Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What is #SelfieClass

#SelfieClass is a section of  Writing 150: Writing and Critical Reasoning under the thematic of Identity and Diversity
offered at the University of Southern California, 

See some of our course readings or our assignments.

From the USC News:

Studying selfies: USC’s #SelfieClass examines what online photos say about us

Selfies have become the cultural artifacts of our time, the digital mosaic that reveals how society views gender, race, class and sexuality in the 21st century.

In USC’s #SelfieClass — a nickname for one particular section of “Writing 150: Writing and Critical Reasoning: Identity and Diversity” — first-year students critically examine society’s influence on self-identity and how selfies reflect and affect the global culture in which we live, all while learning how to write college-level essays.

The class is led by Mark Marino, an associate professor (teaching) at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Marino’s work has often focused on digital spaces, including netprov, a form of narrative storytelling on social media.

“When we look at selfies, we’re also looking at the beginning of the 21st century,” Marino said. “The cultural moment of the selfies will pass and become something that’s iconic of our age, the same way that photographic self-portraits or painting self-portraits or religious journals were the selfies of their moment.”

In class discussions and individual interviews, students said their spontaneous snapshots often revealed subconscious feelings about their own gender, sexuality and ethnicity. They’ve used selfies to distance themselves from one group in hopes of being accepted by another.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Maria's 4th Blog Post: Selfies at Serious Places

The only plausible thing to do after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal is to…take a selfie?

The devastating earthquake has now claimed more than 5,000 lives, yet there’s people (like the man above) that took the time to stop and take a selfie in front of the ruble that is left of Nepal’s Dharahara Tower. He’s among the many that documented the tragedy through a selfie. It reminds me of my 2nd blog post of the people who took a selfie in front of a New York apartment explosion. Apparently, people love to flip out a camera at sites of disasters.

Although these kinds of selfies seem arrogant, W. Keith Campbell, an expert on narcissism, offers up a different take on the motivation behind these photos. “Some are narcissistic, ‘Hey, check me out. I’m so cool,’ and some are ‘Look how bad this is,” he says. He mentions that some people might be communicating to their loved ones, in the form of selfies, to say “Hey, I’m still alive.” Two media experts have said that the people in Nepal taking selfies are rooted in self-involvement and should not be judged right off the bat. However, the question of “is it respectful to the dead?” arises.

What do you think of selfies taken at disaster sites? Is it helpful or is it all for attention?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why do we feel the need to constantly update our snapchat stories?

When I'm bored and playing around on my phone, the app I use primarily to waste my time is Snapchat. Different than other favorites of mine such as Instagram and Pinterest, Snapchat is useful because it updates every few seconds, with peoples' Snapchat Stories. Over the past couple years that Snapchat has been popular, the popularity of Stories have been on the rise. It almost gets competitive, to a point-- how cool can you make yourself seem on Snapchat? It's all about the geotag, the filter, and the general atmosphere of where you are. It's the ultimate version of the humble brag-- not actually verbally bragging about how cool your life is, but instead just taking pictures and posting them on Snapchat. It's very nonchalant; people can look at it if they choose, and it's almost a guarantee they'll become jealous.

For my last blog post, I wanted to reflect on this. Why do we feel the need to make ourselves seem cooler on Snapchat? Why is it even effective? My generation constantly feels the need to be the best; we must be doing the coolest activities, we must be in the coolest places, and we must be with the coolest people, at all times. I see nothing wrong with this; the issue I see is that we feel the need to validate it, on social media such as Snapchat. When we post on our Stories, the goal is not to just show what you're doing-- the aim is to get a text from one of your friends that says "OMG where are you right now?! That looks amazing!!" To me, we shouldn't need anyone's validation. We don't need to constantly represent ourselves as the best because in my opinion, we don't always need to be the best. Snapchat can be funny, and it can be entertaining. I think the problem only arises when Snapchat is used to represent a false sense of reality, when we use it to try to convey ourselves in a light which does not necessarily match our actual selves.

Homophily and Algorithms?

A New York Times article published this week explored the phenomenon of homophily of Facebook posts as it relates to political views. As we discussed in class this semester, homophily is the tendency to associate oneself with like-minded people of similar backgrounds.

Social media blew up immediately after Hilary Clinton announced her her 2016 presidential bid—the announcement tweet posted to her account was viewed 3 million times within one hour. A wave of political commentary combined with the algorithm behind Facebook's news feed has created a sort of "polarization more often associated with MSNBC or Fox News" (Corasaniti, Casting Early Presidential Vote Through Facebook by Clicking 'Unfollow'). The algorithm is designed to highlight content a user is likely to engage with. For example, if a user liked a Hilary Clinton fan page, more Clinton related posts will pop up on that user's news feed. This means that the content a user sees is probably related to their interests, thus filtering out—or, at least, giving less priority to—content that a user is not interested in.

