Invisible Digital Identity, Privacy, Tracking

Beck’s and Reilly’s articles give us a lot of resources we can use to “track the trackers,” take control of our invisible digital identities, and just generally increase our awareness of how we are being monitored as we move about in digital spaces. Today, we’re going to explore some of these—and other—resources.

Ghostery: A browser extension you can add to detect, learn more about, and—if you’d like—block the third-party trackers that are invisibly surveilling you on each page you visit.

BlueKai: A site that shows you what data about you is collected by the Oracle Data Cloud for use in interest-based advertising. In my experience, there’s a lot of data here, and it’s not always clear why it shows up.

Electronic Frontier Foundation: A website with numerous resources related to online surveillance and digital rights. As they explain themselves, they are “the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.” You might be most interested to explore the various tools they offer that are meant to enable you to increase your privacy and reveal surveillance.

The Digital Advertising Alliance Self-Regulatory Program: A website with numerous resources, including ones that will allow you to learn more about internet-based advertising, see who is tracking you and then choose to opt out, and/or report a complaint.

Facebook Ad Preferences: You access this by going to your Settings page in Facebook and clicking on “Ads” in the menu. From there, you can see what Facebook “knows” about you, see which advertisers you have interacted with, and change your ad settings.

The Guardian‘s Tracking the Trackers Project: Find out more about tracking in general (e.g., what are cookies? how do they work?) and about specific trackers (e.g., what Doubleclick is/does, what Twitter tracks).

Apply Magic Sauce: This is not a resource that comes up in Beck’s or Reilly’s articles, but it is one that Note to Self discussed during their Privacy Paradox project. This site will look at your Facebook and/or Twitter accounts and reveal the psychological traits predicted about you based on those accounts. Super interesting and a bit disturbing.

DuckDuckGo: A search engine that doesn’t track you.

You might be interested in this Note to Self episode where Manoush talks with the person who created Facebook ad tracking.

Finally, we can’t talk about these topics without explicitly discussing the recent controversy around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica:

  • An overview of what happened, provided by the New York Times
  • An article from Money about how to find all of the data Facebook has about you
  • A ProPublica article that proposes four ways to “fix Facebook”

Biases in Infrastructure and Algorithms

Here are links to the materials we watched/listened to in class:

  • NPR’s “Can Computers be Racist? The Human-like Bias of Algorithms” link
  • Joy Buolamwini’s TEDx Talk on algorithmic justice, the coded gaze, and incoding link
  • Note to Self episode “Why We Need No Filter” link

And, the Duncan article on teens abandoning Facebook and Twitter mentions data from a Pew Research Center study about people’s use of various social media broken down by age and social media platform. You can see the data from the most recent update of that study (2018) here.

RRB 7: DeVoss et al.

RRB 7: DeVoss et al./Multimodal Composing

With DeVoss et al.’s, Carter’s, and Arroyo’s texts in mind, reflect on and discuss your own composing processes, thinking especially about when you are composing with digital tools (you might think specifically of work in this class, such as the audio or Wikipedia projects, but you don’t need to focus only on this class). You might choose to compare your own invention and revision processes to those Carter, Arroyo, or the individuals in DeVoss et al.’s texts discuss in their videos. You might consider potentialities and/or difficulties present in certain composing situations (e.g., Carter says that once he’d produced his video, he was open to the possibility his daughter might accidentally delete or otherwise alter his project). You might consider, like Arroyo does, what other “gestures” or “procedures” are different when we compose digitally (and what about the fact that “digitally” goes back to us using our digits)? Or you may choose to take an entirely different route, as long as you are considering invention and production of digital texts and your own composing processes.

In-Class Discussion: Carter and Arroyo

Questions about Carter’s Video

  • What stood out about Carter’s video? Key ideas, takeaways, or questions?
  • How is revision different in digital composing/products?
  • Responses to his production process:
    • Where his ideas came from—he shares a lot about his “inventio”: walking around Philadelphia and thinking about a conference he was at
    • Composing processes—says once he started producing the video, he was open to the possibility that his daughter might accidentally delete or otherwise alter his project. What do people think of that? To me, that seems pretty scary.

Questions about Arroyo

  • How is swiping different from or how does it lead to different processes or outcomes than what she compares it to: writing utensil?
  • What other “gestures” or “procedures” are different when we compose digitally? (and what about the fact that “digitally” goes back to us using our digits?)
  • What is the relationship between images, sounds, and body during invention?


Read more about choric invention in this Kairos article by Crystal VanKooten


Composing Process—To prepare for our third assignment—the video project—I want us to carefully consider our own composing processes. In addition to the fact that you’ve composed digital texts and can reflect on those in addition to print texts, we’ve also read quite a bit about the language we use to talk about writing and rhetoric and how that changes—or could change or should change—when we talk about digital composing. For instance, Brooke had us rethink both the trivium and the canons; Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel had us rethink the public sphere and kairos; and Rice wrote about how aural texts calls for us to think about composing in new ways. We heard a bit more about “invention” in both the Carter and Arroyo texts we watched for today. And, of course, we heard a lot about production more broadly in the Carter video. Drawing on these conversations:

  • Create a drawing of your digital composing processes.
  • Share and discuss the differences: Compare with one another to consider what similarities and differences we see and what their significance is. Let’s work to draw on/use language from Carter and Arroyo as well as from other authors we’ve read this semester, such as Losh; Brooke; Sheridan, Ridolfo, and Michel; Baron; Rice; McKee; Kenney; McCloud; and/or Thomas and Stornaiuolo.

