All posts by Identities. Echoes & Alterations

Make them beg for it – aka “envy”

In his book Evil by design, Chris Nodder composes the savoir-faire in design. As a human-centered designer, he suggests a guide based on the seven deadly sins, in order to make a product attractive and desirable to get. This week’s reading assignment is the chapter “Envy” and our fellow student is going to present his master’s project in this context.

A very successful example of how envy works towards a marketing strategy is Tom Sawyer’s attitude in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, as it is highlighted in the introduction of  Evil by design. The boy managed to present his dull and strenuous task as appealing and fun instead and finally his friends were aspired to get it done. Behaviorism and conditional psychology are considerably important parameters when it comes to designing a product or even a strategy to promote it. According to the author, the stages to make a product desirable include secrecy, scarcity, identity, aesthetics and functionality.

The manufacturing of envy involves the approach of “full-on destructive envy”, which assures that the item is a must-have. This is a remarkable technique of attracting buyers and users to a product/service promoted. Since our fellow student’s project mainly targets a specific clientele (for children), I can picture how the word-of-mouth could work in this case.

In general, this chapter reminded me of Pavlov’s dogs and although this experiment is not mentioned with regards to rewards and payments, I think it would be an outstanding fit. However, Nodder mentions reinforcement on a later chapter (Greed), that deals with the gaming industry and gambling in particular.

 

Comments online

This week we were assigned readings from our fellow student, who is looking at comments found online (news articles and social media).

On the one hand, Suler (The Online Disinhibition Effect) focuses on the luxury of the anonymity that is offered online and engages individuals to share their opinion in a comment format. On the other hand, Reagle  (Reading the Comments) puts up with the toxicity in comments sections. Bringing these views together, this video approaches the comments discussion from a design/interface perspective.

As an everyday life observer, I would like to point out the qualitative difference of comments posted on social media or on news articles. In both cases, I can see the intention behind the comments made, this is why categorizing the comments had been a brilliant idea!

However, is it the perception of anonymity that encourages participation through comments, or the diverse nature of commitment that commenting implies?

In other words, when submitting a comment on an article, one has to be a member/register a username; if there are replies to comments, the authors get notified. This also happens in social media, with the main difference that notifications refer to replies or other comments/tags made by familiar persons (friend list). So, when commenting on a news article, the main intention would be to be heard, share an opinion or even direct the audience towards relevant discussions that are interest-driven in some cases.

How easy and appealing is it to comment online?

I recently noticed that while reading an article on Facebook, the cursor flashes in the comment field, engaging the reader to comment. Personally, I see bigger potential in comment fields content, evolving mimics of the post field content or even of search engines content and databases. Lately, I discovered this interesting tool useful to researchers who would like to explore the FAQ. I could not help myself but try it with the “comments on” search and here’s what I got:

It seems that people are very interested to read through comments on various topics for their own reasons.

After having completed the readings and watched the video, my personal conclusion about online comments consists of the following attitudes and phenomena:

  • Serial commentators
  • Hushing toxicity
  • Silent majority

All in all, I wonder, is this an identical replica of democracy represented in online participatory cultures? To be honest, it is not very progressive. Is this happening in the real world too? Reminds me of my childhood…

I graduated from a very strict high school (catholic) where students had specific dress code restrictions. Apart from being encouraged to wear decent and clean clothes at all times, we were not allowed to wear T-shirts or sweaters with stamps representing textual statements, music bands, football clubs etc. It is obvious that the school authorities wanted to avoid conflicts and debates among students and limiting youth fan cultures had been their respectful way to do so. Certainly, freedom of speech was highly encouraged, so we could talk about the  football team we support or our favorite band. Does this mean that our comments were invisible?

By the way, you guys let me down, I wore my “JUSTIN FOREVER” T-shirt in class today and there was no comment from any of you 🙁

Would you comment if I made this statement online?

Reflections on a podcast: Teens practicing everyday life on social media

Krista Tippett interviews danah boyd about the online worlds of teenagers in the context of communication and social interaction. Danah’s self-introduction in this podcast is followed by the striking discussion about the spirituality of social media and the meditating effect of blogging, twenty years ago, when technology and interfaces had not been mature enough to engage the “blogging activity”. Back in 1997, danah narrates, a simple web page had been the medium of keeping track of events and practicing everyday life. Later on, “digital diaries” gradually took the shape of blogs. As the transition era has begun since the Internet made its appearance, every generation involved perceives the usability and the profits or the menaces of technology in different ways. For instance, younger individuals take most of the technological achievements for granted.

