Monday, April 3, 2017

Blog Eleven: "Reclaiming Conversation" by Sherry Turkle (Cont'd)

This week, my partner and I will be discussing the second part of Turkle's book.  Several of the themes discussed in the latter portion of the book seemed to be more applicable to my life.  She discusses many topics, but the overuse of technology and social media within work and educational environments was mist interesting to me.  These two areas are most relatable for me, and I understood her examples most clearly.  

One major problem she addresses is the fact that so many people have become less likely to participate in one-on-one, face-to-face interactions (e.g. meetings, group work).  They would prefer to interact via email, text or social media.  She explains how losing these human connections are not only a problem for students and workers themselves, but also for the employers.  Employers are now charged with the task of gaining the attention of their employees and encouraging more personal interactions in the workplace.  

One of the main problems she addresses in the educational environment is students who text during class.  She states some statistics that prove that students are prone to checking their phone throughout discussions and lectures, and many of these students admit to doing so.  One interesting examples she uses is how one of her smaller, much more intimate classes she teaches allows for personal stories to be shared.  She discourages any use of technology during this time, but she has noticed that students have broken her rule.  She explains that she doesn't even have to patrol the classroom during this time, because students would come to her office hours to confess that they had been checking their phone while someone was speaking about his or her personal experiences.  Even the students understand and feel as though it devalues class time.  

Personally, I can relate to the whole "texting in class" epidemic.  I am also a student who feels as though technology is begging for me to give it some attention throughout my entire day.  Even during my most personal time, I feel obligated to open and respond to a text message. 

Turkle talks a lot about how multitasking is overtaking our lives.  She offers several steps to help reciprocate the problem.  Unitasking was my favorite tool she mentions.  She says we should focus on one thing and devote enough time to just that thing.  Even if it means shutting our phones off, it accomplishes the goal at hand.  She also says to "take our time."  She cites examples of how her research shows that students tend to look for the answer, rather than an explanation or the process behind finding that answer.  They are "always on," connected and engaged.  We are always rushed, and something "else" is always begging for our attention.  Where does this leave teachers?  How are they supposed to compete with technology? 


Turkle, Sherry. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York, New York: Penguin Press.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Blog Ten: "Reclaiming Conversation" by Sherry Turkle

This week's assigned reading, "Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age," by Sherry Turkle, reiterated what I have heard elders repeat over and over since the unveiling of smartphones - such impersonal devices continue to ruin how we communicate face-to-face.

It isn't very difficult to see how true this has become.  I, for one, have noticed it multiple times every day since I can remember.  For example, I worked in retail for a couple of years, and it is here where I noticed many people dependent on smartphones and less apt to engage in interpersonal communication.  Of course, in retail, associates are trained to engage with patrons, so it becomes difficult to do so when this is the new mentality.  A simple head nod is the extent of some, maybe most, of these peoples' one-on-one, daily interactions.  Even if I would strike up a conversation, many customers would find some kind of way to divert from having to speak, many times grabbing and focussing on their phone, as if they were about to miss something important.  This is when I realized that the Digital Age had brought with it major drawbacks for traditional communication.  

I have to admit that I am not a total exception to this phenomenon.  I notice myself gravitating toward Internet usage in restaurants, bars, doctor's appointments, etc.  All of these places offer face-to-face interaction with individuals who are sitting (maybe) three feet from you, but we insist on grabbing our phone instead.  We miss out in interpersonal communication which is what has stimulated humans since near the beginning of time.  For instance, if I was to engage with someone who is waiting on side of me in the doctor's office, I could learn more about that person, and he could learn more about me.  Without getting entirely personal, we could learn about each other while offering a listening ear and/or an opinion to each other.  There was a time when this was normal.  Turkle says the Digital Age offered more connectivity and less personal communication.  I agree completely. 

I found it particularly interesting when Turkle mentions how humans readily admit that they would prefer am email or a text message over a phone call or a face-to-face meeting.  Once again, her example rang true with me.  I tell people all the time that "I don't like phone calls; I prefer texting."  What does this say about me as a communicator?  My coworkers are the same.  We all tend to sigh aloud when we read that we have an upcoming meeting.  Many of us even say, "Why can't he or she just email us?"  

