End of term – or a mirage of it

Everybody in my social media timelines seems to be doing a year-end round-up. I also did one in 2016, but this year I am just glad that there are still a couple more days left before the new term begins. As also mentioned below, I was really looking forward to the winter break this time around. A bit like this illustration that was posted on the Communication Research Methods page last week with no additional caption. Well, no caption was necessary.

Then the first comment that immediately followed was: “It’s a mirage! Save yourselves!” I am not sure if the artist intended it, but upon reading the comment it struck me that I was being all business-as-usual. At least one piece of writing that I have been wrestling with for long is kind of out of the way now. Yay.ย ๐ŸŽ‰


The four dimensions of feedback [2]

Have been having a challenging couple of months. A bit of a work-life balance crisis, if you like – because there has been no life!!! Exaggeration aside, all in all, it feels likeย September 2004ย has been toppled.

While barely bumping through this autumn term, I must admit there have been a few high points too. One definite one was an anonymous comment in a student survey report circulated in-house recently. It said: “[…] She is alsoย extremely professional when expressing concerns or having to remark a downside of a paper. […]”

I have had one-to-one meetings with hundreds of students since I joined the School, so I would never know who this respondent was. There were also other equally nice comments in the report. Nevertheless, I think this particular sentence just struck me because it was about something that I happen to care about and want to do well.

I once saw a tweet that summarised my stance on this topic in a way I couldn’t better, so let me simply pin that one here.

RT @seankrossย Strive to create a world where peer review feedback sounds like you’re trying to help your peer improve their work and less like you’re writing a product review for a blender. (21 December 2017)

Has the game changed?

I really am an omnivore when it comes to conferences. I attend ones on political communications, ones on research methods, ones on doctoral education, and ones on digital sociology. Among all these and more, I must admit that I find myself feeling most comfortableย at events for “internet researchers“. Probably I identify with that label most closely.

In that circle, if your work is described as being technologically determinist, that’s never a compliment. “The internet is like a knife”, people used to howl. Or you can replace the word internet with whatever the next new thing is. Twitter, smartphones, blockchain, you name it.

If it were a binary opposition and I had to pick one over the other, I would also be on Team Social Constructivists.ย However, it is in fact never a binary opposition, is it? I am glad that even in my naรฏve yearsย I appreciated that a real-life situation would always beย somewhere in-between.

It feels like the field itself seems to be sliding back and forth too, depending on the characteristics of a given epoch. What I am hearing more and more these days is that there has been some fundamental change to our ways of being, and that change is as much from technology itself as from the social.

On a related note, here are some interesting reads for my own reference.

—ย It’s the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech (Zeynep Tufekci, Wired, 16 January 2018)

YouTube, the great radicalizer (Zeynep Tufekci, The New York Times, 10 March 2018)

— RT @JamieJBartlettย One of the overlooked, but discombobulating, things about social media is the way delightful stories appear directly next to tragic, or trivial, or infuriating ones. With no time to process the emotion, we bounce directly from delighted to outraged, totally rudderless. (12 August 2018)

—ย How social media makes fascists of us all (Jamie Bartlett, UnHerd, 28 August 2018)

Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound. (Maryanne Wolf, The Guardian, 25 August 2018)

— RT @davies_willย Something like the People’s March is an example of the post-representational politics that now dominates. Not direct democracy but not representational democracy either. I discuss in Nervous States here:

When politics becomes infused by the logic of crowds, it becomes less about peaceful political representation, and more about mobilisation. Whether on the street or online, crowds are not a proxy for something else, as, for example, a parliament is meant to be a proxy for its electorate or a judge is the face of the justice system. They donโ€™t purport to <i>represent</i> society as a whole, in a way that a โ€˜representative sampleโ€™ is treated by an opinion pollster as a means of discovering what the whole nation thinks. If crowds matter at all, it is because of the depth of feeling that brought so many people into one place at one time. As in the wars that dominate the nationalist imagination, crowds allow every individual to become (and feel) part of something much larger than themselves. This neednโ€™t be a bad thing, but it carries risks and plays on our nerves. […] The critical political question is who or what has the power to mobilise people. […]

— [cont’d] One word for it is ‘presentational democracy’: the people are just presented, but without that being a way of settling an argument. Big data suffers the identical problem, and it’s the entangling of those two things that accounts for where we are right now.

