Good evening class my name is Karen and our group discussion was on the Trebor Scholz’s Digital Labor. Our group came to the conclusion that sites like Facebook are using our information to benefit big companies. Our like, search history and our status updates are all being use to sell us products we might or might not need. The differences between work and leisure is simple we get pay for one and we pay for the other. In today’s media obsess society the line between work and leisure seems to get blur. Scholz writes, “Harry Potters fans produce fan fiction and give their creative work away for free in exchange for being ignored by the corporation.” In this case the product that the Harry Potter fans are producing is being created at their leisure. The point that Scholz makes reminds me of how social media is working to benefit big companies. We are consistently using our free time to advertise without getting paying. This is where things get complicated because we can’t ask companies to pay us for doing something they didn’t ask for. Unless you become a social media sensation we the customer will be over looked and will be use as free advertisement if we keep posting and liking. It’s a complicated relationship because while some of us aren’t getting pay for our “work” others are getting pay for posting and liking. Such as, Youtube stars what was once a site for funny cat videos and how to videos it is now a tool that companies are using to sell their products. People who were once like us liking and posting on their own are selling us these products. Unless you’re a social media sensation you will not get pay for advertising on a companies behave.
Part 2 (hybrid). Taylor (2014:6) argues that how questions about technology are framed is important, and that we “[grant] agency to tools while side stepping the thorny issue of the larger social structures in which we and our technologies are embedded.” In your own words attempt to describe what Taylor is trying to tell us.
In this selection from the preface to The People’s Platform, Astra Taylor makes the case that our examinations of the influence of technology on our lives concentrate too much on the effects of the tools rather than asking questions about the cultural environment that gives rise to them or enables certain use cases. The crux of the argument is a capitulation to technological determinism where humanity is shaped by the tool, rather than utilizing the tool to build out (or tear down) the society we’ve already conceptualized. That technology is inherently deterministic is a question unresolved by anthropologists and social scientists. While it can certainly be said that certain tools have altered the global landscape, there was typically a material or social need that gave rise to the creation of those tools and a cultural engine that drove expanded use of the tool.
It brings to mind the idea of whether objects have lives of their own rather than an inherently anthropocentric meaning or whether objects and users exist in a kind of symbiosis whereby neither are more relevant than the other. Latour and Harman, branching out of Heidegger, examine this concept at length. It is only recently that this principle is being applied to contemplation of the digital landscape, particularly through the lens of unpacking the orientation of design as in Tony Fry and Clive Dilnot.
Divining the agency to objects exists within a larger metaphysical realm outside the bounds of what can be adequately quantified by the promised data deluge that we are breathlessly told my techno-optimists must be mined to best understand our relationship to the world around us. Taylor seems to suggest that no such mining can take place without first examining the structure of the world we live in, including its trenchant inequalities and the governing ideologies. Further, there is the implication that it is our reluctance to question our social structures that may foment techno-deterministic sentiments.
This is a response to question two of Assignment 01.a (Taylor)
The closing paragraph of the Preface from Astra Taylor’s The People’s Platform offers an organizing theme to the detailed analysis she provides later in Chapter one – “Technology alone cannot deliver the cultural transformations we have been waiting for; instead, we need to first understand and then address the underlying social and economic forces that shape it.” (Taylor, 10)
This stood out to me because it loosened the subject matter from the “binary narrative” in which it is generally placed – the role and existence of the internet/social media as savior and revolutionary or the internet/social media as an anti-social neurological threat to humankind. This naïve and idealistic dichotomy typically puts the onus on people to resist the less desirable effects of compulsive social media habits through will power and shame rather than seeking to illuminate in plain language exactly how these internet and social media giants (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc,..) strategically exploit these common human frailties in order to utilize the information they collect for monetary gain. All these New York Times best seller non-fiction titles that decry the compulsive behaviors that society en large engages in via the web and social media are too myopic in their scope, as they seek to problematize the individual rather than call out the embedded agendas of the social media conglomerates and the tactics they employ to elicit clicks.
Taylor is also calling out the double speak language used to hail the internet and its tech as ensuring liberation via “Open-ness” – none of these mechanisms of the internet are free of the bias of those who created them. The Internet, its technology, and its interfaces did not emerge from a vacuum. These tools are inflected by the mores and prejudices of the makers behind them, they reflect all the hope and all the limitations that human minds already contain. The internet/social media is shaped by already existing power dynamics and social structures that if left unchecked or not interrogated will continue to contribute to hierarchies of control and power. This is some of what Taylor is getting at so far in these first two sections of her book.
Taylor is discussing that the arguments we most often hear about technology are put into basic, black and white -good versus bad- terms rather than people on an individual basis taking a deeper than superficial investigation of the who/what/why behind our media use and its true purposes. I believe Taylor is saying that it is good that we are starting the conversation by asking broad questions, but we need to dig deeper and really look at how our day to day actions and behaviors using the internet and using social media are adding to new trends in how we are targeted online by those looking to profit. Saying that as an individual that we cannot make a difference in changing how things are is only securing yourself as a part of the larger problem of the internet being dominated by corporations that control our social structures.
Taylor also brings up impact of technology on our culture and in this we can look to how so many internet users have a lack of concern in granting faceless, nameless companies permission to access our private information, who then use, save, or sell it for reasons not made clear to the public. It is these simple actions that so greatly contribute to technological cultural impact, meaning that we are handing over exactly what researchers are looking for to make our online behaviors more compulsive. It is easy to not think about exactly how our identity, internet use and locations are being tracked because we don’t see immediate consequences of what our thoughtless finger-click is actually compromising about ourselves. Why do we so blindly allow the technologies that are such a huge part of daily lives be controlled against our best interest? Why don’t we demand more transparency and honest practices?
Due by midnight Tuesday, September 1st.
Your writing assignment this week is to write 250-300 words responding to Part 2 of the assignments we began in class. Make sure that your assignment begins with a brief introduction. Include your name and whether your written response addresses the work of Taylor, Turner, or Scholz. Please note: Class participation and hybrid assignments account for 40% of your final grade. If you do not complete the hybrid assignment you will be counted as absent for that day.
Welcome to Digital Media and Society. This class is an exploration of the connection of digital media to various social and institutional changes that have altered the nature of government, education, health, the news, and labor today.
A little bit about me: I received my PhD in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center in May 2015. My work addresses the influence of technology on the way social problems are conceptualized in the social sciences. I study the history of information in connection to digital information technology. When we study the connection of digital media to the way social problems are conceptualized, we begin to see how our behavior is changing. I am interested in exploring the implications of this shift.
Open whatever e-mail account you prefer to use to conduct class business. In an e-mail addressed to me (@ email@example.com), please take a few moments to write down the username you would like to be associated with our course website as well as your first and last name. Now spend a few minutes writing something about yourself and your relationship to digital media. In addition to telling us how you use the Internet (i.e., for shopping, news, to keep in touch with family) you can reflect on where and when you access the Internet or if there are times and places when you restrict your access.