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There’s a woman I read about recently who seemed to be representative of many of the ideas outlined in Weiser’s piece in a rather haunting way. Lovey Banh, who you can read about here, is someone who created an entirely fake internet persona in an attempt to solicit donations because she was in legal trouble. She kept her internet persona (Lovey Banh the kooky Amazon author) entirely separate from her real-life persona (Vivian Tu Banh, who was unfairly arrested and put on a bail she could not afford). It was only through the internet sleuthing of the person who wrote the above piece I linked to that the connections arose

In the beginning of her paper, Weiser brings up Tila Tequila, another female media personality who also happens to be Vietnamese, though Weiser fails to observe the impact of race. Tequila’s media presence is inseparable from her identity as an Asian woman; whether or not she herself uses her race in her self-brand, the way that the general public consumes her is heavily racialized — media outlets tend to qualify her descriptions as an “Asian reality star,” rather than simply a “reality star.”

Banh, on the other hand, chooses to emphasize her race in her self-brand — her rhetoric is laced with descriptions of herself as a “sexy, submissive Chinese woman.” By describing herself in terms associated with racist stereotypes of Asian women, Banh attempts to use the Western sexualization of Asian women to her advantage, branding her Asian female body through her photos and language in an effort to draw attention to herself.

it’s easy to ignore free labor in the context of the reading because one labors due to the love of the work and therefore do not necessarily mind the effort required. It’s that easy to change a passion into something concrete all the while producing cultural value. Due to my love of games it would be remiss not to mention mods. Players take the same development kit a developer and choose to create modifications to the existing game that can greatly vary from graphical overhauls, to the inclusion of new items and skins, to even an entire campaign or mode. The more robust mods take a great dale of time and energy to make, yet users make them for their own love of the game, or desire to improve it. There was relatively recent issue with Steam, Valve’s online distribution platform where they were beginning to charge for mods made for Bethesda Softwork’s hugely popular Skyrim. While the argument was made that it would reward modders for their work, but the user consensus that it would effectively warp the landscape of modding and the proliferation of this example of free-labor would stagnate under the pressure of trying to make money off of mods.

On Clickworker:

Doing menial tasks that simply involved copy and pasting from the Google search engine intrigued me. Well, the reasoning behind it intrigued me, whereas the task bored me to death because it took absolutely no effort or thinking. My searches had to do with a rich investor from UAE. I was told to search phrases such as “(person’s name)’s biography” and “(person’s name)’s investments” and other, similar phrases about this certain man’s presence on the internet, as shown by Google’s searches. I am sure that I did not actually do anything of use, as I linked the same articles and wiki pages 10 times.


On the digital presence of the Arab Spring:

When I learned of the small proportions of the population in Egypt that had social media accounts, I quickly began to wonder what the experience of the undocumented populations were like. I cannot imagine that the poor, the old, and the rural populations were properly represented in the feeds of the revolution, which in many cases were picked and manipulated by Western companies.

Trolling is destructive, senseless, yet it offers a glimpse of ourselves. Trolls on /b/, and other online communities, ultimately take advantage of our own societal weaknesses to offend and insult. To condemn the trolls is to condemn ourselves, because if we cannot see the satirical nature of the trolls, we are accepting that their exaggerated racism and offensiveness is grounded in real substance.

Of course, it is certainly not the case that trolling is always racist, or sexist, or offensive in any way. I can hardly see how links to shock-horror pictures or screamers are offensive to anything but my eyes and ears.

Farming gold in World of Warcraft as outlined by Dyer is one of the rather curious cases of capital markets giving value to an otherwise valueless object, but in this case a digital object. A similar case is present in Valve’s implementation of the Steam Market. In their games Team Fortress, DOTA 2, and Counter Strike, Valve has introduced in-game cosmetics that have value on the Steam Marketplace, and more recently, are exchanged on external, third-party sites so that the $400 limit for single transactions on the Steam Market can be avoided. Yes, this means that there are cosmetic items that exceed the value of $400, and some of these are thousands of dollars each. None of the prices are set by Valve, but instead, economies are naturally created by supply and demand. This means that if a new pack of cosmetics comes out that is highly desired by the playerbase, the other cosmetics on the market will tank in value. Case in point: about a year ago, the Asiimov skin in Counter-Strike was $75 each, and because of the stability of its price (due to its monopoly as a moderately-rare, desirable skin), was a currency in and of itself (many trades listed items priced at $300 as 4 Asiimovs, such was its reputation). However, as of now, it is priced at $30, due to a multitude of new skins that have similar rarity while being visually pleasing enough to be desirable. On another note, one of the minds behind the Steam market was employed as Greece’s finance minister in January of 2015.

