Friday, October 24, 2008

Network Culture


What does "network" add to culture? What does network add to composition and

literacy practices?

17 comments:

Leah Cassorla said...

When I was a child, my parents joked about playing "Jewish Geography," a game in which we realized (over and over) how closely related we were to others. People who knew people who knew friends of my parents' would appear in odd places. My parents were browsing through a bookstore once when they ran into friends they hadn't seen in 20 years--since they left Israel.

As a direct result of Facebook, I'm now in touch with people I went to college with more than 15 years ago (embarrassing to think it's been that long). So what's the point?

A network is much like a game of "six degrees of separation" (or six degrees of Kevin Bacon, which is how my sister plays it). It is simply a set of connections which, in its accretion, creates a mass of potential energy. One can be (actively or inactively) connected to the person sitting next to her or to a friend thousands of miles away in another country. One can also turn potential energy into kinetic energy by using the connections to leapfrog her way through all six degrees and be in contact with, well, Kevin Bacon.

Control of movement within the network, that is the ability to navigate, is the networked literacy. Literacy practice in a network requires production and consumption across the connections and through them to reach, well, Kevin Bacon.

What this means for literacy and composition studies is that literacy is no longer a matter of the ability to create texts, it is now a matter of the ability to consume, accumulate, create, and publish shared knowledge. Which requires a greater ability to sift through the massive amounts of information, because one cannot leapfrog unless one knows where the safe spots to land are.

And all of that is why the network-literate participant is a threat to the traditional one to many push-approach media outlet. Because the network literate participant knows how to gather her own information, but is also actively sharing her information with others and creating her own networks of knowledge. She is the journalist and the news consumer. She is the blogger and the twitterer and the facebook user. Raised on the 24 hour news cycle, she doesn't wait for information. She goes and finds someone to share it with her, and turns around and shares it with others and that means they can't sell it to her (or convince Chevy to advertise with them because she's not watching).

Ruth Kistler said...

In thinking about what makes something a network, I had a hard time coming up with good verbiage. The best I could do was to describe it as a complex, interconnected system with multiple points of entry and multiple paths to the various points located within the system. Even though it does describe what I “see” when I think of networks, I just didn’t like it because it sounds so, I don’t know, mathematical I guess, and therefore abstract and kind of meaningless. When I went to post and saw Leah’s definition (a set of connections which, in its accretion, creates a mass of potential energy), I thought, “Ahhh, much better!” Anyway, networks and the kinds of thinking and communicating that they allow for and support are clearly effecting changes in the way we can and will relate to each other as a society. According to Mizuko Ito, the introduction of digital networks and networking has already changed human culture by creating the opportunity for the public to move away from a position of passive consumption into one of active participation. We are, she says, “engaging in shared culture and knowledge thought discourse and social exchange as well as through acts of media reception” (Introduction). While there are advantages to such participation, the changes that are being wrought in our networked culture will not always be easy to accept. In the conclusion of Network Culture, Varnelis says that “in network theory, a node’s relationship to other networks is more important than its own uniqueness. Similarly, today we situate ourselves less as individuals and more as the product of multiple networks composed of both humans and things.” What does this add to composition and literacy practices? I’m not really sure, but it seems to me there are benefits to recognizing ideas as socially constructed, something a view of the self as networked makes more obvious. Perhaps we will have to rethink our ideas about intellectual property (something worth considering) and about comparing and ranking individual achievement, and instead focus on what we can accomplish as a collective – hmmm… I see all kinds of potential there.

rory said...

I don’t think network necessarily “add[s]” to or alters culture as much as it begets a new one. And with a new culture comes a new way of thinking, seeing, understanding, and communicating. Take, for instance, our students. I can remember when my parents and I got our first computer: it was an Apple my grandpa gave us as a Christmas present in 1992 (I can still remember the rudimentary lessons for how to use the mouse). Prior to that, I remember typing away on my mother’s old word processor (essentially an advanced typewriter). Still, that Apple didn’t have the Internet; that is to say, I wasn’t connected. That didn’t come until my grandpa bought us a new computer—once again, as a Christmas present—a few years later. It was a Dell. While there were definitely remnants of a new culture—a connected culture— emerging, it was still at a slow speed.

Damn dial-up.

