Author: rbolinger

Digital Ethics Symposium

The first speaker I heard was Sara Perry from University of York. One of my favorite parts about Sara Perry’s talk came right at the beginning. She has an intimate and extensive understanding of social media, and the use and risks of social media. She encourages and teaches her students to use and master a variety of media outlets. She told her story about being harassed online based on her gender on sexuality, but unlike Anita Sarkeesian, she knew all of her harassers. I can’t help but notice the similarities between these women’s stories and the statistics on rape. While we often see in the media stories about women who are publicly raped and abused by random people, we very rarely hear stories about women who are raped by people they know, even though those cases are far more common. We have spoken extensively in class about the kind of unwelcomed attention received by Anita Sarkeesian, but haven’t mentioned any cases where the victims have known their online abusers. I was pleased to hear Perry use examples of men being made uncomfortable online in the same kinds of ways that women are because men are often ignored entirely in these kinds of discussions.

The second speaker I heard was Lindsay Ems, from Indiana University. I was really pleased by the general concept of her talk. While Perry spoke about gender minorities in the academic field, Ems spoke about a religious minority- the Amish. It was really interesting to hear about the people at the other end of the social media use spectrum. Many of the participants of the conference, including the prior speaker, are social media experts, addicts, and devotees. But the Amish of this particular study were skeptical of any media use, and represent a community living at the opposite end of social media use.

The third speaker was Burcu S. Bakioglu from Lawrence University. She spoke about virtual worlds like the ones presented in online games. She spoke about “griefing”, when players intentionally harass other players. Bakioglu spoke about LambdaMoo and an incident of an online rape that occurred in the community, and the community’s desire to legislate these kinds of incidents in their space. I found it really interesting that she spoke first about LambdaMoo, and I felt very knowledgeable because I had spent time playing in this community. One thing that I found particularly interesting her talk was how these kinds of world were governed. Some of the ways that people can control these online worlds are the rules that users accept when they log on, like the terms and conditions on Facebook or other websites. Another way to control online worlds is to limit actions by code. Creators could write an action out of the code so that users just simply didn’t have the ability to do it. She also mentioned the concern of local and federal government agencies that would want to limit the actions of community members to prevent illegal activities like money laundering or child pornography.

I enjoyed all of the speakers that I saw. The women who spoke each spoke on a different aspect of the internet and technology, but each one had something insightful to say about how these subgroups or subcultures of society uses and operate within- and without-technology.

Mental PuTTY

I honestly had very low expectations for LambdaMoo. But I really enjoyed it. It almost seems pointless to try to compare it to other online games, especially to current online games. There really doesn’t seem to be point to LambdaMoo, at least not the kind of goals that other online games, like a childhood favorite of mine, Fancy Pants Adventures, usually have. The only thing to do in the game is explore the house and talk to the other people who are logged on. Because there of the way that the game is built, it forces its users to build community in a way other games don’t. Instead of having the opportunity to work alone, or to work against someone else, the game seems to suggest that working together, interacting with each other, being in community together, is the best-and really only- option.

After nearly an hour of exploring LambdaMoo, I honestly couldn’t tell you where I had been. I got a haircut, I hung out in a doghouse, and I slid down a laundry chute. It seems like every door way I went through, every hall way I turned down, every time I typed a command, from the first time I opened the closet door, there was an entirely new place that I felt like I needed to explore. I found myself opened door after door, backtracking to make sure I saw as much as I could. I think that as someone who is so visually driven, it was really a good exercise for me to slow down and have to think about what this place looked like, without having the whole map drawn out for me.

Playing this game made me wonder a few things about it: What does the troll culture look like on LambdaMoo? I imagine that the kinds of trolls that stalk other online forums are by and large ignorant of this type of game, so does that eliminate trolling, or does it just mean the trolls are smarter and able to do more damage?

What does the map of LambdaMoo look like? Could you draw it out?

Fight Club

The first rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club.

The second rule of fight club is you don’t talk about fight club. 

