Blog Post 11: New Nightmares, New Possibilities, New Questions

Hi everyone,

Welcome to our last blog post of this section of the course on privacy and surveillance. First, a quick note on the Tufecki reading – the course packet doesn’t correctly reproduce the images that go with Tufecki’s writing (those large blank spaces), so as you’re reading, take a look at the original article online. They’re a pretty striking accompaniment to the things she’s discussing.

Tufecki’s article itself takes us further into our consideration of the social and political possibilities and dangers of digital media through surveillance. Many of the issues we’ve discussed recently come up here again—corporate and governmental surveillance in various forms, how that surveillance shapes our lives as consumers and citizens, and the differences between old and new media in relation to those processes, to name just a few—but Tufecki has something new to add to this conversation. She wants us to consider how digital media allows for both new modes of social activism and  new modes of political control, both of which are powerful and both of which we need to consider carefully as informed members of a digital culture.

So for this blog post, I’d like you to play out a specific connection between Tufecki and one of the other texts we’ve studied for this section (Greenwald, Watson, or the creators of Do Not Track). You should quote and integrate substantial passages from both authors into a paragraph of your own writing, and in doing so you should show how their arguments in those passages relate to one another and how you would respond to that conversation. In your response, you should introduce, quote, cite, and analyze at least one substantial passage each from Tufecki’s article and from your other chosen author – not just a single small term or concept, but a fuller claim of the kind that you might quote in a paper. We’ll work on developing and improving this approach over the process of writing the fourth paper.

Keep in mind that all of these authors are advancing complex perspectives about the politics of digital information and connection, so you need to make an argument of your own that’s aware of their ideas and the relation between them — instead of just siding with one author, for example, try to offer a closer, more specific response to their argument through conversation with the other.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, November 25. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 10: Privacy Politics

Hi everyone,

Here’s a thread for some writing for Monday’s class, with one change: rather than reading the piece by Greenwald in the packet, you should watch this talk by him online, entitled “Why Privacy Matters.” As you watch the video (make sure to watch the Q&A at the end as well), you might turn on the subtitles or read along in the transcript to follow along with all of what Greenwald is saying.

Image result for panopticon

This blog is another open-ended chance to engage with the issues raised by this material — you’re free to respond to whatever strikes you as most interesting, provocative, or significant in Greenwald’s talk, as long as you ground your thinking in some close textual analysis of his speech, where you quote, cite, and analyze and respond to the issues and ideas he’s introducing in what you quote.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, November 11. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 9: Down in the Valley

Hi all,

First, since a few of you have written to ask me about the “provisional intro/argument” for paper 3 for Monday, here’s a little more information on what to be thinking about: this is a chance for you to do some provisional thinking about what you want to say about the topic, and we’ll do some workshopping of these pieces in class Monday, so make sure to bring a hard copy. It doesn’t have to be a fully polished intro paragraph — the most important thing is to lay out an initial sense of what you might argue and focus on. And now onto the regular blog…

This blog post both builds on some of our thinking about Netflix’s data profiling in our last class and also looks back to some of our first material in the course through new eyes. Watson’s article challenges us to think about the complex ways in which our selves as data both resemble and distort our “real” offline selves in strange ways (as you read, take a look at the article itself online so you can access the links in it and the images, some of which don’t come through in the print version.

So this blog post is a chance to explore those issues first-hand. After you read Watson’s article, you should examine your own data profile on Facebook — to do this, look in this FAQ. You can look in the instructions under “How can I adjust how ads are targeted to me based on my activity on or off of Facebook?” to see how to find information about your ad settings overall, and “What are my ad preferences and how can I adjust them?” for instructions on how to find information on a particular ad.

Once you’ve explored your profile, do some writing to analyze it in connection with Watson’s article, quoting and discussing her writing to frame your analysis. How does your ad profile resemble and differ from how you imagine your own identity, online and offline? How does what you find about that profile confirm or complicate what Watson claims? What’s important about those relations — how do we have to think about ourselves online differently in light of what you see here?

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, November 4th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 8: Do Not Track (but Do Write!)

Hi all,

As I mentioned in class just now, here’s a thread for some preliminary writing and thinking about the interactive documentary Do Not Track, which we’ll discuss in class this Wednesday:

  • First, you can access the documentary at https://donottrack-doc.com/en/ — you should watch episodes 1, 2, 3, and 5.
  • Once you’ve watched/played that material, you should post two things in this blog thread:
    • One key observation: What’s one important thing you noticed, learned, or were brought to think about here that seems important to you in larger terms?
    • One critical question: What’s one issue or question that emerged for you in this material that we need to think about as we begin this section (this should be interpretive and critical rather than a factual, reading-comprehension type question)?

