Week 11


This week’s readings included several articles dealing with different issues within the topic of “New Frontiers and Solutions.” The first article by Norval and Prasopoulou explores the diffusion of facial recognition technology in society, and argues that Facebook’s opt-out facial recognition technology made users more aware of the “diffusion of biometrics.” The second article by Parisi and Archer discusses the need for more inclusion of haptic media in media studies; this was basically a completely new concept to me, so at times it was hard for me to follow along with some of the examples and terminology in the article.

In discussing panopticism and the tracking of individuals, I was reminded of China’s “social credit system,” which I recently learned about. The system, which was first unveiled in 2014 and is still in development, tracks citizens behaviors (particularly their online behaviors) and enacts punishments for “bad” behaviors, such as posting negative news stories about the government, or playing too many video games. Punishments include getting banned from certain modes of travel, getting banned from top-tier schools, getting blacklisted from certain careers, and users getting their internet throttled.  Norval and Prasopoulou assert that Facebook’s facial recognition technology makes it so that everybody is a “public face” and that “everybody can see everybody;” this Chinese social credit takes that to an extreme.

I also found the article on the Apple Watch interesting, particularly the idea of how the device “hybridizes” work and play. I find that, for better or worse, smartphones already do this. People use smartphones for a variety of purposes; I think its rare that someone would use their smartphone purely for either work or play. In a typical day, I might use my smartphone to make work and school emails, chat with friends on Facebook Messenger or Snapchat, search for information on school-related topics, play games, and order groceries on Walmart’s app or a meal through Waitr. I think smartphones have already perfected the art of hybridizing work and play, and trying to cram the same model into a watch could not be as successful. Although, I do find it interesting how the article highlights that the device is inherently more “personal” because it relies on haptics and the physical monitoring of the user’s body. I wonder if, in the future, there will be a device that combines the personal, physical monitoring and tracking of a user’s body of a smartwatch with the ubiquitousness of a smartphone—such a device makes me think of the “Coach” from the Black Mirror episode “Hang the DJ,” a device like a mix of dating apps, Siri, and a smartwatch that constantly collects data to be as in-tune with the user as possible to act as a perfectly personalized assistant or life coach.




Week 10

grass is greenerThis week’s reading is “Infinite Distraction” by Dominic Pettman. The author explores the concept of “hypermodulation” and “hypersynchronization.” The way I understand it, hypersynchronization is the idea that we are all reading from the same book, yet hypermodulation is the idea that we’re all on different pages of the same metaphorical book. While I overall enjoyed the book, I found it hard to follow at times, with Pettman jumping rapidly from idea to idea. Additionally, I found some of his metaphors to be overly hyperbolic and off-putting, such as when he compares social media to The Human Centipede and a scene from A Clockwork Orange.

One idea that interested me was “the banal beyond,” which he describes in Chapter 2, The Will-to-Synchronize. He argues that social media is reflective of people trying to obtain some perfect, complete life that is out there, where “life is lived as it should be” (59). I feel that is true for a lot of people. They must post about certain things, and in a certain way, in order to portray that they are doing what they should be doing in life, so that they can fit in with everyone else who they think is living the same life that is perfect and well put-together.

Another point that I found interesting is when he discusses online dating. I do not think that dating apps and sites are quite as shallow as Pettman makes them out to be, because dating in itself is generally quite shallow to begin with, online or offline. However, I did agree with how the author points out the “grass is greener” mentality that dating apps can foster. I believe that dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble can give people the illusion that someone better is just a swipe away. All you have to do is log on to the app to see how many potential partners are out there, and I think that maybe it can create an unhealthy mentality towards dating. The “paradox of choice,” as one website puts it, is the predicament that users face; with so many people to choose from (or that at least we think we have to choose from), it becomes hard to know who is “the one.”

