In recent times the binary between producer and consumer has been broken down. With the advent of the internet, the digital citizen no longer ‘passively consumes’ information but rather uses “tools” which “operat[e] in cultural contexts” (Jenkins 2015, pg.12). This is what Jenkins terms “participatory culture,” which in turn gives rise to “participatory communities” (Jenkins 2015, pg. 12). Ellis recognises the need for the image of disability to be “more active-rather than passive” (2014, pg.2). The images of disabled as “someone in a ‘wheelchair’” (Ellis 2014, pg.1) is an example of how the “key ideas and beliefs about normalcy…pervade and structure media” (Ellis 2014, pg.9). Indeed, the digital public ‘consumes’ this perception of disability, which “stigmatize[s] rather than liberate[s]” (Ellis 2014, pg.17). The concept of ‘inspiration porn’ is an example of ‘passive consumption’ of harmful stereotypes. Inspiration porn includes the “representation of disability as a form of disadvantage that can be overcome for the titillation of…observers” (Grue 2016, pg.838). This ‘disabled’ archetype objectifies the lifestyle of the disabled population, “devalu[ing] and mystif[ying] their place in the world” (Grue 2016, pg.840). The online sphere empowers disabled people, allowing them to break away from the perceptions encoded by media practices such as ‘inspiration porn.’ The ‘prosumer’ transcends the placid consumer, into a digital citizen who “use[s] the internet, social and mobile media to…create…new spaces and styles of participation” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.80). Disabled individuals have a digital platform to express and create an identity which is concurrent with their lived reality, as opposed to the trivialised and one-dimensional archetypes created by ‘inspiration porn.’ The “online crowd-sourced funding” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.84) of the television show ‘My Gimpy Life,’ is an example of the participatory communities which are ‘enabled’ by the internet. The show centres on the life of Sherer, a disabled individual trying to make her way into Hollywood. The fact that the show’s medium is as a ‘web series,’ is evidence of the prominence of the ‘prosumer’ in the modern age, and how a divergence from “mainstream distributors” (Ellis et al. 2015, pg.84) gives autonomy to disabled communities as ‘enabled’ digital citizens.
- Ellis, K & Goggin, G (2015): “Disability Media Participation: Opportunities, Obstacles and Politics”, Media International Australia, v154n1, pp 178-88.
- Ellis, K (2014), Introduction: Why does disability matter for media?, Basingstoke : Palgrave
- Grue, J (2016): “The problem with inspiration porn: a tentative definition and a provisional critique”, Disability & Society, 31 No.6, pp. 838-849
- Jenkins, H., Ito, M., & boyd, d. 2015, ‘Defining Participatory Culture’, in Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics, Polity, Chapter 1.
The relationship between the individual and the digital realm seems to be, overwhelmingly ‘post-modernist.’ By that, it can be understood that the relationship between society and digital worlds is one where “people… are, in effect, consuming themselves … their desires, sense of identity, and memories are replicated and then sold back to them as products” (McCaffrey 1992, pg. 6). Particularly, the function of algorithms “amplify ideological segregation by automatically recommending content an individual is likely to agree with” (Flaxman 2016, pg.299). In this way algorithms effectively ‘sell’ the individual’s ‘sense of identity’ back to them, entrapping them in an echo-chamber which forces the individual to “consume themselves” (McCaffrey 1992, pg. 6). Crawford’s (2016) case study on Amazon’s ‘recommended products’ function demonstrates how algorithms “claim(ing) to know a public” and that it “calculate[s] publics” (Crawford 2016, pg.80). The ‘filter bubbles’ (Pariser 2011) created by such algorithms are unwittingly accepted by individuals. This leads to a conundrum which is best described by McLuhan’s analogy of “fish being entirely unaware of water, insofar as water is environmental” (as quoted in Strate 2017, pg. 245). Being immersed in the digital sphere means that the internet becomes “autocratic…making decisions without our knowledge, invisible to us, presenting a singular worldview” (Crawford 2016, pg.82). Facebook advertisements are an example of the burgeoning impact of algorithms and how the individuals’ sense of identity is being literally ‘sold’ back to them. Much like Amazon, Facebook suggests advertisements based on a “calculated public” (Crawford 2016, pg.80) or rather a ‘calculated individual.’ Using my own Facebook experience as a case study, it is clear that a startingly sexist archetype is being sold to me. My feed is inundated with advertisements pertaining to the cosmetic, fashion and fitness fields. Through McLuhan’s theoretical lens, this case study can be seen as “technology tak[ing] command only because human beings cede their responsibility, not willingly but out of ignorance” (as quoted in Strate 2017, pg.245). Being immersed as we are in social media, like ‘fish in water,’ the act of scrolling through Facebook is normalised, but upon close inspection it is obvious that this behaviour perpetuates ‘passive’ acceptance of a “singular” and “calculated” (Crawford 2016, pg.80) worldview. Therefore, algorithms commoditise the digital public; ‘selling’ the individual a ‘sense of identity.’
