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Rafeal makes a great point that I had never considered before: “Rather than promote communication, texting obstructs it” (407). What does it mean that an object thats soul purpose is to facilitate communication actually ends up obstructing it? This idea of obstruction of not only communication, but presence, is ubiquitous in our behavior in the technological age. Beyond just the fact that shorthand text-speak is against all grammatical rules, communication and interaction have been forever changed by the devices we hold in our hands. Beyond that, they have assumed a governing position on all of us. Our numbers label us, they are used to secure emails, we are identified by them. They are the new social security number, except they are readily given out to others.

 

 

In today’s lecture today I was really shaken up by the footage of Rodney King’s beating. Thinking about the way in which media that so clearly captured a particular narrative of violence could not even incite change in a court of law make it difficult for me to imagine any way media can be used resistively. I also felt sort of disillusioned the way that the intersection of viral videos and Blackness is inherently linked to violence. What does it mean, I wondered, that the only viral videos of Black people ever deemed important or meaningful enough for circulation on the news perpetuates narratives of violence in Black communities. Further, how does showing those kinds of viral media in lecture further perpetuate the link of Blackness and violence?

“A participatory politics that rejects secrecy and criminalisation in favour of more aggressive forms of nonconformist visibility, voice, and protest.” (pg. 81) In Beltran’s article “Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic”, we can start to see the shift in forms of demonstrations that parallel the advancement in technology. In 2006, protests that advocated the DREAM act (Development Relief Education for Alien Minors) had to rely on “Mass distribution of flyers, door-knocking , phone banking, and word of mouth.” However, social media has been critical in delivering the necessary influence in today’s battle against the politics of coming out, and “linkages between sexuality and migration.” (pg. 80) As the DREAM act purports the extension of a six-year conditional legal status to undocumented youth who met several criteria, the legislation sounds much more of a comprehensive reform that it actually is. It only deals with a particular segment of the immigration population.

One of the video’s we watched on monday’s lecture spoke out to me – “Put a face on it”, it said. What is interesting now to me is the intimacy of social media, and how close and personal we can get to each other. That we are able amass a bigger crowd and thus a bigger voice using social media is a complete new phenomenon in the 21st century.

It was then quite intuitive that we had the Wikipedia lab on tuesday. I for one forgot to create an account going into the my section yesterday, but noticed that the public Wikipedia page had already multiple inputs from previous students. I could then observe the direct relationship and association between ‘open-content projects’ and the undocumented. Pages like wikipedia does not conform to authority, as its information online is submitted through the online community through any means – it’s information “is not authoritative and there are no authors…knowledge is not information but rather the ability to do creating things with information.” (pg. 90) What Wikipedia and websites that document the stories of undocumented youth around the globe does is that it serves as a fantastic platform for mass mobilisation.

The undocumented are a collective, a multi-faceted group of men and women; yet on the other hand by risking their life of self-disclosing their significant life experiences, the very exact people also create an identity for themselves that transcends time and space. In the new age of social media, everything is a white canvas that needs to be filled with colour, with knowledge, with stories, with content. Operating as a “space of confrontation, contemplation, and self-assertion as well as education, creative self-expression, and mass mobilisation” (pg. 90), the internet is the absolute medium in transcending old forms of borders and restrictions.

This bottom-up approach to achieving critical mass gives them the power and the voice that pierces through traditional forms of politics and mainstream immigrant rights organisations. Generation Y, and to the extent even Generation Z no longer needs to live under the shadows of Generation X. Everyone deserves to be acknowledged, to be accepted into any and every community. The DREAM act is just the beginning. With social media and user-based projects on the rise, we can expect to see even more ‘cyber-testimonios’ in the future, and perhaps even more astounding forms of self-expression and radicalisation – the floodgates have truly opened, and the forthcoming tidal wave will sweep across every corner of the world; and absolutely no one can stop it from happening.

This week’s readings, along with Beth’s lecture, exposed perhaps the less wonderful side of the ‘wonderful creepiness’ of new media––that is to say, the threat of abject sexual exposure.

Shah’s mention of the theories of Friedrich Kittler, which draw a parallel between the ideas of cameras and guns, take on a new meaning in the context of revenge porn (and other unfortunate/embarrassing/unflattering images of oneself that might appear online out of spite; the images in Beth’s lecture from a police department’s website are an example of this).  In these cases, the camera is literally used as a gun: both are “fired”––or “shot”––with the intent of taking someone’s ‘life’ (whether physical or figurative).

