Tags: social networks*

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  1. Popular internet platforms that currently mediate our everyday communications become more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information, rendering their users more and more addicted and dependent on them. Alternative, more organic options like community networks do exist and they can empower citizens to build their own local networks from the bottom up. This chapter explores such technological options together with the adoption of a healthier internet diet in the context of a wider vision of sustainable living in an energy-limited world.


    The popular Internet platforms that mediate a significant portion of our everyday communications become thus more and more efficient in managing vast amounts of information. In turn, they also become more and more knowledgeable about designing user interaction design techniques that increase addiction, or “stickiness” when described as a performance metric, and dependency. This renders their users more and more addicted and dependent on them, subject to manipulation and exploitation for commercial and political objectives. This could be characterized as the second watershed of the Internet in the context of Illich’s analysis on the lifecycle of tools. As in the case of medicine and education, the Internet at its early stages was extremely useful. It dramatically increased our access to knowledge and to people all over the world. However, to achieve this, it relied on big organizations offering efficient and reliable services. These services now depend more and more on the participation of people and on the exploitation of the corresponding data produced for platforms to survive. This creates a vicious cycle between addictive design practices and unfair competition which breach the principle of net neutrality, and unethical uses of privately owned knowledge on human behavior which are generated through analyses of the data produced from our everyday online activities.

    In addition to the tremendous social, political, and economic implications of centralizing power on the Internet, there are also significant ecological consequences. At first glance, these seem to be positive. The centralization of online platforms has allowed their owners to build huge data centers in cold climates and invest in technologies that keep servers cool with lower energy costs. However, at the same time, the main aim of online platforms is to maximize the total time spent online as much as possible and to maximize the amount of information exchanged, not only between people but also between “things!” Their profitability depends on the processing of huge amounts of information that produces knowledge which can be sold to advertisers and politicians. Like the pharmaceutical companies, they create and maintain a world in which they are very much needed. This also explains why corporations like Facebook, Google, and Microsoft are at the forefront of the efforts to provide “Internet access to all” and why at the same time local communities face so many economic, political, and legal hurdles that encumber them to build, maintain, and control their own infrastructures.


    To achieve a sustainable level of Internet usage, one needs to provide the appropriate tools and processes for local communities to make decisions on the design of their ICT tools, including appropriate alternative and/or complementary design of places, institutions, and rituals that can impose certain constraints and replace online communications when these are not really necessary. To answer this demand, one should first answer a more fundamental question: How much online communication is needed in an energy-restricted world? In the case of food and housing, there are some reasonable basic needs. For example, each person should consume 2000 calories per day or 35 m2 of habitat (see P.M., 2014). But, how many Mbs does someone need to consume to sustain a good quality of life? What would be the analogy for a restricted vegetarian or even vegan Internet diet?
    The answer might differ depending on the services considered (social activities, collaborative work, or media) and the type of access to the network discussed above. For example, is it really necessary to have wireless connectivity “everywhere, anytime” using expensive mobile devices, or is it enough to have old-fashioned Internet cafes and only wired connections at home? Would it make sense to have Internet-free zones in cities? Can we imagine “shared” Internet usage in public spaces—a group of people interacting together in front of a screen and alternating in showing their favorite YouTube videos (a sort of an Internet jukebox)? There is a variety of more or less novel constraints which could be imposed on different dimensions:

    Time and Volume: A communications network owned by a local community, instead of a global or local corporation, could shut down for certain period of time each day if this is what the community decides. Or community members could agree to have certain time quotas for using the network (e.g., not more than 4 hours per day or 150 hours per month). Such constraints would not only reduce energy consumption; they would also enforce a healthier lifestyle and encourage face-to-face interactions.

    Reducing quotas on the speed (bandwidth) and volume (MB) that each person consumes is another way to restrict Internet consumption. Actually people are already used to such limits especially for 3G/4G connectivity. The difference is that a volume constraint does not necessarily translate to time constraints (if someone uses low volume services such as e-mail). So, volume constraints could encourage the use of less voluminous services (e.g., downloading a movie with low instead of High Definition resolution if this is to be watched in a low definition screen anyway) while time constraints might have the opposite effect (people using as much bandwidth as possible in their available time).

    However, to enforce such constraints, both time and volume based, on an individual basis, the network needs to know who is connecting to it and keep track of the overall usage. This raises the question of privacy and identification online and again the trade-off of trusting local vs. global institutions to take this role. Enforcing time or volume constraints for groups of people (e.g., the residents of a cooperative housing complex) is an interesting option to be considered when privacy is considered important.

