My thoughts on Participatory Culture in a Networked Era by Jenkins, Ito, & boyd, chapter 4 and 5

Right of the bat, I`m gonna start with quote Mimi Ito, ” I feel fortunate to have been trained by a brilliant group of educational ethnographers and cognitive scientists while these approaches began to be taken more seriously by the educational establishment.”
Cognitive scientists is the key word here!

I would LOVE to see a major work of scientific research done on cognitive mapping of children presented with computer learning and game learning. Getting images of the brain in action is becoming increasingly easy these days, and cognitive mapping has seen a large increase in popularity and uses over the last decade or so. My initial thoughts are that from a educational perspective, having solid evidence in form of MRI and FMRI images of a brain in a learning environment with and without digital aides could be incredibly usefull and give a true perspective on how our brain works while learning. I am very curious to look at the results of such a possible research and the conclusions it would show, does children use more or less of their cognitive abilities when faced with learning through gaming or not? Scientists out there, get to friggin work, make this happen asap so that I can quench my curiosity on the matter.

brainscan

Further Ito mentions a research experiment concerning maths and the ability to put it to use in practical scenarios instead of abstract instances, using every day groceries as an example. The research she mentions concludes that people will have greater success of implementing maths in everyday scenarios instead of trivial calculations from a math book. To be honest, this is nothing new, and I`ll make a bold statement here; Everyone knows that “learn by doing” and using examples people can relate to always works better than random examples with little to no relation to those who are trying to solve it.
That is, everyone but those educational books you need for school ( at any level ). My personal experience is that those book used by the educational system are SHIT!. Yes, they provide everything you need to learn math, language etc etc, but they do it in such a bad and convoluted way, that it’s almost an embarrassment to the educational system. My feeling is that they literally shoot themselves in the foot by making educational tool so bad that it at times can have the opposite effect ( children with learning disabilities ).

It is almost as schools are afraid of using the tools at their disposal, talking here about computers and computer games and/or tablets. These are great tool if used properly. Yes they are expensive, and yes, schools are very poorly funded in comparison to what expectation we have to them. So its easy for me to sit here and say that schools need computer and tablets, and that they need to make them a part of their educational process. If it where up to me, then yes, schools would have these tools at their disposal, but sadly its up to the governments and their cohorts.

edu

The discussion in chapter 4, on participatory learning and education, and how to survive the information overload that exists on the internet is following the thread left by Rheingold ( who they also mention in their discussion ). I have already written about this in an earlier blog post, so I wont bother to write about it in detail again, so I`ll just make a quick remark.
Participatory learning and education is worth its weight in gold, its is an unpolished gem that need way more attention than its given in educational settings today. And concerning the information overload and how to handle it; Tune your crap detector and browse with a bit of scepticism.

Danah Boyd talks about “who`s controlling the public narrative”, meaning the internet and how anyone can contribute. There is moderators on most if not all message boards and websites that offer ways of communication ( twitter, instagram, youtube, etc ). There has to be, to prevent the publishing and sharing of illegal items that would see the website shut down. She also mentions how politicians and activists celebrate getting a number of followers, and how random unknown teen can get millions of view and shares for posting sexual or grotesque content. This is the “silent majority” at work. The unheard millions of internet consumers that don’t have an activist or political agenda, and who are more than likely more interested in viewing and possibly sharing a graphic image or video than doing the same with  a political message.

The silent majority I would say, consists of 70-80% of the world’s population, it is those who have an opinion, but chooses not to share it. The remaining 20-30% are those that are vocal, those that makes themselves seen and heard, both online and in general. Out of those you have the 5% that are the extremists, those who not only are incredibly vocal, but also aggressively active in a certain area. I’m here talking about the far right/left politicians, the religious extremists, the misogynist and femnaziz. Those who are really putting themselves out there.
The silent majority are those who agree with a lot, but never all of that wich is broadcasted by the those who are most vocal. I can use myself as an example here; I am all for the feminist agenda, and the LGBT rights movement. But you will never find me at a rally for anyone of them, or see me posting or sharing anything related to this. I personally find that like me, most people to some degree agree with me. Of course women should have equal right, equal pay and equal educational and political possibilities, and of course members of the LGBT community should NOT be persecuted or discriminated against. Most of us agree with this, but since we are the silent majority, you`ll not know this unless you ask.
The issue here is that those who are most vocal on these subjects, are to extreme, and they are pushing people away from their agenda by being to aggressive and to far left/right.

silent
Major digression from the topic here, sorry for that, but I feel that it is truly important that people understand and know of the term Silent majority, and what that entails.

