Living in a Connected World/The Online Real-Life Divide

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Contents

Introduction[edit]

T

he introduction of technology as we know it has brought about a new understanding of how we comprehend both ourselves and our interaction with others. This struggle with identity displays itself through the use of social media platforms and the choices made in regards to how one presents themselves to their "followers" or "friends" as well as the information they choose to share. Every social media account is a construction of identity that brands an individual and how they present themselves under a specific presentation. This display of the self through public and private personas can often lead to a blurring of the line between private life and public account, and as a result the individual's identity is altered through their online, marketed self, leading to questions of identity, self-presentation, authentic representation, and community pressures. As well as this, with modern technology the line between what constitutes 'the online' and consequently what constitutes real-life is ever changing and evolving as our understanding of the use of technology changes.

This chapter will highlight the history behind today's technological wave and consider the various platforms through which identity is divided. It notes the pros and cons of anonymity online, singular and fragmented identities, theories associated with the digital divide, as well as covers the effects that this divide has on society and the self.

History and Application of Digital Media[edit]

History of Digital Media Development[edit]

The conceptual work of digital media can be traced back to the scientist and engineer Vavennar Bush and his work “As We May Think”, published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1945. In this essay and “Memex Revisited” (1967) Bush envisioned a device which allows us to compress and store knowledge, which memorizes everything, and builds as well as combines trails [1] with exceeding speed and flexibility, the so called Memex. [2] “If we wish it, a whole private library could be reduced to the volume of a nutshell” [3], writes Bush about the notion of his Memex. Moreover, he assigns the computer to aid humans by storing and providing data, to engage with us and even to be our gaming opponent in chess. Bush predicted different technology invented after his publications such as personal computers, speed recognition, the World Wide Web and online encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia. The Memex would mimic a human’s mind and its associative process, hence it would be a Technology as an Extension of Self.

First Analog Computers[edit]

In the early 19th century Charles Babbage, an English mechanical engineer conceptualized the first Machine-readable codes and information. He invented the first mechanical computer, The Difference Engine, which he designed to detect and solve the problem of error in calculations. Ada Lovelace, a mathematician, wrote the first instructions for Babbage’s analytical machines for calculating numbers, which are considered to be the first computer program. [4]

Digital Computers[edit]

A Two women operating the ENIAC's main control panel while the machine was still located at the Moore School.
Two women operating the main control panel of the ENIAC.

Digital Media itself emerged with the rise of the Digital Computers. Whereas analog computers consist of physical and mechanical parts only, digital computers use a binary code and Boolean algebra. It is a system consisting of ones and zeros, the “digits” of digital media, that combined can make hundreds of characters to store and process information. The first digital computers were the ABC invented by John Vincent Atanasoff and the ENIAC by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly between 1942 and 1946. [5]

Digital Revolution[edit]

“But aren’t we living in a world where knowing how to get information is more important than memorizing it? Aren’t we moving away from an industrial economy into an information one?”[6]


Michael Mandiberg, an American programmer and educator, writes about the shift between media creators and consumers and the collective transformation from an industrial economy to an information-based economy, known as the Information Age. [7]

Since the invention of the first digital computers continuing to the present day the Digital Revolution keeps exponentially expanding and improving modern digital media. Personal Computers, smartphones, and the latest innovations surpass each other in computing power and storage capacity and make it possible for billions of people to access, modify, store and share digital media. Combined with the Internet and the World Wide Web, digital media has enabled a shift from a one-to-many to a many-to-many communications capability [8]as well as networked media. The rise of Digital Media demands a new way of communication, called transliteracy, media literacy, or digital literacy. [9] Other than in the traditional literacy these skills do not only include reading and writing but the abilities to evaluate sources, navigate the internet and create digital content . [10] This change within the 21st century towards a Digital Age is frequently compared to the impact of the printing press[11]and the fear of a paperless society accompanied by the many challenges of copyright laws, censorship, the digital divide[12] and the idea of a digital dark age.[13]

Future[edit]

More than 20 years ago Bill Gates , co-founder of Microsoft, predicted the technological changes and the advances affecting our lives such as the beginnings of the internet and the interconnectivity of personal computing in his book “The Road ahead”. [14], which we are still undergoing today. With the rise of the Information Age and the growing importance of Digital Communications Media and Multimedia Platforms the human behavioural norms and social values may have changed. The next step could be directed to create a fully 'always-on' world as Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, plans on expanding the boundaries of the internet and to put every person online. In essence, to provide everyone in the globe an affordable, basic access to the internet service. Zuckerberg expects to do so through the use of wireless drones, satellites and lasers. [15]

The Evolution of Digital Culture[edit]

Jill Walker Rettburg, in her article "Written, Visual and Quantitative Self-Representations" [16] suggests that "there are three distinct modes of self-presentation in digital media: written, visual and quantitative." She goes on to suggest that each of these modes has a specific and different pre-digital history. Diaries, memoirs, books and autobiographies are the antecedents of today’s blog posts and written social media status updates; selfies, for example, have taken over from visual artists’ self-portraits. Quantitative modes - those which feature personal statistical data previously found in lists, graphs, and maps - have been replaced with spreadsheets and GPS activity trackers. Despite the variety of digital and pre-digital methods of self-presentation, Walker Rettburg emphasises the concept that "technology is a means to see part of ourselves," whichever form that might take.

“The assumption is that we’re addicted to the technology. The technology doesn’t matter. It’s all about the people and information. Humans are both curious and social critters. We want to understand and interact. Technology introduces new possibilities for doing so, and that’s where the passion comes in. We’re passionate about technology because we’re passionate about people and information, and they go hand in hand.” [17]

Following Mandiberg’s assumption and the notion of technology as an extension of ourselves together with the rapid development of our digital media, it changed our culture, our everyday behaviour and our social engagement on every level possible. How the different mediums work and which effects the connected world has on ourselves, our identity, self-representation and our perception of each other is discussed in the sections below.

Media[edit]

Social Media[edit]

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the truth
—Oscar Wilde[18]

The concept of the social networking site (SNS) has become popular in the culture of the mid to late 2000s and as such is often linked with the creation of platforms such as Myspace and Facebook, however its origins date back several years prior, to the late 1990s.[19] The understood concept of a social media platform that introduced both a sense of community through friends as well as a sense of individualism through profiling was Six Degrees. Six Degrees was a website marketed as a tool for connection with friends that launched in 1997 and lasted until 2001, when it was shut down.[20] The basic layout of the site consisted of a personal profile for each user, an ability to add friends and, after 1998, the ability to search through lists of friends. Six Degrees, although the first to combine the personal features with a community aspect, crashed in late 2000 due to what the founder believed as being "simply ahead of its time".[21]

Following the creation and failure of Six Degrees, the launches of Friendster and Match.com began a competition involving online community growth. Both websites introduced an emphasis on the individual profile and gained popularity through their specialization in online dating. The issues in fidelity led to the decline of both websites, specifically Friendster as it gained the reputation for "Fakesters", those who created false profiles using the images of others in order to draw people in. Friendster's system experienced several difficulties as the website saw more traffic than expected and was one of the first social networking sites to see one million users.[22]

The website often credited with the introduction and popularity of social media platforms is Myspace. This website launched in 2003 and, after the announcement that Friendster would begin asking a fee of its users, gained a large amount of attention from previous users of other SNS platforms. Myspace gained popularity for being a community that accepted the outcasts of other platforms, noteably indi-rock bands who had been previously removed from other social networking sites. While Myspace was not designed with the intent, their acceptance of these rock bands led them to gain a connection with music that brought them a new demographic of users - teenagers.[23] The Myspace battle for users began to decline as the website became associated with false personas and sexual predators. As the concerns of identity rose in 2005, in came a new platform that gained the attention of the population: Facebook.

