Authenticity in Web 2.0 Culture

Authenticity:

NOUN

  1. the proven fact that something is legitimate or real, Online Dictionary
  2. not openly false, Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age
  3. fake version of foreign cuisine/art/music that appeals to white pseudo intellectual hipsters, Urban Dictionary

SYNONYMS

reliable – realistic – life like – true – valid – lawful – bona fide – unattested – rightful


Somewhat ironically, the best real-world definition of authenticity we can hope for is articulated the most effectively on Urban Dictionary, a platform that calls on the unregulated masses to establish definitions for a variety of terms. These definitions, I would argue, have a firmer grasp on language’s use than the legacy hardback versions.

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We’re entangled in a spiral of transparency, authenticity and employability (source).

Although social media culture advocates for “transparency and openness“, the edited persona must remain simultaneously business-friendly, true and savvy. At the same time, the manner by which others approach and communicate with our online presence must be monitored meticulously. You can maintain the cleanest Twitter account in the digital sphere, but if your friend posts a picture of a drunken night out and tags you, it’s all over. Therefore our social media identity is a self-conscious one by definition. Web 2.0 ideology explicitly requires the self to be constructed as we would a tangible product. So where does this expectation of authenticity fit in?

This generally involves, according to Alice Marwick, a gruelling combination of immaterial and emotional labour:

The self is immaterial in that it is digital, and emotional in that it involves using real emotional affect when presenting oneself and interacting with others. (Marwick 2013)

Establishing a somewhat authentic persona can incorporate a magnitude of negative emotional costs which are often side-lined. This work can involve reiterating personal stories for online publication to the point of “extreme discomfort or vulnerability” (ibid). These stories can be potentially damaging, in a career sense, yet personal branding is increasingly correlated to employability. This is seen through young graduates constructing their social media in a way that represents the values they associate with their chosen field, given that many employers will extensively research a job candidate’s online presence before hiring them.

Young journalists in the United States, for example, have admitted to intentionally appearing apolitical on their social media pages so that prospective employers would see them as objective. They then found that once they were hired, employers expected them to fashion and maintain a personal brand via social media relating to their work. A significant issue with this is that the main persona is not the only person with the ability to contribute to the social media profile, and one must constantly be on alert for friends who post incriminating images, for example, of a lit night out. The amount of effort required to monitor this over a plethora of social media platforms that make up a persona is staggering.


Identity:

NOUN

  1. the conception, qualities, beliefs and expressions that make a person (online dictionary)

In self-branding culture, authenticity relies on our ability to ensure that each decision we make is rooted in being true to ourselves – but what is the self? The authentic self, we can conclude, is very much a social construct, a phenomenon we can relate back to Urban Dictionary’s open-sourced definition of the word. We are simultaneously told to be ourselves online within a virtual framework characterised by the surveillance of self-presentation, often with severe consequences within the physical corporate sphere. This becomes especially intricate in an internet arena without any established guidelines on media etiquette.

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Source

Even while trumpeting authenticity, Web 2.0 enthusiasts generally accept the idea that one should self-censor online (Marwick 2013).

This is the ultimate paradox enframing the social media paradigm. The social media sphere is far more socially progressive than its corporate physical shadow, making the two severely incompatible. We still have rigid distinctions between what is acceptable social behaviour and what is acceptable workplace behaviour. When the two combine, there are no guidelines on how to process this information. Logically, we cannot sustain a Web 2.0 culture of personas both completely transparent and corporate focused, so we need to work on changing definitions and practice to combat the instability between self-branding culture and the corporate western world.

 

 

A Stranger’s Welcome Back to UOW

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Hello, it’s me (source)

My seventh semester at the University of Wollongong – an institution for young adults with anger management triggered by crap parking – started on Sunday. I arrived on campus and pulled into an almost-empty car park. I’m the first to admit I’m not the greatest at parking, and when I ended up just over the line, I didn’t bother to straighten up. It was mid morning on Sunday; I was running late, nobody was around and nobody was likely to turn up – or so I thought.

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Image

Shock, horror – I was wrong. When I returned to my car several hours later, in all its diagonal glory, cars were crammed everywhere. Probably unsurprisingly, on my windscreen, somebody had tucked a note. It was saturated with rain. I unfolded it with the utmost care and precision. It read, nice parking – NOT.

