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The Imposter Among Us

The Impostor Among Us

🔮 "How do platforms compel/enable the manufacturing of "truth" and "ignorance"? And what does that mean in the context of live-streaming politicians"

These are notes from a Design Baithak hosted by Micah and Paul


TL;DR

There are two parts we are juxtaposing. Firstly the idea of politicians on Twitch (a live-streaming platform) put into the context of Twitch's various affordances and subcultures. The second part takes the idea of manufactured "authenticity" and manufactured "ignorance" that are enabled/compelled by platform cultures and interfaces.

Understanding virtual worlds is important because “we increasingly live in a world in which opting out of technological systems is more and more difficult and yet participation within those systems pushes us to accept structures we might oppose” (Taylor 2006a:135). - Tom Boellstorff (Coming of Age in Second life: An Anthropologist explores the Virtually Human)

Question: What does the idea of live-streaming platforms mean for politics, information and networks as we know it?

AOC and Ilhan Omar stream on Twitch; What is the Twitch Culture Like:

On 21st October, AOC and Ilhan Omar, two congresswomen from the USA went on Twitch, a live-streaming platform, and played a bunch of games with Twitch streamers. It was one of the most watched streams with over 4 Lac concurrent viewers and totally near 1 crore views over the course of the stream. This is an extensive account of the events that transpired. It includes accounts of how it was set-up, who was involved, how moderation for the usually rowdy Twitch chat was planned- while keeping the constitutional regulations set on the Congresswomen.

Reading List Item 1 Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Streams On Twitch With Hasan Piker And Pokimane, Draws Over 430,000 Viewers

Aside 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Zk3HWO6Nw LilyPichu getting used to AmongUs (the game that AOC and IO played)

This is quite significant as an event because of the platform it was streamed on. Twitch is quite unlike other live-streaming platforms in the way that is its own microcosm.

The story of Prometheus describes one mythic moment when humans, receiving the gift of techne, became fully human for the first time. Since humans are always crafting themselves through culture, they have always been virtual (Clark 2003). The virtual is the anthropological. This makes it possible to study virtual worlds with the same flexible, underdetermined ethnographic tools used to study human cultures in the actual world. - Tom Boellstorff (Coming of Age in Second life: An Anthropologist explores the Virtually Human)


Reading List Item 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFZWWJADtys Pewdiepie reacting to Streamers getting trolled, streamsniped, donowalled etc.

Twitch sub-cultures have their own unique languages, behaviours, histories, skeletons and demographics. Twitch's affordances enable a certain level of accessibility to the streamers which often manifests in different ways. this also plays out interestingly in the power dynamics between the platform, the streamers and the viewers.

Reading List Item 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOg18EVbX9E ludwig going through viewers' "please unban me" applications


This then raises the question of "authenticity" and what it means to have parasocial relationships between streamers and viewers. This is considering the fact that many streams often go on for more than a few hours daily. Also this illusion of accessibility also goes up with amount of money that viewers spend. Different tiers of subs (subscriptions) have different privileges and levels of access.

Reading List Item 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FJEtCvb2Kw Lindsey Ellis On Manufactured Authenticity Timestamps - 17:00 -19:00 - example of authenticity is manufactured in some youtube shows - 23:00-30:00 Emotional Labour and its relationship with Money. And what that means for creators on Youtube. - 33:00-34:51 - Lindsey's Conclusion

Reading List Item 5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVav1ri65Ws A skit on how parasocial(?) relationships play out on the creator's side Timestamps* - 8:44 - 12:50 - Manufactured Authenticity and Emotional Labour driven by Capital - 16:00 - 16:45 - Parasocial Relationships???? - 22:45 - 29:36 - Is being a creator of content a performance(vs real)?


**Can you manufacture ignorance the same way that streamers, content creators manufacture authenticity. **

What does that mean for platform interfaces?

Reading List Item 6 Agnotology and Epistemological Fragmentation a talk that invites us to re-examine, what it means to curate life as we live within and through the interface that has algorithmic mediation, being subverted towards strange tangents.

Quotes from the Article

  • Whether we’re talking about the erasure of history or the undoing of scientific knowledge, agnotology is a tool of oppression by the powerful.
  • Epistemology is the term that describes how we know what we know. Most people who think about knowledge think about the processes of obtaining it. Ignorance is often assumed to be not-yet-knowledgeable. But what if ignorance is strategically manufactured? What if the tools of knowledge production are perverted to enable ignorance? In 1995, Robert Proctor and Iain Boal coined the term “agnotology” to describe the strategic and purposeful production of ignorance.
  • One of the best ways to seed agnotology is to make sure that doubtful and conspiratorial content is easier to reach than scientific material.
  • One tactic is to exploit “data voids.” These are areas within a search ecosystem where there’s no relevant data; those who want to manipulate media purposefully exploit these.
  • YouTube has great scientific videos about the value of vaccination, but countless anti-vaxxers have systematically trained YouTube to make sure that people who watch the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s videos also watch videos asking questions about vaccinations or videos of parents who are talking emotionally about what they believe to be the result of vaccination. They comment on both of these videos, they watch them together, they link them together. This is the structural manipulation of media. Journalists often get caught up in telling “both sides,” but the creation of sides is a political project.
  • The creation of sides is a political project.
  • You will not achieve an informed public simply by making sure that high quality content is publicly available and presuming that credibility is enough while you wait for people to come find it. You have to understand the networked nature of the information war we’re in, actively be there when people are looking, and blanket the information ecosystem with the information people need to make informed decisions.

Reading List Item 7 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7FWr2Nvf9I How Aesthetics (read platform affordances and cultures) change the way "truth" is told

Reading List Item 8 The strange, sometimes sinister conspiracy theories on Sushant Singh Rajput's death that flourished on social media How that affected India recently in the SSR case

Quotes from the Article - The other prominent conspiracy theory features how FAU-G, the game developed by GOQII founder Vishal Gondal and promoted by Akshay Kumar were originally Rajput’s ideas. This theory is based on an Instagram post by the late actor where he was supposedly learning the basics of gaming from Khan Academy, during the lockdown. The claim was fact-checked by BOOMLive, and discredited, with clarifications from Gondal and his company nCORE Games. - Additionally, these groups present the trappings of the proverbial “rabbit hole”. Join one group, and Facebook’s algorithm offers you a carousel in the ‘Discover tab’ or “Suggested Groups” of at least eight to nine such groups or pages, which harbour similar interests. And typically, users get sucked in, keen to consume more content on similar matters. - The story about conspiracy theories on Sushant Singh Rajput’s death – bear a striking resemblance to QAnon conspiracy movement — which began in the United States and is now going global — to a large extent, underscores the global concerns about the information ecosystem, as it stands today. The several grievance-filled hashtags, deliberate misinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories arising out of large social media platforms are being mainstreamed by popular news channels, only for further content on those channels going back to the system, amplified by the same actors and drawing higher engagement. - “There’s the obvious link to the Bihar elections, and it gives them a good opportunity to create a parallel narrative, besides targeting the Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra government, something that has been a constant since Thackeray became CM,” says the digital political strategist quoted earlier in the story. A recent report by social media researcher Joyojeet Pal and his team highlighted that the data showed “the important role played by politicians, especially the BJP, in proposing a ‘murder’ alternative to the ‘suicide’ narrative.”