Author: ckuchik

Not an Easy Battle, but Sarkeesian Won’t Stop

I should have known as I emptied my pockets, handed over my bag, and stepped through the buzzing metal detector, something wasn’t right.

Why in the world does a woman speaking on a college campus about video games need this much security? Every other on-campus talk I had attended had the security risk of zero: filled with professors, students furiously jotting notes for desperate extra credit, and others taking a nap in the back chairs.

This was different. The room was buzzing as campus safety officers patrolled the perimeters of the room.

So why the security? Because she is a woman. Talking about video games.

It sounds ridiculous, and most certainly is, but #gamergate has spiraled quickly from a frank and honest discussion about women’s (as well as LGBT and POC’s) sexualized, inferior, and/or nonexistent roles in the gaming industry, to a violent storm of “trolls” sending death threats. All of this is happening in the name of protecting a traditional “space” these usually white, heterosexual males have held dearly for so long.

As Anita Sarkeesian took the stage, I had no clue what she would talk about. Would she focus on the topics of her videos? Would she talk about #GamerGate? Or, gasp, would she address her threats and harrassment?

I’m pleased to say all three were addressed at least a little. She began the presentation with a short snippet of one of her videos on game tropes for women, and how most video games with strong female protagonists don’t make it to store shelves. One in particular was re-written so the female lead became a feeble princess who needed to be rescued by the male character, now going on all of her adventures.

Sarkeesian didn’t spend too much time on her videos however, mostly for what I assume is time reasons. It’s hard to explain everything wrong with how women are treated in the gaming industry in an hour.

What the bulk of her presentation focused on was her personal experience with her harassers.

She showed the disturbing tweets, photoshopped images, doxxing, and what looked to be like ridiculously large pizza orders used to harass and intimidate her in every way.

The fact that she was unafraid to stand up and speak about this, and even able to laugh about certain ridiculous conspiracies, was pretty astounding to me.

As the talk continued, like any good journalist given the opportunity, I made sure to livetweet some of her more interesting quotes (one of which @femfreq liked!):

I didn’t think I was important enough to feel the wrath of the gamergate trolls. I was wrong. Quickly my feed filled with the likes and retweets, but also comments. Many were positive, others were not. I was so surprised how quickly these “activists” started to reply. Honestly, they must follow the #gamergate tag all day.

To the tweet about how we must listen to all women, I received this reply:

This #NotYourShield movement is defined by CinemaBlend.com:

As noted on KnowYourMeme, #NotYourShield was a collective movement of minorities of all ages and types, stating that they were not oppressed by a straight, white male patriarchy; that they had their own voice and that they were not a shield to be silently used in order for gaming media – and those that gaming media represents – to push an agenda.

To me, it sounds like another #WomenAgainstFeminism twitter movement. In other words, people wishing to disassociate themselves from an issue they believe does not involve them, via misinformation usually. In my opinion, these women should be heard, and just like #WomenAgainstFeminism has been a force that only seems to strengthen feminist thought and prove important misconceptions in society

I also recieved a tweet saying that gamergate was nothing but a conspiracy meant to make money, namely for Google and Amazon.

While what I experienced was little, it felt exhausting. I did not want to get in an argument with these tweeters. I couldn’t imagine how Sarkeesian felt. I’m sure its depressing to talk in circles with those who don’t want to listen, only defend their point of view.

I think my favorite part of the presentation was how she tried to provide concrete ways to prevent harassment like she has suffered. One quote really stuck out to me:

She’s right. While the web is essentially “the wild west,” in terms of legal protection law enforcement needs to start finding out how consequences can be enforced for those who abuse the web.

Overall, I enjoyed the talk and hope it opened some eyes to the true issues pervading this community, as well as exposed simple (and not so simple) solutions to this problem.

Here’s to hoping that soon, she will not need security like this again.

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You’re a Guest Here.

Logging into LambdaMoo made me feel like I was on a computer in an 80’s movie. As I watched the cursor blink, patiently awaiting my commands, I quickly realized that my “tech savvy” in the modern age did not translate here. I quickly reverted to the equivalent of my seven year old self when unsure how to win a video game: push buttons. Instead of buttons, I just kept typing directions until I found something interesting.

