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Class 8: Content creation

November 29, 2017

Class began with a discussion around reputation, and in particular, reputational damage, arising from the texts given for reading last week. We started by considering the difficulty in conveying subtlety in the online environment where text alone makes things like humour, emotion and empathy difficult to create. Emojis, CAPS, bold and italic can only go so far! In addition, we have to be careful of auto-correct, reply-all and the plethora of time-saving options that can cause untold problems if triggered accidentally. The examples discussed show that while our digital history coming back to haunt us may seem unfair, it is a very real phenomenon.

This led on to a discussion about creating and generating ‘content’. Content was described as anything we make: text, image, illustration, photograph, graph, chart, music, recorded speech, etc. Ascribing value to this content is not a science but an art. The beauty of the web is that its scope and span means there is nearly always someone somewhere who will value the most obscure content.

However, copyright is an issue. It was somewhat simpler to protect copyright when the means of copying required skill, access to tools, time and funding. Now, digital copying is instantaneous and simple. It is becoming more difficult to protect our work.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Write the sixth post: to your blog describing the final preparations for the presentation of your project. Concentrate particulary on your own contribution and how it aligns with that of your fellow team members.
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A word about copyright

November 26, 2017
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Copyright law can be complex in today’s world but the concept originated in 6th Century Ireland when books were created from vellum.

Some of you have been asking about copyright, in the context of using images for your projects. Copyright is an automatic right and it means that anybody who creates an image or a text that can be copied is the automatic owner of the right to copy that creation. Therefore, if you want to copy something created by somebody else you need their permission first.
Nevertheless, some people are happy to allow others the use of their work, in fact they may want wide exposure and so encourage the use of their creations, so long as the user doesn’t earn any money for it. You may have seen such work listed as Creative Commons – this blog is covered by Creative Commons for example. In addition, many copyright owners do not mind if their work is used in an educational context by students, so long as it is not for profit, or wide circulation.
Copyright provides limited protection because it is not enforced by the state. Any individual who believes their copyright has been infringed has to take a private case to court and prove it – this can be costly and risky.
However, copyright runs out in time. Once an image or text is out of copyright anybody may use it freely.
Copyright originated in Ireland in the 6th Century when a dispute about the ownership of a copied vellum (calfskin) manuscript led to the judgement that ‘To every cow belongs her calf, therefore to every book belongs the copy.’ You can read more about copyright in the wikipedia History of copyright law. For more on copyright law see wikipedia on Copyright.
So, the best guidance is that if you use images from the web be careful that you are not using copyright images unless absolutely necessary. There are many images to choose from that are free of copyright. Also, it is always a good idea to credit anybody else’s work so you cannot be accused of passing it off as your own.
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Class 7: Personal branding

November 22, 2017

John was unable to get his voice working this week so the class had to be conducted entirely through text chat. This slows the conversation down considerably and forces everyone to be more precise in what they say, using the minimum amount of words – a little like conducting a class entirely in twitter.

We started off with some feedback on the participants blogs. John gave the following pointers:

  • Include your About Me profile in your blog.
  • Make sure it is easy to follow your blog – approach it as a first time visitor.
  • Tidy up your blogs – delete the template pages and widgets.
  • Caption your pics and illustrations.
  • Include references to the reading and cite them correctly.
  • Be reflective – discuss what you are learning (or not learning!)
  • Proof read before you post.
  • Make sure you approve any comments. Comment on your peers’ blogs.
  • Some of you need to ensure your have written all the required posts – don’t be a mean writer!

These comments will be supplemented by more specific comments for each student that will be sent by direct message in Facebook.

John also reminded the class that one blog post per class is the minimum requirement for assessment. From now on you should be writing about how your team is functioning on the group project. Refer to the talk on team work by Sitearm Madonna and describe you own contribution to the group in particular. Be constructively critical and remember this is a learning exercise not an exercise in perfection. In fact, you are likely to learn more from what goes wrong than what goes right.

