Digital Event

[EVENT] New Perspectives in the Digital Society @DigiCultureKCL

The blending of offline and online interaction has had many talk about a “digital society” within which human and nonhuman actors coexist, and social media become batttlefields for culture wars. The contours of this “digital society”, however, are still to be questioned. In this workshop we will discuss some of the most interesting, cutting-edge research on the emergent “digital society”. How do we interpret key events and issues concerning the “digital society”? What are the key critical aspects that pertain to its emergence? What are the new frontiers of explorations to research societal issues in the digital era? Eventbrite

With no signal within the room, and my devices refusing to connect to eduroam, here are my notes from my iPad:

Drawn from across depts but the Centre is based in humanities. ECR workshop led by Alessandro Gandini

  • What are main features of society in which digital technologies exist?
  • Not just standard topics of social media and social relations

Kate Devlin @drkatedevlin

New book – Turned On: Science, Sex and Robots

  • Daily Mirror article – 24 Sep 18. Background AI, etc – met philosophers. How get computers to respond to environment in a way that’s intelligent. Some try and solve by replicating the way we think – but we don’t know enough about human cognition to replicate a machine yet. Sex = fundamental driver for humans – it’s how we all got here. What are we doing to foster intimacy in a society media tells us is getting more and more isolated.
  • DM headline – so far off the mark, robots about to take over immediately, etc. Creating the perfect human goes back to ‘the Gods’/Greeks inc Pandora (box). Maria from Metropolis = femme fatale. Pygmalion – retelling from Ovid, brought her to life with a kiss. Troy – took a bronze statue of husband to bed and ‘interacted with it’.
  • Lots of films today – future where tech provides us with a partner, inc Bladerunner 2049 (upgrade to ‘real’ – becomes Stepford wife & sex nymph), and Her (disembodied system .. falls in love with Operating System) – creepy = plausible. People talking to bots online without realising. Ashley Madison .. data breach – not enough women using site so used bots instead. Do we do deceptively or with awareness.
  • Can go online and get chatting, without ever having met, feel have got intense feelings… Confide in them? Eliza – interacting as a psychotherapist because questions such as ‘why do you feel that’ etc.
  • Ex Machina – to erase the line between (hu)man and machine … the woman is a threat to male authority = common trope. Obscure line between men/gods …. Turing test = appearance of intelligence only. Script – why gendered … easier for us to relate to? Classical AI – sex = reproduction? Or needs to be embodied to experience life? Can’t be more embodied than when having sex.
  • Funding bid from 3 years ago…
  • Jan 2017 – Express Headlines from conference sex robots… fears about sex toy hacks, etc – think about fears – legal and ethical implications. Standard AI worry – what happens to us if we can’t control the robots we’ve built?
  • See Roxy, Harmony, Samantha … (different levels of body\AI)
  • All objectionable stereotypes of women etc? As a piece of art/tech they are incredible, as representations of women = terrible. Product been made by men, for men, niche audience (sex dolls) – not a major worldwide thing. Reflects the state of the tech industry. Better ways of creating intimacy?
  • 2 types = see as substitute for women, or fetishise the doll because it’s a doll. Think about sex toys = around for millennia, sex dolls = newer. Moved away from basically genetalia, to more complex…
  • Slide = sex toys… making more accessible versions had an impact. App = huge issues about consent, etc. Ran a sex toy hackathon – range of different expertise … not just those on the ‘human’ scale, eg vibrator in tune to baseline of music, etc, sexual cryptocurrency (stroke purse to get money)… 2nd event moved away from sex to intimacy (alone or with others). Squeeze a fake breast, and something that looks a bit like an octopus toy, sensors attached to vagina – when got damp – peacocks tail opens up, shawl with sensors,
  • Hear a lot about how tech is isolating us, disagrees … fostering connections all around the world, are questions about ‘putting phone down’ – no choice anyway, all the things we need are online… so of course screen time is going to go up.
  • Sir Fappington … personal companion robot who is also a vacuum cleaner. There is a big problem with loneliness, but with not enough carers, more place for robots… probably won’t fall in love with them, not replacing human human relationships, but with something new.
  • Can machines feel pain? What do we build? Signals for care, etc? What about elderly people – as carers or sex? AI = don’t deceive… so wary re dementia? People sexually active TIL 80s but care homes = taboo & way set up with open rooms etc but lots of interest from care homes. Can’t lift/carry = too fragile, so exoskeleton for carers.
  • Asimov’s law of robotics? Those who own sex dolls, treat with huge amount of respect. Are some women but they don’t tend to talk about it. Men take on holiday as a group – they know it’s not a real thing… questions of addictions … will always be outliers…
  • Black Mirror Be Right Back … policies in the US not to build a likeness of someone – California for 70 years post death. Question of whether it disrupts the grieving process, how helpful is it, even Facebook memorialisation.
  • Dating apps . focus groups/interviews to explore… the number of people who use it to NOT engage. Engage online but don’t go on dates… dating is burdensome/ an effort. KD did a panel with a psychotherapist … wants someone to meet ‘real people’ – question is why, if they are happy (and some have partner + doll – so much judgement/moral policing – expectation of heteronormative setup).

