Tag Archives: digital culture

Send a picture from now: here’s my ceiling

When people were still getting acquainted with this idea that any two people could talk anywhere they were in the world, one of the most common things to sort of verify whether or not they were interacting with a real human being was taking a picture at the moment and sending it to the suspiscious potential friends. Everyone has their reasons, right? We understand that paranoia is probably caused by information society’s accelerated rise, and I’ve mentioned FOMA (fear of missing out) but haven’t been paying a lot of attention to new initiatives such as BeReal, a new social network that “promotes transparency and authenticity”. What calls my attention is that this sort of anti-glamourous approach to self-representation takes on many shapes, angles, and even technical settings. For example: if I do send you a picture of myself, which of my cameras should I use? And of course: you don’t expect me to show my full face, do you?

From a security standpoint, Qualcomm, for example, has proposed a model for future smartphones that has your frontal camera “always on”, to protect you from having other people rather than yourself looking at your notifications or even accessing the device, as reported by the Washington Post. I think that’s particularly interesting knowing that Qualcomm’s CEO is Brazilian (the interview was great, Bloomberg, thanks), and I’m here having an issue with biometric verification and what’s called the “selfie password” in order to use a credit card, the only form I could find of promoting my work after a period of Brazilian economic policy that majorly harmed the poor and political opponents. Examples? New laws funding culture got vetoed; review of quota law for Black populations in university; end of free public university proposed by law; the insanity of the project School Without a Party and its supporters, as reported by The Guardian; extremely overlooked economic inequality data, as reported by Oxfam; fintech being used for fraud, and so many other issues.

What makes me write a blog several days a week is this supposedly noble idea of making a bridge between the international, English-speaking context of school, college, business and politics, with media circling all of these topics, and translating it to the Brazilian learner while also pinpointing the problems in approach and false narratives to natives. I could invite you to go to Omegle and count the number of ceilings you’ll see, or add someone from Quick Chat on Snapchat and do the same. If I’m wrong (I am, very often) and this only happens to me, okay: you win. For now. That is absolutely not the only issue. Why do I need a selfie password in order to teach people how to have better conversations in English with people who actually respect you? How do I make a successful business without getting robbed from young people at the beach or the biggest companies in the world? And how do I prove that I’m real, and not just sweaty, when I turn on my camera and show my face while talking to strangers, because we’re all locked up in our apartments hoping that someone will have something good to tell us, and maybe even listen to what we have to say? I don’t care about authenticity. I care about meaning and mood. If you twist the meaning of my words, my mood will change. If you ignore my mood and want to give it a meaning you made up, I’ll come back at you. It’s very simple! But of course, there’s more ways to verify what’s really going on than putting two people against each other on purpose, or asking them to show what the top of their room looks like instead of the bottom of their body — which, depending on the case, might not be the end of the freaking world.

Image: Pexels

In this economy? A look at verification and motive

Think about the web as a tool available for the power elites. You won’t be wrong: financial apps are booming; relationships have taken on new dimensions associated with what everyone calls user experience and community standards; job hunting is mentioned by many as a keyword game for machines to triage your need for compensation, which you might not get because you forgot to include arbitrarily determined essential skills. But you either go micro or macro. It’s not that some people don’t bother to look at the stats: they probably wouldn’t like to read that word, rejecting it strongly as it means something not just unknown, but absolutely useless. Analytics doesn’t integrate their vocabulary, content strategy isn’t paramount. But any business has been approached, if not online with ads for expanding their reach with specialized agencies, then at least in a conversation with a possible facilitator, like the guy who wants the stores in the neighborhood to start using a new payments processing machine. That’s the case for Stone, an Information Technology and Services company, committed to being the Brazilian entrepreneur’s partner. Started in 2012 and headquartered in Sao Paulo, it started trading in the NYSE in 2018, election year; with over 15 thousand employees (how many are on LinkedIn is another story), it attracts applicants from all over the country, perhaps because of its culture of “no bullshit”, or maybe the education partnerships, listed on their website. Considering the almost 2 million clients as of April 2022 and over 120 billion dollars in transactions over the past year, it’s definitely a big player; and recruitment manager Lívia Kuga prides herself of these achievements in almost classic corporate discourse: with the development of emotional intelligence and what she calls culture rituals, she seeks for “the most humanized approach possible with use of technology and machine learning”, reports Brazilian finance magazine Exame. But stock price last year was at almost 70 dollars, and it’s dropped to as low as 9. Why is any of this important, though, if investing is clearly for the elites, and not the common citizen?