It is not very easy to filter the kind of people you associate with in person based on their beliefs and backgrounds, but the internet makes it far too easy. With just the click of a mouse, you can silence a particularly opinionated person you don't agree with. The ease of tuning out is meant to provide a more enjoyable experience for users, but it makes it all too easy to shut out unappealing remarks. Discussion and exposure to different perspectives are both important aspects of education, While the "unfollow" feature is convenient, it may hinder productive discussion by making content more polariazed.

The presidential race is a more apparent illustration of the effects of homophily on social media. It is easy to pick out the differences between a Democrat and a Republican, and what their respective news feeds probably look like. But what about more subliminal differences? Do you tend to associate more often with people of the same sex? Same racial background? Surely, you are more likely to associate with people going to the same school as you. How far has the hand of homophily reached into your social media experience? The people you associate with have a huge impact on the type of content and information you are exposed to. It is important to be aware of this, because it could affect your views on the world.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blog Post #4: How to make yourself look not look lonely.

The selfie stick has now been taken one step further. Now you can pretend that your photographer is actually the arm of someone who is taking a photo of you while holding your hand.  It is not in shops yet and is only a prototype. Apparently it's "a direct commentary on the growing selfie stick phenomenon, and the constant, gnawing need for narcissistic Internet validation". This instantly reminded me of Erving Goffman’s presentation of self-theory. People portray the version of themselves to please their followers. Individuals try to gather as much information as possible about their friends and followers through social media. The Internet is seen as a huge medium to portray ones identity on a large scale. But the identity we see online is not necessarily a true indication of that person. 

As Erving Goffman says people want to know more about others because they want to know what will be expected of them, and that people act the way they do in order to impress others. I believe that people who use social networking sites do so as a clandestine way of gathering information about people. Those who post know this and so they post in order to please these viewers. Hence, the online identity of a person is usually far from accurate. That does not mean there is no truth in them it just means that it is not entirely true and that it is for you to guage before making any judgment.

Bella Blog #4

I remember learning about the earthquake in Haiti when I was in eight grade. Sitting in religion class in my school uniform, our teacher wanted us to talk about what had happened. I remember felling particularly sad as our little catholic school supported our own sister school in Haiti, and still after a few days we hadn’t heard back whether or not everyone was alright. As we continue to talk through the situation, putting together all the facts we had learned, there were lots of questions from every student. I remember my friend Alexander raising his hand and asking why God let a tragedy happen in such an already impoverish country. Dumbfounded, I remember the sad looks that filled the classroom, as well as our heartbroken silence. 

Above is a picture of the ruins of Nepal, with the death toll already over 4600 people. 

When I heard about the tragic earthquake in Nepal, I couldn't help but ask myself the same question. For I too can’t help but wonder why five years later a tremendous tragedy hit Nepal. In CNN’s article “Nepal: Houses and families ripped apart by quake” they interviewed a young woman who said that “no government has any support from us. No on has come out to see that we’re living like this.” This comment really struck me, it makes me feel so disheartened. The article then shared the numbers of the monetary support from each country. The United States is supporting with $10 million, the UK with $5 million, Canada with $4.1 million, Australia with $3.9 million, the EU with $3.25, Norway with $3.9 and so on. I believe the woman that she has not received any aid, and it saddens me. But what really frustrates me is how difficult it is to support countries during times of distress. I only wish there was a way we could help that really made a difference. Not that money doesn’t, for it helps it great ways, but sometimes I wish something I did from here could help people like that woman across the globe. 

Yet Another Snapchat Update

A couple months ago, I wrote about the outrage that ensued after Snapchat launched an update that removed the "Best Friends" list. Earlier this month, Snapchat brought it back—kind of.

Instead of making the "Best Friends" list public, Snapchat created a symbolic emoji system.

For example, if you've been snapping a friend quite often for consecutive days, a fire emoji will appear next to your username. My personal favorite is the smirk emoji, which signifies that you're their best friend but they're not yours. I like that the face gives off a smug, mischevous vibe.