I don’t think that the “grass is greener” mentality can just be applied to dating. We see people posting about the best of their lives, and there is always someone out there doing way better than you in some aspect of their life, and I think that it can sometimes distract us from seeing our own achievements. On Pinterest, you can see beautiful houses and yards that might dwarf your own. On Facebook, you might see that someone has announced an amazing new career opportunity. On Instagram, you could see someone showing off their makeup skills in a selfie that makes you feel like you look like a sack of potatoes. Artists of all kinds can find someone out there that does their work better. I don’t know what the solution would be towards this, if there is one, besides cutting back on social media.

Week 9


This week’s reading, Participatory Culture, Community: Learning from Reddit by Adrienne Massanari, was particularly interesting to me. Having been an avid reddit user since about 2011/2012, just about every aspect of Reddit that the book explained was, for better or worse, familiar to me.

One thing I noticed about the book is that it explored the biggest, most popular subreddits. There is a multitude of smaller, niche subreddits that do not necessarily conform to the ways of the biggest subreddits. Additionally, there are plenty of large, female-dominated subreddits, such as r/makeupaddiction, r/redditlaqueristas, and r/babybumps. Also, there are more professional, useful subreddits such as r/Resumes that have stricter submission policies. The book seems to focus mostly on the biggest and/or most controversial subreddits, which of course would be easiest and most useful to study. But the author seems to paint a picture of extremes—as reddit being either wonderful or horrible.

Another point that I found interesting was the Martha Nussbaum’s (2010) identification of seven different ways that marginalized groups are objectified. When reading those, my mind instantly thought of a few subreddits that I have had the misfortune of stumbling upon: r/theredpill, r/MGTOW, and r/incels. The author mentions a few misogynistic subreddits, including the r/theredpill, but makes no mention of these other subreddits; I think they may not have existed at the time of the book’s publication. r/theredpill is basically an extremely misogynistic dating guide that essentially infantilizes all women and hits all seven of those points of objectification. r/MGTOW (“Men going their own way”) is (supposedly) a subreddit for men who are trying to better themselves without dating or being in a relationship, yet just about every single post is hatefully aimed towards women that, again, hits all of those seven points. r/Incels was, in my opinion, one of the worst subreddits. “Incel” stands for “involuntary celibate,” so the subreddit was full of self-hating, women-hating users who blamed women for their inability to find a relationship. The subreddit seemed genuinely harmful, as users supported and idolized people such as Elliot Rodgers, the mass shooter in the 2014 Isla Vista Killings who wrote a manifesto (particularly against women) and targeted women in the shooting. In his manifesto, Rodgers shows extreme animosity towards women for picking other men over him, and describes how he would attack couples in public out of sheer jealousy and spite. This sort of jealous, entitled attitude was reflected in the subreddit. Also, r/incels at times supported rape and violence towards women.  The subreddit, “a breeding pool for serious and dangerous mental health issues,” as one user put it, was fortunately banned in November 2017 for advocating violence. A new website for incels spawned elsewhere, but at least it is off of Reddit where it can no longer be seen by younger redditors and give them a skewed perspective on women and relationships.

Despite its sometimes problematic community and toxic subreddits, Reddit can be a great resource. I frequent specific music subreddits to find recommendations for new music and keep up with new releases in certain genres. I enjoy listening to users music on r/composition and r/WeAreTheMusicMakers. The key to enjoying Reddit, in addition to steering clear of hateful and ignorant spaces, is finding what subreddits you like and have a good community and moderation, and knowing when to jump ship on subreddits that become toxic.

Week 8

Story Synch

This week’s topic is “multitasking and second screening.” While the term was new to me, I quickly realized while going through the readings how prevalent second screening has been in my life without me being entirely aware of it. Even as I am typing this, my attention is divided between 3 screens: my laptop that I am typing and researching on, my iPhone that I am using to communicate with friends and check social media, and my television that I am using to halfheartedly watch Impractical Jokers. As a teenager, “co-viewing” (as the Williams and Gonlin article refers to it as) was definitely a part of my communication with friends. Even before my friends and I had smartphones, I distinctly remember us texting each other while we watched live episodes of American Idol, and Skyping friends while watching movies when we lived in different states. It was like we were viewing shows and movies together even though we weren’t in the same location.

