The suggested reading for this week by fellow student Anders is a chapter called Envy from the book Evil by Design, interaction design to lead us into temptation by Chris Nodder.
I’m already quite familiar with this book, since I`ve used it for both my programing courses already. So this is kind of going back to an old friend. Its been a while since those courses, but that doesn’t diminish the quality of Nodders readings.

Quite early in the chapter Nodder writes ” To use envy as a motivating force, it has to first exists.” This is a simple sentence, but it carries a lot of weight! If you look at almost every form of social media or large forums, there are tools in  place to invoke envy amongst its users. You have achievements, numbers of likes, upvotes, shares and reposts, all of these are designed to make us envious on one another. Everyone wants to at least once, be the person that receives hundreds of likes on Facebook, get thousands of hearts on twitter or instagram due to reposts or be the one that makes is from the drudge of user sub to the front page because of fake internet points ( the indigenous name for upvotes on the site Imgur ).

Enacting envy amongst its users are also to enact participation, or at least try to create the want to participate. It is a genius way of using our feelings to manipulate us into activity, and in such a way, generate more data for the sites themselves as we go.
Desire to be amongst the select few, and the envy of those that are, its is a remarkable play on feelings if you can afford to sit back and give it a critical and reflected view.
How easily manipulated we are.

Nodder writes about having people feel ownership of a product before they even buy it, or the product is finished. This is especially true in the gaming industry, where pre purchace now has become a normal thing, and those who do so will get early access to the game, or at least parts of it.  There is a lot of arguments going around about this, where most people think that this practise is ruining the gaming industry. By buying products long before they are finished, but that is a (loooong discussion) for another time.
This early access is also inciting envy, some people get to play the game you are so anxiously waiting for, so why not prepurchace it aswell so you can be a part of it also?
Even though you pay for an unfinished product, that might be cut short, be riddled with bugs and errors, and in worst case, might never be finished. Envy caused you to buy it, and in the end, you turn envious on those who didn’t buy it. It’s like a two-edged sword.

Other ways to make us envious towards each other is evident in apps like Imgur and Snapchat, who cleverly have implemented a feature called trophies, which are basically achievements in all but name. They are linked to your profile, and are open for all to see, so that you can brag, or others can spy and become envious. The trophy/achievement system is put in place to give users a sense of accomplishment, and to, as mentioned, enact envy, so that others are hopefully pushed into earning the same goals.

In some cases, you don’t even need to create envy, you can just build upon it. Nodders example here is the sale of premade and leveled up characters and accounts for the game World of Warcraft. As he writes, “[…]players who have more money then time.”
Create a shortcut and someone is bound to use it. An easy enough notion, and one that obviously works, since the sale of gaming accounts have been going on for 2 decades or more.

It’s quite clear that feelings are used to its fullest extent in having us grasping for more in our online activities, and that most people are clueless as to what extent their favorite website goes to in order to invoke these feelings.

If you happen to disagree with my comments, or if you feel I`ve missed a point, feel free to leave a remark.


My thoughts on readings provided by a fellow student.

This weeks blog will be based on a few readings provided by a fellow student of mine and his intriguing Masters Thesis on Online Commenting.

The first reading I did was, Reading the Comments : Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web by Joseph M. Reagle.

The text starts off with an explanation on where commenting had their “origins” and what it was mostly used for back in the days when the internet made its first steps towards maturity.
What really caught my eye though is when he mentions Dunbar´s eponymous number of 150.
This is the “magic number” that signals when a community has grown to large, and the commenting that was once (possibly) insightful and productive turn into a mishmash of trolling, hate, graffiti and nonsense comments. The magic is gone from what once was a well working community.
Not only does this signify that if a community grows to large, it will almost every time turn toxic, but that to keep the “magic” of such communities, you will need to restrict the number of users or contributors in order for it not to turn out like that.
Restricting members will again alienate the very people you are trying to reach with your content. It really is a “damned if you do, damned if you dont” scenario, and I find this aspect of the different web communities incredibly interesting.

