Author Archives: Mia Farinelli

Learning Narrative

Week 1 – Roots and Visions

We learned about the origins of the early Internet through the eyes of pioneer scholars in the field, such as Licklider and Englebart, big supporters of online connection between personal computers. From the concept of the OLIVER to the user as an H-LAM/T, Licklider and Englebart had great Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.25.06 PMvisions for the future of inter-computer interaction. In our class discussion, we tried to connect the ideas of the early Internet to the Internet that we know today. Betty also led an interactive co-teaching session in which we tackled some of our reading questions on various whiteboards in the classroom through discussion in small groups. Some of the questions that I posed based on the readings we had are below:

  1. Do you think that modern society possesses the equivalent of an OLIVER? If so, what manifestation(s) do you think it has taken, and if not, how close do you think we are to developing it/is it possible to develop?
  2. Do you think that the “gift economy” is still a viable way of sharing information? If so, so what are some ways modern society has adopted the concept, and if not, what has prevented the “gift economy” from persisting?
  3. Engelbart makes an interesting choice to define humans as H-LAM/T systems, essentially reducing humans to their capabilities in a way similar to understanding computers. Do you think this is still a valid definition of users as we continue to understand their interactions with technology?

During that week, I made a short and sweet introduction of myself, set some expectations that I had for myself and for the class, and made my own concept map of the class based on the syllabus. Through my discourse on the forum, I began a discussion about the Charlie Hebdo incident and the subsequent question of how we get our information about current events, commented on the popularity of Yik Yak, and shared an article on stress as a necessary consequence of becoming a more interconnected society.

Week 2 – Imagining Community

This week we tackled scholarly and contemporary definitions of community, and how those definitions apply to communities on the Internet. We discussed the relationship between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, learned about the Third Place, and negotiated the nature of
networked individualism, which is becoming more popular than common notions of neighborhood relationships. Michelle led a co-teaching session on reflecting on our own communities, both online and in real life, and Gabriel taught a brief learner lecture on new online applications that can be used to improve and facilitate productivity. Some of the questions that I posed in response to the readings we had for this week are below:

  1. Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.43.16 PMHow do the concepts of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft relate to technology, and do you think they can still be considered separate entities?
  2. Barry Wellman proposes that as our personal networks become more omnipresent, we will need to be more active in adding to and maintaining them. In what ways is this statement true or false?
  3. From your personal experience, what do you define as a community? How does your definition differ from that of an online community?
  4. In what ways can online communities serve as a third place, and in what ways can it not? Do you believe that there are cultural differences between Americans’ use of the Internet and Europeans’ use of the Internet, considering our respective relationships with third places?

On my blog, I responded to an optional reading called “The Machine Stops”, compared my use of online communities with those who considered themselves WELLites, and analyzed my own membership to the arts community at Stanford. I also reflected on self-organizing collaborations and collaborative lexicon-building, which both can be found below:

  1. On Self-Organizing Collaborations – I think the interesting thing about self-organization is that it allows for ideas and initial brainstorming to happen organically. As long as members of a community are open to throwing out ideas, you can find yourself drawn to what appeals to you, or you can find people who find your ideas appealing. It also helps to work out a unique but efficient way of working together; depending on your individual strengths and preferences, it’s usually better to come up with an organization method that combines those, rather than completing a task through a specified series of steps.
  2. On Collaborative Lexicon-Building – It’s very easy to skim through readings and to forget most of the content, especially when important vocab words or concepts are surrounded by large blocks of less relevant information. Lexicon building is a really good way of ensuring that people are paying closer attention, learning from each other, and solidifying important information from the texts. It also serves as a useful reference guide when reviewing past lessons.

Week 3 – Virtual Community and Real Life

Although we discussed topics such as “first and second lives” and collaborative online learning, we spent a significant portion of the class redesigning our syllabus and assignments for the rest of the quarter. As a result, questions that I had come up with in response to the readings were not utilized, but I will include them below for posterity’s sake:

  1. What differences in the relationships with peers and the relationships with teachers do you IMG_0078think change the way that students learn?
  2. Do you think the concept of “slowness” is important in combating inefficient and mindless information absorption? If so, do you think we need to impart this lesson on younger generations who never grew up without advanced technology?
  3. Why do you think the phenomenon of “romanticizing the past” occurs?
  4. Do you think it’s valid to view Second Life as its own socioeconomic class in real life? Why or why not?