It was fifteen degrees and pouring with rain. The fact that my slightly obtuse park had inspired a complete stranger to halt their day, kneel in the heavy rain to pull a notebook and pen out of their bag and scribble me such an observant, thoughtful critique, inspired me deeply. It was borderline romantic (well, almost).

It was truly a wonderful way to begin the semester. I feel like I’ve finally embedded myself into UOW culture, and earned the full experience.

At least I didn’t end up on Buy and Sell.

Onward and upward from here 😉

Excerpts from Before

“If you don’t ever reflect, you just stay an idiot” – Jenna Marbles (YouTube comedian)

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image: superwall

19th August 2015

18:30

It’s times like this, when even though my blood is crying as it pumps reluctantly through my veins, I feel perfect. The universe is staring down at me, the cold breeze is belly-dancing at my window, trying to lure me outside. The soft, busy hum of my computer’s engine somehow complements the pin board above me which is decorated with colourful, sporadic notes; a microcosmic world of inspiration. Sitting atop years’ worth of imagination and fear in my journals, the blank white screen of my laptop beckons me closer.

It is 6:34pm. The sun has just fallen.

Now I am ready to live.

_____

12th September 2015

18:20

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image source: favim

Honestly, I’m feeling a lot better. It’s not because anything has been resolved or spoken about, but there’s an odd acceptance exuding about me, the acceptance that there’s nothing I could physically do to change any of it. Except write about it, of course. So here I am.

***

When we got to my car, he went to open the passenger seat door. I quickly pushed in front of him, mumbling that I had to move something. “Your journal”, he said. I don’t think it was a question. I think what he said next was don’t worry, I’m not going to snatch it or read it.

“Yeah, I know”, I whispered. “I’m just going to move it”. He knows that I write and he knows that sometimes it’s about him. Why am I shaking?

***

If we assume Adam Smith’s invisible hand theory to be fate, and institutional intervention to be decisions, suddenly we have a whole new way of looking at why things are the way they are, and maybe even a way of modifying them. The economic battle between efficiency and equity becomes the struggle of head and heart, and suddenly my journal becomes revolutionary (for me).

_____

30th August 2016

10:58pm

Me: hey are you busy?

Her: yes x

That’s our friendship in a nutshell. Paper is easier to communicate with than people.

_____

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image source: Tumblr

14 December 2016

Coldplay concert

I liked watching the lights on everybody’s armbands from the opposite side of the stadium. If I focused carefully enough I could drown out the noise and movement and imagine it was just me, sitting on stony, cold pavement, admiring a brick wall decorated with Christmas lights. Strangely enough, this illusion made me feel much less alone. The only alternative was reality; a voluptuous musical performance which all my friends were consumed by, whilst I sat tapping poetry of pain on my phone before my head exploded. In a stadium dancing with laser beams of triumphant orange and sensual violent, I have never felt more green.

_____

19th August 2017

17:40

That’s enough for tonight.

I’m glad I write.

-Claire

 

The Antagonist was a Good Man

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.

Don’t go back to sleep”

These two lines were extracted from a favourite poem of mine, The Breeze at Dawn, written by Mewlana Rumi. They’ve been speaking to me as I have drafted this post over the past several days. I read an incredibly moving blog post from Kris over the weekend and my mind has not stopped since; families, stories and words – and how we construct them ethically – have been jiving in my mind for days, so here it is. This is a story which belongs solely to my family and me.

Disclaimer: this post will discuss themes of family violence.

A massive hug to my mum for not only giving me her consent for this piece to be written, but her fullest support ♡

2013

I was sitting in a plastic green chair in the middle row of my year 11 legal studies class, shaking and pale-faced. We’d spent the class learning about domestic violence; a topic I’d heard of along the grape vine but never stopped to contemplate nor consider. By the end of that hour, I’d come to a life-changing realisation: domestic violence was infested inside my own family home. Prior to this, I’d known something was wrong; I knew that I and my siblings were scared, I knew that other families were different to mine. I had noticed that my dad’s concoctions of bourbon and coke were steadily growing paler in colour until he almost consumed it straight. You could smell it on him from the front door.