Facebook[edit]

Facebook rival Myspace is about being someone fake on the internet...[it's] very healthy that the real people have won out over the fake people
—Peter Thiel[24]
Old Facebook Logo, 2004

Facebook was created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg as a Harvard based networking site that was expanded to include other university students across the United States and later, in 2005, high school students, professional workers, and other individuals. The website encouraged community growth and offered a privacy option to all members that protected a portion of an individual's profile from outside attention. An aspect of individuality was created through profile creation as Facebook targeted not only basic biological facts about its users, but offered the ability to personalize one's profile to include likes and dislikes such as movies, shows, books, and music.[25] Facebook's defining trait came from its emphasis of the "true self", encouraging users to portray their personalities through their online posts with no disguising usernames or alternate identities that had been created on previous SNS platforms. Facebook, unlike its competitor Myspace, encouraged a single identity that synced with the legal information of an individual one was given at birth. This emphasis on the individual, true self came about as a response to the 9/11 attack that took place in New York on September 11, 2001.[26] The unity of oneself contrasted the previously understood "escapism" of taking on a different persona online.[27] The previously therapeutic location to present another side of oneself became a place in which professional and private self became blurred. Facebook identities displayed an understanding of an individual as their "best, fastest, smartest"[28] self and began the societal drive to self-realization as a deeply embedded concern.

Facebook, although a social media platform for building community, has often been linked to personal archives and noted as a modernized version of scrapbooking.[29] Although the main purpose behind the website is a social aspect, it has been suggested that Facebook posts often have an archival aspect to them as they mark an event or moment of one's life that can later be reflected upon and celebrated. Both platforms also depict an image of one's life that has been carefully selected to portray a version of the self to others. With the development of Facebook, the SNS platform offered multiple variations to display one's individuality through the selection of "bumper stickers" that would decorate one's page with bands chosen by the individual. These "bumper stickers" often coincided with the "likes" and "fan pages" individuals prominently displayed on their profile. The combination emphasized select traits carefully chosen to portray a slightly augmented version of the self.

Instagram[edit]

Instagram launched in 2010 as a free photo-based application that offered individuals the opportunity to edit and share photographs taken from their mobile devices. [30] The mobile app offers a live connection with followers as photographs can be taken and instantly uploaded with the option of editing through a filter before posting. This instant picture upload is then able to be liked and commented on by followers, similar to Facebook but with a higher emphasis on the visual aspect of one's life as well as quick and easy access.[31] The company was bought out by Facebook in 2012 and as such now offers a link to Facebook profiles when joining the Instagram community. Instagram posts are therefore able to be posted directly to Facebook, connecting the communities of both applications and steadying the single identity enforced by Facebook accounts.

Instagram offers a similar "scrapbook" layout in marking moments of one's life through pictures displayed for followers or personal satisfaction. All pictures have the option of being geo-tagged, marking the location the image was taken as a way of noting the event that took place. Instagram offers an altered reality through the filter option available to all photos before being published. Individuals are able to not only select what pictures they wish to post, but they are able to alter them to depict a mood or change the quality of the picture. In relation, personal pictures (aka "selfies") of the user are occasionally posted with the comment "#nofilter" to display the beauty of the object in the posted image and emphasize the lack of editing done. This displays how society has grown to associate pictures with editing as the natural assumption has become alteration and clarification is now only needed for unedited material.[32]

Snapchat[edit]

Snapchat, launched in 2011, is a visual-based application that originally allowed users to send pictures and videos that "disappeared" in seconds. The origin of this app was to emphasize the true self in the moment and allow life to be shared with friends.[33] Through the development of the app, pictures are now able to be saved to one's "memory" as well as posted on one's "story" that is visible to all snapchat contacts. Development has also introduced photographic and video filters that offer a voice alteration and the option of sharing pictures for up to ten seconds at a time. Snapchat now offers an option to follow the stories of news, celebrities, and current events, alongside its original concept of a friend-based platform.[34]

Snapchat's focus on the instant appeals to a youthful demographic as it offers the ability to maintain relationships over long distances through pictures and videos that share a moment over distance and time. Snapchat also offers an escape from the concerns of identity management that other forms of social media contain.[35] Snapchat is similar to face-to-face interaction in its lack of permanence. Similar to a conversation, messages and images disappear and, aside from a brief moment of presentation, the message will likely be forgotten. With written forms of communication through social media one offers up a message that is meant to permanently be on display and will therefore present a part of their identity through their comment or reaction. Snapchat's creation appeared during a time of high anxiety regarding pictures and data of oneself on the internet. The ability to quickly send and receive pictures that "disappeared" offered an answer to the concerns of the public.[36] This answer provided people a safe location to send quick shots of their lives without the fear that it would be held against them for a longer period of time.

Gaming and Virtual Reality[edit]

This "escape from reality" that virtual reality in gaming has had such a large impact on society. It can effect how people feel about themselves, with research showing that a taller avatars can make a player feel more confident out with play as well as a smaller avatar doing the opposite. [37] As entire culture though, the Japanese culture has seen an actual affect on their country, in a vice documentary [38] "The Japanese Love Industry", the lead of the video explores and discusses the severe decrease in population due to things as the gaming culture with government surveys showing that "more than 60% of men aged 18-34" are single, talking how it is because of the generation's obsession with virtual reality and gaming. Saying they "prefer cyber girlfriends over real girlfriends". This kind of behaviour, combined with a lack of interest from the female side has had a direct effect on Japanese culture. It is an example of a society that would rather live inside, or through their screens rather than engage in the world around them.

