Media log: summary – Part Two

Being conscious about my media habits made me aware of a few tendencies or trends in my media interaction:

 

1) Smaller bites

I can definitely say I consume a smaller number of books than I used to but I don’t read less than I used to.  What happened is that since becoming a mom with a little one to care for, and since I’ve discovered the breadth and availability of great writing on the web, printed hard copy materials have taken a back seat in my life. In general, hard copy books are longer pieces which a) require some uninterrupted stretches of time to read;  b) require a measure of dedicated concentration I find a bit harder to find; and c) require space that is becoming a premium in our lives: on our shelves, on my table, in my bag that I carry.  Mind you, the digital format has made it possible to carry a LOT more books in a compact format: I do have about 900 titles on my MacBook. In general I am now reading a lot of shorter (ummmm, 140 characters?) bits: articles, posts, and the longest article I ever read was not longer than a typical novel or book that I read.  However, coming to this realization has made me sort of sad: I MISS the immersive experience of getting lost in a book, sitting on the sofa and reading cover-to-cover in one day. Hasn’t happened in a long time. 

 

2) Clicky finger problem

Oh, it’s just so so easy for me to get stuck in browsing and clicking from one topic to the next, especially since I very recently started to “get” Twitter and come across links on a minute by minute basis. I often experience information overload – to me that means taking it all in, usually some drivel mixed in with the good stuff (though some of it’s good drivel: fantasy couple fan-made music videos on YouTube) and it’s stuff that goes nowhere. That is, I can read and watch and listen to tons of things, take it in and sometimes I wonder that it has no effect other than immediate mental gratification – no action, no betterment, no movement towards improving or changing something. Yes, I think that information is good if it is useful, if it helps me and my circle and society and community to be more connected, more creative and more humane.

 

In fact, after observing myself for 4 months, I think the movement actually is towards the worse: there are many nights I tend to stay up way later than if I just didn’t browse “just these 3 more sites” and thus have less sleep, and I am conscious of time at night I could have spent talking to my partner that I used instead to watch some streaming video.   This wasn’t exactly a new realization, but it’s been accelerated by my new involvement on Twitter and with Tumblr.  

 

3) More than less

This is an odd trend because we have been making very conscious efforts in our home to REDUCE stuff. Early this fall, we sorted and donated/sold 300+ books in our home and gave away about 300 cds of music (after very carefully making 3 backups of all the files). So there is less media in physical formats in our place.  But in terms of digital media, it’s all too easy to collect more. Case in point: do I really NEED to download all 16 new podcasts from my feeds every week? It isn’t possible to listen to them all. And I subscribe to many more feeds in Google reader than I can possibly keep up with. I have put 900+ ebooks on my MacBook of which I will read a fraction during my lifetime. And I stopped downloading music after I realized how many unheard albums I had in iTunes.  In this I want to apply the principles we adopt in our physical space to my digital/mental space. 

 

4)  The hardware rocks

More and more of our interaction with media takes place on smaller and smaller devices which have really astounding capbilities. That is not a profound realization. What is is the fact that in our household, we really really like those smaller devices and have had a tendency to purchase them off the bat because they were dazzling and usually, on sale.  It’s so easy to collect the gadets for all sort of different and multiple purposes, but turnover and the rate of falling out of love with those devices has made me realize that new can be GOOD, but to serve our lives and purposes well, it must also be USEFUL, and be of ADDED value, not a detractor (=time waster). There have been such a proliferation lately of amazing gadgets (maybe that’s my observation because M and I have been more watchful of tech news this past semester) and we would really really like to own some of them.  My question is: do we NEED them? 

 

I’ve come up with a personal process/guidelines, still pretty rough, for any acquisition of the next awesome little device in a timely and deliberate fashion, not just because it’s shiny and new and nice, but because:

  • something that we are currently using has become unusable and really needs to be replaced (i.e. the laptop that chugs and whirs and bogs down);
  • there is a new function (or functions) the gadget performs that we rate as important enough in our lives to want to include it (i.e. the tablet/phone for M once his existing phone plan expires);
  • we have made an honest assesment about how we are going to spend our money and look at the long-term investment value of the device rather than its bling;
  • the quality, UI and features of the gadget are reputable and reliable, even if it means we are spending more.

These are some of the things I’ve observed over the months. I liked the mindfulness of the exercise.

