Project Proposal

For my final project, I would like to research how Pinterest and feminism butt heads to create a new kind of role playing game. The majority of Pinterest users are female, and many use their boards to post about recipes, staying in shape, dressing fashionably, planning weddings, and raising children. In other words, Pinterest is a feminist’s worst nightmare, and women use the site to create alternate realities in which they live in a fantasy world that centers around gender stereotypes.

To support this project, I will use Lessig’s first video and further explore the idea of the new read-write culture that we exist in today. Pinterest can be considered a kind of writing – no two pinners have the same set of boards, which allows the site to be a large, creative remix waiting to happen.

To include a new media element, I might make a short video showing how to use Pinterest and incorporate Pinterest jargon and etiquette. 

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People of the Screen

As a society, we are absolutely shifting from “people of the book” to “people of the screen”. As technology becomes more prevalent and popular, the written word becomes more of a hindrance than a way of life. What once took hundreds of pages to explain can now be simplified into 140 characters or less. People do not want to spend the extra time reading any extra words or characters… time has become a tangible substance, and the less we spend on intellectual activity the better. 

Obviously there are several factors that have contributed to the rush from the book to the screen. First, convenience. It is much easier to share opinions, thoughts, and ideas through a keyboard and a social media site than it is to take the time to research and develop a well-thought out research project to submit to an academic journal. 

I believe way we are teaching children to learn has heavily influenced the jump. Children are trained to expect technology as part of their learning experience. Gadgets and electronics, once seen as fancy luxuries, are now considered necessities. Because children know nothing else, they consider books and the written word to be an archaic form of torture, and navigate naturally to the screen. 

Consequences of this behavior include many of the concepts we have discussed in class. It goes beyond changing the way we learn – it completely alters the way that we think. We think more like computers than people. Our focus is finding and maintaining the simplest routes for any task deemed complicated, and the screen allows us to do that. 

#Twitter #(il)literate

I have had a Twitter for a few years – probably since I was a sophomore in high school. I would consider myself an active user, however I do not tweet much. I prefer to click through the site and read what other people are tweeting to the world. In fact, I get much of my information about current events this way. 

Unfortunately, this has also exposed me to the stupidity of people who are on Twitter “just to be on Twitter”, so to speak. These people have no idea what they are doing – they spit out hashtags like candy, have ongoing conversations that clog up a person’s feed, and are generally irritating. 

I’m not saying that I am a Twitter expert – far from it. But I think there is a sort of Twitter etiquette that must be followed, especially given that Twitter is not the only social media site out there. The people who tweet their life stories, as described above, have a gross misrepresentation of the purpose of the site. In my humble opinion, Facebook is the correct medium for this type of communication, because Facebook connects users mostly to friends and family.

On Twitter, a person can follow and be followed by anyone in the world, publicly and without needing consent. Because of this, Twitter has become a source of news, politics, and entertainment information. This does need some clarification – just because I mentioned politics doesn’t mean that everyone on Twitter is a political expert (although after this past election, it seems that everybody is a campaign manager). 

Twitter as a form of new media is wonderful and it is an absolutely brilliant idea. However, I think that like most things, it needs to be used in moderation and with the sanity of other tweeters in mind. 

Crap Detection 101

“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.” – Ernest Hemingway, 1954

 

Hemingway ages himself in this quote. In 2012, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that the younger generations (college students and below) do have this so-called “automatic crap detector” operating within ourselves. We develop these BS detectors at such an early age that by the time we are in college and ready to do our own research and form our own opinions, it is second nature to weed out the unworthy online information with just a glance or a few clicks. 

As a result, Rheingold’s article was helpful… if someone over the age of 30 reads it.

What I found interesting was what Rheingold chose to leave out – the idea that because younger generations are so accustomed to weeding out other people’s BS, we are simultaneously becoming even handier at creating our own. With the vast amount of knowledge and information available to us, we have the ability to patch together a quilt of facts and manipulate them to cover whatever subject we are assigned – all in under an hour, tops. 

The key part is, for the majority of students, there is no guilt involved in the art of BS. This isn’t because students are heartless and enjoy slacking off on assignments (well, the majority of students, anyway). Rather, students don’t know any other way. Crap creation and detection have become second nature and are embedded in our technologically savvy genes… and these genes can only evolve from here.  

 

Keen: Internet, Truth, and Culture

After reading chapter one of “The Great Seduction” by Andrew Keen, it’s apparent very quickly that his main point is that the Internet is destroying culture today. What I believe to be most interesting is Keen’s idea that the Internet destroys, most specifically, truth. 

But, despite the interesting points Keen brings up, I think he also left out several important factors.

