Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Week 12: Reclaiming Conversation- Part.2

Turkle’s Reclaiming conversation reminded me of the movie “Her.” The movie takes place in the future, where artificial intelligence technology is fully developed. In the future, an operating system (OS), which has its own consciousness and is able to develop into a full entity, is sold as a commodity. The movie is about a lonely divorced man named Theodore who buys the OS, and falls in love with it. Theodore thinks Samantha, the OS, is the only one that truly understands him, even better than his ex-wife. Their relationship, however, falls apart after Theodore realizes that Samantha is talking with 8,316 more people, while having a conversation with him.

The future will look similar to what the movie suggests. Google and Amazon came up with Alexa and Echo, the AI assistants, while developing wearable devices. Soon, we will have more than social media apps and smartphones in our hands. The more smart OS in more comfortable device will emerge and we will both be connected and disconnected at the same time. New tech, such as Google glasses, will search and show information about the product a friend is talking about as he or she speaks. While connected to the virtual world, a conversation with a friend may be disconnected for a second. As the new media suggest and recommend entertainment, and a place to socialize, people find virtual world a comfortable place to spend time. In the virtual world, making conversation to a stranger is easy as tapping in and tapping out.

The problem with talking on the web is that it is easy to tap out. Turkle pointed out that many students find email to be a comfortable method when they communicate with professors. She also observed that the number of people breaking up through a simple text messaging is increasing. People turn to electronic devices when they have to confront difficult feelings. It is easier to deliver hard feelings without looking someone in the eye. Like Turkle argued, feeling of empathy seems to diminish on social media (communication on electronic media). If you are not satisfied with the person you are talking to, or the topic of conversation, you can easily end the conversation by clicking close button, logging out of the app, or simply putting the phone down. Unlike face-to-face communication, people don’t have to put effort into the conversation they don’t like. This not only puts them into a bubble of like-minded people, but also affects people’s patience.

In the previous discussion, we talked about how technology enabled people to multitask. Now people use several devices at the same time, and the contents are cropped into a bite size so that it is easier for people to consume the content. The shorter duration of the content is what aggravates problem with empathy. When people read tragic stories on a book or a paper, they had enough time to consume the information, and to develop a feel or thought for the story. However, on new type of media, shortened yet diverse news and entertainment contents are constantly fed and blocks people from developing ideas. I also have an experience of reading a sad story on Facebook, which brought me to tears. That feeling, however, didn’t last a minute because the following content had funny stories with cute puppies. Likewise, fast developing technology deprives us of the ability to develop our thoughts and feelings. If people’s way to communicate continues to be selective and superficial, the future illustrated in the film Her is soon to come. Because people will only want to communicate with someone/thing that only agrees with him or her, artificial intelligent OS will be a perfect solution to keep people accompany.

However, is conversation on the virtual world genuine communication, or even genuine feelings? Samantha asks Theodore how someone can share a life with other person. Theodore answers reading each other’s work and having influence on each other’s life was how he shared a life with his ex-wife. Samantha asks again how he influenced her. Theodore answers they came from a different background but “a sense of just trying stuff and allowing each other to fail and to be excited about things… It was exciting to see her grow and both of us grow and change together.” The value of genuine conversation is priceless. With so many scholars showing concerns for the new technology and the media, I wonder if one day new media will be considered detrimental service to mental health. Once, cigarette was considered cool but many health-efficient people avoid smoking, and smoking itself is considered bad. Some people already give out testimonials on how great it feels to be free from new media. We never know, but one day, the culture that deeply immerses people into the waves of content may also be considered something wrong. Only then, we will reclaim our conversation. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Week 11: Reclaiming conversation – Part 1

Sherry Turkle, in the first half of her book Reclaiming conversation, talks about how media is bringing people to be “pro-conversation,” but less sentimental. Turkle provides an insightful observation of the current situation, which I could all relate to. I have an experience of following the rule of two or three in the gathering of friends. Sometimes, my close friend and I would just sit together at a café, each browsing our own social media newsfeed, and constantly sharing funny things each found. At times, I wonder what we would talk about if we don’t have our phones in hands. I would be dumbfounded and would try to pull a topic from some book about communication, such as Good skills in conversation (For some reason, books that formulate a systematic conversation skills are popular in Korea). The key reason behind the current phenomenon, which conversation transferred from face-to-face human medium to digital media, is because of the digital media’s always-connected characteristic.
In the law of supply and demand, surplus means the product or service is going to be low value. Water was once a resource people were indifferent about. It became valuable when people realized fresh water is not going to last forever. As Turkle briefly mentioned in a book, people to go virtual world because it is predictable and the users are capable of doing anything. In the virtual world, users fight a giant monster, jump over a deep crevice, or still a helicopter. They do these crazy things that can’t be done in the real world because the life in a virtual world is infinite. The value of life gets cheap when it is endless. Likewise, the value of conversation is getting cheaper because digital media allows people to have conversation anytime, anywhere. The opportunity to communicate with people became so abundant it is not appreciated anymore. We chat with friends on digital media when we are with family. Then, we send text to family members when we are with friends. The time physically spent together, which was valued as a time to have conversation, is now less valued as well.