Avatar Creation[edit]

Online gaming communities present an escape from the real world into a simulated and controlled environment. With the introduction of gaming avatars, researchers began to look into the blurred line between real and fantasized environments and personas in regards to the link to identity creation and presentation. A lead researcher in the area of multi-user domains (MUD's) is Sherry Turkle whose research in 1995 considered the self as "not singular and unitary, but multiple and fragmented".[39] This discovery of a fragmented self led to the conclusion that MUD's were a source through which one could display multiple personae and highlight the various aspects of oneself. The ability to create an avatar to exact details provided users an opportunity to create what they envision as their "true self" by displaying the characteristics that they often chose to hide. Avatars "give expressive freedom over an otherwise anonymous and static online presence"[40] and provide a unique sense of self to the individual playing the game. Avatar appearance has been linked to self-perception for the owners of these games and characters. It has been found that those who choose more attractive and taller avatars are often linked to more confident actions and far more likely to approach others of the opposite gender.[41] The use of physically ideal avatars leads to an alteration and experimentation in identity which "is often understood through acts that dislocate embodied identity from the self online and how such a dislocation enables one to enact multiple, contradictory identities"[42]

Turkle's research has been highly contested as others have argued for the extension of the singular self through an idealised visual version in avatar creation.[43] Turkle's argument offers the avatar as an alternate self through which one can express characteristic through physical features in a fantastical manner (such as skin colour, size, shape, human, animal, alien, etc), however her approach has been commented as being an "over-fragmented depiction of the avatar-self relationship"[44] and researchers have suggested that gamers often have one or two avatars whose physical creation is meant to represent the idealised version of themselves and in turn provides users with confidence when interacting online. The avatar, although based on the self, acts as a tool to create distance between the user and those they associate with in online gaming communities. It should be noted that the connection of the self with one's avatar is often a link that is manifested in the real world through an aspect known as cosplay. Cosplay allows individuals to dress like characters from games, movies, comics, and other fantasy universes in an attempt to connect with the character and other like-minded individuals in similar communities. Cosplay is common at conventions and can be viewed as the real-life complement to avatars. While online avatars hide one's true identity and allow for the emphasis of certain aspects of one's personality, the same can be said for cosplay within a physical world environment.

Second Life[edit]

Human female avatar, Second Life

Second Life is a virtual reality game created in 2003 that offered a world in which there was no goal to be achieved, merely a reality for the player to self-create. Players in Second Life are represented through avatars that are created upon registration of the game. These avatars, known in the game as residents, are capable of being whatever form the user chooses (human, animal, abstract figure) and can appear as the user's physical appearance or another figure entirely.[45] Avatars act as the player's extension providing a self that is aware and controlled by the member. These avatars are capable of interaction with each other, places, and objects; similar to real life experience. Second Life offers an extension of reality through the ability to explore the world, meet others, join groups and communities, set up shops, and buy and sell virtual property.

Second Life provides the user an opportunity to live their life in a different manner, beginning with the creation of their "other self" or avatar. The naming of your other self creates a distance through the anonymity of a username capable of being whatever the user imagines.[46] The next step is the visual creation of the avatar through which "users can attempt to replicate their real world bodies digitally, or they can create extravagant, idealised bodies, or go further still and inhabit animal or robot bodies"[47] changing size, shape, skin colour, and more. The draw of virtual realities such as Second Life is the opportunity to experience things you otherwise would never achieve. Second Life offers flight, teleportation, travel, and adventure in a safe space where one can never truly be harmed. Living vicariously through the avatar presents gamers a chance to experience a different life in which they are not judged based on their physical appearance, but rather through their avatar's interactions within the Second Life community. Second Life provides an escape from reality, just as social media platforms used to prior to the invention of Facebook when one operated solely under a username, often with little association to one's true self. Second Life separates itself as a platform through the participation involved in the game's creation. Almost every element depicted on the game (architectural, natural, etc) was created by a Second Life user, making the world completely user-dependent.[48]

Media Portrayals Through Black Mirror[edit]

Fifteen Million Merits[edit]

The Channel 4 turned Netflix Original show Black Mirror is a fantastic resource when discussing both the ideas of Avatar Creation and Virtual Reality, in particular reference to the episode mentioned above "Fifteen Million Merits", which gives a reasonable depiction of a futuristic virtual reality where members of society carry out a meaningless task, aimlessly cycling on a bike that physically goes no where in order to earn money. Living through a virtual avatar, people can purchase items of clothing, possessions, subscriptions to different television programmes, etc. Literally carry out something meaningless to create virtual money to spend on a virtual existence. In the show there is one character who is heavily involved and invested into this process of buying and creating a better avatar. The avatar can travel and explore different experiences, interact and be part of something different but their real life selves are actually stuck within a small four walled room and on a bigger trapped being a slave to the system. This character and lifestyle, is a scary, yet realistic view of where our society could go if the obsession and dedication that people have for their avatars on games. This obsession lends itself to the extension of self, and also living through online brings us nicely on to the idea of virtual reality, and how some prefer the online life than reality and the damages this can cause.

Playtest[edit]

This episode of Black Mirror [49] is another fantastic episode that takes modern day culture discussed here, the ideas of Virtual Reality in combination with gaming. The push in current culture is to create more and more realistic games. From the mundanity of "Sims" [50] where gamers can create debatably realistic characters and do everyday mundane things, (therefore real in their actions) to one of the newest installments of "Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare"[51], which features an almost identical reconstruction of the actor Kevin Spacey [52]. This constant and current push for the most realistic gaming experience links very well to the upcoming market of Virtual Reality, (real in it's visual experience) and that growing industry is what is featured in this episode of "Black Mirror". The main character signs up to try out a new gaming experience, in the final most extreme stage of testing he enters a horror genre of game. Where the game uses his own memories and mind to create personally scary situations. This incredibly realistic scenario is enjoyable until the game turns on the main character and experiences his darker, deeper fears and spirals out of control. This escalation really explores the dangerous path this realistic gaming experience society is venturing down. Like most Black Mirror episodes it takes a current piece of culture that is damaging or has a strong possibility to be damaging and pushes it to the extremes to show a scarily realistic digital future.

Chat Rooms[edit]

Chat Rooms[edit]

Cyber-bullying[edit]

Cyber-bullying is defined as harassment or abuse using electronic mediums of communication. It can involve all the typical forms of bullying except physical harm. It should be noted however, that encouragement to inflict self-harm is common within the context of cyberbullying. The effects of cyberbullying are not just visible online. Their real-world effects can be sever and according to the Cyberbullying Research Center self-harm, substance abuse, school problems and delinquency are related to instances of cyberbullying. In a meta-analysis on the subject, Kowalski et al. noted that among victims of cyberbullying, stress and suicidal ideation (the thought and intention of committing suicide) were the most common effects of cyberbullying.[53]

Real-life influence of cyber-bullying then, is incontrovertible. In the age of social media and always-on culture, the online world is at the forefront of so many adolescent minds that real-life effects will naturally happen. Emotional investment in one's online presence, and the varying ideals of self-presentation that different social media platforms dictate in our culture mean that the effects of hurtful language and actions online feels the same as in the real-world.

In the 2015 film Cyberbully the main character is coerced using threats of the release of private photographs, files, and evidence of her own cyberbullying tendencies. Such is the prevalence of online abuse that it now forms a narrative in media that engages with it and shows through different lenses, the effects of it. Similarly in the 2010 film Chatroom characters engage with each other and through herd mentality encourage each other to cyberbully.

The nature of cyberbullying lends itself to a detachment by its perpetrators from the consequences of such behaviour. Because of a currently-still-perceived divide between real-life and the online, a measure of detachment and inability or refusal to think about potential effects of online behaviour exists[54]

Public and Private Forums[edit]

Public Forums[edit]

A Public Forum can be defined as a space, both physical and non-physical, where a group can gather and freely discuss their views on any topic. Within reason. As long as they abide by the guide lines set by the First Amendment – free speech[55].

