Living in a Connected World/Technology as an Extension of Self

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Introduction[edit]

D

igital technology, as we have always known it, has been humanity’s outlet for communication. As the technology we have created, over time, has slowly started to replace the need for face-to-face communication, humanity has begun to live with digital technology beyond terms of mere association. We have entered a fixed relationship with it; whereby today, we are represented, judged, assessed and manipulated – by both ourselves and others – online, through the use of multiple platforms on multiple devices. We don’t go a day without checking our own personal screens for messages, notifications, texts – updates of all kinds. We are fixated, caught in a storm which has only just begun its journey and shows no sign of clearing up, or slowing down.

There has been much discussion and research into the complicated, intrinsic relationship between technology and humanity, specifically in terms of how we are becoming, as it were, part of the machine we originally created. This chapter will explore, in association with relevant theories, the discussion points surrounding the relationship between humanity and technology and will help to define the notions of past, present and future technologies and how they are becoming (if they have not become already) an extension of ourselves.

Theorists[edit]

Jaron Lanier[edit]

Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier is a computer and technology theorist. His philosophies are critical of humanity’s relationship with computers, as he demonstrates the ways in which technology has negatively affected certain elements of human experience and interaction. Lanier believes that technology is an extension of ourselves, but puts forward a further debate that technology is turning humans into machines. In Lanier’s Missing persons, IN: You are not a gadget: a manifesto, he warns that technology could become the self, rather than an extension of the self [1] Lanier proposes that there should be an effort among those with the power and money to change technology to enhance humanism over technology. He believes there is an opposition between technology and humankind, rather than a stable and healthy equilibrium.

In Jaron Lanier’s article, Digital Maoism : The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism[2], he highlights how dangerous online collectivism can be. An example of this is how he talks about how you necessarily aren’t in control of what you are known for online as he talks about the fact on his Wikipedia page he is classed as a filmmaker, despite only having made one film in the past – “… I made one experimental short film about a decade and a half ago.” “I have attempted to retire from directing films in the alternate universe that is the Wikipedia.” This is a good example how people are usually known online on a first impression basis. It doesn’t matter what you have done since then, no matter how different it is from what you have gained a reputation for. That one action defines you. This is reflected in how Lanier explains how the collective is basically one being – “Reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure.” Following this point Lanier talks about how new online collectivism and the band wagon effect relate to each other, “…nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence…” This idea relates especially to how humans are social creatures that aspire to be part of a group, to belong. He also points out how that context is everything and that notoriety of the website in question can change the intention of information provided, “If an ironic web site devoted to destroying cinema claimed that I was a filmmaker, it would suddenly make sense.”

Marshall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan[edit]

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher and intellectual who wrote extensively on the topic of media technology. He was active in mostly in the 1960s and 70s so his work is entirely pre-internet as he passed away in 1980. Despite this, the views and ideas McLuhan put forward are relevant to discussions on digital media today. McLuhan wrote several books on the subject of media relating heavily to the way in which media works with technology as well as technological determinism. In his 1964 book Understanding Media: the extensions of man[3], McLuhan talks about various technologies and how they relate to both extending ourselves and society as a whole. McLuhan believed that technology has a direct role in defining and shaping the societal group of any time which is the main concept behind technological determinism. McLuhan's views have been seen as controversial as other views conflicting with his have been established, this includes cultural determinism which outlines the idea that society affects the technological changes rather than the technological explanation.

Jill Walker Rettberg[edit]

Jill Walker Rettberg is a professor of Digital Culture at the University of Bergen in Norway. She published Seeing Ourselves Through Technology, a book that explores self-representation through the use of technology. She studies the way we represent ourselves, looking at three modes of self representation (written, visual and quantitative), studying how various ways of self representation work along side digital technology. She discusses the 'pre-digital' history of each mode, how current methods of self-representation have evolved. In Rettberg's book "Seeing Ourselves Through Technology"[4], she discusses the use of selfies, and how the takers of these selfies have complete control over the finished image. She compares the modern day selfie to Suzanne Szuc's gallery of images which is comprised of 5475 photos, a photo each day for 15 years. These images followed Szuc through all aspects of her life, ranging from emotional turmoil, to light hearted images such as ones with her tongue sticking out. Rettberg comments on the similarities betwen Szuc's project, and modern-day photo sharing platforms such as Instagram.

Erika D'Amico[edit]

Erika D’Amico is a researcher at the University of Urbino, Italy. She specialises in the study of images within social media, looking particularly at the socio-economic structures of social media platforms. D’Amico wrote “The Elements of Libidinal Economy in Instagram: A New Ontological Status of Photography”. In this paper she explores the connotations of certain styles of photography, looking at aesthetic, relationships within images, and the impact of uploading certain types of images to online platforms. Instagram is the key focus of the paper, with D’Amico exploring the relationship between the creator and uploader of images, and the audiences that then view them.

She believes that Instagram and other photo sharing platforms are anchored by a three-step process. The first step is to let others “recognize the experience you are living through images”[5] meaning that it is your duty to create the most accurate portrayal of the experience as you can. The second step is to “use a hashtag as a sort of call to action and (to) get more visibility”.[6] She argues that the use of hashtags allows for images which would normally be swept under the digital rug, along with thousands of others, to be recognised for their merit. The third step involves “matching my shot to some specific filters”.[7] She states that in order to get the best audience for the image the uploader needs to upload it with appropriate tags and filters.

Zizi Papacharissi[edit]

Zizi Papacharissi is a communication scholar. She has a PHD in communication studies. Her works mainly concentrate on the consequences of new media and technologies on society. She edited the collection of A Networked Self: Identity, Community and Culture on Social Networks Sites, which we studied for this module. In it, she wrote a chapter with Andrew L. Mendelson about the narcissism that comes with posting pictures on social media especially for college students and young adults. She focuses on observing the different ways people posts pictures, their social meaning but also focuses on the differences in photos posted by men and women. In her books, she prefers to write about the changes brought by the use of technologies in our society. She writes about the consequences of those technologies and social medias on our social and political engagement. In A Networked Self, she examines how social connections are made in a time where everything is online. It explores the consequences of having an entire identity online and only online since nowadays people prefer to only present themselves online and use their social networks as an extension of their identities.

Sherry Turkle[edit]

Sherry Turkle is a professor of social psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also a founder and the director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. Sherry Turkle received a joint doctorate from Harvard University in sociology and personality psychology. Professor Turtle explores the relationship people have with technology and analyses how it affects human behaviour. She studies how human connection and communication is redefined by electronic devices and social networking. Since publishing her book The Second Self: Computers and The Human Spirit in 1984, Sherry Turkle has been exploring how technology changes our lives and how it affects our identity. In her work Alone Together (2011) and Life on the Screen, The Second Self (2005) she sets the questions about human isolation and connectivity in a technology dominated world. She also explores the notion of the ‘tethered self’ - the new human identity that has been built in close connection with technology. In academic environments professor Turkle is known as "the Margaret Mead of digital culture” and in her studies she mainly focuses on the technologies that she calls “the architects of our intimacy”, such as social media, chatbots, sociable robots and digital workplaces. She suggests that there is still time for humanity to analyse and rebuild our approach to digital technology as it is still relatively new. Sherry Turkle’s work allows readers to look at people’s relationships with technology from a new, fresh perspective.

Adrian Athique[edit]

Adrian Athique is an Associate Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia. He specialises in media studies and has written multiple articles and chapters as well as world leading textbooks on our association and relationship with online platforms. He is fascinated by psychosocial relations and defines in his own words - in his 2013 textbook [8] his theory of the "I" (the subject of ourselves) and the "Me" (our public persona) in relation to human interactions with Social Networking Sites (SNS). Athique has a specific interest not only in SNS but in the relationship between human interaction in real life and virtual interaction and sociologically, the impact that is having on society. His interest in so called, New Media, (and his criticism of the term) relating to the constant convergence of current media forms partnered with a look at how humanity came to not only accept digital technology but arguably thrive with it in use in their daily lives provides an interesting look at the social norms of present.

Raymond Williams

Raymond Williams[edit]

Raymond Williams was a theorist and critic who focused his interests and writings on culture, was an influential member of the New Leftand paved the way for the beginning of cultural studies. His book ‘Television, Technology and Cultural Form’ (1974) focused on the power relations between humans and technology [9] Williams discussed cultural determinism as a theory to counter technological determinism. He therefore proposed that humans had power over technology because technology was created, used and adapted according to pre-existing human desires in social groups. He further argued that different groups may use the same technology for different things, depending on their different needs and intentions.