- McCaffery, L (1992). “Introduction: The Desert of the Real”, Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk & Postmodern Science Fiction
- Flaxman, S & Goel, S & Rao, J (2016): “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers, and online News Consumption”, Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 80, pp. 298-320
- Crawford, K (2015): “Can an Algorithm be Agonistic? Ten Scenes from Life in Calculated Publics”, Science, Technology and Human Values, v41n2, pp 77-92.
- Strate, L (2017): “Understanding the Message of Understanding Media”, Atlantic Journal of Communication, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 244-254
The digital realm has borne a new language, “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1819) wherein images are, in themselves, messages. McLuhan’s concept ‘the medium is the message’ (Strate 2017, pg.441) undoubtedly applies to social media and the “changing cultural position of the photograph” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1828). The selfie has become a language of its own, not classified as a raw photograph, but as a constructed, purposeful image which requires an individual to be fluent in “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1819). Meese’s (2015) case study on funeral selfies exemplifies the notion of the medium of a ‘selfie’ as a cultural commodity, in that the meaning of a digital photo is as “a form of communication rather than representation” (Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1824). Much like the selfie, the influx of ‘gym’ or ‘fitness’ inspiration demonstrates how the medium can “mutat[e] our collective behaviour, the way we organize ourselves” (Strate 2017,pg. 252). This concept is manifest in the digital vernacular associated with ‘fitness’ images, particularly the ‘revenge body’ hashtag, which was initiated by Khloe Kardashian (Campbell 2017, par. 4). The ‘revenge body’ image involves an individual posting a picture of their body, with the purpose of “mak(ing) their ex significant other regret the day they broke up with them” (Campbell 2016, par. 4). In this way the image is transformed into a culturally loaded concept, a ‘word’ in the digitally literate individual’s vernacular. Culkin’s (1968) concept explains the ‘revenge body’ image as the medium having “major influence over the content that is communicated, and more importantly over us as individuals alone, and as a society and culture” (Strate 2017, pg. 252). Further, the ‘revenge body’ image is “structured by a number of stylistic conventions” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1820), it requires “platform vernacular” (Meese et al. 2015) such as use of hashtags, photo-editing and most importantly curating an image which hypersexualises the body. Much like the funeral selfie, revenge body images are “clearly taken with a particular audience in mind” (Meese et al. 2015, pg.1825), this being an ex-partner, within whom, the ‘poster’ of the image, wishes to incite feelings of jealousy. This exemplifies the photograph as a form of cultural currency, the image existing solely as an “ephemeral and creative form of ‘live communication’”(Meese et al. 2015, pg. 1825).
Figure 1.0. Khloe Kardashian’s ‘revenge body’ post on Instagram.
