The philosopher Michel Foucault taught that sexual repression and taboos aren’t so much the repression of sex but instead evidence of obsession. I’m reminded of this lesson after reading about a terrible story wherein a Georgia high-school decides to make a presentation to hundreds of students and parents on what not to do on social media. In doing so, they project a photo of one student in her bikini, an image taken from her Facebook page [she says shared with ‘friends of friends’] without her permission. Her face is not blurred; in fact, her full name is printed below the image. Her photo, indeed, her body itself, is being projected to all these people as ‘what not to do’, her image and body construed as a problem, how one should not present themselves in 2013. Humiliated by the school’s disrespectful and irresponsible behavior, the woman is suing. In trying to warn students of the dangers of posting online, the Georgia high-school acted in exactly the dangerous way students—everyone—shouldn’t act. more...
This post expounds on just one section of Liquid Surveillance and should not be considered a proper “review” as such, though I have completed a full review for a journal [read it here]. Further, one of the co-authors of this book, David Lyon, is giving the keynote to the Theorizing the Web conference this Saturday in New York City [more info].
In Liquid Surveillance, the theorist of liquidity, Zygmunt Bauman, and the perhaps the preeminent theorist of surveillance, David Lyon, apply their unique perspectives to social media. I’ve already written a general review of the entire book, submitted to a journal; here, I’m expanding on one specific section of the book that was too much for the general review and deserves its own treatment. In any case, this post has more of my own ideas than would be appropriate for a journal review.
I like Ellen DeGeneres. Lots of people respect what she does and she has a reputation of treating people right. However, I was surprised when I came across a clip from her popular daytime television show where she unsuspectingly broadcasts compromising Facebook photos of random audience members, a sketch I saw for the first time yesterday, and there seems to be at least a few more of these on YouTube.
I get it, it’s a gag on context collapse: photos taken in and for one time and place are dislocated onto broadcast television, to unexpected and hilarious results. Cute. However, the reality of this is not so funny, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show should know better.
The problem here is that Ellen is setting a precedent that it is okay and fun to share each others information to a larger audience than was initially intended; that blasting compromising photos from someone’s Facebook profile to other audiences, large or small, is a funny joke. For many, it isn’t.
Ellen’s lighthearted joke takes the form of much modern bullying; especially what is often called “cyberbullying” more...
By now, we have all heard the warning: potential employers will look at your Facebook page. We have been sufficiently terrified by the cautionary tale about the keg-stand profile pic (why is it always a keg stand?) that kept some otherwise capable candidate from getting hired. Indeed, we have taken note, with increased utilization of privacy settings and a collective awareness by job candidates about the visibility of social network sites.
Now, with the quickly spreading news of Justin Bassett, the warnings (and inevitable cautionary tales) become more epic. Bassett is a statistician out of New York, who, while on a job interview, was asked to log in to his social network profile. Bassett not only refused, but shared his story widely, sparking debates about privacy, employee rights, and the blurring line between personal and professional. more...
This essay, like the one I posted last month on faux-vintage photography, is me hashing out ideas as part of my larger dissertation project on self-documentation and social media. Part I is found here.A barrage of media stories are professing the “Death of Anonymity,” the “End of Forgetting” and an “Era of Omniscience.” They are screaming a sensationalism that is part of the larger project to drum up fear about how “public” we are when using social media. While there are indeed risks involved with using social media, these articles engage in a risky hyperbole that I will try to counter-balance here.
Part I of this essay rethought claims of hyper-publicity by theoretically reorienting the concept of publicity itself. Using theorists like Bataille and Baudrillard, I argue that being public is not the end of privacy but instead has everything to do with it. Social media is more like a fan dance: a game of reveal and conceal. Today, I will further take to task our collective tendency to overstate publicity in the age of social media. Sensationalizing the risks of “living in public” perpetuates the stigma around an imperfect social media presence, intensifying the very risk we hope to avoid. But first, let’s look at examples of this sensationalism.
