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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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