Author: Katie Allen

What Apps Say About Us: A Highly Scientific Survey

In part because I’m still thinking about Katie Bockino’s The Creepy Side of Technology?, and in part because I recently changed all my passwords (thanks a lot, Heartbleed) and downloaded a new app to store them in, I’ve been reflecting on some of the apps available and wondering about their place in our lives. “Tool time” is one of my favorite Digital Humanities activities, so rather than sharing actually useful apps for fear of stealing someone’s thunder, I’m only going to share apps I’ve found that fall under one of the following categories: funny, creepy, scary but possibly helpful, genius, and but… why? In a way, I think analyzing the logic behind some of these and wondering what this says about our culture might be even more telling (and fun) than looking at the productive tools which now exist.

Funny

For the arrogant, self-righteous teens in our lives, the Annoy-A-Teen app allows an adult user to inconspicuously broadcast high-pitched sounds that can only be heard by younger ears. It just annoys those who can hear the frequencies, and they likely won’t be able to tell where the noise is coming from.

For those who can’t control themselves (while drinking or otherwise), there’s Bad Decision Blocker, which allows a user to predetermine at the beginning of the night which contacts should be blocked and for what amount of time. No more regrettable booty calls, butt dials to one’s boss at 2 AM, or temptation to call up one’s ex. I even remember reading somewhere that breathalyzer apps either are or will be available, checking the blood alcohol content of a user before they get behind the wheel.

My analysis: The Annoy-A-Teen app is obviously meant to be light-hearted and tells us nothing new about teen/adult relationships; teens have always been right, and adults have always been idiots with the job of making teens’ lives more difficult or embarrassing. Duh. But the Bad Decision Blocker interests me because like many current apps, it aids with the self-control of adults. This is not to say adults have never struggled with self-control before now, but I think this is becoming more of a public rather than a private issue. In other times, having little self-control was seen as a weakness or as immaturity, but now I think our society regards it as part of being “human” and has ways of assisting those of us who need a little help, particularly when under the influence.

Creepy

SpCam is an app that allows users to track any motion or sound that happens in a room, and is meant for when users are away from their device. Though I suppose it could work on a phone, it was meant for computers, and aids a user in discovering who was near (or even on) their computer while they were away, and what this person was doing.

For the Creepy McCreepsters who are “in the mood for love” or “just after a one-night stand” (can’t even make this stuff up, it’s on the site) Girls Around Me is an app that allows users to see pictures, get information about, and even make unsolicited contact with females who have used apps like Foursquare to check in at nearby locations. It also has a function to see the current male-to-female ratio of a spot, giving users better chances of achieving their goals.

The Recognizr app takes stalking to a whole new level! The app employs face recognition technology to identify strangers with the camera function on a user’s phone: “Face recognition software creates a 3-D model of the person’s mug and sends it across a server where it’s matched with an identity in the database. A cloud server conducts the facial recognition… and sends back the subject’s name as well as links to any social networking sites the person has provided access to” (Huffington Post).

My analysis: Well, we can’t say we didn’t see these things coming. As we all learned from Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. Even well-intentioned technology like the cameras in our phones or computers can be used maliciously when the right app is installed. Do apps like these warrant all of us to become paranoid about our safety and privacy? Maybe. But hopefully with some common sense, intuition, and dependable girlfriends, a woman in a bar will be leery of the man who seems to know a little more about her than he should.

Scary but Possibly Helpful

Two mind-altering apps available today are Brainwaves and Hypnosis. Brainwaves is made by the folks at the trustworthy “Unexplainable Store” and is said to aid users in “Spiritual, Meditation, Sleep, Relaxation, Positive Life, [and] Brain Training.” The Hypnosis app promotes an easy method of losing weight.

Type n Walk is “the smarter, safer way” to text while a user walks. It works by making a user’s screen appear as a dim version of exactly what is in front of them, and the text appears in front of that translucent rendering.