History[edit]

Self-Representation[edit]


Pre-Digital History

Self-representation is how we see each other, and ourselves. It allows us to make sense of the world we live in. How we use technology, as a form of self-representation, as an extension of self, is a concept not foreign but a universal practice that dates back thousands of years. Jill Walker Rettberg discusses the ‘pre-digital’ history in her paper, “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology”. She argues that past methods have evolved into the current digital methods of self-representation.[10]


Prehistoric cave paintings, discovered all over the world have given us a glimpse into the lives of early humans, showing us how they saw the world they lived in- depicting great animals like bison, lions and horses. Humans are rarely seen in the paintings, represented mainly as hands that have been stencilled. The meaning behind cave paintings is debated but it is argued that they could have played a role in religious ceremonies. Religion can be viewed as an extension of self; your beliefs and practices influence your actions, how you dress and speak and ultimately how people see you. You could view Facebook profiles like a cave wall, ‘painted’ for religious purposes. Everyone decorates their Facebook wall with their interests and their beliefs. Their practices and aims influence what goes on their wall, to gain ‘likes’ or to connect with individuals who have similar beliefs and interests.

Figurines and statues are key examples of self-representation from a pre-digital time. If you look at the discovery of Venus of Hohle Fels, a figurine of a woman that dates back over 35,000 years ago, you can see how body image is portrayed. Researchers, Alan F. Dixson and Barnaby J. Dixson discuss ‘Venus figurines’ in great detail in their article, "Venus Figurines of European Paleolithic: Symbols of Fertility and Attractiveness?" The article states that the figurines could reflect the individual styles and preferences of those who made them. However, ‘it is challenged that they may have been crafted by women, who were making images of their own bodies.’ This idea of self-representation can be seen today, through the use of filters and other camera techniques- women and/or men can create images that reflect their own styles and preferences or create something that they believe depicts their own bodies.

Masks used in ancient Greek theatre displayed characteristics and exaggerated emotions in order to create a reaction in an audience. They also allowed an actor to take on many different roles without being recognised. These ancient masks could be compared to the modern day selfie because it shows only what the subject wants its audience to see (a certain characteristic or emotion).

Self-portraits are another example of self-representation that can be linked to selfies and visual social media platforms, like instagram. Frida Kahol (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter known for her self-portraits. Her painting, The Two Fridas (1939) shows two versions of herself, sitting side by side. Both versions have their hearts exposed; one dressed in white appears to have cut her heart open with scissors, blood spilling onto her dress. The other version is dressed in warm colours and her heart appears strong, a rich red. The Two Fridas is an extension of self, how Frida saw herself- it is said that the painting depicts the unloved and loved Frida. In comparison to how individuals represent themselves online, it could be argued that they are doing just the same thing as Frida: pictures on instagram accounts depict the reality that individuals want people to see. The same can be said for profile pictures (they represent the reality of the individual).

Technology[edit]

Ideas relating to technology and the extension on self, pre-date our digital world by many years. As far back as the 1960s, long before the development of the internet, Marshall McLuhan was writing about the extensions of man in his book Understanding media. McLuhan outlines several key ideas relating to technology and mankind being closely related to one another. McLuhan also outlines several aspects of technology that directly relate to our senses including film, motorcars and telephone as well as others.

Transport[edit]

Transportation relates heavily to elements of the extension of self. Transport gives the individual freedom by removing their restricted movement. In terms of extension, in a literal sense, it can be said that the wheel extends the leg so therefore does the car. It is evident even in contemporary society, and McLuhan’s in 1964, that the motorcar is a status symbol. The car is often seen as representative of self although today the focus seems to have shifted to the caliber of vehicle rather than simply owning one. McLuhan feels like the view of cars as status symbols is misplaced as he says it ignores the equal ability cars provide. In Understanding Media, he describes the idea that despite race, age or background, cars provide the same extension for each of us. This may have been applicable to the internet when internet enabled devices were hard to come by, however as such devices have become far more commonplace, the freedom it provides is far more noted than any status symbolic qualities.

William Haggars Bioscope 1902

Film[edit]

The development of film technology allows for illustrations of self-extension in various ways. In the UK, early cinemas were known as Bioscopes which derives from the Greek word bios meaning life. This relates to the idea that films capture life and allow audiences to connect with that. The mechanical technology provides content that is organic in appearance, allowing the connection to real life, organic experiences to be formed. On the side of the creator, the film allows for a portrayal of the mind or an extension of the self. To understand the way in which film falls in to the history of self-extension, we should look at the way in which print is very similar. According to McLuhan, Miguel de Cervantes (author of Don Quixote) would have seen print as we see film. The new technology usurps the old in providing new, easier, more interesting ways to further society. Marshal McLuhan uses the terms “Hot and Cool” when referring to media. Hot media are those which extend a single sense whilst conveying large quantities of information with little effort and cold media are those which convey little information. In the case of film, it is a hot medium as uses vision to provide a range of data easily interpreted by the viewer. A criticism of Mcluhan’s work on film is that he views film audiences as passive. In her 1997 book, Shocking Entertainment: viewer response to violent movies [11], Annette Hill paints a different picture when she talks about violence effects of media as she talks about the audience being active in the way they consume and interpret violence and by extension film in general.

Alexander Graham Bell

Communication[edit]

Electrical communication has played a very extensive role in shaping the current way in which our society functions. Electric communications such as the telegraph and the telephone extend speech in a way which postage and non-electric communications could not with near instant speed. In turn the foundations upon which the internet is built can be said to have come from these types of communications as in the early days of online communication, dial-up internet used the phone lines to send information. The telegraph rose in popularity in 1910 as it led to the arrest of Dr Hawley H. Crippen who was a U.S. physician that had fled the country on a boat equipped with wireless communication and the telephone was famously invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. The instant communication that these technologies allowed meant that multiple institutions in a society could work with and depend on one another, altering the way that society previously functioned. Therefore, supporting ideas of technological determinism. In 1964, when Marshall McLuhan was writing Understanding Media: The extensions of man, he talks about the extension of the voice communications devices allowed and how people would provide their own thoughts about the other person’s actions whilst only hearing speech. As this was over 50 years ago, we now know of services such as Skype which allow us to see and hear another individual at the same time. This ties in to earlier ideas of hot media as now technology requires less effort on the side of the user.

Forms of self-representation[edit]

Social Media[edit]

Social media is a very important part of many people’s lives. The varied social platforms, ranging from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others give people the ability to post whatever they wish, sharing it with the world. Social media can be a very personal experience, offering up chances to share your everyday thoughts, pictures, and links to your friends and followers. These online profiles are similar to diaries, however online diaries are digital, and take their information from multiple different source rather than just one. The information a user posts on the internet is compiled together to create an overall impression of that person. This is especially the case if the user chooses to link their various social media profiles together. For example, Instagram is easily integrated into Facebook and offers an option to automatically repost any Instagram upload onto your Facebook profile.

This makes it easy to find and compile online data and uploads from individual users, giving a deeper and more developed look into the life of somebody that one would not typically find in a paper diary. However social media often does not always provide an accurate representation of somebody’s real life, and the ability to filter and edit what we upload can lead to a false portrayal of daily life.

Facebook[edit]

Facebook is the largest social media network, giving a social media voice to over 1.8 billion people. The platform encourages the sharing of links, images and text between friends online. Due to the simplistic nature of uploading these, users “walls” are often filled with things they find interesting and wish to share with others. Facebook is the more prominent example of how regular posting on a social media site can build up a profile and extend a personality through technology. Every post made is timestamped, similarly to how a paper diary has dates written in. Although a user’s timeline is automated by Facebook, with the website taking your likes and displaying them on your feed, everything else on the platform is very hands-on. This includes the sharing of information with other users, and whilst this is essential from a privacy standpoint, it brings into question the authenticity of Facebook profiles.

The Facebook Logo

The majority of Facebook users only want to share the good aspects of their life, such as nights out with their friends, exam success and positive family news. This ability therefore to only upload what they wish, gives them the opportunity to exclude the negative things in their life such as mental health issues or family struggles. This leads to a highly filtered representation of people on the platform, often driven by the ambition to get “likes” on a post, or follows on the platform. Human beings gravitate towards positivity, and would likely unfollow a user’s social media account if negative things were posted.

