For me, Anita Sarkeesian speaking was the highlight of the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy Symposium. I was so pumped for that opportunity and to add to my excitement, my younger sister, Tessa, happened to be visiting and would be able to tag along. I of course sent her copious links to Sarkeesian’s vlogs and recent interviews with the likes of Stephen Colbert. Tessa is a senior in high school, an age when one is just discovering what it means to be a woman in our often screwed up society. The two of us had a chance to talk about feminism this past weekend and strangely enough she cited fiction character Junie B Jones as one of her girl-power role models and had even written an essay about her for a recent AP Lit assignment. That struck me as odd at first; the book series centers around a first grader after all. But Tessa explained that she admired Junie’s ability to tell it like it is, disregarding the patriarchy’s expectation that women are to always be nice and meek. Junie is also unapologetic and doesn’t say she’s sorry when she isn’t.
In many ways, Anita Sarkeesian embodies these Junie B Jones traits. In the midst of horrifying threats, she continues to speak out and says what need to be said on television, the internet, and in speeches like we saw Friday. She refuses to back down. As she responded to various accusations and conspiracy theories about her, she used logic laced with humor; her funny quips reminding that it is all pretty ridiculous. Sarkeesian also brought attention to the limitations of websites like Twitter in situations where thousands are suddenly attacking a single person. The current blocking settings are merely an inefficient band-aid. She offered a list of changes that could be very effective for anyone in a situation similar to hers. Additionally, Sarkeesian reiterated that women did not suddenly appear in the video game world, but have always been there. Women are not trying to take over, they merely are asking for a respectful environment in which to practice a hobby they too love. As Tessa nears college, she has decided she wants to pursue engineering. We walked IIT’s campus on Saturday and she observed that there were barely any women on the campus. This disparity in genders is pretty consistently true of math and science related fields and especially of engineering. Going into a male-dominated field is never easy, but I hope with role models like Anita Sarkeesian and Junie B Jones, Tessa will be ready to kick some ass.
I had the impression, going into text-based game LambdaMoo, that it would be very simple. Perhaps this was because I saw it as archaic or maybe because it was “just text”. However, it took a bit to get the hang of the code-like commands. Thankfully, I took the time to peruse the how-to section, because otherwise I would’ve gotten very frustrated. LambdaMoo is set up very differently than digital media of today. So often we find ourselves on loud and busy webpages that require us to hastily scan to locate simple buttons/links labeled “contact us”, “movie times” or “messages”. Inversely, LambdaMoo is a tranquil space of black and green that gradually disperses information. Every word must be attended to or you could find yourself stuck in a room or unable to utilize a tool. It requires focus and comprehension in a way that has been nearly forgotten.
When I first arrived in the mansion, everything seemed very eerie. The article A Rape in Cyberspace was still ringing in my head, not to mention nearby my roommate was watching the latest episode of American Horror Story so the creepy soundtrack wove itself into my experience. There weren’t many other players around, either. Which was a bummer, because I had mastered talking and emoting in the tutorial. So instead of talking to other people, I found myself talking to the cockatoo in the living room. I liked using the whisper command and feeding him. There is something empowering about the commands; it is extra cool to be able to formulate an order rather than just click a premade button. However, in the long list of commands, I was surprised to see that many were violent actions that could be subjected on the cockatoo. One could gag, poke, drop, throw, shake, or pluck the bird. The command feature can very easily make people feel powerful and often dark things can come of it.
Not everyone uses the commands for evil though. Some really creative inventions were present in the game. I came across a Rube Goldberg contraption randomly by the hot tub. After pulling the lever, a succession of lines appeared describing each movement of the machine. It was wonderful and almost cooler than RL Rube Goldberg machines. Additionally, I was transported to France at one point after having read a postcard. The streets were described in immense detail and everything I would say was then translated into French. It was a shockingly realistic experience that had perks even better than reality (as I know very little French). The creativity possible within what could be seen as a limiting platform is fascinating. The simple text-based game is able to make imagination unlimited in many ways, and it is up to the user to decide whether utilize LambdaMoo for good or evil.
