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robertogreco : personas   3

How masks explain the psychology behind online haras...
"Every human culture has used masks for ritual disinhibition, shaming and play. Is being online the ultimate masquerade?"



"Everywhere there are masks, we find this pattern of transgression. In medieval Venice, where masks were common fashion accessories, various laws testify to their anarchic tendencies. Masks were subject to a curfew, and could not be worn after dark. Mask-wearers were prohibited from carrying weapons or entering a church, and men were forbidden to wear masks in a convent. A law from 1268 forbids the apparently common practice of putting on a mask and throwing eggs full of rose water at ladies.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the fashion for mask-wearing spread to women all over Europe. Typically made of silk and velvet, these masks were first popularised as a means of protecting one’s complexion from the sun – and one’s modesty from the gaze of impertinent men. But women soon realised that masks also protected one’s identity, and began to wear them when they were up to no good. Sometimes, that just meant attending the theatre – frowned upon because of the indecency of the performances, and the audience. But a mask also allowed a lady to flirt outrageously without losing her reputation, and was an indispensable accessory when sneaking off to an assignation. In short, as soon as people put on masks they begin to violate social norms.

In psychology, this effect is known as ‘disinhibition’, and there’s a rich research literature on masks as disinhibiting props. In a typical experiment in 1976, researchers at Western Illinois University paid students to walk around their campus cafeteria carrying a banner reading: ‘Masturbation is fun.’ Students who were allowed to wear a ski mask were willing to do it for an average of $29.98, while bare-faced students demanded almost twice as much. A 1979 study at Purdue University found that trick-or-treating children, when left alone with a bowl of candy and told to take just one piece, were significantly more likely to grab a handful if their costumes included masks. This was true even when they had already told the researchers their names.

Identical patterns appear when people interact online. In the article ‘The Online Disinhibition Effect’ (2004), the psychologist John Suler at Rider University in New Jersey distinguishes benign disinhibition (a tendency for people to be more open when communicating virtually) from toxic disinhibition. A study in 2000 for the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse found that people reported more drug use when questionnaires were administered by computer instead of in person. In research published in 1996 by scientists at the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago established that, when dealing with a computer (as opposed to a human interviewer), male respondents report having fewer sexual partners – and women more. Various other researchers, including Adam Joinson in Bristol and Joseph Walther at Cornell, have found that people disclose more personal information chatting online, as opposed to speaking face-to-face. These are all positive examples of the liberating influence of online masking. As Suler notes: ‘Hostile words in a chat encounter could be a therapeutic breakthrough for some people.’

But online life is also riddled with toxic disinhibition. A Pew survey in 2014 found that 40 per cent of adult internet users reported being harassed online. Most harassment consisted of insults and verbal humiliation, but 8 per cent of respondents said they’d experienced physical threats, and 7 per cent had been the targets of a sustained campaign of harassment. The problem is much worse among young people: 70 per cent of those aged 18-24 claimed to be victims of online harassment. A Johns Hopkins University study in 2007 found that 64 per cent of bullied children were exclusively attacked online. That is, many children who were habitual bullies on social media would completely refrain from this behaviour when meeting their victims in person.

The uncomfortable message is that online mask-wearing doesn’t just conceal one’s identity, it transforms it – just as with ritual mask-wearers possessed by unruly gods. These effects are strongly amplified by a sense of the activity as separate from ‘real’ life. Suler calls this phenomenon ‘dissociative imagination’, commenting: ‘people may feel that the imaginary characters they “created” exist in a different space, that one’s online persona… [inhabits] a make-believe dimension, separate and apart from the demands and responsibilities of the real world.’"



"Updated and transferred online, both the masked avenger and the Schandmaske reappear in the phenomenon of internet shaming, where a crowd of strangers come together to punish someone, usually for an offensive statement. These campaigns can quickly escalate from insults to death threats, and almost always include demands that the target be fired from their job – demands that are often gratified by intimidated employers. Targets are also ‘doxxed’, meaning that their personal details are published online – a practice that combines the symbolic unmasking of the lucha libre wrestler with the implied threat of real-world violence. Most of the aggressors are masked by anonymity. All are operating in the world of the computer screen, where the consequences of actions – losing one’s livelihood for a single off-colour joke – can be seen as symbolic, not quite real.

An essential part of internet shaming is that the target is reduced to a single definition: they are made to wear the mask of the Sexist or the Racist (or the Angry Feminist or the Race-Baiter). Then, just as with the medieval Scold’s Bridle, a mob gathers to throw filth and insults at the idea represented by the mask. The other qualities of its wearer, and the suffering they experience, remain out of sight, and mind.

These considerations might make both masks and online communication seem dangerous and uncanny; a thing we would be well-advised to avoid, since much of our social life has overtones of a mask experience. We go to work and wear a professional mask, then come home and adopt a parental mask. We even have specific personas that go with individual friends. As Johnstone writes:
We don’t realise that much of our lives is spent in some form of trance, ie absorbed. What we assume to be ‘normal consciousness’ is actually quite rare, it’s like the light in the refrigerator: when you look in, there you are ON, but what’s happening when you don’t look in?