Think about it this way: you wrote a tweet, but on the way, your Wi-Fi dropped. You weren’t connected anymore, and your reaction was to tap twice on your Android phone icon, so it recognized the network again and you could finally share your small message with your circle, and then each user could expand it, within their own circle, by reposting it. If they’re following, it takes a click on the app to see it. That’s what impressions are: the potential reach of your post. You see something exceptional, you make sure to share (using the button, not your wallet); but when you have groceries at hand (I’m one of those people who only grabs them when the payment has been approved), you don’t want to wait more than 5 seconds. That’s just the world we live in now. Why? Because financial services have always had priority in systems management, except there are many kinds of systems; in fact, considering what machine learning can do, one could argue we’re walking towards a myriad of undisclosed information, fed to the masses in homeopathic doses. Let’s be real about this: why did the network drop? Reports show that, in Britain, 44% of ISP clients have experienced connection issues, while Windows 11 is apparently working alongside Fing, a network security company that displays in real time service outages and shortcomings on your phone. Can you imagine the distress in a gaming competition, in case there was a glitch? For those who aren’t always up-to-date with every discussion, some gaming competitions have been reportedly tense, and the culture doesn’t seem to be very gender balanced. But regardless of the examples we might draw from this in a service quality kind of perspective, there’s an important concept that needs to be addressed: verification.

The world’s richest man reportedly bought the world’s biggest media company. That’s how I put it, before it was announced, when Twitter sold for 44 billion dollars to Elon Musk, both epic industry visionary and slow ranting entrepreneur. There’s been rising concern over what that might mean in relation to controversial figures banned from platforms, notably the case of ex-president of the United States, Donald Trump. Whatever the case, when it comes to inflammatory speech, a first test of concept is necessary: is trust verifiable? Some people would trust a person more when they hear their voice, instead of text; others prefer video; for a long time, presence was the most important aspect, in face-to-face interactions, but apparently the younger generation never thought about how they could afford a home (first theme on my pedagogical material, by the way). There are theories saying we assimilate stuff from visual, auditory and other sense-related stimuli; data on the new ways of communication will take this concept to the test, as well as educators in search for solutions for digital demands. It’s one thing to map out a student’s understanding of a broad theme over a videocall; another, completely different set of procedures, to ask them to answer a poll–and even traditional media has already started using this massively, to make sure people actually read and get informed. In a way, the media is verifying if we’re actually using it, not just scrolling; and that’s good, right? Now think about the economy.

When I was young, I didn’t have an allowance. My dad knew, before social networks existed, who my friends were. They came home, I introduced them (or they introduced themselves; it was 2003), and we hung out to play basketball. Surprisingly, for some, I did that; but it was mostly my brother, and I sat there doing nothing, hearing that particular sound of Nike and Adidas shoes against the court. Eventually, my dad even bought me one of those: Adidas Mad Handle, an interesting pair in grey and black synthetic leather. There’s so much I wouldn’t be able to handle in the future, and I definitely got mad; but that has nothing to do with basketball. My girlfriend at the time (after I left the boys’ club to have a relationship with a teenager, and meet her family, then stay for 10 years) was a great communicator in more than one language; but we found our ways, though I barely opened my mouth–except with her. I would later get mad, indeed. Not in the sense of angry: just overwhelmed and absolutely incapable of “handling” my responsibilities as a young adult, which I thought I could do when I was taking the stage to play the drums. If someone was ever in a position to confirm this story, it doesn’t really matter: the humanized machine processing isn’t there for deleted accounts, is it? As for sports, we now have camera footage which can be requested for verification of a foul, penalty or any kind of conflict during the game, at least in soccer matches. Why FIFA is headquartered in Switzerland, famous world tax haven? That is barely questioned. So what exactly do we want to verify?

Let’s suppose you go into a convenience store in the middle of the night. The lady at the cash register sees you struggling with your change, grabbing a beer from the freezer but putting it back, then going to the end of the line as party girls and boys come inside with their cars parked at the gas station, in front of the big mall, ready to go somewhere else and have loads of fun–metaphorically or not, mind you. They pay with their phones for a bottle of Red Label, and you learned to enjoy Jack Daniels, the oak taste, precisely what made you interested in tobacco; but now you’re a serial smoker. The banner behind most cash registers in convenience stores, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and even newsstands will show discounts on the price of cigarettes. You check to see if you have 5 real, but unfortunatelly, buddy, you don’t. There’s 5 cents missing. And well, since nobody here invests in certain kinds of assets, what the hell is 5 cents, right? The newsstand guy shouted out to you as you walked away on the previous day, saying your count was wrong and you should give the product back. On a number of occasions, though, you knew it was absolutely right, having checked it before going there and counted all coins at the breakfast table; it was still breakfast for you, though it was 7PM. They’d be closing soon. You had to go buy or not have the money for a cheap pack, spending the night awake without access to your phone (and because this involves some level of paraphrasing, let’s address how verification plays a role in this story later). Unlike the newsstand guy (who refused to give you a pack you weren’t even supposed to be able to buy anywhere, since it never got a sanitary authority inspection or passed a national health risk and standard evaluation, all because of 5 cents), the lady at the convenience store says: “You know what? Since you’re always here, you can take it. You’ll bring it next time.” So you walk out past the ATM, and it’s raining. You don’t have a car, but thankfully it’s just 3 blocks. Of course, it depends if you count the blocks behind the blocks, but I’m sure nobody’s interested in that level of scrutiny. They’re not showing the components of the product anymore. Both sides now alert consumers of the harms it may cause; you still open it, light it up, sometimes with a match, eventually tilting your head down to the oven and maybe burning your own hair, because a lighter is actually more expensive than the freaking poison pack. And then you get on Twitter on your phone. Now, here’s an interesting question: when you unlocked your phone, after paying for a product in coins (literal coins, everyone), what were the party girls and boys doing? Apparently, nobody cares.