Kids wonder how the internet was found!

Although some of us have experienced the long waiting in front of our computer screens watching anxiously the bright data package exchange between the grayish computers and the yellowish phone, annoyed by the dial-up beeping, children and teenagers today consider our times of digital suffering to be a bad fiction, parody-like production!

If you have the time to watch the video about teens’ reactions to the internet of the 90s and read the comments, as well, you would probably notice that most people arguing that kids used to hang out more, play outdoors and interact in person. Nowadays, according to danah, children should be supervised when playing at the park and in some countries it is illegal to leave ones kids unattended in public outdoors space.

Internet mirrors society and magnifies any malfunctioning structures of the real world, which should be redefined before getting transferred online.

Nevertheless, real world dangers have been transferred in our virtual worlds as well; cyber-bullying would not have existed if bullying had been eliminated in the first place. On the contrary, internet has catapulted the drama, by encouraging behaviors such as self-bullying, because of the need for attention among younger individuals.

  • Technology is changing the nature of what is public and private.
  • Technology is transforming the narrative of our lives.

I partly disagree with the fact that children should be warned about the long-term consequences of publicly expressing themselves on social media, by fear that their future employers would not hire them. For being young and spontaneous? This would be a great opportunity to prepare the youth to deal with society, its structures and transparent rules.

People, chill out! What happens online, stays online… FOREVER!

I am not a parent yet, but I believe that family is the first bond and gate towards social structures, so encouraging young people to develop their interpersonal skills is very important. In addition, past is related to our present and helps form our future; it is significant to remind children to be proud of their achievements and learn from their mistakes. Undoubtedly, human cultures and identities are emerging within the virtual era that gives plenty of perspectives in matters of information and communication.

Transformed communications

There has been a remarkable point on the podcast, concerning the manipulation of spelling and the increase of textualized interactions, both deriving from practicing social media and introduced by young people. Acronyms and abbreviations have replaced whole phrases, in order to type less and navigate/multitask more. Inspired by early chatters and then gamers, this trend expanded through communities and got rapidly popular among students. It seems to be a miracle how technology shapes the mechanisms of expression leading creativity into a new dimension.

Networked classes and human purposes

Making connections and be part of a network apparently does not mean that we could bring all our contacts into our profile and grow a network where all family, friends and colleagues interact with each other. NO! A network should be interest-driven and have a primary goal to be formed. It could be an expectation to get an improved social status, a better job and new friends. And by all means, that network should reflect our popularity and participatory skills, so no more skipped posts, likes and comments if we want to succeed. Furthermore, it could be an alternative network that we can start building up when we get fed up with our old one. Golden had been the age of nokia mobile phones and their innovative settings of registering one’s contacts into different groups with different roles assigned; ringtones and blocking content permissions. This privilege keeps on being offered twenty years later in every social interface.

No offence, I understand that some people get tired of the urban daily life and need a break; personally, I respect my own privacy as others’ and I consider it to be a basic need, but not to the extend that I would isolate my contacts, or ditch them for the sake of class mobility.

Some of the most sensitive and fragile issues concerning humanity have been simplified and underestimated. Same time we worry about how the new generations could adopt morality and appreciate the balance in values and intentions.

The power of information in participatory culture: Education and Marketspace

The book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era is a great collective work, pointing out the digital awareness about forming participatory cultures. Today’s  short discussion topics deal with the context of chapters 4&5:

  • connected learning which is often interest-driven
  • profit-oriented nature of the media ecosystem

With reference to participatory forms of education, cognitive scientists and behaviorists who research the process of learning and knowledge assimilation, construct theories and methods that end up to be examined and applied by educators, media theorists and educational software designers.

Why learning in the real world is less attractive/effective than the one taking place in a virtual or simulated environment?