First, I considered Keen’s overall blanket statement that the Internet is destroying our culture. I disagree with this statement – the Internet is certainly changing our culture, yes. But destroying it? That’s a bit too far. Think back to the Dark Ages when the printing press was first released. Higher ups in society were scared of this new technology – it gave the power of knowledge to everyone who wanted access to it. Isn’t that the same thing that’s happening here?

The Internet is morphing our culture – indeed, it is allowing cultures to mix and merge, all online. It gives people from America the opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with people in India or China or Spain – all from the comfort of their couches. If anything, the Internet is destroying the traditional cultural idea that people must be segregated and grouped based on geographic locations and race. 

Next, I considered Keen’s idea that the Internet is destroying the truth. 

Is it, though? Certainly it has changed how we discover the truth. But truth will always be truth, regardless of how one stumbles across it. The Internet makes it easier to discover knowledge and the truth. Perhaps Keen is angry that the Internet makes information easily accessible  – anyone can contribute anything. But doesn’t this make searching for the truth more difficult? Online, there is no yes or no answer. Because the Internet is constantly changing, intellectuals must sift through websites, searching for the true facts. And because we are exposed to so many different opinions from so many Internet contributors, it is impossible to walk away with just one understanding of a concept (which, if I did not have access to the Internet, I would have if by reading Keen’s book). Instead, we are exposed to so many perceptions and opinions that we have no choice but to form our own thoughts – further enhancing our own knowledge. 

Pinteresting

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Since its release in 2010, Pinterest is the new “it” of social media. Users can upload and share content (pins) of their own, or borrow someone else’s pins (re-pinning) onto their own board. 

The cool thing about Pinterest is that it lets you keep everything in one place, and you can pin whatever you want! For example, one of my favorite things to do is baking. I also enjoy quotes, Christmas, do-it-yourself projects, and I like dogs more than people. Random interests, right? Not very similar to each other. But Pinterest allows me to create boards specific to each of these interests and collect information, articles, and images about each respective category – kind of like digital scrapbooks for each of my interests. 

But regular people like me aren’t the only ones who can benefit from Pinterest. Businesses can and have taken the opportunity to market towards Pinterest users (mostly women – more on that in my final project). Many companies have generated Pinterest contests. For example, Babies “R” Us hosted a “Pin Your Registry” sweepstakes, in which registered mom’s could pin their dream nursery as a board on Pinterest and send it to the company – one mom (from Maine, incidentally) won thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. In addition, companies can offer Pinterest-only coupons, deals, and ads to generate more interest in the organization. 

Politicians also have a lot to gain from using Pinterest. Recently, Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have taken to the boards. Both women have patriotic categories as well as family photos and wholesome images posted under their profiles. Interestingly, I think this shows a lot of gender sterotyping on behalf of Obama and Romey’s campaign teams – why don’t Barack and Mitt have their own Pinterests? The candidates are likely using their wives to appeal to the large majority of female Pinterest users in hopes of gaining their votes.

Ultimately, Pinterest is a great way to stay organized and share new ideas at a global level much more efficiently – the site categorizes and labels different materials based on common interests. There is definitely opportunity to remix material quickly and internationally – what will Lessig think about that? 

A True Read-Write Culture?

After reading and watching Lessig and after our class on Wednesday, I have spent some time reflecting on the idea that copyright, though meant to encourage creativity, actually limits it. As a member of generation Y, I see this everyday. How many college aged students dream about creating their own documentary or working on their own music video, only to stop themselves because dealing with copyright is just too much work? There may have been a point in time where not wanting to getting permission to use copyrighted material was plain laziness. After reading the graphic novel about copyrighting, it seems that to pay for copyrighted material would probably mean giving up the equivalent of a college education – branding is awfully expensive!

That being said, I also agree with Lessig’s idea that America has gone from a read-write culture, to a read-only culture, and now is on its way back to a read-write culture. I think that younger generations especially are using technology to expand and grow creatively in a way that no one else has done before. In order to test these boundaries, they use copyrighted material… but I think it’s safe to say that as we as a society grow more comfortable with new media, we will branch out even more and start to produce new, worthwhile, never-before-been-copyrighted literature that will solidify us even further as a read-write culture.

What’s most interesting about his idea of “returning” to a read-write culture through creating new material is how vastly different the term “writing” meant before, compared to what it is now. Before, writing literally meant writing – novels, articles, journals. In our culture today, a read-write culture means producing new literature – music videos and blogs and new boards on Pinterest. The content we are creating has changed, and I believe this to be a reflection of our culture. We crave simplicity and literature that is short, sweet, and to the point. Advertisements cater to us; the Internet caters to us; and now, as we begin to create new literature in our changing culture, we are catering to us. 

