Meta-phatics (7)

Aaen, Janus and Christian Dalsgaard 2016. Student Facebook groups as a third space: Between social life and schoolwork. Learning, Media and Technology 41(1): 160-186.

The paper examines educational potentials of Facebook groups that are created and managed by students without any involvement from teachers. The objective is to study student-managed Facebook groups as a 'third space' between the institutional space of teacher-managed Facebook groups and the non-institutional, personal space of the Facebook network. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 160)
In these kinds of "persistent" structures creation and management are present, but "termination" or discontinuation is lacking or occurs naturally/automatically. As to the subject matter, my course's Facebook group (Semiootikud 2010) is still somewhat active.
There is a body of literature that has identified potentials of Facebook as a social networking site (SNS) to support social integration into the school environment and academic culture (Cuesta et al. 2015; Madge et al. 2009; McEwan 2011). Other studies have shown that Facebook can support communication between classmates (Karimi 2013) and also has the potential to form learning communities of strudents and teachers engaging in academic dialogue (Bosch 2009; Whittaker, Howarth, and Lymn 2014). (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 161)
Both equivalents that I suggested to complement Joe's creation of the social field. This stuff is on point.
The majority of the content posted in the network on the walls of Facebook users is accessible to most of the users' formalised connections (friends). In other words, in an SNS, the user most often communicates with the entirety of her social network at the same time. Facebook groups, however, rely on the requirements of membership. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 161)
As Lomborg (2012) put it: personal but not private.
Based on the literature review below, the paper makes an initial distinction between a 'first space' of Facebook as an institutional system and a 'second space' of Facebook as an SNS. The study aims at exploring student-managed Facebook groups as a potential 'third space' between these two spaces. The use of the term 'third space' draws on Bhabha (2004), who writes of a 'third space' that emerges in the boundaries in-between forms of difference, in intersections and overlaps across spheres. Our use of the term is also inspired by Gee's (1996) concept of 'borderland discourses', which he terms a hybrid discourse that is a mixture of discourses from other settings. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 161-162)
It kinda sounds like Foucault's heterotopia. But I'd like to compare it to the "Third" sphere (between nature and culture, was it?) that may have potential for a Peircean extension. It may also gain something from E. R. Clay's discussion of the "limit" that logically separates two beyonds.
Meishar-Tal, Kurtz, and Pieterse (2012) examined the opportunities of Facebook groups to be utilised as a course Website, including a platform for delivering content and maintaining interactions among the students, and employing interactive learning activities. This study shows that students primarily used the Facebook group for interaction with the instructors, including task fulfilment, but that several students also found Facebook to be useful for interaction with colleagues, including collaborative learning and mutual support. These results are in line with Loving and Ochoa (2011) and Wang et al. (2012) who also highlight the potential of Facebook groups to distribute documents, put up announcements, conduct online discussions, administer discussion lists, and handle assignment posts. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 162)
Thus, Facebook is not a merely phatic technology. It can also be used for informative exchanges.
A study by Selwyn (2009) identified five themes of education-related communication: (1) recounting and reflecting on the university experience; (2) exchange of practical information; (3) exchange of academic information; (4) displays of supplication and/or disengagement; and (5) 'banter' (exchanges of humour and nonsense). (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 163)
(1) concerns communization, and (4) encroaches on the territory of discontinuation, detachment, and termination, but probably in the limited referential sense related to courses (e.g. "I dropped out of that course because it was ridiculous").
The central qualitative method of the Facebook study is observation, inspired by Kozinets (2010) who has coined the term 'netnography' and emphasises the need for a certain sensitivity towards the online context, in which the observations unfold. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 165)
Cool term, though similar opposition could be raised against it as was raised toward the term "intertelligible" in the 1950s: it's not exactly a lexico-grammatically correct term, and could very well be replaced with "network ethnography", just like that other one has been used extensively in terms of "mutual intelligibility".
The qualitative interviews with students first of all indicate that students use Facebook for a variety of purposes.
We use our main Facebook groups for planning parties, organising homework, or if someone has a question on for instance iPads, or when a lesson is cancelled. General information concerning what we have in common. We also use it for what Facebook is normally used for, if we find something funny that we wish to share with the class. (Student interview)
Importantly, the student in the above quote makes a distinction between 'normal' use of Facebook and the use that the students employ in their Facebook group for the class. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 166-167)
Score for communization. Topic selection in Facebook groups is limited by what members have in common.
Students primarily use Facebook as a communication tool and secondly as a sharing tool. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 170)
Essentially: communication vs communization.
The content of the posts is heterogeneous and ranges from humorous pictures and internet memes over greetings to remarks of affection or dissatisfaction towards various matters. However, what ties the posts together, is the dominance of what Jakobson (1960) has labelled the phatic function of communication. This function of language keeps the channels of communication open, allowing the participants in communication to establish, maintain and develop their relationship. According to Jakobson (1960), communication contains a multitude of different lingual functions, which can be analysed as being placed in an internal hierarchy within any given utterance. This means that while all the functions might be found in an act of communication, one function can be said to dominate. In communication where the phatic function dominates, the message or content of the communication is less paramount. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 173)
This is an example of "relationship" creeping in to replace the "channel". "Paramount" is another synonym for salience.