I guess Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel wasn't bluffing when he said he'd find a way to bring back the infamous "Best Friends" list while maintaining some level of privacy.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bella Blog #3

For this blog I’m going to talk about the Bruce Jenner interview I recently watched over the weekend. I am not a fan of the Kardashian’s, yet as my friends began to watch I immediately got plugged into the special. And, before I knew it, I was right along side of them awaiting the answer to every strange question America has about his recent announcement. Jenner, 65, talked about his lifelong internal struggle of being transgender. He explained that he was born in a male body with a female soul inside—a problem he has struggle with through three marriages and the parent of ten children. I think that what really drew me into this interview was my lack of awareness and education of this topic. I have never been exposed to this community nor thoroughly able to comprehend what it is like to bare this struggle. And I truly learned a lot. I think that regardless of one’s opinion on this topic, it was a riveting interview to see such a idolized Olympian and American man talk about his insecurities and what repeatedly nearly lead to his demise. Altogether, I think that this interview was popularly viewed and many have gained insights from Jenner’s story. And, regardless, I think that we as a society can say that this special is revolutionary to our societal growth. In the fall semester, I took a course called the history of race and sex where I learned about the history and evolution of sexual practice, especially in regards to interracial sex. Now, upon reflecting on Jenner’s story, it makes me think about all the previous superstitious and outrageous pretenses associated with interracial sex. Today, a bit too gradually, this is changing. Maybe in a decade or two or three, the world will be different for the transgender community too. 

Above are two pictures showing Jenner's change over time. In his interview he said that Bruce Jenner is no longer, yet instead she lives. 

Elise's 4th Blog Post


In a new take on selfies, people have started using the Chinese app called "MyIdol". The basic gist of the app is that the users take selfies of themselves (or pictures of their friends), and the app generates a customizable avatar for you that you can dress and put makeup on. Additionally, you can make them dance which is always funny because they've been programmed to sing and dance to a few different genres of music. It's gone viral this week and celebrities have been posting their MyIdol's on social media, flaunting the semi-realistic avatars.

In the attached article, you can see how it can go wrong when people don't take pictures of their faces, and instead take pictures of their pets and emoji's which results in pretty funny and horrifying results. Ultimately, I think the app is pretty well made and the resulting avatar is really entertaining to dress and watch, since it's technically watching yourself because the faces look pretty realistic...

Katie's Blog Post #4

The biggest news all around social media thus far has revolved around Bruce Jenner’s unexpected gender transition. After winning the Olympic decathlon, his identity as a male was set in stone. However, nobody knew the struggles he was going through with his true inner association with being female. His daughters gradually discovered his secret by catching him wearing their dresses. Kylie, in particular, thought that Kim was stealing her clothes, and decided to catch her in the act by turning on her computer camera. To her surprise, the video captured her father trying on one of her dresses, and admiring himself in the mirror. She has been the least supportive since then. 

Kim felt the same awkwardness around Jenner until she was enlightened by her husband, Kanye. He told her, “I could have the most beautiful wife in the world. I have that. I could have the most beautiful child in the world, and I have that. But I am nothing if I can’t be myself.” This opened up her eyes to a new, more accepting perspective on Jenner’s much awaited transformation. In fact, she said if her father wants to be a woman, she has to look good and represent the family. She and Jenner went on shopping trips together to create a new look for a new person. Jenner’s story is inspiring, and teaches us that even after we have defined ourselves through our work, family, and passions, that we always have the opportunity to change ourselves in order to feel closer to who we truly are.

Elise's 3rd Blog Post


What an inappropriate time to take a selfie. This is becoming a trend, though. People have started taking selfies of themselves and groups of people next to enormous tragedies and posting it on social media. I have even seen selfies that people took with a dead person in the casket during a funeral. I feel like people are becoming desensitized to things more quickly because of social media because it's definitely not rare anymore to see people taking pictures of themselves smiling not only after a tragedy, but also DURING. It seems like people are more concerned about shock value and self representation than they are about the actual tragedies that take place, and that's concerning.

In this article specifically, I actually have a friend who posted about this earthquake on Facebook, and his good friend was one of the people who was on an Everest expedition who had died during the avalanche. When I usually read these kinds of articles, I'm somewhat more disconnected from the event since I don't know anyone, but since this was actually a case where a friend of a friend had died, it hits closer to home and really brings me back to the gravity of what happened and how inappropriate it is to take a selfie with the event, especially while smiling.

Elise's 2nd Blog Post

Something that I find interesting every time I go to dine on campus is the  amount of posters there are everywhere asking students to partake in their "done at usc" or something hashtag where to participate, students must take a selfie of themselves or themselves with some friends and post it on social media (namely, Instagram), and it's a contest of sorts. So whoever does it, enters, and if they get chosen then they get a free meal for themselves and their friends (private dining) at one of the on campus restaurants. This was interesting to me because a few years ago, this would have never even been a thought, and now people can get free meals just for taking a selfie and uploading it with a hashtag.