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Home is a foreign and confusing concept now (image: Gretchen Miller)

I had noticed the irony of the relief I felt when I saw him passed out in a field or on the couch and curiously saw this reflected in my mum, brother and sister, because we didn’t have to worry about making him angry whilst he slept. But, I didn’t realise (consciously) that it was wrong and I didn’t realise it was crime. I was only sixteen and I had no idea what to do with this information. I didn’t even know if they realised what was happening; my younger siblings certainly didn’t. Would they hate me if I called the police next time something happened? Is that what my mum even wanted? I never asked any questions; I think, because I was afraid of every possible answer. I did nothing. The situation grew worse.

Two years later, toward the end of my first year of university, my parents separated.

2017

It’s almost been two years since we left my dad. What’s of interest to me now is the storification of what happened. We live in a small town and people have a pathological need to know everything which occurs in another’s life. My mum’s incredible. She was determined not to dishevel my dad’s image in this small town, despite what he had done. The story she put out, when questioned, was “it’s sad, but it’s just one of those things”, implying they just sort of grew apart. It’s a wide stretch of the truth but I copied it nonetheless. I sort of struggle with that, though. I’m quite a private person. One of the hardest things about the separation for me was the questioning from people whom I would normally never share important things about my life with. Colleagues at work, my bosses, friends of friends and more wanted to know why. I just mumbled Mum’s answer because I didn’t want to get into it. It was just easier that way.

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Image: Agnes Cecile

One day a colleague at my workplace at the time said to me “I saw your Dad earlier. He looks so sad, so down. He’s living in that house all by himself, you guys never visit him!” I mumbled something about being busy all the time. How could this be happening? How is my Dad, the perpetrator, the person who single-handedly destroyed our family, receiving sympathy for being alone? If it was physically safe for us to live with Dad, we would. It’s that simple.

From that moment on, I’ve been pretty upfront about the whole thing, when asked (that doesn’t mean I like to be asked, or that I want to talk about it). If there’s one thing I am sure of, it’s that my Dad is not a victim in this scenario.

I asked my mother tonight why she made the choice to keep our story hidden;

“When our marriage ended after almost 25 years I couldn’t tell most people the real reason. I still loved him, we had been together since we were 17, and I felt I needed to protect him. I didn’t want people to think badly of him. In some weird way I had a feeling of embarrassment in admitting to others what I had been through. It took a long time for me to realise I cannot be responsible for something I have absolutely no control over. A part of me still loves him. A part of me always will”.

***

About Violent Stories

The complicated thing is, if there’s a random burglar who breaks into your home and starts to abuse your family, you’d recount the incident as horrendous. He’d be painted as the enemy in every recount. When we hear of indicted criminals, we think and say bad things about them, just like the antagonist of a fictional novel or film. When that person is part of your immediate family, it’s really different. We didn’t live with a hardcore, violent criminal. We lived with a loving dad by day who became a monster by night, fuelled by bottles of alcohol he couldn’t live without. That made it really hard for us to leave him. As soon as you mention alcoholism or domestic violence, a very negative picture is painted of an antagonist, even if they have a good heart deep down (in a sober sense).

What are the implications of this when it comes to ethical and reflexive family storytelling? How do you portray the ‘bad guy’ in your story ethically? When I think ‘ethical’, the first value conjured in my mind is honesty (it’s a Sagittarius thing, look it up). That’s a problem. Honesty means telling the truth, right? How do you tell the truth in a story if it means making someone look really bad? Even if they are really bad (sometimes, not always)? Is it unethical to make someone look bad? Is it more ethical to just not tell my story at all – even though that kind of goes against my value of honesty?

Does this mean that not all stories can be told?

I really don’t like that idea. In a domestic violence scenario, saying no to the telling of a story is the same as saying to a victim, you have something to be ashamed of. We don’t want to listen to you. That’s a powerful push in the wrong direction.

A quick web search tells me that autoethnographic literature in domestic violence is extremely lacking. Is this because of the latter question? Is this something I can contribute to? Current literature is predominantly victim-focused rather than perpetrator focused, and relies on hard facts and statistics rather than qualitative storytelling.

I’ve skimmed the surface tonight, writing this blog. I have years’ worth of journals which contain really powerful, honest and sometimes scary stories. I decided against publishing anything concrete on this post, tonight. I don’t know if I’ll write more on this topic, but we will see. Maybe one day I can write something much more substantial that might have an impact on somebody’s life.

