Archive for the ‘Twitter’ Category

ARIN6903: The Human Printer: You are a gadget

September 29, 2010

I heart Twitter. I was slow to jump on the 140 character bandwagon but as soon as I got into the swing of things, there was no stopping the tweets.  On reflection, what I like about it most is not the time it sucks from my hands, it’s not the inane innermost thoughts of people I don’t know. No, it’s the fact that I can follow almost anyone – that is, those with an unlocked account – and there’s no need for reciprocation. It’s like a modern, digital version of free love. Or something.

Enough rambling and back to my point about being able to follow anyone.  What that actually means is that I’m exposed to all sorts of bizarre and fascinating tidbits of information that I can choose to explore further if the tweeter has managed to convey the larger topic within the 140 character constraint. This morning in my feed was this simple tweet:

“wow. just … wow. http://www.thehumanprinter.org”

So, as you can guess, I was intrigued enough to follow the link to find out what this human printer might be. As you can probably work out, The Human Printer is an artist, Louise Naunton Morgan, who mimics a digital printer to re-create images that are sent in to her by people wanting her to create some art for them.

What I found interesting and a little contradictory is that she is mimicking a style that she is critical of:

“Today technology plays a huge role in everyday life…we have constructed these machines to aid our lives, making simple productions/tasks easier to accomplish. Our environment is now scattered with machine made artefacts, computer developed images and autonomous interactions—We are losing the essence of human production and craft to the machine, resulting in a soulless utilitarianism.”  (Charlesworth, 2010)

However, even though it seems contradictory on the surface, the point of “reclaiming the lost art of production” does seem to be something that the artist can achieve with this project since it makes people aware of both the similarities and differences between a human and a machine performing the same task.

The limitation of the digital printer in that it can only produce colours in CMYK halftone is something that Morgan replicates in her work. It appears that Morgan’s is a rejection of what Jaron Lanier refers to as “lock-in” in his 2010 book You are not a gadget. Lock-in is a point during the development and adoption of a new technology where the features and constraints of the new technology are based on the assumed need for it to be compatible with older technology (Lanier, 2010). I don’t know what the exact reasons are that have led to the particular constraints of digital printers, but I do know that the constraints of digital printers obviously affect what we can do with the technology and to an extent, mandate what is possible.

Morgan’s project seems to be an attempt at reclaiming the human element in technology and highlighting our interaction with it rather than succumbing to what Lanier describes as a “wave gradually washing over the rulebook of life”. (Lanier, 2010: 9). I also think it’s part of a wider movement of artists rejecting digital technology for more analogue methods, which can be seen in the music of bands such as The White Stripes and Air with their expensive vintage Moog keyboards.

The Human Printer

The Human Printer

References:

Charlesworth, J. (2010)  The Human Printer Exhibition at KK Outlet,
Accessed from: http://www.core77.com/blog/events/the_human_printer_exhibition_at_kk_outlet_17481.asp
Last accessed: 29 September 2010

Lanier, J. (2010) You are not a gadget,
New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Naunton Morgan, L.(nd) The Human Printer
http://www.thehumanprinter.org

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ARIN6903: Lady Gaga as the embodiment of remediation

September 15, 2010

Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga is big. Very big.  Six million Twitter followers, 17 million Facebook friends, 15 million album and 51 singles sales (The Guardian: 2010), hundreds of millions of YouTube views….and so on.

The music itself is standard catchy modern pop – it’s nothing that unique to write home about. What makes her stand out are all the extra things that come with the music – the outlandish outfits (meat dress anyone?), the constant profession of being an outsider, the spectacle of her live performances and most importantly, her mastery of many different forms of media in which she brings her fans with her into the vortex of fame.

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Lady Gaga Meat Dress

Her success is due to this mastery of media, without which she would still be plain ol’ Stefani Joanne Germanotta.  The success is not due to the music which is rather bland and formulaic.  She does have a beautiful voice, which you can sense watching her pre-fame performances, but this gets lost in the hype machine.

Gaga is so heavily stylised and has appropriated from so many genres, icons and cultural references that it’s hard to know who the woman behind the mask is. But that’s just the way she likes it in her quest to become a modern icon. Feminist icon Camille Paglia last week weighed in to the debate, calling Gaga a “ruthless recycler of other people’s work”. (Paglia, 2010)

It’s for these reasons that Gaga makes for a fascinating study for media theorists curious about her impact on pop culture, media and society in general.

This brings me to the concept of “remediation” as espoused by Bolter and Grusin which I want to extend here to an individual, rather than simply media forms. Gaga is everywhere, constantly in the press for her latest controversial outfit or performance. She has transcended the archetype of the female pop singer to become almost her own medium and is increasingly hypermediated whilst she remediates pop music. She perfectly fits what Bolter and Grusin identify as a desire to get to the real via hypermediation (1999). She states that Lady Gaga is not a character, but is her real self.

Gaga references fame and media constantly in her own media artefacts – her breakthrough album was called The Fame Monster, its big hits included Paparazzi and Telephone and her latest song is called Living on the Radio, as though she recognises she is nothing without the media she so heavily employs.  She has multiple websites which are all cross-referenced and embedded with different media types showcasing her presence on other websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. She also has a massive merchandising operation.

