Chatroulette…

Going into this experience I had heard a lot about Chatroulette, but never used it for myself.  My preconceptions were most definitely biased. The site has not received the most positive publicity;  South Park’s rendering of this Internet phenomenon painted it as glorified adult entertainment.  Preparing myself for the worst, I pressed the “Chat” button and got my Chatroullete experience rolling.  My first impression was that this concept is just very weird.  Most often the user with whom you are connected is only on the screen for a few seconds staring blanking, and then switched out for the next.  In addition to providing an image of your chat companion, the site gives their geo-location.  This is by far the most redeeming quality of the site.  In just a few minutes of chat time, I was connecting with people from Germany, Canada, Algeria, Poland, and many more countries.  Although our exchange was almost meaningless, the global potential of Chatroulette is extremely interesting.  It can certainly be used for less than appropriate behavior, but the idea is very compelling.  After working with Chatroullete the panic around its use may be justified, but its technology is what is truly amazing.

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i-Hated i-Dosing

I was very interested to explore i-dosing because before discussion last week, I had never heard of it before. When I looked i-doser up in wikipedia, I was informed that the videos contain playback of proprietary audio content and through the use of binary beats, i-dosing aims to mentally stimulate the viewer. Upon actually watching a few i-doing videos, I very quickly got annoyed. I made the mistake of listening to the music without my headphones the first time, but when I did listen with headphones, I still did not enjoy the techno-esque beats. I expected the graphics to be very cool, but the flashing circles and slow morphing colors did not entertain me. I would rather watch my iTunes visualizer that goes to the beat of a song I like than watch another i-dosing video. In no way did I feel “digitally high” after experiencing i-dosing.

In my opinion, i-dosing seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because users of i-dosing videos know the stimulating effect the music is supposed to have, they are more susceptible to believe they are experiencing the effects themselves. This is clear in the numerous youtube videos posted of young adults “tripping out” after watching i-dosing videos. Also, when searching i-dosing in Google, the majority of results were articles discussing the negative effects the music has on its listeners. I believe that the technopanic surrounding i-dosing is blown out of proportion.


Myspace: Technopanic?

I remember when Myspace was the new, trendy site all my friends were using.  I must have been about 15 years old, then, and it was the cool thing to do to be on Myspace, update your “Top Friends,” and choose a new background for your page.  Before Facebook became popular, this was this most exciting and convenient way to stay in touch with your friends, despite the fact that you saw them everyday at school.

When Facebook came around and my friends and I began creating our own accounts, I was hesitant to switch over because I had become so comfortable with Myspace.  Now, looking back, Myspace definitely does not seem as user-friendly or safe as Facebook.  It is less advanced, looks “cheap” in comparison to other social media sites, and has definitely lost the popularity it once had.

As I looked (or “creeped”) on random Myspace profiles, I couldn’t help but notice that I felt a little uneasy about them.  It could just be that I’m bias and prefer Facebook to Myspace, but Myspace did not seem as friendly or approachable as I remembered it being.  One thing that really stuck out to me was the “Details” section.  I remember updating that section when I used Myspace, but I had always been cautious about what information I provided.  Several of the profiles I looked at had very personal information in that section including, their income, height, ethnicity, education, and body type.  In comparison to Facebook, there are more opportunities to describe yourself in great detail.  Personally, I felt uncomfortable being exposed to so much information about a person I did not know.  I think this example points towards the idea of “technopanic.”  The fact that such personal information about strangers is so readily available, makes Myspace seem risky.  It’s not that people aren’t able to display personal information elsewhere, but the fact that all the information is detailed and in one location that makes it appear as a website to be concerned about.

Other things I took note of were that profiles seemed almost tacky in that everyone had a different layout and background.  Also, in contrast to Facebook, Myspace look like more of a way to display oneself rather than to interact with friends and family.  You can’t tag someone in a status update and there is no constant “News Feed” to keep you updated on what your friends and family are doing.

Social networking sites, Myspace in particular, have faced criticism from parents due to the fact that their children are able to display anything and everything in one location.  They can upload pictures of themselves, give status updates on what they are doing, post the city they live in, how old they are, and a detailed description of their body image and ethnicity.  It is an easy way for the wrong people to get a hold of a lot of information, which is most certainly a parent’s reason for concern.  If personal information is readily available, it would not take long before a stranger knows where this person lives, when (s)he likes, etc.  It is this “technopanic” idea that is illustrated by Myspace.  While there are most certainly ways to make personal information hidden from the general public, it is the idea that people, children and young adults especially, are more exposed to danger than was possible before social networking sites existed.

While there are most certainly worse examples of a technopanic, I found Myspace to be a bit of one.  The amount of readily available information about a complete stranger does not make me feel safe.  I was able to access too much information on random individuals, information that can give me an exact picture on what they look like, where they live, and what they are interested in.  It is for this reason that I find Myspace to be a technopanic.

 


Chatroulette – Not so freaky

I’ve experienced Chatroulette before, and had some pretty interesting, and creepy experiences. Tonight I was prepared for some very graphic images, but fortunately I did not! This may be random speculation, but after tonight, I think it may depend on the day of the week as to what you will find on Chatroulette, and therefore the technopanic can be more accurate on different nights.

In the past, I’ve chatted on a Friday or Saturday night, with my friends just goofing around and seeing what this website was all about. Oddly enough, I was on at the same time as a friend of mine, but we never saw trace of each other, yet I found numerous people multiple times. That night, guys would be sitting around drinking, flipping through the masses of people who came through their computer screens, playing pranks, and showing off their genitals. I can definitely understand why there is technopanic about this website, if you are constantly viewing inappropriate and pornographic material. It can be fun for mature audiences, but for an unsuspecting teenager, or preteen, it can be a scarring experience.

