I don’t have anything intelligent to say, but here is a funny blog if you need a break from end of semester stuff. I think anyone who has done any sort of journalistic work will enjoy it.
April 21st, 2012
The first few paragraphs of Ch. 1 of You are Not a Gadget deal rather obviously with ideas of digital identity. Lanier writes about how computers and other electronics have become extensions of the self. To many, these devices are like second brains, calculating figures, accumulating information, remembering things on their user’s behalf, etc. Additionally, in these paragraphs, Lanier discusses how when we interact with computers we have to think like computers. We have to respond to automated voice recordings in a way that the computer will understand, etc. This idea also relates rather clearly to digital identity, but there seems to be a fissure in the article’s focus when Lanier starts discussing “Lock-In.”
I do not fully understand how “lock in,” the idea that once a technology is implemented it cannot be reversed or modified, relates to digital (human) identity. I suppose it could stifle a programmer’s imagination, but I do not see how it affects the identity of the layperson, the typical computer user. Where is Lanier going with this? Is he, (Jaron is a male name, right?) trying to say that eventually our entire way of thinking will be limited to the ways that computers think? If so, this does not seem likely to me. Computers are designed by and modeled after humans. We are still in control of them, not vice versa. I know we depend on them for a lot of things, but I don’t think our abstract thinking is one of them.Was it Emerson or Thoreau who said “We do not ride the train, the train rides us”? Is the first chapter of Lanier’s book a modern version of that statement, (computers standing in for trains,) or am I reading it incorrectly?
April 20th, 2012
I apologize that my blog post on the Krapp reading is late. At least my thoughts on the piece and Hacktivism in general have had the benefit of last week’s class discussion. Here’s what I have to say:
It seems like virtually all of us agreed that “terrorism” is strong word to use in reference to Hacktivist activity. Krapp describes Hacktivism in more docile terms, referring to the Strano Network strike of 1995 as a sort of “virtual sit-in.” Krapp, and most of the class, argued that temporarily shutting down government computers, while inconvenient, is ultimately nonviolent and relatively harmless. At first, I nodded my head in agreement. Since then I have been thinking, and I do not know if Hacktivism is as benign an activity as we think.
Throughout the semester we, as a class, have been very anti-censorship. We do not want the government to control what we can and cannot post on Facebook, what we can and cannot Google, what we can and cannot sell on ebay etc. Isn’t blocking government/corporate websites just censorship implemented from the outside? We would be mad if this were done to us (the users of the Internet, the 99 percent). I guess I’m arguing that Hacktivists should be more concerned with the golden rule: do onto others as you want others to do onto you. That being said, the public has valid reason to be annoyed with the powers that be, and I am certainly not suggesting that we should sit idly by. Instead of the temporary or permanent destruction of government websites I would like to see the CREATION and PROMOTION of new Websites run by former Hacktivists who have something to say. Wouldn’t that be much more positive? I guess Hacktivists believe Websites like these will be stifled by the government, etc., but if these Hacktivists can crack into the Vatican’s website, then I’m sure they could find a way to keep their site available for viewing. All I’m arguing is that there are better ways to go about making a political statement. You don’t have to be sneaky about it. WikiLeaks, in my opinion, is Hacktivism done right. Assange didn’t fight the government (at least, not to my knowledge) by denying it a virtual presence . He fought it by making information available, by creating a counter-virtual presence. To me, that is admirable.
March 29th, 2012
Who is the curator?
How is it decided which works go in and which works stay out?
I like that the ease of Internet publication allows for more experimental work. Many of the pieces on the ELO would not have been published in traditional paper anthologies: the cost of publication would have rendered them too risky. Other pieces, like “Nio” by Jim Andrews, could not physically be confined to the page. Pieces like these demand audio and rely on the multimedia capacity of the Internet.
Though many of the pieces were innovative, they were unattractive. Michael Joyce’s “Twelve Blue,” for example, was a unique and interesting read, but the accompanying graphics were so ugly it did not hold my attention. I could not understand what the design work was supposed to add to the writing. It just distracted from it. I think this is the result of one person trying to wear too many hats: author, illustrator, computer programmer, etc. In traditional forms (the printed book, for instance) these roles are often delineated, assigned to people who excel in each category, so everyone can do what they do best to produce a unified and sophisticated whole. For this reason, I’d be interested to see more collaborative work on the ELO and less work by single authors.
March 22nd, 2012
For my contribution to the anthology, I would like to examine how the Occupy movement is represented in pop culture. This examination will take the form of an essay, though I want to include hyperlinks to any videos, photographs, or articles that I reference. Hopefully, this will honor the multimedia nature of the assignment, and keep my article contemporary and dynamic.
I was first compelled to take my project in this direction after watching South Park’s parody of the Occupy protests. In it, the kids are required to take a fitness exam. Everyone passes except for Cartman, (the 1 percent). Because of his failure, the rest of the class, (the 99 percent,) is forced to do additional exercise. The physically fit kids become very angry at Cartman and he is driven to tears. Overall, the episode is pretty silly and relatively neutral. However, it does seem the writers of South Park are a bit more sympathetic to the protestors than they are the protested. I say this because it seems so foolish of Cartman to believe he should be pitied. After all, he is the reason the class is required to take a more grueling P.E. Class. He is to blame. We understand why his peers are angered, and we subsequently understand why the Occupy protestors are angered.