I’m relating this to my own Masters Thesis, wich will be about engaging the silent majority in participatory culture and critical thinking. What good is it to try to contribute and participate if you turn out to be locked out of all the different forums and communities, because they reached 150ish members already.
How much do you get out of trying to participate in a forum where half the posts are trolling or toxic because there are no restriction on the number of contributors?
Should there be censoring or moderation on each forum making sure that its open to all, but the trolls and toxicity are kept from the public, and who would put up with such a job? Also, wont there be a lot of personal biases or cultural biases permeating those stuck with the job of censoring? Is not the act of censoring going against all that the “free web” is supposed to be?

Having such a discussion on how to keep commenting fruitful and not hostile in the large could be very interesting, and could yield some unique views on how to achieve the one or another.

Later on Reagle writes about Dave Winer, and his idea to make commenting on blogs invisible. The idea is that once a blog post is published, you have a certain amount of time to make a comment, 1000 words/characters or shorter, but it will not become visible until after the set time has expired. So once the time is up, all comments are visible, and no further commenting is possible, and anyone that has the need to make a longer remark or would like to follow-up on another’s comment, should do so in their own blogs.
By using a “trackback” function, anyone who had someone blog about their blog would receive a notification, and they could then visit the blog and see what that person had written in response.
Allegedly this idea was put to the test, and it ended badly, with spammer and scammer making instant use of this function to bog down bloggers with unsavory content.

Another point that’s made is that one of the easiest ways of partly constricting toxicity is to do like Facebook and Google+, require users to use their full name, wich immediately removes the anonymity provided by other forums and communities. This is partly true, but as most people can attest, it does not remove trolling or toxic comments in the whole. Facebook still struggles with such comments, both in the public sphere and in closed groups.

The read ends with going back to one of the first points made, that good communities grow, and once they grow too much, the users leave because it has gone “downhill” its back to the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” paradox.

The second reading, The Online Disinhibition Effect, John Suler.

A quick explanation, The online disinhibition effect is a term used for the phenomena of acting without or with lacking inhibitions online compared to their offline behavior.
Suler divides the Inhibitions into two categories, Benign Inhibitions – where you share your fears and emotions, or actively show kindness or go out of your way to help others, and Toxic Inhibitions – where you are hostile, hateful or visit places of perversion, crime, and violence. Activities that one would not engage in in real life.

Suler makes a point of writing about anonymity and the consequences of being “hidden” when your online. This anonymity is the biggest contributor to toxic behavior, the fact that it cannot be traced back to you ( it can, but it requires a lot of effort, and in some cases legal action) makes it incredibly easy to behave in a toxic manner.
The anonymity the screen provides, and the lack of needing to divulge ones personal information (full name and email) is providing all the right tools for anyone to become a troll or bully. There are no negative consequences to one self.

Further Suler mentions Solipsistic Introjection, in short, when you have conversations with other people in your head, projection their person into a dialogue with yourself even though they are not there. This can also happen when you talk to people online, as you write to them, and learn more about them , you assign them a face, voice, a personality and character, based on what they write to you.
In my opinion, this is blurring the lines or reality, and is leaning more towards having psychological issues then just projection a persona to the person you are writing to.
One thing is to make a reflected guess unto what personality the person has in retrospect to your writings back and forth, it is a whole other case to actually assign them all the other human characteristics.
It is almost like your creating an imaginary friend that you can talk to,  wich, in my opinion, if you do in adult age is a clear sign that you have a deep-rooted psychological issue. ( My apologies to anyone I offend with this remark )
Having fictional dialogue with a person you know, a good friend, or your partner is fine, but to attribute the same notion to a person you`ve only written to online is not.

Emily Finch is mentioned for her work with dissociative Imagination, in this context, when people see their online persona and activities as a part of a game, and not real life. They have a definite boundary between online and offline, and they separate the two.
This is a dangerous notion, because that would mean that people who has this dissociative imagination no longer think of their actions online as anything that has meaning or consequence, if it is all a game, then who does it affect when they act toxic or post something they should not.
Gamefication in everyday life may help to speed this dissociative state of mind, as more and more of everyday life in some way is beginning to seem like a game. You have achievements in apps like snapchat, or a scoring system, telling you how many points you or your friends have gathered. There are pervasive games, even further blurring the line between game and reality.