Ultimately it is a mindset like this that initially made me confused about LambdaMoo. I was thinking, “what are you going to do to entertain me?” when I really should have been pondering about how LambdaMoo could be used to as a conduit for entertainment.

That was LambdaMoo’s point. It isn’t like a video game today, where we are a player in action. Rather, players receive the sensory stimulation (elaborate descriptions of every new room, tunnel, building, etc.) but overall it is simply the background to their interaction. This is their community.

As a guest, I felt like that girl who didn’t know anyone at the party. Actually, I felt like someone who knew no one at the party, who was also blindfolded, put in a closet in some random corner of the house, and trying to find her way towards anything friendly.

My attempts at communicating with other players were laughable, I rarely got responses, except one from what I suppose was a bot since he kept repeating the same three phrases. I kept going south, south, south, figuring keeping to one direction would get me somewhere strange. I ended up in a long tunnel, going down, down, down, until I had reached a fiery pit with some mysterious things happening. I noticed that the description kept growing as a phoenix was described dancing around with another mythical creature.

It took me a while of reading to realize this wasn’t pre-set data about my setting, but rather two players communicating amongst each other. Battling out via language out of a story book. ( Astoundingly intricate compared to my “emote smile”). That that is what I believe Lynn Cherny tries to describe in her article about speech complexity in MUDs. What outside players view as complex and strange ways of communicating are as fluid as a phoenix dancing among embers to these players.

While I felt no emotional connection to my guest player, I can see how attachments can form. People have built this place. An obvious Jerry Garcia fan has made a whole memorial dedicated to the musician, which I got lost in. There is a birthday machine outside the linen closet that reminds other players of upcoming birthdays, something that smaller communities can revel in. Everyone knows names. Maybe not their real names, but names. I think Rushkoff might be a bit strict on anonymity in this sense.

I do believe we bring ourselves online, whether it be our love for Jerry Garcia or mythical creatures, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is necessary to tack our name to it. It was strange to think of MOOmembers with names like “Skully” and “the wizards” were real people, but they are. Maybe they’re just enjoying a different facet of their own realities.

So I was a guest, a mildly uncomfortable one at that. However, I don’t mind, like any trip it was an experience. Everyone deserves their own community and whether it is IRL or not isn’t really any of my business.

Tumblr-topia: Inspiring or Distracting our Dreams?

I’m about to make a huge confession, one that shocks and slightly disturbs even myself:

I have had a tumblr account since 2009. In other words, roughly five years.

I’ve given it up, come crawling back, followed and unfollowed as I’ve grown up. Yet here I am, still scrolling into my 20’s, checking it each day.

To explain how this revelation feels: have you ever binged on a TV series, then actually counted the amount of hours of your life you spent on it? Usually its a gasp-worthy, ungodly amount.

It wasn’t time wasted if you enjoyed it, right? That’s my hope, at least.

Just like Boyd questions, are we the ones using technology to make magic, or are we simply falling under its spell?

I puzzle this while I feel my eyes glaze over as I let the pictures scroll by. Picturesque Spanish sunsets, an pastel colored Monet painting, a Parks & Rec gif, pretty eye makeup, a Fleetwood Mac song, a Ronald Dahl quote,  and so many clothes burn into my eyes for a slight second, quickly replaced by the next image in succession.

The utopian ideals are all there. A community that each can share their personal “aesthetic” with others, reveling what they want, being who they want, etc. Sometimes I look at my blog and find such inner peace, seeing a place with so many things I like or pictures I find pleasing, all in one place. My utopia.

But is it?

First off, my attention span is shot. I’m not positive tumblr is to blame, but it doesn’t seem like to far a leap to correlate five years of endless scrolling through images to my inability to focus on a non-moving computer screen for long.

Moreover, when I find myself being asked in surveys or job questionaires “what do you like?” I sometimes will browse through my tumblr if I feel especially stumped.

Have I been told what to like? Worse, do I need a social media site to remind me of the things I like?