For the parents who just don’t want to spend time getting to know their baby, or are otherwise concerned that picking the baby up might not be one in-the-meantime solution, there’s Cry Translator. Simply click on the app, wait for it to load, hit the listen button (it’s like Shazam for crying babies!), let Cry Translator listen to your baby crying for at least 10 seconds, and wait for the app to tell you what – in its expert opinion and with all its knowledge of your particular baby – needs. Then the user responds appropriately.

My analysis: Frankly, Brainwaves and Hypnosis kind of freak me out. There is so much unconscious stuff happening in my brain already, the last thing I want to do is allow more out-of-my-control processes to happen. No way, Jose. Type n Walk: Or, you know, someone could glance up every few seconds or maybe even pay attention to where they’re going. What’s next, Type n Sports? Type n Drive? Type n Surgery? Cry Translator makes ME want to cry, I mean really, babies are rarely upset for a reason that is so unexplainable, we need to call in expert technology for backup. Maybe try picking them up first. Then go through the usual checklist: diaper, hungry, tired, bored, teething, sick, got scared by a loud noise, etc. It’s not that hard, people.

Genius

Fake-an-Excuse: Hang up Now! features a variety of lifelike excuses a user might need to get off the phone with someone. Annoying mother-in-law? Try the “call waiting beep!” Hot mess friend after a break up? Try the “I hit a mailbox with my car” sound. Others include “Someone’s Here (knocking or door bell sounds),” “I’m Being Pulled Over (siren),” and “Bees! They are Everywhere, (buzzing).”

Another genius app based on sound effects is iNap@Work, particularly useful for the employee stationed near his boss’ office. This app allows users to choose from work noises like a mouse clicking, a keyboard typing, papers crumpling, other office sounds (stapler, pencil sharpener), blowing one’s nose, clearing one’s throat, etc.

My analysis: Are these apps kind of sketchy and devious? Absolutely. But sometimes, they are necessary evils for a user to maintain her sanity and/or get in a few minutes of needed rest. What do they say about our society? Sometimes we are unable to be honest with people and wish to spare their feelings (or retribution), so we protect ourselves with these apps made by really smart people who understand our dilemmas.

But… Why?

In my quest for interesting apps, I found WAY more – and I mean a stupid amount – of apps having to do with bowel movements. Places I’ve Pooped and Bowel Mover Pro are among them.

EMF Meter is the perfect app for when you’re, you know, looking for ghosts and other paranormal stuff.

Lastly, where was the Great Pumpkin Weight Estimator app when I needed it? I can’t tell you how often I would have used this if I had known about it sooner.

My analysis: I’ve got nothing.

Well, it’s inevitable that along with all of the great apps out there that help us stay organized and productive, help us do everyday things more easily, and help keep us happy and entertained, there are bound to be those that make us scratch our heads in wonder. I don’t think any of the apps I’ve mentioned have anything profound to say about our society, except to maybe highlight different idiosyncrasies that have always existed among us in more publicly  scrutinizing ways.

You Can Lead a Horse to Water

I do a lot of commuting: from Churchville to Geneseo, Churchville to Victor, and Churchville to Greece, all on a regular basis. I recently realized that rather than suffering through Eminem & Rhianna’s “Monster” for the 700th time (don’t get me wrong, I liked this song the first 699 times), a better use of my time in the car is to listen to Ted Talks.

Just today, I found two talks that apply to our course in TONS of different ways: Jennifer Golbeck’s “The curly fry conundrum: Why social media ‘likes’ say more than you might think,” and Lawrence Lessig’s (yep, he should sound familiar, and so should some of this video!) “Laws that choke creativity.”

I could write a post about either of these really interesting and relevant-to-340 videos, but I won’t. Instead, I will leave them here for others to “stumble upon,” particularly others who maybe haven’t found anything inspiring to write about in a while. The end of the semester is in sight, and many of my fellow bloggers have only posted once, or worse, not at all; hopefully these videos will help.