Finnel's Blog Post #4: Shameless Attire

(Moved from Moodle)

The famed annual music festival known as Coachella just finished weekend one of three this past Sunday. This year nearly 600,000 attendees, of mainly youth, came out to the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California to see their favorite artists. Normally, large music festivals are known by youth to be an welcoming environment with ‘good vibes’ where people don’t judge one another. However this year one young man took it too far with his shameless celebration of rape culture.
A man by the name of Jemayel Khawaja saw the shirt at the festival and immediately felt shocked and disgusted. Khawaja felt compelled to share what he saw thus he approached the young man and asked to take a picture. Rather than be embarrassed, the young man enthusiastically agreed and posed with a huge foolish grin and threw up the peace sign. Fortunately, the image that Khawaja shared on Twitter gained a lot of attention and people everywhere shared the same feelings of disgust and outrage.

The shirt was meant to be an obvious play on the well-known slogan “Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat” made popular by the 2013 Fatboy Slim and Riva Starr track. The slogan is very familiar in electronic dance music scene and it is not uncommon for people to make variations of it, however, this young mans ‘joke’ was simply taking it too far. In an attempt to come off as edgy or radical, his plan obviously backfired. But the fact that he felt comfortable enough to wear it out in public says something about rape culture and common, and almost accepted, occurrence of sexual harassment against women. Hopefully, in the near future this will not be so easily accepted, although the backlash online is a step in the right direction.

Instagram Wrongly Censors a Woman’s Performance of Gender (Blog #3)

(Moved from Moodle)

Last week an image from the Instagram Rupi Kaur, a Sikh poet studying at the University of Waterloo, Canada, went viral. What made the image and it’s story go viral wasn’t necessarily the content of the picture but rather the response the moderators of Instagram had to the picture.
The photo Kaur posted, although slightly shocking, was clearly innocent enough. There was no nudity nor any other offensive content. It simply depicted a problem that females around the world are all too familiar with; leaked period blood had managed to sneak past the woman’s sanitary pads and stained her pants. In defiance Kaur reposted the same image with the following caption
“Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. You deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. The girl is fully clothed. The photo is mine. It is not attacking a certain group. Nor is it spam. And because it does not break those guidelines I will re-post it. I will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of a misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many of whom are underage) are objectified, pornified, and treated less than human.”
Clearly Kaur was not the only one who felt that there was a huge problem with what had happened to her because within a week, the image drew over 740,000 shares on the Internet. It is disappointing to see such a major social media company holding such backwards morals where a fully clothed woman is not allowed share a very natural and common woe while images of overtly sexualized women flow freely with no repercussions. Hopefully the influx of negative press that Instagram receives will at the very least cause them to reconsider their actions and in the future not let the same mistakes happen again.

Finnel’s Blog Post #2: Cross Amidst Tornado Aftermath

(Moved from moodle)

Recently a storm of tornados have once again raged through the state of Oklahoma. The storm left behind a trail of destruction with homes and businesses ruined. However, amidst the debris and ruin a young man by the name of Chase Rhodes tweeted an image of what appears to be a ‘cross’ hanging onto broken telephone pole wires. The sky is dark and cloudy and there is obvious debris laying on the floor. Rhodes captions the picture “Just found this after the tornado. God is with us.”
The picture went viral very soon after it was posted and currently has about 1500 retweets and ‘favorited’ by about 1900 people. It is clear from the Twitter post that Chase Rhodes is a man religion and appears to be conveying his faith and love for the Christian God. Unfortunately, time and time again history has proven to us that whenever the topic of religion is involved, controversy is bound to occur. As I browsed through the replies to the post, the majority were supportive and replied with positive feedback such as “God bless you, prayin for you and your family” and “God is not dead!” However, one negative reply from @CordieMendoza read “You think its awesome your god left electrical poles that look like a cross but who cares about the tornado?” It can be reasonable assumed that @CordieMendoza himself is not religious or at the very least not Christian. Like always whenever the religion is presented on a very open platform such as social media, more often times than not an argument will ensue about the validity of God.
In short, what started out as a simple image by a young man wishing to express his faith quickly spiralled into a common religious debate due to the virality of the picture.