Media log: summary – Part One

This is my review of my media log, as assigned by Professor Hays on Day 1 of this course. 

 

The exercise of tracking and logging personal media interaction and consumption habits was difficult, more difficult than I expected, mostly because of the ubiquitous presence of media in so many different forms in so many areas of our lives – there is not a sphere of life that is NOT touched by media: home life, work life, family time, exercise time, recreational pursuits – some form of media is THERE. The one exception, which I was hyperconsciously aware of this semester, was when our family went for a walk along the river shore – just a walk, ambling along the edge of the water, no cameras, no phones, no music – only conversation and each others’ company.  It was memorable because it was unique. 

 

There was too much to record and I didn’t know HOW to keep track of all of my media activities in a way that would make sense or that was doable.  However, I am satisfied that what I ended up doing, though less detailed than I would have liked, was doable in the context of time and my daily work and home life and responsibilities. 

 

The image that encapsulates what keeping this log has been like is the one introduced very early on in class, that of Arjun Appadurai’s Mediascapes and his concept of “strips of reality.”  Layers on layers on layers of bits and pieces, but with no context, no background, the resulting image is a fractured version of the person doing the seeing and consuming.  This is one of the questions that has been ever present in mind since signing up for this class: what does my media interaction say about me to anyone who might be witness to it?  

 

There are the passive and active interactions with media. Even though observation of both would be inadequate to give a REAL sense of what most people are like,  the tru-er version of a person, in this case me, is probably more apparent in the active interactions than the former. By active interaction I mean engagement with the media that involves sharing, posting, commenting, telling, writing, acting on something in response to the item that crossed my path, “item” being the media bit.  Through observation of the passive interactions (read/hear/see something), how can that give any semblance of an accurate reflection of what a person is really like, other than it passed their radar? 

 

We can make assumptions that if a person re-posts items about a vampire show, she must loooooove Twilight and be goth, or that if she tweeted something from the Bible she must be a very religious person and form our opinion about someone based on a very very narrow view of their expressed interest. That being said, there certainly are people who are very public about their business/professional lives and that to one extent, their presence and interactions freely knowable on the web and in media do present a version of their “real” self,  of what they are really like, or what they really like to do. Alexander Samuel, recently appointed Director of Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, who I discovered just this past month, is an example of such a life; her writing on her blog, tweets, and publicly available other streams are watch-worthy in their openness of her thoughts and activities, as she shared here about her excitement in trying out Path, yet another social media platform: “As someone who blogs or tweets just about anything that is less personal than the above, I was excited about finally unleashing my remaining .0003% of undocumented moments onto the Internet.” 

 

Though I have become open to the idea of having a life online, and am ok with putting my thoughts and words “out there,” this media log being another small piece in that public extension, I still marvel at people who’ve taken that much of a further step in blurring public and private.  For now, though, l am comfortable with my level of social engagement and web presence even if I have concluded that “strips” is all people can make of each other without moving things to face-to-face realtime interaction. 

In the Present. Demand Delays

While our culture of technology preaches the gospel of “constant connectivity” with the fervor of a televangelist, there are a growing number of us who have realized that salvation is found the seemingly heretical choice to occasionally be out of the loop, uninformed and essentially delayed in our awareness of the electronically available “now”.

A number of times since I’ve started my course in September, I’ve thought about the value of unplugging. Stumbled across another’s utterance along the same vein, expressed well.

Social theory in practice via Mean Girls

Meangirls

Was reading in our class textbook about the Birmingham School of “audience” theory, and the cultural studies approach to looking at media. 

I think there is MUCH validity in this approach, about how people construct their identities via media images and texts by taking them on and sometimes re-interpreting them to fit into the who they want to portray themselves as. I know this is a sweeping generalization about the theory and that it overlooks the intricacies that to some, made this approach lacking in comprehensiveness. But this version of media theory is the one that resonates most deeply with the way I am looking at media right now. 

Reminded me of my most favorite scene in Mean Girls, where Lindsay Lohan’s character is looking out over the lunch room cafeteria and grouping the school cliches, and they come to “Asian geeks” and then “cool Asians.” That’s cultural self- (some would say imposed) identification overdone in a nutshell. Loved the generalization and the semi-truth in how her character comes to see the school social order.

Our bodies are going online – but where will it lead us?

