No Response to Outside Issues

As a person who rarely posts on social media, especially about anything topics intensely debated, I was not sure I was well prepared for this kind of assignment. To scroll through the issues of today plastered all over social media feeds and read the comments of passionate people is entirely different from being the one to make those posts. The issue I decided to post about for my social action assignment is considerably tamer than most posts I come across, but it is something important to myself that I decided I would attempt to inform others about. I chose to write about the abandonment of rabbits around the Easter holiday and how this degree of animal cruelty is incredibly overlooked against the stream of political debates, global worries and even issues of animal cruelty surrounding more popular species. It seemed a trivial topic, but something I wanted to attempt to bring to light and hoped would spark some kind of debate. The internet is a place for all sorts of discussions to happen despite whether they have a heavy relevance to the times and I considered this post as a kind of test to see if anyone would react. I received no likes or shares on my post and only a single comment from a family member. The video I used in my post was from a very renowned magazine, the National Geographic, which I had hoped would inspire more conversation. Knowing the Easter holiday has since passed, I still hoped to grab the attention of those who might understand that the issue of rabbit abandonment is still high at this time. Perhaps with more time might come more interaction with my post from the public.

Here is a link to the Facebook post I made.

The Internet is a Dangerous Place

I found it interesting that there was a similar stance of technology as dangerous in all three books that we have read so far this semester. Each book has made a stance on the pulpit of technology and the pros and cons of these advances as they continue to develop and intertwine with our evolving society. But especially when it came to Ronson and Boyd since there was a hint of these authors leaning more towards pro technology only to outline some key dangers of it. Boyd implies it is a means of communication that we never had access to before. Ronson points out how it can give a voice to justice and gives power to people who would otherwise have no means of making themselves heard. In each case, however, there is an underlying concern of technology as a dangerous thing when mismanaged and misused.

Ronson and Boyd both seemed to have strong feelings of technology as a way of communication and interaction with people. In Boyd’s case, she emphasized this idea that younger generations have more restrictions when it comes to interacting with people out in society than what the older generations once had, there’s less available space for these kids to be themselves with other young people. Thus the incorporation of social media opens up a gateway for youth to interact with like-minded people, creating a new space for them to open up. However, this also opens the door to things such as cyber bullying, hackers and access to inappropriate content that would otherwise be unavailable to them and so on. Ronson too starts his book with the same ideals of technology as a beacon for something  good, like justice. He begins with an example of how his identity over twitter was stolen and used as an “infomorph” by a team of academics who only took it down after a barrage of internet shaming. Ronson illustrates how even if something is askew in the internet world, if someone misuses the channels of technology in a heinous way, it could be righted by the mass voice of the people. Here too, we see as the book progresses, there is an underside to this method of justice he once admired. Innocent lives were ruined forever by this mass voice, but whether the sentence was truly deserved or not, one thing was clear, there was no forgiveness or redemption for these people who were publicly shamed.

It can be said that any new advancement or step forward, no matter how well intended, can be misused and thus become a hazard. I think throughout these books, we see that despite how well intentioned the use of technology can be, there is always going to be someone to misuse it, creating a sense of danger in the online world entirely unique from ones in reality. Even if Ronson and Boyd want to point out and emphasize just how much good can come from technology, they cannot avoid the fact that there is so much bad tied along with it, and I think that, despite how positive the tone of these books may seem at first, it elicits a deep cynicism towards technology and how helpful it actually is.

Screens or Pages

I have always cringed any time a teacher has asked for a video project in school. Taking videos of the things around me is entirely different from having to edit a video into a legitimate concept to present to an audience and it’s something that has always confused and terrified me. That being said, there are definitely some aspects about creating a film that made the goal of relaying my concept much easier than if I had been asked to simply write about it as video offers certain affordances that writing simply does not.

As anyone might guess, the ability to use visual and audio stimuli in videos can greatly enhance the quality of presenting a concept as well as the reception from the audience. When writing out a paper the only images you can use are through the descriptive language you put on the page, requiring the reader to imagine the concept being presented in front of them. This leaves room for all different kinds of interpretation, while when it comes to video, you can very clearly showcase and explain in your own words what you want to get across to the audience. This can be seen in several of the “How To” video’s such as with Alexandra’s “How to build a Cootie Catcher” or Jake and Sara’s “How to tip your waitress”. The simple style of going step by step through the process of the specific “How To” with a voice over explanation in the background really aids in the audience learning how to do what it is they are showing us to do.

