What kind of World is this?

There exists a world that I know nothing about. Divided into categories: Social Media Games, Online Multiplayer Games and Gaming Communities, these game worlds are as diverse and complex as any biological microcosm. In the past 24 hours I opened the door to peek into this space. I’ve never played a game, this is an unknown environment.

Apart from games that focus on social experiences, other games construct virtual worlds. There’s a space-based, persistent world, massively multiplayer online role-playing game called EVE, celebrating 17 years, that has become the world’s largest living work of science fiction (Parkin 2015). People do not play EVE to ‘win’, instead it is a miniature universe of human activity where “players project their ideological principles. Their virtual behaviour almost certainly is an expression of their ideas about how the world really works” (Parkin 2015).

EVE Online: Wallpaper image.

According to De Zwart & Humphreys, EVE is designed as a lawless frontier. It prides itself on aggression, “players are rewarded for ruthless gameplay, including murder, sabotage and piracy”. Tactics not acceptable in other games are encouraged here. However EVE has its own codes of conduct in the Council of Stellar Management which evolved along with the game. The council gives players a negotiation channel with developers but a breach the terms of service will find a player suspended. Even for comments made outside the game environment. The written code states: ‘You may not use any abusive, defamatory, ethnically or racially offensive, harassing, harmful, hateful, obscene, offensive, sexually explicit, threatening or vulgar language.’ However, it is all an illusion. There is no power structure or accountability as these forbidden tactics are embedded in the game (De Zwart & Humphreys 2014).

Pew research found attitudes toward gaming are complex, with a myriad of debates about their societal impact. With 49% of Americans playing and 10% considering themselves gamers, online gaming is a serious consideration. The biggest debates are whether positive attributes of problem-solving skills, communication and teamwork outweigh promotion of aggressive and violent behaviour (Duggan 2015).

Even the FBI say toxic elements are a challenge to extinguish. Toxicity goes beyond cyberbullying and verbal abuse to include real-world criminal activity, such as recruiting to hate groups, re-enacting slavery-era racism, sexual predatory grooming and rape, violence against women, and inciting murder (Smith 2019). The most pervasive is harassment leading to overwhelming depression in young people. With no clear methods to effectively monitor or eliminate toxic behaviour, it’s “proving to be a mess hard to clean up” (Smith 2019). There seems a lack of legal options to deal with real-world threats from online games.

‘A text chat from the game Dota 2 that was posted to Reddit’ (Screenshot)

I am turning off the lights and closing this virtual door. More than a subculture within recreational games, here is an identity battle for ownership of shared cultural spaces (Dewey 2014). Who belongs and who doesn’t. There is no good solution.

MDA2009 Assignment 1C  Social gaming: Playing the crowd.

References

Castello, J 2018, ‘Foul play: tackling toxicity and abuse in online video games’, The Guardian, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/aug/17/tackling-toxicity-abuse-in-online-video-games-overwatch-rainbow-seige&gt;

Dewey, C 2014, ‘The only guide to Gamergate you will ever need to read’, The Washington Post, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2014/10/14/the-only-guide-to-gamergate-you-will-ever-need-to-read/&gt;

De Zwart, M & Humphreys, S 2014, ‘The lawless frontier of deep space: Code as law in EVE online’, Cultural Studies Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, Mar 2014: 77-99, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://search-informit-com.au.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/fullText;dn=225934593111540;res=IELLCC&gt;

Duggan, M 2015, ‘Gaming and Gamers’, Pew Research Centre, viewed 21 May 2020, < https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2015/12/15/gaming-and-gamers/&gt;

EVE Online, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.eveonline.com/now/17th-birthday&gt;

Parkin, S 2015, ‘Eve Online: how a virtual world went to the edge of apocalypse and back’, The Guardian, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/12/how-virtual-world-edge-of-apocalypse-and-back-again&gt;

Smith, N 2019, ‘Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can’t the booming video-game industry curb toxicity?’, The Washington Post, viewed 21 May 2020, <https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/02/26/racism-misogyny-death-threats-why-cant-booming-video-game-industry-curb-toxicity/&gt;

Images

Eve Online, Wallpaper Images <https://www.eveonline.com/article/holiday-wallpaper-social-media-headers-now-available&gt;

The Washington Post, ‘A text chat from the game Dota 2 that was posted to Reddit’ (Screenshot), posted in “Racism, misogyny, death threats: Why can’t the booming video-game industry curb toxicity?

I’m OK, You’re OK, but We are not OK

By 2020 we were meant to be living like The Jetsons, or ‘Back to the Future’, instead the Covid19 era smacks of the totalitarianism of George Orwell’s 1984, with isolation restrictions, surveillance and monitoring in the interest of public safety.

