Commentary for Digital Realities Course Introductory Powerpoints

PowerPoint Module 1: INTRODUCTION

I would suggest that for all the PowerPoints you put two panels up: one with the PowerPoint, the other with the module commentary—that way you can use it as a narrative.  I will be providing some verbal commentary, but key will be the text.

Look through the first 4 slides—the “What We Know” set.  Look carefully at the numbers—flash back to ancient history [year 1998]–remembering that none of this existed when you were in Kindergarten [and for those of you slightly older while you were in Elementary School].  What we take as normal has existed for a stunningly SHORT period of time.

This has huge implications as we’ll see during the semester.  The main one has to be that we [collectively and individually] have had no time to process these changes into our social world and fit them into our existence.

In the past technological changes were 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 want to see a fascinating discussion on this, look at Gershon’s “Break Up 2.0” (which looks at social media and failed relationships).

We are most connected population in world history.  We also look like we are becoming the loneliest—scroll down to the Facebook specific slide and think about what all that implies on something that didn’t exist 15 years ago.

2nd Set: Basic Premises Slides—these present the set of assumptions central to our examination of the digital world.  All of the assumptions this semester are based on the data presented here—of course all of this is constantly morphing since the subject is constantly moving in new directions.

A very central assumption here 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.  A lot of the research suggests that rise in loneliness, drop in social engagement and narcissism are being linked to this shift towards a-synchronic interaction.

One author made s very good point—the attraction of a-synchronic interaction is that 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 this staging with private-becoming-public, the need to present your best self is really critical with re-tweets, likes and forwards, so 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.  It all becomes public presentation; gone is casual conversation.

There was just an article yesterday in Think Google (their analytic-marketing branch) looking at how search was replacing friends as the main source of decision-making input [At <>, the blog is titled “It’s all about me”].

A fascinating aspect of this which has gotten almost no research (to date) has been the replacement of voice with text, especially when you remember we are lugging around smart PHONES.  This is NOT a technological issue—it’s a reflective of individual/collective choice.  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.

Keep the following questions in mind as we travel through this semester:

Is technology (both hardware and software) causative—something that forces social change—such as Facebook?  If so, what are the effects or impacts?

Or is it just a reaction or indicator?  Are these changes driven more by our own wants and needs (individually or collectively)?  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 sophisticated presentation—he did a very good job of showing some of the potential unplanned consequences to new technology, so look them over—I think you’ll find the analysis interesting.


PowerPoint Module 1A Definitions-Concepts


As you work through this slide set, you should notice that most of the terms are in common use—one of the main purposes of this set is to clarify and specify what the terms mean.  A good example would be CULTURE—used (and misused) all the time, but we want to keep to the narrow professional definition.  Note the built-in tension—on one hand all cultures are innately conservative, as people teach the young generation based on their past (“when I was growing up…”)—but at the same time cultures are constantly in a state of change, as conditions and the larger world change.  This can be seen with the discussion about “proper phone etiquette” and other aspects of social media.  Do old social norms/rules apply to new technology, or does new technology demand new social norms?  Who says?  Who decides?  Who has to follow the rules?

Note how dominant PERCEPTION is to all this discussion.  ETHNICITY is perceived—there are no strict criteria needed to be ‘ethnic’, just the 2 factors.  The same is true of COMMUNITY.  A lot of our quickly-changing world is based on what appears to be consensus, but again, consensus of whom?  Who’s left out?

Second Life is an excellent case in point, if you’ve started reading Boellsdorff—there are fairly consistent social norms in SL, but the program is only 14 years old, and most residents have only been in-world for 1 year or so.  So how did the norms develop?  How do new members learn the norms?  Why do they follow them?  What are the consequences of breaking them?  This is the central part of his study of Second Life, and applies to much of Digital Realities.

This brings us to the first of our Critical Thinking questions:


Is music more real is you hear it at a live concert with a live band? [live band, live audience, real time venue]

Is it just as real at a Hatsune Miku concert where the band is live, but the song and singer are digital? [digital singer, live backup band, live audience, real time venue]

Is it less real (how much) if you watch the Hatsune Miku LA concert grabbed by phone on youtube? –[at]


CT 2= Trance State Clubbing:

You and some friends go out to a club featuring a famous Trance-mix DJ.  You find yourself dancing and so caught up in the music, especially the beat, that you start to forget where you are.  You haven’t had much to drink, and no drugs.  All the sudden you find yourself dancing with a rather cute [kawaii] pink elephant.