In addition to the South Park parody, my article will discuss celebrity involvement in the protests, including Kayne West’s brief visit to an Occupy Wall Street rally and Russell Simmons’ continuous support of the revolution. I would also like to touch upon the various ways the protestors are reconstituting pop culture to suit their own aims. For example, a New York comedy troupe altered the song “Damn it feels good to be Gangsta” by Geto Boys to say “Damn it feels good to be a Banksta”. They performed their rendition at an Occupy Wall Street protest and turned the performance into a music video, criticizing the greed of big businesses, that has received over 56,000 hits on YouTube since it was uploaded in November. As blogger Natasha Lennard notes in her piece for salon.com “pop culture purveyors and peddlers of general stuff-we-don’t-need didn’t take long to latch onto the Occupy brand.” I am interested in exploring the implications of this further, as I think they are vast and important.
March 20th, 2012
Hello all! Just wanted to share another link. I have read HTMLGIANT for a few years now. It is a great blog written poets and novelists who publish primarily on the Internet. It has introduced me to lots of new writers I wouldn’t know about otherwise and plenty of great debates about the fate of publishing in our digital era. Sometimes it is just silly, but with persistent reading you start to understand the humor. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. (Note: some posts could be potentially offensive.)
Here’s a great, humorous piece from McSweeney’s that I wanted to share with the class.
The segment of The Century of the Self that discussed Edward Bernays particularly interested me. I am admittedly swayed by clever advertisements. I have bought nail polish because I liked the name, perfume because I liked the bottle, cleaning products because the commercials made it look like the product did all the work for you- no elbow grease required, etc. I know I should feel guilty about this, but I am going to be honest- sometimes buying these items is genuinely satisfying. I think this is because though I am swayed by advertisements I am not fooled by them. I realize that I am buying a story, not a better life. The story alone satiates me. I like to romanticize things. It is the English major in me.
Well marketed products give fuel to my imagination. For example, I use Moleskin notebooks. Each Moleskin includes a short history of the brand which lists all the famous writers that have used Moleskin. By writing in my Moleskin I feel as though I am part of this tradition of great thinkers. I know that the Moleskin does not actually make my thoughts any better or more important, but the history behind the product does inspire me. I am willing to pay for that. My argument is this- as long as we understand what marketing is meant to do and remain cognizant of its deceptions, it is okay to admire and give in to it. I do not have much interest in leading a monastic life. I do not know what that says about my moral character, but for right now at least I am okay with it. To me, buying a story is just as legitimate as buying a necessity. I have need for fantasy.
March 1st, 2012
It seems to me that the issues Poster discusses in chapters 5 and 6 have always existed, yet he presents them as though they are unique to our digital age. He acknowledges that older forms of identity theft were simply called “fraud”. Apparently, identity theft is unique to the Web, to the theft of information rather than resources. I understand the distinction, but I believe identity theft has always occurred. Maybe I have watched too many movies, but some folks even in the 1920s would steal the identity of dead people. I guess in cinema they do this to avoid being put in jail, etc., rather than for monetary gain, but the theft act is the same.
Additionally, since the advent of social security codes, birth certificates, etc., our identities have been partially expressed in numbers, data that CAN be accessed and stolen. I suppose it is only now that those numbers can be readily stolen, but even in the 60s, if someone were desperate enough they could break into a government office and steal your files.
As far as an aspect of your identity being material, it has always been thus. People define themselves as mothers, wives, doctors, writers, etc. These things are not intrinsic to them. They are the result of actions and somewhat tangible. You are a doctor because you pick up a scalpel, get a certificate from medical school, etc. I guess I wonder, if your identity cannot be expressed through achievements, facts, and figures, does it even exist? I believe there is an essence to each of us, but I don’t think my essence is necessarily unique from yours. I believe that I create my own uniqueness by making choices, forming memories, getting a job, etc. But all of these things are distinct from me. Don’t Alzheimer’s and the like prove that there isn’t a root identity?
I know many of my blog posts take on the tone of “It has always been this way. It’s all the same! What are you so worked up about?!” I hope I do not sound like a broken record, but I think it is important to note that rather than create new issues, the Internet brings existing issues to the surface.
February 23rd, 2012
Reading chapters 3 and 4 in Poster, I became curious as to whether there are some businesses that cannot be globalized. Must some companies remain local? While I cannot think of a specific example of such a business, I can imagine the features it possesses. Here they are:
- The product this business distributes must be perishable and time sensitive. This will prevent the product from being made in one place and distributed elsewhere. The theoretical product is so time sensitive, it will spoil/deactivate/etc before it makes its way elsewhere.
- The resources this business uses to produce this perishable and time sensitive product must only be available in a particular region and must also be perishable and time sensitive for the same reasons listed above.
I suppose a business with the characteristics I outlined could be globalized in the sense that the product could be manufactured one place, and the business/monetary side of it could be handled elsewhere. Still, I do not know why people would want to work for a corporation whose products they never actually saw or directly dealt with. Doesn’t seem particularly convenient, either.
I guess my logic is that as long as a business like this exists the marketplace cannot be purely global. I need to think through what implications this carries. While I agree with Poster that there is the possibility of a global political system, I think the impossibility of a global marketplace might complicate that political system. As long as certain regions of the world produce their own unique products, they will have their own unique identities. As long as there is regional identity, there will be global conflict. In order to eliminate global conflict and exist in this utopic planetary society Poster envisions, I believe we will have to forgo all sense of individualism and cultural identity. Liking diversity, I am not really comfortable with this idea.
Eventually, Poster backtracks a bit and says he is not proposing that the Internet is such a utopia, but that it is a place for ideas to be shared on a global scale. I’m not convinced he really believes JUST this. He seems to hint at Utopia, unless I am reading too much into his work.