A student explained to me earlier why she uses Dropbox instead of Google. She told me “Google knows enough about me – they don’t need to also see my files.” She proudly pointed to her monitor, where a piece of paper covered the webcam lens: “They don’t need to know everything about me.”
This student had taken a digital studies course DIG 211: Surveillance Culture, and understood all the ways in which our use of the internet (and of ‘free’ apps, in particular) serves as a powerful source of data: for whom, we don’t really know, but the student was clear about her disdain for “The Corporations.”
I’ve been meaning to dig deeper into my own location history in Google Maps (whether your location history is on or off), ever since I discovered that my daily life consists of a triangle – home, office, cafeteria, sometimes a grocery store; during my youngest son’s high school soccer season, my triangle includes various high schools in Mecklenburg County.
Fortunately, Lifehacker wrote about an online tool that allows you to create a heat map of your Google Location History (her map looked more exciting than mine). My first data point in location history doesn’t appear until October 2013, so the map above is essentially for the last five years.
What does the map above tell me? I’ve spent time in two places – US and China.
Zooming into the various locations in the US, I see that almost all the places I’ve been to are colleges or universities, academic conferences, or family. My takeaway is that this is similar to the message of my daily triangle – I go to places for work or family.
Zooming into China, it gets a little better. I spend most of my time in Shanghai or other fieldsites in China, but at least it shows that I took a vacation (with my family) to Taiwan.
The interactive Location History Visualizer can be a big timesuck – it allows you to drill down to specific locations, so you can see more specifics about particular places – addresses where you’ve stayed overnight (since there are more of these datapoints, assuming you didn’t forget your phone somewhere), roads that you’ve traveled.
So now Google knows what I already knew – I don’t get out much. Capitalize on that.
I see myself as an early adopter (or maybe an innovator, according to Everett Rogers), ever since I bought my first DEC Rainbow 100 using CP/M-86 in 1984 and a modem that I would put the handset into to connect to the VAX computer in Mallinckrodt (the Chemistry building at Harvard). I think my first website was published in 1993, and I published an early article on listserv activism in 1999 or so. I’ve always believed in maintaining some kind of digital presence, and have tried to think critically about my own cyborg subjectivity since reading Donna Haraway’s classic manifesto and Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash (and other cyberpunk).
However, after reflecting more about my digital persona for the DIGPINS workshop, I believe that I’m really not a digital native, but more of a digital immigrant (we get the job done). To think more about what I do digitally, workshop members were supposed to do a VR mapping exercise, a task that I resisted because I don’t like drawing by hand.
Instead of this reflective exercise, my first instinct was to find out what my digital presence was, at least according to the Big G. To do this, I opened an incognito browser in chrome and searched “Fuji Lozada.”
Many of the links I found were expected – my official Davidson page shows up first, followed by my personal page, and then of course the RateMyProfessors.com page. I found pages that I had forgotten that I’ve set up (e.g., medium.com, researchgate.com) as well as citations that I had not set up (e.g. religionlink.com). I even found old boxscores from college lacrosse games that I had refereed many years ago! Since Laurian Bowles is also part of this workshop, I repeated the search for her, for comparison:
What immediately jumped out was how my incognito search for her featured her Twitter posts, while my public Facebook page was listed for me. I am not as active on Twitter as Laurian, and she doesn’t use Facebook at all – and Google immediately recognized that! In fact, I’m not too social on social media in general.
So I kept going with the analysis of my digital persona, and used R to scrape the top 50 listings for an incognito search of “Fuji Lozada.” (While I could have just cut-and-paste the results, I’ve been playing with different types of webscraping.) You can see the results here. I didn’t have time to do more analysis, but the next thing I would do is perhaps increase the number of search results and do some coding to see what the Big G thinks my digital persona is.
So while I enjoyed reading about the benefits and challenges of our digital persona, as Pasquini writes, I’m less worried about the context collapse that Michael Wesch writes about (who at one time was the number one video on YouTube) than what in China is called the “human flesh search engine” (人肉搜索, sometimes compared to doxing), where internet/social media vigilantes can destroy lives and reputations, create chaos and confusion – sometimes just for the laughs. I was reminded of this issue through a NYT magazine article, ‘When the Revolution Came for Amy Cuddy‘ – it’s well worth the read. I’m not taking a stance on ‘power posing’ or p-hacking (that would take much more space), but the relevant point of this story for the DIGPINS workshop is that this took place because of digital technologies and social media. Without TED talks, an obscure social psychology journal article may not have taken disciplinary arguments into popular discourse; without listservs, email, and web sites like Data Colada and Slate, methodological critiques would not have resulted in such personal trauma. Need I say #Gamergate?
And the article in the late 1990s on flaming that I didn’t write (which has since been better done by Gabriella Coleman) further reinforces how I use my digital persona – although the V/R mapping doesn’t show it as well, much of what I do is largely for work. Given the space, I think the icons would be more widely spaced apart, with the personal digital tools like flickr and instagram being located more to the left, perhaps “renting” resident, while my institutional digital tools like vimeo, WeChat, and Facebook/Twitter leaning more towards “homeowner” resident. I also wasn’t quite sure if digital tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, Wunderlist, or WordPress (not WordPress.com) count as digital tools creating a digital persona, but I added those to the map anyway because they are tools that I more regularly use.
After reading Livestock’s Long Shadow, someone in the class asked about why the FDA allows antibiotics to be used in feed. By happenstance, I discovered a National Resources Defense Council brief that reviewed an FDA review of the safety of feed antibiotics that had been approved for ‘non-therapeutic use.’
FDA’s scientific reviewers’ findings show that none of these products would likely be approvable as new additives for nontherapeutic livestock use if submitted today, under current FDA guidelines. Eighteen of the 30 reviewed feed additives were deemed to pose a “high risk” of exposing humans to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food supply, based on the information available. The remainder lacked adequate data for the reviewers to make any determination and their safety remains unproven. In addition, FDA concluded in their review that at least 26 of the reviewed feed additives do not satisfy even the safety standards set by FDA in 1973. (From NDRC)