There are two faces of social media’s input into public health. On one hand, we are afforded amazing opportunities to connect the public with medical professionals globally, as seen in the work by Physicians for Peace and Project Echo. As Dr. Narcin says, “Growth of telemedicine has allowed expertise to travel to the patient” (Thomson 2016). In the US, ‘telehealth’ has reduced medical costs for many, and in Australia, the numbers of people accessing ‘digital health’ and Health Professional Online Services has soared, especially during Covid19.

The collective health care knowledge made available through ‘patient advocate’ groups on social media has enormous benefits, where patients share their experiences and medical findings, as championed by Dave deBronkart known as ‘ePatient Dave’, whose life was saved by online communities (deBronkart 2011). McCosker says public expression of personal health experiences enables support and non-institutional management of serious illness (McCosker 2013).

Meet ePatient Dave: ‘Patients making health care better”

RUOK? has been one of the biggest public health campaigns with the spotlight on mental health conversations. RUOK? focusses on educating the public to check in with each other and how to help with resources. The campaign has raised awareness to such a level that anyone struggling and seeking help would only have to say “I’m not OK” to be understood.

‘A Conversation could change a Life’. Image by RUOK?

In the neutral zone, social media may only be another “mechanism by public health organisations and practitioners for mass information dissemination rather than engaging audiences in true multi-way conversations and interactions” (Heldman, Schindelar & Wearer 2014). As ‘just another advertising platform’, public health campaigns have been known to go seriously wrong, resulting in the opposite to intended effects, such as Stoner Sloth, Meth: We’re On It, and Go Smoke Free: Stay Pretty. This is balanced with successful campaigns that educated us to slip, slop, slap, to ‘buckle up: it’s the law’ , get your hand off it, and avoid drink-driving ‘RBT means you need a Plan B’. Awareness-raising #movember and #knowyourlemons campaigns became globally viral.

On the other hand, social media affords proliferating misinformation through sharing fake news, false memes and conspiracy theories. The darker ‘tin hat’ side demonstrates that the public cannot be indiscriminately trusted to share health information. The fear and threat of loss-of-control leads to the reality of that loss. Fact-checks have become a way of life, with outlets such as SciencePolitifact, and FactCheck. The mass spread of theories surrounding Covid19 has increased surveillance of public information via platform censorship. Facebook and YouTube are working overtime to pull down false information. If the public don’t wise-up, digital citizens may find themselves in digital gaol. It’s possible the ‘thought police’ have arrived.

‘Understandascope’ Image courtesy of Michael Leunig

MDA2009 Assignment 1C Public health campaigns and communities

References

deBronkart, D 2011, ‘Meet ePatient Dave’, TEDTalks, viewed 19 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=oTxvic-NnAM&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Heldman, A & Schindelar, J & Wearer, J 2014, Social Media Engagement and Public Health Communication: Implications for Public Health Organizations Being Truly “Social”, Public Health Reviews Vol 35, no1, viewed 21 May 2020, https://link-springer-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/content/pdf/10.1007/BF03391698.pdf

Howard, A 2018,’10 effective public health social media campaigns’, Strategic Social Media Lab, viewed 19 May 2020, <https://strategicsocialmedialab.com/10-effective-public-health-social-media-campaigns/&gt;

McCosker, A & Darcy, R 2013 ‘Living With Cancer: Affective Labour, Self-Expression and the Utility of Blogs”, Information,Communication & Society 16(8), 1266-85

Thompson, S 2016, ‘How social media is transforming medical care in the developing world’, Fast Company, viewed 19 May 2020, <https://www.fastcompany.com/3057869/how-social-media-is-transforming-medical-care-in-the-developing-world&gt;

Images

A Conversation could change a Life: RUOK? <https://www.ruok.org.au/join-r-u-ok-day&gt;

Leunig, M ‘Understandable’, used with permission, <https://www.leunig.com.au/works/cartoons&gt;

How many lightbulbs does it take to change a crowd?

Digital communities are changing our landscape on many levels. We live in an age of ‘extensive conceptual stretching’, meaning ideas don’t stay still for very long, they rapidly merge and evolve. Crowdsourcing is where outsourcing, internet technologies and crowds intersect. Since Jeff Howe wrote about it in Wired, crowdsourcing has been our terminology for “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent and outsourcing it to an undefined large group of people in the form of an open call” (Howe 2006). Jeff and others were bewailing the movement of the amorphous crowd into professional areas, like istockphoto selling images for $1 (now iStock), and the future of corporate R&D being handed over to cross-pollinating collaborative budget-cutting outsiders.

Rethinking Crowdsourcing. Image by Elliot Lim.

Current crowdsourcing models cover the more complicated human intelligence work, including scientific R&D, digital media production, software development, citizen journalism, and consumer reporting. Businesses and governments harness the efforts of a virtual ‘crowd’ taking advantage of social media applications while actively controlling its collaborative management (Saxton, et al, 2013). The online community plays the role of service providers – we produce, innovate, solve problems, and report – facilitating collective content creation (Bruns 2007). It’s not quite the same as the viral sharing that tells a story quickly to the masses, like when social media came to the rescue and cut through the noise of news media to rally help for those devastated by the Australian bushfires, but there’s no denying the power of the crowd to outperform professional broadcasting with the immediacy of news-in-real-time.

