Author Archives: jeremyantley

Dark Definition

Photo by Whitney Erin Boesel

(This post originally appeared at Peasant Muse on 17 October 2012)

Alexis Madrigal has a very interesting article over at The Atlantic on a topic he calls dark social, or web traffic driven by non-referred sources outside of those generated on traditional social platforms. Even though the dominant narrative places the innovative crown of web-connection on sites like Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, and so on, the article provides undeniable proof that so-called ‘dark social’ forces- links shared over gchat, email or personal connection- actually drive the majority of web traffic.

Madrigal interlaces his data-backed revelations with anecdotal tales on his use of 90′s era communicative platforms like ICQ and USENET to share links with his friends, the contrasting effect meant to convey a sense of experiential validation on the larger thesis of the piece. If almost 70% of traffic occurs through means outside of those facilitated by, say, ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ something on Facebook or retweeting an interesting link shared on Twitter, then what does that say about the narratives telling us how we use the web? On a larger level, what does inclusion of this ‘dark social’ data say about our levels of perception and the limits circumscribed therein?

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Between Reality & Cyberspace

Reposted from Peasant Muse.

Photo by aagius

What does the term ‘cyberspace’ mean?  Does this Gibsonian construct adequately fulfill the task, currently asked of it by many, of defining the digital/physical realm interaction in terms of its scope and function?

Attempts to frame new social interactions spurred by digital innovations in communication, documentation and self-actualization (just to name a few) generally encounter problems of word choice when describing the effects these advancements bring to our growing conceptions of reality.  Literary terminology, often built upon antiquated notions reconfigured to suggest a potential or future state of being, sometimes suits the purpose of analogy when looking at these phenomena.  Yet there always comes a time when our understanding of an event or construction of reality demands that we re-evaluate our word choice, lest our future analytical efforts be hindered by its, perhaps, outmoded or misleading operation.  PJ Rey and the internet persona known as Mr. Teacup produced just this sort of re-evalutation of the term mentioned above, cyberspace, through two excellent pieces titled ‘There is no Cyberspace‘ and ‘There is Only Cyberspace’, respectively written.

PJ Rey argued that the term cyberspace, first coined by William Gibson in the short story ‘Burning Chrome’ and defined as a ‘consensual hallucination’, is deeply problematic in describing our contemporary social web because the web is neither consensual nor a hallucination.  Thanks to the ubiquity of smart phones, pervasive documentary practices (something Nathan Jurgenson calls the ‘Facebook Eye‘) mean that even if someone does not participate in the social web their actions are nonetheless captured by it to some degree, thus shaping our actions on the individual and societal level.  Many of us cannot control the degree to which this ‘Facebook Eye’ documents our actions (Could you stop every friend from making comments or posting pictures of your embarrassing moment from last week’s party?  What about last year’s party?) making the web far from a consensual space.  In many ways, because the web is not consensual it is also not a fantastical or a hallucinatory space either.  It is a part of reality- the web is as real as reality itself.  Actions taken offline impact online relations and vice-versa, allowing Rey to state that, “causality is bi-directional.  We are all part of the same human-computer system.” (more…)

Empirical Roots of Digital Dualism

Peasants at Table

"Peasants at Table" from the Prokudin-Gorskii Collection (ca. 1875)

Editor’s Note: This pieces is a modified repost from Peasant Muse.

Author’s Note: In the original post I used the term ‘analog dualism’, which has been replaced in the version below with ‘textual dualism’.  The sentiment and argument remain the same, as the shift from ‘analog’ to ‘textual’ more precisely describes the phenomena I am trying to uncover.

It is often the case with new technology that the promise of change it brings often outstrips its capacity to actually enact that change.  This is certainly true with several digital constructs that emerged over the past decade, like Wikipedia or the Open-Source movement, that are increasingly becoming obsessed with the promise and potential ‘social’ can bring to the issue of user equality.  Free from the constraints once imposed by more traditional analog methods, digital means of knowledge production and creation offer the promise of true independence and interdependence- yet often these new methods fall prey to (con)structural weaknesses that do little more than perpetuate the previous modes of inequality found in their analog ancestors, albeit in digital terms and conceptions that mask the true nature of their operation in the combined realms of both online and offline activity.

The argument presented above largely comes from a very cogent essay written by Nathan Jurgenson on the blog, Cyborgology.  Titled ‘Digital Dualism and the Fallacy of Web Objectivity‘, Jurgenson argues for abandonment of what he terms a ‘digital dualist’ perspective in favor a conception he calls ‘augmented reality’, defined in the quoted sections below (more…)