Friday, April 30, 2010

The External Identity of the New Media User

When we try to think of a user of new media, what do they look like? Online, every day, we build our own virtual identities, but we can also see the intertwining of our identities with computers reflected back on us from other mediums, as being a computer user takes on new meaning. We embrace these meanings (or at least the positive ones), which in turn help us embrace ourselves as users of new media. This discussion is less relevant to new media than the more common discussion of the way we express ourselves through new media, however it seems relevant from the standpoint that these new meanings are largely encouraged by the old media of television and movies, they reflect the social commentary on the new medium, and provide a "remediation of the self" as well (Lister et. al, ch 3.19) .

Psychology on the "Outer-Focused Aspect" and Myth

The foundation for this discussion returns us to the study of the myth in conjunction with some study on identity.

The highly influential psychologist, Erikson's, theory on ego identity is discussed by Thomas in his book on child development in which he identities the "outer-focused aspect" of developing ego identity as "the recognition of and identification with the ideals and essential pattern of one's culture; it includes sharing 'some kind of essential character with others' (Erikson, 1968, p. 104)" (Thomas, p. 87). This means that it is natural for us to want to share with the ideals of the masses, and while a television character or archetype might not actually be like everyone else, being liked in a movie or on TV means that what this character embodies is socially acceptable. This means that it is possible for the television to dictate social stereotypes and archetypes associated with different characters, and that generally we will want to relate to the most socially acceptable one.

Even more influential on this discussion, however, is Carl Jung, who is primarily known for his work on dreams but also set a basis for writings on myth and archetype. In general, Carl Jung believed that every person has their own story (Daniels, np). He also said that there were underlying themes apparent in people's dreams and in myths called archetypes, which were engrained in our psyche and could also be influential from the outside through stories (Stenudd, section 6).

While archetypes are supposed to be timeless and biological, it seems that as time goes on we change the way that these archetypes are acted out. It can be said that stereotypes are created in the way we embody the archetype. While the archetype is supposed to be ancient, the stereotype, or symbology, changes with the society. For example, in the past the hero might be a big, male soldier. Today it might be a female police officer. The way that we chose to embody these archetypes can say a lot about our society, and influence our identities as people.

Applying Archetypes to New Media Users

In the section "Archetypes" of Stenudd's essay, "The Psychoanalysis of Myth," He compiles a list of archetypes mentioned by Jung and his colleagues. This section looks at how use of new media has symbolized various archetypes.

In the past it seems that computer users have commonly fallen into the archetypes of the scapegoat, and the fool, resulting in the idea of computer usage being socially less acceptable on a large scale. I say "fool" in the sense that geeks are often portrayed as having very poor social skills. While in truth they fit more in with the archetype of the sage, the fool aspect is what is frequently emphasized. This makes them the scapegoat as well. In 1999, however, when the Matrix was released, it gave hackers and computer users a new identity, as the hero, and provided a depth to the identity relation to Neo. I remember when I was growing up spending late nights in front of the computer and relating to the character, where as before that I am not entirely sure who I would have.

Another example of play with social acceptance and archetypes is when the opposite happens. People change to fit the rest of the symbology of the archetype, to complete the package. When MySpace first came out, it took internet use to a more popular level, forcing people to integrate their current identities into that of a computer user, at which people who would not have traditionally been considered "geeks" began wearing thick black glasses, and other clothing items associated with the stereotype, and embracing "geek chic."

Today, however, being a user of new media is still applied as a symbol for the scapegoat and the fool archetypes, however mostly in terms of video game users. Players of World of Warcraft are good examples of this, and as a former player I can relate to feeling like it not socially acceptable. One of the best examples of this, and the geek in general today, is on the television show, The Big Bang Theory: In addition, even the image that the Matrix brought to computer users has been poked fun at in this clip from the film Grandma's Boy.

These take away from the perception of depth in new media uses.

