Gender Politics regarding David’s Robo House and the Internet of Things

Watching this video in the lecture for me brought up some really significant questions about gender politics in the new growing age of Things on the network.

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Online Anarchy and Twitch Plays Pokemon

At one stage in the lecture this week, Ted spoke about anarchism as almost an aesthetic choice applied to the internet. This struck me as interesting given that anarchy has shown up time and time again in the subject as a descriptor for the online world, but this was the first time (as far as I can recall) that it has been deemed a deliberate choice of how we want to treat the web. Running with this idea I want to take a brief look at an example of exactly how this concept can manifest: Let’s talk about Twitch Plays Pokemon.

twitch plays pokemon

To get all the details you can follow the hyperlink above, but the gist is that an unknown Australian decided to experiment with the idea of crowd sourced gameplay – something which the theatre student in wants to explore as a peculiarly postmodern performance art. The individual developed a program that would translate statements in the Twitch chat of the streamed game into commands for the lone player character of that game, leading to everyone watching having to cooperate in order to get things done. The whole thing was chaotic enough once the number of participating viewers grew, but (after a particularly difficult hedge jumping scenario) the developer added an extra function. Viewers could collectively vote and choose between play modes of either ‘Anarchy’ or ‘Democracy’. In Democracy mode the game would hold onto all of the commands to come in over a short period and execute only the most popular one, however, audiences consistently opted for the much more difficult Anarchy mode instead. Even if the majority DID vote for Democracy, the minority identified ways to disrupt play until Anarchy was restored once more – almost taking on their own kind of hacker role, and using what power they had to stop any one voice from being discounted no matter how counteractive to the current goal that voice may be.

This anarchy may not be functional, but I guess this example indicates that what it DOES do is keep things equal and put everyone onto a seemingly even playing field. For better or worse though, I’ve really no idea.

Social Media and Social Justice

Connectivity as power is something we see in practice ALL. THE. TIME. on social media. Just think of the recent spread of the hashtags for #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter as well as the general rise is sharing evidence of police brutality. It exemplifies as well how these movements aren’t tied to one specific social media website. It encompasses Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine: its spread is frankly enormous. As discussed in the lecture, social media provides an avenue for mass communication that doesn’t rely on or enforce passivity. Think about using a telephone, even – in order for one person to get their information across, the other must be silent in order to hear. Whereas, on social media you can be putting out information and absorbing information from others at such a rapid pace that it is effectively simultaneous.

And it isn’t only in areas of massive political significance (‘only’ seems very much the wrong word for a statement about such a hugely important thing). The applications for this massively powerful system of communication are crazy numerous! During the Christchurch earthquake a few years ago, Kiwi friends of mine living in Australia where entirely unable to get onto family back home through the clogged up phone lines, and so social media became a hub for New Zealanders abroad looking to find if their loved ones were alright, in a huge organised effort which took place and was communicated entirely over social media like Facebook.

Police Brutality meme2

And one more for the road.

Police Brutality meme3

Makes claims that young people spend too much time on their phones seem pretty trivial, huh?