I had a hard time while reading "The Serfdom of Crowds" because I thought the claims made were much too assumptuous and their implications too broad. Lanier claims that by adopting Facebook's definition of a "friend" we are diminishing the concept of friendship to reinforce the superiority of the computer. He makes this claim due to the fact that many adolescents and young adults have bragged about the amount of friends they had on Facebook. But he fails to acknowledge that this may merely be a reflection on the time he wrote the article (a temporary state) or just a reflection of their young age.
I think our discussions in class offers a counterpoint to his argument that we are diminishing friendship by adopting Facebook's vocabulary. When we discussed how many Facebook friends we had in class, most people qualified what they meant by friends. People are aware that a Facebook friend does not equate to 'friendship'. By qualifying our responses we acknowledged a dual definition of 'friend' that which we find on Facebook, which merely suggests an acquantice and those friendships which we have developed and maintained.
Another problem I had with his arguement (I had many) was his belief that: "if money is flowing to advertising instead of to musicians, journalists, and artists, then a society is more concerned with manipulation than with truth or beauty". He believes that when money is made in advertising it is a failure of the crowd. Because it is the crowd who should be pointing the person to the optimal solution. But that is just unrealistic. How would a crowd be aware of a recently opened business? Businesses need to have a means to generate awareness. Advertising should not be looked at as a sign of failure of the crowd, rather a suppliment to crowd behavior. Lanier too broadly characterizes advertising as malicious. He seems to imply that advertising will only to lead to consumerism which in his eyes, is a horrible fate.
I was a little put off by the "Liking is for Cowards" article. While I can't argue that we live in a consumer culture, I thought Franzen read a little too much into the effects of Facebook and other social networks. He went from explaining the narcissistic tendencies of social network users, to explaining how the internet is setting us up for failure in loving relationships. He made it sound like you can't use technology and try to present yourself as like-able and be able to love someone else. He says that people tend to avoid the pain that comes with love, and stay "in the world of liking." I'm not really sure what's wrong with that.
He then goes on to say that if you don't love, you are simply taking up space and burning up resources. So if I'm not in love, I'm useless? I wondered as I read this if Franzen was talking about romantic love. Because there are plenty of people I love, just none who I love romantically. And there are things that I love and things I am passionate about that I live for, but I'm actually not trying to love anyone romantically. I love my family, and a few close friends. I love the values and beliefs and Ritual of my sorority, I am passionate about my career path and following my dreams, and I don't feel the need to love someone else. I love myself, I respect myself, and I surround myself with great people. Maybe that's the narcissism Franzen is talking about, although I don't think it is. For me, this is a happy, fulfilling life.
Ads have got to be the most annoying thing on the Internet. When I’m trying to watch a YouTube video, and up pops a 30 second advertisement that I can’t skip, it is extremely frustrating. Then there are the pop-up ads that you have to close before you go to a site, and the silent ads that are always in the margins of whatever site you are on. And its creepy how tailored the ads are to me specifically. The ads are based of the things I shop for, the articles I read, and the things I do online. However, I guess there is no other way for people to really make money online other than through advertising. So we will just have to put up with it. But its weird how we are changing our culture to fit in better with the education system. Are we really dumbing ourselves down to fit technology into our education? If we are, I am extremely hesitant about the recent trend of giving students iPads in elementary school. But how much is too much technology? Should we go as far as to eliminate the simple calculator in math class? I’m not sure I’d want to do that, but my parents got on without it.
I thought that these two article were a bit depressing to read together, as they both basically talked about how social media is dumbing down our standards for interactions and connections. To quote Lanier, people are “proud to say that they have accumulated thousands of friends on Facebook. Obviously, their statements can be true only if the idea of friendship is diminished.” Franzen makes some of the some general claims, talking about how social media turns into a narcissistic attention feeding fest. I think that both have valid points; we all have friends (if I dare use that term) that have multiple thousands of friends on Facebook and who constantly update their statuses and profile pictures, getting thrills and chills from receiving as many likes as possible.
However, I think that as many of the people in our class have stated, this is a change in culture that we need to be aware of but not overwhelmed by. Most people realize that becoming friends with someone on Facebook might not mean that you’re actually really even more than acquaintances in real life. Twitter followers seem to be even further apart from each other most of the time. A professor of mine in a different class was talking about social media and how he was a snob about it for a long time, never commenting or liking anything on Facebook until one of his friends said, “Really, Michael, are you too good to ever even like something on Facebook?” While we might disagree with some of the cultural trends that social media brings with it, I think that it is too easy to get up in arms about its detriments and forget to enjoy the benefits that it can bring.
I really wanted to agree with Jaron Lanier’s arguments in “The Serfdom of Crowds.” For example, his assertion that “Advertising is elevated by open culture from its previous role as an accelerant and placed at the center of the human universe” makes sense on one level. I agree that with the rise of contextualized ads and better targeting strategies, our society does appear to be more advertising-centric than ever.
Having said that, while Lanier writes in a style that is convincing, something stopped me from fully embracing his claims: His writing is dripping with so much cynicism and contempt for “the hive mind” that it was hard to see past the disdain. Lanier seems to think that current Internet culture has turned us into mindless, ad-hungry drones with no capacity for creativity or individuality. I don’t think this is true.