Finnel's Blog Post #1: “Callous” Russian Paramedic Fired For Disgraceful Selfies With an Accident Victim

(Moved from moodle)
Recently, a now disgraced and former paramedic named Tatiana Kulikova was fired for taking offensive selfies with an accident victim inside of an emergency ambulance. The 25 year old foolishly did not even make an effort to hide her actions, instead, she had posted the images online for all to see. The most offensive of the images is a picture of a dying patient on an ambulance with Kulikova’s middle finger also placed in front of the camera. The caption for this particular image read “another moron.” The next selfie is of the Russian ex-paramedic holding up a peace sign next to a heart attack victim with the caption, “How I hate my job.” Some of the patients of in her selfies even passed away shortly after the photo was taken. It is clear that Kulikova did not take her job seriously and had an obvious lack of respect for patients.
Tatiana Kulikova’s choice of the online performance of her identity was appalling but it was her own conscious decision. She wanted to express her dissatisfaction with her career choice, but failed to so in a respectful manner. The identity that is gleaned from seeing her selfies are ideas of selfishness, disrespectfulness, and insensitivity. José van Dijck writes in his article, You have one identity’: performing the self on Facebook and LinkedIn that “...platforms like Facebook were commonly regarded as a space for (personal) self-expression and for making connections between friends.” Some may argue that these were private images that weren’t meant to be seen by strangers or employers, however, in this particular case it is clear that despite these images being uploaded in a supposedly private setting, they were highly inappropriate and deserved proper reprimand.

Bella Blog #2

(originally posted on April 16 2015)
I am heavily compelled to write about Kate Durbin's Vimeo. Reading the articles about Kate Durbin gave me a little sense of what the projects she worked on were like, and the Skype interview with her gave me and even better notion. But what really intrigued me and really brought the project to life in my mind was the Vimeo video we watched for homework.
Watching the Vimeo video brought her Skype interview to life in an impactful way for me. When watching her video, all I could think about were her many comments about her work, her inspiration, her purpose, all her insights, all her stories that she told us about the project. When she told us about the simple instructions that she gave the actresses, it was powerful to see them play out in film. It was really interesting to see the public react, however strong and vulgar it could be though. 
I think what really struck me was the tearful eye make up and the stickers. I think they effectively contradicted everything that society says--in an immense juxtaposition. Society labels females with an expectation of beauty, slapping on gender performativity. This was represented through the hello kitty stickers. Society also hurts these women. It makes them feel like they are outliers, when there is no median. Thus, exemplified in the dark, streamed eye makeup. 
I wonder what little girls thought when they saw these women. I wonder what the women thought when they saw little girls. 

Bella Blog #1

(Originally posted in temporary storage bin on March 12 2015)
For my first blog post I decided to talk about the recent article in The New York Times titled “Man Convicted of Rape in Delhi Blames Victim” because it has really had me thinking about it over the past few weeks. As I’m going to New Delhi for spring break, I have been reading a lot about this case and the culture of India after seeing this article come up in the news. This article is about the case of a young woman who was gang-raped and then killed on a bus in Delhi by six men. And there is so much that is horrific about their reactions. One man spoke out during an interview saying that it was in fact the young woman’s fault as no honorable woman goes out at that hour. Let it known that it happened around 9pm. The woman hadn’t even gone alone, but the young man she was with was beat when we tried to interfere. What I find so horrible is their responses—to them this is not a big deal. The bus driver never stopped the bus. None of the men feel remorse. And one even went on in his interview to say that “about 20 percent of women are good” (New York Times). This is shocking, horrible, completely unjust and disgusting. It made me think about Coach’s Buzzfeed article and how the culture of rape in the United States and how rape is now discussed on platforms such as YikYak. Compared to the past, this is a big jump. And now, when I think about this compared to the culture of rape in India, it just seems so alarming to me—for there is such a large spectrum in-between the two. I wish it wasn’t this way, I wish it never happened, but there’s something to be said about these two cultures and how each nation sees rape today.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Right to Twerk

As I’ve mentioned, I love Buzzfeed. I am very open about the fact that I get my news from Buzzfeed, and today, something caught my eye; an article about the arrest of three Russian women.

This would not seem out of the ordinary if not for one fact. The Russian women were arrested for publicly twerking in front of a war memorial. This was the second twerking scandal to “rock” Russia in two weeks— a huge thing for the Russians! All women involved were charged with “hooliganism.” 

I think this article was fascinating. To me, it is such an interesting choice that the way these women chose to express themselves was through twerking— we here in the U.S. definitely do not consider twerking to be an art form, but it is still a way some women choose to express themselves. I’ve even heard of some “twerk teams” forming. Some people do truly choose to express themselves through twerking. Even though it may seem completely ridiculous that twerking is so popular here, it is even more surprising that in some places, people do not even have the right to express and represent themselves online the way they would like to. In my opinion, if a woman wants to represent herself through twerking, she should absolutely have that right.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Women of Silicon Valley: Changing how Women are Represented Online

Humans of New York is a popular Facebook page anywhere you go. In fact, it has become so popular that it has actually expanded into a website, an Instagram account, and a book! The great thing about HONY is that it represents, beautifully, the diversity among people in New York City. For us regular folk reading online, we get to see all this diversity being incorporated into our Facebook page, in ways that may not have been seen before. Let me be clear that I have no issues with HONY— I think that for what it does, it does an excellent job. However, a new website has emerged, a spin off of HONY, that in my opinion, takes it to a whole new level. 