Media_httpthenextwebc_ojcrj

Internet-connected implants

That’s just sensors on the outside of our bodies; imagine what implants could do. The organ sensors we began this post with might be just the start. There are already Internet-connected pacemakers, where might we end up? If an Internet-connected implant was attached to our brain at all times, interpreting our thoughts, we may be able to dictate an email by thought alone or order a pizza for when we get home just by thinking about it.

This may sound like science fiction, but our knowledge of how the brain works is increasing, with brain-controlled movement of prosthetic limbs and even “mind reading” developing. It may not be next year, or even this decade but our brains could well be Internet-connected eventually. You think people would reject such an idea? Not everyone would opt for such an “enhancement” but if the benefits are great enough, some would. Back in 2007, 11% of respondents in a survey said they were very or somewhat likely to accept an online brain implant if it could be done safely……

It may sound like a distant nightmare but it’s a perfectly possible conclusion for a sequence of technologies that are already being developed. Just be thankful that you’re likely to be dead before the scenario rears its head.

Our prof has mentioned something like this a few times, that tech-controlled body-related developments are a future possibility and that he is generally wary of such “advances”.

Well, here we are, a few steps closer to this new reality.

MIT New Media Literacies for the 21st Century

MIT New Media Literacies for the 21st Century

Here is my version of the MIT New Media Literacies list, which is part of the Project New Media Literaies: Learning in a Participatory Culture which is sponsored by the McArthur Foundation. Unfortunately, the original documentary seems to identify interesting skills, however it seems to place no priority on particular skills which will have the most use for workers and citizens of the 21st century. As such, I’ve created a list which reflects popular scholarship and insight on these issues. The new skills for navigating the communication challenges of the 21st century include:

1) Play: the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving.
2) Negotiation: the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.
3) Judgment: the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources.
4) Collective intelligence: the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal.
5) Networking: the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information.
6) Appropriation: the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content.
7) Responsibility & Awareness: (this is not included in the original and is critical to wise decision making and privacy. Also ethics, responsibility, citizenship, along with issues of copywrite and plagerism)
8] Design & Design Thinking (this is not included in the original and is fundamental to 50%+ of communication online)

To me, the failure of the MIT New media literacy list to include the above two is truly re-miss. Howard Garners 5 New Minds for the Future would suggest that at a minimum that Responsibility and Awareness belongs on the list–and given his passion for creativity and different modes of learning and thinking would include #8 as well (it could be the MIT project has a page which contextualizes these two issues–however the failure to prioritize them is a striking omission).

A suggested list of ways our thinking and learning are being transformed via the interaction with media and tech.

It makes me think of the things that my son will be picking up without even trying and how some skills he will have to be taught to be able to better navigate all the streams of information that will probably be part of his normal learning and social environment. Who is it that should be teaching these skills? School? Teachers? us at home?

We at home will have a large part to do with it, because of the presence of the internet in our house, and thus, there is some responsibility on our part to be aware of the things Theo should learn and to also be taught, ourselves, so that we can in turn teach him.

There is a lot of teaching and learning to be done, for ALL of us.

Only some strips of reality: question from class

Strips_of_reality

PROF’s question in class, based on Arjun Appadurai’s “strips of reality” concept: If people could see what and how you engage with media, what would that tell them about who you are, about what you value? 

MY ANSWER: a limited, fractional view about who I am and what I value

RATIONALE:  People can perceive a limited sliver about who I am based on media usage and engagement, at least, so far in my life. My professional life is not completely public like some tech personalities (i.e. Kevin Rose, Pete Cashmore) whose professional accomplishments and activities are documented and followed by many people on the web.  Neither is my personal life, and what facets people may read or see about me are still only tiny “strips,” which taken piece-meal, give a very skewed version of “me.”

Example #1:

I posted something a fews weeks ago on my personal blog about watching HBO’s True Blood and following some blogs and podcasts about the show. I also started following one of those blogs on twitter.

Based on these facts, someone may conclude that I am a vampire freak and goth and really into horror and blood and sex.  

Example #2:

On FaceBook, I “like” a Baptist church group in Burnaby. Based on this affinity, someone may conclude that I am a Bible-thumping, right wing fundamentalist Christian. 

