We discussed how we plan to look at conflict in out presentation- is it the lack of conflict we are focussing on? Lastly, we were reminded to think of a way to present our research in a concise way since all the material we had was going well over 20 minutes.
The first goal of last Tuesday’s session was to specify our research scope. Even if we kept a general question “What is the cost of living online in the 21st century?”, we decided to orientate our research towards the notions of society of control and surveillance state.
Then, we discussed about our presentation structure. The current plan is to divide the presentation into 3 parts. The first one would be more theoretical, the second one analytical and the third one would contain a focus group. We also tried to find ideas to make our presentation more interactive: we thought of using tools like live time polls.
As we did not get the ethical approval yet, it is not sure that we will be able to do a focus group. While waiting for a final response, we plan to work independently on the two first parts to not waste time.
This introduces the second main discussion we had during the supervised meeting: how do we distribute the parts and themes among each group member? How do English, Geography or Politics interfere here? George gave us this as a homework for the next session and asked us to have a presentation plan ready.
The rest of the supervised meeting consisted in a brainstorming where George asked precisions about our ideas. Several interesting questions came out:
- On which geographical area should our research focus? We are thinking to focus on the West and China, China applying possibly Western’s ideas of surveillance more explicitly.
- How brutal is the functioning of the online life, can the individual notice that he potentially lives in a society of control?
- What is the importance of language in the application of a society of control? Do the language used in the ‘terms and conditions” provide an insight of manipulations from the power structures?
- How do gender, race or sexuality interfere with this notion of surveillance state? Do humans interact differently with it?
- Can some political theories be applied to this presentation? Possible theories are realism, authoritarianism and liberalism.
Most importantly, George reminded us to permanently think about linking our findings to the notion of conflict, to avoid being out of topic.
In our meeting on the 1st March, we decided we needed to come up with a structure for our research and presentation, since we had a lot of different sources and information but no real direction. Obviously, the cost of living online has many different areas of interest, but we decided to narrow our research down to primarily looking at how living online creates a surveillance state/ society of control, and the effect this has on the self as well as society. We will use theory throughout our presentation to ground the points we make, but we also hope to use video clips, and make it slightly interactive so that it remains interesting.
Structure of presentation
Statement with key aims, methodology and a quote from theory.
How living online creates a surveillance state/ society of control (incorporate theory throughout e.g. foucault, deleuze, etc) vs. how living online affects the self.
- Data collection: through smart tech and targeted ads >> leads to political manipulation (cambridge analytica) and other manipulation e.g social credit scores like in china (black mirror’s nosedive)
- Rise of technology: computers becoming smarter than humans, effect on human labour and human creativity
- Human and non-human agency (geography)
- Language of privacy agreements: analyse sentences from terms and conditions, in what way do social media/tech companies try to manipulate their customers through language?
Conclusions: Reflect on methods — are we compliant in this surveillance state or society of control? How have we benefited from living online in this research?
- Pollev (we collect data in our presentation from George and Rosa)
- Clips from youtube e.g. climax of black mirror episode Nosedive at beginning
- Rate George and Rosa as audience members like in Nosedive
Data Collection Sources:
- Cambridge analytica
- Chinese social credit scores
- Black mirror’s nosedive
- ‘Who’s watching you?’ podcast and Surveillance Capitalism
- Foucault’s surveillance theory
Rise of technology sources:
- Smart technology examples
- Gramophone, film typewriter (Histories, Electronic Warfare and Storage & Memory sections)
- A declaration of the independence of cyberspace by John Perry Barlow 1996: the power of cyberspace and legal implications
- Human and Non-human agency by Hayden Lorimer
Language of Privacy Agreements sources
- Read Before You Agree: How to Understand Online Terms of Service – examples of clauses big social media / tech companies use, word lengths, etc
- What’s wrong with online privacy policies? By Irene Pollach – discusses the language of privacy policies and the implications
Before Reading week we sat down with George to discuss the themes of privacy in the technological age and the impact of technologies shaping our collective behaviours. We focussed on the possible ways of structuring our presentation- would we focus of the evolution of digitisation or this moment in history in 2019. We settled on reflecting on the developments of the last 2 years, of the significant policy changes and the increasingly explicit use of targeted advertising and data analysis. From fixed disciplinary institutions to fluid, over-arching technologies that we are now surrounded by.