Crowdsourcing is where outsourcing, internet technologies and crowds intersect.

Amateur video and photography, with its ability to contribute information from deep within crisis areas, has become crucial to government agencies in disseminating knowledge to the public and to recovery responders. The emerging role of social media in emergency communications has changed the communication strategies of authorities, as we saw in the 2011 Qld floods, where Twitter became the Qld Police prime source in seeking and providing information about the disaster. Lives have been saved, and resources and security coordinated, because of volunteer crowdsourced crisis monitoring systems.

Coordinating information. Image: Unsplash

The growing acceptance of crowdsourcing for information is not without its challenges, as misinformation or inaccurate information can hinder emergency services, and authorities are calling for embedded verification systems. “Getting verified becomes critical in crises” (Ford 2012). As Riccardi says, “It takes a staff of trained individuals to sift through, verify, and allocate resources where needed” (Riccardi 2016). Crowdsourcers work with partners to verify information, such as Waze, who aim keep people in crisis affected areas safe and informed.

Crowd wisdom comes in many forms. Crowdsourcing knowledge sharing and creation isn’t just mass-processing information, it’s also managing collective intelligence (Saxton 2013). One of the first uses of social media in disasters was Ushahidi’s crisis mapping platform, integrating data from multiple sources. In the era of Covid19, health professionals are openly collaborating by crowdmapping symptoms with smartphones. Conversely, business applications have brought value-added control systems, such as copyright protection, bidding and voting, and quality control, like peer reviews and ratings, into online platforms. The unique strength emerging in social media is the ability to tap into the collective brain. Crowdsourcing also brought us Threadless, Zazzle, Fluevog, et al, where consumers are turned into designers, and it spurred peer-to-peer social financing, like Kiva, where users play both banker and borrower, and even hacking for social change at Random Hacks of Kindness.

This is the true power of the crowd: collective ideas coming together to change us.

MDA2009 Assignment 1C Crowdsourcing in times of crisis

References

Bruns, A, Burgess, J, Crawford, K & Shaw, F 2012, #qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods, Arc Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, pp. 7-10, viewed 18 May 2020, <http://www.cci.edu.au/floodsreport.pdf&gt;.

Bruns, A 2007, Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation. In Shneiderman, B (Ed.) Proceedings of 6th ACM SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition 2007, Association for Computing Machinery, USA, pp. 99-105, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://eprints.qut.edu.au/6623/1/6623.pdf&gt;

Desai, A & Warner, J & Kuderer, N, et al, 2020, ‘Crowdsourcing a crisis response for COVID-19 in oncology’, Nature Cancer, viewed 19 May 2020, <https://www.nature.com/articles/s43018-020-0065-z#citeas&gt;

Ford, H 2012, ‘Crowd Wisdom’, Index on Censorship, vol.41, no.4, p33-39, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1177/0306422012465800&gt;

Howe, J 2006, ‘The Rise of Crowdsourcing’, Wired, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://www.wired.com/2006/06/crowds/&gt;

Paper and Spark Digital, 2020, Social Media: Engaging the World in Australia’s Bushfire Crisis, viewed 18 May, 2020, <https://paperandspark.com.au/social-media-engaging-the-world-in-australias-bushfire-crisis/&gt;

Postetti, J & Lo, P 2012, ‘The Twitterisation of ABCs Emergency & Disaster Communication’, Australian Journal of Emergency Management, Vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 34-39, viewed 19 May 2020, < https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/documentSummary;res=IELAPA;dn=046926063833158&gt;

Riccardi, M 2016, ‘The power of crowdsourcing in disaster response operations’, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 20, December 2016, Pages 123-128, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/science/article/pii/S2212420916302199?via%3Dihub&gt;

Saxton, G & Oh, O & Kishore, R 2013, ‘Rules of Crowdsourcing: Models, Issues, and Systems of Control’, Information Systems Management, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234036358_Rules_of_Crowdsourcing_Models_Issues_and_Systems_of_Control/download&gt;

Images

Lim, E 2017, Rethinking Crowdsourcing, Harvard Business Review, viewed 19 May 2020, <https://hbr.org/2017/11/rethinking-crowdsourcing&gt;

Saxton, G & Oh, O & Kishore, R 2013, ‘Rules of Crowdsourcing: Models, Issues, and Systems of Control’, Information Systems Management, viewed 18 May 2020, <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234036358_Rules_of_Crowdsourcing_Models_Issues_and_Systems_of_Control/download&gt;

Unsplash image: jo-szczepanska-bjemWZcNF34-unsplash.jpgjo-szczepanska-bjemWZcNF34-unsplash

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Trolls in cyberspace have been aptly named. Trolls are ugly, greedy, hide in waiting for their victim and demand to be feed. While trolling is a specific activity, it is agreed that any online abuse is abhorrent. Trolls have malicious intent and interpret any “reaction as validation to continue their activities” (Bergstrom 2100). We are urged ‘do not feed the trolls!’