Linking this back to comments and commenting it would mean that once you are online, you are “in a game”, and as such, nothing you say or do will have any consequence for your “offline self”. Toxic or chivalrous behaviour doesn’t matter anymore, and if you “play a role” when you are online, then it is normal to experiment with said role. One day you’re a social justice warrior, the next your a toxic hater, spreading vile as you post, further down the line, you might be a white knight, trying to rid the internet of such characters as you yourself just played, by reporting toxic content, or by defending a person antagonized in a post by trolls or toxic comments.

Lastly, I was given a video to watch, and it my (not so) humble opinion, it is a nugget of gold hidden in the mud of user-generated content. It is definitively worth watching, wich is why I will not write about it. Go watch it, you`ll be better off if you do.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lvf8koqX_yE <—- glorious link.
The clip is 6 minutes long, and worth every second of it.

As always, if you agree/disagree with me, leave a comment, so that I can be super toxic and hateful, seeing as all this is just a game anyhow 😉
Honestly though, feel free to leave a comment.

Reactions to a podcast with Danah Boyd and my masters thesis idea comes to fruition.

In the podcast, Danah Boyd is being interviewed by Krista Tippett, its lasts about 1 hour and 25 minutes, and it consists mostly of Danah reminiscing about her past.
What I got out of it is more reactions to her comments and remarks about her own digital youth, and a few remarks towards her answers (or lack of) to the questions she is presented with.

This will be a very lengthy post, so I will in no way be offended if you choose to just skim through it. At least you have been warned.

Danah starts with telling about her own meeting with digital technologies, and the internet especially. Her opinion was that at the time, it was uncool to be a nerd, and that the networked social life that we today see as completely normal, and by all means needed to be cool, is completely different to what it used to be.
This is not my experience though, when I grew up, being a part of a social network online was very cool indeed, because it ment you where a part of the select few that had access to a computer and the internet. Now I grew up in the same time as Danah, though she is a few years older than me, but when we started to use the internet was most likely only distanced by a few years. I started using the internet when I was around 8 years old, that would be in 1993, so very early on, and my family got our first computer and internet connection when I was 10.
In Danah`s part of  growing up, social networks were as she says uncool, and yes, she probably started using the net a short time before me, but I think its more cultural than actual fact. As I grew up, anyone who had internet was the coolest kid in school, and the social network surrounding those kids where much more vibrant than those without.

In this section of the interview, Danah mentions her experience with chatting with a transgendered person online, and because of the anonymity provided with “hiding behind a screen” she dared to ask very personal questions. My first thought here were immediately  STRANGER DANGER! This is most likely due to my sceptical nature, and my knowledge of how  predators online work.
The scenario I saw when she was talking about this was along the lines of: “sexual predator pretends to be a trans, in order to gain the confidence of underage lesbian teens. Jerking off as they exchange deeply personal information”.
Online predation, stranger danger and the online hunting grounds were at that time totally unheard of. And since Danah mentions that she never actually met the person, who knows, most likely its was a sincere exchange, but chances are also there that it was someone exploiting a naive teen.

This leads to the next section of the interview, where Danah and Krista talks and discuss how online life is becoming more and more an amplification of everyday life. It is as if anything that you partake in, in your life, that you also bring online will be amplified in some form or fashion.
What is dangerous here is when the negative sides of everyday life permeates online and becomes amplified. Your fears especially, and the lack of understanding. Fear spreads from platform to platform, and takes on different meanings as the platform evolves. The example Danah use in the interview is the parent who were contacted by child services because her child was playing outside alone without supervision, even though the parent could see her from the window. This is though something that would never happen in Norway, as a child here, even today in 2017, you are encouraged to go outside and play, alone or with friends.
I don’t want to sound like I’m acting all high and mighty, but American culture has for a very long time now, been driven my fear mongering, so much so that its come to the scenario Danah mentions. Were kids no longer can play outside without a parent being present.
This fear of strangers, kidnappers and pedophiles apparently is so strong, that you risk losing custody of your child if you let them play outside alone.
So the critical issue here is: Why do we not have the same fear for children roaming the internet alone?