Daniel Chávez Heras @DChavezHeras

  • Local networks – against MOMGames. Humanities – always start with pics from antiquity. Pic from 1600s – recognised need to record the way they play. Also possible political angle … adults playing (infantilisation)
  • Around 1.8 billion players, 99bn $ US industry. 2016 – Pokemon Go .. casual gaming, even those not gamers play it. Owner – stock doubled. 10k hours playing online games before the age of 21 … like having a ‘second job’. Collectively 5.3 million years playing World of Warcraft. Is already part of our digital society with lots of people involved around the world as a business….
  • Lots of literature around games, but not much about the networks we use to connect and play games, originally people connected online to play games, but not together online – to talk around the games. First multi player game = Empire 1973… ran on a university network. Counter-Strike (2000) – could play either online or via LAN (much better performance) … features are there but disappearing.
  • WofW – now become services … pay a subscription to play, and most games the LAN option has gone. Network of networks … based on huge amount of infrastructure … most are hidden away and don’t impinge on our daily lives.. most don’t know which data center they are connected to, etc
  • Slide – diff between internet & LAN. LAN gaming often happens in domestic spaces, owners own the machines, etc… also improvised networks surrounded by junk foods… LAN = more peer-to-peer. Think about events … cost of food, electricity, space, etc, Local = know there’s an end point, play with friends, low security, whereas online have infinite number of people/never security.
  • Seeking mechanisms… basic survival mechanisms.
  • Play mechanisms … a lot harder to self generate… ?
  • Pokemon Go – are they about seeking, or about playing? Why is everyone heading online. Is it an addiction? Is there a large void with our lives/jobs – using online games as a substitute? Are they games or compulsive search engines … seeking users? More in common with labour than play?
  • Relationship between play and sex – has also been neurocircuitry … Candy Crush and Capitalism.
  • What about cultures of enthusiasm? Talk about effect, but what about non representational theory – eg feelings of togetherness etc
  • Lots of literature on work/play – oppositional – a form of labour … what about playing against strangers? Levels of competitiveness… think about board games are back … recreates LAN. Strong nostalgic tone… what about augmented reality, embedded within the networks?
  • Anthropology … lumping all gamers together when there’s distinct cultures in eg Korea, US, etc (Jane Mcgonnacal – critical of her work).
  • Physical space .. has it kind of being fetishised – about being together? In order to play you need other beings/physical connection? Laughter is necessary for play? In call centre share physical space but don’t laugh, whereas LAN space you do…

Sophie Bishop @sophiehbishop

  • Now researching Algorithm Bros. PhD was on beauty vloggers, now on ‘dudes’ … going to be in social media and society journal. Self built self styled growth hackers… sell algorithmic expertise… inspirational speakers/bloggers/ evangelists re algorithms. They are 3rd parties, not employed by YouTube… straggled pedagogy and entertainment. business jargon & expletives, some do a live critique… helping users mitigate system risk, including the risk of lack of visibility. Teach users to be complicit with YouTube organisational structures…
  • MatPat – game theory, 11m subscribers. Matt Gideon – tubefilter journal .. reverse engineering YT algorithm. Ethnographic study slide. High profile scandals re YT monetisation = has been a backing off…
  • algorithmic experts – intermediaries – Bourdieu. Legalised by closeness to companies + branding, etc.. play huge role in what culture gets made – informed by their value judgements and cultural beliefs. Social media platforms obsessed with gender/demographics – which can shape the kind of content served… videos are a mix of data science, popular psychology and salesmanship … cherry pick scientific theories … never critiqued YT model or advertising profession, etc. Operates in meritocratic framework … that assumes everyone has same chance to address raw ready to receive brains … see P Covington – deep neural networks for YouTube recommendations…
  • Corporations trust him more …. as a 3rd party = more authentic and trustworthy … enables them it take clients off YT. Although ‘experts’ are repurposing Google info… they say Youtubers are not interested enough in data, but in culture/itoned as caring about data … MatPat … sets self up as data nerd. Position YT as a big game, need to learn how to pay its algorithms – Gideon.
  • Brings in big audience of white, male, etc. Which can otherwise be hard to research. Doesn’t address inequalities in the platform.
  • Beauty vloggers much more community based, knowledge production through FB groups … eg did you see the post we put up, etc. Whereas men – more ‘here’s the knowledge I’m going to give you’…. feeding own constructed brand. Data only really relevant to gaming channels, but clients eg conde Nast = cultural production.
  • Who is the audience … in era of precarity .. those watching also seeking visibility…? It’s a risk management strategy. Always goes to safe lowest common denominator… e.g. optimise for certain keywords at Halloween… too basic?
  • Gendered advertising on YT – diff to get stats about to who it’s delivered, etc. VidCon trying to present idea that YT is multicultural, etc … this doesn’t fit with this.

