mfioretti: twitter*

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  1. Here’s how this golden age of speech actually works: In the 21st century, the capacity to spread ideas and reach an audience is no longer limited by access to expensive, centralized broadcasting infrastructure. It’s limited instead by one’s ability to garner and distribute attention. And right now, the flow of the world’s attention is structured, to a vast and overwhelming degree, by just a few digital platforms: Facebook, Google (which owns YouTube), and, to a lesser extent, Twitter.

    These companies—which love to hold themselves up as monuments of free expression—have attained a scale unlike anything the world has ever seen; they’ve come to dominate media

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but all of this invalidates much of what we think about free speech—conceptually, legally, and ethically.

    The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself.

    What’s more, all this online speech is no longer public in any traditional sense. Sure, Facebook and Twitter sometimes feel like places where masses of people experience things together simultaneously. But in reality, posts are targeted and delivered privately, screen by screen by screen.
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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. One way to think of today’s disinformation ecosystem is to picture it as a kind of gastrointestinal tract.

    At the top end — the mouth, let’s call it — enter the raw materials of propaganda: the memes cooked up by anyone who wants to manipulate what the media covers, whether political campaigns, terrorist groups, state-sponsored trolls or the homegrown provocateurs who hang out at extremist online communities.

    Then, way down at what we will politely call the “other end,” emerge the packaged narratives primed for widespread dissemination to you and everyone you know. These are the hot takes that dominate talk radio and prime-time cable news, as well as the viral Facebook posts warning you about this or that latest outrage committed by Hillary Clinton.

    How do the raw materials become the culturewide narratives and conspiracy theories? The path is variegated and flexible and often stretches across multiple media platforms. Yet in many of the biggest misinformation campaigns of the past year, Twitter played a key role.

    Specifically, Twitter often acts as the small bowel of digital news. It’s where political messaging and disinformation get digested, packaged and widely picked up for mass distribution to cable, Facebook and the rest of the world.

    This role for Twitter has seemed to grow more intense during (and since) the 2016 campaign. Twitter now functions as a clubhouse for much of the news. It’s where journalists pick up stories, meet sources, promote their work, criticize competitors’ work and workshop takes. In a more subtle way, Twitter has become a place where many journalists unconsciously build and gut-check a worldview — where they develop a sense of what’s important and merits coverage, and what doesn’t.

    This makes Twitter a prime target for manipulators: If you can get something big on Twitter, you’re almost guaranteed coverage everywhere.
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  5. while it had its benefits, social media began to exhibit its shortcomings quite early. Its overwhelming flaw was that it was powered by people. While an excellent medium for crowd-sourcing information and urging followers into collective action, it’s not a broadcasting network. Rather, it’s a two-way conversation between a single person on one side, and thousands on the other. That itself has proved most challenging—especially when only a few of us were on the receiving end.

    At any given point I could have anywhere from 300 to 600 contacts in an hour, each seeking a response or wanting to embark on a conversation. Each felt slighted if I failed to answer promptly or missed a single mention. Those we couldn’t answer took it personally and began railing against "those egotistical twiteratti" who didn’t have time to answer the common people anymore. Resentment slowly bred contempt, which eventually turned into antagonism. Our private timeline took on the outlines of an ominous landscape where hundreds, if not thousands, silently waited for a mistake to burn those they once idolized. And then it got worse.

    A revolution organized by social media is by definition a revolution made up of disparate individuals who share similar but general goals. When it came to details, however, the devil lay there smiling. Ideological disagreements reared their ugly heads. Political divisions cracked the collective. Shrillness and extremism quickly replaced rational discourse among even the most renowned activists, who had been allies for years. And given their standing, their divisions set the tone for all those who followed. With time, retaining revolutionary legitimacy meant maintaining extreme and emotional positions that offered little in the way of compromise.

    Those who in principle fought for freedom of expression and diversity in opinion then silenced opposing points of views. Many activists realized that if they wanted to climb the social hierarchy, they needed to claim to be the only individuals not to have sold out, and build their legitimacy by targeting everyone else’s integrity. In return, they would gain the adoration of thousands of new Twitter followers. This means of mediated ascension was nothing short of disastrous.

    A unified political decision became impossible. Joining political parties meant you betrayed the revolution for the sake of playing politics. Running for office meant you were a power-hungry sell-out. Voting meant you were participating in a charade and betraying the blood of those who had died protesting.

    The Egyptian revolution and its aftermath demonstrated what happens to societies when they gain broad access to technology and connectivity. These capabilities can create a space for new political voices to be heard, while simultaneously killing the democratic political process. Though Egyptian youth participation peaked in the weeks following the revolution, it has been in steady decline despite the rising number of elections over the past four years. While this may be attributed to special conditions in Egypt, it is more likely part of a broader, global trend.

    I ventured that the real problem is that the world is suffering from a leadership crisis at the moment. There are no leaders. I asked her if she considered the president of her country to be her leader, and she recoiled in disgust and vehemently denied it. I asked her who she thought was her leader, and she could not articulate an answer. I asked her if she knew any Americans who viewed Obama as their leader, or any Brits who viewed Cameron as theirs? Not one. And the reason for this crisis in leadership is simple: social media has effectively killed the politician.

