Author: svyletel719

Gender & Digital Culture

By Suzie Vyletel

Unfortunately, I had to give a speech in another class today so I missed Anita’s presentation. However, I stayed after and listened to a few very interesting presentations. The first was Sara Perry’s Gender and Digital Culture. She opened by telling us about her personal experiences with digital harassment from her own professional colleagues, and how this inspired her to delve into the topic further. Through a series of surveys, studies, and policy scans, Perry uncovered some shocking and unnerving information about digital communication in the workplace or among professional colleagues.

Some people have a cyber-utopian viewpoint that obscures or belittles the effect of online media on social interactions and structural inequalities. Like we have discussed in class, our tendency is to sometimes hyperbolize the democracy of the digital age without critically considering all of the ways that it furthers inequality. Professional digital interaction requires trust and transparency, but can also lead to hyper-exposure. A survey revealed that 1 in 3 people have experienced professional digital interaction of an inappropriate or uncomfortable nature by someone they know offline. It is interesting to note this because when I think of online harassment, I tend to think of anonymous cyberbullying, not someone you know acting this way toward you. Men tended to receive professional attacks, while the majority of women received attacks of a sexual or racist nature. Less than 3 out of 5 people took action in response to these threats; the most common response was to ignore the interaction altogether (Perry sees this as a form of action, rather than inaction). Those who sought institutional or official support received little to none. The laws and policies governing the online world are lax at best.

So where does responsibility fall? The service providers? Workplaces? The individual? There is clearly a problem, but the solution is sticky. Of course, if people were just not such jerks in the first place, this wouldn’t be an issue. But I don’t see that changing any time soon, so we must consider what to do when these people happen. I don’t think it is up to an individual to just ignore it and walk away, but must admit that I am at a loss for what can and should be done to most effectively empower victims against these attacks.

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Lambda Moo Language Barrier

By Suzie Vyletel

I’m sure that I’m not the only person in this class who had never heard of Lambda Moo before this week. I had no idea that platforms like this even existed, which definitely makes me question my so-called “tech savviness”. I thought that I knew it all, but apparently not. I thought that most people have long since abandoned old and outdated forms of technology and online interactivity for newer and flashier models, but I was wrong again. When I read about Lambda Moo, I thought that this was a history lesson about something that used to exist but hadn’t been used in years. I was so surprised to learn that it is still a thriving community used by many around the world.

It was very hard to conceptualize what this world was like until we actually logged on in class. I actually have never used the terminal on my computer, so that was an interesting discovery. I’m not sure what else I’ll ever use it for, but at least I know it’s there…figuring out how to get out of the closet and perform certain functions was hard. It was so frustrating because sometimes I would rephrase something several times to get the computer to understand, and eventually I’d just give up.

rephrase

Above is a screenshot of one of my most frustrating moments during the game. I found and looked into a box, and tried several times to remove objects from it, to no avail. This was the second time I came across the box and still could not figure out how to remove any items. Eventually I lost interest and walked away.

It was very much like going to another country where you don’t speak the native language. I felt like an outsider and was lost and confused. I was hesitant to do anything because I felt like I was intruding on a place that I had no right to be walking around in.

can't go anywhere

This is another example of a frustrating moment I experienced. I apparently couldn’t go north, south, east, or west! It forced me to go up some stairs to a tavern, but for a moment I was so confused as where I could go. Even when I did succeed and managed to get somewhere new, the tavern or through a looking glass or even climbing up a rose bush, I often got stuck along the way or just after making progress. The whole process was very discouraging.

All in all, though, I can see the appeal. It was pretty nice to sit back and read and explore this world with no time constraints and no real end goal to keep in mind. It would have been a completely relaxing experience if I got to know the commands better, or if I actually ended up somewhere cool like Paris instead of climbing a rose bush that led nowhere.

I didn’t like being a guest because each time I logged on, I had a different user name. One time I was Pink Guest, another time I was Blue. It made me feel less attached to my identity in the game, and though sometimes anonymity can be empowering and freeing, I just felt like my purpose in and contributions to this cyber world were useless. Did anyone else feel that way? Am I the only one who didn’t love the Lambda Moo experience? I’ve never been much of a gamer, so maybe that has something to do with my detachment to it all.

Texting: 7-digit equality or drunk-dial dystopia?

By Suzie Vyletel

Utopia: an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect. Google utopia, and you will find this definition along with a chart that shows how the use of this word has increased as of late. Why might this be? Has the concept of utopia become more fascinating because it has become more tangible and accessible since the technological revolution? Possibly. I want to examine text messaging and whether or not it has utopian potential for our world.