On the next day, you’d have to see about your bank’s digital signature. You forgot your letters password, which allows you to make ATM transactions, so you need to go there in person to sort things out; but if you’re thinking about digital payments, you don’t get to do that if you haven’t made a specific registration for any possible online transaction associated with your account. Today, whenever you say account, people will inevitably think of Instagram; but is that fair? As it turns out, the social network has more verification than the bank; but that’s very debatable, considering that biometric technology has been used in a range of institutions. But social media verification is a process few people understand. First, because Twitter championed it; second, because it speaks authority. But what authority? Katy Perry’s version of it? Nothing against sexual freedoms and discourse to be made available, but when it becomes mainstream to the point of elevating “I wanna see your peacock” to the most widely marketed message on the internet, we have to at least question something in there. And for many, it’s questioning the peacock–meaning, of course, the validity of that message, something you can do by actually asking people what they want to see. Unfortunately, some people don’t remember the former world’s richest man’s Op-ed on the newspaper he bought at the time of a scandal involving his sending of intimate images, and now The Washington Post, which arguably (or not) takes on difficult topics on internet culture, describes a pre-pandemic world where 25% of teens sent the freaking peacock, while the rate increased with lockdown. It doesn’t consider a particularly important factor that expands the margin of error: trust, sentiment and false reporting, not to mention the not-so-twenty-first century idea that, if we live online, we have sex online. Excuse me, but only 15% of teens have sex? I could believe that if I studied in a Catholic school, but not being promoted on an adult site. Hypothetically, of course (isn’t Twitter an adult site, since we’re touching upon this subject?)

But what if nobody asks? For example, another Brazilian NYSE listed company, Nubank, made possible that payments could be processed with card approximation. Technicalities don’t matter, for now. But I remember the time I had just left my family home to buy myself something different to drink, and I was paying with the new card; I had disabled the approximation feature because I didn’t think that was secure in any way: I’d been through a two-step verification nightmare, losing access to my social accounts in a mix of bad luck, bad anger management and frankly, bad management overall, when my phone number was cancelled and the 2FA feature was on. There was no way to get in again. And I should’ve thought reasonably: if the number had been cancelled and that was the problem, then, instead of looking for social media support solutions, I would have to see about the issue with the ISP, in this case the communications company, responsible for the data. The policy is inactivity can disable the account; but not that non-solicited, non-authorized SMS ads and messages searching for indebted citizens with a different name than my own were ever problematic; in fact, I used to get them every day and just ignore, but the important thing is that you enter your tax payer identification (a poor translation of Physical Person Registration, or CPF, meaning you’re not the owner of a business acting on a legal contract, just a regular citizen). Isn’t that what they should verify? We do have an option, on today’s new Android features, to report unknown callers and SMS as spam; but social media is a completely different game, and it’s going to take at least one more decade for finance to be completely understood in its contradictions and ideology, which some will catch up on, while others simply won’t–and may spread false information based on campaigns that are actually financed, and make scammer platforms for scammer users profit like no public servant or hard working independent ever would.

A system in Brazil tries to revert the consumer perception and what makes someone a “good payer”, which is otherwise assessed by online activity and purchasing power, with categorizations that third-party companies have used in mass scale through algorithms (Accenture and Cognizant are just two examples, when it comes to recently renamed Facebook, or Meta; reports have been linked previously on the blog). Some users are lucky to be found by certain agencies, organizations and influencers, with blue badges and all; some are not, and their pages on Patreon or even their campaigns on Avaaz get absolutely ignored. But in terms of verification, you might want to know if you’re breaking the law when you start a business or propose new directions for the company. That’s something I learned both with them and media coverage about monetization, hate speech and censorship online, but also with some good old Netflix (no, Netflix is not old, but there’s no book published with cringe on its title, as far as I’m aware). On an episode of the series “Billions” (spoilers), hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod ventures into an investment on the cannabis sector, with an assurance that everything was perfectly legal; that’s how he gets busted, after finding out his newly founded personal bank couldn’t have the company of such a product on its portfolio, given countless lawsuits by its owner and the risk factors that, in the end, made him lose a lot of money, but also the newly founded bank. To escape law scrutiny, he avoids facing the authorities and leaves to Europe. Back to the verification debate, many fictional narratives have explored that concept, either in the investigative kind, like the Law and Order franchise, or documentaries and even romance movies that deal with fidelity in relationships, none of which seeming to address properly and realistically the issue of online identity and freedom, except tentatively in Alyssa Milano’s Brazen, hated by the critics. Notably, nobody’s too excited to talk about how people in certain industries get paid, or even whether they should, considering what they’re doing; but the movie shows a different side of things, which can be very brutal and hard to swallow; the criticism is lack of rawness, not merit in the unprecedented approach of the theme of sex work and stalking, along with the softest of portrayals in a few seconds of sexually suggestive scenes—in comparison, you can do your own research, I’m sure.