English Language Arts Algorithms?

252570-what-people-think-i-do-what-i-really-doLet’s face it: English majors probably fall victim to ridicule much more often than other college students. Our peers in the math or science departments might ask well-intentioned, yet still annoying questions like, “So, you guys just read all day? Like a book club?” Others likely judge us for being hypersensitive or overemotional. And 9 times out of 10, I get, “Oh, you must be one of those grammar Nazis then.” Yep, my homepage is Purdue OWL, and I’m spending large amounts of my time and money learning how to call you out for your incorrect use of “there/their/they’re.” Our major has even inspired a catchy show tune (See Avenue Q’sWhat Do You Do with a B.A. in English?”). Perhaps the most frustrating avenue_q_2_fullsizequestions of all is, “You’re an English major? So you’re going to be a teacher then?” I actually am in the School of Education, yet this question still bothers me because it seems to insinuate that there is only one possible career goal English majors aspire to: teaching. So why are we constantly having to defend ourselves and our field of study?

Those of us who pursue a degree in English understand. We know that the content and skills we learn apply in so many different ways, and that the type of thinking we are trained to do is valuable in countless careers outside of education. It’s true that some who study English might go on to be teachers of language and literature, but that many more of us choose to be writers, editors, publishers, journalists, lawyers, public speakers, human resource specialists, and more. We acquire characteristics like interpersonal skills, analytic and synthetic skills, communication skills, and perhaps most notably, critical thinking skills; the realm of possibilities available to us is perhaps much greater than a person who choses something highly technical or specified. And yet, the stigma still exists that those of us who study English are all about “the feels.”

It’s definitely true that our area of expertise is considered comparatively subjective. But that’s precisely why we love it. It’s called English Language Arts for a reason. Authors are master artists who use the craft of language to paint a beautiful picture with nothing other than words on a page. We live for those phrases with just the right balance of connotation, edge, and flow. We get sucked into a novel because we become so wrapped up in appreciation for the story, it seemingly takes on a life of its own. When we finish a book, it’s like we’re saying goodbye to a few good friends, and there is often a feeling of emptiness. The phrase “book hangover” is becoming popular: “The inability to start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world.” Language is powerful and certainly has the ability to transport us somewhere else for a while, and to me, literature is life breathed into once inanimate pieces of paper.

While reading Stephen Ramsay’s chapter entitled “An Algorithmic Criticism,” I will admit I was slightly skeptical. This man favors a black-and-white approach to viewing literature that I have never experienced until this class. As English majors, we like to latch on to those gray areas, interpreting a text in different ways based on various lenses. I took Literary Criticism at Geneseo as an undergraduate, and I loved being able to find cracks in which I might read between the lines, inserting a feminist, marxist, structuralist, or psychoanalytic rendering of a given text. And yet Ramsay suggests we begin looking at our beloved literature based on nothing but the cold, hard, quantitative facts. Despite being initially reluctant, I admit that I did begin warming up to the idea of a mathematical tool that might help us read literature more concretely. I envisioned myself becoming a better defender of our art form: “In your face, physics majors. We are totally using algorithms to further our understanding and analysis of this complex theoretical text.” That should force them to take us more seriously, right? Okay then, I can get behind algorithmic criticism. Especially since education in our country is currently emphasizing strict, textual-based evidence and data-driven instruction.

An artist's impression shows a fictional robo-teacherBUT THEN. I remember reading an article that was nothing short of a polar binary to the type of reading that we know and love as English majors. It’s called Robo-readers: the new teachers’ helper in the U.S., and it basically makes me want to cry. This article praises the use of robot graders in the classroom, which are supposedly more efficient, more reliable, and more accurate at grading student compositions than are humans. WHAT? I actually prefer this article – Facing a Robo-Grader? Just Keep Obfuscating Mellifluously – which, in addition to being satirical and rather entertaining, gives a much clearer picture of what these “robo-graders” are. Apparently, they are machines that are capable of “grading” up to 16,000 essays in 20 seconds. Similarly to the algorithms used in Ramsay’s piece, these robots scan compositions for length, Lexile complexity, vocabulary use, transition words, and other indicators that are somehow representative of “complex thinking.”

