Question Forum A

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The questions and responses in this forum refer to Introduction (1-10) and Chapter 1 (11-39) in Turner's From Counterculture to Cyberculture. For reference, the
Essay Sequence assignment. Discussion leaders will post their Keywords by January 28. Commentaries — Group 1 commentary — will be posted within a week after the class presentation on February.


Online Identities-

1) On page 13, Turner discusses John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which argues that the cyber world is made up of bodiless identities, and therefore cannot be governed. Consider Barlow’s quote on page 14: “I live at gro.ffe|wolraB#gro.ffe|wolraB. That is where I live. That is my home. If you want to find me, that’s the only place you’re liable to be able to do it…”
-Do you agree that a person’s internet presence can be more real than their actual physical presence, and that a person can live their life anonymously online? Or do you believe that behind each ‘bodiless identity’ there is a real human life that should be held accountable for the online activity attributed to him or her?
-Katie Collins

Responses

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However, there is no way I can agree that a person's Internet presence can be more real than their actual physical bodies. I understand what Barlow is getting at with his quote, but there is no way he actually believes that he lives at his e-mail address.
-Jared Putman

I think that a person’s internet presence can not be more real than their actual physical presence, but I agree that their internet presence may make contact with them much easier and therefore superior to what they can actually offer you in physical presence.
- Elizabeth Hardwick

I believe that a person can create two completely different lives; an actual physical life and a fake cyber life.
- Anne-Randolph Scott

I think the bottom line is that without the physical realm, the Internet couldn't exist. It’s not just a series of links, websites and data – this information also resides on physical hardware.
- Jordan Davis

While the internet should allow for the freedom of speech and ideas, it should also hold people accountable. Just because the internet allows for “bodiless entities” does not mean that those entities do not reside anywhere.
-Katelyn Webster

These alternate online lives could easily destroy a person. People need to be held accountable for what they do and the amount of time they dedicate to this other persona.Gaming Addiction
-Vance Roberts

It really just depends on how much time a person spends in the virtual world. I do not believe that the online persona can be all that there ever would be of a person.
-Megan Mercer

There is a clear issue in today’s society regarding someone’s online identity vs. their “real life” identity. I guess what the real question is: which one is someone’s “real” identity? Isn’t their perception equal to their reality?
-Michael Yi

Computers and Society

2) According to Turner on page 16, the computational metaphor became "an emblem of…personal integrity, individualism, and collaborative sociability". The disembodiment of computers were viewed differently; some believed it "marked the height of dehumanization", others saw it "as a route to a more holistic life". At the end of the twentieth century, computers "served as a metaphor for the organization of production and labor…[which] promised to liberate both individuals and society".
-What view do you agree or disagree with, and why? Do you believe the computer stands for something? What do you think the computational metaphor is?
Aimee Gervacio

Responses

Computers have benefits and consequences. It all depends on the humans who use them. Everything good or bad has always been based on the ability of man to reason and his moral ideals.
-Brittney Trimmer

Function of Media

3) Norbert Wiener believed that "the media ideally served to 'correct' the actions of public leaders by offering them accurate information about the performance of society as a whole" (Turner 22-23).
-Is this true? Do you agree or disagree with Wiener? What kind of evidence can be given for either side of the argument?
-Aimee Gervacio

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Responses

With social networking tools and the ability to comment on almost everything found online, comments can become news themselves.
—Lindsey Sutphin

The media is a funny thing because there are often so many hands in the pot. We often forget how heavily the media is influenced by advertising…Ultimately, what governs the media's actions is a highly complex system, not a simple, altruistic relationship with our nation's leaders.
-Gordon Ligon

If the media controls or public leaders, who controls the media?
-Michael Yi

Future of Computers

4) In a 1998 interview Kevin Kelly explained his belief that human beings were slowly but surely moving toward believing that "the universe is a computer. (Turner 15)
-Knowing what you know about computers, and human history as a whole, do you agree with this statement. Or is it simply a very broad generalization?
-Elliott Ditman

Responses

Man is not on the way to believing “the universe is a computer;” however, they are looking at their world in a more technological way.
-Brittney Trimmer

I believe there is something organic about the human race though; instinct cannot be replicated. Artificial intelligence could only take the human race but so far, so a computerized universe, while perhaps metaphorically accurate, does not seem to hold enough meaning.
-Lorelle Stephanski