What part of this experience is real?

What part isn’t real?


Part 2: REALITIES:  As you thought over the paradoxes above you should have had to separate the “real” from the “unreal”.  It seems straightforward until you look at your world and how you interact with others, and then it gets complicated real quick.

Thinking of your assignments so far, draw a diagram that shows what you consider the overlap to be between physical and digital reality.

Now add in virtual worlds; virtual reality; augmented reality

Where does a Hatsune Miku concert fit in your diagram?

Doing a Google Hangouts or Skye session with our classmates?

VIRTUAL REALITY has become the hot topic in tech circles in the last 3-4 years, especially with Facebook’s purchase of the Oculus Rift VR system.  When a large number of people will be willing to stick headsets on for extended periods of time remains to be seen, especially because at it’s core VR assumes opposition to physical reality—so the two have to be isolated from each other.


By contrast AUGMENTED REALITY [key player is probably Microsoft Hololens] overlays physical reality with digital aspects—a Hatsune Miku performance is augmented reality.  This Hololens review gives a good idea of current thinking [at:] which discusses the differences between AR and VR.

The VR-AR Koan is looking at this dividing line—in your view which one is personally more compelling?


PowerPoint Module 1A Definitions: Part 2

Apps and Avatars:

Think for a second about a “free” app you use—whether it be Facebook, YouTube, whatever…  At some point they have software coders and designers, a ton of expenses relating to digital storage, web development, customer service…  If you’re using the “free app”, then who pays the bills?

This is the term MONETIZE—to come up with a way to make something generate money—to make it pay for itself (and show a profit).  This is why there are banners and side-bar advertising in Facebook, pop-up adds in your video on YouTube, etc…  These are all ways to pay the bills.  What is more subtle is the collection of all your personal data—the infamous “big data” that is such a hot topic in biz tech circles.  Many Apps, from the moment you clicked the “I agree” when you first downloaded the App, collect everything that you put on your device–texting, pics, checking websites, online purchases…  You might only use the app to text or send pics (say Snapchat), but their data collection is going on all the time your phone/tablet/computer is on, not just when you’re using the app.  This is “data mining” and it’s a very lucrative business.  You see it in the very targeted adds you see.

This brings up the second concept, to COMMODIFY.  This has been a ‘hot button’ topic here in Hawaii for generations, especially related to tourism.  If you market “aloha”, but you do so to make sales, or get a tip, you have placed a cash value on both the term and the attached behavior and/or value.  In fact the larger discussion of service tips and the fact that they have become largely involuntary in many industries in the U.S. is the same issue.  If generosity is given cash value, are you being generous because you morally-socially should, or for the cash?  Who decides?  For social media Apps to be successful today they not only have to find out a way to monetize their service—but they also have to do so while making the App appear “free” to the end user.

But if they want to stay around they need persistent use and growth and this usually involves the commodification of behavior in some way.  The more they can make the App a social necessity, the more ways to make money off of it—not only for them, but also for selected users.  Miller talks about this with Facebook users who have made Facebook their business.  This is a common pattern in Second Life, when commodification of a range of objects, behaviors, and other things have become a full-time job for a number of residents.  The last two panels—the “like” button and like vs. want are views of this shaping of behavior by profit-driven companies.

Since you will be wandering around Second Life, the VIRTUAL WORLDS concepts will become pretty obvious—though as we will see later, that can sometimes seem like the tip of a very large iceberg of hidden social identity and meanings.  A real key concept to keep in mind both while wandering in Second Life, but also in the larger context of how you present yourself in social media such as Facebook or Instagram, would be that of the AVATAR.  As we will see, the minute that you make communication asynchronous, you are in the business of ‘avatar-building’, as you are able to share how you are presented to the digital world—you have the ability to shape your image.


