Author: plotholeman

Prezi Presentation On How Writing is Changing

I have constructed a prezi on the changing face of writing and literacy. This is the capstone assignment for the first module of one of my classes this semester and I’m not sure I came to a satisfying end, as all I did was posit questions and I don’t feel I provided much in the way of answers. Enjoy.

Thoughts on Twitter

Matthew Moore, 3/2/14

The rapid and widespread popularity of Twitter has never ceased to amaze me. I acknowledge that it is a platform for wide-spread communication of ideas from one person to another person who could be many miles away they will never meet. I have never understood though how conversations on Twitter work though. I have been told that it is a veritable platform for communication and that people have had long and fulfilling talks with others via Twitter, but I do not know how they do it.

Over the last month I have been trying to address people in my intended future field, writing and English, via Twitter, but I have been unsuccessful. I know that I cannot honestly expect everyone I tweet to look at and address every tweet that they receive. Some of them clearly don’t respond to anyone other than friends, and I must admit, I am the same way. I would send out tweets to various Professors and others that seemed to be in the writing filed, but I was only meant with a torrent of silence.

As I was tweeting though I began to notice a number of things that kept bothering me as I was trying to compose my messages and find new people to address. First off, I was spending a bizarre amount of time composing these tweets as opposed to any of the other tweets I was doing. Most tweets took me less than a minute to bring them to a point that I was satisfied to shoot them off to whomever their target was, if anyone. But for these tweets, it would take me at least several minutes to settle on a message I thought was adequate enough to send.

I suppose the key idea that kept popping into the back of my head while I was writing to these people was, what are the rules? In face to face social conversations, I am well acquainted with the rules; stand a respectable distance away, don’t raise your voice except for emphasis, maintain eye contact, ect. Talking on the internet though, I was completely clueless. How long am I supposed to wait for a response? How formal or informal should I be with someone I have not met? What is a casual topic to start conversation with? There just too many things I simply did not know. This lack of knowledge of how to speak online threw me completely off and I can’t help but feel as though it negatively influenced my ability to speak online. This is bizarre to me.

I myself have written about how it is supposedly easier to speak online that off, and yet here I found myself stifled. Without proper knowledge of what the community’s rules are I was paralyzed and unable to speak effectively to others. Normally I would have tried to learn the rules through observation, but I did not notice a significant amount of conversations while I used Twitter. I suppose I just did not have a conversation focused experience with Twitter, and as such there was nothing I could observe.

I feel bad about this to be honest, as I’m unable to comment on how to represent yourself for twitter in a positive or a negative light. I suppose I could make a comment on the importance of learning the rules of any online community you engage with, but that would feel hollow without any advice to give. Perhaps there are no uniform rules across Twitter and it is more dependent upon who you speak to on Twitter. If you know the person then, I suppose you should speak to them there the same way you would respond to them in real life. If you’re addressing a person you aren’t familiar with, try to remain respectful. I’m sorry I can’t add anymore to that. 

Cyber Bullies in Games

Matthew Moore, 15/2/14

Cyber bullying in this context would be a direct form of harassment from one person online to another. Accoding to an article on the rate of cyber bullying is on the rise. About twenty-one percent of children between the ages of eight and elven have been the victim of cyber bullying. Given what I discussed earlier relating to social media making targeting an individual easier, it is not hard to see that it could enable a cyber bully to more easily find targets, particularly those that play online games.

Online gaming, in the simplest terms, is the practice of playing a game over the internet. In recent years this has become a natural and welcome part of many gamer’s experience and the existence of online play is just commonly accepted in multiplayer games today. The inherit problem in playing with others online, especially when anyone can join the game and play, there is the possibility of cyber bullying.

One angle of the cyber bullying problem is that the bully may not even know that they are being a bully. One of the more well known forms of online play is the expanding genre of the massively-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game (mmorpg). In these games players are encouraged to role play, meaning, they pretend to be someone else. According to, “When children play these games, they often become immersed in the behavior of the game and may engage in cyber bullying without even realizing it.” The problem here is how immersed should the player get, and how should they represent themselves while they are pretending to be another person? While yes there is a cathartic effect of pretending to be someone else, it is easy to lose track of yourself, and with the online disinhibition effect a player can quite easily slip into negative behavior.