As the word fluency gets overused again and the word participation seems to mean nothing, considering how easy it is to argue that nobody really participates in anything when it’s just something on the screen, verification takes on new interpretations; the fluent speaker can understand, but also read between the lines–and if a teacher is well-versed in media literacy, they know how to explore the topic well enough, which doesn’t mean the challenge is well-compensated or the troubles will ever be, no matter who’s associated with them. The algorithm recommends people you should follow, and even selects special profiles made just for you (Happn does, for example). The ethics of these already established practices (including data plans that include dating apps for free) aren’t going to be questioned by a generation that grew up normalizing this, but also reporting anyone that doesn’t like the newest pop artist that they relate to so much, and an ugly face instead of a beautiful ceiling. Of course, one day they’ll wonder if one million streams being multiplied by $0.04 is a good deal; but as long as we can gather in a stadium to celebrate sound and community, love and a thinking society, chaos and aesthetic value, experience and memory, then we’ll be just fine.

The reality, though, is stark here in Brazil and many other countries: the recent most downloaded app nationwide was the government emergency rescue, during a public health crisis; not Peloton, which curiously labels itself as a well-being initiative; The Wall Street Journal points out it went from 50 billion to just 10—emphasis on “just”—recently. I’m contemplative. What my dad tracks, to verify that he’s not going to have a difficult conversation with the doctor, is his blood sugar. Every single day, on a piece of paper that looks like a freaking parchment, brownish and filled with a table for annotating the number processed by a machine nobody paid for in the health sector or public service, but he bought by himself, he carefully injects insulin into his belly, his thigh, one side or another, changing spots eventually because it’s starting to hurt, and then takes the pen to write down the number displayed, first thing in the morning. In return (and I’m forced to indicate sarcasm), several telemarketing companies call the landline, but no voice is heard on the other side; more recently, we have atmosphere songs, interesting bass lines, and would you look at that, even jazz. Needless to say, nobody at home pays for Spotify Premium or has access to 5G.

Back to finance, we’d like to see the way forward. But that means something for the “common American“, who reportedly earns by year an average of $51.480,00; it means something else for the “common Brazilian”, with the average of $2.693,87 a year. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: a year. Important to mention: that is considering the minimum wage, but “informality” in Brazil reached over 47% in 2020–which, I need to point out, is often just another word to describe unemployment. Do you see now how it’s important to follow finance and who are these incredible problem-solving people who thrive in innovation so much they’re listed in the NYSE and have hundreds of millions in revenue?

But we like to keep things simple. Facebook, not led by Bobby Axelrod, wanted to become a bank; it had to answer a few tough questions from the FTC and Congress, which eventually resulted in a 5 billion dollar fine, but nothing compared to the 83 billion they made during the first year of public health crisis (the word is pandemic, and many suggest other terms, but let’s keep it classy–or we might see the words “special operation” pop up here and there; and I’ll avoid linking any more articles). Users are getting paid (abysmally less often than not) to work for the platform, and since the younger generations grew up thinking it was as normal as fire coming out of an oven for the meals they never cooked, while mom and dad did everything for them but their issues were so intense some of them decided to stick a pair of scissors in their arm, they also think it’s normal to find content so easily on their favorite apps. I’m from a generation that didn’t have internet access until I was 15, and that was because of federal and private social inclusion initiatives. I’d never spoken to a foreigner until I was 18 years old. One of them (and I won’t reveal her name or location) was surprised one day, after coming back from a Church group trip to Jerusalem, and we engaged in a bit of chit-chat: “You’re washing the dishes?? I mean, you don’t know what a dishwasher is??” I can’t help but imagine her “verifying” why the kitchen sink in my old family home had a plumbing problem, spending an hour cleaning the grease trap with her bare hands, like I did–along with several other unpleasant tasks. Verifying, it seems to me, has many meanings yet to be explored.

Atenção: fator colaborativo e déficit do ego

Os modelos de trabalho remoto forçaram muitos que não integravam a lista dos serviços essenciais a procurar novas formas de alcançar pessoas a fim de conseguir administrar a vida. Isso pode parecer uma questão de regulação das finanças, à primeira vista; não é. Acho que, antes de mais nada, cabe pensar no que classificaram como essencial. Barbearias? Pelo amor de Deus. Se quiser usar desta avaliação específica para fazer comentários sobre administração, fique muito à vontade, pois estamos pertinho do mês de Outubro. Mas fato é que no meio da transformação digital, que já é complexa não por ser ininteligível, mas sim por ter perspectivas diversas, não se chegou a um consenso sobre quase nenhuma questão do uso das ferramentas sociais–evito, propositalmente, incluir o termo “mídia” para tratar das pessoas. A multiplicidade de perspectivas, inimiga do coaching, da tia do zap que nunca ouviu O Céu é Muito, do Lenine (nunca perdemos uma piada, não é mesmo?) sem entrar na questão de ministérios e suas funções, parece ser um problema, e não uma solução. Os gringos, que não gostam de ser chamados de gringos (coitadinhos), têm uma expressão interessante: “it’s a feature, not a bug”. No caso, se vê muito esse tipo de frase no meio das discussões sobre cultura digital: a competitividade, num mundo capitalista, não seria diferente no social digital; é toda a graça do negócio, não causa nenhum problema. Será?

