All posts by everythingismediocre

Henry Jenkins

Henry Jenkins talks about participation culture, how through emerging technologies the kids who find school more or less boring are now finding a platform in which to channel their passions and beliefs. Jenkins longs for a world in which the people who are obsessed with anime, dungeons and dragons etc. will start to feel the same obsessions over democracy.

It’s an intriguing concept. And it’s something that I think is happening right now at an increasing rate. If you go to /r/all on Reddit right now (23.11.2017) the top posts are all about the FCC trying to dismantle Net Neutrality. Millions of people have come together to try and defend their right to an open and free flowing internet, and not having it become yet another victim of capitalist interests. The internet and its evolving potential stands as a last bastion (and some would say last chance) of the peaceful, harmonic world we’ve envisioned in everything from literature to music. We’re on the precipice of losing that last bastion right now and people are standing up. Not just the people who study how a world without net neutrality would work, but the gamers, the bloggers, the musicians who use social media to make themselves heard and interact–the people that Jenkins refers to, in other words.

It’s heartening to see so many humans set aside their differences and focusing on something we all love and hold dear, and it’s something I think we’ll see more of as the internet continues to evolve. If it’s allowed to, that is…

But even if Net Neutrality is upheld, the dangers of capitalism and profit still stand to ruin the freedom of the net. Jaron Lanier warns of this, and especially Facebook and Google and how they operate by creating mass behavioral modification systems based on pay. We’re in many ways already trapped. Facebook is as good as ubiquitous and works as a sleight of hand magician or a personally tailored spider web to create these spaces in which we believe the illusion that we’re in control of what he see and know, but the reality is very different.

The great thing about the internet, though, is that it can be changed at any time. It’s not set in stone. We’re still figuring this thing out and will be for the foreseeable future, but if Net Neutrality is dismantled we’re completely at the mercy of corporations like Facebook, and we would lose the ability to enact paradigm shifts that could change it for the better–or at least change it to something different when we realize that whatever we’re currently doing is the wrong thing to do.

Facebook is one of those things that I think needs to change–or go away completely.
They claim it’s meant as a social experiment, well the experiment failed from a social point of view. Now it’s just a billion dollar flytrap were we got stuck before we even knew what we were signing up for.

The Silent Majority

Read Nicholas’ readings about the silent majority and found them interesting!

It was fun to get an analyst’s view of how to reach this silent majority, for example, by
having anonymous surveys when dealing with subjects you’d rather not be too public about. I think that generally the term “Silent Majority” has a somewhat bad rep in this da and age, probably stemming from Trump supporters claiming the term by saying that “The Silent Majority stands with Trump” over and over, often putting this on signs at protests or posting about it on social media….Which is a bit ironic.

I’ve generally thought of the term as a way of saying that you, for example, disagree with current immigration laws etc. but don’t want to be vocal about it because of the backlash that often follows from, in my opinion, sane people.

So bearing this in mind, Nicholas’ readings showed me that from a data mining/analytical perspective the Silent Majority can be anything related to people “lurking” and not necessarily engaging in the same manner as the more vocal participants of, say, a message board.

On old message boards, before Reddit pretty much decimated them, you could always see how many people were on right now as “lurkers” or logged in, which I think maybe helped you to get a picture of  how vast the Silent Majority was.

Maybe something like that should be implemented on Facebook etc? So that whenever you’re browsing a comment field you could get an estimate of how many people were lurking and how many people were contributing. I’m sure Facebook already has algorithms for this, I mean, this is the kind of thing they earn money from, but it would be nice, I think, for vocal contributors to see that people are reading their comments so that the contributors don’t feel that they’re “shouting into nothing”, so to speak. It could prevent the growing tide of disenchantment with online discussion that I feel is growing–of course, it could just make it worse.

Facebook and Hecking Algorithms

I read: Understanding User Beliefs About Algorithmic Curationin the Facebook News Feed by Emilee Rader and Rebecca Gray.

It’s research paper that looks at how people perceive their Facebook News Feed, and how it they think it works. Interesting stuff!