By traditional standards a sidewalk, a park, and a street can all be defined as Public Forums. They are considered as spaces open to public discourse, and can also be referred to as ‘open forums’. As to can all Public Forums. Forum (legal)

The term ‘Open Forum’ harkens back to Ancient Rome where the Forum was at the centre of every Civitas – settlement. The Forum in these settlements would have been the beating heart and were most often used for markets. However most major events, speeches, and discussions would also take place within them.Forum (Roman)

As human civilization has evolved so has our means to share information. Now the most common forms of the Public Forum used are non-physical online platforms. Arguably the most popular platform, boasting over 1.8 billion active monthly users, is Facebook[56]; Tumblr is also an exceedingly popular platform, and provides its users far greater freedom of expression than Facebook. Reddit is another big platform that has been described as the front page of the internet w: Reddit ; where its registered users can submit content, such as text posts or direct links.

It is upon these three platforms that this piece shall focus on as full the number of online Public Platforms is too great to discuss them all.

The three social platforms already mentioned (Facebook, tumblr, and Reddit) work in a similar manner. In the case of both Facebook and tumblr you follow/befriend those you wish to and then you are able to open, or join, a discussion with them and their peers. Reddit provides numerous forums that cover an immeasurable number of topics; ranging from basic tech support, to cooking recipes. They are all Public Forums as most of the information and discourse is readily available to any user.

Tumblr [[1]] is a blogging website where users create their own urls and build their own blogs. The users have the freedom to choose whether they upload their own content or to “reblog” content posted by another user that they follow. Because of this users of tumblr have a great deal of freedom to express themselves, and an expansive platform for discussion.

Facebook [[2]] is one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world and therefor acts as one of the largest Public Forums there is. Though users can only see the content shared, posted and liked by their ‘friends’ they can communicate with all users via pages, groups and events. As such it is a platform that is frequently used to organise political marches, and to its page/group system enable likeminded individuals to easily meet; and to share ideas.

Reddit [[3]] is described as an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. As mentioned its forums cover a massive amount of information and has a discussion open for anyone that wishes to join.

Private Forums[edit]

By nature Private Forums are very similar to Public Forums, however where they differ is in the control of discussion content. Whereas Public Forums function along the lines of free speech, each Private Forum is controlled by its administrators. The nature of both forums is the sharing and discourse of information, but as mentioned, Private Forums are controlled by individuals rather than laws.

Private Forums will generally require potential users to be invited by an existing member of the community, and will sometimes require membership fees be paid. The Forums will be created with a particular topic in mind, and membership – it can be assumed – is requested due out of a desire to actively participate and benefit the discussion.

The Private Forum will be owned by its administrator(s) as it enables them to control privacy settings, along with content.

Deep Web[edit]

When discussing the differences between Public and Private Forums an interesting topic is the Deep Net, or Deep Web, which exists as a grey zone between the two. The Dark Net is quite literally the murky depths of the internet and is referred to as the ‘deep web’ because of how much is hidden within it.

Though its contents are open to anyone that wishes to search them, and it does provide the user with unparalleled levels of freedom, one does first require a deep web browser to access it[57]. The browser takes the first steps away from the concept of a Public Forum as it makes you anonymous, allowing you to search in safety – allegedly users cannot be guaranteed their safety according to a recent Wikileaks publication [58]. From the users’ new position of anonymity they then possess the freedom to explore. Content on the Deep Web ranges from sites that provide any illegal substance you can think of; to weapons; and the deeper you go the darker it gets with a massive availability of illegal pornography.The Guardian reported that is thought only 0.03%[59] of the web’s content comes up in regular searches, and the rest lies in the dark web’s depths.

It is in this anonymity and the way each site is controlled by it administrator(s) that it resembles more a Private Forum. However as it is so huge it cannot simply be referred to as one or the other.

Online Dating[edit]

History[edit]

Like many aspects of the digital world, Online Dating has its roots in different mediums of the past[60]. The personal advertisement is the predecessor of today’s online dating. The first personal ad appeared in a British agricultural journal in 1685[61]. In the early 1900s personal ads became popular once again in the United States: especially in its sparsely populated western region. During World War I there was an emphasis on marriage by the age of 21 so personal ads were popular among young soldiers[62]. In 1959 the first computerized match making system was developed by a Stanford University student. It used an IBM 650 to determine similarities between 98 subject from answers on a 30 question survey. Operation Match took off in 1965 by a group of Harvard Students. They used a IBM 1401 , a mass marketing computer. For $3.00 the 1401 would analyze a questionnaire filled out by students and give them 5 matches. In 1995 the public gained access to the World Wide Web, allowing people to be connected online. Email became popular in 1998, becoming a part of day-to-day life and allowing people faster communication across long distances. In 2000 eHarmony, a compatibility website with the goal of establishing long-term relationships, was established by Dr. Neil Clark Warren. The use of Skype video call in 2003 allowed long distance relationships to flourish. With the dawn of the smartphone in 2007 online dating was taken “on the go.” Location based applications became popular in 2012 and play a huge part of online match making.[63] In today’s world countless dating websites and apps are easily accessible to the masses.

Prevalence[edit]

Online Dating has become extremely popular. The term “online dating” is searched over 135,000 times a month[64]. In 2013 there were an estimated 2,500 online dating websites in the United States, 1,000 opening every year, and about 8,000 worldwide[65]. Websites like match.com provide information about their community. About 1 in 3 relationships and 1 in 5 marriages start online. 31% of US singles met their last first date on a dating website[66]. These numbers show that online dating is becoming more common and leading to “successful relationships.” In 2012 the Harris interactive conducted a survey and said that on average 438 eHarmony members get married every day.[67]

Catfishing[edit]

Catfishmovie

Catfishing is a slag term for creating fake profiles on social media to create false identities. [68] The Term became popular after the 2010 film Catfish (film) that follows a man as he find out the person he has established a friendship/relationship is not who they seem. The documentary highlights a story about how seafood suppliers faced problems with shipping cod. They meat supposedly would mushy because the fish had been sluggish. The suppliers decided to put a catfish into the tank, a natural predator, to keep them active. The correlation between the fish story and the online is, "the catfish in real life are supposed to keep you on your toes, keep you guessing, keep you thinking, they keep you fresh." [69] Although the term "catfishing" did not become popular until the early 2010s, the practice of adapting online personas that are not your true identity is common place. The act happens mostly on social media platforms and on dating sites. Catfish normally reach out and initiate conversation, establish a some form of relationship, but will do anything to maintain their fake identity. [70]

Psychological Breakdown of Catfishing[edit]

The psychological impact of catfishing is extremely complex. It is not just about why people catfish, but also how does it impact the victim. People catfish for several different reasons. Every person is different and catfishing may fulfill different needs. Some reasons are, loneliness, revenge, greed, and people just seeking a thrill. [71] People who are lonely may take on fake personas because they have no one. They may feel isolated from their communities and do not see a different outlet for developing relationships. Someone who feels they are inadequate may pretend to be a fitness model, or maybe someone is struggling with their sexuality or gender may turn to catfishing as a way to cope. [72] Revenge is also a common. It is an unfortunate reality, but people will seek revenge on their significant others, relatives, or exs. Greed is incredibly damaging. People who use this to motivate their catfishing go in with the intention of being harmful. Sensation Seekers are often not malicious, but they get a thrill from taking on a new personality. These people use it to feel a certain emotion or sensation.[73]

It is often believed that people who catfish do not have the intention of hurting others for the most part, of course there are exceptions. Secrecy is often found in most long-term relationships. It is not necessarily a bad thing. Catfish relationships, are not dissimilar from face to face relationships. People develop an intimacy and feelings for one another. The problem is, the secrecy is what the catfish needs. In these relationships the relationship flourishes with the secret intact. When the secret is revealed it the relationship dies. The trust that may have been established is gone.[74]

Tinder and Online Dating Websites[edit]

Introduction[edit]

Tinder is technically a social media app most commonly used as a dating app by logging onto the users Facebook, that started up September of 2012. On Tinder you swipe right to 'match' with someone- where they have swiped right on you and you both now have the option to talk to each other. The people you see on Tinder are sorted by how far away they are, meaning that Tinder lets the people in your area or neighbouring cities see you depending on how far away you are

Online Dating websites however are different in that the websites can range from different themes that are specific to the individuals likes or views. For example by religion like Christian Mingle or by hobby such as Equestrian Cupid.

