Week 6 Summary

Week 6 began with another video from Chris Poole and an attempt to understand 4chan. I interrogated the role of anonymity, pondered whether a sense of ‘eventedness’ was created by the temporal limitations of the space combined with its massive audience, and connected the site’s recent financial trouble to Lister et al.’s (2009) suggestion that sustainability is gained through commercial viability.

Poole suggested that the proliferation of SNSs was a loss for the Internet. This point was also taken up by Mike Caulfied, who blogged about reduced social practices (‘share and argue, argue and share’) and inadequate collaboration skills amid the dominance of a Usernet style Internet (SNSs). His concerns aligned with those generated from my MOOC about the role of non-human actors (in this case the platform infrastructure) in providing or denying opportunities to connect.

Students’ position within a sociomaterial assemblage was also investigated through a post linking blog posts by Amy Collier and Audrey Watters and a presentation by Tressie McMillan Cottom. It examines how technological tools can reproduce inequalities within our online communities by informing how course technology is designed using data which has reduced identity markers. The resultant ‘ideal’ student is  disembedded from their social reality, and the embodiment of their online experience is denied. Rather than being a democratising anonymity, the result can inhibit community support structures from forming, and perpetuate existing power structures.

Thinking about embodiment and power also reflects an understanding of lives as enmeshed in both on and offline spaces, which was taken up briefly with reflection on cyberbullying and recent changes in teen cultural practices linked to digital technology. Further reflection came from an attempt to understand the relationship between materiality and discourse as co-constituent.

Finally, the liberating narrative of web 2.0 was questioned through a post on Plaut’s analysis of Kutiman’s Thru You album, which suggests that rather than being participatory or collaborative, his work employs  what Haraway (1988) called the “God trick of seeing everything from nowhere.”