Our observations indicate that while these social expressions are predominantly phatic in nature, they function - on a meta level in the group - as a social lubricant, allowing for the content-oriented communication to flow more freely. And while these posts indeed almost exclusively emphasize the contact factor of communication, we shall see later that the phatic function also plays a significant role in the other categories. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 174)
Another metalevel appears in terms of what the social lubricant (or, conversely, glue) achieves. Some mark it up for group cohesion, here it concerns facilitation of informative communication. These are probably part of a spectrum or just interrelated.
Within community literature, this kind of communication can be regarded as informational support (Baym 2010) and fulfillment of needs (McMillan and Chavis 1986). The presence of this in a group setting is seen as a cardinal indicator (among others) of the existence of a sense of community among the group members (McMillan and Chavis 1986). (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 176-177)
Since one facet of my "diffusion" theory of online communities relies on this concept of "sense of community", I may have to investigate it further.
The differences found between, for instance, Selwyn (2009) and Vivian et al. (2014) and the presented study can be partially ascribed to the affordances of the media in question. In a medium theory perspective (McLuhan 1964; Meyrowitz 1985), the unique characteristics of a given medium will have certain sociocultural implications, affecting the behaviour of those using the medium. And while Facebook is indeed one company, the affordances of the various services within Facebook differ significantly. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 179)
Is "affordance" McLuhan's term? The argument itself is familiar enough, though I'd negate the determinative implication that a medium "will have" certain sociocultural implications. Rather, it "may have" - at least that's my impression of affordances.
Basically, the fundamental communication structures of a Facebook group and Facebook as a social network differ. A Facebook group is a common space for transparent communication between members which can support the creation and maintenance of a community (Baym 2010), whereas the networking site is based on a personal profile and connections resulting in network communication which is most often not directed at specific recipients (Jensen 2009). A Facebook group managed by a teacher develops what could be termed a subject group, which is a communication structure centered around subject matter, whereas the student-managed groups in the presented study have their point of departure in social life. Our analysis of student Facebook communication clearly indicates what could be defined as a community structure in the groups, where students participated in a shared practice of helping each other in coping with and enriching school life. (Aaen & Dalsgaard 2016: 181)
This makes a lot of sense. In Ruesch's integrational terms, the Facebook environment generally fosters integration between the intrapersonal and social levels, while the Facebook Group in particular fosters integration between interpersonal and group levels. In a teacher-involved "subject group" the intermediate level between group and society (e.g. organization/institution) would intervene.

Kelly, Ryan; Daniel Gooch and Leon Watts 2016. Technology appropriation as discretionary effort in mediated close personal relationships. In: Collaborative Appropriation: How Couples, Teams, Groups and Communities Adapt and Adopt Technologies, 2016.02.27, San Francisco.

In this paper we discuss technology appropriation in the context of close personal relationships. We review literature that reveals how collaborative appropriation is a natural and necessary feature of technology adoption by relational partners. We then advance a position whereby appropriation in close relationships can be characterised as a form of discretionary effort investment. We end by reflecting on elements of relationships that make them a compelling site for the study of collaborative appropriation more generally. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
It makes intuitive sense that it's easier to adopt a certain technology when people close to you (e.g. in a personal relationship) use regularly. I still regularly use web services, addons, etc. that I learned about from an ex-gf.
Appropriation refers to the way in which people adopt, adapt and incorporate interactive technologies into their everyday work practices. Such appropriation typically reflects usage that "lies beyond a designer's intent". (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
Synonyms, synonyms, synonyms.
Our interest in CPRs is motivated by our ongoing research that is exploring how designers can enable meaningful effort investment in interactive communication systems. Independent of this motivation, we believe CPRs are interesting for collaborative appropriation research because relationships, by definition, involve two or more individuals who each give input to the co-construction of a shared bond. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
Co-construction here could involve both Ruesch's "co-operation" as well as Fiordo's "domination", since appropriation of a technology is a co-operative activity in a relationship, but simultaneously the one who introduces a technology to the other in a minimal sense dominates the other (in the minimal sense of being a type of authority).
Our aims for the present paper are twofold: first, we coalesce a small literature on technological appropriation in CPRs in order to consider how mediated relational work necessitates technological appropriation. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
"Coalesce" meaning bringing together. A term useful for conceptualizing meta-analysis.
Research has recognised that supporting communication in social and personal relationships presents interaction design goals that are different to those of the workplace. Usability goals such as efficiency are subsumed by the need to support feelings of intimacy and closeness. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
In other words, the phatic function dominates the practical function. (This is where the older, formalist conception of the "practical function" could stand in for "usability".)