This Seat’s Taken: Obama’s Celebrity Status

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Obama has taken social media where no president has gone before. His Twitter and Facebook pages have exploded with followers and fans wanting to know more about the President’s ideas, values, and plans for America’s future. Obama’s campaign has recently targeted young adults ages 18-29 in a campaign called “For All”, in which people in this age group are encouraged to snap pictures that “highlight why we are greater together regardless of race, background, sexual orientation, or zip code”, and upload these photos using social media. 

What exactly is going on here? Simply, Obama is “getting on our level”. I would argue that with laptops, iPads, and smartphones, social media is used more frequently than both the television and the radio (in Generation Y, at least). Obama knows this and is reaching out in a way that we understand and will respond to. In Digital Rhetoric and Public Discourse, Gurak and Antonijevic discuss that Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) removes nonverbal communication from interactions. I believe that this nonverbal aspect eliminates the previously unreachable boundary between the President and a citizen of the US. In person, one might be in awe of the chief executive; online, he is simply just another Facebook user. There is no feeling of awkwardness – supporters are hidden behind their monitors and usernames, and this creates a much more relaxed atmosphere. 

The extent to which Obama uses social media and the receptiveness of his followers are turning him into a kind of celebrity. An average citizen communicating with the president was simply unheard of before. Now, it is becoming the norm. As a result, the awe and feeling of awkwardness discussed above dissipate. Social media forces us to display almost every aspect of our personal lives for the Internet to see. Before, there was an aura of mystery about a president – now, it’s easy to see all of his skeletons when the closet is open for all to tour. Gossip sites go crazy, tabloids splash his image on their covers, and people have casual conversations about the President’s personal life and history. 

Despite his celebrity status, Obama still manages to use social media in a way that impresses and delights his followers. A prime example can be found on his Twitter feed the night that Romney accepted the Republican nomination – during his acceptance speech, as a matter of fact. Obama tweeted a picture of himself in the President’s chair at the White House (see above picture) with the caption, “This seat’s taken”. Within 24 hours, the image had millions of retweets; social media sites were buzzing with the audacity and thrillingly catty drama the Obama campaign stirred up. It’s obvious that Obama not only knows how to use social media; he also knows how to reach people. Digital Rhetoric and Public Discourse discuss kairos – opportune moments in digital space. Obama’s use of kairos in this situation could not have been more perfectly planned – so many people were online and discussing the RNC that to tweet it out at any other time would have been foolish. 

Could any other president have gotten away with this? Probably not. Obama’s savvy social media skills and people’s insatiable desire for news and gossip allowed him to make one of the most daring moves in social media history. Some people were angry, of course. But he will be forgiven – after all, don’t all celebrity fans forgive and forget in light of their favorite star’s next big hit? 

Rhetorical History and New Media

From the readings assigned so far, it is clear that rhetorical history repeats itself – as it is doing now. As Palmeri points out in “The First Time Print Died”, all media was once new. 

I thought Palmeri’s detailed look at new media through history was especially fascinating and useful. From Wiener’s attention to the non-literary generation, to Sparke and McKowen’s Montage, to Kytle’s Comp Book, it appears that teachers are fighting to incorporate new media into learning. One interesting point that Palmeri brought into his argument was the idea that teachers feel obligated to use new media in order to engage and motivate students. The students Palmeri was assessing were being fed television, movies and magazine covers constantly. The students now, however, are receiving information from everywhere around them, and especially the computer. It seems that it has gotten to the point where students do not expect to learn if technology is not somehow involved – a simple Google search showed me that more and more public schools are incorporating technology use into their mission statements.

However, it seems that new media are here to stay, and so why not teach students the skills they need in the classroom but also technical skills they can use for practical purposes? Palmeri quotes Kytle, saying “if the medium is the message, then the bound textbook – linear, inflexible, static – cannot encourage nonlinear, flexible, and dynamic response”. Today’s working world is filled with competition to be the most creative, innovative, and responsive professional. It seems to me that the best way to train students to epitomize these ideals is to train them using new media that is in and of itself creative, innovative, and responsive. 

I believe that learning the subject matter is important – grammar, literary analyses, and the ability to conceptualize ideas are priceless skills. However, I do not believe that these are the only things that matter anymore. Going to school to learn math, English, and history is not enough – in fact, schools who still teach this way put their students at a distinct disadvantage. While I thought Kytle’s idea of a Comp Book was radical, I think he has the right idea. Critical thinking, thinking on one’s feet, and even thinking for oneself are becoming lost in the pages of Sparknotes and online cheat sheets. Forcing students to use new media to form their own opinions and make their own judgments has clearly worked in the past, and it makes sense to continue to study rhetorical history to utilize new media to the best of its capabilities.