In real time, we’re watching the darkest digital denizens manipulate media and get away with it

On the morning of August 19, diehard Trump supporter Floyd Ray Roseberry parked his truck outside the Library of Congress. He turned on his cellphone camera and began to livestream on Facebook. For five hours, Roseberry held a standoff with police as his pickup truck allegedly held enough explosives to level the block. He was still there when University of Wisconsin student Sydney Bobb walked by and photographed the man still streaming from his truck.

“Casually seeing witnessing a bomb threat on the way to class nbd love this country” she sarcastically posted to Twitter along with a photo…

Why use a term from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel when his newer books provide a far better example?

A man looking at three dimensional displayed data while he wears a headset.
“Data immersion” by Idaho National Laboratory is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Near the end of July 2021, Mark Zuckerberg had some thoughts about Facebook’s evolution. A few days later, the word “metaverse” was trending on Twitter and references were being made to the origin of the term: Neal Stephenson’s 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash. Only this time, the discussion wasn’t about a digitized space, but rather the next iteration of social media with Facebook at the helm of the concept.

In a wide ranging interview with The Verge’s Casey Newton, the Facebook CEO proposed the metaverse as a “successor to the mobile internet” and “in partnership with a lot of other…

Grief and loss are difficult and even more if you live in the alternative reality of the president. Memes are one way of coping and they require our attention if we want to understand future strategies of the far right.

Pepe the frog in a MAGA hat inhaling “copium”
The Pepe the Frog “Copium” meme appeared soon after the election was called for Joe Biden

On the day of President Trump’s Inauguration, Jessica Starr was recorded screaming in angst at the thought of Trump becoming the United States’ next Commander in Chief. The New York Post went out of their way to make Jessica the face of the liberal “snowflake” — a pejorative term for someone melting down. Over the last several years, Jessica’s image has been used in far-right meme spaces and in the miasma of message boards where Trump supporters revel in their appreciation of a leader who would truly upset the opposition.

Today, in the wake of Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald…

This election is not over when we find out who wins, but what we do over the next several years.

“Vote” by Dean Terry is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There was literally a candidate on the ballot that had a vision for a healthy future for the country. One that foresaw a need for accessible healthcare for everyone, a distributive model of economy that would uplift so many. A pandemic revealed innumerable weaknesses in the US superstructure and yet, the electorate dumped that candidate for the more stabile, more approachable, more classically political candidate.

And here we are, on election day, making a civic choice between a leader who refuses to lead in any meaningful way, and another candidate with decades of political experience. And somehow, it’s a toss-up.

2020 has shifted how we use our internet and amid the chaos, social media has a responsibility to provide collective safety

“House of mirrors in the desert” by Steve Devol is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

We are currently embedded in digital chaos with nowhere to go. The walls of the echo-chambers have concretized over the last decade and most people enjoy the comfort of our their own ideas on repeat like a glitched playlist. Meanwhile our critical thinking skills have reduced to passivity. The digital structure resembles a reality, but is an environment of informational chaos and mental waste. We now live among the litter of our feeds which have finally accumulated so much digital detritus that it is spilling into our real world. …

Things are never what they seem when you have control over the visuals

Video creators have so much power when it comes to producing content that bends what we would objectively call a narrative style. Being a video producer means that you are in control of your audience — you control the eyes, the time, and the mind of the viewer. The tools we have access to, from iMovie to Adobe Premiere, are more powerful than we often think. We have control in our timelines to produce any possible conceptual outcome. Our cameras are not just devices to mimic our human eyes, but to bend the ability of what we can do. …

VR missed several opportunities, but this is the biggest yet

A man wearing a virtual reality headset against a nature background surrounded by a circle of colorful dots.
Photo: Vasilina Popova/Getty Images

The first time I put on my headset and walked around in VRChat, the avatar-filled virtual reality multiworld, I accidentally interrupted a small gathering of friends. They were meeting in a small cabin on one of the hundreds of worlds hosted on the platform. As far as I could tell, this particular world only had one cabin surrounded by a flat, low-resolution landscape and bordered by water. As I explored the virtual space, I could hear the voices of the attendees in the cabin stop their conversation and look out the window at me. I was fairly noticeable since I…

We’re losing our collective minds out there in the in-there land. Indoors and self-isolating, we’ve rediscovered some of the tools we’ve come to know as burdensome as friendly reminders of our connection to others. In addition, there’s been a huge uptick in creative content that’s been attributed to the cloistering. Some of it is the usual fare, some of it is mild reworking of old jokes, and some are creative interventions to the new way of being digital.

Living digital and being socially isolated means that we can mindlessly scroll our feeds or we can participate in the environment. …

When Elisa started her Instagram account 3 years ago, she used the platform to help fellow travelers learn the more intricate details about her home city of Rome, Italy. Elisa’s account, @RomeInside, has over 35,000 followers and she provides tips and insider cultural information about the city of Rome. She covers food, culture, music, city sights, archaeological sites and art exhibits. In the more recent past, she’s used her account to keep her audience informed about the current countrywide quarantine and civilian lockdown during the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. …

A few months after 9/11, I wrote in my journal that I was afraid that Iraq had nuclear weapons. I wrote it in response to sensational (and false) news report that inspired a forever war. I was a sophomore in college. My friends and I had seen the terror attack on New York City from our dorm windows. We watched the scene unfold on television and in real life simultaneously. I still distinctly remember the abject uneasiness that came from the attacks especially from the information cycles that followed. The intense discomfort of what happens next — will there be…

Jamie Cohen

Digital Culture Expert. Cultural and Media Studies PhD. Co-author of the first peer-reviewed article on Pepe the frog. Teaches Media Studies at Queens College

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