The problem with abundant opportunity to communicate is that it will slowly diminish the attitude toward conversation itself. People feel face-to-face conversation isn’t as valuable as before. Turkle says people are at least pro-conversation on digital media. This, however, can change within time. Product life cycle theory suggests that a new product develops stages of introduction, growth, maturity, and decline. People will begin to lose interest in digital conversation as time pass. I remember the time when I first used the mobile texting system. I was full of excitement and expectations. I also remember the first time I posted something on my facebook wall. I was again, so excited and amazed to see my friends commenting beneath my post and to get notifications. Getting an IM app on a mobile devise was an interesting moment as well. The feature that let users know if the other person read the message or not, and if they are typing their response was mind-blowing. The features, which were once so magnificent, are now nothing but annoyance. It stresses me that people know when I received their message. People’s expectation of my instant response (because digital media allows me to make instant response, and others know I have one!!) also becomes a burden. Because I know I can always comeback to a conversation whenever I want to, I started to procrastinate on my responses. Like the decreased value of conversation on physical contact, the conversation on digital media was pushed back on my priority list. One of the problems that arose in Korea was that bosses would send work related text anytime, even during the night or on weekends, because ubiquity allows them to. The ubiquitous conversation that finds me any time and space, however, is annoying. Unlike the previous reading materials that focused on benefits of always connected media, Turkle points out negative aspect of digital media, and I agree with her. The novelty of digital conversation will fade with time, and the diminished value of conversation in general will only left alone.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Week 10: Privacy and sousveillance

This week’s reading presented different perspectives on surveillance. The authors in general pointed out the significance of surveillance, despite the controversy over privacy issues. Instead of banning the surveillance, the authors provided countermeasures such as coveillance, and sousveillance.

As one of the authors illustrated in the post, the future society presented in a movie Minority Report is soon to arrive. Multiple number of lenses watch individuals, and many devices are keeping track of individual data and information up to date. In Minority Report, the main character Chief John Anderton face a huge difficulty escaping the city because every personal information is digitalized, and the personalized algorithms easily predicts individual’s behavior through previous patterns. A way to avoid such society is through strengthening an individual privacy, but in a society with a lot of lures for personal/consumer information, it is hard to protect one’s privacy on the Internet. However, different types of surveillance suggest a way to combat the situation with a minimal privacy violation.

Someone named Bill provided his name and some part of his
media account access to create this meme

People will keep sharing so having a good surveillance system is important. An author suggested that sharing information and interacting with others are an old habit of human nature. In the society where a community of people lived together and shared everything, there was no such thing as a secret or a personal life. As the Industrial revolution changed the way of living, and allowed individuals to make his or her own living, a concept of personal life, privacy, and individualism came to life. However, because it is a human tendency to share and to be acknowledged, people in the modern age still do so. People share for different reasons. Some would share memes or post like “When God made me” or “Be like Bill” fun or to interact with others. Some would share their knowledge and discovery to better the society. Some share their thoughts and situations for help. Whichever reason it is, to share something there is always a cost of privacy. People who participated in making a personalized meme gave away their personal information such as names and emails, people who shared their ideas gave away their private ideas, and people who posted for help gave away their personal situation. People knew what they were giving up, but they still continued to share because it is important for people to share with others.

Among the different types of surveillance system, I liked the idea of sousveillance system. Today’s surveillance system is from top to bottom. Lenses are above looking at us. An author suggested coveillance system, which the two side surveillance each other, but this doesn’t make sense because the power of the two sides is not equally distributed. Like in the politics, where the power is separated into three groups, there needs to be more than three groups of surveillance. The more surveillance groups society has, the more transparent mutual control is possible. What is important in this sousveillance is whose information is available for which surveillance group. The author of “eyes on the street or creepy surveillance?” suggested information of youth in need of help should be given to the organization that can help the kids, instead of investigative organization. I think this is a great idea since the surveillance organization will then be able to help the people who are in need with minimum privacy violation. As such, as the more various parts of the society take part in the surveillance activity, the more optimal surveillance will be possible for individuals, without harming his or her privacy. And that is the sousveillance.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Week 9: What takes for the fire to continue?

In the Affective Publics: Sentiment, Technology, and Politics, Zizi Papacharissi made an argument that new media invite affective public to engage in current events, or stories. Papacharissi especially put emphasis on Twitter, a platform that provides a storytelling infrastructure. Papacharissi’s idea stemmed from an interesting thought that affect is not the opposite concept of ration. The premise provided better understanding of the affective public, and significance of studying the public’s behavior.

