“Integration creates Synergy” – Adrian Miles
As a future professional media maker I have investigated the fluidity of the very nature of media as well as the varying ways we choose to represent ourselves online, which affects both our professional lives as aspiring media professionals and our personal lives. Through work experience over the past year as a Public Relations representative for small PR Company “PVPR,” I have been able to draw on my experiences in order to assess the need to acknowledge that there “are no longer canonical sources” in the media world, in particular reference to the “day to day conditions of knowledge production and dissemination” and the importance of being comfortable with “change and flow” particularly in reference to privacy and sharing concerns online. During my time at PVPR I was heavily involved in content production and dissemination, via various platforms including Facebook, Instagram, email and website production, this gave me insight into these particular platforms and has helped me to draw conclusions on how quickly things can change and how porous the media world is. These case studies will be discussed below.
Through my experience with the Internet, I have drawn conclusions to see the most commonly identifiable behaviours occurring online for those in our demographic (the future media professionals), I have attempted to narrow these behaviours into four classifications:
Buying/ selling e.g. eBay
Socializing e.g. Facebook
Downloading material e.g. iTunes
Engaging in multimedia platforms eg. YouTube
The importance of creating a synergy between the two worlds was made clear when working in PR, as a company’s brand cannot change depending on which platform is used or whether it is representing itself online or offline. This need for synergy is discussed in “The psychology of Cyberspace” an article by John Suler who suggests, “there are two basic ways the Internet tends to create division in one’s life and identity. First, people tend to separate their online lives from their offline lives. You may have online companions, groups, and activities that are quite distinct from those you have in the face-to-face world. For some people, the two worlds are worlds apart. Second, among the thousands of different groups and activities online, with each specializing in a particular topic or activity, people easily can join a handful of them.”
Although for many, this is a normal way to live, Suler has identified that for some there may become a need to reclaim “the isolated self back into the mainstream of one’s identity.” In terms of a professional perspective, it is important to keep the values of your workplace aligned in all aspects, including across the different media platforms you may be represented in. This is the same for your personal life, helping to integrate the change and flow of the online world as much as possible. Essentially, I argue that whether you intend for your professional online world to diverge from your personal life or not, often it is beyond your control. It is not only the online world but the world in general that is porous, they leak into each other now more than ever.
One case study which highlights this is when American Lawyer Ellis Ruben coined the term “Internet Intoxication” when defending a client in 1999, who had used an Internet alter-ego “Soup81” to threaten and intimidate a fellow student. “The very basics of what it means to have a self- identity through time – an “inner” consistency, a core character from which all else springs- are in question on the web” proposes technologist, David Weinberger.
Networked media is a porous body, an undefined world of technological connections. It has a fluid existence where one fragment on the Internet can be interpreted in so many different ways simply because of where it is posted, reposted, found or linked from. An example is the video I have used, which has been posted on YouTube. This is because, although the video was created as a standalone piece, with the purpose of being included in this assignment, by placing it on a platform like YouTube, I have automatically agreed to have others watch my video, be linked to it from other videos as well as have viewers be linked to similar videos from mine. Weinberger says, “near and far are determined by what’s linked to what, and the links are based not on contiguity but on human interest.”
The video, demonstrates the often binary representations of a person in the real world versus their online presence, something which is important to not only be mindful of as a media professional but work at to ensure that the way you are presenting yourself to the world online and in the real world are synonymous not only with who you are, but with each other. This video seeks to represent the opposing nature of everyday online actions with normal tangible human behaviour. It is a basic binary representation of the fluidity of the online world, while also exploring the idea that online actions, such as those displayed by “Soup81” (as discussed in the case study above), do not always translate well into real life actions.
Essentially, this means that whatever YouTube decides is similar or relevant to the topic of the video, is likely to appear in the sidebar while mine is playing, creating a porous and connected environment for my work to exist in. (Screenshot sidebar of video.) Weinberger describes the “geography” of the web as “ephemeral as human interest …. Simultaneously building pages for thousands [of others] who had other, unpredictable interests.” The conditions of this knowledge production and dissemination has become a normality in our modern world, however it has created a collaborative environment in which individuals’ work will always be interconnected to others’ work intentionally or not.
Similarly, George Landow explores this in his discussion of hypertexts “we must write with an awareness that we are writing in the presence of other texts.” As emerging media professionals, I think it is important to acknowledge that whether other sources “support or contradict our argument” (Landow); it is beneficial to be both aware and comfortable with the fluid nature of the online world. In his discussion of the Internet as a database, and more specifically as a collective environment, Lev Manovich concludes, “if new elements are being added over time, the result is a collection, not a story. Indeed, how can one keep a coherent narrative or any other development trajectory through the material if it keeps changing?” In this way, maybe it is best for us to view our own work as simply one part of a growing collection of information being collated online.
Adrian Miles has suggested, “things gain meaning because of the relationships between the parts.” A point, which is easy to ignore when, using the Internet for a specific, defined purpose. However, as much as we may try and avoid this notion, we are well and truly immersed in it no matter whether we acknowledge it or not, we cannot stop Google from tracking our search history or Facebook from selling our activities to marketing companies, and placing ads in our news feed which may interest us. In all of this, essentially I feel that the Internet simply elucidates connections, which already exist in the tangible world. It acts as a physical representation with visual links, which allows us to see the way in which things are already intertwined, many which have been for millions of years. Networked Media, the Internet and technology in general are permeable in nature, so we may need to consider that they simply exist as a physical representation of an existent interconnected world.
In some ways the internet has become the first worldwide phenomenon where people agree to share their work with the rest of the world, even if individuals do not understand the true implications that sharing their work online may have, or the breadth which it may reach, they still implicitly agree to this when clicking “send”, “post” or “I agree.” This highlights the importance of recognising that there are no longer canonical sources and that there are skills required to separate the relevant from the irrelevant and the truth from the incorrect. In this way, it is also important to acknowledge also, when planning to work in the media industry that the ease of access to knowledge has large benefits but also provides pitfalls, as it can be difficult to obtain information, which is reliable and untouched by the original provider, as well as placing obstacles in the way when seeking information on topics which you know little or nothing about. The fact that anyone can post anywhere about anything they wish can be fantastic, and gives those of us who have the skills and knowledge an opportunity to provide the best quality information. It is also a chance to prove our experience and dependable nature of our knowledge, which hopefully will be obvious to consumers when placed in comparison to lower quality, work in the industry.