hey Ashton we think you r sooo hott!!! hehe!! We r from Tennessee but Maggie moved to North Carolina. we want to tell you are number but we dont know if you are really ashton.
but we still love you. We love your show punk’d and we think your a great actor. We want you to talk to us online except for shybaby might not be on that much because her Dad took it away. We cant wait to see your movie cheaoer by the dozen!
remember we love you and we think your $exi.
maggie, and MaryAnne
Posted by: Maggie And MaryAnne on December 28, 2003 11:56 AM
The comment above was posted to a piece I wrote a few months ago updating people on how I was doing. I am not really sure what’s going on with the people who wrote it. My guess is they found the site because of my passing reference to actor Ashton Kutcher, and were somehow convincing themselves that this might be his website. I guess it’s possible that the writer was just yanking my chain, but I have seen too many posts like this to put much faith in that hypothesis:
At one point various parts of my website started to garner comments about a dance called the Crip Walk. The latter discussion began spontaneously as Googlers acc1dentally found this post of mine detailing a day with my former students in the South Bronx (it was the first hit on Google for the phrase “dancing the Crip Walk”) and began a discussion which had nothing to do with what I’d written and everything to do with the Crip Walk. Eventually I made an attempt to try to direct the discussion, thinking that if the kids were showing up to talk about the Crip Walk anyway, it would be interesting to try to get them to think more deeply about it.
But they rarely did. Most of the posts that appeared repeated things that had been said before by other posters. Very few addressed any of the questions I’d thrown out, or even other posters. Eventually, I got tired of and worried about kids showing up on my website and threatening to kill each other, or me, so I turned off comments for that page.
Lest you conclude that it’s something particular about the Crip Walk which attracts an illiterate audience, keep in mind that Ashton Kutcher drew similarly ignorant comments, and so did a short post of mine about Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. (here’s hoping that site shows up un(ens0red; I am posting from a machine with some sort of godawful parental safety software installed, and it may have reposted without any references to Playb0y. you’ll notice I also have to change other words so they can get through. this fu(|<1ng suX0rs.)
As someone who has long hoped that the text-heavy quality of the Internet would spur literacy, these comments have been a cause for concern. It looks like a lot of people out there aren't reading what they find on the Internet. If they aren't reading, what are they getting out of their experiences online?
I've hoped that the multidirectional quality of communication on the Internet would encourage people towards criticism of the worldview fostered by movies, advertising, and television, but is that really going to happen if people aren’t able to decode what they find on the Internet? All of the commenters I’ve mentioned seem to be able to use search engines, or they never would have found me; they’re not totally technologically illiterate. But once they got to my page, the Ashton Kutcher commenters seemed unable to distinguish a mention of the actor from a means of contacting the actor. The Olsen Twins commenters didn’t seem to catch my sarcastic tone, or didn’t care, and a lot of them ended up eagerly trading information about when the Twins were likely to show up in Playb0y. At what point did their understanding of what they were reading break down? Or is this just a subversion of an available public forum?
Most of these comments that are wigging me out are in one way or another related to TV. Does this mean the commenters’ use of the Internet becomes an extension of their TV experience? Does their Net content intake differ qualitatively from watching TV? Does their dialogue about what they’ve found differ from rehashing sitcoms around the water cooler?
Does how they watch television, and how much they watch, affect how they use the Internet? Are they most likely to search for things that they saw on TV? Does their participation in the narratives that TV makes available to them affect how they do and do not participate in the interactive elements that the Internet offers? And when they do begin to take apart the narratives offered by mass culture in Internet forums (as some kids did in the Crip Walk forum, reclaiming the Crip Walk for white well-off American, European, Samoan, and South American communities), and mass culture doesn’t reflect their additions to the dialogue — what happens then?
I feel underequipped to deal with these questions, so I’m hoping friends and professors from TC who have more background in the literature on the Internet will join in discussing this (along with the usual suspects hanging around the DSWJ, of course). Feel free to add any other questions these posts bring up for you, including simple ones like “Who do you mean by ‘people’?” and “Why do you have your undies in a bunch about this, anyway?”