Image c/o Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
“There is no such thing as ‘getting it right,’ only ‘getting it’ differently contoured and nuanced. When experimenting with form, ethnographers learn about the topic and about themselves what is unknowable, unimaginable, using prescribed writing formats.” –Laura Richardson “A Method of Inquiry” In The Handbook of Qualitative Research (1991, p. 521)
“The major issue is how to use the variety of available textual formats and devices to reconstruct social worlds and to explore how those texts are then received by both the cultural disciplines and the social worlds we seek to capture.” Paul Atkinson and Amanda Coffey in Theorizing Culture: An Interdisciplinary Critique After Postmodernism (1995, p. 49)
“You’re not the boss of me!”
“It’s a good thing you’re a volunteer then, since you’d make an awful employee.”
“To hell with you!” They both glowered at each other like a pair of hungry house cats eyeing the same can of tuna. It was 10:34PM, the printer was out of toner, and this meeting was going nowhere. In the next room someone was watching a youtube video with lots cussing and something that sounded like a revving truck engine. The florescent lighting made everyone look sallow and empty.
“I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying the numbers worry me. There’s nothing in here that’ll guarantee a win in Cuyahoga or Franklin county.” Jeffrey motioned with an open hand to a printed excel spreadsheet on the table, the tips of his fingers briefly jabbing the top page before going back to their default position as support beams for his head. Jeffrey always held his head in his right hand when he was feeling attacked. He thought it made him look unaffected. (more…)
What is an identity worth? According to PhoneDog, a ‘personality-driven’ tech-review site, Noah Kravitz’s identity is valued at $42,500 per month. A former employee of PhoneDog, Kravitz successfully acquired a large following on the microblogging site Twitter—17,000 at the time of his leaving. In an attention economy, each follower becomes a valuable and tangible asset. The legal dispute between Kravitz and PhoneDog is over ownership of these 17,000 assets.
When Kravitz left the company, he changed his Twitter handle from @PhoneDog_noah to @noahkravitz and took his growing list of followers with him (I became his 24,390th follower/asset today). Complicating the issue further, he now writes for TechnoBuffalo, a competing tech news site which presumably benefits from Kravitz’s vast following. Last week, a federal judge granted permission for the case to move forward. The existence of such a case, as well as its outcome (which remains yet unseen) both demonstrates and further constructs the shifting relationship between identity, labor, private rights, and worker obligations.
PhoneDog argues that Kravitz’s extensive network was built on the company’s foundation—and on the company’s dime. The notoriety of the site and the legitimacy of the name (i.e. the attachment of PhoneDog to his Twitter handle) facilitated the growth of Noah’s online persona. Moreover, they invested in a sizeable PR campaign to grow PhoneDog’s social media presence, and promoted Noah as the representative. Not only did this help raise Noah to micro-celebrity status, but made him an influencer—or someone who has enough influence to sell ad space. In short, PhoneDog argues that Kravitz gained his followers under the PhoneDog name and under the PhoneDog payroll, making these followers the property of the company. They estimate that each of his followers is worth $2.50 per month, and they seek reparations. In a message to readers dated January 3rd 2012, PhoneDog describes Noah’s rise to fame as follows: (more…)
Photo Credits: (From left to right) Candice Borden, epicmealtime.com, and osandstrom.com
Since you are probably going to spend today arguing about Occupy Wall Street with your conservative family members and helping your parents with computer questions we figured you would appreciate some slightly ligher fare: internet cooking shows. But because we are social scientists, we can’t be satisfied with uncritical review. Therefore, I want to discuss how these cooking shows interact with, perform, reify, and probelmitize constructions of gender and nationality. The three shows I want to cover (I’m gonna have to pass on this and this. There’s a great article at dailydot.com that lists most internet cooking shows.) are Epic Meal Time, Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time, and My Drunk Kitchen. Full disclosure: I have a profound weakness for all of these shows, with increasing affinity in the order I just presented them. In case you’re unfamiliar with these shows, I’ll briefly introduce them and then get into the theory. [Images after the break might be considered NSFW.] (more…)
Chris Baraniuk, who writes one of my favorite blogs, the Machine Starts, is experiencing the current riots in London first hand (they’ve spread to other cites). His account of both the rioting mobs of destruction as well as those mobs trying to clean up the aftermath imply the ever complex pathways in which what I have called “augmented reality” takes form. [I lay out the idea here, and expand on it here]
We are witnessing both the destructive and the constructive “mobs” taking form as “augmented” entities. The rioters emerged in physical space and likely used digital communications to better organize. The “riot cleanup” response came at augmentation from the reverse path, organizing digitally to come together and clean up physical space. Both “mobs” flow quite naturally back and forth across atoms and bits creating an overall situation where, as what so often occurs, the on and offline merge together into an augmented experience.