Turkle says that reclaiming conversation won't be easy, because we usually resist.  She continues to explain how computers stay out during meetings, and constant interruptions interrupt group work.  This sounds familiar to me too; in my classes, my laptop is usually out, just in case I receive a text message or an email and someone needs me.  The only way to cure this problem is to actually try.  We must put away the digital tools in order to at least try to reciprocate the problem.

Surfing the web was another one of Turkle's major points.  She says that particularly among college students, they surf the web to avoid boredom.  This plays into the whole "interruptions" theme at school and in the classroom.  This is another guilty pleasure of mine (and my friends).  If the class material is not the most exciting, we simply engage in online surfing to make up for this boredom.  Imagine the amount of information we would retain if we closed the laptops and were somewhat forced into hearing the information presented in class.  The Digital Age has offered students a way out actually learning.  It has offered ways to navigate around areas of study that may or may not interest them at all.  I am guilty of doing this, and I find it extremely dangerous.   

I could discuss so many areas of the first half of this book in this post, but I'll save more for next week.  This topic has been the most relatable for me, and I'm looking forward to reading and discussing more next week.  


Turkle, Sherry. (2015). Reclaiming conversation: The power of talk in a digital age. New York, New York: Penguin Press.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blog Nine: Privacy & More

This week's readings opened my eyes to the privacy issues dealing with big data collection and more.  Before reading these articles, I was unaware of how effective such campaigns really are.  I have always understood that my activity online had the potential to be tracked by marketers, etc., but never did I believe that the tracking could (or should) be done to this extent.  It made me take a step back and realize just how effective these targeted messages are, along with their potential going forward.  

One part of me, while reading this material, asked the question, "What's the big deal?"  As I continued reading, I felt as though many of the tactics used by professionals to gain users' data are driven by the desire to learn more about such users without having to ask a single question.  In my opinion, this is dangerous.  In other words, there is no true consent.  The amount of online tracking by these professionals exceeds the "marketing" threshold and inches into intentional violation of personal privacy among online users.  For instance, I do not mind marketers understanding my likes and dislikes, based on my online activity.  This does enable them to create messages that are more tailored to me.  I then begin to see more of what I enjoy seeing in advertisements, etc.  This becomes a problem when the online tracking is done for various other reasons that are less for such reasons.  One example of this would be tracking someone's online use for the sole purpose of persuading him or her of one political ideal or another.  This tracking has now begun for the benefit of political campaigns.  In my opinion, this is alright to do to gain knowledge of the voter base, but politics should not be a subject that allows for online manipulation, based on a person's online activity. 

I agreed with dana boyd's article, when she said that we should find a happy medium on this subject, rather than ruling out all surveillance technology.  I believe she is correct when she says that new technologies can and should be embraced, but there is a line drawn between helpful and harmful surveillance.  She also says that many people cry for help via social media.  If there is not a pair of eyes looking for signs of this, many peoples' calls for help would go unnoticed.  This put the online tracking into perspective for me on an entirely different level.  

I believe that Kevin Kelly sums it up best when he says, "If today's social media has taught us anything about ourselves as a species it is that human impulse to share trumps human impulse for privacy."  This made me take a step back and think about my own thoughts on this topic.  Do I have the same concerns as I had while reading these articles when I'm posting Snapchat stories about what I'm doing, where I am, and with whom I am doing these things?

There is valid cause for concern in some aspects of this data collection and online surveillance, but I think it begins with consumers themselves asking questions and taking a stand, prioritizing personal privacy over social media use.  

The readings for the week can be found here:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Blog Eight - Affective Publics: Sentiment, Technology, and Politics

This week's primary reading, "Affective Publics: Sentiment, Technology, and Politics,"  focussed on emerging media that have given publics the power to become as involved as they would like with current events and online stories.  Zizi Papacharissi studies the balance between affect and ideology among publics.  She discusses the power behind both the technology of online networking and the narratives we create for ourselves.

What I found most intriguing about this subject was how newer platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) have changed the ways in which news is distributed and consumed.  For instance, at one time, people would receive the news and comment among their social group what they thought about a given issue.  These platforms have forever changed the ways in which stories are told and narratives are created.  Papacharissi explains how individuals can now consume the news and present his or her own "take" on that particular subject matter.  

