Digitally Documenting Our Lives: Presentation Blog Supplement

Hey everyone,

On Monday I unfortunately did not have enough time to present. While I hope you all enjoyed my video, I also wish I had more time to adequately explain it, relate it back to our class readings, and give you all an opportunity to discuss my project. But due to time constraints, I am writing one last blog post here so that I can expand upon my project.

For my project what I wanted to do was explore the topic of our online identities. Essentially, we all have an online identity, and these identities are developed through a variety of means. We may construct our identities through our memberships to social networking platforms (Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter), or more specifically, through the ways in which we market ourselves through these mediums. In my video I wanted to focus on the act of digitally documenting our lives and how in doing so, we move away from offline forms of expression and memory keeping, and move towards the prevalence of our online presences. I wanted to examine why we have ‘progressed’ towards online remediations of other forms of expression (paper and pen journals) and memory immortalization (photograph albums, scrapbooks).

I decided to look at these topics in terms of the demographic I know best, young adults, better known as university students. I wanted to focus on three of today’s very popular online platforms, YouTube, WordPress and Tumblr. The two students I interviewed, Anna (WordPress) and Georjo (YouTube and Tumblr), unintentionally ended up representing different ends of the spectrum.

My video can be related back to many of our class topics:

Chapter 32
Screening Moments: Scrolling Lives: Diary Writing on the Web – Sorapure
Anna and Georjo spoke of their use of blogs as diaries. They both embody Sorapure’s point about how we use computer technology to create and perform autobiographical acts. For instance, Georjo uses his Tumblr account to talk about his day, or to express irritations. On the other hand he uses his YouTube account to post music videos to promote his authority as a singer, essentially leaving behind his online legacy, just as an autobiography creates a textual legacy. When Anna discusses online diaries versus offline journals, she notes that she does not expect someone to read her journal (if she wrote one), implying that she expects someone to read her online blog. Once again, traditional autobiographies are written and published with the intent that someone will read them. Anna and Georjo’s discussions also relate back to Sorapure’s notions of different levels of access in online diary writing. Anna does not want people she knows to read her blog while Georjo is receptive towards both friends and strangers. Anna and Georjo represent the changes in the experience of diary writing and how the concepts of privacy are reformatted.

Chapter 30
Taking Risky Opportunities in Youthful Content Creation: Teenagers’ Use of Social Networking Sites for Intimacy, Privacy and Self-Expression – Livingstone

Livingstone presents many of the risks and negative implications that the teenage use of these sites can create. I wanted to challenge these risks. I am not implying that these risks do not exist, but rather that young adults have an online conscience and are much more aware of online restrictions than you might think. For instance, both Anna and Georjo admitted that they do write posts that they never actually publish because they do not want other users to have access to those particular thoughts. Therefore we see that they can discriminate between private and ‘public’ content. In terms of narcissism, we see two different perspectives. While both essentially do want their accounts to be viewed, Anna does not monitor how many viewers she gets, and in fact removes the subscribe option. Georjo, in difference, admits to frequently checking to see if he has gained new followers or subscribers and even said that he “just wants to be famous”. On social networking sites we see that narcissism appears in different levels, forms, and for different reasons.

Chapter 31
Dynamics of Internet Dating – Lawson and Leck

Though neither Anna nor Georjo use these sites for Internet dating purposes, they do indeed use them to supplement their offline relationships. In other words, they both use these mediums to seek elements of relationships that they cannot find offline, or that they prefer to seek online. They both illustrated that sometimes there are things that you cannot say to the people you know because of the fear of judgment and critique – and so they turned to an online community of ‘strangers’. But they also speak of how these strangers, so to speak, can offer them various levels of support. Lawson and Leck’s essay proposed that users turn to Internet dating after a life crisis. In similarity, Anna turned to her WordPress account and her readers after a difficult point in her life, but then changed her blog content as time went on.

Those are the topics I primarily focused on in my video. I mainly wanted to use my project to provide an insight into the significance of our online presences and how they affect our offline presences. Our online identities do not reign over our real world lives, but offer us greater control over how we can seek support, advice, and even success in our differing fields of interest. Though there are indeed implications of these uses, it is important to note that if an online conscience accompanies an online identity, users are responsibly managing these interactions.

