Wednesday, 26 March 2014

4chan: Anonymity as a form of identity for Americans

I would link the site, but it is very unsafe for work and profane. Instead, here is an article by The Daily Dot chronicling its history on its 10th anniversary:

4chan is a primarily anonymous internet message board with fairly few rules and little moderation compared to other message boards. This makes it somewhat unique in world history, being possibly the only human society without a true social contract. While international, there are many more Americans on the site than members of any other country (source). While it is difficult to tell, considering the anonymity, it is also estimated that the majority of the site's users are young people. It is interesting that, in an environment like the internet where one could theoretically choose any identity they wanted, so many young Americans are choosing no identity at all. 4chan is not without a culture of its own, however - typically it is countercultural, originally founded for discussion of Japanese Animé (something still done on the site to this day) and now being a haven for various unusual political views and hobbies. The site is also unusually ephemeral in nature - "For every thread created on /b/, another was deleted. In other words, there was no archive." Though an archive has recently been implemented, the core nature is still that a discussion thread will only exist for a certain amount of time before deleting itself and being only viewable as a piece of history. These factors combined give 4chan a very recognisable collective identity, even though (and because) each individual anon has none. The unique internet slang means that individual expressions of American culture effectively disappear and all users, no matter the nationality, become anational; the ethos, however - complete and total freedom of speech - is perhaps the most American thing imaginable.

It is unclear what this means for American identity in the future. I am reminded of a quote I once read on the site itself: "In 30 years we could pass one another in the street and never know we spent every day of our youth together". This is the first time in history there has ever been such a situation, and it undeniably affects a large number of Americans. Certainly, 4chan's cultural affects will probably persist after the site disappears or becomes irrelevant, as it has given the nebulous "internet culture" many of its most well-recognised in-jokes and traditions (some of which have bled over into the mainstream and received coverage on news channels, one such incident involving the Occupy Wall Street pepper spray incident). Perhaps its users will grow to have families and friends like the average American, or perhaps they will remain alone, as so many 4chan users are. If this is the case we will have a sizeable demographic of American adults in the future who have no real analogue today, whose personalities were shaped by formative years spent on an anonymous countercultural website. It will be interesting to see.

America's Digital Identities

The biggest factor of digital identity is social networking, alongside online purchasing, gaming, and many others.

This picture shows the main digital identities of, not only America, but globally. It seems, that America has set a trend for people around the world, the trend being, setting a heavy importance on social networking. When looking on Pew Research's findings, it shows that 90% of Americans that are aged 18-29 use social networking sites. There seems to be a phenomenon amongst the younger generation of socialising through text and images, no natural interaction. Moreover, social networking has impacted this generation so much so, that some feel social networking is a necessity to their lives. Therefore, other generations are feeling a need to incorporate the digital world into their communication, for example, education. In this modern age, it is now very common to receive work via email without even going to a lesson and just working independently away from a classroom. However, there is now conversations about having lectures via Skype, no longer the need for physical interaction or a learning environment, i think this idea gives a very clear image of what America's digital identity will be. Although, this data was collected in Septemeber 2013, so the percentages may have increased, and still be increasing.

When looking at the volume of people using social networking, and how people rely so much on the internet to carry out their daily tasks, it can be predicted that digital identity will become a necessity to Americans as there will no longer be any need for physical communication or interaction.


Digital Identities

There are many possible digital identities, not only in America but globally too.  The main ones being Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube and Instagram. However there are many more such as 4chan, reddit, pintrest, etc. Each one offers a variety of communities. For example Tumblr has many 'fandoms' (Fans of Doctor Who, Supernatural, Sherlock, pretty much anything). Youtube has Youtubers and their fans, and when Youtubers create videos with other Youtubers it creates a bigger community within the fans. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are more for keeping in contact and putting your life online. This points out that there are different types of digital identities. The identities that are just personal and the identities which share things of interest with other people with the same interest. 

This image is just an example of the multiple identities on the internet.  The people above can be seen as a representation of the stereotypical users or creators of the stated sites, but are also colour coded to their logos. 

With the communities that come with these digital identities, boundaries can be crossed. For example recently it has come to light that some Youtubers have emotionally and physically abused people, some being fans.

Also communities may not always mix together well and online feuds can be created. A notable example of this was the 4chan vs Tumblr argument. 

With these digital identities it is also possible for people to create new identities for themselves, sometimes for better sometimes for worse. But this action is often taken advantage of and thus the creation of Catfishing was created. "catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they're not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances." -

Actual identities can also be ruined on the internet, as once something is posted it is there forever. A good example of this is Jessi Slaughter. 