After about an hour or so of discussion, deep thinking, and whiteboard brainstorming, we came up with the following academic structure for the rest of the quarter:


  • Write 2 blog posts for every week – one will be a response to one of the readings, and one will be a response to a co-teacher’s blog prompt
  • Comment on one of these two blog posts for every person in the class – 5 comments total per week


  • We will be exploring Reddit as a new platform for our forum discussions; however, we may decide to return to the original platform should navigation be easier
  • Check the forum on at least two different days of the week to ensure that people actively participate in forum discussions


  • Everyone will go once (members of the class who have already taught do not need to teach again)
  • On days with no co-teaching scheduled, the class will prepare questions from the readings to bring into class to interview Howard

Other Details

  • The Lexicon, while still available, is now an optional resource to update; you are not obligated to use it or update it unless it is helpful to you
  • We are getting rid of collaborative projects in favor of higher quality online interactions in our blog comments and forum discussions
  • Reading questions are no longer required, although please come into class prepared to discuss them
  • Final narratives will still happen at the end of the quarter, so continue to update learning journals as we go along

Week 4 – Identity and Presentation of Self

This week was our smallest class of the quarter, and also the week in which I co-taught on identity and presentation of self. We moved our class outside and discussed the nature of presenting identity online through different social media platforms, and how presentation of identity online changes with the nature of the platform and the user’s personal relationship with the Internet. I Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 1.58.20 PMled an activity in which pairs of students were assigned a generic bio of a fake person and were given the task to create a social media account for that fake person. I believe it helped us gain insight into what choices we make in how to present ourselves based on what we know about ourselves and what we want to share with the outside world. We also met guest lecturer Justin Hall and watched his autobiographical documentary on his relationship with the Internet.

I wrote two blog posts for this week: the first was a reflection on computer and Internet related language, and the second was a commentary on my portray of identity through social media. We moved our forum to Reddit, and on our first discussions on the new platform I talked about Sherry Tuckle’s phrase “identi-frag”, how one might perceive possessing “identi-frags” as liberating, and whether the “upvote” system is a good or bad innovation. I also made copious reading notes for this week, and you can peruse them by looking under the Week 4 section of my personal learning journal.

Week 5 – Social Networks

This week we defined social networks and what social network research looks like, discussed the impact of networked individualism on social networks, and talked about how people passively and actively consume content online. Notes that I took on our assigned readings can be found under Week 5 of my personal learning journal. Co-teaching took the form of a personal interview with Howard, and Luke presented briefly on the process of publicizing independent music in his learner lecture. Some of the interview questions can be found below:

  1. When was the first time you realized that the Internet could become a platform for commercialization or business?
  2. From “Information Accessed in a Networked World,” there was mention of three types of getting information: push, pull, and osmosis. Reflecting on the modern media platforms that you use, what do you think each of those sites exercise? Do they all demonstrate one particular method?
  3. What would you say are some ways that American youth can combat the effects of networks and networked individualism? How can we simultaneously maximize the benefits of new technology without sacrificing our real world skills/relationships?
  4. Online communities/social media led to the evolution of networked individualism. Do you think that this way of relating to other people is just a trend, or do you think it will play a strong role in future social relationships? Is network individualism changing/evolving into something else today?
  5. What do you think is the biggest and most pervasive myth about social media that people need to learn about?
  6. What do you think is the place for “formal” learning? Do you think that “formal” class structure based predominantly on “push” learning is valuable? When and when is it not?

I posted two blog posts this week, one on how social media is more compatible for introverts than standard face-to-face conversation, and one on how the popularized portrayal of the lone genius isn’t as much of a reality today as it used to be. The Reddit forum was busy this week, and topics such as presentation of self on Facebook as a true representation of identity and favorite social media platforms were abound with interesting articles and opinions.

Week 6 – Social Capital

This week we discussed different forms of social capital and why social capital works to form online communities. Michelle graciously volunteered to co-teach this week’s topic, and part of her co-teaching session involved asking Howard some interesting and tough questions on the nature and history of social capital, and on the pros and cons of digital collaborative learning. We participated in a small research activity determining how different organizations, from an individual YouTube star to a large collective action website such as, promote and operate with social capital. She also gave a learner lecture on how dancers share their choreography through YouTube. I did a blog post on an interesting article that I had read in the New York Times Magazine on humanizing passwords, and the forum was abound with discussions on modern social capital and our personal relationships with social capital.