1) On page 13, Turner discusses John Perry Barlow’s “Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace,” which argues that the cyber world is made up of bodiless identities, and therefore cannot be governed. Consider Barlow’s quote on page 14: “I live at gro.ffe|wolraB#gro.ffe|wolraB. That is where I live. That is my home. If you want to find me, that’s the only place you’re liable to be able to do it…”
-Do you agree that a person’s internet presence can be more real than their actual physical presence, and that a person can live their life anonymously online? Or do you believe that behind each ‘bodiless identity’ there is a real human life that should be held accountable for the online activity attributed to him or her?
Katie Collins

2) According to Turner on page 16, the computational metaphor became "an emblem of…personal integrity, individualism, and collaborative sociability". The disembodiment of computers were viewed differently; some believed it "marked the height of dehumanization", others saw it "as a route to a more holistic life". At the end of the twentieth century, computers "served as a metaphor for the organization of production and labor…[which] promised to liberate both individuals and society".
-What view do you agree or disagree with, and why? Do you believe the computer stands for something? What do you think the computational metaphor is?
Aimee Gervacio

3) Norbert Wiener believed that "the media ideally served to 'correct' the actions of public leaders by offering them accurate information about the performance of society as a whole" (Turner 22-23).
-Is this true? Do you agree or disagree with Wiener? What kind of evidence can be given for either side of the argument?
Aimee Gervacio

4) In a 1998 interview Kevin Kelly explained his belief that human beings were slowly but surely moving toward believing that "the universe is a computer. (Turner 15)
-Knowing what you know about computers, and human history as a whole, do you agree with this statement. Or is it simply a very broad generalization?
Elliott Ditman


On Question 1: I think that this is a very interesting question and it is one that I asked myself when I read this section of the book. More and more in today's world people are living out their lives on the Internet. World of Warcraft, Second Life, and MySpace are all examples of this. However, there is no way I can agree that a person's Internet presence can be more real than their actual physical bodies. I understand what Barlow is getting at with his quote, but there is no way he actually believes that he lives at his e-mail address. If that were true then he could just as easily say the same thing about his regular mail box since they each serve the same purpose.

I do have to say that this whole notion of "bodiless entities" kind of scares me and at the same time I see it happening more and more. Since so many things can be done with the Internet, many physical actions are becoming obsolete. Phone calls, written messages/letters, even alarm clocks can all be replaced by a computer with a broadband connection. It seems that this new digital age we find ourselves in is starting to prove that physical interaction with the outside world is becoming passe and outdated. Who new that reality was actually just a trend and now it seems to be headed in the same direction as Members Only jackets and betamax tapes.
-Jared Putman


Question 1:
I think that a person’s internet presence can not be more real than their actual physical presence, but I agree that their internet presence may make contact with them much easier and therefore superior to what they can actually offer you in physical presence. That sounds kind of odd, but what I mean to say is that it’s true that communication in person is certainly more informative, genuine, and more real in this physical world. But with the whole ‘shrinking time’ phenomenon we talked about in class, most people either don’t, or don’t believe they have a lot of time to physically meet with people. Or with so much business travel are not often enough in the same location like Barlow enough to have time to do more than repack their bags and pay bills before jumping on the next train or plane. Their online internet presence is usually the best way to really have contact with them more consistently, and feel more connected to them than if you were to only have that rushed physical meeting for a long lunch every month. For example, would you feel more connected to a friend whom you ate brunch with once a month for 2 hours, or a friend you e-mailed with once a day, chatted online, and received twitters from on a daily basis.

To address the other part of the question I think it would be difficult to really live a life anonymously online. Someone on a chat board may not know your name, where you live, or what you do for a living, but they will be able to see whatever you post, who you communicate with, and recognize your opinions on different topics. By this method they will associate whatever things you do online, whatever characteristics you display, and however you respond to people, with your screen name which is the online representative as you as a person.

