Author: Jessica Lodzinski

The Times They Are a-Changin’

During her talk at the 4th annual symposium on digital ethics, Anita Sarkeesian admitted that the gaming world is going through a paradigm shift, a metamorphosis, in which the demeaning character of how women are portrayed in games is slowly improving.

While listening to her talk, I was truly shocked at the incredible amount of abuse and harassment she has received over the years for only speaking out against something she believes is wrong. Do we not live in the United States, which was built on the belief of freedom for all? The idea that she is “personally responsible for the change,” fueling anger from prepubescent male gamers, which then proceed to attack and harass her in very immature and scary ways, is quite ridiculous and unnecessary if you ask me.

Sarkeesian expressed it best, saying that this outrage is just a “sexist hyper tantrum” and “sociopathic misogyny.” Of course, online harassment isn’t something new, but to the extreme to which the abuse towards her has accelerated is truly surprising.

The very reactions of crazy conspiracy theories, death and rape threats, impersonation hoaxes, and release of personal information seem like a lot of effort to stop this inevitable change.

Why do women still need to fight for women’s rights? Why can’t we also be allowed to play games or be called “gamers”? The gaming world isn’t just a male privilege, but apparently lots of people seem to think it is.

But another even sadder truth is the lack of established legal protection people – specifically women in this case – have from online harassment. Our justice system seems to also be behind on the changing times. Threats online should also be punishable, because the online world is just as relevant nowadays as our real world is. There are fundamental structural flaws with social media platforms and online spaces, which make it easier to harass someone and harder to avoid the harassment.

Maybe the reason for the extremity of Sarkeesian’s abuse is because people online feel shielded behind the computer screen with the ability to remain anonymous and with the support of a large “hate” community. I think they feel more empowered in online spaces and possibly lose some sense of self identity, changing into something I think is even inhumane – because this abuse that Sarkeesian has needed to endure is completely immature and sociopathic.

Sarkeesian is an incredibly strong and iron-willed person to have received so much hate, but still continue speaking out for what she believes in. These immature male gamers need to get over themselves, and accept the fact that the times they are a-changin’ and it’s going to happen whether they like it or not.

Just as Sarkeesian concluded her talk, I agree that we all have the responsibility to come together to support and rally for this cultural shift in order for women to freely be active participants in digital spaces.

Jessica Lodzinski

Advertisements

Postcard to Paris

The world of LambdaMoo is something I find very fascinating to be exploring in the year 2014. This bi-directional, interactive, text-based communication is something very different compared to today’s virtual spaces. But I still found it very interesting to interact with the program.

LambdaMoo seems to have almost its own language that one must learn and use to allow the program to work how you want it to work. I think that was the most difficult part in immersing myself into the world. I received a lot of messages of “I don’t understand that,” so I ensued in a lot of trial and error to figure out how to work the program.

I ended up at Un Café Parisien on the corner of Blvd. Raspail and Blvd. Montparnasse after reading a postcard from France I found in the living room. What? That was actually quite awesome. One second I’m in the living room of the initial home of LambdaMoo, and then I find myself in Paris. But the problem was I got stuck there and had no idea how to leave or move to another location.

Although I don’t think LambdaMoo is a program I would use regularly, it is definitely a space that allows for people to make/get whatever they want out of it. It allows for total anonymity within the space, giving you the option of “escaping” your real world self and changing into a different identity in the virtual space. It’s not that far off from a lot of the games we play online too, such as Minecraft, Runescape, League of Legends, etc. Although LambdaMoo just happens to be solely text-based communication.

It’s what you make of it. I think it brings together different people with the similarity of just enjoying the space, and this shared experience builds community within this virtual world. I would compare it to a band’s fan base or cult movie following – we like to interact with people who have interests similar to our own.

LambdaMoo allows for such an experience where you have to learn the lingo to immerse yourself within the community, but once you get into it (more than just a guest in the space), I think it almost brings a kind of togetherness and bond among the members. Especially since the LambdaMoo community seems to be somewhat small (there were only about 43 people signed in when I entered the space); it’s somewhat exclusive, or “old-fashioned” in today’s age.