A Stanford computer science student has recently started Women Of Silicon Valley— a page very similar to HONY in that it seeks to represent the women who work so hard to make Silicon Valley run, because the image that is put out to the public is predominantly male. I think this is a huge, huge development for the web, and for how women represent themselves online. In an age where women are meant to look sexy and beautiful online, these women are showing that intelligence IS sexy and beautiful. These women, and specifically the student who started this initiative, are changing the way women view themselves, and are attacking the stereotype that smart women cannot be beautiful. I think this is an exciting project, and I’m very excited to see how it goes. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Katie's 3rd Blog Post

Scrolling through Facebook: it’s what we do when we’re bored, right? But there are those times when you come across a photo or a video you wouldn’t expect would make your entire day.

The music video, “Asians Eat Weird Things,” is probably one of the best culturally informative sources I have ever seen. It takes place in a 99-cent Ranch Market where a bunch of Asian friends are eating foods that gross people of other races out. These include tripe, kimchi, chicken feet, jackfruit, and many more. The catchy song makes it fun to watch while providing non-Asians with a learning experience and Asians with a part of their culture that they can relate to. The food that this video covers is also not pertaining to just one Asian culture. It covers Japanese, Chinese, and Korean foods that are “weird.” Instead of making fun of this stereotype, this video gives other cultures an inside look into the social norms of these countries. 

It teaches us that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our heritage just because other races think that aspects of it are unsanitary, freaky, or just plain weird. We can laugh at ourselves and enjoy the diversity this world has to offer through this kind of media education. The more empathy we can spread through cultural awareness, the more we can all come to understand each other as human beings. Here is the link to the video so you can witness the genius of David and Andrew Fung (aka The Fung Bros.):


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Allison's 4th blog post: The Importance of Detail

This week, I came across an article about Kylie Jenner's fashion choices as shown through her Instagram photos. All of Jenner's choices in these photos, from the clothes she wears to the way she stands, contribute to aspects of her online identity. One photo that stood out to me was this one:
Kylie Jenner shares outfit choice for night out, 18 April 2015

The tight clothes she is wearing, from the crop top to the high-waisted spandex, and the amount of skin she is showing, from her midriff to her legs, emphasize aspects of her sexuality. The fact that she is comfortable with these gestures imply that she is consciously sexualizing her own image and attempting to entice the male gender. Jenner's stance further suggests this idea, since it accentuates her curves and draws attention to her legs. Perhaps Jenner's choice to look away from the camera contributes to the act of enticement as well, since it makes her seem more mysterious.

Jenner's pink hair contributes to aspects of her gender. Pink, these days, is often associated with females, and the fact that all of her hair is pink implies that she wholeheartedly embraces her femininity.

Jenner's background to her photo includes a Jacuzzi, marble detailing on the Jacuzzi, and luscious green trees. These items clearly emphasize Jenner's privilege and upper-class lifestyle. Even if Jenner intends the focus to be on herself and her outfit, her socio-economic status still shines through.

Overall, multiple aspects of Jenner's identity are performed through this simple photo, and with even more photos on her Instagram page, it is safe to conclude that other aspects of her identity become defined and solidified as well.

Instagram, with its focus on photos, creates an environment where observing details can tell one person a lot about another's identity.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"Unfriended" - Representing All Our Online Fears

The new horror film Unfriended releases this Friday. It is different than a usual horror movie, however, because the whole film takes place on a computer screen during a Skype call. I have a few friends who saw an early preview of the film, and from what I heard from them, it kind of sucked, but the themes in the movie relate to a lot of issues that arise on social media.

The plot involves a group of friends who are Skyping each other and using other social media sites at night, when suddenly their dead friend's account begins to harass them and threaten them. This, like the Wired article points out, is a good way to represent more modern fears about technology and online harassment.

In addition to the cyberbulling aspect, the film is focused on the fact that when people die, their social media accounts become graveyards almost - their accounts are still active, even though they are dead. This is something that I have thought about before on occasion. It seems to be almost a living piece of them. And people can still write thoughts on their wall and tag them, so in a way the online version of them is always and forever will be alive. This is a scary thought, considering the number of hackers that can take over accounts on Facebook. It is a strange zombification of online identity. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Power of Going Viral - Dress Code


Today, Buzzfeed posted the above articled, detailing the accounts of a high school senior being sent home for violating the dress code because of the outfit pictured. The girl's sister took the pictures and posted them on Twitter, which quickly went viral. People blamed the high school for body shaming, saying that the school's dress code was inherently sexist and promoted rape culture.