PowerPoint Module 1B: History

There are two main takeaways from this set of panels:

  • Notice the lack of clear relationship between technology and social change;
  • The tremendous acceleration in technological change in extremely short periods of times—we move from changes over hundreds of years; down to changes in generations; down to changes in 2-5 years—the norm now.

Remember—when you were in Elementary School, you didn’t have Facebook because it wasn’t built yet.  You might feel like a dinosaur, but you’re not that old—it’s just that the changes are happening so fast.

Feel free to send in other contributions to add to this timeline, especially as they relate to social games, since that’s not an area I’m into or familiar with.


PowerPoint Module 1AB: Changing Social Patterns


JUMP TO PANEL 3—  don’t worry, we will get back to Slide 2 [self-ego diagram] at the end of this unit

Reaction Paper for Module 1AB Part 1:

Look over each line from Slide 3 [social change evidence] through Slide 5 [pervasive nature].  Ponder over a couple of critical thinking points on each, such as A) am I a part of this statistic and behavior?  B) how many of my friends and other people I work with are part of this group?

Then fast-forward to 2025—given these behavior patterns, how do you think our social patterns have changed by then (if at all)?


This apparent contradiction of massively increased social networking and increased individual perceived isolation is quickly becoming one of the major unanticipated consequences of digital media today.  While everyone accepts the data, predicting trends are all over the chart, generally clustering around the two nodes of “Tech is Good” and the opposing node of “Digital World of Doom”.  Ironically, both can be accused of reflecting the PERCEPTUAL BUBBLE definition—that of seeing and reinforcing a very particular point of view.

This same data-trend dichotomy can also be seen when you move on to Slides 6-7 [app gen specifics].  The older among you fall at the fringe of this group, the younger one are full in it, but the contingent right behind you—currently just starting High School, are full dues-paying members of the App Generation.

Reaction Paper for Module 1AB Part 2:

Use the same critical thinking points on each of the points in Slides 6-7, such as A) am I a part of this statistic and behavior?  B) how many of my friends and other people I work with are part of this group?  But this time only look at the “under-20” group.

Then again, fast-forward to 2025—given these behavior patterns, how do you think our social patterns have changed by then (if at all)?

As a finale when you send me the Reaction Paper, add the following—which of those stats/numbers did you find the least surprising?  The most shocking?

Keep your reaction as we will be refer back to this material constantly during the semester.

Finally, go back to Slide 2 [self-geo diagram]

This is a visual to help you understand the following concept-heavy post.

[If you want to see a very detailed discussion of this topic take a look at Mathews, Gordon  1996.  What Makes Life Worth Living?  How Japanese and Americans Make Sense of Their Worlds.  Berkeley: Univ. Calif Press.  This is also the central theme of post-1964 Americans in Twenge, Jean  2006.  Generation Me.  NY: Free Press.]

There are several paired opposing concepts that are central to understanding perception and self-identity.  One is internalized vs. externalized sense of self.  The other is group-collective self orientation vs. individual-self orientation.

Internalized Sense of Self: Your world view, self-identity, perception of what you are, your relationship with others and the world around you, are largely based on a set of parameters that you have developed internally.  From various sources, you have built up your unique sense-identity.  Normative in Japanese society, this is ikigai in Japanese.  There really isn’t a good English translation for the term.  In this framework you have only limited interest in how strangers view and/or judge you.

Externalized Sense of Self: Your world view, self-identity, perception of what you are, your relationship with others and the world around you, are largely based on how others view and react to you—the judgments they make of you.  Their external opinions are central to your self-identity.  The parameters you use for your world view and self-identity are largely the result of a compilation of the opinion of others—of external input.  In this framework you are extremely interested in how strangers view and/or judge you.

Group-Collective Orientation: Your sense of self and world view are largely driven by your group of association, the collective of those that are important to you.  Individual choice will take back seat to what the group wants.

Individual-Self Orientation: Your sense of self and world view are largely driven by your self-perception and identity, not that of the group or collective that is important to you.  Your individual choices are more critical than the wishes of others.

Thoughts for you to work on:

Where would you place yourself in this chart?

The Kardashians?  The Pope?  Why?

Where would you put a group that is consumed by the need to follow Facebook trends?  Why?

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