Intro to Digital Technology & Emerging Media DTEM1401 (Fall 2018)
The syllabus is here.
It is useful for you to know how technology works. Unfortunately we will not be able to go through this in great detail in the course. Fortunately there are some excellent resources online. See for example: How does the Internet work?, How Internet Infrastructure Works, and McNamee et al, How the Internet Works: A guide for policy-makers. European Digital Rights. Also check out Julien Hopkins: How to Define Social Media – An Academic Summary.
This quiz asks if you can tell the difference between surveillance techniques which currently exist and techniques used in Black Mirror episodes. For each question select Surveillance Society or Black Mirror. This was inspired by @hypervisible’s thread on invasive surveillance.
Tim Wu, The Tyranny of Convenience, New York Times Opinion. Feb. 16, 2018.
Convenience is the most underestimated and least understood force in the world today. As a driver of human decisions, it may not offer the illicit thrill of Freud’s unconscious sexual desires or the mathematical elegance of the economist’s incentives. Convenience is boring. But boring is not the same thing as trivial.
Jay Owens, Post-Authenticity and the Ironic Truths of Meme Culture, Medium. April 11, 2018.
Reality’s been having a tough time of it lately. From fake news to fake video to the utter charade of our Instagram personas, ‘authenticity’ seems to be over. When everything is an ironic meme, what are the new vectors for talking truth?
Week 1 Introduction to DTEM Technology, Access, & Media History
Standage: Writing on the Wall Chapter 2
Week 2 Technology, Access, & Media History
Week 3 Reality & Hyperreality
Black Mirror (s02e03) The Waldo Moment
Black Mirror (s03e05) Men Against Fire
Striphas, T. (2015). Algorithmic culture. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 18(4-5), 395-412.
The purpose of this essay is to trace some of the conceptual conditions out of which algorithmic culture has emerged and, in doing so, to offer a preliminary treatment on what it is. In the vein of Raymond Williams’ Keywords, I single out three terms whose bearing on the meaning of the word culture seems to have been unusually strong during the period in question: information, crowd and algorithm. My claim is that the offloading of cultural work onto computers, databases and other types of digital technologies has prompted a reshuffling of some of the words most closely associated with culture, giving rise to new senses of the term that may be experientially available but have yet to be well named, documented or recorded. This essay, though largely historical, concludes by connecting the dots critically to the present day. What is at stake in algorithmic culture is the gradual abandonment of culture’s publicness and the emergence of a strange new breed of elite culture purporting to be its opposite.
Nathan Jurgenson: The IRL Fetish, The New Inquiry. June 28, 2012
The deep infiltration of digital information into our lives has created a fervor around the supposed corresponding loss of logged-off real life. Each moment is oversaturated with digital potential: Texts, status updates, photos, check-ins, tweets, and emails are just a few taps away or pushed directly to your buzzing and chirping pocket computer — anachronistically still called a “phone.”
Week 4 Participatory Culture and fan production
Black Mirror (s04e01) USS Callister
What is participatory culture? In Delwiche, A., & Henderson, J. J. (Eds.). (2012). The participatory cultures handbook. Routledge.
Academics often think in terms of disciplinary boundaries, but participatory-culture studies are more properly thought of as an emergent, interdisciplinary project. As early tremors rippled across our global media and technology landscapes, scholars across disciplines noticed common patterns and began referencing each other’s work. In fact, some of the most useful research on this topic never uses the phrase “participatory culture.” For decades, researchers have been writing about contribution, collaboration, and collective knowledge. In an attempt to get a handle on recent scholarship that provides the foundation for this collection, we suggest that participatory culture studies can be divided into four distinct phases.
Massanari, A. (2013). Playful participatory culture: Learning from Reddit. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 3.
I argue that understanding these spaces as games provides a deeper understanding of the interactions between participants and the culture of Reddit at large. It can also help us explore how individuals assign meaning to things like “karma points” and engage in reflexive talk about the rewards and rules governing play. At the same time, this research suggests the “game” of Reddit is not unproblematic, as who can play, how they can play, and what play looks like often reinscribes many hegemonic tendencies of (internet) culture more broadly.
Week 5 Property, Ownership & Work
Black Mirror (s01e02) 15 Million Merits
Bergvall‐Kåreborn, B., & Howcroft, D. (2014). Amazon Mechanical Turk and the commodification of labour. New Technology, Work and Employment, 29(3), 213-223.