What stood out to me was this little piece of information:
“Respondents indicate they believe an entity, characterized as Facebook or as an algorithm, prioritizes posts for display in the News Feed. Also, which posts they see depends on what the system knows about their preferences and characteristics, post popularity, and past interaction with other users. 80% No, 20% Maybe/Yes”

I thought it was common knowledge that the News Feed and other similar algorithms cherry pick what is presented to you. Like if google the word “Horse”, I will get a completely different list of hits than somebody else. It’s interesting to see that the people in the survey are unaware to what extent Facebooks tracks them.

Everything from you IP address, to analyzing your pictures, to following your location even when facebook, or your phone is switched off, is used. As well as how you comment, what you comment on, what you share etc. to better direct ads your way, and also show you posts you might be interested in interacting with. A good ol’ ad blocker does wonders for most of this, coupled with a VPN, but I guess those things have yet to seep into the mainstream conscious.

Social Media and its Impact on the Music Industry

So for my contribution to the e-book, I was thinking of submitting a paper that looks at how social media has changed the way the music industry works.

I’ve done some similar work before, looking at how Spotify has affected musicians compared to the old model of the pre Napster days. In this case I think I would keep it simple and look at how Facebook has changed the game when it comes to reaching your audience, building said audience and connecting with it. Before social media came along there existed much more mystery regarding bands and musicians and most of what you could find out about them came from tabloids or from music magazines. I happen to know a band that managed to have an impact riiiiight before the great age of piracy came about, and so I would like to interview them and get their opinion of how they feel the industry has changed and how it has affected them.

I would obviously also connect this to factual statistics, as well as relevant readings where it can be found. There hasn’t been too much written about this yet, that I can find, but I’m sure there’s good stuff out there.

The paper would be presented in a sort of investigative manner, I think.
I know that, right now, the music industry is making more money than it ever did back in the heyday of vinyl/CD’s, but the peripheral artists are suffering more than they used to, it seems. One of the reasons behind this, I believe, is social media. At the same time, it also seems to be a great way of communicating with your fans and reaching a broader audience–so there’s a paradox here that would be fun to explore.

I’m also a big fan of making webpages, so if it’s possible, it would be fun to present the paper as a sort of narrative webpage where you click your way forwards to the conclusion. Much like several articles do on the web, I guess. Or perhaps create a Youtube-video where I outline my findings backed by some visual design to complement what I’m saying.

Danah Boyd/Krista Tippett Podcast

This was a pretty nice conversation about emerging technologies, I would say.
Much like a friendly chat between two people who obviously has a lot to say on different technological subjects.

I’m not quite sure what to write here. They talk a lot about how technology has changed and affected our daily lives–especially families. Like how much of the way technology has been treated quite punitive by governments has been a hindering factor to alleviate symptoms, instead of actually suppressing them. The conversation seems to tap into a very broad range of subjects, so it’s hard to pinpoint one and write something focused.

The main theme, if there is one, seems to be a mindfulness of how we present ourselves on the internet. One of the issues they address is the problem of passing time. Facebook, for those that have grown up with it, becomes somewhat of a memory collage where you can trace the history of your life. That doesn’t sound so bad, but the problem is: People change. If you have radical, anti-government views as a 14-year old, and post rants or threats on Facebook–it can come back to haunt you as an adult, even if those views have changed.  Understanding that when you’re 14-years old is hard, and I’m guessing most people won’t at that age or younger, or won’t care. But for an adult, for example an employer, it would be good to remember that people change when lurking on a potential employee’s Facebook-profile.  The sort of “stickiness” that the new social media landscape presents us with can be a huge problem for us, I think. Luckily there are ways of removing your digital footprint, but it’s always stored somewhere.
I’d say that we NEED to start teaching children in school about what to be aware of when going online.