So, back to point. Boyd writes a paragraph on the subject of people not knowing how or why algorithm work. The answer to this is quite simple, so simple in fact, that most academics do not see it as an answer. Can you guess it?
Answer: PEOPLE DONT CARE!
Most people don’t give a shit, really, they could not care less how google makes their search algorithms work, or how Facebook generates the information on your wall. “Dont know, dont care”. It is that simple, there is no nothing more to it. If it works, it works, why give it a second thought.

dontcare

She also states that information is power, I disagree. information is useless if you do not know how to use it. Information is nothing without the tools to employ it. Therefor the quote should read “Knowledge is power”. This is more true, because it implies that you have the knowledge to use information, and when you can use information correctly, you have power. Perhaps a bit harsh to critique this, but she writes an academic text, and she should be aware of this, and not mistake information for knowledge. Knowledge is information, but information is not knowledge.

slothledge

I’m realising now that I`ve only read the first 9 pages, and that I`m probably gonna write and rant on for pages and pages if Im gonna continue like this. So Im gonna end my blog post here, and save the rest of my thoughts for my class, so that we can have a fruitful discussion there aswell.

As always, feel free to leave comments if you have any.

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Assortment of ideas for MA thesis

This weeks post will be a little different, instead of writing my thoughts on a reading,  I will rather write about my ideas for my masters thesis. Something in the realm of what I`d like to write about, what expectations I have, and just general ideas on the subject.

There are plenty of things I would like to write about, but I have to focus on my goal, which is to use my masters to get a job. Of course the best possible outcome would be to write just what I want, and then use that to land my dream job, but lets be real for a second, that will probably never happen. So instead I need to focus on areas that can lead to, or lead me towards getting a job.
I would love to work in the E-sports scene, one of my possible dream jobs, and I already wrote my bachelor thesis on E-sports, so I`ve already got a good understanding of what this topic entails. But the job marked within E-sports is limited, and since I have a wife and kid, Im locked to the Bergen area, so that narrows down my possibilities by a good margin.

A different theme I would love to work with, that I have some experience with, is User Experience and User interface, especially tailored towards the end user of a product. My background from digital culture from UiB, and the dfferent subjects taught there give me a distinct skillset that not many other have. Not only have I taken a course in User Experience, but I`ve also had courses in digital ethics and rhetorics. Something that is a bit more uncommon then UE education. Something in App development or web development would suite me just fine, and would also fit nicely with my background.

One idea that I`ve kind of dropped the more I thought of it, is writing my masters on the use of statistical analasys of Big Data withing the gaming community, and how stat-tracking now is a major thing in both balancing and promotion. The downside here is that it requires a good deal of maths, and a very mathematical approach to it, something I am severely lacking…

On a side note, I did really enjoy reading Rheingolds book NetSmart: how to thrive online. Which peaked my interest for writing about online precense and safety for both children, adults and parents. A sort of “Digital safety for dummies” if you would. Though I would like to make a point of it being key theories, and not spesific points, since they will cease to be relevant sooner then later. So with that in mind, I think that would be a nice thing to do aswell. Perhaps make it a sort of guide more then a rulebook.

Those are my main ideas for a MA thesis, atleast those I think I`d be able to actually find relevant information and write about.
What do you think would be a good MA thesis within the realm of digital Culture? Please comment if you have a gold nugget of an idea.

My thoughts on Howard Rheingold`s Net Smart: How to thrive online. Chapter 3-5.

This is a continuation on last weeks blog post, in which I wrote about my thoughts on Rheingold`s Net Smart, the opening pages and the first two chapters.
Since everything is connected, I will be blending aspects from chapter 3-5 as I write about them, you`ll just have to bear with me.
So without further ado, here are my thoughts, critique and opinion on the next 3 chapters.