I also remember getting my first cell phone my freshman year of college. A gigantic Zach Morris-esque phone—that’s what I call it now. The thing barely fit in my pocket. Now, elementary students have their own cell phones. And don’t get me started on Bluetooth.

The point, here, is that my students (as well as those younger than them) don’t share similar memories. They grew up in a more connected culture—a networked culture. They have had entirely different lives, ones that have had immediate access to almost anything any time they wanted it. And while it might make those students a little greedier—or perhaps more spoiled—it nevertheless entails that they perceive and conceive of the world differently. As such, they have developed different practices. Those who can remember life before the ubiquity of the cell phone and the hassle of dial-up are also seeing differently—don’t get me wrong. And for some, this change in seeing includes reticence and fear; for others, it provides convenience and opportunity. Regardless of the feelings it induces, this new way of seeing brings about a change in our old practices (and those older than me obviously have different sets of practices that have since grown somewhat obsolete). What seems important, thus, is that this networked culture affects not only how we search for and gather information but also how we produce such information.

This brings us to composing.

In composition, this networked culture engenders new opportunities—new avenues in which to compose as well as new ways to compose. More importantly, perhaps, is that it empowers the composer and undermines traditional ideas of authority. Now, anyone with Internet access can compose via a blog; almost anyone can load up a video on YouTube. Here, people who were rendered silent—invisible—in previous culture are now allotted a voice. Of course, who and how many read that blog or watch that video is dependent on other variables, but access is surely not one of them. In other words, an increase in agency and the dissemination of information—regardless of its quality—are salient features of this new networked culture. There are just more options—more information from more sources.

This networked culture then, as alluded to above, has a prominent impact on our literacies: in some cases, it alters prior literacy practices (think of the Networked Journalism piece), but in other cases, it creates entirely new literacies and practices. In a networked culture, we see visually more often than not—“seeing is believing” is a valued concept despite whether what we see is actually real. Furthermore, we (unconsciously or not) are drawn more toward the multimodal; we revel in the interplay of visuals, words, and sounds even if we cannot articulate why. The major difference, it seems, is that we are no longer passive consumers. We still consume—and we surely have more options for consumption—but we produce just as much. We communicate—incessantly.

Interesting to me in this networked culture is that we have paradoxically become both connected and fragmented. We lionize the opportunities inherent in being connected but often fail to recognize the potential detriments. As Kazys Varnelis and Anne Friedberg say in their chapter about space, “[w]ith connection there is also disconnection, and networks can consolidate power in the very act of dispersing it.” It seems that sometimes we get too enamored with the prospect of new technology and new opportunities—new ways to connect—without seeing the other side, seeing what and who is left unprivileged. Varnelis and Friedberg’s opening with the scene at a coffee house is a resonating one. We see it all the time, but do we think of the potential drawbacks? In our zeal to be connected, to live a more virtual life, what do we lose in the real life? Or, are these two—the virtual and the real—becoming conflated? Are they no longer distinct?

Kara T. said...

The sun had barely begun to set as Bette Milder sang softly in my ear asking if I wanted to dance under the moon. My skinny caramel latte (w/ extra drizzle on top) was half empty and I occasionally was sidetracked by the random couples walking in and out of the Starbucks. Yes I read our homework in a Starbucks ironically enough. However, unlike Varnelis and Friedberg I was still connect to physical people. Natalie sat beside me, and we often stopped to talk about the readings, student papers and whatever we decided to chat about. Kelly was also in this particular Starbucks and every time I went into the bathroom I stopped to chat and discuss her progress on the same reading. I did reach out to those around me and did not use any digital technology to do so. What does this mean? Well I think similar to Rory comparing his technology experiences with his students I too am not so immersed within this new networked place that I can go without real, physical human contact even when I gather at the “watering hole.” I still need my public sphere to be well inherently public. I need real people to be in my network not virtual people. However, I am (obviously) not immune to the new public sphere that is as Varnelis and Friedberg say is becoming fixed in the digital world. I have facebook which I check daily (often several times) and post a “status” so that my friends can know my up-to-date outlook (for example today began as “Go Steelers” and progressed to “Ah…Ben, so close, so close!”). I post pictures and comment on other friends’ pictures and walls and throw virtual cows and chickens and Golden Girls. I have a cell phone which I want to check immediately among receiving a text even if I’m in class. I have a labtop which is attached to my life line. I have a baby I-pod. I even splurged on a DVR. So I have my network includes the digital technology but is by no means limited to that. In my world, network is direct tied to culture, but the culture that I create around me. In the world that is not “Kara land” I may be in the minority as suggested in our readings. The digital public sphere is becoming one that is more common than not common and as I observed the people in Starbucks most people are either on their computers or bopping along to their I-pod.

