If, like me, you are skeptical of research on social media and subjectivity that takes the form of polling some users about their feelings, as if self-reporting didn’t raise any epistemological issues, this paper, steeped in Baudrillard, Derrida, and Heidegger, will come as a welcome change. It’s far closer to taking the opposite position, that whatever people say about their feelings should probably be discounted out of hand, given that what is more significant is the forces that condition the consciousness of such feelings. That approach is sometimes dismissed as failing to take into account individual agency; it’s implicitly treated as an affront to human dignity to presume that people’s use of technology might not be governed by full autonomy and voluntarism, that it’s tinfoil-hat silly to believe that something as consumer-friendly and popular as Facebook could be coercive, that the company could be working behind users’ backs to warp their experience of the world for the sake of Facebook’s bottom line.
Mitchell is not so overtly conspiratorial in this paper; (more…)
The Quantified Self is defined—in the tagline of the movement’s website—as self -knowledge through numbers. With the example of the Tikker “Happiness Watch” (also known as the Death Watch) I argue for the primacy of self-knowledge within the movement, and the subservient role of numbers. (more…)
The What-Would-I-Say App, (#wwis) created by HackPrinceton, has garnered widespread popularity. The app basically amalgamates your Facebook posts, rearranges them, and computes a best guess at what you, the Facebook user, would say. According the app’s creators, here’s how it works: (more…)
Over the last couple of weeks, a YouTube video (above) of New York artist Richard Renaldi has continued to populate my Facebook News Feed. Renaldi’s project Touching Strangers is such that he positions strangers together in an intimate poses and photographs them. Despite lack of prior contact, these photographs depict what look to be quite sincere expressions of emotion. Moreover, the subjects interviewed in the video say that they feel some sort of connection towards those with whom they posed. This is certainly moving, admittedly interesting, but as a trained social psychologist, not very surprising. It does, however, offer interesting implications for people’s oft-spouted rants against in-authenticity and identity work on social media.
Let me begin by discussing the sociology of the work. I will them move on the implications for authenticity in light of new technologies. (more…)
It’s fall again—that time of year when the days shorten, the air turns crisp (at least in New England), and a young researcher’s mind turns to two things: 1) pumpkin beer, and 2) the Bay Area edition of the annual Quantified Self conference (which now goes by Quantified Self Global).
If that’s not where your mind turns, I guess that’s understandable: pumpkin beer isn’t for everyone, and this is only the second time Quantified Self Global has happened in the fall; QS2011, the very first Quantified Self conference, happened in the spring. Be that as it may, I’ve been thinking about QS13 for a while now, and—since I just realized I get on a plane to California a week from Monday—I thought I’d write about it. More specifically, I’m going to revisit my wrap-up post from Quantified Self Europe 2013 (QSEU13) last May, wander through some musings on individualism and Bay Area culture, consider some recent developments in the Boston QS community, and end with some speculation about what I might find in San Francisco next month.
Over the past few months there’s been a lot of hoopla around the “mass exodus” of teens from Facebook, with particular reference to Facebook’s decreasing cache of cool. Despite several refutations to the mass-exodus hypothesis, people—academics and non-academics alike— still ask me all the time: “So Jenny, what’s up with all the kids leaving Facebook? I hear it’s not cool anymore.”
Now let me be clear; I am not cool. I hold no pretense of being cool, and hence have no business making any sort of objective hipness-rating on anything. Seriously. I just used the word “hip.” I am, however, a social scientist, and I want to take a moment to talk about some data—an area in which I am qualified. (more…)
image via https://twitter.com/mattdpearce/status/331096177393160193
I’m fascinated by the cover of yesterday’s Sunday New York Times. Fixated on the image of Boston Marathon suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, I was momentarily unable to notice the words surrounding it. I was a little stunned, then angry, then captivated. The image, not just the Instagrammed selfie of Dzhokhar, but this photo within the culturally significant New York Times front page, is endlessly sociologically fascinating.
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’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…)
We live in a cyborg society. Technology has infiltrated the most fundamental aspects of our lives: social organization, the body, even our self-concepts. This blog chronicles our new, augmented reality.