As I reflect on the semester; I have to say – Thank God it’s over!
It has been a tough semester for me because I walked in the phone booth and thought I was able to but on my Superwoman suit, and fly out, and conquer a 16-credit course semester, prepare for the LSAT, stay actively involved in student activities at CWE, work a full-time job, and create (3) Lifetime Experience Portfolios in a matter of 4- months. But, when I couldn’t find the phone booth, I realized that I wasn’t Superwoman!
I registered for this Media and Society course last Spring, and I sat in Professor Karen Gregory’s class and thought to myself, how exciting the course will be with Professor Gregory, because it will help to satisfy my concentration in Literary, Media and Visual Arts, and it sounds like a lesson in media formats through a demonstration of all things pop culture. But to my surprise, I walked into class about 4 months ago, to learn that Professor Gregory had left the campus, and that the course was totally different than what I expected. Nonetheless, Professor Elizabeth Bullock came in with a quiet demeanor, and reserved style of teaching, and she calmed my nerves when I sat in her office almost at my breaking point, a few months later. As a new professor to the campus, she had big shoes to fill by taking over for Professor Gregory, and she did so with an attention-grabbing course with interesting topics that delved deep into the origin of the computer, internet, and the meanings behind how and why we are in an information age today.
For me, the course was enlightening and……is the real reason I am in college today; to rid myself of ignorance and gain the knowledge of life experience that I may not have already learned. However, I found the course to be a schema of cognitive anthropology, because it taught us how the human mind worked in the beginning of a technological world. Therefore, I thought it should have been labeled an “Anthropology” course instead. From Astra Taylor’s, “The People’s Platform” and her explanation of a rearrangement of the Digital Age; to Fred Turner’s teachings of Stewart Brand’s mark in history and the transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age. The class took me by surprise, and yes, it helped to heighten my anxieties, because it was NOT easy. However, it was informative and fascinating. Thanks Professor Bullock for being fair and for understanding the demanding life of Students like myself, knee deep in Worker Education.
Digital Media and Society
December 15, 2015
This class has shed light onto many aspects of digital media that I was oblivious to before. My views on digital media and networked technology were very much one-sided. I saw the Internet as an open platform available to everyone, a place where the free flow and exchange of information served an egalitarian purpose and, for the creative types like myself, a platform on which we could discuss new ideas and be inspired by other people’s work. I came in as a “new media thinker” and believed that any restriction on the free flow of information was an assault on culture. Today, while I still hold on to some of those ideas, my opinions are a little more critical having been exposed to the real costs that having a “free” networking platform comes with
One of the major pieces of knowledge I’m taking away from this course is that the Internet is not free in so many ways I hadn’t thought of before. Just because we don’t get charged for every “like”, or post, or every time we check our e-mails, does not mean that the Internet is free. As users we are paying with our personal data, collected from us unknowingly by data brokers, in this way, the Internet ceases to be an egalitarian platform because money is being exchange while not all the participating parties are seeing the profits. These same data brokers have a hold on the content we are exposed to online, and so while we the users, believe we have the power over what we choose to read online, in reality “advertorials” have taken over online news platforms creating their content based on popular searches and keywords And so as far as the free flow of information goes, this occurrence reflects quite the opposite, a flow of information that is not as transparent as I once thought it was.
Furthermore, and I would say most importantly, one fact that made me re-think my opinions was how networked technology affects the work life and working conditions of different demographics around the globe. We are told of the benefits of working from home, “it’s like being your own boss”, yet through our lesson and discussion on “the Mechanical Turk” the inequality that this perpetuates was exposed. For many people living in third world countries that are not protected by any labor regulations, “working from home” means working indefinite hours. No minimum wage regulations set in place means settling for whatever compensation a recruiter is willing to give you, no matter how time-consuming the task is. Meanwhile, corporations are benefiting from the extended working hours, and operating on a 24 hour day, at the cost of others, on a platform that is believed to even the playing field for all the players.
This class was nothing like I expected it to be. At times it felt like an Economics class, at others a Political Science class and because so much previous knowledge was required to understand the material, it felt at times like a really big catching up game. However I feel that our efforts were validated in class, whether it was by Prof. Bullock patiently braking down the readings for us, or by the discussions started among my classmates. I feel like I leave this class having a new and valuable perspective on digital media, and grateful that I was exposed to a reality that I would’ve probably never stumble upon outside of this class.