Ruminations on a Master Thesis.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this sort of digital apathy I struggle with online. You see it a lot more these days, or maybe more accurately; you don’t.
I seem to find an increasing amount of echo chambers and people with radical beliefs online, beliefs that very often seem to be downright wrong, either morally or just from a factual standpoint. I remember back when Facebook was new, there was always people challenging other’s views. If someone had an extreme view of an issue, or posted articles that seemed to be fake, someone would always take the time to debate the original poster and at least try to prove him/her wrong. That seems to have changed. There seems to be more and more people who refuse to acknowledge other people’s opinion or presented facts, and through a sort of cognitive dissonance fall victim to their own confirmation bias.
I’m part of the problem, as I used to give a damn. Now I just don’t feel it’s worth it.

I call this digital apathy and it’s something I think I could write about in a master thesis.

In the context of making something, well, I would write and research this topic—that’s sort of like making something, right?
It’s at least something that could feasibly be done, while, I think, still being somewhat interesting to an outside reader. It would incorporate social media and how we connect (or don’t) to each other online. Use examples and perhaps interviews with people on different sides. I could look at different online communities where this digital apathy has perhaps not manifested, like some places on reddit and twitter
Another, perhaps a bit more practical idea I have, is to create a webpage, sort of like craigslist that connects sessions musicians together. We’ve reached a point where a lot of bedroom musicians have the technology to produce high quality recordings in their home. This could be utilized. Usually a professional session musician would cost you a lot of money, and you’d have to supply the equipment and studio, but through a bidding system, you could find people that could do it for far less and still retain the high quality of a studio session musician.
This could create lasting friendships or professional relations, and a network of increasingly more people could rate each other’s contributions.

Rheingold’s Net-Smart

Hello world.

I am a nice boy of medium age doing something academical at a school in Bergen.
In this medium-aged pursuit of knowledge, I have been tasked with blogging about Rheingold’s, most-likely, seminal work: Net-Smart.

This is a book. Okay, I think it’s a book. I know that it exists in written form since the excerpts I’ve been reading seem to have been scanned from a physical copy of something. It’s most likely a book. I like some books.

I don’t like this book.

Well, at least not yet.

In the introduction Rheingold blasts away at the speed of light, never bothering to check if you’ve managed to fasten your seat belt before unleashing a barrage of written words with the academic accuracy of someone who’s definitely written words before. Many times, I would think. He wants us to think critically about the way we approach social media and digital media in general–a great and important thing that we should all strive for, probably. He refers to numerous other works, some known to me, like Shelly Turkle and Englebart, and others so obscure he ends up quoting twitter users that agree with his viewpoints.

What he’s preaching is mindfulness.
He then sets up a bullet-point to hit home how incredibly many people can benefit from this.  It’s a lot of people, let me tell you.

Be mindful of how you conduct your attention, he writes, as he references some other writer who wrote something along the lines of what he’s been saying on loop for the past 60 pages. This whole thing so far has mostly gone in one ear and out the other, I’m afraid.
It reads as sort a self help book that’s geared towards any human imaginable that has ever looked at a screen. His views are valid and good, so far, it’s just that he keeps beating a horse that he killed during the first few pages of the introduction, while referencing every other thing he’s ever worked on.

The end-goal of the first chapter is to make you mindful of how you direct your attention, how to acquire tools that enable you to wade through the muck of overloaded info that your senses get bombarded with on a regular basis. The thing is; his point could’ve been made in under 10 pages, really.

It’s all a bit New-Age, pseudoscience-y, involving lucid dreaming and breathing control and “Puppy Minds” and “Delayed Gratification” and so forth…
Personally, I don’t think you have to hop through all these hoops just to get people to think and realize how they divide and exert their attention. I think Rheingold hit the nail on the head at the start of the whole thing when suggested that just being aware of your awareness is a huge help. In fact, I would say it’s all it takes. If you know that you’re being distracted, you can do something with it. Remove your distractions until you’re alone with the task at hand. There you go.

“Once you’ve evoked your attention’s attention and you’ve started regrooving your attentional habits, you need to turn your attention to the content of your attention.”

That’s a very unnecessary way of saying “When you’ve realized what distracts you, and you’ve removed these distractions, you can now focus on things that are important.”

And what Rheingold says is important is Crap Detection (Trademarked?) and holy heck, do I agree with that. More on that to come.