— [cont’d] Another thing to add on this: ‘presentational democracy’ does not look good when it is led by professional *representatives*. Remain urgently needs political outsiders. (21 October 2018)

—ย Town hall? 120 people. Live-streamed chicken dinner? 257,000 views on Facebook (Michael Scherer, The Washington Post, 10 December 2018); as summarised by @declan_djmn1, we are witnessing a move to a new ground [‘private’ platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram] and a politics of intimacy.

—ย How much of the internet is fake? Turns out, a lot of it, actually. (Max Read, Intelligencer, 26 December 2018).

Not only do we have bots masquerading as humans and humans masquerading as other humans, but also sometimes humans masquerading as bots […].

— “Designed addiction” (Online Harms White Paper, DCMS, April 2019, pp.26-27)

Why conservatives are winning the internet (Sean Illing, Vox, 3 June 2019)

—ย Populist technologies and the new spectacle of finance (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, 3 July 2019)

The Left Behind: a chilling film that digs into the deep roots of the far right (10 July 2019)

“The perception of the far right in this country is outdated,” says Alan Harris, the writer of a provocative new drama, The Left Behind. “We think of skinheads and National Front marches. But things have changed โ€“ especially in terms of the online influence.”

The phrase “far right” tends to conjure up visions of organised groups: Britain First in the UK, the marchers on Charlottesville in the US. Yet the reality can be far more diffuse.


[The team] sought to create a drama that dug into the roots of far-right extremism, using literature from Hope Not Hate and speaking to Prevent consultants and academics. They soon found that much of the far-right activity was concentrated in the “left-behind” areas โ€“ post-industrial towns and cities suffering the sting of austerity and income inequality.

“Fake news”, academia style

I believe the title says all.ย 

This is something I always mention when I do a session on literature review, but now my collection has grown too big to fit within one single slide, so here we are.

Mobility [2]

Hmmm, looks like this is going to be the third post in a row that brings up North Korea. Coincidental, but also indicative of the amount of media attention they seem to be absorbing at the moment.

Anyway, today I have come across an interesting article by journalist Joo Seong-ha. As a defector from the country himself, he offers various “thick descriptions” of contemporary North Korean life. According to Joo, apparently Bollywood has been huge in North Korea this year.

The article reminds me of a couple of other articles that I read years agoย about how people of Manipur in northeast India were hooked to Korean films and soap operas.

I find such seeminglyย arbitrary popularityย fascinating. The Al Jazeera article above says it has a lot to do with cultural proximity, but I think there still is more to it than that.ย 

Ripe for spoofs

Nike’s trademark has led to many spoofs. T-shirts with “Just Done It” or “I Just Can’t” are probably no longer novelties. However, its latest campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, besides the whole buzz it has created about “ethical investing” and #BurnYourNikes, has given me the gift of more snorting moments. Here are two examples. I am afraid I don’t know who their creators are; both have floated into my social media timelines.

The latter would also have been a perfect cue for me to move on to the topic of mansplaining and #immodestwomen, but that will have to be another post.

In search of a perfect analogy

I am a firm believer of the power of analogies. I rely a lot on them, not only when I am trying to explain something to others but also when I am trying to understand something myself. So, unsurprisingly, I do get a kick out of spotting a really good analogy while surfing online. I have been meaning to place all of them in one place, and am finally getting around to it today. I am on one day’s leave!