I think that this means something similar for both composition and
literacy practices. I disagree that our identities are being lost with this new place instead I think our identities are being reformed and resituated. They are now being formed by the digital technology and the new places created are directly connected to this thus our identities are directly connected. Our identity, I believe, is related to how we compose and how we learn literary practices. Students now come to our class with an identity that was shaped (or at least heavily influenced) by the technology that surrounded their growing up years. It will/is not same as what shaped our identity. But this is not a negative thing. As I suggested last week, I think literacy is being redefined as we progress digitally and if literacy is being redefined so then is composition. How it is defined depends on how we view the influence of digital technology, but I believe the elements are there for the definition to keep emerging all shiny and new.

I leave with the same thought as Leah: network is much like the game six degrees of separation. Kevin Bacon is not our connection rather today the connection is digital technology and as we progress the technology may change but the connection remains there.

Natalie said...

Like the others who posted before me, reading these selections made me pause and think about the experiences in my own life that connect to networks; however, rather than regale you with delicious tails of chat rooms and “Where is the world is Carmen San Diego,” I would like to pick up where Rory left off in his final paragraph. What interests me most in this networked discussion currently is what happens to our culture as it pours itself (rather quickly) into online networks.

In their chapter on place the authors question whether the price of new (global) connections may be local disconnects and alienation. I have to wonder of this is true. Like Kara, clearly, I still chat with people while at the coffee house, but how many times have I turned to Facebook or a text message rather than calling someone or simply visiting them. I tend to spend the first hour or two of my morning online perusing various sites; what kind of face to face (local) connections am I inhibiting because of this practice? Could I be chatting with friends over breakfast or maybe I could just look over across the room and have breakfast with Rory. How much does the presence of laptops in our living room and dining room affect how much I interact with the person I live with? What am I gaining and what am I loosing because of the ubiquitous wireless signal that runs through our apartment? Needless to say, these answers scare me a bit because I fear I am sacrificing local connections for digital ones.

A week or two ago I saw a Dentyne commercial on tv that addressed this very issue. (yes, a gum commercial) It juxtaposed terms for digital (online) connections with “real world” connections between people. Two people kissing became “Instant message,” a man scoring a goal and celebrating with friends on the soccer field became “friend request accepted,” a room full of friends chatting become “chat room full” two girls whispering and giggling became “voicemail,” and a joyful reunion became “transfer complete.” I was intrigued by the interplay, and contrary to the message they wanted to send—to spend “face time” rather than time online—I headed online to check out the ad campaign. Ironically, when I found Dentyne’s page, a pop up appeared and told me that I had 3:00 minutes to explore their site. After that, I would be locked out so that I could get off the computer and spend time with those in front of me—to make “face time” with those locally. I was incredulous, but sure enough, a small clocked ticked down, and I was locked out after it hit 0. (seriously, check it out http://www.dentyne.com/) I refreshed the page to try to beat the system, but my attempts were futile; a chewing gum company was forcibly making my leave their site to make “real” connections. I took the hint, closed the computer and made some dinner plans with friends.

How sad is it that an ad campaign needed to remind me of the connections around me?! Bottom line of my (extended) narrative: how much “connection” do we lose by being “connected?” How meaningful are those connections online versus the ones we make in the real world? Our authors states that larger online video games can help bridge these real and digital worlds, but how meaningful is my connections to phillygirl86 online in, say, SIMS or WoW? If, as the authors assert, our selves—our identities—are beginning to be constructed of our connections with others, what does it mean for our identities that these new connections may be increasingly superficial (and maintained at the cost of local face-to-face connections)? What ‘self identity’ can I have if I have 5 different online identities (each which represent a certain fragment of myself) which facilitate multiple superficial connections and increasingly fewer meaningful face-to-face connections? I don’t want to go all crazy matrix-we-all-live-inside-the-system on ya’ll, but if we continue with our current practices—where a chewing gum ad is admonishing us for spending too much time online—where are we headed??

Leah Cassorla said...

Ruth's comment that this might make us rethink intellectual property is intriguing to me.

