Really interesting piece here, and what had me particularly excited was your discussion of avatars and the blurred boundaries they exist/operate in. I've been currently thinking about avatars and their relationship to persona profiles for a gamified in-class technical communication assignment. Persona profiles are a common genre of workplace writing where designers will analyze their end user. In public relations and marketing, these profiles might explore the end user's/target demographic's media engagement, including Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Avatar building is a form of identity formation, but I've considered inviting students to analyze their end user in a persona avatar rather than a persona profile. This conversation has me thinking about these avatars in much deeper ways, considering their strong connection to social media sites and the history behind those associations. I have much to ponder, thank you.
Yes, conversations like that - taking place among the supposed "digital native" generations - are why I wrote this particular piece; if we consider Facebook or Twitter or Vine to be "less real", then of course it's no surprise that racism, sexism, doxxing, stalking, death threats, etc don't get as much attention as they would otherwise, even though it affects physical spaces and safety. If we say Facebook is "less real", then why are employers looking at Facebook posts to screen out applicants? If we say online classes or learning are less privileged, what about those who cannot access physical classes for whatever reason - and the structures we create in doing so? Etc.
Fans feel the need to vocalize their recognition of multiple fandoms and practices, rather than build a focused body of knowledge and information, and have created a new elitism that insists it despises the elitism of earlier generations.
I find it also interesting that the "earlier generations" of fandom - for argument's sake, those who focused on trivia or depth of knowledge - also often do not think about meeting in the middle. Or rather, that they shun the practices of the new elitism/new fandoms, and never wonder why those fans are practicing in such a way (affirmation-based, for example, heavy use of Tumblr or Twitter or other networks) in the first place. It's like wondering why someone's story about learning went a certain way, when mentors and teachers or anyone else that could have taught lore and practice are all absent.
You bring up a lot of great points and I am thinking of which ones to respond to. In discussing the Kinect as both a toy and a surveillance device we get at the rather odd world the device attempts to balance. When we bring a device into our homes made for constantly watching us and it does feel a bit odd and sneaky.
One thing that I have always thought about the Kinect is how it favors certain real spaces. For instance, the Kinect can pretty much only be used in a large room. When I first purchased one, I ended up having to completely rearrange my living room to play with it as the space was just too small as it stood. Accommodating the Kinect factors into how we arrange my material space and don't even use it that often.
A similar discussion occurred in my Freshman composition class a few weeks ago. Several of my students, the supposed digital natives, commented that online or Facebook friendships were not "real" friendships. I was surprised by this because many of the students spend much of their time/lives in digital spaces. There lives are played out via Facebook status updates, Instagram pictures, and Vine comments, but they do not want to consider this space a real space. I asked them if they considered the people in the class "real" friends. Many of them remarked that they were classmates or associates, but not "real" friends. Why can't this be the same for online or Facebook friendships? I remember when the word associate was applied to a person with whom you were linked but not personally connected. Why doesn't this same language apply to online friendships. We seem to privilege the physical, ignoring the "real life" implications that online has in our lives. I wasn't aware of this binary. Now, I wonder of its implications. If things that take place online are an illusion, what about teachers who instruct very meaningful courses online? What about students who receive degrees from attending online classes? Thanks for the post. It really has me thinking of the ways I may be reinforcing this dichotomy between physical and online spaces.
I found this work to be so interesting. I really like the narrative analysis in conjunction with digital media and place. I am particularly interested in what the both of you mention as far as "desiring things like cities." I am not as familiar with NYC and SF, but I lived in DC for several years and LGBTQ centers like Dupont Circle have increasingly become too expensive to be the cultural centers they once were. Here porn sits at the intersection of digital and material cultures in such a relevant way. Thanks for sharing this research!
It is very interesting to consider the ways that these old forms of social mediation have been transformed for use in digital spaces. What stands out to me is the way that designers of these digital tools for mediation appear to have very consciously created platforms that have close ties in form and function to those old physical tools. So much so that you see discussions about them happening in reverse now. What comes to mind to me are the new esurance commercial that features an older woman posting pictures on her "wall" where that wall is a literal wall instead of her facebook page. Media has reached a point where the digital has become the norm and the metaphor is now being used in reverse. This appears to be a result of designers attempting to stick so closely to old physical concepts in describing new media. I see it as being helpful in getting people more comfortable in using digital tools but at this point is it possible that being tied to old physical constructs could be hindering the way these tools can be used going forward?
What an interesting post! I especially love your mention of the ads "perhaps even satiating the hunger for media." As a society, we're so tied to the media that many of us find it nearly impossible to not check our phones, even during times when we really shouldn't (driving home from work, for example). Our nightly commutes are a perfect time to highlight a cause, combining a public message with a private drive. This also gives us a break from traditional advertising we may see, and opens audiences up to more important things than a recent shoe sale or other Facebook-type ad littering our social media. I wonder if there is a space where people can go to figure out what the messages mean? For example, is there a link on the social media that explains each cause beyond the attention-grabbing light display? I think this is a great example of combining the digital and the analog, because these ads do make me want to learn more, and so I would be prompted to hunt for more information about the analog space through web searches in a digital space.
Hi Jamie and thanks so much for your comments. I think the questions you raise regarding methodology are key, especially as online environments can generate a lot of data - I mean the amount can literally be overwhelming -, for us social scientists to analyze. We then need to make hard and hopefully somewhat tactical choices in approaching this kind of cyber or online research. One specificity of social networks which I think has been perhaps not mobilized enough methodologically is the research opportunity created by their multimedia dimensions. My plan is therefore to deploy visual research methods, photo-elicitation, etc.. in order to get at some of the meaning-making embedded or crystallized around the images that Guineans post and circulate online. For me these are key to the emergence of new visual cultures, as well as their participation in what I call the politics of (in)visibility i.e. what they decide to show, how they go about presenting themselves online. But clearly, there are many other aspects of social networks including sounds, videos or linguistic dimensions that also require scholarly attention. And yes, you are right to point out that I am approaching this from an inter-disciplinary perspective. I am based in the Childhood Studies dept. at Rutgers-Camden, so focus on children and youth from multiple perspectives is key to what we - and therefore I - do!
FTR, here are some of the works that we are synthesizing in these two postings: John Champagne, in a variety of places, on the relationship between pornography and nonproductive expenditure; the archaeology of gay, urban, post-60s California represented by the reissue of Patrick Cowley’s porn soundtracks by Dark Entries Records as School Daze (2013); Dan Harris, in *The Rise and Fall of Gay Culture,* on the invention of “hotness” with gay videoporn; James Franco’s recent revisitation of Cruising; Laura Kipnis, in *Bound and Gagged,* on reader self-portraits submitted to porn magazines; Susana Paasonen’s book *Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography;* Dougal Philips’s ahead-of-its-time essay on pornographic exchange in the era of the Internet and "the death of the sun;" and, Saskia Sassen’s writings on "wired and networked" cities.