I agree with the fact that people should also be accountable for their presence online, because they have the power to influence people and physical objects in the real world with their online presence. In other words if you order a used book offline through Amazon, and the person accepts your offer and money but never sends the book to you, they should be held accountable for their actions. Another example is if someone hacked into your computer and stole your credit card information, they should certainly be held accountable for their actions. In a more positive light, if someone online posts and enlightening and uplifting blog or funny video of cute kittens, they are usually rewarded by happy and thankful comments from other internet users, and therefore were held accountable for what they did.
- Elizabeth Hardwick


Regarding question 1: In today’s society, we rely on the Internet for countless things. Without a doubt, the Internet has brought convenience to the lives of millions; we can access news stories, conduct research, view homework assignments and grades, check weather reports, watch television shows, and look up sports statistics and that does not even begin to cover the vast opportunities that the Internet allows us. And perhaps the most convenient, yet unrealistic thing we can do is communicate with others.

I believe that a person can create two completely different lives; an actual physical life and a fake cyber life. The presence of social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have definitely helped people create anonymity. However, every ‘bodiless identity’ has been created by a ‘real human life,’ and regardless of the time and energy one invests to create that ‘bodiless identity,’ it still remains fake and the real person is accountable for not only their fake actions, but their real actions too. And for real people, the Internet allows us to be someone we are truly not. We can become the most perfect versions of ourselves by posting only our best photographs or typing what we think others want to see. But, we can hide behind the computer screen for only so long. Eventually we will have to physically face the people we are friends with on Facebook and they will see the true versions of which we are; the imperfect, versions of ourselves that we try to hide behind the computer screen; and the real version of ourselves are the ones that will be held accountable for the Internet presence we created.
- Anne-Randolph Scott


In response to Question 1: When first looking at this question I immediately thought of pennames. Authors have been writing for centuries under an assumed identity. It allows them to write about taboo topics freely without fear of repercussions. The same is true of those individuals who “live” primarily online. Most of these individuals adopt an alternate identity that enables them to do/say things they normally would not because there is no physical consequences. In this way it is difficult to hold them accountable because they don’t exist.
The question then becomes, who are these people? Are they who they claim to be in person or not? Pictures online reveal a lot, but at the same time they too may be staged. It is a new realm for actors attempting to gain celebrity status and leave their mark in the minds of others.
People who travel and use the internet as a means of communication are operating under a completely different set of rules. It is then a tool for professional/personal reasons. Take dating sites for instance, they advertise that you will find the love of your life, more or less, and it is all made possible by the “bodiless identity” that people portray. It is more beneficial to those participating to be honest about who they really are.

Question 2: Computers have benefits and consequences. It all depends on the humans who use them. Everything good or bad has always been based on the ability of man to reason and his moral ideals. The problem is that some reasoning is inherently evil, such as the Nazi example. If Hitler, say were to have hold of a computer, imagine how much easier it would have been for him to develop weapons and means of genocide. On the other hand, what he was doing would have been discovered more quickly. By making information more available we are empowering people to be more active, in an educated way. It is ideal and utopian, however, because most people do not educate themselves even though they have the means.
The computational metaphor represents the ability to disseminate information across various disciplines and by doing so enlightening man’s mind.

Question 4: Man is not on the way to believing “the universe is a computer;” however, they are looking at their world in a more technological way. The book mentioned the idea of the mind being an electrical circuit/being able to be triggered by electrical currents. Many neurologists view the relationship between neurons and the brain as one of electrical connections. This is still persistent despite contrary evidence that it is not an electrical signal from a neuron to the brain that triggers movement or a feeling for instance but that it originates in the brain instead from memory. Man is moving from a more natural view of the world, one that involves the senses and tangible parts, to one that is simply intangible. A computer can transport you to an entirely different country via a little camera. It is fascinating but at the same time frightening because this type of interaction is becoming some peoples view of reality. The realism of video games and other such advances are distorting our ideas of what is real and what isn’t. So, in layman’s terms I would have to disagree with the statement as it plainly stands, but from a broader view it is a growing perception in a non-literal sense. (If that makes sense.)

-Brittney Trimmer


About Question 1:

I’m a bit torn when it comes to this question. On the one hand, I realize that someone can have a vastly different personality online, but on the other hand, anything that happens online can be traced back to a physical individual. Even the concept of governance of the Internet has its pros and cons, and I’m not entirely sure which one outweighs the other, or if it’s even possible to try to break the situation down into a black-or-white sort of scenario like that.

