Monday, August 26, 2019

into the digital inferno

I have an admission to make; I save up my papers. I save up my long reads especially. So I'm writing about this article digesting a twitter-is-awful book by Richard Seymour days late. And he's talking about one of Mary Beard's twitter scandals, which might have made the news but not in any way that the signal intruded far enough for me to see it, and I'm thinking about Mary and the Troll, and also Anonyjournalist and Troll, and it's all the fault of the Guardian, once described to me by a digital marketing workshop-leader as the single biggest source of high accessible quality content items online, honestly this (stuff) just pouring out of them, constantly, all of the time in tones of such spitting outrage I couldn't even. His point? You don't need to burden the world with more content. Just find a suitable article in the Guardian Archives and use that.

So here I am, doing that, but also adding my 2porth of course, as that is blogger right.

These two stories about trolls tell you pretty much everything about why Trolls exist, why they're engaged with and why they're even approved and tolerated:

Mary and the Troll

Mary was repeatedly targeted by a troll on twitter. Well actually, lots of them, but she picked out one, the worst, the most horrible of all of the trolls. She engaged with him personally and found out a way to make him respond back in a way that inserted information packets into the abuse. With hard work and determination she managed to engage her troll and get him talking to her. Eventually she managed to meet him. They had a satisfying discussion, and (so the story goes) they are still in touch today and she values him as an interesting and helpful friend. The entire internet said to that, Well done Mary, you did really well there.

The Journalist and the Troll

There was once a journalist who wrote online. He was a prominent and sometimes controversial figure and attracted trolls. These did not much bother him; he saw them as part of the job, and did not engage with them. The journalist had a wife. She was an intellectual, and a Jew, and beautiful and had her own career. The journalist was very proud of his wife. One day, one of the trolls started to target his wife. The journalist said that this was part of the job and that she should ignore it. The trolling got worse. The troll found out where she lived and started leaving little hints in the abuse. Eventually things started turning up on her car, on their doorstep. Imaginative, horrible things. The journalist hired a private detective who found out that the troll was the teenage son in a family they knew a little, socially. The detective and the journalist went to visit the family. The parents said: we are not surprised. The journalist and the detective spoke to the boy. He promised to stop. The journalist's wife never went back on the internet. 

These little stories (and it's worth saying both are more complicated than my folk tale digest versions above) roll everything in, from acceptable performances of femininity to the eternal pressure to forgive young men for unforgivable behaviour. But they also place the Troll firmly in its value space; consensus-maintainer, societal attack dog foaming at the throat of the non-conformative, catspaw of the faux-liberal, chaser of dissenting voices out of the media-cultural-normative state.

I'm a Twitter user, personal and professional, but I don't get into fights. It's not my mode, as they say. My original interaction with Social Networking sites wasn't the reality-show flicker of watching social chaos unfurl, but grounded in observation and practicality - organise a party, find my friends in a field, take a field note about bees. This means that a lot of the time, as now, I'm reading people writing about using Twitter and thinking: you're doing it wrong. But, out of the chaos, as ever (hurrah for the internet hive mind), items of information value emerge

time on device

What's your TOD daily? It's something to keep an eye on. And also something to watch out for. I play Candy Crush, which is rotten with bullshit screens that do nothing but keep you in-game for another millisecond, and I don't pay for my scrabble which means it contains a variety of tedious adverts. These both string your TOD - learn your countermeasures.

incentives and choke points

Here's an interesting thing; incentives are obvious, but why do choke-points also motivate? We're the problem-solving ape and want nothing more that a figure-out solution with a sweet reward. A puzzle box with a sweet inside. Trying to motivate yourself? The sweets are great, but don't forget the puzzle box!

soft, nacreous glow

Ah, full fathom five my dear friends lie, those are pixels that were their eyes. I also go into the social net to visit my dead. As we build up the social layers, it becomes a digital underworld, redolent with the distractions of the past. In 1990, just as I was going onto the internet for the very first times, Peter Greenaway and Tom Phillips created A TV Dante, which reimagined that sink into the past, death and silence as a mush of trancey digital animation, phrasal fragments and hyperstimulation, the Orb car-crashed into the back end of an English Degree, and right now I'm playing little fluffy clouds and the TV Dante in my back-tabs, and honestly? You should try this.