Ugly Internet Troll (Artist: Ashva – Image courtesy Vector Stock)

Serious online conflict can be flaming (personal attacks), doxing (disclosing private identifying details), cyber-bullying (intense, targeted, one-way abuse), cyber-hating (comments inciting hate) and cyberstalking (following online with intent to harm), or actually any of the ugly behaviours found systemically within humanity. As Couros says, online and offline spaces have merged into an augmented reality, and if you want to understand teen culture you must understand that social media is real life (Couros 2015). “Social media has not altered the dynamics of bullying, but made it visible to more people” (boyd 2014). Boyd proposes teens have more understanding of the imprecise definitions in language around drama, teasing, pranking, punking, bullying, and harassment. She says evil people who torment for fun are sociopaths, but teens know “most bullies react aggressively because they’re struggling with serious issues of their own” (boyd 2014).

Axel Couros, TEDTalk, ‘Identity in a Digital World’

Grievous problems arise when the distinctions between behaviours collapse and make legally dealing with cyberviolence difficult. How do we stop bullying? Governing online behaviour is impractical and nearly impossible with the speed of internet changes, but having a cyber-safety ombudsman as a point-of-call before police intervention is a likely necessity. Currently the eSafety Commission is a clumsy process, but some form of public safety-net is clearly needed as normal societal structures have been removed in social media interaction. The Government eSafety website just tips the iceberg. While it has good intentions, it is about as useful as an AVO in keeping people safe.

Amidst the debate for racial vilification laws, Brandis says “In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted” (Collins 2014). We don’t have to like it, but as a society we defend the right to another’s freedom of speech. The question is how to legislate online behaviour that aligns with the constitutional law.

While Facebook’s answer seems to be top-down intervention as it attempts cybersecurity through automated systems removing abusive links and algorithmic censorship, McCosker has a completely different view of these codes of conduct. In analysing the notion of digital citizenship, he proposes the relative lack of constraints, provocation, and conflict as being productive elements of social media spaces. He implies that public engagement with diverse opinions are the democratic processes of becoming citizens (McCosker 2014). Without challenges there is no growth. We must learn how to disagree and co-exist.

“I’m your Sister” Cartoon by Bil Keane

Despite two decades of practice, we are still social media apprentices. The Three Billy Goats had a strategy. Notwithstanding zero-tolerance for life-threatening vitriolic practices, we need to find instructional strategies for young and old alike to form online identities that allows scope for reactive, ‘deviant’ or ‘aberrant’ participation.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Trolling and Social Media Conflict

References

Australian Government, eSafety Commissioner, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.esafety.gov.au/key-issues/esafety-guide&gt; <https://www.esafety.gov.au/report/cyberbullying/how-we-handle-complaints&gt;

Beckett, J 2017, “The Media Dangerously Misuses the word Trolling”, The Conversation, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://theconversation.com/the-media-dangerously-misuses-the-word-trolling-79999&gt;

Bergstrom, K 2011, ‘“Don’t Feed the Troll”: Shutting down the debate about community expectations on Reddit.com’, First Monday vol. 16, no. 8, viewed 2 May 2020, <http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3498/3029&gt;.

Carrick, D 2014, “Can a cyber-bullying commissioner protect our kids?”, Law Report, ABS, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/5286036&gt;

Collins, B 2014, “TRANSCRIPT: George Brandis Said Much More Than ‘People Have A Right To Be Bigoted’“, Business Insider Australia, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.businessinsider.com.au/transcript-george-brandis-said-much-more-than-people-have-a-right-to-be-bigoted-2014-3&gt;

Couros, A 2015, “Identity in a Digital World”, TEDTalk, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=pAlIBTgYfDo&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Koetsier, J 2020, “Facebook Deleting Coronavirus Posts, Leading To Charges Of Censorship”, Forbes,  viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkoetsier/2020/03/17/facebook-deleting-coronavirus-posts-leading-to-charges-of-censorship/#3918c82c5962&gt;

McCosker, A 2014, ‘Trolling as provocation: YouTube’s agonistic publics’, Convergence, 20(2), pp. 201–217, viewed 3 May 2020, < https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/doi/10.1177/1354856513501413&gt;

Pyle, K 2015, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”, Storyberries, viewed 3 May 2020, <https://www.storyberries.com/fairy-tales-the-three-billy-goats-gruff-by-katharine-pyle/&gt;

Images:

Ashva, Ugly Internet Troll, free download 3 May 2020,  <https://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/ugly-internet-troll-vector-14784097&gt;

Keane, B and J, 2011, King Features Syndicate, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.comicskingdom.com/family-circus/&gt;

Rage Rage Against the Dying of the Light

Immortal words of Dylan Thomas beautifully express the fight against darkness in any form. Activism is the raising of an army of people rallying for or against a cause, with protest seeking some kind of change. Social media increasingly becomes the platform to share our rage.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Digital Activism uses the technology of social media to bring attention to a cause, giving anyone a voice. Millennials almost automatically innately express their feelings on social media, having grown up in the ‘always on’ sociosphere (boyd 2012). Social media gives oppressed individuals a global voice to protest social injustices, ignorance and misinformation.