In Asian rhetoric (and in some others) the use of uncited sources is the norm because it is seen as a paean to the source. But it demands a well-read and educated public that is therefore aware that the ideas and words "belong" to the original source. So the ability to "write" others' texts as well as to "read" them with full understanding, is, in itself, a sign of social standing.

If we were to rethink intellectual property in the Western tradition--in which, I believe, the intellectual is fast becoming the only true property any of us holds--what would we be aiming toward? I don't think we have the cultural base to go with the Asian model. We do not have a foundational culture--and *that* to me is the issue. Because there is no homogeneous "culture" from which to work, or on which to depend, there can be no basis from which to assume an audience would "catch" the references as Asian rhetoric assumes.

I wonder, if there's a chance to use "the doodles" here to look at how our rhetoric may be changing from the effects of networked literacy. This might be a good way to visualize our changed rhetorical and compositional interactions.

Jennifer O'Malley said...

For me, a network is (and to borrow a few buzzwords from our reading) a decentralized public sphere of interrelated connections that engages its members, participants, and observers. In the Introduction, Mizuko Ito points out one of the most unique elements of today’s networks: their independence from “monetary compensation as [a] key motivating factor.” This is so interesting to me! In our money-hungry society, this recent birth of networks rely not on the premise of financial proliferation (well, sometimes), but on the genuine exchange of thoughts, ideas, views, and communication.

In defining network, Leah makes an interesting observation regarding the inactivity supported by a network, “One can be (actively or inactively) connected to the person sitting next to her or to a friend thousands of miles away in another country.” I think that “inactivity” is an interesting element of a network. Although you may be connected to someone through a network, it is not necessary to actively engage in action or communication with them specifically in order to remain connected. In sum, a network supports the inactive relationships of connected entities.

Regarding the structure of networks, I am attracted by their ability to support and encourage collective intelligence efforts. In Convergence Culture, Jenkins elaborates on the reality that the amount of available information is too much for one individual to absorb. As a result, networks focused on collective intelligence allow network members to acquire more information than they would have on their own. As Jenkins mentions, the Survivor spoiler networks is a group of individuals who aim to uncover the series’ secrets and the identity of future eliminated contestants. The environment of a network, this network in particular, encourages the interaction among members and supports their efforts to collectively pull their knowledge together in order to figure out puzzles.

I would also like to agree with Kara’s opinion, “I disagree that our identities are being lost with this new place instead I think our identities are being reformed and resituated.” I rarely frequent Starbucks, but when the corporate coffeehouse fetish first initiated, I remember visiting the establishment, ordering a drink I couldn’t pronounce, and waiting patiently for my order to arrive. As I waited, I noticed the individuals seemingly hypnotized by their laptops. I remember thinking how I kind of felt sorry for them. They were sitting by themselves and relying on a laptop for companionship. I previously thought that these individuals purposely isolated themselves from society and used their computers as excuses to escape dialogue with others. In the Introduction, Mizuko Ito reinforces this claim that “these technologies have also been criticized as leading to social insularity, as people shut out engagement with copresent others in favor of their remote, but intimate, relations.” But, are these technologies really isolating individuals? Little did I know, these individuals, through their interrelated online networks, were communicating with numerous other individuals in a vast array of online forums. They emailed, IMed, blogged, and Facebooked all while I was waiting for my Frappacino. Regardless of their physical presence in Starbucks, they were connected outside the realm of physical limitation. They weren’t there to sulk in their solitude. They were there for the free Wi-Fi (and yes, then it was free). And to reiterate what Kara said, our identities are no longer isolated to our physical presence, they are “reformed and resituated” in online networks.

Scott said...

