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Chris Anderson – The Long Tail

Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. New York: Hyperion, 2008. Print.

Summary:

Key Terms:

Important Quotes:

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2012 in Digital Writing

 

Annette Markham – Life Online

Markham, Annette N. Life Online: Researching Real Experience in Virtual Space. Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 1998. Print.

Summary:

 

Key Terms:

  • telepresence – “By logging onto my computer, I (or part of me) can seem to (or perhaps actually) exist separately from my body in ‘places’ formed by the exchange of messages” (17).
  • cyborg – “a state in which mind and body merge with the computer, or the mind separates from the body to be inside the machine, creating and expressing the soul in abstraction through language” (86).
  • hyperreal – “the idea that, in the postmodern world, the image becomes the reality so that the real is evermore lost in the infinite regression of mirrors, forever reflecting only the reflection from other mirrors” (118).

Important Quotes:

  • “To be present in cyberspace is to learn how to be embodied there. To be embodied there is to participate. To participate is to know enough about the rules for interaction and movement so that movement and interaction within this space is possible” (23-24).
  • “cyberspace is not simply a collection of texts to analyze; rather it is an evolving cultural context of immense magnitude and complex scope” (25).
  • Steven Jones: “online communication ‘not only structures relations, it is the structure within which the relations occur and the tool that individuals use to enter that space'” (54).
  • “physical disembodiment allows me to experiment with imaginary bodies (which I describe and try to perform) so I can experience how others respond to me; disengaging from my actual name and physical location allows me to escape for a few moments from the categories that hang like placards around my neck in everyday life. I realize that I cannot completely transform myself into something other than my embodied self, even through my words; but I am beginning to experience things that I couldn’t in a physical setting” (57).
  • “Even as I do this ethnography, I am not separate from it. The more I become a part of the ethnography, the more it becomes a part of me. In the end, I am not sure if I will have learned more about cyberspace, the participants, or me” (83).
  • “I began to understand that real and its opposite, not real, are becoming less valid frames, not because we are not having real experiences, but because online our experiences cannot be classified into binary states. Even the term virtual, if defined as nearly real, doesn’t encapsulate online experience. For these participants, every experience is as real as another” (115-116).
  • “control is perceived as a benefit of the technology or a power the self possesses, not a threat from outside the self or some power possessed by the Other. Perhaps physical isolation or separation from the context enables a perception of limitless agency” (124).
  • Terri Senft: “There has been a recent impulse…that suggests that online life is the ideal spot to experiment with hypothetical identity-making. This line of thought…carries a wrong asumption that only an online textual body is performative, whereas a biological body at the end of the terminal is stable…Online or off it, identity and gender are complicated performances” (194).
  • Terri Senft: “For me, mediation, and access to it, is empowerment. So being online allows me to choose my level of immediacy. It gives me the power to mediate my own presence…Women have been synonymous with the body and immediate presence for all history, look where it gets us. No thanks. I far prefer choosing my level of immediacy” (196).
  • “online or offline, all of us make sense of our experiences and tell the stories of our lives in self-centered and self-understood ways. Truth is an elusive term in any context; however, because truth is always tentative online, it doesn’t make sense to dwell on it too much. It’s really more about faith and acceptance” (210).
  • “The process of building relationships and social structures, though, is thoroughly dialogic; online cultures exist because people interact with each other through writing, over time. Just as the text cannot capture the nuance of the voice, the voice cannot capture the nuance of the text. Because of this, researchers…must be willing to study online contexts in their own contexts, without trying to impose alternative categories, false dichotomies, a priori assumptions and templates. And of course, once the researcher is willing to discard these, she must be able to do so, which is a much more diifcult task of rearranging one’s frame of reference, I’m afraid” (210).
  • “Online, self, others, and social realities are constructed through the exchange of texts, which can occasion a euphoria that we can transcend the social realities our physical bodies occupy. This is a tantalizing but exaggerated perspective. The potential to experiment with experiences and self-expression can be a refreshing escape from the pressures of living in societies that mostly constrain us; but as most of these users articulate, the reality of online life cannot be separated from offline life, no matter how much we might wish it could be” (211-212).
  • “For all these people, control is primarily perceived both as an outcome (product) of the self’s communicative efforts and as a performative act (process) that can be directed toward the self or Other. If the body is physically separated from the context, as it is online, the extent to which the other can control the self is diminished” (214).
  • “People know they are not really transcending their physical world; their body is the place where they live. They might like to forget it; they might like to escape the confines of a less-than-ideal physical context; they might like to play with various roles and encasements and personalities. Some of these online identities and experiences may be more real than others, but these users do not live under the illusion that one place is more real than the other. All the people I have met, anyway, know that there is a time when the computer must be shut down and the needs of the body must be met” (222).
  • “At some point, we need physical encounters with others; we need to be touched” (229).
  • “As much as technology connects us, it also isolates us, with or without online forms of communication. This has serious implications for traditional motions of community, family, and the environment, but it isn’t the technology that does it to us. We enage it. We live it. We use it. We choose” (230).