This can be taken a step further: in the interview with Hunter Moore, he acknowledged that the naked, exposed bodies on his website were lifeless avatars to him.  These images are simply sexualized forms, and are completely detached from any human emotion or feeling––another way victims of revenge porn are interpreted as inanimate and sub-human objects.

As has been discussed in class, details related to NSA’s spying on AT&T phone calls and Internet history were revealed as early as 2006. Why then, was Edward Snowden’s massive 2013 leak such an igniting source of political discourse? Surely, it’s due in no small part to scope — Snowden’s leak is one of the largest in history — but also, it seems to do with the nature of the expose, as Shah discusses in terms of digital pornography. Specifically, Shah uses revenge porn as an example: within the context of revenge porn, the body (of one who’s been perceived of wrongdoing) becomes pornographic insofar as it can be exposed, and furthermore, insofar as that body can desire to conceal itself. In the same way, Snowden’s exposure of the NSA’s spying is so provocative because of the interplay between the massive amounts of exposed content and NSA’s attempts to conceal and deny its actions. Because surely, as has also been discussed, it has long been a subconscious expectation that spying of some nature has existed within our media (think of the phrase “I’ll end up on a watch list”); in this way, exposure is a verb and must be reinforced frequently and intensely in order to maintain the intensity of our reaction to it. After all, wouldn’t the porn that Shah describes cease to be dirty or pornographic when it is clear the subject doesn’t care to conceal herself? And what would happen to the momentum of NSA controversy were the NSA to admit fully to the legitimacy and extent of its domestic surveillance?

A country with a vociferous netizenry, South Korea has a history of protest and political dissent. The mediatisation of this “demo” (demonstration) culture itself would appear to feed into a justification of enforced police measures. How does this translate on the Internet?  Online illicit activity is tackled by Korean authorities in a way that mobilises the ideas behind this week’s readings on anonymity and the web’s pornographic visibility. South Korea requires that all citizens register with passport names and social security numbers for specific Internet Services, including gaming and pornographic sites. Korean cyber policing is heightened at (web)sites that deal with the “transgressive”- not only as an attempt to limit anti-social behaviour, but perhaps also as a means of explicitly revealing to the netizenry their condition of being watched.  This generation of ‘digital porn’ has consumed Korean internet culture for long enough that the mukbang phenomenon of live-streaming oneself eating food brings incredible amounts of traffic- the mukbang is the porn principle in action. Shah asserts that media becomes pornographic via “processes through which it circumvents and transgresses the legal, moral, and social codes by which it circulates”. As such, it would seem that legal registration online in Korea works to remind users of the threat of exposure We discover that the stakes of political agency are strikingly close to the discourse of pornography and digital sexual performance. Korean registry works to limit political action by establishing an architecture that limits any surprise coordinated action to spontaneously take place.

I was conflicted about the Edward Snowden documentary. Criticism of Snowden’s contested patriotism focuses mainly on national security and on his evasion of that central premise of peaceful civil disobedience, that of being a part of the change in the system one is trying to bring down. The documentary focused on Snowden as a man — even, as more than a man: he became a fictional character, the hero in his own action movie. Music and camera angles contributed to both my rapt attention and to the feeling I had of being manipulated into a certain mindset. After all, Snowden is not being tried in America under the laws of the country he loves, and, in fact, very little of the movie takes place in America at all. Rather than being a film about change, this is a documentary about Snowden, which in many ways detracts from the issue it purports to expose.

Imposing a a narrative on a film about the way people are constantly monitored seems almost as Big Brother as the documentary’s central villain. Snowden as the lone gunman is a role for which he is ill-suited — he is nervous, backing down on his ideas, uninformed. While I understand that the filmmaker’s intention might have been to use the film to emphasize how little private space exists anymore, I feel that instead they emphasized that the U.S. Government doesn’t need to watch us carefully — we do that ourselves, in a culture so egocentric that everything must be publicized, even at risk of family, friends, or country. It is of utmost importance that the movie focuses so much on Snowden that no effort is made to bring the landscape of the United States into the central narrative, emphasizing the act and the man rather than the aim.

