Ai Weiwei and Digital Social Movements

Ai Weiwei and Digital Social Movements

In a blog post titled “Citizen Investigation” on March 20th, 2009, Ai Weiwei wrote:

“To remember the departed, to show concern for life, to take responsibility, and for the potential happiness of the survivors, we are initiating a citizen investigation.”

This was the start of a new social movement in which Ai Weiwei called upon volunteers to uncover the truth behind the lives lost in the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008.

“I spend 90 per cent of my energy blogging,” Ai said in an interview before his blog was discontinued. He also admitted to occupying over twelve hours of his day online.

Since the deletion of his blog by the Chinese government, Ai Weiwei  turned to Twitter to continue his online activism and of course, continues to use his art to convey profound messages on the state of China today.

Translation: In this country, tyranny deprives not only ordinary people of their rights to life, but also their rights to express their opinions, including the right to question, the right to inquire and the right to know. All the efforts to acquire the rights have been destroyed by the authorities at all costs. People who died of tyranny had no place to be buried.

Have a listen to my podcast below, which goes into detail about Ai Weiwei’s “Citizen Investigation” campaign:

Music:
Oriental’s Dreams by Deimos
2011
(CC- BY – NC 2.0)

References:

AI, W. & AMBROZY, L. 2011. Ai Weiwei’s Blog: Writings, Interviews, and Digital Rants, 2006-2009, MIT Press. pp. xvii – xxvii.

CARTY, V. 2015. Social movements and new technology, Westview Press. pp. 1-16

SULLIVAN, J. 2012. A tale of two microblogs in China. Media, Culture & Society, Volume 34, pp. 773-783.

TILLY, C. 2010. Regimes and repertoires, University of Chicago Press. pp. 183-185.

WEAVER, M. 2008. Police break up protest by parents of China earthquake victims [Online]. Available:www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/…ed=networkfront [Accessed 26/04/2016]

WONG, E. 2008. China Presses Hush Money Grieving Parents [Online]. Available:www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/world/…24quake.html?_r=1 [Accessed 25/04/2016]

ME, MYSELF, ONLINE.

ME, MYSELF, ONLINE.

The title sounds rather narcissistic, wouldn’t you say? Well, that would be due to this blog post being all about me and how I portray myself online. My digital journey began way back in 2007 when my family finally agreed to leap into the 21st century and connect to broadband Internet. I won’t bore you with my (embarrassing, cringeworthy, twelvie) tales from MSN and MySpace, but I think it’s safe to say that up until about a year ago I put very little thought into the construction of my online identity.

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A horrible selfie from 2007. I rocked those braces, though.

It is argued that ‘identity’ is best described as an ‘emotionally-charged description of ourselves’ – not one ‘fixed’ persona. Identity is merely an essence of the self, which is expressed through representations recognisable by ourselves and others (Barker and Galasinski, 2001). On social media for instance, we are allowing our audience to catch a glimpse of a certain representation of ourselves; the “I” of reference is constructed and situated, and not identical with its flesh-and-blood maker (Smith and Watson, 2014). What we’re seeing is a fragment of our beliefs, attitudes, tastes and lifestyles neatly packaged to appear more attractive/professional/exciting or whatever the affordance of the platform may be.

What online social network sites allow the user to do are often called a technology’s ‘affordances’. The construction of our online identities is partly based upon the intended use of the platform or the limitations of the site’s functionality.  Collectively, they are connected to a desire to produce (Burnett and Marshall, 2003), as they have simplified the process of constructing a website and ensuring that the website or profile is able to garner an audience, one of the factors which makes social media so appealing.

Of course, the site’s anticipated use can evolve over time, too. For instance, Facebook’s original purpose was to communicate amongst university peers. Facebook has captured a very large number of users, and has pervaded the culture from its origins in university life to now encompassing a comprehensive connection to all demographic groups (Marshall, 2010).

Now, I think it is very safe to say, that Facebook is the social network for “socialising” online (not to mention a multi-billion-dollar company).

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A photo of me taking a photo for social media. Photo courtesy of: Kristen Settinelli Photography

There are so many facets of my online life, it’s difficult to keep up sometimes. Each social media platform I use reveals varying degrees of my virtual identity(/ies) as well as a tiny snapshot of my ‘real’ life. From my personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, to my professional LinkedIn and About.Me profiles, my life on social media can, at times, resemble a metaphorical rollercoaster.