The author looked into ample amount of cases that Twitter has led a social movement, such as Arab Spring and Occupy movement. Papacharissi argued that Twitter provides a place for affective public to engage and form opinion as a group for the like-minded people. Although Papacharissi successfully made her case clear about the relationship between the affective public and the new media with successful case studies, some questions remain unsolved.

The question on affective public and the new media comes from the instant characteristic. Papacharissi argued feelings get public to engage in activities, and the engagement last even after the feelings go away. However, is this true? The affect and new media share the same characteristic, immediacy. Feelings are prompt and easy to evoke with a proper stimulus. Twitter provides a 140-character microblogging service, which was primarily developed for IM purposes. The instant microblogging media service is the right place to go for publics with aroused feelings of the moment. Take a look at what’s trending for instance. Twitter has a service called Trending, which keeps track of hashtags that is popular at the moment. The trending topics change as algorithm determines immediate popular stories. With the temperamental public and the rapidly swaying Twitter contents the fire can be easily put off. The only way that can continue the fire is if the traditional media take a part in.

The social media and affective public leads an event, but it takes traditional media and real live people to actually make a difference. Papacharissi used words such as possibilities and potentialities to define the word affect. Like the words used to describe affect, affective public only provide possibilities and potentialities for the current events on the new media to turn into the event on real life. Occupy movement or Arab Spring all started off as a social media movement, but eventually brought people out to the streets. Trending movement get traditional media coverage. Dr. Christofferson who came as a guest speaker in my last semester’s class said people are afraid of diseases that have the most news media coverage at the time. The diseases have always been around us, but people pay attention only when the television and the newspaper cover it. Likewise, the issues of Black lives matter, Occupy movement, Arab Spring, and Not our president have always been on the social media. But to continue the movement and led more people to aware of these problems calls for a cooperation of traditional media. When you look into the news stories on one of the big and successful social movements, the visuals provided are the pictures of actual protesters on the street. Media don’t just put screenshots of the most liked Tweet or posts as their visual aid because real live people speak more than a tweet. Thus, for a successful social movement, activists on social media should work on getting traditional media coverage, and they should be ready to get out to the real world when some crowd of likeminded people has gathered, and the right time has come.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

Week 8: The importance of educating minority professionals

The Indian Country was an integration of various aspects that were discussed in our MC 7019 class. The authors’ intention was to examine how the digital age changed the rich story telling technique in distributing the News among the Native communities. In doing so, the authors, LaPoe and LaPoe II, successfully addressed sensitive issues in the digital age, such as digital divide, stereotyping, and difficulties in researching minorities. LaPoe and LaPoe II concluded the book with an affirmative attitude. They had high hopes for the decrease of digital divide, as there are more attempts to grow and educate young generation of American Indians.

Cultivating culturally competent communicators, journalists and researchers is significant in 1) understanding a certain culture and 2) solving the digital divide as LaPoe and LaPoe II argued. The class discussed two steps of digital divide in the last class period. Providing digital devices can easily solve the first step of digital divide, which limits the access. The second step of digital divide, however, which is related to the level of skills and participation, can only be solved through education.

Culturally competent native professionals can spot out errors from the outside researchers. Stereotypes and lack of understanding of the out-group researchers can result in wrong conclusions. Any researchers who haven’t experienced the culture from inside can make a wrong observation. For instance, Hofstede’s cultural dimension is a widely cited model. It explains the cultural differences with six dimensions. According to the Hofstede dimension, South Korea is defined as feminine society, which members of the society like to cooperate and care for others than to compete. However, from the inside perspective, Korea is one of the most heavily competitive societies. Students go to school at 7 am, and are forced to study until 10pm. The situation doesn’t change after graduation. Employees always work after hours because everyone else is doing the same. Students and workers choose to do more study and work because not doing so would eliminate them from the competition. This is what I experienced and observed as an in-group. Hofstede’s research results, however, which is inconsistent from the eyes of an ingroup researcher, has been cited way over forty thousand times all around the world. Caucasion male has been the dominant leader in every parts of the society. Growing culturally competent professionals would find skewed perspectives in various fields and add perspectives to make a balance.

Culturally competent native researcher can integrate a traditional culture and a new concept or technique, and create an optimal solution for the community. The authors found that the distinctive storytelling of the American Indians still remained even after the young generation transferred to digital media. The example on the book shows that some American Indian journalists had problem publishing on the mainstream media because of the Native storytelling writing style. Without the culturally competent young generation journalists and the digital tools, the only way American Indian Journalists could take to be accepted into the mainstream media was to let go of their distinctive storytelling and write like the mainstream journalists. The preservation of the Native storytelling culture was possible not just by digital media or educated young generation respectably. The combination of the two worked together and found the best way to adapt the traditional culture to the new digital media. Likewise, having skilled minority professionals help keep their cultural characteristics distinct from the mainstream. Culturally competent researchers will help fill the gap between the digital divide and increase the speed of process by educating more generations after them.