Silver’s concept of thick and thin tweets, while somewhat common sense, is something so many of us didn’t know or think about. Which is interesting, given that much of our generation is being hired as interns solely to run a company’s social media. We don’t always think the technology we utilize. For most of our lives, we’ve been handed the mouse/remote/controller and left to explore. Everything seems to be made just simplistic enough that we usually don’t have to stop and scrutinize the technology. I think this is very true for Twitter. I personally am a very lazy twitter user, leaving for months at a time and then reemerging, and typing out a few blah tweets. The fact that I wasn’t following many of my peers really lessened the stakes. It didn’t matter to me if I was coming across as cool enough or if I had followers. Whereas Facebook is often this contest, my experience with Twitter was far more low key.
However, I have a few experiences where tweets directed at celebrities actually resulted in interactions. Last fall, I was at the Rome Film Festival, standing near the red carpet during the Hunger Games Catching Fire premiere. It was insane, it turns out Italian teenage girls are just as loud as American girls.
After Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth have passed and gone further down the carpet, I look across from and see Eli Roth. He’s being interviewed so instead of yelling to him, I tweet at him.
I really didn’t expect anything from it, because again I put so little stock in Twitter, but the next day I discover that he retweeted me. And I gained 9 followers, solely for that reason. I think Silver makes an excellent point about crafting an eye catching tweet. He encourages his students “to use 140 characters or less to compose a thick tweet that is so compelling that no reader in his or her right mind can avoid clicking the link.” I was doing this to some extent, and I didn’t even realize it. Primarily, I just wanted the celebrity’s attention. In retrospect, a hastag and even the handle of Rai Movie would’ve been even better. Regardless, there is great value in layering our tweets with different dimensions of information.
Why I Blog expanded the way in which I think about blogging. The piece elevated the way that I think about blogs and contextualized blogs within the world of journalism, something that I had never really considered. The early years of blogging were unfamiliar to me. In the early 2000’s, my use of the internet revolved around PBSkids.org and eventually xanga. Xanga could be considered Intro to Blogging, if it was an online course for preteens. One could post anything from a sentence to a few paragraphs and friends could look at these posts and then talk about them behind your back during gym class. One of the most striking aspects of Xanga looking back is the fact that (at first) you could only have one profile pictures. You would of course change it week to week, but now when we have the capability to upload thousands of pictures to Facebook, album after album, it is unthinkable to be so limited. That I would only have one picture of dreamy 8th grader, Davie Foster, to fawn over is so strange.
So while I was junior blogging about the happenings of Lewis and Clark Junior High, there were writers, real writers doing things far more sophisticated. It was really fascinating to discover Sullivan’s experience transitioning from the world of print and its structure to the free form nature of blogging. He began by just compiling his work on a site (with the help of his more tech-savvy buddy) but grew to a point where he composed pieces specifically for that platform. Blogs can serve the purpose of sorting out ideas and composing thoughts in a way that static set-in-stone print cannot. A blog is fluid, is collaborative, encourages audience participation. I had this preconceived notion of bloggers; that they wrote about travels, d.i.y. projects, children, quick and easy meals. In short, blogs were for everyday life in my mind. I am beginning to realize that, yes the ordinary can be chronicled but it can be done in great, innovative ways, as can the detailing of huge, extraordinary topics. To have immediate commentary on the spectacular, tragic and earth shattering is also of great value. These days events like these seem to be happening with great frequency. With television so narrowly controlled, it is so important that a variety of viewpoints and observations are readily accessible. These essays and blogs help the writer to cope and sort thoughts, as well as aiding us in understanding the events and issues.
So what were some of your preconceived notions about blogs and bloggers? What would you consider an “article” (Buzzfeed list? Huffington Post page? Blog post?)