Millennials express feelings on activism on social media

Social media has spawned clicktivism and slacktivism, criticised as the minimalist online involvement and no substitute for actually ‘doing something’, however even the simple act of using a #hashtag has proven to change the world. Physical civil action has changed because of social media, but we must not dismiss online activism. Examples #bluelivesmatter #marchforlife #heforshe began tweetstorms that seized more coverage for their cause than mainstream media.

# HeForShe

Digital activism can be louder than marching in the streets because its global reach bypasses authoritarian governments and corporations. Example, Global Citizen campaigns to end extreme poverty. Highlighting injustice, health and sanitation issues, civilians suffering in conflict, gender inequality, etc, to over 25 million responders has resulted in over 100 commitments made by governments, multilateral institutions and corporations.

Digital citizenship has challenged authoritarian regimes, from Hollywood moguls to political despots, and circulated previously suppressed information, but before we get too complacent about the power in clicking ‘like’ and reposting, consider the ever-present filter bubble. When society surrounds itself with people of shared outlook that never challenge assumptions, chances are we are only hearing the loudest squeaky wheel.

Eli Pariser TEDTalk ‘Beware online Filter Bubbles’

Axel Bruns explains that living in information cocoons results in “self-reinforcing ideological in-groups of hyperpartisans” threatening democracy (Bruns 2019). “The high degree of self-sorting leads to increased contempt for those with contrary views” (Sunstein 2008). When society polarises itself into Us vs Them, either through selective choice or by algorithm curation, then only the voice of the most outraged is heard against the dying of the light.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Activism and Protest

References

boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76

Bruns, A 2019, “Are Filter Bubbles Real?”, Digital Humanities Research Group, Western Sydney University, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=ouzPhoSSGYw&feature=emb_logo&gt;

Gould, W R 2019, “Are you in a social media bubble> Here’s how to tell”, NBC News, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/problem-social-media-reinforcement-bubbles-what-you-can-do-about-ncna1063896&gt;

Hitchings-Hales, J and Calderwood, I 2017, “8 Massive Moments Hashtag Activism Really, Really Worked”, Global Citizen, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/hashtag-activism-hashtag10-twitter-trends-dresslik/&gt;

Hull, G 2017, “Why social media may not be so good for democracy”, The Conversation Media Group, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://theconversation.com/why-social-media-may-not-be-so-good-for-democracy-86285&gt;

JainKeff, 2010, “Dylan Thomas reciting his villanelle ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2cgcx-GJTQ&gt;

Pariser, E 2011, “Beware online ‘filter bubbles’”, TEDTalk, viewed 2 May 2020, <https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en&gt;

Popova, M 2017, “The Story Behind Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ and the Poet’s Own Stirring Reading of His Masterpiece”, Brain Pickings, viewed 2 May 2020,  <https://www.brainpickings.org/2017/01/24/dylan-thomas-do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/&gt;

Shah, N 2019, “In 10 Years of Citizen Impact, $48.4 Billion in Commitments to End Extreme Poverty”, Global Citizen, viewed 29 April 2020, <https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/10-years-total-impact-numbers/&gt;

The Pink Protest, 2017, “The Power of Online Activism”, YouTube, viewed 2 May 2020, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=fp_LoZUEOf8&feature=emb_logo&gt;

UN Women Org, 2019, viewed 30 April 2020, <https://www.heforshe.org/en&gt;

This Present Madness

Social media is now entrenched in our civil society. Digital communities have given power to people and increased participation in democratic processes. Politicians are well aware of the importance of including social media platforms in their campaigns.

In 1993, Rheingold foresaw that this technology would miss its mark if not ‘used intelligently and deliberately by an informed population” (Rheingold 2000). However Rheingold did not foresee how controversial an ‘informed population’ would become.

‘Gunk’ Image courtesy of Michael Leunig

Social media added a powerful element to the voters’ voice outside the ballot box, giving balance to politicians, mainstream media and journalists (Enli 2017). In 2016, platforms became the battleground for ‘fake news’ in US election campaign. Axel Bruns, QUT, says the Twitter hashtag #auspol is part of Australian political furniture, and used by consumers to engage in political debates (Bogle 2016).

