- Preparing ahead of time to be able to easily reference more deep content (a link to more information, for example) while tweeting from a conference for example.
- Taking time out from engaging in the content of events and tweeting.
Reddit is like the front page of the internet in a sense. The high volume of user traffic and user created/posted content means that I can see a pretty good picture of what people are discussing online. I can get links to news, entertainment, books, movies… and cute videos of cats!
I have been using reddit for a while: but not as a poster/contributor. I’ve never been one to put my ideas or myself ‘out there’, I’m not constantly updating my media feeds, or taking pictures of my food, or even using social media publicly at all. Facebook is useful to message and join organizational groups, but I’ve not really felt the social media ‘itch’ that seems to have grabbed most of the networked world.
I made a reddit account for this post. Instantly the lens that I am viewing the comments and content before me shifts dramatically. With the new potential ability to reply to user comments, I find myself reading much more carefully, and I feel people’s comments holding a heavier weight than before. Feeling that open channel of dialogue; feeling the potential for discussion heightened my attention and my participation. They wrote all of this out so well and people approved of them and I can do the same? Incredible!
A large part of why I refrained from joining internet posting sites like reddit: it honestly felt like it would be a fruitless endeavor. Sure, I’m online while I’m getting breakfast in the morning, but I’m not really there to interact or attempt to impact a gigantic conversation. It feels honestly impossible to have any sort of power or steering on reddit. Some of the comments were one word responses to the post. Some were making jokes about other topics. A few comments were talking about some other post entirely.
My comment was not uprooted or touched: maybe someone read it, maybe they didn’t. Here is the comments section of the post, Ele4te is the account name so if you search that you can find the post in context.
Here is the text of my comment:
At what point did Fox leadership decide, “Maybe this isn’t the best PR for us”. They certainly took their time to make this decision. “Only 30 have come forward” “Keep him on this’ll all blow over” “31 now, sir” “Get him out of here! We can’t sustain this image!”
Ultimately this has made me realize that people feel empowered and pay closer attention to issues that they are able to discuss online. The need to give a public, online forum seems crucial for any business. Without online discussion it seems you’re simply at a disadvantage. Communication is a resource, and being able to post, comment, share, like, up-vote, and participate in the online dialogue may not always be impactful: but, it certainly is valuable. Why else would people do it?
The differences in the discussions of Ronson and Boyd focus on different aspects of a larger problem. They contrast in their focus, however: they both write about a common issue. The internet is an almost unavoidable, all encompassing aspect of our society today. While perhaps not fully ingrained yet, based on its evolution over the course of the 21st century, within the span of a decade, social media has changed the world wide web from a fringe destination into a hotbed of social communication and forum.
Boyd sought to discover how social media and networks were affecting teens. Certainly my generation was trained in offline social behavior and real-life social situations, as were those before me. But to expect that we know how to act on this new plane of existence and to think the internet is anything more than a wild, lawless Serengeti is a stretch. Boyd discovered that teens found identity and social groups through social media: they could express and live parts of themselves through the online space that they were barred from doing offline: this is new explorable territory. But it isn’t like there was some in depth walkthrough of the technology and applications they were using. The internet has many hidden challenges and aspects that if more people considered, especially in terms of social media, they might find disturbing. Teens and the rest of us face the challenges of social media, many of which are in our face such as hiding private information from parents, as well as more nuanced concepts: understanding that future employers may be interested in our internet history or our tweets. Boyd warns that the internet and social media may be more troublesome and complex than we make it out to be.
“The issues of persistence, visibility, spreadability, and search-ability…fundamentally affect their experiences in networked publics. They must negotiate invisible audiences and the collapsing of contexts (Boyd 203).”
The internet and social media provide us with challenges similar to real life but with certain twists. Knowing when to speak, what to say, understanding who my audience is: these are common skills in social etiquette. But when on the internet, its a whole new ball game. I think most young people now are extraordinarily cautious of what they post on the internet. I myself have been hugely reluctant to bite on social media for many reasons, but notably for fear that I might ‘mess up’ and cause a problem. It honestly boggles my mind that spokespeople for certain companies, or people affiliated with spotlight job positions think they can use a media platform so freely. How can they not understand the outcomes of their words in their position that POTENTIALLY could be created (even if it is a ‘harmless’ joke/tweet/post). People need to understand the realities of the internet. Sure, ideally, people don’t take things out of context, or journalists don’t post snippets of tweets or posts to paint a defamatory picture of someone: but this will and DOES happen. Boyd focuses on the challenges of social media and how teens interact with their peers through this means of communication. But she still focuses very much on the problems of etiquette, similar to Ronson.