The real way, however, to view the impact of the symbol of new media use applied to an archetype is in today's youth. While anything having to do with computers had a geeky tint to it ten years ago, it today has been given a whole different value. The television show iCarly has made it clear that today, the social media user is considered popular, fitting in most likely with the hero archetype, or even the god. This new turn in the direction of computer use is mocked in the the recent episode of Southpark, "You Have 0 Friends," where facebook is portrayed as a popularity contest:

Donna Haraway's Cyborg

The cyborg, in Donna Haraway, Cyborg Manifesto, fits into many different archetypes, almost creating a whole new one. Going back to "Archetypes" of Stenudd's essay, "The Psychoanalysis of Myth," we could say that the cyborg (which we are increasingly becoming) is almost emphasized primarily by what it is not. In that "the boundary between human and animal is thoroughly breached" (Haraway, 151), all the organic aspects of the character are removed. Haraway seems to see the cyborg as an opportunity to fulfill things which are currently unrealized, and in this way the cyborg is a the god or the tree, what she has put her expectations into. This philosophical, magical being that Haraway has brought into life is far different than any basic stereotypes we see in popular culture, but is still an attempt to add identity and depth to the computer user.


It is interesting how people build pictures of the new media user. In the future, however, as we continue to move away from centralized mediums, the ability for anything to tell us what is social acceptable will fade, and instead we will have circles of validation in every different nook and cranny online.


Ehrlich, B. "'South Park' Facebook Episode Shows Us Who Our Real Friends Are." Mashable. 2009. Accessed from on April 30, 2010.

Donna Haraway, "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature(New York; Routledge, 1991), pp.149-181.

Lister, et al. New Media: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

Stenudd, S. "Psychoanalysis of Myth". 2006. Web. Accessed April 30, 2010 from

Thomas, R. "Erikson's Variation on Freud's Theme." Comparing Theories of Child Development. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 2005.

Victor, Daniels "Handout on Carl Gustav Jung" nd accessed April 29, 2010 from

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Internet Piracy and New Media

The topic of internet piracy is complex, and is guided to a large degree by economic and technical factors. Internet piracy and new media are very much interwoven, however, as the internet and digitization of content is what has enabled this content to separate from its more material form making it less easy to secure. This is the case with broadcast as well, however with digital media the non analogue form also makes it easy to reproduce this content an relive it whenever you chose. In 1994, Steve Jones accurately predicted that the internet will "ensnarl difficult legal matters concerning piracy, copyright and ethics." Everything about the internet leads to distributing content, however how far can it go? Now that content know no bounds, should they be allowed to roam free or is it possible to keep them boxed in? This article attempts to dissect some of these issues, on a theoretical, historical, and practical level.

What's New About Internet Piracy?

A good way to think about the history of illegal replication of content is terms of the distribution or exhibition medium and technology and the reproduction medium and technology. All of these factors have come together currently with the internet like never before to create the perfect environment for freely replicating content. However, content always been able to be unsecured and reproduced. Essentially, the difference in ease of replication lies in how complex the construction of the content, how easy it is to access a copy of the content to be reproduced, and how malleable and accurate the reproduction medium and technology are.

Prior to the age of mechanical reproduction it was possible to knock-off works of art, although with much more difficulty. At this time very few copies were ever made so coming across one to replicate was very difficult, and each replication took an immense amount of time and skill. One can imagine, however, that this would have still always disturbed those who are responsible for the original works.

Since the age of mechanical reproduction, this has only grown easier and easier. In the example of the printing press, the reproduction technology was very expensive and complex and thus centralized. At the same time, however, content could be accessed by most people. The same is true with broadcast up until the invention of tape recording.

The tape recorder allowed people to fairly accurately and easily replicate content, however the amount of hassle involved and the loss in quality still made a large market for the original content. In the case of movies and full albums of music, it was still necessary to rent, buy, or borrow a physical copy of the work, meaning that the person had to be closer to the original. This threat was still enough to cause the recording industry to panic, however. Quoted as number 24 on KFUPM Blog's Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions.. was “Home Taping Is Killing Music," which was a "1980s campaign by the BPI, claiming that people recording music off the radio onto cassette would destroy the music industry".