A good example is the current battle between Google and China over censorship and privacy. Obviously China is attempting to control the portion of the Internet that reaches its region of the world, and use it as a tool for propaganda and as a method of control over its population. Another good example of attempted governance gone awry was Comcast Cable’s throttling of peer-to-peer traffic (which in addition to illegal file-sharing, can have legitimate legal purposes). This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the “net neutrality” legislation in the works, which would prevent internet service providers from deciding which areas of the Internet get the highest bandwidth (essentially charging more to make certain sites and services faster than others).

On the flip side, there are positive ways in which law and order can reach the Internet. I think if the Internet truly were beyond the laws of physical society, people would be in an uproar. Imagine what people could do and get away with if their physical forms weren’t held accountable for the behavior of their online personas. Things that the majority of society consider deplorable (child pornography, bestiality, identity theft, fraud) would be rampant, uncontrollable, and unpunishable. Even something as small as Google’s sorting of search results could be considered a mechanism to control the Internet (though, it could also be argued that this helps prioritize the most reliable and desirable results).

I think the bottom line is that without the physical realm, the Internet couldn’t exist. It’s not just a series of links, websites and data – this information also resides on physical hardware. And the servers that house this data reside within various countries around the world. As a result, the information stored on these machines and accessed through them is subject to the laws of whatever country they are located in. And the situation is basically the exact same for humans – a great deal of intangible material stored in a physical form. So I think until such a time as our minds no longer need to reside in physical bodies, the bodies will still be held responsible for any products of the mind.

- Jordan Davis


Question 4:

This is an interesting question — I don't believe the universe will be sucked into a "giant computer" by any means, but I do think the mindset is that of technological obsession. Facebook, e-mails, shopping, and other daily computer activities consume the lives of people around the world. Yet it is interesting to think that many believe "thinking is a type of computation, DNA is software, evolution is an algorithmic process." The idea that history repeats itself is worth noting here. Is transition natural? Or is it calculated and inevitable?

I believe there is something organic about the human race though; instinct cannot be replicated. Artificial intelligence could only take the human race but so far, so a computerized universe, while perhaps metaphorically accurate, does not seem to hold enough meaning.

-Lorelle Stephanski


Question 1:

I feel that while the internet should allow for the freedom of speech and ideas, it should also hold people accountable. Just because the internet allows for “bodiless entities” does not mean that those entities do not reside anywhere. The ideas and information on the internet came forth from the minds of those who willingly sharing the “knowledge.” More so, the internet should have rules to govern it; it is full of just as much (if not more) crime than the actual world. It is this reason that the government monitors information shared on the internet. If anything, I feel that a life could be lived more anonymously in the physical world versus the internet world.

-Katelyn Webster


Question 3:

If one believes the media’s ideal purpose is to correct public leaders by giving information about society’s performance, I think you could defend that belief through the idea of feedback. Rarely do politicians and other leaders directly communicate with the public through their own means of communication; usually a news source will pick out the “most important” part of a speech of debate and broadcast it. The public then reacts, through interviews with randomly-chosen citizens and the increasingly large use of the comments sections for major news sources. By seeing the public debate or react to issues amongst themselves, presumably with no moderation or censorship, politicians can get a better view of their constituents’ stances on public policies.

However, I also think you can argue that there is no point debating the media’s ideal purpose since the way we receive our news changes and the role of the media itself changes. Since many news sources are seen as being biased, the idea that they are offering accurate and holistic information is nonexistent. Also, with social networking tools and the ability to comment on almost everything found online, comments can become news themselves. In that case, there are so many differing views and varying degrees of involvement that public leaders cannot decipher information about the performance of society as a whole.

—Lindsey Sutphin


Question 3
Sorry this is late guys. Got snowed in at Floyd and didn't make it back till this morning. I hope you can still use this.

The media is a funny thing because there are often so many hands in the pot. We often forget how heavily the media is influenced by advertising. Hence, most media decisions are governed by short term, selfish interests. Therefore, newspeople, writers, producers are all concerned with what brings in the most viewers (whether it be TV or internet). The more views, the more successful they are. This may seem completely unrelated to how the government and media interact, but stay with me.