Text messaging has been around for so long that I don’t even consider it “new media” in the way that I consider iPads and virtual reality “new media.” I mean, at the basic level, text messages follow the Shannon-Weaver model of communication:

shannon_weaver_model

In reality, text messages imply a lot more than increasing the distance possible between the sender and receiver. The sender behind the message is basically reduced to a number. Your phone number is not biased (let’s not get into the socioeconomic implications of certain area codes)–it reveals almost nothing about you. From a phone number, someone can not tell anything about the owner’s age, sex, gender, socioeconomic status, race, etc. Everyone is on the same playing field! Communication is not sexist, racist, or judgmental. Text messaging is senders and receivers, devices and minds behind them. There is no discrimination, each message comes from a 7-digit place of neutrality and equality, taken at face value and the only thing considered is the message itself. Text messaging transcends physical limits–while abroad in Rome last semester, I could text my family and friends time zones away in the states. Text messaging only requires basic literacy–if you can formulate words and read them, you can text. Isn’t this utopia?

Is it? Or is this the utopian view of text messages, provided that the state of utopia for communication is completely unbiased and democratized? What about the other implications of text messaging, the ones that make it utterly dystopian? What about the “good old days” where the phone rang and, not knowing who was calling, each call had an equal chance of being picked up because there was no way to discriminate?

drew

http://youtu.be/0gGXylVz6KI (the embed video option is apparently not available, so please visit this link to a 50 second YouTube clip!)

Text messaging, for all of its equality, is not 100% equal. For instance, I could attribute a name to a phone number, so that when I receive a text message from that person, I know who it is and can either read it or delete it. I can block numbers so that not everyone has an equal opportunity to communicate with me. Text messages are also usually limited. Even supposedly “unlimited texting” plans do have a limit, and once it is reached, this form of communication is unavailable. Text messaging is only available to those with a cell phone, and if that person cannot afford a large texting plan, they may rely on wifi connections which are free at some public places like Starbucks, but exclusionary elsewhere (must be a paying customer/registered guest at a hotel/member of the organization/etc.).

Text messaging is easy–but maybe too easy? Many of us have been burned by texting while angry/drinking, a problem that didn’t used to exist in the days of snail mail. The process of handwriting letters took so long that emotions simmered down and thought was put into what was said, whereas today’s instant communication and irreversible “send” button tend to inflame situations. How many arguments have been had, friendships ruined, kids busted, spouses turned jealous, by texting? Is this really utopia?

I guess the question to ask is whether the good outweigh the bad. Do you value the convenience of texting more than the potential hazards? If texting is dystopian, was it always this way? Or has recent technology aggravated the pitfalls of texting? What do you think?

Tweets of All Shapes and Sizes

By Suzie Vyletel

I first created a Twitter account for extra credit in my high school physics class. Our teacher, Mr. Pata, was a really progressive and new-agey teacher who believed in sitting in a circle and throwing away the textbook and hands-on experiences. It was a cool class actually, now that I think back on it. But anyway, back to Twitter. At first, I never tweeted, only followed the physics accounts we were supposed to for the class. Then, slowly, as Twitter caught on (because back in 2010, I didn’t know many people who actually used Twitter), I began to venture out into the Twittersphere. I followed celebrities, brands I liked, stores and restaurants, and friends of mine. It was a slow learning process, trying to tailor my Twitter feed to what I needed or wanted (because, after all, it is hard to interact with something that’s not tailored for us anymore, right?) and also trying to learn how to tweet. Eventually, my “thin” tweets about long lines in the cafeteria or OMG that episode of the Kardashians last night evolved into “thick” tweets containing layers of information and links and photos and hashtags that really made use of Twitter as a resource and tool.

While my first tweets tended to look like this:

thin tweet

This is, by the way, a quote from Mulan.