A key design goal is that commmunication systems for CPRs should invite meaning making and interpretation from their users. That is, users themselves should be free to decide the purpose of a technology and how it should work for them. This makes technological use in CPRs interesting from an appropriation perspective - the interpretation required to create meaning from the system necessarily invites appropriation from the people using the technology. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
This is pretty much the "phatic technological habituation" outlined by Wang et al. (2012). I.e. it's a form of "negotiation" concerning the use of a technology.
Several studies describe semantic appropriations in which the meaning of a technology changes as it is used in context. Kaye describes how users of his Virtual Intimate Object (VIO), a lightweight awareness mechanism for communicating with a partner, each interpreted the object differently and developed their own practices around use of the device. For example, an early morning signal came to mean "good morning" for one couple. Another pair used the VIO to engage in "click wars" in which each person sought to outdo the other's expressions of affection during the day. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
A special contingency: intimate relationships are often playful.
What do these examples tell us about collaborative appropriation? From a design perspective, they emphasise that support for relationships requires technologies that go beyond the mere communication of facts. Technologies must instead permit the collaborative construction of shared meanings that cannot be predicted but instead emerge as devices are integrated into the routines of particular relationships. However, we wish to advance a stronger claim: that appropriation is an intrinsic feature of relationships per se. This can be seen not just in these examples of technological appropriation but also in other aspects of life. (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
I have to agree. Being in a relationship implies that there is an emergent social unit, a two-person system, with its own semiotic agency. Instead of one person making sense of the world there is a collaborative two-person system doing the same thing but with increased cognitive (as well as emotional and practical) resources.
One form of effort that we believe is especially meaningful in CPRs is discretionary effort. We use this term to characterise effort that is not necessarily mandated but is nonetheless invested for the benefit of a relational partner. The following is an example from our early work in which our first participant (a 23 year old female from the USA) discusses an experience that we believe represents meaningful discretionary effort investment:
This guy once read me a poem by Edgar Allen Poe [...] the audio wasn't just him reading me a poem. Before he read the poem he said [...] it was for me, and that he hopes that I enjoy the poem, and it's a nice poem [...] it wasn't just him reading a poem and then that's it [...] it was more personal than that. Like he used his own little dialogue before and after the poem. He was clear and concise, it's not that he rushed through the poem, he took time to read the words and the pauses when it was necessary. I thought that took a lot of care into it.
In this example we see that the act of reading the poem was given additional significance by the work that scaffolded the act: the selection of the poem, the pace of its delivery, and the perceived investment of care create additional value for the recipient. Our aim is to develop a deeper understanding of this type of effort, as well as other practices that are meaningful to people, such that we can design interactive computing technologies to permit the investment of effort that is meaningful (as opposed to that which is meaningless). (Kelly, Gooch & Watts 2016)
In other words, discretionary effort is the effort invested in "going above and beyond" the minimally necessary.

Madianou, Mirca 2016. Ambient co‐presence: transnational family practices in polymedia environments. Global Networks, glob.12105.

This article identifies a new type of mediated co-presence, which is made possible by recent developments in contemporary media environments and changes in user habits and patterns of appropriation. 'Ambient co-presence' is the increasing awareness of the everyday lives and activities of significant others through the background presence of ubiquitous media environments. While most forms of mediated co-presence rely on mediated interaction, ambient co-presence results from a more peripheral awareness of distant others enabled by technological convergence and the affordances of social and mobile media. This peripheral awareness, which can be pervasive, complements other types of mediated co-presence and has powerful emotional consequneces for relationships at a distance, such as those maintained by transnational families. (Madianou 2016: 1-2)
In a sense this, too, is related to transcommunication in a very immediate signification. Although all computer-mediated communication constitute "mediated interaction", the daily status updates on social media sites has the characteristic of, as Aaen and Dalsgaard above put it, communicating with the entirety of the social network at the same time (2016: 161). In effect this means that a person making a status update is in effect communicating first and foremost with a) all followers; b) with him- or herself; and c) with the social network itself. Now there's a curious separation occurring here between "the entirety of the social network", meaning all actual followers and all potential (public) viewers on the one hand, and the social network as an interface for artificial intelligence on the other. (Here it may be noted that Mark Z. is now also in the artificial intelligence game.) My point is that status updates on social networking sites are not only a form of mediated interaction but also a form of mediated transaction. (Though "mediated" here should be replaced with a more suitable term.)
While most people experience a combination of mediated communication and face-to-face co-presence in their daily interactions, transnational families depend heavily, if not entirely, on communication technologies to maintain relationships at a distance. (Madianou 2016: 2)
The stuff of Prieto-Blanco's research.
Families separated because of work are not a new phenomenon (Thomas and Znaniecki 1984), but in recent years, we have witnessed quantitative and qualitative changes for various reasons, including the intensification and feminization of global migration (Parreñas 2001). That women from countries in the 'global South' are as likely, if not more likely, to migrate than men, and that these women are often mothers has given rise to the phenomenon of 'transnational mothering' (Hondagneu-Sotelo and Avila 1997; Parreñas 2001). Although several types of transnational family arrangements exist, scholars usually describe left-behind children and their separation from their mothers in the most poignant terms. (Madianou 2016: 2)
Exactly why it's a good idea to keep up with newest research. These are things that are apparent in no certain terms from recent news media (e.g. the recent case of South-American children travelling to the U.S. to rejoin their working mothers), but academic work on the matter makes it more concrete, something to discuss and consider in more detail (than the mere speculation and puns of news media).