Alessandro Caliandro: @Caliviral

  • Alessandro Caliandro, uni of Bath .. smartphones & internet use in everyday life – empirical research. Will we look up from smartphones, in virtual bubbles? Sociological theory … virtual reality vs augmented reality – use maps, social networks (not virtual – v real social relationships).
  • Digital around the world stats – show us that smartphones are important. With growth of eg WhatsApp – use of mobile messaging grew. Smartphones changed our experience and use of the internet. How we use it helps us understand society and sociality … limited literature – especially compared to social networks. Ease of access to data is one of the issues… technically quite complicated, need ethnographic (following your participants) – multi-sited – approach (Moore’s, 1993) – what people do with smartphones rather than what smartphones to do people. See Marcus 1995.
  • See photos of slides re quants quads and digital methods… technical/ethical issues.
  • Limited Hawthorne effect (Bouwman eg al 2013) – eg no porn (self) reported. 20-23 year olds interviewed/Focus groups
  • Limited privacy issues … data are collected anonymously, software records your access to a given app… ?? Informed consent.
  • What form of sociality? smartphone is always with me , and as a non human actor, reminds me to stay with it (notifications and FOMO). Patterns of data use … average hours is 3.10 hours per day, 99 per month, accessing social media average 1 min per time.
  • See diagram of usage, why down on weekends? Expected would be up as out … but less work needs? And weekends we are doing things that required less mobile access, or at home with other devices, people doing ‘real’ things.
  • Types of activity…. especially WhatsApp! Then FB and Insta.
  • Question – is this a virtual reality/bubbles … NO, would expect increasing time spent on eg YouT, but WA & FB – used for REAL comms.
  • How use smartphone?
  • For killing time and avoiding stressful situations – escaping into virtual reality … or rejoining social groups & activities
  • For organising activities (augmenting reality), including for eg shopping to send pics to friends etc or isolation from surrounding environment Pantano, Gandani, 2016
  • Smartphones are not responsible for creating a virtual reality, smartphone is an instrument able to create some form of reality, but also able to measure that reality?
  • Does smartphone create a hybrid society\reality … it’s not a bit of one and the other… smartphones encapsulate 2 kinds of realities. Can’t predict as related to variables/emotions …
  • social media – conditions of knowability … is a smartphone an assemblage doing ontological work? Sociality being constrained? How is the phone involved in doing sociality?
  • Now iOS gives screen time, reassessing and comparing some of the data.

Ysabel Gerrard: @ysabelgerrard

  • Uni of Sheffield (runs BA in digital media) – published widely on content moderation, worked with Microsoft – PhD internship eg Nancy Baym – about to release call for intake for 2019. @ysabelgerrard… ‘assemblages of silence on social media’.
  • Custodians of the Internet – we’ve regulated it in radio etc in way we haven’t done this on social media. Because of the promises from Web 2.0 and participation – eg YT Kids targeted, Logan Paul, etc – worthy issues related to content moderation, esp pro eating disorder content.
  • What IS content moderation? An assemblage … mishmash of technologies trying to enforces moderations rules, policies that convey them, and users who must obey but seek to circumvent rules. See Sarah Roberts – UCLA. Human beings who sift through content – new book coming.. when flag something – goes to an automated list, if already been banned, disappears, but most of ith is done by a human being. Huge amounts of labour – have PTSD – having to deal with … see Channel 4 Despatches.
  • This talk looked really interesting, but needed to head to the next event…