Crowd employment platforms enable firms to source labour and expertise by leveraging Internet technology. Rather than offshoring jobs to low-cost geographies, functions once performed by internal employees can be outsourced to an undefined pool of digital labour using a virtual network. This enables firms to shift costs and offload risk as they access a flexible, scalable workforce that sits outside the traditional boundaries of labour laws and regulations. The micro-tasks of ‘clickwork’ are tedious, repetitive and poorly paid, with remuneration often well below minimum wage. This article will present an analysis of one of the most popular crowdsourcing sites—Mechanical Turk—to illuminate how Amazon’s platform enables an array of companies to access digital labour at low cost and without any of the associated social protection or moral obligation.
Arcidiacono, D., Gandini, A., & Pais, I. (2018). Sharing what? The ‘sharing economy’ in the sociological debate. Sociological Review 275-288
This essay introduces the subject and interpretative perspective of the monograph ‘Unboxing the Sharing Economy’, and is divided into three parts. The first part illustrates the evolution of the concept of the ‘sharing economy’ and the main analytical implications. The second part outlines the key findings of a systematic review of the literature, which indicates both that academic research on the sharing economy has expanded considerably since 2013, and that sociology’s contribution to this debate remains underdeveloped and somewhat incoherent. The final part both locates the contributions to the monograph in the context of other studies and summarizes its content.
Week 6 Identity & Culture
Black Mirror (s01e03) The Entire History of You
Marwick, A. (2013). “Online Identity.” In Hartley, J., Burgess, J. & Bruns, A. (eds), Companion to New Media Dynamics. Blackwell Companions to Cultural Studies. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 355-364.
In this chapter, I discuss some basic theories of identity, apply them to new media contexts, and look specifically at social network sites, blogs, and microblogging services like Twitter to examine some of the major issues surrounding identity and new media today.
Nakamura Measuring Race on the Internet
Week 7 Technology, Body & Death
Black Mirror (s02e01) Be Right Back
Black Mirror (s03e04) San Junipero
Myles, D., & Millerand, F. (2016). Mourning in a ‘Sociotechnically’ Acceptable Manner: A Facebook Case Study. In Memory in a Mediated World (pp. 229-243). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
This chapter investigates how mourning practices are transposed on and performed through social network sites (SNS). We define mourning practices as the ways in which bereavement status is performed and grief is expressed in socially acceptable manners. This interest in the social dimension of mourning was already present in Durkheim’s work (1912/2008, p. 567) in which he argues that ‘grief is not the spontaneous expression of individual emotions’.1 Mourning practices are framed through a series of conventions, customs and rules (Baudry, 2003) that authorize certain rights and privileges, but also stress certain restrictions and obligations to specific individuals (de Vries, 2001; Sklar, 1991). Mourning ‘causes mass or individual behaviours (attitudes, conducts, rituals) that are more or less strictly codified depending on cases, places and times’ (Thomas, 1988, p. 44).
Walter, T. (2015). New mourners, old mourners: Online memorial culture as a chapter in the history of mourning. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, 21(1-2), 10-24.
How does online mourning differ from offline mourning? Demographic, social and technological changes alter mourners’ social relationships with both the living and the dead, and hence their experiences of grief. Online technologies comprise the latest chapter in this story; earlier chapters include family/community mourning (pre-industrial), private mourning (twentieth century), and public mourning (turn of the millennium). Pervasive social media in which users generate their own content have significantly shifted mourners’ social interactions and the norms that govern them, partly in new directions (such as enfranchising previously stigmatised griefs; more potential for conflict between mourners and others) but partly returning to something more like the relationships of the pre-industrial village (such as everyday awareness of mortality, greater use of religious imagery, more potential for conflict among mourners). Online, mourners can experience both greater freedom to be themselves and increased social pressure to conform to group norms as to who should be mourned and how.