We then discussed the reading from the last week in the context of our own online personas. The issue of ethics and morality surfaced almost immediately. Identity theft, catfishing (using social media to pretend you are someone you are not), trust and gender were discussed in similar terms to the issue of privacy, transparency and opacity last week. Glenn suggested there is no essential self to find… much in the way that it is not possible to have true transparency. But, he went on to suggest that trust is very important. We considered how difficult it can be to build trust yet how easy it is to shatter it. barrrttyy suggested that developing a personal brand might be important when we consider it may last longer than a single job or career.

John asked everyone to consider the difference between our personal identities and our professional ones in the online environment. Do we always distinguish between the two? Should we? How might we do so? This is where the importance of digital literacy becomes clear. We need to be aware of our online behaviours to ensure our current behaviour doesn’t exclude us from future opportunities.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: about the girl who resigned her position as UK police youth commissioner in 2013 due to previous tweets. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  2. Read: about another example of person losing their job over a racist tweet. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  3. Read: User Generated Content and Virtual Worlds  from the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, 2008. [Accessed on 27 November 2017.]
  4. Write the fifth post: to your blog about how you might convert your personal presence online into an identity for professional networking.
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Class 6: Opacity

November 15, 2017

We don’t often see class participants on horseback at DIT…

 

Following on from last week’s discussion about the project Glenn introduced one of the text‘s from the reading list. Édouard Glissant is a poet from Martinique, a small island in the Caribbean, who in the late 20th Century formulated a demand for the right to opacity – ‘We clamour for the right to opacity for everyone’. He was writing from the context of a small island community where residents’ privacy is often violated – a perspective that will resonate with the Visual Arts participants from Sherkin Island. In addition, Martinique is a former French colony and Glissant is acutely aware of the post-colonial discourse. However, his thoughts are finding a new audience with the rise of social media and its implicit demand for transparency. Glissant suggests that the process of ‘understanding’ people from the perspective of Western thought is based on the requirement for transparency. Of course, total transparency is not possible and, according to Glissant, not even desirable. Difference must be recognised and opacity acknowledged. The opaque is not the obscure though, it is that which cannot be reduced.

This apparent conflict between transparency and opacity is also explored in the TEDx talk by Tranberg and the film by Krotoski also.

This led to a very lively debate with a range of views expressed and many concerns about the quantity and nature of data gathering by social media corporations such as Facebook, Google, YouTube among others.  We talked about how easily we gave away our rights in exchange for the convenience of using online apps, frequently without even reading the terms and conditions before ticking the box. We need to be careful because if something appears to be free then it generally means we are the product.

Glenn referred to a symposium After the Future…of Work and a presentation by his colleague Conor McGarrigle in which he explores how we are training our own AI (artificial intelligence) replacements in the workplace by using digital applications.

We also touched on the generational difference in response to these issues; the notion of data in a ‘cloud’ whereas in reality it is stored in very grounded physical locations; the range of legislative jurisdictions versus the ubiquitous internet and the impact on governance and oversight; the use of anonymised big data versus data on specific individuals.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Read: Digital Identity Development is a Process. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  2. Read: Syrian lesbian blogger is revealed conclusively to be a married man. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  3. Read: Your Employee Is an Online Celebrity. Now What Do You Do? a Wall Street Journal article about employees developing their personal brand and implications for their employer. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  4. Look at: the infographic Personal Branding: 10 Steps to a New Professional You. [Accessed 17 November 2017.]
  5. Write the fourth post: to your blog describing your contribution to bringing the group project team together.
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Class 5: The group project

November 8, 2017

Glenn and John started the class by thanking you all for your attendance on Thursday last week and apologising for the change in schedule to those who were unable to make it. Then Locks Aichi joined us for a discussion about the brief for the group project #MeToo.

