World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet Project Narrative

Link- World of Tomorrow: Humanity in the Outernet by Betsy Connor, Austin Rogers, & Tannis Weaver

Project Narrative

Our Scalar project’s narrative sought to explore three main topics based around the short film World of Tomorrow: first, the archive; second, the humanity in the digital world; third, the role that education plays in the digital era. We hope that our audience will gain an understanding of the complexities that exist within the discussion of the archive and how we save information. We also aimed to explain the distance that can exist between humanity and technology. Finally, we wanted to stress the importance of teaching students how to be responsible digital citizens.

Deciding on a topic was the biggest struggle we had in our process. We started out thinking of topics, and we thought we wanted to focus on something in the education realm. But the more we started to hash out what the original project idea was, the more we realized it wasn’t really right for the website. More than that, though, it wasn’t something that we found to be incredibly exciting. We wanted to go outside of education and talk about something that exists outside of the classroom. We all shared a love for this short film that seemed more relevant and important than ever after we learned about the archive and all of the other complicated areas of the digital age.

There were a few different areas of our studies that led us to decide on this topic. We all really enjoyed the idea of the archive. Particularly the idea of the power/knowledge dimension, and the question of what should be archived. Tannis and Betsy are currently in an educational technology class, and that has raised some questions about what it is we should be teaching teachers to teach in classrooms today. There was a unit on digital citizenship, but we aren’t sure if it effectively taught what really needs to be taught in terms of digital responsibility. We were also intrigued by the question of what it means to study “digital humanities.”

The focus to the overall vision of the project for Austin was to look at the archival work in the Digital Humanities realm as well within the film World of Tomorrow. Archival work is already a hot button issue within the world of digital humanities. Who decides where the information goes? What constitutes an archive? One could definitely argue that social media is a form of archive. The film puts what an archive is into question. The other question is about how information is stored, moved, and accessed? Sometimes it is an open access like the idea of the Outernet, but there are still paywalls present in the film as well as in reality. We also question who gets access, or who chooses who can have the information. Are personal archives are still considered an archives? Austin’s other focus was on the Director Don Hertzfeldt. He clearly is exploring problems within our world. His style may be simplistic to any other audience, but throughout most of his films there is a message about the uncertainties in our world. What is our world coming to if we enter a digital space? Do we lose the humanity?

Which leads to the next section, which questions the humanity in digital spaces. Tannis’ section focuses on the theme of humanity in the digital spaces in World of Tomorrow. The section explores the loss of humanity in the technology of the future world that Hertzfeldt created. The main argument is that the film serves as a warning for how our society could become if we do not make preserving humanity a priority. Tannis sought to raise some questions about how humanity might look in the future. By examining Emily III evolution of humanity, we can look at the way our evolution in the digital spaces can lead to a loss of humanity.

In the final section, Betsy decided that the overall argument of our project should incorporate education in some way since we are education majors. If we were going to criticize something, we should be able to propose a solution to make it better. The solution given is educating citizens in a way that accounts for the ethical, social, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of the human experience. Through teaching students to be responsible digital citizens, we will teach them how to be better people.

Methods, Techniques, and Process

Our group mostly used Google Drive to organize the project, and Betsy helped set up different sections for all the group members. The sections were used so that we could keep track of what pages have been used but also so we could find all the media in one place. If a certain link didn’t work for one group member, then we would put it in a “relevant links” section and, hopefully, another group member would be able to use it. By using the Google Drive platform, we could not only keep track of our own work, but we could also keep track of the work of group members. This is helpful so that the project would stay consistent. We also watched the film World of Tomorrow about a million times. That may be an exaggeration but between the three of us, we collectively watched the film about a hundred times. While watching the film, we would look for quotes for all our title pages, screenshots for all the annotations, and for “textual” evidence to support our narrative.

We mostly communicated and collaborated about the project in class, over messengers, and using Google Drive. Meeting in person helped a lot and most of the project formed itself because we could collaboratively talk aloud about the project. Meeting together definitely helped the group function stronger and created a better group dynamic. Within our group, we broke the project into three parts, and each group member became an expert in that section. This was not the original intent of the project, but it’s what worked the best for what each person wanted to contribute.