Week 8 Selfies, Oversharing & Blocking
Black Mirror (s03e01) Nosedive
Kennedy, J. (2016). Conceptual boundaries of sharing. Information, Communication & Society, 19(4), 461-474.
hough sharing is a central concept of networked culture, in this paper I show how its boundaries with other social theories of exchange have not been sufficiently established nor has the concept itself been adequately critiqued. Most significantly, this paper problematizes how sharing is implicated and positioned in studies of networked culture. I argue that a framework for a theory of sharing is needed and identify three distinct perspectives in the literature: sharing as an economy driven by social capital; sharing as a mode of scaled distribution; and sharing as a site of social intensification. It is shown how the use of the term sharing in the description of practices in networked culture is fraught with ambiguity. The paper concludes by elucidating how a focus on sharing practices can advance the field.
Rettberg, J. W. (2014). Seeing ourselves through technology: How we use selfies, blogs and wearable devices to see and shape ourselves. Springer.
Wendt, B. (2014). The allure of the selfie: Instagram and the new self-portrait. Institute of Network Cultures, Hogeschool van Amsterdam.
Week 9 Microcelebrity & Celebrity Activism
Black Mirror (s02e02) White Bear
Marwick, A. E. (2015). You May Know Me from YouTube:(Micro‐) Celebrity in Social Media. A companion to celebrity, 333-350.
While fame has existed for centuries, celebrity is inextricably linked to media. The peculiar mixture of larger-than-life personas and the feelings of connection and intimacy they inspire are formed and spread through mass media (Rojek 2001). Thus, as media changes, so does celebrity. In the last two decades, we have seen dramatic changes in the concept of celebrity from one related solely to mass and broadcast media to one that reflects a more diverse media landscape; for instance, reality television has both revealed the mundane day-to-day lives of pop stars and sitcom actors as it simultaneously transforms ordinary people into celebrities (Kavka 2012). More recently, media technologies like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vine, and Instagram have enabled both famous and non-famous people to generate vast quantities of personal media, manipulate and distribute this content widely, and reach out to (real or imagined) audiences.
Tsaliki, L. (2015). “Tweeting the Good Causes”: Social Networking and Celebrity Activism. A companion to celebrity, 235-257.
Though it may true that “celebrityhood” is now part of a new cultural vocabulary – thus attesting to the pervasiveness of celebrity culture in our everyday lives – and that celebrities provide a common point of reference for us all, we have to appreciate that contemporary celebrity activism and charity is the result of a complex relationship between celebrities, the media, and their public. Celebrities establish a symbiotic relationship with the media by feeding them information on their latest release, romance, personal crisis and drama, while at the same time they take up an active interest in one of the “good causes” – whether that might be the Food Revolution, Occupy Wall Street, child soldiers, or landmines in Africa.
Week 10 Surveillance and Privacy
Black Mirror (s04e02) Arkangel
Galič, M., Timan, T., & Koops, B. J. (2017). Bentham, Deleuze and beyond: An overview of surveillance theories from the panopticon to participation. Philosophy & Technology, 30(1), 9-37.
This paper aims to provide an overview of surveillance theories and concepts that can help to understand and debate surveillance in its many forms. As scholars from an increasingly wide range of disciplines are discussing surveillance, this literature review can offer much-needed common ground for the debate. We structure surveillance theory in three roughly chronological/thematic phases.
Bakir, V. (2015). “Veillant Panoptic Assemblage”: Mutual Watching and Resistance to Mass Surveillance after Snowden. Media and Communication, 3(3).
Attention to such public oversight mechanisms facilitates critical interrogation of issues of surveillant power, resistance and intelligence accountability. It directs attention to the veillant panoptic assemblage (an arrangement of profoundly unequal mutual watching, where citizens’ watching of self and others is, through corporate channels of data flow, fed back into state surveillance of citizens). Finally, it enables evaluation of post-Snowden steps taken towards achieving an equiveillant panoptic assemblage (where, alongside state and corporate surveillance of citizens, the intelligence-power elite, to ensure its accountability, faces robust scrutiny and action from wider civil society).
Week 11 Hackers and Trolls
Black Mirror (s03e03) Shut Up and Dance
Phillips, W. (2011). LOLing at tragedy: Facebook trolls, memorial pages and resistance to grief online. First Monday, 16(12).
This paper examines the emergence of organized trolling behaviors on Facebook, specifically in relation to memorial groups and fan pages. In addition to mapping the development of RIP trolling — in which online instigators post abusive comments and images onto pages created for and dedicated to the deceased — the paper also examines the highly contentious and ultimately parasitic relationship(s) between memorial trolls, Facebook’s social networking platform and mainstream media outlets. Recalling Oring’s account of disaster humor, the paper goes on to suggest that, inadvertently or not, Facebook memorial page trolling presents a pointed critique of a tragedy–obsessed global media.