I use Facebook to communicate with my friends and family who are predominantly present in my ‘real’ life. It is largely the best platform to communicate on a more personal level with those nearest and dearest to me. Although, if I want a job at the end of my degree, I should probably consider withdrawing from pointless heated debates across popular news threads.

 

identity
An infographic about my findings on the ‘You Are What You Like’ psychometric test.

Snapchat is probably my most used channel after Facebook. Although I’m not always active on the platform, I find myself constantly checking the latest additions to the ‘My Story’ feed to keep up to date with my friends. I also host La Trobe University’s Snapchat account and have become somewhat of a celebrity around campus with students asking me “Are you the girl from Snapchat?”

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Promoting O-Week on Snapchat. Another of my online personae. Photography: T. Matliovski

Of course, there is a time to be social and a time to be professional. My LinkedIn and About.Me profiles serve this purpose—and in very different ways. LinkedIn is essentially the social network for professionals and budding professionals alike, whether you are a recruiter, job seeker or scoping out new leads. While About.Me is a springboard, which launches the viewer into my broader online world and encourages further exploration of my virtual profiles.

On LinkedIn, the aim of the game is professional networking and resume building. Since realising its potential, I reinvigorated my LinkedIn profile in 2015, which has attracted the eye of several recruiters interested in landing me a job in the digital media field. Gareth Wright, director of communication recruitment company, The Little Black Book Agency told The Drum that it’s essential to “make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and informative; recruiters, both agency and client, will inevitably search for this, so it should be as pristine as your CV.”

Originally, I think I misused About.Me and adopted the “carefree Facebook” approach and wrote my bio as though I was writing to a friend. Thankfully, my media teacher advised that while this approach isn’t detrimental to your online persona, it doesn’t increase your chances of an employer connecting with you. Therefore, I felt it was necessary to re-construct my identity on About.Me and tailored my profile to suit a different audience.

In between the personal and professional, you can find me on Twitter, the micro-blogging platform demanding an insight into our thoughts succinctly expressed in 140 characters or less. The content I post here ranges from Tweets relevant to my studies or future career to my love/hate relationship with My Kitchen Rules.

The platform that easily gives me the most joy is my dog’s Instagram account. Nothing in the world has ever filled me with as much joy as her, so I decided to make a social account for her, so others could enjoy her cute antics as much as I do. We try to upload once a day and use the maximum amount of hashtags (thirty) per post to increase visibility. It’s funny how much planning and thought went into launching her Instagram when I don’t do nearly the same for my own accounts. In fact, I’ve almost completely ditched my personal Instagram account to pursue hers “full time”.

An influential factor in how I use social media is my training in its professional use. I’ve learned, as William Deresiewicz observed, “The self today is an entrepreneurial self, a self-that’s packaged to be sold.” As depressing as that sounds, it’s true for young professionals in today’s digital world. I hope to achieve a career in digital content creation and to do that I’ll need to maintain a killer online presence.

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My Broader Online Activity and Engagement 

I’ve really impressed myself with the level of activity and engagement I’ve participated in this trimester. I have completed other online subjects before but never felt enthused enough to bother with the ‘engagement’ criteria of the unit.

This time, engaging online was a really pleasurable experience and other students in the unit actually want to talk and interact with each other, instead of feeling like a contest (despite being gamified!).

I’ve been inspired to create this blog, documenting my studies, I’ve thought deeply about concepts of identity and I even got to talk about feminism with ALC203 tutor, Emma Whatman.

References: 

BARKER, C. & GALASINSKI, D. 2001. Cultural Studies and Discourse Analysis: A Dialogue on Language and Identity, SAGE Publications. pp. 70-78

BURNETT, R. & MARSHALL, P. D. 2003. Web theory: An introduction, Psychology Press. pp. 70-78

MARSHALL, P. D. 2010. The promotion and presentation of the self: celebrity as marker of presentational media. Celebrity studies, Vol. 1, pp. 35-48.

SMITH, S. & WATSON, J. 2014. Virtually me: A toolbox about online self-presentation. Identity technologies: Constructing the self online, pp. 70-95.