In class, we’re constantly talking about how technology is revolutionizing our lives,
and final-exameducational institutions have been using digital upgrades like Scantrons to help grade exams for years. HOWEVER. I think it’s pretty clear the difference between a machine that can count the correct number of answers based on objective measures (filling in the correct bubble), and grading a student’s essay based on algorithms alone.

The problems with robo-graders are outlined really well in the latter article I’ve referenced, but to give a quick summary: automated readers cannot identify arguably important information, such as, let’s say, TRUTH. This means a student can write an essay getting 100% of the factual information wrong, and still receive full credit. Computers also cannot detect nuances in human language such as sarcasm, and they do not understand or appreciate (and therefore cannot give credit for) creative, stylistic choices. E-raters give the best scores to the longer essays, regardless of content. They deduct points for short sentences, paragraphs, sentence fragments, phrases beginning with “or,” “and,” or “but,” etc. Does this begin to give you an idea of how scary this is for our students? Some argue that kids who are bright enough to outsmart the robo-grader and begin tailoring their writing in order to get high marks deserve them, because this sophisticated type of thinking is what warrants credit, even if students cannot write to save their lives. Sorry, what? Lastly, consider this quote from the Times article: “Two former students who are computer science majors [said] that they could design an Android app to generate essays that would receive 6’s from e-Rater. He says the nice thing about that is that smartphones would be able to submit essays directly to computer graders, and humans wouldn’t have to get involved.” Are you afraid yet?

Maybe I’m a typical, sentimental English major. Maybe I’m sounding like an old soul. Or maybe, I’m terrified of a world so quantifiable, our students need only learn how to write in order to please the grade-giving, robo-reader god. Those of us who study English do so because we recognize literature to be an art form, and because we believe in the power of language to give shape to the world. We understand English as a vehicle from which to make sense of life, and our passion for learning (and many of us for teaching) this material stems from our desire to connect with other members of humanity in a meaningful way. I’m not sure any e-Rater would understand this, let alone have the ability to truly judge our work. Maybe in the future robo-grading will become the norm, but no. Not just yet.

Anonymous Comments Under Attack

The Beginning of the End of Online Commenting?anonymous1

In a recent class discussion, we touched on the topics of censorship, relevancy, equality, and anonymity when thinking about who should have a voice in certain online situations and what they should be allowed to share. USA Today published an article earlier this week called “Online commenting: A right to remain anonymous?“, which addresses some of these issues. The piece talks about how Internet culture has been forced to change in light of the way users are behaving; in the second half of 2013, The Huffington Post opted to ban anonymous comments from its site, and Popular Science surprisingly stopped allowing any form of commenting whatsoever. According to the USA Today article, this shift was in an attempt to “breathe civility back into what many see as the Wild West of the Web.”

But Does Banning or Censoring Comments Solve the Problem?

The short answer to this question is, “not really.” The nature of the Web makes it possible to share and comment on just about anything, whether or not owners, writers, and publishers like it. Similar to how digital versions of literature allow texts to become fluid which enables two-way “communication,” readers who are eager to join into the conversation find commenting to be a useful vehicle. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and many others allow users to share their opinions on content independent of its original source, and if the commenter is using a screen name that does not connect to their identity, then it’s still relatively anonymous. This post on Reddit discusses why it is unsafe to use one’s actual name online, responding to one user’s question, “When commenting online, why don’t you use your real name?” anonymous2Though it is clear some people are concerned about Web safety for purposes like identity theft, to me, it seems more likely to be an issue of accountability; when a user leaves a comment anonymously, there is a sort of pseudo-invincibility that occurs, because the user knows that the consequences of whatever they’ve said are almost sure to be limited. So perhaps it is still an issue of safety, but a different kind of safety that protestors, trolls, cyberbullies, and just-plain-rude commenters are worried about.

