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  • mono 7:43 pm on April 22, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Beauty, , , , , Facebook, Isolation, , , , microblogging, Mobile phone, , , , Society, , Telecommunication, ,   

    Deepening Web Communication (Fragments) 

    Steve Rhodes

    Communications theorist Lee Thayer once wrote, “We ‘dilute’ the world by having an idea of it; and the intent of our words is, more often than not, to eliminate the world as resistance (Thayer 190).” As languaging creatures, our comprehension of the world is at once in direct contact with it (with certain spatial areas, horizons, surfaces, humans) and at the same time a part from it via language, creative expression, technology and so so on. That is to say, our ways of grasping the world is usually, most of the time, extending beyond the immediate here-and-now concreteness of reality, projecting ourselves onto things and others. Even when we are engaged in the concrete and ever-flowing “now,” we almost without control cover it over and lose what it could be with our self-talk or with symbolic complexes about how it should be. In the above quotation Thayer is calling us to think about the ways in which we understand our worlds, the ways in which we conceptually apprehend the concrete (via language) and how, perhaps, our talking serves the purpose of watering down the absolute harshness of the physical world.


    To use one example, in my current life situation I interact with computers everyday at home and at work. Just this evening, standing outside, I opened up my mobile phone, connected to the Web and checked my email. To some extent, the sense of aloneness, of isolation is swallowed up by the thought of being connected to a larger non-physical network of others. Moreover, for some of us, how much have we come to completely rely on Web communication for a large amount of the “real” communication that we crave, that we fail to engage while at work or even with friends? The temptation of connect may be seen as the temptation to substitute the “real” world for a virtual one, but I don’t think that things are this easy. Sure, it is nice to partake in micro-blogging or facebook updates, in order to keep relevant others “updated,” but what happens when one steps away from all of it? Moreover, how have our conversations changed…do we converse in 140 characters or less, I wonder?

    I think that for those of us that engage in various forms of social media, the spreading out and fragmenting of ourselves, while creating small pockets of self-identity and self-representation have the consequences of widening the sense of isolation instead of eliminating it. Spreading oneself across the social media spectrum for research purposes or curiosity may be beneficial if put to good use, but even then, too much talk about nothing, too much reliance on Web communication creates a false sense of togetherness. No matter what, the computer still sits on the table, in the room, in the house, in the city, etc…The objectness of the computer disappears while we are engaged with it.

    The Deep

    In the same essay as the above mentioned quotation, Thayer writes, “What has happened is that we have come to mistake our reach for our grasp. With the modernization of consciousness has come belief that information is a reasonable substitute for knowledge, and that knowledge, rationally accumulated, is a reasonable substitute for wisdom (Thayer 183).” Too much self-fragmentation into the voids of social media may serve to satisfy a temporary hunger, a quick fix on news, technological advances and so on, but what is happening in the accumulation of quick fix knowledge? It seems to me that the self that consists of a diet of aggregated feeds, comes to accumulate more information than necessary and, as a result, not really use that accumulated knowledge. Reaching too far and pulling everything in is tempting, but wasteful and shallow. When I say “shallow,” I mean quickly reading something for the purpose of simply taking it in without making it a part of oneself, without spending time with it and allowing it to work its magick on you. Reading an aggregated feed is much different than reading a book just as “tweeting” on Twitter is much different than engaging in a conversation while sharing a bottle of wine. The depth of communication is at stake in both examples.


    If ours is a situation in which we language the world, in which the world becomes the way it is talked about and made sense, then what are some ways that we can strive to create and enact the most beautiful possible world? Moreover, if ours is a technological world, how can we deepen our communicative grasp through the social networks which we use? Finally, if ours is a fragmented world, what are some ways that we can stitch some vital fragments back together, ways in which we can come to deepen and enrich our human lives through the technological? Perhaps, these too, are some of my hopes for Web 3.0

    *The two quotations were taken from the essay “Communication: Reach vs. Grasp,” which is in Lee Thayer’s book “Pieces: Toward a Revisioning of Communication/Life.”