Though the group feels pretty confidently in their Scalar Project, there is always room for improvement. Something we wanted to analyze more closely was using the Voyant tool on the script. Voyant is an online tool that analyzes a piece of text and finds the trends within. By using this tool, we wanted to see what words were repeated frequently and make meaning of the text of actual film; however, we were not able to get a copy of the script. We also wish we could have had more film clips or even audio from the film in order to add more of a multimedia approach. The screenshots still work greate and serve their purpose, and we definitely did not want to step on the toes of copyright.

Some of the questions that helped us move forward in our project are: what are the implications of digitizing everything? How do we keep humanity in the study of digital places? Data extraction: does digitizing our experience remove the humanity of those experiences? Why do we want to digitize our experiences, research, etc.? We really wanted to focus on humanity, and what it means to be human in an increasingly digital space. This could be through archives, finding humanity, or teaching humanity about the digital and our role within these digital space.

Research & Project Reasoning

Researching for the Scalar project was different than we are used to. While all of us have worked with Omeka projects in the past, Scalar lends itself to slightly more interactive media items. Instead of researching databases and library books to help with the project, we had to change where we looked for sources. We focused more on finding media that could be more interactive. Scalar made it so that we could engage more directly with the readers and make the narrative/argument they read more interactive. In a way, we were able to control the way they experienced our argument, but they also have the freedom to move around and not read our project in a linear fashion. This aspect of the project is pretty cool because essays usually go in one particular order.

At the beginning of the project, we had a really difficult time deciding on what we wanted our project to be about. We started thinking that it would go in a more education direction, but we decided that we wanted to do something that would be completely different. Once we decided to write about World of Tomorrow, we were overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start. We had a hard time figuring out what a “page” would like and how we would structure or argument. Once we were able to watch the movie again, we were able to break down the topic of the project into a more manageable way.

If we could change the way that we approached the project, we wish that we would have realized sooner that each page would serve as a mini-essay that would build on the argument as a whole. If we had been able to start thinking of the pages in that way sooner, we would have been able to get started on the big argument a lot sooner. We also would start exploring options about the project sooner to be able to have more options available as back up plans.

This Scalar project really taught us some valuable skills as far as approaching this type of projects. But beyond that, we learned that are capable of teaching ourselves how to work within a new format. We can now think of arguments in less linear ways and have a platform that we can use if we need it. We also would love to include Scalar in our secondary classrooms. Scalar provides a format that helps think of arguments in such a different way. If our classrooms have the technology, it could be really cool to expose them to a different way to make an argument.

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Toxicity on YouTube

Toxicity on YouTube: http://scalar.usc.edu/works/toxicity-on-youtube/

(Note: We each took one of these areas and wrote the original draft paragraphs on our own, and then collectively went back and edited them together. This may explain some of the stylistic differences and the use of first person.)

 

Narrative and Topic (Amelia Moseley)

Our topic covered a very large range of issues, from freedom of speech and copyright, to the issues of anonymity and cyberbullying. If there was something I would hope that readers would get out of it, I feel like it is that this issue is massive and constantly evolving, and that solutions to it may always be temporary. I suggested the topic because I work with YouTube and the effects of this issue change how I do business on the platform. I suggested it also because I would hope people grow to a point where they can treat others fairly. That said, saying that YouTube needs to switch to another format for one issue could result in a whole new vein of problems unforeseen at this moment in time. So, in writing this narrative, I would hope that it provides a current explanation of the problems, some that may be solved on their own, other not, and allow for the reader to independently collect an idea or suggestion to promote a healthier space than what we have today. Within our team, this idea hit a personal note with each of us. I do not think that, at this point, anyone has been spared from the effects of cyberbullying or general anonymous harassment.

Granted, as time goes on, our peers start to think less of us for reporting and people naturally just become immune to the hateful comments sent their way. While maturing in a way to handle the environment of the digital space may be a good thing, it also concerns me that instead of solving the issues, society is now just expected to accept that behavior has part of the cost for a connecting digital space. Why not instead promote the idea that digital humanities can instead promote a healthier space? By providing the largest issues in the current conflict, I think the hope is that we can do something about it. This course has inspired me to look passed basic conventions and how media has evolved thus far. I cannot say that is based on any singular lesson, because it appears as the drive for the course as a whole. Collectively, we have gotten this far because we want to grow. Improving this space for the betterment of not only the digital space, but society as a whole, is the narrative of the course, and it is our responsibility to try and make a difference in that space.

