The Most Interesting Thing You’ll Read All Evening

I had to make a lot of promises in order to get the interview with the person I wanted. He made me promise to title this what I titled it, he made me promise to keep in all of his answers, and he asked me to keep him anonymous and refer to him as Володимир. The following is my interview with him:

 

When you’re posting online do you ever think about how it’s permanent, compared to something you say outloud?

A: I think about how what I’m making online is immortal. It’s good that way, so things can stick around.

 

Do you ever consider that people outside your intended audience will read it?

A: Yes. I consider it, but I hope people I don’t like won’t read it.

 

How long do you typically think about something like a tweet before sending it out?

A: You can’t rush perfection. Sometimes, 5 seconds, sometimes 10 seconds. (Laughs) It’s usually in that range.

 

Does it take more time to make content on a subject you’re disinterested in than one you want to make?

A: It takes me around the same amount of time regardless of interest because im methodical.

 

Is there anything you would write online, but not say in person, and vice versa?

A: No, but I’ll think about what room I’m in when I say things. I’m more careful with what I say out loud. I’ll consider the room I’m in and how well I know the people. But yeah, I guess when I’m online I will just say what I’m thinking.

 

Why? Anonymity?

A: No, more the immediate reaction to it.

 

What do you mean?

A: Like, they may have guns. You try to avoid offending people online and in person, but if you do it in person then they could respond violently. Online you’re safe.

 

So you hide behind a screen?

A: The phrase ‘hide behind a screen’ is used negatively. It implies that you fire bullets, then hide from return fire behind your screen. Like you can dish it but you can’t take it. I just duck and cover behind it incase someone gets mad at my shirt or the stupid look on my face. I’m not instigating anything, it just comes at me.

 

Have you ever received any backlash online?

A: There was one time where people tried to interrupt a live segment I was doing where I was making art by attacking the server. That’s about it.

 

What would you say to young writers, people just getting into it?

A: Stay out of my territory.

 

What do you see the future of online writing to be?

A: Online communication is getting diluted a lot. Words are being replaced with emojis, and pictures. Specifically the “fire” and “100” emoji being used. Eventually, online articles will just be the poop emoji and an edit of Pepe the frog to indicate what its talking about.

 

Overall do you think the internet is good or bad for humanity?

A: Oh it’s pretty good man. To say it’s strictly bad, or has more bad things than good, is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Only bad thing that I can think of is this one time when I was contacted by a Nigerian prince, and it seemed like he was in trouble. But he never got back to me, I think his internet went down.

I want Myths to die, and the internet isn’t helping

On April 14th, Professor Harris linked us to an article on our twitter hashtag that contained misinformation. I responded to him, because both the issue of spreading misinformation, and the subject of the information in this case, are both very important to me. In this instance, the subject was a grassroots movement called Gamergate.

Gamergate was about the media covering up a media cover up about the media being unethical. It’s impossible to fully explain without diagrams and timelines how the story unfolded over the course of about 2 years, so I’ll keep it brief. Long story short, a certain journalist’s unethical past was uncovered, and he was accused of nepotism. Then, his other media friends attacked the people who were spreading this information by writing articles about how awful they were. A journalist who had been bullied into silence by his colleagues came forward with evidence about the unethical practices of the journalists who were defending the original journalist, and this led to a rabbit hole of secret information about how the video game media misled and lied to its readers. The journalists rushed to defend one another and attack their own readers so as to discredit their critics. Now, 3 years later, there is lots of misinformation about the whole thing because the news outlets were so untruthful. The founder of wikipedia even decried the wikipedia page dedicated to Gamergate as unreliable, because wikipedia’s rules state that information needs sources, but all the official sources were the ones accused of lying and having secondary motives. The entire page is, annoyingly, a lie.

If I link you to my tweet then you won’t be able to see the others in the chain, so here’s Professor Harris’ original tweet that I responded to: https://twitter.com/joeharris_ud/status/852881563272572928

What I was trying to do: Previously I’d tweeted something about one of the articles we’d read that was rather negative, and Professor Harris responded to it, and we discussed that the article was misleading. In this more recent instance, I wanted him to see my tweets and think about how THIS article was also misleading, and the damage that spreading (I’ll avoid the term “Fake News”) misinformation causes. Misinformation, especially when coming from a superior like a professor, is highly likely to be believed and spread further.