In reading everyone's comments, it seems obvious that "network" has has added faster and more expansive means by which we can interact with the world--whether as friends, political activists, consumers, etc. It also seems obvious that, as a result of these means, "network" creates new ways of thinking about both the world and ourselves, as the rest of you have noted. While I tend to agree, I'd like to approach this view with greater skepticism. More specifically, I question whether we're actually doing anything quit different than what we did before we became a networked culture. I'm thinking specifically of the moment in Varnelis' conclusion when, among other negative aspects of networked culture, he identifies the potential of the network to connect us only with those who are like-minded. This creates niche subcultures that, while they may extend across the globe, don't necessarily allow for fruitful discourse between opposing parties. (If anything, these subcultures carry the potential to reaffirm the ideologies of like-minded individuals. This can inspire greater consubstantiality among those members of the community, which in turn, creates greater division between those who belong to the community and those who do not.) If we consider Burke's definition of rhetoric, i.e. the use of symbols to incite cooperation among individuals, we can see that humans have always persuaded one another to connect with those with whom we identify and to view as potential enemies those with whom we do not. What the network seems to offer is a faster, more efficient, and more expansive method of continuing this behavior. Put another way: our proclivity to identify and divide has surfaced in the network. You might even say it's one of the network's key characteristics. (It should come as no surprise that this characteristic translates into networked warfare, as Varnelis mentions in his conclusion.)

Now, one saving grace, so to speak, may be the extent to which the network allows us to belong to so many subcultures. For example, perhaps there exists the potential for one (or several) of these subcultures to overlap, and in overlapping provide us with the oportunity to identify with those against whom we may have been divided. But I tend to be more pessimistic in this regard.

As for composition, it seems the network's potential to divide places a greater emphasis on how we understand (and teach) issues of audience and ethos. What constitutes credibility in a networked culture, where ethos is largely a product of communal knowledge and experience? How, as readers and writers, do we navigate a space where so many people create text geared toward the like-minded? I tend to view these questions as central to composition and literacy practices in the 21st century.

Kelly said...

With regards to my Starbuck's experience, I found it interesting that the man sitting next to me, a man I had not said one word to the entire time I was studying, said goodbye to me. What did this mean? Okay, obviously he was saying "later" just to be cordial, but what was the need for it? Had we created a bond simply by proxy? I was reading my printed copies of the readings, he was typing up some paper about anatomy, and we never conversed besides the obligatory "is anyone sitting here?" Did this question mark the beginning of our encounter, and was a goodbye needed to end it?

Okay, I just thought it was interesting, but I do think it says a lot about us. Like many others who have posted, I still want to be connected in the real world, as did the stranger sitting next to me. In fact, as I looked around, I saw two men watching video streams together, two other men discussing some sort of project over a laptop, and then a few other individuals like me. And, I was excited to see two fellow rhet/compers at the coffee shop—even though we only socialized intermittedly. We all have this need to feel connected both virtually and physically, and those needs were clearly illustrated at Starbuck’s on Sunday.

So, what does “network” add to culture? I think it adds connection, another sense of community, and a sense of awareness of the community. Many of you have pointed out Facebook, Myspace, etc. as examples of the networked community, and I think that the hierarchies inherent in these spaces bring a more acute awareness to the networked self (I mean, because Facebook is, like, so much better than Myspace—as my students constantly remind me.). How and why does one network become better than the other?

As for literacy, the network not only illuminates the ones who have the know-how to participate in such cultures, but also the means to participate in the network. By this, I mean access. To not be literate in the network may reflect on the embedded politics driving it, and to discuss the networked self in the classroom may mean that we not only talk about what that networked self is, but who is granted privilege to join.

Leigh said...

Maybe it’s my age, but it’s almost hard to remember a time when I was not a member of a networked culture. We had a computer when I was in kindergarten, and it was connected to the internet (albeit very s-l-o-w-l-y) by the time I was in second grade. I was addicted to AIM by middle school, and had a cell phone in ninth grade. I’ve had a facebook account since my first semester of college.

So, the challenge for me is not to wrap my head around network culture. It’s almost harder to understand the world the way it used to be. I think of my tools (my laptop, my cell phone) as an extension of myself- I don’t feel fragmented, just extended. The example of life in a Starbucks is completely familiar and –perhaps I’m alone here- comfortable. It’s a clever illustration of the tension between simultaneous connection and division. Kara’s experience in Starbucks, reading individually, but still situated within a (specialized) community, is compelling and, I think, a realistic view on how network culture really works in our lives. The concept of subjectivity is no doubt changing, but I’m not convinced it’s for the worse.

As far as networking’s effects on literacy and composition, it’s clear that networking is already changing the way we produce and consume information. “Networked Journalism” shows us how ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ journalism inform one another, and how the lines between production and consumption are continually blurred. Blogs are just one example of this phenomenon, but this trend goes beyond journalism- we see TV shows like American Idol asking viewers to text their votes to keep contestants, not just creating a network, but altering media. Here we are, contemplating the implications of networking- on a blog, reading and responding to each others’ work. We are embodying network culture.