Clearly, illegally replicating content is not a new issue. Today, however, the content is able to be distributed without a noticeable amount of quality loss from one single copy around the world through a peer-to-peer network. Each replication is as easy as a mouse click in many cases, and it is difficult to imagine the quality getting any better. Essentially, with the current technology today it is very difficult to come up with reasons for anyone purchasing music other than the obvious moral ones.

The Economics of Piracy and Open Access

Having this extreme decrease in incentive for purchasing digital content is clearly alarming to the people that are producing the content, but it might not be as bad as they think. There is no question that internet piracy (and the shift to digital content in general) has and will continue to change the industry, however everything pertaining to the way we receive and distribute content has gone through massive changes in the last hundred years and along with it the industries responsible for that content.

There are advantages to internet piracy in terms of promotion, however will these make up for the losses that the industry experiences? In the music industry, there has definitely been a significant decline in music sales (PBI via TIME Labs). Although there are many different factors influencing this decline is it fair to assume that internet piracy has played a part (Jassens et al., p 83). However, according to TIME Labs, there has also been an increase in revenue from concert sales, and a small increase in PRS revenues (from when artists' music is played in public), which make up for the lost record sales. This extra money primarily goes to promoters and artists, and thus the record companies are making far less.

This leans in the direction that the ultimate fear of the artists getting hurt by piracy will not be realized. The statistics among different types of artists, however, would probably show varying results. These statistics are only in terms of the recording industry as well, and not for other types of digital content which might have to search further for outside opportunities to make up for lost sales.

A few theoretical questions arise from the idea that piracy is not hurting artists. Right now, the lost jobs in the music industry is being emphasized, and if this is the case, is it better to keep people employed or move on to a method that makes the artists more money and makes more people happy? Is it OK to pirate material against the producers or the artists wishes if we are are not actually hurting their profits?

Putting And End To Piracy

Despite the fact that piracy and open access might be good for artists themselves, the entertainment industry and some artists are not happy about people being able to download their music without their permission, and are doing their best to stop it from happening.

The UK Digital Economy Bill, passed March 16, 2010, was a big step in this direction. It is unclear what the eventual impact of the bill will be, but it is already starting to drive file sharing technology further in attempts to get around the law (Brandon, 2010). This is similar to the rise of BitTorrents after the case against Napster discussed by Lister et al. in Ch. 3.12 of New Media: a Critical Introduction.

Other measures have been taken to protect content through other forms of DRM, or digital rights management. While some content has managed to stay relatively protected (such as Kindle books), there are ways of getting around DRMs for DVD's and CD's. It only takes one person with the knowledge in how to remove this protection to publish a torrent and distribute it to the online masses. DRM also places restrictions on where and how people can use this inherently less limited content, which people are highly critical of.

Limitations on content are not new, however. Kristin R. Escheufelder points out that are "non-technological use restrictions" as well, such as restricting access to archival information (Kasprowski, 50). In terms of commercial content, I would add to that all the past material restrictions the content was bound by until the time of file sharing and CD burning at home. The internet age does seem to have made us feel a bit entitled.

DRM, however, is probably so frustrating to most in that it is an example of "impeding the very gains that new technology was assumed to provide," as Lister, et al. discuss in ch. 3.12. People are very resistant to most DRM measures, and only in cases such as the Kindle ebooks have they remained able to protect content. In general, it seems like securing digital content tends to alienate users and has largely been ineffective in the past. This can always change, however, and if Kindle is able to be successful in keeping the content secure and in providing satisfactory accessibility for its customers this might shift the direction that the industry goes.