Perhaps I’m just being naïve, but just because technology places a higher value on data and things that can be computerized doesn’t mean that free-will and self-expression are doomed. Behind every piece of programming code is a human being. Someone – a person – still has to come up with new things for technology to accomplish. An older way of socializing and managing finances (two areas Lanier writes about) may be fading away, but that doesn’t mean the new way is all doom and gloom.
I thought “The Serfdom of Crowds” article was pretty interesting. In particular, the author describes Facebook as turning life into a database and says that most people believe computers can represent human thought or relationships. The author then goes on to discuss how this relationship is taking away from the true concept of friendship. I have to disagree that many of us believe computers as having the power to completely represent these human aspects. Social media sites are more of a way to enhance these thoughts and personal relationships, rather than represent them completely. They also happen to be a tool that provides an intermediate between interactions; we turn our thoughts into written words, which we then post online for our friends and family to see when they cannot be directly in front of us. In addition, I don’t think that social media websites have taken away from the concept of friendship at all. Although it is really common for people to “friend” hundreds or thousands of people they don’t actually know, I think many do recognize that these people are not actually their real friends and are more just acquaintances.
It is a disconcerting thought that we are constantly subjected to advertisements on the internet. That we are paying for these services with our viewing of these advertisements. We are constant consumers of information that tells us what to like. Our desires for consumption are increased by the consistant exposure to products that are tailored to our interests based on everything that we do or say on the internet. Everything that is done on the internet is recorded and recognized by an entity that tailor makes advertisements fit for our individual desires. This is disconcerting as there doesn't seem to be a place where we are not subjected to advertisements that fuel our desires.
"Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts." is a messed up article, digging deep into our "love" for the products we buy. I can follow author Jonathan Franzen's argument as he describes the commercialization of love - buying someone a car for christmas, or diamonds as "forever" - but he looses me as he gets into the dangers of the "Like" button. Because, according to Franzen once people start to "Like" something, it is inevitable that we will change our nature to be liked. I think he's going a little too far here. Sometimes a like is just a like.
Although his description of our one-way love our objects was interesting. I was thinking the other day about why I find myself not wanting to consider buying a new phone that isn't an Apple iPhone. There are other products that have certain features and functionality that are equally good (if not better) than the iPhone.
But I remember being blown away when the iPhone first came out. I hadn't bought a new phone in the eight years prior to the iPhone release and certainly never paid more than $50 for a two-year contract. But iPhone was special. It was worth the extra cost and (apparently) my extra devotion.
I enjoyed reading the new york times article. Although I did not agree with all of his points, I could relate to many of them. When he talks about "likes" and how people feel when they get like and how they feel when they don't. I thought of my friend group. Just this past weekend one of my roommates made me go on instagram to like her photo because no one had. These feelings of constant validation that we get from the simplicity of people liking your pictures on social media is not normal.
However, we live in a culture that promotes that mentality. Just because my friend has 95 likes on her profile picture, but I only have 34, that doesn't mean I'm not cool or I am not as popular. We have become so dependent on getting validation from social media that I really do not know how we would change that type of thinking. I liked the line when the author said technology is just an extension of ourself. We are defined by the things we do and the relationships we make, not by how many friends, followers, or likes we get on our social media accounts.
I found the Likings is for Cowards, Go for what Hurts article to be very enlightening. Jonathan Franzen's article is about how through our interactions with technology, we are becoming complacent and unwilling to let ourselves show passion, to go out and fail, because we are developing this one sided relationship with our technology, for one may ask why they should pursue love, why they should pursue to change the world, when it is so much easier to sit home and tailor our world to ourselves. At first, I was thinking that the author was just disconnected with how markets and marketing worked, I mean of course advertisers and producers want their products to be memorable and to make us happy. But as I read more and more within the article, I found that I came to agree with many of the points Jonathan brought up. Technology is giving a sense of complacancy that may not be there without it; for how much easier is it to talk to someone through a screen, to like a status or a picture or a group about environmentalism, love, or any other issue, than to stand up and face that person head on and say what you want to say and take action in a way that sharing a photo could never achieve. I, myself, am incredibly reliant upon my technology to communicate with friends and to stay connected in their lives, but often I would agree that it IS easier to sit at home and talk to them, than to go to their house, it is easier to text them than to call them up. It is amazing how apt his argument is, that text can creating liking, but only a real connection where one puts themselves out there can create love. Technology can aid this, or it can hinder it, but it is definitely a hurdle that one must step over that did not exist before, it's mirror of oneself can never create true love.
The article "The Serfdom of Crowds" is often cynical about the way that media and technology are currently sitting in today's society. Yet as I read it, I felt that many of the author's points were valid. Oftentimes, the amount of advertising in daily life is overwhelming. When this is contrasted with the amount of "friends" that a modern internet-goer probably has, it can seem that the interactions with advertisers are more important than person-to-person.
The other article, "Liking is for Cowards" was similar in the ways that it called out the culture that has stemmed from the current social norms of technology. I feel that the culture of merely liking things can attribute to people attempting to be likable and generic rather than unique. I feel as though striving to be likable can take away from being who one really is, which is also what Franzen is getting at. I don't feel quite as strongly about it ruining things as he does, but I still think being passionate about things is much more important.
This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on April 24, 2013 10:51 AM.
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