As probably most of you know, this past Tuesday evening there was a controversial event at Smith college.  The Smith Republican Club invited a speaker named Ryan Sorba to give a lecture entitled “The Born Gay Hoax”.  Before and after the actual event, Smith’s online forum which is part of the “daily jolt” website was overrun with postings about the controversy.  The postings were mainly questions about what would be the proper action to take against the speech and the concept of free speech in reference to the event.  Sorba’s speech was ultimately met with a massive, raucous protest using queer activism protest techniques meant to silence the voice of Sorba, who’s lecture was meant to deny queer people of our identity, and ultimately our voices.  Protest techniques such as chanting, sitting with backs facing the speaker, and public displays of affection were utilized.  Many of the protesters were close friends of mine who felt their efforts were successful, as Sorba eventually left the room unable to share his speech.  I am curious about the daily jolt forum’s role in this controversy.  I believe this forum created a space for dialogue about the event, but I also believe that the anonymity of the forum created a problematic divide between people who were opposed to the ideas that Sorba intended to articulate in his speech.  Some of the buzz words that have come up in postings about the event are “ashamed” and “inappropriate” in reference to the protest tactics used, as well as “you gave him what he wanted”.  Furthermore, outside of the online forum, these words were used again by Smith students in a Hampshire class of mine today when we were asked to describe the incident.  Controversial situations usually produce buzz words, due to the amount of communication that surrounds them.  The forum brought this dialogue into our dorm rooms, our classrooms, and essentially anywhere that a computer could be accessed.  I found myself reading and posting about the issue in the early hours of the morning, and the late hours of the night, when I would normally be sleeping.  The amount of dialogue that went into this event was facilitated by the use of the daily jolt forum.  I hold strong to the belief that the protest was empowering and successful, and many of the posts on the daily jolt struck a rough chord with me personally, yet I believe that they were necessary.  I am glad that such a broad dialogue was created about this event, and I hope that it continues to infiltrate our thoughts and conversations.  I think that although the forum spurned a lot of passionate interactions and the exchange of opinions, that in order for it to be effective, it should be brought outside of the anonymous digital world of the daily jolt.  

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Because I firmly believe that theory is only one portion of scholarship, here is a list of resources that can help anyone who is interested move from rumination to action.

Some of my favorite scholars on digital worlds:

With the telekinetic monkey and 24/7 soldier, and whatever other enhancements for humans that may become available in the future, I wonder what the true benefits to humankind these will offer.  We focused on this in class–will people willfully subject themselves to these ‘improvements’ to gain new powers and abilities, or will they simply try to preserve what it means to be “human”?  

The concept of evolution and especially Darwinism addresses the concept that a single species will try to perpetuate their own kind for an indefinite period of time.  This includes the concept of survival of the fittest.  Inevitably the best-fit individuals will outcompete the ‘weaker’ individuals so that the better genes will be in the gene pool, continually making the population more fit for survival.  We see that as time goes on, when you compare states A and B, chances are you’ll see a drastic change in the environment, climate, competitors, food sources, and other things.  Social Darwinists took this concept with respect to superiority of people and to legitimize slavery, etc.  Similarly, evolution can occur with respect to technology, as we have seen happen since the medieval ages, and even before.  

Heilbroner argues that the advancement of technology also facilitates the evolution of people in terms of skills and knowledge, and as a result our interactions with one another also change.  The entire social structure changes.  It may be a slow transformation, as are most things in the natural world.  Comparing the organic to the synthetic is interesting because anything that we create came from the natural world, no matter how one tries to argue it.  So, with this development of new products, in particular the two that I mentioned, we are essentially creating a new type of human sub-species.  These enhancements surely affect how effective, efficient, and innovative we will become, but I wonder where will be the point/when will this change from Homo sapiens to Homo sapiens technologica (really creative, I know) occur?  And will our species be replaced by the new incomers?  

Perhaps I am thinking way in the future, but nonetheless it is evident today the ‘new’ type of athletes that compete with the ‘normal’ ones that do not undergo any doping or enhancement treatments.  These are basically the new athlete (sub?-)species for which new rules for competition like drug testing have been implemented =sociocultural change.

I feel like what has been fabricated in scifi may actually become real somewhere in the near future and I’m not sure if I am ecstatic or just scared by the fact though, it would be interesting to see some of this technology to be in its near-final stage of development…

Michael Wesch is an anthropology professor at Kansas State University and has made a series of videos with his students that address some of the issues we have discussed in our exploration of digital ecology.

This one in particular made me thing of a lot of points brought up in the classroom (some directly, some indirectly).

This video has come up in several different contexts for me in the last year. On one level, this is a video about students, “how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime.” But it was created in the collaborative context we have discussed this semester – real time edits to a Google Doc. And what it reveals is a student body inextricable from the technology they utilize and that surrounds them. In fact, technology is a huge focus in this video.

My favorite quotes:

“When I graduate I will probably have a job that doesn’t exist today.”

“I will write 42 pages for class this semester. and over 500 pages of email.”

“I am a multi-tasker. (I have to be).”

Me too.

In the past few weeks, friends of mine have been buzzing about the new(ish) facebook chat application.  Launched less than 2 weeks ago, facebook chat does not seem to have gained much momentum in terms of popularity.  I have yet to been “imed” (a slang term meaning messaged via an instant messenger) by anyone on this chat, nor have I taken the opportunity to use it myself.  I wonder why this application has gone basically unnoticed, at least to my knowledge?

 

I believe that instant message users become very comfortable with their messaging service and it becomes difficult to switch over. Also, it seems that instant messaging is a more involved internet practice, whereas checking facebook is almost as popular of an activity as checking your email.  So will facebook chat gain as much momentum as facebook itself?  Or is communicating directly with peers non-appealing?

I came across an article in the NYT yesterday about GTA IV sales and Take-Two Interactive’s (the game’s publisher) stock market value. What intrigued me about the article is the fact that GTA IV’s sales are already soaring. Having played GTA since its entry in 1997, I’ve always been interested in what functions it serves. While it is a very fascinating and dynamic game that provides gamers with an in-depth story line, I’ve often times seen gamers dismiss the plot line and missions in order to “play around” and simply steal cars, run people over and cause a ruckus. I myself can attest to the fact that I’ve played the game in this way and for that reason I’m interested in the issue of how technology enables us to live out taboo fantasies. This is an issue that’s been the underpinning of many of our discussions in class. (We explored the issue in talking about Second Life.) But I’m curious to hear what other people think about the point at which these technologies stop being an effective outlet for us to explore/play with our fantasies and starts being a proponent of negative consequences/actions in real life.

A couple weeks ago I came across an article in the Times about a fight between teenagers that was filmed and put on YouTube. The article brought to mind an article that I read last semester about the same kind of circumstance. (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/13/nyregion/13video.html) I am continually shocked when I read such articles. Primarily, it is incredibly upsetting that these fights occur but moreover it astounds me that teenagers are uploading videos of themselves being violent towards other teenagers. It is a clear indicator that not only are they unaware of the consequences of their actions but also that they feel somehow rewarded by posting their poor behavior online. The first example of this kind of behavior that I encountered was in my senior of year of high school. There were a few students from a nearby high school that were arrested and given MIAs and MIPS (minor in attendance and minor in possession). Soon after their sentence, they stole the district court sign and took photos of themselves drinking in front of the sign. They later posted these photos online with an angry caption belittling the judge. When the judge was doing research for a speech that he had to give, he came across the photos and the students were sentenced again. I am curious to hear what others think about why individuals are inclined to post such things online in such a public sphere.