In comparison to a paper diary, Facebook is a far less realistic representation of real life. In a paper diary the writer is usually completely honest, as they do not intend for anybody else to read it unless under their supervision. Whereas Facebook, to a large degree, is an open platform, allowing for almost anybody to see what you post. The purified nature of what users post on Facebook also extends to the images they upload, their profile pictures in particular. A user’s profile picture is one of the first things seen on a Facebook account, it is visible in every post made, on profile pages and in any comments the user makes. Because of this, users often upload edited images of themselves, changing the pictures through applications such as Instagram in order to make themselves look more appealing. This practice of doctoring images to increase a user’s likeability on the internet is a perfect example of why social media, such as Facebook, cannot be trusted as a realistic representation of somebody’s personality in the non-digital life.


Twitter[edit]

Twitter

Twitter is a platform which allows users to post text up to 140 characters in length. This makes it ideal for sharing daily thoughts and posting hyperlinks to content you find interesting and want to share. On Twitter it is often more acceptable to update your profile daily with your current thoughts and feelings than on other sites such as Facebook. Because of this, Twitter tends to attract those who are more open with their online profiles and sharing their personalities with others. The acceptance of sharing minute details of your life on Twitter has led to it becoming the most diary-like social media platform to date, with photo and video uploading still present in the experience. The ability to look back on previous posts is another similarity Twitter has to the conventional diary format, allowing users to see their own personal growth over time. The regular nature of the posts on twitter allows the user’s personality to come through in more depth that typically found on other social media platforms such as Facebook.

One example of this is Donald Trump’s Twitter account, where he regularly posts about his political views and standpoints on issues. This is both a positive and negative way of portraying his views to the general public. It is positive as Twitter is an open platform, allowing anybody to find his profile and learn about his current agenda. However it is also a highly ineffective platform to use as the President of the United States as the 140 character limit severely limits the detail in which Trump is able to tweet. This often leads to Tweets with multiple interpretations, making it difficult to decipher Trump’s views. The immediacy of the platform and ease of use means that Trump is able to post whatever thoughts are in his mind at any given moment, and these digitised moments of bravado showcase how Twitter gives users a platform to extend their personalities into an online space.


Instagram[edit]

The Instagram Logo

Instagram is an image-centric social media platform which lets users post and edit photos. The platform acts as modern-day digital photo album, allowing users to categorise their photos by adding tags and locations to the images. The app itself also automatically adds information to an uploaded image such as the camera settings used. Although this information isn’t substantial, it provides another piece of the overall picture of online identity. A large part of the Instagram experience is the ability to edit the photos that are uploaded through a smartphone application. This editor offers many powerful functions such as adjusting the contrast and saturation of an image, however the editor’s main attraction is the option of adding filters. These filters change the overall tone of the image, often hiding flaws in the photo. This is the epitome of how many users use social media in general, opting to use both photo filters on the profile pictures and other images they upload, whilst also filtering out information that they do not wish to share with other people.

Erika D’Amico’s paper: “The Elements of Libidinal Economy in Instagram: A New Ontological Status of Photography”, provides insight into the way users represent their wealth through their online profiles and images. The paper argues that when you upload images to social media sites, it allows other people to experience the events you experience, albeit through a 2d, cherrypicked medium. In choosing to upload images to Instagram, you open your real life up to the scrutiny and judgement of others, which often leads to people posting expensive possessions that they own, or exciting events they have been involved in. The ability to post images of almost anything on Instagram has led to the phenomenon of “The Rich Kids of Instagram”, even leading to a Channel 4 documentary. For these people, Instagram is used as a bragging platform, with them regularly sharing images of their wealth. They choose to not only show off their wealth in a tangible manner, but also extend their exhibition to an online environment.


JTF-Guantanamo server farm

Distrust for AI Many technology companies are trying to develop ‘AI’ for their products, Microsoft and Apple respectively being the best examples out there. Although, (using Lanier’s Edge article[12] from 2006 as an example here) some theorists have suggested that true AI has existed on the internet because of the communities contained with each website. We can see this in the way that AI have been tested on social media sites, like twitter, to varying degrees of success. Examples from Lanier’s article[13] for people that think this are George Dyson- who hypothesises that an AI already exists on the internet- and Larry Page- who suggests that a true AI will appear on the internet within the next few years (from 2006).

Although Lanier also points out the danger in anticipating this, for example he says that [14]“how premature and dangerous it is to lower the expectations we hold for individual human intellects.” It could be argued that one could counter this with the fact that human intelligence is what is need for AI to be created.

Newspapers facing decline

Decline

It could be argued that the fact that newspapers are facing a decline is a natural evolution since the creation of personal computers. In fact, one could say that newspapers as we know them are a result of the invention of the printing press and that the spreading of information via text has been around for centuries before. It should be noted that ‘news’ websites, such as Google News, are said to be better funded and more secure compared to traditional websites for news outlets, thus bringing up the subject of “…question of new business models for content creators…”[15]

However, in the same section of his article, Lanier also says that blogging is not writing since writing takes time. This point could be agreed upon for the fact that information for blogs, vlogs, and any social media is readily available- this relates to the quote before from Lanier about how information exists in several places on the internet. Whereas ‘real’ writing requires some amount of research.

On one hand, it could be argued that if blogs ran how most news is reported then the World would be chaotic. Lanier explains that affairs, at the time, are reaching this because of an “…artificial elevation of all things Meta…profound influence on how decisions are made in America”[16]. An example of this would be how certain politicians now have their own official social media to ‘interact with the public better’ or how some are made into parts of pop-culture, for example memes. An example of the distinction between blogging and ‘real’ writing can be seen in the words of Jaron Lanier who states, “I’m saying and doing much less than I used to… I’m still being paid the same amount.”[17]

Future Technology[edit]

Technology has been developing for years now and continues to do so every single day, affecting our everyday lives whether we like it or not. For example, in the last couple of years the use of mobile phones and laptops have become more common than uncommon; a development like this has effects in different aspects of our lives too, like in Education for example, where laptops are relied on for teaching classes. One of the biggest changes that appears to be continuing with newer developments too is the age at which technology becomes a central part of someone's life. Most children nowadays will be growing up around technology as a key part of their life, and with all the continuing developments that are happening now, it doesn't seem like this will be changing anytime soon.

There are a lot of interesting new developments that have happened in the past few years that may also have major effects on how we are able to keep a sense of our 'self', whether that be in an 'online' sense or even within 'real life'.

Smart Watches[edit]

A Smart Watch.

Smart Watches have become the next logical step for a lot of companies when trying to innovate their mobile technology. Alongside consistently developing their mobile phones to keep up with the competitive market, most companies are now also simultaneously releasing smart watches to essentially function as an extension of the mobile phone.

Most of the features of a smart watch are essentially the same as the majority of smartphones nowadays. For example, the watch will also you to make calls, to view the weather, to view images you have saved (most likely transferred from another device), and to send messages to people. Even though most people take their phones with them almost everywhere, the smart watch brings technology and the human body even closer than before. People always talk about others being 'glued to their mobile phones', yet, with the smart watch, this phrase has never been closer to to the truth. The similarities between the two devices essentially show how the smart watch has became a smaller version of a phone that is always literally attached to you. It also appears to show just how much technology is becoming a bigger part of our everyday lives; that something such as a watch has now been 'modernised' in a way to act more like a phone highlights the rapid developments of technology.

VR (Virtual Reality)[edit]

VR Headset

Whilst Virtual Reality has always been quite commonly known worldwide in theory, it has only been in the past few years that it has started properly integrating itself into the worldwide business market. Samsung are just one of the companies that are now shipping VR headsets with their phones (something that would have been unheard of just a few years back), and Sony has taken full advantage of the program by creating their own VR headset and shipping it alongside their newest model of the Playstation 4.

One of the most interesting things about Virtual Reality is how it can function in multiple different ways: it has the ability to bring us 'closer to life' in some ways, by creating situations (e.g. being attacked underwater by a shark) that would never rarely find ourselves in yet making them as 'realistic' as possible. However, the breadth of the technology's ability also enables it to go into the opposite direction in terms of realism: it can offer a way of escapism, essentially a gateway to worlds that don't exist, yet we are able to feel 'real' within them.

Key theorist Marshall McLuhan often spoke about how media has the ability to provide us with sensory extensions that had the ability to transform our experiences with ourselves and with each other. To put explain what he meant by this, he often used examples such as how vehicles can extend our feet, providing us with the ability to travel longer distances much quicker - he essentially thought that all new technology mirrored a specific part of the human body, and therefore somehow provided us with an improved version of that body part. Therefore, technology is intrinsically tied with human beings. Looking at Virtual Reality, it seems to extend the possibilities of the human body as a whole - it is perhaps the closest thing that the world currently has of extending the sensory experience of the body as a whole. The technology manages to take ourselves into an entirely new situation, therefore presenting the body with an entirely new 'world' to explore.

