Blog Post 7 “That’s so Meta”

For my seventh blog post concerning digital culture and media, I will consider what I might add to a course concerning digital culture. The first piece of media that comes to mind is a show that I discussed in high school English class, a dystopian television show called “The Twilight Zone”. The show aired from 1959 to 1964 for five seasons. Most of the episodes concerned dystopian versions of the future, in which technology had twisted society to the point where different areas of the human experience were completely shifted. The show had an eerie feel and a massive appeal, as it is listed as the seventh best show of all time by Rolling Stones Magazine.  

I would add Twilight Zone because of its similarity to Black Mirror, a show that is already a centerpiece to the digital culture curriculum. Black Mirror is very similar to Twilight Zone, in that both focus on possible parts of a dystopian future changed by the advance of technology. Both show mostly negative effects or situations that could come from the rate of advance of technology. Both shows also show the affect that technology takes on the individual as well as the human experience in general. One Twilight Zone episode I can remember watching during my time in high school depicted a technology that could change one’s appearance into one that was much more attractive, there were a set of five appearances one could pick from. One character in the show began to rebel from this societal norm, because she did not want to lose that part of her identity. Episodes of Black Mirror depict similar topics, typically in which a part of the human experience, or all of the human experience, is completely shifted by the advance of technology.  

Twilight Zone would benefit students because it incorporates many themes of the course, questioning technology at large, our use of technology, and the issues within digital culture. What specifically interests me about Twilight Zone is its age. Twilight Zone was created in the 50’s; meaning that humans were questioning technology’s role in society over sixty years ago. I think this is a helpful reminder to students who may think we have only recently started to ponder the negative effects of technology on society and the human experience. For me, it gives context to the greater study of dystopian digital future possibilities. It is also very interesting to see how the creators of the show thought the future may turn out, and how in some ways we might have lived up to their nightmares.  

One interesting assignment I could assign concerning Twilight Zone would be comparing an episode of Twilight Zone to an episode of Black Mirror. I think this would be a super helpful comparison to get students thinking about the historical context of studying digital culture. It would also get students thinking about how people have been worried about technology for a long time.

  Image result for the twilight zone

Digital Exhibit Blog Post

For my sixth blog post on digital culture I’d like to focus on digital scholarship, specifically surrounding digital exhibits. One of our main class discussions points this week was how technology, the internet, and social media have all become new avenues for scholarship. The American Historical Association sets guidelines for evaluating the validity of this new type of scholarship. To test and learn more about the topic, I’ll look at a Stanford digital exhibit called “ORBIS, The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World”.  

To give some background into ORBIS, it’s a digital model to display both travel routes and travel times of the Roman world. For instance you can see all land and sea routes between all provinces, and know how long it would take a person to walk on foot from Rome to Tarraco. At first glance, this is just something cool to look at and mess around with. But a deeper look shows the amount of data and research that went into a massive digital scholarship project like ORBIS. The format is one that welcome exploration of the topic, not only can you know travel times and travel routes, you can explore what affect the season and mode of transportation would have on a Roman’s travel. The AHA helps us separate this digital exhibit from other sites online displaying similar topics, but without the validity that comes with ORBIS. The AHA defines valid research as one of the requirements behind true digital scholarship. The AHA also encourages collaboration from multiple sources and opinions when creating digital scholarship. ORBIS accomplishes this by providing tabs to describe their research and creation process, which required a large team pulling from a large amount of past research.  

This project would not be possible, or at least not nearly as accessible, in analog form. If I was to transfer ORBIS into analog or physical form, I guess I would pick a map along with a book to describe the many routes, travel times, and variables that go along with the project. Analog form would cause a significant loss to the possible scholarship value of the project. The online form promotes easy and quick modes for exploration through the information. While analog form would contain the same information, it would not be as easy to navigate or truly learn from.  

When considering other viewpoints, it’s common for some to see more value and validity in old forms of non-tech scholarship. While I agree that there is much more nonsense to weave through online, we cannot lose sight of the value that comes with the new forms of online and digital scholarship. Digital scholarship has the potential to advance human learning and development at a faster rate than ever before. Conversations over digital scholarship in DCI are extremely important, because it’s one of the most important developments in human learning in recent history.  