Transnational families exemplify the recent theorization of family as 'sets of practices' rather than a static structure or entity (Morgan 1996). The deterritorialized nature of transnational families shift our attention away from traditional definitions of family as a place-bound unit and crystallizes its nature as constituted through a set of activities that acquire meaning under particular circumstances. In this sense family is better understood as a verb ('doing family') rather than a noun (Morgan 1996). In the absence of physical co-presence, transnational family members can only be part of the family through the daily actions that are typically mediated by communication technologies. Communication practices, such as making a phone call or sending a text message, become the key practices - or 'fragments of daily life' (Morgan 1996: 190) - through which family comes into being. Such practices pertain to all types of families (Wajcman et al. 2008), but are accentuated in transnational ones. (Madianou 2016: 3)
This looks like an attempt to come to grips with the factor of "diffusion" - that actual communities "chronotopically" bound are giving way to virtual communities bound by "a sense of community" more than anything. While I would resolve it "semiotically" by emphasizing commonness in experience or signification, here (and elsewhere, as in Prieto-Blanco and Harkness) it is resolved with the concept of "community of practice". In effect these are very similar ideas, but based on slightly different assumptions.
What remains relatively undertheorized in migration and transnational families research is the nature of communication technologies. This matters because communication media are not static conveyors of content, but technologies with complex 'architectures' (Papacharissi 2009) that facilitate some types of interaction and not others. Understanding the nature of different communication technologies and how these constitute larger media environments is essential for comprehending their consequences for transnational family practices. In this article I adopt a sociotechnical approach to communication technologies to develop an understanding of mediated co-presence for transnational family relationships. (Madianou 2016: 3)
Without using this term, we're dealing with allowances. Phrases like "some types of interaction and not others" makes an allowance for treating it in terms of hodology ("pathsways"). But phrased like this I sense a style of thought evidenced by the "weakly constitutive mechanisms" (e.g. foregrounding A automatically backgrounds non-A).
Polymedia theory understands media as part of a composite environment in which each medium is defined relationally to all other media. In the past, when people relied too heavily on a single technology such as letters, the particular properties of the technology or medium shaped interactions in specific ways. For instance, the time lag of letters meant that 'news' was always several weeks old. The temporality of letters caused frustration among letter writers (Madianou and Miller 2012). By contrast, when users have access to dozens of different applications, platforms and devices, they can easily exploit the qualities of each to compensate for the limitations of other platforms. (Madianou 2016: 4)
Indeed the multiplicity and multiplexity of communication channels afforded by computer mediated communication is astounding when one thinks about it. Even such a goal-oriented, practical activity as co-authoring a paper can span over e-mail, several sites for shared document editing, instant messaging apps, etc.
Unlike other types of mediated interaction, 'ambient co-presence' is not based on direct interactions but on the peripheral awareness of the actions of distant others, made possible through the affordances of polymedia environments. The term 'ambient' has already been used to capture changes in journalism (Hermida 2010). (Madianou 2016: 4)
This is where the "transactional" element really shines. For example, one can connect (is actually connected by default if you don't untick some boxes) to IMDB, GoodReads, and whathaveyou, which post your activities on those sites on Facebook. In this way the peripheral (actually non-communicative, almost service-like) activities on other platforms (i.e. other systems) is made available on the social networking site.
The popularization of mobile phones changed the frequency of interaction between close family and friends who became continually available to one another through short, frequent calls, the content of which is sometimes secondary to the fact of calling. (Madianou 2016: 5)
In other words, these short, frequent calls communicate a willingness to communicate.
Of course, before the popularization of wireness services and internet-enabled devices reduced the cost of communication at a distance, which is relatively recent phenomenon, 'connected presence' was often prohibitively expensive for migrants. (Madianou 2016: 5)
I believe this is going to get much more interesting once people who are currently unable to connect to the internet and to take part in the global matrix of communication, enter our virtual communities and bring hundreds of millions more communicants into the public gaze of the internet. The Philippines are perhaps not even as exotic as the many Indians and Chinese populations who have yet to implement these new technologies. This falls into the category of upcoming developments that include the fact of current "digital native" young people getting old and mapping their life experience online for the whole duration. In effect we'll see, perhaps for the first time in human history, what many millions of digitally literate old people will do. Minimally we can expect much more public engagement with ongoing cultural developments than we've seen from any previous generation. (It is likely, for example, that loneliness and feelings of abandonment in old age will be somewhat rectified by virtual communities of gaming - unless current young gamers stop playing games when ageing, en masse.)