I registered for this course because I am very interested to learn about how digital media had changed, how they are changing, and in what other ways they will continue to change and structure our daily lives and our society. I was curious to know how they affect our behavior, practices, and culture as we use them. On the first day of class, we were asked to make a list of when and how we use digital media. My list included the use of digital media for communication and social purposes (email, Facebook, Instagram, Skype), information (news, research), entertainment (music, Netflix, Youtube), and online shopping. Back then, I was not aware of what happens after my every click. All I was thinking was how great it is to have access to digital media that allows me to search for information, buy something online, watch movies or listen to music, and keep in touch with my family who is thousands of miles away from me whenever I want to. And that it’s free. (Or so I thought.)
After reading the chapters and listening to classroom discussions, I am aware, and I have a better understanding of how digital media really works. It is great and very helpful to learn about digital media’s history, its evolution, and the people behind it. One of the most important things that I will take away from this class is learning how the access and use of digital media is not really “free.” The users’ every click means access and selling of user data, which results to profits for the giant companies and advertisers.
It was interesting to learn about digital media and labor. I understand more about the blurring of line between work and leisure when it comes to using digital media. Another topic that I was interested in was the issue on digital media’s ownership/copyright issues. I really enjoyed reading the Astra Taylor’s “For the Love or Money” and “Unequal Uptake, where she discussed the topics I mentioned above. I also found Andrew Ross’s “In Search of the Lost Paycheck” and Abigail De Kosnik’s “Fandom as Free Labor” very informative and helpful in discussing more about the issue of free labor. I found Terranova’s chapter challenging to read.
I learned so much in this course that helped me understand better how digital media started, how it works, how it affects us and our society, and how the giant companies behind it make profits through users’ clicks, likes, and data,
Walking into class the first day, I was expecting the course to be completely different. I had assumed it was going to be easy since I’m such an avid digital media user. However, from that first day and on I realized I was completely wrong. It felt as if I had to clear my head of what I knew digital media as and then learn about it all over again, in textbook style.
I look back and I feel as though this class was a real eye opener because it felt like I was learning a whole new concept of what digital media was. What everyone else in the class knew or had heard about already was all new to me. This made it difficult at times. There was so much I had to really look into to try to understand what the chapters were talking about. I didn’t know that so much background information on digital media existed.
What I enjoyed most was Astra Taylor’s book and learning about the New Communalists, New Left and everything with Stewart Brand. Taylor’s book was enjoyable to read because it laid everything out for me. Since I had to read it with an open mind, I feel as though I just took in all the information without really judging on her opinions. I especially enjoyed reading about copyrights and who actually owns what once its out in the cyber world. In Fred Turner’s book, what sticks with me is the New Communalists, New Left, and Stewart Brand. This may be because I had to do a lot of digging deeper and rereading for my presentation. Either way I think I enjoyed just leaning about the different opposing sides and what each side did for the Internet.
Readings I found most difficult were from Trebor Scholtz’s book. Most of the chapters just didn’t click with me and I think it may have been because most of the readings were so dense with information. Not only were they dense but also the language was a bit too complex for me to get into the book.
Digital media definitely structures a lot more of my life than I originally thought it did. I think it’s more structured because there’s so much more behind it that I didn’t think was associated like consumerism, privacy, and ownership. All of these take part in our lives and it’s good to now see where it all started and still continues.
Hybrid Assignment 13
When I first read the description of this course, I immediately wanted to sign up because I truly believed that our history will soon be surrounded with digital media and I was hoping to learn more about it. Now that we are winding down to the last day of our class, not only did I learned about digital media and the continuous improvements through time, but also the history of how we created this new era, and all the contributions made for us to be where we are at now as a society, and I can only imagine how much more technology will grow.
Each week I also enjoyed listening to the presentations done by the students in our class because it became a learning experience as a class to speak about what we learned, the challenges, similarities on what we found interesting or disliked, and simply picking up on knowledge that I interpreted differently. This class was particularly more interesting because the classroom felt more like a community and it seemed as though everyone respectfully made comments that were relatable to each other, which was another way that I learned in class.
I have to admit that some of the readings were a little challenging for me, where at times I had to read the same page over and over again, but overall, through the discussions in class, I was able to have a better understanding on the week’s reading. For example, Terranova’s week and a few chapters on From Cyberculture to Counterculture were a little bit of a challenge. As challenging as it was, I learned Terranova’s explanation on how subculture and capitalism are intertwined, but a big lesson learned for me. In our modern society, we believe that our thoughts and freedom can become a creation but due to capitalism, however we are still restricted in today’s culture. But I really enjoyed reading Taylor Astra’s Book, as well as Jodi Dean’s essay on Whatever Blogging.