Twitter swiping

Realism and Deception[edit]

Online deception across the internet is defined as a users modification of his / hers self description between real life and the dating profiles they have created (Toma et al 2008) Several different factors affected the realism of their profiles and lead to deception online. These include factors of gender and the individuals personality under the presence of anonymity.

Evolutionary psychologists have looked into the deception of realism between males and females, the modification of traits in online dating can mainly be explained through socially desirable responding. Enhancing the individuals “reproductive viability” [75] Meaning that each gender placed focus on certain elements. It was found that men were more prone to exaggerating their economic stability and physical strength, woman were more likely to emphasise upon their physical attraction. These discontinuities in reality had been pinned down to the social constructions and expectations of each gender Each genders main misrepresentations also followed a pattern; where women are more prone to being discreet about their weight while men are more prone to misrepresent their age and personal interests.

Deception over the internet is a phenomenon caused by a lacking process to verify information five by misleading profiles, that negatively affects the reputation of online dating websites, adding an element of mistrust through enabling misleading profiles the ability to pop up. [76] [77] Sztompka backs this up, continuing to link an individuals intent to claim falscitalities as a result of a “lack of method for verification” [78] which is especially vital when information given about an individual is communicated textually. This deception can easily lead to frustration and mistrust that could potentially lead to an individuals emotional and psychological damage.

A study by Mills [79] states that individual identity is broken down into 3 elements; physical appearance, attributed data and biographical data (ie education) Age, gender and appearance were the most commonly mislead factors within this. [80]

Anonymity Diminishing Accountability[edit]

In short, individuals online who intend to deceive other do so through creating an online indignity different to the one in real life. However, it can be those who don't intend to deceive that are allured by the possibilities of personal gain that a lack of accountability through anonymity gives.

This can be evidenced through Toma et al's study that 80% of online daters felt that people misrepresent their physical appearance in their online dating profiles.[81] To extend physical boundaries, the individual user tended to expand on their self presentation. This correlates with the anonymous nature of the internet .

A study by Suler concluded that internet induced anonymity is a key influencer on the difference between the real world and online world, assuring that this was also a key factor in causing the online disinhibition effect where there was a clear disassociation between online and offline identities. [82]

Realism, Anonymity and Technology[edit]

The free-form ‘descriptive’ set up of online dating websites and apps where users can create themselves in a more favourable light, even when what they have been writing is exaggerated or emphasised. When a certain image of an individual is then altered elements of their personality and herby identity are fictitious. The ability to edit your profile also encouraged other users to modify and shape their information. Reasoning behind this may be down to appeal to certain individuals (changing their values to align to someone on the website ) and change aspects that received negative feedback. Overall, the motives behind online daters point to the goal of wanting to be seen as more “attractive” and “likeable” in order to achieve their end goal. [83]

Tinder has this to a certain extent, however the app lets you link up to Instagram which can be a good way of backing up what the users may say about themselves on the app.

Though the different textual and intertextual communication online vs real life we can view that anonymity is a key enabler for individuals to deceive others. Deception is made easy because its difficult to link online dating users online identity to their real identity without obtaining personal information.

The technical nature of computer mediated communication (CMC) creates a different situation in which we can express ourselves in, dissolving geographical boundaries and the affect of real time communication creating a platform by which users have time to to reply to messages (as an example) allows the user to overthink their messages and present their idea of a best possible reply. This nature of CMC specific to online dating allows the users to present the best picture of themselves, which is inconstant to real time conversations where there is less time to reply. On top of this, information online about our individuality is given textually compared to intertextual communications face to face communication is where there are an infinite amount of facial features and body language to communicate what a person is ‘saying’ without actually speaking. Individuals can also subjectively interpret the reactions they get online towards another user, which can shape an individuals behaviour and by extension their identity.

This ‘intermediary platform’, of which Tinder and Dating Websites are on, can provide individuals with a sense of safety and anonymity compared to the vulnerability that many feel they face through face to face interaction. Some feel that the social expectations of them are more pronounced in the ‘real world’ which can suppress on individual thoughts or views. In this perspective, online dating may ‘free’ an individual more online more online rather than surpassing their actual thoughts.

Communication intermediates influence have online identities are generated and presented under the influence of the ability in not having to disclose a lot of personal information, given that online environments do not have mechanisms to immediately authenticate its users.

On the other hand however, anonymity provides its users with the ability to truly express themselves or even 'liberate' themselves where their true selves are revealed without prejudice and judgement.

Anonymity and Accountability[edit]

When the purpose of the account on social media is to keep in touch with friends and family members, like Facebook is, profile attributes are as close to the truth as possible since the individuals affiliates act as an authentication mechanism (ref B) This can be related to Tinder in that the way in which you make an account is through your Facebook account and you can see your 'common connections' with the person you are matching with. On top of this, since your Tinder searches people relatively close to you there is always the potential that you can see people that you know in the surrounding area, and those people cans see you. The constant threat of having someone you know see your Tinder profile destroys the idea of anonymity on this particular dating app, and therefore is more likely to be realistic in relation to the profiles on it due to this.

While the presence of perceived anonymity has a tendency to combine with the received lack of accountability and attachment to the real world, this lets the user become their own authoritative figure in which they put online.

Warranting Theory[edit]

Adapted by Walther and Parks [84] from a study by Stone [85] it suggests that in the presence of anonymity, a person may misrepresent information about his or herself. It was an observed phenomenon where some people met in person after having met online and were dissatisfied with the partner. The potential for autonomy resulted in the potential for discrepancy in online dating profiles. 'Warrants' and describes by Walther and Parks were perceived reliable cues that observers use to cause how ones true identity matches their online profile.

Digital Culture[edit]

Digital Divide[edit]

The term “digital divide”, also called “digital gap”, refers to the demographical, social, economic and regional inequality regarding the access, distribution and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) and its impacts. This is with regards to people who have, and those who do not have, the necessary skills, abilities or knowledge to use ICT. It exists between rural and urban areas, between economic classes, between socioeconomic factors such as race, income, and education, between people who can afford an internet access and those who cannot, between the quality of connection as well as the local adaption and availability (i.e. via wideband) [86] and on a global scale between industrial and developing countries. [87]

A map of the global digital divide.
Map of the Global Digital Divide.

