What does it all mean?

August 19, 2007 at 6:30 am (Uncategorized)

  Online social networks are egocentric mediums which enrich and play with our real life social networks.  This is what I feel I have gained the most insight on in this course.  I am ‘old school’ and I have had to adjust to the internet coming into my life in direct contrast to my children being born into the world with the internet as the hub of their existance.  They seem better equipped to deal with life in the future than I do simply because of the ways in which digital text has changed the outlook on family, love and friendships.  100 billion times a day a website is clicked on, this is almost beyond comprehension.  “The machine is an actor in our social lives” and makes life much more fast paced and dramatic.  My kids can’t imagine life any other way and I long for the days when life was filled with simple pleasures.  Obviously things will only advance to higher degrees and become more complex and I will adapt, yet I seriously worry about the state of human beings in terms of being able to express compassion and genuine feelings of warmth to one another.  With the computer acting as a human agent, where does that leave us?  It leaves us propelling into a world where we are all numbers and names on a screen with no substance and no real control over who we are and our place in REAL LIFE.  Depressing?…maybe.  True?…absolutely!  I take the ‘good old days’ any day.  I wouldn’t be suprised if I throw away my cell phone and close out my profiles on facebook and move to a cabin in the mountains, I’m sure that this is not what most people got out of this class but I found it made me look at the big picture and the big picture scares me.  I am not crazy and what I have said is most likely just ramblings of the moment, however I do truely believe that without all the technology, status symbols and class divides we would be better people to one another, where is Karl Marx when you need him?



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“Rape in Cyberspace”

August 19, 2007 at 6:08 am (Uncategorized)

    While people determine their identities online, disturbing things can occur.  After reading the article Rape in Cyberspace, I knew became aware of a lot of new terms such as ‘voodoo doll’ (make other users say thing they really didn’t say), ‘virtual rape’ (rape people online) and ‘toading’ (eliminate someone from an online community).  The character of Mr. Bungle virtually rapes two women and there is a real feeling of violation on the part of the um..victims?  I find this a compelling yet hard concept to grasp.  How can something like virtual rape cross over to create emotions that one would experience after a real life rape?  Are people so naive as to believe that their online personas represent real life events?  I stuggle with this entire online/offline dichotomy, mainly because I have experienced life before the internet and found it to be better, without such deception.  When people no longer have the ability or the desire for that matter to see the difference between what is real and what is fake, communication breaks down to the point of no return, no matter what medium it is a part of.  Because there are no real life consequences for Mr. Bungle, he can not see the true horror of what he has done, in essence that is.  When online and offline personas meld there is a sense of what is right and wrong that does not coincide with how traditional social norms are constructed in  relation to behavior online.  The attitude is that people like Mr. Bungle think that because ‘it was just online’ that it doesn’t mean anything and there was no real harm done.  The harm is however, that people who invest their real personality into virtual life are bound to be the ones to suffer the most because of this investment.  “Many were the casual references to Bungle’s deed as simply “rape,” but these in no way implied that the players had lost sight of all distinctions between the virtual and physical versions, or that they believed Bungle should be dealt with in the same way a real-life criminal would.  He had committed a MOO crime, and his punishment, if any, would be meted out via the MOO (Dibble, 1993).”


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August 19, 2007 at 5:09 am (Uncategorized)

  The whole purpose to being in an online community in my eyes, is to establish relationships with people in that community.  Developing a bond of trust is very important to gain status and prestige within the group.  A mutual respect for others is part of the normative just as it is in mainstream society.  Trolling occurs when someone is trying to instigate arguments and disrupt the natural flow of the group.  The whole purpose of trolling is to cause anger and disruption to people online.  Why would someone want to do this?  It has become easier for trolling to be identified and in the end many people decide that it’s not worth the hassle they receive when they are found out.  Trolling can result in people trusting in someone for advice who has actually purposely given them bad advice and in the end cause them harm offline.  This leads to mistrust among all users as there is a constant worry about who might be trolling or who is for real.  Trolling gives people a mistaken identity that again drives home the point of most of my blogs, that nothing can replace face to face interaction.  If people in real life are trying to bait me in a ‘flame’ war, I am more able to feel the negative energy and react accordingly, online there is not this option.  By placing blind faith in people we really don’t know there is a danger of placing ourselves in positions that could cause potential harm.  Trolling seems a very appropiate term for what these people do.

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Youtube: What’s next?