Do any of you feel as though the negative connotations of online identities outweigh the positive? Or that choosing to invest in online identities over offline counterparts is socially destructive? As well, if anyone has any questions, feel free to pose them here!

P.S. Sorry for the insanely long post!

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Benjamin’s Reproduction in Web Design and the Watcom

Today’s presentation on Livestream and the Watcom was very engaging. I saw several parallels to the theory of authenticity which I had discussed. Walter Benjamin makes very relevant points in discussing reproduction…

Walter Bejamin discusses the issue of authenticity within reproduction technologies. “Authenticity” can be easily reproduced and sold. The meaning of the original work changes after its reproduction, as its value comes not from the uniqueness of the image as one of a kind, but rather from its status as being the original of many copies. Unique may now mean unusual in concept over one of a kind.

Digital items essentially have no original. Copies become hierarchally equal. Benjamin’s main points remain valid: i. thre reproduction of a singular image has an effect on the meaning and value of that original image, and ii. the mechanical reproducibility of images changes their relationship to rituals and meaning.

A Refresher on Posthumanism – Dependency on Gadgetry

Norbert Wiener discussed the idea of cybernetics and how it could help maximize our potential as humans in an increasingly chaotic and unpredictable world. He believed that humans could use technology and take advantage of it to create fully automated systems that make our lives so much easier; this would give the controller immense power and control. In our world, we are dominated by the desire to communicate using technology and to have full control over these technologies–since we thrive on control and interaction in our new media and technology. However, Wiener warns that people could be enslaved to this sort of technology and machinery; it is becoming quite clear that many are becoming controlled by their technology.

Technology makes the individual user capable of full control but we are now a collective using relatively similar forms of technology. For the differences between things like Blackberry’s, iPhones, Androids, or Windows phones, the underlying theme remains the same; they are all smart phones that make our lives easier. We are becoming a collective that uses technology nearly 24/7. After class, how many people do you see reach instinctively into their pockets or purses and check their phones? How many do you see plug themselves into their world of music?

Hayles notes in her chapter, citing Weizenbaum, that humans must maintain control over our technologies. She states that if we “Sacrifice this, and we humans are hopelessly compromised, contaminated with mechanic alieness in the very heart of our humanity” (23). She later explains that the posthuman world offers ways for humans to maintain autonomy and enhance our well-beings so that we become more flexible and coordinated in the environment around us (25).

Reading her chapter, and from what we know of posthumanism, I imagined it to be similar to what Stelarc had presented, that the body is obsolete. However, from seeing things in day to day life, we’re not exactly there yet. What we do have is human dependency on gadgetry and electronics. From phones to iPods/MP3 players to even laptops, humans are becoming intertwined with technology, like Wiener had envisioned; while we are not physically connected to our devices, we do have a mental dependency on them to get us through our day to day lives.

OMG Help – What Do I Have?!

j20mill: Hey everyone, I’m a pretty healthy 22-year old, not much history of heart disease, cancer, etc. so I’m pretty lucky, but lately I’ve been having these headaches and can’t really fall asleep. Also, I’ve been feeling really exhausted lately but I found a lump or two on my neck the other day and I’m getting pretty worried. I Googled my symptoms and I found people with the exact same symptoms as I do and most of them said they had things like cancer and mono. I mean I might be overreacting to all this, but man I’m worried. Anyone have any suggestions? I’m trying not to freak out here, but it’s hard to sit still knowing something’s up.

dexter12: Hey j20, sorry to hear. Hope it gets better, but a few years back I had the same things and had a benign tumour (luckily). I had it removed a few weeks after I found it and after a few tests were run. I was pretty healthy too, I used to (and still do) work out every other day, I don’t smoke or drink, and it caught up with me. It was pretty scary. Hope you get through it fine!

miamio: It’s just a cold. Go see a doctor.

FrozenOlive: I don’t know if lumps have anything to do with mono. I mean I had it for a month or so last year but I don’t remember finding any lumps or anything. I was bed-ridden for most of it so get plenty of rest!

j20mill: Thanks guys, I booked an appointment with my doctor. Hopefully it’s nothing.