Dimensions of the Divide[edit]

The digital divide shapes the global and local flow of information. Even if access to online information is available, a free information flow is often restricted or blocked through network censorship. At national level some governments constantly restrict the access to certain webpages and filter any expression that may threaten their national security. Often this is the case in some Middle Eastern countries and especially in China and North Korea. At organisational or family level, firewalls or access limiting software can be installed to prevent employees or children from accessing undesirable or harmful online contents. [88] Elad Segev argues that there are more subtle reasons for the digital divide in the online community i.e. that it is a result of the commercialisation of the internet and the operation of hugely dominant information agents and search engines such as Google. Furthermore, that the divide emerges as a result of information-skilled users tearing it wider apart.[89]


Knowledge Divide[edit]

Knowledge has become a valuable resource in the Information Age, increasingly determining who has access to power and profit. Apart from the demographical, social, economic and regional gaps of the digital divide, knowledge continues to expand and has a growing impact of inequalities in science and technology capacities which create an impenetrable barrier for those, who wish to mobilise knowledge, and those who which to obtain it. The spread of information on a global scale through the internet and the uneven assimilation of global access to the internet expands gaps in knowledge between individuals and nations has been called the Knowledge Divide . [90]

Technological Determinism[edit]

Technological determinism is the theory that the technology that people create and see themselves surround by determines the culture in which they find themselves. Therefore a dramatic change towards a societies technology should in turn result in a dramatic change in that societies culture. For example the emergence of phones changed the way people communicated, and in turn changed the way they acted and thus changed their culture. This theory is heavily discussed by Marshall McLuhan in his book McLuhan, Marshall. (1964) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man [91] where he describes the theory in detail and furthermore applies it to the real world . He does this so well that other theorists have since taken and adapted his ideas towards Technological Determinism itself, for example Transforming McLuhan by Paul Grosswiler is one of the examples of the many books devoted purely to McLuhan's ideas over the theory.[92]

Cultural Determinism[edit]

Cultural determinism is he stance that common patterns of behavior, attitudes, and values which persist for generations are the result of cultural factors rather than biological or other factors[93]. This presents the argument of nurture vs. nature. In this case how one is reared determines who they are as a person. In order to understand cultural determinism, it is important to understand what culture is. Culture is defined as “the beliefs, way of life, art, and customs that are shared and accepted by people in a particular society.[94]” The concept of cultural determinism emphasizes that your culture determines the type of person you are. This theory possesses some weak points. For instance, if one were to grow up in a neighborhood with crime and deviance, is it guaranteed that the person will participate in criminal activity and deviant behavior? In the digital age one looks to cultural determinism and how people easily interact with technology and how ingrained it is in our world.

Identity and Persona in relation to our online real life divide[edit]

Online and Offline our personalities can differ very much.

Online, people generally tend to undertake a process known as portraying an ‘impersonation management’[95]. This is a term described in detail in Psychology of C G Jung by Jolande Jacobi (1999) that means we present ourselves in what we believe is the best light in each scenario. For example, on Instagram or Twitter (and other Social Media platforms alike) someone will normally try to only post up their most flattering photos that paint them in the best light (both figuratively and literally), in an attempt to manage the presentation of themselves.

This concept can be argued further when using Erving Goffmans idea of 'masks'[96], as discussed in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) where Goffman argues that our personalities are fluid and thus change depended on the scenario we may find ourselves in. In terms of our Online/Real-life Divide this in turn means we are likely to change the way we behave on- and off-line; but also that we are also likely to change the way we behave on different online platforms themselves. For example one is very likely to present themselves in a different mask on Wiki*edia as opposed to Facebook, because the purpose of each environment differs greatly, and thus how one can present themselves in the best light also differs greatly. This results in a change of ones 'mask', or persona, as a result of the process of 'impersonation management'. This idea is illustrated well by Stephen Fry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z0XS-QLDWM [97]

Psychosocial Approaches[edit]

Psychosocial study is a relatively new field which explores the ways in which psychological and social experiences are intertwined and interdependent. Psychosocial approaches are interdisciplinary, reflecting the belief that psychological and social experiences cannot be independent of each other but are rather part of one whole experience based on a sociological, historical and cultural context. As such, psychosocial approaches draw on existing fields of study including sociology, psychology, philosophy, post-colonial studies and post-structural theories. [98] A psychosocial approach to the online/real-life divide would suggest that life can no longer be neatly compartmentalised into an online life and a real life, but that the prevalence of our interaction with digitisation affects our real life and vice versa.

The Effects of the Connected World[edit]

Representation[edit]

Introduction[edit]

The emergence of new technologies and social networks has created almost a new aspect of how we can have and form an identity, and how others play a part in the formation of this representation. The “user profile” that has become so popular on the almost all large social media platforms [including Wiki]. This “profile” function allows users to create an individual page centred around them, whether it be voicing their thoughts and research on a topic like on Wiki or whether it be creating a photograph wall of yourself and photos you have taken seen on Instagram. So the issue of representation seems undoubtedly complex and it is apparent that there is a lot more at play than people simply building up an online reflection of the self, allowing for a lot more fabrication.

The Proteus Effect- Nick Yee[edit]

Yee and Co’s [99]studies around the Proteus effect shines light on the notion of an online self by examining avatars in Collaborative Virtual Environment (CVEs) and studies people’s online behaviour when given an avatar with certain traits seen as more desirable on the platform.

Yee notes that “Instead of focusing on the structural affordances of the computer-mediated environment, studies in TSI have shown how strategic changes in an avatar’s appearance or behaviour can affect how other users interact with that avatar”. From this we know that there is a strong relationship between an offline self and their online counterpart – being an avatar or a personal profile page – and this relationship dictates how exactly people proceed to present themselves online. It continues saying it seems that people want to see the best qualities and be most desirable version of themselves online [from their behavioural tenancies when their avatar is more “desirable”] this seems extremely telling on the issue of representation. It can thus be noted that people don’t want a full realistic version of them shown but there is a strong selection process in which people pick and choose factors they want other to see. This can be said to constitute a strong real life online divide as how people wish to be represented on any platform involving exhibiting a form of themselves is noticeably different to real life interactions where it can be argued to be a simple case of what you see is what you get. The study goes on to discuss Multiuser Domains (MUDs) and the findings here help to shine light on the key issue within this sub-topic, being misrepresentation. It states that on certain platforms there is an aspect of gender bending, so people are creating profile and personas yet gendering them differently than their own and acting in ways they possibly think is more suited to that gender role. The behaviours and character traits that are used are noted to not fit the individual’s own and so we see here that people use the divide from real life to misrepresent themselves and escape on identity into another, escapism being a whole other topic in itself. However this shows us that the divide that exists can offer opportunities to escape one notion of self that exists offline and in a positive way misrepresent a version of ourselves which can be noted as a clear effect of living in this connected world.

Although these MUDs and CVEs differs from platforms in which user profiles are a more “direct” representation of you [featuring photos, your thoughts in posts, etc] this study can still be seen as useful to learn about this whole notion of an offline online representation as it quite concisely examines how we present ourselves behaviourally when there is a keyboard and screen to hide behind.