 

Digital Humanities Methods/Techniques/Process (Cae Herlin)

Once we had come up with all of the specific ideas and different directions we wanted to go with our topic, we organized the project by delegating certain pages to each of the different group members. What one group member worked on would generally follow a theme, but the paths on the final website show where we had some overlap and some divergence. For the “Freedom of Speech” page, because of the complexity and divisiveness of that specific aspect of our topic, we decided not to delegate the page, but instead to each contribute our own sections with our own thoughts. We later solicited blog posts from our classmates for that section as well in order to diversify the perspectives we presented within it.

While delegating each page to a different author, we did make an effort to help edit and revise each other’s work, though the limited time and scale of the project made it difficult for all of us to edit everything everyone else had written. We shared the same basic research question–investigating how the YouTube platform and community generates and handles toxicity–but ultimately, we found that each of us approached the question from a different angle and reached slightly different conclusions. This divergence was most evident in the way we approached the “Freedom of Speech” page. Because of this divergence, our “General Conclusions” page ended up how it did, leading into a question for our readers to judge based on what we have presented, rather than all of us reaching the same conclusion as a whole.

This project required us to develop and discover techniques for how to take advantage of Scalar as a platform, but we also developed techniques for communication and collaboration. In the long term the latter techniques will likely have a broader application in the future. Many if not most of the digital humanities projects any of us is likely to work on will be inherently collaborative, whereas Scalar is only one of many tools these projects could use. Nonetheless, the technical skills any of us has gained with Scalar may facilitate our further development of technical skills with other platforms.

If we were to have more time to continue working on this project, we could perhaps improve collaboration between the ideas on each of our pages. While our general conclusions would likely remain as open as they are now, we could perhaps gain a better sense of where our ideas converge and where exactly the question in that conclusion should lead.

 

Research and Critical Thinking Skills (Kaitlin Harris)

There was plenty of growth for everyone in regards to our research skills and contemplation in how to visualize our ideas. As English majors, we are typically used to writing essays, stories, and critiques, but using a lot of digital content and visual content combined with an informative essay was a new challenge. Our opinions were also important to our project, but our skills in looking for relevant and informative articles, photos, and videos was just one of many new types of research we had to develop. HTML and XTML were also very difficult aspects with this project, and text and video formatting to wrap in the text also required trial and error. It is clear that Scalar is a newer site since it is still difficult to use in many ways for many users.

Challenges were abundant in our project. Especially for me, since I had less experience with YouTube than my fellow group members, and I had to work during and was unable to attend the webinar workshop, there was a lot of difficulty with discussing and learning about different video tools. I had a tendency to write several essays on each topic, and I had trouble fitting all of my ideas in words along with videos and images. Since I am more interested in psychology and literary theory and criticism, and I also wanted to discuss the relevance of YouTube to literature and the digital humanities for the class, I tried to make sure everything could be intertwined. We all managed to make all of our content connected with goals and themes, but we had a tendency to repeat ourselves, and all of us talked more than we showed videos.

If we had the chance to reorganize our thoughts, I would definitely focus on making sure we had ideas that were more correlated and making sure that we were not repetitive between ourselves or amongst each of our own pages. We also had trouble getting all of our content into our presentation because we had so much to talk about, and we all practiced with different methods. The fact that we were all too much alike as introverts made it a little difficult since I do better when I can practice and time what I say along with everyone else, but the other group members were more nervous when we tried to practice, so they wanted to improvise more. It all would have been fine if we had practiced a plan to help each other out when we were taking a little bit too much time to speak since everyone has trouble thinking of time while speaking.

Overall, this entire class has helped me develop many skills that will help me in the real world after college, especially in graduate school. I have never had so many presentations in all of my college career as I have in this class, and it really wore me out, but it also helped me with public speaking and getting out of my “shell.” My emotional skills in regards to coping with my anxiety have changed, and I have learned how to work with people whom I may not share a lot with in common interests. The Scalar Project has been the most difficult school experience I have had, but it was very interesting to learn about tools, technology, and social issues that I had never encountered.

Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy

Kairos is a journal that has a wide readership. It has been around since 1996 with all of the issues still available. There are about 45,000 people worldwide that read Kairos. The journal focuses on rhetoric and writing in digital spaces. They cover a variety of topics that center around teaching writing and rhetoric through Digital Humanities. The editors emphasize the importance of technical DH pieces in their articles.