I. Media Sensationalism
Pointing out the dangers of living public online is an important task, but sensationalizing this risk is all too common. Indeed, the media has a long history of sensationalizing all sorts of risks, creating fear to drum up ratings, sales, clicks and page-views. From sexting to cyberbullying to the loss of “deep” learning, political activism, and “real” social connections, I’ve written many times about how the media has found social media to be a particularly fertile space to exploit fear for profit. more...
This essay, like the one I posted last month on faux-vintage photography, is me hashing out ideas as part of my larger dissertation project on self-documentation and social media. Part II will argue that the media also overstate how public we have become, sensationalizing the issue to the point that the stigma associated with online imperfections erodes more slowly. It is no stretch to claim that we have become more public with social media. By “public” I mean that we are posting (1) more pieces information about ourselves online in (2) new ways (see the Zuckerberg Law of Information sharing), and are doing so more (3) honestly than ever before. We are connected to the web more often, especially given the rise of smart phones, and new layers of information are being invented, such as “checking in” geographically. And gone are the days when you could be anyone you want to be online; today we know that online activities are augmented by the physical world. People are mostly using their real names on Facebook and nearly everything one does there has everything to do with the offline world.
But we are not as public as this suggests. We need a balance to this so-called triumph of publicity and death of anonymity (as the New York Times and Zygmunt Bauman recently declared). “Publicity” on social media needs to be understood fundamentally as an act rife also with its conceptual opposite: creativity and concealment. And I am not talking just about those who use false identities on blogs (see Amina) and pseudonyms on Facebook, those with super-strict privacy settings or those who only post a selective part of their multiple identities (though, I am talking about these folks, too). My point applies to even the biggest oversharers who intimately document their lives in granular detail.
I’ll describe below how each instance of sharing online is done so creatively instead of as simple truth-telling, but will start first by discussing how each new piece of information effectively conceals as much as it reveals. more...
Today, Google announced a new service called “Google+” that explicitly attempts to replicate offline social norms onto an online platform. Besides the conceptual consistency between this goal and the concept of “augmented reality” that I write about so often, I also find the timing of the announcement interesting.
When Eric Schmidt was CEO of Google, I critiqued his statement that having multiple identities online shows “a lack of integrity.” Schmidt stepped down in April of this year and less than two months later Google announces Google+ (which is an umbrella term for a whole host of services centered on better replicating physical world social norms in a digital social media environment).
The service is brand new and invite-only so we can only speculate at this point what it will actually provide. However, the announcement of Google+ on the company’s official blog provides some interesting statements about privacy. The post is an implicit retraction of Schmidt’s insensitive statements and perhaps a lesson-learned from Google’s Buzz debacle that angered and even endangered many of its users. Further, much of the post is also a direct attack on the Facebook platform and its inability to reflect offline social norms that long-since predate the Web (e.g., the platform’s often incorrect usage of the term “friend”). Some quotes from the Google blog: more...
Social media sites like Facebook and Formspring have created new forums for bullying—you may have heard the word “cyberbullying” thrown around.
But social media also provides an opportunity for marginalized groups to gather for support—and occasionally to fight back. Our social media gurus Nathan Jurgenson and P.J. Rey call this “cybersupport.” You can see it at sites like Harassmap, the“3,000 Campaign” against sexual assault, and iHollaback.
Today Nathan and P.J. join Sheilah to talk about this type of networking and the effects it can have—intended and unintended—in physical space.
Also, there will be a panel on so-called cyber-support at the Theorizing the Web conference we are throwing on April 9th.
I am a big fan of Marshall McLuhan and think he is due for a well-timed comeback in this the year of his centennial. I posted this great Playboy interview a while back and am now fixated with a new website called McLuhan Speaks. This site archives short video clips of our media prophet in action.
Click the images below to watch some of my favorite short clips from the site.