Narrative[edit]

The way we choose to tell the story of ourselves online is a complex way in which we can examine how we see our lives and the effects the connected world has had on us. I believe storytelling on social media platforms goes above simply writing long posts about what happened to you recently and is more interactive and importantly encouraged by these large platforms. When we travel somewhere Facebook encourages us to post this journey with geo-location, when we attend an event we are encouraged to tweet using a hashtag for the event and when we watch a television show we are now encouraged to watch along – giving every thought and opinion on some app or social platform. These alone do not tell much of a story but it is on these user profile timelines as seen on Twitter, Facebook and the Snapchat story that when viewed for their collective value begin to build up a narrative around the individual or organisation and so creates a more rounded identity.

Aisling G M Kelliher (2007) [100] describes the online storytelling that has become prevalent in recent years as “transforming our fragmentary narratives into shareable narratives [which] helps us to understand and communicate who we are as individual and social beings”. This seems to eloquently summarise this idea of taking the offline experiences we have on a daily basis and turning this into content we can like, share and comment on. It can be argued both that this feature of creating narratives of our offline world on social media platforms in bridging the offline/online gap that exists or that it distances us further from reaching that point as the selection process of what we deem glamorous enough to share on social media can be seen to giving a false account of the “real” that we are striving to understand in this study.

Privacy and Security[edit]

Introduction[edit]

As discussed earlier, in this day and age the technology needed to establish your identity and create your own image is not just available, but it is a necessary part of everyday life with the internet being an integral part of most work and social lives. Social media and dating websites are the two most widely used ways to share private information. Through messages and status updates etc. there is a lot of content shared (supposedly to a selective audience) that people don’t want to be public. This ranges from people hobbies and interests to nude photos and all other types of content: there is a lot of information out there which is shared with the intention of being private, only available to certain individuals. Unfortunately, the expectation that privacy is an option will often leave people disappointed.

Is Snapchat Secure?[edit]

Although privacy is intended by most social media and dating apps, they all tend to have their loopholes and issues that lead to what is meant to be private becoming public. Snapchat is arguably the riskiest social media platform to use in terms of privacy because of the false sense of security they very deliberately provide. This makes is a great example of the limits of to which private information is secure compared to what people believe. One of the key concepts of the app is that the content you share or send is deleted. They claim very openly that they do not store the data that you post, it is automatically deleted. This feature has dictated the way people use the app, posting content pretty much care free because it will disappear after ten seconds. But the assumption that the information will be gone forever is a decidedly wrong one. There are main reasons that Snapchat is not as secure as people believe. The first is the one that most are aware of. Even though the image sent is gone (and supposedly deleted forever) that does not stop the receiver from very easily screenshotting the image on their phone; even though Snapchat doesn’t necessarily store it, somebody else can. The saving grace of this loophole is that it is a well-known problem with maintaining privacy; by in large, everybody knows how to do it. On top of this, Snapchat do not deny that screenshotting is a thing. Since the knowledge is public it is not as harmful; people can send Snapchats based on their trust relative to who they are sending the image to. The second security threat to Snapchat is one that people are not aware of. It demonstrates the dishonesty which comes from social media platform and other apps concerning security and privacy of information. Snapchat clearly states that they do not store any data, it is deleted after it disappears from your phone screen. This is even a core marketable feature of the app. However, this has been proven to be untrue repeatedly. Data shared is not gone forever as promised. This is a little known, though publicly reported fact. The FBI has access to information shared on snapchat and has the right to request it to work on cases. What this means is that Snapchat does indeed store the data users share on its servers.

What Does The Lack Of Security Mean?[edit]

dangerous way in which this fact can be exposed is with hacks. Snapchat’s server has been hacked in the past and supposedly private and deleted content has been shared publicly online. The most famous instance of this was the occurrence of “The Snappening”, the name of which was a reply to “The Fappening”. These were both instances of thousands of naked photos of celebrities (which were obviously intended to be private) being hacked, stolen from the servers (which Snapchat claimed did not hold such data) and posted publicly online. This all means that Snapchat is an unsafe way to share information privately as people you know can use it in ways you don’t intend and strangers can acquire it without the user’s knowledge. Other social media platforms are very similar in how information that is meant to be private can lack the security people expect. In modern times the personal image of oneself can be created online and offline. It is now clear that doing so online through Social Media etc. offers at most the same amount of privacy as living in reality, where it is also difficult to guarantee security of information.

Production and Consumption[edit]

Social Media Careers[edit]

For students studying a degree like Film and Media it can be very difficult to find work once the degree is done. The field of study is known partially for having few clear job prospects or career paths at the end. The vast number of students in that industry cannot all fit into internships or job placements; there are not enough to go around. Fortunately, there are many new opportunities arising which do not include any physical employment; rather they are done over the internet. There are job opportunities as well as entire careers which centre around social media and producing content entirely online. An example of this is working as a social media manager for a company or even a celebrity. Companies and celebrities use social media to control their image online, which is very important. Thus, there are many opportunities to post content on behalf of a corporation as a Social Media Manager. This is just one of the career paths that can be found online because of new technology. This demonstrates the extent to which online image is important and how one’s career can be defined by online work.

Creative Practices[edit]

The internet can be described as a marketplace- in the way that a market place is a structure where buys and sellers exchange goods, services and information. The internet can be used for all of these things, however the 'buyer' and 'seller' can exchange these things with their own information rather than legal tender such as money- creating User generated content. Users are just applying the concept of a marketplace to a more social atmosphere. This user generated content is what fills most of the internet and can come in many forms, for example Facebook as a media platform to communicate and share pictures of yourself and follow your interests, and Wikipedia as a way in which to contribute to an online forum and expand your own knowledge and those that engage with the page.

The news has also moved online. The most popular social media apps are ones that circulate or produce news, such as Facebook where many trustworthy news sites post their articles as links online to enable them to be read more widely.

Artificial Intelligence[edit]

Definition[edit]

Artificial Intelligence is defined in Russell & Norvig's seminal textbook Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach as a subject that "encompasses a huge variety of subfields, ranging from the general...to the specific."[101] For the purposes of this book, Artificial Intelligence will be defined as a machine that can process and comprehend information, and respond to it, in a way that human beings associate with other human beings. This is a colloquial definition of the subject. For other definitions that encompass the 'general' and 'specific' that Russell & Norvig reference, their textbook covers all.

Implications of Data Collection[edit]

Automated programs are already widely used for data collection ranging from large companies like Google[102] and Facebook, who even collect data from Internet users who are not signed-up users of its website,[103] to government sponsored data collection[104] like the NSA-run surveillance program PRISM.

