Digital Community – Simon Davies

No one really knows what community is, or what digital necessarily is. Come at it as a human being, a parent, someone who has worked extensively with young people, been involved in education, but not as an expert.

Act 1: Scene 1
Imagine the scene, Friday afternoon on the school run, get to outside classroom door, 8 yr old daughter waiting, ask “How was your day?”, she asks “Have you got the car?”, “yes”, “Great I want to get on StarStable with Sarah”. Head home, she flicks on computer, loads up site, hops on her horse and gallops off into her 3D world. Her and Sarah go riding together, but she calls out “Where are you, come follow me” even though no microphone. They then groom virtual ponies and buy outfits for it. Wanders off and hears “I can’t wait to see Sarah on Monday and talk about this”.

Two conclusions
The in-game representation was as real and present as in real life
Part of a continuum of relationship – school, on the virtual world, face-to-face at school

Being with technology
Have anxieties and moral panics as a parent around digital technology. What happens to literacy, social interaction, brain development, range of skills and capacities developed, make representations when they move into a parallel world and make themselves up. Carl Mitchum identifies 3 distinct ways of being with technology:
Ancient skepticism: draws on the idea that technology is bad but necessary or necessary but dangerous. Linked to ancient myths – stealing fire in order to facilitate human progress, or the Tower of Babel – humanity being prevented to achieving what they want to achieve.
Enlightenment optimism: Francis Bacon – technology is God-given and can be used to alleviate suffering and problems – moral questions are the problem – the technology is just a tool – the way we use it is the problem not the tool itself; and Immanuel Kant – what we make with our hands makes us happy and this can be applied through technology.
Romantic Uneasiness: We can’t hold on to skepticism as we use medical technology etc., and enlightenment optimism can’t be held as Roussell says machine creates an alienation of the affections.

Being with others
Is there somehing specifically different about being online in relationships – is it a separate style of relationship. What makes digital technology different to fridges, cars, hammers, chainsaws etc.

The language that surrounded the birth of the Internet when it became widely available in the early 1990s the most exciting image that could be conjured up was to “surf” the Internet. Edgy, risky sport being in tune with your environment. The Internet is nearly the direct opposite! The Microsoft tagline “where do you want to go today?” the concept of leaving your boring life, and going to the most exciting and terrifying life. Something fundamentally deceitful about what we are told will happen and does happen – how it doesn’t deliver something full and real.

Marketing technology is about fostering an emotional connection to your mobile device. Zuckerberg is trying to launch the Facebook phone and said “The Facebook phone will change your relationship with your phone” interestingly not your family, friends and community.

Put yourself here – write yourself into this space, realise yourself here. This is a very powerful message. Modernity was marked by education and the printing press with broader skills on literacy etc. Adam Nicholson on The Story that Wrote Itself – modernity as an age of self-discoveration. Online spaces are about writing yourself, you can be who you want to be, in a very exciting space, highly personalised and carrying around in the way you want. This is very aspirational technology.

Different kinds of writing (avatars, twitter, facebook, video etc.)
For personal expression – how do I feel right now – but momentary sense of self is preserved.
Spreading ideas – especially political ideas
Social relatedness – through association and network
Push oneself up the social scale – trying to increase status
Making oneself up – profiling

Acts 1: Scene 2
Keep dialogue open with daughter ask which do you prefer “online or real”, she says “both even thought they’re different”.”But StarStable is just a game,”, “It is just a game but does it become real when someone is being mean and my bestie becomes a good friend in the game. Sticking up for me if other people are being mean”.

The virtual world can stimulate real emotions and feelings
Being a good friend in the game means exactly the same thing as being a good friend out of the game

If this is the case that real emotional responses can be generated, fostered, real sense of connectivity can be fostered, why not simply dispense with geographic time and space, and invest all our attempts of community building into the virtual world? We have the means and the technology – we don’t have to worry about connecting and being in community with those who aren’t immediately comfortable.

What does it mean to view the world as technologically mind-framed
We need to have a matrix to discern the space of digital places. Digital community depends on what we think community is about, what should community be trying to become, and who are the people we’re trying to engage and where are they?

 
The world revealed technologically
Every human context is a place where content is being generated from. Significant impact on the ways in which communication and transactions happen. Technology becomes invisible – becoming part of who we are forgetting the mode of operation and the impact in how we engage. We recognise it is integral and need to critically challenge it.

Chris
cskidd1983@gmail.com
Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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