"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Facebook and the future of electronic media history

hot dog! every since my post about quitting facebook, i've been checking QuitFacebookDay.org every morning to see if they've made progress on their commitment numbers. i've been amazed to watch its trending in the last week or so, this morning at 10 am up to 20,123 and now suddenly up to 22,284 as of 1 pm PST today! every other morning the site has seen a growth of only 1 or 2K people, but 5K wow! word is spreading!

that's because Facebook is losing a grip on its PR. just this morning On the Media ran a little story on Facebook. here's an excerpt:

RYAN SINGEL [a writer for Wired.com]: [Mark Zuckerberg’s] a really interesting character. There’s a book about to come out, by David Kirkpatrick, I believe, from Fortune magazine. The excerpts that have come out have been fascinating. For instance, Microsoft came along and told Facebook they'd be happy to buy it for 15 billion dollars, and Mark Zuckerberg said no. And then they came back and they said, we'll buy it over a period of five years, so we'll let you stay in control. He said no again.

This isn't about the money. And he really wants to sort of change the world, and he really wants that Facebook page to be the place that people define themselves to everyone else online.

On Tuesday, Facebook’s public policy director, Tim Sparapani, said something that was, I think, a bit of a slip, when he said that the personalization that Facebook has offered to all the websites on the Internet [...] he called that an “extraordinary gift to the public.” I think they really think that they're doing this amazing thing for the public and we're not thankful enough.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: And the gift to the public is the fact that their information can be shared with so many vendors out there.

electronic media history is about to repeat itself. Facebook is to our web experience what the conglomeration of TV (ABC, NBC, CBS) was to television programming. with consolidation into one large corporation, rather than the diversified, differentiated offerings of multiple sites for different purposes (i.e. Flickr, blogger, Last.FM, LinkedIn, etc.) the public loses out on richness of experience. we self-impose our lack of choice. ironic, in a state where consumer choice becomes our most frequent and salient experience of democracy, we still choose convenience over variety of choice. Brooke Gladstone points out in the same piece that the average Facebook user "will choose convenience over privacy every time." the bad press, the QuitFacebook movement, and the premature buzz over alternatives such as Diaspora gives me hope that maybe we won't see history repeat itself, that we will avoid corporate control of the internet, we will reclaim net neutrality, preserve our right to privacy, and utilize the internet for its fabled purpose, of making voice and choice more readily available and exercisable by the masses.

all together now!Link

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

living in the digital age

fyi, anyone born post-1977 is a "digital native" and anyone pre-1977 is a "digital immigrant."

this video is terrifying.

this makes me rethink the "digital divide": my students may not have access to computers at home, but at least someone in their home has a smart phone with internet access. the digital world at their fingertips, and not a clue how to use it. frightening.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

i'm quitting facebook

as loyal readers would know, i have a problem with facebook. in fact, i was so steadfastly adamant about not joining it that my eventual giving-in was seen as weakness, hypocrisy and a sign of the apocalypse by some. in retrospect, i was grievously nostalgic and afraid of losing touch with college classmates when i made the decision to jump my happy ship and enter into the facebook-enabled abyss. but now, i'm considering quitting, FOR GOOD.

as i write this, i am afraid Facebook is watching (yes, i capitalized the F because it has now become an Entity). i've been doing a lot of reading this week, esp. concerning the topic of Facebook and its thinning privacy policy, and it's making me feel like i have no choice. i know, Facebook and its success are based on the gratuitous overshare of information; but holy geez, i only want to share what i want to and choose to share. it can't have all of me!

as the years of Facebook use have gone on, it's changed the way people see themselves, each other, and the right to people's personal information. The Age of Facebook has been one of oversharing and a gross sense of entitlement to people's personal business. Facebook has rendered us incapable as friends, and made us better voyeurs.

i've seen it in my own use of Facebook: i started out with little information, just my name and college, one profile picture that obscured my face, and a limited list of friends that had to be real friends (people i actually talk to and have spent qual. time with). but then it grew into adding a list of interests, joining a few groups, starting photo albums and tagging people in them, adding applications, and adding friends, from ppl i maybe talked to once in college or contacts i made thru different organizations, to now adding people i've never even met and even actually dislike in real life because i was just interested in seeing what they are up to nowadays. in short, i went from being Facebook-aloof to being a Facebook junkie. and i think it's burgeoning into a big problem:

now, every time i get on the internet, i check facebook. i check my notifications, check friends' statuses, comment on photos, etc. and by the time i emerge from my Facebook-sustained coma, an hour, two hours, a whole afternoon has passed! coming to work is such a productivity-fest because the acceptable use policy strictly bans Facebook, and thank god! i can actually get work done!