For the future, I don't think it'll be possible to have an identity without being online. People used to ask "What's your number?" but now its "What's your Facebook or Twitter?". I think this will be more so in America due to a lot of social media sites being made in America by Americans. One day our whole identities could be online. Another Scenario is the storyline of the film Her, where a man falls in love with his operating system, a few years into the future. Before this his presence online was much greater then it would be now. It could seem like he was inside the computer when playing games for example. If it was possible to simulate a game around a room it would also be possible to simulate people around, there would no longer be a need for physical interaction. It would be even more possible for meetings and lectures to be held over Skype, more so then what is being done already. 


There are various digital identities available to Americans and other people around the world. Some of these include, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram. These digital identities hold the data that uniquely describes the person or thing that describes the persons information- for example social networking sites such as twitter and Facebook. These social networking sites hold personal information for millions of people all around the world.

This picture I found shows an average teenage Americans digital identity, it contains social networking sites such as flickr, youtube etc. Instagram is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services. This is an example of an digital identity as it enables people to share their personal life through pictures rather words like most social networking sites. It also enables the use of hash-tagging which is a concept that lets you take one word or a phrase and enable it to become a hyperlink that the rest of the world can use to search up other peoples photos with the same hashtag.

Users can upload photographs and short videos, connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites (which will enable the option to share uploaded photos to those sites), and follow other users' feeds. In 2012, Instagram created web profiles which allows users to use their Instagram account like a social media site. This gave users a web profile featuring a selection of recently shared photographs, biographical information, and other personal details. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Repeal Pledge

The first thing I noticed about this website was the use of the colours red, white & blue in not only the sticker-styled header image, but also the first image of a hospital from the outside. These are the colours of the American flag, which are often used to represent the concept of "freedom", immediately giving a subtle but good indication of the complaints this website raises against Obamacare.

Sure enough, the first piece of bolded text rails against government takeover and intrusion into the personal lives of citizens. The claim is also made that the existence of Obamacare goes against the will of the general population and is thus not in the spirit of Democracy, a very important concept to many Americans (especially on the right wing, where most of the Obamacare opposition comes from). The fears held are elaborated on at the end, interestingly, indicating that this is a website intended not for gaining new converts to the cause but rather to inform people already in on the cause of how to take action that will benefit it.

The grievances themselves often reflect the issues raised in Michael Moore's documentary Sicko. "give control to patients and doctors, rather than bureaucrats" and "promote a system in which good and timely care is available to all our citizens" particularly brings to mind the oft-raised issue (of debatable accuracy) of waiting lists and new treatments being withheld for some time in countries such as Canada and the UK. "make medical care, and the practice of medicine, affordable" indicates that Obamacare may not have made it cheaper for all citizens to obtain medical care, as was its main selling point. "encourage continued innovation and investment in the development of new medical treatments" implies that, somehow, research into medical treatments is motivated by free market competition in the same way as research into new products (I confess that I have difficulty empathising with this one). "honor our traditions of freedom of choice and privacy" is, perhaps, the most stereotypically "conservative" of these viewpoints - personal freedom is very important to the American right, so the idea of the penalty tax involved with Obamacare is a big no-no for them.

The positions are not impossible, or even difficult to understand. After all, it is not as if even liberals claim Obamacare is a perfect system, and it is in keeping with founding American ideals that one should be able to opt out of anything if they so wish. However, I cannot shake  the feeling that this is a kneejerk reaction to the idea of "socialism", still looked down on as a dirty word in American politics.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Defeat Obama.

This website is completely Anti-Obama and has separates pages for each of his policies or opinions. Under ObamaCare it firstly outlines it's main criticisms;

  • "Obamacare is not about getting medical coverage to everyone
  • Obamacare is not about getting medical coverage for children
  • Obamacare is not about getting better medical coverage in the workplace
  • Obamacare is not about helping to prevent medical problems
  • Obamacare is about coercion of the individual by the government
  • Obamacare is supposed to ensure quality health care for all Americans at an affordable cost. But the exact opposite will occur: insurance premiums will increase and not decrease
  • Obamacare will be a disaster for taxpayers."
Other arguments include that it is just a form of Government enforced Euthanasia, a way to kill off the elderly to save money. It also states Obamacare will force people to have chips placed under their skin which will be linked to medical records and bank account details "Obamacare requires an RFID chip implanted in all of us."

It is understandable that criticisms like these are being made. The issue with tax, insurance premiums in some cases going up, etc. The reality is that it would be law for everyone to have health insurance and having an existing condition wouldn't effect it. Taxes wouldn't change drastically unless their health care was changed to France's health care system, which notably is the best health care system. The Euthanasia criticism is not how ObamaCare will work and would not be legal.

From a European point of view, the best health care reform they could have is one like the UK's or France however most American's do not have the attitude of paying for others and do not want to pay more tax or have the Government control their health care, resulting in a lose lose situation for those who cannot afford health insurance or for those with insurance cancelation. To be able to see if ObamaCare will work, it will need time and support, something it isn't getting a lot of right now.