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Lady Gaga's hypermediated website

Elle Bedard writes that “Sometimes she resembles other pop stars, sometimes a character from Japanese animation, or a Roy Lichtenstein print.”(2010:1)

Just some of the influences she has appropriated as she constructs her identity are:

Surrealism in the form of the meat dress she wore this week, her past outfit featuring a lobster headpiece and, come to think of it, pretty much most of her creative output

Madonna, mostly via her fashion choices, prolific output and ubiquituity

Grace Jones via her stage costumes

Queen via her choice of name inspired by their 80s hit Radio Gaga.

Andy Warhol who she has acknowledged as an influence and refers to when discussing aspects of fame

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

Gaga Pop Art magazine cover

For those of us old and cynical enough to recognise the endless cultural references she makes, the hypermediation is quite obvious and almost jarring – I believe for this group of people the “real” that is attempted is not achieved. For her younger fans, this is all completely new and I think that they experience Gaga as “real”. Awareness of this mediation is just not part of the experience for them, it is invisible.

Adding to the debate by exploring Gaga as a character or an individual, Bedard quotes Baudrillard to assert that Gaga is “pure simulacrum, “a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal.”  Put differently, Lady Gaga does not exist.” (2010: 1)

Gaga is a one-woman media industry and it’s hard to believe she really only came to prominence in the last two years. I’m beginning to wonder how many clones of herself she has just to manage her overwhelming media presence.

References

Bedard, E. (2010) “Can’t Read My Poker Face”: The Postmodern Aesthetic & Mimesis of Lady Gaga
Accessed from: http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/2010/08/cant-read-my-poker-face-postmodern.html
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Bolter, J.D. & Grusin, R.A. (1999) Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, Mass;  London: MIT Press

Paglia, C. (2010) Lady Gaga and the death of sex
Accessed from: http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/public/magazine/article389697.ece
Last accessed 15 September 2010

The Guardian (2010) Pass notes, No 2,843: Lady Gaga
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/sep/08/pass-notes-lady-gaga-meat-bikini
Last accessed: 15 September 2010

Other reading

Gaga Stigmata – theoretical analysis of all things Gaga
http://gagajournal.blogspot.com/

ARIN6901: Twitter: Weak ties and a low degree of separation make for an effective diffusion tool

September 13, 2010

The exploration by Caroline Haythornthwaite in regards to use of media and how this relates to the strength of ties is seamlessly applicable to Twitter. According to Haythornthwaite:

It is argued from the research literature and studies by the author that where ties are strong, communicators can influence each other to adapt and expand their use of media to support the exchanges important to their tie, but where ties are weak, communicators are dependent on common, organizationally established means of communication and protocols established by others. Due to this differential use of media, a new medium that adds means and opportunities for previously unconnected others to communicate will have positive effects on weak ties and weak-tie networks, in particular by laying an infrastructure of latent ties (ones that exist technically but have not yet been activated), and providing an opportunity for weak ties to develop and strengthen.
(Haythornthwaite, 2002:  p.1)

Twitter is a non-reciprocal social networking service – people can “follow” others yet that person being followed is not obligated to follow them back. According to a Korean study which analysed 41 million user profiles and 1.47 billion follower/following relationships, only 22% of connections on Twitter are reciprocal and an astounding 68% of users are not followed by anyone that they follow (Lardinois, 2010). I am sceptical about that last figure however.  Although other SNSs also do not require reciprocal relationships, Twitter has the lowest rate of these.

So, going back to the notion of network ties, I believe Twitter’s organisation favours weak ties and this is likely one of the reasons it has become so heavily adopted – it is currently used by 93 million people (Kiss, 2010). Since the relationship does not have to be reciprocal, a major barrier to participation has been removed, allowing for a larger number of connections to be made that would not otherwise be possible.

Haythornthwaite also introduces the idea of “latent ties” defined above. Twitter can most definitely be seen as a provider of latent ties and the conversion of latent ties to weak ties is so straightforward due to the non-reciprocal nature of participation.

The Korean study also found that on Twitter, the average degree of separation between two randomly selected users is 4.1, significantly smaller than the result of six in traditional “real world networks” discovered by Stanley Milgram and known as “Six Degrees of Separation”. The combination of the weak tie-emphasis and the smaller degree of separation suggest that Twitter is an effective way of diffusing information across a wide area via the simple practice of the “re-tweet”.

This leads me to wonder if eventually a scenario of zero degrees of separation may be reached by future SNSs in a scenario where everyone is always connected to each other via an ubiquitous network. It may not be something out of a freaky science fiction novel.

References

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

Kiss, J. (2010) One in ten UK web users visit Twitter.com
Accessed from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/pda/2010/aug/11/twitter-growth
Last accessed:  13 September 2010

Lardinois, F. (2010) Study: Twitter Is Not a Very Social Network
Accessed from: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/study_twitter_isnt_very_social.php
Last accessed:  13 September 2010

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.