Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

ARIN6903: Internet activism – Facebook group reclassifies Tony Blair’s memoirs in bookstores

September 5, 2010

Last semester I wrote about Internet protest for the Internet Cultures and Governance class:original post here.

One of the criticisms raised about Facebook being used to organise groups was that it is often used for the most inane types of “support movements” and “protests” – eg. “Can this sausage roll get more fans than Cheryl Cole?”

I was interested to read this morning The Guardian reporting that in the UK, members of a 5000-strong Facebook group are encouraging people to go into their local bookstores and “reclassify” Tony Blair’s new autobiography by moving it from its assigned section to another section, for example to the crime section. The idea is to conduct a legal, subversive protest to get people thinking about Tony Blair’s alleged war crime: the war on Iraq.

Clearly, it’s not enough to simply set up a Facebook group to make an impact, the subject of the protest needs to be something that is genuinely in the interests of society and the tactics used need to be original, rather than simply setting up the group and making a few announcements. In the UK, Tony Blair is an incredibly divisive figure, attracting derision for involving the UK in the Iraq war on what appears to be flimsy reasoning. Moving his autobiography to the crime section keeps this controversy in the headlines, makes people think about how an event (the war) is perceived as legal or illegal and takes some of the gloss from Blair’s book launch.

References:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/05/tony-blair-memoirs-facebook-group

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=150746811621277

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ARIN6901: Product and service design at the expense of the network

September 5, 2010

A couple of recent news articles have pointed to the need when developing new products or services to pay attention to the importance of networks and network features – either real social networks (not simply SNSs) or technological networks – more so than product or service design.

The Guardian reports on the latest release of Amazon’s Kindle eReader product, presenting the argument that manufacturers who pay heed to the needs of a networked society will be the winners, as opposed to those that weight their investments heavily towards marketing, hardware and software design. The argument is that the Kindle is superior to competitor products such as the iPad because of its connectivity – by default, it comes with both 3G and WiFi. Amazon also released iPhone/iPad apps to allow Kindle owners to synchronise their eBook purchases on more than one device. These aspects are viewed as part of a seamless end-to-end system of downloading and reading eBooks. The new Kindle also includes an “experimental browser”: http://ireaderreview.com/2010/08/25/kindle-3-browser-photos-video/  Is this an iPad killer in disguise?

Calling into question the strength and value of ties on SNSs such as Facebook and Twitter, tech blog TechCrunch has also published an article highlighting the benefits for tech companies in developing products based on people’s existing social networks. Identifying that mobile phone contacts are a better indicator of an individual’s social graph , TechCrunch praises companies willing to “go mobile first, web second” rather than viewing mobile contacts as an inferior representation of someone’s social graph compared to Facebook and Twitter contacts.

TechCrunch has also criticised Apple’s new Ping service, a social recommendation feature added to iTunes in the last week, arguing that it is just a driver to increase sales in the iTunes store and lacking features that would take advantage of personal networks (for instance, Ping has no integration with Facebook due to lack of an agreement and a user’s existing music collection is partitioned from Ping).

Relating this back to the readings for this course, van Dijk believes that for most new media manufacturers, “a device perspective (hardware) or service perspective (software) is taken instead of a social and contextual perspective” (2006: 92), arguing that there is a disjoint between what producers make and what consumers want. This is clearly the case with the examples outlined above and it will be interesting to note in the next couple of years which of the above will scale the heights or be abandoned en masse.

References:

Naughton, J. (2010)As the reborn Kindle proves, looks don’t count for everything
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/aug/29/kindle-ipad-ereaders-john-naughton  Last accessed: 2 September 2010

Schonfeld, E. (2010) The Problem With Ping
Last accessed: 2 September 2010
Accessed from:  http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/03/problem-ping/

Siegler, M.G. (2010) The Real Social Network: Your Mobile Contacts
Last accessed: 2 September 2010
Accessed from: http://techcrunch.com/2010/09/04/mobile-contacts-social-network/

van Dijk, J. (2006) The Network Society,
Sage Publications, London.