Wikipedia: Part One

Here are some useful links from Wikipedia (we might look at today, or you might look at on your own):

Users/Access Levels (Hillary Clinton, FA; bees, GA)

An article about battling bots

The WikiScanner mentioned in one of our readings

And here’s the video from the Colbert Report mentioned in our reading

In-class Feb. 22

Clip from Last Week Tonight, where John Oliver takes a closer look at the dark, depressing, and still not explicitly illegal world of internet death threats, harassment, and revenge porn, where women not only have their lives threatened and ruined but have little resources to fight back against their attackers in court.

Selected Tech Ads


In-Class Feb. 15

In pairs/small group, look at realistic cartoons & apply McCloud’s terms & ideas.

As you’re looking back through McCloud’s chapter, also consider questions about the text you might bring to the group (e.g., mark a passage to complicate a point)


RRB 4: Visual Literacy

I want to leave this RRB prompt pretty loose so you have lots of room for personalizing your response. Therefore, I’m going to just restate the broad purpose of RRBs from the syllabus: I will be looking for proof that you understand (or are trying to understand) what we’ve read, for your responses to our readings, and for you to make connections between what we’ve read and other texts and experiences. Connections could be to texts/experiences from our class or from outside of our class, but be sure to give some explanation or context if it’s something from outside our class.

“Sound Matters” & Audio Editing

Heidi McKee’s “Sound Matters: Notes toward the Analysis and Design of Sound in Multimodal Webtexts”

Unfortunately, the Poems that Go website McKee references a few times is no longer available. However, you can find an archived version of “Conversation” here, “Winter Lyric” here, “New York City: After the Fall” here, and the soundpoems here.


Think about the vocabulary McKee offers us as you develop your Audio Project and write the reflection for it:

  • Vocal delivery
    • Tone, accent, and emphasis
    • Tension: how tight or strained
    • Roughness: how raspy and throaty
    • Breathiness: how airy or intimate
    • Loudness: how booming or soft
    • Pitch: how high or low
    • Vibrato: how trembling it sounds (ugh, so many of these are tied to “gender” either outright—e.g., “with rougher tones being more associated with men”—or implicitly—e.g., “with more vibrato equated with being emotional” (340))
    • Edits:
      • Seamless edit
      • Breathless edit: two parts of speech unnaturally close to each other in violation of proper spoken rhythm
      • Weave edit: two or more separate lines of thought are cut into various pieces and rearranged in an interlocking manner
      • Slow fade to silence edit line cross fade: two or more separate lines of thought overlap and interfere with each other
      • Jump cut: two or more takes of the same speech repeat each other or follow one after another
      • Acoustic match edit: one piece of speech or sound is transformed into another sound of similar pitch and rhythm
      • Interjection: a small fragment of related or unrelated speech interrupts a longer line of thought (343)
  • Music
    • Sensuous:
      • the medium (what generates the sound: voice, instrument, ensemble, etc.)
      • the quality of sound (tone, uniformity, special effects, etc.)
      • the dynamics or intensity of the sound (loudness, uniformity, change)
    • Expressive: how the music interprets—and clarifies—our feelings (e.g., busy passage suggests unease or nervousness, slow passage in a minor key suggests gloom)
    • Sheerly musical
      • The movement of the piece (rhythm, meter, tempo)
      • The pitch (its order and melody)
      • The structure (its logic, design, and texture) (344)
  • Special/sound effects:
    • used to provide information about a scene (e.g., rumble of a trainyard)
    • serve as a cue reference (e.g., flush or a toilet when a character emerges from the bathroom)
    • help in mood creation (e.g., wind whistling in an arctic drama)
    • act as an emotional stimulus (e.g., squeal and crash of a car wreck the audience doesn’t see but realizes has killed one of the characters) (346)
  • Silence: is a choice, is a present absence (349); “the silence comes in by learning to listen for what is not present so that even when there is noise…there are also silences to be heard” (350)
  • Communicative event = soundtrack + visuals (e.g., in films): “There is no separation of I see in the image and I hear on the track. Instead, there is the I feel, I experience through the grand-total of picture and track combined” (338)
  • Modes-in-relation = focusing on relationships of discourse, design, production, and distribution (e.g., science teacher talking, writing on board, and manipulating a skeleton)
  • Sound envelope = not only the moments when a sound is present but also the moments before and after as well; situates sound as an event in time (352)

And here are some interesting videos students have shared in the past when we’ve discussed aurality and sound:

“Sometimes Behaves so Strangely”

“Kanye Deconstructed: The Human Voice as the Ultimate Instrument”

Audio Editing

Today, you’ll be using the Mr. Rogers Remix Challenge to play around with audio editing software. I would like you to use either Audacity or GarageBand. If you do not have these installed on your own device and would like to install them, you can download Audacity here or search for GarageBand in the app store. I recommend that you use Audacity if you do not have an Apple device/do not want to have to come to the DArt lab to work on your audio project.

Part of being a producer with technology (not just a consumer of it or someone who critiques or analyzes it) involves learning how to learn new software, apps, tools, programs, etc. Therefore, I will offer you only a basic overview of these two programs, and then it will be up to you to explore the Audacity Tutorials or the GarageBand Tutorials for any specific questions you might have about using the tool.

And, of course, we should rely on one another during our time together in class, especially today. An important part of learning to learn new technologies is being comfortable using Google to search for answers and tutorials, relying on how-to-guides and manuals, and asking questions of peers.

Let’s have fun recording and (re)mixing sounds!