For the most part, the readings identify second screening as a very new, underexplored concept that can generally lead to positive experiences. The articles by Gil de Zúñiga et al., and Gil de Zúñiga and Liu point to second screening as something that increase political participation and engagement, and encourage a more informed society. The article by Williams and Gonlin, too, explicitly describes how second screening increases a sense of community, particularly in often demonized minority groups such as black women.

In general, I enjoyed reading these studies and I felt that they are informative. I did have one small issue with the graphs in the article “Second Screening Politics in the Social Media Sphere: Advancing Research on Dual Screen Use in Political Communication with Evidence from 20 Countries.” Maybe it was just my bad eyesight, but it was hard for me to tell the difference between the multiple groups on Figures 2 through 6. I think that these graphics could have been improved slightly by making the difference in groups clearer.

I did some research on second screening in entertainment television to see how networks are reacting to second screening. One example is AMC’s development of Story Synch, an app designed to be used during a show’s airing to keep the audience engaged. The app was designed initially just for The Walking Dead, but was later expanded to shows like The Killing, Breaking Bad, and its spin-off Better Call Saul. Story Synch includes additional information about what is going on in the show, and it lets the audience vote on polls predicting certain events or opinions, encouraging them to interact with one another and thus be further engaged with the show. Additionally, the app has social media functions built in, making it easy for users to share their experience. Story Synch seems to have enjoyed a bit of success, winning an Outstanding Interactive Program award in the 65th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony.

A CNN article from 2012 mentions a few business and apps that tried to jump onto the second screening bandwagon, but missed the mark, evident by the fact that the links to these all of companies and apps (GetGlue, Miso, Yap.tv, and Yahoo’s IntoNow) are all defunct as of six years later. I think it would be worth exploring what determines effectiveness in second screen experiences and apps in entertainment.



Week 7

This week’s reading was “Updating to Remain the Same, Habitual New Media” by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. The book, which was published in 2016, is divided into two sections: Part I: Imagined Networks, Glocal Connections, and Part II: Privately Public: The Internet’s Perverse Subjects.

One thing that I realized while reading through this book was that I recognized a few references in the book— danah boyd, for one—and I was able to connect certain parts of the book to readings in my other classes, such as the section talking about trolling, harassment, and revenge pornography in regards to Amanda Todd and Steubenville, with Danielle Keats Citron’s “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” (that I had to read for Media Law) which focuses on the legal action  (or inaction) towards cyber-harassment.

One quote from the introduction made me really think about the state of certain technologies: “To be satisfied with what one has—to not want the next thing, the next upgrade–is to be out of synch.” This makes me think especially of Apple, which is notorious for purposefully creating a culture surrounding the increasingly constant need to upgrade technology, especially with iPhones. In order to keep up with the advances in technology that revolve around the iPhone, users cannot really use the same version of their iPhone for more than about two years or so. Recent controversy with Apple admitting to intentionally sending upgrades to older models of iPhones to degrade their performance so users must eventually upgrade. Additionally, iPhones and other Apple products frequently have iOS updates in order to update or use apps; without updating the iOS, it becomes harder and harder for users to use apps and stay in the loop. But updating the iOS can often require having more space or hardware that comes with having the newest phone. It is like almost vicious cycle—we upgrade our tech to stay up-to-date, but by the time we are able to fully enjoy any new features, it’s not long before there is something new that we must eventually adjust to.  This has always been a source of minor irritation for me. I have had laptops, gaming systems, and other devices that can last over 10 years without needing to be upgraded or replaced. However, I—like so many others—like iPhones. I have had them since I was 17 years old, and I rely so much on my iPhone for a ridiculous number of things that it would be too much of an inconvenience to go without one.

Another quote from the book stuck with me: “Through habits users become their machine.” While this is perhaps not a new concept (with constant integration of technology into social and personal habits throughout history—like the written word becoming an inextricable part of human culture), smartphones have made it extremely hard for users to separate their habits from their technology. There are apps for finding dates, ordering food, getting rides, online shopping, and communicating with pretty much anyone; it seems as though we well on our way to catering all of our possible habits within the convenience of devices that fit into the palm of our hands.

