There’s no U in IDENTITY

Identity is composed of how one both thinks of oneself and how they present themselves to the world. Under varying aspects or conditions, a person’s identity changes to fit the circumstances. In being oneself, the condition or character of a person is revealed differently to friends, co-workers, superiors, parents, those in authority or in situations involving dating, job interviews, sports competition and more.

‘The technology of the Internet offers its participants unprecedented possibilities for communicating with each other in real time, and for controlling the conditions of their own self-representations in ways impossible in face to face interaction’ (Nakamura)

In Nakamura’s piece, she elaborates on the discussion of differences between physical and assumed digital identities, and with our remix video we intend to look at the evolution of cultural rhetoric surrounding this discussion.

Online, there are an ever increasing number of opportunities to build alternate identities, and because the actual self is separated from this constructed persona, falsifying details or an entire identity is easier while sometimes harder to catch. Being aware of the threat of online predators is now a required lesson in public school safety curriculum, but at the same time, lying about yourself on the internet is accepted as inevitable and joked about on Conan.

Our remix video will be a supercut of clips that track, through repeated themes, the discourse surrounding physical and virtual self. Sources will include movies from when the rise of the internet was raising questions and fears about reality, as well as more contemporary examples which address deliberate falsification of self within the realms of social media and online dating.

To structure our argument, the video will track, through repetitive analysis of multiple genres of falsified online identities. These accounts and profiles cover a broad range of digital identities, from the existential and fearful to casual and humorous. We will then portray and analyze the effects of their falsification. This supercut from Fandango is both thematically and stylistically resonant with what we are planning to achieve with our remix video.

This example is great because it pulls from a series of popular movies with language on the theme of identity linking them together.

(Mitch Chaiet, Laura M. Krizan, Marc Speir)

Works Cited:

Nakamura, Lisa. “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet.” Works and Days: Essays in the Socio-Historical Dimensions of Literature & the Arts 25/26 (1995): 181-93. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.      

Facebook – Big Data or Big Brother?

Facebook – it’s a website that not even Orwell could imagine existing. A digital panopticon of sorts, Facebook tracks every single move its users make in order to refine its algorithms and push more and more engaging content into the ever-willing minds of its millions of followers.

The social media giant is an example of a so-called “digital enclosure,” which can be described as “a space of universalized recognition and communication in which the places through which we move and the objects they contain recognize individuals and communicate with them (via portable devices). It is a space within which cars know their location and can rapidly access information about their surroundings, one in which supermarket shelves know when they need to be stocked and when they are being approached by someone likely to buy a particular product” (Andrejevic). The connected world Andrejevic in his paper describes  the simple business model of Facebook – shove a hyper-refined, individually personalized and constant stream of engaging content in front of a Facebook user, keep them clicking within the site as long as possible, track their actions, and then rake in the ad money from their insights and information (a.k.a “contextual advertising”).

As a social science experiment, I participated in Mat Honan’s “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me.” Essentially, the experiment attempts to throw off Facebook’s content algorithms by instructing its participants to “like” every single post or ad given to them in their respective news feed for 48 hours straight and chronicle the differences before and after. A lot of information about Facebook’s internal algorithms and the data they collect can be gleaned from the company’s own Terms of Services and Privacy Policy. I used this information to help better understand why the effects of my personal version of the experiment differed greatly from Mat’s results. The first paragraph in Facebook’s Data Usage declares that they track and store everything you do.

thingsyoudo

One of the more notable consequences of this paragraph is that Facebook tracks the “types of content you view or engage with or the frequency or duration of your activities.” I am sure that message is at the bottom of the paragraph for a reason. This kind of detailed tracking allows Facebook’s algorithm to know, for instance, which videos in your news feed you watch, which videos you actually clicked on, which parts of videos you watched you actually payed attention to, the qualities of the certain portions of the video you were shown that you actually engaged with, and what videos it should feed you to keep you on Facebook longer and longer.

It also explains why as soon as I liked Purina Dog Food, ads with cute dogs prominently displayed were shown to me.

likepurina

ad

This happened almost instantly.

Overall, Honan’s experiment did not change my news feed too much at all. I constantly liked articles, pages, and photos, but nothing drastically changed. I did notice, however, that I felt I got more content relevant to my interests than usual, and it seemed more detailed than usual – instead of getting Daft Punk related news, I noticed a couple articles about the group’s specific members, and the celebrity gossip they were involved in, for instance. In true scientific fashion, I can only say that the experiment amplified what Facebook already knew about me: I like dance music, guitars, startup shenanigans, and funny pictures.

Works Cited:

Terms of service. (2015, January 30). Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Facebook, Facebook search terms    of service website,  https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

Data Policy. (2015, January 30). Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Facebook, Facebook data policy website, https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/

Honan, Matt. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | WIRED.” Wired. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.

Andrejevic, Mark. “Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure.” The Communication Review. Web. 21 Mar 2015.

Encyclopedia… of the FUTURE: Wikipedia and the Pros and Cons of Collective Media

Wikipedia. It’s name alone makes scholars cringe.

The notion of an online, collective encyclopedia that can be edited, sorted through, or added to by anyone and everyone with an Internet connection manages to conjure up images of a strange, futuristic sci-fi library, where information is constantly peer-reviewed, questioned, verified, and rejected.

ph_sci-fi_120035238_5905607

Not quite the sci-fi library I had in mind.