    Imagine the perfect political leader—with the ideal professional and personal history, look, gravitas, and skills.

    Now imagine that same leader in today’s world of social media—every move under the watchful eye of millions, every statement instantly scrutinized.
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  6. And blogs don’t tend to accumulate your personal information in quite the same as Facebook, for example. Although some certainly use trackers in their ads, etc. But I don’t think it’s quite as bad, plus you can always read a blog with Ghostery and UBlock Origin installed to block all of the tracking.

    Good luck with Twitter, post back if/when it finally becomes too annoying for you. Heh, heh
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-01-12)
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  7. my core prediction for 2016 is that all the things that got worse in 2015 will keep on getting worse over the year to come. The ongoing depletion of fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources will keep squeezing the global economy, as the real (i.e., nonfinancial) costs of resource extraction eat up more and more of the world’s total economic output, and this will drive drastic swings in the price of energy and commodities—currently those are still headed down, but they’ll soar again in a few years as demand destruction completes its work. The empty words in Paris a few weeks ago will do nothing to slow the rate at which greenhouse gases are dumped into the atmosphere, raising the economic and human cost of climate-related disasters above 2015’s ghastly totals—and once again, the hard fact that leaving carbon in the ground means giving up the lifestyles that depend on digging it up and burning it is not something that more than a few people will be willing to face.

    Healthy companies in a normal economy usually have P/E ratios between 10 and 20; that is, their total stock value is between ten and twenty times their annual earnings. Care to guess what the P/E ratio is for Amazon as of last Friday’s close? A jawdropping 985.

    At that, Amazon is in better shape than some other big-name tech firms these days, as it actually has earnings. Twitter, for example, has never gotten around to making a profit at all, and so its P/E ratio is its current absurd stock value divided by zero. Valuations this detached from reality haven’t been seen since immediately before the “Tech Wreck” of 2000, and the reason is exactly the same: vast amounts of easy money have flooded into the tech sector, and that torrent of cash has propped up an assortment of schemes and scams that make no economic sense at all. Sooner or later, as a function of the same hard math that brings every bubble to an end, Tech Wreck II is going to hit, vast amounts of money are going to evaporate, and a lot of currently famous tech companies are going to go the way of

    my best guess at this point is that photovoltaic (PV) solar energy is going to be the next big energy bubble.

    Solar PV is a good deal less environmentally benign than its promoters like to claim—like so many so-called “green” technologies, the environmental damage it causes happens mostly in the trajectory from mining the raw materials to manufacture and deployment, not in day-to-day operation—and the economics of grid-tied solar power are so dubious that in practice, grid-tied PV is a subsidy dumpster rather than a serious energy source. Nonetheless, I expect to see such points brushed aside, airily or angrily as the case may be, as the solar lobby and its wholly-owned subsidiaries in the green movement make an all-out push to sell solar PV as the next big thing.
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  8. Report è uno dei rari programmi di approfondimento giornalistico nei quali le buone intenzioni escono spesso soverchiate dal metodo. Il metodo purtroppo è quello tipico di una certa forma mentis informativa italiana. Accogliere e dar spazio alle notizie che concordano con un’ipotesi iniziale (in genere concreta e molto navigata dentro il “si dice” della gente comune) minimizzare o tacere delle altre. Lo hanno fatto spessissimo, talvolta rendendosi ridicoli, altre volte avvicinando molto la verità. Il cattivo giornalismo delle buone intenzioni della ggente.

    5) Ai lettori ed ai cittadini non servono ne l’uno né l’altro. O meglio servono entrambi pur nella loro azione di perturbazione della verità. Meglio ancora, servono le informazioni che Report raccoglie su Eni e serve il punto di vista di Eni su quelle informazioni. Poi serve (servirebbe) una sintesi culturale di entrambi i punti di vista, un approccio non solo onesto (non ho motivo di dubitare del fatto che Gabanelli lo sia) ma soprattutto “terzo” in maniera da risultare autorevole.

    6) La qualità del giornalismo di inchiesta prescinde dai media sui quali compare. Inutile parlare di TV vs. Twitter, della grande innovazione di Eni che conversa direttamente o di Report che twitta le proprie risposte accusando la grande azienda di Stato di falsità. È tutto teatro, cibo per gli esperti di comunicazione, slide per i loro prossimi convegni.

    Quello che ci servirebbe (non a noi che siamo come è noto esperti di tutto ma alla massa dei cittadini, all’opionione pubblica in generale) è un giornalismo adulto, capace di decodificare i segni con cultura e approfondimento. Nella battaglia attuale è impossibile fidarsi di Report così come è impossibile fidarsi di Eni.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2015-12-14)
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  9. Instagram can use your camera and microphone to record audio and take pictures and video, without asking you first. Gmail can read and modify your phone contacts. Viber has your precise GPS location at all times. Facebook can read all your text messages.

    “These are permissions that the apps require you to grant them before they are installed,” says Vladan Joler, the data wrangler behind the visualisation and director of the Serbian non-profit SHARE Foundation, which campaigns for internet freedoms. “The purpose of this visual is to show, in a clear way, what smartphone users agree to when they click 'yes' on terms and conditions.”
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  10. 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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