Social media is used primarily as a marketing tool in politics, as the need to control the message overwhelms any forum for enlightened public debate. Politicians are able to speak directly to voters without constraints of media ‘interpretation’, and attempt to control how the public perceive them. Even Trump’s so-called amateurish approach to Tweets is a deliberate statement of his authenticity. A performance, originally establishing his ‘outsider’ position (Enli 2017).

Compare approaches made by Australian pollies throughout our revolving door of Prime Ministers, from shaving cuts to budgie smugglers, and you see who maintains distance behind staffers or connects directly with constituents. It is imperative for anyone in politics to have a social media presence when campaigning for votes, especially engaging with the younger audience. Without authenticity, candidates wont hold up to their more intense scrutiny.

Choosing the platforms is a matter of horses for courses: be more sociable on Facebook, more serious on Twitter, use humour on Tumblr, and policies on LinkedIn. Get the platform wrong and you’ll look like a goose. Or worse, you’ll lose the audience and become a trending joke. Platforms are notorious for kicking politicians around, whether in a seriously degrading way, such as Reddit, or humorously by the teenage mimics on TikTok.

‘Globalisation’ Image courtesy of Michael Leunig

However the red flag is more serious. Social media in politics and civil culture has a darker side. Knowing where your information comes from drives democracy (Arvanitakis 2017). Far from a free flow of information, the algorithms are set to feed each individual with their own bias. Social media platforms are highly controlled media environments, making excellent use of the human tendency to “look for evidence that supports belief systems we already have in place” (Ohler 2017). Our own confirmation bias means we become part of the machine that spreads misinformation and disseminates ‘fake news’.

‘Disgusting Lies’ Image courtesy of Michael Leunig

To find truth about controversial stories, it is imperative to read from diverse sources. This begins with a rare desire to know the truth. Suffering from information bombardment, it’s easier to follow what ‘our team thinks’. It’s the opposite of critical thinking (Ohler 2017). Social media plays a significant role in how we learn political information as we don’t question information forwarded by people we trust (Bode 2016). Politicians also know that even disinterested people will learn without any involvement as a by-product of using social media (Bode 2016).

And it gets worse. In 2018 Cambridge Analytica was shut down because of their use of private data to manipulate US 2016 election through targeted social media posts. Using psychographics, the ‘persuadables’ were exposed to curated unmarked political messages. These methods were used to sway over 100 elections in 30 countries (Ghoshal 2018).

We are far from an ‘informed population’. We are digital citizens facing a crisis in media literacy, meanwhile, this present madness threatens our democracy.

Alexander Nix (Cambridge Analytica) explains psychographics

 

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Politics and civic cultures

REFERENCES

Arvanitakis, J 2017, ‘If Google and Facebook rely on opaque algorithms, what does that mean for democracy?’, ABC News, Viewed 11 April 2020, <https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-08-10/ai-democracy-google-facebook/8782970&gt;

Bode, L 2016, ‘Political News in the News Feed: Learning Politics from Social Media’, Mass Communication and Society, Viewed 12 April 2020, <https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15205436.2015.1045149&gt;

Bogle, A 2016, “#auspol: The Twitter hashtag Australia can’t live without”, Mashable, Viewed 12 April 2020, < https://mashable.com/2016/03/21/twitter-australia-auspol/#4tvfXtsZUEqV&gt;

Enli, G 2017, ‘Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: exploring the social media campaigns of Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election’, European Journal of Communication, 32(1), pp. 50–61, Viewed 12 April 2020, < https://journals-sagepub-com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/doi/full/10.1177/0267323116682802&gt;

Ghoshal, D 2018 ‘Mapped: The breathtaking global reach of Cambridge Analytica’s parent company’ Quartz, Viewed 12 April 2020, <https://qz.com/1239762/cambridge-analytica-scandal-all-the-countries-where-scl-elections-claims-to-have-worked/&gt;

Ohler, J 2017, ’Confirmation Bias and Media Literacy’ Connections, Consortium for Media Literacy, Viewed 11 April 2020, <https://www.medialit.org/sites/default/files/connections/Confirmation%20Bias%20and%20Media%20Literacy.pdf&gt;

Rheingold, H 1993, “The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier” (Paperback 2000) The Digital Citizen, Wired, Viewed 12 April 2020, < http://www.caracci.net/dispense_enna/The%20Virtual%20Community%20by%20Howard%20Rheingold_%20Table%20of%20Contents.pdf&gt;

Media:

Leunig, M 2020, “Cartoons”, Works, © Michael Leunig, Viewed April 2020 <https://www.leunig.com.au/works/cartoons&gt;

Nix, A 2016, “Cambridge Analytica – The Power of Big Data and Psychographics”, YouTube, viewed March 2020, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8Dd5aVXLCc&gt;

I am an ‘always-on’ girl!