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Digital Writing

 

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Michele White – The Body and the Screen

White, Michele. The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. Print.

Summary:

Key Terms:

  • spectatorship – “indicates the processes of watching and listening, identification with characters and images, the various values with which viewing is invested, and how these ideas continue even after the spectator has stopped viewing” (6).

Important Quotes:

  • “When images of women appear in these advertisements, they are often lounging and reclining, ignoring the technology, engaged socially rather than in business transactions, and available for the visual contemplation of the spectator. Standing or squarely sitting male figures suggest authority, coherence, control, and engagement while reclining females, who are often positioned on a diagonal, provide a way for the viewer to look upon the women, visually enter the picture plane, and suggest her immobility, laziness, and reduced control” (3-4).
  • Laura Mulvey “indicates that the subject of the gaze is male, and his empowered position is supported by the camera’s viewpoint, while its object is female, and she exists in order to be viewed. A version of such positions is articulated by web sites marketing computer technologies, computer-generated images of women that are rendered in order to be erotically enjoyed, and depictions of bodies in textual and graphical communication settings” (7).
  • “spectatorship is based on a binary opposition between men who ‘act’ and women who ‘appear'” (7).
  • “Internet and computer spectatorship has an even more consequential effect on identification than do film and other media because the spectator spends significant amounts of time engaging with computers; computers and networks also appear in film, television, and print advertising; dream or trance-like experiences are often part of the engagement; the connection with characters and other representations can be intense; and there is an idea that the spectator is part of the setting, people are alive, and bodies are accessible through the Internet” (10).
  • “despite the cohesive position that the spectator is promised, fragmentation and confusion are a constant aspect of Internet spectatorship” (12).
  • “spectatorship is shaped by metaphors, depictions of materiality, renderings of the empowered user, direct forms of address, questionnaires that enforce traditional identity categories, and the downplaying of the interface” (17).
  • “The spatial vernacular that accompanies Internet and computer settings makes it seem as though spectators can enter the Internet, be synonymous with characters and other depictions, and directly engage with other people” (21).
  • “Accordint to Cohen, ‘He/she/it is both plastic and modular, sexually polymorphous and transnational, switching sex, class, and anthropology at a click of prostheses–the mouse or the remote control.’ He indicates that spectators are reconfigured by new technologies, However, people are already articulated within an age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sex system and think of themselves through these terms. New technologies, which Cohen indicates will afford an escape from normative identity, already provide distinct messages about ideal spectatorial positions and appropriate forms of engagement” (22).
  • “The Internet is like commercial television in that it constantly addresses, appeals, implores, demands, wheedles, urges, and attempts to seduce the viewer” (24).
  • “Through the processes of Internet sites, such social representations as gender and desire may be, as de Lauretis indicates, ‘accepted and absorbed by an individual as her (or his) own representation, and so becomes, for that individual, real, even though it is in fact imaginary.’ unfortunately, these imaginary categories are maintained through extreme forms of regulation. For instance, women are encouraged to be soft and domestic in many physical and Internet settings while men are instructed to be rugged and business-focused” (28-29).

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Digital Writing

 

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Robert V. Kozinets – Netnography

Kozinets, Robert V. Netnography: Doing Ethnographic Research Online. Los Angeles: Sage, 2010. Print.

Summary:

Key Terms:

