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Posts Tagged ‘social web

Weekly #4: Happy Days Are Here Again

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Hello, Gorgeous! I must confess that I am totally obsessed with Barbra right now. Just listen to the sheer power of her voice.

On to the point: I am easily obsessed with ____. In searching for online communities about my favorite activity/hobby, I realized that I have no one favorite. Instead, I become quite easily obsessed with something, and then use the the Long Tail of information out there on the interweb to discover more about that thing. I guess if I had to pinpoint an activity that I love best, it is internet research on my favorite flavor of the moment.

Take The Social Network, for instance. I saw it this weekend while visiting HPL (more on that in my personal post), and have since been obsessed. Yes, obviously I love the Sorkin screenplay and the Reznor score. But more importantly, I love the chemistry between the actors. It hints at the male bonding that had to have occurred offscreen in order for such a strong connection to be formed onscreen. I watched several interviews with the cast, read through transcripts of interviews, and then researched cast members and their bodies of work. I searched by referencing the popular sources (EW.com, Variety, IMDB.com, Wikipedia) first and landed on this amazing clip of cast member Andrew Garfield during an ABC News interview. Then I found some stuff from lesser known sources simply by sifting through the massive amounts of returns yielded on Google and YouTube.

Chris Anderson acknowledges in his book The Long Tail the main concern with using the Long Tail of any market, which is any topic on the internet in my case: “The Long Tail is indeed full of crap” (p. 116). The same is true for the internet itself. But he also acknowledges that it is full of brilliance. The key is to be a judicious researcher by checking multiple sources of information, and not just the popular ones.

Garrett hit on this a bit last week when discussing the fracturing of media. He talked about how notions which have been proven false continue to spread as true not because of people on either end of the information access spectrum (“elites” and “non-elites”). Rather, those in the middle are the ones believing these misconceptions and spreading them as credible intel. The middle can access information via the web, but they are poorly skilled at determining fact from fiction. Indeed, it is no longer about getting hold of information, but about making smart decisions based on that information (p. 107). Interestingly enough, Aaron Sorkin talked about his disdain for the internet because of this very problem. As he puts it, “There’s just too much bad information getting out there, and I have to believe that’s mostly the fault of the Internet, which isn’t held to any standards of accuracy.”

I hear that, Almighty Sorkin. However, I think that the standard of accuracy comes from the “wisdom of the crowd” as Anderson puts it. The ratings of a user’s answer to the burning questions regarding offscreen relationships are what connects my demand to the good supply in the internet’s Long Tail. And I trust these users because they are just as obsessed as I am with finding the right answers. No internet search would be complete without the reference to or help of the social web. Of course, that doesn’t mean I rely solely on users (methinks that would knock me out of my elite status). But they are just as valuable a source as the EW reporter fawning over the actors.

I have used the Long Tail of the internet to find out about lasting obsessions such as grammar, Harry Potter and Wegmans. The speed of the internet is especially helpful for those passing obsessions like Kings of Leon. It helps reduce time wasted on something that might not matter as much to me in three weeks. Today it’s Social Network, tomorrow it could be tsunamis. Despite the wealth and variety of information sitting on the internet, I have not found defined online communities devoted to the information sitting on the internet. Perhaps the entire internet is my community, and more narrowly the social web. After all, my favorite activity would not exist without both.

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Weekly #3: Right to Privacy on the Social Web

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I have several thoughts floating around in my head, all seemingly connected to this assignment, so bear with me…

Post #3 is in response to the following question: Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

I need definitions before I can answer this.

First, what is the social web? “The social web can be described as people interlinked and interacting with engaging content in a conversational and participatory manner via the Internet.” Thank you very much, Wikipedia. I think about this in terms of activity on social platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia and so on.

Second, a Bill of Rights to what? I get the sense that Joseph Smarr and Co. were advocating for the right to greater usability of the social web. They weren’t outlining ways that users are to be protected on the social web. They were talking about convenience for users via open data sharing, and they were doing it under the guise of property, ownership and control. Because if the social web “just works for users,” as Smarr so desires, then it is equally as simple for it to “just work” for marketers when they need to collect our data. The big selling point of this so-called user-centric Bill of Rights is that it is supposed to be beneficial (read: profitable) to those platforms willing to share users’ data. That’s fine and all, but I was hoping for a Bill of Rights more in line with the protection of the little guy from The Man.

Third, who is the “we” in need of these rights? You have to ask this because enforcement of rights is impossible without knowing the beneficiaries of them. Not that I believe enforcement can happen easily even if the “citizens” afforded these rights are clearly defined. But still, are we talking about the entire world population? Or the American population? Or perhaps just internet users? And then what level of user? Who would claim these rights if given? If you take a look at the Social Technographics Ladder in Groundswell, you have to wonder if the “inactives” even care about having rights on the social web.

The Bill of Rights put forth three years ago makes us imagine a social web where we the users own and control the information we put out there. It is attractive to us because we crave privacy in a space where “community now shades into audience” and “communication is instant, global, and nearly permanent” (Here Comes Everybody, p. 89).

My assertion that we crave privacy may seem paradoxical given the amount of personal information we disseminate and consume on social platforms. For example, today I received a text from my friend informing me that a past high school friend of ours is pregnant. How did she find out? Facebook. Of course, I immediately called her for more information:

Me: “Wait, what?!”

Friend: “I was reading my News Feed and just saw it on there! I could get a life but instead I just read about everyone else’s lives on Facebook.”

Was anything inherently wrong with this information sharing? No. Were rights violated? No. Did it feel unsettling that I learned of this major life event via my friend’s virtual stalking habits? A bit. Sure, said Pregnant Friend put up the information herself. And, yes, we are “friends” on Facebook. But we aren’t close anymore, and I don’t think she would be happy that I reacted to news of her firstborn in the same way I would to a Sarah Silverman tweet.

The point is that the social web is a giant microphone, and it is overwhelming not knowing how personal information is being consumed, reused and reacted to. It was so overwhelming to Tyler Clementi that he ended his life over it. Social platforms were integral to his tragic death. Tyler posted his suicide note on Facebook, three days after his roommate made his sexual orientation and exploits known to the world through Twitter and iChat. Now, Tyler didn’t post this information himself and it is clear that his right to privacy was grossly violated. But the concern still remains. Why worry about API tokens and data sharing when we should be thinking of the protection of our right to privacy and the serious consequences for violating that right? This excerpt from a Washington Post op-ed sums it up well:

Technology is not the villain. Humans have never needed sophisticated tools to spread malice. Word of mouth and surreptitious notes have long done the trick. But technology has exponentially enabled and emboldened the mean or thoughtless among us. It allows those with less than noble intentions to hide behind screen names or lurk from afar, distancing themselves from their human targets and the possible consequences of their actions. And the trespasses are no longer contained to a circle of friends, a school or a town but accessible to millions.

This is the stuff keeping me up at night, not whether I can log in to all of my preferred platforms with one universal ID. Bring me a Bill of Rights protecting my privacy and punishing violators of it. Or better yet, show me a SCOTUS willing to figure out privacy in the digital world using the BoR we already have, and I’ll stand up and applaud.