You can of course not sit behind them, watching their every move, what you can do, is teach them. The need for understanding and critical thinking when it comes to our and our children’s online presence is paramount. The internet is just like the park, potential predators lurks in corners, the difference is that in a park you can have physical supervision, online, not so much.
This is where we use our experience and teach our children to be aware of who and how they talk to others online. That anything they share, especially in the form of images and videos, can be used for other purposes then what they are intended for. I’m not saying that we should teach children to fear anyone who they meet online, but that they need to have  a healthy dose of skepticism.
This also goes into the theme of online conduct, visibility and transparency, and in the end accountability.
Now we are more in the realm of online bullying and harassment, and the fact that unless something have a direct negative consequence, the anonymity provided by the “screen barrier” can as mentioned amplify everyday life. Inconsequential bullying in the school yard can become a much more amplified and targeted activity online.

Accountability does not solely mean that blame can be put on individuals, it also means that we can hold digital medias accountable.
Danah`s example here is the #IwasShoot campaign that went on after the Ferguson incident.
The media was accused of vilifying and criminalizing teens by using the most incriminating pictures they could find. Instead of picking portraits or pictures where the victim seems happy and likable, they chose to use pictures that portrayed the victim in a negative light.
The people using the #IwasShoot uploaded two pictures of themselves, one normal where they where in a normal situation, and the other where they posed angrily, or wore clothing that made them look more or less like a criminal.
The media at that time was held accountable for their choise of the pictures they used, and that they should change their habit of using the most incriminating pictures they could find. This also reflects back to the previously mentioned fear mongering.

Further Krista and Danah talk about participatory culture, and how there is an identity shift going on in convergence with technology. In the early days of the internet, most people used pseudonyms when creating profiles and accounts on forums and other communication platforms. And in so doing, creating an online and offline identity. In today’s world of mass media, and our incessant need to share both public and private events, on platforms that require your full name, those two identities are becoming more and more converged into one. The notion of a digital identity today is closely linked to your offline identity, in the way that they intersect on so many levels.
One issue they talk about concerning this, is the possibility of negative consequences or ramifications later in life, due to your activities online.
Now that we have social media, where you basically present yourself with full name and identity, its is easy to dig up information about you.
Say a future employer looks you up on social media, what will they find, and can it be used against you in a negative way. Can they choose not to hire you because several year ago, you made racist or sexist comments?

This again stresses the importance of teaching both parents and children of the fact that EVERYTHING YOU DO has consequences. Something people seem to forget once they get behind the screen and start typing.  Even if something does not have an immediate effect, it is fully plausible that it can later down the line.
I fully advocate the need for reflection and critical thinking, especially before posting something that can be linked to you online. I’m not saying that if your anonymous, you can and should post anything you like, I’m trying to communicate, that the consequence of such actions can inevitably come back and haunt you.
Danah also mentions that she sees the need for critical thinking, and I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment.

In the final part of the interview, Krista and Danah talk about how they see the internet as in its infancy, and that from a cultural and technological stand, we are in the very beginning of the online life. It is also why its our job and duty to shape it. We need to be an active part in how we want our life online to evolve and grow, and how we would like society as a whole to be a part of this. And even though we are in its infancy, there are examples they talk about where this “Over socialization” that’s going on today has some rather unique consequences.
Danah mentions that there are more people chosing to live alone then at any other point in history, and that it is a result of the constant social interactions that go on in everyday life. The need to be alone for a time is making people chose to live alone, so that they can have a personal space, that is theirs and theirs alone.
I think its funny to think about this in context. That our creation of tools to help you be social and connected, is also creating a need to be alone. The more social and connected our society is becoming, the more the need to disconnect from it all appears. I think its ironic that the more connected we try to become, the more the need for anti-social spaces arise.

Those were my thoughts and reactions to the podcast, now over to the second part of this blog. My masters thesis.