  • netnography – “a specialized form of ethnography adapted to the unique computer-mediated contingencies of today’s social worlds” (1).
  • virtual communities – (as defined by Howard Rheingold) “social aggregations that emerge from the net when enough people carry on…public discussions long enough with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace” (8).
  • community membership – “its boundaries are somewhat distinct, but must be understood in terms of self-identification as a member, repeat contact, reciprocal familiarity, shared knowledge of some rituals and customs, some sense of obligation, and participation” (10).
  • culture – the webs of significance in which man is suspended (11).
  • cyberculture – (as defined by Pierre Levy) “the set of technologies (material and intellectual), practices, attitudes, modes of thought, and values that developed along with the growth of cyberspace” (11).
  • technological determinism – “an impression that technology is shaping our culture and changing our communities” (21-22).
  • weak ties – “networks in which the participants do not have close relationships characterized by the exchange of lots of information or the presence of intimate personal friendships” (26).
  • communities of practicegroups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
  • lurker – “the active observer who learns about a site through initially watching and reading” (34).
  • newbie – “a neo or neophyte, a new member who is using the community to learn about the core consumption activity or to reach out and build social relationships” (34).
  • maker – and individual who is an active builder “of online communities and their related social spaces” (34).
  • interactor – and individual who reaches “into the community from other communities that are highly engaged with the consumption activity, usually from in-person venues, or those that are primarily in-person with only peripheral use of CMC to keep members connected” (34).
  • networker – an individual who “will reach into a particular online community in order to build social ties and interact with members of that other community” (34).
  • cruising communities – “online gatherings that are known for their weaker social relationships and the low centrality of any particular kind of consumption activity” (35).
  • bonding communities – “online locations that are known to have and create very strong social ties between members, resulting in deep and long-lasting relationships, but whose members are not focused on a shared or unifying consumption behavior” (35-36).
  • geeking communities – “online gatherings where the sharing of information, news, stories, and techniques about a particular activity is the community’s raison d’etre” (36).
  • building communities – “online gatherings that offer botha strong sense of community as well as detailed information and intelligence about a central, unifying interest and activity” (36).
  • social network analysis – “an analytical method that focuses on the structures and patterns of relationships between and among social actors in a network” (49).
  • network – “a set of actors connected by a set of relational ties” (49).
  • ego-centered network study – “a set of people (selected on the basis of some sampling criteria) are asked questions to generate a list of people (alters) who are the members of their personal social network” (51).
  • whole network approach  – “considers an entire social network based on some particular research definition of the boundaries of that network…[and is] interested in the identification of the different connections between members of particular groups” (51).
  • strong ties – “include ‘combinations of intimacy, self-disclosure, provision of reciprocal services, frequent contact, and kinship, as between close friends or colleagues'” (52).
  • weak tie – “one that is sporadic or irregular, and has little emotional connection” (52).
  • degree centrality – “looks at the most popular active actors in a network. It focuses on measuring how many other actors a particular actor is in direct contact with” (52).
  • eigenvector centrality – “measures how much a node is connected to other nodes that are also tightly connected to one another. [It] is more concerned with power and influence than popularity” (52).
  • betweenness centrality – “measures an actor’s sphere of influence. The more influence an actor has over the flow of information, the more power and control that actor can potentially yield” (52).
  • closeness centrality – “looks at ‘reach and reachability’ instead of power or popularity” (52).
  • alteration – ” the nature of the interaction is altered–both constrained and liberated–by the specific nature and rules of the technological medium in which it is carried” (68).
  • anonymity – the removal of a user’s physical presence “confers online actors a new sense of identity flexibility” (70).
  • accessibility – “once someone clears the financial and technical hurdles required for aptitude at computer-mediated searching and communication, an extremely wide array of social interactions is made accessible to them” (70).
  • archiving – online communication has more permanence than words said aloud, “the term persistent world has been coined to refer to the persistence of virtual worlds online, and changes made to them by users, even after a user has exited the site or software program” (71).

Important Quotes:

