Sunday, October 18, 2009

Facebook Lab

Lab #12

Social capital, huh? Are friends being catalogued into levels of monetary value now?

Really, though, "social capital" is a disturbing term.

Capital: wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization, or available/contributed for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing.

I'm not sure about the rest of you, but when we start measuring friends like we measure money, I get concerned.

Now I know I could use this opportunity to go on some lovely diatribe about how our generation will make the world explode with the sheer volume of our stupidity and insipidness, but not only would that be the normal, cynical thing to do, that's not really what I feel in this specific situation. When it comes to social networking, I think that many of the stereotypes shoved on us as teenagers and users of all of the Myfaces and Spacebooks are either so true that it really defeats the purpose of thinking about it to... well, think about it, or make so much sense that no one can see that they're not as true as they really should be. That was a convoluted statement, I know, but I hope you understand what I'm trying to say: People think that social networking sites are "Satan" and all that jazz (not really), but they're not all that bad in reality. There's nothing wrong with having a broad friend base, and I actually feel that it's better in a lot of ways, just as long as you maintain the ability to tell who your real friends are when it counts. All of the love and affection transferred through wall posts and comments and emails, photo blurbs, notes and whatnot serve to give warm fuzzies, and I know I'm not alone when I say that it gives me a little squiggle of happiness when I see that little red bubble at the bottom right corner of my Facebook page that informs me that yes, I do exist to someone out there no matter how bad a day I've had. Not to mention the connections you can build or keep up via Facebook. Meet a cool director when auditioning for that one musical? Friend him on Facebook! Need help from an old acquaintance with some obscure volunteer opportunity? Hey, look, you're friends with them on Facebook! No worries, man! It's a new world of peace and love and happiness easy access and blahblahblah.

As far as "social capital" goes, I'm not really sure what I think. People aren't serious in their relationships online, but are they serious about them face-to-face, either? I've seen just as much flagrant abuse of "I-love-you!" "I-miss-you!" "We-need-to-hang-out-more!!11!!!!1" in the school hallway as I have on any number of Walls, and conclusively, I don't think that the decline in social capital (or shift in it, or whatever sociologists and over-protective parents [synonymous?] are griping about these days) is caused by "teh Intarwebz". I think that this specific meme, this wiggy "social networking" business is a new staple in the Social Food Pyramid that can't really be ignored, like text messaging or eHarmony. Just because it makes older, wiser generations uncomfortable doesn't necessarily meant that it's bad (though I'm definitely not going to run around praising the grammar of my peers; good God, kids, learn to speak English, would ya'?) These sites, having five hundred friends, ambling around through cyberspace are how we've raised ourselves to communicate, and yeah, snail-mail is a lot prettier, but it's archaic and (ouch) nearly obsolete. We have to adjust to the appropriate decade, and I think that the fact that colleges and potential employers are starting to look their applicants up on Facebook is a good indicator that the shift is happening fairly smoothly. So calm down, Mommies and Daddies and Not-Medical Doctors in Sociology. It's okay; we promise not to break anything.

Yes, people abuse Facebook and Myspace, sure there are lots of stupid pictures of people getting drunk and being imbeciles floating around, but what about the people who use social networking sites to keep in touch? The ones for which the Internet poses an easier, faster way to remain in contact with people they love when they don't have time to call them on the phone or write them a fully-articulated email. In that situation, these websites are a godsend. And hey, what's life without a little Facebook stalking?

Lab 18: Chalk it up to Politics

For the chalk lab, we started a bit late. It was the one I knew right off the bat I wanted to do, but due to procrastination, was put off rather to the last minute--and by then, we had something to compete with:
all around campus were messages that our classmates had deemed important or relevant, loud and big on stairs and walls.

How do you compete with that?
How do you make yours more noticeable?
How do you make a difference?

This is also something to think about, in terms of effect. The chalk writing by itself is remarkable. Seeing a political message on a random wall challenging you to think about politics, morals, history, or your ideals when you're in the middle of your every day activities is a rather profound experience.

On the other hand, when you see them all the time, they begin to go unnoticed--noise, white noise, by product of desensitization. We can't notice every little thing all the time or we'd be chronically ADD--writing out things that are excessively common helps us focus.

So how do you avoid that?
Make it different.

Our main focus on that was location--well lit, large areas. Well-lit, meaning they're visible both during the day and at night. Flat areas, since so many people had been writing on stair cases or next to them, as well as places that were commonly traversed. Large, because scale will always catch our attention, whether it's a large animal or a billboard; large threatens, large demands attention.

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Our first piece was right outside the connector building, and therefore had to compete with a very large, very colourful, very dynamic piece that had been done on the stairs. In contrast, ours was more subtle, but also easier to read. Not only that, but because we put it right in front of the door, almost everyone would see it coming in; when you get out your onecard to swipe it, on the off chance that no one is there to open the door for you, you almost always will look down--at your shoes, at your lanyard, at your pocket, at your purse--and hopefully the message you're conveniently standing on and walking all over will catch your eye and inspire you to read it. Even as we were writing it this proved relatively effective.

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[Above is a picture of the actual message; the first image is of a student stopping to read the quote shortly after it was written. He promptly complained that we were being too cynical.]

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With this one we chose to distinguish through size and placement; not only was it between two often traversed doors, but it was also rather large, spanning a large portion of its wall, and imposing to the viewer, being above average height/eye-level and in stark, plain white chalk on dark brick.
The quote is also somewhat humorous, in a cynical sort of way, and humour has always had a way of penetrating people's apathy-shields in terms of politics. [Just ask the Daily Show; they've succeeded in getting teenagers and to watch the news.]

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Again, scale and placement. This one was so huge it was pretty much impossible to photograph, and it was also in a commonly traversed area that was mostly untouched by other student's chalk work.
[Since it's hard to read in the photograph, if you haven't seen it in person it says "Bad politicians are sent to Washington by Good people who don't vote. -William E. Simon"]

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This one's on the wall near our large Suburbia piece, and as such is somewhat less effective, but we felt it was worth putting up, regardless.

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This one was also next to the connector door--less noticeable, but in two different coloured chalk and written in scrawling letters. Out of all of our pieces I'd have to say that it is the least effective and I wish we'd found a better spot to place it.

We had found a bunch of other quotes we wanted to put up, but unfortunately ran out of daylight and chalk before we could. Here's a sampling of some that we found most interesting [the ones in bold are the ones we were able to put up]:

Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but to stand there and take it.
-Lyndon B. Johnson

A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours.
-William Ralph Inge

Each nation feels superior to other nations. That breeds patriotism - and wars.
-Dale Carnegie

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.
-James A. Baldwin

Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don't vote.
-William E. Simon

Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.
-Bill Vaughan

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots.
-Erich Fromm

A Leader is a dealer in Hope.
-Napoleon Bonaparte

[Source: ]

Cell Phone Lab

Lab #2
Live your life without a cell phone for 31 hours straight.

I woke up in the morning to the sound of “For the Moments I Feel Faint” by Relient K. I reached over to my bedside table to press the snooze button on my cell phone, only to realize that the sound was coming from my iHome. That’s right, no cell phone today. Darn.

At first when I heard about the lab, I counted it out immediately. Going without a cell phone for thirty-one hours? I thought, “That’s crazy! I could never do that!” I knew from the start how difficult this task would before me, so much that I hadn’t even been considering attempting it. But eventually I resolved that I would try it, basing my decision off of the idea that it would be an easy way to knock a lab out of the way.

Easy? Ha!

After dragging myself out of bed and getting ready for the day, I instinctively walked over to my bedside table to drop my cell phone in my dance bag before heading off to breakfast. But I stopped myself just in time, realizing that, if placed in my dance bag, which was in reach almost all day, it would be a terrible temptation for me to pick it up and check my text messages. On my way to Calculus after breakfast, I found myself reaching into my bag to turn my phone on silent, but was slightly frazzled when I realized it wasn’t there. And all this within only an hour of being awake!

Throughout the day, I continued to reach into my pocket to check if I had any text messages. I never realized how often I would check my cell phone daily. One aspect of this lab I found particularly annoying was that I never knew what time it was. I never realized how many times I must reach into the front pocket of my dance bag, pull out my little pink phone, and press the volume button on the side of it to display the clock. I was walking around all day, unsure of exactly what time it was. This was very unnerving, especially because I’m so obsessive about time management and punctuality. This also happened to be the day that I got my first migraine headache ever. So there I was, unable to call home to ask for advice, nor call the stage managers to tell them I couldn’t go to rehearsal. It was a rather unfortunate coincidence.

I experienced a strange sort of separation anxiety throughout the thirty-one long hours that I was not able to use my cell phone. I never realized how much I depended upon it, and how much I used it in my daily life. It made me realize how reliant I am on always being connected to others. I get Facebook texts to my phone, alerting me when anybody sends me a message over Facebook. It was really strange not getting these constant updates and it made me feel really disconnected. I did find, however, that I was forced to actually get up and run to other people’s rooms in order to contact them, which was a positive aspect compared to sitting at my desk, exercising my thumb while text messaging the other person, and waiting there for them to respond. It made me feel kind of pathetic when I realized how much I depend upon my cell phone to keep me informed, connected, and on-schedule. At one point in the day, I even thought I heard my message alert go off, and felt really stupid when I found myself reaching into an empty pocket. After thirty-one hours, I was very glad to have my cell phone back and was relieved when I finally was able to check the nine text messages awaiting my return.

Social Capital Collage

Lab #21
Create a rap, musical composition, poem, cartoon, video, graphic novel, dance, puppet show, zine, movement, skit, piece of visual art, song, or some creative expression of social capital.