Photo credit: Rajiv Mehta
I’ve spent the last span of days trying to figure out what I want to say (first) about Quantified Self Europe 2013 (#qseu13), which took place in Amsterdam on 11 and 12 May. The conference spanned a truly amazing pair of days, both of which I spent furiously live-tweeting and paper-scribbling field notes as my jet-lagged brain threatened simultaneously to implode and to explode (in the best of all possible ways) on both an intellectual and a personal level. The Twitter-length post is easy: “Wow, #qseu13 was so awesome!” A few chapter-length essays would be easy as well, given enough time. A blog post, though…blog-length is hard.
For the sake of continuity, I’ll start this first post by picking up where I left off last week. On the first day of this year’s Quantified Self Europe, I hosted a breakout session [pdf] called, “The Missing Trackers,” in which I posed questions about who might be missing from the Quantified Self community, what we might learn about the Quantified Self community by looking at who’s missing from it, and whether those absences might be a problem. (more…)
MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses. These generally free, multi-thousand student, online college courses, come in a variety of forms (typically differentiated as xMOOCs and cMOOCs), and have become the fertile ground for debates about the future of higher education. Such debates exploded last week when the San Jose State University (SJSU) Philosophy Department published an open letter to Dr. Michael Sandel, explaining to the the Harvard University Professor why they refused to enter into a contract that requires them to incorporate his MOOC on Justice into their curriculum.
The letter from SJSU and the formal and informal responses to it, highlight key tensions expressed by the academic community with regard to MOOCs. The letter itself captures many larger concerns, as professors worry about prioritization of the ‘bottom line,’ lack of interactivity, loss of professorial autonomy, and the perpetuation of class/power/resource hierarchies as students at a few select schools engage in a rich classroom environment, while everyone else views educational videos that were made for someone else, do not account for their needs, and do not incorporate their voices or experiences. The following is an excerpt from the original letter: (more…)
BREAKING NEWS: PEOPLE ARE DEBATING AUGMENTED REALITY/DIGITAL DUALISM!!!
This post, however, takes a break from The Great Dualism Debates of 2013 and reflects instead on some musings that have been whirring around in my brain since #TtW13 based on discussions surrounding the Quantified Self.
After returning from my favorite professional weekend of the year (AKA the Theorizing the Web annual conference), I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with a good friend. She asked about my presentation, and we got talking about Self Quantification and Identity. This particular friend is also an occasional running partner and a fellow nutrition enthusiast. We seamlessly moved into her personal tracking habits, and she shared with me that when she uses her calorie tracking app, she ends up omitting a good deal of information, and contextualizing other data. Specifically, she tells me that she “forgets” to track her food while spending weekends with her long-distance boyfriend (during which she tends to eat more), and made a point to write down that it was her birthday to explain why she was so high above her daily allotment one day last month. Interestingly, she does not have any followers on this app, which means her justifications and omissions are purely for own benefit. She is not keeping up appearances for others, but rather, maintaining meanings for herself. (more…)
I have a dear family friend. She is highly educated, happily married, a wonderful mother, and incredibly successful in her career. She has also, however, always struggled with her weight. Like many people, she tried dieting about a million times. This produced the kind of yo-yo style results which bring people to maintain several wardrobes of varying sizes. Then, about five years ago, she started journaling. She wrote down everything she ate and the approximate caloric count of each item. With this tactic, this dear family friend was, for the first time, able to maintain her desired body size.
Don’t worry; this is not a post about how to lose weight. I could write one of those, but the anti-feminist self-loathing would probably be too much for me to bear. Rather, this is a short post about self-tracking. We all know that Cyborgologist Whitney Erin Boesel (@phenatypical) is our resident expert on self-tracking however, as she makes her way from one side of the country to the other, I will pick up the self-tracking ball and talk about some recent findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. (more…)
I hear there are people out there (though I’ve never been acquainted with one, so far as I know) who really believe high school was the best period of their lives. It’s a privilege to say so, but this position remains unfathomable to me. This isn’t to say I haven’t developed a retroactive appreciation for certain aspects of my teenage life; in high school I had no overhead, all of my income was discretionary, necessities (and sometimes luxuries) were provided for me, and activities like singing, debating, working on theatrical productions, shooting photography, and writing/editing for the school newspaper (awww, analogue blogging!) were considered “productive” uses of my time, all of which add up to a pretty cushy existence. Material and structural privilege can’t necessarily buy happiness, however, and it’s an understatement when I say that I’m presently happy to have left the affective experience of my teenage years in the past.