Pros and Cons of Anonymity and the Effect of Removing Comments

Interestingly, around the same time last year when Popular Science and The Huffington Post so controversially changed their commenting policies, an article came out in The New Yorker called “The Psychology of Online Comments.” This piece deals with “cyberpsychology,” and makes reference to a study done in 2004 in which one researcher coins the term “Online Disinhibition Effect“: “The theory is that the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too,” says the New Yorker article. (Four years later, in 2008, another study came out entitled Self-disclosure on the Internet: the effects of anonymity of the self and the other. anonymous4Admittedly, I haven’t read either of these studies closely, but the fact that they [and probably countless others] exist means that researchers are identifying a measurable phenomenon worth looking into and talking about, because as we have discussed in class, technology shapes people, including their thoughts and behaviors.) The article in The New Yorker goes on to reference a study in which this was found: “Anonymity made a perceptible difference: a full fifty-three per cent of anonymous commenters were uncivil, as opposed to twenty-nine per cent of registered, non-anonymous commenters. Anonymity, Santana concluded, encouraged incivility.”

Despite the notable ramifications of anonymity, the article also mentions some positive effects of being anonymous online, such as increased participation, a greater sense of community identity, and boosts in creative thinking and problem solving. Though face-to-face communication has been found to produce greater “satisfaction,” anonymous online communication allows for greater risk-taking for individuals. Additionally, The New Yorker shows that anonymous comments tend to be taken less seriously, and therefore rarely impact the course of a conversation in terms of changing someone’s initial perceptions. This is probably because it is more difficult to affirm the credibility of an anonymous user.

In many of our discussions about Walden, we identity contemporary issues as being “old wine in new bottles,” because we recognize that many common problems have always existed, but simply look different because of how people and technology have evolved; this situation is no different. The following quote comes from the same article I’ve been discussing from The New Yorker: In a study, “The authors found that the nastier the comments, the more polarized readers became about the contents of the article, a phenomenon they dubbed the ‘nasty effect.’ But the nasty effect isn’t new, or unique to the Internet. Psychologists have long worried about the difference between face-to-face communication and more removed ways of talking – the letter, the telegraph, the phone. Without the traditional trappings of personal communication, like non-verbal cues, context, and tone, comments can become overly impersonal and cold.”

anonymous3When thinking about whether or not banning comments will truly solve the problem, an interesting note to keep in mind is that in doing so, the idea of “shared reality” becomes lessened, and therefore the interest surrounding that particular content decreases as well. The New Yorker article states, “Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas. What the University of Wisconsin-Madison study may ultimately show isn’t the negative power of a comment in itself but, rather, the cumulative effect of a lot of positivity or negativity in one place, a conclusion that is far less revolutionary.” It seems that this sort of “mob mentality” is nothing new, it merely looks different because it’s on a screen. But is it any more or less acceptable this way? Especially relevant to consider is that fact that the members of this cyber mob very well might be hidden behind the shield of anonymity.

But What about My Rights? What about Free Speech?

Coming back now to the USA Today article from this week, one significant debate that is arising out of the comment bans is whether or not it impedes on civil liberties to do so. The article quotes senior staff attorney Matt Zimmerman as saying, “I think (anonymity is) an important legal right that needs to be protected.” Despite this, “Zimmerman acknowledges that there is no legal issue with sites deciding what kind of commenting culture they want to cultivate, and that opportunities for people to contribute anonymously are abundant.” So the right to decide what (if any) types of comments are allowed on a site legally belongs to the people who run the site, a probably obvious point. Of course this opens the door to issues of control and censorship, which is another topic altogether. But what about free speech?

