During the 2016 presidential campaign and elections, the social network Twitter was highly popular and visible. Both candidates utilized this platform to connect with the public to update, deliver information, and make comments about each other. Initially, I thought, “Twitter? So what.” But according to Leetaru (2013), “Twitter has become a pulse of a planet-wide news organism, hosting dialogue about everything from the Arab Spring to celebrity deaths.” (Stone, 2012). Over the past few years, governments have utilized Twitter, sort of like an international 911 to attain real time correct information regarding emergencies and other phenomena that affect people in large geographic areas. Continue reading “Tweet, Tweet Technology”
“In the words of Wyndham Lewis, “The artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future, because he is the only person aware of the nature of the present” (McLuhan, p. 77). McLuhan was ‘the artist’, because of his ability to “pick up the message of technological and cultural progress” ahead of its time and before it’s transformational impact occurs in society. Continue reading “Media Technology: Better, Stronger, Faster…and Beyond”
While some of McLuhan’s theories were seen as controversial, they still hold relevance in today’s modern society. Since the 1960’s our world has expanded vastly in terms of technology. During the time that McLuhan published “Understanding Media,” the world was fascinated with their television sets, telephones, and radios. Since that time, our world has progressed largely, specifically in the world of the internet. McLuhan covers so much fascinating material in his book and in his interview, that it can be difficult to encapsulate which theories can relate most closely to our media-filled world today.
One particular phrase that comes to mind when referencing Marshall McLuhan is “The medium in the message.” When it comes to any sort of service, I automatically focus on just that, paying little attention to where the service actually comes from. McLuhan (1994) explains that, “because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action” (p. 9). A good example would be the internet. Since the internet has been around for over twenty years, we oftentimes forget that this platform is indeed the ‘medium’ to many of the things we search on a daily basis. Without a second thought, we search Facebook on the internet, peruse the next tattoo we want to get on Pinterest, and look at the latest memes of Donald Trump. The internet has vastly changed the speed in which we can receive information; something we continue to take for granted since we grew up in the age of the internet. McLuhan further explains this theory by using the examples of an electric light, major companies like General Electric, and speech writing. He states “For the “message” of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs” (McLuhan, 1994, p. 8). In other words, the medium is the basis for conveying a message to the public. The internet changed the way we receive information. Not only did it improve the speed of information, but it provided a variety of it in one singular place. Instead of going to the library and searching through thousands of books, we have access to an array of information with one click of a mouse.
Another theory that I found to be quite fascinating in terms of our society today was Narcissus. McLuhan relates this method to Greek mythology and how man is fascinated with extensions of himself. McLuhan states “the point of this myth is the fact that man at once become fascinated with any extension of themselves in any material other than themselves” (p. 41). This is something that we can quite literally see in any social media platform. It is strange to me how quickly we all embraced the idea of incorporating social media into our lives. It almost seems like overnight we accumulated four additional social media platforms that we are now fascinated with. First it was MySpace, then Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest. It has becomes a normalcy to not just have one of these social media accounts, but all of them. “To behold, use, or perceive any extension of ourselves in technological form is necessarily to embrace it” (McLuhan, p. 46). In McLuhan’s time, we saw this embracing behavior in the radio and the newspaper. Now, we see the main culprit being social media. We have become fascinated by the number of likes, views, and feedback we can receive from posting one photo to our Facebook page. While humans have always longed to seek validation from others, is it now too much? Is it possible that these social media accounts, although beneficial in some respects, are attributing to a more depressed and anxious culture simply because we are making ourselves more vulnerable to other people’s thoughts and actions on a daily basis?
McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
First, a consideration for the reader: I am very happy with who I am and am thankful for the opportunities that have lead me to be the person I am today. This connection of SCT and Self-efficacy was not written to induce any reaction other than that of a recollection and attribution of these concepts to my life.