I’ve already talked about how communication through the internet can produce a disconnect between the harasser and the harassment they are giving out because of their online handle. Some games encourage a disconnect similar to this by way of role play. Many mmorpgs, at least the ones I have personal experience with, seem to not encourage players to role play with the world, but rather use this as an excuse to just be a terrible person. I should note that this is usually an unintended effect on the players, and it is limited to my perception. While it is only implied in other games that you should act differently, in a role-playing-game it is actively encouraged.

The problem comes from that players can remain largely anonymous. It can’t even be believed that one character will build up a significant name in an mmorpg, as many of them allow player to have multiple avatars. The player can have some characters that are perfectly nice and cooperative, while they can have one character made to harass and grief others.

“Griefing” is a more poignant form of negative actions in online games by way of direct player interaction. A griefer is a person playing the game that is not interested in the objective of the game, and instead focuses their efforts on making other players miserable. This can come in a variety of forms. For example, there is the action known as “camping.” When camping, one player keeps killing another player when they are in a weakened state, usually after recovering from a character death, and repeatedly kill them until the griefer grows bored, or the victim gives up and logs out.

Considering the popularity of online game among children cyber bullying can lead to more than a few problems. offers some tips on what parents can do about their child being bullied or their child bullying others. These tips including such things as, knowing what games your kid is playing, talking to them about cyber bullying, and restricting your child’s access to games that have a reputation for cyber bullying. The problem is that almost all of the tips they give can only be given by the parents, and many parents tend to not be vary wary, or interested, in the games that their children play. Even if parents are, there is the inherit problem that you cannot control the actions of the other players. The only advice I can really give is to pay attention to what you, and possibly your children, are playing and to act responsibly yourself.

RE: Sexualized Females

Matthew Moore, 2/15/14

On a classmate’s blog, Gendertainment, I read an article that covered the representation of women in video games and I can’t help but be reminded of how female gamers are reacted to online. Typically speaking, women gamers tend to meet with a fair amount of negativity when they try to interact with other gamers on the internet. One insult that is usually thrown at them is that they are a “fake nerd girl,” a girl who only pretends to be interested in video games and/or other typically nerd associated media.

This assumption that any girl who expresses an interest in nerd associated media is a “fake” tends to color their perception online. Female gaming journalists constantly field questions along the lines of, “Do you really like video games?” They have to constantly prove themselves online and perform under scrutiny from gamers at large. One only needs to look up much of the scandals surrounding Anita Sarkeesian to see a prime example. This is a woman who was threatened with rape and murder for having the audacity to have a Kickstarter to fund a web series about tropes surrounding females in video games. 

The representation of women in games is rather suspect, and it is not favorable to how women are looked at in the larger gaming community online. The blog post goes on to indicate that, “Female characters in game are often portrayed with stereotypical gender roles such as ‘brazenly sexualized beings and objects of sexual desire.’” The sexualization of the female characters tends to not favor women and gives video games the impression of being nothing more than a boy’s club, complete with “no girls allowed” sign.

One statement that I draw some problems with the blog post was the statement that “sexualization of female characters is empowering.” Now, I recognize that this is an opinion, and I respect the author’s right to that opinion. However, I must disagree. From my observations, sexualization of a character, female or male, in and of its self is disempowering and not good for characterization. In almost every case of this I have seen, there was no reason for the woman to be scantly clad, other than to appeal to the “lawl boobs” crowd.

This is not to say that sexualization can’t be used to represent a woman well, but there needs to be some deeper reason for sexualization. I watched an anime called Witchblade, which I do not recommend, and the main character is wearing about two square feet of clothing in her transformed state. In a vacuum I would say this is pointless and some-what misogynistic. In the context of the anime, it could be argued that this representative of her overall lack of choice in her life and how the magical macguffin of the series has rendered her into an object, both metaphorically, and literally. The sexualization spoke to her character, though I am largely positive that this was not intentional, given other examples of sexualization in the anime.

Occasionally I hear the question of “how do I write a good female character?” This statement to me is largely systemic of the problems women face in how they are represented. This statement seems to assume that all women must be written in a particular way in order to be considered “good.” This assumption is problematic in itself, but the bigger problem is the sheer number of people who don’t see it as a flawed question. They view it as a legitimate query that should be answered in order to produce better characters. Think about all of your favorite characters. Now how many of them are defined by their sex, gender, or how they are sexualized? For the most part, the answer will be none. This is because characters that are defined by one or more of these qualities tend to lend them selves very easily to stereo types. Stereo types tend to not lend them selves to memorable or well written characters, and neither does rampant sexualization. 