Week 6

The theme of this week’s reading was emerging media psychology. The articles explored psychology in emerging media by focusing on algorithms, branding, politics, and sentiments.

Neubaum and Krämer’s study focuses on social media and perception of public opinion. While the article looks mostly at “likes” and comments, one feature of Facebook that is not mentioned in this study (probably because it either had not come out yet or was very new at the time of the study) is the “reaction” buttons that are now alongside the “like” button. The “like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry” reaction images provide a quick glimpse into the audience’s opinions, providing more information than just “likes.” For example, if a brand’s posts are consistently getting “angry” reacts, I imagine users would be concerned and turn to the comments to see if there was any explanation for the negative reactions. Additionally, users can use these emotion reactions on each other’s comments—showing what the overall sentiment towards these comments are. It would be interesting if Facebook allowed for the organizing of comments by date or reaction, like Reddit does with its “sort by” option, allowing the user to sort comments by “Live, Top, Best, Q&A, and Controversial.” I think that a study on sentiments in social media incorporating these reactions could be interesting and relevant.

The study conducted in Waddell and Sundar’s article “#thisshowsucks! The Overpowering Influence of Negative Social Media Comments on Television Viewers” concluded that negative comments about television shows cause people to view the shows less favorably. One thing I thought of was—what exactly could networks even do about this? They could somehow delete or restrict negative comments, but this probably would not make commenters happy to see their opinions silenced. They could also somehow highlight positive effects, but the study claimed that positive social media had no effects on viewing a show more favorably, so this also probably would not change anything. Additionally, while I am not sure of this, it seems that people are more likely to leave negative comments and complain when they are unhappy than to leave positive comments when they are happy.

The article “Picture Perfect: The Direct Effect of Manipulated Instagram Photos on Body Image in Adolescent Girls” is, unless if I am misremembering, the first so far that focuses solely on Instagram usage. The article itself points out the fact that Instagram receives “little academic attention,” which I think is unfortunate because the platform has its own culture that is different from Twitter and Facebook. One small issue I had with the study was the conceptualization of “manipulation” of photos. The study used Instagram’s “effects and filters,” but they also edited the photos by “removing eyebags, wrinkles, and impurities,” and slimming down the subjects of the photos. Since Instagram doesn’t really have a way for users to manipulate the photos to that degree, I was left wondering if the researchers used some other photo-editing app, or Photoshop.


Week 5

This week’s topic is “social networks and social capital.” I was not really familiar with the concept of social capital, so I appreciated the conceptualization that Lu and Hampton provided. I learned that tangible aid and emotional support are considered social capital, which made me think of the various ways I have seen people showing forms of support online.

While the article “Beyond the Power of Networks: Differentiating Network Structure from Social Media Affordances for Perceived Social Support” focuses on social capital in the context of Facebook, a social media platform where people (usually) connect with others that they have some sort of real-life connection, the article made me think of more anonymous social media sites like Reddit. It particularly reminded me of certain subreddits that offer tangible or emotional support, such as r/Random_acts_of_pizza, r/SuicideWatch, r/Depression, and the multitude of other subreddits dedicated to support. r/Random_acts_of_pizza is a highly moderated subreddit where a user can post either an offer to buy someone pizza, or request for pizza to be sent to them (and then they must submit a subsequent “thanks you” post). The other subreddits, dedicated to providing support for people suffering from mental afflictions, are frequented by members both asking for and offering support; those offering support often reply to posts saying the post can “PM” them anytime, meaning someone can personally message them to chat whenever. They may even offer their phone number or other means of contact. While these subreddits are comprised of people who are essentially total strangers to each other, I wonder if the resources they offer would still be considered social capital, because the people involved are not really invested much in each others’ social networks.

I found it interesting that while Penney’s article, as well as Groshek and Tandoc’s, seemed to mostly highlight the positive side of social networks in politics, Shin et al. painted it in a more negative light.

