In class we have been talking about the differences between someones identity in person versus on online communities. The article attached, speaks about how governments and corporate organizations, are setting stricter rules and calling for more realistic identities online. It also mentions how Facebook’s commercial motivations has ruined the online experience altogether.
In class we have been talking a lot about video games, and virtual worlds and how they can affect society in a negative way. People often get caught up in these games and the virtual worlds. In this short video, EA games gives an alternative view on how people play video games for biological reasons, and how they help people in terms of problem solving.
“Second age of virtual colonialism”
“Technologies are always informed and animated by distinct ideologies and teleologies”
I found this article helping me when I start to think about my role as a virtual ethnographer and the online community at large. Taking a social shaping perspective, I think we need to pay attention to the infrastructures of the net and there not so neutral platforms.
This article criticizes Nicholas Negroponte’s assertion of “Pluralistic, not Imperialistic”, which represents a wave of advocating for the democratic potential of the Internet in providing an universal language. The web can be used as a way which global plurality can express and manifest itself. In this short article Gunkel, touching on the history of web, brought out its origins of American hegemony and cold-war context. While the web has a decentralized architecture formalized from “packet-switching”, it privileges American users. Whether it’s the lingua franca of the internet being English, or the lack of need to designate nationality, the practises of the web is normalizing the American user. This privileged position is the direct result of colonial expansion and economic power of United Kingdom and US and a result of historical events.
In class we discussed how creating your own avatar is not only freeing because it allows you to be the true reflection of yourself if you want it to be, but also to hide your identity and conceal the things that you do in a game from what you would do in real life. This Buzzfeed article that I found took the best answers from a question that a Reddit user asked. The question was “What’s the most messed up thing you’ve ever done in a game?” The answers do not disappoint and they range from silly and weird to down right disturbing. Some of the games are role playing with characters the players have made while others are just your classic video game such as Mario. A few examples of things players had their characters do were kick puppies, throw a penguin off a ledge for no reason, make ugly Sims have ugly baby Sims and see how ugly each generation got, and worst of all, impregnate a female villager, kill her in front of her son, send the son to an orphanage and then kill all the people in the orphanage in front of him. You can read the rest from the link below and prepare to cringe
Although I personally do not use or have Tinder, a majority of my friends do. Eventually, after they have been talking to their matches for a while, some decide to finally meet in person. As Baym mentions in her chapter from this weeks reading, people get less information about other people or audiences through mediated communication than they would in embodied encounters (pg. 121). On Tinder, you get your first impression based on looks alone but it eventually turns into more textual based communication where a larger impression of the other person is built. Therefore, it makes sense that people would eventually want to meet the person they’ve been talking to for so long in person. However, as the chapter also mentions, a big fear about online communication is if someone is being deceptive. We only get pictures of people on Tinder, so it can be very easy for someone to say they are someone they’re actually not. This is why that my friends have various rules they abide by if they decide to meet a Tinder match in person to ensure a level of safety. These rules actually tend to be pretty common amongst people who i’ve talked to who use Tinder. This is not to say Tinder is dangerous, as I know many people who have found their significant others of Tinder, but precaution is always a good idea, especially if you’ve never met this person
These rules for meeting Tinder matches include:
- Meeting during the day
- preferably meeting in a public space
- check their other social media to make sure they are who they say they are
- always tell a friend where you will be going and at what time
The fear of deception is very omnipresent when it comes to spaces to facilitate online intimacies. This is also because we might not be able to decipher the dominant meanings we get through the medium. Like when we talked about “Netflix and Chill” the readings go all across the board, to some it means let’s have sex and to others it literally means let’s sit on the couch and watch TV. In all honestly sometimes I believe our society gotten very over-sensitive, where we think someone always has some sort of dark aspect to them, but at the same time the likelihood for some aspect of deception can be significantly higher. This is a very sticky topic when it comes to online communication, and debates can go either way.
Q: Do you have “rules” when it comes to Tinder or any kind of dating app? Are you skeptical about meeting someone that you met online in person?
This week in lecture, and in the readings, we were talking about the power of anonymity on line through creating an avatar in order to lead a different virtual life through gaming. I wrote my reading reflection on a situation that happened to me when I was in grade 12, after I accepted my offer to Laurier. I thought the controversial sequence of events was definitely worth sharing on the blog because of how surreal and bizarre it feels, even three years later.
On gaming sites it is easy for people to create an avatar and talk to other people anonymously while hiding behind a screen. In the gaming situation that is totally normal, and can be seen as a norm in “gaming culture”. This creation of a fictional character on a virtual reality site no longer became a game when I had my pictures stolen and my name changed by a stranger who began initiating conversation with random people on Facebook. This individual (who I found out later was a woman) messaged me from a separate account to try to find out information about me in order to use it in conjunction with my pictures to try to make her profile seem more realistic.