I wouldn’t agree with Rushkoff’s proclamation that humans’ possibility for anonymity leads to a dehumanized experience, but there is always the possibility of fully engulfing oneself within the virtual world, like LambdaMoo and several other multi-dimensional, interactive, online games, and “living” in the online space more than in the real world. Each person’s online experience is highly personalized and varies, but it’s just what you make of it. LambdaMoo may not be for everyone, but that’s the point; the web is vast enough for everyone to find their own community, either integrating their real life with their virtual life or keeping them completely separate.

Rushkoff says that we lose our humanity in these interactions of anonymity, do you agree or disagree? Please explain.

Would you personally keep your virtual and real worlds separated or integrated?

Jessica Lodzinski

Brave New World

Scale Model of Chicago

Scale Model of Chicago

Chicago feels like and is this great big city, but once you scale it down and look over a sizable model, you feel more control of your environment. At least I know I did when I went to the Chicago Architectural Foundation exhibit on Big Data.

When walking through the streets of Chicago, especially in the downtown area, the tall buildings that surround you can be somewhat menacing and make you feel really small and insignificant, but when you are the one looking over the entire city, you get more of a feeling that you are in control and can actually make a difference.

And all the data that we put out every single day can be pulled together, organized, analyzed, and used for greater purposes, such as transforming how we design, build and live in cities. It almost makes me want to participate more to allow them to continue to collect this big data and do something meaningful with it. In a way we’re all in this together. If you tell us what you want, we will give it to you.

But where is this all going?

Scalability is a significant aspect to this exhibit; it helps people visualize everything around them, and puts it in a way that we can understand. It simplifies the entire complex world around us, just like Rushkoff warns in his chapter on complexity. This isn’t necessarily a good thing.

It seems we are trying to take steps towards creating some utopia that I believe is quite unimaginable. Utopia is like perfection, which is ultimately unreachable, but we still do whatever we can to get as close as possible to the ultimate society or utopia.

The big data exhibit shows us the potential for a utopia where we are all one and together, working to make the world a better place completely carved to our needs and wants. It shows a Chicago where everything is in tip-top mint shape, everyone is equal, and everything is just dandy. But there will always be problems with our world and people will always be dissatisfied with something. Each one of us is uniquely different, and it would be very difficult to satisfy everyone’s wants and needs. Of course, we can try, which we are already doing, but could this just turn against us in the long run?

Which now leads into my questions for you:

  • What are the advantages and disadvantages in the short- and long-term for such data collection and analysis?
  • In this situation, are we fully programming or just being programmed instead?

Jessica Lodzinski

Dawn of the Age of Micro-Blogging

Back in the autumn of 2013, I took a class in which we had to do a business analysis on Twitter right before and during their move to go public. Before then I had never really given Twitter any thought; to me it was just another social network where people blurted out their random, thoughtless comments to a large space of endless information. But I now see that the founders of this revolutionary platform were seriously on to something and have paved the way to a totally new way of communicating and networking.

Twitter gives life to “the random, fleeting observation” and forces us to put as much meaning as we can in a very limited amount of space. The entire Twitter world may not necessarily use the platform to produce anything profound or very informative, but it at least gives us that option. Basically, the only thing limiting Twitter users is the form of the message: 140 characters or fewer.

Sometimes it can become very frustrating trying to coherently fit everything you want to say into so many (or little) characters, but it allows us to think creatively to put together the perfect tweet.

I began using Twitter last fall while working on the company’s analysis, and now use it more as a log of events, random thoughts, and things I find cool and retweet. The most interesting part for me is being able to receive information in real-time; to be able to see the Twitter conversation about a certain subject or event at that very moment from people all over the world. This new media follows with the observation in previous lectures that blogging allows for conversation to develop, and that’s exactly what Twitter does. This micro-blogging platform provides you the means to communicate and learn from others from all around the world in quick and short blurbs.

I believe Twitter has had a significant influence on how people now interact with media and it has fueled this debate of whether Google is making us stupider or smarter. There has been a shift away from the traditional style of reading (paper, books, etc.) towards digital reading (tablets, phones, Kindles, etc.).

I personally boycott Kindles and reading tablets, because I am a firm believer in paper books. Also, for some reason, I have a harder time focusing when reading a novel on a tablet than if I were holding the actual paper book in my hands.

Books are cool. And the Internet is cool too, but in a different way. I love surfing the Web, clicking around, and seeing what I’ll learn and find. It’s like a hyperactive and interactive quest to knowledge and information.