Penney discusses the hybridization of Bernie Sander’s campaign, which was comprised of both traditional campaign marketing, and “grassroots digital networks” (405). Staffers of Sanders’ campaign acknowledge this grassroot digital movement as being significantly important to the campaign. The online interconnectivity proved mostly useful and helpful for Sanders’ campaign (with the exception of the trolling from “Bernie Bros”), which essentially became viral through memes and #FeelTheBern. Groshek and Tandoc discuss how non-legacy journalists rose to prominence and engaged more with Twitter users than traditional news outlets in the coverage of police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown and sparked the Ferguson protests. The article highlights how, due to social networking sites, people with marginalized voices that would have otherwise been unheard are able to utilize social media platforms to share their views and participate more in politics.

In the article “Political rumoring on Twitter during the 2012 US presidential election: Rumor diffusion and correction,” the author highlights a more negative side of online social networks relating to political behaviors. Their study shows that Twitter mostly acts as an echo-chamber, where people mainly reinforce their own views even if it means accepting rumors, rather than challenging them. Homophily is prevalent in social networks (as Himelboim et al discusses), and ultimately, it is an integral part of online social networks that can result in both positive and negative consequences.


Week 4

This week’s reading, Zizi Papacharissi’s “Affective Publics: Sentiments, Technology, and Politics,” was honestly the reading I struggled with the most so far. I had a hard time reading and understanding the conceptualization of “affect.” There were a few other concepts, such as “framing,” that were discussed from early on in the book but were not clearly defined in the context of the reading until later on.  

One concept I found interesting in the book was that of “electronic elsewheres,” which the author describes as online spaces where marginalized people can freely express themselves. While the book uses this concept in the context of twitter, there are certainly many other spaces on the internet made for those in marginalized groups to connect and share their views and experiences. One example of this is the website PrisonTalk.com, an online community that describes itself as a “prison information and family support community,” where members of the site (generally those who have incarcerated loved ones) can offer support and information, and can engage in prison activism. Another example that comes to mind is dating apps for people who have HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. I wonder if these types of online spaces would be considered “electronic elsewheres,” because while the sites aren’t actively projecting the users’ views to the public, they are still virtual spaces where people can feel safe engaging in potentially taboo subjects that would not widely be considered socially acceptable to discuss—such as sympathizing with convicts and forming relationships with someone while they are incarcerated, and entering the dating scene as a person with HIV or other incurable sexually transmitted diseases.

Another topic I thought was interesting and relevant to social media today is what Papacharissi identifies as identity expression through “approaches that resemble micro-celebrity, personal branding, and strategic self-commodification” (95). As a big Instagram user, I notice this use of the platform very often. There are tons of “micro-celebrities” who have become Instagram famous for just about any reason— many users that become “famous” on Instagram do so through prolific use of hashtags and engaging on the site with other users. For example, there are communities of (mostly) women who support each other after issues such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and infertility. Many people rise to a “micro-celebrity” status due to documenting their journey struggling with these issues. Another example is the many Instagram accounts of pets. In both examples, there is a commodification of whatever it is the issue or topic is. I have seen instances where people will endorse businesses that make products related to these topics, whether it is a deeply personal memorialization for their stillborn child, or simply a new kind of dog toy. Additionally, some accounts attempt to earn revenue through advertising and selling their own merchandise of their own personal brand. For example, Instagram user “juniperfoxx,” a woman who has an account documenting her rescued pet fox, has links on her account to her online store where she sells various clothing items with paintings of the animal’s face on it. I think it is interesting how people can brand and potentially market just themselves and their stories, without having any other sort of claim to fame or new innovation.

Week 3

One current issue relating to production disparity that I thought of while reading “The digital production gap: The digital divide and Web 2.0 collide” is the issue of content creators paying for promotions, followers, likes etc.—anything to increase their views and engagement with their content. Individuals with more disposable income are better able to have their content reach more popularity. An example of this is buying followers on Twitter or Instagram, or subscribers on YouTube. Additionally, individuals with more free time and technological skills are better able to spend time engaging on social media in meaningful ways that will expand the reach of their content.