There’s also a kind of connection between the creator of the film and the audience in these videos that is less prominent when reading their words on a page. In the videos by Ellie and Ashley, we never actually see the author but we can still hear their voice overlapping the images in front of us, and even though we cannot see them, there is still a part of them present in the film speaking directly to us. As a reader, we can only see the words the writer has left for us and try to decipher their own voice or intonations based off of what we read.

However, for video, there is this sense that it is not universally preferred as a medium for showcasing concepts and many people find it difficult to actually present their ideas this way. I noticed for this project that, despite how it takes less time to absorb the material out of watching a video than taking the time and energy to read a long article on the same material, it took me much longer to create the presentation for it. Certainly all of the Concept in 60 videos were well done and showcased their ideas nicely, I couldn’t help but hear how many people, myself included, had difficulty with the editing process, noticing how much simpler it would have been to just write it out instead of working with the online tools. Despite the fluidity that comes with a film presentation, there is twice the amount of effort behind even a 60 second video as there is with a written piece which can be daunting for future potential media users.

I also believe that when it comes to video, it is much easier to get distracted by other things. From a generation who tend to multitask and give only small bits of attention to any given piece, it’s easy to feel that because the text of the material is being verbally presented to us that there is no need to spend our whole attention on it. For example, when it comes to reading a book, most people will immerse themselves entirely to the contents, to be able to absorb all of the material it can require all of your attention. When it comes to watching videos online, some people may have several tabs open at once, merely listening to the audio of a video while scrolling through various other online mediums, thus missing any visual aids that accompany the concept and losing some of the meaning in it.

Overall, I think both methods of conveying ideas are entirely effective in their own ways, sometimes it may be more efficient to rely on visual and audio aids to get a point across, while other times it may be better to invite different interpretations to an idea.

Is Social Media really just a “Cool Place”?

Concerning the first half of It’s Complicated, I, probably along with many who read this book, share in the authors sense of nostalgia as she presses her argument on the networking of high schoolers in our technological age. I’m taken back to the days where I spent hours online role playing with friends or taking quizzes in class because everyone was doing it or instant messaging the guy I liked the second I got home just to have an “out-of-school” conversation with him. I find myself agreeing, out of these personal experiences, with plenty that Boyd has to offer in the way of teens being pressed for publics where they can interact with their friends on their own level. When I think about it, it’s true that kids these days do not have the same freedoms that our parents or even their parents had in their younger years. Gone are the small towns and home before dark curfews with only a vague knowledge of where the kids have wandered off to in that suburban safety mentality. However, the notion Boyd seems to argue that teens need this technological “cool space” from social media, that it isn’t nearly as distracting as we may think it to be seems a little farfetched to me.

I found the introduction of  It’s Complicated extremely eye opening in this sense of how the “persistence, visibility, spreadability, and searchability” of content and information have not changed over time but merely taken up a new format. With these new formats though come complications, such as the book title implies, that can be tricky to get around but I applaud Boyd’s optimistic view of the creativity of teens. Certainly teens will find a way to communicate with as many people and friends as possible while trying to bypass the constant surveillance of their parents, but is that really all they use the social media for? Boyd even illustrates a situation later in chapter 1 in an example about the website “4chan” where young boys use the freedoms of this website in “problematic or destructive ways” (42). With all the freedoms of the internet and social media websites that can offer anonymity and a secure sense of invincibility, these outlets meant to afford the accessibility of material for teens then become publics ripe with other, more pernicious activities. As neighborhood playgrounds are intended to be fun safe environments for kids and adults to gather for social interaction, they can also be potentially rampant with predators, drugs, gangs, etc.

