Week of Feb 12 (Blog 4)

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.

Making New Media Make Sense Summary

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.

Week of Feb 12 (Blog 3)

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.

Week of Feb 5 (Blog 2)

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 (Blog 1)


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.