Week 7 – Collective Action

In class we discussed the power of social media, memes, and hashtags in terms of collectiveScreen Shot 2015-03-14 at 3.07.12 PM action, from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to Black Lives Matter. One of the most prominent statements that I remember from our readings was that for human cooperation to be possible, there were three necessary conditions that needed to be in place:

  1. A likelihood of meeting in the future
  2. An ability to identify each other
  3. A record of past behavior

On social network platforms, particularly ones where members are allowed anonymity or a fake name as an identifier, number one of the list has ceased to apply. Therefore, the need to place a name to a behavior or a response has become more important in online discourse, and Gabriel’s co-teaching session led to a discussion that covered topics such as anonymity, upvoting, and sharing information for the sake of sharing information.

My last blog post for the quarter (due to a slew of other assignments and outside events that presented challenges to my organizational skills, thus decreasing the quality of my outside-of-class participation in COMM 182) discussed my relationship with a student organization on campus and how social media has been fundamental in securing the real life audiences we need to keep our organization running. The Reddit forum was a little quieter this week than in previous weeks, but it still maintained interesting discussions on how protests are making a comeback, “slacktivism”, and the concept of “tit for tat”. Howard also brought up an interesting question, asking what the difference is between collectivism and collective action.

Week 8 – The Public Sphere

Our last formal class together was filled with interesting discussion, as former students of Howard’s class and activist Wael Ghonim joined the table and provided some interesting discourse in response to Luke’s co-teaching session on Reddit. Anonymity and usernames rose up again as another heated discussion topic, as well as the supposed “inclusivity” of the Internet (due to the availability of the Internet based on social and economic resources available). We also talked about the answer to the question of collectivism vs. collective action and determined that collectivism is a system imposed on a group of people in order to maintain some semblance of status quo, while collective action is a bottom-up, society-driven call to action in order to cause change.

Betty led an interesting learner lecture on online dating and how the industry has boomed due to specialization and game-ification; I led a small learner lecture on cat videos, how they have risen to popularity, and why they continue to be so popular on the Internet today. All in all, the class was a great way to end the quarter, and I felt that I had taken a lot away from the class not only through Howard’s lectures and lesson plans, but also through discussions that I had with my peers.

Social Capital is Complicated…At Least for Organizations

Reflect on a time when you were part of an event (on the Internet) that was trying to establish social capital. Given our class discussion, how do you think that event could’ve been improved or gone better?

I’m not sure if I remember a specific time in which I was trying to establish social capital online, but I think the concept definitely applies to trying to organize events through social media. I’m a member of the Student Organizing Committee for the Arts, or SOCA (think Art After Dark or Winter Arts Party to jog 10348185_833160183410350_3803080798284857484_nyour memory), and we primarily use Facebook and mailing lists to let people know about our weekly events. And as much as we’d like to claim that our events are accessible by everyone on campus, many people will never hear of SOCA. The nature of our publicity schemes and the fact that we’re a four person team means that we’re only contacting people that have signed up to our mailing list, like us on Facebook, or happen to be our friends.

Unfortunately, for people to learn about us and to involve themselves with our organization to the bare minimum requires a few things. It requires knowledge of at least one person or event directly involved with SOCA, or being a friend of someone who is. It requires actually visiting an event or knowing someone who will perform in one. And it requires enjoying the experience enough to want updates on our whereabouts. All of these things require social capital, and some of that capital isn’t in our control. But what we can control is our recruiting effort, the kind of publicity that we put out there, the word of mouth that we can spread. Somehow it has to be valuable enough to be considered valid social capital. Eventually we’ll figure something out. But in the mean time, consider this a shameless plug to you all about our organization.

Humanizing the Internet: A Reflection

image8In November, NYTimes Magazine published an interesting article on one man’s exploration of the various hidden backstories, hopes, dreams, and regrets behind people’s passwords. You can read the full article at, with video interviews included. If you’re feeling TL;DR, here’s the abridged version: Surprise surprise, not many people actually take password suggestions from password generators. In fact, many Internet users disregard recommended guidelines for creating complex and secure passwords in favor of entering something that will be easy to remember. Ian Urbina, however, looks at this phenomenon through an anthropological lens, recounting various interviews discussing the motivations behind seemingly innocuous passwords.