This week there is a fascinating collection of new thoughts running through my social-media-minded brain. I have listened to Sherry Turkle’s TED talk (Turkle 2013) and found huge chunks that resonate, not only with how my own social media experiences are absolutely “bound up” in the platforms I use, but also in how I teach self-awareness in my art groups. We do carry the fantasies Turkle talks about throughout our lives, that we will be always heard and never alone. This is the core of all our online and offline relationships. However to insist these human cravings are fantasies goes against how I define myself. I do expect these things from my friends, and I’d say they expect it from me. The core of the issue is that humanity needs to be seen, heard, known and loved. Until someone feels you have seen them, heard them and know them, they cannot feel that you love them. If these are fantasies, then humanity is in trouble. These ‘ideals’ may be unfulfilled expectations in most of our relationships, but to label them as fantasies leaves humanity without hope.

‘Oh the humanity!’
Credit: SGAR_art

Friendship is demanding. The problem isn’t with technology; if there is a problem, it is with us. If we are substituting superficial digital connections for real relationships, the problem is with how we are using technology. Turkle says it is early days and we still get to decide how to use social media. We can choose to make room for the self-reflective solitude that balances the devices’ demand for connections and the fake empathy – and from that space of self-awareness, go forth into this brave new world. The world is in the midst of another paradigm culture shift, just as it was in the Victorian era, and we are smmmmack in the middle of learning how to operate in it.

Living through connections via devices is not necessarily a negative thing. The negativity lies in being unaware of what you are doing. Self-awareness is the most important quality we could possibly teach our children who will grow up in a digital world.

‘Always-On’
Credit: Manu Cornet, Cartoonist

This week I have also read danah boyd’s thoughts on how we are now “always on”. She means how we live with the assumption that we are always networked with people online. Not that we are actively engaging constantly online, but that we are ABLE to if we choose to. We are not really online and not really offline. There is a new ‘normal’. We are living across all the platforms accessible to us and bringing ourselves into the experience of the merging of online/offline life. We connect people and information constantly in context and as we choose to. We live in an era where developing our own strategies for navigating our online connections is an essential skill.

‘The ‘always-on’ fatal flaw’
Credit: Manu Cornet, Cartoonist

I suspect the driving forces behind social media were introverts. Or extroverted introverts. People who want to be with other people but only in small doses. People who understood their limited capacity for interaction. As Turkle says, people who like to be ‘alone together’.


MDA2009 Assignment 1A How are our social experiences in each of these contexts bound up with social media platforms and their affordances, and how we make use of them?

References

boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76.

Corbet, Manu, Twitter post, https://mobile.twitter.com/lmanul

SGAR_art, Instagram post, “Expectations” https://www.instagram.com/p/BxwfOtCnAV9/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet

Turkle, S 2013, Connected, but alone?- Sherry Turkle, TED 2013, viewed 20 July 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv0g8TsnA6c&gt;.

Sherry Turkle ‘Connected, but Alone?’

When is a blog not a blog?

A blog is not a blog when “the people who use it do things with it that the designer never imagined”.

Norman, 2011

Studying social media is like turning a dentist’s magnifying spotlight onto your lover’s face, suddenly the beautiful warm glow from candlelit evenings vanishes and things don’t look so rosy. Please. Give me simulations of reality any day.

And no, it is not that I cannot distinguish between realities, but perhaps I don’t want to see more clearly. I don’t want to acknowledge that my personal use of social media is being manipulated by huge corporations interested in expanding their consumer base. (Why else have social network sites encouraged such a public level of self-exposure over these last three decades, if not to sell a product?)

Hyperreality could still be a good thing. I could continue to live in a cosy corner of cyberspace and hang on to the illusion that I am becoming my online identity. Could I actually morph into the person I present as my social identity in online communities? As Wilken and McCosker (2014) state, we must self-reflectively and continuously ‘invent’ ourselves with these tools of self-formation. Isn’t this the new reality? That “I share therefore I am”. (Turkle 2013) My concept of self becomes regulated through a collection of bots compiled from all the platforms where I am publicly available. An iMe or an eMe, the electronic version of me.

In studying social media, we are questioning the forms of sociality. The percentage of social interactions within digital environments has increased exponentially. In May 2019 Social Media News, for example, puts Australian Facebook users at 15 million with 50% of the country’s population logging in daily. The ‘public sphere’ as described by Habermas has gone. (Bruns and Highfield 2016) News broadcasters now cannot claim influence over the nation. Their audience has dispersed. Even early paradigms of social media have changed. The rapid connection and dissemination of news on the diverse platforms now available has changed our concept of social media. A blog is no longer a weblog, no longer the Captain’s log, recording what’s happening on our mission. Its story is woven into our network experience.

We have transitioned from using digital media as profile-based self-expression only, into a space where digital dualism is being disintegrated, as Jurgenson says (cited by Herrman 2019). Virtual and physical realities are merging. No longer is digital media a form of virtual communication, it has become the experience of living in a world where being networked to people is assumed. As danah boyd has described, our social networking means we are ‘always on’ (boyd 2012), we are constantly online and offline, constantly accessible if and when we choose to be.

