mfioretti: social networks* + twitter*

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  1. What about the actual functioning of the application: What tweets are displayed to whom in what order? Every major social-networking service uses opaque algorithms to shape what data people see. Why does Facebook show you this story and not that one? No one knows, possibly not even the company’s engineers. Outsiders know basically nothing about the specific choices these algorithms make. Journalists and scholars have built up some inferences about the general features of these systems, but our understanding is severely limited. So, even if the LOC has the database of tweets, they still wouldn’t have Twitter.

    In a new paper, “Stewardship in the ‘Age of Algorithms,’” Clifford Lynch, the director of the Coalition for Networked Information, argues that the paradigm for preserving digital artifacts is not up to the challenge of preserving what happens on social networks.

    Over the last 40 years, archivists have begun to gather more digital objects—web pages, PDFs, databases, kinds of software. There is more data about more people than ever before, however, the cultural institutions dedicated to preserving the memory of what it was to be alive in our time, including our hours on the internet, may actually be capturing less usable information than in previous eras.

    “We always used to think for historians working 100 years from now: We need to preserve the bits (the files) and emulate the computing environment to show what people saw a hundred years ago,” said Dan Cohen, a professor at Northeastern University and the former head of the Digital Public Library of America. “Save the HTML and save what a browser was and what Windows 98 was and what an Intel chip was. That was the model for preservation for a decade or more.”

    Which makes sense: If you want to understand how WordPerfect, an old word processor, functioned, then you just need that software and some way of running it.

    But if you want to document the experience of using Facebook five years ago or even two weeks ago ... how do you do it?

    The truth is, right now, you can’t. No one (outside Facebook, at least) has preserved the functioning of the application. And worse, there is no thing that can be squirreled away for future historians to figure out. “The existing models and conceptual frameworks of preserving some kind of ‘canonical’ digital artifacts are increasingly inapplicable in a world of pervasive, unique, personalized, non-repeatable performances,” Lynch writes.

    Nick Seaver of Tufts University, a researcher in the emerging field of “algorithm studies,” wrote a broader summary of the issues with trying to figure out what is happening on the internet. He ticks off the problems of trying to pin down—or in our case, archive—how these web services work. One, they’re always testing out new versions. So there isn’t one Google or one Bing, but “10 million different permutations of Bing.” Two, as a result of that testing and their own internal decision-making, “You can’t log into the same Facebook twice.” It’s constantly changing in big and small ways. Three, the number of inputs and complex interactions between them simply makes these large-scale systems very difficult to understand, even if we have access to outputs and some knowledge of inputs.

    “What we recognize or ‘discover’ when critically approaching algorithms from the outside is often partial, temporary, and contingent,” Seaver concludes.

    The world as we experience it seems to be growing more opaque. More of life now takes place on digital platforms that are different for everyone, closed to inspection, and massively technically complex. What we don't know now about our current experience will resound through time in historians of the future knowing less, too. Maybe this era will be a new dark age, as resistant to analysis then as it has become now.

    If we do want our era to be legible to future generations, our “memory organizations” as Lynch calls them, must take radical steps to probe and document social networks like Facebook. Lynch suggests creating persistent, socially embedded bots that exist to capture a realistic and demographically broad set of experiences on these platforms. Or, alternatively, archivists could go out and recruit actual humans to opt in to having their experiences recorded, as ProPublica has done with political advertising on Facebook.
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  2. I do believe that this time is different, the beginning of a massive shift, and I believe it’s the fault of these social networks.

    One of the problems is that these platforms act, in many ways, like drugs. Facebook, and every other social-media outlet, knows that all too well. Your phone vibrates a dozen times an hour with alerts about likes and comments and retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of just trying to suck you back in, so their numbers look better for their next quarterly earnings report. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s first president, came right out and said what we all know: the whole intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by “ giving » you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said, was by design. These companies are “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”

    And then, there’s the biggest reason why people are abandoning the platforms: the promise of connection has turned out to be a reality of division. We’ve all watched the way Donald J. Trump used social media to drive a wedge between us all, the way he tweets his sad and pathetic insecurities out to the world, without a care for how calling an equally insecure rogue leader a childish name might put us all on the brink of nuclear war. There’s a point that watching it all happen in real time makes you question what you’re doing with your life. As for conversing with our fellow Americans, we’ve all tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation on these platforms, which has so quickly devolved into a shouting match, or pile-on from perfect strangers because your belief isn’t the same as theirs. Years ago, a Facebook executive told me that the biggest reason people unfriend each other is because they disagree on an issue. The executive jokingly said, “Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe we’ll end up with people only having a few friends on Facebook.” Perhaps, worse of all, we’ve all watched as Russia has taken these platforms and used them against us in ways no one could have comprehended a decade ago.
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  3. China’s Social Media Market: Nearly a Billion Users — Mostly on Mobile

    China Has Many 100 million+ User Social Networks For Many Purposes, Unlike Western-based social media

    Facebook and Twitter Will Never Dominate in China (Even If They Were Allowed There)

    Mark Zuckerberg’s pre-IPO visits to China fueled rumors that his social network, now blocked by the government there, will finally be allowed into the country. But as I’ve written before, barring some dramatic change, Facebook will never, ever be a dominant force in China, even were it allowed into the country with the state’s full endorsement (highly unlikely in itself).