The stories in and of themselves are fascinating, from passwords remembering dates of miscarriages to high school track records and everything in between. But for me, it’s less about the stories and more about why it happens. We’ve often talked in class about the potential of being “plugged in” too often for our own good, and that in some ways we sacrifice some of our humanity in exchange for online entertainment. However, we have to remember that in the end, humans are the ones behind the screen. And while we’ve created a creature of its own devices, we always seem to find ways to slip in bits and pieces of our humanity into the cracks. While it has the power to augment traditional social behaviors in unprecedented ways, I don’t believe it’s possible for computers to completely erase every instinct we have. We just have to keep in mind what priorities we have as social beings as we move forward in technological innovation.

Why the Lone Genius Isn’t a Reality Today (and Why That’s Okay)

da_vinci_human11Galileo. Bach. Michelangelo. Da Vinci. Picture these geniuses at work, and you’ll most likely think of them isolated in small, dark rooms, furiously hacking away at their next piece or discovery. We praise them for the ways they have singlehandedly shaped our present, but part of our praise comes from the emphasis of the phrase
“singlehandedly”. “How come we don’t have any more Renaissance painters?” you ask. “Where did all the Hemingways and Shakespeares go?” “Where is the modern day Einstein?”

They’re inside you. But they lie dormant, and only a fraction of them can be accessed by you alone.

To tell the truth, most of the men and women we consider geniuses today, contrary to popular belief, weren’t holed up in a room alone when they made their earth-shattering discoveries or finished their most impactful masterpieces.  Along the way, many friends, peers, and bodies helped them along the way. It just so happens that those people didn’t get mentioned in the credits. So when you ask where all the geniuses went, they didn’t disappear. The advent of technology has just made it more apparent that most genius occurs from collaboration rather than solo work. After all, Steven Johnson says that good ideas rarely come from “Eureka!” moments. They exist in bits and pieces that, with the right interactions and combinations with other people, become golden.

This thought may be disappointing to you, since society often frames individual celebrities and academics as the sole creators of their work and praise people when they achieve that. (Think about the argument that people have been making about Beck winning album of the year over Beyonce; one writer vs. 22 writers per song seems pretty compelling). But humans have always had a knack for solving problems and coming up with new ideas Where-good-ideas-come-fromthrough cooperation and collaboration; we are inherently social beings and enjoy finding new and inventive ways of talking to each other. Startups always seem to be built by groups of friends, after all.

Johnson’s theory, the “slow hunch”, is a pattern that he has observed over years of working with exploring creative and innovative spaces in offices, and it essentially claims that most ideas lay dormant in our heads and take long periods of time to evolve into something useful. Those ideas also tend to require some activation energy, namely the collision of other “hunches” that people may have, to get the first feelings of something formative. I believe he’s probably right when he says that most impactful artistic and scientific innovations have arisen from the “historic increase in connectivity”. We need to be able to borrow, steal, and build upon each other’s “hunches” to really get somewhere. That’s what letters and telephones facilitated in the past, and it’s what social media sites facilitate now.

I think it’s important to dial back on the belief that the best work comes from the individual effort and talent. While it’s impressive, it’s usually not how things work out, and it only creates an unhealthy pressure on our younger innovators and thinkers. So yes, Beck’s songs were entirely written by himself, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that millions of fans still love Beyonce’s most recent album. If we want to become better thinkers, have better ideas, and be better at working, we have to acknowledge just how important collaboration is in the larger scheme of things.

Comment on Social Media, or Networking for Introverts by Mia Farinelli

Howard: Another major introvert here: when I make a talk to thousands of people and I am staying in the same hotel so I have literally hundreds of social interactions, I find that I need to recharge my energy by spending time in my room. When the spotlight is on, I will perform with authentic energy. But I am not drawn to the spotlight. I’ve thought about this a lot over the years and concluded that although I am an introvert in the sense that interacting with many people is an expenditure of energy rather than an influx of energy, I am very sociable. So I spend a great deal of time communicating with many people via social media. Something about being physically alone and in control of the circumstances of online interaction removes the factor that causes face to face interaction to be somewhat draining of my energy. I think there’s room for more research in this regard. Am I choosing to relate to people on a more superficial level, or am I using the affordances of social media to adjust my comfort level with social interactions?