RE: Bieber’s Arrest and The Fandom

Matthew Moore, 2/14/14

Not too long ago I posted a blog entry about the effects of toxicity and how it can be a very good thing when it is properly focused, and very damning to the people expressing their toxicity. You can see that article here.

Why do I bring this up? I was reminded of it while browsing one of my classmate’s blogs. I happened upon one post from Everything Fandom and Entertainment that brought to my attention the idea of the celebrity persona, and the toxicity that seems to come part and parcel with it. The celebrity persona, at least how I use it, is defined as the representation of them self they put forth as a means to appeal to as wide of an audience as possible to maximize the potential fan-base for highest profit. This is a way to represent your self not only online, but for almost everything in your life. The down side is that, usually, the celebrity uses this persona so much that a problem can arise where people have a hard time distinguishing between the actual person, and the persona they put forth. Idol celebrities tend to be particularly vulnerable to this side effect.

The celebrity that instigated the source of the article was Justin Bieber. A petition has reached enough signatures to warrant the attention of President Obama to remove Bieber from American soil and deport him to Canada. Early in her blog post it is indicated that, “The once beloved Justin Bieber is now having his fans turn on him, as well as the rest of the United States.” Bieber has had problems with his social standing for sometime. From my own experience, there are times that I cannot go a month without hearing about someone complaining about Bieber, and like many idols, people have been complaining and generally expressing terrible negativity toward Bieber since day one.

I understand that Biber is in violations of laws that should warrant his deportation, but I believe what bothers me most about the petition is not even that so many Americans want Bieber deported, but rather why they want him deported. The petition says, “We the people of the United States feel that we are being wrongly represented in the world of pop culture.” The problem the people have with Bieber in this case is not that he was drunk, high, and driving without a license, but how that reflects poorly on American pop culture. American pop-culture has never shown its self as something to be proud of in my opinion, primarily because of all the toxicity that it tends to generate in people for no real reason, case in point with Bieber. Here people are upset over violation of a number of laws, but this is not the first time Bieber has been savaged by not only the media, but the general public before. In fact, I believe the first time I heard about Justin Bieber, was someone mocking and or insulting him.

Considering the negativity surrounding so many elements of American pop culture, it has just become common place to hate a celebrity figure for reasons that are based on generalizations about a person, despite evidence to the contrary. I remember one of the first insults I heard lobbed at Bieber, for example, was an accusation of homosexuality. At best, this comes off as a petty snipe at a celebrity who can’t defend themself, both due to lack of physical presence and fear of public backlash to calling out a fan. At worst, it comes off as a homophobic and systemic of larger social issues that the negativity toward celebrities obfuscates and distracts the general population from.

Re: More Connected

A classmate of mine recently tweeted a link to an article she intended to use for her blog that made me wonder about a topic that I haven’t for a while. Information and communication technologies are supposed to bring everyone closer together and close gaps between people, but are they now making these gaps larger now? Everywhere I go I see people looking at their smart phones instead of doing anything else, such as talking or eating.

The article my classmate had tweeted lead to me to main source of the article, named “Disruptions: More Connected, Yet More Alone which is written by Nick Bilton of The New York Times as response to thoughts that a Youtube video called “I Forgot My Phone” brought to his mind.

The video follows comedian Charlene deGuzman through a normal day where people are always looking at their phones doing things, regardless of if they are at a concert, a birthday party, or even in bed with a lover. To me, this shows quite nakedly that our society is becoming overly focused on our smart phones. What I found most damning in this is that it wasn’t until the video was forty seconds in that I realized what the video was about. It was not until a conversation at a lunch gathering had died completely due to everyone at it being on their phones that I realized, everyone being on their phones is supposed to be out of the ordinary. I have already grown so accustomed to seeing people on their phones.

Speaking as an outsider who has never owned a smart phone, this certainly seems to be the reality we live in. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been in class and many of my classmates seemed far more interested in their phones than anything the instructor is saying. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve made a few people hate me when we split into groups because of my insistence that we stay on task. I will admit, if our group needed a quick fact or a spell check, then their attention to their phone makes sense. I’m speaking more to the people who were not talking with the other group members, were only looking at their phone, and grew annoyed when I tried to involve them with the group.