August 18, 2007 at 8:56 pm (Uncategorized)

  Youtube is entertaining, that is a given.  The concept of a viral video as a thought virus is very interesitng.  The way in which the web transends information via the ‘maim’ or the way in which we talk is amazing.  The fact that it is changing society on a massive scaleis reflective of the fact that academic study cannot keep up these changes.  Once something is studied it is a part of history, however it remains in the past and as time progresses it has little effect on what is happening in the present.  Youtube represents our obsession with what’s new and exciting in technology.  It really makes me miss the days when we actually had to step outside to experience the world and what happened in the past mattered in relation to who we were to become.  Maybe we just find that entertainment is worth more than being a nation of people of substance.  I want to make clear though that youtube is funny and I do engage in viewing it, however I think we need to take a step back from all of this technology and take the time to reestablish who we are as a collective, not just what’s on the surface.  I had to include the following youtube…it’s crazy…check out the buffalo, now that’s a community!!!!

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August 18, 2007 at 8:30 pm (Uncategorized)

  Bullying at school has always been an issue for kids.  Over the decades it has escalated to violence including the use of knives and guns.  Now with the internet being such a key component to adolescent life there exists a phenomenon called “cyberbullying”.  Youtube is seen as having great influence on why kids get bullied online.  Kids now have a new way of bullying where they avoid face to face confrontaion.  This is most common with tween and teenaged girls who tend to express undesirable behavior verbally instead of physically, tradtionally anyway, however boys also participate in this type of bullying.  “Cyberbullying unfortunately fits in well with the way girls communicate their anger (Lauren Picker, 2006, The New Danger Online).”  With this in mind, the internet provides ample opportunity for girls to bully other girls without having to manipulate an attack in person, this makes them feel more ‘safe’ as the attackers.  It seems to me that this approach has the potential to be more dangerous in terms of the psychological damage it can cause because of the fact that it is no longer just between a small number of girls but includes the entire online community.  This also makes it harder for there to be any type of reconcilliation.  As more people online become aware of the bullying, the worse it becomes for the victim.  Even though in most cases the bullying does not reach the physical level for girls, the emotional scarring left behind is long lasting.  Since the internet is part of our youth’s lives as a key social network, cyberbullying will only get worse.  Hopefully there can be anti-cyberbullying campaigns brought into schools in order ot allieviate the problem.  Maybe it will just die out, like an awful fad….although I think that’s just wishful thinking.  It breaks my heart to know that kids barely in their teens are killing themselves because of cyberbullying.  As a society we need to stop this behavior.

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Meta Filter: How do the Threads Unravel?

August 18, 2007 at 12:53 am (Uncategorized)

   I have never been on Meta Filter before and when we had to read the thread about u.n.owen, the twenty year old who was in need of financial assistance, I found myself unable to stop reading the thread.  It was like an online soap opera, and let’s face it, soap operas are great entertainment.  I found that I felt pity for u.n.owen at certain times and then in the next comment I was disgusted with her.  I totally fed off of the direction that the conversations about her actions were taking.  What started out as a seemingly innocent comment to another member of the group about her financial difficulties led to a full flegded attack on the detriment of her character.  The online and offline worlds definately collided in this thread as u.n.owen had to defend all of her life decisions up to that point.  The fact that people actually gave her money made me feel all warm and fuzzy at first and then as the drama unfolded I was mostly annoyed at the ‘nice’ people’s stupidity.  The way in which the story unravelled was very interesting because of the offence it caused so many people within that community.  It seemed to me that social norms offline actually merged with those of the online world in that ‘it’s each man for himself’.  I found meta filter to be most fascinating and I am seriously considering signing up in order to follow this ‘real life/online soap’.  It bothers me that I could get addicted to this type of site, yet I’m confident that if I investigated meta filter in more detail that there are in fact some very compelling threads that have more depth to them than this first one I read.  I am curious though if u.n.owen ever got her rent paid in full????

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Second Life?

August 15, 2007 at 6:25 pm (Uncategorized)

  The online world Second Life quite honestly disturbs me.  I find it very strange that these avatars people create actually purchase items online for real money for their characters.  In the videos we watched there was one guy who could no longer draw the line between his offline life and his second life because he has spent so much time and money on his avatar.  He said that “I’ve been in second life so long that I’ve forgotten who I am.”  This is a danger to people involved in such an online community.  You can be anyone you want for a price, this is what is really disturbing.  One of the biggest problems with society is the idea that material possessions symbolize who you are.  The capitalist ideology is at work even when people innocently join a virtual community.  I realize that these social networks are ways for people to live vicariously through their characters in ways that they do not feel they are capable of in real life, and this is where, as Paul says, makes it a difficult discourse to argue or support.  I feel compassion for people like Simon who feel ‘free’ in this type of environment and can express themselves in new ways, however I also feel that we all need to accept our lot in life and work hard to acheive our goals.  Second Life is excessive and a waste of money when it really has no bearing on real life challenges.  Is almost real, real enough?  Nope.


