There has been key elements in human history that has marked a milestone in its evolution. Something that has sparked a profound change that affects daily life and human relationships forever on. That feeling of power and control that our ancestors felt when they found out that they could build tools with stones or when they learned to control fire must have been overwhelming. By the same token when the wheel was invented, it “represented a transformation from how how load was carried. It changed the mode from dragging to passing” (Dholakia, 2010). The Gutenberg press on the other hand, allowed book mass-production and the spread of knowledge to the masses, while the steam engine marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and a change in work production.
Among these and many other inventions without doubt the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind by connecting us all at once. Additionally, the Internet has brought a wave of new technologies that continue to develop and contribute to our evolution. New Media has brought that spark that forever changed how we relate to each other and how we view the world. At the same time, we are still in the early process of learning how to deal with the great power that comes from such great technology such as privacy, copyright, and relationships that with time, eventually we will overcome the same way our ancestors did with each great invention.
One particular characteristic of New Media is that it provides numerous tools to create, upload, and share content for free. Such tools allow the average user with no technical skills to create professional-looking videos, songs, blogs, images, maps, among others cool applications that are spread throughout the Net with social media.
This is my first time using WordPress to create a blog and I really enjoyed every component of it. When I started studying computer programming 14 years ago, everything had to be hard-coded. I remember creating Web pages using Notepad and learning the syntax on how to insert an image, a table, or a link. Long hours went writing and testing to only find out that it did not look the same in Netscape and Internet Explorer. After creating five to ten pages, all content was static so any change to the general layout it had to be applied in every single page.
Back then I could not possible grasp the concept of embedding streaming video, inserting a poll and be able to see results instantly, or being able to place contents in a page by dragging and dropping items with my mouse. Anything out of the ordinary had to be done by a professional programmer and back then was a very expensive option to do.
Looking back, it is amazing how technology has advanced in giant steps in such small amount of time. From the moment of signing up with WordPress, setting this blog was very easy to do. All I had to do was deciding on a theme and the rest was a given. I find it intuitive, dynamic, and very user-friendly. Further, I don’t have to worry about cross-browser compatibilities, uploading files to a server through FTP, or changing the whole layout. But I think the most important fact is that it is free, which makes user-content available to everyone helping the social media culture grow every minute.
Another aspect that New Media took over is in our relationships’ status to the point that is not “official” until it is posted. Facebook for example offers several “relationship status” for us to choose from: Single, In a relationship, Engaged, Married, It’s complicated, In an open relationship, Widowed, Separated, Divorced, and In a civil partnership, that pretty much accomodate most common situations.
What is funny about is that many people take such status very seriously. No longer is enough to live through it, but now we must typecast ourselves in a set of categories predetermined by a technology tool to display–and validate any personal relationship. Author Ilana Gershon explains in her book “The Breakup 2.0, Disconnecting over New Media”, how human relations from conception to breaking up have been adapting to new media. In the adaptation process, Gershon discusses how from old way face-to-face discussions to new media and technology, the medium we choose to breakup a relationship becomes part of the breakup itself (Gershon, 2010).
In her book, Gershon mentions some examples where the “Facebook official” status overpasses any previous one-to-one discussion to either begin or end a relationship. One of her interviewees mentions how a phone discussion and a Skype conference to breakup with her boyfriend wasn’t enough until she changed her Facebook status to ‘single’ that he finally took it as ‘official’ that the relationship indeed had ended (Gershon, 2010, 72).
A Facebook relationship status is more complicated than the relationship itself. Whether we are married, single, in a troubled relationship, widow, or separated, we are getting to the point that we no longer decide in our relationship status but how social media technologies “presuppose certain kinds of social relationships” (Gershon, 2010, 60) like how we must ‘abide’ to the terms Facebook use as a ‘relationship’. Another factor is that we are not allowed to mix any of those relationship as a status. Could it be that I am separated, in an open relationship, and it’s complicated, all at the same time?
