Lifestream, Comment on Reminders by Renee Furner

Interesting reflection, Philip. Made me think of White & Le Cornu’s V&R typology (2011). It might be an interesting activity to map your own online engagement prior to #mscedc and post- certainly I think my own map will change significantly as I’m generally much more of a lurker (elegant or not;).

While I can see how your blog is ‘your space’, and how people might cross from their ‘own’ spaces into each other’s spaces (maybe like you’d pop over to a friend’s for a cup of tea?) I wonder about beyond that. i.e. Twitter does not ‘belong’ to any of us, yet our posts under #mscedc create ‘our’ space. Communal space, if you like – where people with less immediate connections to the tag can drop in/drop out/be invited/elegantly lurk. Perhaps this (communal) space is inferred when you talk about using platforms to ‘establish myself in the online community’.

This element of ‘presence’ is key to me. #mscedc forces me to become an active community member, due to the publicness of the platforms utilised. White has suggested that early engagement such as mine (and others within the course who have been less publicly active previously) marks a transition point, from knowledge consumer to community participant: ‘It’s the point at which they are exploring their ‘voice’ within the discourse’ (White, 2015).

This has got me thinking about what creates ‘quality discourse’ – and the impact of being required to demonstrate regular engagement (for the course grade) on that discourse (a point @Eli_App_D@c4miller & @Digeded touched on early in Twitter). I don’t suppose it helps that IFTTT posts each Tweet separately from all but the preceeding tweets in Twitter conversations – rather than capturing conversations wholistically. Makes us all seem a bit shouty! 😉

from Comments for Philip’s EDC blog

Lifestream, Comment on Week 1 by Renee Furner

[In reply to]

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on week 1, Dirk – and so innovatively. I missed the live transmission, but caught it about an hour later.

I agree that the creation of groups allows for (and can encourage) the construction of ‘otherness’/’sameness’. This part of your talk/post made me think of that famous lesson with the brown-eyed and blue-eyed children (Jane Elliott, experiment starts at 3:19). However, I’m not sure that reducing anonymity or enforcing real-name policies are ways to eliminate the vitriol. Research by Rost, Stahel and Frey (2016) suggests that people are actually more hostile during online ‘firestorms’ when using real-names (empirical evidence is based on behaviours in a German social media platform, 2010-13).

The authors further suggest that the reason we often equate anonymity with increased aggression online is because most attempts to theorise about such behaviour use traditional bullying research theory. Under this theory, as you noted, online aggression is driven by lower-order moral ideals and principles, which people would be ashamed to express if their identity was known. However, Rost, Stahel & Frey suggest viewing such behaviour through a different lens – social norm theory. Through this lens, those posting aggressively online might be viewed as enforcing of social norms – ‘aggressive word-of-mouth propagation in social media is the response to (perceived) violating behaviours of public actors…In this view online firestorms enforce social norms by expressing public disapproval with the aim of securing public goods, for example, honesty of politicians, companies or academics’ (Rost, Stahel & Frey, 2016, ‘Introduction’, para. 8). If this is held true, many people who post aggressively online believe themselves to be acting from a position of higher-order morals, and perceive the public actor they are aggressing as acting from lower-order morals, and they have no need to hide their identity (ibid., ‘hypothesis 3′). Even when real names are given, acting aggressively online as a way of norm-enforcing is low cost for the actors: their geographical distance reduces risk of physical harm, lack of non-verbal cues from recipients reduces aggressors’ empathy, and technology allows them to reach a large audience with little time or effort (ibid., ‘online firestorms within a social norm theory’).

No doubt some people who act aggressively are just bullies, acting as you say, because their anonymity allows them to disregard morals through reduced fear of getting caught. I’m not sure it is the full picture, though.

Thanks for prompting me to think more deeply about this.


Rost, K., Stahel, L., & Frey, B.S. (2016). Digital social norm enforcement: Online firestorms in social media. PLOS ONE, 11(6): e0155923.

from Comments for Dirk’s EDC blog

In this post (and Dirk’s initial post) the focus is on the negative reality of cyberculture, in terms of how it is experienced today – complete with trolling and aggression. Of course, it is just one side of the coin – there is also willingness to engage politely, helpfully and generously amongst strangers.

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In identifying key criticisms of extropianism and transhumanism, Miller (2011, p. 215) indicates that ‘bioconservatives’ (those opposed to significant alteration of the body through technology)’ take issue with the potential for technological augmentation to create inequalities and conflict between those who are augmented and those who are not. Additionally,  bioconservatives see technological augmentation as a source of the debasement of human character and dignity (Bostrom,  cited in Miller, 2011).