(Featured image: geralt, CC0 1.0)

USING SOURCE MATERIAL LEGALLY AND ETHICALLY

USING SOURCE MATERIAL LEGALLY AND ETHICALLY

Ah, copyright law. I think every subject I’ve ever studied since high school has had some sort of lesson on copyright. And it’s with good reason, obviously. You don’t want to stuff up and land yourself in prison. While it can be tedious and repetitive and dry content, it’s a particularly important topic. Especially for students of digital media just starting to make their mark in the online world.

I think it should go without saying the safest (and best) way to illustrate your work and to showcase your creativity, is to create your own media content from scratch. However, we all know that’s not always going to happen, so here’s how you can legally source materials for your next project.

The only way you’ll be able to use copyrighted material is if:

  • You own the copyright.
  • Your use is covered by an exception in the Copyright Act.
  • The work is out of copyright or the creator has waived their rights.
  • The work is licensed for your requested use / you have permission.

(Bovell, A 2015, ‘Using Content in Your Assessments and Portfolios’, Deakin University)

Thought bubble with a copyright symbol above a man working on a laptop
Thought bubble with a copyright symbol above a man working on a laptop

Image: Fstop, CC BY 2.0

 

So, the good news is, there are plenty of great websites to source copyright-free material from! You can scour the world wide web for these sites, but my two faves for sourcing pictures are Pixabay and Unsplash. For music, my go-to is Jamendo. There is also a Creative Commons search for many other media forms.

Other sites, such as Flickr Creative Commons, allow you to use their pictures, however the images have different degrees of licencing. Check out this groovy infographic I made, explaining some of the licences you might come across:

Creative Commons Licences Explained

How to credit work requiring attribution: 

It’s kind of like referencing in an academic essay.There are a few important things to include in your caption:

  • Mention the title of the work
  • Mention the creator
  • Provide the URL where the work is hosted
  • Indicate the type of licence it is available under and provide a link to the licence (so others can find out the licence terms)
  • Keep intact any copyright notice associated with the work.

There is a super simple and great example on the Creative Commons website, which explains it much better than I ever could. Give it a look-see!

Hopefully this helped to clear up any copyright questions you had, and if I’ve missed anything please let me know!

Black Mirror, Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits

Black Mirror, Episode 2: Fifteen Million Merits

Dang, this episode made me uncomfortable.

At the beginning I thought it was really cool, your own huge screen in your bedroom and a clean bathroom – what more could you need? Well, I shook that impression off quite quickly, when I suddenly felt overcome by feelings of extreme loneliness. This guy, Bing, didn’t look happy doing what he was doing. He seemed downright miserable. It was then that I had to remind myself that this was a dystopic vision of the future.

Fifteen Million Merits is set in the (not too?) distant future, in which the “everyday Joe” is forced into a life of slavery by riding exercise bikes day in day out in order to power the world’s energy.

“Merits” and their own virtual world distracts the bikers from their misery. Each person has their own avatar which they use to connect to one another virtually. By riding the bikes they earn Merits which enables them to make purchases for their avatar (e.g. new clothing and/or accessories), skip ads they are otherwise forced to watch or to buy a ticket to the talent show, Hot Shot, the means to escape your mundane life on the peddles.

I was quickly whisked back to high school literature classes in which we studied 1984 by George Orwell. I think Brooker’s Fifteen Million Merits hit home a little harder since it felt like a much nearer future… something I could relate to a lot more, while Orwell’s tale feels further away and a bit (for lack of a better word) unrealistic.

The episode has a lot to say about a number of societal issues, such as reality television shows, virtual identity and our addiction to digital media.

Watching the Hot Shot scenes absolutely terrified me, because it already seemed like the present. It was so lifeless and so meaningless, the judges were just spewing (pretty much) the same crap we’re used to hearing on reality talent shows today. When one judge said something, the audience immediately followed suit and started screaming manically in support, regardless of what was being suggested. It reminded me of the tweens of today who follow boy bands and scream their lungs out, fervently defending them from public scrutiny. The similarities were downright frightening.

Virtual identity was another striking theme as these people cared so much more about their virtual selves than their physical selves. Their physical selves were these repetitive drones, doomed to a life of slavery while their virtual selves got to enjoy the distractions of television. It terrified me how some characters were SO immersed in their digital “realities”, how important that new virtual hat was, or how hard they would have to work to be able to afford some other virtual upgrade that did nothing to improve their physical existence. Uniqueness is constructed the appearance of the avatar. What’s more daunting is that this is eerily close to our reality today.

