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”

Facebook’s psychological profiling

Facebook’s disclosure last week that it had tinkered with about 700,000 users’ news feeds as part of a psychology experiment conducted in 2012 inadvertently laid bare what too few tech firms acknowledge: that they possess vast powers to closely monitor, test and even shape our behavior, often while we’re in the dark about their capabilities.images

The publication of the study, which found that showing people slightly happier messages in their feeds caused them to post happier updates, and sadder messages prompted sadder updates, ignited a torrent of outrage from people who found it creepy that Facebook would play with unsuspecting users’ emotions. Because the study was conducted in partnership with academic researchers, it also appeared to violate long-held rules protecting people from becoming test subjects without providing informed consent. Several European privacy agencies have begunexamining whether the study violated local privacy laws.

Facebook and much of the rest of the web are thriving petri dishes of social contact, and many social science researchers believe that by analyzing our behavior online, they may be able to figure out why and how ideas spread through groups, how we form our political views and what persuades us to act on them, and even why and how people fall in love.

Most web companies perform extensive experiments on users for product testing and other business purposes, but Facebook, to its credit, has been unusually forward in teaming with academics interested in researching questions that aren’t immediately pertinent to Facebook’s own business. Already, those efforts have yielded several important social science findings.

But there’s another benefit in encouraging research on Facebook: It is only by understanding the power of social media that we can begin to defend against its worst potential abuses. Facebook’s latest study proved it can influence people’s emotional states; aren’t you glad you know that? Critics who have long argued that Facebook is too powerful and that it needs to be regulated or monitored can now point to Facebook’s own study as evidence.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/03/technology/personaltech/the-bright-side-of-facebooks-social-experiments-on-users.html?_r=0

Facebook moves beyond female and male

You don’t have to be strictly a man or a woman on Facebook anymore.images

CNN today reports that “In a nod to the “it’s complicated” sexual identities of many of its users, the social network on Thursday added a third “custom” gender option for people’s profiles. In addition to Male or Female, Facebook now lets U.S. users choose among some 50 additional options such as “transgender,” “cisgender,” “gender fluid,” “intersex” and “neither.”

“Users also now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly: he/his, she/her, or the gender-neutral they/their. “When you come to Facebook to connect with the people, causes, and organizations you care about, we want you to feel comfortable being your true, authentic self,” Facebook said in a post on its Diversity page.

“An important part of this is the expression of gender, especially when it extends beyond the definitions of just ‘male’ or ‘female,’ ” the post continued. “So today, we’re proud to offer a new custom gender option to help you better express your own identity on Facebook.” Facebook said it worked with a group of leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organizations to come up with the new gender categories.”Facebook users from across the country have been asking for the ability to reflect their gender accurately, and today Facebook showed they have been listening,” said Allison Palmer, a former GLAAD vice president, who worked on the project with Facebook. Continue reading “Facebook moves beyond female and male”

Facebook’s enlightened self-interest

Saying that he’s trying to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced an ambitious plan to bring internet access to 60 percent of the Earth’s population.imgres-1

“What he didn’t announce is the naked Facebook self-interest fueling this plan — or his troubled track record as a do-gooder.

“Today, Facebook said it will work toward its internet access goal with makers of smartphone hardware — including Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung — trying to create cheaper smartphones, deploy and incentivize cheaper internet access, and slim down webpages.

“No dollar figures or specific technologies were detailed for the “internet.org” alliance, just platitudes about “giving all people around the world the power to connect” and a big headline-grabbing goal of bringing internet access to the 4.4 billion people who do not already have it.

“To promote internet.org, Facebook deployed a heavily edited John F. Kennedy speech to lend gravitas to an empty propaganda video. And Zuckerberg said this: “For almost 10 years, Facebook has been on a mission to make the world more open and connected… Connecting the world is one of the greatest challenges of our generation. This is just one small step toward achieving that goal.”

“What he didn’t announce is the naked Facebook self-interest fueling this plan — or his troubled track record as a do-gooder

“We’re not complaining about Facebook trying to serve its own interests while simultaneously doing something good for the world. People understand, hopefully, that Facebook is a for-profit corporation whose top priority must be its own bottom line, and that Facebook can pursue revenue while also doing some good, helping people stay in touch with their relatives or improving third-world net access. Such win-wins are possible, and should be celebrated. The problem is that this isn’t enough for the company. It has to be solving “one of the greatest challenges of our generation,” with nary a mention of the big financial upside — and there is one, believe me, for Facebook. This is part of a broader pattern in which the company habitually acts like it’s more akin to a charity than a business.”