Eventually, I started adding hashtags, links to Instagram, and tagging other Twitter users:

THick

I didn’t realize it, but my view of Twitter had changed over those few years from being a “marketing tool, a public diary, a communal news feed, or even, simply, a sort of brain game” to a “low-maintenance way to feel connected to family, friends, celebrities,” as Julian Dibbell put it. I stopped being intimidated by Twitter as something for PR and marketing reps to use, and started embracing it as a way to share and gather lots of information quickly and easily. I wonder if that change was my own abilities on Twitter evolving, or if it was a subconscious response to the changing world of Twitter? There is something to be said, however, of the so-called “thin” tweets. Sometimes what I love reading, and why I follow certain people, is because of their flat, somewhat useless tweets. Sometimes, I will swipe across a tweet that was clearly a no-filter-straight-from-my-thoughts-to-text kind of observation or personal update. And I enjoy it! I love reading those tweets, because they are so personal and exactly the kinds of information that NEVER MAKE IT TO PRINT OTHERWISE. Twitter is great for those TFLN and “wow the caf has tater tots today” kind of updates because Facebook has become a political platform (at least my news feed has) and everyone just wants someplace to record and share their version of life at that moment and who can blame them for that? Those are the kinds of things that make me feel like I’m experiencing life right alongside someone else across the globe, because of the real-time aspect of these updates.

Now that I feel that I sufficiently justified the validity of “thin” tweets, let me return to the “thick” ones, because there has to be a balance. I mentioned before that my personal tweets have evolved from thin to thick, generally speaking, though still including thin tweets as this is the nature of Twitter after all, so this assignment was pretty easy for me. Creating a thick tweet like this one:

Recent tweet

wasn’t strange or difficult because I am so used to it now. Employing the use of hashtags and links is part of the fun of Twitter for me, and I enjoy thick tweets because they are engaging and force me to become involved with the information provided. I wonder if this knack for multimedia use is unique to our generation, or if it is something that the ever-changing nature of technology forces people to learn out of necessity? Ever since reading the articles about Twitter, I started to notice the differences between tweets on my feed, and to take note of where thick or thin tweets were coming from (which users). It is not surprising to note that the celebrities and companies/brands that I follow tend to layer more information in their tweets such as links to websites or photos, times and dates, other Twitter handles and hashtags. Personal users (the average Joe) on my feed produced thinner tweets, though often still linking to a photo or using a hashtag. I do appreciate this assignment and the articles provided to use because I now have a more well-rounded view of and appreciation for Twitter. Before, I was a more passive consumer, but now I can be a thoughtful critic and contributor who utilizes the full potential of Twitter.

KidPix and Solar Systems – Blog 1

By Suzie Vyletel

I have very fond memories of the first time I remember using a computer. In elementary school, we rotated our “special activities” daily, whether that was going to music class, gym, the library, or computer lab. Everyone loved going to the computer lab because after a few minutes of typing practice with rubbery, orange keyboard covers that prevented cheating, we had free time. Some kids played Oregon Trail, others played typing games, but I loved KidPix.

KidPix is an art program that you can draw pictures with, and has neat features like a rainbow pen and spray paint that I spent many class periods playing around with and trying to draw myself as a mermaid. The program could be classified as new media because it was always accessible, and could be personalized. When I logged on to my account in the computer lab, those types of programs were always there. I could pick and choose what tools were displayed on my screen, such as the eraser and shapes tool.

The internet I used was ubiquitous, always there and able to be accessed by me and my classmates at the same time. When we did research for our solar system project, the same web pages about Neptune were available to me day after day. I could click on a link somewhere in the article that took me to another web page about Neptune’s moons, demonstrating the networked aspect of new media. From there I could print or email the article to myself at home to access once again on my family’s desktop.

I still remember when the librarian came to talk to our class about doing research. She taught us how to filter search results by using quotation marks and commas, which allowed us to pull only the content we wanted or needed. That was perhaps the biggest “AHA!” moment for me–realizing the power I had to control what I saw on the web. It was a game-changer for me, and from then on, I felt more in control of my internet usage. Even though I knew how to change my desktop background and the color of the menu bar, I felt like filtering search results was sort of cheating the system in a way. That brings up the question of whether or not it is fair for internet users to bypass other potentially useful webpages and articles that are out there, because this may not be democratic and fair to all users’ information. Another question that this raises is do we and should we trust the computer’s search filters? Is it better than sifting through results on our own–would we miss something ourselves, or does the computer potentially miss things that we would have found useful?

Those computer lab days were the only times I really used a computer back then. I really didn’t “need” the internet for anything at all–my homework was handwritten, research for projects was done with real books at the school library, and though my dad created an email account for me, it was years before I used it. Our household had one desktop computer that sat in the basement for my mom to occasionally plug her iPod into or for my sister and I to play a computer game. Now, we have three laptops that my family moves around the house with constantly, with smartphones also in hand, using new media more of the day than not. It is interesting to note how my perception of computers has evolved from being a fun, extra activity a few times a week during school to an absolutely necessary part of my school, work, and social life.