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Image: Pinterest

He still lives in the same town as us, some thirty minutes away. If it was any closer I would be scared. We try to have a good relationship and do things as a family. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. He’s still unpredictable and scary. The difference is, now we can escape it. I’ve learned to take each day as it comes and follow my gut instincts. Normal for me is keeping my car keys really close to me when I visit his house so I can escape if I need to, especially if my sister is with me. This doesn’t mean forgiveness, it means dealing with it on a daily basis, however we see fit. It doesn’t get easier; I don’t think it ever will. Nobody should have to experience what I, my two younger siblings and my mum have lived through. If there’s one silver lining, it’s that the four of us are closer than I ever thought possible. We are unbreakable – and that makes us a story worth telling.

-Claire

About Value, Words and Desire

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(image: pinterest)

What is Value?

It depends who you ask. Oxford Dictionary provides several alternatives;

“The regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”; or

“The numerical amount denoted by an algebraic term; a magnitude, quantity, or number”.

Urban Dictionary, a significantly less prestigious tool (which is nonetheless informative) provides several more, such as;

“A special kind of sentiment added to an object after having it rubbed against a man’s crotchular region”; or

“Good drugs”.

So, it turns out that notions of value are highly volatile. Depending on what one desires and what they have experienced, their definition of value and any ideals attributed to it will be diverse. Of particular interest to me is the conflict between the deserved value of something and the numerical amount assigned to it, as defined by Oxford Dictionary.

The Mirror of Erised

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The Mirror of Erised (‘Desire’ spelt backwards) is a decorative way of understanding the subjective nature of value (image: Deviant Art)

“The happiest man on earth would be able use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is . . . it shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts” Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Albus Dumbledore, the wisest guy to grace the earth since Gandhi, talks about values in terms of desire. When we want something, there’s a particular value attached to it. This is the basis of consumerism; it’s also the foundation of much human behaviour and belief. The Mirror shows us that Harry wants to see his parents; his values of love, family and loyalty align with this. Desire, then, can be seen as a subset of value. This says to me that definitions of value are as flexible and diverse as values themselves.

How about numerical value? Can we articulate any of Harry’s values with a numeral with accuracy? Of course not.

Why am I talking about value this week, of all things? Kate gave us the option, in BCM311 this week, to decide whether to attribute 15 percent of our final grade to a blog post such as this one, or to add it on to an existing assessment task; a presentation to be more specific. This time last week the obvious choice for me was the blog. Writing is by far my strength over speaking in front of a class, surely the logical choice would be to earn marks for my blogs?

 

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My blogs for this subject and beyond are truthful to me. They are real; my stories, my thoughts and my considerations. They aren’t wrong; they can’t be by definition. Given this, what would be the impact of assigning them a numerical value? Are my feelings worth a 72? My story, a recount of a live event, an 81? What are the implications of the conversion of words to numbers?

If my experience is worth a 67 and that of the person beside me is 70, does this mean my experience is less valued? Does it matter less? Do I matter less?

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Einstein differentiates success from value. Is success measured numerically? Can we measure value at all? (image: Brainy Quote)

I wrote several posts during the holidays which were completely non-compulsory and unrelated to my studies. I found that the reception of these posts on social media and the support and encouragement I received from a number of people were worth so much more to me than any mark ever could.

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Words have no score. They are valuable in their own right (image:bitrebels.com)

I’ve touched on this issue before; my posts Take a Number and On Triangles, Fate & Divergence each explore the issues with associating humanity with numbers and categories. I’m a numbers girl, I’ve said that before. But from now on, I’d like to keep that separate from my blogs. Words are too powerful for numbers. Their impact or meaning cannot be measured by science. I think that’s my favourite thing about them.

This is why I’m choosing to write these words for the sake of them; they are valuable because they’re real and they’re written for me.