Adapting to Open Access

Another approach is being taken that goes with, as opposed to against the current of open access. Many companies have been trying to offer free, legal alternatives to internet piracy. For music and television shows, this model normally looks similar to that which has been used in the past for free broadcasting. Normally, accessing these shows or music through a legal site is much easier than downloading it illegally, and people seem more than willing to watch commercials in exchange (Newman, np). Promoters get the benefits of additional statistics and easier access for consumers to their products through linking. There are many question, however, that arise from this model as it becomes pushed on content which was not traditionally supported this way. It makes sense to think that DVDs, upon release, might go straight to streaming online with advertising revenue as opposed to having them downloaded for free without any revenue at all. How will this content adapt to being based on advertising revenue? Will it be able to support it? How much can advertising be a part of people's lives before they grow tired of it?

Additional Ideas on Open Access, Piracy, and Digital Content

Another interesting topic is where the limits on digital content will end. If we were to develop a completely open access model, the internet would be funded by things that can still be limited by materials, ie are not reproducible easily, and advertising revenues. What if one day we have the easy ability to reproduce more material goods at home? In a way this is already happening with the online DIY communities, however is still very inaccessible to many. If we look to science fiction we can see food and objects materializing themselves. If this were to happen, with the technology available to many, that would essentially make everything digital, and thus free. If this happens, will everything be supported by advertising? How exactly would it work?

Also, as things become digital, what happens with the "aura" of the content? The idea of people wanting to be close to the artistic original is discussed by Dowdell in "How to Protect Digital Content," as well as Walter Benjamin in "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (p. 4). Currently, this (in the form of concert revenues) is what is supporting the music industry. I would also wonder about this in terms of the future of collecting, and if it will grow more popular or if we will let the aura that used to surround going to the record store and buying albums or movies fade away.


There are many different paths the distribution of digital content can take. The final one is going to be based on the technology at hand as well as social and economic factors. Only the future will tell exactly how we will receive content in ten years.


Boyce, Brandon. "Anonymizer services grow with UK piracy bill." 21 April 2010. Accessed from Web. 25 Apr. 2010

Benjamin, Walter. "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction." 1935.

Dowdell, John. "How to Protect Digital Content." (no date). Accessed from on April 21, 2010.

Janssens, Jelle, Stijn Vandaele, and Tom Vander Beken. "The Music Industry on (the) Line? Surviving Music Piracy in a Digital Era." European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law & Criminal Justice 17.2 (2009): 77-96. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.

Kasprowski, Rafal. "Perspectives on DRM: Between Digital Rights Management and Digital Restrictions Management." Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science & Technology 36.3 (2010): 49-54. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

Lister, et al. New Media: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.

NEWMAN, ANDREW ADAM. "With Ads, Music Downloads Will Be Singing a New Tune." New York Times 30 Dec. 2009: 3. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 25 Apr. 2010.

Unknown. "Radiohead genertaion believes music is free." 07 Oct. 2007. Accessed from on April 28, 2010.

Uknown. "Top 30 Failed Technology Predictions." KFUPM Blog. Accessed from on April 28, 2010.

Unknown. "Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing?" Times Labs Blog. 12 Nov. 2009. Accessed from on April 28, 2010.'

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Media Research Proposal

Purpose of Research

At what point do our uses of a medium start slipping out of our control, and which psychological factors (or needs) lead it to do such? I propose that "slipping out of our control" includes actually compulsive behaviors, in addition to things we simply know we should not do but do anyhow. "Blind" behaviors may be taken into consideration as well, however that may be beyond the scope of this research. It is possible to argue that when we find a use for a medium that has such an impact on us, the true power and potential of that medium has been discovered.

I am conducting this research because it seems that the way we use a medium is not always within our own logical control. This research is aimed to support looking at new media from the perspective of technological determination, and is against Williams theory that "there is nothing inherent in a medium that dictates how we will use it" (Lister et al., ch 1.4.2). The idea that there are psychological factors that dictate the way we use a medium indicates that once the medium is created, it is only a matter of realizing the best way to fulfill these psychological factors before we discover the inherent purpose of the medium. The illogical aspects of its use further emphasize the power of discovering this inherent nature, and the absence of our own ability to determine how we will use a medium ourselves.

Specifically, this research is aimed at advocating for two points: One, that there is something inherent in the medium that dictates the way we use it, and two, that in many ways once this inherent use is discovered we start to lose control over our own usage of the medium.