Without going into much detail, who I am today is not who I was ten years ago. This can be said of nearly every person (with a few exceptions) and I am aware that the claim is not a radical one. SCT is often simplified to the concept of Reciprocal Determinism, the relationship and dynamics between an individual’s person, environment, and behavior. In my life, all three of these (in my own self-analysis) were consistently negative. From the angle of the person, I existed as someone with exceedingly low self-esteem (low self-efficacy), which was especially clear on a social level. My environment was one that involved high amounts of stress (not that I was in any physical danger) and underwent several changes in my physical and social environments during my teen years. My behavior fit within the textbook predictions of someone existed within the person and environment that I described, and as I mentioned earlier, the clearest example of this was in my social (lack of social rather) life. Upon reflection of how I saw my reality at the time, it is understandable that my self-efficacy was low and how my self-efficacy really dictated my responses to the stimuli in my life. My behavior accurately depicted my current emotional/mental state and a physical record of this could be found on my first social media accounts (which are now, thank God, deleted and lost in history.) My first posts/tweets were more negative, vague, and mostly held a sense of dissatisfaction. Now this is not to say that I was posting for the sake of recognition or feedback, but with the introduction of these new mediums, it became an opportunity to express the negative view of my reality and be rewarded by a slight release of endorphins. This pattern went on for several years, and really hindered my self-efficacy to grow in a direction that was healthy. It wasn’t until I made a conscious decision to attribute my reality (person, environment, behavior) as an opportunity to grow that I saw a shift in my self-efficacy. I started to read more, enter difficult social situations intentionally, and made a habit to learn about my environment from micro and macro levels. This meant that when I was interacting at all on my social media accounts, I would create a conscious effort to post more positive content. Essentially I was training my person and behavior to become more prepared for the inevitable environmental factors that would have crippled me before. This transformation is an ongoing process that I still work on today. I still will catch myself posting/tweeting content that is not in some way positive to myself, and I still will struggle with certain social situations if they are unfamiliar or uncommon. But I can look back and see a change in how my self-efficacy is now at a more stable and confident level, as well as recognize that I can attribute negative influences in my reality as positive learning opportunities.
In reflection of the film “We Live in Public,” I think that many thoughts that I have had about the online world and especially social media were confirmed and laid out on a physical stage that may never happen again (legally.) Josh Harris’s unique ability to gather talent and personality from all ends of the spectrum for his websites and especially the small “city” he developed really point to how influential and intoxicating online membership can be. I believe that after all of the information was brought out about his projects, people saw the signs of some of the serious repercussions of living in an online-immersive environment. I do not think that today, it is thought of as often, or is rather joked about considering the obvious chokehold that online relevancy has on our American society. On the surface, it would appear that self-efficacy is high among those who interact online, but upon any further research, it is clear that depression, aggression, and defensive tendencies are at the peak of this new generation that has been brought up in both a physical and virtual world. Nearing the end of the filming of Josh Harris’s project, it becomes clear that emotionally, members (rats) of his society were less confident and much more willing to carry out the requests (commands) of those in charge.
“If you walk up to someone and tell them to take off their pants, they won’t do it. But if you walk up with a video camera and ask ‘Take off your pants.’ They’ll do it. The eyeballs that perceive that moment give it power.” This quote from on of the filmmakers accurate describes today’s online world. “Do it for the Vine!” and other pressures make the online world now a place that can almost incite anyone to do anything, simply because others are watching. SCT’s “reinforcements” are evident as soon as you enter any online profile, where now the rewards of the virtual world are now more important (or rather perceived as more important) than that of the physical world. We are creating an environment that is often not mentally healthy, but is also dangerously Orwellian.
The ideas behind how Open Source patterns are being applied to areas outside the realms of software, as Clay Shirky discusses, that “…my initial optimism about simple application of Open Source methods to other endeavors turned out to be wildly overoptimistic” (p. 484, 2005). Personally, I find this as an intriguing statement because at that time, a group the world knows as “Anonymous”, a collective of activist and hackers all over the world had existed for at least 2 years using the Open Source pattern to function as an organization. The only problem here was they were not in the public eye by any means as they had yet to really show the level of Open Source operation they would eventually develop. A similar group, formed in 1999 has garnered similar status in its use of this format and currently is effecting citizens around the world is the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Both use the same pattern of operation to great effect and both of them fall into the category of extremist groups, something I am sure Shirky would never have wanted to see as so successful.
This week’s readings threw me back to human motivation theory and what drives people to participate and share in online group settings. While imperfect in addressing all human motivation, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a good place to begin a conversation on the motivation of users of social media. While social media includes a plethora of choices for one to meet their physiological needs (restaurants, beverages, products), for purposes of this conversation let’s begin at the safety level.
In the first reading for this week, Chiu, et al., looked at the role trust plays in virtual learning communities. I would argue that the idea and climate of trust falls under Maslow’s umbrella of safety needs. Humans are motivated to participate in environments where they feel innately safe—in environments that they trust. The authors define trust in this particular study as “integrity, which refers to an individual’s expectation that members in a virtual community will follow a generally accepted set of values, norms, and principles” (Chiu, et al, 2006, p. 1877). It seems that most people engage in virtual communities with that expectation of integrity as opposed to a skepticism towards its existence. In other words, people generally trust the environments they choose to participate in. It is not until something negative or risky happens that they question that level of trust and that trust impacts the knowledge that they share (both in quantity and quality).