Facebook allows us only ten options to declare our relationship status from a drop-down menu and with no option to add a new one. What if out of those 10 options none of them accomodate a particular person’s relationship? After all everyone is different and no relationship is ever the same. Therefore we must choose ‘wisely’ what option we choose because apparently will affect not only our status, but how we will be perceived as well. “Making a relationship ‘Facebook official’ has certain social consequences” (Gershon, 2010, 64).
Those who know me know that I have been happily married for the last fifteen years. My husband does not have a Facebook account and I just never bothered to update my status as I considered unnecessary. I know what I know and those who know me know that too. For the sake for this argument, I decided to test what could possibly happen if I updated my Facebook status, would anyone care? Out the ten options I chose “It’s complicated” and wrote down my husband’s name and clicked save. After all, isn’t life sometimes complicated living with our spouses? Funny, I thought. Within two minutes I had two posts and three ‘Likes’. One post was from a close friend and the other one from a family member with a comment of dismay. By the following morning, more comments varied from worried family members and friends wanting to know if everything was OK with us.
It turns out that my husband’s name never showed up in the News feed because he does not have a Facebook account, so my status read as follows “Sylvia is in a relationship and it’s complicated.” Because there was no option for me to accomodate to my real status of being happily married although complicated at times–like every marriage out there, I had to select “It’s complicated” and Facebook added for me the phrase “in a relationship” prior to that. No wonder everyone freaked out, it literally reads that I am in a relationship with someone else and the term ‘complicated’ adds to the suspense, and the fact that I am married, this translates that I am in a relationship with other than my husband. Complicated that is.
The social consequence of this aside of friends thinking I am a femme fatale, now I have to explain with another status update that I meant to say I am married, complicated at times (like everybody else), but happily married with my husband. This is the same situation people have to face when they announce their engagement on Facebook and six months later they announce the break up. Besides of dealing with the ups and down of the relationship, now an explanation and justification must follow to all those reading our posts.
Facebook Official Status
Below is a video I found in YouTube about a young couple getting married in 2009 and right after the Priest pronounced them “man and wife” both the bride and the groom took out their phones to update their relationship status to “Married” in both Facebook and Twitter. Indeed this is such a happy moment to celebrate and share with your loved ones and as the Priest in the video says, “is official on Facebook is official in my book and now you may kiss your bride” (Hanna, 2009), this video illustrates how critical such “official status” being updated in social media applications has become in our lives in order to ‘validate’ our relationships.
Gershon, I. (2010). The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Hanna, Dana [Locuester]. (2009, November 22). At My Wedding Twitterring and Facebooking at the Altar [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/VSkT5XykJzo
One thing that New Media has brought us is the ability to create, upload, and share art. Art is in the eye of the beholder and anything that has a meaning for somebody, is art. There are now many applications and tools available for free that anyone, with no technical skills, can create digital art and graphics, anything that the heart desires. And that, that is the art of new media. With this growing cyber culture, a new form of art is emerging that one day it will be classified as the folklore of the Internet Age.
I ventured myself to create something that I could call my creation, my art, something that I always admired but never knew how it could possibly be done. When I saw Salvador Dali’s painting “Gala looking at the Mediterranean Sea” for the first time, I always wondered if he ran back and for as he painted it in order to get Abraham Lincoln’s face appear from a distance. For sure he was an artist ahead of his time. Fortunately for those of us not so talented, new media provides us all we need to create our own version, with our own pictures, with couple clicks of a mouse.
Myself Through the Eyes of New Media. Mozaic made of social media icons and assorted memes created with Mazaika.
“Myself Through the Eyes of New Media” is a mozaic of my picture composed with over 300 memes and social media icons, as if embedded in order to form a ‘digital footprint’. In a way, this is how new media and culture are rapidly converging; our social life, way of thinking, information, privacy, our relationships, work, diet, friendships, politics, everything we do is taking a different shape through new media. Technology is changing and our relationships are changing along with it.
Making art has never been so easy, one only has to go on the Internet for inspiration and the tools will be right there for us.
For the mozaic I used Mazaika, a special software for creating photographic mozaics. Although this is not for free, a trial is offered in its Website. I also used a tutorial from YouTube that taught me in 5 minutes how to create this, my first mozaic.
I used the same memes from the “My Mashup Video” and the social icons I downloaded them from komodomedia.com.