Another topic I considered while reading about digital divide is analyzing which devices are being used by for internet use nowadays, and if there is a divide between what devices are used (and how they are used). Personally, I know many of my peers around my age (21) who mainly only use laptops for school or work, and rarely use or don’t even own desktop computers (the one exception I can think of to this is individuals with hobbies that require computer use, such as gaming or video production). Meanwhile, they use their phones for uses such as social media, ordering food, online dating, and watching videos. I would be interested in finding out if tablets lean more towards being used like a computer, or like a smartphone; my guess would be that tablets are used more like smartphones due to their app-based nature, but they also may be used for additional features such as reading books or watching movies/ shows due to the larger screen size. Additionally, I think it would be interesting to learn what factors (such as socioeconomic status or age) are relevant to who uses what devices, if this influences how they use their devices, and if this is related to digital inequalities.

The Scheerder article categorized internet skills into four groups: medium-related, content-related, safety and security, and general. One issue I thought about while reading this is wondering which category using apps would fall under. For example, it seems that use of the Facebook app would fall under content-related skills, since social skills are included in that category. However, a user must know how to search and install the app using their device’s app store.

With the exception of the article “Does Internet Use provide a deeper sense of political empowerment to the Less Educated?,” the rest of the studies are in the context of Western culture (either the United States, the UK, or Germany). The article “Digital Inequalities and why they matter” mentions global inequalities, specifically in Africa, but the United States is still referenced more heavily throughout the article. The social context that the digital production inequality is set in is reflective of Western, or more specifically, American life; the inequalities stemming from race, gender, and socioeconomic status, of course, going to vary in countries and cultures found all over the world. I think it would be worthwhile to study content creation/ production inequalities in other non-western countries and cultures throughout the world.

Week 2

A topic that is referenced several times throughout Baym’s Personal Connections in the Digital Age is online dating, which is mentioned in the context of dating sites (which are not specifically identified, except one user on America Online). The landscape of online dating has changed dramatically from the early 2000’s to the present. Dating apps are becoming more commonplace than dating websites, and these apps are increasingly popular among young, college-aged adults. Additionally, the nature of online dating has changed in many dating apps. Several apps (like Tinder and Bumble) are based in the concept of seeing a few pictures and short biography for someone (rather than viewing a detailed profile), and choosing to “like” them or not; people are only able to message each other if they both “like” or “match” with each other. Different apps have varying defining features. For example, Bumble is unique in that only women can send the first message and initiate conversation with their matches.

A research topic that I think would be interesting is analyzing the messages send on new dating apps, looking at the response rates, and seeing how often conversations turn into dates and subsequently, relationships and marriages. Additionally, I think it would be worthwhile to analyze and compare success between different dating apps, and if using paid versions rather than free versions actually impacts success. Another similar area this is measuring how society’s views on using dating apps have changed in recent years; people may view dating apps as being geared more towards people looking for casual relationships rather than long-term commitment. Some believe that dating apps changed the dating world—mostly for the worst, by encouraging shallowness (because people must judge each other quickly from a few pictures and sentences) and a culture where people are hesitant to commit to a serious relationship because there are seemingly endless options on dating apps, causing people to believe the grass is always greener in another relationship.

Another topic touched on in Baym’s book is memes. Though the book discusses playful memes such as “LOLcats” and “Socially Awkward Penguin,” in the past few years, memes have become increasingly absurd, dark, and surreal. They can also be very political as well as self-depreciating, openly referencing topics such as mental health issues, sexuality, and suicide. They can act as a way for friends with a shared sense of humor to bond, or for someone to express their thoughts or views on a topic in a humorous way. Baym’s book mentions how memes begin in the site 4Chan, and then move to Reddit, and then sites like Facebook and Instagram. Recently, image memes have begun cropping up on Facebook and Instagram that either stay there, or migrate to Reddit and other sites. The most popular, prevalent ones are short-lived, only staying relevant for a few weeks. Several brands have tried to include references to these memes in their marketing strategy; one research idea could be to research the effectiveness of memes as a marketing tool.