Week of Feb 5

The introduction to Daniel J. Solove’s book, “The Future of Reputation” discusses the idea of ‘digital skeletons’ and how the continuous spread of information across the internet can limit our freedom. Solove begins his introduction with a story of the “dog poop girl”, whose public behavior was exposed online. The images of her blew up online and she quickly became the target of international shame. Solove explains that the “dog poop girl” is just one example of personal information or behavior being shared online that those involved would like to keep private. When private personal matters are shared on the internet, people can easily be identified, have more of their ‘digital skeletons’ dug up, and be the subject of further public shame. Someone’s single mistake on the internet 10+ years ago could be a mistake that continues to affect them to this day, which Solove addresses in examining the implications of private lives being exposed on the internet and what he believes can be done to reach “a better balance between privacy and free speech” (Solove 4). Instances like the one involving the “dog poop girl” show us that blogging and the internet, now more than ever, can play a powerful role in norm-enforcement and holding people accountable for their actions. But Solove questions the potential negatives of norm policing and exposing someone’s public mistakes. Was it necessary to expose the “dog poop girl’s” identity with no consideration for her side of the story, knowing that she will never be able to wipe the stain of the incident from her online record? Do we want to live in a world where any online mistakes we make will stick with us throughout our entire life, with little to no chance to defend or explain ourselves?

Personally, I feel very conflicted about the widespread exposure of people committing shameful public actions. I keep thinking back to a story from several months ago, where a video was circulating on social media of a boy violently throwing a kitten in the street. People were quick to share the horrible video, in hopes of identifying the teen and bringing him to justice. This worked and the boy was later arrested (the kitten survived too). I certainly think the internet is a useful tool for holding people’s actions or words accountable, but I know the public exposure and shame can go too far. If I compare this situation to the one involving the “dog poop girl”, I’m far more sympathetic to her situation. One involved someone not cleaning up after themselves, which is annoying and rude, but the other involved the cruel and intentional abuse of an animal that wasn’t able to defend itself, which I find to be a far more inexcusable crime. It’s also important to note that the woman didn’t share the pictures of herself, someone else did, while the teen had someone record him doing so and uploaded it to a social media platform, clearly meant for others to see. We must take each specific public exposure/shaming situation into consideration and weigh the gravity of the public mistakes involved. If we don’t, as Solove puts it, we’ll “enslave ourselves by making it impossible to escape from the shackles of our past” (4).

Week of Jan 29

a.

The article titled, “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone” describes the social networking strategies one person utilized to retrieve a stolen phone. When the girl who now possessed the stolen phone refused to return it, the original owner’s friend then created a webpage dedicated to providing updates of the situation, which was shared and forwarded around the internet, quickly gaining popularity and even national attention. After weeks of press coverage and communication with the followers of the situation, the girl who refused to give it back and the NYPD, the phone was successfully returned to its rightful owner.

The article titled, “Love Online” discusses how courtship has changed due to the Internet, and how younger generations are making connections and forming relationships with others online. The author analyzes long-distance relationships in the past to those of today, like his son’s; studying the ways communication between partners has changed with the integration of the Internet in our daily lives.

b.

Both articles show how new technology affects the kinds of ways people can form groups. Social media groups can unite people with similar interests or beliefs; providing a space for discussion among those who share similar views around the world. As addressed in Professor Wachanga’s notebook piece posted on D2L, in a world of media convergence, there’s something out there for everyone. For example, the author of “Love Online” discusses how his son connected with his future girlfriend through an electronic pro-wrestling role-playing game, where they both shared interest in the same WWF star. This shows that even people with unique or obscure interests have a place to congregate online. If an online group doesn’t yet exist, there are multitude of resources available for people to create one themselves, as the stolen phone owner’s friend did in “It Takes a Village to Find a Phone”. The friend was able to create a space where like-minded individuals interested in returning a single stolen phone could connect and communicate with each other in pursuit of a common goal.

c.

Tim O’Reilly’s concept of “architecture of participation” relates to how new communication technology creates a whole new world of possibilities and learning for everyday people. In the article about the stolen phone, using Internet resources like social media and search engines allowed the creator and followers of the webpage to successfully perform roles in which they have no formal training. In the article about online dating, the “architecture of participation” relates more to how the Internet has evolved society’s understanding and interpretation of dating and long-distance relationships.

d.

Changes or advancements in communication technology have a profound effect on our society and our ways of forming groups. Stories like the one about the stolen phone would have likely gone unnoticed prior to social networking because there would be no way to share the webpage with others and have it gain significant attention or popularity, especially at a national level. There also would be no way for individuals around the country interested in following or helping the situation to collaborate with one another without a place to do so. In relation to the “Dating Online” article, society has changed in the way we understand dating and long-distance relationships. This is because we’re now able to connect and form meaningful relationships with others across the world at the click of a button.

e.

I think everyone has different motivations for sharing information. I also believe that the platform you plan on using and the audience that will be receiving what you share plays a huge role in how you present that information. For example, if someone is looking for a serious, long-term, monogamous relationship, they likely will have better luck on an established dating website, rather than an app like Tinder, which is geared more towards people looking for more short-term dating and hook-ups. I think people are willing to share information on dating websites because they are interested in connecting with other like-minded individuals, trusting that they all share similar relationship goals. Most people can tell what the intentions of members are on different relationship-seeking platforms. If their relationship goals are more long-term and serious, I’d expect people to share more personal information about their aspirations, personality and interests because that’s what dating websites use to determine compatibility. On hook-up or casual dating platforms, the information is less personal since they assume getting to know a single person well isn’t a high priority for you.

f.

One of the most important things I’ve learned from these articles is that advances in communication technology have a greater impact on our society than I realized. Since I grew up right as computers and internet technology were becoming more integrated into daily life, I can’t really remember a time where the main forms of communication were phone and mail. I also realize that communication technology is going to continue to evolve over my lifetime. Even though it’s hard for me to understand why my parents have so much trouble figuring out email, instant messaging, and social media, I see that much of their confusion probably stems from them growing up with a completely different form of communication technology than I did. I also know that when I reach that age, I’ll likely be just as confused by future communication technology as they are right now.