A surprising voice reiterated some fears I had about this and other similar blogging platforms, rapper Drake, in an interview with Source magazine:

“I’m really scared for my generation, you know. The thing that scares me most is Tumblr. I hate what Tumblr has become….Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments. It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living. It scares me.”

Is this the end of individual experiences? Will I constantly be vying between a state of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and my need to stay connected, not missing one piece of media that passes my screen?

I hope not. Keeping my need to tumblr (i’m assuming this would be the verb form) strictly to bedtime allows me to continue living my life and then maybe blog about it the next evening.

As for everyone else, I guess only time will tell. Ask me in another five years.

 

You Are What You Tweet

By Chelsea Kuchik

I‘ve been a part of the twitter-verse for some time now, but the relationship has been touch and go. In freshman year of college, my social media peak (I’m talking 3-4 Facebook posts a day. Yes, I was that girl.) a friend recommended I use twitter as an outlet for all of this “expression” I was spamming via Facebook.

Yes, the truth was harsh, but honest. I eventually came to really like the beauty of twitter, the ability to subscribe yourself to all these little blips of…whatever, really.

I could follow @seinfeldquotes, @sprinkleschicago, @evilhag (Aubrey Plaza), and all my friends in one place. Scrolling through for a good laugh or a possible codeword for a free cupcake while sitting on the train, or being able to post my sassy witticisms made the app something I thoroughly enjoyed.

Or at least, that’s how it was.

As a journalism major, or just a young adult slowly hurtling towards the “adult world,” things started to come into perspective. I started to learn twitter wasn’t just a place to dump Facebook status overflow, or sassy things you didn’t want everyone to read.

For one assignment I had to try to reach a journalist for an interview. I wrote a nicely worded and well thought out email, and waited. No response. I told my teacher and she quickly responded “Tweet ’em! Retweet and comment on their stories! Tweet ’em!” Let’s just say it was a shock. A 40-something year old woman was telling me I was using social media wrong. The world spun.

Long story short, I had no clue what to do. How could I reconcile this sassy twitter persona, who I felt was me, with professional writer Chelsea, who was another version of me? I wasn’t sure I could be both in one place. Could the girl who tweeted “omg everyone is a dumb idiot today” (not my most eloquent moment, but it was a rough day, okay?) also tweet links to her articles and comment on important hard news?

I did what any normal 20-something would do, avoided the problem. I created a second account.

Is it harder to manage? Sure. Do I feel safer from future employers or teachers judging me based off of my “trying to be as funny as Mindy Kaling but not quite there” tweets? Definitely.

Overall, I feel like my twitter experience does mirror many topics covered by Nicholas Carr and then disputed by Clay Shirky. On the one hand, my on/off again relationship has ebbed and flowed with my beliefs not only as a person, but as a fledgling journalist. Do I want to think that I know the news because I read a headline? (Because let’s be honest, how many times do you actually follow that link?) Do I really want my thoughts to be turned into English mush, where even hard news can look like a tween tweeted it?

Not only that, but like Eli Pariser said in his TedTalk, am I subscribing to a universe where I only hear what I want? No wonder I was trying to tweet like Mindy Kaling, hers and similar twitters were all I was really following.

So maybe I am only seeking what I want, but maybe that’s why twitter is so popular.

Maybe my “avoidance” of the split-personality issue was actually the answer to another problem. By subscribing to two universes: funny and professional, personal and public, I haven’t completely eliminated my information bubble, but I’ve certainly had to expand it.

Growing Up Connected: My Experience With Computers

By Chelsea Kuchik

As a “millennial” born in the early 1990’s, I am part of the first generation to be raised with computers in the household for more than just work purposes. As the oldest child, I was spoiled with ridiculous amounts of attention and toys, including computer games – a huge fad of the 90s. I could lose myself for hours exploring the moon with PuttPutt the car, deep sea diving with Freddi Fish, battling bad dreams with pajama Sam, or figuring out whodunit with Spy Fox.

Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, and Pajama Sam

As I proceeded to finally win the games or grow tired of them, I began to see more and more advertisements on Cartoon Network and Disney Channel for plenty more games on the Internet. “Ask your parents to go online and play now!” By seven years old, I was a savvy Internet user, bouncing between cartoonnetwork.com, disneychannel.com, and Neopets. My computer lab class we took once a week had my fellow students and I practicing typing with a game called “Read, Write, and Type.” I can still remember the phrases we learned to remember the key order. “Quick Ask Zoey/What Stops Xrays/Even Dogs Can’t” etc.

While I was too young to notice at the time, I can see now that the tables quickly turned on who was able to control the computer. My mother would constantly ask me questions on how to work it, rather than me needing her. In fact, my parents did not really use the computer that much other than for the occasional work document or yahoo search.

These initial experiences with the internet demonstrate many of the characteristics written about identifying New Media and why people decide to adopt it or get rid of it. For me as a young child, these games provided a new medium for me to explore. Perhaps when friends weren’t able to come over, I could still have adventures exploring the moon or solving a mystery. Sure, they only vaguely mimicked real life such as van Dijk describes, and had very limited options to deviate from the gameplay script (I remember sometimes just clicking around the screen until I could get something to happen) but for a seven year old, it most certainly served its entertainment purpose. Unbeknownst to me, most of these games also served an educational purpose that my parents enjoyed, making these games not only a medium for entertainment, but also for education, which was something new. Who knew learning could be fun?

I think the most important Ah-ha! Moment for me during my childhood would be moving from games that were one player to interactive online games, such as neopets. Receiving messages from other members online, challenging others to games, and chatting on message boards all opened my eyes to how vast the internet was. The ability to connect myself with others from all over the world was quite surprising for my 10 year old self. Looking back, I wonder what my media diet habits would be if I had not had an account on this site and learned how to socially interact online at such a young age.

 

Week 2 Discussion

by: Chelsea Kuchik

Readings Summary:

This week’s readings primarily focus on defining “New Media.” Gitleman and Pingree remind us in “What’s New About New Media?” that every media was once new in its heyday. Therefore, to fully understand the “newness” and function of New Media today, we must first understand its predecessors, and how our new media defines itself among these established older media. This process of divorcing itself from “old media” and expanding our communicative abilities has a great historical and cultural significance in terms of how new media has shaped communities. The authors point out that the emergence of new media has a vast majority of people believing in two futurological tropes: supercession, or vanquishing of “old media” (ex: books will go away forever now that there are eBooks), and transparency, or the assumption that each new technology frees us from the constraints of previously inadequate media forms. Gitleman and Pingree see media as an overall endeavor to improve on human capabilities, but because it is constantly growing, changing, and updating, it is a “moving target” that is not easy to define.

While not easy to define, Van Dijk defines New Media (which he also calls multimedia, interactive media, and digital media) with four characteristics:

  1. Integration – communicating through a single medium
  2. Interactivity – the sequences of action and reaction experienced
  3. Digital Code and Hypertext – bringing uniformity and introducing a nonlinear “revolution” to media where it links to other forms
  4. Information Traffic Patterns – structures of communication and how different mediums communicate

Van Dijk continues to explore how media relates to those who use it, discussing how new media tries to mimic but still cannot completely capture elements of face to face communication. For example, certain media block the ability for others to pick up on non-verbal context clues. We try to take our identities with us online, but it depends on a certain criteria of communication capacities to decide how well the media functions.

Discussion Questions:

  • What makes media “new”?
  • What are some historical examples of “new media” of their time, can we see echoes of these media forms in the “New Media” we have today?
  • What makes media more or less successful?
  • Does media adjust to fit humans or do humans adjust to fit media?
  • Is media making us more or less social?
  • Does the government have the right to police the internet?

Main Ideas:

  • “Old Media” vs. “New Media”
  • What is “Newness” and how can it be measured?
  • Futurological Tropes
  • Risk and Potential of New Media
  • New Media’s effect on communities
  • 4 Characteristics of New Media
  • Approaches to mediated communication
  • Media Richness and Social Presence in New Media

Additional Readings: