Question Forum 4
  • Team 4 Members: Please post your questions on the reading to the Question 4 forum on the wiki by noon on 10/22.
  • Team 4 Members: Please post your Keywords to the proper forum on the wiki (team-4-keywords) by noon on 10/22.
  • Respondents: Please post your response to selected questions to the Question 4 forum on the wiki by 6 p.m. on 10/24.
  • Class Members: Please provide your assessment of the presentation within 24 hours of the end of class.
  • Team 4 Members: Please post your Synthesis to the proper forum on the wiki (team-4-synthesis) within 48 hours of the end of class.

1. “To participate is to act as if your presence matters, as if, you see something or hear something, your response is part of the event” (p. 21). What does it mean to participate? If you follow a blog, are you participating by commenting or simply reading it? Does it count if it’s directed towards a person or can it be for personal reflection?

2. Shirky observes “that the wiring of humanity lets us design new kinds of participation and sharing that take advantage of that resource” (p .21) The common argument is, “Where do People Find the Time?” (p. 9). Do you think free time is a valuable resource or waste of potential productivity?

3. The South Korean band DBSK’s website provided a forum for fans to discuss topics. Its purpose changed when fans used the site to rally for a political cause. How does our connectedness or our participation change our intended use of a specific medium?

Lindsey Macdonald - questions 1 and 2

I think that no matter what you’re doing within a certain activity whether it be writing or commenting on a blog, or simply just reading, then you’re a participant. First, when you comment on someone’s blog, you’re usually giving them some kind of feedback, whether it’s a how-to or personal blog. This feedback could change how they write or what they write about because most people are people pleasers and would want other to continue reading their blog. Second, even if you’re commenting on someone’s blog maybe just to share your own personal experience with something, you might give the blogger more insight on a topic or issue which could change their perspective. They might then blog on this new perspective, which might generate even more feedback from people with similar viewpoints. Even if you don’t directly comment on someone’s blog, you’re still participating by reading because you may talk to someone else about what you read and then that person may start reading that blog. I think any kind of word-of-mouth situation is participation.

It struck me when Shirky said, “People asking Where do people find the time? aren’t usually looking for an answer; the questions is rhetorical and indicates that the speaker thinks certain activities are stupid” (20). I’ve found myself guilty of doing this, especially with video games, one of those mentioned in this book (World of Warcraft). I wouldn’t ask this same question about people who decide to hike the Appalachian Trail or volunteer at animal shelters. It all depends on individual values and what’s most important to us. I don’t think that free time is a waste of potential because I think people need this free time to get away from the monotony of every day life. Without our own personal interests, we would go crazy. In American culture, the individual is emphasized over the collective, and each of us needs our own identity in order to feel human. Furthermore, this free time could produce amazing things. For example, what if Thomas Edison didn’t have the free time to create the light bulb? What if Alexander Fleming didn’t have the free time to discover penicillin? Many of the inventions or discoveries that have changed humanity were discovered or invented during people’s free time to fiddle around with what they were interested in. In additon, like Shirky said, “At least they’re doing something” (21).

Carolyn Erhart

3. The South Korean band DBSK’s website provided a forum for fans to discuss topics. Its purpose changed when fans used the site to rally for a political cause. How does our connectedness or our participation change our intended use of a specific medium?

Any outcome is always the result of a certain intention. How we choose to use an electronic medium is based solely on our intended use of it. If in replying to a blog about a band we choose to speak our mind about political issues, then our participation was based off of our intent of usage which was always political. Because we are so connected these days, almost all of our actions and feelings can be expressed online. As such we use online forums constantly for expression. In explicating our feelings constantly online, we use non-related website platforms for expression. Even if the site isn’t related to the cause, sites are used for a wide of expressions and the participation and intent is based on that.

Annabeth Wonch - Response to Question 2

I think free time is a valuable resource full of potential productivity that is often wasted away by doing nothing. However, it is free time, its not “work” time or “sleep” time; it is time to yourself that you can use how you please. Shirky mentioned the popular union chant of “Eight hours for work! Eight hours for sleep! Eight hours for what we will!” (20) which kind of opened my eyes to how much time I do spend wasting on the internet, watching TV, etc. But if I get my eight hours of work done (through going to class/homework/my actual job) and get eight hours of sleep (which is most of the time unlikely) then each day I have a whole eight hours to do whatever I want. What else to I have to do in those eight hours besides do things that I want to do that might not be productive, like watching TV, being on the webbynets or whatever. Especially if I already did all the things I need to be productive during my work time. Shirky makes it seem that unless you are creating and sharing then you are not being productive, which I don’t agree with. I think free time is a necessary part of our day that people need so they don’t go insane. Though I do agree that social interaction of some sort is a good way to spend your free time, being pressured to constantly be contributing to something is exhausting, especially if you already have a job where you are creating and contributing to something. Whether or not people use their free time to their own advantage is their own choosing and I think people will continue to use it doing relaxing things like watch TV or go on the internet.