-Claire

 

Gojira: Pain, Memes & Painful Memes

Digital Asia

The way in which we partake in any attempt at research on a group we are a part of holds a necessary bias known as reflexivity. This week in DIGC330: Digital Asia, we became familiar with this idea through making sense of the film Gojira (1954). This film is the original Godzilla. It’s Japanese, black and white, and extremely different in content and structure to the Hollywood blockbusters we see today.

memz.JPG Before the darker themes of the film became clear, the #DIGC330 Twitter feed was a lit platform of banter. Once the WWII references became more recognised, a (slightly) more formal and in-depth discussion occurred. (source: Twitter)

Although I did not realise this at the commencement of the film, Gojira was heavily influenced by the events surrounding World War II. Prior to this realisation, I was pretty confused at the story of the film. This is…

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3 Reasons Why the Week before Uni Starts is the Worst of your Life

Some people will tell you that university study is the paramount of stress in their lives. Those people are liars. Semesters full of lectures, tutorials, seminars, assessments and exams are smooth sailing compared to the last week of the holidays. Here are my reasons why:

1.Tutorial Enrolments

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Tutorial enrolments are BRUTAL (source: Giphy)

This is top of my list for a reason. It’s the fucking Hunger Games. Every. Single. Mudblood Student is online at the same time trying to squeeze into a tutorial which is:

(a) on the same day as the lecture

(b) not at 8.30am

(c) not at 6.30pm

(d) not in building 19

and it’s so damn stressful.

If you don’t get your first choice? By the time you’ve pressed the “back” button on your screen, your second, third and fourth choices have filled up as well. All that’s left are those classes which are at the exact same time as classes you’ve already enrolled in. The probability of this happening is quadrupled if you study a double degree or major. There are only two options now:

(a) TIME-TURNER. Lol jokes, Harry smashed the entire stock in his fight against Voldy in the Department of Mysteries.

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Source: Giphy

(b) It’s time to email the lecturer! If you say “dear” at the beginning, “warm regards” at the end and maintain a decent standard of grammar throughout, these wizards will grant you the impossible: a class that fits on your timetable and doesn’t clash with anything else.

Yes, it will work out in the end (mostly). But is the irreversible damage to your delicate soul worth it? Probably not. Your panic attack will continue for days to come, and because of this you will be a withering mess on day one back at uni. You will make no friends. Consider yourself warned – not that you can do anything about it.

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Source: Giphy

2. Textbooks

A bunch of subjects ‘require’ textbooks. I use the word ‘require’ loosely; the last few subjects I have bought (SPENT MY ENTIRE SAVINGS ON) textbooks for, I have opened them like twice. Collectively. Even when the coordinator says you will fail if you don’t purchase it, it’s impossible to know whether or not you legitimately need these books.

Textbook Rule of Thumb: Unless you need it specifically because it contains tutorial questions, leave it. I know you’re planning to knuckle down this semester and do your readings every week . . . but stop kidding yourself. You’re in second (third) year. Nobody does readings. Even the lecturers know this. They’re laughing at you as you read this.

*On a serious note, textbooks are so out-dated. The world changes so fast these days, by the time it is printed it is redundant. Online, topical readings are so much more relevant and engaging*

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Textbooks are not funny. Just like old people (source: Giphy)

Also you will need to go hungry for a week or a year to afford them ~ Alternatively, a human kidney is worth a staggering $20 000 on the Chinese black market.

3. GENERAL ANXIETY

Worrying is always 100 times worse than the actual thing, right? RIGHT? Maybe.

Where do I start?

  • Who will my tutor be? Is it that same lady I gave a really bitchy score on last semester’s teacher evaluation?

She knows it was me.

  • Who will be in my classes? Will I know them? Will they know me? Will every single person know each other except me and everyone will be all ‘hey, who TF is that weird person in the corner looking up Harry Potter fan theories?’
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What if nobody likes me and my sweatpants? (Source: Giphy)
  • THIRD YEAR SUBJECTS??? I am not ready for this. I read through the subject description and it is Greek to me. What will Grandpa say at Christmas when I get a bad grade for this subject?
  • WHY ARE ALL MY CLASSES IN BUILDING 19? I still don’t know how to find my way around. I think knowing I will get lost gives me more anxiety than when I actually get lost . . .
  • Will there be ice-breakers in my first tutorials? What will they be? Do they want my name and one interesting fact? I need to start brainstorming now. Do they want two truths and one lie? I don’t think I know two truths about myself.
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I might just hide in the corner until ice-breakers are over (source: Giphy)

Holy shit.

-Claire