Tag Archive for Post Modern

Digital Connections in a Digital Landscape

RuinsDigital citizenship is a blanket term describing challenges and shifts that result from communities being geographically far more widespread and driven by electronic communication and connection. As with any stereotypical Western community, we consider individual needs in social contexts. The landscape of digital citizenship has undergone monumental change, as have the social groups served by that citizenship (Ohler, 2010). In this post, I will consider the transformation of one such group- extended family- as well as the transformation of the face of digital citizenship, and finally what these changing landscapes mean to media psychologists.

I remember getting two very sad phone calls as a child. The first came in second grade from my “boyfriend” Ryan. He called to tell me he was moving to Washington DC and he wouldn’t be coming back from Christmas break; I cried for days. The second call came when my best friend, Erin, moved to Hawaii. I got what we now affectionately refer to as “snail mail” letters from her a few times, but there is only so long a 6th grader can keep that up. Both of these examples involve people being separated across country, but even a move across town used to mean never seeing someone again. Telephones were (and are) amazing ways to keep in contact with loved ones, but if you lost the number in a move, or the number changed you were out of luck. Add this to the cost of out-of-state and long distance charges or collect calls, and it became nearly impossible to sustain geographically dispersed relationships. Luckily, media has helped us overcome these tribulations.

With each new media development, our ability to stay in contact has improved. From phones, to local bulletin board systems using 2400 baud external modem connections, each progression was a step closer to social media and constant contact. Now we have clouds, social media, and Google search to help us remember or find phone numbers. And that’s only if we want phone numbers. Email addresses, URLs, social media accounts… they all facilitate the (re)connection of loved ones. One simple search (along with a, hopefully, recognizable avatar), and you can reconnect with the entirety of your past (and yes, I reconnected with Erin). snail-mail-suzikThis climax of intense media availability resolves with relationships that have shifted from physically centered connections to relationships that are more sociomentally centered (Chayko, 2008). We get to know others more fully, and make connections with them based on interests and emotions, rather than appearance. Suddenly, distances aren’t so insurmountable, and we find ourselves connecting with others across the globe. As we ride off into the sunset at the end of this narrative arc, we take with us every friend and family member we’ve ever cared to reconnect with, thanks to evolved digital mediation.

With the proliferation of constantly developing media that connects us in a variety of ways, the responsibilities and rights so cherished and fought over throughout history (Ohler, 2010) shift and evolve as well. Online anonymity gives way to disinhibition, flaming, and dishonesty (Joinson, 2007). It also, however, allows us to explore who we are and what we value (Burke & Stets, 2009). Validating identities- if we can wade through the cyberbullies and hackers- helps meet some of our basic needs on the individual level. But the civic traditions of our ancestors haven’t been completely lost on us. Social norms and constraints motivate us to participate in a global community where collective intelligence (Jenkins, 2008) and critical value (Shirky, 2010) push the limits of what we could have created in the times of the Spartans, Romans, Italians, or Revolutionaries (Ohler, 2010).

Media has allowed our communities to expand almost infinitely and, as my hero’s uncle aptly said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Ancient civilizations trudged through the fight for participation in their communities. That fight was punctuated by the creation of media. spider-man-ethicsTheatre, text, movies, and so on allowed them to spread communication further, thereby spreading influence (Ohler, 2010). The climax of this narrative is the culmination of seemingly endless forms of communication to the farthest reaches of the Earth (and beyond), and a people who are more altruistic while simultaneously becoming aggressively antagonistic. How can we overcome the antagonists? How does civility overcome disinhibition? That’s where media psychologists come in.

As media psychologists, we have the tools to create our own critically valuable footprint in the sand. By understanding the way people do and are likely to act given the constantly evolving media, we are able to educate others (using the light side of the “Force”), help them learn what it means to be a digital citizen, and how to share with others the rights and responsibilities inherent in membership.

As global, digital, and local communities evolve, adapt, and merge, our power as citizens follows proportionately. With that power, we have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others, allowing all citizens the chance to get what they need from the communities while creating opportunities for others to simultaneously do the same. If the world comes to an apocalyptic, riotous, cannibalistic end when technology defies us so, then, must we flourish, support, and defend in times of connection.


Burke, P., & Stets, J. E. (2009). Identity theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.
Joinson, A. (2007). Disinhibition and the internet. In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. (pp. 76-92). Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.
Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.
Shirky, C. (2010). How cognitive surplus will change the world. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/clay_shirky_how_cognitive_surplus_will_change_the_world.html
Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.