ARIN6901: Weak ties in the age of ubiquitous Social Network Services

September 1, 2010

Outline of Blog theme

After much consideration, the posts on this blog for Network Society will primarly focus on three significant concepts within network theory: the concept of social ties as initially developed by Granovetter, the small-world theory or Six Degrees of Separation, based on the work of Stanley Milgram and finally, the idea of information diffusion through networks. Narrowing focus and tying these themes together, I will take a specifically human approach to the blog posts, looking for instance at how humans perceive networks and how their participation within networks informs their experiences.

Weak ties in the age of ubiquitous Social Network Services

As the number and usage levels of social network services (“SNS”) continue to rise exponentially (Facebook for example just reaching 500 million users in only six years(1)  and Twitter going from a few thousand users after a few months from launch in 2006 to over 100 million(2)), greater levels of analysis and discourse are taking place in the area of Social Network Analysis (”SNA”) in an attempt to make sense of the impact of these services on traditional social networks and other networks.  New media and network theorists are applying seminal concepts from sociology and SNA to the study of services such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, amongst others.

Established work such as that by Granovetter (1973) in defining different types of social ties and Goffman in outlining what constitutes identity performance (1959) have been variously applied by modern theorists including danah boyd, Erika Pearson and Carolyn Haythornthwaite to form a view of interaction modes within online social spaces. In particular, media type and the interrelation with strong and weak ties is investigated at length.
According to Granovetter, ties are characterised by factors such as time, emotional intensity, reciprocity and intimacy. These factors are simultaneously independent, yet interrelated (Granovetter, 1973). Further, weak ties are beneficial as they signify difference between the two individuals connected, as they are not connected by a strong common factor. This difference results in impressive opportunities for social mobility and information diffusion (Granovetter, 1973).

Using Granovetter’s framework, Haythornthwaite posits that the Internet’s power is in making connections between people where none previously existed and the resultant establishment of weak tie networks (Haythornthwaite, 2005).  This is due to the access to a wider set of connections that this type of technology allows and a removal of social risks associated with contacting “unknown” others (Haythornthwaite, 2002). Haythornthwaite is particularly interested in the intersection of the social with technological developments in their effect on tie strength: creating new ties and changing the status of weak tie to strong and vice versa.

Since the adoption of different SNS is a relatively new phenomenon, I argue that use may lead to a distortion of the accepted constitution of weak ties and lead to a confusion between what someone’s weak ties are as opposed to their strong ties. New norms and forms of etiquette are in a state of flux, leading to some confusion around social rules. The features of SNS facilitate a level of intimacy between acquaintances not previously possible, for example the sharing of personal photographs and innermost thoughts. In studying the SNS “Friendster”, which enjoys high usage particularly in Asia, researcher danah boyd pointed out that due to the generic label of all connections as “friend”, the tie strength of ties is ambiguous. Further, the majority of connections on Friendster are actually weak, with people connecting with others who they simply recognize, a situation that would not occur outside of SNS (boyd, 2008).

However, boyd has demonstrated that the users of Friendster are able to work around the limitations presented by this ambiguity, by using forms of play and experimentation to create their own set of norms. This observation mirrors that of Haythornthwaite who identifies a “social construction of media use” (2002: 6) with listservs and news groups in particular, allowing for simple text based technologies to express greater levels of nuance and emotion. These findings suggest that the use of media in a social context is constantly in a state of adaptation, and can extend to the a fluidity in the definitions of weak and strong ties.

This is an area of study that is continually growing. With the adoption of  SNS in a broader range of areas other than the strictly social, for example in business and government, more research will be done in the coming future in order to understand the impacts of these services and to make constructive  recommendations for their use. The benefit of time will also serve to provide deeper insights than those already produced.

1. Arthur, C. and Kiss, J. (2010)  Facebook reaches 500 million users
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jul/21/facebook-500-million-users
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

2. Arthur, C.(2010) See how Twitter grew – and find out what made it explode
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/aug/27/twitter-growth-interactive
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

References:

Arthur, C.(2010) See how Twitter grew – and find out what made it explode
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/aug/27/twitter-growth-interactive
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

Arthur, C. and Kiss, J. (2010) Facebook reaches 500 million users
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jul/21/facebook-500-million-users
Last accessed: 31/8/2010

danah boyd (2008). ‘None of this is Real’ in Structures of Participation in Digital Culture (ed. Joe Karaganis). New York: Social Science Research Council, pp. 132-157.