Networking means participant/creator as one, and movement across all levels and all mediums. Are we there yet? It would be naïve to believe we’ve explored all the possibilities with our current technology, and it’s changing so rapidly that we can’t even imagine what technology will offer us in the future.

Matt D said...

As usual, the posts that came before this one both said the things I wanted to say and opened new topics that I wanted to address.

My initial conception of network had to do with space and relative importance. A network, of whatever kind, seems to add a dimension. Not to get all space-time continuum here, but I think the network inherently adds another conceptual level to communications, another subtext to the text. My first thought was that the primary addition in a digital network was in relative importance. It seems that the hub/node concepts work well as a metaphor for what I mean. Whereas traditional structures place emphasis on hierarchy (let's say "Western" structures, which are increasingly the only kind that there are), a network places emphasis on relative importance. As the importance of one node rises-- let's say, the Drudge Report-- it becomes a hub. More people check it, its relative importance increases with circulation. Eventually, another will rise to replace it and it will either disappear or decrease in relative importance. I'm noticing a sort of market economy of knowledge that I've accidentally set up-- I'll go back and redistribute the wealth another time...

In regards to Scott's skepticism and Rory's posting that networks add on as much as they create the new, I think I fall more towards Scott. Even without Burke's rhetoric, I think we see a marked continuation of our previous modes of socialization-- niche communities smack of high school cliques more than most might like. Pulling instead of pushing doesn't mean that we'll pull what's best-- or that we won't just pull what has been pushed on us.

Conversely, I've recently started wondering about the possibility of pulling what you don't agree with-- whether that is even possible or whether those communities remain completely off radar. If I listen to FoxNews Radio (and I do, on purpose, and often), am I undermining the niche community dynamic? What if I just listen and disagree with everything that they say? What if I listen because I know that I'll disagree with everything they say?


Which moves me, by way of digression, to identity. I agree with Kara that our identities within a network are not destroyed, but "reformed and resituated." Well said indeed, and tack on what Jenn mentioned about those identities being both passive and active. More importantly, I think that the network provides an antifoundationalist argument for identity that many of those who eschew Postmodernist philosophy might be able to get with. And that will put us on the road to where we like to be in terms of author, authority, and intellectual property.

Now to comp and literacy practices. There seems to be some consensus that this entails both a) being able to critically examine the network and b) learning to actively situate yourself within the network in a desired way (or passively situate yourself, if you wish- as Rush says "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice"). Now to teach it...

As to Kelly's question: Had we created a bond simply by proxy? I think so, and I think it might also be on more levels that we'd usually acknowledge.

Jill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill said...

One of the advantages of posting at a later time is I get to see all of the ideas my classmates have so astutely gleaned from the text and our discussions in class. Once seeing those ideas, I realize that many of their perceptions are ones I possess myself. Convergence really does beget confidence., n’est ce pas?

I think that networks and culture are symbiotic. Networks can be shaped by a culture and vice versa. It’s that indefinite line that contributes to the dynamic nature of networks and how they are reflective of the current culture. It is true that networks strive to make connections, ones that might not be visible if not showcased on social websites. These social networking sites are to keep us connected. But I, like Natalie, wonder how much of this sociality is real? Is this truly creating a social environment? Or is it merely a façade of a social environment which is, in essence, (as Rory said) potentially fragmented? What if the social network is a guise that makes me believe I am more connected, when I am really sacrificing those true (as Natalie said) local and face-to-face, voice-to-voice connections that are at the heart of socialization? When I buy in to social networks, how does that mimic my real life and connections with others? What is lost when I buy in to this expanded network? The text we read says that, “With an expanded network, individuals are able to reach out to a potentially larger and more varied pool of culture and information.” But I can’t help but think if expanded necessarily means (to keep with the pool theme) “watered down”? Am I spread out too thin with too large a network? Is my sense of self altered to something new? I’m prone to say yes. I operate differently within an online social network than I do in my own reality. My online persona is an alter ego of sorts.