The site itself is easy enough to navigate. The main content on the site is the current issue. The homepage is the table of content page for the articles that are in the issue. The rest of the links that you would need are easily found at the top of the page. The site seems pretty usable without any broken links. The webpages load quickly and work really well. The navigability of the site could be improved if the links opened in a new tab, but it is not too distracting.

The aesthetic of the site is simple. The colors are calming, and the simple design adds to easy navigability. The design does not seem to fit with the type of articles that the editors are trying to recruit; however, the ease of use does help offset that. The readership of Kairos has been around for 20 years, and the simple design makes it more accessible for all users.

The submission process for Kairos is slightly more complicated. Kairos publishes a variety of article types, and each article type has its own list of requirements. They each have a different submission email address. The process is slightly more complicated; however, they do explain the differences between the types of articles well enough that it is not confusing. The different types of submissions allow people to be able to submit multiple articles per issue. Most of the articles are co-authored, so they welcome and celebrate collaboration.

Overall, Kairos offers a very interesting perspective of the DH world. They are an organization that has been around for 20 years and promotes development of the discipline. They have evolved as an organization to welcome and join the DH community. They still have their old issues on the site. The older issues still work without dead links. Kairos is a journal that is well-maintained and updated. The content is interesting with a focus on how to teach the discipline of DH. It is definitely worth checking out!

Oh, the Complexities

“What does freedom of speech mean?” At first glance, this question seems like it would have one straightforward answer, but I think we all know how complicated and complex this issue is. The 1st amendment protects people’s right to say what they want without legal repercussions. This can be beneficial for many reasons, but most importantly, it allows people the right to criticize our government without prosecution. I do think, however, that a lot of people use it as a reason to say harmful things. But then that raises the question of who decides what is harmful? I’m not sure there’s really an answer to any of these questions.

I think there’s a difference between expressing your freedom of speech and being a good person. There is also a difference between being prosecuted for what you say and having consequences for what you say. You may be able to say what you want, but that doesn’t mean that somebody else doesn’t have the same right to be upset about it. You can say something that you can’t have legal actions taken against you while at the same time a private company might reprimand you. There are so many layers to freedom of speech and the limitations placed upon it.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digital. The things you say and post can have lasting repercussions. A tweet can end your career. A drunk selfie on Facebook can prevent a company from hiring you. There are consequences for actions in some aspect or another. Just because you have the ability and the right to say something, it doesn’t mean that there won’t be social consequences to those words. It’s complex and hard to consider all of the factors that affect freedom of speech, and it really is hard to put it in to words.

What Is Freedom of Speech?

Freedom of speech is a concept that’s easily misunderstood. As easy as it can be to extrapolate from the name that there should never be repercussions for speaking, that is not at all what freedom of speech means. It refers instead to the concept that the government does not have the right to imprison or otherwise punish its citizens for speech alone–in other words, government censorship is forbidden. This amounts not to a lack of consequences for what one says, but a lack of government control over what one says. Except where illegal activity beyond speech occurs, we have to take the government out of the equation. That’s it.

We cannot escape the fact what we say has consequences. Even if it were possible to forbid any repercussions toward the speaker, we would still see repercussions towards those who hear. The old adage, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” is a lie, as words can and do cause harm, and at times leave deep emotional scarring.

At the same time, even without government censorship, for any individual or non-governmental organization to respond or react to what one says is never a violation of freedom of speech. If others call someone out for saying hateful, vitriolic, racist, sexist, or otherwise problematic comments, they are well within their rights to do so. We need to be able to communicate with one another, to call out anyone who’s being a problem, and to foster greater understanding and community.

When it comes to YouTube, freedom of speech is no excuse to let hate speech and vitriolic comments to go unchecked. We all have the right to a voice. But beyond that, we have a responsibility to whatever kind of a community and society we wish to foster.

Freedom of Speech

       Freedom of speech is a difficult subject because it’s dependent a lot on how many rights you believe the government has. You can also say it’s reflective on your faith in other people doing the right thing and that it shouldn’t be moderated, and for some people, that expectation is just really low. For me, freedom of speech means that the government will never tell me I cannot say something I believe in, unless, and only unless, it puts a number of people at risk. And I don’t mean like cyberbulling or harassment. I mean like releasing military plans or divulging national secrets or stealing identities. Things that either affect people’s lives, as in keeping them alive, or their economic well-being to promote them being alive.