“Even as Anons collectively enforce a prohibition against seeking personal fame, they do not suppress individuality” writes Gabriella Coleman. For Anonymous, identity and individuality are complex expressions that can only be analyzed in the way their ‘identity’ sublimates within their tactics. As Coleman illustrates throughout her article, the Anonymous identity is simultaneously aggressively decentralized and strangely individual; Anonymous members are spread out across the world and communicate via server chat—their guerrilla tactics are representative of an erratic and decentralized system of operation. On the surface, it would appear that Anonymous denies the ability for any kind of individualism within the group, and to a certain extent this is true. Coleman writes about an instance in which one Anonymous member was banned for revealing too much personal information and expressing too many individual opinions in a newspaper article. But this instance of denied expression of identity is more like the ceiling limit than it is ground rule—as Coleman notes, quoting Anonymous’s article submitted to The Guardian, “[Anonymous] is the nameless collective and the procedures by which it is governed, which in the end prevail over the necessarily biased and single-minded individual… at the same time, the individual’s ability to contribute to this communal process of the production of knowledge has never been greater”. There is a tension within Anonymous, similar to the way Snowden claims both anonymity and a desire to be targeted from the back in CitizenFour, between the group’s desire for both collective action and individual participation.

While how to resolve this identity remains unclear (for this discussion), it’s worth putting this pseudo-individuality in conversation with Mark Zuckerberg’s notion of complete visibility. If Zuckerberg’s claim that the internet (and world) can no longer be anonymous, then the collective-individual Anonymous identity is the only response Anonymous knows how to make—accepting the claim, turning it on its head, and projecting it back to Zuckerberg with a metaphorical middle finger attached. Individually collective, Anonymous is visible. In fact, the organization has laid its claim in the physical world (through the Scientology protests), the digital world (across the deep net and social media), and America’s collective conscious (through reports on CNN, Fox News, and 60 Minutes) in a staggeringly short amount of time. In this way, Anonymous puts to question our notions of visibility, anonymity, and individuality. Because how exactly can Anonymous be simultaneously aggressively visible and invisible? How can a group achieve collective anonymity and centralized individuality?

 

 

In Beth’s lecture this week she discussed revenge porn and the idea of “share once, circulate forever.” What an ominous statement! But terribly true.

This reminded me of what I consider to be one of the most disturbing aspects of social media, that a person’s profiles and online presence can live on indefinitely after they have died. It makes me realize how even though we assume we’re interacting with other humans online via Facebook or Twitter, etc., we’re ultimately only interacting with the website’s interface. It is within this interface that each person leaves information and photos and pieces of their personality for others to see. And when the person is no longer around to curate them, they still remain, now left for others to circulate. Because of course the interface has no way of knowing (or caring) about the user’s death. And honestly, I don’t think the interface cared much about the user to begin with.

We’re constantly told how dangerous the permanence of the Internet is. We have a simultaneous need to preserve every artifact (because having all the information means knowing everything…right?) while also hating that there is no “delete” option. The lectures and readings and clips in class all evoked the cultural fear surrounding the possibility of our private lives leaking into the public. I think ultimately what scares us is that our images and different pieces of ourselves could be placed in the wrong publics. We demand too much control over exactly where things go and who sees them even after we’ve essentially given them up to the ebs and flows of the Internet.

In lecture on Wednesday, we discussed how Anonymous represents a kind of activism defined by a sort of public of private individuals and what happens when it is the private subject who acts politically. However, I think in having these discussions it is crucial to remember the origins of Anonymous and it’s roots as a predominantly white male collective with homophobic and sexist viewpoints. Anonymous existed before computers and internet was a common feature of most homes, and thus the founding members were necessarily privileged in certain senses and were likely white men and the initial community was absolutely shaped by privileged and sometimes hostile viewpoints which still persist in certain ways today. Certain sexist and homophobic viewpoints are clear in even relatively recently published content released by Anonymous- in particular, I was shocked by the comparisons that Anonymous drew in describing their rage and vengeance tactics as “what you, deep down inside, want to do to your wife when she doesn’t make you dinner when you come home” and other deeply misogynistic situations in their warning video to Fox News cited by “Our Weirdness Is Free”.

I think it’s important to remember, in discussing Anonymous serving as a cause-celebrity of private individuals who work politically for the anti-celebrity, that Anonymous in many instances (and certainly many early instances) of it’s political activism is acting for someone from whom they are quite distanced- acting for young teenage girls or for minorities that don’t have the resources Anonymous has- and thus are dictating what they, a minority in a position of privilege and a minority that uses sexist and homophobic rhetoric, perceive to be justice instead of engaging with and listening to the very people on behalf of whom they claim to be working.

The separation from Anonymous to the very serious causes in which they intervene is the reason they are able to continue intervening “for the lulz”. Additionally, their outward admittance of “lulz” as motivation for their political action demonstrates the separation of these individuals from the causes they wreak havoc in. Their activism seems, at least partially, to be motivated for their own celebrity and personal enjoyment and not for the individual or cause they are intervening in.