Thoughts 2/28

A reading that really resonated with me this week is “The Daily We” by Cass Sustein. She talked about phenomena that we’ve already mentioned in class: self-selection and group polarization. After reading this article and reflecting on my own experiences regarding these two topics, I’ve pretty much gone nowhere in terms of finding insight. While there is the privilege to filter what you want and don’t want to see through the Internet, there is a tradeoff for perhaps a wider range of information that you receive.

For self-selection, I think a very fitting example is the recent viral phenomenon of the dress. It was either white and gold or blue and black, and that seemed to be the only thing the Internet talked about for hours. It’s crazy to me that something as dumb as a dress was not only able to make Facebook and Tumblr headlines, but even able to reach TV outlets and news channels.

I have an especially difficult time with group polarization. I have many friends who are involved in activist groups on campus, and I often feel that because I’m close friends with them I have to express similar sentiments. It’s gotten to a point where I’ve sat in on club meetings and have become, by association, administrator of Facebook events; all this while, I am still ambivalent and undecided when my peers engage in discussions around demonstrations and protests. I often feel like I don’t know enough about these issues to form an opinion as concrete as my peers’, but there’s a degree of hesitancy I face when I try to voice these concerns as they continue to invite me to more meetings.

Overall, I agreed with a lot of the concerns Cass presented in this article. I think that these phenomena happen because, well, “Kim Kardashian’s New Baby Bump” is a much sexier title than “Political Debate Continues in White House.” These sensationalist people, items, and events naturally attract attention, but I think it’s up to the individual to recognize the narrow range of news he/she is receiving. There are a lot of news outlets available at our fingertips, so it’s up to us to recognize that we’re no longer updated on the world. While it might take more time to read articles that pertain to the world, I think that’s an important tradeoff to make.

Comment on collective action on reddit by Michelle Xu

I thought your comment about the SF Giants subreddit was really interesting. I honestly can’t imagine how in a community as big at 14,000+, you recognize other users by their names and their content. I guess for me, many of my social media outlets are smaller and more intimate, and while I knew the Internet allowed for interconnectivity your example really solidified that idea for me.

collective action on reddit

In your most active personal digital network, why would you say you choose to contribute? Do you think of users differently based on the amount of their activity? How do you think this varies across different social media platforms?

Though I am probably most active on Facebook, I want to answer this question about Reddit, because Instagram because I think its structure lends itself better to answering this question in an interesting way. On Reddit there are 3 fundamental types of users lurkers, contributors, and moderators. Having recently created the /r/comm182 sub, I think I can now speak somewhat knowledgeably to all three roles.

Many users follow a variety of subreddits and vary their activity on each, here are some reasons of my own (and some directly from other Redditors) that explain why we/I choose the various roles in different subs.

Many users choose not to comment in any threads or only have a few in which they like to directly contribute. I only participate actively in two or three different subreddits, and for the rest I only click around and read/watch what is interesting to me. I don’t usually volunteer my feelings about them because for the most part the subreddits have so many subscribers that by the time I have a chance to comment on a post, it has already received so many upvotes that someone has already said what I would have wanted to say, or my comment would never be read because the thread is has received so many comments already. As /u/cleverspainard puts it, “[Reddit] feels like high school. There are the popular redditors with their clever comments. I’m the weird kid that chimes in too late. So I stay quiet and save myself the criticism.”

Commenting on Reddit can make users feel self-concious when they feel like they are not known in the subreddit community in which they are lurking so they choose to soak it up rather than put themselves out there and risk embarrassment.

I choose to actively participate in two threads. /r/sfgiants and /r/fantasyfootball, both for different reasons. During the baseball season, the Giants sub becomes a place of intense bonding and it is a great forum to vocalize ideas in a community that knows my screenname and is small enough (at ~14,000 users) that I see the see the same names pop up consistently (along with the number of times I’ve upvoted them previously) so that I feel as though I am speaking among people who have already formulated generally positive ideas about me and who will be receptive to my ideas. I post in /r/fantasyfootball because during the football season its threads are full of people asking and providing advice. Generally the people who contribute the most (your comments on the thread are tracked) are those who receive the most help, so there is plenty of incentive.

Moderators in Reddit serve something of a community government role, developing and announcing community rules and expectations that help to gel a group together. The people that serve in these roles tend to be highly passionate about their subreddits because they are frequently inundated with comments, submissions, and questions and requests and do this for no compensation except the satisfaction and respect of their communities.

I think these roles are at least somewhat universal across all platforms, with lurkers being people with profiles or accounts who don’t contribute much, commenters being the basic contributors, and moderators being the most active and passionate users.

Comment on Thoughts 2/25 by Betty Hancock

I thought that it was interesting that you brought up individual artistic exploration and earning money via Instagram in the same post. Do you think that it compromises their artistic integrity when people receive money to post photos wearing certain brands of clothing or showcasing certain products?

Personal Digital Networks

In your most active personal digital network, why would you say you choose to contribute? Do you think of users differently based on the amount of their activity? How do you think this varies across different social media platforms?

Of all my digital networks, I’m probably the most consistently active on Facebook, although I go through periods of inactivity. However, I’ve been a member of Facebook longer than any other social media site, and I have the most data on my Facebook profile compared to other social media profiles.