PRISM logo

These programs store and search for data based on specific parameters set by the company, that then evolve based on what information is eventually seen to be useful or noteworthy. For companies, this tends to be whatever information can generate the most revenue. However, James Canton opines that there can be no 'Big Data' collection without the use of Artificial Intelligence. The sheer volume and processing of the information generated daily needs it. He says "In a world where there is big data everywhere, the extraction of meaning, the monetization of data for a purpose will be driven by AI."[105] However, this is at odds with other theories of Artificial Intelligence development. In the film Ex Machina directed by Alex Garland Artificial Intelligence is only created because of humanity's ability to collect huge amounts of data. In the film, it is theorised that Big Data is less a measure of what people think, but how they think. The scientific advisor for the film, Murray Shanahan, supported such a statement in interview. [106]

When Data Collection has so many real-world consequences then the question of where the divide between online and real-life begins is raised. For the individual, data collection is unseen and silent. It's effects feel vague and slow to alter our lives, despite the fact they have altered them significantly already. When Artificial Intelligence is added into this mix it becomes a different argument entirely. If Artificial Intelligence is developed, will it be given the same rights as humans? If it is given the same human rights then is it considered a single entity? And if a single entity has the ability to collect huge volumes of data, what is stopping every single entity to collect data too?


Chat Bots and the Future of Online Conversing[edit]

Chat Bots are defined as computer programs that attempt to simulate human conversation through spoken language or through written language. Their purpose is to engage in convincing conversation with the human user on the other end. The first notable chatbot was developed in 1966, and was called ELIZA. development of chatbots has continued until the present day. Originally, the Turing Test was first seen as a measure of a machines intelligence, and consequently of its Artificial Intelligence. Numerous chatbots can now pass the Turing Test, and under specific conditions, the test was passed in 2014[107]

The implications of convincing chatbots are wide-ranging. The nature of communication has changed in the digital age so as to be unrecognisable to pre-digital times. Our smartphones can now automatically respond to received messages with a preassigned response. Additionally, predictive texting algorithms are heavily linked to the development of chatbots. Research was done on the effects of predictive text on spelling and grammar comprehension in children, and found negligible results.[108] However, there has been no research done into the effects that predictive text has on our choice of language. The question must be asked that if predictive text gives us suggestions of which words to use, can it influence our decisions? To what extent does the predictive text algorithm affect and choose our language for us?

The 2013 film Her explores the concept of detached communication further. The character played by Scarlett Johansson is an evolved version of a chatbot, being a disembodied Artificial intelligence program. Communication with her is problematic because she does not have a body and this is explored in the film through her attempted use of an 'avatar' who is a real person. Additionally, the main character in Her works as a letter writer, composing love letters between couples and often writing both person's responses. These people are sending each other messages and communicating without choosing their own language, or being a part of that communication. Again, this strikes one as disembodied forms of communication and speaks to the significant difference between embodied and disembodied Artificial Intelligence.

A.I in Fiction[edit]

The best science fiction has always been seen to be a precursor and accurate prediction of changes that take place in the world. From dystopian in Nineteen Eighty-Four to utopian in Looking Backward:2000-1887, sci-fi literature and film has always ended up blurring the line between what is real, and what is not real. Through it's very existence and predictive nature it ends up assertively comparing what is real, with what is not-yet-real.

In his landmark book On The Internet, the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus states that "since robots can't be programmed to behave like people, people will have to learn to behave like robots."[109] This is a typical pessimistic view of the development of Artificial Intelligence. However, this is not to say that it is wrong. An argument like this is inextricably linked to the Online/Real-Life Divide.

A.I's Creation to Serve Society[edit]

At it's essence artificial intelligence is created to serve it's master. This instant relationship between the creator having power over something that is trying at it's core to be as close to humans as possible. That fine line between creating a machine that functions and looks like a human but does not 'think' and 'feel' is the fine that most scifi fiction revolves around. Often the narrative puts the creations in a position of assistance, where humans rely on them in order to function, they are a new piece of technology designed for enhancing or making easier human existence. For example in the Channel 4, TV show "Humans" [110], the "Artificial Intelligence" in the show have human physical features, but their soul purpose is to service humans. From being a nanny and house maid for families to some of the bots being sold to have sex as prostitutes. As an audience, seeing a human face being forced (or not being giving a choice because of programming), to do something they don't want, especially sexual evokes strong conflicting emotions. Yes, the A.I is created for the purpose of serving society but giving it a human face and voice questions ideas of slavery and brings morals and ethics to mind. A.I creation is a form of technological slavery in an attempt to make human existence easier and usually in fiction it has dangerous repercussions for the creators.

There is however a film that shows how A.I can be used in a positive way. The film "Robot and Frank" [111] portrays a wonderful story of a positive use of A.I technology in assisting an elderly man who lives alone, to live alone. The character of the robot does not have a human face, and perhaps this is the difference, the definitions between robot and human are defined clearly between physicality. However throughout the movie there is use of a human voice and suggested attempts at humour, it builds a level of companionship with Frank the other main character, the character is at it's element taken as a human relationship but the difference between the two is distinguished throughout due to the different physical appearances.

These two different pieces of fiction really show the different directions of A.I in terms of fiction writing, focusing on the difference and importance of physical appearance and the boundaries that people expect for the future or A.I. There are a never ending list of sci-fi A.I featuring, movies but I think that these show that with a face the audience become to morally confused between the possibilities of human and machine but even without a face an audience gets emotionally attached to the character of the robot.

Where A.I controls society[edit]

The dystopian vision of a society controlled by Artificial Intelligence is born from the theory of technological determinism, a phrase that was first coined by the social scientist Thorstein Veblen to describe a society that causally changes because of developments in technology. This is opposed to cultural determinism which posits that culture is what causally alters developing technologies. This is often the mid/or end point of a scifi feature film, where the technology develops a mind of it's own and turns against the creator etc. a fantastic example of this is "Eagle Eye" [112]. The film essentially features a 'super computer' a common trope again within A.I, it has access to everything, the internet, personal records control over electrical equipment, it is a learning machine with all of the knowledge in the world. In order to save the planet, it's primary objective, it decides the only way to achieve this is to wipe out the entire race. So unfolds the fight between man and machine, creator and creation. In a fiction sense control is always in extremes where the A.I takes control of itself and uses it's power to destroy humanity. A common story line even in films such as Wall-e or Meet the Robinsons, humanities fears of the machine rising against us.

Black Mirror - Back to Before[edit]

This episode of Black Mirror is a fantastic look into the line between humanity and A.I creations, and how it can be blurred. Again it is another example of an A.I that uses a human face, but this time it is a specific person who is re-created using artificial intelligence, data trails left on social media, and private usage, the voice re-constructed from phone calls and personality aspects built on a combination of these things as well as from learning memories and experiences after its 'activation'. It is interesting as it combines many elements of A.I study, it looks at the idea that A.I is created for a particular purpose, in the sense that the main character purchases the A.I creation in order to be re-united with her dead husband, and it really pushes how far humans are willing to accept the use of A.I. This A.I takes information from the chosen persons internet use to compile a character, which is an interesting method that could definitely tie into the theories around the difference between the online self and real self. It is almost as if in this episode these identities are taken to extremes, an example of how the two differ. The main character is driven crazy by the 'half' version of her husband and so attempts to use the overriding power she has as the owner, the creator to order him to kill himself. She uses her status as a human creator to try and destroy her creation, the most interesting element is the fact that then, the creation uses it's knowledge and it's human face, a human face that she adores to portray human emotion, to portray fear in order to "stay alive", a term used loosely. But the machine uses it's knowledge and appearance to further it's existence therefore outsmarting the human, not for malicious intent just to continue it's "life", which again pushes merges the lines between human and A.I.

References[edit]




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