First of all, the diversity of learners is the key to constitute well-balanced communities where students can interact and share knowledge. Along with the possibility to create their “digital selves”, their area of interests defines the subject of studies, improving the learning process, while standing for motivation and engagement. Furthermore, the pedagogical methods based on gaming and problem solving are likely to develop competition and offer a pleasant, entertaining experience towards well-formulated learning goals. Being a lifelong learning supporter, I would confess that my attention is mostly captivated when I interact with readings that represent my interests. In this context, I believe that learners may contribute to knowledge sharing through creative collaboration within networked learning. In other words, what if students and researchers edit Wikipedia entries related to their fields of interests, instead of debating on the accuracy of information found there or in Google results. At this point, I would like to refer to the misunderstandings concerning the free labor.

Why fans are engaged to sell out their creativity?

Well, in most cases media/internet users are not aware of the mechanisms of data extraction neither of the value of information. Students and researchers, activists and fans are the widest communities to be taken advantage of, along with the needs and trends of the current marketspace.

  • Educational institutions enrich their databases thanks to academic volunteers.
  • Companies and individuals using the mask of non-profit organization manage to form communities of activists to make profit.

Wouldn’t it be better and healthier to adopt ethical policies in the networked era?

Unfortunately, the digitization of information made it easy for us to share, ignoring the value of the shared content. This is why we should be more aware of the meaningfulness of participatory culture.

MA Thesis Brainstorm – Interests and Ideas

Today I am supposed to write about my Digital Culture research and expose my interests and ideas that will eventually form the subject of my MA Thesis. There is a wide range of topics that have caught my attention and I often find myself trapped in a general, almost chaotic field of research. I am grateful to my professors and colleagues that helped me realize that it is essential to build a concrete research question that would be worthwhile and meaningful to explore. In order to face this weakness of mine I had to track and observe my thoughts on a daily basis; this has been my personalized mindmap and it will hopefully results in a fruitful MA work.

 

The tags above represent my interests. Writing down a list of keywords in a spreadsheet has been part of my daily routine. I precategorized my interests in the following areas:

  • technology: my list of interests concerning applied forms of new technologies
  • intention: needs and improvements related to the use of new technologies
  • research topic: questions that I deal with in the context of digital culture
  • product/service: usable applications of new technologies
  • structure: frameworks deriving from technology usability and social interaction

Once I have a thought about my MA work, I check my list of interests and I try to find possible correlations between them. Therefore, I keep on creating nodes and edges saved as spreadsheets and today I imported them in GEPHI to visualize my reflections.

So far, it seems that I am mostly interested in exploring the intention behind the usability of technology and how it is related to my possible research questions.

 

Visualizing my ideas had been a vital touch of brainstorming for my MA work.

 

Participation and Collaboration within Networks

Howard Rheingold‘s Net Smart gets more and more interesting, as the chapters that follow deal with participatory culture and the intentions of forming and being part of online communities. Different kinds of networks are developed and the motivation of their members can vary:

  • express ideas and opinions about specific topics
  • socialize and get to know other members of the group
  • consult and narrate own experience about a problem or issue
  • organize information and manage knowledge
  • educate and provide resources on multiple scientific fields
  • grow collective intelligence using creative communication

Participatory culture relies on the internal individual skills and strategies of people that consist a community. There are several ideas about the social-digital know-how:

In the first place, the successful use of the medium would be the appropriate adjustment and coordination of the network one follows and on the other hand, a strategy to maintain and then boost the interest of the audience (own followers), making posts that capture their attention and grow their appetite.

Some of the reasons that lead netizens to be part of virtual communities could be:

  • reputation: Often related to interest-driven groups or “followers’ recruiters”.
  • altruism: The power of social capital brings together volunteers and sensitive groups in need.
  • curiosity: We all have questions and answers. Let’s search and share!
  • learning: Students, scientists and researchers explore and wonder forming intellectual networks.

The transformation of mass collaboration, according to Howard Rheingold derives from the new trends and behaviors that define the digital era:

  • The way people use the internet
  • The way we search information and end up with the results
  • The way knowledge is aggregated and distributed
  • The way science is conducted
  • The way software is created
  • The way computing power is harnessed for research
  • The way people are entertained
  • The way problems are solved
  • The way news is gathered
  • The way disaster relief is delivered
  • The way communities are formed
  • The way commercial products are designed and tested

Unicorns took blood and flesh!

