Mini Mission 2: Explore/experiment

Research a topic or conduct an experiment. Share your thoughts

[Image: Good Morning from the International Space Station] Explore a topic through research or experiment [Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]

Manchester students: Please work on this Mini Mission over Easter, and share your thoughts as a comment — or by commenting with a link — before the next session on Mon 16 April, Roscoe 3.2.

Mini Missions are a chance to explore/experiment with the world, to develop your ideas around ‘digital society’. There are no right/wrong answers. You are not assessed on this, but you might use it as an opportunity to practise some of the following: refining a topic, structure/formatting, referencing online, writing online, image sourcing/attribution, critical analysis, self-reflection.

Mini Mission 2 is about exploring a topic for yourself through deliberate experience or research. It is an opportunity to dig deeper into topics from the unit, and to practise skills which you may want to develop over the rest of the unit (which may help you to demonstrate them in digisoc3).

Choose one Mini Mission from the options, do it, write a post about it. You can write your post as a long response to this article — or post it separately/as a response to another article and comment on this article with a link.

Option 2A: Research & respond

[Image: The island of research] Choose a topic which interests you and research it. [barbourians via Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Choose one of the below topics to research, and write a Medium post about it. Your post could be a response to a Medium article — for example, if you choose Topic I, you could respond to Quincy Larson’s article — or your post could stand alone.

However you publish your article, please comment on this post with a link to it, so we can all read what you have written.

For each topic, we have included some guidance and suggested reading — but we encourage you to look further and do your own research.

Topic I: Net neutrality

Net neutrality is “the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all data that travels over their networks fairly, without improper discrimination in favor of particular apps, sites or services” (EFF)

Read the EFF’s article on the above to get an understanding of the concept of net neutrality, then read the below on ‘the future of the open internet’. It is a long read, but it is worth it, and will give you an insight into ‘The Cycle’ — a process which has been seen throughout history, whereby technologies move from ‘open’ to ‘closed’. We are at an exciting — and scary — time, in that the internet is part-way through The Cycle. You might revisit ideas of utopia and dystopia, the ‘history of the internet’ timelines we worked on, but it is up to you how you explore/respond to this topic. What do you think?

Topic II: Pokémon Go

[Image: Pokéball] Pokémon Go: the way technology is GOing? [CC0 via Pixabay]

Pokémon Go was launched in 2016, and has passed 650 million downloads. It has been celebrated for motivating people to increase levels of physical activity and go outdoors. It has also been criticised for causing accidents and injuries.

Do you think Pokémon Go has been successful? Why? Have you played it; do you still? Has your behaviour — or the behaviour of anyone you know — changed as a result? What is the impact of Pokémon Go, and how much does it owe to ‘digital society’? Read some articles about Pokémon Go and ‘behaviour’, and try to form your own opinion. You might write about the impact of Pokémon Go so far — or where you think things might be heading.

Topic III: Selfies

“Best photo ever.” Ellen’s 2014 Oscars selfie got millions of likes.

‘Selfie’ was Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year in 2013. Can you remember when you first heard the word selfie? Took a selfie? Oxford Dictionaries traced the word to 2002–3, although it is argued that the first known selfie was taken in 1839. In 2011, a monkey called Naruto took a selfie, leading to a legal battle which continues to this day…

You may have seen friends’ posts on social media about how selfies are attention-seeking, and that this is a bad thing. You may even have written such posts. Is posting a fairly common opinion about selfies — and seeing the Likes and comments come in — any less attention-seeking? Is a ‘shelfie’ — showing off your beautiful book collection — ‘better’ than simply showing off your face?

Milena commented on Topic E with some thoughts about shame and empowerment after reading ‘Say Everything’. What do you think of selfies? Are they empowering or shameless? Are there really problems associated with selfies? Are women judged differently to men when it comes to selfies?

What role has ‘digital society’ played in the rise of the selfie?

Option 2B: Experiment & explore

[Image: Lego chemist conducting an experiment] Conduct your own experiment (green goo not required). [clement127 via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

As an alternative to ‘research and respond’, you might prefer to do something more experimental. If you enjoyed — or wished you had done — the experimental options such as ‘Google yourself’ in Mini Mission 1, this might be for you.

Through this unit, we have seen so much learning come from our own experience, so this is an opportunity to deliberately gain some more experience. Choose one of the topics below, plan and take part in your own experiment, and write about it.

Topic IV: Algorithms

“How we experience the web generally, and social media more specifically, is largely mediated through algorithms” (dgst101)

We have talked about algorithms quite a lot already — how the bubble effect limits what news we read; how advertising is targeted at us. This is an opportunity to find out more, and try to understand algorithms by deliberately interacting with them. See the page below from our friends at dgst101 (an open unit similar to Digital Society, based in the US) for some reading and task ideas. Choose a task inspired by the page — or otherwise — and share your findings and thoughts.

If you’re looking for ideas, we have a couple of task ideas of our own, too:

  • Change something about your Facebook, Twitter or other social media profile (e.g. gender) for a few days and see how your experience changes.
  • Facebook users only: Put yourself in the algorithm’s position — install ‘data selfie’ in Chrome to track your Facebook usage (note: it only tracks when you use Facebook in Chrome on the PC/laptop where you installed it) over a few days, and think about what it tells you.

Topic V: Tracking and surveillance

[Image: surveillance camera] Who is digitally observing you? Do you know? Do you care? [via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0 US]

Another topic we have discussed is that of tracking, data collection and other forms of surveillance — whether by governments, corporations or others. We know that if we use Facebook, our online activity on the platform — and increasingly the rest of the internet — is being analysed in order to sell us stuff.

But what if Facebook — through apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Whatsapp — is listening to your real-life conversations via your microphone? Sound like a conspiracy theory? Great, let’s investigate!

Some have suggested that this is happening. Facebook denied it in June 2016, but could they have started since? If you use Facebook, you could try to test this theory by switching microphone access on or off (for any Facebook-owned apps such as the above) for a few days and seeing if you notice anything. You could also ask friends/family for stories which might fit this theory, interview them, and try to investigate.

Do you think Facebook are doing this? Can you prove/disprove it? If you think they are not, why not? What are the pros and cons for Facebook of such a technique? What are the ethical implications? What is your view? Is a private conversation about an engagement ring any different to a Google search, if it leads to targeted adverts?

Remember, any questions, contact the course leaders. Have fun with this Mission and have a great break!