[-empyre-] Welcome to Week 3 on -empyre-: Internet/Online Representation

Anna Everett everett at filmandmedia.ucsb.edu
Wed Apr 22 06:30:52 AEST 2015

Ben, wait! I wanted to be talked down! And I was asking for that in
the spirit of helping me to not be overly paranoid about certain
recommender algorithms. Okay. So, I thank you so much for weighing in.
Now, let me get to the rest of your post.

I just wanted to assure you that I in no way am taking offense. Please
know that. That figure of speech "talk me down" is a way to ask
someone to help me think "differently" about an issue. I wanted to say
this first of all. Now I look forward to reading the rest of your
message. I am eager . . .

Now, back to your response that just came.


On Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 10:05 AM, B. Bogart <ben at ekran.org> wrote:
> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello Anna,
> I had no intent whatsoever to "talk down" at all. Please let me know
> off-list how that came across and how I can avoid it in the future. I
> can imagine my interest in using somewhat plain language and making few
> assumptions may appear over-explanatory. I hope I did not misunderstand
> your message.
> My main point regarding identity was not so much the aspect of identity
> as caricature, but more the notion of whether unconscious
> characteristics and behaviours are part of identity and what it means
> for systems to learn those without our explicit consent or knowledge of
> the process.
> Indeed there is a cost of admission to many online systems, often in the
> form of ToS, as you state. This is consistent with the sense that much
> online discussion happens in 'private spaces', rather than open public
> spaces (online or offline). Part of the ongoing erosion of 'the commons'.
> I still need to think about this more, but I think there is something
> different in agreeing to terms (allowing sites to collect our data) and
> the use of that data in order to facilitate particular behaviours.
> Perhaps that is the purpose of any product, not to fulfil a need, but to
> reinforce an insatiable need.
> I think the majority of our behaviour is habitual and not often
> critically reflected upon. The notion of a system learning these habits
> could certainly encourage a good user experience, good meaning efficient
> and 'natural'. At the same time it seems that a system that nudges your
> habits in incremental ways could be a very insidious method of
> engineering behaviour, and in the context of this month's theme, even
> engineering identity.
> Thanks for the link to the article, I had not come across it. I recall
> reading something about self-objectification leading to a shift of the
> sense of "pleasure" being less embodied and more related to how one
> looks to an external observer. A conflation of what feels good and what
> looks good? This does seem to indicate the media representation of
> identity (selfie) is conflated with the subject (self).
> I have not read a lot of theory on identity. Are identities considered
> unmediated, or are they always mediated by a system of representation?
> i.e. is an identity a representation of self, or a sense of self?
> (apologies if this has already been discussed, I did not catch all the
> emails this month).
> Again, I apologize for coming off as 'talking down'.
> Ben
> On 15-04-21 09:02 AM, Anna Everett wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> Ben, while I am not sure I have been "talked down" completely, your
>> comment provides fodder as I formulate more clearly my concerns with
>> recommender algorithms where race matters (not to dredge up that
>> current Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson unfriending public split)
>> online identity, and ideology collide.
>> You remarked: "Does identity as a model become a caricature? In order
>> to be socially engaged online, do we unconsciously internalize these
>> caricatures and enforce them in order to fit the technologies we use?"
>> As I was contemplating your response to me, I was thinking that it is
>> not necessarily that I/we internalize the caricatures and enforce them
>> to fit the technologies, but more it has become the price of our
>> internet participation ticket, like accessing any software update. You
>> don't get to "discuss" or challenge the terms of agreement, you ether
>> "agree" or you do not get updated. And besides, who reads the
>> impenetrable legalese intended to ensure your non-reading of the terms
>> of agreement. Anyhow, apropos of your observation, I found this Huff
>> Post article quite pertinent:
>> "How Facebook Stalking Could Lead Women To Objectify Their Own Bodies"
>> <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/20/facebook-stalking-makes-you-feel-bad_n_7100832.html?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067>
>> Again, Ben, thanks for joining our discussion week.
>> Anna
>> On Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 3:15 PM, B. Bogart <ben at ekran.org> wrote:
>>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>>> Hello Anna,
>>> Your observation on the apparent identity of target marking materials is
>>> very interesting. I've been using an add-blocker and opting out of paper
>>> mailing lists for so long that I have not even thought about how a
>>> system's perception of my identity could be used to influence the
>>> appearance of people in ads. I rarely see targeted ads at all.
>>> What concerns me is how this process is driven; what online behaviours
>>> do we exhibit that were noticed by the system and taken as indicators of
>>> gender, ethnicity, etc.?
>>> Essentially, these recommender / target marketing systems model our
>>> behaviour in order to predict and facilitate behaviours that are
>>> favourable to the context of deployment. These systems may (likely do)
>>> capture unconscious aspects of our behaviour that are useful in
>>> predicting our behaviour.
>>> I wonder if this bypasses the very notion of identity as being an aspect
>>> of us in some way. We continue on to act as we do, both intentionally
>>> and unintentionally, and the systems we interact with increasingly
>>> construct a model of our identity. This model may even be at odds with
>>> what we think of ourselves, and yet be functional in the sense of
>>> predicting our behaviour. Add to that the notion of the model being the
>>> property of the organization collecting the data, and there is a
>>> potential for the organization to not only know us better than we know
>>> ourselves, but also own (and be able to trade) that knowledge.
>>> Does identity as a model become a caricature? In order to be socially
>>> engaged online, do we unconsciously internalize these caricatures and
>>> enforce them in order to fit the technologies we use?
>>> Ben
>>> On 15-04-20 12:32 PM, Anna Everett wrote:
>>>> So, what got me thinking,
>>>> and I may need you and the other co-panelists to talk me down here,
>>>> why are nearly all e-commerce ads being pushed to me featuring black
>>>> women models? I began noticing that occurring in print catalogues from
>>>> department stores. It is as though there is the black and white
>>>> consumer versions of ads.
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> empyre forum
>>> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
>>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.artdesign.unsw.edu.au
> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu

Anna Everett, Ph.D.

Department of Film and Media Studies
2322 Social Sciences and Media Studies (SSMS) Bldg.
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA  93106-4010
Email:  everett at filmandmedia.ucsb.edu
Phone: 805.893.8706
Fax:   805 893.8630

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