The challenges of studying social media is that they resemble moving targets, changing faster than we can study them; in fact, there are already several generations of social networking sites (SNSs). (Madianou 2016: 5)
Another point for exactly why it's a good idea to read the most recent academic papers on the subject, rather than, for example, published books (which take more time to get published) or academic papers from even a decade ago. (It is curious, in a way, that developments in academic thought took sometimes decades to become outdated in the middle of the last century, for example, but nowadays the research that studies new technologies must develop just as fast as the technologies in order to keep up, which is challenging to say the least.)
Maria-Theresa, a nurse, lives in a small bedsit in London. Her laptop and smartphone are always on the desk by her bed and never switched off. She is already logged onto various platforms such as Skype and Facebook - day and night. She often works night shifts and sleeps during the day. Maria-Theresa is often woken by the sound of one of her Skype contacts - usually her boyfriend or one of her brothers who work in the Middle East - appearing online. Occasionally she chats with them before attempting to sleep again, but even if they do not speak with each other the sound of her boyfriend or brother coming online is reassuring. The green tick of the online status accompanied by the familiar sound carries much information in its own right. The online status sound of a significant other provides reassurance that familiar routines are being followed and that everything is OK. The absence of such a sound, by contrast, is a deviation from routine and reason for worry. (Madianou 2016: 9)
The phatic communicative function of SIP (Session Initiation Protocol).
Maria-Theresa finds such absence more disruptive than the actual noise that might wake her at 4.00 a.m. She has learnt to expect the sound and then to ignore it. It is clear that there is a monitoring function here to which we shall return later. It is clear from Maria-Theresa's story that she develops a strong sense of her distant family's routines and rhythms without interacting with them directly, but rather by observing them appear - and disappear - online. This becomes possible because of her 'always on' lifestyle combined with the technical affordances of her media environment. (Madianou 2016: 9)
An aspect of habituation not covered by phatic technological habituation, but perhaps it should be?
For example, she would text her son to remind him to take his medication. Some of her text messages had a more phatic function, simply aiming to reaffirm the relationship. (Madianou 2016: 9)
Yup. My mom texts me regularly with her new smartphone to enquire about my health. ("Kuidas tervis on?")
The difference is that much of her knowledge today is derived through indirect interactions - her sons' status updates, their postings on their friends' walls, the photos they are tagged in and their 'likes'. Donna is not the intended audience of much of this communication, yet this is a rich source of information about her two sons. (Madianou 2016: 10)
Exactly my point, above, on transcommunication. Mediated + indirect. It may even be questioned whether we are dealing with communication or communization, because communication involves "intention", while communization involves "sharing".
These mediated practices are how Donna and her children 'do family' (Morgan 1996), reminding us that families are not a static entity but are constituted through their practices. Transnational families such as Donna's develop a range of mediated practices through which they can construct co-presence and meaning. Mediated co-presence via webcam, as well as via other media, continues in parallel to ambient co-presence. The different types of mediated interaction supplement each other and provide participants' with a complex environment through which they can be together. (Madianou 2016: 10)
This, I think, would be another instance where Ruesch's communication psychology would benefit the discussion because unlike other views of communication which emphasize intention, for example, he emphasizes mutual awareness and influence in order to constitute a communication system. Here, specifically, turning the webcam on, interacting a bit and then just "being together at a distance" involves less intention (to communicate something) than an emphasis on constituting a communication system where mutual awareness and influence are minimally always possible.
Attaching a location to a user's status update adds further information or cues through which a message can be interpreted. When Judy posted from Heathrow Airport, it was evident that she was on her way to visit her family in the Philippines. When Donna's status declaring tiredness was tagged next to the name of a well-known designer outlet near London, the obvious interpretation was that her tiredness was the result of shopping, as opposed to a long or late shift at the care home where she works. Although such practices were common and done without much thinking, my respondents were aware that they were letting out additional cues about their whereabouts and, ultimately, about their newfound social status. (Madianou 2016: 11)
In this sense "locative media" (or "geolocating messages") constitute a form of metacommunication. This is an especially interesting, and commonplace phenomenon that could be theorized further, especially because it transforms qualitative "noise" (e.g. where one physically is, which is pretty much irrelevant in a virtual environment) into a message about social status or state.
It is clear that what is going on here is not just an ambient awareness of significant others but also a sense of 'ambient community'. The value of ambient community is contextual but also ontological, contributing to participants' identities as these are articulated through their various networks. Ambient community also immerses participants into emotional and moral spaces. This is particularly evident during crises, for example, the heavy monsoon rains that flooded Manila in August 2012, when many participants became deeply absorbed in the rescue operations and extent of the devastation. (Madianou 2016: 12-13)
At this point it should be questioned how much "ambient community" differs from the concept of "affective publics".
There are several ways in which the presence of others can be problematic, if not tyrannical. The boundaries between ambient co-presence, monitoring and surveillance are often blurred. (Madianou 2016: 13)
The correct term for anxiety felt when an ex-partner's post appears in your news feed due to the activity of a mutual friend is "interference" (this has been studied extensively in the sphere of physical spaces).