However, this is not the first time I've heard this story told online. It seems as though almost every few weeks there is a new viral post about high school dress codes. While this is an important topic, there hasn't been any real changes made in the school systems. No school has really changed their dress code, or at least not so clearly that it would go viral online.

So this makes me wonder, what is the real power of going viral? Can it be something more than merely someone's fifteen minutes of fame? Or can it actually have an impact?

I think that in this case, it eventually can, but it will be a slow process. The more people address this topic, the more likely a school system will notice and change the rules. However, I think it will be a long time before any school changes anything, because they are so used to the rules that have already been in place. I would expect more angry viral Tweets to show up before there is any more progress.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Katie's Blog Post #2

Have you ever been attacked through social media? It doesn’t seem like a harmful tool until it’s used hurt someone with whom you are personally connected.

I don’t use Yik Yak because of the negative connotations I have heard associated with it, and what happened last month confirmed my fears. A good friend of mine from high school took a screenshot of a Yak that was obviously singling his Tourette’s syndrome in an offensive manner. Instead of ignoring it and moving on, he posted a mature response on Facebook:

“To my non UCI friends who couldn't see what happened today/tonight: I was given a bit of a speed bump in the mid morning after my probability class. It looked like someone was scared I was going to break the curve for the class, so they went on the social media app, yik yak, and talked smack about my Tourette's. I decided to give a very Vistamarian response to the strings. I posted my response on 3 class facebook pages and it got 600 + likes and counting on all three of them followed by lots of fan mail and friend requests... here was the post and the photo below:
Hello all, I’m positing this string of posts from Yik Yak to the class Facebook page because they were regarding ME! Firstly, I want to give everyone a brief introduction to Tourette’s syndrome. Tourette’s is a neurological condition that causes individuals to have certain “ticks” (i.e. uncontrollable habits). The “weird noise” that the people on the Yik Yak string were referring to was my tick, which happens to be a noise that sounds like a strange hiccup. Before I go any farther, please know that this string had no negative emotional effect on me personally. I’m extremely proud of the person that I am today and I have no shame whatsoever about having Tourette’s because it wasn’t a life choice of mine. Regardless of my feelings (or lack of) about the string, whoever started this string should be completely ashamed of themself because it is strings like this that make tons of young adults across the country commit suicide. And would you really want any association to a suicide? The reason why I wanted to direct this to everyone’s attention is to show that the general majority of UC Irvine does not tolerate this kind of behavior. We are a thriving and a diverse university that embraces everyone regardless of gender, sexual orientation, mental conditions, etc. Unfortunately, there are a countable number of people on this campus who are also affected by strings similar to this. And I can only hope that more people will take the initiative to drill into our Anteater community that such behavior is not acceptable! Lastly, I hope that people who are put down know that there are tons of students on campus, like me, who do care about everyone’s wellbeing and are here to help; all you have to do is ask. Thank you and goodnight!”

His courage to take a stance against this bully on social media is inspiring. Instead of using profanity to take out his anger on this person, he decided to use his response to inform everyone about his condition, and prevent this misunderstanding from happening in the future. The beauty of social media, other than the irking posts on Yik Yak, is that it can be used in this way as an educational tool to spread empathy towards medical, cultural, spiritual, and many other human conditions. The sad reality, however, is that the world of social media is used for more harm that good. With rare posts like that of my friend, we are only given a small spark of hope that this will ever change.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Maria's Third Blog Post: The Brumpie?

On Sunday April 5th, Victoria’s Secret model Doutzen Kroes posted to Instagram a black-and-white photo of her pumping her breast milk. She captioned it by saying, “Daily routine! I’m promoting breastfeeding, it’s the best for your baby when possible!”  The picture gave rise to talk about “breast pump selfies” or better yet “brumpies.”

Commenters had a surprising reaction to the photo, since breast feeding is a highly controversial matter. Comments such as “encouraging” and “wonderful” filled the Instagram post. Many users also used the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding to show their support. Others, however, questioned the model’s intent for posting such a picture.

Kroes isn’t the first celebrity to post this kind of photo. Kourtney Kardashian and Gisele have taken similar pictures. Celebrity breastfeeding pictures can be intimidating because they are typically doused in glamour; the celebrities are surrounded by makeup artists (like Gisele) or in an extravagant dress. Kroes breast pump picture, however, can be seen as relatable. It can give viewers a sense of familiarity since a celebrity, a Victoria’s Secret model for that matter, has to actually pump her breast milk.
Femininity is highlighted in the photo with obvious cues. The message that is sent across and through to viewers is a much more important matter to focus on though. Kroes is supporting breastfeeding and trying to send a message out to her followers that it is natural and shouldn’t be kept behind closed doors.
Elise Solé said it best in her article, “being exposed to diverse images of strong, multi-faceted women openly blending the demands of motherhood with their professional lives is always a step in the right direction."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Allison's Third Blog Post: A Family Photo

I was browsing Google today when I came across an article about this viral photo:

Photo courtesy of Kayli Rene' Photography.