Talking about trends, unicorns is the recent trend that has been viral due to social media. It has been a thing since the 80s and 90s, but the contemporary mania of like and share in digital culture made the unicorn symbol powerful. Google searches for unicorn pool floats spiked and that’s how the unicorn market has made such a major business success once launched!

According to Jess Weiner, brand strategist and CEO of Talk To Jess (she’s the one who helped give Barbie a more realistic, body positive makeover), “women are in need of fantastical magic in their lives right now, because we’re surrounded by culture and politics that are very bleak and dark and oppressive,” she says. “Unicorns are rare, they’re powerful, and they’re imaginary, so they’re capable of anything. And they do have a certain girly undertone because many of us associate them with our childhood, so they’re unapologetically feminine. Why wouldn’t we own something that’s just for us and inspires us to believe in our otherworldly capabilities? We’re being faced with some dire messaging around being female. Unicorns are our chance to escape and have some fun.”

Hannah Dick, a professor in media, culture, and communication at New York University, says the popularity of unicorn food and beauty photos makes sense when you look at the way we currently consume social media. “Our social media profiles are shaped around visual culture,” she says. “Instagram and Snapchat are now more popular than text-based social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, so it’s not surprising that rainbows, unicorns, and highly saturated multicolored representations have taken over the visual field.”

Mass collaboration towards collective intelligence

Collaboration can enhance collective intelligence by empowering attention, the ability to look where another person is pointing. Therefore, humans become supercooperators and can overcome social dilemmas. After all, new media turn into a new kind of institutions forming new rules that associate to a reciprocating collaboration.

Let’s take Twitter as an example; my curiosity and personal interest about Twitter led me reading a significant collection of work, found in the book “Twitter and Society”. This platform had been often considered as a source of “pointless babble”, nevertheless, Twitter is studied not only as an emergency communication channel in times of disasters and other major events, but also as a data set, from which researchers have made collections and used hashtags, tweets and re-tweets for textual analysis. Furthermore, Twitter is quite useful for learning in massive communities, due to the fact that microblogging can help make learning more engaging and interactive, especially in MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). When it comes to participation and collaboration, Twitter is a powerful medium that can be used in learning sessions, academic conferences, documentation, face-to-face interaction and forming connections within professional and academic networks. Unfortunately, I am not familiar yet with Twitter, but I hope I can make the best out of it through our “Networked Transformations” class!

How can I become network aware?

To be honest, I struggle “surviving” in this new era of digital connectivity 🙁

What has changed? What am I doing wrong?

Rheingold highlights that the structural dynamics of networks influence how people relate via social networks, as the electronic extensions of human social networks. Thus, social groups discuss and debate around specific interests, trying to catch the attention of “the internet watchers”.

In his book The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser includes a chapter “The user is the content” where he exposed his ideas about the personalized filters that give the idea of prioritizing information through preferences, ending up that all that matters is to give to people what they want!

“But The rise of the filter bubble doesn’t just affect how we process news. It can also affect how we think.”

Personally, I feel that we live in a transition era; I don’t feel quite confident yet to participate in chaotic networks that are disguised through extensional, mimic structures and be part of interest-driven communities, at a moment when:

  1. there are not clear policies on the social perspectives of digital citizens
  2. both privacy and surveillance remain legal issues that limit our creative expression
  3. everything we do online is used to improve our experience as users

What if I wait till the work is done and when the services provided will be ready to use as the ultimate experience, I can make my mind about this one.

In the meantime, I can observe and do my own research 🙂 I am just wondering…

WILL IT STILL BE ME?

Attention and Intention, Distraction and crap-Detection

Reading the first two chapters of Net Smart had been such an interesting experience! Howard Rheingold is easy to follow and exposes various aspects of authors that dealt with digital culture before.

First of all, I distinguished Nick Carr‘s extreme stance towards attention and distraction. How harmful could it be for one’s attention if the user interface guides to a non-linear, screen-based behavior? It was not later than 2000 that I got introduced to the model of “Dynamics of Display, Presentation and Content Finder” (DAPAP), which is based on the combination of the main parameters that contribute to the production and promotion of content, the strategies of websites design and the Social Media Networks, the technical website design and the databases implementation, as well as a user-friendly navigation, discovery and quality of digital content on the Internet. The combination of these parameters is developed by a specific scientific methodology at three levels of action, consisting of dynamic content fields.