Ronson focuses his work on public shaming through digital media. He sees that the affordances and constraints of the internet allow for a skewing of context and information, and for a shaming that would be otherwise impossible in this society. This skewing creates the destruction of people’s lives as it did in the case of Justine Sacco. Even when context is correctly established, such as in the Lehrer case, he still sees Draconian like responses to individuals from the mouths of the masses. Ronson calls for the horde, the sweltering masses of angry, pitchfork and torch wielding conformists to find another means of expression.
“How come people can come together, often spontaneously, often without leadership, and act together in ideologically intelligible ways? If you can answer that, you get a long way toward understanding human sociality. That is why, instead of being an aberration, crowds are so important and so fascinating (Ronson 105).”
Both writers seem hopeful that someday we will reach as a collective society an understanding of proper internet etiquette. If real life is any indication of internet society there is definitely potential that we may eventually get it right: no more public shaming, people free to act, no misinterpretations of context. Civil rights development and even political development took and is still taking quite a while to develop: so do your best to make the web a better place but don’t be a lofty idealist.
We use language and communication to express ideas. When interacting with others, context of the interaction determines the medium and method of communication. When I meet someone for the first time in the flesh, I don’t write out a greeting on a piece of paper and then hand it to the confused and concerned looking recipient. So when I consider whether video or written text is more appropriate, I consider how the affordances and constraints of each impact my ability to communicate effectively.
In some situations, written text is clearly appropriate such as in a formal communication with a business colleague. Video is strictly necessary for television shows: reading the script would not be as effective as watching. So which aspects of these two mediums determine their value?
Written correspondence allows the reader to absorb information by choice: the reader can choose which words to read and the pace to read them. Video forces reader attention more strictly than writing. If I don’t have the option to pause the video, I am forced to take in information at a set pace which I might find too fast or too slow. But even having control of the video cannot be enough. Amanda makes sure that each paper she shows in her video has enough screen time to be read. But video can sometimes convey information to rapidly causing confusion or too slowly, causing boredom. Writing can have this issue as well, but it is easier to slow or hasten our consumption of writing than it is for video.
Video impacts a greater number of senses as it is both visual and auditory. The nature of the visuals is also different as instead of imagining what a character in a story looks like, I can see them clearly on my screen. If I write the lyrics to a song I will have no idea what the cadence, pronunciation, background music, or feel of the song is. If I watch a music video, I can perfectly understand all of these aspects. Video can clearly establish tone to the audience whereas writing can be more subjective. James’ video simply wouldn’t work in a written format as he uses visual comedy that only video can convey his message effectively to the audience. Sure he could write out a step by step guide, but that wouldn’t have the same emotional impact on the audience as say a shot of him eating Pringles while holding a heap of snacks. Video can create deeper expression through greater sensory communication.
Specificity and Imagination
If I look at a video of the Grand Canyon with someone, I have shared that sight with them. If I read the same novel as someone else, it is more likely that we will have differing conceptions of characters’ appearances or the way events in the book unfolded. Imagination in the reader leads to differing understanding: what the writer meant may not always get to the reader. A ‘how to’ explanation in written form is less specific than a video in that it can be more widely interpreted. I can imagine the physical process of how to get dressed in the morning based on a written explanation. But when I watch Isabella’s video on how she chooses what to wear, I can see the exact process she is describing and my impact as the audience in changing or altering her message through my imagination lessens. Video often offers greater specificity of information while writing leads to deeper imaginative process.
Choosing the medium varies by context. Writing is more useful in some circumstances, while in other cases video is the superior modality. Understanding the technical limitations and affordances of each medium helps us to decide the best way to communicate effectively.