The peripheral awareness of the activities and the routines of others made possible through the rich environment of polymedia often leads to a low level of emotional reassurance. Ambient co-presence extends the possibilities of co-presence at a distance. Even though it rests on indirect communication, ambient co-presence can have powerful emotional consequences. (Madianou 2016: 14)
This would be an interesting thing to elaborate with La Barre's concept of phatic communication.
Ambient co-presence can provide a comforting background awareness of others appearing and disappearing online, waking up or returning from work, announcing their visit to a shopping mall or sharing pictures of their dinner. It is comparable to the familiar sounds of family members going about their parallel activities in one's home without necessarily interacting with each other but being profoundly aware of the others' presence, such as the soothing sounds of someone cooking in the kitchen, or of a child playing in her room. (Madianou 2016: 15)
Here the comparison is between connected presence and what Roger Wescott calls strepitus (i.e. sounds caused by moving - or even simply living, breathing - human bodies). In this it is once again comparable to La Barre, and perhaps specifically the concept of "phasis".

Moe, Hallvard; Thomas Poell and José van Dijck 2016. Rearticulating Audience Engagement. Television & New Media 17(2): 99-107.

Audience engagement, in short, has long been at the center of professional and scholarly attention. The rapid development of social media platforms has only heightened this interest, as they are all about participation and sharing. Not surprisingly, the integration of these media in television production, distribution, and reception has forced all media professionals and scholars to reconsider how they understand, stimulate, and measure audience engagement. (Moe, Poell & van Dijck 2016: 100)
The emphasis on "sharing" is what makes me think that the concept of communization should be resurrected and elaborated.
How social platforms facilitate and shape audience engagement is still very much an open question. Answering this question requires critical systematic research, informed by the different perspectives sketched above, but committed to testing their assumptions in the face of empirical data. Pursuing such research, we suggest it is important to consider a range of dimensions that affect how audiences are transformed in particular contexts. We identify three dimensions that deserve more attention: (1) national media cultures, (2) public versus commercial television, and (3) evolving techno-commercial strategies. We now turn to elaborate on each of these dimensions. (Moe, Poell & van Dijck 2016: 101)
Similar concerns vitiate phatic studies. We can demonstrate historical origins and propose theoretical formulations, but ultimately it must all be tested empirically.
Public service broadcasters also do all tehy can to keep viewers (the affective and phatic), they use voting systems in shows (the functional), and they use social media for promotion (the promotional), but arguably, in doing so, they take a different approach than commercial broadcasters. Public service broadcasters' use of these mechanisms definitely raises the question of what qualifies the intricate intertwining of social media platforms and television content. (Moe, Poell & van Dijck 2016: 104)
For some reason the phatic application of social media smacks of desperation.
Searching, tracking, and networking functions are increasingly integrated in a frictionless infrastructure where audience research shows significant patterns of overlapping public attention (Webster and Ksiazek 2012). It is important to understand how "audiencing" - channeling audiences toward issues and topics - works technically as well as socioeconomically. In addition, we need to understand how the infrastructure of social media is gradually defining audience ratings in television, illustrating the dominance of the former. (Moe, Poell & van Dijck 2016: 105)
Hodology? Maybe?

Papailias, Penelope 2016. Witnessing in the age of the database: Viral memorials, affective publics, and the assemblage of mourning. Memory Studies, 1750698015622058.

Sympathetic to the latter view, in this article, I argue that performative memorializing takes its particular contemporary form as an extension of the experience of mediated witnessing in the era of networked digital media. I propose to use witnessing as a key concept to address the confluence of the historical, technological, and political in the public space of mourning opened up by traumatic national and global media events. Some might maintain that to "simply watch" things on television or "follow" them on the internet would better be termed spectatorship than witnessing, with its legal, historical, and religious connotations of temporal and spatial copresence with the event. I insist on this word, however, for at least two reasons. For one, these attenuated witnesses testify. They relate (to) what they have seen in multiple times and spaces. Second, the term witnessing entails a responsivity toward the other that posits watching as a civil act (Azoulay, 2008), a form of visceral and affective participation in events that awakens a sense of shared vulnerability and connectedness. Mediated witnessing makes the viewer a potential mourner whose corporeal and contagious testifying produces material derivatives. (Papailias 2016: 2)
Last month I took part of online witnessing when David Bowie passed away. For some time almost every thread on /mu/ was dedicated to the event, and people came out do listen and discuss his music, relating their personal experiences, memories, opinions, etc.
Often intertwined in the ongoing movement between mediatization and materialization, online and offline memorials alike are shaped by the recombinant potentialities of the database and the proliferative dynamics of the network. (Papailias 2016: 2)
For me this was best captured in the reaction images used in the David Bowie threads. The first responses were just the letter "F", which turned out to be memes spawned by a video game (Call of Duty, maybe) where the instructions at a funeral scene read "Press F to show respect." In effect this means that online mourning is tied with an emergent set of practices that only make sense in the broader context of internet culture.