Lauren Kaye

In response to the question: “Where do people find the time?” and do you think free time is a valuable resource or a waste of potential productivity? I would say that Shirky makes a strong argument that the internet and social connectedness are essentially more productive than the consumption of mass media.

Shirky argues that because we have a certain amount of free time at our disposal, contributing to collective knowledge, creativity, or memory, is a valuable resource because it’s actually doing something with our free time. I was drawn in when he cited the source of our free time: “Amid the late-nineteenth-centure protests for better working conditions, one popular workers’ chant was “Eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will!”” I would say I belong to the class of people who complains because they never have enough free time, but eight hours a day!? That’s a lot of free time for each individual. When I think about my free time in terms of it actually being a substantial amount of time, I think that there is a huge potential for productivity; however, I am not convinced that many media outlets are not huge wastes of time.

I was surprised when Shirky chose the lolcats to ground his argument that any act is a productive act. It was a stretch, for me, to believe that and it made me question the validity of what he is arguing. I would disagree that lolcats are funny, and that looking at a picture of a cat and misspelling an idiotic message is producing some sort of collective knowledge. That is, outside of recording how moronically our generation chooses to use their free time and the potential the internet represents for beneficial collective participation.

To answer this criticism, Shirky shows how a shallow website (the DBSK website) can be used for a greater good. I was impressed by the examples he gives for how collectivity can have a powerful and beneficial impact, the DBSK website, the ushahibi website, and In these, he shows how the internet does have the potential to answer common problems and create a collectively powerful voice.

While reading about the South Korean protests that originated from boy-band-crazed-teenage-girls and grew into a political movement powerful enough to sway the government, I thought about Nye’s arguments in “Technology Matters.” His idea that we can choose our values and demand to have them met is backed by Shirky’s evidence. With a strong enough collective voice, it seems that we can make changes (for the better or worse), and moreover, that the internet and social connectedness have the potential to make us more productive in our free time.

April Baker

I think the question of what it means to participate is pretty interesting, but it makes me think of a lot more “what if” questions.

Shirky brings up the performer/audience example, which made me think of a piece of music written in the late 40s by John Cage. Basically, the music instructs the performers not to play for exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Some people say it’s four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence, while others say it requires the audience to listen to the environment in which it’s performed; John Cage said it was his most important work.

Normally, I would agree with Shirky and say that an audience member is not a participant at a concert. They are there to listen and observe, but not to add to the performance. In this case, however, are the musicians even participating anymore? In this particular performance, you can tell that people wait to cough or adjust until between each movement, so are they then actively participating in the silence? I don’t know - maybe that’s completely off-topic.

When it comes to a blog, I think participating requires giving back any kind of input. If it’s asking, answering, commenting, linking, observing, reflecting, etc., you are still responding to or starting conversation that generates new material for others to follow. For someone to simply read a blog or take information from it without giving feedback or adding to the material, is simply “using.” I don’t think it’s wrong to only use the information from a blog and not add to it, but I don’t think its really “participating.” If someone comes to class and listens and takes something away from the time but never gives their own input, then they’re not participating - they’re observing.

However, I still think of other “what if” possibilities. What if someone uses a recipe from a food blog, and then shares that recipe with a guest at their dinner party? Maybe they didn’t participate in the blog itself, but they expanded that network of a specific kind of information. So does participating in a blog mean only participating online? If you tell a friend at work that they should check out your favorite blog, are you participating in that network? Or just telling someone else to go participate in it?

Also, what about PostSecret? It’s one of the most popular blogs, ever. But it doesn’t necessarily require feedback. I think it encourages personal reflection, and maybe more awareness, but it doesn’t require responses. In fact, the site isn’t set up to allow responses, and you have to actually email Frank who then decides whether or not to post your comment. So is the only [easy] way to participate to make your own postcards and send them in? What if you go to one his speaking events or buy a PostSecret book? Again, that would mean that the blog network exists outside of just the online community.

Amanda Duncan

1. I think that participation online is really interesting, and also really problematic. I was reading an article in The New Yorker ( , by Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, and he was talking about the use of social media and participation in social movements. In the Civil Rights era, everything was driven by actual social interaction and participation; the lunch-counter sit-ins were all arranged by word of mouth. The marches were spread by human networks. And it was not just that people were looking for something to do, on the contrary, ‘It was like a fever. Everyone wanted to go.’

The participants were also 100% committed to the cause. They had nothing to distract them, since this was a matter of life and death. Is this level of dedication even possible in the social movement arena now:

“All of the applicants—participants and withdrawals alike—emerge as highly committed, articulate supporters of the goals and values of the summer program,” he concluded. What mattered more was an applicant’s degree of personal connection to the civil-rights movement. All the volunteers were required to provide a list of personal contacts—the people they wanted kept apprised of their activities. High-risk activism, McAdam concluded, is a “strong-tie” phenomenon."