Web Bias

In considering bias, I have come to realize how important common sense and investigation are when we are receiving messages.

There is no way around bias regardless of the source. Whether it originates from us or another source it has to be considered if we are to undertake critical thinking. Web 2.0 brought us post-modernism and the prevalence of prosumers and convergence, where the knowledge of the many dwarf the knowledge of the few, and the media that the message is conveyed on makes a difference (Jenkins, 2008). This should all be common sense to those who apply critical thinking to incoming information, but it isn’t necessarily. And even if it is, a reminder every once in a while so we aren’t taking it for granted doesn’t seem like it could hurt.

There are several things to think about in controlling for bias. In fact, the sheer amount of things to consider gets to be nearly overwhelming; neither ignoring the notion of bias nor letting it paralyze us will get us further in our pursuit of truth. Though I’ve always been somewhat skeptical of what is thrown out at me, and leaned toward trusted resources for information, there are things I hadn’t considered: whether the information matches what is commonly accepted as truth, how the information was obtained (e.g., scientific methods vs. intuition) or changed (e.g., how it was edited), the opposing argument’s validity, and how things like audience and context may affect the message (Driscoll & Brizee, 2013; Kirk, 1996; Shermer, 2009; “The PhotoShop Effect,” 2006).

Because everyone is biased (both producer and consumer), there is no perfect way to correct for, avoid, or abolish bias. However, the more cognizant we are of it, the better chance we have of getting to the most accurate information available and using it in the most effective ways.


Driscoll, D., & Brizee, A. (2013). Purdue OWL: Evaluating sources of information. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/553/3/

Jenkins, H. (2008). Convergence culture where old and new media collide. New York; London: New York University Press.

Kirk, E. (1996). Evaluating internet information. Retrieved from http://web.archive.org/web/20040825040101/http://www.library.jhu.edu/researchhelp/general/evaluating/

Shermer, M. (2009). Michael Shermer. Baloney Detection Kit. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from http://www.michaelshermer.com/2009/06/baloney-detection-kit/

The Photoshop Effect. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP31r70_QNM&feature=youtube_gdata_player


RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.


Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**

Monster High: Transmedia Education

Whole_monster_high_crewIndividuals learn in a variety of ways (Felder & Spurlin, 2005). One method for educating is storytelling. Storytelling is a way of communicating and processing events and information; taking away the lessons that life has to offer (McKee, 1997). Understanding that people learn in a variety of ways, and that storytelling is tradition of humankind, it makes sense to tell stories using a variety of media. Hence, transmedia storytelling (Jenkins, 2007).

An example of how transmedia storytelling can teach children is Monster High. Monster High began as a web series; short 3 minute videos which tell the story of a group of students in high school. The catch is that they are all the children of famous monsters (e.g., Dracula, the werewolf, zombies, the Mummy, etc.). From there, Mattel created dolls, games on both computer and DS, art projects on their website, teen paranormal novels, kits to create your own dolls, a wiki, and a whole host of other media telling different parts of the Monster High story. Tim Kring (2008) notes that transmedia includes a central world (he calls in the ‘mothership’) from which all other media branch and to which all other media reconnect. Part of the educational aspects inherent in Monster High come not only from the facilitation of media literacy development, but from the history which is included in the creation of its world. If a child wants to know more about Cleo de Nile’s background, personality traits, habits, and interests, they must research her father (aka the Mummy) and his origins (i.e., Egypt). The same goes for every character. Children who are immersed in this story are guided to topics such as steampunk, French cathedrals, musical theatre, and mythology.

Monster HighAnother aspect of transmedia storytelling which Monster High accounts for is collective intelligence and user-generated content. Countless YouTube videos feature tutorials on recreating the makeup looks of the characters, creating custom dolls, and fan fiction. Monster High has also supported pre-teen focused social marketing content, allowing social issues to be addressed first via web video, then via wiki.

Because of the expansive ways in which transmedia storytelling reaches its audience, it can be harnassed for education as well as entertainment. Monster High is an example of that combination, though many other examples may be found throughout history (MIT, 2006).