Personal Trackers[edit]

Pin on a map.

Personal Trackers are another form of developing technology which extend our experience of the world. The main use of them is to be able to find where people are, or, if you were using one on yourself, then other people who were aware of the software would be able to find where you were at any point in time. Even though you can buy GPS trackers on their own, applications such as 'Find my Friends' on iOS enable users to see where their friends are as long as both have the correct settings turned on within their phone.

There are a lot of positives and negatives that come with this new technology: for example, people may choose to use this technology with their children, so that they can know where they are at all times in order to keep them safe. This allows the children to remain protected by the parents even though they are not physically with them. The downside of this is that people may use this type of software to stalk people, or to keep an eye on them when they have not provided consent to them doing so. Regardless of the impact of the technology, it essentially makes the space between people in the world smaller. We are no longer always able to hide away from people whenever we feel like it. Considering the implementation of this software into our mobile phones too, it is now easier than ever to know where someone is no matter how far away they are from you in a physical sense.

Blogs/Online Diaries[edit]

Another form of expressing your identity online are blogs and online diaries. People use these not so much to post pictures but more to express their feelings, thoughts, even day to day experiences. Some people just write about their lives. Nowadays, there are more and more blogs where people share their issues or health problems. There are blogs where people describe their struggle with depression, eating disorders even anxiety problems. These blogs are often made by people who decided to share their experience to help more people. There can always be the criticism that some people just do it to have attention or to feel important. Some people use blogs as an extension of themselves, to help go through personal issues, to analyse their thoughts, even though it is a public platform. People are also paid to have blogs and to advertise certain products if they have a large following and an important influence on people. Online diaries are a more personal form of writing as they involve people just sharing their intimate thoughts on the internet. People are attracted to the interactive notion of it, where people can comment and share if they've had similar experiences. The bloggers can have immediate responses. It can also be anonymous if people are unsure about sharing their identities but some people can show their identity if they are comfortable telling people who they are. However, nowadays people don't use blogs or online diaries as much. Instagram and Facebook have replaced them. It seems people are more inclined to share their lives in pictures than writing about it.

Wordpress[edit]


Wordpress is a website used for creating websites. It is used by a lot of famous blogs, news websites like The New York Time's blog, music outlets and important companies. People use it to create a website that will be useful to their businesses or even to make an impression on the internet and present themselves through their blogs.

Gaming[edit]

It is not uncommon today to be involved in some form of gaming platform. From playing small touch-based apps on our phones to partaking in international tournaments online and at conventions, gaming is an important aspect to many peoples’ interaction with technology. The possibility of escape, into another world, to play as a character for an indiscriminate amount of time in a virtual universe is both entertainment and often a form of relaxation for millions of players. The potential to become a part of a community is also an appealing aspect and allows users of video games to not only interact as humans with other players but helps to form a sense of unity amongst fellow gamers.

Platforms[edit]

Steam

The main gaming platform on the PC is Steam, a game client and store created by Valve. The platform allows for heavy customisation of both user profiles and the store itself, giving users the ability to extend their personalities into the gaming world. Steam offers the ability to upload profile pictures, ranging from pre-installed stock images provided by Valve, to user-uploaded images.This is extremely important as your profile image is one of the first things other users see when visiting your account page. Steam also allows users to upload images, videos and text to the profile, with many users opting to include their gaming setups and screenshots of their favourite games. This level of customisation allows for a user of Steam to extend their personality into the digital gaming world.

Another aspect of Steam is the communication available. In many games such as Counter Strike:Global Offensive players communicate through both voice chat and text chat. Steam allows users to privatise their profiles, meaning that other people cannot view the information they have uploaded to their account. This anonymity that Steam offers can breed very hostile interactions between players, especially when games become competitive. This voice chat platform often brings out the worst in people, with aggressive language and curse words at the forefront of the problems. However, it can also be very useful for team communication and can often increase the enjoyment of games, giving those who are pleasant in online interactions, voice communication. As with anything competitive, emotions often run high and this brings out a side of people not often seen. How people react when losing an online game is often a strong indicator of their real life attitudes and personality.

PSN (PlayStationNetwork)

One of the most popular video game consoles is Playstation. After many years of development and evolution - from the original Playstation all the way through to todays most recent version of the console, the Playstation 4 - this console now acts as not only a platform for individual gaming, but provides the user with a community. Like many other video game platforms, PSN allows the user to choose an avatar, a pseudonym and a background (on screen). All of these choices are customisable and conveys PSN as a platform which gives each user much space for self-representation. Each user can be as anonymous or as public as they would like, with the option to share information and gaming history (in the form of Trophies) - much like social media sites.

As mentioned, PSN's notable trait is that of its community. Many gamers who play regularly define themselves as part of the community, a group of like-minded individuals, who through their shared interest in video games can converse and feel a sense of unity. Through headphones and microphones, PSN allows users (when playing online) to communicate with those who are playing either the same game as them - and are thus in the same lobby - or if said individual is friends with another player. This form of self-representation allows for gamers to not be judged solely on their avatar and chosen screen name but by their voice also; this arguably lends video gaming to a more humanistic relationship with technology. The user face of PSN is incredibly easy to manage and keep private and allows each player to completely customise their personal space, and subsequently the space that is seen by others.

Xbox Live

Xbox360 controller

Xbox is an example of an online platform growing into the mainstream and how quickly this notoriety fades in a short space of time. An example of this notoriety is how the term "xbox" can mean anything to a wide range of people and has become synonymous with gaming in mainstream culture today. However, the whole story behind Xbox Live as a business venture is a real world representation of what Lanier[18] has said "The illusion that what we already have is close to good enough..." as the platform has already faded into obscurity. This shows how gaming culture has become part of the mainstream, look to the example of Pewdiepie. The example of Xbox Live shows how internet culture as a whole has been assumed by mainstream culture today. To see how this is possible you don't have to look further than the example that Facebook has set in accordance with all of the separate groups that are contained within its structure and how it is essentially the place to be nowadays.

Identity and Identification[edit]

The enormous popularity of video games and the influence they have on player’s offline life suggests that they should be seen as more than just escapism and ways to kill time. According to McGonigal (2010), people all over the world spend three billion hours a week playing[19]. Therefore, an average player sacrifices 13 hours a week on video games, entering other worlds and taking different roles. The cyberspace provides the safe environment for experimenting and exploring a player’s identity. Hence, video games can be seen as important tools for identity formation as they help the gamer to re-conceptualise it. It is useful to explore the notion of ‘cyborgs’ in order to understand the process of constructing identity in video games and the character identification a player uses to perform that identity. A Cyborg is a person whose ability became increased by replacing body parts with mechanical parts. In the technology dominated world it is safe to say that we all became cyborgs with our omnipresent company of wireless technological devices that we carry everywhere. The line between human and machine is blurry. In video games, players literally become the machine, become avatars. Considering the ability to interact with people from around the world, the opportunities for experimenting with identities are endless. The player is able to take male or female perspective, can transform into someone much older or much younger, much more or less visually attractive, stronger, braver, more confident than he or she is offline. Interestingly, ‘by playing avatar we end up being ourselves in most revealing ways’ ([20]).

While building our avatar in Sims Online or Second Life we are able to choose desired physical features but also create different personalities. Being shy and socially awkward in real life, we can become a confident party animal and try this new notion of self in different situations. By doing this it is possible that we transfer these characteristics into our offline life. Creating ‘the new self’ in the game can also help the player to deal with fears, insecurities, anxieties and traumas. For example transgender people may be more confident about coming out after using a desired gender in the game. According to Sherry Turkle there are two ways of using online life to deal with real life problems. We can ‘act out’, taking conflicts from our real lives and expressing them again and again through virtual reality means ([21]). However we can choose more productive solutions, ‘work through’ and therefore use the online sphere to confront the conflicts from real world in order to find new solutions.

It is also important to mention Murphy’s theory ([22]) that states that identification with characters in video games is reinforced by a ‘cinematic-like state’. Therefore, even in the case of fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat, which lack a complex narrative, players still identify with the avatar due to their complete control over it.

In her essay ‘Cyberspace and Identity” Sherry Turkle writes about the notion of multiple identities and analyses how they have been increased by cyberspace communication. Quoting Sherry Turkle ([23]): “if traditionally, identity implied oneness, life on today's computer screen implies multiplicity and heterogeneity”. Video games can be seen as important tools for identity formation as they help the gamer to re - conceptualise reality.