For me the first concern is legitimate, but one which we are unlikely to heed. Bourdieu (1984), for instance, has suggested that the body has always been a site through which social distinction is sought, not only through the cultivation of appearance through dress and grooming, but also through the role of class in determining what foods are appropriate to eat and how bodies are used in labour – both of which impact on physical form. 

The second concern, that of the debasement of human character and dignity similarly ignores that what we do with, and how we control, our bodies has presumably always been influenced by culture. ‘Natural’ bodies would not blow their noses delicately, suppress belching or attempt to contain flatulence – in the many of today’s societies it is the civilised body which avoids debasement, not the natural body, and just as the social requirements and expectations for bodily control changed to affect that body, they are likely to continue to evolve under the influence of technology (see Wiliams & Bendelow, 1998, Ch 4.  The body in ‘high’ modernity and consumer culture from Williams & Bendelow, The Lived Body Sociological Themes, Embodied Issues, pp. 67-93).

Miller, V.  “9. The Body and Information Technology” from  Miller, Vincent, Understanding Digital Culture, pp.207-223. London: Sage 

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Of course, I didn’t want to give anything away to Eli.. but what I was really curious about was whether she would come away thinking of Deckard as a replicant or not, and how that would colour her interpretation of the film/the themes within it. One can’t unsee what one has seen (nor see what one has not;): my first Blade Runner was the theatrical version (none of the others were ‘out’), where it remains ambiguous whether Deckard is a replicant or human. What I like about the notion of Deckard being human is that it allows a deeper interrogation of what it means to be human: through his work/killing, Deckard is increasingly dehumanised, while the replicants’ love for each other, attachment to life and overt emotional displays make them seem ever more human. In this context, with Deckard as human, his love at the end of the film for Rachel, a replicant, appears rehumanising – yet, what can that mean if there is no difference between replicant and human?

In what ways do you/does “modern life”/neoliberal post-industrial society force you to act like a ‘robot’?

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The story is not quite the same – but beyond that I’m thinking about the medium, reading vs viewing. There’s more time for reflection, but because I’ve (happily) seen Blade Runner so many times it’s also not authentic reading: the faces of characters are from memory rather than imagination. Or is it my augmented imagination? 😉

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Note: I suggested Robot & Frank for our viewing despite it not truly fitting with typical notions of cyberculture as its focus on memory adds to the usual exploration of memory-identity relationships explored within cyberpunk. In Robot & Frank, Frank has dementia, so is losing the memories which could be said to bind him to his identity. At the same time, he has to make a decision to wipe the robot’s memory – about which the robot is very pragmatic: he is not a person, so it should be done. However, in the film he has clearly become more to and done more for Frank emotionally than it’s popularly accepted that robots can. Unlike extropianism, in which man can escape his mortality through technological augmentation, in Robot & Frank the robot helps the human regain his sense of himself before ultimately accepting the loss of memory and what that will mean for that same self.

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Note: Ghost in the Shell is a manga which was created by Shirow Masamune, and adapted into a movie in 1995. The movie is directed by Mamoru Oshii. The story is set sometime in the 21st century, in a time where the line between man and machine is blurred: robots are implanted with human tissue, and humans augmented by mechanical implants/cyborg bodies. The counter-culture element comes through the presence of ghost hackers, who break into the human/computer interface to reprogramme human minds (‘ghosts’) so that they become puppets (of the master hacker, the Puppet Master) that can be manipulated into doing the Puppet Master’s crimes.

The film explores the relationship between identity and memory, and what differentiates humans from machines. Notions of extropianism and dualism are developed by the character Motoko, who questions whether cyberbrains have the potential to generate their own ‘ghosts’, and whether her mind actually belongs to her body or her brain has just been stuffed in a body. 

There’s also more on the need for diversity: the Puppetmaster laments that he is only able to make copies of things, but life is dependent on diversity. Similarly, another character, Togusa, suggests that the group is weakened by being too similar because it leads them to have the same reactions and therefore become too predictable to enemies. Seems to be a recurring theme.. 

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Note: thanks to Jenny Mackness for joining the conversation, sharing more great resources and probing deeper – so much to unpack in block 3 of the course. Distracted by post-humanism this week.. but the conversation is still ‘whirring’ in the background.

In particular I’ve been thinking about changing values, and how changed (technology driven) communication practices may contribute to those changes in values, for example, through different peer affirmation practices and changes in the scale of friendship groups. The starting point for this thinking is a study by Uhls & Greenfield (2011), “The Rise of Fame: An Historical Content Analysis” which confirms changes in reported youth values that coincide with technological innovation – for example, the arrival of youtube.