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Information Online

August 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm (Uncategorized)

  I found the article by Forte to be very interesting.  The idea of creating a field in order for an entire culture to identify themselves and in turn have others to be able to gather information about that culture is a concept which seems to be very positive.  Forte explored the social and cultural patterns which showed the construction of the Caribbean culture and thus created a community online that reflected the real life aspects of that particular group.  One quote really stood out for me when he states “web sites do not just tell stories, they contain stories within them about themselves.”  This reflects the ‘ethnic resurgence’ of the Caribbean Amerindian Centre (CAC) and the idea that there is a rich amount of information available for public consumption.  The formations of such web sites result in an insight to the culture that can only be achieved online with the exception of doing traditional ethnographic work.  Once such a site is produced people begin to demand certain resources.  Forte mentions ‘broker overload’ and the fact that too many requests can become unmanageable, people think of the computer as a thinking entity therefore it is not as conceivable to think that information must be provided by a human producer.  This puts a lot of pressure on the person maintaining the site, I have never really thought of this pressure before and the fact that we cannot expect to control what information we receive.  It is just taken for granted that the information is there and this is why we lose some very important sites.   

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Online Ethnography

August 10, 2007 at 5:09 pm (Uncategorized)

  I must admit that I have would have to agree with the stereotype of online interaction that Christine Hine mentions in that it is “inadequate for the formation of intimacy”.  I have always believed that face to face encounters add richness to our social interactions and help to shape us into better human beings.  Hine says that we should not adhere to online/offline dichotomies; however I find it hard not to separate these simply because of the amount of deception that is constructed in terms of who people really are.  I do see the advantages to online ethnography in that it is inexpensive and less time consuming, it just seems to me that once we abandon our attempts to interview people face to face, we are missing such an important component of compassion and understanding that is necessary on the part of the researcher in order to fully comprehend the position of the person being interviewed.  We understand sociological issues by studying people in society and without in person interaction we cannot see things the same way and thus incorporate change.  I really don’t see how online research can be labeled as ‘qualitative’ when there are no boundaries between whether or not you are talking to a ‘real’ person or an online persona that exists in someone’s own mind and is not reflected in society.  It would take much more effort to have people engage with the researcher they cannot see, I know I would give up more information to someone who took the time to meet me personally and hear my story rather than answer questions online. 

  Joinson states that “people respond to computers as social actors”.  I would have to disagree with this because in no way would I ever think of a computer as a substitute for human contact.  Technology has given us convenience and visual anonymity, however this is what is wrong with society today, the anonymity is what deters us from implementing social change.  People now have the means to avoid confrontation; my friend broke up with his girlfriend in an email, that is disgusting, the ultimate disrespect!  As social researchers, we need to maintain a level of respect in order to gain trust which in turn gives us valuable material.  I would like to see the historical research that suggests that online activity does not reduce social interaction.  I can’t help thinking about growing up without technology and how much nicer people were to one another….something to ponder.  Even if you don’t like country (um..Paul) please listen to this song because it brings to light the reasons why I think technology has in some ways altered what we used to consider the simple things in life, just a bit of nostalgia for us older ones. 

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My 5 year old knows how to text!!!!

August 9, 2007 at 4:45 pm (Uncategorized)

  I have to say, I loved the pod cast we had to listen to for class on Tuesday.  I had never heard one before and I found it very interesting.  Paul talked about his experience with his dependence on his cell phone and of others that he knew with the similar feelings of dependence.  It is amazing to me how we have become a society where the cell phone is like a part of us and when we don’t have it, we feel as if something is missing.  I could picture myself out in the ‘natural environment’ without some sort of technology and I agree with Paul that the concept seemed alien to me as well.  After growing up in an era with old rotary phones being stationary in the home it took me a while to realize why I needed a cell phone at all.  My attitude used to be that I didn’t want to be that available to people, they did not need to be able to get a hold of me no matter where I was.  I then told myself that I should get a phone in order for my children to be able to contact me and that was comforting so I embraced life with a cell phone.  I then learned how to text message and that has become my lifeline in a sense because my two older children text me to let me know when they will be home and where they are, it’s convenient and I feel better having this communication with them.  Life changes in order to make technology feel necessary, I really do feel lost when I happen to forget my cell phone or if it dies or God forbid I lose it.  It may be a distraction yet we succumb to it because we convince ourselves it’s necessary, that is why a feeling of panic ensues when something happens to any technology we rely on daily.  I agree with Paul when he said “technology is not neutral because we are living in a world of connections.”  The question to ask ourselves is at what point to do we say enough is enough?  with the way technology is advancing in contemporary society, I think we are a point of no return and it seems nobody really cares.

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