This clip off the movie “Catfish” roughly sums up what happened to me:
To give a quick summary this middle aged woman found my Facebook profile in 2012 through the “Accepted Wilfrid Laurier” Facebook group and tried to befriend me to find out information about me; she would later use this information when she created the fake account. She used another fake account of a blonde girl who was “going to go to Laurier”. At the time a lot of people were messaging other students to make connections (that’s how I met Jess McNamee who’s in this class…hey Jess!!) and meet future roommates before September, so her interaction seemed perfectly normal. There was nothing that seemed out of place on her profile…she had quite a few friends, she was an attractive girl, and she not only had “selfies” but also group pictures.
This girl became very clingy to me quickly, and wanted me to add her PIN. She would message me huge paragraphs about her life… which I found a bit odd but I assumed she was just nervous about going to university so I dismissed the weird feeling I felt about the situation. In the two weeks that followed she added a lot of my friends from back home and people I had as friends on Facebook (even though she didn’t know them), she then deleted that fake account and made a new account with my pictures and a fake name. She began messaging people and initiating conversation with them…and these people assumed they were talking to me. I found out about this through someone who used to live in my hometown who told me that this person who was obviously not me had been messaging quite a few guys on his team. Since she deleted all the information surrounding the account I met her on (BBM PIN, Facebook, Twitter, etc) I had no way to contact her but through the account that was using my pictures (such a creepy feeling!) It took awhile for the account to be shut down, even though a lot of people were reporting the account as fake. I still don’t know who this person messaged or who actually thought they were speaking to me.
I was sent another link by someone in a different town who had found out about this, this time connecting me to a blog where this woman’s true identity was revealed. She was an obese woman in her mid 30s who lived in Hamilton who had quite the history of creating fake accounts and personas. She even made a “fake group of friends” (all the accounts were run by her). She literally made a fake life for herself on Facebook. This could be compared to avatars because she was able to construct her own life…except she was stealing real people’s identities in the process.
Images taken from Catfish film:
Our discussion in class monday reminded me of something I came across last year. Anita Sarkeesian is a women’s activist as Professor Rambukana mentioned and she runs the site called Feminist Frequency, which addresses issues of women and gender in relation to representations in media and specifically video games. Her posts examine representations of women in video games and the real life implications these have on people who use these games and our culture as a whole. She has received a lot of backlash for her research on these games and regularly receives threats on her life, simply for examining the truth of how women are represented in relation to men or not at all.
Her video on the blog entitled The Oscars and the Bechdel Test compares the number of films nominated for one of the most prestigious awards in Hollywood, that pass the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test measures women’s relevance or even presence in films. A film simply has to pass criteria of having two female characters with names talk to each other in the film for sixty seconds about something other than men. Sarkeesian identifies in her explanation that only two out of the nine films nominated for best picture in 2011 passed the test clearly while most don’t even come close. In most of the games she talks about on the blog have no representations of women without men, or are portrayed only as sexual objects. You can even see this in games like World of Warcraft, where most if not all of the female avatars available to create are “conventionally” beautiful. Wondering how this affects women’s and men’s experience and expectations online, and is the ability to create an avatar of ourselves that looks nothing like us change our society and our online interactions with these struggles or hinder it? Does the completely false representations of ourselves only lead to disappointments in person?
While in class today discussing ethnography, specifically in the virtual world, I was reminded of a story that had gone viral about a woman and her Tinder profile. Laura, a 24 year old from Toronto, conducted a Tinder experiment in hopes of normalizing conversation about feminism and to gain understanding of male reaction to the term “feminist”. After including the simple phrase “hello I am a feminist” in her Tinder bio, she began documenting her conversations on Instagram.
It is definitely worthwhile taking a look at both this Buzzfeed article and her Instagram account to see some of the conversations she has had—some are intellectual and respectful while others are shockingly ignorant and rude.
I thought this was both a highly interesting and relevant example of how a virtual ethnography can be conducted, as we discussed in class today, and just wanted to share with you all!
Here is the link to the Instagram account, which currently has 85.7k followers: https://instagram.com/feminist_tinder/
I was just thinking about the discussion we had on monday about the Baym chapter 4 reading where she refers to negative online communities and that people log on so that others will basically support the negative behaviour they are participating in, basically enabling them to act a certain way and the people they are sharing with will agree. I found an example of one of these called GuruGossip. It is an online blog where users can basically bash popular Youtubers and bloggers online. Obviously this example isn’t as extreme as the one Baym gives about online communities supporting eating disorders but it is still in a way encouraging negative behaviour online because people will have a forum to say whatever they want and not get attacked for it, whereas if they were to comment on a Youtubers video they would get a lot of backlash from loyal viewers.