In terms of free speech, limitations exist no matter what the context, and the specific problem with being anonymous is accountability. The Huffington Post defended their decision to remove anonymous comments by saying, “Freedom of expression is given to people who stand up for what they’re saying and who are not hiding behind anonymity.” The Web allows users to wear masks in a way non-digital spaces do not, and if someone is extremely tech-savvy, they can get away with saying almost anything without leaving a trace. For a simple example, digital footprints become muddied when someone uses a public computer in a busy place without any surveillance equipment – this example doesn’t even begin to skim the surface of other methods of covering up one’s identity online. John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.” What about when people are watching, but don’t know who the man is? Can the same be said for him in that situation? If so, does a user still have the right to free speech without the ability to be identified or held accountable for his or her actions in cyberspace? I assume legislation will have to become much more specific about this in the future, especially if issues of diffused responsibility get too out of hand. Or do you think they are already?

You Can Be a Cyborg without Being a Techhole

Techholes

I stumbled across an interesting article posted this morning called Don’t be a techhole: A common sense guide to tech courtesy. In this piece, the author highlights a few capital offensives for users of technology that to me, seem like common sense. For example, he advises people to avoid using their iPads as cameras, especially in public settings like concerts where they might block others’ views; he also suggests not using your speakerphone in public (no one wants to hear your conversation amplified), not holding a “hands-free” device while driving, being mindful of the noises your smartphone/computer is making, etc. The author was compelled to write this article – coining technology offenders as “techholes” – after hearing about Google’s recent list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for consumers experimenting with the new Google Glass technology. Apparently, some users of the futuristic devices are being real “glassholes,” causing Google to put its foot down and define what appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior looks like.

Glassholes

If you’re unfamiliar with Google Glass, it’s a wearable computer currently being developed by Google X, the same company pioneering research on self-driving cars and glucose-monitoring contact lenses.

800px-Google_Glass_Explorer_Edition
Google Glass

Glass, which has many similar features as the everyday smartphone, allows users to connect with the Internet using voice commands and to see the results in front of them, hands-free. Considering the extent to which this new technology allows us to become more cyborg-like than ever, I suppose it makes sense that some would need an etiquette guide explaining how to appropriately use this new technology in a variety of situations. For instance, Google recommends users do explore the world around them, take advantage of different Glass features, and become a part of the digital community. However, they suggest to avoid being a glasshole by doing the following: don’t “Glass-out,” don’t “Rock Glass while doing high-impact sports,” don’t “Wear it and expect to be ignored,” and my personal favorite, don’t “Be creepy or rude.”

OD-AW929_TECHET_OZ_20130502165555Still, some people have already experienced issues assimilating this new device in everyday situations, like this guy, who wore his Glass into a movie theater and spent 3 hours being interrogated by FBI officials, accusing him of piracy. Come on now.

All of this comes down to a question of etiquette. Many of the points made by the techholes article and the Glass guide might seem like common sense to those of us who use technology considerately, especially while in public. Nevertheless, this article got me thinking about our discussion of how technology doesn’t become integrated into society without consequence, but that technology is created that then changes who we are as people. With that in mind, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to consider the idea of explicit etiquette guides for our changing times. If we aren’t mindful of this, maybe manners will fall to the wayside, especially for people who are less inclined to be considerate in the first place.

21st Century Etiquette

IMG_4510 We’ve all had our fair share of laughs at some pretty ridiculous signs promoting etiquette. For example, and I wish I were making this up, I came across this sign in a bathroom stall in Welles. I naturally took a picture of it and sent it to some friends with the text, “Thank God for this. I’ve been wondering what to do with my toilet tissue for years.” I don’t want to know what some ladies were doing that made it necessary to add this lovely decoration to the stall doors, but it happened, and it means that somebody’s manners were lacking. I suppose if people exist who can’t figure out what to do with their toilet paper, maybe they need some help with more advanced 21st century skills, too.

