Comment on the cathartic public sphere by Betty Hancock

I’m a little surprised to hear you say that you think a lot of the content online is driven by corporate interest. On Reddit, everything is upvoted and downvoted by individual users, not corporations, right? And on Facebook and Twitter, most content is shared or re-tweeted by individuals, no? Sure there are ads and top news stories that are driven by corporate interests, but I’m not sure I understand your point about corporations and the online public sphere.

Comment on Thoughts 3/6 by Betty Hancock

I thought you might be interested to hear Yik Yak’s mission statement: “To create communities which allow anyone to connect and share information without having to know them. Post your jokes, thoughts, observations, questions, etc; just make sure that you’re posting is quality content.”

I don’t think their goal was to be a quality source of news or political action, I think they were more geared towards quality entertainment and community engagement.

Social Media and Protesting

Respond to this quote from last week’s reading: “It seems most likely that the virtual public sphere brought about by [computer–mediated communication] will serve a cathartic role, allowing the public to feel involved rather than to advance actual participation.”

I was interested last week to hear Professor Rheingold’s comments about The Smart Mob and the overall sentiment from the class that social media has created better opportunities for collective action and political protesting.

In the same week, my COMM 1A class was discussing political protesting, and Professor Iyengar gave a lecture about social media and protests, and he seemed to think that the jury was still out on whether or not social media really made protesting any easier/better.

The Civil Rights movement took place before the Internet and social media, yet Americans used protesting and riots very effectively to rally support for their cause. I wonder how the Civil Rights movement would have looked differently if they’d had social media to rally support for their cause.

I think the Internet and the online public sphere definitely makes it easy for information to spread, but I think it might make it harder for information to stand out. One has to gain a huge following in order to draw major attention to a cause on the Internet, and even if a particular cause gets a lot of attention online, the online news cycle moves so quickly that it’s hard for one event/cause to stay in the spotlight for long.

the cathartic public sphere

Respond to this quote from last week’s reading: “It seems most likely that the virtual public sphere brought about by [computer–mediated communication] will serve a cathartic role, allowing the public to feel involved rather than to advance actual participation.”

With the exception of a select few places, some of whose potentials to serve as a public sphere I have already explained in class, I agree with this assessment of Boeder’s prognosis of the future of the public sphere. With a few large corporations dominating web traffic and thereby controlling and curating what people see, corporate interest can dictate the public sphere in most places online. The posts that are not highlighted as alligned with the companies’ interests will continue to get lost in the noise of the internet, buried pages deep in search results or many scrolls down in news feeds. While companies cannot censor speech online, they can effectively silence it or “turn the volume up” on other speech, and drown out views that the consumer/company doesn’t agree with and to say otherwise is to contradicts the political economy of the web.

User experience online will continue to be personalized, polarized, and curated, sometimes out of personal preference and sometimes out of corporate interest, and it will become increasingly vital for consumers to be mindful of who will or won’t be seeing their content as we continue to voice our opinions online.

Thoughts 3/6

“Respond to this quote from last week’s reading: ‘It seems most likely that the virtual public sphere brought about by [computer–mediated communication] will serve a cathartic role, allowing the public to feel involved rather than to advance actual participation.’”

A topic that was briefly mentioned in discussion last week was Yik Yak, and I think this prompt is a great opportunity for me to voice my thoughts about Yik Yak as a virtual public sphere. I think I am particularly fascinated by Yik Yak because it is anonymous and location-sensitive. I guess at an institution as renown as Stanford, it has been an eye-opening experience to see how anonymity affects the best of us.

In general, I hate to admit that I believe Yik Yak is serving a cathartic role for the public, or at least not contributing anything new and good to the society. I will focus on three particular features that attribute to this: anonymity, Yakarma, and the 5 downvote process.

Anonymity, though it might provide comfort for users who are afraid of voicing opinions under a username, makes it difficult for users to be accountable for their words and content they publish. Now, instead of being able to flip a laptop screen down in order to avoid hateful comments, you can even avoid people attaching a name to your comment. There seem to be fewer and fewer consequences the user can be subject to because of anonymity, which leads to more extreme opinions. While these extreme opinions might voice a user’s true emotions and opinions, I wonder how much of it is for seeking attention and intent to simply create a reaction.

Similarly, I think the presence of having Yakarma further provides incentive for users to be more sensationalistic or memorable. While that might come in the form of a hilarious comment about the tearing down of Meyer, I think it stymies the potential of Yik Yak, as an anonymous platform, to create a room for discussions and conversations. However, that also bleeds into the original layout of the app: with only limited characters per text, I also think it’s too difficult to have these conversations on this particular platform. Perhaps simply because of the layout of the app, short and spunky “zingers” are the content that are most suitable for this platform.

Finally, the 5-vote process of elimination further blocks any potential of creating meaningful conversations as long as 5 people don’t give you the time of day. I am thinking through the examples of the #blacklivesmatter protests, Tour Guide rollouts, and FoHo articles and how group polarization can occur on Yik Yak: as more and more students agree on the same issue, the opinion of that particular issue grow increasingly opinionated. This inertia seems like an inevitable snowball effect, and as a user who has had some of her comments voted off, I sometimes feel at a loss of what I can do with Yik Yak to inform the greater community or to raise awareness.

Or perhaps I am taking all of this too seriously. Maybe Yik Yak isn’t supposed to help the greater good for the community, and it’s only supposed to provide quick and laughable anecdotes. Perhaps my hopes for this particular app is misguided, and I should be considering these issues for other platforms like Facebook or Reddit.


Comment on Social media’s youth influence by Michelle Xu

I actually think Screech would still face similar feelings of isolation from the group even if social media existed. I think that instead of being “out of the loop,” Screech might just not be tagged in a photo. We talk about FOMO (fear of missing out) on social media, so maybe that has become today’s understanding of what it means to be left out.

I also thought that it was interesting how easily so many conversations on these shows could have just existed on our phones. Even for myself, I text most of my friends nowadays because we’re all busy and on different ends of campus. As this image becomes the norm, I wonder how TV series and episodes will try to compensate for the transition of communication into virtual communities.

Comment on collective action on reddit by Gabriel

I did not know reddit provided such a tight knit community. I have always been cautious of becoming to involved because I did not know much about reddit before this quarter. I was never that comfortable communicating with people I would never meet. Would you ever feel comfortable enough to reveal your true identity to some of your reddit communities?

Comment on Thoughts 2/25 by Gabriel

I also chose instagram for this question. I am not artistic in any imagination, but I completely agree that instagram presents manipulating photos as easy and useful. It provides a much less intimidating outlook of photography. I also agree that it provides a great way to curate your memories through photos. It provides me a way to share my memories in an artistic style.