An idea expressed in this article that was intriguing (and puzzling) was the idea of “calculated copresence”. Kelly touched on this when she mentioned the (non)relationship she had with a fellow Starbucks patron. This sense of unspoken camaraderie may suggest that we identify with others in networks that aren’t explicitly defined. In this case, space was the familiar network that co-defined Kelly and the man as a community. “while comfortably sipping coffee or its commodified equivalent in the franchised design of this local Starbucks, they are—via a network connection, mobile phone, or wireless laptop—in another place.” Kelly was at this Starbucks by herself, but as the article suggests “this idea of solitude is deceiving…”

Will virtual space really end up “replacing the building as a dwelling place?” I don’t think that will ever fully come to be. After all, isn’t virtual space a reflection of real space? As we read about desktops of computers mimicking real life processes and familiar concepts in real life, I believe that virtual culture will continue to pull from reality, but I also believe that reality is shaped by the virtual. I agree with Kara and Jennifer that we are not losing our identities in this, but they are merely being “reformed and resituated.” This is an important concept in terms of literacy. As our literacies evolve to include new ways of thinking, it is important to realize that literacies are constantly informing each other. We learn new ways, but use our prior knowledge to do so. These two realms blend together to form a new version of our culture. Isn’t it all just remediated? Our approaches to ideas and thought processes can be linked to previous ones. Our identities are like media in a sense—dynamic, constantly changing by being informed by a culture while simultaneously forming their own. The dynamic nature of identities and literacies are akin to the dynamic nature of digital network culture. So, when it comes to composition, we can see that writing processes are much the same. We approach many writing assignments with a goal of networking. Yes, that may seem strange, but think about it. Any paper where we cite references is an attempt at networking. We are attempting to add to the conversation by citing others and connecting their work to our own.

And just for kicks, here’s a video that parodies the Facebook network as if it would happen in real life:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrlSkU0TFLs

Katie said...

While the "network culture" referred to in our readings this week was primarily a reference to those rooted in cyberspace, I was reminded that networking is not exclusively electronic. Humans have been networking indefinitely and the networks in the readings this week could be seen as remediations. Thus, while face-to-face networking is a complex of links and echo chambers that can make all the difference in providing information and opportunity, cyberspace networks operate similarly -- as merely one of many lenses through which we can engage the world.

The negative sides of "network culture" will always exist like anything else. Tunneling, among other negatives, occurs with or without the net. While these social trends are more "dangerous" per se when placed within the large scope of the net, they are certainly nothing new.

It seems that as the network becomes increasingly pervasive in our lives we naturally find ourselves pausing to consider the ways this network may alter or engage the other networks that we are part of. As Leah said, the network is a "mass of potential energy." More explicitly, however the network is a mass of creative energy. The question to me is what do we do with this creative bloom in cyberspace when we suddenly find ourselves in "private encounters with public spaces." Framing the inhabitants of networks as "publics" Mizuko Ito acknowledges the increasingly engaged stance that we are able to take online. Ito writes: "Publics can be reactors, (re) makers and (re)distributes, engage in shared culture and knowledge through discourse and social exchange as well as through acts of media reception."

Given this framework, it seems as though this blog is merely one example of the "re"s of networked publics expending their creative networked energy. Quite simply, an increased ability to engage and network beyond ourselves also implicates an increased sense of responsibility. Learning to read the network involves knowing how to peel back transparent layers of knowledge tinted by intricate contexts that both produce and circulate knowledge.

The disconnect we may feel in the cyberspace network falls on a spectrum that we have perhaps merely been acculturated not to notice. In some ways Thoreau's wondering through Walden parallels Vernelis and Friedberg's description of trying to get away from the network at Starbucks with a moleskin notebook. However, while this man had a moleskin notebook and Thoreau apparently carried a hatchet – they both maintained connections with networks they sought to escape. This brings up another element of our technologically networked existence. The network culture on the web is merely a recent appearance on a spectrum that we hardly notice any more. This is to say that perhaps when we drive, etc. we are networked in various ways and really have little connection with many of the “places” through which we pass. Just as many of our students are unaware of their networked presence -- so are we unaware of our networked presence when we hurl down beltways with mere glances at distant skylines.

Thus, it seems that network not only adds volumes to culture, but it also calls upon new types of social responsibility and awareness. Just as we may attempt to send all drivers to drivers' ed, so is our public school system making efforts to situate American's within the networked web and inculcate an “appropriate” decorum. However, depending on your perspective, this is rarely successful – and loaded with a whole new set of problems.