  • “online social experiences are significantly different from face-to-face social experiences, and the experience of ethnographically studying them is meaningfully different” (5).
  • “people were using the Internet to become more involved with groups to which they already belonged, to deepen their ties to local communities, as well as to find new communities to join and partake in and to spur connections with ‘strangers’ and people whose racial, ethnic, generational or economic backgrounds were different from their own” (13).
  • “As more people use the Internet, they use it as a highly sophisticated communications device that enables and empowers the formation of these communities. These communities, like the Internet itself, are being found by many to be indispensable. They are becoming ‘places’ of belonging, information, and emotional support that people cannot do without” (15).
  • “Online communities are communities; there is no room for debate about this topic anymore. They teach us about real languages, real meanings, real causes, real cultures. ‘These social groups have a “real” existence for their participants, and thus have consequential effects on many aspects of behavior'” (15).
  • Constance Penley and Andrew Ross: “Technologies are not repressively foisted upon passive populations, any more than the power to realize their repressive potential is in the hands of a conspiring few. They are developed at any one time and place in accord with a complex set of existing rules or rational procedures, institutional histories, technical possibilities, and, last, but not least, popular desires” (22).
  • “Technology constantly shapes and reshapes our bodies, our places, and our identities, and is shaped to our needs as well” (22).
  • Susan J Clerc: the participants in online communities “communicate social information and create and codify group-specific meanings, socially negotiate group-specific identities, form relationships which span from the playfully antagonistic to the deeply romantic and which move between the network and face-to-face interaction, and create norms which serve to organize interaction and to maintain desirable social climates” (24).
  • “over time and with increasingly frequent communications, the sharing of personal identity information and clarification of power relations and new social norms transpires in the online community — that social and cultural information permeates every exchange, effecting a type of a gravitational pull that causes every exchange to become coloured with emotional, affiliative, and meaning-rich elements” (28).
  • “Ethnographies of online communities and cultures are informing us about how these online formations affect notions of self, how they express the postmodern condition, and how they simultaneously liberate and constrain…They reveal how our human relationships, our work relationships and our structures of power are changing. they reveal tensions between commercial orientations and power structures online and the communal forms that they promote. They tell us about the promotion of cultural transformation, and the creation of change agents” (36-37).
  • Rene Lysloff: “When we go online, the computer extends our identity into a virtual world of disembodied presence, and at the same time, it also incites us to take on other identities. We lurk in, or engage with, on-line lists and usenet groups that enable different versions of ourselves to emerge dialogically, The computer, in this way, allows for a new kind of performativity, an actualization of multiple and perhaps idealized selves through text and image” (37).
  • “qualitative research is useful for exploring and understanding meanings, whereas quantitative research is used for testing theories by examining the relationships between measurable variables” (42).
  • “To do an ethnography means to undertake an immersive, prolonged engagement with the members of a culture or community, followed by an attempt to understand and convey their reality through ‘thick’, detailed, nuanced, historically-curious and culturally-grounded interpretation and deep description of a social world that is familiar to its participants but strange to outsiders” (60).
  • Key netnography questions: “Who are the most active participants? Who seem to be the leaders? What are some of the most popular topics? What is the history of the group? Have there been major conflicts in the past? What other groups are its members connected to? What can you tell about the characteristics (demographics, interests, opinions, values) of the message posters and commenters? What are some of the concepts and precepts they hold dear? What sort of specialized language, if any, is the community using? Do they have any particular rituals or activities?What are some of their common practices?” (90).

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2012 in Digital Writing

 

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Paul Le Blanc – From Marx to Gramsci

LeBlanc, Paul. From Marx to Gramsci: A Reader in Revolutionary Marxist Politics. New York: Humanity Books, 1996. Print.

Summary:

Key Terms:

  • Marxist – “someone operating within a Marxist theoretical framework” (x-xi).
  • revolutionary Marxist – “a Marxist who embraces a particular approach to politics consistent with Marx’s own, quite specific, revolutionary orientation” (xi).
  • capitalism – “an economy that is privately owned (by a minority), and basically controlled by the owners, used for the purpose of making profits for the owners; a form of generalized commodity production (that is, in which more and more aspects of life are drawn into a buying and selling — or market — economy)” (7).
  • proletarian revolution – “the working class rising up, smashing the bourgeois state, establishing its own political power, and maintaining that power in order to transform society along socialist lines” (17).

Important Quotes:

  • “[Marxism] existed as a strategic perspective and a tactical orientation — deeply grounded, to be sure, in the humanities and social sciences, but culminating in practical political activity” (ix).
  • “[Marx and Engels] were fired by what Marx called ‘the categorical imperative to overthrow all conditions in which man is a degraded, enslaved, neglected, contemptible being” (3).
  • “it is the task of scientific socialism, the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, to establish the historical conditions and, with these, the nature of this act, and thus to bring to the consciousness of the new oppressed class the conditions and nature of the act which it is its destiny to accomplish” (3).
  • “The way that people perceive and analyze reality, the cluster of conceptions and definitions — or the theoretical framework — with which they make sense of their world, ultimately becomes a material force which can change the world” (3).
  • “the central pivot of Marx’s thought is proletarian revolution: the coming to political power of the working class, which will then transform the economy to create a society which is more free, more radically democratic, and better in innumerable ways than any society which has existed before” (5).
  • “Marxism involves a political program for the working class which insists that the emancipation of the working class can only come from the workers themselves” (7).

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2012 in Working Class Rhetoric

 

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Antonion Gramsci – Prison Notebooks

Gramsci, Antonio. Selections from the Prison Notebooks. New York: International,  2003. Print.

Summary:

Gramsci, in his Notebooks, maintained that what was required was that not only should a significant number of ‘traditional’ intellectuals come over to the revolutionary cause (Marx, Lenin and Gramsci were examples of this) but also the working class movement should produce its own organic intellectuals.