Dating Sites[edit]

Online dating has become one of the fastest growing industries on the internet, worth over $2 billion [24], since its inception in 1995 [25] with the internet dating site Match.com. The common business model requires a small subscription fee in return for the space to create your own profile, and view the profiles of other users. Other users are often promoted by their compatibility using such parameters as common interests listed and location. There are many specialised online dating services that cater to those looking for a partner with a specific trait, such as Elite Singles, Uniform Dating and Christian Connections. The emergence of dating online has created an entirely new branch of social interaction and masspersonal communication, creating a new environment for people to sell themselves; online etiquette and signifiers are used to connote the users personality and try and make a connection with other users. Sites such as Zoosk and Match.com offer advice to users on how to make their profiles more attractive such as advising what words to use and not use, what sort of photo of themselves to use and how much information about themselves they should reveal. According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, one third of U.S marriages start online. [26]. Whilst many accuse online dating as breeding a narcissistic, superficial, “hook-up” culture [27] others praise the advancement in technology for creating links between people that previously would have never been able to meet.

Match.com/Tinder etc.[edit]

Tinder

The variety of different online dating sites has created an online culture in which people are asked to specify what sort of person they are, and what sort of person they are looking for. As Papacharissi wrote, “[online dating] has particularly dynamic properties that facilitate selective self-­ presentation in the pursuit of relational goals…” (Papacharissi, Zizi, 2010).

Sites such as eHarmony and Match.com promote themselves for single men and women, young and old, looking to connect with other like-minded people. The huge success of online dating sites such as these have prompted many to praise the advancement in interconnectivity due to the internet, bringing together couples that without the technology would never have crossed past in the real world. The large success of online relationships proves its success. Theorists Parks and Floyds noticed in the infancy of online dating the amount of online communications that led to face-to-face interactions, 1/3 of all sustained communication. They summarised, “These findings imply that relationships that begin on line rarely stay there” (Parks and Floyds, 1996.) Sites such as Dattch have been praised for creating a space in which a smaller demographic of people, in this case lesbian women, can search actively online for a partner. [28]. Many praise this inclusion for addressing issues such as the difficulty of meeting people of the same orientation when they are out and using sites that are largely geared towards heterosexuals. 70% of homosexual couples in the UK begin online. [29] Early studies on the connectivity of online communication assumed that people online would often be linked by common interests. (Rheingold, 1993). Geographical location has become the dominant way of linking two users in internet dating and social media. Apps such as Tinder and Grindr exploit this, linking users by their distance from one another. Tinder began in 2012, and boasts over a billion “swipes” a day. The app functions by showing the user photos of men and women in their area, and allowing the user to either like or dislike the look of this person. If both users like each other’s photos and brief bio, they are connected and can message one another. Grindr works in a similar way, focussing on homosexual men. Both sites are deemed controversial for their shallow nature, and promotion of short, sometimes sexual meet ups. Others have deemed these apps a symptom of a larger issue, citing the Uses and Gratification theory alongside Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for millennials seeking of approval and acceptance. [30]

Criticism and Debate[edit]


The nature of online dating is inherently judgemental, and many have criticised the use of such an interface to meet someone as being too superficial. How someone looks is the primary way in which most dating sites allow users to appraise one another, creating a divide between people that find this too shallow whilst others appreciate avoiding awkward first dates devoid of attraction. Papacharissi writes that networked technologies makes it easier for people ignore social etiquette often demanded face-to-face. [31] In general, dating sites have become notorious for users lying and using false information to better promote themselves and gain attention. The competitive nature of online dating has created a community in which Toma compared the information social media such as Facebook and Twitter with the more, “…deceptive self-­ presentation sometimes found [on]… online dating sites…” (Toma, Hancock, & Ellison, 2008). In extreme cases, catfishing can take place, creating a sense of distrust and manipulation when dating online. Online dating has been criticised for creating a culture in which narcissism and superficial judgement is promoted. CEO of Match.com Greg Blatt has admitted that online dating encourages greed, and that it is difficult for some to stop using the site once they’ve started as there is “always someone better”.. [32]. Studies have shown that with so much choice less and less people are finding the need to commit to their partner, and are often drawn to the instantly gratifying nature of the internet. A 2016 study by the Manchester Metropolitan University found that men using Tinder felt that they had a right to “use woman as they saw fit” if they were not attractive as their profile suggested, anchoring the sexist, one night stand culture apps such as these endorse. Those defending such findings adopt theorists like McLuhan’s belief that you cannot completely separate media platforms from attitudinal politics like this (McLuhan, 1964), however many still see these sites as unhealthy releases for this type of behaviour. 24% of Tinder users are already in a relationship. [33]

Video based representation[edit]

YouTube[edit]

youtube logo

Youtube is created in 2005 website made for sharing videos free of charge. It became to be one of the most populates websites on the Internet with 100 hours of video uploaded every minute. Along with increasing popularity of YouTube, more users decided for vlogging, video blogging. They decided to mediate their everyday life by filming themselves and therefore, create stories, genres and narratives. The platform that allows its users develop, experiment and explore their identities as well as interact with each other and share opinion, views and experience. It is also a powerful tool for challenging social norms through displaying these various identities publicly. Although it more difficult to remain anonymous on YouTube due to the fact that its users display their image and share their voice, they can still re - create their identity and become someone different than they are in the real world. [34]

It is important to mention that the aesthetics of user - created content is especially focused on experimentation with the video form. Therefore, it allows the vloggers to break the rules, go against the stereotypes and encourage others to do the same.

Vloggs can be seen as the digital form of autobiography or diary that allows the users to express and present themselves but also construct the ‘new self’ on the camera. Every video blog contains the traits of self - disclosure even if its content is mainly focused on particular theme, specialisation or interests. For instance, make - up tutorial videos authors very often reveal information about their private life and actively engage with the dialogue with their fans by using audio - video components as well as written text.

Another aspect of vlogging is increasing popularity of 'YouTube stars'. YouTube allows common people who have passion, desire and charisma to transform their channel into commodity: product that allows them to make profit. Despite the benefits of it, there is also a danger that the identity of vloggers will be affected by this notion of popularity and their 'true self', the 'I' will be lost in the process.

Vimeo

vimeo logo

Vimeo was created in 2004 video sharing platform that differs from YouTube mainly by its focus on art in the shared videos. It is considered as a website designed for more professional filmmakers and artists and its emphasises the quality of its content. It was also the first platform of its kind that supported HD videos. The YouTube community is much larger (800 million visitors per month), compared to less consistent Vimeo user base (70 million visitors per month). This emphasis on quality allows serious film-makers to be taken seriously on the platform, something not often seen on YouTube due to the amount of low-quality videos uploaded. Vimeo allows those who are passionate about video creation to extend their passion to an online environment which is far more revealing of high quality content than other sites.

False sense of representation/edited representation[edit]

Videos posted on various platforms like YouTube, Vimeo or Social Media can be considered as extensions of human eyes as they allow us to see ourselves, each other and our surroundings. They also play important role creation of our identity and enable self - expression. Video platforms work like the mirror that can distorted our image depending on the version of ourselves that we want to see. Through video we are able to create ourselves and reality.

It is important to mention that every mediated image or video is not the exact, objective version of reality. It is the representation that depends on the perspective of person who creates this image. In case of videos we are able to distorted the reality by the certain camera angles, editing techniques but also by recreating subject that we film. Hence, by posting a vlogg we can choose what clothes we wear, the hair style, we can change the way we speak and appropriately control our body language. What we do not show is also important. We can omit certain aspect of our physical and mental characteristics. We have this control through lack of bodily presence these videos. We are representing ourselves. Our choices depend on effects we want to make on our target audience. Therefore, we use the impression management by working on the backstage to achieve desirable effect on the front stage.

According to interactionist tradition, our self exists in relations to others. It is useful to bring into the discussion Goffman’s notion of public theatre, thus the way we adapt different social roles to suit different social context. Depending on who we want to watch the video we post, we put the different ‘masks’ on ([35]).

This performance we display in the videos can lead to collapsing of the distinction between personal and social identity. It is, therefore, important to cultivate the balance between private ‘I’ and social ‘ME’. There is the danger of ‘ME’ taking control over ‘I’. In this case our real sense of self can be transformed and lead to serious identity crisis ([36]).