Facebook almost ruined my family! (not really, but it has hurt my relationships with people i actually care about in a genuine, real-life way.)

and now, i am finding out that Mark Zuckerberg, that King of A-holes, is making himself the youngest billionaire ever, by selling our information to advertisers and third parties. i'm not sure how it works (and that's part of the evil plan, to make it as confusing as possible), but i guess when you log on to Facebook, when you give it your email address, it keeps a record of all the websites you visit to determine your interests and catalog personal data on you, so it can sell your interests to advertisers who can better exploit you.

this article sums up the history of Facebook's privacy policy quite nicely, but this was the part that most alarmed me:
"If you are uncomfortable with [information] being publicly available, you should consider removing (or not providing) the information."
so basically, Facebook has no responsibility to protect our information, because we forfeit that right the moment we decide to use it. and protecting information is the user's responsibility, despite the ever-changing and ever-eroding privacy policies. this website does a nice job of graphically representing the growing circle of information now available to users and abusers of Facebook.

furthermore, Facebook invites you to tailor your own "ad experience," choosing how your information should be exploited best. is this what i joined Facebook for?

the point is, i'm getting sick of this information age. it's the wrong kind of information we are increasingly exposed to. i want demand to know how the BP oil spill happened and what the government is going to do to stop it and future oil spills from happening. i want to know how we're going to fix public education and restore civic health. i don't need to know all the microscopic details of all my friends' lives the very second they occur. i would like life to resume the way it was, when some things were better left up to the imagination, and ppl lived their lives in private and shared really important things with one another in secret conversations.

my initial gripe with Facebook and its antecedents has always been that i believe it ruins people's ability to communicate with one another: people are constantly on their smart phones on Facebook chatting in traffic – this is the new experience. and i honestly believe it is ruining our society (a whole generation of tweens raised on the iPod and iPhone, incapable of functioning in a real-time social situation with unpredictable and erratic individuals – this is the failure of our modern age manifest in a classroom on any given day).

and now i am learning that the dissolution of our relationships, our communicability, is simultaneously eroding our privacy, and that we're all complicit in this, because we are oblivious, or worse, because we choose to continue using it anyway. has it gotten to the point in American history when we will wage a war on terror in the name of defending our civil liberties, but willingly give up our right to privacy for the sake of social networking? i tell you, we are choosing a sad fate for ourselves: death by distraction.

the group QuitFacebookDay.com is urging ppl to quit Facebook on May 31, and in the three or four days since i had the window up and first started reading articles in preparation for this post, they have gained membership, from a little over three thousand a few days ago, to over eleven thousand this morning when i checked again. impressive growth, but considering the number of Facebook users/ potential quitters, i am sad they are not doing better.

for me, it's a matter of respect. Facebook doesn't care if it abuses its privilege to our information, and it will continue helping itself to more and more of it because it has proven profitable. Facebook users should not have to choose between keeping in touch with their friends or keeping their information private/ not being harassed by advertisers. there are plenty of other sites (flickr, twitter, tumblr, blogger, gmail, etc) that can do the same things as facebook but without the creepy prying. i'm tired of the idea of my information being fed to third parties so they can learn how to better manipulate and exploit me.

so, i'm quitting facebook. if you're a real friend, you'll know where to find me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

why i don't listen to the radio any more and only watch tv on the internet, OR, why the youth are starting to change

i got home from work today and, exhausted from bickering with administration about some sketchy misdeeds they are trying to pull on one of my special ed students, sat down in front of my computer to unwind, eat cake, and read some blogs.

i went to TigerBeatdown and started reading the first article up, something about Miley Cyrus and the "search for a feminist pop star."

um. ok. what?

i was unaware we were collectively searching for a feminist pop star. and i was confused about the parameters; have "feminist" and "pop" ever gone together? when was the last feminist "pop star?"* none come to mind.

still, i continued reading, interested to see where this was going. as it turns out, i guess Miley has recently released a new single and with it, a new music video. the article glosses over the use of tired metaphors and symbols: birds, cages, wings on ladies. you get the idea. and pretty soon, i was tired of reading. but i skipped over to youtube and quickly ran a search of Miley's video.

now, admittedly, i am so out of touch with popular youth culture these days. i find my career as an educator has made me more averse to children than understanding of their behaviors and interests. when i sit down at my computer to look up the latest top 40s or to read an article about Justin Bieber's hair, i consider it "research" for my work, rather than pleasure reading.

but here i am, on a thursday afternoon, researching and talking about Miley Cyrus. surely there are better ways of spending my, and your, time.

well, after watching the first minute of the video (and believe me, that was about all i could stomach) i continued reading the aforementioned article, and found i couldn't get far in that either before i had to write a little rant of my own. because the article, and, it seems, a lot of feminist bloggers out there, seem to be discussing the video, and Miley's career, for that matter, in these terms, and these terms only:
1) the rampant sexuality, and whether it detracts from the potential "feminism" present in the music and the act of her, a 17-year-old girl, being a successful "musician." (i use those quotation marks with a generous helping of skepticism, since, as far as i am aware, Miley does not produce any music of her own.)
2) her lyrics are "empowering," thus, she is a feminist because her music speaks to young girls. (again, the quotations around empowering.)

oh... the rant that is about to unfold!

as far as the blogosphere is concerned, Miley is either a feminist if you just focus on the words and the music, or a hypocrite if you look at her flapping those Victoria's Secret wings in the video. my adamant and vocal disagreement is: SHE IS NEITHER!