Playing into this desire to trust the environments chosen is also the desire to gain social capital. Following Maslow’s lead, humans are motivated to behave and engage for social reward. Virtual communities as well as other forms of social media, provide opportunity to build social capital with less social risk then some face-to-face encounters. Part of this may be related to the control that users are able to exert over their social encounters. Users pick the communities they want to participate in, going into each social encounter with more confidence because they have already decided it is a “safe” place to engage. The other piece may be related to the choices they have in sharing the knowledge that they want to share. Users can choose to share knowledge in a way that helps them build more social capital and hide any knowledge that may keep them from feeling strong self esteem (leading into Maslow’s fourth step). Interestingly, it seems that the need to have social connections and the quality of those social connections continue to parallel and impact self-esteem. While Maslow’s Hierarchy separates the two, social capital seems to be dependent on the interrelationship with esteem. Virtual communities provide seemingly safe places for the interplay to be controlled by the users, impacting not only social capital but also the willingness to inadvertently share more.
It is difficult in a short post to sort out the true human motivation behind online sharing; however, the conversation is important when considering the second reading for this week by Kosinski, Stillwell, and Graepel (2013). Their research demonstrates the high degree of predictability in determining private information about users through digital records (including Web sites, Facebook, and Twitter). The users of these digital sites place a high degree of trust in the environments; they also feel a strong sense of control with the information they are directly choosing to share. However, is this sense of trust and control actually real or does it have a false floor? Can people maintain a level of privacy while engaging in social media or is their privacy for sale without them realizing they put it on the market? How does loss of privacy impact future behavior and the knowledge that is shared?
Chiu, Chao Min, Meng-Hsiang Hsu, and Eric T.G. Wang. (2006, June 5). Understanding knowledge sharing in virtual communities: An integration of social capital and social cognitive theories. Decision Support Systems, 42, 1872-1888.
Kosinski, Michael, David Stillwell, and Thore Graepel. (2013, March 11). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 15, 5802-5805.
Facebook makes it easy for us to share who we are, what our interests are, and what our hopes and dreams are. It allows us to connect with people with similar interests and form relationships, both platonic and romantic. Sometimes, though, that information we trust to the Internet can be used against us, and we put out more than we realize.
In “Understanding knowledge sharing in virtual communities: An integration of social capital and social cognitive theories,” the authors explain that people do realize that whomever is on the receiving end may not be trustworthy. In fact, “Contrary to our expectation, trust did not have a significant impact on quantity of knowledge sharing” (Chiu, Hsu, & Wang, 2006). People are willing to share information despite not trusting the other members of the online community because of “strong feelings toward the virtual community.”
We feel so tied to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and every other social media page that we begin to see usernames as friendly faces without taking into account the risks involved. A story recently ran concerning an 18-year-old woman was attacked after being stalked online. Paige Rolland of Scotland posted a negative book review of a novel by Richard Brittain.
Brittain used social media to learn where Rolland lived, where she worked, what she looked like, and anything else he could find about her. He then traveled approximately 500 miles, showed up at her place of employment, and attacked her by smashing a bottle of wine on her head, leaving her with severe cuts. Brittain’s online presence was notably disturbed, as he ran a blog detailing his stalking of a local student, and using her as the protagonist for the novel Rolland had unfavorably reviewed. Full story here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3311558/Countdown-champion-travelled-500-miles-Scotland-bottle-teenager-gave-book-bad-review.html
While Rolland’s story is one to caution what you share, it also is one to caution who you engage with. Had Rolland dug further and discovered Brittain’s blog, she perhaps wouldn’t have engaged negatively with him online.
But the people we’re sharing with aren’t necessarily strangers. Just a few weeks ago, a Pennsylvania man, Robert Start, was charged with stalking his estranged wife, posting “more than 900 harassing images on the woman’s Facebook page,” the article said. Images “allegedly included weapons, skeletons, and vulgar hand gestures.”
Eventually, his online tendencies translated to physical when he began following her day-to-day.
Chiu and associates discuss that we can sometimes infer mental stability based on social media activity (Chiu, Hsu, & Wang, 2006). Clearly Brittain and Start are mentally unbalanced, and the social media portrayal can work both for and against us. What I mean by that is this: Had anyone focused solely on their social media interactions and recognized these are real people who could really act, there may have been some preventative measures.
However, social media provides a buffer that essentially says, “Well, they probably don’t really mean it.” Start had been harassing his estranged wife since February, but action wasn’t taken until October, at which time he was following her while she shopped. Full story here: http://www.pahomepage.com/news/facebook-posts-lead-to-stalking-charge
Kosinski, Stillwell, and Graepel discuss in their article how people’s traits can be quickly inferred based on social media “likes” and information (2013). Unfortunately, it may be the unstable party researching who they are talking to, rather than the stable one.
What advice do you have in order to still craft and maintain an online identity without paying the cost in safety?
Chiu, C., Hsu, M., & Wang, E. (2006). Understanding knowledge sharing in virtual communities: An integration of social capital and social cognitive theories. Science Direct, 1872-1888.
Kosinski, M., Stillwell, D., & Graepel, T. (2013). Private traits and attributes are predictable from digital records of human behavior. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 1, 3-1, 3.