How often have we heard of the fear of technology taking over our lives? I, for one, just ignored my mother telling me something while typing this at my laptop. Many of us are so consumed with achieving the perfect “Insta” shots, so many likes on Facebook and just to be noticed online. It’s a factor of our lives that has left a rather profound impression on our brains, the similarities to this episode had me dumbfounded. Is this the kind of world we’re really headed towards? Are the struggles of the real world so painful that we need to use our virtual identities as a distraction to constantly rely upon? The only “real” thing Bing ever claimed to felt was his short-lived attraction to Abi, until she was whisked away by Hot Shot. This was accentuated through the minimal dialogue, the first time we hear Bing speak is when he interacts with Abi for the first time.

There is; in my book, always a light at the end of the tunnel at least. What made me feel that little less miserable in this episode was the fact that Bing was still allowed to speak out about his feelings, he couldn’t suppress his emotions and he wouldn’t let these judges or their sheepish audience silence him. He had to have his voice heard, and he ended up living his life doing just that. However, I suppose it was to very little effect, as the bikers would only watch him for a distraction, not so much a re-education.

By the end of Fifteen Million Merits, I felt a huge sense of despair. Not only for our future, but for the present, too. There’s so much wrong with the world and people harnessing the power of technology for all the wrong reasons– it’s a thought I struggle to shake off. The closing scene with Bing looking out to a virtual depiction of a “view” was so depressing, it made me feel as though there is no hope. This is where society is headed, I concluded in my head, a time will come when there is no distinction between the “real” world and the virtual world, because our real lives will be redundant.

Once the episode was over and I snapped myself back into present-day reality, I realised that no matter what the innovative invention, whether it be technological or whatever, people will use it for bad as well as good. While it is very possible that much of Fifteen Million Merits is an exaggeration of the present, I’d like to think that there are enough of us “goodies” using technology for the right reasons. I don’t want to think of all of us as mindless sheep.

I suppose the warning here is to go out and live in the real world as often as you are living online… after all, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life on the peddles.

BE(ING) ACTIVE: PASSIVE POTATOES OR PRODUCTIVE PRODUSERS?

BE(ING) ACTIVE: PASSIVE POTATOES OR PRODUCTIVE PRODUSERS?
Disclaimer: No, that is not a spelling error in the title. 

As mentioned in the previous post, this 2.0 approach, as Claudia Grinnell writes in her article titled ‘From Consumer to Prosumer to Produser: Who Keeps Shifting My Paradigm? (We Do!)’,

blurs the line between producer and consumer and has shifted attention from access to information toward access to people. New kinds of online resources – such as social networking sites, blogs, wikis, and virtual communities – allow people with common interests to meet, share ideas, and collaborate in innovative ways.

(Grinnell 2009, p. 597)

Produsage refers to the type of user-led content creation that takes place in a variety of online environments such as Wikipedia, open source software, and the blogosphere (Bruns, 2007). The concept blurs the boundaries between passive consumption and active production. According to Snurblog, the distinction between producers and consumers or users of content has faded, as users also play the role of producers whether they are aware of this role or not. The hybrid term produser refers to an individual who is engaged in the activity of produsage.

Isn’t that exciting?! Producing content is a real passion of mine, so I’m excited to get stuck into this part of the unit where the making aspect comes into play.

Getting practical by being active

My tutor mentioned that his cousin, a successful digital manager for a major marketing company, firmly believes that it is essential for students to be active on Twitter and LinkedIn right from the get-go.

This allows for a lot of professional networking – for instance your virtual CV would be easily discoverable online by potential employers and could open up the way for new job opportunities.

According to SEO Daily Dose, microblogging platforms (including Twitter) have the following benefits:

  • Stay in touch with your connections.
  • Keep up to date with entertainment, news, etc.
  • Have useful discussion on selected topics.
  • Easy access to experts.

Business people can use this for the following

  • Sell / market products
  • To get user / customer feedback
  • As a live support tool
  • Increase brand awareness

Here are some of my own tips, created with Canva:

Twitter Tips