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How does technology mediate belonging in an era of both rising connectivity and xenophobia? The rhetoric of globalization would have us believe we are entering a new era of integration facilitated by advances in transportation and information technology, while racist populism is finding currency unseen since the Second World War. These perspectives represent very different views of how the world should work, and reflect one’s position and ability to navigate multiple, entangled systems of belonging, and the technologies making such movement possible.

We order our world with technology, in ways so mundane they escape detection without effort to separate representation of the world from the world itself. This is difficult because language itself is a sort of representational technology. Think of language as the software used in “hardware” (like stop signs or birth certificates) designed to order society. more...

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One of the first news stories about the June 12th Orlando shooting that I read focused on the mother of a young man trapped inside Pulse nightclub, and the text messages that she had exchanged with her son. When I first read the story, the fate of the young man was not yet known, although his text messages had ceased by 3am, and his mother was quoted as having a “bad feeling” about the outcome. That day, as the names of the victims trickled out, I followed the news intently, hoping that somehow this young man’s name would not appear on the list of the deceased. But it did.

Like so many others across the country and the world in the wake of the Orlando massacre, I experienced an intense form of empathy for the victims and their families, made possible in part by increasingly timely and intimate forms of news gathering in the digital age. I read the news from a position of safety and security, but still felt that empty pit in my stomach, still had to stop in my tracks as the young man’s name came across my constantly updating Twitter feed. Millions of others felt something similar. But what becomes of all this empathy? more...

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What are all those people celebrating with their standing ovation? Even the guy on stage is applauding. Sure the new product is exciting, but applause? Unlike a play or a musical performance (even a U2 performance), nothing is actually happening on stage when a product is announced. All that work that goes into making a product was done months ago, and the audience isn’t even being asked (at the moment) to thank the people that made the product. Instead of rapt silence or an excited buzz, lots of people are moved to show their unbridled enthusiasm in a very specific way. It is the same kind of collective reaction that comes after a political speech and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When we applaud the Apple Watch we’re applauding an imagined future. more...

I’d like to point readers to a terrific three-part essay by Laura Portwood-Stacer on three reasons why people refuse media, addictionasceticism, 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...

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...

Instagram is a smart phone application that acts as a social network and photo editing software. The application allows users to apply various filters and effects to their camera phone pictures, often in order to look like Polaroids from the 70s. The users can then upload the photos to the Instagram community where other members can view, “like”, and comment on them. A user’s Instagram feed can also be synced with other social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr.

Launched in 2010, the app was initially only available to iPhone users and those with iOS software. Its popularity became instant, and within a year, it had over ten million users. In April 2012, Instagram debuted their Android version of the app on the Google Play store, thus opening up its user base to those with Android smartphones. With this launch came an unexpected backlash from the original iPhone users, and a new form of class warfare began to arise on the internet.

Different cell phone providers offer iPhone versus Android devices. iPhones can only be purchased with more...

We are currently facing a cultural crisis of authenticity. Since the early 2000s, we have seen the concept “authenticity” slowly move from margins to mainstream (Reynolds, 2011), encapsulated by feverish celebrity gossip surrounding breakout stars like Lana Del Rey, personified through the rise of the urban hipster as folk devil (those self-professed taste arbiters of cool who ride “fixies” through the urban landscape, collect obscure records, and wear vintage clothes), and exemplified in Web 2.0 and the rise of social media (especially curatorial media like LastFM and more recently, Pintrest), where we are all now encouraged to share, like, and make public pronouncements of our personal tastes. In the contemporary zeitgeist, it seems that we are all “grasping for authenticity” in an attempt to make our lives seem more important, substantial, and relevant (Jurgenson, 2011).

In this environment, identity is constructed both on and offline, but our online identities are increasingly coming to define our public identities. As such, the “online commons” (Lih, 2009) becomes an important space of identity construction and conflict. more...

Since Sarah posted on Kony yesterday, I though I would throw in my two cents on the matter. I would like to discuss claims that the Kony 2012 is a hipster movement.

Why are people claiming the movement against Kony is a hipster movement? I think it is because of three main reasons. 1) people are using social media to spread it; 2) Invisible children plays into the whole Toms shoes, suburban college student social justice movement; and 3) individuals are claiming allegiances to this social justice movement as a form of social distinction. more...

Since these hipster blog posts are generating so much great discussion I thought I would bring you another example of the subculture. I came across this website after my girlfriend attempted to get me to listen to some folk bands or something that she liked. I can’t exactly recall how it happened, but I do recall her sending this website to me.


The entire website for Plan-It-X Records is a simple .jpg image seen above.

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A "Fakebook" Sleeve

Just as we might have expected, the much-tweeted Facebook sleeve tattoo that I wrote about before has turned out to be a hoax. More specifically, it was a marketing campaign for the company Pretty Social. The company allows you to create custom handbags, stickers, and other products emblazoned with the profile pictures of your (digital) friends.

Nonetheless, the viral video itself made its way around the Internet, serving as but another case of tattoos as advertising. Much has been written on the topic already (Bengsston et. al 2005; McKelvey 1999; Kosut 2005), but I want to theorize further the use of tattooing in marketing as it relates to the phenomena of brand tattoos and lifestyle consumption and the repercussions these trends have for understandings of consumer culture. more...