My motivations for contributing differ by the type of contribution. Most of the time, when I’m posting a status update or sharing a link, it’s because I’m trying to draw attention to a particular cause or event. Most of the time when I post photos, it’s because I realize that I haven’t posted any photos for months and my profile makes it look like I don’t have  a life. That or I don’t like my most recent tagged photos, so I don’t want them to be the first pictures people see when viewing my profile. Shallow, but true.

I ABSOLUTELY judge people based on the amount of activity on their Facebook. I’m really put off when I see that people are being overly active on Facebook. If people post daily status updates, leave comments everywhere, and seem to see every single post in their news feed, it makes me wonder why they have so much spare time to spend on Facebook. I often wonder why they don’t have anything better to do with their time. Harsh, but true.

This definitely varies across different platforms though. When I have friends that go on Snapchat 20 times a day, it doesn’t bother me as much. It’s a lot easier to send one quick snap than it is to post one whole status.

Reading Response: Cass Sunstein’s “The Daily We”

In this article, Cass Sunstein discusses the ways in which the Internet has caused a decline in public knowledge/a coherent public sphere due to the proliferation of self-selection. Online, people can choose to look at the news and sites that interest them, and they can completely ignore or fail to come into contact with pieces that oppose their ideals. Because of online news individualization, we’re seeing more political polarization and blind ignorance.

Sunstein explains that while emerging technologies like the Internet aren’t necessarily the enemy, individualization and the ways in which we currently use new technology pose a threat to democracy, because “a well-functioning democracy depends… on some kind of public sphere, in which a wide range of speakers have access to a diverse public– and also to particular institutions, and practices, against which they seek to launch objections.”

Sunstein suggests several ways in which journalists and media corporations may counteract this problem. All of Sunstein’s suggestions rest on the idea that media producers will willingly choose to band together to reverse the current problem… In my mind, these solutions seem a bit unfeasible. Because media producers compete for audience’s in a capitalist economy, their main priority is increasing audience size and making money. It’s not the most idealistic way of viewing the world, but it’s the reality behind most major news production. And for media producers, individualization is profitable. I find it hard to believe that news producers would band together to do something “for the greater good” without any direct economic incentive. My guess is that in order to inspire producers to create change, we as a national audience must first band together and complain about the problem/push for change. If their audiences are happy and there’s no economic incentive to change the ways in which they operate, media producers won’t have enough inspiration to band together, work cooperatively, and solve the individualization problem.

The real problem then becomes inspiring enough Americans to care about the individualization problem enough to demand change… which will be hard to do because a vast number of Americans enjoy the current atmosphere of individualization and media control.

Thoughts 2/25

“In your most active personal digital network, why would you say you choose to contribute? Do you think of users differently based on the amount of their activity? How do you think this varies across different social media platforms?”

I decided to look at Instagram for this question, because I think it has the flexibility to exist for different purposes for different individuals. I’ll talk about why I use Instagram, how I see others on Instagram, and how it can be different for each user.

I’ve already talked about why I use Instagram on previous blog posts, but just to summarize I see Instagram as a way for me to explore my artistic potential through curating moments in my life. I am nowhere close to a professional photographer, but I think Instagram has made the idea of being a photographer very approachable for the everyday user. There is a much lower threshold with Instagram to start exploring photography than if I were to look into investing in a DSLR and different lenses should I pursue photography in reality. While I think Instagram is generally defined as a social media platform (because you are able to follow friends and comment/link their photos), I think I’m also beginning to use my Instagram profile as a portfolio of sorts. In fact the other day, I decided to delete a photo I took of Meyer because I felt like I hadn’t put enough artistic thought into that photo as opposed to some of my other photos. So I think in one sense, this social media platform has become an avenue through which I can see my own development as an “artist.” This is also not detached from the friends I follow, many of whom are also more concerned about the aesthetic of their photos.

Instagram is interesting because it can also be created for-profit. I have friends who get sponsors from clothing companies on Instagram, and they receive clothes and money if they showcase specific brands in their clothes. In fact, people can make a living on Instagram. We talked about how Facebook allows users and groups to pay for advertising, but I think Instagram showcases a more obvious form of how technology and social media can generate profit or act as a medium for business transactions.

Finally, how I view different content creators on Instagram is very similar, I think, to how I view my peers on Facebook. I pretty quickly assumed that people who post Instagram photos that are not similar to mine or my friends’ (ex: in terms of quality or what is actually being photographed) don’t share the same interests as me. I am reminded of on Facebook where maybe people whose thoughts, style of writing, or even frequency of posting statuses might deter me from feeling connected to them. All in all, I think there is definitely overlap between Instagram and all other social media platforms; but at the same time, Instagram also offers enough novelty to succeed as an additional social media platform.

Comment on Social Capital is Complicated…At Least for Organizations by lukedewilde

I think the important thing is knowing that you’re working hard on behalf of a noble cause. You can’t reach everyone online and this campus isn’t as supportive as it should be for the arts but I know that SOCA does great work. If you can establish and maintain a good reputation for promoting the arts here, then the people will come.


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.