Blog Post 6: New Nightmares, New Possibilities, New Questions

Hi everyone,

Welcome to our last blog post of this section of the course on privacy and surveillance. First, a quick note on the Tufecki reading – as I mentioned earlier today, the course packet doesn’t correctly reproduce the images that go with Tufecki’s writing (those large black rectangles), so as you’re reading, take a look at the original article online: They’re a pretty striking accompaniment to the things she’s discussing.

Photo from Flickr, taken by Sabrina S

Tufecki’s article itself takes us further into our consideration of the social and political possibilities and dangers of digital media through surveillance. Many of the issues we’ve discussed recently come up here again—corporate and governmental surveillance in various forms, how that surveillance shapes our lives as consumers and citizens, and the differences between old and new media in relation to those processes, to name just a few—but Tufecki has something new to add to this conversation. She wants us to consider how digital media allows for new modes of social organization and new modes of political control, both of which are powerful and both of which we need to consider carefully as informed members of a digital culture.

So for this blog post, I’d like you to play out a specific connection between Tufecki and one of the other authors we’ve read for this section (Madrigal, Cohen, or Greenwald’s Ted talk). You should quote and integrate substantial passages from both authors into a paragraph of your own writing, and in doing so you should show how their arguments in those passages relate to one another and how you would respond to that conversation. This is our first try at putting authors in conversation with one another in our writing, something that we’ll work on a good bit over the course of the third paper.

Keep in mind that all of these authors are advancing complex perspectives about the politics of digital information and connection, so you need to make an argument of your own that’s aware of their ideas and the relation between them — instead of just siding with one author, for example, try to offer a closer, more specific response to his or her argument through conversation with the other. In your response, you should introduce, quote, cite, and analyze at least one substantial passage each from Tufecki’s article and from your other chosen author – not just a single small term or concept, but a fuller claim of the kind that you might quote in a paper.

This article reads a little more easily than some of what we’ve read recently, but Tufecki’s argument is a challenging one to wrestle with — I look forward to seeing what everyone has to say about it! Good luck and I’ll see you all Thursday.

Reminder: Your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by 10pm on Wednesday, March 23rd, the night before our Thursday class, and should be at least 200 words. Your response to a classmate’s post is then due by class time on Thursday.

Blog Post 5: Topic Brainstorming for Paper 3

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having a good break. As promised, here’s an open blog thread to brainstorm possible topic areas and directions for the third paper. You’re not obligated to stick with anything you put down here — the goal is just to think about possible topics that might be interesting to you.

In your post, you should include at least two possible questions or issues you might want to explore for this paper. Rather than factual, informational questions or yes/no questions, try to think of these as issues, problems, factors, etc., that seem important to you around the issues of this paper, and that you would want to read and write further about. What you write should be more than just bare notes, but it doesn’t have to be highly developed — a few sentences for each is fine. You should post your materials by 10pm on Monday, March 21, the night before our library visit. No need to do our usual round of second responses this time — as long as you post some useful thoughts in time, you’ll get full credit for this post.

Happy brainstorming, and let me know if you have any questions. I’m interested to see what everyone is thinking about!

Blog Post 4: Creepy…

Hi everyone,

Our reading for Thursday, Alexis Madrigal’s essay on corporate data tracking and mining, is the first in our course section on data, privacy, and surveillance. In his essay, Madrigal gives us all sorts of ways to think about how our identities take shape through data, and how corporate access to that data changes the possibilities and limitations of our lives online.

Since this is a newly added blog post, I’m going to make it largely an open-ended one — you should simply respond analytically to Madrigal’s writing in whatever way is most intriguing and significant to you. The only formal requirement here is that you ground your thinking in some close textual analysis of Madrigal’s writing, where you quote, cite, and analyze and respond to the issues and ideas he’s introducing in what you quote.

Following our discussion of some of the stranger results of our profile exercise, one issue you might take up is the idea of the creepiness of tracking that Madrigal suggests: what’s creepy about it, and why? What issues does it raise, what fears does it inspire? Or you might take up any number of other issues and questions in the reading that interest you.

Happy writing — I’m interested to see what everyone comes up with!

Your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by 10pm on Wednesday, February 24th, the night before our Thursday class, and should be at least 200 words. Your response to a classmate’s post is then due by class time on Thursday.

Blog Post 3: All About Her

Hi everyone,

I’ve been enjoying discussing drafts and revision with everyone today, and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow and Monday. Since our work next week will be a little different, I’m putting this blog post up now, with some important scheduling details and changes included — read carefully and let me know if you have any questions.

First, some practical matters: we’ll have our screening of Spike Jonze’s Her Monday evening at 8pm in Palamountain 202. Come watch the film then if at all possible — come prepared to take notes and eat popcorn. If you can’t come then, make sure you watch it on your own to be prepared for this blog post and for our discussion at Tuesday’s class — the DVD is on reserve at the library, and the film may also be available through other means if you want to be resourceful (unfortunately it turns out it’s no longer on HBO Go). Just make sure you plan ahead and give yourself enough time to get it and watch it.

