep our obsession focused on MySpace. However, entering high school meant it was time to mature, and it seemed that getting a Facebook account was the way everyone was approaching that task. Gehl’s main argument is that Facebook is an addiction that changes much more than our interpersonal relationships, and though Facebook is arguably a voluntary practice, it does not feel that way. I completely agree. 

I did not feel any sort of pressure to create a Facebook profile until the majority of my peers had one. Gehl writes, “communication technology increases in value as more people use it” (p. 225). The more people you know that use it, the more pressure builds on you if you do not (Gehl, p. 225). Except for Tumblr, each of my other social media accounts I have created simply because it is what seemingly all of my friends were doing at the time. Now checking all of these accounts have become a tedious, addicting practice that eats up the majority of my morning routine and spare time. The exponential growth of the population using Facebook, has initiated both peers and professional settings to assume that everyone has Facebook accounts (Gehl, p, 225). Gehl argues, “If you don’t have Facebook, you don’t exist, in all walks of life.” While he does not mean it in the literal sense, it is true in my experience that Facebook has become the medium to connect with others, and validate someone’s identity and relationships with others. I am starting a new job this year, and my supervisors contact my colleagues and I via Facebook with all important updates and information. At my previous job, the process of getting shift coverage and requesting days off was also done on Facebook. These are examples from my own life, of how Facebook has been integrated into my professional life and probably further into the professional sphere than I even realize.

 Facebook is also used to validate all sorts of interpersonal relationships. “Facebook The Musical” was all too true in the way it said that nothing is real until it is Facebook official. It is an ongoing joke that in order to make something official in a romantic relationship, the two people must be “in a relationship” according to their Facebook status as well. While it might seem ridiculous, I have actually overheard a couple arguing over their Facebook activity. I have had conversations with friends about whether or not we could date someone who is completely not present on Facebook or any other social media site, and we all agreed we would prefer that they were on Facebook. This contrasts with Gehl’s statement that very few Facebook friendships represent “actual, current friendships or even associations that you remotely value” (p. 231). I completely agree with his statement, as there are many people I have on Facebook (of whom I know details about their personal life), but would feel awkward if I had to interact with them in person. However, with romantic relationships, it seems to be a way to ‘claim’ your significant other, and legitimize the relationship.

Through my experience on Facebook, we may exist outside of our profiles, but it is easier to exist within.

Techno Trash Solutions (Pinterest)

Standard

Board description:

This board illustrates the reality of e-waste and the harm our technology can do to our environment when disposed of incorrectly. Awareness is the first step, the second is making the solutions known, the third is changing your habits and actions, and the fourth is making crafts!

1: “An inevitable evolution that is sure to continue.”

Image

This pin illustrates how over time our technology has continued to evolve–especially in size. As the readings suggest, manufacturers tailor devices so that they have a decreased life span. Our capitalist economy depends on consumer demand, and therefore making technology last only a few years ensures that those same customers will need a replacement product in the intervals the manufacturers create. Western society has become so dependent on technology and obsessed with wanting what is new and “in trend,” that they will upgrade to new products before they even need to.

2: “Technology Hoarding”

Image

This pin illustrates the future of people like myself, who never seem to throw away their old electronics. We hold on to them because at some point in our lives they were our favourite Christmas present, or just generally very valuable to us. As the first pin showed, technology is continuing to evolve—especially in size! This means that our old devices are much bulkier than our new ones and are starting to take up a lot of space. It is time for us to do some spring cleaning.

#3: “Make Awareness Visible”

Image

I am not sure if this is a legitimate sign or sticker that is posted, but it should be. Until this course, I had never thought about or analyzed my use and disuse of technology. Of course there are articles that provide statistics and research on e-waste, but most people do not just randomly decide to look for them. Signs or stickers with the image of this pin would get people to at least begin to think about what they do with their phones, and that it is connected to their environment.