Many things can be accomplished by this research. It can help us to prevent compulsive and self-destructive uses of a new medium, to predict the uses of a new medium, and to find ways to use the power behind these driving psychological factors in a productive manor.

Some questions that may be helpful to think about in this discussion and research are:

  • The basic question of the most popular uses of new media? What are trends among these uses? Which of these uses do we see as ourselves using counter productively, or without control?
    • Are there societal differences in these things? If so how extensive.
    • What is it about these uses that make them problematic, or take away our control?
    • How does the medium itself promote these uses?
    • How does the medium itself transform these uses (an essential question in this debate).
    • How content specific are these uses?
  • Are there historical ties to these uses? If yes, were these historical ties as consuming or counter productive? Why or why not?
  • Gossip, social hierarchy, attention and Facebook
    • Porn and ancient art
    • Drugs/alcohol
      • Legality and censorship
    • Fascination with the new and novel
  • Social factors which influence addictive use
    • How do people make money off of these behaviors? Is greed the ultimate enabler of these activities?
    • Would these activities be as consuming if we had less time on our hands?
  • How we can take control back? How does taking control back fit in with technological determinism?

Answering these questions also helps to tie the research back to the theories that this research is aimed at supporting.

Opening Statement

Chapter 1.6 of New Media: A Critical Introduction, Lister et al. invite us to ask if technology actually has the power to change us in itself. This question is based in the philosophies of two of the most influential writers on new media, Marshall McLuhan, who said that big cultural shifts can come about through new media technologies, and Raymond Williams, who said that we are the ones who decide how we use the medium, and thus create this change (Lister et al., ch 1.6).

In general, Williams' perspective is important in that it invites us to investigate why we use the medium as we do, however it seems to imply that we are in total control over its use. If Williams was right, a medium's use and effects on us would only lie within a fairly logical model, however that does not seem to be the case. Through this research, I hope to find that there are very basic psychological, often illogical, tendencies that we have which dictate how we use a new technology, and that the pull towards these tendencies is so powerful that we will accept or welcome most of the change that comes with acting them out through a new medium. This argument, while it uses Williams' theory in its analysis, leans away from it in emphasizing that in in a way there is something inherent in the way that we use the medium and thus the medium does have the potential to change us.

While there are many intelligent people shaping new media, I am focusing on on the mindless consumers of new media, since I believe that this research will prove that they have a very large role in the end uses for new media. Ultimately, I do believe that the responsibility for how a medium is used lies in our hands, however I believe that it is a mistake to talk about how we impact new media without having humility and understanding where our own cognitive control starts to slip away.

Expected Outcomes

I am expecting to see that people are capable of using new media in ways similar to drugs, alcohol, and other compulsive and/or self destructive behaviors. I am also expecting to be able to generate a list of specific factors that contribute to these types of uses, and that these use have exhibited themselves in similar ways and to different extents throughout history. I also am expecting to be able to illustrate how these findings help to validate the purpose in examining new media from the perspective of technological determinism by illustrating that there is something inherent in a medium that dictates how we will use it.

Summary of Internet Sources

Carbonell, Xavier, et al. "A bibliometric analysis of the scientific literature on Internet, video games, and cell phone addiction." Journal of the Medical Library Association 97.2 (2009): 102-107. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 10 Apr. 2010.

O'Keefe, Alice. "Goodbye telly, hello boredom." New Statesman 135.4789 (2006): 15. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Horvath, Cary W. "Measuring Television Addiction." Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 48.3 (2004): 378-398. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Schell, Jesse. "Design Outside the Box." DICE 2010. Lecture. Web. 11 Apr. 2010 from

McGonigal, Jane. "Gaming can make a better world." TED Conference. Feb. 2010. Lecture. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. TED, March 2010. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Paskowski, Marianne. "CONFESSIONS OF A '24' JUNKIE." Television Week 29 May 2006: 8. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2010.

Sources Cited

Lister, et al. New Media: A Critical Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Print.