This class has provided me with a multitude of new perspectives regarding new communication technologies that I did not possess before. I’ve analyzed debates surrounding whether or not technology influences society, or the other way around. I’ve also learned that there are many more opportunities for online social interaction that I had never utilized myself, though I had previously believed I was more experienced in digital networking as a digital native, rather than a digital immigrant. I learned the most in this course through our daily discussions as a class and while working on group projects. The assigned articles we had to read online for homework certainly helped provide a foundation for our lecture and discussion in the following class, but most of my understanding and comprehension of the material and other peoples’ perspectives came from listening to other classmates’ interpretation of each articles’ messages. The blogging aspect of this class also helped with putting my understanding of course content into my own words (which I have always struggled with). If I could have changed anything about this class, I would have enjoyed having even more group projects. I think working in our small groups helped ensure that people actually read the assigned articles and brainstorm new perspectives to present to the of class. One thing that I think should remain in this course is the feature story project. As a Communication (Electronic Media) major, I really enjoyed conducting audio and video interviews, and found my responses and analysis really helped lay a solid foundation for my final research paper. I also believed the project significantly added to my overall understanding and enjoyment of the course. I would certainly recommend COMM 440 and Professor Wachanga to other classmates in the future, and I look forward to taking Media Ethics with Wachanga next Fall.
My group’s topic for our Meme Presentation was the ‘yodeling Walmart boy’ meme, which is arguably the most popular meme of Spring 2018. I wasn’t able to meet with my group on our initial in-class work day, which I regret, since our group got along great and had a strong work ethic this semester; something I’ve found to be fairly uncommon in college. My portion of the presentation was providing a brief explanation and interpretation of the ‘spreadable’ vs ‘viral’ media debate discussed and analyzed by Henry Jenkins. The initial article posted on D2L didn’t give me enough of an understanding of the debate, so I looked for other sources online. I found an article that talked more about Jenkins’ book based on the topic and provided excerpts from an email interview with him, and I found it to help with my comprehension of ‘spreadable’ vs. ‘viral’ media much more.
I noticed that I had a far different interpretation of the debate compared to other groups. From what I understood, Henry Jenkins believes that using the term ‘viral’ to describe media is flawed because it uses a biological term to define a communicative process. Using ‘viral’ to even metaphorically describe media isn’t appropriate, because it limits our ability to “adequately describe media circulation as a complex system”. If something ‘goes viral’, we assume that it’s currently trending or popular, but there’s no explanation as to how or why that media has become so popular. The term, because it’s based in biological phenomena, incorrectly suggests that media just happens to go viral on its own. ‘Spreadable’ is a better way to describe media because people actively and consciously chose to share it, repurpose it, modify it, remix it, etc. We don’t have that kind of decision when it comes to spreading a real virus, like the common cold. Spreadable media is a more accurate term than viral media because it emphasizes the importance of consumer involvement. This is why my group chose to define our meme, Mason the Walmart yodeler, as an example of spreadable media, given all the different ways it’s been repurposed, modified, remixed, and spread on different platforms by different people.
For my research paper, my topic will revolve around Facebook, peoples’ declining use of the platform, and the main factors contributing to that. I plan on acknowledging past predictions surrounding the ‘death’ of Facebook (similar to that of MySpace) and comparing their reasoning to the current state of the platform. Mainly, I want to analyze and predict whether Facebook’s latest breach of privacy with the Cambridge Analytica scandal will prove to be an irreversible setback for the platform, given the legal issues now arising, the #deleteFacebook movement, and major financial losses plaguing the company from their multitude of recent privacy and security controversies. To properly research and write about this topic, I plan on keeping up with the developing fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and looking at past predictions and studies who have predicted a digital ‘death’ for the popular platform. The main thing I want to answer in my research paper is whether or not major privacy & security breaches can significantly affect worldwide use of the most popular social media network, or even ruin it for good.
When discussing this topic with my peers, they liked my overall idea, however they believed it was a bit too broad to effectively cover in this assignment. I think that I can avoid that by specifically focusing on the progression of the Cambridge Analytica scandal to where it is today, and compare that with previous research conducted about social media privacy and Facebook usage patterns.
My feature story focused on the topic of Facebook potentially becoming obsolete. I chose to specifically interview millennials because Facebook was likely the first major social media platform they created an account for. As I learned in my interviews, this was the case; they were a bit too young for MySpace when it was the go-to platform on the internet, and they’re too old to be a part of the younger generation today, where more and more people are choosing to prioritize accounts on other platforms instead.