The rioting mob first realized itself in physical meat-space (more…)
There is an important space between old and new media. This is the grey area between (1) the top-down gatekeeping of old media that separates producers and consumers of content and (2) the bottom-up nature of new, social media where producers and consumers come from the same pool (i.e., they are prosumers).
And in the middle are projects like Global Voices, what might be called curatorial media: where content is produced by the many in a social way from the bottom-up and is then mediated, filtered or curated by some old-media-like gatekeeper.
The current protests in Syria can serve as an important example of how curatorial media works. Especially because foreign journalists have been banned from the country, creating a dearth of information for old media. Alternatively, (more…)
The 2012 presidential race is beginning to take shape, and it is interesting to see how social media is being differently used by candidates. Obama kicked off his re-election campaign on YouTube and is at Facebook today with Zuckerberg to do a Facebook-style town-hall Q&A. Mitt Romney (R-MA) annouced his presidential bid on Twitter and Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) announced on Facebook and even created a Foursquare-style gaming layer where supporters earn points for participating in his campaign. I’ll be analyzing how social media is used throughout the 2012 cycle, but I’d like to start all of this with the question: who will be our first social media president?
FDR became the radio president with his famous “fireside chats” and JFK the television president with his image-centered debates with Nixon. Many consider Obama the first social media president due to his massive fund raising and organizing efforts during the 2008 campaign using the web (though, Howard Dean was there four years earlier – remember his use of meetup.org). However, now that Obama has been in office for more than two years, has he really used the social web effectively in interesting new ways? The New York Times states that Obama treats the Internet like a “television without knobs,” using it primarily to simply upload videos for us to consume. Obama-as-president has thus far been a Web 1.0 leader instead of embracing the Web 2.0 ethic of users collaboratively and socially creating content.
To put it another way, go to Obama’s Twitter account and ask yourself if he is really using the medium in an effective way? It is clearly (more…)
On Jan. 8, 2011, Jared Lee Loughner allegedly shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and 19 others resulting in 6 fatalities. This event has drawn attention to a number of new and important roles social media has come to play in our society, including how information is gathered, changed political rhetoric, and how these sites handle the profiles of those involved in high-profile tragedies.
Profiling the Suspect
Media coverage (i.e., cable, network, radio, and newspapers) of the event represented a broader trend in contemporary journalism: almost immediately, news outlets began to piece together a profile of this previously unknown figure using almost exclusively Loughner’s social media profiles (i.e., Facebook, Myspace, Youtube and, most recently, online gaming discussion boards). Even though his MySpace and Facebook profiles were taken down by the site, screenshots of the sites are available, including one showing a photo of gun on a US History textbook as a profile picture.
The digital documentation of our lives via social media offers an easily-accessible, autobiographical source for journalists and anyone else who is interested. Yet, there is a risk in basing our impressions solely off of this information. Loughner’s image of himself is certainly not objective and may very well be inaccurate. News outlets, however, face pressure to “get the scoop” on the story, so they tended to report on Loughner based heavily on this information, as opposed to interviewing a range of people in his life to construct a more holistic perspective.
The Post-Shooting Political Debate
In the wake of the tragedy, a debate emerged over the intensity and tone of contemporary political rhetoric. The political right in general, and Sarah Palin in particular, (more…)
The term “cyberbullying” is frequently used to describe hurtful behaviors occurring via communication technologies. But why distinguish “cyber” bullying from other forms of bullying? Perhaps it is partly because, when thinking of bullying, we tend to envision physical violence, something impossible to accomplish over the Web. Perhaps it is because the Web allows for new and vastly different forms of communication, necessitating new terminologies. Indeed, social media, mobile phones, and other recent technologies have created new ways for bullying to occur. For instance, the anonymity one has on Formspring has certainly contributed to a groundswell of hurtful behaviors on that site. Moreover, bullying can now occur at virtually any time and in any place (with Internet access).
However, as danah boyd has previously pointed out, the term “cyberbullying” is quite loaded because it tends to be used in a way that seems to diminish the significance of an act of bullying. Yet, bullying is bullying, whether it occurs in a school, park, bus, or on the Web. (A rough definition of bullying for our purposes here: the repeated use of hurtful behaviors, such as, but not limited to, insults, rumors, threats, intimidation, coercion, exclusion, physical violence, or vandalism.)