Tonight, however, was a much more pleasant adventure. Everyone was clothes (whew) and I only encountered a few people who skipped past my chat immediately. Most people stayed to chat, and were just looking for something to do, someone to talk to, and probably hoping to find something silly or a creative prank. One person set up a jack in the box, which reminded me of Saw. They didn’t stay to chat when I tried to talk. I chatted with one guy who was from Mexico, and attempted to get information out of me as to where I was from, where I studied, and personal information I didn’t feel was appropriate to share with a stranger. I evaded questions and gave vague answers. He complimented me and tried to flirt with me. It was not a situation where I would feel technopanic, but I also did not feel comfortable just sharing information that he was requesting. Luckily, this site allows you to just flip right by the people who give you the willies, onto the next viewer! Another guy was getting high in the bathroom, and I couldn’t hear him, but from what I could get out of him, he sounded ready to debate and battle anyone – probably his means of entertainment, or maybe he’s more confrontational when he gets high, who knows.

So overall, concerning the technopanic, this is a harmless website for adults who are aware of what to content expect (just about anything!). I would say this website is not appropriate for young children, for obvious reasons that I experienced that one Friday night. However, it also does not disclose any more information than you are willing to give, except your country of residence. I suppose if someone were to try to hack my IP address, they could probably find my general vicinity some how, but the odds of that are slim. Most everyone I chatted with tonight was just being fun and friendly. Good experience, especially since I feared the worst 🙂


I-Dosing as a study break?

For this weeks assignment I decided to do the less risky option of moral panics and explored the world of I-dosing. Since I have heard nothing but horrific stories about Chatroulette I decided to steer clear. When MySpace was the cool online hang out I quickly became obsessed, and used its artistic layouts to express myself. However, I never dabbled in the dangerous aspects of MySpace and left it as soon as it started to fade. This left me seeing MySpace as more of a boring option to choose when exploring technopanics.

I sat down and dove into the world of i-dosing at the end of a long Tuesday and sampled one labeled “Energy Drink”. I found this and many others at Binaural Beats. The reviews had people raving about how well it picked them up when they were feeling sluggish. However, I am not sure how convinced I really was after experiencing it. It was that time of day for me when I feel like ditching the homework and spending the rest of the night lounging around. This made me think I would be the perfect candidate for this virtual pick-me-up.

While experiencing the i-dosing I tried to not be distracted by anything else and let the different sound waves do their dirty work. After about 10-15 minutes of listening I was definitely more alert but I am not sure this had the same effect as a real live energy drink streaming through my system. I feel like having two different sound waves coming directly into your ear drums is comparable to a mental wake up, for the time being. The comments people left were outrageously positive and left me thinking I would never need to drink coffee again. Although, after experiencing it I am not left fully convinced on how affective this really was.

As far as this activity being considered a technopanic I am left unsure here as well. If anything I think that this would harm young people’s eardrums but I do not see the argument that young people are using this outlet as a way to be on another level and also experience any type of high. Maybe if the conditions were different such as higher quality ear phones or at a very high volume I could see a greater impact, but after my experience I was just in awe at how addictive these buzzing and rumbling noises seem to be.


Support Groups Are Intimidating

For my practicum project I joined an online support group for alcoholism.  I chose alcoholism because it is an addiction that is quite prevalent as is its media coverage.  I felt this topic would allow me to interact with many individuals and hear their stories about their alcohol problems and learn how support groups helped them recover/heal or if groups left much more to be desired.   I started out on my first discussion board submission by introducing myself and giving my reasoning for joining the group.  I let everyone know it was for a project but I also disclosed that I have gotten in trouble with alcohol in the past and would use this opportunity to learn things as well.  I asked if anyone would volunteer to maintain a continuous conversation with me about their issues with alcohol and explain to me how support groups influenced their lives.  I felt it was necessary to disclose a lot of information about myself so that what I was doing was ethical and the other members would trust me and feel comfortable disclosing information to me as well.  I am still waiting for any replies and I will update you all when that happens


When will people stop using Chatroulette?

When Chatroulette first came onto my radar I thought the concept was a breeding ground for bad ideas and disturbing images. How can pairing two random people with video cameras turn into anything good? Nonetheless, I really wanted to see what all the hype was about, so I  gave it a try. My findings were nothing short of creepy because my experiences were marked by a few disturbing images of the male anatomy and stuffed animals in compromising positions. I felt relieved when I encountered completely harmless groups of high school to college age kids waiting for something interesting to come up.

When taking a step back from this experience, I understand why there would be a moral panic about this site. Chatroulette is like a chat room with video involved, which honestly scares me. You get live two-way interactions with complete strangers. I do not understand the point or the appeal of using it. There is really no way to censor or prohibit pornographic behavior. I don’t believe the internet should be policed, however, this website really does not serve any purpose or benefit anyone. It does not link old friends or connect you with people that have similar interests. Clearly this behavior and these images appear all over the internet, but most pornographic sites do not foster any interactions between people. Chatroulette makes it easy for teenagers to physically engage in sexual interactions or encounters. Although some people use it in an innocent manner will not cause any permanent damage to a child, it does seem like it could be an easy route for online predator to connect with a lonely teenager.

I really hope this fad is not here to stay because it doesn’t really fulfill any social needs. There are way more productive and better ways to spend your time than speaking with random strangers with bad intentions on the internet.