My cousin is a 25 year old studying physics in California. Her way of life is extraordinary in that she seems to be very contrarian to popular ways of living. She goes on nature expeditions with her fiancé where they immerse themselves in nature over a few weeks. She values the lives of animals and also her own health: therefore she chose to become a vegan. Her commitment to the diet was a little dangerous. She cracked a rib from the weight loss. But she is undeniably passionate about her lifestyle choices and she is one of the sanest, happiest persons I know. I am always looking forward to her next shocking lifestyle change that has our family asking if she’s quite right in the head.
Her most recent change was no less startling. She has gotten rid of her iPhone in favor of a small, ancient, dinosaur-looking, fossilized object that people of ancient times I believe called a cell phone. And that’s all it is. It can’t do anything but make calls. When the troglodytes come to destroy our technology I believe they will not be able to discern her phone from a rock. Anyway, the point is that she is a believer in REAL human contact and in making the most of her time. She tells me that her old phone was a distraction, unnecessary, and above all killing her humanity. Reading Boyd is killing my humanity. When I read Boyd I see a TON of issues and few solutions. Kids struggling with identity, with self-expression, with privacy. I think the solution here isn’t hard to see. Just get rid of it! Put it down! Or at the least refine how you use it! Is it really that complicated?
Sure, some people might need it for work or for networking for their business profile, I gotcha. But when Boyd talks about how teens are constantly updating their statuses or getting into privacy issues (95) I can’t help but feel like social media users have fabricated some nifty problems for themselves out of thin air.
So anyway I’ve realized I’m not so different from my cousin. I used to use Facebook as a means of chatting or posting updates waaaaaaay back in 7th grade. I don’t think I’ve posted a Facebook status in about 5 or 6 years. And to be honest, I would say it feels great not to, and I’m sure it does, but I’ve forgotten what it feels like to post. My profile picture has never changed: I’ve had the same once since middle school started. Boyd has helped me as has my cousin: when life’s getting a bit to complex, or a little sad: go to the roots of humanity! Unplug! Keep it simple silly! If I haven’t been convincing enough: Louis C.K. to take it home.
High School had a LOT of assignments that I perceived as busy work. What was my solution to busy work? Google! Another worksheet with information I have to fill in from the textbook? Google! In Calculus, I would ask the almighty Google for answers and it delivered. This is great! Homework is a breeze, a nice stroll in the park, no worries here! AP Euro had a lot of reading to do. Why would I read through all that when I can just take a quick detour down convenience lane and save the rest of my evening? But although classes seemed sunny, carefree, and easy, I didn’t realize I was living a LIE. Dark clouds were on the horizon.
Exam time. Having some slight difficulties…Where is your Google GOD now? Your savior has forsaken you! I had made a mistake that I am sure everyone has made at some point in their academic career. Filling in homework worksheets with Google is not learning. I was not learning how to find the derivative of a line when I googled every equation in my math homework. I was not learning the intricacies of European History when I googled brief definitions of names and terms to fill in on my homework packet.
Learning the Process>Google the Answer…but it takes longer:(
Learning is a process. Most people need time to let information stew in their brains. Time to reflect on information and process is just as important as the contact time with material in class: homework helps achieve this reflection and processing. But the main point here: from my experience, it is human nature to seek the path of least resistance. The ‘easiest’ path is usually the path taken, even if it is a path that leads to inevitable problems (problems we may not foresee). I looked up answers to homework to save time in the present, even though I would need to understand the material to do well on exams in the future. My thoughts on this matter stem from Carr’s discussion on the Van Nimwegen study on page 214. The lack of a hand-holder for the barebones group was actually beneficial: sure, it was less taxing on the screen assisted group. They had less mental gymnastics to do. But the bare-bones group was the winner in the end, using “‘more focus, more direct an economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge’” (Carr 215).
The point I want to make is that Google is a wonderful tool to aid in learning. If I wanted to learn anything at all right now, I’m sure I could Google it and be on my way. But like most tools, it can be seriously misused. In spoon feeding so much information at such a rapid pace, the process of learning is at risk. I must be vigilant in observing how my use of Google and other technology impacts my learning. Google should be used as an asset to learning, not as a crutch for homework. With great power… comes great responsibility!