Just look at how much some people go through when they go out to do something as simple as go out to eat for a night. According to Bilton, 

People make dinner reservations on OpenTable; check in on Foursquare when they arrive at the restaurant; take a picture of their food to share on Instagram; post on Twitter a joke they hear during the meal; review the restaurant on Yelp; then, finally, coordinate a ride home using Uber.  (Bilton)

Neglecting that I only know what two of these applications are, I can’t imagine this would have seemed all that normal, even as little as six years ago. If someone isn’t involved online with all of these apps and online conventions, it is quite easy to get completely lost in the flow of information that others take in. I imagine OpenTable is a reservation tool, that is simple enough to gather from the article, but Foursquare, Yelp, and Uber are mysteries to me. The virtual world is drowning out the real world. This is how we find our society.

Now someone could say that this change won’t last. People will get over it and move onto something else. I can’t help but laugh about this perception because I thought the exact same thing about social media when it was really rising to prominence. Some places have even started implementing anti smart phone policies. For example, “A number of New York restaurants… have prohibited people from photographing their food” (Bilton). When I was a child this would have seemed like a law or a rule from a book of outdated and antiquated laws. I consider it truly bothering that it is being enforced and needed in 2014. I can’t help but agree with Bilton when he says, “that maybe life is just better led when it is lived rather than viewed.”

Negativity Isn’t Always Bad… Only Mostly Bad

Welcome back, now let’s continue our discourse on negativity online. Contrary to popular belief, negativity and outrage online is not always a bad thing, at least when it is well-directed. I was shocked when I first heard this from James Sterling, review editor of the Escapist Magazine,  but to quote his video “Toxic,” “there is nothing inherently wrong with outrage.” I thought it was absurd that any of the negativity that comes out of the internet could go to a positive end. I admit though that, at least ninety-five percent of the time the levels of bile and negativity that are generated by most the negative people on the internet are completely unjustified against their target. Outrage and negativity can accomplish good things for some people some of the times.

Sometimes great change can be brought about by loud, focused complaining. People say that there is no use in complaining about problems, when history shows us that just the opposite is true. Would the American colonies have successfully seceded from the British Empire if no one complained about the taxes? Would women have gained the right to vote if it weren’t for years of yelling, screaming, and complaining? In a sense, negativity can be an element of change in the right context. Sterling even says that toxicity is “a powerful weapon indeed.”

The right context must have a singular goal in mind and be focused in one direction with many participants. This is usually has a group of people who are wronged by some organization. A good modern example is the controversial ending of Mass Effect 3 that left many fans dissatisfied. There were floods of outrage and anger from the fans. Twitter was flooded with complaints, petitions were sent to the game’s publisher and developer en masse, and you didn’t even need to have an interest in the game to have possibly heard of the fan outrage. What was the response? The publisher and developer made some free extra content that would help fix the ending, and while still not good, left people more satisfied than they were before.

Naturally the wrong context is when all of that negativity and bile is released onto an individual subject. A problem that negativity can fix is likely too big to be attributed to a single individual acting alone. Going back to Sterling, he says that “Social media makes it easier than ever to target individuals” (2013). While yes, social media can a be a wonderful source of communication and understanding in the world and on the internet, it can also be easily abused for just the opposite.

With social media sites blurring the lines between professional and personal it is very easy to shift blame to the wrong place and unfairly single out individuals for abuse. This can quickly devolve into gross over simplification of a problem. Namely, blaming an individual for the decision of a collection of people. Sterling says, “When expressing rage, one shouldn’t single out individuals in most cases” (2013). Even if the one person was the spokes person of a poor idea or something found bad by most people. It is rare when any organization makes a bad decision that is the fault of a single individual and no one else. So remember, even if your rage at something seems completely justified, even if others agrees with you, remember to stop and ask yourself, does this one person really deserve the grief I’m giving them? See you next time.

Toxic Video here.

See more of Jim Sterling here.

Why the negativity?

Before starting on the who’s and whys of negativity online, allow me to define my stance first. Now, we’ve all had at least on experience online of someone who seems to do nothing but spew a constant torrent of harsh words and abuse online. Why do people do this though? A popular thought is that some people are just jerks. They’re jerks online, so it logically follows that they are likely jerks in real life too. What’s logical, though, is not always what’s correct. Why would someone who is offline a perfectly nice and decent person act like a complete monster online?

For an academic explanation, I turn to Professor of Psychology John Suler. His article “The Online Disinhibition Effect” discussed the phenomena of “social disinhibiton” to describe people acting differently online than they would normally. He also spoke of what he called “toxic disinhibition” to refer to people who, “may be rude, critical, angry, hateful, and threatening… territory they would never explore in the ‘real’ world” (2005). Suler’s usage of “real” isn’t quite accurate anymore with the large-scale rise of social media and web 2.0 blurring that line significantly, but the principle of acting radically different online is not lost on the modern-day.