Recently, my Internet neighborhood has been revisiting high school through the lens of ‘What if we’d had Facebook Back In The Day?’ On Monday, Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) wrote about why we shouldn’t be so quick to celebrate the Facebooklessness of our adolescence; yesterday, Rob Horning (@marginalutility) posted his well-considered response. Below I consider both pieces, and add my own thoughts about the hypothetical intersections of present day Facebook and the pre-Facebook past. All three of us examine identity and “digital dirt,” but where Jurgenson considers embarrassment and stigma, and Horning considers context and narrative control, I consider temporality and affective experience. (more…)
“Prosumption” is a bit of a buzzword here at Cyborgology. It refers to the melding of production and consumption. Although prosumption is not unique to the contemporary connected era, it flourishes within it. One slice of prosumption theorizing focuses specifically on identity. I first coined identity prosumption in an American Behavioral Scientist article (un-paywalled on my academia.edu page). Since then, references to identity prosumption have appeared periodically on the blog. For example, Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) applied identity prosumption to the asexual identity movement, Dave Paul Strohecker (@dpsFTW) mused about the role of identity in Star Wars fan fic., and I pondered the liberatory versus categorically constraining role of identity prosumption.
Identity prosumption refers to the identity meanings associated with prosumed content. What we create reflects and constructs who we are, just as who we are reflects and constructs what we create. Identity prosumption is a merging of prosumed objects and prosuming subjects. It applies: (a) when that which is prosumed can be connected to the prosumer in a defining way and (b) when the process of prosumption incorporates social interaction.
Today, I want to add a bit more nuance to the identity prosumption model. Specifically, I want to demonstrate that sites of identity prosumption (both online and offline) affect the identity prosumption process in non-uniform ways. I focus here on two key variations: collective vs. individualist orientation, and degree of control over identity meanings. I explore these variations through a comparison of two identity prosumption sites: Facebook and FetLife. The former is the preeminent social network platform, the latter an (ironically) mainstream social network site for people who like BDSM. To employ a twist on the Hipster trope, “FetLife: you’ve probably heard of it.” (more…)
“I’m so thankful the internet was not in wide use when I was in high school”, this article begins, a common refrain among people who grew up without social media sites from Friendster to Facebook, Photobucket to Instagram. Even those using email, chatrooms, Livejournal, multiplayer games and the like did not have the full-on use-your-real-name-ultra-public Facebook-like experience.
Behind many of the “thank God I didn’t have Facebook back then!” statements is the worry that a less-refined past-self would be exposed to current, different, perhaps hipper or more professional networks. Silly music tastes, less-informed political statements, embarrassing photos of the 15-year-old you: digital dirt from long ago would threaten to debase today’s impeccably curated identity project. The discomfort of having past indiscretions in the full light of the present generates the knee-jerk thankfulness of not having high-school digital dirt to manage. The sentiment is almost common enough to be a truism within some groups, but I wonder if we should continue saying it so nonchalantly?
“Glad we didn’t have Facebook then!” isn’t always wrong, but the statement makes at least two very arguable suppositions and it also carries the implicit belief that identity-change is something that should be hidden, reinforcing the stigma that generates the phrase to begin with. (more…)
I’d like to point readers to a terrific three-part essay by Laura Portwood-Stacer on three reasons why people refuse media, addiction, asceticism, and aesthetics. We can apply this directly to what might become an increasingly important topic in social media studies: social media refusers, already (edit: and unfortunately, as Rahel Aima points out) nicknamed “refusenicks”. There will be more to come on this blog on how to measure and conceptualize Facebook (and other social media) refusal, but let’s begin by analyzing these three frameworks used to discuss social media refusal and critique some of the underlying assumptions. (more…)
c/o Facebook.com/Help “Where do my promoted posts show up on Facebook? What do they look like?”
Social media blurs private and public, production and consumption, play and work, physical and digital. There. I just saved myself about 500 words worth of work.
Now with this blurring framework in mind, let us take a look at Facebook’s newest feature: Pay-to-Promote posts. (more…)
PJ Rey just posted a terrific reflection on hipsters and low-tech on this blog, and I just want to briefly respond, prod and disagree a little. This is a topic of great interest to me: I’ve written about low-tech “striving for authenticity” in my essay on The Faux-Vintage Photo, reflected on Instagrammed war photos, the presence of old-timey cameras at Occupy Wall Street, and the IRL Fetish that has people obsessing over “the real” in order to demonstrate just how special and unique they are.
While I appreciate PJ bringing in terrific new theorists to this discussion, linking authenticity and agency with hipsters and technology, I think he focuses too much on the technologies themselves and not enough on the processes of identity; too much on the signified and not where the real action is in our post-modern, consumer society: the signs and signifiers. (more…)