Social Media, or Networking for Introverts

I am an introvert who has learned to live in an extrovert world. On the outside, I have a bright smile for every new person I meet, but on the inside my discomfort levels are skyrocketing. But let me clarify for those of you who now believe that I am someone who lives in constant fear of social interaction.

The best way to define introverts and extroverts is the way they accrue social energy, rather than how they use that energy. After all, there are extroverts who can be shy and introverts who can be outgoing! However, introextroverts gain energy through social interaction: the more they chat and hang out with others, the better they feel. They are fueled by parties, get togethers, dates, reunions…anything that can get them talking. Introverts, on the other hand, gain energy from themselves. Socializing, while fun at times, ultimately drains energy from an introvert, and there’s only so much conversing that an introvert can do before he or she needs to retreat to their happy place and recharge. Social interactions are not inherently scary to me, but the thought of how much energy will be sapped out of me for every new interaction is what gives me pause.

In reading “The New Social Operating System of Networked Individualism” (wow, what a mouthful), my introverted lightbulb went off. I initially had no rational reasoning for why I preferred texting someone over calling them, or writing them a letter over meeting them face to face. I chalked it up to irrational social anxiety and called it a day. But there is an inherent easiness to using Facebook or text message over striking up a real life conversation, and that easiness comes from the lack of stress having to deal with real-time interaction. No longer do I have to worry about what my voice sounds like, if I look interested enough, or if my brain can’t think of the right words to say in that exact moment. I get the time to craft my exact message in the comfort of my own computer, with a screen between me and my conversation partner.

And in reality, this is the case for a lot of introverts. The quieter kids at school find outlets online where they have the safety net that social media provides. Tumblr, Reddit, Twitter, you name it; suddenly, another large Employee-Online-Networks-largepopulation has a louder voice than they did before. It’s empowering. And while Wellman and Rainie do mention that online networks require much more active participation on the part of the individual, introverts feel more comfortable with this kind of work. With the barriers of social anxiety down, introverts can find the confidence to seek new followers, retweets, friends, and relationships through their own content.

And for better or for worse, certain social expectations and courtesies also go out the window. Someone doesn’t respond to your Facebook message right away? They’re probably in class or they fell asleep, and you let it go for the time being. Your high school friend hasn’t talked to you in a while? They’re probably incredibly busy with their own lives, but they’ll most likely be happy to chat with you as soon as they have the time, and they’d still like to know what’s going on with you. Wellman and Rainie believe that online social networks can be socially taxing because maintaining relationships requires more active participation on the part of those who want that relationship, but at the same time, that list of friends on Facebook won’t change unless you unfriend someone. Your computer will remember your friends for you, and more often than not, your friends will be grateful for that. For introverts, online networking goes at its own pace and in its own style, and that’s perfect for those who want to slow down a little bit.

Curating the Self: An Exploration of My Social Media

Think about the social media platforms that you use on a regular basis. What kind of image, if any, do you try to portray online? Do you create separate personas for different platforms? How representative would you say your online profiles are of you as a whole?

The way that we present ourselves online is much more regulated than it used to be. In the days of Justin Hall’s blogging prime, there weren’t any corporate templates that we could use to express ourselves. In those days, if you wanted your voice heard on the web, you had to build your blog from the ground up with any garish and 1397917093_2c0b5487accrude HTML commands you could come up with. It wasn’t pretty, but it was your own, and it was freeform. Today, we can skip the tedious design process and use sites like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Squarespace, and thousands of others. However, the way that these sites are designed, and the ways in which we perceive these sites should be used, dictate a lot of our self-expression and online identity.

Facebook is the place where you are expected to be “yourself”. Facebook policy mandates that you must use your real-life name (and puts limits on changes to your name), and Mark Zuckerberg claims that users can only have one “true identity”; multiple identities suggests a lack of authenticity in a user, and Facebook aims to limit that kind of behavior on the way that it’s structured. Thus, Facebook users have learned over time to curate material that looks good specifically for the Facebook timeline, Facebook photo albums, Facebook group affiliations, and so on and so forth. Ultimately, this gives the impression that people are pressured to curate an ideal representation of their real life online, and they must do so through the limited mediums of statuses and pictures. My personal choice is not to reveal much through text, but to portray my life experiences through photos. People tend to be much more interested in photos than reading blocks of text, and they tend to be even more interested in looking at photos of their friends, so why not curate my life to satisfy the desires of other Facebook users I’m friends with?