“Isn’t it great? We have to pay nothing for the barn.” (Geek & Poke, 21 December 2010; crossposted on 27 February 2012; see also “Facebook is basically designed like a lobster trap with your friends as bait” byย Michael C. Gilbert, 2009, and “You are the product” by John Lanchester, August 2017, London Review of Books 39(16): 3-10)

RT @nickbilton Going to Facebook has become the equivalent of opening the fridge & staring inside, even though you’re not hungry. (29 December 2012; crossposted on 8 December 2015)

“Consent, it’s simple as tea” (Blue Seat Studios, as part of a campaign by Thames Valley Police, 12 May 2015; crossposted on 8 January 2018)

“Same reasons why in Mario Kart you donโ€™t get blue shells or lightning bolts when youโ€™re already in first place, assbag.” (crossposted on 19 November 2016)

“Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.” (Reddit user GeekAesthete, cited in Kevin Roose, Splinter, 21 July 2015; crossposted onย 11 July 2016)

RT @halfscholarย My PhD dissertation plan and how it went illustrated. (22 November 2017)

“The referendum was like making a cup of peppermint tea. You had to decide whether to leave the teabag in or take it out. If you leave it in, the cup of tea as a whole is stronger. Even though it appears that the teabag itself is getting weaker, it’s still part of a strong cup of tea. But if you take the teabag out, the cup of tea as a whole is weaker — and the teabag itself goes directly in the bin.”ย  (James Acaster, 2016; crossposted on 4 July 2018)

RTย @anne_theriaultย I already have a cryptocurrency, it’s called Sephora Beauty Insider Points (20 January 2018)

RT @YankeeGunnerย Perfect analogy. Because that’s not a real target and you’ve put it there yourself. (26 January 2018)

“In real-world terms, a part of Facebook still sees itself as the bank that got robbed, rather than the architect who designed a bank with no safes, and no alarms or locks on the doors, and then acted surprised when burglars struck.” (Kevin Roose, The New York Times, 19 February 2018; see alsoย Clay Bennett‘s cartoon on “security versus privacy”, The Christian Science Monitor, 29 October 2001)

RTย @Theophiteย imagine if keeping your car idling 24/7 produced solved Sudokus you could trade for heroin (16 August 2018; see also “Imagine a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where everyone can see what each plate contains but no one can actually eat any”, 14 February 2018)

“๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ๋Ÿฌ์ง€ ๋ชปํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ๋‚ด ์•ˆ์˜ ๊ด‘์ธ์„ ๋ด‰์ธ ํ•ด์ œํ•˜๊ธฐ๋Š”์ปค๋…•, ์–ธ์ œ๋‚˜ ๊ทธ๋Ÿฌํ–ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ์ถฉ์‹คํ•˜๊ฒŒ ํ•™์ƒ ์—ญํ• ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ๊ทธ๋ฆฌ๊ณ  ์‹œ๊ฐ„์ด ํ•œ์ฐธ ์ง€๋‚˜์„œ์•ผ ๊ทธ๊ฒƒ์ด ์ˆ˜์น˜์˜ ์ˆœ๊ฐ„์ด์—ˆ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ๊นจ๋‹ฌ์•˜๋‹ค. ๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ๋•Œ ์™œ ์›ƒ๋Š” ๋Œ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ๋‹ค์†Œ๊ณณ์ด ์•‰์•„ ์žˆ์—ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ? ์˜ˆ์ •์— ์—†์ด ์ง•์ง‘๋˜์ง€ ์•Š๊ธฐ ์œ„ํ•ด์„œ ์ผ๋‹จ ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ์— ํ†ต๊ณผํ•˜๊ณ  ๋ด์•ผ๊ฒ ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ณ„์‚ฐ์„ ์ˆœ๊ฐ„์ ์œผ๋กœ ํ•ด๋‚ธ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ์•„๋‹ˆ๋ฉด, ์ € ์‚ฌ๋žŒ๋“คํ•˜๊ณ  ์›์ˆ˜์ง€๊ณ  ๋‚˜๋ฉด ํ‰์ƒ ํ•™๊ณ„์—์„œ ๋ฐฅ ๋นŒ์–ด๋จน๊ธฐ๋„ ์–ด๋ ต๊ฒ ๋‹ค๋Š” ํŒ๋‹จ์„ ํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ์„ ์ƒ๋‹˜๋“ค์ด ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์„ ์ฝ์ง€ ์•Š๊ณ  ์ € ์ž๋ฆฌ์— ๋‚˜์™€ ์•‰์•„ ์žˆ๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์€ ๋‚˜ ํ˜ผ์ž์˜ ํŒ๋‹จ์— ๊ทธ์น  ๋ฟ, ๊ทธ ์‚ฌ์‹ค์„ ์ฆ๋ช…ํ•˜๊ธฐ ์–ด๋ ต๋‹ค๋Š” ๊ฒƒ์„ ์ฒด๋“ํ•˜๊ณ  ์žˆ์—ˆ๋˜ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ๊ทธ๋„ ์•„๋‹ˆ๋ผ๋ฉด, ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์„ ์ œ๋Œ€๋กœ ์ฝ์ง€๋„ ์•Š๊ณ  ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ์— ์ž„ํ•  ์ •๋„์˜ ํ˜•ํŽธ์—†๋Š” ๊ต์ˆ˜์˜ ํ•™์ƒ์ด ๋˜๊ณ  ์‹ถ์ง€ ์•Š๋‹ค๋Š” ๋ฌด์˜์‹์ด ์ž‘๋™ํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์ผ๊นŒ. ํ™•์‹คํ•œ ๊ฒƒ์€ ๊ทธ ์–ด๋–ค ์ƒ๊ฐ๋„ ๊ทธ ํ˜„์žฅ์—์„œ ์˜์‹์˜ ์ˆ˜๋ฉด ์œ„๋กœ ๋– ์˜ค๋ฅด์ง€๋Š” ์•Š์•˜๋‹ค๋Š” ์‚ฌ์‹ค์ด๋‹ค. ๋‚˜๋Š” ๊ทธ์ € ํ‰์†Œ์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ํ–‰๋™ํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ์šฐ๋ฆฌ๋Š” ์„œ๋กœ ๋งก์€ ์—ญํ• ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ•˜์—ฌ, ๋…ผ๋ฌธ์‹ฌ์‚ฌ๋ผ๋Š” ๋ถ€์‹คํ•œ ์—ญํ• ๊ทน์„ ์™„์„ฑํ–ˆ๋‹ค. ์œ„๋ ฅ์ด ์™•์„ฑํ•˜๊ฒŒ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ๋Š”, ์ธ์ƒ์ด๋ผ๋Š” ๊ทน์žฅ ์œ„์˜ ๋ฐฐ์šฐ๋“ค์ด ์ด์ฒ˜๋Ÿผ ๋ณ„์ƒ๊ฐ ์—†์ด ์ž๊ธฐ๊ฐ€ ๋งก์€ ๋ฐฐ์—ญ์„ ์ˆ˜ํ–‰ํ•œ๋‹ค. ๋‹น์‹œ ๊ต์ˆ˜๋“ค๋„ ์ž์‹ ์ด ์œ„๋ ฅ์„ ํ–‰์‚ฌํ•˜๊ณ  ์žˆ์œผ๋ฆฌ๋ผ๊ณ ๋Š” ์ƒˆ์‚ผ ์ƒ๊ฐํ•˜์ง€ ์•Š์•˜์œผ๋ฆฌ๋ผ. ์œ„๋ ฅ์ด ์™•์„ฑํ•˜๊ฒŒ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ, ์œ„๋ ฅ์€ ์ž์˜์‹์„ ๊ฐ€์งˆ ํ•„์š”๊ฐ€ ์—†๋‹ค. ์œ„๋ ฅ์€ ๊ทธ์ € ์ž‘๋™ํ•œ๋‹ค. ๊ฐ€์žฅ ์ž˜ ์ž‘๋™ํ•  ๋•Œ๋Š” ์ง์ ‘ ๋ช…๋ นํ•  ํ•„์š”๋„ ์—†๋‹ค. ๋‹ˆ์ฝ”ํ‹ด์ด ๋ถ€์กฑํ•ด ๋ณด์ด๋ฉด, ๋ˆ„๊ตฐ๊ฐ€ ์•Œ์•„์„œ ๋‹ด๋ฐฐ๋ฅผ ์‚ฌ๋Ÿฌ ๋‚˜๊ฐ„๋‹ค.” (๊น€์˜๋ฏผ, ๊ฒฝํ–ฅ์‹ ๋ฌธ, 24 August 2018)

RT @raulpacheco Is this the correct direction of my braceletโ€™s imprint? Or should it go the other way (upside down) (2 December 2018)