Naturalising New Media: Cultural Representations of the Digital World

This week’s meLecture takes us into Module 3: ‘Mediating New Media’. The videos survey representations of digital media across a number of genres, including novels, console games, board games (or at least one board game, as there aren’t many examples that fit with our focus here – which is significant in itself), and feature films… I’m currently typing this post while watching Aaron Eckhart have his emails, bank account, mobile phone access, and other facets of his digital identity completely erased by what seems to be some malicious organisation. Right now he’s telling his young daughter to ‘keep your head down – they can’t identify you if they can’t get a full profile’. Now he’s walking across the foyer using a small piece of paper to disguise his face amidst the surveillance devices surrounding them.

Ah, they’re everywhere. The cameras, and the films about them…

Enjoy!

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The Future of the Past: Digital Heritage, Visitor-Viewsers, and Virtual Museums

I broke a personal record this week and actually made a meLecture in four parts. This wasn’t entirely intentional, but when you have a conversation with an industry practitioner who is saying brilliant things, vicious editing just feels, well, offensive! So you’ll have to forgive my audio-visual ‘verbosity’, but while I generally focus on quality over quantity, I think that in this case, the longer the better!

Enjoy :)

And a bonus few videos focusing on the Jewish Holocaust Centre, the location of our recent field trip:

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New Media and the Law: From Sexting to Trial by Social Media

At the upcoming field trip to the Jewish Holocaust Centre, feminist media scholar Dr Deb Waterhouse-Watson is going to deliver what I’m sure will be a riveting guest lecture on the complexities of how digital media has recently intersected (often in a problematic way) with potential and actual legal proceedings. A ‘teaser’ for this lecture – which I highly recommend you access before attending the field trip if possible – is included as part of this week’s meLecture…

And if that’s not enticement enough, Tiffany makes a guest appearance as well :)

Enjoy!

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Sexing Up New Media: From Online Dating to Porn

Maybe I’m coming across as over-(cyber)sexed, but there’s so much interesting stuff to talk about in relation to this topic and I have one more issue for you!

One issue I didn’t touch on in any of the other material so far is highlighted by the title of a 2009 science-fiction film starring Bruce Willis. Surrogates is an intriguing depiction of how sexuality might be (?) mediated in the near(ish) future – although as with all of these kinds of films, it’s actually a commentary on today’s digital media practices. You can watch the trailer for Surrogates here, which will give you a fairly good idea of the film’s content. What seems to be the ‘message’ here? Does the film seem to put forward a dystopian perspective? If you’ve watched the film before, do you think the filmmakers effectively critique the sexualisation and eroticisation of the (particularly female) body in contemporary culture, which they seem to be trying to do, or is voyeuristic entertainment at the very core of the film’s attempt to engage audience members? You might also like to think about this film or others you have seen (such as Gamer, another 2009 production) in relation to Module 3 on cultural representations of digital media, which we’ll return to in good time…

I need a break from me now too, and am tempted to go play some Xbox – though I won’t be going near this one… ‘Thing’ from The Addams Family was always creepy enough…

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Who’s Watching Whom?: Surveillance Practices, Processes, and Problems

A major factor that contributes to the all-pervasive culture of surveillance – this surveillance society – in which we live is a climate of fear. Indeed, we might almost call this a self-perpetuating climate of fear. Reflecting on 9/11, I asked a group of students this week whether they thought that, even though they had been born before 2001, they considered themselves to have experienced a ‘pre-9/11′ world. I was in first year university at the time of the September 11 attack and it was clear then that we were witnessing a groundbreaking moment after which nothing would be the same. There are other events also, like the Colombine High School massacre in April 1999, as well as similar tragedies in the United States and elsewhere in the world, which invariably see issues of surveillance being raised and (re)negotiated in the media. Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (2002) contains some fascinating sequences of bizarre news reports that exemplify the construction of a climate of fear – or even better, panic. Can you draw any parallels to Australia in this regard?