We also considered presenting our findings either under the broad headings of pleasure/freedom, privacy and safety or looking at specific technologies and apps and weighing them under the criteria of how these make our lives easier vs. how these impinge on and/or change the meaning of privacy and safety.
We also filled out the consent form for ethical approval, and decided on a survey/focus group for our methodology. If we decide to do any of the surveys online, we could acknowledge that the themes we are engaging in are being performed as we collect data for research via the internet.
Reading Week Task: George asked us to start building a bibliography so we can go into interviews with theoretical underpinnings and specific examples to further discussion to our advantage.
Titles that might be helpful:
- Radical Technologies – Adam Greenfield
- Attention Merchants – Tim Wu
- Extrastatecraft – Keller Easterling
- Gramophone, Film, Typewriter – Friedrich Kittler
Discussion: Today at our meeting we discussed how although we were very interested in VR, it might not be a feasible scope of a topic for us to do our TAD project on. So, we decided to spend the first half of the session brainstorming on how we could possibly incorporate the topic of digital media/ digitisation into the topic of research. We did arrive at the topic of “privacy” and “public conceptions” of certain topics. Which included, drug use, virtual reality etc.
potential RQ: Does privacy really exist in the 21st century? // What does privacy mean to people in the 21st century? // Do we have no choice but to be online?
Methodology: We then spent the rest of the time discussing what our potential methods could be in retrieving data for the research. We decided that maybe questionnaire, focus groups or interviews are the best way to do so.
ie: “What does privacy mean to you” , “when should it be considered too much to share online?”
Split tasks: Each of us was assigned on aspect of privacy to look at. For example, identity theft, targetted advertising, youtubers on oversharing etc.
We were also advised by George to look at the book “Age of surveillance capitalism”.
Here are some links that talk about identity theft that might be useful to us
Session 3, second supervised session 29/01/19
Last Tuesday, we met with George for a second supervised reflective session. We shared our project to do a research about Virtual Reality and conflict. As our theme was quite large, George encouraged us to specify our research and to find some specific aspects of VR to analyze.
He asked us to define what was the Virtual Reality. Can it include computer screens and social medias as well? We decided to exclude social medias and normal computers from the study to focus on the VR that has a large degree immersion.
We then thought about several problematics:
- The potential representation issues in VR: how are people represented? Is every group/minority represented?
- Can it be an educative tool? To what extent can VR be conditioning how we understand the real world?
- Can VR lead to a digitalization of labor, and does it clash with the traditional employment?
- Can it challenge the morality of our society by making violence and/or pornography more accessible?
- Is VR incompatible with our mental health?
We then debated on our research methods. We agreed on using surveys and interviews to gather data. George provided us some departments at KCL to explore to find relevant specialists to talk to. He mentioned the Digital Studies, the War Studies and the Medical departments.
It allowed us to draw a strategy for the next session:
- Finding the relevant people to interview in each departement
- Going to the photographer gallery at Oxford Street “All I know is what’s on the Internet”
- Working on the ethic form for interviews
- Thinking more in depth about how our discipline interconnect with VR and conflict.
Today we discussed potential ideas for our research question. Possibilities included the questions of government response to drug use and of human welfare vs. animal welfare. We also decided we wanted to stay away from certain topical issues such as Brexit, Trump and current international wars.
The main idea we came up with is Exploring the ethical challenges/conflicts of Virtual Reality. We will narrow our question down so that it is more succinct, but for now we can look at video games, film and TV, the latest technological updates and psychological studies based around VR.
In order to narrow down our focus, we thought about how our different disciplines might interplay with VR.
Politics: User protection and privacy, virtual criminality and other issues we might explore all relate to politics and the impact on society in some way.
Geography: Digitisation of labour – where are the minerals and materials used for creating the technology needed for VR found, and is there a negative impact? In what parts of the world does VR thrive, and will the ethics depend on where in the world it is being used?