The media satisfies some sort of need in the consumer (basic business ideology) So, the best way to get the most views over a long period of time is to create a sustainable system. Viewer loyalty emerges when a media outlet satisfies a need temporarily. Hence, the consumer has a perpetual lack and keeps coming back to have it satisfied. This is good business sense. As a result we get cultural standards that govern our subconscious. Think of how many action films set a standard that the average male cannot hope to live up to. How many commercials advertise women with features that the average female will never attain. Hence we have a cultural lack. The people want to look/act like that. The media is a business that satisfies that lack.

Small note. I'm not trying to wax moralistic against the media at all. It has simply developed an ESS (evolutionary stable strategy). A media outlet that satisfied a need permanently would die out fairly quickly (like an animal eating all of its food without cultivating it). The point is, this cultural lack does not have agency. You cant blame anyone for it. It simply emerges and businesses capitalize on it.

So the media is fixated on getting views and perpetuating this cultural lack (whether consciously or unconsciously so). It is a business. Hence the media is very complicated, especially in its relationship with our leaders. First and foremost, our leaders are subjected to the same cultural lacks that we are (perhaps even more so in order to better empathize with their constituents). This ultimately skews the reality our society for both leaders and citizens. Everyone has a hand in the pot. To consider the media as an accurate source of what the public wants is foolish. The government doesn't pay them for a clean appraisal; the advertisers pay them to draw in viewers. Ultimately, what governs the media's actions is a highly complex system, not a simple, altruistic relationship with our nation's leaders.

Hope this helps!

-Gordon Ligon


I completely forgot that we were supposed to post these on Saturday instead of Sunday - sorry! Hope I'm not too late.

Question 1:
With how popular games like World of Warcraft happen to be these days, I think it would be very easy for someone to view themselves as their avatar instead of being their original body. At one point, I used to play World of Warcraft on a pretty regular basis and during that time I knew plenty of people who were online so often that I wasn’t even sure if they knew anything else. I feel that, for the most part, someone could easily live his or her life online. However, I don’t think that they would become completely anonymous. They would take on the person of whatever character they are playing in Azeroth or whatever other world they’ve decided to occupy. They could get a job online and never tell their employer everything and they could do any shopping they need online, too.

While I do think all of that is entirely possible, I don’t think we should allow it to happen if possible. These alternate online lives could easily destroy a person. People need to be held accountable for what they do and the amount of time they dedicate to this other persona. If people are left to turn their online personas into their entire life, we could end up with more stories like this on a regular basis.

-Vance Roberts


Question 1

I believe that the extent to which a person’s online presence becomes more real than their physical presence and known life depends on the person. Certain people allow who they are on Facebook or in the game Call of Duty to become a more active part of their persona than others. It really just depends on how much time a person spends in the virtual world. I do not believe that the online persona can be all that there ever would be of a person.

Therefore, if actions performed online violate laws then that person should definitely be held accountable. A link will always exist between a screen name or online identity and the individual behind it. Something that I feel strengthens this point is that online activity is linked to an IP address of a computer or mobile device. Often times in the television show Law and Order the investigators will track the actual person through this address. I believe that this shows that society still understands the need for a person to be found and held accountable for online activity. Additionally that a person does not only exist as an e-mail address, screen name, or online identity.
-Megan Mercer


Response to question 1:
I think the ethos behind the "Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace" is very real and relevant to our lives today. There is a clear issue in today’s society regarding someone’s online identity vs. their “real life” identity. I guess what the real question is: which one is someone’s “real” identity? Isn’t their perception equal to their reality? There is some exorbitant statistic of people living in Japan who consider their real, tangible lives to be secondary to the lives of their online gaming avatars. Either their real lives are too disappointing for them to accept, or their online lives are just that exciting that they refuse to consider that false. To answer the question more directly: Yes, I believe that a person’s internet presence can be more real than their actual physical presence; and I believe it is easy to live one’s life anonymously online.

Response to question 3:
This might sound a little kooky to some, but I’ve always had this thought in the back of my head that the media dictates culture. Not just in the ways of fashion and ideals of success, but in either encouragement or discouragement of behavior. As a child, when shows like “CSI: Las Vegas” first came out, I couldn’t help but wonder something like, “So, even if a bad-guy does something horrible and there is almost zero evidence, the good-guys will find one molecule of damning evidence that will get them caught in the end. Maybe the government funds these shows so we get scared of doing bad things.” That doesn’t totally relate to the question, but that still encapsulates the concept. So if the media controls or public leaders, who controls the media?

—michael yi

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