Are we free?

 

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During this module we had the chance to travel in time from the beginning of the internet, of this new era, until today where we take for granted our phones, our data and our privacy.

We discussed lots of topics and we explored the hidden faces of all of them, but I have find fascinating how one particular question kept jumping out during our seminars: are we really free on the interent? Do we really feel free to post what we want? To do the researches that we want without being watched or controlled?

And in every seminar we always started from a “Yes, we are free” point to end up realizing that no, we are not free. That governments control us. That nothing is left to fate. That even the smallest advertisement on our Facebook feed is there for a reason. We are free to be ourselves on the internet but at the same time internet keeps showing us what it thinks we should see, what we think we are interested in, without giving us much choices.

That is why I think that the concept of freedom is linked to every topic we discussed, so to the module itself, highlighting how our critical thinking can help us to take a step back and look at the internet and at social networks in particular under a different light.

Swift & Adele vs. Free Music

Since we are allowed to listen to music online things changed fast for musicians and artists. If you like a song, nowadays it is quite easy to find it on YouTube and download it to put it into your iTunes library. In this way you will have a free song with not much effort, instead of buying the song on iTunes or the physical album at your local music store, if they still exists.

But some artists are no more agree with that and singers such as Taylor Swift or Adele changed the game to their favor. The two artists decided indeed to apply a really strict copyright policy on their songs that are available online only if purchased. Any of their songs if uploaded on YouTube are removed straight away for violation of copyright and they disagreed for being on the Apple Music three months free trial without being paid. Basically, if you want to listen to some other songs that are not “Shake it off” or “Hello” by the two singers, you need to buy a physical copy or access to your iTunes account and buy their music online.

A smart move from the singers that have the guarantee people won’t listen to their music for free, but I wonder if this is fair. In one hand it is fair, it is their job and they need to get paid, in the other hand I reckon they will earn money anyway even if their music is streamed online, so I wonder if this doesn’t change the meaning of producing music because you like it and your fans love you, and not because you just want more money into your back account.

#SocialNetworkAddicted

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I always considered myself as a “social network addicted”, which I think it is true. I think I have an account on every possible social network. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat,  Tumblr, Ask.fm, YouTube, and I am probably forgetting some. I personally love the internet and its social part, and with this module I am realizing how I am not really careful of my privacy online. My Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are completely privacy free, if you know my nickname you can easily find out my profiles around the social networks. My Facebook has more privacy but I tend to accept friendships if the person who is requesting it has mutual friends with me. And if you google my name/nickname it is easy to find images or my YouTube videos.

The truth is that I like sharing my life online, I like to take selfies and post them, I like to tweet stupid stuff and to see people agree with me about that particularly stupid thing. I guess that after a while you get used to sharing bits of your life online and I don’t really take care of my privacy because I guess I have nothing to hide, or I realized that if I have something to hide you won’t find it on my Facebook wall or my Instagram feed.

Therefore, unless you’re a creeper/crazy stalker you are welcome on my social network life.

Twitter as online community

If people belonging to an offline community need to have space and time in common, something great about online communities is that the only things you need to have are a phone, wi-fi and interests you want to share.

While I see Facebook as a place where people rather to show off their problems or selfies instead of making worthy contacts, I watch at Twitter with a different light.

On Facebook you almost feel obligated to have your mum, your old high school friends or your ex as “friend”, on Twitter instead you feel free to follow whoever you want and whatever you want. Twitter gives the chance to create a different web of contacts made exclusively by your interests and people who share them. If you like a particularly band or TV show the use of hashtags can help you to find people who follow the same band or watch the same TV show.

I personally find it a really engaging social network that can help to find nice and new people to talk with and create new friendships based on common interests.

The Kylie Jenner Challenge

When I thought of contents that have been significantly shaped by the audience, my mind has been crossed by teenagers with swollen lips and a jar in their hands. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you probably missed one of the biggest, and I would also add dangerous, trends of 2015, the Kylie Jenner challenge. As probably most of you know, Kylie Jenner’s lips have been swollen up by surgery and injections, but she did never admit it, confusing paparazzi and who ever asked saying that she used tricks and make up. Using a tool called “Fullips” indeed, your lips result plumped for few ours.

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Teenagers got easily crazy and over excited about the news they could have the same Kylie’s lips and a new trend spread quickly on the internet. With the challenge, which consists in sucking a shot glass to blow up lips to double their size, I think it is easy to highlight how the audience is able to create something new and make it famous really quickly by taking inspiration from what they see on the internet. The challenge is inspired by Kylie Jenner’s lips, but the concept is totally shaped by the audience.

However, the results were not the best, and whoever tried the challenge did end up with huge painful lips and in a compilation on youtube to make people laugh, just to earn a couple of likes more than usual. Therefore, even if the audience is capable of creating new trends, and to shape contents, it is not always a good idea to follow the trends online.

 

Harry Potter and the prison of Convergence

During the lectures and the seminars the Harry Potter topic, along with Pokemon and Star Wars, always stood out to highlight the sense of community it made. Another way the Harry Potter saga has been used was to explain the convergence made. Harry Potter indeed is not only the seven books written by J. K. Rowling that made children and teenagers all over the world dream of a magic and mysterious world. Harry Potter is also eight movies, merchandising, studios, theme parks, web sites. Different technologies and devices merged to make what today is a proper culture.

Moreover, the writer decided not only to make a play called “Harry Potter and the cursed child”, but also she recently decided to publish the written copy of the script. Most of the fans went crazy when the news of an eighth book came out, but, as probably one of the biggest fan of the story, I have find it disrespectful. If in one hand I gladly sip my hot tea using my Gryffindor mug and I love sleeping in my also Gryffindor pajama, enjoining the perks of the convergence; in the other hand I find all this need to keep the story going only a pretest to have a bigger profit and make the aim of the initial story completely compromised.

In this case I find the concept of convergence just a prison people cannot escape from and they are forced to live a story that is finished without the opportunity to move on.

The Telegraph & The Ofcom’s research

At the beginning of February the national newspaper The Telegraph posted an interesting piece dealing with the time young people are engaged every week with the internet and social networks.

The article claims how young people in age between 16 and 24 spend more than 27 hours every week surfing the internet. I find these data mind-blowing, and if we think of it, we spend more than an entire day looking at a bright screen and scrolling our thumb on  touchscreen surfaces.

The article is due to a previous research made by Ofcom that questioned 1890 young people about their internet habits. The results highlighted how nowadays the concept we have of the internet is completely different from the one we had few years ago. Now internet is used to text, to watch TV, to interact with each others and now even to call. Therefore what we used to do without the help of the internet, now the use of the latter seems to be essential.

I decided to recommend this piece because I’ve find it interesting and a good point to meditate about. Moreover the article, and the research made by Ofcom, supplies important statistics and data about topics we discussed already during the seminars and about things we may get for granted such as our media diet.