Felder, R. M., & Spurlin, J. (2005). Applications, reliability and validity of the index of learning styles. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21(1), 103–112.
Jenkins, H. (2007, March 22). Transmedia storytelling 101. Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of HenryJenkins. Retrieved from: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html
McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks.
MIT. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2012, from http://cms.mit.edu/podcasts/C3FOE2006/c3foe06_2006-11-17_session3_transmedia.mp3

Augmented Reality to Ease Social Phobia

Social phobia (aka ‘social anxiety’) has been described by psychoanalysts as fear which stems from internal anxiety. It’s commonly exhibited during interactions in which the person inflicted is performing an act during which they may be scrutinized by others. Examples of this include public speaking, writing, and social interactions (e.g., parties, classes, jobs). Symptoms almost always include sweating, blushing and shaking. Psychoanalysts suggest that social phobia is the displacement of some implicit feeling of shortcoming that is the result of specific experiences. Participants suffering from social phobia report feelings of inadequacy, fear of rejection, submit to more strict social behavior standards, and fear that others will notice their anxieties. (Liebowitz, Gorman, Fyer, & Klein, 1984)

Though social interactions have been facilitated with increasing frequency online, dealing with social phobia must still be a priority for those suffering from it. Phobias can become debilitating and begin affecting the patient’s ability to perform everyday functions. Chayko (2008) notes that online interactions facilitate increased levels of trust and intimacy between people and within social groups due to the anonymity inherent in them. Gackenbach (2009) describes the disinhibition effects that occur as a function of virtual interactions. Essentially, when individuals feel a level of safety, they allow themselves more freedom of expression. Boundaries which are typically very rigid may become broader and less strictly adhered to by those communicating virtually.

Studies have found this to be true of users of social media such as Facebook (Orr et al, 2009). Social media not only allows individuals to develop relationships with those whom they know minimally in real life, but they allow for the continued participation in existing offline relationships. Additionally, studies have shown that individuals who tend to be more socially inept, find social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) more attainable and less fear inducing (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). MMORPGs allow players to commit to common goals, form groups which work together to procure resources, plan participant roles, identities, and allow all interactions to be kept at a safe, anonymous distance if need be.

However, no one media is sufficient to resolve social phobia. As with anything, convergence means taking advantage of every media’s strength and using the collective group of media simultaneously to reach a specific goal. In this case, while social media allows for disinhibition and more frequent socialization, as well as control over one’s immediate surroundings during use, it doesn’t allow the individual to learn to cope with offline interactions. Games, while they allow for teamwork and identity expression, don’t necessarily allow for the development of these skills in offline situations either. Media which allow for the optimization of benefits from both social media and gaming, with additional support for transferring those skills from online to offline situations, present a possible solution.

One such media is augmented reality (AR). By definition, AR is the layering of virtual content over actual, present, reality. It is meant to enhance existing ‘content’ by allowing access to more information than is innately available. Imagine an AR application which someone who was socially phobic could take into a work party; perhaps in the form of a contact lens. Say this application monitored groups (e.g., how many people were clumped together), conversations (e.g., what they were talking about), gathered information about social norms for the group and suggested courses of action for the individual (e.g., suggested conversation topics, which groups may be more amenable to additional participants, which foods may be least messy to eat, etc.). This application could be programed to work in a number of social situations such as public speaking, shopping, dining out, and travelling. Additional functions could include situations under which users could practice the application and set preferences according to their personal fears and responses. The application could also be made to monitor autonomic arousal responses (much like a heart rate monitor on a treadmill) and alter suggestions based on the somatic responses of the user.

Augmented reality applications, though not perfect by any means, presents an alternative to specifically online or offline situations by creating a combination of the two. Though psychoanalysts may take issue with AR as therapy for social phobia, if an individual is given more control over their surroundings in the form of AR, there is every possibility that it can act as a sort of placebo which eases somatic responses to the phobias. The more open minded we as consumers are to augmented reality the more avenues open for therapy alternatives and psychological research in general.


Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Social interactions in massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575-583. doi: 10.1089/cpb.200739988

Gackenbach, J. (Ed.). (2007). Psychology and the internet : intrapersonal, interpersonal, and transpersonal implications. Amsterdam; Boston: Elsevier/Academic Press.

Liebowitz, M., Gorman, J., Fyer, A., & Klein, D. (1985). Social phobia: Review of a neglected anxiety disorder. Arch Psychology, 45, 729-736. Retrieved from: http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/

Orr, E. S., Sisic, M., Ross, C., Simmering, M. G., Arseneault, J. M., & Orr, R. R. (2009). The influence of shyness on the use of Facebook in an undergraduate sample. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(3), 337–340. doi:10.1089/cpb.2008.0214