The photo depicts Sierra Sharry; her baby boy, Taos; and her late husband, Lane (who is photoshopped in). Sierra states in the article that Lane had an accident while at the jet boat races in El Reno and that he passed away while she was still pregnant with their child. She further says,"July 13th 2014 was the absolute worst day of my life. I lost my best friend. The father of my unborn child. And since that day I have felt so empty inside. A part of me will forever be missing. I loved that man more than life itself."

However, with this photoshopped image, Sierra is able to see her whole family together, even if it is artificial. Commenting on the photo, Sierra states, "This is how I picture us. Taos and I living our lives the best we can with Lane ALWAYS watching over our shoulder."

This is indeed a tragic story, so the artfully completed family photo becomes very moving and touching. However, we as viewers can relate to the photo on another level, and this is in terms of gender performance. In the photo, Sierra and Lane are occupying traditional feminine and masculine roles, respectively. Sierra is cradling her baby boy, emphasizing the maternal and nurturing aspects of her identity that are normally associated with femininity. On the other hand, Lane, as seen in the photo and as stated by Sierra, is "always watching over [their] shoulder." This put Lane in a protective role over his entire family, which is traditionally a masculine characteristic. With these traditional roles, viewers will be able to see the photo as normative in regards to society's standards. Therefore, they may more naturally empathize with the unfortunate circumstances of the situation. 

Overall, the photo portrays a sense of "what could have been," and this makes viewers stop and truly think about the Sharry family's heartbreaking situation. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Maria's 2nd Blog Post: Disaster Tourism

Last week in NYC, an apartment building collapsed in East Village from a gas explosion, injuring 22 people and killing 2 more. The cameras that were on site were not only those of news stations.
Soon after the explosion, seven women gathered around a selfie stick to take a group photo, the explosion being the backdrop of the selfie. Not only was the time and place terribly planned, the women were smiling. If you had any faith left in humanity, this selfie dissipated any hopes. The tasteless photo was plastered across the New York Post with the title “Village Idiots” (seen above.) People were outraged. One commenter on Twitter tweeted “Absolutely disgusting” while another said “Everything that’s wrong with NYC summed up in one in one photo.”

The selfies don’t stop there.
The picture above shows Christina Freundlich throwing up a peace sign in front of the explosion site, again smiling. Comments included “WTF is wrong with you?” and “I can only imagine how the families of those two missing people must feel right now” (the two people mentioned were announced dead.) After she took down her Instagram photo, she released a statement apologizing for her careless actions.

The fact that both photos are of women gives insight to which gender typically is more active on social media. Selfies are usually taken where one is smiling which can explain why both selfies show the women dong so. Nevertheless, both photos were taken carelessly and are offensive, especially to the families of those that were a part of the incident. Has selfie culture gone too far?

The Women of ISIS-- And Their Twitter Accounts?

Over the last few months, two articles on Buzzfeed stuck out to me. They were about ISIS women using Twitter to recruit women by creating a sense of normalcy and sisterhood. The women use Twitter in order to give women thinking about joining ISIS encouragement and tips about leaving their families. They post pictures of themselves shopping at high end stores, and discuss the female side of the Islamic State—their “sisterhood.” They tweet primarily in English, making a point to appeal to young Western women. 

These articles are fascinating—I think it’s so interesting how these women have taken to Twitter, as opposed to Facebook, or other forms of social media. These articles imply, and I agree, that Twitter is a way for women to convey their messages in a short, succinct manner, and reach mass amounts of people. This ties in to our class, because we favor Twitter as well, shown by the fact that we all made Twitter accounts the first day of class. I also was drawn to this article because I have never actually thought about the fact that these women use ISIS as a platform to draw other women in I appreciate articles like this because they give you a different perspective, by allowing us to hear directly from these women.

Though Twitter is an amazing way to get news and ideas quickly, we need to be a bit skeptical in this situation. As with any news, we need to take into account the circumstances surrounding these ISIS women posting, and that is, at its core, to promote ISIS. Regardless of this, I still think this article does a really good job of highlighting a buried topic—I know that when I think of ISIS, I don’t immediately tend to think of the women and their social media tactics, and that’s pretty interesting to consider.