#4: “Techno Trash vs Techno Recycling”

Image

This pin is informative in the way that it brings numbers to life, and simplifies the situation. Many people know that they should recycle, but continually choose not to. There have been hundreds of recycling campaigns, and people are still too lazy to separate their papers and plastics from their garbage. Environmental issues can seem so macro-level that maybe people do not think about how their individual actions contribute to the problem at large. People are becoming numb to “shocking statistics,” but pairing numbers with imagery could get through to some.

#5: “Incineration Of Technology Overseas”

This YouTube video is quite shocking to watch. Much of problematic social phenomena could be helped if we listened to the stories of the people who are going through it. In this situation, techno trash is exported and disposed of across seas. It is incinerated. This method of disposal is extremely harmful to the environment, and the people who live in close proximity to it. This problem may seem far away in Africa, but it is our problem, we are just shipping it away.

#6: “Providing Solutions”

Image

The website attached to this photo provides instructions on how to properly recycle your devices, and how to dispose of your technology. It also claims that recycling not only reduces the amount of e-waste, but allows us to reduce the amount of natural resources we mine every year in order to make new products. Awareness is the first step of activism, but the second is providing solutions so that people can actually make changes in their life.

#7: “Something old, something new”

Image

When recycling your old dishwasher, keep the bottom rack for under-the-bed storage! This is a super neat idea that would not only make use of an old device, but also save you money on storage. I think many people have a hard time doing things for other people (or the environment) when they feel like they do not get anything out of it for themselves. Selfish, I know. Re-using a dishwasher rack like this is great for that however, and looks like something you could get from Ikea.

#8: “Use Old Floppy Disks To Make Planters”

Image

This is a super crafty idea! Seeing as people like me seem to want to hoard old technology devices for no apparent reason, why not make them into an efficient craft? As far as awareness goes, I could see something like this being useful in a magazine. Maybe Chatelaine or a Parenting magazine where parents are always looking for new crafty ideas or home decor. Images strike people differently, and I think ones such as this would draw people into the cause and make them think about whether or not they hoard their items, and how they dispose of their old devices.

#9: “Make art, not war on your environment”

Image

This is a pin to demonstrate the potential of reusing techno-trash. This is an impressive portrait using computer parts by Zac Freeman. A bunch of techno trash was accumulated to create something great, however it makes me think about how my techno trash in combination with so many others’, can accumulate to be very harmful. This piece of art is both inspirational and demonstrative of techno trash activism.

 

 

 

 

My Not-So-Guilty Obsession

Standard

I will admit I am a bit ashamed of how integrated my technology use is in my daily morning routine. When I wake up, the first thing I do is check my phone. It is unlikely that anyone has contacted me between 2am-10am, but it is important that I know for sure before even leaving my bed. The second thing I grab is my iPod.  I do not have a data plan on my phone so I use my iPod with my wireless Internet for apps such as Instagram and Snapchat. I check to see if I have any notifications, and scroll my feed to see what everyone has been posting since I was last present on the app. Next, I finally get out of bed to go sit at my desk where my laptop sleeps. Although I will admit sometimes I perform a leaning tower act to reach it and bring it into bed with me. The floor is lava, I must not leave the bed. When I open my Macbook Pro, I check my emails in iCloud, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The thing that is so ridiculous about all of this is that I check all of these social media accounts before I go to bed as well.

Why do I feel the need to be so connected as soon as I wake up? It is almost as if I cannot rest until I know I do not have a single notification left unchecked and do not feel comfortable starting my day until I know that this is also true in the morning. Either way, I usually get up an hour earlier that I need to so that I can leisurely explore all my social media accounts as a necessary part of my morning routine. Socially, I seem to connect more with people online than offline, and am starting to find more enjoyment talking through text than in person.

 The main three devices I use are my laptop, phone and iPod. The iPod is not pictured here because the iPod is taking the picture. For some reason using my digital camera is not as cool as it used to be, or it is just not as fast as taking a picture and uploading it with my iPod.

