Sunday, 28 February 2010

structures of participation in digital culture

I've just finished my book review of this charming little volume of essays. It's from 2007, edited by Joe Karaganis. One chapter is written by a favourite scholar of mine, danah boyd. I've also found a few new favourite scholars inside! Stand-outs include T.L. Taylor on player participation in game culture, Mizuko Ito on the rise of Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card culture in Japan and Ravi Sundaram on the culture of the copy and piracy in India. You can download it for free if you're interested.

It's great when you read something (or a collection of somethings in this case) that give shape and articulation to an idea you've been jabbing at subconsciously for a while, but never found a way to express properly. The true value of digital culture and (for my work) the internet is not just that we can chat with strangers on the other side of the planet or that we can do our banking from a phone while standing next to the ATM at the pub or even that we can share our lives with family and friends that we'd otherwise have contact with only rarely. The true value here, it seems, is that digital culture makes our world visible, accessible and open to participation. /end rant. (I'll link my review when/if the journal I sent it to publishes it).

episode IV, a new hope: attack of the first-years

Semester 1, 2010 commences tomorrow! I'm looking forward to getting back into a classroom and out from behind the desk, although I'll likely be longing for quiet corridors and the abundance of parking spaces again by week 3.

About two months ago I promised myself I'd get a few things done before school starts back including a book review, a journal article and two conference abstracts. I'm pretty much done with that to-do list, so go me!

P.S. My caption-picture for this post was going to be Yoda in a class with the baby Jedi's, but I couldn't go past this guy who looks like he's about to hurl the textbook at whoever is in the first row of his class. This is the kind of passion we should all aim for! Maybe I should start wearing a tie to class?

Monday, 22 February 2010

ages of social network site users

Here's an interesting report on the average ages of users on social network sites. It basically confirms what I already suspected: the average age of MySpace users (31.8) is younger than the average age of Facebook users (38.4), although the divide isn't terribly enormous. What this kind of data doesn't indicate, however, is why there is a gap. This report also fails to indicate whether it's data is based solely on self-reported age. How many people used to (or still do) list their age as 99 on MySpace.. or 69, anyone? That's probably going to skew the findings considerably. I'll assume that the report is based on that data and proceed with a grain of sand.

My own findings are beginning to indicate that young people are engaging more with MySpace because it allows for a greater sense of symbolic control and experimentation with design, images, colours, embedded elements and so on. Young MySpace users often describe Facebook as 'sterile', whereas Facebook users (who are often ex-MySpace users) describe MySpace as 'juvenile'. I think there's an important tension here that deserves further attention. If younger people, who are, presumably, still developing a sense of self, gravitate towards the creative potential of MySpace, perhaps it's operating here on some level as a reflexively expressive space to experiment with or 'sandbox' different self-narratives. More meditation required. Perhaps Sherry Turkle can be revisited.

apt excursion

While I was digging around in the archives at the State Library, Chris and I popped into the GoMA to check out the APT. It was amazing! Selected favourites below.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

two thirds

I just realised that today marks two years since I started my PhD. This means that the minimum submission date for my thesis is one year from today... and the maximum submission date without an extension is in 2012! But that's not terribly motivational, so we'll keep aiming for next year.

the future of internet studies

It took a few weeks to dawn on me after reading it the first time (thank you Mr. Muir), but this really resonates with me:
If there is one reason things "digital" might release humanism from its turtlenecked hairshirt, it is precisely because computing has revealed a world full of things: hairdressers, recipes, pornographers, typefaces, Bible studies, scandals, magnetic disks, rugby players, dereferenced pointers, cardboard void fill, pro-lifers, snowstorms. The digital world is replete. It resists any efforts to be colonized by the post-colonialists. We cannot escape it by holing up in Berkeley waiting for the taurus of time to roll around to 1968. It will find us and it will videotape our kittens.
It's not "the digital" that marks the future of the humanities, it's what things digital point to: a great outdoors. A real world. A world of humans, things, and ideas. A world of the commonplace. A world that prepares jello salads. A world that litigates, that chews gum, that mixes cement. A world that rusts, that photosynthesizes, that ebbs. The philosophy of tomorrow should not be digital democracy but a democracy of objects.
I think the author, Assoc. Prof. Ian Bogost is absolutely right. And I'm excited by the prospects.

archival research

Yesterday I went to the State Library to do some research for a supervisor of mine. It involved archival digging with the micro-film machine. This was one of the first gems I found. It was from a newspaper from 1888 called Southern Queensland Bulletin:

I managed to find a few references to the research topic I was employed to investigate, although compared to the way research is conducted now with computers (and the advent of instant 'searchability') this kind of research initially seemed so tedious. After a few hours of sifting, though, I came to realise the vast potential of this kind of research for uncovering such a broad array of data. It reminded me of why my research is qualitative. In sitting down and 'chatting' about something, or sifting through years of really old papers, you can discover things that a direct question (or a Likert scale) or a google search string won't. And those little bits you discover at the periphery might be crucial. 

I was also reminded that the social ills that seem to plague us according to popular discourse (well, my mother watches A Current Affair and Today Tonight, so...) have, in fact, been plaguing us for quite some time. The form of these ills (and I'd dispute whether they are actually ills at all, in fact) have certainly changed, and the mediums by which they're transmitted are certainly recent inventions, but they're still the same in many ways.