For a much less formal explanation, think about this example. There is a random average person. This random person is on the internet and is going by a pseudonym so nobody knows who they are. Under these circumstances, what reason do they have to act decently? They could say the most hateful, inflammatory, and insulting things, and what could anyone do about it? The average user can’t do anything outside of appealing to an administrator, or blocking the offending user. Even with these solutions there are still very many more people acting similarly out there.

So why is acting in this manner seemingly so appealing to all the people who engage in similar actions online? Again, let’s turn to Suler. He suggests that people exhibit this level of toxic disinhibition as being, “simply a blind catharsis, a fruitless repetition compulsion or acting out of pathological needs without any beneficial psychology change” (2005). Simply put, they act that way because they find it fun.

It is somewhat easy to see why people think they can do this. Plenty of people online made up a character that they are pretending to be. It wasn’t really “Jane Doe” insulting and demeaning that girl, it was “Blue_Velvet_56.” For a plethora of reasons, it just does not occur to “Jane” in this example that she is really saying that. The foremost reason is that “Jane” can’t see the victim of her abuse. Suler says that, “This invisibility gives people the courage to go places and act in ways that they otherwise would not” (2005). It’s a lot easier to lay personal abuse and insults at a picture of someone, or a just a stand in picture of them, than the person herself. For example, if you insult them in person they can easily fire back insults at you, go to get help, or otherwise stop you from continuing to insult them. On a less physical level, “Jane” can’t see her target, so, in a sense, there is no “real” victim.

Now that things have hopefully had some light shown on them, we can move on to the bigger issues. Namely, what can people to try to avoid this kind of behavior, how to react to it once it does happen, and importantly, how outrage and negativity at something online isn’t always a bad thing. See you next time.

P.S. The article is not publicly available, at least not that I could find, so you will have to either have a research capable account, or buy the article to view it at the link provided.

Response to Jay Bolter

I sometimes find myself the subject of ridicule due to my preference for the printed word over the electronic screen. I may be called, a hipster, a loser, poor in a couple cases, all because I do not read on an electronic reader. It isn’t that one has never been offered to me, several times family members have asked if I would want one for my birthday. Whenever I say no to them, I can see confusion in their faces. My response to them is usually along the lines of, just because something is technologically superior, does not mean that it is better.

I admit, writing in an electric medium can bring about things that the printed medium can’t, such as immediate responses from others, and it is a quick way to get public opinion on  a topic. However, not all everything electric does that print can is good. Jay Bolter praises electric mediums in his Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print by saying, “Electronic writing shares with the wax tablet or chalkboard the quality of rapid easy change” (23). I do not mean that type should be static, but that stories should. Looking back across various literary periods, I can only think that they may have been harmed by too rapid of change. For example, why continue exploring Romanticism when Naturalism is already changing everything? Not everything in the world needs to be the same all the time. That would be silly. There are some things that should stay the same though and not change for some amount of time at least.

I believe that a large problem I have with electronic media in general is that is too quick to change and add to its self. To me this simply speaks to a lack of depth on its part. Bolter almost seems to try and prove my point in his praises. “Hypermediated media give up the attempt to present a world beyond themselves; instead, they offer themselves as immediate experiences” (26). While one could make a claim in favor of the immediate experience, isn’t the experience that is immediate all the more fleeting? I’ve played games where I fulfilled a series of immediate activities, and then, not an hour later, I could not remember a single task I did. What is the point of performing a task, not matter how fast it is, if you won’t even remember doing it? When I set aside time with a book though, I want that world beyond the text. I don’t want an immediate experience that I won’t remember by tomorrow. I want to take the time to reflect and think on that book. Electronic media is all too willing to start throwing recommendations, things your friends have liked, and other nuisances at you before you’ve even finished reading the first item.

When I take in a narrative or a text book, I don’t want it done now, I want it done right. That is to say, slowly, with care, and consideration. I want time to take in the text I’m reading without interruption. I freely admit I am somewhat biased in my regard of electronic media. I see it as too fast, too willing to change, and too fast to add to itself. Even for this posting, I grasped for a quote from Edgar Poe I thought would appropriate, but I cannot find the essay. I instead find many people talking about the essay, most of whom are saying the same things. It is a great irony then that this aids my point of electronic media not thinking as well as print than if I had been able to find the essay.

Works Cited

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing as technology. Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahwah, NJ: LEA. 14 – 26