    Photo by Steve Rhodes (CC)

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  • mono 12:20 pm on April 4, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Data Portability, Facebook, Flickr, Fragmentation, , Labyrinthine Self, , Mash-Up, , , , , socialnetworks, TechCrunch,   

    A Messy Marco-Analysis of Social Media: The Labyrinthine Self 

    An example of a social network diagram.Image from WikipediaThe following is a messy macro-analysis of social media and I hope to elucidate these ideas in the coming weeks. Please bear with me. Also, if you have spent time with what is talked about here, please get in touch, suggest links, propose theories, probes, ideas, etc. I support fragmentation.

    It seems that the decentralization of the self across a number of social networking sites multiplies and fragments the self while creating what I want to call: the labyrinthine self. A definition of the labyrinthine self could be: the self that is created from the decentralization of one’s identity through the fragmentation of one’s knowledge-networks as existing within various social media platforms.

    An easy-to-understand example could be: one creates a Myspace page as a “Film Director,” one then creates a Youtube page as a “Film Director,” in order to extend one’s knowledge-network. In addition, to represent one’s “private” self, one joins Facebook to reconnect with old friends. In order to keep the world updated instantly, a Twitter feed is created, a “film blog” at typepad and finally a Secondlife character is designed in order to further spread one’s “films” or simply just to connect via the virtual world (with other Lindens). In doing this, one has essentially and willingly created the labyrinthine self, that is one’s self has extended to the extent that it has become impossible to fully keep track of and be in control of one’s own knowledge-network. In addition, the self in seeing itself existing across these platforms becomes fragmented. Data that is shared on Facebook is not shared on Twitter or Secondlife and so on. Moreover, even with sites that work to centralize one’s self (Friendfeed), I still see the labyrinthinization of the self. That is to say, even in the centralized space of Friendfeed, there is still a reliance on the labyrinth that one has created or that one is feeding off of. That is, what is Friendfeed apart from the decentralized sites that it allows one to share? Moreover, if anything Friendfeed sustains the fragmented self by willfully encouraging one to put back the puzzle of one’s social media existence.

    Then, there is “data portability,” which is the sharing of data across time-space. This means, jumping from node to node along the labyrinthine tunnel, consciously decentralizing oneself, while maintaining one identity, perhaps something like a “master password.” In this way, one jumps from room to room – different rooms are experienced, but you are still you, fragmented nonetheless.

    Within both of these examples is the unfolding of one’s knowledge-network and, moreover, the ability for one’s data to float through that network into a hither unknown area only to be re-appropriated by another person. That is to say, the “mash-up” trend in blogging. “Mash-up” is the conjoining of two or more things to create something new. It is kind of like cooking. If I mix one part “silly pet video from Youtube,” one part “crazy New York party pics from Flickr” and one part “book review from my favorite blog,” I create a new way of visualizing and interpreting the data, due to the unique context that I created. This leads to what we could even call “the mish-mash self,” the self that appropriates online symbols (images, music files, viral videos, photographs) and uses them to represent one’s self. In a way, this blog represents facets of my labyrinthine self and my mish-mash self. That is to say, one’s blog is a space where one, through the “mashing” of one’s favorite media, creates a new space, a new context from which to view the data.

    Questions for Consideration:

    How is the virtual representation of your identity transformed by your use of social networking sites?
    How deep does your knowledge-network go?
    Do you think that a centralized social media site will fulfill your social media desires? That is, do you prefer centralization or decentralization? What is the relationship of centralization and decentralization in sites like Myspace or Friendfeed?
    Where does Secondlife exist in all of this?

