Blogs and the paranormal (Neira's presentation)

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I felt the bravery to read the Thought Catalog piece and the stories about the alien abductions and I can’t say that I regretted it. I think it’s enthralling to read about other’s terror or fright because it allows you to share in their experience (to an extent). I haven’t researched or read very much about paranormal activity until I read the blog stories, although I had heard of BEKs before. As much as I enjoyed reading about paranormal activity, I’m pretty skeptical about it. As the Ted Talk discussed, the internet has made it so easy for people to stay up to date. Thus people can share their accounts of paranormal activities in blogs, feeds, and statuses which the world can learn about seconds later. While it has become easier for people to stay up date, it unfortunately has also made it easier to spread many false claims and hoaxes. Because of this, it is difficult for me to accept some paranormal stories as true. I understand that a BEK supporter would probably counter my skepticism with number of reported instances where people have claimed to have seen BEKs, but what if this was instead a fabricated story that people have continued to tell? I don’t want to be too pessimistic and ruin everyone’s fun, but I probably won’t support BEK until I see one for myself.

-Davika

I used to work odd hours and frequently found myself driving long distances during the night. My absolute favorite thing to occupy my time was to scan the AM stations until I invariably would find a call-in talk show called Coast to Coast AM. If nobody has heard of it, I strongly recommend looking it up. It's awesome if you're a skeptic because a lot of the content is ridiculous, and it's awesome if you're a believer because a lot of it can be convincing. I'm also a fan of r/nosleep and creepypasta. Anyway, my point is that I've heard a lot about Black Eyed Kids and extraterrestrials (and much, much more).

The Clay Shirky TED Talk gave me a way to express my skepticism about the stories I've heard before and those we read in Thought Catalog and Starborn Support. Shirky discussed the immediacy of our new communication technologies. He cited the real-time citizen reporting on the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to illustrate the ubiquity and socialness of contemporary communication technology. And hopefully all of us remember the central role that social communication technology played during the Arab Spring.

Everyone has a phone on them; everyone knows their phone's capabilities in terms of picture, video, and audio capture; and everyone is competent in socially relaying those pictures, videos, and audio recordings. If there was any factuality to the supernatural stories that we were assigned to read for this week, there would have been dozens or hundreds of instances where a witness to an encounter would have been recording. Photographing and sharing images of meals has been a thing for 5 or 6 years at least; I think an alien would pull at least a few phones from pockets.

This leads me to Shirky's other point about audience members speaking to one another. Despite the fact that no physical evidence exists for any of these encounters, let's assume the stories are true. By logging on to Reddit or any other web-based platform, people who have had these experiences can compare notes, and that wasn't quite as possible before. Now let's assume the stories are false; the same thing happens. These stories are propagated by borrowing from one another’s fiction so one story seems to corroborate the other, and the speed of their release creates an illusion of simultaneous testimony over a huge geographic area.

I want to mention that I don't really even care if the stories are true or not. My post here was mostly about why this stuff is probably made up, but that doesn't mean they aren't culturally important. Ghost stories reflect the anxieties of the people telling and hearing them. Maybe creepypasta is just the next generation of spreading spooky folk tales. And maybe the increase over the last 75ish years of stories that center around extraterrestrials simply reflects our technological society. Perhaps in the age of smartphones, cloning, and 3D printing, we don't need Chupacabra or the Jersey Devil. We need technologically-advanced aliens. I guess this speculation doesn't explain how come the Black Eyed Kids stories persist... maybe the spookiness of strangely-behaving young people transcends technology. Maybe teenagers are just evil. It's probably the second one.

I have a hard time believing that people actually believe in aliens let alone being abducted by them and other paranormal activities (I apologize to anyone reading this who does). Both the articles seemed laughable because they are just so ridiculous. They all seem like well detailed fiction stories to entertain audiences not a real life story. That is the problem with the internet and social media; anyone can become a writer you don't need proof to post these stories. So how do we know that these people are telling the truth and even if these people truly believe this that does not mean that it actually happened necessarily. These stories make me truly see that the internet and especially blogs has created a filtering issue and has made it so everyone thinks they are a "journalist" whose stories matter and should be shared with the public, but that does not necessarily mean that these people go about the right processes to share information. Many people in the world would be quick to believe these stories, yet they may not even be real.

-Hannah

-Andrew

Paranormal Activity:

When comparing between either paranormal stories or alien abductions, I find the stories to be more believable. Maybe it’s because I have encountered some of these “ghosts”, or otherworldly things in which I can’t explain and choose to repress the memories. The stories that my parents and grandparents told me when I was younger about their encounters with the supernatural were scary and somewhat believable, but they could just be that – stories. I was sure to have encountered some form of paranormal actiivty during my trip to Vietnam to visit some relatives in the countryside. This was when I was around four to eight years of age, although it could have been my imagination.

There is a certain chilled atmosphere when something does not seem right – the way your neck hairs rise up and how your heart just sinks. It’s the unbearable feeling that fuels your adrenaline when the only sound you hear is your own heartbeat. I don’t know, maybe it was just me overthinking things or the desire to actually see something crazy. Whatever it was, it scared the hell out of me.


