Where’s All of This Going?

Puppets

Chapter 6 of Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication was pretty alarming. The title of the chapter, “Human + Machine Culture: Where We Work” by Bernadette Longo is almost misleading considering where this chapter took me.

The concept of this “all-inclusive” community where there’s a general understanding of “normal discourse” that crosses cultures seemed a lot like most social media/networking platforms I’m familiar with. Longo went on to aruge that any community being all-inclusive defies reason, as exclusions are what define a community.

I believe that even the rejects remain part of the community because upon their exclusion, their existence and identity is still defined by the community they are not part of. As Jameson pointed out (pg. 157) regarding traditional “misfits” such as the homeless, “No longer solitary freaks and eccentrics, they are henceforth recognized and accredited sociological category, the object of scrutiny and concern of the appropriate experts, and clearly potentially oraganizable.”

Relating this concept to the virtual community, Longo mentioned Rheingold’s model of inclusive community (pg. 151) excluding people who can’t afford computers, the technological illiterate, and the “uncool”. I partially agree with this, but I also see Jameson’s point that the members of these three categories are still relevant to mainstream virtual culture.

There’s an abundance of philanthropic organizations dedicated to providing the needy with computers and the training they’ll need to use them such as Connecting for Good, Computers with Causes and Angie’s Angel Help Network. They consider themselves to be “closing the digital divide” and not allowing poverty to prevent people from being connected. These people are very important in digital culture, and helping them become part of it is seemingly paramount.

The “uncool” individuals that have gotten themselves isolated are typically those who spew hateful, and indecent comments/information online. They’re not as relevant as the needy that can’t afford to buy or learn to use a computer, but they’re often the subject of criticism, mockery, and cautionary tales.

For example, I remember the rising reality TV star Tila Tequila who ruined her career with a series of blog posts sympathizing with Adolf Hitler calling him “a man of compassion”. She started out as a MySpace celebrity, and starred on a dating show called “A Shot at Love”. She released an album as a recording musician, and began appearing on reality TV shows more frequently.

In 2013, she began her Hitler blog and was immediately kicked off “Celebrity Big Brother”. I haven’t seen her on any show since, and the word “crazy” follows the only references I hear of her name. She is still part of the virtual world, she’s simply in an unfavorable category with her own following.

Aside from all of this, the “techno scientific categories of legitimated knowledge” Longo equated to the word of God in Western society is what shook me up. Katz’ example of the role technical communication played in Nazi Germany (pg. 155) really opened my eyes to the power technical communicator’s actually have.

He elaborated, “expediency is the only technical ethic, perhaps the only ethic that pure rationality knows”. On page 157, Longo elaborated on Jameson’s argument that, “We find ourselves—a situation in which the ethos of multinational corporations and technoscience profoundly shapes our lived experiences and therefore what we will find persuasive.” They even go as far as helping us relate it to nostalgic concepts we may or may not have even experienced.

As a member of this “all-inclusive virtual community” I do feel the control of the multinational corporations and technoscience influences. There are times I wonder if the options and information presented to me as acceptable are actually the best, but as Longo stated (pg. 164), “We [accept this] because we desire the benefits we derive from these positive aspects more than we reject the negative effects”. I agree with this completely.

My concern is how this situation will evolve. Who are the elitists running this puppet show, and what’s their ultimate goal? Technical communicators do as they’re told, they’re creating the content, but they’re following instructions. It seems as if this super elitist group has immeasurable power, and it will only get stronger through time. Who is holding this super power accountable? More importantly, who are they? The multi-cultural, all-inclusive community is real, and we’re at the mercy of these faceless puppet masters.

Posted on November 1, 2015, in Digital, Social Media, Society, Teaching, Technology, television, Trust. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Hi Natasha!

    I’m glad you chose to respond to this chapter. I also found it alarming. The decision over how much an individual should invest in and share with online communities seems important and deeply personal. My usual game plan is to at least dip my toe into the big popular platforms while keeping my privacy in mind. I think that maintaining a certain level of privacy online is a good practice, and that the skills and knowledge necessary to make these decisions should be taught or made widely available for people to use when making their own decisions.

    As for Longo, to claim that relationships that are maintained long distance through technology are by default less genuine, or to state that efficient technical communication leads to Nazi-logic is alarming and, frankly, offensive! I’m not religious myself, but Longo’s ideas that technology will suffocate religion also seems dubious to me. In my own social networks I have observed a lot of people express their faith and receive affirmation from their family and friends. Have I misinterpreted her writing? Am I exaggerating her statements?

    Maybe I’ve already drunk the internet’s social media kool aid, and now I can’t see the danger because I’m already so far invested.

  2. Hi Natasha,
    It was really interesting to see how you approached the Human + Machine culture chapter. I too wrote an article this week about my perception on the Human + Machine culture but in a much different aspect. I really liked your overall take on this chapter, but what was different, was my perception was merely the opposite of yours. In lieu of a culture where we mimed by puppeteers, my focus was on how it actually allowed individuals who are often degraded in our public society a more 1:1 comparison in the real online world.

    Overall your example though of Tila Tequila seemed right on queue – I haven’t heard that name in quite some time, but I can see how those in a higher standing position may be held more accountable for their actions – especially the more and more politically incorrect their actions were.

    Chelsea

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