The three levels of action of DAPAP are:

  • “Design, Strategy and Digital Content Management” – Design aiming at the production, promotion, management, dynamic content promotion.
  • “Digital Content Design and Implementation Techniques ” – Technical design and implementation of websites, social media, mobile phone applications and innovative database applications.
  • “Functionality of Use and Development of Digital Content” – Functionality in navigation and content localization in the dynamic fields of DAPAP.

The dynamic fields of digital content in DAPAP are:

  • Horizontal Dynamic Field – Production and creation of Digital Content
  • Vertical Dynamic Field – Managing, Promoting and Viewing Digital Content
  • Diagnostic Dynamic Field – Promotion, Functionality, Navigation, Quantity and Quality of Digital Content

Professor Giorgos K. Gantzias (Cultural Policy and Administration of the Hellenic Open University), is scientifically active in the production of digital content, new technologies, administration, management, digital financial liquidity systems, crisis management, as well as political and cultural developments. More information about the DAPAP model available here.

Taking into consideration the above, user interfaces that provide coherent and well-structured information do not hide any distraction hazards. On the other hand, it depends on how familiar the reader/user is with digital material. Sometimes, hyperlinks give more details about a topic and lots of extra information; advertisements and odd sources hide also behind the “hotlinks” and they don’t need to be flashy on the side banner/header.

All in all, every extreme reveals a dimension of technological determinism and there are several examples within the first two chapters of Net Smart.

Shirky agrees with Carr’s statement:

The mechanisms of media affect the nature of thought.

I found Baron’s viewpoint about the evolving linguistic environment throughout social media very interesting. I actually tried to search on google.trends to get some reference about the text message abbreviations, symbols and acronyms that dominate the virtual communities. I am very curious to study the frequency of this expansion, from the launch of MSN and MIRC! Any ideas?

Maybe the numbers are missing, but there is a reasonable ground to this phenomenon: it saves TIME! According to Turkle, one of the “alienating aspects of social media” is the users’ tendency to control communication, so that it fits in their schedule, as it is another task in the to-do list. Is this a reflection of the “utopian ideals of connection” that are enhanced by technology? Despite the fact that the author supports Jackson’s idea about this kind of artificial need, his own suggestion concerning the network awareness guidance is more essential and would definitely be of help to global citizens.

Along with Jackson and Rheingold, Wolf  also suggests “developing a pedagogy of attention”. In the meantime, Stone claims that “intention is the fuel of attention”.

At this point, I would like to highlight my own intention! During the last three hours, I got distracted by message notifications more than 5 times. This would not have happened if I had turned my device off. Stone’s belief about an option between time management or attention management wouldn’t work, in my opinion, because we choose control over full attention and this means that we prefer to be less productive, pretending that we enjoy multitasking, instead of missing a notification which is likely to be insignificant! In this context, I believe that metacognition methods and the direct experience network that focuses on conscious breath can be more effective.

Rheingold’s training and experience with lucid dreaming and its parallelism to “online drifting” is quite unsuccessful; online awareness is more popular today than back in 2012! There is more intention among users, who are mostly result-orientated!

Unfortunately, the second chapter about the crap detection completely let me down 🙁 I found it absolutely outdated (I don’t blame the author – everything evolves so fast!!!) The mechanisms of checking are still the same:

  • reliability
  • recency of updates
  • consistency
  • verifiability

Back in 2006, we could search within the results, to get more specific answers from Google:

Since then, Google has evolved beyond imagination and everyone can search anything with a limited “critical thinking/writing” technique.

Google knows more that I considered asking!

Most of the results are personalized thanks to the machine learning algorithms and our consent to provide personal data and information to our browsers!

Welcome to IdEAs

First time blogger and this would be a great place to begin with… sharing my ideas!

However, IdEAs have a distinct context in this blog, which deals with Identities, Echoes and Alterations of our virtual selves, as they emerge from our constant interaction with social media, leading to the gradual integration into Digital Culture.

In this section I intend to share my posts about the readings with regards to our master’s course “Networked Transformations”.

P.S.: My very first blog attempt, a few hours ago, turned out to be a catastrophe 🙁