Early in chapter 5, Rheingold writes ” Shirky points our that a small number of blogs are the most trafficked, and that most blogs have, on average, a small amount of traffic”
You dont need to be a expert to know this to be true, even with just a modicum of knowledge, its easy to see that the bigger the name, the more followers and readers you have.
This is true not only for Bloggers, but public profiles online in general, using platforms as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube etc.
Only a select few makes it out of the “muck” that is few followers, unless you somehow go viral. Which can happen, though in these times of complete media excess and overload, is harder and harder to achieve. The participatory culture, that is being online, is so immense, that to be noticed, you`ll either need a “small miracle” or you`ll need great amounts of time and dedication. Two great examples of “miracle” and dedication are Psy and his ridiculous success with the song Gangnam style, and the hard work and dedication of the YouTube channel ERB – Epic Rap Battles of History, who have had a steady increase of followers throughout their rise on social media, culminating now in tens of millions of views on their channel and their videos.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9bZkp7q19f0 Psy
https://www.youtube.com/user/ERB

YouTube can be said to be one of the absolute biggest platforms for participatory culture today. A place where you can produce, share, “make it or break it”, discuss and comment within a given channel or to videos themselves.
The content of YouTube is as diverse as the users, ranging from children’s shows, to academia, from political debates to conspiracy theories, and it is open for anyone who logs in to participate as they like.

Another perfect example of what participatory culture is and can be, is Reddit. For those who are in the dark about what this site is. Google it!. You need Reddit in your life.
This is a copy/paste from the Wikipedia page concerning Reddit. “As of 2017, Reddit had 542 million monthly visitors (234 million unique users), ranking #4 most visited website in U.S. and #9 in the world.[5] Across 2015, Reddit saw 82.54 billion pageviews, 73.15 million submissions, 725.85 million comments, and 6.89 billion upvotes from its users.[6]
That is a whole lot of participating! I myself am a user of Reddit, and I use it mainly for updates on my favorite games and writers, as the Reddit community is astoundingly good at getting relevant information quickly. Reddit is also a notoriously popular place to post leaked information about upcoming games/movies and other popular themes.

What is fascinating about the participatory culture of Reddit, is that the participating happens in so-called Sub-reddits, groups or communities, if you will. There is no “posting on Reddit in general”, no single forum that everyone can read. Though most sub-reddits are open to the public, even if you are logged in or not. The sum of the whole is what makes Reddit so great, the sheer amount of participation is staggering.

Rheingold cites Henry Jenkins and his definition of participatory culture, and it is at this time ( 2017 ) no longer valid in my opinion.
“1. Relative low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
2. Strong support for creating and sharing creations with others
3. Some type of informal mentorship whereby what is known by the  most experienced is passed down along to novices
4. members who believe that their contributions matter, and
5. Members who feel some degree of social connection with one another ( at the least, they care what other people think about what they have created )”

The problem these days is the anonymity provided to the users, and the indifference the distancing of sitting behind a computer offers its users. As the great ocean of “anonymity” has swept over the web, you are more likely to be trolled and shot down then to receive any form of validation for your troubles. Therefor I feel the definition should be changed to something more akin to;
1. No barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement
2. Close to no support for creating, and moderate support for sharing with others
3. The most experienced are probably the first to shoot you down, or critique you, their knowledge are their own, and you should learn by experience, not by being taught.
4. Members who believe that their contributions matter more than others, their contribution is the nugget of gold in the muddy waters.
5. Members feel a strong connection with one another in their mutual communities and they care greatly not to be ostracized from their respective groups or their position in it.

This definition goes for the whole of participatory culture, and will in the cases of closed networks, in the cases of academia and in minor sub cultures not be valid. In these minor and mostly unknown groups, it is all about lifting each other up and validate and even glorify participation.

What I really missed from my reading of chapter 3-5 was any sort of critique to and the consequences of participatory culture gone wrong. Which is has, in oh so many cases. The biggest danger of participatory culture is the major spread of miss-information, and arguments based on un-informed and personal beliefs. Blogs are the biggest sinner here, and in my personal opinion should be HEAVILY moderated in certain instances. Certain bloggers reach millions of followers, and the spreading of false or misguided information can have dire consequenses for those is affects. Examples are; The outing of the Nazis at the white supremacist rally.
Anita sarkeesian`s attack on a transgender journalist, whom she supposedly is all about protecting and respecting,  resulting in her doxxing and her life being unraveled.
The spread of alternative medicine, with potentially deadly outcomes, examples would be the “apricot pit” treatment for cancer, which causes cyanide poisoning. The complete and utter lack of source proofing from both blogger and reader, who seemingly have their crap detector turned off, or in the least not at all developed, in the case of children and teens.
A simple Norwegian example of this, conserving teens happened in 2006, when famous stylist Jan Thomas said he used hemorrhoid cream underneath his eyes to remove wrinkles.
http://www.vg.no/forbruker/helse/helse-og-medisin/bruker-hemoroidekrem-for-aa-pynte-paa-fjeset/a/132915/
Sorry for the Norwegian article, what is says is that in the days after his statement, the drug stores in all the major cities in Norway saw a major increase in the sale of hemorrhoid cream, and the teenage girls where lining up to purchase it in the hopes of preventing wrinkles.
Apothecaries and doctors alike went public and stated that one should NOT use the cream underneath the eyes, as the cream contains Cortisone, a dangerous substance that will if used over time severely thin and damage your skin, no such thing as a crap detector for the hordes of young girls that immediately rushed out to buy the cream.