I have finally decided what I want to write my thesis on and around! Go me!.
The topic I have chosen is The silent majority.
A short explanation of what the silent majority is, would be to say that it is everyone that use the internet to some extent, but chose not to participate on any meaningful level. An example with numbers provided from http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/ would be, that out of those 3,7 billion individual users, only 10-20% actually participate on a meaningful level. Contributing to the greater good in one way or another.
That would mean that the silent majority consists of close to 3 billion users.
Now when I say silent, I do NOT mean that they never participate. You can be on Facebook, have a twitter and instagram account, and be a member on several forums, and STILL be a part of the silent majority.
I will use myself as an example here, because until recently I have considered myself as a part of the silent majority.
I have a Facebook, I have a twitter account, and recently made a instagram account, do I use these actively? Yes I do, do I post anything contributing to the digital society in any way? Until last month, no, not all, as in I have not contributed to anything. Daily updates of your Facebook status, or a daily tweet about your coffee, or a instagram picture of said coffee does NOT count as contributing. Yes you are posting something, but you are still a part of the silent masses.
I am a Imgur and Reddit user aswell, I subscribe to a dozen or so sub-reddits, and I browse imgur several times a day. I have a total of 5 posts and 57 comments made on imgur over the span of almost 3 years.
I have a total of 0 posts on Reddit, and I`ve used that site for close to a decade, and been a member for close to 3.
I  have no way of counting sadly, but I`d wager that over the last 10 years, I have fewer then 100 comments online, that are NOT a part of social media.

To be a part of the vocal minority, you need to actively contribute. As in you need to be active on open forums or/and you need to participate in the creation and spreading of intellectual property, as in creating art, fan fiction or similar created products.
You need to use social media as platform for more than just connecting with friends. Using Twitter as a platform to share political or similar agendas. Using the # functionality to reach a broader target group then just your friends. Partaking in online events that is a part of something bigger, examples like #ferguson #IfIwasShoot comes to mind.
Using instagram as a platform for selling your life, as in photographers trying to become known, same for artists, or to use it as a tool for promoting your blog and such.
The vocal minority are those who are the most active in participatory culture, those that helped shape web sites like Reddit and Wikipedia or people who answers questionnaires on Amazon Turk. To be a part of the vocal minority, you need to participate and contribute ” to the greater good” so to speak. The greater good here, being the online community we all use and enjoy.

Now, do NOT mistake the silent majority as a group that does leave anything behind, or that they do not partake in the global online domain.
They are the absolute biggest contributor to making things to viral, they are the biggest contributor to data miners and they are the biggest contributor to information about digital medias. Videos that have gone viral and that are being shared beyond belief are the exception to the rule here, every once in a while, you can or will participate in one way or another. This would be the equivalent to someone speaking up in  class, even though they usually never talk. minuscule participation, sharing a video or picture or post, once or maybe twice year, does not make you a part of the vocal majority
EVERYTHING you do online leaves behind information. Even if you hide behind a VPN and use every imaginable tool to hide your presence online, you leave behind information. Though it can never be traced back to you, information about the web sites you visit is available. How long much time spent there, what links did you click, how many articles did you read, how many videos did you stream, what content you streamed, pictures opened…. The list is endless. You do not need to participate to leave behind information that can be used by someone. Everyone does this, the second they go online.

My focus in writing about the silent majority, will be to look at how we can turn them from silent to vocal, how we can turn your average user of the internet into a player in participatory culture. I would love to find ways to increase participation on all levels, and to debate whether of not this is a good thing. This is where biases comes into view. Cultural, environmental, racial etc, how would the internet change if we managed to increase participation on a global scale tenfold? If we could go from say 15 to 50% participation online, that would amount to more than a billion users, a utopian idea it seems, but even so, what would the results be?

I like to compare the internet to the sea, where the silent majority are the fish, the vocal minority are the sharks, the instances of things going viral are the whales and those who gather up all our information are the fishing boats. I think this comparison works well in how it categorizes us. Fish are abundant, they help shape the oceans, but they are anonymous and silent in their masses. The sharks are the apex predators, they shape everything around them, and they move and control  the masses of fish. The whales are so large that they are almost impossible to miss, just like anything that go viral, while the fishing boats cast their large nets to gather up as much information as possible, not caring if they catch fish, shark or whale.

Now that I`ve given you an idea of what I’m gonna write about, do you agree with what I say? Do you think my estimation of vocal/silent si way of? What way should it shift if that is the case? Or do you disagree completely with  the notion of being silent while being online, seeing how it’s quite contradictory to be online and active on social media while being seen as a silent agent?

Feel free to share your thoughts on this topic, as I would love to know what people think of this.