These mask states have a purpose. Role-playing provides us with a suite of shortcuts, facilitating behaviours that might feel false or embarrassing to our ‘true’ selves (think of making polite small talk, or singing nonsense songs to a three-year-old). When people see us in terms of these masks, we’re mostly content to let them do so. We do not interrupt business meetings by saying: ‘Hold on – I also have a range of tender emotions’, or break into a romantic moment by saying: ‘These clichéd endearments don’t fit very well with my usual idea of myself.’ And in fact, the self might just be an agglomeration of masks, of all the roles we play, including the roles we play in private fantasies; a personal Mardi Gras that parades multifariously through our lives.

So the point is not that we should always be our ‘true’ selves – an aim that is probably impossible, and certainly impractical. Instead, we should learn to understand the power of the masks we wear. We should cultivate an awareness of when we’re being unduly ‘possessed’ by them, and practise the invaluable skill of tearing them off in a timely fashion. We should resist any angry impulse to pick up a mask that carries a streak of sadism. When others are trying to impose a ‘punishment mask’ on someone else, we should have the courage to intervene. Above all, we should remember that, behind the masked figures that surround us, there are people as vulnerable, fallible, as real as ourselves."
sandranewman  masks  online  web  internet  behavior  disinhibition  shaming  play  bullying  culture  anonymity  hooliganism  responsibility  identity  vandalism  psychology  johnsuler  benigndisinhibition  toxicdisinhibition  adamjoinson  josephwalther  masking  hostility  harassment  socialmedia  transgression  dissociativeimagination  personas  onlinepersonas  luchalibre  mexico  humiliation  superheroes  comics  sadism  mardigras  carnaval  self 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Mozilla Web Literacy — Andrew Sliwinski has recently joined Mozilla as a...
"Andrew has a background in learning, as well as engineering and design. He thinks digital literacy is a ‘huge and valuable thing’ that has shaped is life. The first thing we discussed was that the Web Literacy Map presupposes that the user sees value in the web / technical domain being described. People in Bangladesh or under-served communities in the US don’t necessarily see this straight away. Job One is getting them to care.

Web Literacy is about empowerment, says Andrew - not trying to turn users into anything other than more empowered versions of themselves. This is tricky, as this empowerment is not something you understand before (or even during) the process. Only afterwards do you realise the power of the skills you now have. Also, contextualisation only happens after the learning has taken place. That’s why learning pathways are interesting - but “as a reflection tool rather than an efficacy tool”. Pledging for a pathway is aspirational and has motivational benefits, but these aren’t necessary to learning itself.

Andrew thinks that the ‘creamy nougat centre’ of the Web Literacy Map is great. The Exploring / Building / Connecting structure works and there’s ‘no giant gaping holes’. However, we should tie it more closely to the Mozilla mission and get people to care about it. Overwhelm them with how amazing the web is. One way of doing this is by teaching problem-solving. Get them to list the things they’re struggling with, and then give them the mental models to help them solve their problems.

Getting over the first hurdle can be difficult, so Andrew explained how at DIY.org they used personas. The skills on the site are aspirational titles - e.g. ‘Rocketeer’ - which draws the user into something that gives them “enough modeling to start momentum.” Andrew did add a disclaimer about research showing that over-specificity of roles is not so motivational.

We need a feedback loop for the Web Literacy Map. How is it being used? How can we make it better? Andrew also thinks we should use personas across Webmaker to represent particular constituencies. We could liaise with particular organisations (e.g. NWP) which would inform the design process and elevate their input in the discussion. They would be experts in a particular use case.

We discussed long-term learning results and how subject matter plays into the way that various approaches either work or don’t. For example, Khan Academy is linear, almost rote-based learning, but that suits the subject matter (Maths). It does efficacy really well. Everyone points to DuoLingo as a the poster child for non-linear learning pathways, but there’s no proof it works really well.

Andrew’s got a theory that “the way to get people to build life-changing, amazing, relevant things is to have fun and be creative”. We should build tools to facilitate that. Yes, we can model endpoints, but ensure the onboarding experience is about whimsy and creating environments where the user is comfortable and feels accepted. It’s only after the fact that they realise they’ve learned stuff.

We should start from ‘this is awesome!’ and then weave the messaging on the web into it. Webmaker as a platform/enabler for cool stuff. What are the parts that we all see at the same time that makes the web special, Andrew asked? He thinks one of these things is the incredibly long tail of content, from which comes incredible diversity. This is the differentiator, making the web different from Facebook or the App Store. We don’t see this from an individual user perspective, though. Although we love looking at network maps, we don’t really get it because we visit the same 20 websites every day.

Part of web literacy is about building ‘cultural empathy’, says Andrew - and showing how it helps on an everyday basis. We should focus on meaning and value first, and then show how skills are a means of getting there. What’s our trajectory for the learner?