And now on to some thinking about Her, our central text for this second section of the course on “Digital Selves and Digital Others.” Although this film is clearly set in the future, in a world that’s not exactly ours, director Spike Jonze clearly seems to want to raise questions about the nature of our digital world now — about what it means to exist and connect and feel in a world that’s constantly mediated by technology.

We so commonly hear that technology is disconnecting us from one another, making us alienated and isolated, and that online relationships aren’t “real.” But this film wants us to think more complexly about the possibilities of digital connections — so for this blog post let’s do just that. You should think carefully and specifically about what the film seems to be showing us about the possibilities and problems of digital relations. How is the relationship between Theodor and Samantha different from a human-to-human relationship, and what might that show us about our relationships online and offline? What does their narrative show us about what you can do in a digital relationship that can’t happen otherwise, and what’s impossible in their relationship — how can we weigh those things in the world of the film? Rather than thinking about which is “better” or “worse,” try to just be analytical and reflective about the issues the film brings up. You’re free to take up any number of issues or themes in the film — just make sure that you ground your post in some specific reference and analysis of it, pointing to particular scenes, characters, elements, etc., and discussing how they work to raise these kinds of issues. Let’s try to get as wide a coverage of this material as possible to bring into class for our first day of discussion, so make sure you look through others’ posts before you work on yours, and if it’s clear that a particular scene or other piece has been discussed by lots of people already, try to branch out into some new material.

Reminder, with a slight scheduling change: Since our screening is so close to class time, I’m making some slight changes for this week only. Rather than Monday night, your post is due by class time on Tuesday, and should be at least 200 words. Because of the short timeframe this week, we’ll hold off on responding to classmates’ posts this time around — just make sure to come to class ready to talk and think together about the film.

Blog Post 2: Boyd Says, I Say

Hi everyone,

Nice job today with our first real discussion on Doran’s article “Identity” — lots of important ideas to think about further, and it was good to see people start to work with the “They Say, I Say” approach, explaining a key claim of Doran’s in your own words and then responding to it with claims of your own. That kind of writing in dialogue will be one of the cornerstones of what we’ll work on over the semester.

So for this first real blog post on boyd’s writing, I’d like you to work on that approach a little more formally and in a little more depth. Your first step here should be to find a key claim in boyd’s writing — rather than focusing in on an anecdote or example from her research, look instead for a larger claim or assertion she’s making, a nice meaty idea of a sentence or two. Then lay this out in your own writing — quote it and paraphrase or explain it in your own words, using some of the approaches and templates from They Say, I Say to help structure how you present this material. Once you’ve done that, respond to boyd directly with some claims and ideas of your own. As you do this, make it clear how you’re responding and what you’re adding to the conversation. Rather than just agreeing or disagreeing, or noting that something is interesting or important, say more to show how your position relates to hers — are you building on what she says? Complicating it? Offering another way of looking at the issue she raises? Something else? Again, using some of the templates can be helpful in structuring how you’re responding in a way that will be clear to people reading your work. Try to do this as well in your response to a classmate’s post. Try to add something more to the conversation—even if you do agree with them, take a different spin, suggest a new result or implication, play devil’s advocate and disagree with them for the sake of argument, etc.

Your response should go in the comments section for this post. It is due by 10pm on Monday, February 1st, the night before our Tuesday class, and should be at least 200 words. Your response to a classmate’s post is then due by class time on Tuesday. Good luck, and feel free to email or if you have any questions—I’m interested to see what everyone comes up with for this first post!

Blog Post 1: Welcome to Class! Welcome to the Blog

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the class blog for Professor Benzon’s English 105 course, Digital Identity!  I’m looking forward to a great semester exploring our course material with all of you. We’ll do a lot of interesting things with this blog, but for now, just take a moment to get set up with the blog, and to start exploring and thinking about some of our first texts.

  • First, subscribe to the blog using the form on the front page: enter your email address and click subscribe. You should receive an email with a link that you need to click in order to activate your subscription.
  • Then click on the comments link above and leave a message in the field that appears — tell us a little bit about yourself, and feel free to pose any questions you have about the course to me and your classmates. If someone has posted a question that you know the answer to, feel free to jump in and help them out in your post. And if you’ve started reading and viewing the material for our next class, let us know what you think. Don’t forget to include your full name in the appropriate box as well so that everyone knows who’s who and I can give you credit for your work. If it’s your first time posting on a WordPress blog, I may have to approve your post manually, so it might not show up immediately when you post it, but don’t worry — it will be there soon enough!

Good luck — let me know if you run into any trouble. See you in class on Thursday!

Reminder: your response should go in the comments section for this post. So that we can make sure everyone is up to speed with this work, this first post is due by 10pm on Wednesday, January 27 — our first full-fledged post, on danah boyd’s article, will be due by 10pm on Monday, February 1. If you have any questions, let me know via email.