Overall, I learned so much through this course and I am able to leave CWE with a new perspective on digital media, now and then, and I feel both excited and nervous on how much more change is coming our way. Thank you everyone for a great class!
I think the most important takeaway for me from this class was figuring out how to put my finger on some of the problematic attributes of digital media. When I first came to CWE, I was an unabashed techno-optimist. I was about two years removed from having procured my first iPhone and became convinced that easy access to these apps and services was going to lead to exactly the kind of linked consciousness Stewart Brand and some of his allies proffered. I remember being asked by my professor at the time to “take a position” on what I thought it all meant and I groped for something obvious; a critique of how the integration of digital technology into built environments had unintended consequences and could in some very particular (almost straw man) cases enable injustice. Over the next few semesters, my techno-optimism started to wane as I became reattuned to real world injustices and saw the tech community’s responses to them, which often seemed hopelessly shallow if not culturally insensitive. This made me start to sour on the tech community as a community, but I put their insularity down to their having ascended from privilege and having been infected by capitalist notions of profiteering above all else. Much of Taylor’s work helped to reinforce this notion, but took it a step further by discussing the cultural impact of capitalist ideals inherent to the digital “revolution” and what we were losing in the name of this supposed gain.
Scholz’s book was the coup de grace as it introduced me to a totally new concept in thinking of cultural production as labor. Terranova’s parsing of the autonomist notion of the social factory, Jodi Dean’s (somewhat disagreeable) characterization of the blogosphere, De Kosnik on fandom as free labor and Scholz’s own introduction to the concept of “playbor” made me downright queasy in thinking about how I’ve spent my time online, whiling away the hours in support of products and services all in the name of community. Turner’s book on where the association between these communitarian philosophies and the online experience came from just made the experience all the more disturbing, no matter how neat it is. Too many things in the book spoke directly to me and what attracted me to digital “culture” in the first place.
So when faced on the role digital media plays in my life, or rather, the relationship I want to have with it going forward, I think I would say that it’s still all important. Like Taylor, I believe the platform can be given back to the people, but only through deliberate usage of it to bring about the end of capital rather than reification of systems of exploitation that are virtually baked into the code. I would like to devote my life, at least in part, to retaking this crucial platform or at least designing empowering systems outside of it.
The digital media and society class allowed me to have a different perspectives of media itself. What I enjoyed the most from the class was the book The People’s Platform from Astra Taylor. The reading was quiet enjoyable and simple. Taylor argued of many things about media that possibly many of us were unaware. Taylor explains how media has shifted, and instead is becoming more and more as a capital gain. Some of the readings from The People’s Platform that I enjoyed the most were for the Love or Money and A Peasant’s Economy. I believe that her was packed with enriched information. She explores very deeply how media has evolved and how today is becoming more of a commercial tool.
The course itself was packed of beneficial information that I believe many of us maybe did not have that notion about it. Also another good experience from the class was having the presentation. I came out of my comfort zone. Moreover, the second part of the readings was a bit complex. The book from Counterculture to Cyberculture was not as enjoyable as the first one. However, it has a deep a meaningful conceptualization of how media, the internet, and research is interconnected and started the whole media world. Furthermore, I enjoyed the presentation, even when it I felt shy. It was very useful to understand how all of this big corporates are using media as an economical tool rather than a knowledgeable tool as Astra Taylor argues on her book. In addition, the Mechanical Turk, Whatever Blogging and The Consideration on Hacker Manifesto were some of the reading that I also enjoyed from The Internet As a Playground and Factory.
Overall, the class allowed me to learn about what digital media is really about.
I will take away quite a lot from this course. Before the first session I was unfamiliar with most of the individuals we have been reading and speaking about throughout the course. I had a minimal generic knowledge of the early days of the Internet but did not give much thought to the historical background of the digital technology we take for granted today or the players who were responsible for bringing it to life. I feel that we have covered a lot of territory in this class and it has significantly expanded my way of thinking about digital media. As for the readings, each of the authors brought something different to the discussion but some spoke to me more than others.