Even Rheingold`s book itself can be used as an example of spreading miss-information, now bear with me, this is not an attack on the book, its content or quality, but an error is an error, no matter who makes it.
The part in question is as follows;

“As Shirky points our, before Flickr, nobody knew that a community could form around pictures of cats in sinks (and uncounted other categories).” This is wrong!

Even in a major academic publication, we have errors like that, which now will spread to anyone reading it, just like miss-information spreads on blogs. Flickr was neither first or the biggest. It is just an easy example to use, because more people have heard about it. Other notable sites, that predates Flickr by a digital millenia are Newgrounds.com a site that was active 9 years before Flickr and Deviant Art, 4 years before Flickr. These two pages are much less know, but they are most definitely formed communities around ” Cats in sinks” and other categories.

Another aspect of participatory culture that Rheingold is reluctant to touch upon, at least so far in my reading, is what information you leave behind, who has access to it and who can and will benefit from it. He writes “Playbor: do you know who profits from your participation”, and further continues with and example of websites donating food to charity, based on how many readers they have, and on how many clicks on the ads present on their site. This is a fair example, but it is, in my opinion, to small. What he should be talking about, is the bigger, or even the biggest picture. Data miners! Who profit from EVERYTHING you do online, no matter how small or mundane it seems, even just opening your browser gives off useful information.
Big data is the big picture here, and Big data is incredibly valuable to anyone with the smarts to use is properly, which is why data mining has become  a increasingly relevant issue online. Everything you do leaves behind information, not necessarily private information, like your name and address, though in some cases this aswell, but information such as, your habits online, what you click, what you read, for how long you stay on a website, or an article, how many websites you visit per session or day. The list goes on, everything you do from the second your computer goes online and you open your browser, leaves behind information that someone somewhere will find useful.

So… after reading my thoughts on chapter 3-5, do you agree with my thoughts, do you think im just a sceptic and a pessimist that just rants on about what it means to be online, or do you think that I am touching upon mostly unspoken subjects, that might need further inquiries? Feel free to let me know by commenting or leaving me a message.

My thoughts on Howard Rheingold`s Net Smart: How to thrive online. Introduction and chapters 1-2.

Intro.

After reading Howard`s introduction, I am left with the notion that the word “network” has different meanings for him and me. In the introduction, “network” is used in its literal sense to describe everything you can connect to online and offline. It is your friends, family, colleagues, communities and so on, whether its connected to the web or not.

Now I’m gonna make a very bold statement, and I belive that most scholars will disagree with me on this. The word “Network” is obsolete! For me a network is purely something analogue, it is my friends and family, the people I do sports with, and anyone else I might have a regular DIRECT contact with. “Network” in 2017 has little to do with being connected to the web anymore. I propose that the new term we should start to use is simply “Online”. Being “online” is being networked, but also so incredibly much more, it is also being a part of a participatory culture, it is being active on social media, it is being a “Netizen” and it is being part of a world-wide community where nothing is truly ever lost, deleted or anonymous. Being “networked” does not describe all this, being “online” does.
This is why I feel that the term “network and networked” no longer applies when we are talking about being online.

people-network

Chapter 1.

Multitasking.

In this chapter Howard makes some excellent points on our ability to multitask, change and steer focus, and the dangers that might follow from not being able to do so. I agree with him on the points he makes about the ability to multitask, and in my opinion, this is paramount to be able to function in our society on a daily basis, where we are bombarded with information overload. One thing I would like for him to point out, is that for (estimated guess) anyone born before the year 2000, multitasking was something you had to learn. I was born in 85, long before cellphones and computers became everyday household items. I didn’t have a cellphone until I was 13, and I got my first computer at 15. Calling, texting and playing Snake was basically what my phone could do, but it gave me an easy start when it came to learning multitasking. By playing on my phone while having conversations with others in the same room, it gave me the start I needed. As the years went on, my newer phones got smarter, my use of the computer evolved from playing offline single player games, to being online and a part of bigger communities. So did my multitasking skills evolve. I learned to multitask, because I had to. It was a learned skill.