S. Andon said...

I, too, was as fascinated as many of the comments above in regards to network, place, and identity. While there seems to be growing favor in support of Kara's point in regards to identities being reformed and resituated, I am engrossed by how much reforming and resiituating the network allows. In other words, there is a revamped identity in play - but what is that identity?

As Natalie asserted, is it my World of Warcraft character's interaction with others in Azeroth (I had to look that up I promise)? That seems a scary proposition as we read about rogue nomad WoW warriors destroying funeral services. Is it one of my five online social networking profiles that constitutes my networked identity? Increasingly, and again repeating Natalie's term, what do we have left but fragmented identities that, and research has shown, vary widely in purpose. According to the research, I self-select certain qualities to represent my identity in the way I see fit. Do I want people to think this way or that way - I'll use a new profile picture of list my cool favorite things to show I belong to a certain group.

Increasingly, but not to beat a dead horse, research shows that profiles and avatars and such are elements that people use to represent themselves online in new ways. The question becomes, then, with what accuracy is my identity represented online? I mean, how else do they ensnare those guys on "To Catch A Predator"? At least in that instance, the manipulation of identity is for good, but consider the many other situations in which the reshaping allows one to create an identity that is further and further away from real, face-to-face life.

Fear not, however, the Matrix world is not upon us, for their is still further research that emphasizes that, while the Internet does allow us to present ourselves in new ways, it is not yet a substitute for real world interactions. At our very core, I believe humans need physical, face-to-face interaction and the research supports that notion: people are still afraid to fully trust and make judgments about other people they interact with solely through the Internet, as interpersonal factors are still relevant. Sometimes physical interactions in the real world are influenced chemically (as if to say, by pheromones), and as of yet, the Internet has yet to harness the capability to broadcast smell, among other things.

In response to Jenn and picking up on what Kelly mentioned, at least if one is sitting in the Starbucks, then, there is an interaction that takes place even as individuals go about doing individual things. No one accidentally ends up at a physical place - there is an intent to connect physically even as one searches the Internet, downloads songs from iTunes, etc.

So, then, what does network add to culture? I believe that it adds to our lives an element of negotiation as we combine our travels along the information superhighway with our travels as the flaneur. Both are important and both will live on.

But also, and this was somewhat glossed over in the readings, the network and our life today is driven by speed. Virillio can be applied here in noting that the ability to move faster grants people power (I was surprised he wasn't cited by any of our authors). Friends who are buying BlackBerries are all of a sudden wondering to themselves...should I get the e-mail plan on this thing? Inevitably they fall victim to the added cost because they desire the power to respond as fast as possible. I'd rather take my time, I'll get back to you when I can and as soon as I figure out how to mitigate my real world self with my networked self.

Kelly said...

One more thing:

I just finished speaking with Tallahassee Police Dept. about the burglaries occurring in our neighborhood (let me tell you--a VERY interesting morning here!). I asked what we as a neighborhood could do to prevent these crimes. Their response: create an email list of all residents and keep informed that way. So, would it be safe to say that networks are used for safety purposes as well?

I found this answer to be interesting (even if I think they may have been trying to blow me off!)

Liane said...

Network doesn't add to culture, it redefines culture. Before the networked culture we live in today existed, our connections were limited. We lived in pockets of culture, of information, of perspective, of reality. And I'm talking just 20 years ago. Think back to the early 80s, if you can remember them....when the thermal paper fax machine became widely used in offices. I remember how we were all amazed at the office -- we could send a memo to someone on the other side of the world without Federal Express (which, by the way, has only been around since 1977).

But the fax was only a way to reach across the world, not really to network, although perhaps it was a harbinger of network culture. What's really different now is not how we reach out, but how we make knowledge. That is how networked culture has redefined out society. So while we can sit in Starbucks and be connected to the world, if not the person next to us, it's about more than that connection. It's about how the fact that we make that connection, and that we now see the world through the lens of making that kind of connection, allows us to perceive and make knowledge in a new way. As Kara points out, our identity has been reframed and resituated in the networked culture.

Perhaps this example will help illustrate my thought, and possibly this is what Rory means. When personal computers first arrived on the scene, they were instruments...machines that allowed us to compose, and then via the internet to gather and post information. But it is only through becoming part of a participatory culture that we are truly networked, and that's what Networked Culture adds to the conversation, and what Henry Jenkins talked about. We're not just dialing in, were making the stuff.