This is exactly what brings to the table. Wikipedia provides a robust platform for hobbyists and experts alike to collaborate and create knowledgeable and informative archives on a broad range of topics, from animals to Zoroastrianism. The modularity of the tools on Wikipedia allow for an infinite amount of knowledge to be stored and formatted for future reference.

Experts and amateurs alike have the same set of tools and knowledge available to them in this model. Giving everyone read/write access to the world’s vast amounts of collective knowledge in the same scholarly format as traditional encyclopedias however brings many pros and cons associated with it. Media scholars, grade school teachers, and librarians constantly criticize the open nature of the website, stating that they “worry that youth aren’t developing an appropriate level of skepticism about the kinds of information found on this particular site” (Jenkins).  On the other hand, millions of people use and trust Wikipedia everyday to provide them with a knowledgeable and extensive reference resource without a notion of regret. A dedicated portion of said users contribute to this collective knowledge database and keep it free from vandalism and forgery.

Consider the Wikipedia page for the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar a relevant example of the benefits, problems, and intricacies of the maintenance of a high profile Wikipedia entry. The Fender Stratocaster was one of the world’s first high-profile electric guitars, and to this day is an important part of worldwide music culture. Only rivaled in popularity by the ubiquitous Gibson Les Paul, the Fender Stratocaster still finds itself in the hands of Earth’s best guitarists to this day.

One of the first things I noticed upon finding the page was the following:

Untitled

The page should do illegal things so the cops will give it citations. Problem solved.

For such an important and seemingly well-documented musical icon, I did not expect there to be a loss of sources for the verification of historical data and other Stratocaster-related facts. However, given the some times anecdotal and legendary nature of music history, it is easy to see how allegedly true facts brought to the table for addition into the Fender Stratocaster page could be left out due to a lack of sources.

A significant factor in the quality of an article’s writing is the sum of the authors contributing and editing. For instance, if people with no musical background were the top maintainers of this article, it would not be of good quality. Here’s a breakdown of the writing of the Fender Stratocaster Wikipedia entry.

The entry is part of both the industrial design and guitar Wikipedia groups, and is rated as C Quality in both:

guit

If this page were a Mercedes, it’d be high end. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercedes-Benz_C-Class

c

While the C-Class quality might have something to do with the lack of verification sources that is causing the first box to appear, it is safe to assume that most of the top writers of this article are either industrial design oriented or guitar players.

Overall, Wikipedia proves itself to be both a quality source of peer-reviewed information good for the average person, in addition to being the source of much controversy among media scholars and teachers alike.


References:

WHAT WIKIPEDIA CAN TEACH US ABOUT THE NEW MEDIA LITERACIES (PART ONE). (2007, June 26). Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://henryjenkins.org/2007/06/what_wikipedia_can_teach_us_ab.html

Boots n’ Cats n’ Boots n’ Cats – The TR-808 Drum Machine


One of the most ubiquitous electronic instruments to ever hit the market, the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer (a.k.a. Drum Machine) has risen to legendary status both in name and in sound within the music industry. Featured on hit records in every genre of music under the sun, the 808 is still being used by rappers and rockers alike to this day.


Yea, it's dope.
The TR-808 Rhythm Composer by the Roland Corporation

First brought to market in early 1980 as a studio tool for creating song demos, the TR-808 fell in line with other Roland drum machines of the time by synthesizing its signature drum hits instead of sampling them. It did not sound very much like a real drum kit, and initially could not keep up with the sound and popularity of more expensive sample-based drum machines, such as the Linn LM-1 and the LinnDrum. Professionals considered the sound of the 808 to be inferior to the real sounds of inventor Roger Linn’s digital masterpieces. However, since the 808 only cost a fifth of what these sample based drum machines cost and was produced in a (relatively) much higher quantity, the TR-808 quickly established itself as an entry point into the world of drum machines, becoming a staple of hip-hop and rap music almost immediately after it’s release.

I believe that the TR-808 initially fits within the confines of John Onian’s Four Stages of Amazement quite well, but manages to break the rules at the end, just like a well-written piece of music.

My Idea of an ad for the TR-808 Rhythm Composer by Roland

A retrofuturistic interpretation of an ad for the TR-808.

John Onian’s Four Stages of Amazement are the following: “(1) a striking experience, usually visual, but sometimes aural; (2) a consequent physical paralysis; and (3) a mental reaction which results in something being learned which may be followed by (4) a new action.” (Gunning 41) Historically, this sequence leads to technology becoming boring and complacent, and I argue that the TR-808 has resisted such descriptions, instead becoming revered and sought after. The initial stages of amazement and striking experience are well documented;

“I first heard about the 808 a month or so before it was launched in 1981, and I was so blown away by the specification and price that I went straight down to Rod Argent’s music shop in Denmark Street and put down a deposit to secure one from the first shipment, without even hearing it!” (Sound On Sound, May 1997).

However, the legendary drum machine hasn’t become so commonplace that people aren’t in awe of it’s uniqueness anymore; rather, it has become so commonplace and sought after that Roland managed to re-release an identical, digital version of the same exact product almost thirty years after it’s initial release. It’s also one of the most sampled electronic instruments of all time, and regularly sells for over $4000 on eBay.

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