Facebook as a forum

This is my third post for the practicum project and even though it may be a bit behind schedule there has been some interesting observations on the internet. As a recap I am researching how Slow Food is present online in communities. This is a social movement that brings all sorts of people together based on the same issues. Part of the project is to review online communities, such as forums. While there are forums out there many of them are dated by about five years, or more. I have found that Facebook is being utilized as a forum in today’s social movements.

Many of establishments are online and use Facebook, as well as other social network sites, in order to update followers on real time events, opportunities, or discussion topics. When looking at slow food establishments there are certain restaurants and food establishments that are discussion slow food issues and the need for supporting the local economy. There are also many Slow Food chapters that are present on Facebook.

An example to highlight this is with Slow Food UW. This Slow Food chapter is the first university chapter to be recognized by the great Slow Food USA organization. Slow Food UW has presented itself with a Facebook page and group. The page is a way to present the basic information associated with Slow Food UW. The group instead is used as discussions and a way for the 562 members to converse about events or articles they find interesting and pertaining to the Slow Food ideals.

Below is a snapshot illustrating how myself and others have posted two events and one video.

I am eager to present more information about Slow Food’s presence online.

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NarcissiSpace

I got what I expected while browsing Myspace. As a former user, I thought it to be nostalgically amusing albeit unsettling. When I deleted my account, users were just starting to get into sparkly .gif posts on their page, as well as HTML layouts that gave theirspace a more personalized flair. I noticed that there were a LOT more girls/women then boys/men on Myspace currently, as opposed to before when I felt like my friend list was an even ratio. There was a fair amount of profiles that disclosed a lot of personal information, and there were a lot of weird sparkly icons that quoted hip-hop artists. And let’s not forget the pictures where the user’s best assets were shown off (boobs).

I could say that there is some sort of hierarchical difference between Myspace and Facebook, but in the end they’re both websites where you can put virtually anything that you feel expresses yourself. They’re both websites where you can make yourself as perfect as you want to be portrayed. They’re both venues through which narcissism is pretty socially acceptable, on some sort of level. I can’t hate on Myspace users too much, because I have a Facebook. While I can say that I like to keep in friends who are far away, I also like that I get my own online space to post pictures or communicate easily with anyone. Myspace doesn’t seem private, but Facebook started out as a college student network, and now anyone can join. Also Mark Zuckerberg supposedly owns your photos and could sell them (I’ve heard and read both sides to this, but either way, it IS personal information posted on the Internet). And pictures of really drunk people are pretty unavoidable on either site. My overall view after viewing random Myspace profiles remains the same; I feel that people have different preferences, and there are people who just feel more comfortable with one site than the other.


Chatroulette

When I first heard about Chatroulette and went on it for the first time, I vowed I would never go on it again, for the sake of passing up one of the creepiest experiences. I had only done it once before with a couple of my friends because we thought it was hilarious to see what kind of people were on there and what they were doing and then quickly ‘next them’. This time around I tried to stay on a person for a bit, but I cannot help but press next quickly as I feel this stranger is intruding into my life and personal space. I found that many on Chatroulette were men, creepily waiting for who knows what and to do who knows what. I decided it was time to quit Chatroulette when someone messaged me “show for show?”. I know people like to interact with people on the internet via chat rooms, social websites or dating sites, but Chatroulette is not the place to make friends…at least not for me.


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.


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 🙂