 Image

I bought my iPod Touch from a used electronic store. I already had an iPod Nano, but apps were just starting to become popular and so an iPod touch was the easiest way for me to participate in that. The next item I got was my phone. I did not get a phone until I was 16, because I was not allowed to get one until I could pay for the bill myself. It was enough motivation for me to go job hunting as soon as I turned 16, and I spent my first paycheck on my first phone.  I bought my first laptop when I started high school. It lasted me all four years before reaching its inevitable predetermined death. I was not too upset though, because I knew that soon I would be upgrading from a PC to a Mac. I was moving up in the world. My Macbook Pro was a high school graduation gift, except I actually paid for half of it. Still, it is probably my most valuable possession, and the thing I would save if there were a fire in my house. I have had two iPods, two phones, and two laptops over the last six years. Other than getting the iPod touch for apps, all of my other device upgrades have been because the previous item had stopped functioning the way it should.

I have a bin of technology at my Mom’s house that is full of old electronics I do not use anymore. From airplane earphones and a Walkman to old chargers and a Gameboy Advance. I even have a little collection of old electronics at my house right now:

Image 

You can see my old iPod Nano, just hanging around in case I lose my iPod touch or it stops working. There is also a bunch of old cords that have no use now, but you will see there are keys in there too. Those are keys to my Grandma’s old house that she moved out of two years ago. I think I hold onto all of these items because at one point in time they were very valuable to me, and it simply just does not feel right to throw them away. I have not thrown out a single electronic. Not even my hefty old laptop. The thing is, if I wanted to get rid of them, I would not even know how. 

#ACTIVISM

Standard

Twitter is simultaneously a place for us to say what we would like in 140 characters or less, and stalk our favourite celebrities via the Internet. Whether we are producing our own tweets, or just looking at someone else’s, the published content is not inherently connected to a person’s thoughts, although we sometimes think we know more about a person simply because we see their online updates. What someone posts may or may not be true, and has no inherent meaning. It is published content that is chosen and constructed. Words are given social significance by those who read them. While twitter posts can be seen as what the YouTube video, “Twitter The Musical” referred to as “literary littering,” Murthy argues that ‘ordinary people’ are becoming more visible by turning themselves into content to be consumed through social media (p. 1063).

One example of this is the recent phenomena of ‘hashtag activism.’ In 2012, #Kony2012 and #StopKony was trending on twitter. This media frenzy was initiated by a documentary that was encouraging people to invest in the cause, by sharing the documentary online, raising awareness on social media, and by buying the merchandise. The goal was to ‘stop’ Joseph Kony, a Ugandian war criminal who was accused of abducting child soldiers (Dewey). While there were plenty of skeptics, the issue was sparking conversations online all over the world, and soon the mainstream media had picked up on it. Troops were sent to retrieve him, but the activism in itself has been construed as inefficient as it succeeded in raising awareness, but not in providing effective solutions. Dewey argues that it comes down to a debate as to whether or not awareness stands alone as a protest.

What disturbs me the most about situations like #Kony2012 and most recently, #BringBackOurGirls, is that people are only investing in these issues when it is literally trendy or trending to do so. These issues have gone on long before Twitter, and are continuing to go unnoticed until North American culture distributes its own coverage. The Kony documentary was released by Americans, not Ugandians (Dewey), and this is once again a situation in which we only take notice when the privileged speak for the oppressed. When will we listen to those who experience oppression and hardships first-hand?

Can a whole issue even be represented in 140 characters, or in a hashtag? All social phenomena have layers of complexity, oppression, and historical context. Hashtags such as #BringBackOurGirls, #Kony2012 and #YesAllWomen succeed in creating awareness and public discussion, but can be problematic in the ways that they simplify the situations. Are we participating in hashtag activism because we have become completely informed on the matter, and we support the intentions of the hashtag movement, or do we simply want to appear as though we are ‘in the know,’ and socially aware? Murther argues, “Twitter has everything to do with self-presentation” (p. 1062). While hashtag activism can result in change, I highly doubt that all participants in the movements are informed with the motivation and intention of making change, and that there is a significant portion who just want to be ‘on trend’ with the world’s latest hashtag movement.