Key Terms:

  • fascism – an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization
  • philosophy of praxis – “a fusion, a making into one, of ‘philosophy and politics’ of thinking and acting”
  • maximalism– advocates direct or radical action to secure a social or political goal in its entirety
  • organic intellectual – intellectuals who  developed organically alongside the ruling class and function for the benefit of the ruling class.
  • base – the economic foundations of a society; the forces and relations of production into which people enter to produce the necessities and amenities of life
  • superstructure – the social, political, and legal relations which are said to be built upon the base; its culture, institutions, political power structures, roles, rituals, and state
  • hegemony – the creation of social structures (social and economic classes) with which the ruling class establishes and exerts cultural dominance to impose their world view — justifying the social, political, and economic status quo — as natural, inevitable, and beneficial to every social class, rather than as artificial social constructs beneficial solely to the ruling class

Important Quotes:

  • “The working class, like the bourgeoisie before it, is capable of developing within its ranks its own organic intellectuals, and the function of the political party, whether mass or vanguard, is that of channelling the activity of these organic intellectuals and the providing a link between the class and certain sections of the traditional intelligentsia. The organic intellectuals of the working class are defined on the one hand by their role in production and in the organisation of work and on the other by their ‘directive’ political role, focused on the Party. It is through the assumption of conscious responsibility, aided by absorption of ideas and personnel from the more advanced bourgeois intellectual strata, that the proletariat can escape from defensive corporatism and economism and advance towards hegemony” (4).
  • “All men are intellectuals, one could therefore say: but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals” (9).
  • “learning takes place especially through a spontaneous and autonomous effort of the pupil, with the teacher only exercising a function of friendly guide — even if the truth is an old one. It demonstrates a mastery of the method, and indicates that in any case one has entered the phase of intellectual maturity in which one may discover new truths” (33).
  • “the child’s consciousness is not something ‘individual’ (still less individuated), it reflects the sector of civil society in which the child participates, and the social relations which are formed within his family, his neighborhood, his village, etc. The individual consciousness of the overwhelming majority of children reflects social and cultural relations which are different from and antagonistic tot hose which are represented in the school curricula” (35).
  • “The traditional school was oligarchic because it was intended for the new generation of the ruling class, destined to rule in its turn: but it was not oligarchic in its mode of teaching. It is not the fact that pupils learn how to rule there, nor the fact that it tends to produce gifted men, which gives a particular type of school its social character. This social character is determined by the fact that each social group has its own type of school,  intended to perpetuate a specific traditional function, ruling or subordinate.If one wishes to break this pattern one needs, instead of multiplying and grading different types of vocational school, to create a single type of formative school (primary-secondary) which would take the child up to the threshold of his choice of job, forming him during this time as a person capable of thinking, studying, and ruling — or controlling those who rule” (40).
  • “democracy, by definition, cannot mean merely that am unskilled worker can become skilled. It must mean that every ‘citizen’ can ‘govern’ and that society places him, even if only abstractly, in a general condition to achieve this” (40).
  • “studying too is a job, and a very tiring one, with its own particular apprenticeship — involving muscles and nerves as well as intellect. It is a process of adaptation, a habit acquired with effort, tedium, and even suffering” (42).
  • “it follows that the majority of mankind are philosophers in so far as they engage in practical activity  and in their practical activity (or in their guiding lines of conduct) there is implicitly contained a conception of the world, a philosophy” (344).
  • “one could say that each one of us changes himself, modifies himself to the extent that he changes and modifies the complex relations of which he is the hub. In this sense, the real philosopher is, and cannot be other than, the politician, the active man who modifies the environment, understanding by environment the ensemble of these relations, to create one’s personality means to acquire consciousness of them and to modify one’s own personality means to modify the ensemble of these relations” (352).

Discussion:

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Working Class Rhetoric

 

Mike Davis – Prisoners of the American Dream

Davis, Mike. Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class. London: Verso, 1986. Print.

Summary:

In this book, Mike Davis explores the history of the working class in the U.S. and analyses why there has yet to be a mass American labor movement.

Key Terms:

Important Quotes:

  • “the ballast of capital’s hegemony in American history has been the repeated, autonomous mobilizations of the mass middle strata in defense of petty accumulation and entrepreneurial opportunity” (viii).

Discussion:

Davis provides a very detailed evolution of American labor and its accomplishments and failures, but his “history of the U.S. working class” is purely a history of U.S. labor. Davis, then, is assuming that the working class of America consists only of (largely white, male, industrial) laborers and that the events of importance to the working class are those that were related to unions.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Working Class Rhetoric

 

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