Recorro à minha pequena biblioteca. O autor era britânico, publicava isso em 1932, e só chegou aqui graças à Editora Unesp, em 2018, através da Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation. É importante falar esse tipo de coisa. Em um de seus livros, há um capítulo inteiro dedicado à ideia de competição, mas contextualizando, antes de abordar o tema da educação. Já citei esse senhor em outras oportunidades, mas olhando bem para alguns eventos recentes muito pouco inspiradores da fé na humanidade e pesquisando a nível supérfluo o que certos grupos pensam a respeito do termo “eugenia“, acho que convém transcrever o primeiro parágrafo na íntegra:

Alguns ideais dominantes do século XIX perduraram até a nossa época; outros, não. Aqueles que perduraram têm, em sua maioria, um campo de aplicação mais restrito em nossos dias do que tinham havia cem anos. Dentre eles, o ideal da competição é um bom exemplo. É um equívoco, acredito, considerar que a crença na competição se deve ao darwinismo. Na verdade, aconteceu o contrário: o darwinismo se deveu à crença na competição. O biólogo moderno, embora ainda acredite na evolução, não acredita tanto quanto Darwin que esta seja motivada pela competição. Essa mudança reflete a alteração ocorrida na estrutura econômica da sociedade. O industrialismo começou com grandes quantidades de pequenas empresas competindo entre si, a princípio com pouquíssima ajuda do Estado, que ainda era agrícola e aristocrático. Portanto, os primeiros industrialistas acreditavam na autoajuda, no laissez-faire e na competição. Da indústria, a ideia de competição disseminou-se para outras esferas. Darwin convenceu os homens de que a competição entre formas de vida foi a causa do progresso evolucionário. Os educacionistas se convenceram de que a competição na sala de aula era a melhor forma de promover a indústria entre os eruditos. A crença na livre competição foi usada por empregadores como argumento contra o sindicalismo–o que ainda ocorre nas partes mais atrasadas da América. Mas a competição entre capitalistas diminuiu de maneira gradual. A tendência é que toda uma indústria se combine nacionalmente, de forma que a competição passou a se dar sobretudo entre nações, com uma grande diminuição da competição entre as diversas empresas dentro de uma nação. Nesse interim, naturalmente, os capitalistas se empenharam–enquanto combinavam entre eles–a atrapalhar, tanto quanto possível, as combinações de seus funcionários. Seu lema tem sido: ‘Unidos, venceremos; divididos, eles cairão’. Desse modo, a livre competição foi preservada como um grande ideal em todas as áreas da vida humana, excetuando-se as atividades dos magnatas industriais. Quanto a esses, a competição é nacional e, portanto, toma a forma do estímulo ao patriotismo.

Bertrand Russell, “Competição na educação”. In: Educação e ordem social (2018). Editora Unesp. (p.143)

Aí, amizade, cabe ao leitor ou à leitora tirar conclusões, e pesquisar sobre a expressão francesa. Machado de Assis era erudito, assim como Dostoiévski, dentre outros exemplos. Não é a questão do acesso (que se argumente); mas sim o panorama, a visão. Sem acesso a outras perspectivas, não tem panorama ou visão–mas talvez (teoria razoável) essa seja uma ideia impugnada. A visão é natural de cada um (não falo do ponto de vista clínico, mas poderia). O panorama, talvez, seria algo que Noam Chomsky se interessaria em discutir, sendo o linguista responsável pela disseminação de termos como “inerente” e “inato” para falar de todas as qualidades com as quais as pessoas já nascem. Na verdade, não sou leitor de Chomsky; apenas conheço suas fundamentações através de comentadores, uma entrevista ou outra (dentre elas, a clássica com Foucault, que deixo aqui). Mas não, a responsabilidade pela disseminação de uma teoria e a interpretação da mesma em forma de texto, além das outras formas que tomam (o comentário oral sobre o texto, por exemplo), não é necessariamente do autor. Só não precisamos falar da Section 230, mas cabe uma pesquisa. O que Chomsky diz é que nascemos com a capacidade de cognição. Só isso. E muito mais, é claro. A teoria da “gramática universal” é complexa, mas o quanto estamos experimentando no campo da Linguística Aplicada, mesmo que informalmente, para argumentar que o jovem é muito bem informado?