Massanari, A. (2017). #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures. New Media & Society, 19(3), 329-346.
This article considers how the social-news and community site Reddit.com has become a hub for anti-feminist activism. Examining two recent cases of what are defined as “toxic technocultures” (#Gamergate and The Fappening), this work describes how Reddit’s design, algorithm, and platform politics implicitly support these kinds of cultures. In particular, this piece focuses on the ways in which Reddit’s karma point system, aggregation of material across subreddits, ease of subreddit and user account creation, governance structure, and policies around offensive content serve to provide fertile ground for anti-feminist and misogynistic activism. The ways in which these events and communities reflect certain problematic aspects of geek masculinity are also considered.
Week 12 Crime, Justice & Activism
Black Mirror (s04e03) Crocodile
Black Mirror 2014 Christmas Special – White Christmas
Milan, S. (2015). From social movements to cloud protesting: the evolution of collective identity. Information, Communication & Society, 18(8), 887-900.
This article develops a conceptual framework for understanding collective action in the age of social media, focusing on the role of collective identity and the process of its making. It is grounded on an interactionist approach that considers organized collective action as a social construct with communicative action at its core (Melucci, 1996). It explains how micromobilization is mediated by social media, and argues that social media play a novel broker role in the activists’ meaning construction processes.
Bonilla, Y., & Rosa, J. (2015). # Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American Ethnologist, 42(1), 4-17.
As thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to protest the fatal police shooting of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown in the summer of 2014, news and commentary on the shooting, the protests, and the militarized response that followed circulated widely through social media networks. Through a theorization of hashtag usage, we discuss how and why social media platforms have become powerful sites for documenting and challenging episodes of police brutality and the misrepresentation of racialized bodies in mainstream media. We show how engaging in “hashtag activism” can forge a shared political temporality, and, additionally, we examine how social media platforms can provide strategic outlets for contesting and reimagining the materiality of racialized bodies.
Week 13 Friending, dating and relating
Black Mirror (s04e04) Hang the DJ
Hess, A., & Flores, C. (2016). Simply more than swiping left: A critical analysis of toxic masculine performances on Tinder Nightmares. New Media & Society.
Launching in September 2012, Tinder has become a popular phenomenon in the world of online dating and hookup culture. Simultaneously, it carries notorious reputation for being home to hypersexual and toxic masculine expressions. This analysis examines Tinder Nightmares, an Instagram page featuring failed attempts at hooking up, as a site that promotes counter-disciplining the deliberate toxic masculine performances on Tinder. Through a Foucauldian lens, we argue that this page delimits the toxic masculine performances through the outward display of crude performances, the showcasing of witty responses from Tinder users, and the extension of counter-discipline through digital circulation practices on the page. Given that Tinder is a location-aware app, the discipline offered through Tinder Nightmares surfaces in interpersonal, physical, and networked spaces, as Tinder users become multiply implicated public subjects of shame across media platforms.
Wallace, L., James, T. L., & Warkentin, M. (2017). How do you feel about your friends? Understanding situational envy in online social networks. Information & Management, 54(5), 669-682.
Online social networks (OSNs) offer a stream of information that readily provides comparison opportunities, often resulting in feelings of envy. Two factors that drive OSN-situational envy (OSN-SE) are a user’s personality and needs. Leveraging the five-factor model of personality and uses and gratifications theory, we explore how personality traits and OSN use affect OSN-SE. Data from 625 survey responses indicate that Facebook users experience greater OSN-SE when they exhibit neuroticism and use Facebook to gratify needs to gather information, seek attention, or pass time, suggesting that envy- prone users should use OSN for specific purposes and avoid passive pursuits.
Week 14 Platform Politics & Surveillance Capitalism
Gillespie, T. (2010). The politics of ‘platforms’. New media & society, 12(3), 347-364.