Classics: Many video games use the ancient world within their stories (Assassins creed, God of War..), what are the politics of presenting the past in such a realistic way? Is complete accuracy important? Could history be overshadowed by virtual reality?
We also thought about general topics we can discuss when considering the conflict of whether VR is ethical or not:
- Desensitisation of virtual reality – especially with violence/sex
- VR in healthcare: distractions for injections, overcoming phobias, mental health treatment
- Virtual criminality
- User protection and privacy
- In game trauma, PTSD
- VR as torture
Some potential cultural representations of VR we can look at include: Black Mirror, Ready Player One, The Matrix.
In this essay, I traced the trajectory of the shift from Victorian literature to the beginning of modern literary forms. Through Virginia Woolf’s essays ‘Modern Fiction’ and ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, I highlighted the implicit conflict coming through in the two contrasting modes of representing identity. I talked about the emergence of a ‘Georgian literature’, which Woolf defended and the Edwardians whom Mr Bennett represents. The radical changes in society reflected the conception of their characters and their writings in a way that was lulling. Woolf termed this Edwardian void between these representations of the self and the modern self itself as ‘materialism’. The purgatory that marked this shift also allowed to me to argue that the ‘self’ is essentially a contested concept across and within disciplines.
Reflection on the First Session:
In the first session we got to know each other, talked about our major disciplines and discussed out semester one essay summaries. Coming from the departments of Classics, Geography, Politics and Literature we all had extremely different essay questions. We pointed out that discrimination was a common topic amidst all our writings and that we were interested in exploring something contemporary and relevant in our project this term. George gave an outline of how this module would function on a weekly basis asked us to come up with ideas for the next session so we could narrow down on our final topic.
We shared a little bit about our ongoing projects with our dissertations, TAD essays and got to know each other’s majors. We noticed a recurring theme of discrimination running through our TAD essays and so we thought it would be interesting to come up with a case study to explore within that area for the group project. We also potentially talked about how we could explore the topic of climate change as well.
This essay will explore the case study of heteronormativity in Singapore and how it affects queer identity in accordance to the theme of conflict. A conflict can be referred to as the existence of opposing forces as well as an active disagreement between opposing principles. The two opposing forces that will be discussed in this essay is that of the social norm of heteronormativity and that of the liberal non-heteronormative. This case study will delve into the tensions between the heteronormative and the non-heteronormative, sexual “dissident” population and how they are caught between such politics. Overall, aiming to address the heteronormative cultures in Singapore and the ongoing fight for the recognition of alternative sexual identities.
During this 30 minutes introductory session, we first shared our major and discovered that we were all from a different one: Literature, Geography, Classics and Politics. George suggested us to share to each other what we did for our essay in this module. Our essay topics covered very different topics as well going from animals in ancient Rome spectacles to LGBT rights.
We then tried to find a common ground for our project: we all agreed that it was preferable to cover a modern problematic rather than something too ancient. I believe that the theme of conflict offers us a quite broad choice as it is not too abstract and as conflict can be found everywhere. It also permits to link our majors considering that the notion of conflict is found in Geography, Literature, Classics and Politics.
Please find below a briefing note of my TAD essay:
My TAD essay focused on the overlooked conflict between the people living in large city centers and the people living in the “periphery” (small towns+countryside) in Western Europe. This conflict has an economic dimension: the people of the large city centers tend to “monopolize” the wealth since the tertiarisation and the deindustrialisation of the Western economies. This creates tensions and tends to make the peripheric people feel “abandoned” as most of the investments are now concentrated in big cities. The tensions are also ideological: the people of the periphery tend to be much more conservative than the urban elites who tend to misunderstand those conservative values. This create a huge split on questions such as immigration and gay marriage. This essay also found that the conflict is becoming more and more visible since the rise of “populism” can be analyzed as an uprising from the periphery against the liberal city centers.
This essay can lead to reflection on several questions such as:
- The peripheric working class vs the urbanized elites
- Conservatism vs liberalism on society questions
- The economic redistribution: does the redistribution disadvantages the periphery?
- How can a conflict intensify?