One of my professors my Freshman year mentioned in his class the old “you eat 5 spiders in your sleep every year” myth as if it was true, when, ironically, that “fact” was completely made up in order to trick gullible people. This was a mostly harmless instance and I didn’t do anything about it, but I’ve seen other times where more sinister things are slipped into lessons. In philosophy classes the professor does not tell you that Plato’s view of the world is true and then send you out into the world to spread the message. Instead, you learn about Descartes, Leibniz, Locke, and Marx, as people with ideas, and are allowed to have your own conclusions or ignore them entirely. It’s not teaching you a philosophy, it’s teaching you about philosophy. Other areas of education are not so objective. I had one professor in the past who, after I asked why she was assigning readings that only showed one side of an issue, told me privately not to speak up in class anymore. I would like to end these types of misinformation from spreading via professors in courses where students are paying to learn facts, and felt like responding to our professor’s post with a few tweets containing the truth about the matter was a small way of combating that.

What I managed to do: I know that he read it, because he would have gotten a notification and he reads all of our posts every week. My assumption, and this could be totally wrong, (and since I know he’ll be reading this I want him to know I’m not accusing him of anything, it’s just what I have to write because the assignment says I have to), is that he didn’t really know that the article he posted was about anything controversial and didn’t want to get involved with something he didn’t know about, and so didn’t respond to me. So I really didn’t accomplish anything.

What insights I gained: Never use twitter to try to explain subtleties to people because 140 characters is never enough and you have to split it into 6 messages. 

 

Boyd and Ronson

Boyd says that teens don’t always think that what parents think of bullying is bullying. They saw gossip and rumors differently than bullying. “Unlike bullying, which presumes a victim and a perpetrator, referring to conflict as drama allows teens to distance themselves from any emotional costs associated with what’s happening” (Boyd, 138).

 

Is online shaming bullying? Maybe. We like to think of bullying as the big kid punching the little kid, using his power to hurt or harm the little guy. In cyber bullying, it’s not the physical size of the bully compared to the victim, but the power of the internet, which is near infinite. You can’t be punched online, but you can be hurt in other ways. It’s the difference between being punched in the gut every day, or being punched in the gut so hard that it hurts everyday, the latter being the power of the internet.

 

The shaming that Ronson talks about is comparable to this. It’s meant to hurt people, and even if the shaming is only one instance, like the day Sacco sent her tweet, it leaves a lasting impact.

The comparison I’m trying to make, then, is that people see partaking in online shaming, not as bullying, but as something else. Do they see it as drama? Gossip? Rumors?

 

In my experience, it’s drama. I’ve never personally tweeted at someone and called them an idiot or any other bad name in order to hurt them, but I have talked about it. I’ve said “wow, how can he have said that?” just like I was talking about the news. “I can’t believe that happened. That’s terrible”. In my mind, it’s commenting on an event, not sending a message to the person. It’s the same with spreading rumors or discussing drama–it’s different than insulting the victim to their face. (Although I still think that spreading rumors is morally wrong).

 

Boyd says that parents define all of that as bullying, but teens make the distinction in order to excuse their actions. Is there a similar distinction online? Is contributing to a hashtag or subtweeting someone the same as insulting them directly, or is there an actual difference? And are the people who thinks there is a difference just making excuses?
I personally find myself defending more people online than criticising people. I’ve learned over time that context is especially important online and not to take headlines and trending hashtags at face value. I’ve learned to be critical of actions, not people. Sacco isn’t a racist, but her tweet was a bad idea. Donald Trump isn’t an idiot, but he’s being hypocritical in bombing Syria. Things like that.

MP4 vs .docx

I work with video a lot. Like, a lot a lot. And video is especially good for two things: it’s raw, and it’s guided. When you watch film (sorry animation) you’re watching something that actually happened and listening to words that we actually said. You don’t need to use your own internal monologue and reading voice because someone else is doing it for you. This raw-ness helps convey something to the audience the written words cannot. (Note: I’m not talking about unrehearsed video. I’m comparing written text to acted out film). There’s an extra step that goes from hearing someone speak, to looking at the ” mark on a page and thinking “oh, ok, that means the following words are being said out-loud by the indicated character”. Another example in an essay rather than fiction would be quoting another work. On the page a quote from another text is just words in a quote. But on video, you can actually use another video, like Peter did by showing Filthy Frank. The only text equivalent would be cutting a page out of a book and taping it on your essay, I guess.

The guided-ness of video works both in the realm of humor, and subtlety. Take for example Sam’s video about making an entrance. It used timing as part of its humor. Timing is a key aspect to building up a punchline with anticipation and breaking the audience’s expectations. Humor like this cannot be done in written form because it relies on an actor or comedian’s performance. Reading is a personal experience where you read at your own pace, where as film is guided, and things happen exactly when the director wants them to.