I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s writing quite a bit. My favorite chapters in “The People’s Platform” were “For Love or Money” and “The Double Anchor.” Since my presentation was on the “The Double Anchor,” I probably spent the most time with that chapter which may be a reason it has stayed with me. But I also found that he Copyright/Copyleft wars resonated with me because Taylor gave such simple examples, such as that of filmmaker Jem Cohen who speaks of mutual respect between the creator and the receiver and used the wonderful analogy about the farm stand collection box. I also appreciated Taylor’s use of her personal history and anecdotes from her experiences as a film-maker and writer.
I did not find Trebor Shulz’s “Digital Labor” as accessible, although I did enjoy the Ahyan Aytes piece, “Return to the Crowds” and the comparison between the Automaton “Mechanical Turk” and Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform. I agreed with some of the other students in the class that “Free Labor,” by Tiziana Terranova was the most difficult reading to absorb.
As for Fred Turner’s “From Cyberculture to Counter Culture,” I found the history of Stewart Brand, the New Communalists, The Merry Pranksters, the Whole Earth Catalog and The Well very illuminating and valuable in understanding the transformation of computer technology from the military/industrial world to that of counterculture and community. I admit I had never really thought about the link between the hippie culture and the internet and after Turner’s in-depth history of the progression, it all seems so clear that I don’t know how I missed it. While I did feel that Turner often repeated himself, I appreciated his attention to detail.
I really enjoyed this class overall, especially the format of having a different student presenter for each reading. I was not sure at first how that would be but after the first presentation I looked forward to that segment of class each week.
I really enjoyed this class. When I signed up I didn’t know what to expect, however I was pleased to have learned all of the historical background surrounding digital media. Some of the main themes and ideas that I am taking with me are the influences of large corporations and advertisements in digital media and the effects it has on people’s daily lives. Astra’s Taylor’s book shed some light on the inner workings of digital media and what is so wrong with it today. She also shed light on the notion that we should be more cognizant of how our digital use affects the world and us while emphasizing what could transpire if we do not take a bigger stand and make modifications. It started some really interesting and engaging conversations in class about what rights we truly have online, and the concept of power and control.
I will also take away an understanding of the motive behind formulating THE WELL, its self-governing plan and the key players behind the movement that influenced the counterculture of media we see today. Beginning with the way scientists and differing disciplines all collaborated during the war to utilize technology. The way the hippie movement had an influence in the thinking behind John Barlow, and Rheingold’s notion of technology and the online culture. Before this class, I was unaware of the impact of The Communalist, the New Left and the divide that essentially shaped the digital online culture and its progression.
I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s book since I found it to be a bit of an easier read. However Fred Turner’s book really went into depth on the economy and a detailed historical account. His book put things into perspective and I was able to see the bigger picture and understand it. Turner’s book was more challenging, but necessary and helpful in comprehending the course as a whole. The course definitely made me more interested to read more than the one or two books I have read on Marx to connect how those theories correlate with this notion of labor/leisure.
I have mentioned in class that I could never go back to thinking and seeing digital media as I once had before taking this course and I mean that. It truly expanded my thinking on media use, and its influences.
What a class. I came in to this class thinking it’s going to be a breeze since I know so much about digital media and technology and I came out of the class being completely wrong, but learning so much. Without a doubt digital media structures our daily lives, but in this class I’ve learned how it all started. It started not so much by the typical way we describe technology but in a way that has to do more with people than products. Digital media and technology has always been a social tool that has transformed a lot over the past 70+ years.
From The Rad Lab and Cybernetics, the Merry Pranksters and the New Communalists and the New Left all the way to The WELL and the New Right, digital media and technology has changed how we interact with each other. Starting with The Rad Lab and how scientists, engineers and educators came together to help or country during war time technology transformed our society and how we interact and educate one another.
The past few chapters of Turner’s book “From Cyberculture to Counterculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism” was a tough read, without a doubt, but they also provided a wealth of history that I would have otherwise never learned. From Clark Kerr and Norbert Weiner to Steward Brand and Kevin Kelly seeing how society and digital media evolved brought to me new terms that has now expanded my way of thinking. Digital Media and technology is not all about gadgets, but about people and how we communicate.
Another part of the course I enjoyed was Astra Taylor’s book “The People’s Platform, specifically, her thoughts on copyright (and copyleft). As someone who worked in the music industry I certainly understand an artists’ right to ownership and the issues that are involved with piracy.
Overall, this class has been an eye-opener for me and I am glad that I took the course. Additionally, this hybrid course may have been the best one I have taken.