There is something to be said about context too, which Boyd elaborates on throughout the first half of this book. Though I believe that at any point in time people have constantly been taking the words, actions, or intents of others out of context, the internet sure does make it easier to do so. I include a clip of Trump singing “Closer” by the Chainsmokers as an example of just how easy it is to play with the context of anything. Trump

Working Memory

As Carr works his way through his arguments on how our minds and way of thinking are changing with the advancements of technology, I find myself drawn to his statements on memory in chapter 9. Carr claims that “The Web is a technology of forgetfulness.” on page 193, basing this on how the internet places pressure on our working memory which inhibits its ability to transfer thoughts and ideas to long term memory. What I find as I read this is that his evidence appears solid, most of his examples eloquently point to this notion that we are rapidly losing our ability to recall moments and information long term as we used to, however, what’s most curious is that I don’t fully agree that this is a bad thing.

Human memory is extremely fickle and subject to change or loss of details over time; events and information become skewed as other more recent happenings replace the space used for a previous memory. Carr even admits to this and points out that the contingency of memory is what adds “richness and character” to our minds, contrasting the memory of machines as cold and static. But isn’t it better to have a memory remain exactly as it was, as if it were that very moment frozen in time? In court cases, human memory accounts for little of the overall ruling as it has been proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted, but the evidence of cold, hard facts, much like the static continuity of a computer’s memory, is incapable of changing its story or lying about events. Isn’t it better, then, to have a resource that can be recalled again and again without its contents morphing or disappearing?

Even in the case of enhancing creativity, I think to research done in schools on how to increase productivity and creative learning in the classroom. To me, it seems as if Carr portrays technology as an instigator of laziness as well as the bane of manual memorization which was once so important to society, but as we’ve learned over time, rote memorization does not work to enhance the learning capabilities of children in a classroom. Poring over written notes on an event in history which is available at their fingertips on the world wide web does not allow for a child to really contemplate the importance of that event, as they are too busy trying to memorize the dates and the people involved. Although Carr may argue that this ability to bypass the process of memorizing information is leading the way to an inability to remember things with clarity, I do believe that instead, it allows for people to eliminate memorizing things of less importance in order to focus their mental abilities on unique ideas.

The image I present here caught my interest in that we are, in a way, becoming more in tune with technology. As I believe, a consistent and efficient memory, like that of a computer or phone, may not be such a bad thing after all.

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Credit: Brian A. Jackson/Shuttershock

Our Constant Rewiring

There is a certain example that Carr illustrates in his book that has sincerely grabbed my attention concerning the experiments done by Michael Merzenich on a group of monkeys. The discovery of the brains plasticity not even one hundred years ago has awakened an idea that Carr presents in his book that the brain is malleable and subject to change based on a constant feed of certain information. I find this incredibly fascinating when thinking about how much we have adapted and changed over time. With the aid of technology advancing rapidly within our lifetimes we have reached a point where we, as a generation, behave entirely different in many ways from the previous one, where that wasn’t nearly the case a century ago.

There is a passage on page 29 I find particularly interesting where, following his example of Merzenich and the monkey’s, Carr states: “The brain is not the machine we once thought it to be. Though different regions are associated with different mental functions, the cellular components do not form permanent structures or play rigid roles. They’re flexible. They change with experience, circumstance, and need”. As Carr continues forward on this thought, how certain areas of the brain can increase or decrease in size depending on specific constant uses of things such as instruments, I can’t help but think to the future. Though throughout this book we see comparisons between how the author used to behave as a reader/writer compared to now with the modern day technologies, there is a constant comparison between the present and the past but less of a look towards the future. As our dependency on these advancements of today continue to separate us from the archaic techniques of yesterday, what lies ahead as these technologies continue to advance?

This plasticity of the mind that allows us to adapt our brains can also be a potential hindrance in the way of forming bad habits. With debates already raging over the usefulness vs. harmfulness of computers, phones, etc. pertaining to our lifestyle changes and their effects over us, how will our habits continue to either deteriorate or evolve as these technologies become more and more advanced? Even 50 years ago, few people would have believed that within their lifetimes such a  thing as “Virtual Reality” could be a possibility, this Time article discusses the rise and continual surge of VR technology, how it is opening up new possibilities in our technological world. In another 50 years, there’s no telling what kind of advancements we’ll see and how these things will change our habits from what they are now and what they used to be 50 years ago.