“The tribe has spoken”

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I really enjoyed reading Benjamin Brojakowski’s chapter, “Spoiler Alert: Understanding Television Enjoyment in the Social Media Era.” Except for the part where he argued that flow theory can been expanded to include daily activities like watching TV…

I’m not sure if I can get on board with that.

But all in all, it had me reminiscing on the romanticized days of my youth. All the kids in my neighborhood, Murdoch Farms (s/o to Gus for just getting into the Pitt PhD program!), were obsessed with the show Survivor. When 8pm rolled around on Thursday nights, we would be glued to our TVs, cheering on our favorite contestants. At the end of any given season, someone would host a Finale Party.

Each family brought a dish or two that they couldn’t live without, and we all voted for who we thought should win. I even think we had buffs like the ones they wore on the show.

These were totally the days of appointment-viewing practices. Unless of course, our parents decided we couldn’t watch ‘live’ and that Thursday’s show had to be TiVoed for later. This happened often, as I had an early bedtime and lots of activities that little kids do. But the consequences weren’t so tragic.

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I didn’t have to avoid blogs or co-workers who “might ruin [my] enjoyment of the episode” because those things didn’t exist in my world. We weren’t on social media. Platforms like Twitter had yet to be invented.

However I did just learn that a site called Survivor🔥Fandom exists, and they offer spoilers. But that’s a pretty recent development, as in they only have archives from seasons 31, 32, and 33. The 34th season, Survivor: Game Changers — Mamanuca Islands, just started airing on March 8. Sadly I can’t say that I still tune in on Thursdays.

I will always have fond memories of the days when I did watch Survivor. A lot of this can be credited to the people with whom I shared this enjoying entertainment. I remember getting really absorbed or “transported” into the show with my little brother during the challenges, and talking about my favorite contestants with friends Lily and Audrey.

Brojakowski offers up the idea that “communal viewing of a program may enhance the enjoyment.” I can certainly get on board with this.

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Do you even?

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I’m gonna go ahead and day that I think there’s a lot going on in Lawrence Lessig’s essay, Remix: How Creativity Is Being Strangled by the Law. Maybe I just feel this way because I’m old school 😎, and actually read the chapter (albeit in PDF form) rather than consuming the video version. Or maybe he really does go down quite a few paths⎯ digital copyright laws, hybrid economies, essays on Shakespeare and Proust, and a few history lessons⎯ in a mere 13.5 pages.

Either way you look at it, it’s quite the feat if you ask me!

Anyway… During Lessig’s whole rant about decriminalizing copyright, I couldn’t stop thinking about the opening scene of Hackers where an eleven-year-old Dade Murphy (obviously not Jonny Lee Miller) is found guilty of hacking. And this had me reminiscing of the early days of this course.

In fact, there were a few times in piece where I found my mind wandering. But all in all, I thought Lessig made a few very good points.

My favorite line of the whole essay had to be: “We who spend our lives writing have to recognize that nonmultimedia, plain alphanumeric text in the twenty-first century is the Latin from the Middle Ages.”

Have truer words ever been spoken?

My take on this concept is something like if you don’t speak the alphanumeric lingo (both letters and numbers) of the digital age, do you even?

 

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You probably do if you made it this far. I’ve got to hand it to ya, Lessig. Great analogy… I sure didn’t get lost there. 💯

If only I could agree

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Due to her prestigious track record, I sure was expecting a lot more out of danah boyd’s piece, “Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle.”

Don’t get me wrong it was well-written and thoughtful, but c’mon social media has made a much bigger splash than boyd lets on. Exhibit A: “There are definitely folks who fail to find balance, but most of us find a comfortable way to fit these practices into everyday life without consequence.”

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Really? I was thinking to myself. Is that all you have to say about the changed social dynamics in the age of Twitter, Tinder and Facebook? My mind turned to Sherry Turkle and one of my favorite journalists, Nancy Jo Sales. I think they too would be skeptical of boyd’s idealistic tone in regards tech and media use.

Because the truth is, yes “networked technologies allow us to extend our reach, to connect across space and time,” but their impact doesn’t end there. Tech-induced isolation and using our screens as shields are growing concerns. As much as it affords us (throwback to Janet Murray), technology has become more and more involved in all that we do. And for that reason, I am wary. Trust me, I could go on for a while but given that this is supposed to be a short blog post, I’ll stop here for now.

This evening, I sat in on a presentation by two members from the Emory Counseling and Psychological Services office. They shared statistics on college students and the state of mental health nationwide. Although I have heard and read the findings in numerous classes, they never fail to shock.

Tonight I couldn’t help but consider the impact social media has had on students’ conceptions of self, anxiety levels, and thoughts of who they should be. When we’re constantly comparing ourselves to our peers and their glossed-over, filtered photos, no wonder so many people are feeling down.

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I’m sure if I read more of boyd’s work, I would find that it paints a more well-rounded and truthful picture of our “Always-Lifestyle.” But this article alone left some gaping holes.

Ambiguity here, a little there

As I was thinking about the pieces we read this week, “The Web” and “Phreaks, Hackers, and Trolls,” I realized there was quite a bit of open-endedness and ambiguity between the two. Although they are separated by 15 years – The Soul of the Internet was published in 1997 and The Social Media Reader came out in 2012 – neither Randall nor Coleman seem to take a definitive stance, be it on trolls or the World Wide Web.

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Personally, I still don’t know if the Web is “the most important reservoir of knowledge ever achieved” or “a thing more destructive than any medium yet invented,” even though we are no longer in its formative stages. Not only does it allow us to communicate instantaneously with anyone more or less anywhere, the information is endless.

As I was reading I couldn’t help but think of StumbleUpon, which connects users to new online content. One could sit on their computer for hours or days, and still not exhaust all of the sites, videos, or photos custom tailored for them. But the Web comes with endless amounts of fear and unpredictability. I can’t imagine that Berners-Lee and Cailliau would have predicted that terrorist groups like ISIS would use the Web as its most powerful weapon.

So 20 years after the book came out, there’s still a lack of clarity. I think it’s fair to leave that page unturned for now.

But hacking! now that is a hot topic these days. Whether we’re talking Ashley Madison, or Russia, Assange, or last but not least, Edward Snowden, hacking has been everywhere the past few years. And like Coleman, we really haven’t come to a consensus on what people like Snowden should be dubbed: a hero, a traitor, a whistleblower, a spy? On one hand, the guy’s won a Pulitzer Prize for public service, but on the other, he leaked a ton of classified NSA material. (Before I go on, I must say one thing confidently: the “Assange/Snowden-esque figure” in Jonathan Franzen’s latest book is fabulous)!

I can also say that in response to Coleman’s musings over “whether there is any ethical substance to these spectacular antics,” she has done herself some good by digging into the different motives of hackers and trolls. In other words, I think there’s a big difference between playing for LULZ and upholding freedom and access. So even if we’re still lacking a concrete answer, at least they’ve got me thinking.