Author: elizabethcarrozza

Digital Harassment

I went to see the talk by Sara Perry from the University of York about how we must be wary about what we post online. I thought it was very interesting that she brought up the topic of how, just because we are allowed to voice our opinions at all times, doesn’t mean we necessarily should. Unfortunately, she learned this lesson through personal experience. Anonymous sources are usually at the hub of online harassment, but Sara’s case proved that this is not always what happens.

Sara received online abuse not in the form of anonymous comments, but through her own professional space, and by people who gave their names freely. This definitely indicates how the Internet is slowly evolving. Things are becoming less anonymous with the introduction of popular social media and easy to use search engines. The fact that people feel more inclined to speak their mind through the web, because there is no real face behind the words, isn’t going away despite us slowly losing our anonymity. Many people still continue to be more ruthless online, even when their real name is now associated with those words. Communicating through text feels very different from face to face communication because you can’t see or hear whom you’re communicating with, and they can’t hear or see you either. All personalization is lost, and people tend to forget there’s a real human with real emotions on the other end of the screen. As shown in Sara Perry’s research, women tend to receive a large portion of this harassment.

The threats that women receive online are primarily of a sexual nature, while men often are victims of attacks on their professional lives. When this kind of harassment takes place in a professional setting, it’s often found that the workplace has no policies protecting their employees against online abuse. As our world evolves, we must evolve with it and realize that just because the web isn’t causing physical harm or discomfort, doesn’t mean it cannot affect someone mentally and emotionally. Workplaces must amend their policies to include written abuse and threats to be just as serious as threats that are made in person.

The fact that threats to women, even in the workplace, are primarily of a sexual nature is very bothersome. Online or simply walking down the street, women can’t ever seem to get away from being sexually harassed. My hope is that one day we can end all harassment, especially that of a sexual nature, by educating those who commit these wrongdoings. Sara Perry, Anita Sarkeesian, and many others are doing a wonderful job of spreading the word and educating the public about how awful online harassment really is, and if I had it my way, I’d make it mandatory of everyone in the world to sit and listen to these women talk about their experiences.

Learning Lambdamoo

The thing I noticed immediately about Lambdamoo was how complicated I found it. It was created a long time ago, and the idea of it is simple enough: gameplay that is purely text-based. However, I immediately found myself dazed and confused the second I ended up in that closet. Sadly enough, it took me nearly 10 minutes to realize all I had to do was type something along the lines of “open door” in order to escape. I think today’s media has a lot of influence on the fact that I had trouble catching on. We are so used to our games and media being complex- filled with inner workings of hashtags and hyperlinks, that we’re thrown for a loop when taken back to the basics. Even after I found my way outside of the closet, I still had trouble doing simple maneuvers throughout the space. Lambdamoo works off of text commands that are supposed to be obvious, but for some reason I couldn’t comprehend that right away. I’d try typing out full sentences, trying to get my character to move to no avail. At one point I found myself climbing a rose trellis on the outside of the house, and I soon realized I had no idea where to go from there. I couldn’t go north, south, east, or west, and none of the other commands I tried tying seemed to work. I’m sure I could’ve found my way out of this eventually, but I ended up closing the application and starting from the beginning out of sheer frustration. (Fortunately, soon after this, I discovered the wonders of typing “help” and receiving instructions on different commands.)

Something that the Internet truly introduced was a sense of connection and community to anyone, anywhere, at any time. I was previously unaware that there was such a way to connect with total strangers online before the creation of well known Internet forums and social media websites. Lambdamoo, being a terminal based application and not a social media website, seems even more anonymous than your typical twitter account.

The fact that anyone can sign into something like Lambdamoo and create friendships with someone else who is totally anonymous will always be a pretty amazing thing to me. Sharing experiences with someone draws you closer and often forms bonds, whether in real life or online. A lot of people don’t take this into consideration when on the web, and they think that online interactions are totally different. It’s true you don’t have to be yourself online, you don’t have to be friendly, you don’t have to be anything, but you don’t have to do these things in person either- except for fear of damaging your reputation. People use the anonymity of certain web spaces as a tool to act in a way they would never act in front of another human, and they forget the reality that the person on the receiving end of their behavior is not just a pixelated username: it’s a fellow human with a life as equally complex as theirs.

The Push-Notification Dystopia

With all of our modern technology, being able to tell where someone is at all times is fairly easy to do. With the introduction of RFID chips, this would be even easier- considering they can be implanted directly into a person. However, whether we’re aware of it or not, many of us could be tracked based on location at any moment. Our cell phones use location-based applications and notifications in order to keep track of where we are- often so that they can target more purchases at us.

Apps like Instagram keep tabs on our location, with our “permission,” in order to give us the ability to post where we are at all times, and in order for them to target us more effectively with advertisements. Push notifications in general are advertisements in themselves. I, personally, almost never activate push notifications because I often find them to be harassing and desperate. Unless an app’s success is based off of the push-notification ability, a push notification often becomes an advertisement to use that app more often.