Even for this assignment, the process of following a couple of authors from the readings was done in a very quick, Google-search type of way. What I mean is the point Rushkoff mentions in the oversimplification of everyday problems; I needed to find and follow these certain people, so I typed in keywords, skimmed their bios to see if they were the right person, followed them, and skipped on to the next one. Quick, easy, simple.

The next step of tweeting “thick tweets” began with the dilemma of the subject of the tweet. What should I tweet about? What interests me? What could I tweet about that would include several layers of information?

For the first one I ended up promoting a post to another blog for a different class I am in.

And for the second tweet I looked into what was big on my Twitter feed, which ended up being related to the numerous gymnastics accounts I follow, and I tweeted about that event.

I’ll admit that part of the assignment was done in a very quick, get-it-done-right-now type of way, which I think is what our world is becoming more and more accustomed to. In this day and age, we like quick and easy fixes right on the spot, but this might make it more difficult for us to face head-on real-world problems later.

  • How do you use Twitter? What do you use it for?
  • Do you have a preference for either digital reading or traditional “paper” reading? Or do you like having a balance between both?

Jessica Lodzinski

Week 4 Discussion

Summary

The theme for this week is complexity because the readings certainly bring up a complex question: are we becoming better people with the use of new media and the internet, or are we declining? With technology being incorporated into almost every aspect of life, the readings for the week ask if we are being controlled by it or if we are learning to control the technology.  Certain websites we use such as Google know that we will visit their page and take advantage of it, as shown in Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” They know that the more time we spend on their page the more money they are bringing in.

Most importantly, the human brain is a complex organism by itself, but the powerful machines that most new media are comprised of are just as, if not more, complex.  The human brain created these machines but it is slowly forgetting how they work.  We are aware that search engines will bring up lists of websites with our searches found within, but we don’t know how they are able to find those specific strands of text amongst so much data. To the average person who surfs the web, the inner technicalities and workings are unknown to him/her.  Many of the articles’ authors raise awareness that we, as humans, don’t always fully understand what we’re doing on the web.

Discussion Questions

  • In what ways does new media shape the way we think, speak, and communicate outside of digital environments?
    • ​​How has the simplicity of new media hindered us as human beings?
    • How can it improve our critical thinking skills?
  • As Carr mentions in “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” there have been doomsayers around since Socrates. Using examples from your experience with new media, where is the truth in the doomsayers’ arguments? Do you believe there will be a time when we accept this innovation as we did with writing and the printing press?
    • Is the Internet, or other new media, worth the sacrifice? What qualities of the Internet and new media make it worth it? How can we propagate those qualities for future generations?
    • When do we start asking ‘what is next’?
  • Should the U.S. start performing assessments of digital literacy? If so, how could they go about doing this?
  • Rushkoff states that “reading has become a process of elimination rather than deep engagement.” How is deep engagement with media still relevant today?