This perspective not only provides insight into a particular historical and cultural experience of loss but also illuminates how particular memorial nodes evolve in relation both to other instances of public performative memorializing (online and offline) and to developments in web protocols and platforms. (Papailias 2016: 3)
The name of the journal is Memory Studies.
The students from the town of Makrohori in Northern Greece were on their way back from a class trip to Athens when their bus collided with an overloaded truck on the narrow road winding through Tempe Valley. On impact, laminated boards, poorly secured to the truck bed, slipped off and scissored through the side of the bus. (Papailias 2016: 3)
I think this scene was featured in the movie Final Destination 2.
As opposed to the punctuality of broadcast media, the temporality of the web has been described as continuous, connective, and emergent. Remembering is something done "on-the-fly." Given that memory is distributed across our technological practices and coeval with the present, rather than compartmentalized into linear, chronological segments, we constantly interweave personal and public memory in our evolving digital narrations (Hoskins, 2009: 100). (Papailias 2016: 5)
Part of it is definitely "linking". While it would be in some sense improper to refer back to an earlier occasion in print media, due to the audience not being familiar with it, the internet allows us to link back to earlier occasions and allow for extraneous information to seep in very organically. If you're not familiar with the event the author is referring to then you can just click on the link and familiarize yourself with the relevant discourse. This is a novel development.
At web memorials, users can learn about an event they did not experience and that no longer occupies media discourse through what, in effect, constitutes an alternative memory network. (Papailias 2016: 7)
Exactly my point. And the name of the journal is still Memory Studies.
In critical histories of technology, media and memory studies, and affect theory, there has been a growing recognition of the significance of forms of mediated witnessing, involving the so-called "second-order" witness, who though removed spatially and/or temporally from the "here and now" of the event, experiences it via media technologies and goes on to produce testimony about this experience (Ellis, 2000; Frosh and Pinchevski, 2009b). Rather than the perpetrator or the victim of an event (key figures in legal, historical, and religious frameworks of witnessing), the media event foregrounds the standpoint of the unrelated stranger. (Papailias 2016: 7)
This is frequently parodied quite humorously, as in the following "testimony": "I was sitting by the coffee machine at work. Watching the paper rolls go bye. Suddenly radio Broadcast message. 'David Bowie is kill'. 'NOOOO'. Now Im crying at the toilet." (/mu/thread/S61647186#p61649031) Part of the humour is most definitely in the grammatical incorrectness: my cousin call me. X is kill. NOOOO! And part of it, in this context, stems from the unimportance of "second-order" witnessing. In the "hierarchy" of social value attributed to witnessing, for example, listening to Bowie's latest album before he died is valued more than "bandwagoning" and listening to his album after he passed away. If you "weren't there" in the moment then your testimony is less valuable.
The comments abundantly refer to and reenact viscerally felt, embodied emotions, such as shuddering, trembling, stomach tightening, crying, and weeping. Many comments produce a sense of bodily intimacy and of spatial copresence through the profuse use of the gestural and paralinguistic conventions of web discourse (Schandorf, 2013). If punctuation in print brings bodies to the page, evoking corporeal responses from the reader (Brody, 2008), strings of exclamation points, repeated letters, and all cap(ital)s similarly infuse on-screen discourse with vocal intensity and bodily movement. Emoticons, the emblematic punctuation of texting and web discourse, pictographically enact facial and hand gestures through the arrangement of typographical elements, as in this horizontal image of a sad face: "8 years passed :-(((." (Papailias 2016: 8)
I call bullshit on this. The affective power of emoticons and textual indicators of attitudes is severely overemphasized in this passage. I don't believe for a second that this "punctuation communication" produces the intense feelings described. In my opinion it's much more likely that there are more ideo-emotional processes going on. When I feel sorrow for David Bowie's passing, my feelings are aroused by the meaning I find in his music, the sense of community in mourning, regret of having lost a person who made something beautiful, etc. I'm not aroused one bit by "Bowie is kill :(((". In Bateson's terms, I'd advise consideration of a larger Gestalten.
More than what is said, this recursive circulation of embodied energies generates ambiance and a sense of connectivity. (Papailias 2016: 8)
It's a curious meta-phenomenon that if I've appreciated a paper up to a point where I find something severely contestable, after I leverage my critique I find it more difficult to appreciate the paper. It's almost like finding a minor flaw in your romantic partner, and all of your love for that person unravelling henceforth. At this point I would proceed by commenting how obtuse this "recursive circulation of embodied energies" is and raise loud questions of the ilk "what does that even mean?" - but the paper has been pretty good thus far, and I have to challenge myself not to "unravel" to the point where I can't appreciate anything in it anymore. It's a good paper. My problem, really, is with Schandorf, whose liberal use of the concept of "gesture" I have issues with.