Cloning:

The idea of cloning wild animals is one thing, but cloning a man, that’s one step beyond the technology we have today. There was an article that I read about a while back pertaining to a couple cloning their dog, diagnosed with cancer which eventually led to death. However, the operation was successful and the dog has lived a healthy life ever since. Not only that, he was able to express the same behavior as the dead dog, as well as the ability to reproduce. I could dive right into the Jurassic Park franchise and express my fascination with DNA cloning to create prehistoric creatures, but I won’t.

With every step towards advancement, we get closer to harnessing the power to clone the ones we love – in this case, from wild animals to household pets and soon to be members of your family. However, will a human clone express similar behaviors to their previous existence? Will their life be shortened or can we keep cloning them over and over again? I mean, I know that we all want a clone of our own so that one has to do stuff and the other one doesn’t, but let’s be honest, would you want your clone to steal your life (similar to the Adam Gibson fiasco in The 6th Day)?

-Vien

Ignore this one! The one below is easier to read.

When comparing between either paranormal stories or alien abductions, I find the stories to be more believable. Maybe it’s because I have encountered some of these “ghosts”, or otherworldly things in which I can’t explain and choose to repress the memories. The stories that my parents and grandparents told me when I was younger about their encounters with the supernatural were scary and somewhat believable, but they could just be that – stories. I was sure to have encountered some form of paranormal actiivty during my trip to Vietnam to visit some relatives in the countryside. This was when I was around four to eight years of age, although it could have been my imagination.

There is a certain chilled atmosphere when something does not seem right – the way your neck hairs rise up and how your heart just sinks. It’s the unbearable feeling that fuels your adrenaline when the only sound you hear is your own heartbeat. I don’t know, maybe it was just me overthinking things or the desire to actually see something crazy. Whatever it was, it scared the hell out of me.

-Vien

I don’t really understand the fascination with these paranormal and alien abduction stories or why they seem to be so appealing. While I do think it’s probably true that at least one other sentient species besides humanity exists within the entire unknowable expanse of the universe, I don’t believe in the paranormal stuff and don’t really see why any of these, aliens, spirits or whatever the Black Eyed Kids are supposed to be, would even be interested in visiting us humans. Hypothetically, if some alien civilization was technologically sophisticated enough to travel across space to find Earth, wouldn’t they just see a world where people are at war with each other over resources and are nowhere near developed space travel, far behind them in terms of development? What’s so interesting about us that would bring all the extraterrestrials and supernatural beings to our yard? From looking at the comments of these sorts of things, most of the people who do subscribe to these stories like the thrill and adrenaline rush of fear and terror, which isn’t something I’m interested in looking for.

-Andrew

The idea of black eyed kids (BEKs) has all the components required for a pervasive urban legend—spooky entities, inexplicable motivations, and a night setting. These stories are often told with the preface that the author does “not believe in this sort of thing”, as though to lend their self and their story credibility; they’re an “atheist/cynic” unmoved by superstitious hokum. They then go on to detail a narrative that could fall entirely within the realm of the natural and physical world. The story, albeit unusual, requires no assumption of the supernatural. Yet, after going to the trouble of establishing their skeptical credentials, they go on to lend absolute license for a supernatural explanation of events.

The principle BEK narrative has a lone individual awake late at night—spouse, dog, and kid are away or asleep. The night is going splendidly until a knock at the door interrupts them from reading/watching horror stories/movies. At the door we find children, either wearing black contact lenses or with shadows cast over their eyes, who the author refuses to lend assistance.

I enjoyed reading the stories. More so than those on alien abduction, because there is the possibility that they actual did happen and that the author isn’t simply pulling our leg; it’s just that in their nervous state they mistook some hapless children for urban critters of the night.

-Daniel

I wouldn't consider myself a skeptic of paranormal beliefs but it is something I have never been interested in researching or taking time to look into it. Knowing nothing about the Black Eyed Kids, it was interesting to read about some of the "encounters" people have had with them. However, after reading number 11, I began to get skeptical over the whole idea. It would have helped the users cause had he gave a more detailed story. Personally, I doubt he "almost died" and I feel that his post is more sarcastic than informative. To my understanding, the movie series Paranormal Activity began a spree of paranormal interest in our society which in-turn spawned many "reality" shows regarding the paranormal. I have never had any "paranormal" contact myself and when I thought it could be possible I was always able to reason with myself and find evidence against it.

The alien abduction stories carries a similar feeling to the Black Eyed Kids stories. I feel that most of these "encounters" were simply vivid dreams. From experience, it is possible to have dreams and wake up feeling like you were completely immersed in them, having to take a few minutes to gather yourself in the morning. Especially in the story from Dec. 3rd, 2007, the user states that he had the ability to not touch the ground when he fell off the bed as well as heal an alien back to life. To me, the user was just having a very vivid, possibly lucid, dream in which they happened to have no control over the setting and it ended up being an alien abduction.