 

More at: http://www.wired.com/business/2013/08/facebooks-selfish-gift/

Security, privacy, and everyone

images-1Polls show a solid majority of Americans continue to support the ritual sacrifice of their personal call data on the altar of our never-ending war with Oceania—er, excuse me, terrorism—even after sordid revelations brought to light by whistleblower Edward J. Snowden.

InTheseTimes asserts “There’s something fatalistic about this bedrock support for the new police state” as stated in a story excerpted briefly below.

“Could it be less a show of stubborn loyalty to federal spookery than a sort of learned helplessness, bred in the fingertips of an American public long used to marketers hovering over their Facebook and Google accounts, tracking—and then desperately seeking to monetize—every keystroke they make?

“Summer moviegoers had a proof-text for this hunch. In The Internship, a Vince Vaughn-Owen Wilson buddy comedy, the Wedding Crashers duo play laid-off, middle-aged salesmen driven into a tour of duty as aspiring geeks at the grand, rainbow-hued Google campus in Mountain View, Calif. Hijinks ensue, as they try to adapt their old-dude people skills to the cool and clean rigors of profitable data transmission. Their younger colleagues are won over by their seedy charm, and our heroes see their pluck rewarded with jobs at the world’s coolest company.

“But what’s of real interest is the social background of the film. The Internship is an unrelieved study in the psychology of mass digital conformity—rendered far more insidious, of course, in the Google workplace’s absolute conviction that it detests all manner of conformity. Continue reading “Security, privacy, and everyone”

Facebook vs gender related hate speech

Facebook has announced plans to renew its effort toward monitoring, and where appropriate, removing gender-related hate speech from its users, per a post on the company’s Facebook Safety page Tuesday, reports arstechnica:  “In its most recent battle, Facebook appears to be trying to differentiate what is “cruel and insensitive” and what is “distasteful humor” in order to answer complaints from groups including Women, Action, and the Media.

“WAM wrote an open letter to Facebook on May 21 that asserted the company seems to apply its hate speech mandates unevenly when that hate speech is gender-based. imagesThe group cites several Facebook fan pages, including “Fly Kicking Sluts in the Uterus” and “Raping your Girlfriend,” which have now been removed but were presumably present at the time of WAM’s writing.WAM claims that pages like these and others that constitute hate speech toward women are allowed to exist while similar hate speech pages based on religion, race, and sexual orientation are quickly moderated. WAM cites hateful images or content that get a media spotlight as the exception:

“You have also acted inconsistently with regards to your policy on banning images, in many cases refusing to remove offensive rape and domestic violence pictures when reported by members of the public, but deleting them as soon as journalists mention them in articles, which sends the strong message that you are more concerned with acting on a case-by-case basis to protect your reputation than effecting systemic change and taking a clear public stance against the dangerous tolerance of rape and domestic violence. Continue reading “Facebook vs gender related hate speech”

The new corporate feminism

The book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead has been getting a lot of attention recently. In a thoughtful piece in Al Jazeera today, Catherine Rottenberg argues that the “new” brand of feminism offered by such books is devoid of concerns for social justice.imgres-1

“A new trend is on the rise. Suddenly high-powered women are publically espousing feminism. In her recently published book, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg advocates for a new kind of feminism, maintaining that women need to initiate an “internalised revolution”.

“Sandberg’s feminist manifesto comes on the heels of Ann-Marie Slaughter’s much-discussed Atlantic opinion piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, which rapidly became the most widely read essay in the magazine’s history. In her piece, Slaughter explains why professional women are still finding it difficult to balance career demands with their wish for an active home life: social norms and the inflexibility of US workplace culture continue to privilege career advancement over family.  Continue reading “The new corporate feminism”

Facebook hacked again

Facebook Inc has said that it been the target of a series of attacks by an unidentified hacker group, but it had found no evidence that user data was compromised, reports today’s Al Jazeera.

