The Big Data vs Artists and Everyone Else

By David Trend:

Heard about Generation Z?  The demographic growing up in the 2000s? It’s a bigger group than Boomers or Millennials–––and it has one further distinction. “Members of Generation Z are ‘digital natives’ who cannot remember what it was like not to have access to the Internet –– no matter when, no matter what, no matter where,” according to Forbes Magazine. This is a group raised on networked “connecting” with others, sharing, and buying things. It’s second nature to Gen-Zers to upload their favorite music on YouTube, post images on Facebook, and sell things on Etsy or eBay. Much is being made in creative economy talk of how networks now blur traditional producer/ consumer roles, manifest in the new figure of the “prosumer.” In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything authors Don Prescott and Anthony D. Williams effused over the democratization inherent in the new “Openness, Peering, Sharing and Acting Globally.”  Of course, there is nothing really new about home-made items, crafts, and people’s willingness to share. What’s different today is the ability to copy digitized materials and circulate them via electronic networks. Digitization also has made Generation Z the first demographic to be completely tracked by “big data” analytics.

Some creativity industry experts argue that this is nothing short of a revolution, driven by ongoing change more than any clear future. Evolutionary economist Jason Potts and collaborators have proposed what they term “Social Network Markets” unlike the top-down models of industrial capitalism.  Characterized by fluidity and exchange through complex fields of actors, the new social network markets are less governed by competition and profit than by communication and preference. Participants are “Not ‘buying’ the property, but buying into the social space.”  Moreover, the dynamics of these new markets are highly interactive. As the Potts group put it, “a social network is defined as a connected group of individual agents who make production and consumptions decisions based on the actions (signals) of other agents on the social network: a definition that gives primacy to communicative actions rather than connectivity alone.”  Almost by definition, this process rules out conventional manufacturing or professional services. Instead, the networks generate value through production and consumption of network-valorized choices.”

The beauty is that much of what is online now is free––seeming to arrive just in time in a tight economy. While a lot of the “free” stuff available online is user-generated (selfies, birthday announcements, anecdotal postings, etc.), a huge volume of material comes from other sources (news outlets, filmmakers, commercial music producers, artists). On the surface it looks like old Marxist doctrines are being reversed as items seem to be “decommodified” in the sharing economy. This idea has become an anthem of resistance in some circles. The Burning Man Festival, to take one example, has stated: “When we commodify we seek to make others, and ourselves, more like things, and less like human beings.  ‘Decommodification,’ then, is to reverse this process.  To make the world and the people in it more unique, more priceless, more human.”  This may be all well-and-good in the real-life sharing of food and weed at Burning Man. But when things get virtual, it’s usually a large corporation that owns the websites, servers, and networks that make sharing possible. Continue reading “The Big Data vs Artists and Everyone Else”

How Netflix tracks you

I hit the pause button roughly one-third of the way through the first episode of “House of Cards,” the political drama premiering on Netflix Feb. 1, say a piece in today’s Salon.

“By doing so, I created what is known in the world of Big Data as an ‘event’ — a discrete action that could be logged, recorded and analyzed.

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“Every single day, Netflix, by far the largest provider of commercial streaming video programming in the United States, registers hundreds of millions of such events. As a consequence, the company knows more about our viewing habits than many of us realize. Netflix doesn’t know merely what we’re watching, but when, where and with what kind of device we’re watching. It keeps a record of every time we pause the action — or rewind, or fast-forward — and how many of us abandon a show entirely after watching for a few minutes.

“Netflix might not know exactly why I personally hit the pause button — I was checking on my sick son, home from school with the flu — but if enough people pause or rewind or fast-forward at the same place during the same show, the data crunchers can start to make some inferences. Continue reading “How Netflix tracks you”

Not teaching to the test

Increasingly these days, testing and “data” are them main drivers of so-called “education reform.”

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Once a term for progressive change in education, “reform” now means turning back the clock in many ways. And quantifiable results from standardized assessments now determine everything from a student’s graduation to a teacher’s employment status to the fate of whole schools and entire school systems.

“But across the country, a growing number of parents are exercising their legal right to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized tests, in favor of other assessments (such as portfolios) that are more organically connected to genuine teaching and learning,”reports TruthOut in a bracing essay by Brian Jones, excerpted below:

“Courageous teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle have voted unanimously to refuse to administer the district’s standardized tests this semester.

“’Our teachers have come together and agree that the MAP test is not good for our students, nor is it an appropriate or useful tool in measuring progress,’ said Academic Dean and Testing Coordinator Kris McBride yesterday.

“’Students don’t take it seriously. It produces specious results, and wreaks havoc on limited school resources during the weeks and weeks the test is administered.’ Garfield teachers were scheduled to administer the district-wide Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) to ninth graders in the first part of January. It is supposed to measure progress in reading and math, but teachers report it only wastes time and resources.

“’What frustrates me about the MAP test is that the computer labs are monopolized for weeks by the MAP test, making research projects very difficult to assign,’ said history teacher Jesse Hagopian.’This especially hurts students who don’t have a computer at home.’ The teachers also objected to a conflict of interest: when the district purchased the test for $4 million, the superintendent sat on the board of the very company that marketed it. Students are told the test will have no impact on their grades, teachers said, so they tend to hurry through it.

“Yet district officials use the test results to evaluate teachers’ effectiveness. ‘Our teachers feel strongly that this type of evaluative tool is unfair based on the abundance of problems with the exam, the content, and the statistical insignificance of the students’ scores,’ said McBride.”

 

For more, see: http://truth-out.org/news/item/13901-when-teachers-refuse-the-tests

 

 

To track or not to track

If you haven’t heard, the internet privacy wars are gearing up to what could be Armageddon for advertisers and commercial data collectors. With Microsoft automatically setting the “Do Not Track” option “On” in its latest version of Internet Explorer 10 as many as 43 percent of internet browsers may stop reporting customer information to merchandisers and other snoopers.  As discussed recently in the New York Times, “The advent of “Do Not Track” threatens the barter system wherein consumers allow sites and third-party ad networks to collect information about their online activities in exchange for open access to maps, e-mail, games, music, social networks and whatnot. Marketers have been fighting to preserve this arrangement, saying that collecting consumer data powers effective advertising tailored to a user’s tastes. In turn, according to this argument, those tailored ads enable smaller sites to thrive and provide rich content.” Continue reading “To track or not to track”