As you explore more options on the Internet, you can find more freeform options. Tumblr is a happy medium between restrictive Facebook and freeform HTML/C++ coding (although leaning towards Facebook’s structure), providing a basic framework for users to curate images, links, and articles that they are interested in, but img_logo_bluebg_2xallowing more advanced users to play with the design, look, and feel of their personal blogs to better represent their online image. Sites like Squarespace and WordPress also serve this purpose, but without the vibrant news feed that Tumblr has to let users feed on each other for new and interesting content. It is here where I freeze up. People spend an unusual amount of time crafting the exact portrayal of their content and their online personality; shouldn’t I do the same? Suddenly, thoughts and fears about exactly how I want the Internet world to see me flood my head, and instead of creating, I passively consume instead. It’s the same with Pinterest, Ravelry, Instagram, Flickr, and honestly any other social media site that I use to some degree of regularity: the issue of image portrayal freezes me in place, and I hesitate to act. This is not meant to be a sob story on how I’m incapable of blogging online, but rather a small, personal statement on how our society views the value of online image.

As a result, I hesitate to say that anything that currently represents me on the Internet even represents some sizable portion of who I am. But the formatting and restrictive nature of some of the most popular social media sites can be both liberating and paralyzing to users in how they choose to express themselves online. At best, we can represent accurately curated “identi-frags” of who we are through familiar templates. But who is to say that those templates are the one and only way of representing ourselves? It’s important not to lose sight of the myriad of ways in which life can happen to us and how we can control the direction of our lives, and that many times our experiences can not be confined to a text box or uploading a photo.

Folder, File, Function – The Omnipresence of the Modern Computer Interface

It started with COMM 169. On the projector screen were the first representations of various actions you could perform on a computer: a pixelated paintbrush to represent the paste function, a pair of scissors that allowed you to cut text, and even a poorly illustrated tree to represent…creating a new document? (Needless to say, that manila-folderone hasn’t persisted over the years.) This was my first eye-opener into the logic and historic progression of the computer interface. There was a time in which these seemingly simple functions weren’t so easy to understand. Engineers and developers had to find a way to represent these functions as paralleled actions in the real world.

In the stagnant heat of the lecture room the TA struggled to impart on us the importance of a good interface. It has to be simple, it has to be intuitive, and hopefully it’ll look good too. It’s so important to get this right that there are thousands of people out there who are being paid specifically to design good user interfaces.  And often, it’s a thankless job. The person who designed the Safari browser logo probably didn’t anticipate that I wouldn’t recognize that it was a compass until I was too old to admit it. The person who designed the ubiquitous power on/off icon would most likely never be able to share his or her design choices, and yet it exists on every piece of technology we own. Somehow throughout my whole life I had assumed that terms like “cut and paste”, “surf and browse”, and “save and quit” were idiosyncratic phrases associated with the computer; there was no explanation for them, they just existed, and they were what you said when you wanted to describe virtually anything you did on a computer. However, behind every single icon and term, there was a deliberate choice made to use that linguistic and visual cue as a representation for that action.

power-on-computer_318-26613Sherry Turkle, in her book Life on the Screen, writes that “The simulated desktop that the Macintosh presented came to be far more than a user friendly gimmick for marketing computers to the inexperienced. It introduced a way of thinking that put a premium on surface manipulation and working in ignorance of the underlying mechanism.” This resonated with my personal interaction with computers growing up; I adopted computer jargon without questioning where it came from or why we used it, and any vocabulary that shared meaning with its real life counterpart were considered completely separate actions in my mind. A desktop in real life was simply a surface on which school papers piled up and I worked away at my math homework in disgust, but on the computer the desktop was the home base, the foundation, the place in which all other things began. A document in real life was an official piece of paper that important people signed, but on the computer a document was a fresh sheet of paper with infinite capabilities, a place where I could type thousands of words of my new novel or insert my favorite pictures from the internet at the click of a button. In the frenzy of creation, of working, of entertainment, the phrases and icons slipped into the background and the computer became a natural yet powerful and instantaneous extension of myself.