       Anything beyond that and things start to get really complicated. I’m going to sound like an awful person for saying that the government shouldn’t really intervene in cases of cyberbullying, at least not on the national level, but there is a broader reason for that. There is some, though definitely not all, hateful or derogatory text that needs to exist out there, not because it’s right, but because it is still the equal expression of someone’s beliefs. Furthermore, without the presence of discontent, there would be nothing to counter-argue someone’s own argument. There is some merit to the idea that without “hate” there would be no growth in an individual, and that being a well-informed and educated adult means that you need to be able to handle those situations maturely and with well-thought-out responses. So while there are awful people out there who say awful things, they are within their rights to do so and the government shouldn’t say they can’t.

        That kind of censorship should be from–oh, I sound even worse now–peer pressure. But I think there is such thing as good peer pressure. If you have a friend group who expects you to be a decent person, hey, you might turn out to be a decent person. So the censorship that ought to occur shouldn’t originate from the government but from the people who make up its population and expect a society that is above slurs, hate, and illegal activity. Because if we want change in a society, then we need to encourage its movement forward. So if we want people to be safe from hate speech, crime, and intolerance, then it’s our job to refuse to allow those people to have either an educated-sounding voice, because hate isn’t really educated, or a voice at all. What drama we do or do not tolerate is solely dependent on ourselves to moderate.

Freedom of Speech: Censorship or Sanction-ship

Censorship has been at the forefront of important topics since the beginning of publicizing creations. Especially with the advent of the film and book industries, there has always been an issue with deciding how much credit people get, who should be able to share the rights to something, and how open the source should be.

When it comes to copyright censorship, limitations are definitely needed. However, with the rise of the digital humanities, it is becoming more difficult than ever before to make boundaries between what counts as criticism, reproduction, or just plagiarism. If someone blatantly rips off someone else’s work or blatantly threatens them, freedom of speech should not be granted. Freedom of speech is not the allowance of harm or theft. In cases where people are using humor to make a point or they are taking someone’s work to make constructive progress, freedom of speech is not harmful or used for a type of copying. It is important to ask for permission before reproducing someone else’s work, and it is important to not use enough components of someone else’s work in a sly way as if to hide the influence. Paying tribute and acknowledging people that influenced one’s reproduction must be obvious, and there must be a big enough change to prove as reproduction instead of plagiarism.

I do not believe in censorship when it comes to expressing one’s beliefs. Unfortunately, even the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazis are allowed to parade around for ceremonies regarding their beliefs. As a society, we cannot tell people how they can or cannot limit their speech, because as long as active violence is not occurring, people have every right to say what they mean. Even hate speech is unfortunately a gray area that is difficult to regulate. If people begin to govern everything that they are offended by, everything will eventually be outlawed because everyone is offended by something that maybe someone else is not. We can do what we can to teach people the right way, and we can tell people to stop offending us, but we cannot legally regulate what people believe. There is a big problem right now with both sides of the political spectrum wanting to censor the other side. Republicans for example do not want sexual education to be open to anything other than abstinence education and many also do not want transgenders to share the bathroom of people with their identified gender. Democrats, on the other hand, may also sometimes want people to censor the words they say and not let their religious beliefs limit people based on their sexual orientation, such as the cake serving argument.

Censorship is needed in certain circumstances, but as of now, we have been trying too hard to censor problems that may not be as crucial to deal with as others. Too much censorship can definitely jeopardize our priorities, and we can never seek out everything that is inappropriate or offensive. If we truly want to grant the people in our country the freedom we all have been given in the constitution’s first amendment, we cannot limit anything unless it harms or takes advantage of another person.

Works Cited

Wharton, Robin. “Digital Humanities, Copyright Law, and the Literary.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 7.1 (2013): n. pag. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <http://www.digitalhumanities.org/dhq/vol/7/1/000147/000147.html&gt;.

Owen, Robert L. “Bill of Rights Copied.” Eastern Illinois University. Library of Congress, 14 Oct. 1942. Web. 24 Apr. 2016. <http://www.eiu.edu/eiutps/billofrights_broadside.gif&gt;.