mercurial reward zone

It's a nostrum that uncertain rewards keep you returning. But actually, if it's just mercurial and not very rewarding, you don't come back unless there is pleasure in the act of being confused. I was trying to explain this to a friend last week. It didn't go well. But all games designers do this. They make a mercurial reward zone, where people can wander, dizzy and delighted. And it can just keep on applying out - friendships, parties, houses, relationships,  an entire world of giddy delights.

blackpilling - online self abuse

When I cover this in training, I call it self-trolling. Others prefer terms like cyber self-harm. When I saw this article call it blackpilling, I felt he'd missed a nuance. And yes, the black pill is the sucking lie that all is bullshit, blackpilling is the act of airing this socially and none of this is quite the stimulating, rewarding/risky game of sock-puppeting your own troll, except in the broadest sense. But it's useful to see concepts like this emerge, become actualised, and cracked out into online social space, and always welcome to see another axis added into the blue pill/red pill dichotomy.

Final word to Jarvis today; take the time on device that supports you, but watch out for the incentives and choke points as you bathe in the soft nacreous glow of timeless space, because, without blackpilling here, this mercurial reward zone can steal your life:

Sunday, August 04, 2019

an unprecedented avalanche of data

One of my main aims in life is to have enough available data to reconstruct me from recordings (of course) and in thinking about this I came across this discussion of big data where, slightly lovably, the introduction declares that "there’s no need to worry about insufficient sample sizes or test group results—because the sample size is no less than everything".

It's never everything, of course. There are people who life-log madly, record belches and shits. They always have; before the internet there were little flexible books full of spidery writing. Somewhere back in the dawn of time are scratches on bone, cuts in clay, which say "Good day, ate fish, weather dull." But no, I like to think of myself as a curator, and I was amused to be given in the same article the 8 vs of big data - a metric to measure myself against! Wonderful.

Volume asks, is there so much data you get lost in it? And I don't think I do. It's fun to get lost in it sometimes, of course, but generally my autobiographical data sits at a manageable quantity.

Value refers to how good your indexing is, I think. I use tag-based indexing in my photolog, but rely on titles and roughly rememebering when things happened for my online diary. Needless to say my sketch a day doesn't help unless I know which block of time something happened in. If I know that, it's fine. So my volume level is not overwhelming, good.

Veracity, though. Do I lie, exaggerate or tweak what happened? That's a very interesting question because everything is filtered through the authorial process. That means inevitable obfuscations and adjustments. I'm a fairly reliable narrator, though, especially on private filter.

Visualisation is the name of the game for my sketch diary, though I only occasionally include diagrams. The decision it most often triggers is to sort out clothes or hair.

Variety of modes and approaches and subject themes is definitely in place. Sometimes my information is not very balanced though, I will admit.

Velocity Evolution in real time is something that really took off with my twitter and instagram, but I remember experimenting, a very long time ago, with text message microblogging live from abroad. Some of my readers (I was on a long-form blog at the time) howled in pain, I don't understand. Velocity, immediacy, that crease through the present moment. I can't find these, suggesting a problem with volume (although it's really just that my journal is among the many bits of the web google doesn't index).

Viscosity Ohhhh, stickiness. I love a bit of data stickiness. All of the recording activities are designed to improve that, really, to make a thing stick in the mind. Some of my records are very sticky indeed. Others like wisps of mist that dissipate.

Virality I only ever went viral once. I was boing-boinged, for pictures of toys, of all things. I didn't send it in, it happened as by-catch -- they had a story about Barbie dolls and wanted to make a joke about it all being the fault of Ken dolls, so probably just ran an image search and turned me up. We bought more server space, and I left a polite message on the post, but I would generally not aim for virality. When your story spreads significantly beyond your sphere it is no longer about you, but about the feelings, ideas and attitudes of the people propagating the story.