She even discusses how this opens up more discourse on subjects that at one time may have been too sensitive to discuss as openly as they are now.  The topic of Feelings is one of the major differences associated with these new media.  More of a sentiment of true feelings is present in narratives created today.  Social media has allowed for people to tell stories that have personally impacted them in one way or another, which creates stronger bonds among our networks.  

Papacharissi also mentions a couple of  more recent political movements like Occupy and explains how they are all different yet alike in some ways.  She says that emotion is the common denominator.  These movements, she argues, would not gain as much traction if they did not include the emotional factor presented by various online voices.  I agree completely with this.  One way of proving it is by looking at videos and articles that are shared the most online.  Most (if not all) of them have that emotional component mixed within, which is why so many people feel obligated to share it among friends.  

Research in the book suggests that social media increase feelings of engagement among publics.  Social media users are more apt to feel a sense of belonging and fellowship among their networks of friends and acquaintances.  This was not shocking, but it was affirming to know that research does actually back up that statement. 

The section concerning the hybridity of news storytelling practices on Twitter was interesting as well.  It was news to me that the journalistic conventions that I've learned throughout my education in journalism are upheld for the most part among mainstream media on Twitter.  The same virtues that are crucial to news are applied to Twitter streams as well.  I also learned that the characteristic of instantaneity that you would relate more so to Twitter is also closely related to the 24-hour news cycle.  They are both pushing out information as quickly as possible.  Twitter, according to the text, is still ahead of the game when it comes to disseminating news the quickest.

This book was a good read.  I feel like much of what I read were things that I had always thought about but had never seen research to which I could compare my thoughts.  I would recommend this book for anyone who would like to know more about the relationships we make online through social media and how such networks affect our ideologies and our storytelling.

The supplementary journal article, "The Affordance Effect: Gatekeeping and (non)reciprocal Journalism on Twitter," by Groshek and Tandoc, was complementary to the primary reading.  It explained, using examples of certain cases (e.g. Fergusson protests), how such events were tracked on Twitter based on networks and their primary thought leaders.  This further explained the emotional aspect of what gained traction online and how all of those voices were interconnected.  As a person who does not actively use Twitter, I found it interesting to learn about its huge network, all relying on the usage of just 140 characters per tweet.  Those 140 characters can have extremely powerful effects.  

Monday, March 6, 2017

Blog Seven - Indian Country: Telling a Story in a Digital Age

This book offers a new perspective on storytelling as we know it. Two different angles are presented. One is how the digital shift has changed storytelling and the other is how it impacted Native American communities (and journalism). It was an interesting read with insight from many Native American journalists' personal viewpoints. Most of them agree that the Native American culture with respect to the digital world has increased the distribution of such stories and had a positive impact on the culture itself.

For years, Native Americans have told stories through words, art, medicine, and more. However, the book explains how, now, these stories are extended into the digital world. While many of these stories were simply shared communally, now such discussions can take place within Native communities or non-Native communities. This allows for the spread of such stories like never before. These stories are even offered a way into mainstream media. The authors make clear in the introduction that the Native American population is incredibly underrepresented and overlooked as a minority. I enjoyed reading how the rise of digital storytelling has helped this group of people gain access to a larger, more secular platform to share their experiences and their stories. I believe this helps incredibly when negating stereotypes that plague Native communities.

Politics play a roll in the Native communities as well. I found it interesting when the authors discuss how important it was to Native Americans in 2008 for President Obama to be reelected. They explain how they felt like relations with other Americans had improved, along with the improvement of gaming relations, under his first term. It is amazing how digital media allowed for this discussion to take place. Previously, this group may not have had such a loud voice in an election.

Another pertinent discussion was the renaming of the Washington Redskins. Many conversations were had about the situation among Native Americans, and trending subjects and hashtags were created and shared repeatedly. Here is another example of how a minority group could come together in solidarity to discuss something that may have marginalized their ethic group.

