Author Archives: Mike Davis

The Monitorial Citizen, Big Media, and The Daily Show

I thought that Jenkin’s chapter on news media and political discourse was fascinating given that I’ve become an avid consumer of political news in the last few years. On the whole, I believe that Jenkins has an idealistic view of the Internet and the consequences that it will have on democracy itself, although he does realize that the Internet will not solve all the problems of democracy.

I’ve been reflecting on the 24-hour news cycle lately and am really disgusted by what I see on some of the major news networks (CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc). I think Jenkins makes a good point though in saying that the 24-hour news cycle was not developed by choice. He says “slowly but noticeably, the old media are becoming faster, more transparent, more interactive – not because they want to be, but because they have to be. Competition is quickening the news cycle whether or not anyone wants to speed it up.” As more and more blogs have developed and Web 2.0 has spread to the far corners of the Internet, the major networks have reacted. His discussion of culture jamming seems a little contradictory since he says that “the concept of culture jamming has outlived its usefulness”, but also notes that “blogging may on one level be facilitating the flow of ideas across the media landscape; on other levels, they are ensuring an ever more divisive political debate.” I liked the solution that President Obama suggested recently at the University of Michigan commencement when he said:

“Still, if you’re somebody who only reads the editorial page of The New York Times, try glancing at the page of The Wall Street Journal once in a while. If you’re a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post website. It may make your blood boil; your mind may not be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship. (Applause.) It is essential for our democracy.”

Particularly, I liked Jenkins section about the “collaborative concept of a monitorial citizen” vs. the “individualized conception of the informed citizen”. His commentary about The Daily Show was enjoyable to read since I’m a big fan. I think his connection between the show and the monitorial citizen was very interesting. He says “The Daily Show‘s mix of spoof segments with interviews with actual public figures demands an active and alert viewer to shift through the distinctions between fact and fantasy. Such a program provides a good training ground for monitorial citizens.” Jon Stewart would be the first person to acknowledge that his show is goofy most of the time, but some of the most telling interviews I’ve seen have been the full, unedited interviews that the show posts on their website. The Daily Show consistently points out flaws in big media and draws attention to the “fair and balanced” news coverage from any side (MSNBC or FOX NEWS). Jenkins makes a very good point when he says “in such spaces, news is something to be discovered through active hashing through of competing accounts rather than something to be digested from authoritative sources.” I think that Jenkins and Stewart share a common philosophy.

From a non-humanities point of view

Wow, this read was an eye-opener for me. I never knew the complexities of academic publishing in the humanities. Mathematical and scientific writing is completely different! I didn’t know some of the basic details like the fact that most tenure processes in humanities centered on books rather than articles. That’s pretty absurd considering the publishing process described by Fitzpatrick in Planned Obsolescence. I’m also surprised at the focus on individual writing and lack of collaboration that she writes about. Most of my work in the scientific field has been collaborative and I hardly ever read anything that has only one author. The culture seems to be very different between the humanities and the sciences. I read the quote by Roland Barthes that said each text is a “multi-dimensional space in which are married and contested several writings, none of which is original: the text is a fabric of quotations” I feel like this especially relevant in math because every theorem and law has either been proven, disproven, or left for someone else to prove. Every paper that is written in mathematics is based on some type of previous work. We just pick up where someone left off and go a little further. Am I wrong in saying that humanities is less collaborative? Can someone correct me?

Peer review is especially important to catch mathematical mistakes and wrong assumptions, and that is why I really enjoyed the formatting of both assigned texts, especially reading comments about each section of text. I really like reading the ongoing conversation that both texts were encouraging and providing a platform for. I found it frustrating to read Planned Obsolescence because I feel like higher education is really holding back a new and exciting format. Fitzpatrick says “until scholars really believe that publishing on the web is as valuable as publishing in print – and more importantly, until they believe that their institutions believe it, too – few will be willing to risk their careers on a new way of working, with the result that that new way of working will remain marginal and undervalued.” I think this is one place where the humanities and sciences share a common roadblock. My only concern about the online format is that one has to devote a much longer period of time to editing and addressing posted comments than they would if something was published in print. When I’ve published an article in the past, I wanted to move onto something new right away because I was sick of my topic after writing about it for months. Most people probably don’t think that way though and are eager for ongoing conversation.

Southpark and Facebook!

If you guys are fans of southpark, or just want to see comedic commentary on facebook, watch it! Exciting!

The Future of the Internet and Institutions (Especially the Government)

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a liberal, but I tried to present an objective point of view with regard to the Tea Party. I mean no offense in my comments, just pointing out things that I have seen. I’m an avid consumer of news and politics. And sorry for being late with the post this week, I’m trying to catch up.

