Brands To Be Refined

Hello there. Here is Digitally Literate, issue #314.

I hope you took the time to give some gratitude this week. You are appreciated.

This week I posted the following:

  • Ctrl-Alt-Del: Games, Society, Intersectionality, & Toxic Technocultures – A course I developed and will teach about #Gamergate, a controversy in gaming culture about the role of women in both the industry and fan culture, to emphasize issues around identity, race, equity, and inclusion. We’ll design and play games and edit Wikipedia.
  • Towards a Taxonomy of TransdisciplinarityThis research was presented at the LRA 2021 Conference this week. Our STEAM research team had pre-service teachers develop curriculum guided by transdisciplinary thinking as they created connections between math and music for a summer art camp.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Reach out and say hello at hello@digitallyliterate.net.

How To Become Invisible Online

I’ve been enjoying Kalle Hallden’s YouTube channel and this focus on building things with code. This video details the levels of privacy and anonymity that you can create as you interact online.

These videos are valuable as you have the opportunity to quickly understand the what, why, and how of anonymity online.

Up all night with a Twitch millionaire: The loneliness and rage of the Internet’s new rock stars

Ten hours a day, streamers are broadcasting lives of obsession and wealth for an unforgiving crowd. This post shares a day in the life of Tyler Steinkamp. At 26, Tyler is a millionaire and one of the Internet’s most popular streamers. For 50 hours a week, he broadcasts himself playing video games from his cramped living room in his 900-person Missouri hometown to 4.6 million followers, watching from around the world.

As his online world has grown, his real one has shrunk dramatically. The article describes how no one besides his girlfriend and family had visited his house in several years. The piece also suggests that “Tyler has millions of fans but no friends.” I don’t entirely agree with this assessment, but we need to better understand the pressure on these individuals. There’s no sense of privacy for content creators, no semblance of a sustainable career. You’re a gig worker for a media empire, expected to produce content with no sick days, retirement funds, or union power.

Twitch officials acknowledge that some streamers suffer from burnout and harassment. Young Creators Are Burning Out and Breaking Down.


Same Old

What is the point of imagining new technologies without new ways of living? Why the same old flying cars, robot vacuums, the copy-pasted futures from decades past?

Sun-Ha Hong suggests that the problem isn’t just that our tech ‘innovations’ are repetitive, but that they fossilize and retrench the associated social relations. We’re cutting off time and space for any other kind of future. The promise of automation also provides crucial cover for outsourcing, underpaying, and otherwise externalizing real costs.

Hong explores this a bit more in this article in the International Journal of Communication.


The Statecraft of Digital IDs: An Annotated Bibliography

I’ve been digging back into my notes on digital identity, badges, and distributed ledger systems over the last couple of weeks. As part of this, I’ve been thinking about centralized and decentralized identity systems and portfolios.

This annotated bibliography is a great resource that can quickly bring you up to speed on the emerging research on Digital IDs. It asks the question, How do digital IDs mediate the relationship between a datafied state and its citizens?

This has simultaneous social and moral implications. Social, because interacting with citizens through digital IDs requires work, organization, and the discipline of infrastructuring data into their everyday lives. Moral, because using digital IDs as a means to resolve questions of access and inclusion in state services inevitably raises practical and normative questions of fairness, accountability, and justice.


‘Magic dirt’: How the internet fueled, and defeated, the pandemic’s weirdest MLM

Black Oxygen Organics became a sudden hit in the fringe world of alternative medicines and supplements, where even dirt can go for $110 a bag. Black Oxygen Organics, or “BOO” for short, is difficult to classify. It was marketed as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decayed plants, that was dug up from an Ontario peat bog. The website of the Canadian company that sold it billed it as “the end product and smallest particle of the decomposition of ancient, organic matter.” 

By the end of the summer, online ads for BOO had made their way to millions of people within the internet subcultures that embrace fringe supplements, including the mixed martial arts community, anti-vaccine and Covid-denier groups, and finally more general alternative health and fake cure spaces. 

This is a weird story about an MLM (Multilevel Marketing) but it’s also online subcultures and the power of woo during a pandemic, and how the Internet can both build and destroy.


Spotify Wrapped, unwrapped

One of my favorite activities in my classes includes having students think about the soundtrack of their lives and share this with the group. This post examines the Spotify Wrapped, or look back at the songs and artists you’ve listened to the most over the last year. It has me thinking a lot more about what and how we value this view of our identity.

Part of this is an indication that we like being told who we are so we can tell it to other people. The following paragraph also contains a lot of points for thought.

While tracking music data doesn’t seem too murky at first glance, the use of artificial intelligence has been proven to discriminate. Reports have shown how artificial intelligence can be encoded with bias and perpetuate racism. When coupled with video technology or security software, algorithms have also played an integral role in bolstering surveillance capitalism. There have even been reports indicating how the platform’s feature is inaccurate and nefariously marketed. Still, Spotify Wrapped goes viral. Our collective enamoration with this recap reveals the extent to which algorithms have become integrated into the way we conceive of ourselves in digital consumer culture: as brands to be refined.

How To Remove Your Personal Data From The Internet

This video explores issues of personal data and how you can hide your personal information from search results and how to properly delete your social media pages. They also get into how you can unlist yourself from data brokers.

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with dirty feet.

Mahatma Gandhi

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