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Week Eight Summary – Algorithmic Me?

Time Magazine Cover 2006

filter bubble1filter bubble 2011

In 2006, the cover of Time magazine, proclaimed “You” (I read that to mean, me), “Yes, you, are in control of the Information Age.” This past week’s Lifestream caused me to question whether I am really in control, or actually being progressively controlled by ‘invisible’ “active algorithms,” (Knox, J. 2014) “filter bubbles” (Pariser, E. 2011) and embedded codes. Transitioning to this week’s focus on algorithms from previous block on MOOCs, Dr. Knox’s assertion that “rapid rise of the MOOC demonstrates that education is not exempt from the wider infiltration of code into all aspects of social life” (p. 43) was a poignant segue.

“Control” is a word that I expected to encounter more often this past week, and I’m not sure why it didn’t appear as often expected. Perhaps academic research is still scrambling to catch up with all the research dimensions of the exponential spurge of digital technologies and their pervasive influence of our lives. Perhaps we need new paradigms and models to explain the phenomenon. Perhaps the tools are not adequate to cope with the sheer volume of data. Maybe individual “control” is becoming an obsolete concept in the digital age, where large multinational for-profit companies are insidiously implanting themselves in our socio-materiality.

Surprisingly, “movement” is a word that seemed to be mentioned more frequently that expected; rather than “control.” This notion of movement reverberates in Knox’s examination of the ‘socio-materiality’ of the EDCMOOC where “there is no inside and outside, but rather a relations set of practices and mobilities” (p. 46), and “ideas about transition and movement between different spaces is a challenge to the the practices of data mining assumed to be one of the drivers..” (behind the major MOOCs) (p.53).
Active Algorithms.pdf

Readings, experiments with algorithmic plays, and daily virtual (mostly Twitter) exchanges with EDC peers this past week led to a increasing sense of vulnerability and hopeless abandon to a Hobson’s choice of either acquiescing to the algorithmic reach into personal freedom, or attempting to go incognito or anonymous. [See New Yorker “The Solace of Oblivion” post below]. Knox further points out that “we may need to recognize that the growing proliferation of algorithms and code act in ways that cannot be predicted.” (p. 52) The only personal defensive posture is to become more educated to be able to detect the algorithms – that Gillespie labels “codes with consequences” – all around me. Yet, Gillespie notes the seductive allure where “we simply enjoy when the algorithm confirms our sense of our self” and the deterministic logics “of these algorithms that not only shape user practices, but lead users to internalize their norms and priorities.”

Preparing myself for “more and more encounters with the unexpected” this week.

Knox, J. K. (2014). Active algorithms: sociomaterial spaces in the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. Campus Virtuales, 3(1): 42-55.

Gillespie, T. (2012). The Relevance of Algorithms. forthcoming, in Media Technologies, ed. Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pariser, E. (2011). The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.


EDC Friends, I offer these talking points for possible discussion during next Google Hangout. Quotes refer to Kozinet’s reading – Understanding Online Culture (2010) – with some attributions to his sources.

1) “Technology does not determine culture, but rather they are co-determining, co-constructive forces.”(p.22)
2) Early stream of research posited a ‘status equalization effect,’ a flattening of hierarchies, equalized social status, less rule following, no apparent leadership.(p.23)
3) Walther (1997) suggested that we could understand online community behavior by referencing ‘anticipated future interaction. (p.23)
4) Wellman (2001) suggested that the ‘networked individualism’ in which “online communities’ lack of formal institutional structure means that communications will depend on the quality of the social ties that the individual forms with the group.” (p.24)
5) Forrester Research asserts that online communities ‘run the gamut’ from forums to web-pages to blogs to social networking sites that enable personal expression, active participation and the formation of relationships. (p.24)
6) “Netnography” – the ethnography of online groups. (p.25)
7) “Online gatherings follow many of the same basic rules as groups that gather in person” (p.25) (e.g. development of group norms, importance of group identity), however, “online communities’ unique characteristics – such as anonymity and accessibility – create unique opportunities for a distinctive style of interaction.
8) “Online tools are more likely to extend social contact than detract from it.” Howard, et al. (2000)(p.26)
9) “Online communities “can intensify exiting relationships” and “help to create and maintain new relationships.” (p.26)(Matei & Ball-Rokeach, 2003)
10) “People who are interested in online communities became drawn into and acculturated by their contact with them.” (p.26) (Kozinets, 1999)
11) Research into Kozinets’ theory of development progression of participation in online communities demonstrated “that social and cultural information permeate every exchange, affecting a type of gravitational pull that causes every exchange to become coloured with emotional affiliative, and meaning-rich elements.” (p.28)
12) “The longer people are on the Internet, the more likely they are to use the Internet to engage in social-capital-building activities.”(p.29)(Kavanaugh and Patterson, 2001)
13) “If anything, Internet use appears to be bolstering real-world involvement.” (p.29)(McKenna & Seidman, 2005)
14) Four types of online membership: regulars, newbies, lurkers and bashers. (p.31)(Correll, 1995)
15) Kozinets’ four idealized member ‘types': newbies, minglers, devotees, insiders, and types of relationships: interactor, maker, lurker, networker.(p.33)
16) Kozinets’ types of online interactions: geeking, building, cruising, bonding.(p.35)
17) “Online communities even appear to be changing the nature of work and work relationships.”(p. 38)(Gossett & Kilker,2006)
18) “Online communities have a transformational effect on their participants.” (p.39)(Zelwietor, 1998)
19) “Online community participants can “serve as social agents for cultural transformation in their other various cultures and communities.”(p.39)(Olanrian, 2004)
20) “Ethnographic investigations teach us about the varieties of strategies and practices used to create a communal sense”…”and also teach about the varieties and substance of online community participation, members, participation styles and forms”.(p.40)

