Friday, August 17, 2012

In Media Res

I recently participated in an open forum on the digital journal, In Media Res about the fate of television.  Click here to view my post.

In Media Res is a really cool publication.  This is how they describe themselves on the site:

About In Media Res

In Media Res is dedicated to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal forms of online scholarship. Our goal is to promote an online dialogue amongst scholars and the public about contemporary approaches to studying media. In Media Res provides a forum for more immediate critical engagement with media at a pace closer to how we experience mediated texts.
Each weekday, a different scholar curates a 30-second to 3-minute video clip/visual image slideshow accompanied by a 300-350-word impressionistic response. We use the title "curator" because, like a curator in a museum, you are repurposing a media object that already exists and providing context through your commentary, which frames the object in a particular way. The clip/comment combination are intended both to introduce the curator’s work to the larger community of scholars (as well as non-academics who frequent the site) and, hopefully, encourage feedback/discussion from that community.


I recently had a few guest posts up for SheWrites!  This is my blog.

This is one of my posts that was featured on the site:

Addicted to Love: The Twitter Connection

Can a tweet change the world?  I believe so.  In a previous post on The Viral Media Lab called "Having a Sandwich at 3:04pm"  I talked about ambient awareness via Deanna Zandt's Share This! and tech writer Clive Thompson.  The seemingly innocuous and mundane updates in our Twitterfeeds actually add value to our lives (when balanced with other forms of interaction and link-sharing) because they connect us to others on a human level and create a sense of empathy, awareness, and attachment.

I think we're neurologically predisposed to feel connected (see V.S. Ramachandran's TED Talk about "empathy neurons").  Sharing, connecting and helping makes us feel good on a chemical level.  When we speed up the connection (the interaction and news is in real-time), and we make the helping immediate and easy (just click a button to support a cause, retweet, spread good news or donate), we're triggering our brain to release dopamine (in expectation of something good happening) and "cuddle hormone" oxytocin (check out Fast Company's "Digital Oxytocin: How Trust Keeps Facebook, Twitter Humming").  This process is efficient.  It makes us uber-human in the cybersphere, and it's actually addictive.  Watch this video from @bigthink by David Linden (via RSAnimate), called "The Pleasure of the Tweet":

Checking our status in real-time makes us feel good (that's why it's addictive).  Check out this article from Slate called "How the Brain Hard-Wires Us to Love Google, Twitter, and Texting."  So what happens when we harness this addiction and use it for something wonderful: to connect, share, and help one another?  In his awesome Wired article, "Twitter + Dopamine = Better Humans," writer Scott Brown thinks we can "harness neurobiological altruism [to] affect real and lasting change." He envisions a world of the big, communal Internet brain where we can help one another in real-time.  Brown says: "Remember that tacky fiber-optic Tree of Souls of Avatar? Well fluff your brain-braid my blue brother: it already exists and it's growing out of your smartphone." Plug in, engage, and feel good, feel the connection, and fall in love with the inhabitants of your interconnected world.  Namaste, bro.  Let's digitally "hug it out." Think of it as an act of cyber-plasticity .  We have the virtual capacity to fix each other in this big brain we share.  From Brown's article:

Our brains release congratulatory hits of dopamine when we engage in selfless behavior — which we’re moved to do the instant we witness something awful…. Luckily, we now have digital tools fast enough to keep up with our inborn empathy trigger.  Want to help?  Text in some shekels to 90999 and suddenly you’re part of the solution — which, as we now know, feels good on a neurochemical level. In fact, one can easily imagine socio-technological advances knitting us into a kind of decentralized superorganism — a pan-humanity nerve array that senses where it hurts and sends help in real time.

If the expectation of something new releases dopamine and the brain also releases dopamine when we engage in selfless behavior, put those two together with the "moral molecule" oxytocin that also makes a cameo in the brain when we're engaging online, tweeting, texting, and updating the FB stats (mentioned in the Fast Company article that I link to above) and we have double the addiction on the 'net, and lots of opportunity to feel good and make the world a better place.

There's also something tremendously moving about seeing the news unravel in real-time and understanding that we are an active part of the news cycle now.  We click to engage, speak, spread the word, or help.  In some ways we can become little buzzed rats, pulling levers for good, releasing dopamine by donating in a place where something is always happening and the 'feed never stops.  We can choose what we'd like to do, engage our "altruistic impulses," share links, blog about sandwiches, and even collaborate and make beautiful music together (e.g. Eric Whitacre's "Virtual Choir):

We are the world, a true global village, and the potential is endless.  Last fall I visited the Social Media Exhibit at the Pace Gallery in New York City.  The project called "Sunset Portraits from 9,623, 557 Sunset Pictures on 8/22/11" was particularly touching.  Standing alone in a big white room at the gallery, I turned to face the cyber sun setting over dozens of human silhouettes, creating a visibly unbreakable bond, a quilt-like fabric of humanity.  I felt warm, addicted to love, connected to all of these people:

As I looked over this wall of patched-together interconnected sunsets, I kept thinking "I see you." ... and it moved me.