 

More and more on the web, people have public and private versions of selves, though the younger generation are seemingly more careless, or are still figuring out what those distinctions are. In consideration of this new reality that we work and engage in, I am conscientiously piecing together a more realistic, holistic public self by updating my LinkedIn profile, paying attention to what I write in the “about me” sections of various social and blog sites, creating a personal landing page (flavors.me) where I can choose what public pages about me people can link to and find if they care to, and by carefully reviewing and tweaking privacy settings on other sites. 

But I am aware that my public self is also somewhat constructed, since I am selecting what I want to make known.  I mean, people can always try and dig up dark and secret things about people or even falsify them. But to the extent that I can control what is put out on the net about me, the more I can feel okay about the line between private/public and about which “strips” get known. 

 

HBO’s True Blood: media out of the ordinary

Anyone who knows me knows that over the summer I was….er…… bitten by a compelling vampire bug. NO, not Twilight, but HBO’s bloody/gory/sex-&-violence filled True Blood, based on Charlene Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series of books. Coming late to the series (it’s been out for 2 years already, but I just discovered it about a month ago), I had a few weeks of late late nights but then I caught up to the current series. It wasn’t too bad, considering that there are a measly12 episodes per season for this particular drama. 

(Hello, Eric Northman, vampire Sheriff of Area 5.)

But still, similar to my experience watching Battlestar Galactica 4 or so years ago, what being in any current season of any show means is that every week one has to WAIT 7 days for the next episode, torture for me, especially when there are multi-faceted, attractive and compelling characters coupled with intense plot and sly social commentary. True Blood has all 3 aspects, though the plot waxed lame at some points. But what waiting meant was that I have to get my next episode fix in other ways, and for True Blood, there was and remains a deep deep pool of media alternatives that whet, fed, and teased my imagination until the next episode aired.

It was my screaming desire to know “what happens next” as well as all the backstories about the verrrrry interesting characters that took me to a very well-done site, Loving True Blood in Dallas.  The site is linked to a weekly podcast on Talk Blood Radio that introduced me to another site, True-Blood.net.

These 2 sites are comprehensive: both are so open to community interaction and have components that can be accessed via twitter, facebook, email, via the blog, via iTunes – with forums, spoiler sections, character and cast bios, interviews, video clips, galleries and even contests to win sundry and books. I mean, these aren’t network or corporate sites: they are sites for fans, by fans.

Speaking of fanfiction, I also spent an hour or so at a stretch reading up on fans’ re-imaginings of the various series plotlines on FanFiction.net, where at current count, there are about 1,300 posted stories based on the True Blood show and book series. Plenty there that satisfied my craving for more True Blood each week. 

More? There are TONS of YouTube videos: in addition to the official HBO trailers and clips, there are choreographed music and video remixes, usually love stories from a certain perspective between certain characters from the show. 

Why this is of any note, other than the sheer insanity in the number of media alternatives there are out there related to the one weekly show: podcasts, blogs, online contests, fan-made art galleries, videos, fiction, show clips among them, is that my media consumption had taken an extraordinary spike since the start of August till now. But now that the season finale aired this past week, I expect that my reading/browsing/listening habits will revert back to “normal” and now hours each week (probably about 6 or 7) will be freed up for other pursuits.

 

 

 

 

Media log: Google Reader subscriptions snapshot

A pretty accurate snapshot of part of my almost-daily media consumption is a scan of my google reader feeds. I don’t read ALL of them, obviously – life and time do go one outside of web news clips – but I do scan most of them on most days. 

On weekends, I often don’t get to them and on Monday I sometimes have a horrific number of items in the mid-high hundreds that have been unread. My solution now? MARK ALL AS READ. No use mourning news 3 days old in a world where there are 1000’s of fresh items that are there TODAY. If they are really important, the stories will be repeated. 

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The study of media and communications, JOUR 307

First day of class, first time in a university class in 10 years. I’m actually pretty pumped about it.

Ongoing assignment for this class? To keep a running media log. Sounds interesting but what are the parameters? It could take FOREVER for me to record what I do on the net and with other “hard copy” media on a daily basis. Prof says he will provide guidelines. 

One thing that’s certainly changed: our “classroom” is a computer lab and our “desks” consist of spaces so dominated by large monitors that I cannot see over the tops of them to see all my classmates’ faces.

Look forward to the first actual class next Monday.

Key concepts in this class for me:
  • a “mediaverse”
  • identity of nations conceived and perceived through mass media, as disseminated and perpetuated on a global scale
  • patterns of media consumption/interaction/intake