It is also important to use our ‘digital eyes’ with the certain distance and awareness that everything we watch is representation. It is a story told from someone’s perspective and in certain context. Thus, we should be critical and (self) - reflecting in order to be able to perceive reality.

Demographics[edit]

In today’s digital age of technology all fabrics of society are present. From age groups and gender to sexual orientation and religion, we are all categorisable, and whether we like it or not, our representation as parts of these demographics and our own representations of ourselves greatly affect our relationship with technology.

Age[edit]

Digital technology is inevitable component of our everyday life. There is a pressure to use electronic devices is present almost every age group (maybe excluding babies and very small children) . People in every age use digital media for communication, interaction, self - expression. Quoting Shrery Turkle ([37]) ‘we are cyborgs’, older and younger - we are all tethered to out beloved electronic devices. The technologies are our extensions. Being online is often work requirement for adults. However, they often admit that the devotion for communication devices goes beyond employer’s expectations. Children and teenagers need to use Internet for schools and universities but obviously, they use for entertainment and communication with peers as well. Every age group experiment with the identity by creating multiple identities online. Overall, nobody can escape the demands of always on culture.

However, the approach to technology varies according to age.

Young people have grown up in the world already dominated by technology, on the network in a fully tethered life. They do not necessarily consider the online life to be the second best. They treated equally with the real life. The mixture of virtual and and real world is what they know since they remember and they take it for granted. Also, young people live in the constant state of waiting for connection. Every text message is the beginning of the connection not interruption, even if it is sent during important meeting in real life.

What lacks in the life of the young people in digital era is the time for self - reflection, the time to be truly alone with own thoughts that is so important for shaping identity in adolescence. Sherry Turkle ([38]) uses Erik Erikson’s concept of ‘moratorium’ defined as realativelly consequence - free space for experimentation, the time out. It applies to adolescent need for autonomy, spent away from peers and adults. Today’s teenagers lack the ability to reflect on their emotions in private. Without connections they do not feel like themselves. This can be seen as positive cultivation of ‘collaborating self’, learning to be a part of collective intelligence. However, the alone time is crucial to find the sense of the ‘real self’. Without it it is extremely difficult to build ‘real’ relationships and function maturity in the the world. The abilities that online life offers for experimentation with identity is important and highly beneficial. It provides practice at being different kind person, checking how various identities work in various situations. However it is important to remember that it is not enough to create a fully mature human being. Young people have often problems with dealing with anxieties of separation and loneliness. Behaviour of a teenager who phones home fifteen times a day would be considered as pathological a decade ago, whereas it is completely acceptable today. Young people send constantly send text messages and vast part of them is sent to parents.

In contrast, adult often overwhelmed when discover the power of social media and text messages. They often feel behind and need to rely on the help of their children in order to gain knowledge about using electronic devices. People who grew up in time free from always - on - ness sometimes feel lost in the digital world. However, as soon as they learn how to efficiently use new technologies they share with younger generation similar needs for communication, sharing etc. They often get equally drawn into online world as youngsters. They also not rarely forget about real communication with their own children who need to compete for their attention with technology.

As Danah Boyd ([39]) pointed out, the devotion for technology and always - on - ness ‘is defined more by values and lifestyle than by generation’. There are young people want to break free from the online world and are exhausted by the pressure of constant connection, whereas some adult are fully passionate about digital technologies. However, young people are considered to be more willing to explore digital world.

Different types of social media and modes of connection may have different uses, especially for younger generations depending upon who they connect to on that particular platform. For example, Facebook is a platform where people may be connected to family members and colleagues, and so a certain, perhaps more censored or conservative aspect of self is represented. In comparison, a platform like Snapchat may be used with less caution as a more casual form of self-representation due to older generations often not using this platform as it is targeted towards younger generations and is quite a new form of social media.

Gender[edit]

There is an obvious difference in the use of social medias as an extension of one's self between genders. It is addressed in Papacharissi's work A Networked Self. Women use social media differently than men and we can see that in the way they post pictures. Women are most likely to strike more 'sexy' poses than men. Whether posing alone or with friends, women are usually more forward about using their looks on pictures than men would. Women also are more comfortable posting where they kiss a person of the same sex on the cheek than men who rarely post that kind of picture. Men care less about the pictures they post while women seem to care more, they view social media as an extension of themselves and that is why it is necessary for them to keep posting pictures about 'perfect' moment. They take it more seriously whereas men act more casually towards their online presence. It has to do with the fact that even in real life, women are held to a much higher standard than men While men can just be themselves, women still have to work a lot harder to even be considered as equals. Also, women have beauty standards to live up to with the pressure from the society to constantly look beautiful and specifically feminine. Men are also sometimes less criticised for appearing in pictures where they are shirtless or showing off their bodies whereas women are more criticised for appearing sexualised. There was a recent controversy where pop singer Justin Bieber appeared naked on an Instagram photos and people praised him for it and complimented him. People compared his comments to the comments female singers like Demi Lovato got where people told them to have some decency and to cover themselves. This is a behaviour that men are praised for while women are reprimanded for it. Instagram was also criticised for allowing men to post pictures where you could see nipples whereas for women they had to blur them. Men have more freedom to use the internet and social networks as an extension of themselves whereas women need to be more careful in order to not receive criticism.

Sexual Orientation[edit]

Digital Technology has always predominantly been tailored not only to a male gaze, but to that of a heterosexual one too. Online, any page you come across, websites advertise heterosexual dating sites with photos of scantily clad women posing sexually or advertise products like perfume or hair products with a heterosexual couple holding each other. With advertising taking up a tremendous amount of both revenue and physical screen space in terms of digital technology, it is clear to see that there is a struggle for non-heterosexual people to feel represented.

It is only in the last decade that qualitative research into the self-representation of non-heterosexual users of digital technology has been studied. There has been a recent surge in the interest into how non-heterosexual members of society portray their online identities through the use of dating sites and chat rooms, as well as interview-style research into how these people balance their representations of themselves in real life and online.

In an attempt to not only feel more equally represented but to feel as part of a community whereby peoples’ representation of themselves comes under no stereotype of non-heterosexuality, those individuals have created LGBT social networking sites, in an attempt to remove themselves momentarily from their “predominantly heterosexual peer cultures”. These websites are a way of communicating in a safe space and provide relative to complete anonymity for users.[40] In 2013, after research on “non-heterosexual young people’s use of the internet”, theorist Gary Downing concluded that, “the relationship between online and offline relations is not a one-way ‘rehearsal’, but a multi-dimensional process that blurs the boundaries between virtual and material realities”. [41] This suggests that non-heterosexual people, through certain websites and chatrooms (teenchat.com, lgbtchat.net) are finding ways to successfully extend themselves through the technology they are using and present a version of themselves even though they find themselves in an online world dominated by forefront heterosexuality and advertising.

Religion[edit]

Monk

Religious institutions have influenced life before the internet and now. People in the religious community are confused as to which they go to for guidance. On the other hand the internet is an asset that is used by other members of the religious persuasion that use the internet as a means to an end, a necessary end to some. Similar to how the bible is often described, [42]"Reading a Wikipedia entry is like reading the bible closely. There are faint traces of the voices of various anonymous authors and editors, though it is impossible to be sure." This is similar to the ideas expressed by one small subculture ([43]"...psychedelic luminaries of old.").

Although, the internet in general seems to be more of a secular landscape in which nobody is challenged on their beliefs, nor are they mocked for having these beliefs- unless they find themselves in the wrong community i.e message boards, meme pages, etc. Some in the religious community may only have problems with the fact that there is little to no human interaction on the web, [44]"...value always came from connecting with real humans." Those that are more less traditionalists might take issue with the fact that writing in the first person is a relatively new concept too; as is highlighted by Jill Walker Rettberg in her book from 2014[45], in which she says that for most of human history people rarely wrote about themselves.

Although in the same chapter [46]Rettberg also talks about how the use of the internet can be beneficial to religions, for example Vivian Serfaty is referenced as talking about how blogs now are like 18th Century diaries of the Puritans, which were [47]'a requirement of religious self-discipline.'

However, those in these communities may run into the same problems faced by academics and students alike, as [48]Lanier points out "...most technical or scientific information that is in the Wikipedia was already on the web before...".

Theories[edit]

Online/Real Life Divide[edit]

There are many factors that create the online versus real life divide. The first of which is the lack of personal connection to most of the people we encounter online. For example, I have no personal connection to the majority of people who I play games with online. They are my teammates for a short period of time and then the relationship ends. In comparison, the encounters we have in the real world often lead to developed relationships, typically leading to friendship, romance, or conflict. This lack of emotional investment in those we encounter online makes it easier to become frustrated with them, with people often using harsh language that they would not normally use in the real world.