Many acts of surveillance have unquestionable value and cannot be simply shoved into a mono-dimensional vision of a dystopian world. Likewise, fear and concern can turn into polemical paranoia, and that just trivialises the issue as well. If you find examples surveillance like the RFID chip or RATs somewhat ‘freaky and creepy’ – if not downright disturbing – try to take a step back and examine what it means about digital media culture today…

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be scared, as there are arguably good reasons to be. But being analytical is important as well. And in the end, the scariest thing about all of this may just well be that we are not scared enough…

Enjoy the meLecture :)

 

 

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Celebrity, Performativity, and the Age of the Selfie: Young People and Virtual Selfhood

We conclude Module 1 of ALC201 Exploring New Media: Users, Setting, Implications this week, with the third meLecture ‘episode’ addressing the topic, ‘Celebrity, Performativity, and the Age of the Selfie: Young People and Virtual Selfhood’…

In parts 2 and 3 of this week’s meLecture, I have an in depth conversation with Professor David Marshall, the Chair of New Media, Communication, and Cultural Studies at Deakin University. David’s reflections are immensely interesting and important (and, as I suggest in the meLecture, I highly recommend you take notes while watching!), so I don’t want or need to say much on this topic myself. But I did want to leave you with one short passage from last week’s reading by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, which is just as significant in relation to the current topic as it was for the last one:

If by authenticity one means the unmediated access to some ‘essence’ or ‘truth’ of a subject, virtual environments only make clearer the critique made by poststrucural theorists that all self-presentation is performative, that authenticity is an effect, not an essence. (Smith and Watson 2014, p. 75)

Smith and Watson turn to theorists who speak of ‘authenticity’ as ‘manufactured’ and ‘calculated’ – a form of stage management. This is not an inherently negative or problematic quality, but reinforces the crucial importance of looking upon the commonplace notion of a ‘true self’ as a stable, coherent, and singular entity with a large degree of scepticism.

Enjoy the rest of the meLecture!

 

 

Reference

Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online Self-Presentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95.

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meMedia or iRobot?: Constructing Identity(s) in the Online World

Here is the second meLecture for ALC201 Exploring New Media: Users, Settings, Implications, which focuses on the theme of online identity:

A number of interesting points have come up already in this week’s seminars. The construction of About.Me profiles – which I intended to be primarily a warm-up exercise as a lead-in to more extensive digital media produsage – has turned out to offer considerable insight into how we portray ourselves online. The sheer variety of profiles illustrates many similarities and differences between people’s self-concepts and their approaches to depicting these. What does this variety in self-presentation reveal? Do the relatively restricted generic conventions and possibilities of the About.Me site limit individuality or is there enough space for one to express oneself freely? Can individuality be expressed by refusing to upload a profile picture (in effect, subverting the template)? This is an useful example to think through in relation to the argument made by Jaron Lanier that we are all becoming ‘nonpersons’.

Most users will have looked at several other profiles before constructing their own. What does this suggest about how we learn? As I’ve been emphasising, people don’t know how to use Facebook or play an Xbox game because they’ve listened to a lecture about it or read a book on it (not that these are redundant ways to learn things by the way!). Rather, people quickly become skilled at using Facebook and other digital media because they – knowingly or not – observe how others are using it, teach themselves how to do things by both repetition and trial-and-error, and, when needed, consult the Help menus or demo videos uploaded by the site’s designers or other users. Whenever it was that you started Twitter, were you as adept at using hashtags as you are now? And how did you get better at it…?.

An interesting concept in relation to this topic is that of ‘exposure’. While the majority of students were comfortable depicting themselves on a public About.Me page that can be accessed by anyone in the world with the requisite hardware and digital literacy, the same people were not generally as comfortable having a room of 20-25 people observing and discussing their profile in front of them. Without implying a negative judgement here (just making an observation), this would – at least in part – seem to point to a certain ‘disconnect’ between our physical selves and our virtual presence(s). While general shyness (of the kind I myself was partial to myself during my undergraduate studies) might have played a role in this, this unease in seminars still underlined the crucial importance of carefully, creatively, and critically thinking through how we construct our online persona(s). Lots of interesting questions arise here: If we’re often more comfortable communicating certain things about ourselves online, does this also entail a risk that we might be at times more ‘carefree’ – and when does this become ‘careless’? On the flip side, do we judge people online differently than we do in person? How much time and thought do we put into how we are communicating when using instantaneous social media? Are we more willing to ‘expose’ ourselves to the world than to those right in front of us?.

Many thanks to everyone who helped in putting together some of the footage for this meLecture, and to those who have been actively engaging with the material and each other via Twitter, YouTube, and the CloudDeakin discussion forums – this is great to see! Keep it up!

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