Affect is external and involuntarily marked on the body ("His eyes betray [martyrane, Gr. 'witness'] fear") and, thus, communicable and shareable on the surface of things. Affect's exteriority is concealed through the effect it brings to the performance of self in (and with) the (mourning) community. Yet, given that the "actor is also the audience of his/her involuntary implication in a sensory horizon," the sensory exterior can provoke a powerful "moment of sensory self-reflexivity" and pass into the body as perceptual experience (Seremetakis, 1994: 7). (Papailias 2016: 9)
These two aspects, communication and communization, should definitely be elaborated further in terms of emotions - concerning the significance attributed to the emotion in the first, and the commonage or even contagion of the emotion in the second. The subject of self-reflexivity in affective states - I think I haven't read anything on it, although I would like to. The closest I can think of is the discourse on the social construction of emotions in the late 1980s, where relativists held that much like the effects of adrenaline in some social psychological experiments, affect is pretty much meaningless in the first, and given meaning by the self in relation to the context of the situation. In my own "second-order" mourning of Bowie I had several instances of self-reflection about why I felt the way I did. The results were little more than "rationalizations", but that's the general problem with emotions, isn't it? Feelings are difficult to conceptualize, to be given the form of an argument. Feelings are "fuzzy".
As these comments suggest, this mourning is not melancholic: it does not constrain the energies and affects grief releases to a contemplation of the past. This movement from loss toward life and, thus, strikingly away from the "event itself" resonates with Matthew J. Allen and Steven D. Brown's (2011) discussion of "living memorials." In the case of charitable trusts established in the wake of the 2005 London bombings, they note how a symbolic investment in telling stories of loss (traditionally associated with the function of memorials) is supplanted by the affective labor of commemoration that connects lives: caring for the life (rather than lamenting the death) of the commemorated victim means extending care to another person in the present, thus transforming the "bodily activities of the commemorating individual" into a "mnemonic substrate" (316). (Papailias 2016: 10)
In this there is as much emotive as there is phatic. In effect this discussion foregrounds what Peace (2013) calls "human solidarity". Vague as it is, I'm unable to make it more concrete at this point. (But may do so in the future, as I have a distinct feeling that once I synthesize the traces I've gathered in these meta-phatic posts, I might be able to point out something novel and sensible in all this.)
Storage media and isncribing technologies inevitably mediate our relationship to the dead (Kittler, 1999; Thacker, 2005: 113). The historical shift from the archive (mechanical storage media, analog technologies) to the computer database (digital storage media), thus, has had critical implications for cultural memory and cultural production more generally. In early observations on the database as discourse, Mark Poster (1995) noted that "the database is not only remote from any authorial presence but is 'authored' by so many hands that it makes a mockery of the principle of author as authority" (p. 85). In this "second media age," as the database assumes the role of "super-panopticon," subjectivity is radically distributed and the private/public distinction upended, turning "our private behavior into public announcements, our individual deeds into collective language" (p. 87). (Papailias 2016: 12)
Radikaalselt jagatud subjektiivsus. This super-panopticon amounts to what we call transcommunication.
For some, this materiality is suspect due to its connection to consumer culture: in her description of the transformation of traumascapes, such as the Oklahoma or 9/11 bombing sites, into tourist destinations, Marita Sturken (2007) argues that the prepackaged sentiment of kitsch comfort objects (memorial T-shirts, snow globes, teddy bears) inculcates a shallow sense of history and responsibility, ultimately stroking American paranoia. However, focusing chiefly on symbolism or consumerism in relation to these objects, I believe, misses something essential about the role these items play in memorial assemblages as category markers or, as I would call them, tags of affect. (Papailias 2016: 14)
Kek. I love this. It's an author reading others' work and coining new terminology based on their work. That's pretty much what I do. I'm suspicious if I can pull it off, but I'll try to see if I can find anything else to tag tags of affect with.
From the perspective of thingification, then, ritual teddy bears look like materialized emoticons. The emoticon, like the mass-produced and always-at-hand teddy bear, is simultaneously an intimate and an undemanding gift. Interestingly, while punctuation typically provides an affectual supplement to the sentence, in the context of the memorial assemblage, the emoticon - like the teddy, the florist-perfect red rose, or the lit votive candle - can stand alone: there is not necessarily a "sentence" (testimony). (Papailias 2016: 15)
Too much emphasis on emoticons. Who even uses emoticons anymore? The phrase "affectual supplement" is cool, tho.
The shift from the mechanical, analog archive to the digital database has meant that death is not simply recorded, preserved, and verifiable. In computer database, the dead are productive: they become the grounds for the emergence of new social networks, media forms, and affective experiences. (Papailias 2016: 16)
In other words, unlike the signs of people living and dying in paper archives, the digital life of signs pertaining the people living and dying is more pervasive and persistent, more prone to performative continuation and follow-up. Since more people can learn of a death, that death comes to mean more, for more people.


arided said...

Affordances is almost surely not McLuhan's term:

"The concept of an affordance was coined by the perceptual psychologist James J. Gibson in his seminal book The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception [1979]. The concept was introduced to the HCI community by Donald Norman in his book The Psychology of Everyday Things from 1988."

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