Historical Remix

For my fifth digital culture blog post I’d like to pick a pre-web event, in this case the Vietnam War, and imagine how the web may have changed the event. To give some context, the Vietnam War was a conflict between the United States and communist forces in the southeastern country of Vietnam. The Vietnam War was the first war in which unfiltered information flowed to the general American public; citizens could practically watch the war on the evening news. Not only was the war the first of its kind in terms of public information, it brought a unprecedented level of domestic conflict as well as mistrust in the government. The war completely shifted almost everything about American culture, society, and government – one can only imagine how social media and the internet at large may have changed the war and surrounding topics.  

One of my first thought on the possible combination of the Vietnam War and social media was the recent Arab Spring. It’s very possible that if social media exists at the time of the war, the communist forces, or “Viet-cong” may have used it as something to organize their forces as well as spread propaganda for the cause. The Vietnamese were subject to decades of colonization from western powers and were eager to rule their own society through communism. Its very possible that social medias like Twitter and Facebook could have been organization centers for these freedom movements within Vietnam. In the case of the Arab Spring, social media was essential in rallying oppressed people across the middle east. Social media also would have the opinions and rationales of the Vietnamese much more public and known to Americans, just as we could directly monitor the social media posts of oppressed peoples in the middle east.  

The second thing that came to mind when I thought about the combination of the Vietnam War and social media was how it could have affected the domestic issues within the United States during the war. Opposition to the war steadily grew once American forces saw major causalities with no real progress being made. A major part of this opposition was the military draft, which required military service for those chosen. I think social media would have only added to this frenzy. People would able to share their opinions, as well as organize much more easily. Not only would their be more organization and sharing of opinions, I think that social media would have resulted in much more significant change with a possible sooner end to the war.  

This blog post reminded me of the recent article we read for class, “Facebook broke Democracy”. Social media has had such a significant effect on democracy because of the raw numbers of information and opinions flying around on social media and the internet at large. Democracy is not as simple as it used to be.  


*the social media generator I tried to use almost gave me a virus so it didn’t workout*

Midterm Elections Post

For my fourth blog post on contemporary digital culture, I will focus on the online presence of senatorial candidates in my home state of Pennsylvania. To give a basic summary of the 2018 midterm race, incumbent democratic senator Bob Casey ran against republican Lou Barletta. Senator Casey was running to be the first democratic senator elected three times in Pennsylvania history. In the primaries, Casey faced no opposition while Barletta ran against a former state congress representative. To give a background on the candidates, both were born in Pennsylvania and come from political families.  

Looking into Barletta’s social media presence, he currently has no website but I’m sure he did during the time of the race. The best look I got to looking to how Barletta’s social media impacted his senatorial race is through his Twitter. The most intriguing thing about his twitter is how often he mentions President Trump, who he strongly supports. I think this may have had a major effect on how voters viewed him during the time of the race. Supporting Trump can be controversial within the Republican party. Barletta’s support of Trump could have convinced some republican voters to not give Barletta their vote. Besides his support of Trump, Barletta’s social media is very bland. Sometimes other twitter users will bring up his past accusations of racism when retweeting his holiday tweets.  

In terms of the victor Bob Casey’s online presence, googling his name shows his official government website along with his Twitter and campaign website. Clearly there is more content online surrounding Casey considering that he is an active senate member and has run a senate campaign three times. Starting with his offical government website, Casey lays out his offical statements, values, and ways to contact his office. His campaign website is rudimental, just giving background on his life and political career. The main function of his former campaign site now is the donation function for those who wish to donate to his future political endeavors. Finally, his twitter is much more active than his former opponent. He gives daily updates on his efforts in the senate as well as retweeting messages from senators he supports. Looking back to his tweets when he was running for office again shows more direct contentions to the opinions of the republicans he was running against. He didn’t have anyone running against him in the democratic primary, so he could focus he efforts on bolstering himself against his opponents’ policies.  

Looking into the online presence of these candidates reminds me of our recent class discussions on the role of technology and data in modern politics. One recent assigned video went over how the Trump campaign hired a firm that claimed to have gathered enough data to make phycological profiles on over 200 million American voters. While I do not think big data played a major role in the 2018 midterm in Pennsylvania, I recognize that big data will have a major role in future politics.  