i agree with my blogger sisters that she can't be a feminist and a sex kitten. but not because i believe sex and beauty can't be empowering (because they can). i have a problem with the whole Disney virgin/pop princess image Miley tries to evoke, alongside the over-sexed performer she tries to be. madonna/whore dichotomy anyone!? i understand young women can be confused, because the patriarchal culture has us thinking we want to be so many things it's hard to choose sometimes, but you cannot evoke whatever persona whenever you want and call it "show business." (whore!)

that brings me to my problem with the "search" in the first place. because pop stars, almost by definition, sell sex, and use sex to sell more sex, under the guise of "making music." it's not music that's on display, it is Miley's precocious boobs and sultry legs. did Tracy Chapman ever prance around in a cage, half-clad in a leather corset and knee-high boots? no, because she was too busy writing music and winnin' Grammies! shoo...

a pop star can never make empowering music, because empowerment is not what sells albums or makes a trashy music video, or gets throngs of tweeny girls to go to your concert (oh, but if it were!) empowerment isn't about hyping up celebrity culture, nor is it about self-worship and hubris, it is about feeling confident enough to take agency and do something for yourself and others around you.

but what is being called "empowerment" in Miley's case, is actually a strong case of entitlement. here's a sampling of the lyrics from the newly released "Can't Be Tamed," the song some people are lauding as a "kick-ass girl power anthem":
For those who don't know me, I can get a bit crazy
Have to get my way, 24 hours a day
'Cause I'm hot like that
Every guy everywhere just gives me mad attention
Like I'm under inspection, I always get the 10s
'Cause I'm built like that

I go through guys like money flyin' out their hands
They try to change me but they realize they can't
And every tomorrow is a day I never planned
If you're gonna be my man, understand

I can't be tamed, I can't be saved
I can't be blamed, I can't, can't
I can't be tamed, I can't be changed
in one of Miley's first singles, the chorus goes "blah blah blah... she's just being Miley."** see a pattern? don't let the erratic dance moves confuse you, Miley's not trying to empower anyone, she just wants a nicer, more lyrical way of saying, "I'M A HOT, ENTITLED, POP STAR BRAT. I DO WHAT I WANT!"

now, this wouldn't be such a mondo problem if it just stopped there. i wouldn't be writing this long-winded blog post if just a few smart, well-spoken ladies believed Miley (or Christina Aguilera, or Madonna, or Tina Fey, or etc.) was doing a really innovative and daring thing by singing about her selfish wanton desires, and confused her entitlement anthems for empowerment anthems. but, because pop culture and pop music is so pervasive, everyone starts to think these things, and this kind of thinking becomes ingrained into our daily lives, becomes practiced by real-life tweens on the street, becomes a chronic problem of irreverence and disregard among our young people.

you see, as a teacher in South Central Los Angeles, it is almost a daily topic of conversation and source of wonderment among the teachers, as we walk to our cars at the end of each day, "what is wrong with the kids these days!?" i never thought i would say it, and i guess it's a sign i'm getting old, but the behaviors of children these days is perpetually perplexing, befuddling, and bewildering. students cursing off adults who are trying to teach them, students pushing or touching teachers, students standing in the way of a teacher refusing to move, huffing and puffing as if they are engaged in some prelude to fighting ritual. my aide says, every time we have this conversation, "kids have more rights than adults to these days" and though i was hesitant to concur, i believe she may be right. there are no consequences strong enough to make an impression on a student in my school, so many will push their limits until they eventually are escorted out in handcuffs and served with fines. students come to school wearing whatever they want and argue with principals about the uniform, and sit in class looking cute but not learning anything. one of my students is doing math at a pre-kindergarten level (she cannot add without assistance and frequently doesn't know how to count past ten) and comes late to school each day because she spends her mornings straightening her hair and putting on her mascara. she got her nails done the other day and refused to use a pencil for fear of snapping a nail off.

my point is, maybe if our culture didn't glorify material self-worship, we wouldn't have young women walking around in high heels, booty shorts and low-cut tops, mouthing off to adults and carrying themselves with arrogance, thinking that they are being strong, confident females. maybe if we gave them role models with some sense and sensibility, we'd have some more respect and self-respect among our youth. it is so pathetic how starved of feminist idols we are that we will jump at the opportunity to call someone so clearly wrong a "feminist."


*some might argue Lady GaGa, and as much as i love her performances and vision, never once considered her a feminist. an artist, sure (which is more than i can say about Miley) but not a feminist in the way Betty Friedan was a feminist. end of story.
** disclaimer: i only know this song because i work out at the gym a lot.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

oh, The Internet. how i love thee.

in the span of thirty minutes i went from reading this article complaining about Lost, to reading about Original Sin, to reading about The Fall and then learned that...

"The term 'prelapsarian' refers to the sin-free state of humanity prior to the Fall. It is sometimes used in reference to sentimental recollections of a past time when conditions stood in sharp contrast to the present; this situation is called nostalgia." [source]

huh! i am learning so much about Star Wars and pop culture and human nature, according to the Old and New Testaments.

thanks, Internet.