Khloe Kardashian, Sometimes its hard for me…, Instagram, January 8 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bdp1IU3FmcZ/?hl=en&taken-by=khloekardashian
- Campbell, E (2017): “Why a ‘Revenge Body’ is bad motivation,” Huffpost, <https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-a-revenge-body-is-bad-motivation_us_587f7a0ce4b06a0baf6491ee>
- Meese, J., Gibbs, M., Carter, M., Arnold, M., Nansen, B., & Khon, T. 2015, ‘Selfies at Funerals: Mourning and Presencing on Social Media Platforms’, International Journal of Communication, vol. 9, pp. 1818–1831
- Strate, L (2017): “Understanding the Message of Understanding Media”, Atlantic Journal of Communication, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 244-254
- Khloe Kardashian, Sometimes its hard for me…, Instagram, January 8 2018, http://www.instagram.com/p/Bdp1IU3FmcZ/?hl=en&taken-by=khloekardashian
- The very nature of the digital realm lends itself to the creation of a community for disabled individuals
- The ‘prosumer’ is an example of this à disabled individuals no longer have to placidly consume media (close captioning, etc.), they have digital platforms to express and create an identity which is concurrent with disabled characteristics
- The reading seems to focus on representations of disabled individuals and how the media controls this; e.g. inspiration porn. Disability is encoded by media practices, often trivialising the lifestyles of disabled individuals. Creates a one dimensional idea of what disabled people are.
- Enable the disabled, it is discriminatory
- Accessibility of media
- Exclusion/inclusion à just not accessible à access in the form of physical blockade but also in the sense of navigating and be included in digital worlds
adding this weeks reading (agnostic algorithms) to make a final post
What exactly is it to be digitally literate? This question begs for a contentious definition. It is through misleading concepts such as the ‘digital native’ and the ‘digital divide’ that one can find the crux of what it is to be ‘digitally literate.’
Cognitive, technical and social-emotional (Ng 2012, pg.1067) factors create an inextricable composite of what it is to be ‘digitally literate.’ Therefore, it can be argued that proficiency in just one of these sectors, for example having ‘netiquette’ (Ng 2012, pg.1068) on social media platforms, does not qualify an individual as digitally literate. In fact, Kirschner’s study found that ‘digital natives’ used “social media was used as a passive source of information reception” (2017, pg.137). The assumption that digital natives are inherently ‘digitally literate’ is therefore flawed. By engaging ‘passively’ with social media platforms, the individual fails to participate in the ‘technical’ realm of what it is to be digitally literate, as social media is neglected “as a tool for actively creating content, interacting with others, and sharing resources” (Kirschner 2017, pg.137). The ease in which one navigates social media, as say, a source of entertainment or distraction, does not quantify one as digitally literate. To be digitally literate is a combination of consumption and production, not merely passive reception.
The nature of ‘digital literacy’ is also carved out by the concept of the ‘digital divide.’ Huffman suggests that the ‘digital divide,’ is not a concept exclusively reserved to those who have no access to the internet and those who do, but rather, the divide concerns ‘digital ability;’ “the… digital divide is no longer about the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ but ‘who can use it’ and ‘who cannot’” (Huffman 2018, pg.243). Rennie’s article highlights this point as this, as researches who provided technology to indigenous communities living in outstations realised “even with computers, some people did not have the necessary skills or motivation to make use of them” (Rennie 2016, pg.33) Much like the concept of the ‘digital native,’ the argument that access to and immersion within technology equals inherent ‘digital literacy,’ is flawed. Therefore, the lack of infrastructure in rural communities is a mere physical obstruction to becoming digitally literate, the equivalent of having no book to read, when this has no bearing on an individual who is illiterate.
- Huffman, S (2018): “The Digital Divide Revisited: What Is Next?”, Education, 138 No. 3 pp. 239-246
- Kirschner, P. A. & De Bruyckere, P. (2017): “The myths of the digital native and the multitasker”, Teaching and Teacher Education, v67, 135-142.
- Ng, W (2012): “Can we teach digital natives digital literacy?”, Computers & education, v59n3, pp. 1065-1078
- Rennie, E., Hogan, E., Gregory, R. Crouch, R., Wright, A. & Thomas, J. 2016, ‘Introduction’, Internet on the Outstation: The Digital Divide and Remote Aboriginal Communities, pp.13-27.