theory

I’ve been thinking on and off since mid-summer about a hole I’ve identified in our collective theorizing of augmented reality. To illustrate it, imagine the following conversation:

Digital Dualist: ‘Online’ and ‘offline’ are two distinct, separate worlds!
Me: That’s not true. ‘Online’ and ‘offline’ are part of the same augmented reality.
Digital Dualist: Are you saying that ‘online’ and ‘offline’ are the same thing?
Me: No, of course not. Atoms and bits have different properties, but both are still part of the same world.
Digital Dualist: So ‘online’ and ‘offline’ are different, but not different worlds?
Me: Correct.
Digital Dualist: But if they’re not different worlds, then what kind of different thing are they?
Me:

I don’t know about you, but this is where I get stuck.

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Photos by Nathan Jurgenson, taken in Washington, D.C., 17, January 2012.

Malcolm Harris has posted one of the most provocative things I’ve ever read about social media, “Twitterland.” I’d like to point you the story and go through some of the many issues he brings to light. Harris’ story is one of theorizing Twitter and power; it can reinforce existing power imbalances, but, as is the focus here, how it can also be used to upset them.

Digital Dualism
Harris begins by taking on the idea that Twitter is a “tool” or an “instrument”, arguing that, no, Twitter is not a map, but the territory; not the flier but the city itself; hence the title “Twitterland.” However, in nearly the same breath, Harris states he wants to “buck that trend” of “the faulty digital-dualist frame the separates ‘real’ and online life.” As most readers here know, I coined the term digital dualism and provided the definition on this blog and thus have some vested interest in how it is deployed. And Harris’ analysis that follows indeed bucks the dualist trend, even though I would ask for some restating of the more theoretical parts of his argument. I’d like to urge Harris not to claim that Twitter is a new city, but instead focus on how Twitter has become part of the city-fabric of reality itself. more...

my bad photo with lots of bokeh blur will get lots of facebook likes

Stories In Focus, posted by Sarah Wahnecheck two days ago, is a brief exploration of Bokeh that strikes me as a great start to something bigger. This is just a quick followup, asking Sarah and others to think more about the reality that amateur, documentary and news footage is increasingly coming to look like art films, specifically the effect of having one thing in sharp focus with the rest blurred and out of focus. more...

Bodies and screens, voices and tweets, hallways and backchannels, experiencing the American Sociological Association meetings this weekend in Denver means stepping into an atmosphere oversaturated with information. The bombardment can sometimes be overwhelming, with more sessions than you can attend and more tweets than you can read. This isn’t going to be a post on why we should use Twitter at conferences, Whitney Erin Boesel already did that more diplomaticly than I could pull off. Anyways, framing it as ‘why do we continue to meet face-to-face?’ would be more interesting for me. Instead, I simply want to argue that there will not be separate online and offline conferences happening, that Twitter isn’t a backchannel and the session room isn’t the front. The reality of the conference is always both digital and physical for everyone whether their noses are buried in a screen, sheets of paper, or staring unblinkingly at the podium. more...

In each of the past two Theorizing the Web conferences, I have been present to see an audience member—concerned about the fleeting popularity of online platforms and rapid technological development— question the pervasive use of Facebook as a study site. This is an important question, and one to which panelists (including myself) have not adequately responded.  Absent the pressure of probing eyes and a ticking clock, I work here to craft the kind of response that the question deserves.

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dont read all of the tweets

There is often the assumption that the information economy expects us to consume more and more, leading us to process more but concentrate less. Some have called this a “fear of missing out” (or FOMO), a “blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media.” However, most of these arguments about FOMO make the false assumption that the information economy wants and expects us to always process more. This isn’t true; we need to accept the reality that the information economy as well as our own preferences actually value, even need, missing out.

Many do feel in over their heads when scrolling social media streams. Especially those of us who make a hobby or career in the attention/information economy, always reading, sharing, commenting and writing; tweeting, blogging, retweeting and reblogging. Many of us do feel positioned directly in the path of a growing avalanche of information, scared of missing out and afraid of losing our ability to slow down, concentrate, connect and daydream, too distracted by that growing list of unread tweets. While it seemed fun and harmless (Tribble-like?) at first, have we found ourselves drowning in the information streams we signed up for and participate in? more...

The following is a  review of Lee Rainie and Barry Wellman’s new book Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press).

Broad Summary
Rainie and Wellman, using scores of data, argue that we live in a networked operating system characterized by networked individualism. They describe the triple revolution (networked revolution, internet revolution, and mobile revolution) that got us here, and discuss the repercussions of this triple revolution within various arenas of social life (e.g. the family, relationships, work, information spread). They conclude with an empirically informed guess at the future of the new social operating system of networked individualism, indulging augmented fantasies and dystopic potentials. Importantly, much of the book is set up as a larger argument against technologically deterministic claims about the deleterious effects of new information communication technologies (ICTs).
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I hereby dare to say that TtW2012 met and surpassed the precedent set by TtW2011 (though both were fantastic). One of the unique features of the TtW conferences are their integration of academic, professional, and artistic expressions of the human/technology relationship. One such example was the lunchtime screening of Kelsey Brannan’s film: Over&Out. In particular, I was struck by the connection between Brannan’s piece and the academic presentations in the Logging off and Disconnection panel. Here, I try to tease out this connection.

I begin with a short synopsis of Over&Out taken from the film’s website: more...


I took the liberty of making a new meme: "Censorship Sandworm". http://memegenerator.net/Censorship-Sandworm

“I must rule with eye and claw — as the hawk among lesser birds.”

-Duke Leo Atreides in Book 1: Dune

Over a week ago, Twitter announced a new censorship policy, stating that it would comply with any “valid and applicable legal request” to take down tweets. The announcement came just as we were still digesting Google’s unified privacy policy and were still debating the (now confirmed) rumors that Facebook was releasing an IPO. Twitter has since been applauded, denounced, and dissected by a variety of scholars, media critics, and business leaders. In this post I will give a brief summary of the controversy, briefly weigh in with a commentary of my own, and conclude with a discussion of what all this means for theorizing online social activity.

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What Facebook knows about you, via the Spectacular Optical tumblr (click for more images)

Rob Horning has been working on the topic of the “Data Self.” His project has a close parallel to my own work and after reading his latest post, I’d like to jump in and offer a conceptual distinction for thinking about the intersection of the online/data/Profile and the offline/Person.

The problem is that our online presence is too often seen as only the byproduct of our offline selves. Sometimes we talk about the way online profiles are passive reflections of who we are and what we do and other times we acknowledge our profiles are also partly performative adjustments to the “reality” of the person. However, in all the discussion of individuals creating this content what is often neglected is how the individual, in all of their offline experience, behavior and existence, is simultaneously being created by this very online data. We cannot describe how a person creates their Profile without always acknowledging how the Profile creates the person.

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