Consider these images I found doing a simple search:

IMG_8746-290x290
Small print: “It’s a beautiful world all around you, be a part of it…”

FACEBOOK-STATUS-UPDATE-WARNING-SIGN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even Milne Library has signs upstairs warning students that they’re entering a cellphone-free-zone, and every movie you’ve attended in the last 5-10 years likely had some kind of public service announcement warning viewers to turn off their devices. Wikipedia has its own page entitled Etiquette in Technology, and multiple authors have written books on 21st century manners. This one by Emily Post, called Manners for a New World, even includes chapters devoted to technology use, addressing such critical, burning questions as, “When is it okay to unfriend someone on Facebook?”

Draw your own conclusions about what all of this means for our society. Part of me wants to laugh at the fact that we even need to be told what’s socially appropriate, but then I stop laughing when I remember classmates who do nothing but text throughout class, or girls taking weird selfies in public bathrooms. Are we hurting for some Digital Etiquette, 101? What do you think?

Medieval Helpdesk

As I was sitting in class on Wednesday, I couldn’t help but remember a certain YouTube video I’d seen a few years back called Medieval Helpdesk.

I don’t include this clip because I think it’s of any great quality, but because I believe it contributes to our conversation of Walden in some interesting ways.

1. Adaptability – Let’s be honest, the content of this video is silly and long-winded in its delivery, which will lead to my third point in a moment. But for now, I think it’s interesting to reflect on the idea that people of a previous culture had to become accustomed to the idea of something as “simple” as a book. Before this, it was parchment and scrolls, but never a codex with a binding and hundreds of purposefully constructed pages. Maybe the character in this video is a bit slow, because I doubt the operation of a book was honestly puzzling for the masses. But satirical or not, humans have had to adapt to every single piece of time-tested technology ever created from the beginning of mankind. The anxiety Thoreau feels in Walden about society shifting in different ways was felt by his ancestors, and will inevitably be felt by ours, and by theirs, etc.

2. Language, Accessibility, & Artistic Reproduction – I find it interesting that many of us commented on Thoreau’s (pretentious) attitude towards classic literature, especially the part in “Reading” where he talks about the importance of text being understood in its indigenous language. The original YouTube video was created in Norwegian, and is posted online with English subtitles.

This is obviously not a piece of classic literature, but does my comprehension, enjoyment, and appreciation for it diminish if I watch it in my native language, rather than learn Norwegian and watch the original video? Consider the following comments left on the remade English version:

“Yes, the original is better, but kudos to the people who made this version, for making it available to a wider audience. The copy is very rarely better than the original. just look at all Hollywood remakes of European movies…”

“I think that the fact that the original IS in a foreign (to us) language and subtitled in fact makes the reception and mental processing of the humour even more salient. It’s the translation that allows the viewer to really consider how this is a ‘common experience’ since sub-consciously we are also relating to foreigners who experience this same thing, making the humour ‘Universal’. Just a complex view of a simply brilliant satire on how we adapt to change, no matter what or when!! :)”

This video also speaks to Benjamin’s article in the sense that the remake – a close reproduction but not exact, and for multiple reasons – may never live up to the original art object. But I suppose that’s the question: could it ever?

3. Technological Evolution & The Critic – The English version of this video was posted in 2008. I’ve been thinking about how audiences change so vastly in light of new technologies, that though this was no masterpiece to begin with, I wonder how much worse this clip is now received in 2014 than it was merely 6 years ago. I find myself in the position of critic (another idea borrowed from Benjamin) as I mentally comment on various aspects of both the original and the remake that could have been done more artfully. For example, I’m thinking that the (candle)lighting needs work, the original’s subtitles could be placed more strategically as to not block the book from view, and that the remake could have been shorter and sweeter, but still have gotten the point across. I believe this shows that as technology evolves and produces outcomes of greater quality and deeper meaning, our reception grows alongside it. Perhaps this subtle evolving goes unnoticed on a day-to-day basis, but it’s certainly clear as a viewer comes in contact with any media produced even a decade ago.

Katie

P.S. I want to say how beautifully written and insightful the previous posts are. Seriously, you all killed it!