Online content providers such as YouTube are carefully positioning themselves to users, clients, advertisers and policymakers, making strategic claims for what they do and do not do, and how their place in the information landscape should be understood. One term in particular, ‘platform’, reveals the contours of this discursive work. The term has been deployed in both their populist appeals and their marketing pitches, sometimes as technical ‘platforms’, sometimes as ‘platforms’ from which to speak, sometimes as ‘platforms’ of opportunity. Whatever tensions exist in serving all of these constituencies are carefully elided. The term also fits their efforts to shape information policy, where they seek protection for facilitating user expression, yet also seek limited liability for what those users say. As these providers become the curators of public discourse, we must examine the roles they aim to play, and the terms by which they hope to be judged.
Zuboff, S. (2015). Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization. Journal of Information Technology, 30(1), 75-89.
This article describes an emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere, ‘surveillance capitalism,’ and considers its implications for ‘information civilization.’ The institutionalizing practices and operational assumptions of Google Inc. are the primary lens for this analysis as they are rendered in two recent articles authored by Google Chief Economist Hal Varian. Varian asserts four uses that follow from computer-mediated transactions: ‘data extraction and analysis,’ ‘new contractual forms due to better monitoring,’ ‘personalization and customization,’ and ‘continuous experiments.’ An examination of the nature and consequences of these uses sheds light on the implicit logic of surveillance capitalism and the global architecture of computer mediation upon which it depends. This architecture produces a distributed and largely uncontested new expression of power that I christen: ‘Big Other.’ It is constituted by unexpected and often illegible mechanisms of extraction, commodification, and control that effectively exile persons from their own behavior while producing new markets of behavioral prediction and modification. Surveillance capitalism challenges democratic norms and departs in key ways from the centuries long evolution of market capitalism.
Week 15 Fake News and Manufactured Outrage
Black Mirror (s03e06) Hated in the Nation
Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-36.
American democracy has been repeatedly buffeted by changes in media technology. In the 19th century, cheap newsprint and improved presses allowed partisan newspapers to expand their reach dramatically. Many have argued that the effectiveness of the press as a check on power was significantly compromised as a result (for example, Kaplan 2002). In the 20th century, as radio and then television became dominant, observers worried that these new platforms would reduce substantive policy debates to sound bites, privilege charismatic or “telegenic” candidates over those who might have more ability to lead but are less polished, and concentrate power in the hands of a few large corporations (Lang and Lang 2002; Bagdikian 1983). In the early 2000s, the growth of online news prompted a new set of concerns, among them that excess diversity of viewpoints would make it easier for like-minded citizens to form “echo chambers” or “filter bubbles” where they would be insulated from contrary perspectives (Sunstein 2001a, b, 2007; Pariser 2011). Most recently, the focus of concern has shifted to social media. Social media platforms such as Facebook have a dramatically different structure than previous media technologies. Content can be relayed among users with no significant third party filtering, fact-checking, or editorial judgment. An individual user with no track record or reputation can in some cases reach as many readers as Fox News, CNN, or the New York Times.
Klang & Madison – Vigilantism or Outrage: An Exploration of Policing Social Norms through Social Media
Week 16 Quantified Self & Health
Sharon, T. (2017). Self-tracking for health and the quantified self: Re-articulating autonomy, solidarity, and authenticity in an age of personalized healthcare. Philosophy & Technology, 30(1), 93-121.
Self-tracking devices point to a future in which individuals will be more involved in the management of their health and will generate data that will benefit clinical decision making and research. They have thus attracted enthusiasm from medical and public health professionals as key players in the move toward participatory and personalized healthcare. Critics, however, have begun to articulate a number of broader societal and ethical concerns regarding self-tracking, foregrounding their disciplining, and disempowering effects. This paper has two aims: first, to analyze some of the key promises and concerns that inform this polarized debate. I argue that far from being solely about health outcomes, this debate is very much about fundamental values that are at stake in the move toward personalized healthcare, namely, the values of autonomy, solidarity, and authenticity. The second aim is to provide a framework within which an alternative approach to self-tracking for health can be developed. I suggest that a practice-based approach, which studies how values are enacted in specific practices, can open the way for a new set of theoretical questions. In the last part of the paper, I sketch out how this can work by describing various enactments of autonomy, solidarity, and authenticity among self-trackers in the Quantified Self community. These examples show that shifting attention to practices can render visible alternative and sometimes unexpected enactments of values. Insofar as these may challenge both the promises and concerns in the debate on self-tracking for health, they can lay the groundwork for new conceptual interventions in future research.
Elizabeth Wissinger: From “Geek” to “Chic”: Wearable Technology and the Woman Question