You Are What You Like: Buzzfeed vs. Joan Didion

Buzzfeed Quiz Sandwich

 Via Buzzfeed.

A particularly egregious fad has taken over my Facebook feed in the past month, and it’s one that many friends and loved ones have chosen to participate in. It’s the Buzzfeed quiz, and it’s actually not all that unlike any other internet personality quiz, versions of which have made the rounds since the early days of LiveJournal. Taking a Buzzfeed quiz and posting your results is similar to posting your Briggs-Meyers letters (INFJ), which tends to result in a steady stream of comments from friends who now realize to what extent they are (or aren’t at all) like you.

Only the quizzes from Buzzfeed, which I consider the Comic Sans of websites, are different, in a few important—and highly visual—ways. First, they are absurd. (What Sandwich Are You? What Muppet Are You? What “Mean Girls” Character Are You? What Arbitrary Thing Are You? (tagline: “Wanna be a thing? Come on, you know you do. Take this quiz!”) Slate even has a spin-off version of their own: What Buzzfeed Quiz Are You? All of which to say, I find it very hard not to comment on the post that says, “I am a PB&J Sandwich”: “First of all, no, you are not.”

Reading Crowdsourced Justice: The Case of Fitness SF

A screencapture of Fitness SF's "hacked" website.

Image Credit: Passive Aggressive Notes

Last Friday, the DWRL hosted an RSA webinar featuring Dr. Rita Raley, Associate Professor of English and the University of California Santa Barbara.  The webinar, which was broadcast over Google Hangouts thanks to our audio/visual team here in the DWRL, encouraged interactivity via social media and generated a lively discussion.  I wanted to follow up on Dr. Raley’s talk about tactical media as speculative practice with an example from this week’s headlines: the “hacking” of a San Francisco based gym’s website by the site designer himself.

Fitness SF contracted Frank Jonen, an independent web developer, to design their website in May of 2012.   On February 15, after nine months of non-payment, Jonen took action by re-claiming the website he designed as a means to “out” Fitness SF for non-payment. 

For the Love of SF

Image Credit: Facebook.com

About half of my Facebook friends live in the SF Bay Area, and out of everyone they are by far the most active posters. They're constantly touting political views, promoting their startups, recommending good reads, and most of all reminding everyone through pictures and status updates that they live in the "best" city in the country (Businessweek made it official with their city rankings for 2012).  As a former resident of SF who once drank the Kool-Aid, it's hard not to sound bitter and hypocritical about the locals' enthusiasm.  Who knows, maybe instead of Kool-aid, now I'm just sucking on sour grapes.  Let me be clear: there's no reason why San Franciscans shouldn't love there city. It is indisputably one of the most beautiful urban centers in the country.  Pastel-colored buildings decorate its famous hills, which look out over the Pacific ocean and the wrap-around bay.  And it boasts world-class universities, progressive politics, and vibrant international communities, all of which attract a distinctly intellectual, liberal, and enterprising kind of person.  Like I said, it makes perfect sense that SF residents love their city, and that they would want to share this pride through social media. Most of the time I’m grateful for their posts because they offer me a way to vicariously experience the beautiful and eclectic place where I came of age. But the pictures also consistently make me laugh, and I confess they increasingly make me groan. This post will explore why that is.

Panem et Circenses: The Hunger Games and Kony2012

Early-modern Bear Baiting

Image Credit: BookDrum.com

I suspect I was one of very few people thinking of the First Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Cooper, as I watched The Hunger Games with my family last weekend. In particular, I was recalling how Shaftesbury lamented in 1711 that the English theater had come to resemble the “popular circus or bear-garden.”

It is no wonder we hear such applause resounded on the victories of Almanzor, when the same parties had possibly no later than the day before bestowed their applause as freely on the victorious butcher, the hero of another stage, where amid various frays, bestial and human blood, promiscuous wounds and slaughter, [both sexes] are… pleased spectators, and sometimes not spectators only, but actors in the gladiatorian parts.[1]

Coding Class Identity and Friendship in The Social Network

Mark Zuckerberg, as pictured in The Social Network

Image Credit:  Screenshot from Youtube

If you’re a member of the so-called “Facebook generation,” it’s probably been pretty hard to ignore the recent coverage of David Fincher’s The Social Network, the movie that purports to tell the story of Facebook’s founding in a Harvard dorm-room circa 2003-4.  Websites like Jezebel have critiqued the movie’s treatment of women, writers on Slate have criticized the movie’s portrayal both of Harvard, and others have questioned whether it accurately represents the website's creator Mark Zuckerberg.  When I saw the movie, I was more struck by the ways in which Sorkin uses conventional tropes of class and gender dynamics to ask questions about how Facebook has potentially rewritten these issues, as well as changing identity, social interaction, and the idea of the public sphere.

Visual interfaces reinforce cultural stereotypes

On Monday, the BBC reported on a “six-month research project” that revealed that “MySpace users tend to get a job after finishing high school rather than continue their education” while Facebook users “come from wealthier homes and are more likely to attend college.” In a Tuesday blog post, Clay Spinuzzi pointed out that the research project in question was not intended to be taken as scholarly research. While it is generally a good idea to take any BBC report on science with a Gibraltar-sized grain of salt, one should ask, why did so many others accept these results (Clay lists SmartMobs and BoingBoing as posting favorable comments)? I think the answer has more than a little to do with the visual aesthetics of the two sites.

Facebook response to the Virginia Tech tragedy

Following up on my post from yesterday, where I pointed out that Facebook originated as a way to display and comment on photos, Facebook has been a nexus of information about victims of the Virginia Tech shootings. The descriptions of 7 of the 15 victims listed on this page on NPR’s website contain references to Facebook memorial pages or have pictures that were acquired from Facebook accounts.

Facebook users have also generated a number of online memorials. Consider these images that I grabbed from the “Longhorns Commemorating the Virginia Tech Shooting” (requires login) group’s page:

The origin of Facebook

Steve Rubel at Micro Persuasion passes along this article from Fast Company profiling Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The ostensible point of the story is that Zuckerberg and co. have passed on some huge buyout opportunities—Yahoo apparently offered them $1 billion for the site—a move that is considered to be pretty risky. I, however, found the recitation of Facebook-founding lore to be the most interesting part of the piece.

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