Author Archives: jaggerjax

Effects of Social Networking Systems on Society

The three readings this week made me think of the “What is New Media?” reading by Lev Manovich, and how new media affects culture. The question that came to mind was, “How do Social Networking Systems influence society and culture?”

Some answers provided by the reading:
– People now have a lot more acquaintances, or “friends” who they aren’t very close with. Our “Dunbar number” can be doubled because it’s easy to check up on people and find out what they’ve been up to.
– People (especially the younger generation) are becoming more comfortable with exposing information about themselves to the public. The News Feed people first opposed is now more accepted and seen as an improvement to the Facebook website.

I went to a lecture last week on Virtual Kinship by Tom Boellstorff, a professor of Anthropology at UC Irvine. At first I was skeptical and thought it was hilarious that an anthropologist was taking Facebook and Second Life seriously (remember that Onion video of the anthropologist who discovered the ruins of Friendster?), but he made several interesting points:
– Our definition of a “Friend” is changing, and today (thanks to Facebook and other online communities), “Friend” is also a verb, and a new form of virtual kinship.
– Boellstorff described a time when his Second Life (and actual life) friend asked him to teach at an elementary in the virtual community (Hard Knock Elementary). Boellstorff wanted to teach the Second Life children (played by adults in actual life) something they didn’t know before, so he decided to give an online lesson on the Indonesian Language. That same day, the adults who were playing SL as children were able to make sentences like “Sally is a dum-dum” in Indonesian (if I remember my Bahasa Indonesia correctly, this would be “Sally bodoh”). By rediscovering their child-self in Second Life (and perhaps their desire to learn as a kid), these adults were able to learn how to construct sentences in Indonesian rapidly. I thought this was pretty amazing, and says something about our current educational system and adult learning.

This week’s readings: Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Social Networking Websites and Teens,” danah boyd, “Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck,” and Clive Thompson, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy

Allison and Jackie's Video Project



Alright, so our video is about Wikipedia and its reception by students of the Claremont Colleges. We interviewed students and asked the following questions:

– Can you describe your feelings about Wikipedia in one or two words?
– Do you believe that Wikipedia is a reliable source for general knowledge or trivia?
– Do you think that Wikipedia is reliable enough to be used for scholarly purposes?

After interviewing students, we decided to start off the video with an introduction of Wikipedia, including screenshots (with a lot of Ken Burns Effect usage). We looked for “easy listening” music to accompany the video, and found some techy, bouncy music. The most painful part about editing the video was adding sound clips before adding video clips in iMovie (the audio clips get shortened to the length of the video clip). Okay, Allison wants to talk about the video, so I’ll stop now.


Awesome, my turn. Well, since Jackie pretty much already covered all of the technical aspects of the project, that leaves me with the best part — the editorial! As she pointed out, iMovie is a huge pain to use. Everything about it is set up for the lowest common denomenator of user, which is cool and all and I can respect that but things like auto-cropping music and not letting you click some things and edit others is a little frustrating. I feel like the interface of iMovie was made so simple that it became complex, and as much as I’d like to use Windows Movie Maker, I don’t really like my software crashing every three minutes.

So I guess you gotta pick your battles.

That aside, I really like the final project. Getting the audio in sync with the text/pictures was probably the most challenging aspect aside from struggling with the program’s defaults and restrictions. Also, I have to say, Dan and Diana are absolutely hilarious in the un-cut, but we couldn’t use all of the footage because of the time constraint (which crept up on us much faster than we expected).


Star Guitar Music Video

This is the awesome video we talked about (briefly) in class last time, in which the viewer is in a train passing by houses and buildings in sync with the music.


Netflix Queues and Music Piracy

Anderson’s article reminded me of something I saw in the NY Times in January this year: “A Peek into Netflix Queues“. You can view the Netflix rental patterns of many different neighborhoods and see how even neighborhoods that are a few zipcodes away can have varying tastes when it comes to movies.

I wanted to post a link to this web comic I stumbled upon a year ago or so on music piracy, but I can’t find the site! 🙁 (In the comic, this guy explains how music piracy is about getting as much music as you can for the least amount of money, which, thanks to peer-to-peer networks, is now $0. He begins by explaining that in the past, he used to convert vinyl records to cassette tapes, since records were cheaper to obtain.) Anyway, if I find the comic, I will post it.


I don’t know if you guys have heard about it (it’s pretty old), but if you haven’t, you should check it out!

It’s Notpron – the Hardest Riddle Available on the Internet. It’s a riddle with many levels that you go through by doing random things like checking the source code to find more information, photoshopping/altering images to find hidden messages, reading braille… I eventually gave up trying to solve it.

Response to Nakamura Reading + Tangent

In “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction”, Nakamura conveys that while the internet/computer games may give people the freedom to create an avatar of a different age, gender, and race, we still do not acknowledge diversity in cyberspace. Instead of allowing freedom from racial and gender stereotypes, cyberspace has produced cybertypes.

“The performances of identity tourists exemplify the consumption and commodification of racial difference; the fact that so many users are willing to pay monthly service fees to put their racially stereotyped avatars in chat rooms attests to this.” People still bring their stereotypes from the real world into cyberspace, and instead of solving the problem, the internet has allowed these “identity tourists” to pay to create these stereotyped avatars.

Although it’s slightly unrelated, the reading made me think of Tomb Raider, and how (even in a class on Feminism and Media) people think that games like Tomb Raider encourage females to play video games.

My response to that:

Simply creating a video game which incorporates a female as the main character does not cause the game to become more inviting to female players, or eliminate gender stereotypes, for that matter. If you redesign the game so that instead of Lara Croft you have a kitten as the main character, female players STILL won’t be encouraged to play the game– Tomb Raider, once considered a game for guys, is still a game for guys in the eyes of female players.


We Become the Machine

One of the most interesting points Manovich makes in “What is New Media?” is that new media results in the “translation of all existing media into numerical data accessible through computers”. In my computer science classes, we’re constantly reminded that although the programs we write appear to be a collection of strings and characters, in reality, all data can be represented by 0’s and 1’s (machine-level code). In a similar sense, all the things that we can see or even hear on the computer are all comprised of 0’s and 1’s. I also thought it was interesting how Manovich related the Turing Machine to the film projector, stating that it was not a coincidence that both came out during the 1930’s. Before this reading, when I made a Turing Machine I just thought it was weird how we were representing a program on a roll of (imaginary) tape, and that it seemed rather physical for a computer, similar to the way people used to use punch cards to operate a computer. It’s definitely not a point that was brought up in CS class.

Manovich also states that new media consists of a “cultural layer” as well as a “computer layer”, and in order to understand the logic of new media, we must turn to computer science. I agree with Manovich, and I think that an understanding of computer science is important in order to remove some of the opaqueness of current technology and new media.

The “moral anxiety” accompanied by the shift from constants to variables can be seen, in some way, through hyperlinks or video games. Because we are bombarded with so many choices and possibilities, suddenly there is a purpose in every action that we take.

Some Useful Sites for the Sound Project

Just thought it might be useful to list these free sound websites: – you need to register although it’s free – lets you convert YouTube videos into mp3 files

Awesome Site for DIY-ers

I just wanted to post a link to Make Magazine (an online e-zine which allows people to post instructions to DIY projects related to technology). One of the more famous bloggers on Make, Mister Jalopy came to our Digital Art class last semester and gave a talk about his goal to remove the opaqueness of technology (for example, ipods and computers) so that consumers can once more understand how the things they use work. It’s a pretty cool site, and you should check it out if you’re interested in DIY projects.

Some Problems with Technology

Landow’s reading made me think about several issues we have with hypertext and technology in general.

For one thing, links can be extremely distracting and can take away from the main text. Landow gives an example of reading Ulysses with footnotes as hyperlinks. Although it may be convenient to be able to look up the works in the footnotes with a single click, I don’t know if it would be such a good idea to keep allowing readers to get distracted from a work of text (and even if we welcomed the distraction, I’m not sure any of us would actually bother to click and read the other works). I think the problem we have now with the internet is that it’s so easy to lose focus and find one interesting after another– would it be such a good thing to be constantly bombarded by all of these links to other related works in a reading?

Landow also brings up the issue of information retrieval. The need to retrieve information quickly was first addressed by links (which provided related information at the discretion of the webmaster), and then search engines, which allowed users to find an answer to any question they had and find information about anything they wanted to know about almost instantaneously– all using a simple search box. The problem (which we addressed in previous readings) is now security regarding this information– who controls what information is available to the public, and how do we collect such information (worms, bots)?

The other problem is something I’ve been thinking about since my best friend gave me an electronic digital frame. At first I thought it was amazing, since it could play all of the photos as a slideshow, play music while the slideshow was on, and have all of its photos organized through the computer. But after playing with it for a while and realizing it had to be plugged in to be something more than a blank screen, I wondered… what’s going to happen when there’s no more electricity in the world (a.k.a. Armageddon)? I told him about it, so since then he bought me a wooden frame to hold a physical photo that would “last forever”.