We’ll use some of these as a starting point for our thinking and discussion Wednesday — see you then!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. Given the slightly different nature of this post, it doesn’t have to be the full 250 words, but should be composed of finished, substantive thoughts, and is due by 11:59pm on Tuesday, October 30th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

Blog Post 7: Futures

Hi all,

Hope you’ve been having a good weekend so far – here’s a thread for posting about our reading for Monday, Emily Witt’s chapters on “Internet Dating” and “Live Webcams” from her book Future Sex. As with many of our texts in this section of the course, Witt’s writing asks us to think about how bodily and sexual behaviors might change as a result of digital technology, and thus about what issues and questions those changes might raise.

But Witt’s writing is different in form from most of what we’ve studied so far. Rather than a strictly scholarly text, hers combines personal narrative, social history, and other modes in order to engage the issues she’s engaging—this means we have to read and engage her work with a different eye.

So for this blog post, you should work on getting a handle on what Witt is actually saying through this mix of approaches: what is her argument, and what specific issues around the question of digital bodies and sexuality is she addressing in that argument? What seems important about that? As in our previous posts, you should try to address these questions through quotation and close analysis of a specific passage in her writing: introduce that passage, quote and analyze it, and do some writing to explain how you see it fitting into the larger thinking she’s doing—what makes your chosen passage not just interesting to you, but a key part of her larger argument?

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, October 21st. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 6: All About Who? All About What?

Hi all,

Our next reading, Neil McArthur’s “The Case for Sexbots,” starts our third section of the course with a provocative argument. In this article, McArthur makes an ambitious case for why we should see sexbots as a general social good. His argument gives us a number of directions in which to expand our thinking so far on technology, embodiment, and sexuality — in addition to considering issues of desire, psychology, and emotion as we have been, McArthur suggests that we also need to take forces such as power, consent, agency, and societal impact into account as well.

So for this blog post, you should use your writing to engage with McArthur’s argument as closely and thoughtfully as you can by quoting, paraphrasing, and responding to a meaty portion of his writing. Beyond simply agreeing or disagreeing with what he claims there or with his argument overall, you should think critically about the stakes of his thinking in what you quote — what issues does he raise in that portion, how does he see those issues, and how do you respond? We’ll use some of these posts as a way into thinking about the implications of this for identity and interpersonal relations in class on Wednesday. Happy reading and I’ll see you all then!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on TUESDAY, October 16th (remember that this is different from our usual blogging schedule). If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

 

 

Blog Post 5: brb

Hi everyone,

Nice continued discussion of Jonze’s Her today. Our next visual text for Monday, “Be Right Back” from the anthology series Black Mirror, poses a striking counterpoint to Her, addressing some of the same issues and questions around digital technology through a different science-fictional concept.

So let’s use this blog post to think about how these two texts relate and compare in terms of some of the key issues we’ve been thinking about: what does “Be Right Back” show us about questions of identity, embodiment, and relationships in a world shaped by digital technology, and how does it resemble and/or differ from what Her shows us? You’re free to pursue the relations between these two texts in whatever way is most intriguing to you, provided that you discuss each one specifically and directly, referring to particular scenes, lines, etc., to show how you see the two texts relating — as you do that, use the film analysis techniques we worked with in class today to develop your claims. Don’t just draw comparisons between the two for their own sake — try instead to use that comparison to move towards a larger idea or claim of your own that responds to the issues you see between the two films.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, October 7th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 4: All About Her

Hi everyone,

I’ve been enjoying discussing drafts and revision with everyone today, and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow. Since our work next week will be a little different, I’m putting this blog post up now, with some important scheduling details and changes included — read everything here carefully and let me know if you have any questions.

First, some practical matters: we’ll have our screening of Spike Jonze’s Her in Emerson Auditorium, Sunday Sept. 30, at 7:30pm. Come watch the film then if at all possible — come prepared to take notes and eat popcorn. If you can’t come then, make sure you watch it on your own to be prepared for this blog post and for our discussion in class next Monday — the DVD is on reserve at the library, and the film is also available online. Just make sure you plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get it and watch it before class Monday—keep in mind that even if you’ve seen it, you need to watch it again so that it’s fresh in your mind and you can view it more analytically and critically.

In order to help with that, everyone should make sure to read the short piece “Visual Rhetoric/Visual Literacy: Writing About Film” in the packet and view these three clips  on “How to Speak Movie” before you watch the film.