    The article that you have just read was inspired by and relates to: This blog
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  • mono 11:31 am on April 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Facebook, Me.dium, , , , , ,   

    Me.dium: A Real-Time Graphical Browsing Enivronment or “The Voyeuristic Web Experience” 

    MediumsvgImage from WikipediaIf yesterday I wrote about Zizek‘s interview regarding “hysteria and cyberspace,” today I began using a quite “hysterical” add-on called “Me.dium.” Generally speaking, “me.dium” provides you with the ability to graphically see your browsing activity. It also shows other me.dium users who are on the same website as you (and surrounding websites) and gives you the ability to interact with them, add them as a friend or simply ignore them. Also, there is a small forum built into the add-on, which allows one to freely post a topic regarding a website or event that one wishes to talk about. One can also peruse the small forum to see what other me.dium users are discussing. Thus, other users, while surfing can post comments in real time and view where other users are in relation to oneself. Moreover, me.dium provides what they deem “relevant” pages that revolve around what page one is currently on, although thus far I am yet to discover a new interesting page or in general to find much traffic at all in the me.dium world. However…

    What I like about me.dium is the idea of “responsible browsing”. That is, while privacy is usually the mainstay on the internet, this map allows others to track where you are on the net and click there to join you. Upon clicking, you can see their icon as being on the same page as you. I can see this as being very useful for some work-related project with members located in various offices or even in different countries. Similarly, it can be useful for those who wish to join the bandwagon and see what websites others are using. Otherwise, it can be a bit mesmerizing to watch your icon as you float from one website to another: the self transformed into an orange silhouette.

    It seems that me.dium is still in its developmental stages, but if this mapping/interactive function takes off, it could provide an interesting twist in web hysteria. From a Zizekian standpoint, there may be something terrifying about the unknown other being able to follow one’s web activity in real-time (what does the other want from me? Why are they on the same page as me?). Also, it may curb what websites one finds oneself on in relation to how one wants others to perceive him or herself. That is, searching an obscene website knowing that one is openly exposing oneself to it, is visible, may prove quite an uncomfortable experience.

    Neil Postman asked the question: “To what problem is this new technology the solution?” So, one could ask the question: “To what problem is me.dium the solution?” Well, it seems that me.dium is working to combat the alienation of the internet, the internet as a private (and perhaps lonely) experience and bringing out the idea of “you are not alone while browsing.” That is to say, it seems to function as a social networking site based not on a flashy profile, but on browsing interests. However, one can also see the business sense in this. Of course, it could become easy, once enough people begin using this function, to track what websites are popular and thus where to advertise. It is also possible to imagine virtual bots used by a company, programmed to converge on a site (perhaps pushing a new product) and thus creating the illusion of their actually “being there.” Also, it should be noted that the sites that appear in relation to your own are not controllable by you, which has its positive points for being able to discover new web content. Postman’s second question: “Whose problem is this actually?” Well, again, it seems that me.dium appeals to those wishing to connect with others knowingly exposing their surfing habits and vice versa those who wish to view others’ pages, the voyeuristic web experience. Moreover, the business person looking to find how people go from one website to the next could take interest in following web habits to determine what is relevant to other people. Postman’s final question: “What does technologies does this new technology obsolesce?” It seems that me.dium is pushing the increasingly popular “visualized” web interface and with the advent of new visualized browsers (such as touchgraph, spacetime, etc.) the text based browser may wither. Also, in creating a real-time graphical browsing environment, me.dium has the capacity to create an interactive and communal browsing experience, which may again affect linear text based search engines.

    At its current stage, me.dium is still rather small, but it seems that given the chance and time to grow, perhaps some beautiful things could blossom out of me.dium. Imagine a group of scholars separated by location, converging on me.dium, engaging in chat, while researching some topic of interest. If me.dium were able to set up private spaces for groups to converge and research and chat while viewing the topology of where the others are, then this could benefit the said party, or at least provide an interesting space for discussion and discovery.

    • jenniferlauren 1:09 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink

      Hey thanks for the write up about Me.dium. We have a team here happy to answer any questions you may have about our sidebar.

      We take user’s privacy very seriously here, that’s why we have multiple different settings to make our users most comfortable. Be visible to all if you want everyone to see your activity, visible to friends only, or visible to no one. This should alleviate any uncomfortable feelings of “being watched” like you mentioned.

      Please add me as a friend on Me.dium if you have any further questions/comments/whatevers! We love hearing from our users

      Username: Jenniferlauren

    • jgrefe 10:31 am on April 3, 2008 Permalink

      Hello Jennifer

      That is a good point. I do admire the “visible” and “invisible” functions very much. I will add you on me.dium. Thank you for reading.

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