But somewhere along the way, this notion of participation changed. Perhaps it was with the internet. All of a sudden, you did not need to actually do anything in order to “participate.” One example that the author cited is the case of Facebook groups that advertize, “For every X-number of people who join, I will donate X-amount to X-cause.” All of a sudden, you can be active in campaigning to end hunger in Ghana just by participating in a facebook group. Did you actually do anything? No. Do you feel better because you did it? Most likely.

Now that is not to say that all social medias cripple participation. On the contrary, I think that tools like Twitter can be used in under-reported cases to spread information very rapidly, and it is very easy for “powerless to collaborate, coordinate, and give voice to their concern.” But I really have to wonder, how many people are using technology to this end, and how many people are using it to tell their friends about what they had for lunch today? Shirky gives us the extraordinary example of Ushahidi, but I think that it is just that, extra-ordinary.

Most of the tools that we would think of as social media encourage us to participate by posting status updates, links, and pictures to be shared with others. And yes, to some extent, when you click on that link, or comment on that picture, you are participating with that person. But how is that different from someone pulling a picture of their family out of their wallet? It is the human independence from a machine that I think defines participation. And I think that this is something that we lose as soon as we sit behind a computer and call it participation.

Casey Whitehead

Many things do not turn out the way they are planned; Internet sites are no different. Once a site is open there really is no monitoring, other than the MOD that runs the forum or site. At some point whatever is posted will reach someone else’s eyes, even if it’s only to be disapproved. At least in this case things took a turn in a good direction. Many times when Internet “writers” take to a topic, things turn ugly: people troll, hate, discriminate, etc.

I think our connectedness makes it much simpler to express our opinions to each other. I think this comes in to full effect when put on an Internet medium. Message boards and forums are a very simple idea but can turn into a complex thing. Once an idea is presented it can explode (or get shoved aside and replaced with a new one). So maybe the topic is about the Redskin’s win over the Bears, but it ends up about the racism in public school sports in the South. People read a post and take what they want from it. They can ignore all other parts aside form the portion that intrigues them. People see what they want and take it where they want it to go. Once posted, someone can take a small piece of the previous writing and run with it so to say.

I think our connectedness and our willingness to participate does change the initial intended use of a medium, but not necessarily in a bad way, like DBSK’s website.

Ryan Molitor

Free time is a valuable resource when used productively. We have redefined what it is to have free time. In the past free time was still used to do something productive like fix plumbing or clean the house, even after the day was spent working. Now it’s as though we don’t have the energy do anything more productive than work during the day, and relax throughout the night. Television provides the perfect opportunity to do this. As we have been going through the motions through weekdays with work, we decide that only weekend should be used to perform such was necessary tasks as maintaining a comfortable environment in which to watch television or browse the stupidity the internet has to offer. I can waste hours reading “texts from last night,” but asking me to finish schoolwork is absurd unless I have the entire day free to devote only a couple hours to the situation.

To answer the question of “where do people get the free time?” I would say that we simply don’t have the free time. We could keep ourselves constantly busy, but we choose to squander time that should otherwise be used to perform other tasks essential to our livelihood. Using the word ‘lazy’ is the best way of putting this. Human beings have inherently become lazy, as work is easier to perform, so should everything else in life. So, where do people find the time? By losing sight of what productive tasks can be done within that time.

Jay Speidell

In response to the South Korean forum, I think that participation and connectedness definitely changes our intended use of a medium. Case in point: youtube. Youtube is a medium for people to make videos, to gab about nothing, to show people getting hurt in really funny ways, to show us a hundred kittens being set loose in a departments store, and to watch people sing badly.

But what began as a someone one-sided medium, like television where everyone can broadcast, is now a public forum. People post video replies to respond to videos, and in the comment section… well youtube is now as famous for the offensive comments that people post as it is for it's videos.

Sure the discourse is more dominated by arguments about who's mom has a bigger ass or what ethnic group is bringing the country to it's knees, but every now and then there is a morsel of almost intelligent conversation.

In this way, participation has completely transformed the purpose of youtube.

Eric Kambach, Question 3

What was the original purpose for Facebook? I believe it was for sociability and networking with an application function. What has it become now? A public journal to display your thoughts, grudges, random acts of spontaneous ranting, poetry, a gaming arcade, a new way for bullying, and a hazard to personal and national security. Any type of electronical database can be made into something else, as was the case with DBSK's forum. All it takes is one person with perseverance and an agenda, and a whole lot of gullible people.

Facebook has really taken the lead when it comes to different forms of activism primarily because one only has to click a button that says "Join/Support This Group/Cause." There is very little effort involved, and the list of groups created on Facebook is endless and diverse, ranging from petitions to keep popular actors in popular films to supporting American troops or families that are in need to all kinds of political agendas, including support for impeachments and assassinations. How many Facebook groups were formed in support of Barack Obama? How many were formed calling for his immediate death during his campaigning? And how about groups devoted to the awareness of every conspiracy theory known to man? The answer is: too many.

Our connectedness changes the way we participate by means of limiting the amount of time and effort it takes to participate (clicking the button), or by making the use of certain mediums very easy to manipulate to a specific cause (Facebook group dedicated towards the death of Barack).