All my interviewees stated that the amount of time they spend on Facebook today is far less than the time they used to spend on it years ago. My interviewees listed factors contributing to their decreased use of the social media website, including lack of time, outdated or irrelevant social circle or media on their feed, and lack of simplicity or accessibility. Despite all this, many of my interviewees said that there are still features of Facebook that benefit or appeal to them. Some of these included Facebook’s ease of group-forming and group communication, the linking of other social medias to your Facebook to create a ‘home base’ of sorts, and the variety of media that you can post/share.
In my pre-interview research, I read numerous articles discussing or analyzing why Generation Z, the generation following Millennials, are ‘ditching’ Facebook. Primarily, the articles were all on-par with the main reason; that there simply are just other apps and platforms available today that are far interesting or beneficial to the younger generation.
Two other reasons I also saw often in some of these articles that didn’t resonate as much with my interviewees, were the prevalence of ‘fake news’ and influx of older people (laggards) on Facebook. The answers of my interviewees gave when asked if these factors contributed to their decreasing use of Facebook were mixed. For the most part, they don’t think either factor played a large role in their usage or opinion of Facebook. I was surprised to hear that several of my respondents were entertained or used to older folks’ learning to use Facebook and how they interact with younger people. I was also surprised to hear that ‘fake news’ didn’t play as big of a role in my respondents’ decreased time spent on Facebook as I thought it would.
Some of the main takeaways from this project that could suggest newer social media communication behavior among millennials include the fact that they are able to identify ‘fake news’ and politically biased or incorrect information on Facebook, but don’t let it affect their views or their decision to use this particular platform. Another takeaway from this project could be that millennials prefer platforms that offer simpler forms of media, like pictures and short videos on Instagram, small blips of information on Twitter, or sharing selfies with one another via Snapchat. Even with the competition these other social media networks pose to Facebook, however, each of my respondents still had their reasons for staying or had preference for Facebook when it came to specific aspects the platform offers, which, for now, will keep them coming back to the place their social media experience began.
This week, our class began conducting audio and video interviews regarding our chosen topic for our feature story. The topic I chose to interview individual about was the declining popularity of Facebook among millennials. I chose this topic because I notice that I spend increasingly less time on Facebook today, than I used to several years ago when I first made my account. This made me curious as to if and why other young adults are starting to use Facebook less and less.
Common themes I saw in many of the articles questioning the declining popularity of Facebook among younger generations included potential factors like political bias and ‘fake news’, especially during the 2016 Presidential Election, and the emergence of newer technologies and platforms that younger generations simply prefer over Facebook. I made sure to take these factors into account when I created my interview questions.
By Sunday evening, I had only managed to complete my two audio interviews but made plans for my remaining three video interviews to be conducted within the next two days. One thing from my audio interviews that I will certainly take into account for my video interviews is that for a two-minute interview, I had way too many questions that each required a somewhat lengthy answer. My first audio interview lasted around 10 minutes, and my second interview lasted 34 (whoops). This unfortunately will require a decent amount of editing on my part, but now that I know that I only need maybe a quarter of my total questions to get the answers I’m looking for, I will definitely rework and fine-tune my questions before I conduct my video interviews.
As for pictures, I’ve managed to acquire a few, though I want to wait and hear more responses from my interviewees before I find related images to their opinions. I’m mostly using personal examples from my own social media platforms of older individuals’ behavior, the ease of connection and communication with other people, and the user-friendliness of different app interfaces.
One response I’ve received in my interviews so far that’s surprised me is that both people I interviewed didn’t seem to be too bothered by the saturation of older laggards making Facebook accounts and learning how to use the platform. They also didn’t believe that the ‘ fake news’ and political climate of Facebook during the past Presidential election significantly affected their opinion or amount of time spent using Facebook.
This week’s articles involved discussion around how Google, laptops, and new media, from the printing press to YouTube, change the way society focuses and how we share and absorb new information.
I was particularly interested in the article questioning the potential effects the internet is having on our brain and changing the way we think. I wholeheartedly agree with the comparison the author makes about once being able to fully immerse oneself in a book for a long period of time and now being unable to do so without our concentration slipping and losing interest in the book after just a few pages. And I do think that the internet likely plays a role in that. As a Twitter user, I have become accustomed to reading tiny blurbs of information and quickly scrolling onto the next items on my feed. As the author of this piece notes, studies have found that more people are “power browsing” or partially skim-reading materials because they lose focus within the first couple of pages or get distracted by other stimuli and “bounce” to another website, material, activity, etc. This argument is also present in Clay Shirky’s article about banning use of laptops because of the way they make students involuntarily distracted by even the littlest bit of stimuli. I’ve found it difficult to multitask on a laptop during class, so I try to avoid it at all costs. I also find it difficult to simply read scholarly articles or complete writing assignments without absentmindedly checking my phone and responding to text messages, browsing my email, or taking a ‘quick’ break on Twitter or YouTube that ends up lasting far longer than I anticipated. One source quoted by the author of this article describes no longer being able to read War and Peace because even short blog posts online have become too much information to absorb at one time. I used to be able to read and entire book series in a week or two, and have actually been attempting to read War and Peace since this Fall. I have barely gotten into the book, which I’ve wanted to read for years, because I find myself more drawn to aimlessly browsing on Twitter or Instagram before bed. And those platforms aren’t drastically enriching my life in any way, making me question why I even prefer or use them at all.