O que todo pai e toda mãe quer, além de ver seu filho ou filha numa boa faculdade, com a vida encaminhada, esse tipo de coisa, é que não se metam em problemas. E aqui entra o fator de interesse: o problema é que as pessoas não percebem o nível de tensão da vida da criança de hoje. Não vamos brincar de soletrar, mas seria importante. Vamos fazer o que, discutir como foram construídas as nações? Acho que cabe mencionar que um passatempo dos adultos muito popular é a variedade dos jogos de palavras (Coquetel manda lembranças), como destacou matéria da NBC, e foram inventados muitos formatos. Mas o que o adolescente quer é uma outra questão. A criança? Num país em que investimentos em cultura são barrados, fica difícil prever. Inclusive, não é só aqui: existem os que argumentem que não deveria existir atuação conjunta do Estado e das entidades culturais. Mas será que a atenção dos pais e a atenção dos filhos deveria se voltar às mesmas temáticas, fontes, filosofias, estilos de vida, estéticas, linguagens, e que não esqueçamos, pessoas? Não seria egoísta não lhes permitir a diferença–talvez até autoritário? Talvez, mas é inegável que a necessidade e urgência de atenção para si já passou de um estágio epidêmico. O bom é que existe a semiótica, a morfologia, o professor…

Practical verbs: 11/12

We know people speak a language as standard, but there’s many aspects in how they use it that relate to general things like context, in every day life and different settings: are you at work, talking to family, approaching a stranger on the street, talking to a neighbor, socializing at a party, catching up with your closest friends, starting a conversation online, presenting results and directions at a company meeting, speaking in public or asking a question with a big audience, maybe recording a video? Some stuff we say tends to be more informal, but people appreciate informality in a given situation while other people in a formal enviroment expect a level of preparedness, coherence and clearness, avoiding certain characteristics of unplanned speech to make it worth taking the time to listen. In today’s world, despite some unfortunate conversation starters and interactions, we want people to be clear, but also kind and respectful. What happens often is the conversation you hear on the street is closer to reality than the conversation you read on social media, so people change the way they talk because experiences in the real world tend to have an effect on how we talk, more or less formally, with more or less conviction; but that goes the other way around, and we’re still beginning to understand how that plays out. Here’s two examples:

“I respect your opinion”

Families have suffered with political disagreements, opinions about behavior and relationships, things that should be done, looked at, talked about in one way or another. But as language develops, some people may reject what came next and stick with what they know. That’s a question of identity, the same way a person will listen to one kind of music and not another, or several, but have a list of favorites — and music is a great example of how language can be playful, raw, intense or just clever in ways normal speech can’t translate or express. What people call slang or urban language might just be your preferred way of communicating, not because of personal taste, but because you think it’s more accurate. I can say something’s nuts or insane, some people might prefer to say distressing, problematic, and others will use a good wtf. Needless to say, the list goes on. But when it comes to picking the language we use for a greater audience, we should be careful and look back to see where we might be caught in contradictions of ideas or interrupted argumentation, along with a lack of consistency in vocabulary choices and empathy for the wording we elaborate. Of course, one of the main concerns today is how conversations start with people we haven’t met, and these have the benefit of being distant, at least at first, before we consider meeting someone who would say things we’re hearing for the first time. Optimism is great, so special cases aside, it’s great when you find someone who not only respects your way of expressing thoughts (doesn’t judge you for how you talk) but also welcomes a new way of thinking, and some of the discussions people have online tend to be more focused on trolling than the good let’s agree to disagree.

“You’re not following the rules”

If the school body decides they will have a cultural project, students are supposed to come up with a presentation of topics they’ll research by themselves. Including some information might be a debate among classmates (at least it used to be like that when I was in high school and also college), while some of it will be left out, if not revised. But some of the things we say can’t be reproduced in certain enviroments. You’re not going to write an academic essay saying the author is fucking brilliant or a complete wacko; you’re going to say while the contributions of said author have broadened the field of study, the aspects explored in this or that chapter are not sufficiently developed or rather they point toward a discussion that this or that author chose to focus on, but you won’t address it on the essay. Some talk is necessary, some is inconvenient. In practical life, you might wanna ask for a towel when you got into the bathroom and forgot about it, but of course you won’t walk out naked and maybe you don’t wanna scream, though you might be upset about having to ask for a favor. On social media, there are a set of rules. There’s many things happening every year at rapid pace, and we might see a future where certain kinds of content will start to be more heavily monitored and even taken down, but some will have their own place, with an understanding that they’re not harmful. Nobody said memes weren’t great, but some of them are offensive on purpose, not to mention that images can be copyrighted. As we all moved towards video, creators face the problem of not knowing their audience, how to respond and what to do when someone attacks them. That happens on television, so it isn’t new. What we need to understand is that rules can be broken, but consistent and massive deviations from decent and civilized exchange are going to be dealt with measures the platform itself has generated, as any other problem in society.