The existence of the Digital Age is helping to circulate stories on a bigger stage for all of the world to see. What I gained most from this book was an understanding of how important digital tools have become in storytelling - especially for Native Americans. This made me think about how other minority groups use social and digital media to share stories and experiences that have the potential to enrich others' understanding of such groups.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blog Six: Discussion Leader

This week's readings:

The articles for this week's discussion had many overarching themes, but the one that stood out to me the most was the digital divide. This divide is made up of socioeconomic differences, along with many other characteristics (e.g. race, ethnicity, etc.). I had never taken the time to think about the digital inequality that exists today, because I take for granted my access to the Internet and the skills I've learned.

It was particularly disheartening when I read, "…as things stand, the more privileged stand to benefit from it more than those in less advantageous positions raising concerns about possibly increased rather than decreased inequality resulting from the spread of Internet use across the population” (Hargittai, 2010, p. 109-10).

I had always thought that the main problem with this divide had to do with access to the Internet. However, these articles forced me to look at it from another side. Many times, children may have access to the Internet but have no skills in this area. These two factors work together to form the digital inequality that exists today.

Initially, you would think that this inequality is only spread throughout different ethnicities and races, but as Hargittai and Shaw point out, gender is a factor as well. This was something that was a little surprising to me. I had never taken the time to look at Wikipedia to see who all was editing and creating content, but the article shows that it is primarily male-dominated. I would like to compare the levels of skill among those on social networking sites to see if the gender gap is as wide on these platforms. Do males or females create more content on sites like Facebook and Instagram?

Because I am one of the discussion leaders for this week, I will be presenting an in-class demonstration of a website that brings low-cost Internet to families. also has a Knowledge Center that brings an understanding of how to use the Internet to these families. The two factors discussed in the readings (accessibility and skill) are brought together in hopes of closing the digital divide.

These articles opened my eyes to the digital inequalities around me that many minority groups continually face. These persisting problems must be countered if the playing field is ever going to be leveled for all players. I look forward to discussing my notes from each of the articles with the class this week.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Blog Five: "The Attention Merchants" by Tim Wu

Tim Wu's book offers incredible insight into the world of online advertising.  He explains chapter by chapter how individuals are targeted online for their attention.  Gaining this attention, according to Wu, has become the ultimate goal for online strategists - and they're extremely good at it.

Wu details information regarding what he refers to as "attention merchants," who have the sole responsibility of gaining our attention.  These merchants are at our every turn, especially with our increasing internet usage.  Advertisements are all around us, but those that are online are catered even more to a particular individual or audience.  Wu explains how we are not even in control of our own attention, because it is constantly being targeted as we spend hours online.  He encourages readers to take back their lives and to block out as much of this as possible.   

What is most interesting about Wu's findings is that from the early 20th century to today, this practice has become increasingly widespread.  He explains how advertisements were shaped during the early part of this period, to how they are shaped now.  It is truly astounding to see how these attention merchants take over our online presence and use it to their advantage.  It made me think about the advertisements I see while I'm on social media sites and on regular websites for leisure or shopping.  It is incredible when I think about how, for instance, many times the advertisements I see are for items in which I have just previously researched.  These systems analyze my data and present me with what they know I would be interested in.  This is amazing, but scary at the same time.  Have we as consumers dropped the ball when it comes to our awareness of these practices?  This served as a wake-up call for me.

Wu's epilogue spoke clearly to me as well, especially when he mentions the fact that millennials are growing weary of advertisements and do not mind paying for exclusion from such ads.  This rings true with me as well.  For instance, even the music I listen to on Pandora or Spotify comes with ads.  However, the option remains for me to remove these ads by paying for the service.  Wu explains how this is not good news for attention merchants.  They would like to have the most exposure possible for as many people as possible. 

Wu says that our attention has become a commodity, and professionals are constantly looking to gain this attention and to keep it.  He expresses the need for us to reclaim our own attention once and for all - to be more mindful of these attention merchants and their desire to take over our online thinking.

This book also pointed out the differences in how this attention was gained through other media.  For example, television advertisements were very much different from the ads we see online.  They were less tailored to specific individuals and more tailored for the masses as a whole.  

Wu says we must take back our online freedom and become more aware of these attention merchants who are around our every click.  He says, "And then we must act, individually and collectively, to make our attention our own again, and so reclaim ownership of the very experience of living" (Wu, 2016, p. 344).  


Wu, Tim. (2016). The Attention Merchants: The epic scramble to get inside our heads. New                               York: Alfred A. Knopf.