Category: rhetoric |

The Internet is More than Social Media

I wanted to take a moment to talk about Brian Chen’s article, “The Internet Trolls Have Won. Sorry, There’s Not Much You Can Do.” in the New York Times. It’s an interesting piece for a lot of reasons, and I like a lot of what Brian and Dr. Papacharissi have to say. That said, I have trouble with an approach that accepts the status quo as inevitable; especially, when that acceptance helps to normalizes a reliance on corporate governance as the only possible way to fix the internet and networked communications.

Chen isn’t wrong. His article just appears assumes there is only one option, to continue using and relying on the problematic platforms developed by those corporations and hope they “fix” it for us. They won’t. The Internet trolls have “won” because the corporations that drive modern social media platforms make a ton of money off those trolls (see my Valve discussion) for more on that). Until they stop making money (this is something that Facebook may actually be grappling with) the trolls will win. Of course, they only win on those platforms.

If you rely on those platforms, you’re sunk. So you have …

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Media Overflow

I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. I am betting most of us do.

We’re connected in some really incredible ways to a world of movement and information. The trouble is we have an overload. We know this. We’ve known for a long while, and yet we’re addicted to that same overload.

We’re gluttons for media, we crave input. We are children of the screen. Technology and media companies know exactly how to feed our hunger. They use it to keep drawing us back in, and by god do we keep coming back. Media saturation is our favored drug, and we suck it up wherever we can.

Should we turn it off, then? No. I’m not suggesting we disconnect. Our technology may not be politically neutral, but there are ways to tactically appropriate its power. We need to exploit those ways. Sometimes, indeed many times, this always-on connection can be a benefit. We can act and respond faster. We can connect with one another. We can plan and gather needed information in ways we never could have before. What I am suggesting is that we actually get tactical. We consider our …

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Microsoft, GitHub and the Realities of Centralized Control

Update: This was a originally part of a larger post. I decided to split these discussions into two separate posts for better clarity.

Let’s start with a simple fact: if your content is not controlled and not stored by you, you don’t own it. You never did. There’s been a lot of anger and fear surrounding the recent news that GitHub has been sold. For many, the worst part of that news was that they would soon have their code hosted on a Microsoft-owned platform. Of course, they were already storing their code on a centralized server owned by another company. We know that never ends well (Finley 2015), but no one seemed to be concerned about that. Instead, they only became upset when GitHub was bought by Microsoft because Microsoft is “evil.”

Apparently, these people have been living under a rock for the past couple decades. I have my issues with Microsoft, but let’s be clear, compared to the surveillance monstrosity that is Google, the crushing giant tendrils of an ever-present Amazon, and the “we will happily sell out our users until we’re caught”- mindset of Facebook, Microsoft is not the worst company on …

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Critique and Action: Post-Critical Reflections

I have been thinking a lot about Latour’s 2004 article, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern” in Critical Inquiry. In rhetoric and tech comm it is an old article, not yet a venerated ancient text but old enough to be talked about as a historical trend (which raises a whole slew of other questions that can be addressed later). In it Latour talks about the limits and potential danger of critique in, what was then, the coming “post-truth” age.

He wonders if critique and constructivism have helped to usher in that age. Certainly, modern academia has dealt with that accusation for quite some time. By showing how facts and truth are constructed, socially or otherwise, it is suggested that we undermine a universal faith in that truth. We do. We should. Indeed, we are at our best when we are peeling back the veneer of truth and fact to reveal the deeper relationships involved. Yet, it is difficult to believe that critique, alone as it stands, is enough. For Latour, and I tend to agree, critique has its own adherents who take great pleasure in tearing down the social and …

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Digital Mythology: The Internet That Never Was.

Can we stop pretending that there ever was a golden age of the Internet? Even better, can we stop pretending that “something went wrong” with the Internet? Maybe, just maybe, it was always a little messed up.

I was one of those people who really believed that the explosive growth of the Internet and computer technology in the late 80s and early 90s was going to usher in a new form of public engagement and discourse. I saw technology as a way to connect us to one another. I envisioned it as part of an effort to breakdown the cultural barriers that had developed and, in many cases, ossified into our society.

I was wrong.

I was young, stupid, and far too full of my own perspective to look beyond my own nose and glasses 1. It was easy to see a utopia when I went online. After all, the people I was talking to were a lot like me. They all had a level of know-how and access provided to them by the very same barriers they imagined they were breaking down. My “utopia” was nothing more than a form of narcissism 2. Whenever I hear people pine for …

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