***

Everyone thinks respect is key in any relationship we want to maintain. But it extends to society in general. A red light asks you to stop driving or walking. A block on social media asks you to stop seeking interaction. But drivers can get tickets and certain users can find better ways to solve disputes instead of the tool for blocking. Some people get banned, others get fined. But not everything works perfectly when it comes to identifying who’s doing right or wrong, and that’s a subject we need to keep debating not only in classrooms but in the media and society. When it comes to language, you want to feel represented, but not necessarily in opposition with a group you never interacted with — but that’s a choice you can make, considering that some of those may not be worthy of your time.

Practical verbs: 8/12

A lot of people have learned to speak a second language so they could explore the world, different cultures and ways of living, read people writing from another perspective, watch, listen, learn but also meet some people. I don’t like the feeling that I’m repeating myself, but it’s true that the internet provided more opportunity or at least changed the scope of possibility to a wider and more diverse bunch of stuff we can enjoy: from traditional to independent media, voices multiplied and experiences amounted, but now we’re facing the challenge to organize the multitudes of content everyone shares online and at the same time acknowledge that the people who created it feel a certain way about it. As generations look at different experiences and tastes, the conversations are also different and the expectations vary. YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, but also iFunny, Discord, Twitch, and places like Omegle. I know everyone has a particular experience, and these are not definitive examples of how people see the web and interact with it, but it’s a whole lot of stuff. Messaging apps alone can tell a story that parents are probably not aware of; groups chats and key people to follow can give you a context not a lot of people see, and you’re wondering how different you are from the rest. That happens at home but also around the globe, and connecting with someone for a day can be both frustrating or liberating, while long lasting friendships and relationships make us think about everything else that surrounds us, which includes the stuff we like and share, the stuff we read, buy and watch — which is terrifying for some, obvious to many. How am I going to introduce myself and talk about the way I see things, what happened before I met you, stuff I’ve been through or what I need to focus on right now so maybe you can help me achieve my goals? How can I contribute to a job well done in the future or right now, if the expectations get higher and higher, but my productivity and inspiration have a limit I don’t fully understand and I need someone to give me a push? I’ll try to contextualize some of these issues below.

“I wonder what I could’ve done differently”

It’s never too late to start something new, but what you do now is gonna stay on the internet unless you choose to delete everything — which might not solve the problem, and older people have not been through the exact same experience. With people sharing conversations, pictures and details about their life and relationships, it’s hard to tell when they change their minds about something they shared, but some people think it’s actually easier. Companies are saying the most important thing for them is not going digital, but being digital. How does that translate into good paying jobs, with what kinds of roles and benefits? When you’re preparing for life in a future workplace or doing your part remotely, how do your personal and professional relationships merge? Do you think your privacy is more important than thinking about how you spend your time and what you choose to say? Regardless of the specifics, we all have a number of things we didn’t know in the past, that could only be improved once we got to a point where we could look back and point out where we’d make changes, so the key is to be able to do some self evaluation and stick with the stuff that makes you feel good but also benefits those around you, though that might be more complicated in a super connected world.

“People send me a lot of messages”

The teenage and adult experiences on the web have a lot of differences, but interacting with things we don’t want has always been part of our lives. If I don’t want to visit the new shop they were showing me on a pamphlet on the street, I also don’t wanna watch the sponsored ad before the video I clicked, and we learned to live with that, though sometimes these little things can add a lot in our lives. But sometimes, it’s a little annoying or inappropriate. You could say the experience is different based on a number of things: gender, race, education, position, views; but when you get a message you don’t want, fortunately, it’s easy to reject it — ignoring, blocking or saying you don’t like what you’re getting. What’s harder to understand is how groups of people choose to spread a message you don’t like and how to stop it from gaining strength, but that involves other factors that we might never have a definitive answer on how to handle: if you were on the other side, you might feel like your voice was being silenced; but just in case we’re talking about inappropriate stuff on your private messages, I’m sure you’ll realize you have to stop them eventually.

“When you mess up, the right thing to do is to apologize”

Not a lot of people understand why they’re doing something that’s bad, for others or for themselves. People have different experiences and views, which is important to emphasize; but learning with your mistakes doesn’t always have to translate into cutting someone from your life so you can start fresh with another group of friends, another job, another relationship. If you mess up, try to have a conversation about it and tell the people who matter that you made a mistake, an error of judgment, acted silly, was childish or immature, weren’t thinking straight, didn’t mean what you said. These conversations help you grow, and growing together is lifting each other up so you don’t have to feel bad everytime you feel like you’re not being listened to or you aren’t doing enough: people care, what you do matters, but you need the right way to communicate. Of course, sometimes we make mistakes that aren’t about arriving late at work or typing out the wrong e-mail, but maybe saying something that could offend people as a joke, hurting someone’s feelings with a comment about their looks, personality or opinions. We need to keep improving the message, and that means reassessing the way we express ourselves and working it out with the people who care, as well as looking to the ones who are not part of your inner circle and trying to speak to them in a way that will make you more likely to be accepted.