Game applications in particular, like Kim Kardashian: Hollywood and Candy Crush, use push notifications in order to annoy you into playing their application more. These notifications don’t want you to simply play, however. They want you to spend money. By promoting their millions of in-app purchase options, push notifications are their best selling tool. Candy Crush likes to remind you that you’re out of lives, but don’t worry you can buy more right now and continue playing! While games like Kim Kardashian send you notifications about special “sales” and deals in which you can buy exclusive clothing items for your avatar.

Although a fully rational adult is often wise enough to stay away from these money pitfalls, the second your phone is handed to a younger child you’re in risk. These apps, which are usually partially targeted to children, want these kids to not really think about money saving and the consequences of their actions, because what kid does that? They’re trying to appeal to the impulsive mind that doesn’t think things through maybe as clearly as they should.

When thinking in a dystopian future mindset, I worry that notifications and constant advertisements such as this will follow us around even more than they already do. Although it’s great having technology at your fingertips, imagine the barrage of advertisements that will follow you as well. Things like this are already in progress, with the invention of things like the advertisement that sends small waves so only you can hear them when you lean your head against a subway or train window. This is a fairly recent invention, and isn’t eagerly anticipated by, well, anyone. Advertisers always seems to be able to find ways to annoy people in the worst ways- and I think that a future with intense, all-surrounding advertisements precedes an even more distant future in which their outlandish ways of advertising are widely protested against.

Using Twitter, And The Rest Of The Internet, To Your Advantage

Does the Internet actually make you smarter? That’s a question asked by many, and I believe that the Internet most certainly has the capability of making us smarter if it is used in the right way. The freedom of the Internet allows us to create what we want and disregard what we want, so it is up to us whether or not we use the Internet to our advantage. Although the Internet changes the way we think and can lead to jumping around quickly from article to article, page to page, not taking the time to really dwell on a subject, it is also a very powerful tool in which we have full control over. Shirky and Carr debate whether the Internet is the downfall of our intelligence due to causing a lack of attention span. Carr voices an opinion in which I agree with, that human expression itself has changed along with the introduction of the Internet, but that doesn’t necessarily lessen the intelligence of humanity.

Due to my experience with “thick” tweeting, I am reaffirmed that the Internet has full capabilities of making us smarter- not more stupid. There is an abundance of information all over the web that can be found and used to our advantage. The Internet is a free domain in which we can research and discover and write- and all of that can lead to great discoveries and an increase in knowledge.

I typically use the Internet every day, and I often do things that wouldn’t exactly be considered to have increased my intelligence; such as reading my twitter feed, yet I also use it every day to keep up with the news all around the world. Websites such as Yahoo or Msn have wide varieties of information and keep their readers up to date on the most important information of the day. The most wonderful thing about the Internet is that it is a free tool. It can be used however anyone decides to use it. There are endless opportunities for entertainment, knowledge, research, creativity, and so much more. With all of this freedom, of course we are going to learn- but we’re also going to have fun, and maybe watch a lot of Netflix while doing so.

How Quickly Things Change…

My first memories of using a computer sometimes shock me as to how far technology has come in recent years, and how easily I have adapted to it. When I was younger, I didn’t even use a computer for the Internet, I used it to play games such as Freddie Fish and Barbie Beauty Styler. Fortunately or unfortunately, those days are long gone. Computer usage nowadays is at a much more advanced level than ever anticipated, and I’m trying every day to evolve alongside it.

In the early years of my computing, instantaneous communication was not on the forefront of my mind. Being six years old, I couldn’t care less whether or not I had instant communication with anyone around the world. More recently, this has become a defining factor in technology in general. Everything is instant: talking, texting, listening to music, taking pictures- all of it can be done in one handheld device. The idea that things can be instant and easy is what technology has built upon over the years.

Computers have completely redefined most everyday activities, as well. The workplace now revolves around technology, and that technology has even changed how you write a memo, or do research for your next project. Even students, people who are my age, have experienced extensive change throughout their school years. Instead of going to the library to check out books for research, we can type five words into Google and discover all the information we will ever need. Gitleman and Pingree discuss how rapidly our world is changing and how little we know about what is becoming the next “new media.” The definition of what new media is is constantly shifting due to the fact that new technology is always being created, and what once was new slowly becomes outdated.

Using my computer 15 years ago involved me clicking a few buttons in an animated game and being thrilled, but alas the days of basic computing are over. To now be considered “computer proficient,” one must have extensive knowledge of a multitude of programs, (ex. Microsoft Word, Exel, Powerpoint, etc.) and one is often required to understand more complex inner-workings of the computer, such as html code. This advance of technology just within the last few years alone is impressive yet terrifying. If this much has changed in the past 15 years, what will the world be like two decades from now?