And now on to some thinking about Her, one of the central texts for this second section of the course on “Digital Images.” Although this film is clearly set in the future, in a world that’s not exactly ours, director Spike Jonze clearly seems to want to raise questions about the nature of our digital world now — about what it means to exist and connect and feel in a world that’s constantly mediated by technology.

We so commonly hear that technology is disconnecting us from one another, making us alienated and isolated, and that online relationships aren’t “real.” But this film wants us to think more complexly about the possibilities of digital connections — so for this blog post let’s do just that. You should think carefully and specifically about what the film seems to be showing us about the possibilities and problems of digital relations. How is the relationship between Theodor and Samantha different from a human-to-human relationship, and what might that show us about our relationships online and offline? What does their narrative show us about what you can do in a digital relationship that can’t happen otherwise, and what’s impossible in their relationship — how can we weigh those things in the world of the film? Rather than thinking about which is “better” or “worse,” try to just be analytical and reflective about the issues the film brings up. You’re free to take up any number of issues or themes in the film — just make sure that you ground your post in some specific reference and analysis of it, pointing to particular scenes, characters, elements, etc., and discussing how they work to raise these kinds of issues — this is a point where some of the vocabulary in the reading and Youtube clips will prove helpful. Let’s try to get as wide a coverage of this material as possible to bring into class for our first day of discussion, so make sure you look through others’ posts before you work on yours, and if it’s clear that a particular scene or other piece has been discussed by lots of people already, try to branch out into some new material.

Reminder, with a slight scheduling change: Since our screening is so close to class time, I’m making some slight changes for this week only. Rather than Sunday night, your post is due by class time on Monday, and should be at least 250 words. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

Blog Post 3: My Self, My Selfie

Hi everyone,

Our next reading for Monday, Lisa Ehlin’s “The Subversive Selfie,” gives us a chance to sharpen our thinking from the performance of the self online overall we considered in our last class to the specific ways in which selfies in particular play a role in that performance and self-construction. Ehlin’s argument asks us to think about selfies in a different way from how we’re often encouraged to see them, in terms of identity, gender, power, and selfhood itself.

Since the first paper assignment asks you to use our critical readings to engage in some self-analysis, let’s use this blog post as a sort of warmup to that kind of writing: in your post, you should use some key claims and ideas from Ehlin’s article to analyze a particular selfie — find a meaty, thoughtful quotation of a few sentences from her article, introduce and explain it in your own writing, and apply that to a selfie of your choosing. Your application should analyze the image in relation to the ideas you draw from Ehlin — how does that image illustrate, complicate, oppose, or otherwise relate to her thinking about selfies overall? And what’s important about that relationship — what does seeing that image through the framework of her argument show you about it, and about selfies and self-construction online overall.

You’re free to use a selfie of your own, or another one you can find and access online — a celebrity’s, a friend’s, or anything else is up for consideration. The only rule here is that you should include a link to it in your post so that I and everyone else can look at it, and that it should be publicly available (i.e., not part of a private account). If you want to get a direct link to an Instagram post, the easiest way to do that is to look at it on a computer rather than your phone, and copy that address into your post. Keep in mind that WordPress’ spam filter sometimes doesn’t like links, so I may have to approve your post manually again, but as long as you submit it on time, you’re ok.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Sunday, September 16th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.

 

 

Blog Post 2: Rettberg and Papacharissi Say, I Say

Hi everyone,

Nice job today with our first real discussion on Doran’s article “Identity” — lots of important ideas to think about further, and it was good to see people start to work with the “They Say, I Say” approach, explaining a key claim of Doran’s in your own words and then responding to it with claims of your own. That kind of writing in dialogue will be one of the cornerstones of what we’ll work on over the semester.

So for this next post, I’d like you to work on that approach a little more formally and in a little more depth. Your first step here should be to find a key claim in either Rettberg or Papacharissi’s writing — rather than focusing in on an anecdote or example from their articles, look instead for a larger claim or assertion the author you choose is making, a nice meaty idea of a sentence or two or three. Then set this up within your own writing — introduce it, quote it directly and appropriately, and paraphrase or explain it in your own words, using some of the approaches and templates from They Say, I Say to help structure how you present this material. Once you’ve done that, respond to that claim directly with some claims and ideas of your own. As you do this, make it clear how you’re responding and what you’re adding to the conversation. Rather than just agreeing or disagreeing, or noting that something is interesting or important, say more to show how your position relates to the author’s — are you building on what she says? Complicating it? Offering another way of looking at the issue she raises? Something else? Again, using some of the templates can be helpful in structuring how you’re responding in a way that will be clear to people reading your work.

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post — click the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post. It should be at least 250 words, and is due by 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 11th. If you have any questions, let me know via email.