Fight Club, a popular movie released in 1999 featuring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, tells the tale of a man, known simply as the narrator, as he meets and learns to coexist with Tyler Durden. The movie revolves around a series of clubs where men go to fight each other, in an attempt to reclaim their individuality and masculinity in a consumerism culture. Fight club eventually evolves into Project Mayhem, where the men commit crimes with the intent to create a better world. Fight Club simultaneously shows a dystopian and utopian society. While the men are attempting to create what they think would be a better world, a world devoid of cookie cutter ikea furniture and stuffy corporate jobs, they actually cause mass chaos, and the movie is bracketed in shots of the narrator with a handgun in between his teeth. Turner portrays a similar story in his article. The hacker’s world looks a lot like the world of Tyler Durden, complete with rules and meetings. But the question remains, does technological advances like the ones made by these hackers help (make a more utopian society) or hurt (make a more dystopian society)?

fight club

Technology certainly has the capability to change our society. But what kind of capabilities for positive or negative change does a site like Twitter hold? Twitter has already proven it can lead to change, like the Arab Spring uprising several years ago. Twitter brings the world closer together, and now more than ever, a celebrity, politician, public figure, or actor is never more than a few clicks away. That kind of closeness, in theory, allows for quick and easy spread of information, either for political or social change or for just general knowledge. On the other hand, Twitter can, and to a point already has, limit our physical interactions with people, and limit our ability to read and understand lengthier texts.

How has technology already pushed us towards one of these extremes?

Can we simultaneously have a technology-fueled dystopia and utopia?

Do you think we’re headed towards more of a utopian or dystopian view of society?

The Bird

Twitter is a widely polarizing form of social media. People seem to either love it or hate it. I’m decidedly reside in the first group. I love Twitter. I once heard a comparison that Facebook is for learning things you didn’t want to know about people you so you didn’t know, but Twitter is for learning things you want to know about people you wish you knew. People who prefer not to spend time on the oddly bird themed website (it’s easy to forget that Twitter has a bird theme-eggs, tweets) think that it only holds what Silver calls thin tweets. Sure, it’s great to know what my favorite Orange is the New Black star had for lunch, but Twitter can hold so much more than that when people send out “thick tweets”.

“Thick tweeting” does not come easily for me. I have learned, over my years of tweeting, what will generate a lot of positive feedback. Sarcasm, pictures, defiantly liberal political statements, profound statements of my faith, and anything of or about an obscure 90’s television show will usually get a handful of favorites or retweets. But what am I supposed to do when I need to really talk about something? For just such an occasion I’m learning to thick tweet at my handle, @beckibolinger. Now, scattered in with my fair share of live tweets and celebrity shout outs, are some tweets with real substance. I clearly have not mastered this art form, but celebrities like Anderson Cooper seem to have a much better handle on it.

Carr seems to think that the fast paced, short thought style of the internet, especially a website like Twitter, is making us dumber. While he’s right that our capacity to read longer articles and books has diminished, our other capacities have increased. By using hashtags, savvy Twitter users can get a handful of viewpoints on any thought, idea, concept, or event with just a few clicks. This kind of intake forces you to see a bigger picture. Instead of seeing just one polar end, or maybe even both ends, you get the entire spectrum of views from the people at large, not just the media. How does a community based information system like Twitter change our views of events? How does the bias change from mainstream media? Does Twitter have enough thick tweets to outweigh the thin tweets? Do you think a media form like Twitter is sustainable long term, or will people get bored eventually? Why or why not?

Kim Possible to Buddy Lists

Some of my earliest memories of using the computer are of playing games. As young as nine or ten, I can remember playing games with characters from my favorite movies, tv shows, or pop culture icons.  Many of these games weren’t connected to the internet, but the ones that were offered my first view into new media.  One of the games I remember most clearly playing was Kim Possible “A Stitch in Time”. The game offers an opportunity to submit your score, to see how you rank against other players from around the world. As a young consumer of media, it was my first, even if it was basic, experience with a network.

Being a junior high kid in the mid 00’s, AOL instant messaging (AIM) was all the rage. Like the scoring network presented in children’s online games, AIM allows its users to send short messages to anyone else who has an AOL account. AIM changed the way I looked at communicating. Suddenly I wasn’t limited to talking to my friends at school or the occasional after school activity, but I could now send and receive messages any time, day or night. Friends that had long since left the state where now within instant reach; new digital messages moved thousands of times faster than old traditional mail. Each AIM user got a unique screen name that they were able to choose-many of which people are later ashamed to admit their younger self had chosen-and the possibilities are endless. People were able to change their name, the friends, their status, all within a few clicks of their mouse. We spent all night talking on AIM, and the whole next day at school gossiping about who had said what to whom the night before. In the years before we all had MySpace or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, AIM was our window to the world.  AIM and the early computer games I played showed characteristics of how Van Dijk describes new media. As I’ve grown through technology, more of these characteristics are used in the media that I consume. But I have to wonder: why do we “outgrow” technology? Many of us posted about technology that we used when we were young, but haven’t used in years. Why not? And is that a bad thing, or just the movement of society?