All About Robots

This video is about 37:11 minutes long. I suggest that the occasional visitor view a short segment at a time and consider the question: Can interactions with robots make us more human? by making us think about what it is that makes us human? For example, as a martial arts practitioner, I am interested in the movements of the robot NAO to upright itself after falling down (2:38-2:58 minute). Australian friends may appreciate the bionic kangaroo (34:00-37:11).


“The human essence is freedom from the will of others, and freedom is a function of possession.” C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962), p.3.

I find myself still somewhere deep in the “uncanny valley,” staring at “uncanny,” too human-like dystopian objects, struggling to get out of the YouTubian reality of weirdness. Perhaps reading, remember reading? might transport me back to a more comforting pre-digital, pre-cyberculture reality, when turning the page brought pleasure, adventure and history. Instead of being mesmerized by a visually over-stimulating and perpetually distracting screen full of choices taking me aimlessly down ever more time-wasting paths, maybe some academic reading would provide a temporary cure.

Instead, Johnathan Sterne in “Historiography of Cyberculture” enjoins his reader to engage in an “epistemic break” … “if scholars do not make an ‘epsitemic break’ with the existing ways of defining a problem, they risk importing unwanted and unexamined institutional and personal biases into their work.” (Sterne, p. 24).

I must begin to define my object of study and choose the method with which to approach it. “Our job is to invent and not to repeat.”
(Sterne, p. 25)

Week Two Lifestream Blog – “Embed Code Not Available”

Already Week Two and I am still trying to catch up. Things were just not ‘clicking’ for me during Week One. I enrolled late for this course, so I was thrust into an immediate uphill climb during the first few days which propelled me into a steep learning curve.

Although I initially got set up on WorldPress blog site and IFTTT, my main problem has been that the ’embed code’ for the IFTTT recipe was not properly configured.  As a result, my Tweets were not transferring the Lifestream blog.  My problem seemed to have something to do with the fact that the “embed code is not available.” I’ve Googled the problem, re-activated my IFTTT recipes, but he more I tried to troubleshoot these problem areas, it seemed the worse trouble I got into. By mid-week, I succumbed to what Amber Case calls the “panic architecture” of feeling left behind. As I mention below, I also fully understand Case’s observations of feeling like an ‘adolescent,’ coming to grips with my own awkwardness in this course.

It has been helpful to review the blogs and tweets of peers to understand ‘what right looks like.’ But I am still fumbling to get the mechanics properly place so that I can engage more actively and coherently.  I’m still in ‘myth of Sisyphus’ mode here at the beginning of Week Two, but earnestly trying to pull it together.

We are all cyborgs now

I was introduced to this Amber Case TedTalk (7:53 min) in a previous MScDE course and I found it helpful to review it again as a departure point for this EDC course.  Case defines cyborg” as “an organism to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments.”  Case describes her as a “cyborg anthropologist.”

One of her themes that resonated with me this first week of our EDC course is that we all now are compelled to manage our ‘second self,’ that is, our ‘digital self.’  She observes that “anybody coming in new to technology is an adolescent online right now.” I have been thrust into sensations of what Case labels a “panic architecture” – a feeling that I can’t keep up because the tools are unfamiliar and my Twitter “embed codes are not available.”  I’m hoping this post will set me off on a more constructive trajectory.