This last week I read the Pew study on “The Impact of the Internet on Institutions in the Future” which asked a large number of experts to muse on how the internet will impact institutions by 2020, and found some of the responses from a group of experts to be fascinating, especially with regard to government and political machines. One expert, Sandra Kelly of 3M, made a prediction that “third-party political movements [will] start on the internet and gain share rapidly in perhaps even the next election. Institutions who don’t pay attention will find themselves obsolete. I look at our present congress and wonder how much more out of touch any group of individuals could be. Bye-bye present politicos.” I believe she is right in her prediction and you can especially see the influence that the Tea Party movement has had with mostly internet communications and organization and also the Zapatista movement that Kimball mentioned in class.

Already we saw how mobilizing the internet community helped President Obama in the 2008 election, but I still think that no one political organization is utilizing the full extent of the internet. Another expert, Janelle Ward from Erasmus University, said “I want to be optimistic, but the truth is that research so far has shown that institutions have not changed their structure just because they have implemented social media as a means to communicate and interact with citizens. Particularly in the realm of political parties and other political actors like NGOs or youth organizations, a stringent desire to remain in control of the message is at the core of online activities.” This is a problem that any political body faces, especially with Democrats and Republicans. Although there are facebook pages for each political organization, they only regurgitate talking points on either side which seems pretty useless to me. Ward goes on to say that the internet encourages the democratic process by giving a equal voice to every citizen, but she asks what political staff is big enough to sift through 10,000 comments in response to a political statement. We see this lack of staff present in the Tea Party movement right now because although there are a large number of self-identified “tea-partiers” they lack the organization, unification, and clear message to become a true political force. It is a coalition of many single bodies of tea-partiers that come together for big events, but can’t agree on basic principles and beliefs besides “the government is too big”.

A young tea-partier

Another expert, and also what follows from my last post, raised concerns about electronic communication in political debate. Karl Auerbach of Interworking Labs, Inc said “I find the erosion of our abilities to engage in critical thinking and non-inflammatory discourse to be disquieting. It seems as if electronic communications cause us to lose our ability to look past errors of expression and to treat one another as humans worthy of respect.” This is also a problem that exists in the Tea Party movement. The socialist-communist-Nazi rhetoric present at Tea Party rallies is disturbing to see, but probably is only a symptom of extreme conservative beliefs that are being showcased on cable news and internet. There are many who don’t believe these fringe statements, but instead are advocating for smaller government. Is it right to draw a line between the Tea Party’s use of the internet and the inflammatory rhetoric that is sometimes present? Are tea-partiers emboldened by a lack of consequences on the internet for disrespect and hate? Or are people just angry at the government right now and the internet does not make a difference?

The Internet Can Be Childish

After reading the material for the discussion on virtual race (Sorry, this post is late!), I started thinking about internet discourse. Most of the internet discourse I read is either related to news or politics through the comment section on a story or article. Lately I’ve been blown away by some of the comments that I’ve seen on the CNN, Politico, etc… because of the inappropriateness of their language. In Bailey’s article, there is something worth quoting in its entirety:

“In acts both constructive and transgressive, adolescent boys have used cyberspace to express the flux, despair, anger, restlessness, and pain of coming to adulthood. In doing so, they have shaped the character of the online community to reflect secrecy, game structures, and hostility to authority.” (p. 4)

So internet discourse is modeled after the childishness of adolescent boys? Is that why I see such vitriolic rhetoric from opposing points of view? Bailey goes on to ask a poignant question: “Do you think bigoted people are attracted to cyberspace, or are ‘normal’ people encouraged to show their hidden bigoted sides?” I believe the answer to this question lies in the fact that most internet users do not feel any real consequences for the things they say. The networked communities that they are part of don’t discourage any of these comments and what’s more frustrating is that people that use polemics usually have a higher number of replies and hits to their comments. Racist, bigoted, and ignorant people do not face any consequences and can even feel empowered by cyberspace since they now have a platform from which to spew hate. But what is the solution? Is this all because the internet has a lasting imprint of adolescence? We can go back to Bailey’s question and I think the answer is “both”. I think that bigoted people are attracted to cyberspace because it is a platform without consequence and that in itself encourages people to show their hidden bigoted sides. How can we gain more constructive and respective dialogue without censorship? Does there have to be a moderator/editor of every comment section? I’m interested to see if anyone has an answer.

Virtual Identity

I found Lister’s discussion on virtual identity to be particularly fascinating. It has been a question of mine for a long time because I see a disconnect between how people behave online vs. IRL (to use tech-savy language) in many of my friends and family. Lister quotes Poster in saying “internet discourse constitutes the subject as the subject fashions him or herself (167)”, but also quotes Baym view that “online groups are often woven into the fabric of off-line life rather than set in opposition to it. The evidence includes thepervasiveness of off-line contexts in online interaction… (168)” It makes me wonder with how honest people are when they are in the virtual world and how they choose to be perceived by others.

My older brother, Steven, is a good example to discuss for a minute. He is very much into facebook status updates and twitter posts (I’m not saying this is a negative thing). He updates his online followers with sometimes 12 updates a day which is a lot of information to display semi-publically (since I’m guessing he has over 200 facebook friends). Since I know my brother very well, I can read into the context the Baym talks about, but there are MANY who cannot. So I see a large disconnect because though I still can see the same person in Steven that I do IRL, there are many who have a different perception of him because they don’t have the same context. Thus, there are two different identities that can be perceived. I often wonder if my brother realizes this fact and ignores it, or if he is just addicted to facebook updates and feels he needs to display many of the things that pop into his head during the day.

