Introduction Module

1/19: Module 1: Introduction

I would suggest that you put two panels up: one with the powerpoint, the other with this commentary—that way you can use it as a narrative.  When I get my Facerig setup back up (don’t ask) I will try and provide verbal commentary, but for now we’ll just do text.

As you look through the first slides—the “What We Know” set, look at the numbers and think about each for a few seconds, remembering that none of this existed when you were in Kindergarten, and for the older ones, while you were in Elementary School.  What we take as normal has existed for a stunningly SHORT period of time.

This has all sorts of implications as we’ll see during the semester, probably the main one being the we [collectively and individually] have had no time to process these changes into our social world and fit them into our world.  In the past these technological changes have usually been single points, like the telephone 100 years ago—so the process is a lot less disruptive.  But the myriad of changes we are currently bombarded with, without any breaks or time-outs, has led to massive social disruption—witness the polarization in the U.S. related to the recent election cycle, “false news”, mistrust of traditional media, etc.

At a personal level, think of the lack of any clear etiquette guides on appropriate use of phones/social media on dates—is it OK to text while going out with someone?  Check on their social media posts?  If they leave it lying around unlocked, check to see who/what has been tweeted or snapped recently?  All this is symptomatic of people being increasingly at a loss as to whether the digital is their friend, their enemy, or their nightmare—or more likely all of the above at the same time.  Individuality and freedom are interesting concepts, and are central to those who drive social media usage, but at what price?

If you look at the first panels, we are most connected population in world history.  We also look like we are becoming the loneliest—scroll down to the Facebook specific panels and think about what all those mean, on something that didn’t exist 10 years ago.

Basic Premises Slides—these are presenting the set of assumptions central to our examination of this subject.  All of the assumptions [premises] are based on the data presented—of course all of these are “a work in progress” since the subject is constantly morphing in new ways.

A really key assumption is the shift from synchronic—say a face-to-face conversation or a phone call, towards a-synchronic interaction—such as a tweet or a post.  Many researchers are starting to link the loneliness, drop in social engagement and narcissism are being linked to a-synchronic interaction.  One author made what I thought was a real good point—in a-synchronic interaction you get to look over how you self-present, check out how you look-sound before hitting “send”.  You can filter out the bad-embarrassing pieces and so present your ‘best’ self to the world.  But then authenticity becomes ambiguous.  When you combine with private-becoming-public, the need to present best self is really critical with re-tweets, likes and forwards, so it seems you end up in a feedback loop where the idea that you may be seen by a number of people you don’t know really puts pressure on image and presentation vs. casual conversation.

A fascinating aspect of this which has gotten almost no discussion has been the replacement of voice with text, especially when you remember we are lugging around smart PHONES.  This is an individual/collective choice rather than technological.  When you combine this with the huge growth in selfie videos (Snapchat, Facebook…) [again, a-synchronic] we are back to imaging and interaction choices that people are choosing to make.

All of this leads to the ‘Blind Men and the Elephant’ cartoon [pulled from Google] as a parable about the difficulty of making sense of our digital world.  In the following slides we have the questions you have to keep in mind when looking at any of these issues:

Is it causative—something that implements change—such as Facebook?  If so, what are the effects or impacts?

Or is not causative, but rather just the effect?  If so, why this effect or impact?  What triggered it?  Where is it going?

How does it impact individuals?  The collective?  The social group?  What does it say about individuals?  The collective?

OK, now apply all this—do the Hatsune Miku assignment.  Use the Critical Thinking factors while you watch this video.

The last set of slides were pulled from a very well done presentation—he did a real good job of showing some of the potential unplanned consequences to new technology, so just quickly look them over—I think you’ll find them very interesting.

Next Up: Definitions & Concepts

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