Thoughts on Digital Media Technologies

            Before enrolling in this class called ‘Citizen Media and the Public Sphere’, I was not one to use the Internet for non-school related activities. I would barely use Facebook, I did not have Twitter or Instagram and I was not a YouTube junkie. I was highly resistant to using the Internet and digital media technologies because I feared my privacy would be infringed in the process. Also, I thought that I did not need those things to live a happy, normal life. But through this class that I am taking, it has taught me to embrace those technologies that are used by basically everyone now these days and to use them to better my knowledge and myself. Now, instead of me being highly critical of social media sites and the Internet in general, I have a liking towards it and a respect for it. I can look at something from the Internet in a positive critical way not a negative critical way.

            My other blog, Life at Laurier, is a depiction of my time at university and a commentary on some of the things I have experienced being a student at Wilfrid Laurier University. From that, I basically realized that sharing information does not mean that I have to give up my privacy concerns I hold close to me. It just means that I can be selective in what I share with others and only share those things that I feel comfortable with. Blogging has also taught me that there is a network of people out there that are genuinely supportive and just want some sort of interaction with others. Also, I am more skilled at searching the Web and figuring out what is legitimate and what is not. The Internet and World Wide Web can be beneficial and taking the time and effort to make sure that you know what you are doing is crucial for a well-rounded experience of using these technologies.


ReMIXed Culture

           Remixed culture, as Ben has made apparent in his blog, has taken over our society and allows us to be active in the recreation of culture. What is this? It is taking existing material and editing or combining it to make something new and creative. In essence, it is a free culture in which the constant recreation of what we know is encouraged and actively fostered. Using digital technology and the tools and software provided allows for easier manipulation of cultural artifacts and making it something new and innovative. I would argue that having some sort of remix culture makes for more participation in a culture that can sometimes seem like the hypodermic needle effect is what we live by.

            More than ever have we been able to control our choices over the web in terms of content and availability. So much information is out there and located at our fingertips – it just takes a little motivation to actively seek out the benefits of this abundance of information. What this abundance allows is the ability to be creative in how we choose to experience the world and it allows us choices that we might not normally get. Remixed culture can bring democracy and power back to the individual. Also, remixed media and culture allows others to see a glimpse of how someone else thinks about things that are put out there in the media.  Anything and everything we know is remixed. This is apparent in photographs, in music, in video games, in writing, and so much more. Having the ability to choose the way we are going to experience the culture around us is powerful and has major implications on where our society is headed in the near future. Post below about where you think we are going in terms of participatory culture and how remixes have affected your experience of culture.


Copyright or Copygift?

            Today we live in a society where information is in abundance but we are also living in an age where that information is copyrighted more than ever. The dichotomy between the free sharing of information and the protection of information is where we have a constant struggle of opposing views. McKenzie Wark discusses public and private ownership of information and states “information wants to be free but is everywhere in chains” suggesting a powerful difference in how we use information today. There is the emergence of a copyright culture in which anything and everything original in its means should be copyrighted for the purpose of limiting exact reproduction of the information that is copyrighted. What this means is that once someone copyrights certain information, that information cannot be used without recognition or consent of the copyright owner and that it cannot be used in a way that does not give credit to the copyright owner. This is a problem especially with the emergence of the sharing culture that the Internet provides because that means it can limit our creative abilities and what we have access to within our culture.

            To not be able to have full access to those things that are placed in culture and more importantly that make our culture defeats the purpose of evolution. How are we supposed to be creative and original when we cannot draw from the culture in which makes this possible? It is hard to argue either side because copyright is legitimate for those people who do have an original concept/idea/information so that they are protected in terms of use of their information. On the other side of this, realizing that we are limiting our abilities to draw from our own culture seems arbitrary. We should be able to use information that is put out there because we are apart of culture therefore we must own some part in it. All of our thoughts are transformations of what we see, hear, touch and smell that reside within our own culture. Having the ability to build from what information is already out there should be a good thing and positively affect those around us.  


Too much information or too much access?

            On the one side, with the emergence of new technologies such as the Internet, allows for easier access to information (personal and public) and a system in which data collection is conveniently recorded. Sometimes we are aware of this and other times we are not. On the other side, with social media sites for example, we are more willing to share personal information therefore allowing the surveillance of our information – or allowing the people we choose to have access to our information. Regardless, our online selves are probably being “creeped” at times we know of and at times we do not. Is there a difference between people we know seeing our information and people we do not know seeing it? That is a subjective question but deserves some recognition.

            I think I could speak for some when I say that of course it is odd thinking that other people whom we do not know can access our information but it is even more odd that we can know this and still post online. I think that people who have privacy issues should filter their content so they can be relieved knowing that personal information about themselves is not exploited over the Internet but that could also raise the issue of having freedom on the Web to do what one likes. I do not think that it is on the part of the people who collect information online to have to limit their abilities to creep – they have access to that information and arguably their own sense of freedom online. So, if you were worried about your information being seen or watched, I would say to turn that around on yourself and watch your own content over the Web. Only you can post information about yourself but once you do, unfortunately it is fair game to those that can access it.