“’Last month, Facebook security discovered that our systems had been targeted in a sophisticated attack,’ the company said in a blog post posted on Friday afternoon, just before the three-day Presidents Day weekend. ‘The attack occurred when a handful of employees visited a mobile developer website that was compromised.’imgres

“The social network, which says it has more than one billion active users worldwide, also said: ‘Facebook was not alone in this attack. It is clear that others were attacked and infiltrated recently as well.’ Continue reading “Facebook hacked again”

Thinking about Facebook privacy

Facebook’s new search tool can allow strangers (like police, employers, or marketers), along with “friends” on Facebook, to discover who you are, what you like and where you go. the New York Times says that “While Facebook insists it is up to you to decide how much you want others to see, you cannot entirely opt out of Facebook searches.  So right now Facebook is quietly nudging each of its billion subscribers to take a look at privacy setting and policies to be sure they know what is happening.imgres

“The nudge could not have been more timely, said Sarah Downey, a lawyer with the Boston company Abine, which markets tools to help users control their visibility online. “It is more important than ever to lock down your Facebook privacy settings now that everything you post will be even easier to find,” she said. That is to say, your settings will determine, to a large extent, who can find you when they search for women who buy dresses for toddlers or, more unsettling, women who jog a particular secluded trail. Continue reading “Thinking about Facebook privacy”

Clean up that Facebook page

If the prospect of going back over years of Facebook posts to determine whether some of them should be hidden or photos untagged is daunting, webapp FaceWash can help. “The service scans your posts, timeline, and tagged photos to make sure nothing incriminating is going on, and warns you if it finds anything,” according to a post today on Lifehacker.

“The app requires access to your basic profile information, and while it asks for permission to post on your behalf (make sure to set those posts to be viewable by “only me”) when I tested the service it didn’t post anything. The scanning process only

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takes a few minutes, more or less depending on how many public Facebook posts and tagged photos you have. When it’s done, you’ll see each category—photos you’re tagged in, photos you’ve posted, status updates, and so on—and whether or not they’re clean. Continue reading “Clean up that Facebook page”

Facebook, democracy, and world domination

In the Facebook universe the big news is that after signing up half of the world’s population, the company is going for even more subscribers. The smaller story is that Facebook is poised to eliminate democracy (i.e.,voting)  among its users. As the LA times reports,

“ Facebook Inc. is finding out just how messy democracy can be. Continue reading “Facebook, democracy, and world domination”

Considering internet privacy

Sarah Kendzior offers thoughtful consideration of privacy issues raised in recent weeks surrounding Facebook and US CIA director David Petraeus in todays edition of Al Jazeera. Excerpted below are the opening paragraphs of her essay entitled “Why e-mail is and must remain private.”

“When I was a child, my grandfather offered me some advice: “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to read about in the newspaper”. To my nine-year-old self, this advice seemed strange, almost flattering. What could I possibly do that would be worthy of public interest? Why would anyone care? Continue reading “Considering internet privacy”

You can be sued for what you tweet

Ever wonder about how outrageous you can be in a Tweet or Facebook post? Well wonder no more and say hello to libel and slander litigation.

According to Slate.com, “A British politician is seeking damages from high-profile Twitter users who repeated or retweeted a false report linking him to child sex abuse.”

In “Can You Libel Someone on Twitter,” L.V. Anderson, “The former Conservative Party official, Alistair McAlpine, is also asking lower-profile Twitter users who libeled him to apologize and make a donation to charity. The United Kingdom is notorious for its plaintiff-friendly defamation laws—but what about in the United States?

“Could an American be sued for libel based on tweets, too?

Continue reading “You can be sued for what you tweet”

Facebook habits could keep you out of college

Celebrity internet affairs and embarassed government officials may be all the news is talking about, but what if your Facebook habits could keep you out of college? In a story today from CNN called “Does Facebook hurt your college chances?”

“This fall, a Kaplan Test Prep survey showed that an increasing number of college admissions officers were discovering information on Facebook and Google that hurt a student’s acceptance chances.

“According to the Kaplan survey, 27% of admissions officers checked Google and 26% looked on Facebook as part of their applicant-review process. Thirty-five percent of those doing so — compared with 12% in 2011 — found material that negatively impacted their view of a student.

“The results of the survey would, I thought, cause college-bound students and their parents to lash out in anger. Students are under so much stress. College costs are up, and winning the admissions race seems harder than ever.”