The online world provides a level of anonymity not available in the real world, giving users the ability to post whatever they please without any repercussions. Sites such as 4chan and 7chan give users complete privacy and anonymity, leading to some truly horrific posts on these sites. Those on these sites (and others such as YouTube and Tumblr) are far more likely to be hostile towards others due to the lack of repercussions they would face for it. This often brings out the worst in people, allowing them to project their darkest thoughts onto the internet without any backlash. For example, in the real world, if you threatened to physically assault somebody, you would be arrested. Whereas if this same even occurred online, which is does on a daily basis, nothing could be done about it as there would be very little information about the user who made the threats.


It is undoubtedly true that a big part of our lives is lived in virtual places. As we became real life cyborgs, sleeping with our phones, constantly online: texting, messaging each other, making Skype and Face Time conversations, playing online games with people around the world. It is hard sometimes not to get the border between online and real life blurred. On - line we can be enhanced versions of ourselves, we can re - create ourselves in the way we want to. Some people describe life on Facebook as better than anything than they every experienced. Moreover, online we can deal with everyday activities: communicating, shopping, ordering food ( we cannot YET eat online but who knows what is going to happen in a decade…), paying bills, listening to the music, watching films, searching for information etc. There are also social, educational and work pressures to stay online. The clear line between virtual and real disappeared and all we, as society, can do is to use the online sphere to enhance the offline world. It is important not to let the real be completely dominated by virtual on collective and individual level.

Being online in the digital era gives us opportunity not only for multitasking but as Sherry Turkle put it for 'multi - lifing'. Sending and receiving text messages allows us to simultaneously continue another activity. We can can be on Facebook, deeply in digital world, while ordering a coffee. Ability to multitask is a requirement for being successful.

It is impossible to completely replace the value of real face - to - face communication with digital. The ability to physically spend time with someone, being able to hear the tone of the real voice of our companion (not digitally mutated like in FaceTime conversation), to read the body language or being able to touch each other is simply irreplaceable. There is this nuance and gesture that is missed from digital interactions, even if we connect through video displayed in 4K. The problem appears when even on a romantic date or important family meeting we are not really together but tethered to our phones, being with someone else, in different digital world.

Privacy[edit]

The use of technology as an extension of ourselves has increased the sharing of private information dramatically both in terms of people willingly sharing thoughts and aspects of their identity, and unwillingly through data trails for example. Always-on culture has led to a blurring of boundaries between public and private lives, as real lives are becoming increasingly connected to the online world at all times. This blurring of boundaries has created an online disinhibition, as being behind the screen means not being in proximity to other people, therefore physically locating us away from normal social cues and responsibilities. Users of technology have somewhat willingly traded in their privacy for the ability to share their lives and thoughts, which demonstrates how technology has become an extension of self. However, at times technology encourages users to share more personal information than they want to or feel comfortable with, and users are either unaware or become concerned about how and why this private information is used.

There is also a political aspect of online visibility. In the era of global terrorism, terrorists often use social media as a tool for communication. Isis famously used Twitter to plan their assassinations. There is obviously a need to control social media platform by institutions that deal with crime to prevent it. However, this is often used as an abuse of privacy of common people that have nothing to do with terrorism or any kind of criminal activity. It is the same case with the drug dealers, human traffickers etc. There is ongoing debate about the level of control that should exercise by governments to prevent the crimes. However, it is important to remember that excessive level of this online invigilation may lead to complete lack of privacy of Internet users. This brings on mind not only McLuhan’s notion of ‘global village’ but the Orwell’s super – state where everyone is constantly closely monitored by infamous Big Brother.


'Privacy has been defined either as the right to be left alone or as the right to determine for oneself which areas of life should be accessible to others –or as a combination of the two (Tavani, 2008)'. The concept of privacy is one that keeps coming up nowadays in relations to social media and the use of the internet. We are becoming aware of the fact that we are constantly watched no matter what website we are on. It is not even about sharing too many information on social networks like Facebook or Instagram, it is more about how any information is available. Nowadays, in order to visit most websites, we need to give out information, like our names or email address, sometimes giving out our age and gender. Sometimes this is necessary and can help certain companies that have websites to draw information about the kind of person who visits their websites and who should be their target audiences. It has now become necessary to give out information in order to be a part of a website. It can feel like we are also more 'encouraged' to be paranoid about technologies and social medias. There were reports from the news with the NSA files and Snowden who had access to every information and from everyone. When confronted, the NSA relied on the fact that if people have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear. This is a theme we can also see in pop culture with the rise of many TV shows addressing this privacy issue like Mr Robot and Black Mirror. In an episode of Black Mirror called Shut up and Dance, a young man is filmed doing something embarrassing in front of his webcam and is blackmailed into doing dangerous acts in order to stop people from leaking the video online. Many reviews have called this episode realistic has it was inspired by real life events of people who were blackmailed and threatened to have personal and potentially embarrassing information leaked. We are encouraged to share more and more information about ourselves sometimes even simply to build an identity online. It relates to the notion that we use the online as an extension of ourselves sometimes without caring about potential dangers. The more information is available online, the more we are at risk of being watched even if it's sometimes by organisations claiming to protect us.

Connectivity[edit]

Modern technology such as the internet and mobile phones have revolutionised the ways in which people are able to connect with one another. Connectivity is now instant and constant due to people often using more than one social media account and being connected to many people all at once, at any time. This technology has helped us to connect with one another more quickly and more often. However, it is debated that this constant online connectivity and the always-on culture as Danah Boyd discusses, has led to distractions from real world connections, and we must make an effort to balance online and offline connectivity by taking time away from online connection once in a while. [49] Similarly, Lanier describes that "this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned interpersonal interaction", but believes that connectivity is a positive force as long as we use it in creative and personal ways to create real human connection [50] The widespread use and popularity of the internet as a means of connectivity shows how important human connection is to us. Groups with similar interests or things in common can now interact with one another no matter what their location. Connection with one another has allowed users to express their identities to others and to validate their identities to themselves. The online world of connection has become a community in it's own right, where people can interact with one another regardless of who they are and where they are in the world.

Hive Mind[edit]

Some would be inclined to say that the concept of a hive mind has been around for many years, but this concept becomes particularly dangerous when applied to technology today, fandoms and the internet.

The power of the hive mind can be seen clearly in Jaron Lanier’s article Digital Maoism : The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism[51]. In this Lanier talks about how it says on his Wikipedia page that he is a film director, which has some degree of truth to it. Lanier goes on to state how he tried to get this removed, “I have attempted to retire from directing films in the alternate universe that is the Wikipedia.” However, he also states that he is usually overruled on this by the next day. Therefore, this shows how powerful the collective can be when compared to the power that the individual has.

PewDiePie at PAX 2015

In the following section Lanier[52] displays how the collective can be stupid despite the number of individual minds attached to it as he speaks about the thought that many people have of misplacing trust in the fact that ‘someone will correct this’ and that all this information is readily available to anyone and everyone, “…it takes work to find the right authors to research and review a multitude of diverse topics.”

Reddit

In the same article[53] Lanier also points out how every collective starts with the best intentions, an example of this would be how in the early days of this information age search engines like Yahoo were started as a simple directory, but then the race to see who could become the most Meta site began with the introduction of Google and its superior service. In early days, these companies only had to have one person in charge of it all, whereas now you have multiple different people doing essentially the same job, like community managers, social media managers, etc. and you have different algorithms in charge of sites like Reddit and such instead as the hive mind is too much for one person to handle.

One could say that these collectives are now helping their own and other businesses thrive as algorithms can cater to the individuals within the hive mind by gathering data on the collective to sell, advertise, etc. directly to the individual. This in turn contributes to the belief that the most Meta site has infinite funding. We are already seeing the beginning of this in terms of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. This then proves the contrary that [54]“the collective isn’t always stupid.” As [55]Lanier points out, “The reason the collective can be valuable is precisely that its peaks of intelligence and stupidity are not the same as the ones usually displayed by individuals.” Here he connects the idea that there is strength in numbers with the fact that message boards and such help connect those with the ideas and those that will execute those ideas. Showing the connection between independent projects and the mainstream, using Pewdiepie as an example; he started as an independent element on the internet and soon became mainstream when his channel was incorporated by Maker studios- a company owned by Disney.

[56]Lanier points out, however, how controversy can occur when power of the many is given to the one, “…when one is both given substantial power and insulated from the results of his or her actions.”