The chapter titled “Making New Media Make Sense” in Nancy K. Baym’s book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, offers commentary and analyses on four different perspectives people can have towards new communication technologies
The messages we communicate about technology are both reflective and productive. This means that these conversations reveal information about both communicators and the technology they’re discussing. This also means that conversations about technologies can help in developing new ones, as well as finding new meanings and uses for them.
The first perspective toward new communication technologies is known as technological determinism; a belief that these technologies force people and society to change. The social construction of technology argues the opposite; that people are the agents of change when it comes to technologies and society. Social shaping is the perspective that falls in the middle of technological determinism and the social construction of technology. It argues that both new technologies and people have the ability to significantly change or influence one another. As time passes, once-new technologies will be integrated into everyday life with no question of their potential effects on people in society. This eventual process that occurs is known as domestication.
Baym also addresses recurring themes in how people react to new technologies. These can range from utopian to dystopian predictions about how the world will change due to specific advancements in communication technology. Some hold the belief that new technologies are ruining authentic or real human connection since much of it has turned digital, but others still think that these new technologies only improve the ease and ability for humans to connect with one another all over the world.
How people respond to the introduction of new communication technologies can be influenced by a number of factors. Janet Fulk’s proposed social influence model (1993) was based off research that suggested that the perspectives of ones’ peers, especially those they shared better working and personal relationships with, were strong influences on that person’s attitudes toward new technologies. The research primarily was focused on the NCT of email, but this still applies to NCT’s of today, like the internet.
Today, the internet is considered to be a domesticated NCT. However, the domestication of this technology doesn’t mean that people are still wary of the potential effects it can have on human interaction and behavior. We need to look at the features of NCT’s and how they can each specifically influence the way we communicate with other people. In doing this, we can further our understanding of the complex relationship between digital media and its social consequences.
This week’s readings involved discussion around Facebook, loneliness, online anonymity and identity, and refuting arguments that make sweeping generalizations and claims without citation of consistent evidence, if any.
Regarding the two articles arguing whether Facebook makes us lonely, at first, I thought that the initial Atlantic article defending that claim made some interesting points I agreed with. For example, I thought the author’s point about Americans spending money to achieve loneliness under the guise of individualism seemed perfectly reasonable. After reading the refutation to the initial article, I then realized that there were many problems with the reliability and validity of the piece. The refutation’s author notes that the Atlantic story’s author used highly inconsistent evidence to back up their claims, compared to other research in that field. The Atlantic author makes a vague claim that “various studies have shown loneliness rising drastically over a very short period of recent history,” but never provides any citations or references to these articles. There is even evidence presented in the refutation piece that found that there has been little change in the quantity and quality of Americans’ relationships over the past 40 years. Overall, the refutation argues that there is not enough well-supported evidence in the original piece, or the sociological research field in general, that suggests that Americans are more detached or lonely than ever before. I appreciated reading both pieces because it reminded me that I need to be more critical of the articles I read and the sources they use so I don’t end up misled or misinformed.
In addition to the two articles surrounding Facebook and loneliness, I also was intrigued by the article about anonymity online. I agree with their point that “the idea of Facebook as a good time ended when the well-intentioned relatives and co-workers arrived,” and that it became “everything oppressive about identity”. I have created and used pseudoanonymous social media accounts in the past as a way to escape from the workplace/family-friendly way I present myself on Facebook. I’m not saying I’m a completely different person than what my profile suggests, I just appreciate the occasional break on social media from the persona I typically reserve for job interviews and discussions with my grandmother. On platforms where I have more control over who can follow me or see my content, and I don’t have to appear as I am on a legal ID (relating back to the article about drag queens on Facebook), I enjoy using a semi-anonymous profile to share my thoughts and opinions on topics that interest me. This way, I can be more honest and open online without worrying about how my professional acquaintances or distant relatives may judge me based on insignificant matters like my movie opinions or food preferences.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.