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Category Archives: Gabrielle’s section

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.

Philip Johnson’s Glass House is one example of the many houses whose walls are constructed entirely in glass. His aims were to create an uninterrupted relationship between the interior and the surrounding natural landscape, as well as boasting a sort of openness, assertion of his presence and lifestyle. However, he did not actually carry out his daily life in an entirely visible way – several feet away from the Glass House, he built a windowless brick cube for his bedroom; he had the option to be private and invisible. In Foucault’s Panopticism he describes the constant surveillance built into the panopticon that similarly to the Glass House makes public all of individuals’ actions. However, unlike the Glass House inhabitants of the panopticon are imprisoned, involuntarily performing their day for an audience. In the same way that the panopticon controls the behavior of its subjects, Philip Johnson’s house would certainly encourage him to behave differently given his visibility. What is the significance of this desire to perform and possibly censor your own actions? Could it be a form of self-branding in the same way that people fabricate their lives on social media? We can consider Johnson’s brand as that of ‘the architect’. If we view his use of the house as a performance, is there an assumption that as designers of houses, architects have the greatest knowledge of how to act in them? In this way, Johnson’s use of the house is actually a demonstration. So although he has subjected himself to his own panopticon, since he is recognized as the creator of it (the person in control), his actions are sought to replicate not to scrutinize and expose.

There is no doubt in my mind that the world described in Florian Cramers piece “What is Post-Digital” is accurate depicted by the label ‘post-digital’, but what I’m interested to explore is the implication of such a society that has reached this point, yet still believes it is in a ‘digital’ age. Take, for example, the number of startups in Silicon Valley that promise the next, best, and greatest, who are always building from the newest technology (with no respect to backwards compatibility, or reference to usability for older models in many cases). We see the latest versions of Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, etc. leap forward at once with the new iOS or Samsung versions, sporting new fonts, features, interfaces supposedly “improving usability and satisfaction”. I think this reflects the mindset of companies obsessed with staying new, hip, trendy, and relevant- reflecting this rush of new technology, production, and the need to ‘keep up’. I would argue that in some regards, technology is continuing to accelerate in complexity, scale, reach and ability. However, I would say that much of these changes are only available to a certain elite at any immediate outset, and that the delay in their reaching a more general public is grounds on which to perhaps release in slower, more stable increments. In a slightly different fashion (although still centered around Snapchat), I was recently reading an article as to how companies marketing all seems to direct to the latest and the greatest, building hype through immediate pervasive apps like snapchat. The author of said article made the point that here I think Cramer would make- that these companies should rather be using the media advertising that best fits their target market (eg. don’t put adult diaper ads on snapchat, but rather leave them for newspapers, facebook personalization for older persons, or television channels). Beyond using the best tool for the job, I believe that the movement to create material goods and apply more control over them has a great deal to do with their perceived permanence- that technology is so incredibly ephemeral in its rampant acceleration that the human lust for ‘immortalization’ drives us away from its creation. It may also tap into our enjoyment for the simultaneous experience, the real, but that’s another post.

Everything that we considered in Digital Media has caused me to think in a deeper way about dozens of topics that I had never thought that in depth about.  Looking back I began to form a lot of thoughts that I wish I could have answers to.  I thought a really good question for everyone to think about is whether people think that technology and media are going to continue evolving in the way it has been and how that can possibly be a good or bad thing?  Digital media overwhelmingly showed me how the limits of technology and media are being pushed every day and I cant even begin to imagine how digital media is going to look 10 years from now!

To summarize–Cramer argues that the line between digital and analog media is less clear than we assumed it was, by a computer scientist’s standards, and by everyone else’s, it is increasingly clear that both “digital” and “analog” formats will be used depending on the context, despite, and often because of, digital media’s supposed superiority (superior because it’s new, largely, and because it aims for invisibility and ultimacy–I shouldn’t have skimped on these points but now I’m out of time). It’s not just a Luddite position, but one that rides on a currently prevalent ideology of hybridism. Yet I wonder if post-digital forms are still largely a nostalgia-dampened injection of whatever it is that digital media is seen to lack. Is that just a new version of Luddite-ism?