In essence, blogs and social media give people the power to speak out about these "encounters" they may have had. There is always the saying "you can't believe everything you read," which I feels applies directly to both blogs. However, there will always be people that are certain paranormal influences and alien abductions exist who will find this kind of content useful. To me, these are just good stories I could read out of boredom or if I was trying to get an idea for the next big screenplay. One good thing in our society in America is that we have the freedom do believe in whatever we choose.
-Viktor

I’ve always enjoyed the spooky alien and paranormal stories and movies, purely from an entertainment standpoint. However, I’ve never taken them too seriously or truly believed any of them. In this age of technology where people are able to post anonymously on blogs makes for a perfect setting for spooky story-tellers like those in the Black Eyed Kids piece. Writers are able to post whatever stories they want without having to back it up with any real proof. However, that’s not to say these stories weren’t worth reading. It’s always fun to imagine what you would do in the shoes of the people in these stories. Many of the stories still managed to give me the creeps, even knowing that they were likely fiction.

-Justin

Alright, I am officially freaked out right now. Let me start by saying that I have always believed in ghosts and aliens both. I do not believe in God per say, but I do believe that some messed up things can happen to our minds, soles, and bodies after death. And as for aliens, I refuse to believe that in a universe so vast, we are the only intelligent beings around. The fact that I do believe is probably what fuels the terror the most. I can read stories like the ones we read, and I can visualize it happening to me because I do believe. It is probably easier for a person who doesn't believe to simply dismiss it and laugh it off.

I actually only made it through 3 of the BEK stories as of now... I am still deciding if I am going to go back and read more. Chances are I will not sleep tonight if I do. The alien stories particularly got to me because I actually have a relationship with the time of 3:33 which was mentioned a few times in the stories. It happens often that I look at a clock at exactly 3:33. Now I know, the ratio of the exact times we look at a clock could probably pan out to be pretty even across the board, but it honestly seems like it is 3:33 quite often for me. Well perhaps not so much recently, but for a while about a year ago, it seemed every time I looked at a damn clock it was that time. No matter if I was in the car, in bed, looking at my phone, or looking at my watch. It really actually began to freak me out and I even started waking up in the middle of the night at 3:33. Yes we are all filled with the evil meaning of this time through stories and tales, and so that could have something to do with it. But I gotta tell ya, when your a person who believes in the paranormal, it affects you.

I have always sort of believed that people who are more open to the thought of ghosts, aliens, or paranormal activity in general are more of a target for these things to happen to them. If you open your mind to the possibility of it, then you are that much more likely to be contacted by something. I have always kind of assumed that something crazy is going to happen to me someday because of this... and that thought terrifies me and excites me all at the same time. I have always said that I just don't want to be hurt or have someone else be hurt. But if I could use it as a learning experience about our world, I would be all for it! Although ignorance is bliss and so maybe I don't want to know what there is to learn about these topics.

Anyway, thank you for officially giving me the willies tonight hahah!

Erica

It is in our nature to develop a baseline/prototypical idea of what is going on in our environment, and build off of it when we adapt to similar or new ones. As I was reading the Thought Catalog article, I began noticing a few patterns in the sightings of the BEKs -- feeling overcome with a premature sense of dread, and requests to use either the telegraph (ha!) or phone. A few people also mused about the possibility of the BEKs just being ordinary kids/teens/whatever with black scleral contacts "just to troll with people." I couldn't help but begin to wonder when these stories were published in proximity to one another. Apparently BEKs have been a thing for some time now, or at least since the 1990s, and occurring in multiple locations. Blogs like these make it easier to quantify certain parts about sightings and connect with others, but do little to provide evidence that these occurrences actually existed. Anecdotes can only do so much. Now, if people wrote records of these encounters without the communication technology we have today and in different locations across the globe, then I'd probably be more disconcerted toward these stories. In this hypothetical situation, the authors of these stories would not necessarily be influenced or aware of other stories by accessible means that the Internet now facilitates.

Not the biggest fan of reading about scary things but this is a topic that is very intriguing. One cannot simply ignore the thought and idea that there are paranormal activities. If I'm not mistaken its in many religious beliefs that paranormal activities are considered evil and have a negative appeal towards the subject. What is very interesting is how the connection was made with technology and society. Communications is a huge aspect of technology. A lot of the stuff I read is channeled though social media, online articles and sometimes word of mouth. Chances are that the word of mouth news that I'm hearing is probably from social media as well. My friends always share with me crazy stories they read on the internet, but never stuff about BEKs and scary paranormal activity. I'm personally not crazy about reading about paranormal activities. If the slightest paranormal activity is happening around me at any given second, I make sure I get to the nearest sane body and share my observations with them. The internet has opened the door for what I normally do. Oh reddit.

Abukar

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This page contains a single entry by Capper Nichols published on March 31, 2014 11:30 AM.

Cloning (Davika's presentation) was the previous entry in this blog.

"What Computers Mean for Man and Society" - Herbert Simon; "Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer" - Wendell Berry; "No Country for Old Typewriters...." is the next entry in this blog.

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