[MEDIA] Chatting about #TheCircle with @jamespoulter for #SIGNAL @themedianet

[MEDIA] Chatting about #TheCircle with @jamespoulter for #SIGNAL @themedianet

“In this special mini edition of Signal James Poulter chats to Dr Bex Lewis about the latest reality TV show, “The Circle” which concludes today (Monday 8th October 2018) and looks at what we can learn and apply to our faith from the contestant’s behaviour. She also shares the comparisons between their experience of reality TV and online persona’s with her own journey of sharing her “breast cancer journey” online over the past year.”

Listen here (recorded Thursday evening); tickets for Church and Media Network conference.

I made a few notes beforehand:

  • Facebook conversation (friends only): we throw our arms in the air in hopelessness, but there is potential to change behaviour online … think about the cultural pressures – and the historical precedents; in reality – not as easy to ‘be someone else’ online if follow some of above guidelines … as so interconnected – and start to see holes…
  • Trailer; on IMDB, on Wikipedia
  • OK Magazine: “The Circle is voice activated, so it looks to viewers like the players are talking to each other, and all the players can see of their competitors is the information they choose to share.”
  • ‘When anyone can be anyone’, know your Meme (no one knows you’re a dog), and the affordances/constraints
  • Novel of the same name by Dave Eggers  – total transparency is the aim of The Circle “TruYou”
  • Photoshopped Selves: Conference Slides; Recording 
  • Surveillance and Society article:  ‘By 2018, social media has become a part of everyday life, including the faith lives of many. It is a space that assumes an observed gaze’; Vicar quote: ‘In terms of being watched, the most interesting aspect I think is the being watched not by the outsiders but by the insiders. So my online identity has in the past been defined by how the churchgoers at the place I attended viewed how I should be rather than the reality of who I am and who I believe I am meant to be.’; In some respects, we have to understand that self-presentation has always happened in public spaces, including for Christians: think of the notion of dressing in “Sunday best” for church, or seeking to appear as pious in front of the local priest (Hat Trick, 2017). We need to be wary of falling into technological determinism as an explanation, in which technology establishes what is possible (Mackenzie & Wajcman, 1985). Erving Goffman (1959) described self-presentation as a theatrical performance, with identities being performed differently depending upon the audience being addressed. He gives a sense of being able to “relax” and “unmask” when one moves from “front stage” (public) to “backstage” (private), with the mask “the self we would like to be”, and that we become ourselves through series of performances. Lawler (2014, 120), however, argues that many of the different roles are performed as different parts of “ourselves”, and are largely unconsciously performed, but are “done for the benefit of the social group of which we are a part – whether or not there is anyone actually there to witness us”. Interaction provides “social binding”. Social media itself can be used differently with different connections “with privacy settings allowing access to different levels of information, while the public parade of connections offers social identity and status” (Lewis, 2014a, 106). Within social media, as if on stage, we perform who we are on a daily basis, through our choice of user names, profile pictures, and emoticons and avatars (Ranzini, 2014, 3).
  • Black Mirror – Be Right Back – episode have used for teaching about how much of someone’s identity is possible to discern via social media
  • Catfishing –  definition – spotting it and dating some examples 
  • The Guardian: For all its lofty dramaturgical pretensions, The Circle is essentially asking us to spend an hour every night watching strangers messaging people. The notion, too, that this hi-spec, low-IQ reality set-up can tell us something about humanity is plain daft. Black Mirror it ain’t. Still, if its intention is to cast aspersions on our online habits, then who, one wonders, are its targets? Is it the contestants obsessing over their profile pics and desperately touting for likes under the gaze of the nation? Or is it the viewers passing judgment on this neurotic quest for validation and popularity on Twitter? Or maybe The Circle just hates us all?
  • TellyMix: Alice said: “Social media is now such a dominant and prominent part of our lives that it’s hard to think about how we took that first step. Getting rid of everything; the dubious photos, the ill-advised midnight comments, the questionable quotes-on-a-sunset and starting from scratch, without a trace, isn’t really an option.
  • Cosmopolitan: Channel 4 adds: “Communicating as a group or individually, cliques will form and private allegiances will be made as players rate each other based purely what is in their profiles – never really knowing if the information they have is the whole truth or a persona that’s been created to try and win.
  • The Independent; Radio Times; Telegraph (says not representative of society); Huffington Post (Is there a serious sociological point or just BigBrother?); Irish Times (created by the team behind Gogglebox); Telegraph (thinks will give real insights)
  • LEP.co.uk: The ‘experiment’, such as it was, was designed to show how difficult it is to build proper relationships when we our interactions are governed and mediated by technology.
  • Daily Mail – mental health campaigners say rewarding people for their fake online personas shouldn’t be celebrated with a cash jackpot.  ‘The Circle will show how each players’ mind works, contestants will start with a fresh social media page – viewers will get to see what really makes people popular and how far players will go to become the most influential in the game.’ Danny Bowman, Director of Mental Health at the think tank Parliament Street -‘It seems to glorify being something that you are not to gain likes. I feel that sends the wrong message, especially to young people. The show is making entertainment out of a very real issue.’  A Channel 4 spokesperson said: ”The Circle will make the contestants and viewers think about how social media works and be more aware of its negative and positive aspects. It’s a competition so there are winners and losers, but then there are in any game or sport. All the players have been psychologically assessed.’
  • Sociology revision blog: without exception the contestants are confident, outgoing, party-types, clearly selected for their ability to ‘entertain’ on camera… everyone else is ‘more or less’ themselves. They know how exhausting it is ‘putting on an act’ for any length of time.
  • Banbury Times: Gilly Greenslade, commissioning editor, Channel 4 said: “Are people we meet online who we think they are? The Circle is unique in that it promises to give viewers the chance to see how tech can change both who we are and how we’re perceived. It’s hard to imagine a more timely show. “
  • The Guardian: As has been pointed out (on, um, social media), this particular dystopia bears a remarkable similarity to Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode. In some ways it’s a slice of genius, a fast lesson in the communications, the mores, the aspirations, of people younger than me, even if some of those are depressingly familiar (the svelte lass with the bright, sexy eyes triumphs: boring is not so bad if he’s rich). And, socially, I’m intrigued. It’s just… do I have the patience, over three weeks, to watch eight people trying to invent eight other people when none of the 16 are, in fact, that interesting in the first place?
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Digiexplorer (not guru), Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing @ Manchester Metropolitan University. Interested in digital literacy and digital culture  in the third sector (especially faith). Author of ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’, regularly checks hashtag #DigitalParenting.

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