Privacy Policy Blog

For my privacy blog post, I chose to focus in on Snapchat’s privacy policy. For my interview portion I chose to interview my friend Somers on his knowledge of Snapchat’s privacy policy. Before I get to his interview, I’d like to do my own analysis of Snapchat’s policy and privacy statement.  

Snapchat opens their policy by stating the three areas of information they collect, first the “information you choose to give us”, second the “information we get when you use our services”, and lastly the “information we get from third parties”. I’ll start with summarizing how they define the information which users “give” to them. Snapchat saves all information about your usage on the app including who you talk to, how much you talk to them, and saves all snaps that you choose to save or screenshot. They also have the ability to save every picture you choose to send as well as every message you send. In terms of information Snapchat receives when you use the app, they have access to your entire camera roll, what ads you watch, as well as your location at all times. The final piece of their information gathering is the information they gather from third parties, this includes any types of plug ins you may have added to the app as well as advertising information. This part reminded me a lot of recent class discussions in which we discusses the ethics and methods behind data’s connection to advertising methods. Just stating that collect data to better suit our ad needs is a pretty significant invasion of personal information. The policy then goes into how they use the data, how long they keep the data, and what data is shared with third parties. The main theme of how they describe their use of the data is to make the app experience better. While I believe this, it’s always possible for one bad party to use the data in negative ways. While some of this information is new to me, it seems to connect perfectly to what we’ve been reading and discussing in class, such as the articles on how much power data gives third parties.  

I’ll finish by describing my interview with a friend of mine, Somers Wilton. Somers is a first year here at Washington and Lee. He has used Snapchat since it came out in 2011. This is very similar to most people our age, Snapchat has been a staple of our social media use over the last ten years. I began by asking Somers what he used the app for, he said it was a easy and fun way for him to stay in contact with high school friends as well as be a part of snapchat groups, in which large groups can send pictures in the same group. I then began to quiz Somers on his knowledge of the privacy policy. He said while he knew they had a privacy policy and that he had signed it, he didn’t read it when he should have. This is very common with privacy statements, I myself often do not read them. I then asked him if he knew how much data they could keep on him, and this was very surprising to him. While it was surprising to him, he said it wouldn’t stop him from using the app or change the way he uses the app.  I’ll embed the video file below. 



The Web and Me (Post 1)

This week in class our discussions have provoked me to think deeper about the role of the web, technology, and social media in my life. One specific idea, the fact that most for most people, the first thing they in the morning and the last thing at night is their phone. In the last week my life has been extremely busy, particularly coordinating my friend’s and their lives from nine in the morning until we all can go to sleep. Part of me has always been an organizer and one who wants to help, but it has meant that I am tied to my phone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. This is a new phenomenon to me as I didn’t take this role with my friends in high school. While in high school, I worried a lot about the time I spent on social medias, and the persona I wished to preform as on social media. But as of late, social media has taken a secondary role to the text connections I make through group chats all day long. This is a bit frustrating because I feel like I could make much more meaningful interactions with my friends if it was in face to face interactions. Yet I lose those genuine connections to the screen and get frustrated when our lack of efficient communication leaves people out or leads to us failing a task.  

To start the day, I begin by looking at my phone and checking the group text. I also am typically too tired to get up immediately so this is usually one of the times that I look at social media during the day. As of late, this stretch of being on my phone has made me slower to get up and in the shower, so I am a few minutes behind to my first task of the day. This is definitely something I want to correct. At breakfast, and all other meals for that matter, I get a break from my phone usually to sit down with a friend. Throughout the day, my only other breaks from my phone are my classes. These periods are some of the my favorite of the day because it feels like a break from all the madness. It is tough however, to narrow my focus at these times on what I need to learn and truly pay attention to. I sometimes feel my focus shifting and I know this will have major negative affects on my grades and academic success. I also feel that my relationships with people outside of that direct circle are fading. One of my goals for the year was to be a better family members and I don’t think I’m doing the best job so far and technology has played a major part in that.