We started by asking you to reflect on last week’s discussion about Marshall McLuhan which had strong contributions from class members as everyone had read the assigned texts. This was informative in the context of the project so John asked for feedback on what the class felt was expected of them for the project. As you were a little shy to contribute at first we asked for thoughts on what the title #MeToo might mean.

Some of the points raised were that it was easier to engage in this debate online as you only needed the hashtag; and how the medium made a difference in a single month when the issue had been raised originally many years earlier, prior to the coming of online social media. It was pointed out that the anonymity of the internet gives a certain level of comfort to speak up on issues where people might usually have been less ready to speak out. It also can be easier to type than to speak and many are more comfortable about coming forward that way: the greater the momentum the greater the impact. There was a sense that the internet supports greater transparency while at the same time results in greater opacity.

For some of you the hashtag aroused different feelings – #MeToo raises the question of the difference between harassment and assault and whether the use of the hashtag, as part of disclosures of both, conflate the issues unhelpfully. The use of the hashtag was also identified to have removed the taboo around talking about this. Strikingly, Uma Thurman demonstrates a particularly sophisticated understanding of the medium when she responds about standing with those who are affected but not being ready to give a ‘tidy soundbite’. Clearly, she is aware of the permanence of whatever might be said and is not prepared to respond in anger. The impact of the medium is becoming obvious and is a cause for concern when people are ‘tried’ by the masses rather than an objective process. The danger of the bandwagon effect also becomes obvious.

So in considering all this, where is the accountability…? The court system supports due process; the tradition of mass media is only to publish articles when facts have been verified. Whether or not we see this being adhered to there is, at least, an agreed process. The question now is where are the checks and balances on the web? The legal profession struggles to address the age of social media…. the question of who is responsible for defamatory remarks on social media is constantly evolving. As the discussion reached this critical point Glenn referenced the movie Circle (2015) which considered this issue.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. View: Fake It – to control your digital identity. In a 2013 TEDx Oxford presentation Danish journalist Pernille Tranberg, who wrote the book Fake It – Your Guide to Digital Self-defense with the German journalist Steffan Heuer, explains what happens with your data, what it can cost you now and in years to come. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  2. View: The Power of Privacy. In this 2016 film by The Guardian, Aleks Krotoski travels the world to undergo challenges that explore our digital life in the 21st century. Watch her be stalked and hacked, fight to get leaked documents back, dive into open data and live in a futuristic home that monitors her every move. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  3. Read: Who’s watching me on the internet? Technology Correspondent for the BBC, Rory Cellan-Jones writes about our digital footprint and explains data trails in iWonder 2016. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
  4. Read: Poetics of Relation (1997) by the philosopher Édouard Glissant. He argues against the ‘obviousness of a transparency’ from a post colonialist perspective but it seems to resonate with the discussion in class. Or, you can read a summary of the argument here. [Accessed 12 November 2017.]
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Class 4: Media and messages

November 2, 2017

As we moved into November a few scheduling clashes and misfortunes (coupled with this being reading week at DIT) led to the class being held on Thursday this week rather than the usual Wednesday. In addition, the class summary is being posted very much later than usual. Apologies from John and Glenn for disturbing the normal routine but it could not be helped (and thank you for your understanding).

All of you had read the blog post about ‘painfully coming to grips with The Medium is the Message’ and some of you even went on to read the more academic text describing Marshall McLuhan’s influence on ‘reshaping our sensorium’. This led to a lively and informed discussion about McLuhan’s philosophical ideas as expressed in his 1967 collaboration with graphic designer Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage.

We arrived at an understanding of the basis of his theory that mankind is defined by the ability to develop tools – tools that then reshape and redefine the very nature of man and society. Furthermore, we noted that language, and communication in general, is really a tool that has had, and continues to have, the greatest influence on our society. The rapid development of communication technology throughout the 20th Century, culminating with the mass entertainment format of television, was identified by McLuhan to be as significant as the development of speech, writing and printing.