I loved the redefinition of postapocalypse: “a world in which the apocalypse is not over, but has progressed from a discrete breaking point to an ongoing condition.” Cramer talks a lot about ongoing conditions as an underlying force? an impetus? to this hybridism; I feel like there’s more there than just “everything is mixing together all at once” but I’m not exactly sure how–something about this idea of a post-apocalypse in particular, where the ongoing condition is marked by persistent anxiety about the future, which is different, an end to the same, and there’s an effort to prolong the present (the continuation of that dreamy present requiring endless innovations), and the past factors in here too in interesting ways. An affect? of nostalgia as bringing something new or important to the present, never mind whether that past existed or not. That’s something that’s kind of cool about the past–no one can exactly tell you if your version is true or not. Although maybe that could be said of the present, too, especially in the ways that it is used to prolong the apocalyptic future, I don’t know.

Then there was the point about the systems–maybe hybridization is an expression of not fitting into any of them (or “over-identifying” with them?).

In this week’s readings I was particularly drawn to the way Terranova defined the “outernet” and tied its form and function to the internet we’ve been discussing all semester. She writes that she is “concerned with how the ‘outernet’ — the network of social, cultural, and economic relationships that cross-crosses and exceeds the internet — surrounds and connects the latter to larger flows of labor, culture, and power” (34). The first thing that came to my mind was online advertising, which is perhaps one of the most obvious ties between the digital and physical worlds. Ads for clothing or household products or niche video games appear all over the websites we traverse, a bridge of capital between online labor (clicking as a form of monetization, which also generates the original site money — the reason they have the advertisements in the first place) and the physical and economic labor associated with the manufacturing and shipping of the advertised products.

This relationship is altered further by the way our machines learn us based on our search histories and online interactions. As Professor Chun mentioned in class, and as we’ve all experienced, Adsense’s network of criss-crossing banners span from website to website, reminding us of our browser history, trying to formulate connections to external sources of labor, culture, and power that are catered specifically to us as individuals — at least insofar as we are defined by our online activity. On one level it’s just intuitive technology, but it’s also another example of netspace bleeding into meatspace, our digital clicks blurring the boundary between on- and offline.

I personally think that the way that the term “free labor” is framed in this piece is a little misleading — free labor is a term traditionally associated with exploitation, or at the very least I would argue that it has a strong negative connotation. However, as Terranova points out, the very nature of the internet necessitates this kind of crowdsourced participation/free labor in order to survive. Its constant state of change makes the maintenance of it, the free labor, boundless. I can’t envision an internet where this isn’t true, one that no longer needs the constant participation of its users to produce culturally salient artifacts. We engage in this free labor because we in turn profit (monetarily, culturally, anything) off of the free labor of millions of other internet users.

I really enjoyed the lectures this week, because they provided a really excellent roadmap to the course, both in terms of offering a retrospective look on all the aspects of the course, as well as offering more questions and topics for further discussion. In particular, I found the concept of “free labor” really interesting and illuminating. I’ve never really questioned why I belong to certain social media platforms, or why I “like” (or now, “react”) to certain posts on Facebook or reblog the posts I reblog on Tumblr (or less frequently, write the text posts I do). To show support/approval to a friend when they change their profile picture? To cultivate a certain persona online, based on the pages I’ve liked, the articles I react to, the comments I leave? To go along with a trend in our cultural, where not being on social media condemns you to a peripheral version of communication and exchange? (All of the above, maybe). I don’t think of this as producing “content,” but now I realize that my clicks don’t go into a void. They are collected and repurposed, manifested in newsfeed tailored to my presumed interests and patterns. I found it interesting how this “algorithm” is defined by how much you deviate from a norm, and wonder what norm I’m deviating from. Does it assume my age, gender and race? Does it put me in a subculture or income bracket? Is it less specific than that or more? How much of the Internet is programmed anticipation, and why do we keep feeding into it?

(Also, I really liked talking about FanFiction because it has been something I’ve participated in (more as a reader), and I find the whole concept really interesting, especially since it polarizes creators. It reminded me of the concept of “poor image” but in a different sense, because fanfics generally borrow elements but repurpose them. Everything is copy.)