“If I see that kind of stuff, I report it”

Some of the stuff we see is just bad. But there’s always a way to bring content down or at least make people correct what they’re saying, whether it’s fake news or hateful discourse, a spam account or an offensive message from a real person. Again, people can ignore, but some choose to talk about it; they can block, but also report and, in some cases, expose so other people can explain why that content is bad. But it’s important to remember that moderators do the best they can, with the tools available, to make the experience on the web the best for the people who use these platforms. Before social media, when something bad happened in the neighborhood, people wrote to the newspapers and magazines to talk about it; services and companies have a channel to receive feedback from people, and though some of the comments are not helpful or fair, they make changes on how they present themselves based on how people respond. The same happens on the web.

***

To end on a good note, sharing experiences online can be beautiful, if the right person is listening. To be able to connect with someone who brings you peace and comfort when you were least expecting it, right when you needed it, whether it’s someone who listens to your problems or tries to help you more actively with suggestions and incentives, is probably what the whole idea of connecting people is all about. What we should remember is our lives are not exclusively digital, and though we want to make a good impression, actions speak louder than words — and pictures or videos. Hopefully, everyone can find people who want to know who we are based on more than just one thing, and if they choose to be in our lives for good, it’s the start of a path you’ll walk together, with lots of great experiences ahead.

Practical verbs: 6/12

I created my first e-mail account at 15. Using the keyboard was a moment of anxiety because I knew my friends had more expertise, but through college, I learned to edit footnotes and use shortcuts to make the title of my essay bold. Despite the fact that lots of high school students are now writing essays and do a lot more than formatting a simple paragraph, in the near future we might be discussing whether or not to use virtual reality to entertain babies. Reading and writing are essential skills for actively participating in society, but as more skills get more complex and restricted to some extent, good materials to read or good written pieces become both a matter of taste and an indicator of social inequalities: instead of how many books you have at home, they might be asking how many likes you got on your public post. In theory, if better education wasn’t affordable or accessible to you, the interest in a number of topics of research might be lower, and the same might be true for social media activity, if you’re not given opportunity to meet more people and expand your views. With that in mind, I wanna share two statements that explain what I’m talking about:

“Turn off the TV and go read a book!”

Before YouTube, but not before downloads, most of us listened to music either borrowing stuff from our friends or getting what was on the radio. Not all of us bought CDs, but definitely lots of people. Still, we needed people to talk about what we liked to listen to, and though we had a lot of specialized magazines with extensive coverage on the industry and entertainment in general, there were also broadcasted programs. If you’re Brazilian, you might remember the phrase on local MTV. Maybe they noticed that many bought records, listened to the radio and went to concerts, but few understood what the artists were saying. Maybe it wasn’t exactly what the idea was about. But they did point to a need of searching for culture, knowledge and information that was useful and edifying. In college, I read many authors in Literature and Linguistics, but I didn’t make any Italian friends who quoted Agamben on Instagram or joined a Facebook group to discuss Derrida with my third language fully active in my brain. I just knew an outline of a topic studied more extensively by these authors (Saussure, Bakhtin, Barthes, Fairclough, Kress and many others) and tried to make connections and draw ideas from them. Literature is more complicated. I knew I was studying something that basically brought me joy. Linguistics was my work, and until I realized it could be the other way around, I was skeptical about a lot of my choices going forward. Don’t get me wrong: I love both. But we do need to allow exploration and experimentation in our lives, and books are able to show people what kinds of things we could find out about the world and ourselves, instead of just focusing on the practical and immediate.

“If nobody’s listening, write!”

Curiously, I saw this written on the back of a bus seat in São Paulo, and my reaction was to take a picture and post it on Instagram. I was always the guy who had few words to share and didn’t actively participate in conversation within social gatherings. Of course, one of the points is “social gatherings” didn’t feel like a thing we hear about every single day until recently (compare with a snap saying “who wanna hang?”), but really, not talking a lot makes you focus on something else, or maybe it’s the other way around. You’re naturally inclined to observe more than you interact. Regardless of the explanation or where it comes from (psychology, media experts or your mother), some of us share more of our intimate thoughts through writing (I think I can say tweets count) instead of conversations in person. We’re the generation who grew up on the internet, but the one that came next is literally saying “well, duh”. So how can we make things interesting and also fair? What we write makes an impact, but only if people read us. On a different level, we’re starting to see that conversation is changing exactly because we have written representations of them, while we didn’t before. It’s more important than ever to analyze context instead of isolated language, just in case we still care about who’s talking to whom, about what, but also why — and to try to understand that everyone has something to share, but some people won’t, for many reasons.

***

The world isn’t turning exclusively to videos, as some media studies indicate: people still buy books, and many more need to be written. However, we’ve become our own editors, in a sense: the choice of sharing a thought without reviewing language or reposting something without knowing the context of where it came from, connected to the problems of image and literally how we represent ourselves, in many ways, can prove us that though we feel like it’s easier to be misunderstood than taken seriously or to generate conflict instead of empathy, maybe it’s good that nobody cares about everything you do anymore. If we accept that people change the way they talk and sometimes they say what they shouldn’t, we’ll be fine; and hopefully, the same works for image and video.