So my brother’s example really made me think about Lister’s quote of Massey’s idea of “differentiated mobility” that says that “some people are more in charge of [new media space] than others; some initiate flows and movement, others don’t; some are more on the receiving end of it than others; some are effectively imprisoned by it.” Where do I stand in those options? Is my brother the one initiating flows and movement and I am the one imprisoned because I’m stuck reading the posts (and subsequent comments)? Or is he imprisoned by the regularity and frequency of his status updates/twitter posts? What do you think?

Toshiba Laptop Commercial

I saw this commercial just now on tv and laughed. Check it out.

Have we reached the dreams of the past?

These articles were fascinating to read. All of the authors were spellbound by the idea of having computers (“machines” in Bush’s case) for more personal use. Some of the language in the texts is archaic and at points made me laugh out loud by the absurdity of some of their comments. Bush makes a reference to computers that perform arithmetic have “enormous appetites” that would take “a whole roomful of girls” to transport all of the punchcards and paper.
But even so far away from the personal laptops and iPads that are available now, these authors were able to imagine what we have now. Bush makes a reference to something like Wikipedia, Wiener predicts computer emergency control systems, Licklider spoke of the “internet” 20 years before it was invented, and Nelson talked about the modern word processor and an OS. One of the main questions that came up between the authors is “How will computers assist humans and will they be able to think for themselves?” Turing creates this whole complex “imitation game” to answer this question, Wiener talks about letting the “genie out of the bottle” in terms of technology and almost seems fearful of the possibilities of technology.
It is interesting to look at all the predictions of all the authors and see if what they predicted is true and has that technology taken over an aspect of human control. In the short answer, yes… mostly. We have computers that we can talk to and it will recognize speech and can recognize a stylus stroke for character recognition. Computers do assist us in war for making decisions on the battlefield. The list can continue, but we still don’t have the mega computer like in science fiction movies that can control all aspects of our life with a nice and friendly voice to reassure us. There is no HAL computer (2001: A Space Odyssey) or SKYNET (Terminator) that will turn on humans and eventually try to end our lives.
So we haven’t created total artificial intelligence, but have we created a computer that can pass the “imitation game” in Turing’s experiment? I believe that we could create a comprehensive program that would pass as a human mind in this particular experiment (Turing still argued against a conscious machine capable of emotion, creativity, and imagination…). To end, I think that Turing’s following prediction is interesting; “at the end of the century the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.” Can we honestly say that this isn’t true?

New Media and the brand new Apple iPad


The unveiling of Apple’s new product, the iPad, really embodies a lot of what Lister discusses in Ch. 1 of his book. Here is a “new” medium that attempts to transcend “traditional” internet communication and increase interactivity with the product. Now, not only do we have laptops and smartphones (some might put the iPhone in its own category), but we have an in-between product! The limitations of both the iPhone and the laptop have produced something that resembles a giant iPhone, but has much more expansive capabilities.

Lister discusses the difference between “extractive” and “immersive” interaction with a medium and the new iPad tries to break away from hypertextual navigation and become more immersive. Lister states “Instead of a text-based experience aimed at finding and connecting bits of information, the goals of the immersed user will include the visual and sensory pleasures of spatial exploration.” Like the iPhone, the iPad has multi-touch sensors (something like 1500 of them) which allow navigation to be more immersive because you are spatially interacting with the device instead of just “point and click”. One example of increased immersion that stood out to me was the new e-reader that is featured on the iPad. The iBooks app is a perfect example of how “old” media is being transformed into “new” media. A user can explore books by looking through digital shelves of books and tapping on a book to read some details on it. No longer do we have to sit on Amazon and scroll through a list of books and click each one to bring up a separate webpage for that book. Now we can browse through virtual shelves by swiping the screen and tapping on a book for a pop-up window of details. Apple has really tried to make their new product much more immersive than a traditional laptop and have expanded the capabilities of an iPhone so that it is bigger, more hi-def, and easier to navigate through digital newspapers, books, and magazines (not to mention increasing gaming usage with its HD display and interactive gesture controls). It also has a full QWERTY keyboard on a very thin, sleek, and portable device that connects to wifi and 3G. A blogger’s dream.

Apple attempts to transcend traditional boundaries in digital media. It has made connections from a GPS map to digital photos by allowing users to “geotag” their photos to not only share images, but maps of where the user has been. Again, instead of just flipping through photos of a person’s trip to Romania, an Apple user is able to spatially explore their friend’s trip in a map and have multi-touch gestures available to see exactly where that photo was taken and what preceded it. Apple has already presented this technology in their laptops, but now there is the ultra-portable iPad to do this anytime. The lines between traditional media and “new” media are continuing to blur and the Apple iPad moves us one step farther in that direction.