Censoring[edit]

Censorship is common on the web

Although the internet is a much more free environment to express opinions that is often found in real life, it is still censored in certain ways. Particular sites such as YouTube, Twitch and Facebook will remove content that is flagged as innapropriate or illegal. This content can range from sexual images and videos, to offensive language, to other innapropriate content. Some internet sites do not censor whatsoever, including the 4chan network, which allows for completely anonymous posting of images, links and content. This therefore allows for a much free-er platform to express ideas and thoughts, and often allows for things that would be deemed innapropriate in real life, to be shared through the internet.

On sites such as Twitch, Facebook and Youtube there are multiple ways of censoring users. Users can be banned on Twitch for offensive content, and this prevents them from streaming and communicating with their audience. Twitch is generally quite relaxed with regards to content, allowing the majority of swear words and offensive content. In comparison Facebook is far less lenient, banning users who post violent and or sexual content. This is especially the case in countries where the government has more control over social media. Youtube is more lenient than Facebook, it still censors explicit sexual content, however it does allow some representations of violence and bad language


Technological Determinism[edit]

Technological Determinism is a theory which proposes that historical and cultural shifts throughout time have arisen due to technological and media innovations; and conveys the fact that technological innovation has a real transformative power on society, in revolutionising social roles and norms. Technology, in its broadest of terms can be defined as any tool which with the addition of physical and mental effort has come to resolve some (human) problem. Specifically, in terms of Technological Determinism, the technology in question has evolved over time and is now not only associated with the likes of physical machines, Gutenberg’s printing press (in 1439) for example, but with virtual technology also, modern day computer software, for example.

The most prominent theorist to voice their opinions on Technological Determinism was Marshall McLuhan. Through his 1964 work [57] he argued that through evolutions in technology, the way we live our lives, and interact with each other has dramatically changed. His view (coined originally by Thorstein Veblen) conveyed technology as the most powerful transformative factor in history and therefore, in society. McLuhan illustrated that through print, there was a cultural and societal shift from that of oral communication to written communication. From here it is clear to see the development to television (as a form of visual communication), and onwards to the internet (an all encompassing multi-platform of worldwide information).

Technology has been used to mark out major periods in time with names such as the stone age, bronze age, mechanical age and now the digital age, each relating to the major technological influence of the time. McLuhan describes the idea that technology and man are intertwined by saying: “Personal and social consequences of any medium (of any extensions of our self) result from the new scale that is introduced by each extension”. [58] Outlined here is that the way mankind is a result from the previous technological development and in turn the next development is the result of the society formed by that society. The relationship is painted as being symbiotic in nature as technology is an intrinsic part of mankind as a whole.

Many other critics and writers on technology and its relationship with humanity have commented on the theory of Technological Determinism, with Rosalind Williams describing it as “..a three-word logical proposition: "Technology determines history””. Another theorist, Lelia Green argues (from a Technological Determinist standpoint) that "'You can't stop progress', implying that we are unable to control technology". This notion of control has often been a discursive factor when understanding Technological Determinism, with more radical theorists believing that humanity has lost its control over technology – or more specifically, that humanity has greatly changed its attitude towards the acceptance of technology in our lives. In terms of technology as an extension of the self, Technological Determinist arguments can be seen to appeal to the notion of an ever-developing close relationship between man and machine; with technology acting as a version of ourselves, creating new norms and conventions that socially, we must oblige to (for example, the almost universal use of Social Media Sites, not only to present ourselves as active humans but as the primary form of online communication with others).

Cultural Determinism[edit]

Cultural determinism is a cultural theory that evaluates how society and history affects what technologies are created and what they are used for. Defining cultural determinism first requires a definition of culture. Culture can be described as the products and patterns of human thought that are shared within a society.

Raymond Williams’ theories on cultural determinism were critical of the previous writings of Marshall McLuhan’s thoughts on technological determinism. Cultural determinism somewhat rejected the ideas of technological determinism that technology affects or creates major changes or shifts in society. Instead, technology can be seen to be developed as a reaction to society’s needs, and so technology was just an adaption to patterns that already exist within society. Williams described that “all technologies have been developed and improved to help with known human practices or with foreseen and desired practices”, therefore technology follows society rather than society evolving due to technological changes [59] When considering cultural determinism theories through technology as an extension of self, it is arguable that humans are naturally social and use technology for an already present desire to share and communicate.

Cultural Determinism Theory states that the culture shapes ‘our behavioural and emotional patterns’. By applying this to the media effects on society, Raymond Williams claimed that social processes and structures influence developments in technology. Williams, in contrast to McLuhan, aimed to prove that technology cannot guarantee any social or cultural change. Media studies tend to favour Williams’ theory and ignore the similarities in McLuhan’s and Williams’ writings. The concept of ‘extension of man’ is important for Williams when he writes: ‘A technology, when it has been achieved, can be seen as general human property, extension of human capacity’([60]) . However, he is more interested than McLuhan in exploring the question about reasons for development of technology . For Williams the technologies were invented to help the society and they ‘involve precisely’ ([61]) . His argument is sociological and the technological development is dependent on specific social groups. Different social groups with different needs and agendas adapt, shape or reject the uses of technologies. Moreover, Williams claims that the final effect and impact and social effects of technologies is sometimes impossible to foreseen. His full concept of technology takes into consideration the knowledge and skills needed to use particular tool or machine.

Therefore, Cultural Determinism Theory also considers technology as ‘an extension of man’. However, it is the man who decides what technology needs to be developed in order to be useful for society. This can be political and economically problematic considering that average user of technology devices, without power and skills to decide on technological innovations is being manipulated by more influential groups. For instance, social mentality is affected by images transmitted mass media which are heavily influenced by political and economic dominant ideologies.

The other influential thinkers whose work relates to Cultural Determinism are: Goethe, Fichte, August, Schlegel, Patrick Buchanan and Robert Barro. [62]

The Future[edit]

It is difficult to tell exactly where technology will take mankind in the future. When looking at the past, academic figures such as McLuhan were successful in predicting certain technologies as his writings on future mediums appears to have predicted the internet around thirty years before it was invented. Whatever the next medium may be, past predictions seem to suggest technology will continue to extend more and more of our senses. Advances such as VR (virtual reality) are now aiming to immerse players within other worlds, far more than the world of film could before that and in turn print media before that. Immersion in stories and games have been achieved then its possible the next step would be to immerse ourselves in worlds of communication. The internet allowed for instantaneous communication across the globe and continues to change the way in which we interact with others, combining this communication with high levels of immersion would extend ourselves further than previously possible. If communication shifted from manual and mechanical means to electrical with email and instant messengers, then perhaps the next medium of extending communication is imminent.

Glossary[edit]

  • AI - [63] a branch of computer science dealing with the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers. The capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.
  • App - [64]an application, typically a small, specialized program downloaded onto mobile devices.
  • Avatar - An icon or figure representing a particular person in a video game, Internet forum, etc. [65]
  • Cyborg (short for "cybernetic organism") is a being with both organic and biomechatronic body parts. [66]
  • Gamer - [67] a person who plays games; especially : a person who regularly plays computer or video games.
  • Global Village - A term developed by McLuhan to explain how the world has been boxed into a small physical framework by technology.
  • Hive mind - A notional entity consisting of a large number of people who share their knowledge or opinions with one another, regarded as producing either uncritical conformity or collective intelligence. [68]
  • Impression Management - a conscious or subconscious process in which people attempt to influence the perceptions of other people about a person, object or event. [69]
  • Mass Personal Communication - Term used to describe the online sharing of personal information with a wide audience.
  • Media Convergence -[70] phenomenon involving the interconnection of information and communications technologies, computer networks, and media content. It brings together the “three C’s”—computing, communication, and content—and is a direct consequence of the digitization of media content and the popularization of the Internet.
  • Meta - [71] (of a creative work) referring to itself or to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.
  • Online Collectivism -[72] a political or economic theory advocating collective control especially over production and distribution; also : a system marked by such control, emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity.
  • Persona - the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others. [73]
  • Pseudonym - An alias, fake/false/different name used by one to represent an identity other than their own.[74] A fictitious name, especially one used by an author.
  • Social Media - Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. [75]
  • The Machine - The term used to define technology (often used when referred to as, in opposition to humanity)
  • Wikipedia - Wikipedia is a free, open content online encyclopedia created through the collaborative effort of a community of users known as Wikipedians. Anyone registered on the site can create an article for publication; registration is not required to edit articles. [76]

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