Back in the day, however, engineers and developers had no idea what the personal computer would look like. How would one interact with it? What possibilities were there for people to make something meaningful out of it? Turkle writes, “The new opaque interfaces – most specifically, the Macintosh iconic style of interface, which simulates the space of a desktop as well as communication through dialogue – represented more than a technical change. These new interfaces modeled a way of understanding that depended on getting to know a 17computer through interacting with it, as one might get to know a person or explore a town.” Out of the infinite possibilities there were in how the computer would be designed, the way that we interact with it now is the only way we understand computers to be. It’s almost impossible to imagine a computer where you don’t point and click with a mouse and cursor, where you don’t consume media by looking at windows, where you don’t type and click with your hands. The computers that we know and love were pioneered by the early Macintoshes and Windows, and so far we haven’t seen any other kinds of interfaces. Part of it may have to do with the reason we don’t radically change the design of cars: if buttons, gears, and visuals are placed in vastly different places, the majority of drivers in the world would lose the ability to competently control a car. But part of it has to do with the norms and expectations we have for what an interface should look like. We now expect computers to be interactive, tactile, and representative of real-life functions, all without thinking about it. To be honest, I find the whole concept mind-boggling. Maybe someday a radical group of minds will find a way to completely reimagine the computer. But in the meantime, we will continue to cut and paste away, not truly understanding how much the interface of the modern computer may be enabling or limiting us.

Comment on Moving Life Online – Me vs. the WELLites by Mia Farinelli

Haha sorry I guess I was a little bit vague about the “real life experiences” thing. Usually when I do post on FB it’s to advertise about an upcoming event, such as a show that I’m in, a party, or a recently passed experience like going to a concert or hanging out with a friend. In short, most things I post on FB have to do with real life events or occurrences, rather than thoughts or emotions or things that happen online.
I actually happen to be very picky about what I retweet or reblog on Twitter and Tumblr because I have this weird feeling that I need to craft my image very carefully on those sites. I feel that those sites are more public and are more about looking at things relating to your specific interests; so far I have abstained from disturbing the waters and I rarely do anything that would leave a notification on someone else’s feed.


Me…and the Arts on Campus

Look at the image of the community you drew before discussion today as a case study. From the discussion we had today, what traits do you think makes it a community? Do you think social media and modern technology could impact on how your community functions?

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Upon reflection of the activity that Michelle proposed to us in class last week, one word that comes to mind when I look at my community map is “egocentric”. I mean, you can’t not look at the giant circle in the center and think that this map is about a balanced, equal community. Instead, it’s about me…and the various people I know that are members of the community of arts on Stanford’s campus.

How did it end up this way? Why isn’t this picture your stereotypical visual web of people? Why is my circle so friggin’ big?

I don’t know about you, but for me, it represents a shift in the way that I think about community. Staring at the blank page, there was no one community that I truly felt a part of. Everything that I could think of was “me vs. them”, me playing my part in different, mostly unconnected circles of people. The more a circle intersected with me, the more “involved” I felt I had been in joining them.

How this map represents community to me is relatively limited: every group shares the passion for art to varying degrees, and everyone involved all go to Stanford. In reality though, almost none of these groups overwhelmingly overlap, and for some, I’m the only link between them. Little emotional or intellectual support exists between these people, and cultural norms vary widely between them. A sense of belonging only exists when you forge it yourself.

They didn’t call Gen Y the “Me Me Me” generation for nothing. And it’s possible that social media hasn’t helped. American culture is so much about discovering your independence and celebrating what makes you unique that it’s often hard not to see everything in terms of you. People spend so much time crafting Facebook profiles to be the ideal of who they are that the discrepancy between virtual and real life is staggering. Selfies on Instagram are so numerous that if someone did that with a physical photo album 20 years ago, they’d probably be diagnosed with narcissism. Just as much as social media can provide the grounds for creating communities, it also has the power to divide us and segment us into our own, self-important pods.

Many people globally have wielded the Internet as a powerful tool for seeking out like-minded relationships and communities. It’s possible that my journey down that road hasn’t begun yet and that there is so much out there for me to truly become a part of. But for now, the inertia of life and the big fat circle in the center of the page is enough to keep me rooted in my ways.