My son, who is now a little over a year old, will not learn in the same way as my generation did. He was exposed to multitasking the second me learned how to move his arms, and to focus on a single object. Kids today, who grow up with tablets, smartphones and watches, Fitbits and computers will not learn the same way we did, they will grow up with it, and as such, obtain the ability to multitask as an innate ability. By the time my son turns 10, im willing to stake my reputation on the fact that he will be better suited to multitasking then I am. His constant exposure to and use of multitasking, will make him an expert in the field, without even realizing it.

kids-multitasking

The internet is making us stupid.

Having instant access to the answers to most of our questions has seriously changed how we think and work. The internet has made information readily available at a moments notice and with the touch of a finger. Debates and arguments ended in seconds instead of days, trivia about anything you`d like accessible at your leisure.

The claim here is that having all this information so easily available is taking away our ability to do critical thinking, to immerse ourselves in a question or to do investigatory reading. By doing quick and easy searches online, all the answers we need are there in an instant. So, does this make us stupid? In my opinion, not at all!. What is does is make us complacent. We have grown accustomed to being able to find what we need in a moments notice, and in turn, we have neglected our ability to dig up relevant information, by actually searching for it.

Howard talks writes about “Crap detection”, the ability to differentiate between information give to us, and to discern true from false. Our complacency comes from the fact that the search engines we use, are much more so invested in the same as we are. They are absolutely dependent on giving us the right information. No one would use google, if every search you did gave you the wrong answers, or took you to shady sites where you get more than you bargained for. So in giving us the right and correct information almost every time, search engines now feed our complacency by removing our need to work for the information.

internet_citing

Likewise, our ability to discern crap is weakened by this, and so by treading of the beaten path, it will become more difficult for us to realize whats factual and not. This is of course referring to blogs and scam sites. Blogs are a major source of information these days, but they are mostly consisting of speculations and personal opinions. Celebrity bloggers with millions of followers can make inaccurate or even false statements, and they will be perceived as true. There are little to no fact checking done by the following masses.
Scam sites are also a part of this, by seemingly looking as an authentic site, presenting you with decent relevant information, their goal is for you to believe that this is all true and to be trusted. So that you in term, will do as they instruct, wether it be inputting your personal information, downloading an item or helping to spread their information.

This “crap detection” ability ties closely into chapter 2 of Howard`s book “Crap Detection 101: How to find what you need to know, and how do decide if its true”
Our greatest strength and our possible downfall is our ability to collaborate online, and by doing so, we can spread the word about miss-information, just as easy we can directly spread miss-information.
As Howard explains it, the easiest way to detect crap, is by critical thinking, and as such, have a little check list for what to look for when authenticating information.

  • Look for and look up the author
  • what are the sources used and provided
  • are there other pieces of information found elsewhere that verify your findings
  • Now a days, google the URL and see if it is verified or not
  • is the information biased or only one-sided
  • is the same information available at sources like Wikipedia

There are other tools you might use aswell, but these are the quick and easy ones that will also help you detect crap fairly easy.

Learning digital “know how”

The most important thing I can teach my as he grows up, is digital know how, and by this I mean what to do, not to do and to expect from being online.
One “universal truth” is that once something is posted online, it is there forever. Removing anything from the web is nigh impossible, something which a lot of people sadly have experienced. I’m referring here to the sharing of private pictures or information, personal opinions shared in what you believed was in confidentiality and posts on forums wich you thought where anonymous.

Hopefully I will be able to teach my son that everything you do online can potentially have consequences, for good or bad, and it is incredibly important to keep your wits about you as you traverse the web. There are a lot of pitfalls waiting to trap a unfocused mind.

knowhow

 

That is it.

This where some of my thought on the reading I did, and my opinions on it. You may or may not agree with anything of what I’m writing, and that’s ok.
If you as a reader of this blog should take anything with you, it is the key notions of net smart and crap detection, and always consider the consequences of your actions online.

What are your thoughts on my view of the word “network” and “online” and how it is time to usher in a change in the way we user those words? Do you agree or do you think I dropped the ball completely here? Feel free to comment and ask questions, and maybe we`ll get a discussion out of this.