Phillymania: Thats good. My neihbour’s a doctor and I had the same symptoms so I asked him waht he thought and he told me it might be MS. I had started to feel faint and my vision was starting to go. Is yours? Hope not.

j20mill: Yikes, Phil, sorry to hear. No, my vision hasn’t. I feel fine. Just tired.

Phillymania: that’s good. I saw my doctor a week later and it wasn’t anything serious she said.

NeddyPot: Did you do a WebMD symptom checker? I did one of those a few months ago and it got what I had as soon as I plugged in my symptoms.

j20mill: Yeah I just tried it. Here are a few things: hyperthyroidism, depression, sleep apnea, mononucleosis. I didn’t see cancer, but the lumps are really freaking me out. Doctor’s appointment in 2 hours so I’ll no more. Wish me luck guys, thanks.

Phillymania: good luck!

NeddyPot: Best of luck!

For the record, I’m fine. This is just an example of a forum where people discuss symptoms and possible causes found using WebMD.com and general Internet searches. We can see that people take to the Internet for diagnoses from others and from the web. They are not medically qualified and most of the time the symptoms are so general it could be anything (such as the possible issues ‘j20mill’ had). I tried to stress the focus people had here on information online being available ASAP compared to seeing a doctor. Perhaps that is why people go online and search their symptoms. Information can come to them right away about their symptoms and they can feel some sort of comfort in having an idea of what they have. I guess it is sort of a any news is better than no news scenario with cybermedicalization and the pursuit of medical information online. How far will this go though, I wonder? Will it get to the point where people not only plug in their symptoms, but will we see things like virtual doctors where people show pictures and video of their symptoms or of themselves to get a consultation from someone else?

Video games as an art form

As we have discussed in class, there is much discrepancy over whether video games are, or are not an art form.  But one important distinction not to be overlooked is the difference between video game creation, and the actual partaking in the game itself.  Most people would agree that creating a video game is a form of art.  You need aesthetic sensitivity, technological capability (engineering and web design know how), creativity, and to know your audience (advertising). Yet many would challenge that playing a video game encompasses the same artistry that the creation of games does, and claim it not to be a form of art.  Based on the listed artistic attributes that make video game design an art, I would like to challenge this concept, claiming that playing video games is a true art.

Aesthetic Sensitivity:

Many gamers will choose video games based on the amazing graphics that creates a true sense of immediacy.  Games such as Call of Duty 2, or more notably Black Ops, the graphics have gotten to such a point that it has become a major part of its selling point.  Is getting lost in your game (such as role play), buying a game based on its aesthetics (like buying a painting or listening to music), not showing itself as art, or at the very least creating an appreciation for the aesthetics of art?

Technological Capability:

Though when playing a game you may not be exceptionally knowledgeable in web design and engineering (as it is not as needed in game play), to play a game you still must have technological capability.  Just as a painter needs to have excellent fine motor skills to apply paint strokes just right, gamers need to know exactly what combination of buttons to employ at just the right moment.  Also, though you may not be creating the spaces for players to roam in like a designer, you are manipulating the area as a gamer.  You must completely absorb your surroundings.  For example, in Call of Duty 2 (or really any shooter game), if you are not looking from all vantage points and do not know your surroundings, you’re dead meat.

Creativity and Knowing your Audience:

Going along with this concept, once you know how to manipulate your space, you need to be creative about it.  Finding creative hiding spaces (where you are predominantly blocked but can still shoot many players), being able to dodge a bullet in many ways are just a few simple strategies that you need creativity to get out of.  In the game Prototype, it is mainly free play so you can get yourself into quite a mess.  By killing someone and taking their identity at just the right time that the authorities will not see, you need creativity and strategy.  And to avoid being hit while you have army tanks, planes, and officers after you, you REALLY need some creativity.

Separate from the concept of space and technological creativity, you also need to know your audience.  Advertisers use creative methods to target certain groups to attain what they want: namely, their product to be sold and them to make money.  In gaming, it is not all that different.  You need to know your audience, so you know who to team up with (clans), who to leave alone, and who to watch out for.  Apart from allies and enemies, you also can use strategies to get what you want on games.  If the game you are playing is stereotypically full of males, you can choose a female character to get free protection, and yet advance your score just the same.  There are many (positive and negative) examples of this, and how knowing your opponents and allies is important.