I think the example of the three sentences (“Fred’s parents arrived late. The caterers were expected soon. Fred was angry”) in Mayer-Schönberger and Cukier’s article really drive their point home: that drawing connections and relying on fast thinking is something that humans are prone naturally to do, and thus a system arising, based almost entirely on this mode of thought makes sense. Of course the dangers of fast thinking are well known (and discussed extensively, for example, in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink” – particularly in the chapter where he examines the shooting of Amadou Diallo, and the “quick thinking” and assumptions that the two police officers made which lead to Diallo’s death).

I think Professor Chun’s comment in the last lecture about the danger of relying entirely on technology becomes particularly relevant here. If we completely lose our theories of causation, and throw ourselves entirely to big data correlation, then we limit our range of thought.

Veering in a more personal direction, I was particularly struck by the question asked in the last lecture, asking what we will be, and what the class gives us, and how to use it.  The question of why bother studying all these theories at all. As for the first part, the questions of our future, the answers to those questions that Prof. Chun gave, were not and could not be any more than correlation and anecdotal optimism. But I think the answer to the second part, about why we bother to study all these theories, is the same as the rebuttal to all-controlling big data – that the theories open the expanse to possibility and to different modes of thinking and seeing; and so while the answers gained from big data do in fact “save lives” (as the authors of the article note), Big-data’s purely correlation based manner of thinking can be restrictive.

In Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy, Tiziana Terranova describes the concept of a “Digital Economy.” The definition of “Digital Economy” that resonated with me the most was “a new economy based on the networking of human intelligence” (p. 37). From that point, Terranova goes on to describe the difference between “knowledge workers” and “traditional workers.” She argues that human intelligence cannot be handled in the same way that traditional labor can; for instance, a lot of “knowledge workers” work together in team-oriented settings, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to regulate the type of work being done in these environments because workers possess various levels of skill and knowledge. I was particularly intrigued by Barbrook’s perspective on the management of knowledge workers: “A new challenge to management is first to attract and retain these assets by marketing the organization to them, and second to provide the creative and open communications environment where such workers can effectively apply and enhance their knowledge” (p. 37). Compared to traditional labor, it seems that management of “knowledge”-based labor comes at the terms of the employee, rather than at the terms of the people in charge. For instance, in Barbrook’s definition, it seems that the point of management is to facilitate, to provide a space for workers to take full advantage of their genius, which starkly contrasts the type of management that pushes workers to perform their jobs in a certain way and at a certain time, in order to produce specific results.

During yesterday’s lecture, we debunked Cramer’s term “post-digital.”  Some of the points highlighted were that the post-digital society emerges when we have ubiquitous mobile devices, “old” media is used as “new” media, and there’s an illusion of control/agency with this society acting against the universal machine.  I found this very interesting in relation to my generation’s relationship with nostalgia.  Online (somewhat ironically), young adults constantly post images with captions “only 90s kids truly remember!” or “you know you were born in the 80s when…”  Discovering old TV show intro themes is like recovering a lost treasure that must be shared to Facebook and Twitter immediately.  “Stressed Out” by Twenty One Pilots has the lyric “wish we could turn back time to the good old days” stuck in every radio-listener’s head.  And this aligns with the debunked outline of a post-digital society: rejection of the universal machine by embracing “old” media.  TV and film industries are exploiting this rejection through reboots, spin offs, and series (Fuller House, Power Puff Girls, Teen Titans; Finding Dory, Toy Story 4, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them…).  Though the act of “rebooting,” bringing these childhood experiences into the present age, is often unsuccessful–sometimes deemed as ruining the franchise for distorting, changing, removing it from its stored heterotopia.  It’s just not as good as it used to be.  So I wonder how this discontent stemming from a combination of a post-digital society and nostalgia will affect other areas of media.  “Make America Great Again,” spend a week without a cell phone, turn the internet off; how fulfilling or progressive will this truly be as long as we have nostalgia, experiences to degrade this fight against the universal machine, lingering?