I’m going to use James’ video to make a more abstract point about subtlety. I could go in depth on this but I’ll try to keep it simple: let’s say that in order for a story to make sense, let’s say for a twist ending, the audience has to know that there’s a gun in the house. But they can’t stop and think about the gun because then they might figure out the twist before it happens. In a film, the scene can be constructed so that two characters are talking and you happen to see a gun on the table. The viewer thinks nothing of it and are genuinely impressed by the twist in the end. A written piece can’t do this as well as film. It would have to stop the action or the dialogue in order to point out to the reader that there is a gun, which would stick out like a sore thumb and make the reader suspicious that it will be important later. James’ video utilizes Star Wars in this way. The video is about watching movies, and nothing in the narration mentions Star Wars, but the video shows James wearing a Jedi robe, holding a lightsaber, putting in a Star Wars Bluray, and so on. This conveys to us, without flat out telling us, that James has really good tastes in movies and that I’m jealous of his box set of the complete Star Wars saga on blueray. It also forms a running gag that could not be done in text without being interrupting.

So what can video do that text can’t? It can guide the audience along a set path, unlike text, which is dependent on the reader. It can show things actually happening instead of the audience having to translate words on a page to sounds or visuals in their head. It can do multiple things at once using visuals and sound, where as text can literally do things only one word at a time. But text has its advantages too. It’s a lot easier to write something than to film something. There is no bad acting when you’re reading dialogue in your head, and if you blink you wont’ miss something important. Things in videos can seem out of place, like the sound clashing with the visuals in a messy way that takes you out of the experiance. In text this can only really be done with typos, like when I misplaced the ‘ in “won’t” 3 lines up or spelt “experience” wrong in the last sentence, or said spelt instead of spelled in this one. Beyond that, there are no bad special effects or too-quiet dialogue in text. In short: video can do more but text is easier and harder to mess up.

Text Interpretations

“In speaking to an unknown or invisible audience, it is impossible and unproductive to account for the full range of plausible interpretations.” Pg 32

I would add to this that using text instead of voice adds to another layer of possible misinterpretations. On social media I often see people quoting songs, tv shows, or speeches or interviews that they feel the need to share. By putting spoken word into text and taking out context they are able to change the meaning of whatever they want.

For example, Donald Trump, while a master of Twitter, is apparently unaware of scare quotes. Scare quotes are “quotation marks used around a word or phrase when they are not required, thereby eliciting attention or doubts”, or, in other words, they make the quoted word sound ironic. So when Donald Trump says:

 

“I win an election easily, a great “movement” is verified, and crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS”

 

He probably doesn’t intend to mean that the word “movement” was used to belittle his own movement, but it humorously can be interpreted this way.

(WordPress won’t let me upload an audio file without a premium account so here’s a youtube video of me explaining.)

Donald Trump is fairly certain that people will interpret his tweet the way he intends, mostly because he is such a famous figure that most people understand his stance and thus know how to read his tweets. But when, the examples given in the book, parents read their childrens’ posts online, there is a generational disconnect that could lead the parents to completely misunderstand what is said.

While Donald Trump’s intentions are easy to understand due to his public presence, not every hashtag and quote is as easily put into context. Take for example the recent Digiorno Pizza debacle, where the official Twitter account for the product completely missed the point of a hashtag, and had to apologize.

youhadpizza

It’s easy to make a mistake like that, because the words that make up the hashtag don’t, by themselves, indicate what the hashtag is about. Further context is needed.
I wholeheartedly agree with the text that plausible interpretations are hard things to control for when posting on social media. The contexts of conversations or hashtags, slang and symbols of different groups and generations, and translations from spoken tone to written word are all things that could lead a reader to interpret something that the author didn’t intend.

Is Memorizing a Waste of Time?

“Now that we can look up anything ‘with a click on Google…memorizing long passages or historical facts’ is obsolete. Memorizing is ‘a waste of time’” (181).

When I was younger one of my teachers told the class that, psychologically, children have better memories than adults because they can’t write. If they need to remember something, they memorize it, where as adults just write it down and only have to remember that they wrote down something important. I can’t verify this because nothing comes up on Google when I search for it, but it sounds like something that’s true. Then again, one of my professors believed the debunked myth that you swallow spiders in your sleep, so maybe teachers aren’t always the best source for true fun facts and trivia.

brain
A brain leaving a human and entering the cloud. made by me.

 

Either way, Carr seems to be drawing from the same concept, as he states that internet usage is removing our need to memorize anything. In high school and even college I’ve had teachers and professors who’ve said that they don’t see the purpose in having students memorize dates because they’re always available online. It’s an interesting question to ask yourself if memorization of trivial things is useful or not. Are our brains now more free to calculate other things now that we don’t need to memorize that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin? (Thanks Ms. Raab, really important stuff). Or is memorization important? Is dependence on the internet to look things up that in the past people had memorized a large detriment to our society? Parts of our brains are now stored online, Carr says, and we have to prepare for the worst. If we were to suddenly lose the internet, how would our day to day lives fall apart? In my opinion, the only thing to be worried about when it comes to internet dependence is what happens if we were to lose connection.