As you can see, video gaming is an art form, even in games that are not stereotypical seen as artsy (such as guitar hero, which uses music and replicas of instruments).

Video Games: To be Art… or Not to be Art? That is a Good Question!

Mr. Hancock proposed a very interesting question at the end of Monday’s lecture. Are video games considered art?

To begin this debate I want to introduce you to Roger Ebert. Ebert is a renowned screenwriter and film critic most famously known for establishing the thumbs up thumbs down system of evaluating movies. However, he is also notorious for voicing his belief that video games can never be “art”. Ebert defines art as a reproduction of reality that is filtered through human consciousness. With this definition in mind, one of the reasons he suggests that video games can never be art is because they are based on objectives. (Essentially, he is saying that if you can win its not art). According to Ebert art is not something you win, it is something you experience. He says for example, you wouldn’t call a sports star an artist. Ebert also suggests that video games can never be art because art is not a collective creation, it is singular. He thinks of art as the product of one artist. (For example, paintings done by one artist, dances created by one choreographer etc…) In this sense, video games can never be art because they illustrate the interpretations of many contributors rather than one individual. To successfully create a video game you must utilize programmers, developers, designers, artists, testers… and the list goes on. (As does Ebert’s reasons why video games can never be art). If you would like to take a look at Ebert’s article you can visit the following link:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html

So, my question to you is… Do you think that Ebert is correct in saying that video games can never be art?

Personally, I would have to disagree with him. For one, I don’t think its fair to say that video games can never be art because they are more about winning and completing objectives. I think Video games today engage more with the gamers experience with the game and how they play it rather than “winning” it. I also think that Ebert’s definition of Art is a little ironic in the sense that you could use it to describe video games themselves. Aren’t most video games some sort of reproduction or representation of reality? With the ever-evolving technologies used to create video game graphics the “art” now lies in how well they reproduce reality, or some sort of representation of reality.

In his article Ebert bases a lot of his argument on another article written by Kellee Santiago, a video game designer and producer. (She argues that video games can be art). But the main problem here, and the issue that I think arises in all debates concerning this topic is the loose definition of art. How can you say classify something as art when no one concrete definition exists.

Thoughts? Do you know of any examples of video games that could be classified as art?

The Human Genome

There are many films and novels that explore the issue of controlling human genetics. It is easy to think that a world where our genes are selected is far off or impossible, but one has to take into account that there are several very large projects being developed that track the human genome of one cultural group or, in some cases, several. In the essay “Biocolonialism, Genomics, and the Databasing of the Population” by Eugene Thacker, we are shown the magnitude of these projects.

Thacker also outlines some of the major fears that are often associated with human genome projects. One of the largest taboo concepts is biocolonialism—taking samples of genetic material in order to find the economic or medical value. This ties in closely with issues of race and population. As part of discovering the genome, there will inevitably be race identification. Currently, activists find that this identification makes it okay to emphasize racial and ethnic differences. Taking that one step further, Once we have figured out where these genes can be found and how we can alter them,  a deeper level of discrimination would be possible.

It is scary to think about how much power is held in knowing and understanding the human genome. At the present time, most projects do not progress with the intent of being able to use the genome, but rather to understand it.

If you take a look at the research goals of the popular Human Genome Project, you can see that there is no negative intent outlined. They simply wanted to discover all the genes available to humans and determine the sequence of these genes. What the researchers discovered was that the project was much larger than they had anticipated.

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/hg5yp/index.shtml

Even though the research aspect of this project has finished, people still continue to analyses their findings. Thus, there is still potential for this project and others, which started off innocent, to become something bigger and threatening than it already is. Thacker mentions how biology, anatomy, and politics is already starting to come together to create a biopolitical power. The consequences he outlines of this are in line with what some people fear about studying the human genome.

Like with any new technology, it is difficult to see what direction this will be taken. But it will be interesting to see how the body and technology will merge in the future.

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