It is clear that we cannot know in what way our tools will affect society. But, McLuhan goes further and suggests that these very tools ‘massage’ us into believing they are merely neutral channels of communication while in fact the tools are having a greater impact on our development than the messages they carry. This development is incremental and not easy to perceive. We cannot predict the future so at best we should try maintain an awareness of the influences of our tools.

We suggested that the digital revolution currently playing out seems to be even more evidence in favour of McLuhan’s theories. His concept of the Global Village coming to life with virtual reality and social media. We will look at this again next class in the context to the group project.

No activities were set for the following week.

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Class 3: Team working

October 25, 2017
Sitearm Madonna on team working

Guest speaker Sitearm Madonna talks about team work through poetry!

This week we were rejoined by the second year group of students on the BA in Visual Art and their course leader Joseph Jacotot (aka Glenn Loughran). This group took the module last semester and enjoyed it so much they wanted to return! They were made welcome by the current group and we had one of the highest numbers of students ever to gather for a class in SL.

Guest speaker Sitearm Madonna (a veteran on this module) spoke about team working, both in Real Life (RL) and in online and virtual environments. His slide deck Team Operations Tips can be reviewed again and, indeed, it is recommended due to the richness of the content. There was only time to touch on it in class. Site speaks from a lifetime of experience working on various teams – some of which he didn’t wish to be a member, others where he was happy to participate and many of which he led. For me the take away point was about the need for constant confirmation that every member of the team is on the same page. Never assume that people agree when it comes to understanding either the project on which the team is working or the decisions that emerge from meetings. This is evident in team work in RL but it is exacerbated in the online environment where our usual human communication cues are missing. Glenn touched on a point that many of you discussed in your blog posts: the importance of voice in online communication. In RL much of our understanding is based on body language, often unconsciously interpreted, which lets us know when individuals in a group reach understanding, consensus and agreement. In the online environment all of this has to be transmitted through voice and text. Therefore, regular reflection as a group is necessary to prevent difficulties.

The issue of leadership in groups and how to encourage it was addressed and Sitearm emphasised the importance of understanding all the roles necessary for group development and progress. He reminded us that members need to flexible when it comes to stepping in and out of the roles as needed. So, the burden and responsibility of leadership actually falls on each member of the group and should be exercised when needed. Here also, the importance of ensuring that the whole groups is aware of the roles they are inhabiting at any time is critical. Negotiation around roles will help this process.

Sitearm provided entertainment during the question and answer session as he changed avatars from The Saint to Sitearm Madonna the elegant lady to a butterfly to artwork and, finally, burning man.

John referred to the #MeToo group project brief asking you all to read both the brief and the assessment criteria very carefully. By now the class was running a little over time so there were no questions directly on the project. We can discuss it in more detail next week. Referring to the first task to be undertaken before the next class John talked about the range of online tools that are available, many free of charge, to support teams and make up for the lack of fact-to-face (F2F) engagement. They cover all aspects team work from communications (Facebook, WhatsApp, We Chat etc), to project management (Trello, Padlet, Google sheets etc), collaborative note taking and writing (PBwiki, Google documents etc).  You should review some of them and there may be others you are familiar with or have used before. Share you experiences with the group.

THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE NEXT CLASS:

  1. Decide: among your group what tools you will use for planning your project (how you will stay in touch and share information, etc.).
  2. Write the third post: on your blog explaining your choice of communication tools and reflect on how the group arrived at the decision.
  3. Read: Living Structures in Second Life Virtual Worlds Projects by Sitearm Madonna. [accessed 27 October 2017].
  4. Read: Painfully Coming to Grips with The Medium is the Message an amusing and accessible introduction to the philosophy of Marshall McLuhan. [accessed 27 October 2017].
  5. Supplementary reading: Extrapolating on McLuhan: How Media Environments of the Given, the Represented, and the Induced Shape and Reshape Our Sensorium provides a deeper analysis of McLuhan. [accessed 27 October 2017].
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