Participatory Culture

            In our day of tech-savvy advancement most of our interests, hobbies, and abilities are found in some form on the Internet. Today we use the Internet not just as a tool for accessing information but we use it for entertainment, expanding artistic expression, a network of sharing and connection and a way to keep in touch with the world. UGC is a form of self-expression where information is produced and circulated over the Internet that can reach numerous amounts of people. I would say we live in a YouTube age where making videos about anything and everything is how we socialize and express ourselves which changes the way we communicate. Is this a good thing or bad thing? It is actually a great thing to be able to connect with millions of people through common interests and it transforms the masses from feelings of a global reach to feelings of close community. Participatory culture allows anyone to individualize their experience on the Internet and really showcase their thoughts and opinions in a way that is comfortable for them. It also allows us to be creative and open-ended where people can work together to create new relationships and ways of experiencing culture.

             It is fascinating being apart of this revolution of culture and seeing it change in front of my very eyes. Were not just experiencing this new sense of culture but we are creating it. We are taking a hold of what we like and reworking it into something new and that gets spit back out for others to consume and rework themselves. Nothing is permanent and we are not bound in our abilities. Participatory culture is a culture in which the masses decide what is legitimate and what is worth fighting for bringing democracy to another level. This new sense of culture gives power to the masses where power represents choice and endless options. Do you agree that participatory culture puts power in the hands of the citizen? Leave a comment with what YOU think participatory culture does for the masses.


The Internet: Loss of Critical Thought

            The Internet has revolutionized our current culture where it has led us to abolish ideas of time, which is durable media that can extend its worth over long periods and space, which is light and portable media that can be transported over long distances, for a more interconnected concept of culture (Innis and Watson 26). But has this interconnected idea of people and information gone too far? Although the Internet provides speed and accessibility of information and connection, it makes us less critical in how we perceive and use information today. Infobesity allows us to scan the Internet without cause and become ever so distracted in the process of finding what it is we are looking for. Jodi Dean claims that this distraction evades our critical thought (9). Being able to access copious amount of information leads us off topic allowing us to jump from source to source forgetting that some information posted on the Internet is not necessarily valid and truthful. Jaron Lanier makes note of the upsides to an abundance of information but proposes the system of the Internet is a messy one nonetheless (9). We no longer read in a linear fashion from beginning to end but rather jump from one topic to another reading short snippets of information until that information does not suit the interests of the reader. How does this affect our critical thinking? Nathaniel Poor discusses the open sources software as being open for the public where anyone can post what they like in any forum he or she chooses therefore the validity and truth of the information requires the reader to critically analyze what it is they are reading. Critical analysis is a skill that not everyone possesses and this alone can lead to a misunderstanding of truth and fact on the Internet.

            On the contrary, the Internet can aid us in being more critical of what we are finding. With the evolution of search engines we can now type specific words into a search bar that will pull up related information to the topic of choice. Keywords and phrases are used to optimize our choices on the Internet to specific searches we want to look for (Killoran 50). Also, with the use of scholarly websites this allows readers to not have to put their critical thinking cap on and know that the information they are looking for contains truth and validity.

            What is important to note is the Internet is a sharing network where finding information that you were not necessarily looking for but that you found in an easy, accessible manner is possible.  Michael Warner discusses online publics as a social space that is a reflexive circulation of information and discourse where information is abundant (420).  This means that anyone can put information onto the Internet where millions of people have access to so the misconception that if something is posted onto the Internet it must be true, is false in every way possible. It is better to approach the Internet and the information posted on it with skepticism and a critical eye.

Work Cited

Dean, Jodi. Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2010. Web. 5 February 2013.

Innis, Harold, and Alexander J. Watson. Empire and Communications. Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited, 2007. Web. 25 February 2013.

Killoran, John B. “How to Use Search Engine Optimization Techniques to Increase Website Visibility.” IEEE Transaction on Professional Communication 56.1 (2013): 50-66. Web. 25 February 2013.

Lanier, Jaron. You Are Not a Gadget. NY, eds. Knopf, 2010. Web. 15 January 2013.

Poor, Nathaniel. “Mechanisms of an online public sphere: The website Slashdot.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10.2 (2005). Web. 22 January 2013.

Warner, Michael. “Publics and Counterpublics (abbreviated version).” Quarterly Journal of Speech 88.4 (2002): 413-425. Web. 15 January 2013.

Welcome to my blog!

            Before I dive into the world of blogging, I figure I would introduce myself and the reason why I have started this blog. I am a student at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Communication Studies department and I have loved every bit of my experience here. I am in my last year of undergraduate studies and am in this class called Citizen Media and the Public Sphere where we interact and analyze what it is to be a citizen in our mediated world. Sounds great right? I would say so. That is why I am starting this blog. Our professor has asked us to get involved in our world of media and see how it affects our lives and what types of discourses we develop about how we use media today.

            There is something to say about our new and evolved public sphere that resides online within the Internet. It allows affordances, which are qualities of an object or environment that allow individuals to perform an action, to be at our very fingertips. The Internet allows us to reach copious amounts of information, people and resources in a fast paced manner. It also allows us to live in a more democratic society filled with opinions of all people. With that being said, exploring the online world will hopefully open many doors that were previously closed and allow for learning new things about how citizens use media today. I look forward to sharing my experience and what I have learned in the process!