Andrew believes that we should approach the Web Literacy Map from a ‘personas’ point of view - perhaps building on the recent UX Personas work. These are very different from the Mobile Webmaker personas that Andrew’s team have put together. We should focus on a compelling user experience from start to finish for users to navigate literacies and to create their own learning pathways. For Andrew, the Web Literacy Map is the glue to hold everything together."
andrewsliwinski  2014  interviews  webliteracy  web  online  problemsolving  learning  fun  projectbasedlearning  webliteracymap  mozilla  personas  motivation  duolingo  howwelearn  modeling  culturalempathy  inclusivity  webmaker  roles  contextualization  khanacademy  rotelearning  linearity  efficacy  dougbelshaw  beginners  making  care  lcproject  openstudioproject  onboarding  experience  userexperience  ux  whimsy  sandboxes  pathways  howweteach  momentum  remixing  enabling  platforms  messiness  diversity  internet  open  openweb  complexity  empowerment  teaching  mentoring  mentorship  canon  facilitation  tcsnmy  frameworks  understanding  context  unschooling  deschooling  education  linear  literacy  multiliteracies  badges  mapping  reflection  retrospect  inclusion  pbl  remixculture  rote  inlcusivity 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Episode Forty Four: Snow Crashing; danah boyd; Facebook and Oculus Rift
"It looks like Facebook's leadership is waking up to this (in fairness to them, the rest of the industry is waking up to this, too). With mobile, there isn't (and doesn't have to be) a one-size-fits-all communication/social networking utility or app. Facebook may well be the thing that everyone ends up having an account on, but in their latest earnings call, they reiterated their strategy to build more mobile apps and with the acquisition of WhatsApp alongside Instagram it seems clear to me (without my work hat on) that Facebook's goal to connect the world is through Facebook the holding company, not just through Facebook the product/platform. 

You can contrast boyd's work with that of Paul Adams' in his book Grouped[2], the result of which was Google Plus Circles shortly after he left Google for Facebook. Circles (and Google Plus) appears to me to be the sort of social network you end up building where you want everyone *and* you want to solve the problem of having different spaces and contexts. But we don't work like that, not as people: Google Plus is the place and it doesn't matter how many different circles I might have there - the cognitive overhead involved in placing people in circles is just too great and causes too much friction as opposed to just using a different app like Snapchat or WhatsApp or Twitter or Secret that comes with intrinsic contextual cues to being another place.

Adams' research was right - people don't like inadvertently sharing different facets of themselves to the wrong audience. No product has successfully catered for multiple facets, I don't think, and trying to build it into a one-size-fits-all product has failed so far. Mobile, which has reduced context-switching to near negligible, as well as provided a new social graph through the address book, has finally let a thousand social flowers bloom at scale."



"So when you're vision driven, look at Facebook the way you look at Google. One way of looking at Google is that they want to organise the world's information and make it freely available. One way of looking at Facebook is that they literally want to connect the world and enable every living person to communicate as frictionlessly as possible with everyone else.
Like I said, the devil is in the detail.

Facebook - the product you and I use, the one with the newsfeed - is just one way Facebook the holding company is connecting the world. Instagram is another. WhatsApp is another.

Some of those products are ad-funded, some others aren't. And if you're thinking about an end-goal of connecting the world, what's going to connect more people more quickly? Them paying for it, or the connection being available for free?

This might sound like having drunk the kool-aid, but try crediting Zuckerberg with more intelligence and think of him as the prototypical smart nerd: optimize for a connected world. What do you build? How do you deploy it?

It's against this background that they buy Oculus Rift. And don't think agency people have any knowledge - I'm in a plane at 30k feet, and when the news broke about WhatsApp, we were in a meeting *with our clients* - we find out about this stuff when you do, when Twitter explodes.

Like everyone apart from Apple, Facebook missed the boat. But Oculus as display technology - as another way to augment the human social experience is provocative and interesting. In the PR, Zuckerberg is quoted as saying:

"Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate."

He's not wrong. You are always going to be able to meet more people through mediated experiences than physically. Physicality doesn't scale. Is this a terrible harbinger of the replacement of physical social contact? Probably not. We have always invented and looked for more ways to connect with people. boyd says in her book that teenagers aren't addicted to Facebook in the same way they were never addicted to texting or tying up the house landline for hours. They're addicted to *people*. And if Oculus genuinely has the way to change the way people connect, then that makes perfect strategic sense for Facebook.

It turns out that today, people are still using Snow Crash as a business plan."
personas  diversity  facebook  occulusrift  personality  pauladams  danahboyd  google  google+  circles  toolbelttheory  onlinetoolkit  multitools  killerapps  instagram  whatsapp  spaces  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  communication  multiplefacets  contextswitching  danhon  markzuckerberg  snowcrash  nealstephenson  googleplus 
march 2014 by robertogreco

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