Main Ideas

  • Complexity
    • The bias of technology moves us away from thinking complexly and an appreciation for complexity; this is embedded in the medium itself
    • Each media steers us towards a certain way of interactivity
    • New media is leading us to live life more simply and to prefer this simplicity
  • Complex Nature of Online Spaces
    • Websites are complex systems
    • The average user uses all kinds of services provided to them on the Web, and the only knowledge they need is to know how to navigate the site to drag and drop, or click on certain things
    • The actual way information is being moved online is done behind closed doors, drawing a distinct line between those who can solve the problems and those who cannot
  • Filter Bubbles
    • Internet platforms are using algorithms to show us what it thinks we want to see, not what we need to see; it’s becoming more and more personalized for each user
    • You don’t decide or see what gets edited out from your “filter bubble”
    • We should be more aware of cookies following us and collecting data; this creates a bubble around us of finding new and different information
    • It’s not a “balanced information diet,” and we need at least some control to connect us all together, otherwise it will isolate us in a web of one
    • Technological evolution is not inevitable
  • The difference between thick and thin tweets
    • Thin tweets only have one layer of information (“i like cottage cheese”)
    • Thick tweets have multiple layers of information embedded in 140 characters (“Come out to the #alpacashow Oct. 4-5 in Lansing, MI, check out the link for more info: www.link.com“)
  • Traditional vs. digital styles of reading
    • Surface engagement vs. deeper reading
    • We can have a deep reading experience online, but most of the time we are just skimming the surface
    • This surface level is available to everyone, but if you are more tech savvy in digital literacy you are able to engage and interact more deeply
  • Digital literacy
    • Definitions:
      • Task-based (conceptual) – Literacy is the ability to use printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.
      • Skills-based -Successful use of printed material is a product of two classes of skills: word-level reading skills and higher level literacy skills
    • Types:
      • Prose literacy: The knowledge and skills needed to perform prose tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use continuous texts). Examples include editorials, news stories, brochures, and instructional materials.
      • Document literacy: The knowledge and skills needed to perform document tasks, (i.e., to search, comprehend, and use non-continuous texts in various formats). Examples include job applications, payroll forms, transportation schedules, maps, tables, and drug or food labels.
      • Quantitative literacy: The knowledge and skills required to perform quantitative tasks, (i.e., to identify and perform computations, either alone or sequentially, using numbers embedded in printed materials). Examples include balancing a checkbook, figuring out a tip, completing an order form or determining the amount.
  • New media influence on the human brain
    • Our brains are constantly changing
    • Rushkoff doesn’t believe that we are opening ourselves up to higher-level thinking, but instead relying too heavily on technology
    • Because of the ecology of the medium, we are moving more favorably to the quick-fix solution
  • Oversimplification of everyday problems
    • Rushkoff says that the Internet oversimplifies nuanced problems
    • If we fall into this mind-set that everything should be so easy, when the system breaks, we don’t know what to do and there becomes a distinct line between those who know what they’re doing (employees, customer support/service) and those who don’t (us, users). When we become accustomed to these quick-fix solutions it then may become more difficult to face real-world problems on our own.
    • There is a simplicity in the Internet giving you exactly what you want
    • We prefer the easy way out and value speed
      • Sparknotes vs. actually reading the text
      • “Just Google it”

Additional Readings

ClueFinders. Dial-Up. Barbie Adventure Riding Club. Paint.

I remember anxiously waiting several minutes, what would seem like forever now, for the Internet to dial-up and connect in order to do anything online. It was frustrating, but it was the norm, and we hadn’t just yet gotten a taste of what the future would hold; immediate connection from almost anywhere in the world at any time on any type of device. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like having to switch back to sitting before a large, clunky desktop computer, listening to that awful sound the dial-up would make, and having to actually WAIT before I could do anything “productive” on the Web. The next generation would never understand. My youngest brother, who was born in 2003, has absolutely no idea what my siblings and I are talking about when we complain about how it used to be in the old days. None of us is even older than 20 years, but just through that short amount of time, it is incredible and mind-blowing to think and actually see how quickly the Internet and the speed/technology of our computers has advanced to this day.

The speed and quality of the graphics on computer games back then seem so outdated now. ClueFinders and Barbie Adventure Riding Club were two games (that of which I can still remember the names of) my siblings and I would drool over and we thought were the coolest things ever.

I get frustrated and start freaking out whenever the Internet connection just happens to disconnect randomly or takes slightly longer than usual, meaning by seconds, not by minutes.

Remember having to wait for about 30 minutes just to purchase and download a song off of iTunes, along with it buffering numerous times?

Some of the characteristics of new media that I encountered were the ability to personalize content, the digital aspect of malleability, and interactivity. All of these were within their own limits of the time, but it was still amazing to be able to do what you can in real life instead through a machine and screen.

I was able to create separate Internet identities and build whole new worlds for the digital me; which is probably one of my favorite memories, because it’s something you can’t really do in real life, otherwise you’re suspected of schizophrenia or of insanity.

I loved being able to download media from the Web and store it onto my own computer, and then put all that content together to make a collage or edit everything to what I wanted it to be. I made several projects in Paint, drawing and whatnot, as well as pulling in content from the Web and altering it to my satisfaction.

But I think one of my all-time favorites was the ability to log in to a site and be able to interact with people from all corners of the world; I couldn’t tell you how excited I was when I’d meet someone from China, Brazil, Poland, etc. In a strange way it made me feel closer and more connected to the millions and billions of people all over this Earth.

Thinking back on the early days of the Internet just makes me nostalgic, but also very grateful how this phenomenal and revolutionary new media has developed and how it has influenced the great big world around us.

Jessica Lodzinski