Granovetter, M. (1973)’The strength of weak ties’ in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 78. No. 6, pp. 1360-1380.
Haythornthwaite, C.(2002) ‘Strong, Weak, and Latent Ties and the Impact of New Media’,
The Information Society, 18: 5, 385 — 401

Haythornthwaite, C.(2002) ‘Strong, Weak, and Latent Ties and the Impact of New Media’,
The Information Society, 18: 5, 385 — 401

Haythornthwaite, C.(2005)’Social Networks and Internet Connectivity Effects’, in Information, Communication & Society, Vol. 8, No. 2, June 2005, pp. 125–147

ARIN6903: Splendour in the Grass: a Tweet too far?

August 11, 2010

Along with 31,999 others, I recently attended the 10th Splendour in the Grass festival, this year held for the first time at Woodfordia in QLD rather than in its usual location of Byron Bay.

I’m a relatively recent convert to Twitter, only beginning to use it regularly at the start of this year for university classes. Rather than being an active tweeter, I was more of a lurker, with a long list of people and companies I was following. I often asked myself “what do I have to say of interest?” and was quite careful not to tweet my every thought as so many do.

The turning point of my Twitter behaviour came about due to Splendour. Rather than being satisfied simply to take part in the festival, I found myself tweeting my observations and experiences as they occurred to me. And I found it hard to stop once I’d started.  By using the #splendour hashtag, I became part of a temporary and active community of attendees.

During the festival, I got thinking about how Twitter affects a person’s experience of an event. For the active user who tweets during an event, I don’t think Twitter is an add-on to the experience, it’s integral to it. What do I mean? Well, tweeting during the event mediates the experience for the individual and builds their sense of communion.  They can report on their observations during the event to other attendees (and even to non-attendees who want to feel a part of it) and can also follow what others are saying.  In this way, Twitter forms a collaborative narrative of an event.

My tweets during the festival

True to my overly analytical thought processes, I was quite hard on myself for regularly tweeting during the festival, when perhaps I should have just been purely experiencing it as others appeared to be. But is tweeting really all that much of a departure from either chatting to your friends who are with you or sending a picture message to a friend who can’t attend? I don’t believe so.

Twitter also proved to be a very practical tool during the festival. On one evening, due to a disappointing lack of adequate balancing of bands between different stages, the main amphitheatre became full during Florence and the Machine since there was no band of a similar calibre playing on another stage to balance the crowd levels. I overhead people talking about a lockout on the amphitheatre, with security guards closing the gates once it became full. I then caught up with a friend who had seen the resulting chaos and near-riot situation as irate festival-goers tried to get through the gates. I then checked Twitter to get an update on the situation and decided it was safe to venture towards the amphitheatre to see The Strokes once Florence and the Machine had finished and the crowd thinned out.

But, without a doubt the most significant part of my Splendour Twitter experience was when I adopted the persona of an amateur music hack. Let me set the scene for you:  a friend mentioned on Facebook (yes I was overdoing the social networking thing at Splendour!) that I should check out Richard Ashcroft’s new band, the United Nations of Sound. Sure enough, I found a gap in my schedule and walked over to that stage where another friend was already watching. Immediately, I noticed how small the crowd watching was and thought “this doesn’t bode well”. Especially, since the lights were focussed on the crowd, emphasising how small it was. I could see Richard Ashcroft was not impressed, but his voice sounded brilliant and so recognisable.  Here’s a blow by blow account of what happened next:

The next day, the Faster Louder website contacted me to ask me more about what went down. Their reporter subsequently used information from my tweets and the set list in an article: http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/news/local/24902/Richard-Ashcrofts-Bitter-Symphony.htm

I also gained a whole bunch of new followers from the event. Even the Faster Louder article was a collaboration: my tweets and setlist image were used in conjunction with information and video provided by another Splendour attendee.

For me, Twitter also forms part of a digital time capsule of the event and I’m still contemplating wading through the #splendour archive to see what I’ve missed, though I imagine it will require many many days in front of the computer.