“Confused yet?”
Credit: Manu Cornet, Cartoonist

The affordances of social media, that is, those things that make it obvious what it is, have also blurred. In the early paradigm of social media, a blog was basically a personal journal made public. Blogs have transitioned. They are now interactive and an integral part of the social media jigsaw. WordPress began as a personal publishing system and evolved into a content management system with its own ecosystem. (Kinsta 2019). Like a child that only becomes interesting when it learns to think for itself, WordPress developed into a single system that works on all devices, incorporates multiple platforms, and connects the wider, broader global publishing community with its followers. It connects you and me.

There is no turning back. Think of social media as a huge ocean liner, like the Queen Mary. Aboard are many activities and it is for you to choose your level of participation. Some activities are cosy corners to share secrets with friends onboard, and other spaces are public song and dance shows. To understand where the WordPress blog platform fits in, think of it as the magic show. The magician calls for audience participation and the audience becomes the show. There is interaction and connection. To answer the question: ‘Is WordPress a blog or a social network site?’ the answer must be that it is both.


MDA20009 Assignment 1A Is WordPress a blog or a social network site?

References

boyd, d 2012, ‘Participating in the always-on lifestyle’, in M Mandiberg (ed) The Social Media Reader, NYU Press, pp. 71-76.

Bruns, A & Highfield, T 2016 ‘Is Habermas on Twitter? Social media and the public sphere‘. In A Bruns, G Enli, E Skogerbø, AO Larsson, & Christensen, C (ed) The Routledge Companion to Social Media and Politics. Routledge, New York, pp. 56-73.

Cornet, Manu, Twitter post, https://mobile.twitter.com/lmanul

Cowling, D 2019, Social media statistics Australia – May 2019, 1 May, viewed 22 July 2019, https://www.socialmedianews.com.au/social-media-statistics-australia-may-2019/

Herrman, 2014, ‘Meet The Man Who Got Inside Snapchat’s Head’, BuzzFeedNews, viewed 16 July 2019 https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jwherrman/meet-the-unlikely-academic-behind-snapchats-new-pitch#3dlvjg2

Kinsta Inc, 2019, ‘The History of WordPress, its Ecosystem and Community’, viewed 22 July 2019 https://kinsta.com/learn/wordpress-history/

Norman, D 2011, Affordances, YouTube, 2011 <http://bit.ly/1BA7sEE&gt;

Turkle, S 2013, ‘Connected, but alone?- Sherry Turkle‘, April, TED, viewed 21 July 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rv0g8TsnA6c&gt;.

Wilken, R & McCosker, A 2014, ‘Social Selves’, in Cunningham & Turnbull (eds), The Media & Communications in Australia, Allen and Unwin pp. 291-295.

Curiosity killed the Cat

Once upon a time, when curiosity killed the cat, we were warned to mind our own business. The proverb arose in the Victorian era. A time of great upheaval, with extraordinary intellectual progress. An age of leaps and bounds in technology, literature, science, culture and economics. Human life changed in huge complex disturbing chunks, and its coping mechanism was a strict social code. The Victorian era ended with the outbreak of WWI, although its tentacles can still be found in extreme grossly inhibiting conservatism.

We are experiencing another paradigm shift. Another huge, complex, disturbing, chunk of change. This generation – meaning those who are alive on the planet in this era (and not the use of ‘generation’ to mean a range of  age) – has embraced the Social Media phenomena. The old normative communications have gone forever, and, as a society, we are in transition. There is a shift in the balance of control. This blog is the evidence that the new freedom of communication means, with very few tools, anyone can have a public platform.

Social Media platforms have encouraged us to mind everyone else’s business. The phenomenon of a global online society has empowered our sense of entitlement to expression of our own opinion about whatever everyone else is doing. Or not doing. 

With a play on words, this blog title reminds us to also be mindful of everyone. Everyone is their brother’s keeper. Humanity has always craved connection, and even more so now in our current transition into relationship via digital connection. We live in not-quite-connectedness. As we navigate our new realities we must remain mindful of each other. Everyone needs to feel seen, heard and known to be assured they are loved. And if we have not love, we have nothing but the sound of a clanging cymbal.

Essentially, this blog was created for a unit of study in the Media and Communications degree at Swinburne University 2020 (originally 2019, but I deferred), where we are turning the microscope on ‘social media’. We study it in order to understand, we explore technologies and ‘platforms’ associated with it to examine the ways these platforms are used, and we attempt to forecast their impact and implications for our social, political, cultural and economic lives.

Basically the followers of this blog are fellow students, but as this is a public platform, feel free to join the journey. Connect in. Add your thoughts, share the blog posts. Enter the conversation. Be part of how this blog may evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another.