    Facebook’s primary revenue model, advertising, is strictly regulated there, as is its second revenue stream, gaming. In fact, every core feature of Facebook would require several government licenses, each of which would likely take months to procure. It’s also possible that their activity in China would be frowned upon by their Western audience and regulators. (Most of these problems, as you might have guess, also apply to Twitter, making its successful entry into China equally unlikely.)

    So without Facebook and Twitter, does that mean China’s social media users are unreachable by Western social networks?

    Not exactly:

    LinkedIn: A Bridge for the West and China’s Business Professionals

    Western App Developer Advice: To Succeed in China, Find the Right Network, And Local Help
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  4. reagire con fermezza operando con impegno e concretezza per contrastare chi favorisce lo sfascio.
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  5. The problem, however, is that very often these roles, these identities, are conflicting: topics, words and ways of saying things could be accepted or even required in one situation and in one community, but they might well be incomprehensible or even offensive in another.

    The boss might just check your tweets. Scott Metzger
    Click to enlarge

    This is exactly what happened in all the cases above. Fisher, for instance, made it clear in his apology that he had meant for the post to be seen only by his close circle of friends and did not realise that his Facebook timeline was publicly visible. He said he had thought he had changed his privacy settings to hide his posts from people who weren’t friends on the network but that doesn’t appear to have happened.
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  6. Facebook è usato dal 41.3% della popolazione italiana, Twitter dal 5.4%;
    - il 70% degli italiani pensa che “gli apparati dell’informazione” manipolino le notizie;
    - quasi un italiano su due sceglie di votare non sulla base di ciò che ha appreso dai media (vecchi e nuovi), ma da ciò che ha ascoltato da amici, parenti e conoscenti (il 43.9% degli elettori, +25% in soli quattro anni);
    - il 35.3% degli italiani pensa che le tecnologie digitali abbiano peggiorato (e non migliorato) l’organizzazione dei movimenti politici.

    In questa presentazione proviamo ad analizzare questi dati e a immaginare cinque idee operative per “aggiornare i partiti”, in modo che rispondano efficacemente a questo profondissimo cambiamento delle dinamiche di orientamento al voto degli italiani.
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  7. Su Facebook Enrico Mentana può accettare solo i propri intimi amici, su Twitter può lucchettare il profilo o usare le liste e leggere solo le persone che gli piacciano o anche, sembra incredibile, bloccare gli imbecilli. Esiste perfino un tasto apposito. Gli interessa tutto questo? Ha tempo da dedicare a tutto questo? Non so, non mi pare. Nella sua testa è probabile che Internet dovrebbe adattarsi a lui, comprenderne ruolo ed intelligenza, sensibilità e diritti. Il serpentone autostradale, figura stupida per definizione, dovrebbe civilmente fermarsi per permettergli di attraversare la strada.
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  8. la metà dei comuni capoluogo non è presente su Facebook e circa i 2/3 non è presente su Twitter.

    Ciò significa che le amministrazioni ancora faticano a misurarsi col mondo dei social media. Da questo punto di vista, l’amministrazione capitolina guidata da Gianni Alemanno, nonostante il grado di complessità della struttura organizzativa dell’ente, è presente su entrambi i fronti, il che colloca Roma Capitale tra coloro che hanno cercato di allinearsi in tempi rapidi alla “tendenza social”.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2013-03-13)
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  9. This is a great reminder of why owning your online presence is so important. Just a year ago few would have been able to predict Posterous would not last, just like now people post on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and so on, without any concept of how long their content is going to be around.
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  10. fino al 2009, le autorità non rilasciavano alcun dato sulla reale situazione dell’atmosfera nelle città, avvolte da una perenne (e micidiale) nuvola di smog. A luglio di quell’anno l’ambasciata americana a Pechino ha cominciato a diffondere su Weibo i dati reali sulla presenza di inquinanti, giorno per giorno. Oggi il governo, dopo un breve braccio di ferro (perduto) sulla liceità dell’iniziativa, misura e diffonde questi dati nelle principali città cinesi: senza il social network non sarebbe mai successo.
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