The presentation on Runescape made me recall my own experiences playing the game, and it is difficult for me to believe that Runescape’s design is racist, or problematic to any degree. No one starts the game with more privilege than anyone else, and as everyone starts the game at level 1, this is as fair as a start can be. As with any MMORPG, there are varieties of characters that add heterogeneity in the personalities of the NPCs. A snake charmer is exotic caricature, but is it really a particular manifestation of our culture’s fetish for the exotic?

On the other hand, I can understand why someone may raise concerns about the playerbase. When I played the game, I was in 3rd grade, and one of the phrases I had most commonly seen was “buying gf”. The phrase is a bit of a joke, but at the same time, I can assuredly say that many pre-pubescent children were using the phrase in their quest to find a digital girlfriend. At the ripe age of 8, I had bought myself a girlfriend, only for her (in all honesty, the player was probably not actually a girl) to leave as soon as I gave her my stacks of gold coins. Eventually, I learned that if I created a female character, I could sell my digital soul (perhaps that’s the wrong word, but it certainly was not the selling of a body, and I really don’t want to call it love) in exchange for some other 8 year-old’s gold.

I Love Alaska was a rather chilling experience. The content of the work notwithstanding, the atmosphere that the work was able to create was rather impressive. Everything about the direction was bleak, so even when the content of the user’s searches was somewhat comical, the lack of any inflection in the narrator’s voice with the barren landscapes in the background made it difficult to find humor. In fact, I would argue that while the content of the user’s searches may have been preserved, the character that the directors of I Love Alaska was not the same one that input the searches.

By using the combination of a monotone, robotic female voice with bleak, depressing landscapes of Alaska, the directors created this persona of a detached, emotionless women who has an affair without much actual remorse. Had the voice acting been done by a real person, the character that was created through these searches would have felt much more alive, and some of the searches seemed to have a spark of life. But on the other hand, the cold computerized voice asking “Why can’t I sleep since I had a hysterectomy?” captures the crushing solitude of the user better than any real voice actor could.

Surveillance is a hot topic in politics right now (as it should be), and will likely continue to be one for the near future. The NSA is no doubt the first thing that comes to mind when surveillance is brought up, but in my opinion, the larger issue is one that is often ignored: surveillance by private companies (Apple, Google, etc.).

A computer system is designed to capture data as input, as Agre puts it. Any input into an iPhone is captured by Apple, and a search into Google is captured by Google (AskJeeves may be safe, however). When the Apple-FBI case came to light, I think it was more problematic that all this data was available for Apple to access, and in all likelihood was being accessed by Apple for reasons such as development and commercialization. Whereas government surveillance is generally done for the sake of national security (which is a vague term that is open to abuse, but nevertheless some sort of good), private companies’ surveillance is done with the goal of increasing capital, however that may be. Since I use an iPhone, Apple likely has captured every input that I have put into my device. Anyone’s digital activity is likely captured by a collection of several different private companies, and so using digital objects becomes a conscious choice to step into the panopticon of surveillance.

Rereading Tiziana Terranova’s “Free Labor,” I’m struck by how her arguments might be applied to the transformation of the music industry. As we’ve discussed in section, the transition from records to discs to downloads to “freemium” streaming services may reflect a shift in cultural values, but more importantly reflects an increasing influence of the digital economy. Streaming services embody many of the traits that Terranova notes: as commodities, streamed songs are immaterial, valued in their meaning, and are released & presented in a way that allows for  “new products (songs) to succeed each other at anxiety-inducing pace.” Further, as demonstrated by Kanye West’s latest studio release, streamable content is updatable -> another common trait of commodities in the digital economy. In this way, these commodities emphasize the process over the final product. I’m particularly curious to see if/how Terranova’s notion of Free Labor in the digital economy interacts with ideas of “leaks” in the music industry, that is, songs unofficially posted online (often low in quality) before their legal release. How do leaks rely on free labor? Are leaks helpful to artists in any way? How does the digital economy enable/discourage leaks? Is music leaking an example of Barbrook’s anarcho-communist digital gift-economy?

“Heterotopias are most often linked to slices in time-which is to say that they open onto what might be termed, for the sake of symmetry, heterochronies. (Foucault 26).”

I wonder at the change of time that certain modes of engaging online has produced, where the browsing of newsfeeds or the reading of an article has become that much faster. Are websites that are static much like the museums that accumulate in time? Much like the Space Jame website that has not changed much since its conception, to the Tumblr-like scrolling that constantly updates, where no moment is really the same (if you follow enough people, that is). How do these spaces function in the grand scheme of the internet as heterotopia? Are they heterotopic themselves? How far can the heterotopic idea subdivide?