    Devices: Energy consumption depends on the type of equipment used to access the Internet. For example, if access to the Internet happens only through desktop computers or laptops using ethernet cables instead of mobile smartphones, then the total energy consumed for a given service would be significantly reduced. Usage would also be dramatically affected: On the positive side, many people would spend less time online and use the Internet only for important tasks. On the negative side, others might stay at home more often and sacrifice outdoors activities in favor of Internet communications.
    https://rd.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-66592-4_13
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  2. Ultimately, as a community tool, el paquete serves to inform and connect members of the community in ways the official channels haven’t ideologically or practically acknowledged need connecting. In a sense, the network is facilitating an exchange, not of ideas, which Cubans have always had, but opportunities, which have traditionally been limited.

    The paquete is more than a big dump of media. It’s a system, an economy, and maybe even a mental model for understanding how Cuba operates, in spite of, or as a result of, the otherwise antiquated media economy, with state-controlled broadcast and print networks. It serves to entertain, educate, and inform the Cuban people of what’s happening on and off the island in a way that’s unique to their cultural situation.

    The next time I head back to Cuba I’m going to try to patronize as many paquete advertisers as possible, as not just as a way of getting at the Cuba that’s behind the tourism curtain, but as a show of solidarity with their resources encouraging this emerging cultural ecosystem.
    https://withintent.uncorkedstudios.co...ete-cubas-social-network-2fa6c99660ee
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  3. Young Americans no longer use Facebook

    The over 55 crowd are lining up to go to Facebook, which means its the death bell for Facebook ever remaining relevant to advertizers as its usage will decrease YOY in pretty large amounts here in North America. There’s no point in targeting users on the advertising platform if they don’t even sign in, right?

    Facebook is thus built on a big lie, that’s it’s actually still relevant.

    “Facebook is for old people” is a mantra that invariably is only going to get worse as the Newsfeed becomes irrelevant there for brands and marketers.

    Even back in 2015, only 14% Of teens said Facebook was the most important social network.

    What’s more, usage among 18–24 year-olds is predicted to fall, as well, by 5.8%.

    It really does not matter how many “users” Facebook has globally, the penetration among key demographics in North America is what really matters. If Twitter is an actual barometer on real-time events and collective sentiment, Facebook is that place you go to meet your grandmother who lives in another country.

    With actual peer circles and with streaks, Snapchat is a much more persuasive app for teens than Instagram, that is better known for celebrities.
    Over 55s flock to Facebook as teenagers leave in droves for Snapchat

    With consumers more careful of smartphone addiction and notification spam and algorithms in feeds manipulating us, 2018 might be the year consumers kill Facebook. Facebook pivoting away from the Newsfeed is an ugly sign that the era of “likes” and personal sharing is nearly dead.

    Have you considered a digital detox from social media apps in 2018?
    https://medium.com/@Michael_Spencer/t...xodus-of-youth-continues-db8c146cb5ca
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  4. I contenuti di Facebook – dicono i due esperti – non sono indicizzati dai motori di ricerca, quindi qualsiasi discussione rilevante che avviene da quelle parti rimarrà confinata agli iscritti. Linkare simili contenuti da fuori è quasi impossibile, specie se non possiedi un profilo Facebook.

    E cosa accadrebbe domani se Facebook dovesse chiudere? Le nostre parole scivolerebbero via come lacrime nella pioggia, l’esatto opposto di quello che Internet ha da sempre immaginato. Già oggi Facebook vieta all’Internet Archive, l’anima documentale di Internet, di salvare schermate rilevanti da archiviare per i posteri.

    Alcuni anni fa la Biblioteca del Congresso varò un progetto per archiviare tutti i tweet prodotti al mondo. Erano forse i bibliotecari americani interessati alle sciocchezze irrilevanti che scriviamo dal divano mentre guardiamo la partita? Ovviamente no. Avevano semplicemente capito che la memoria storica oggi viaggia nascosta nei piccoli frammenti delle comunicazioni di rete. È per questo che il peccato di superbia di Facebook è oggi un tema pubblico di dimensioni gigantesche.
    http://www.pagina99.it/2017/06/08/fac...-chiude-indicizzazione-oblio-internet
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  5. il consenso di uno dei genitori non potesse escludere l’illiceità della condotta di chi pubblica le foto del minore se la diffusione è dannosa. Il principio è condiviso dal Garante della privacy che, in più occasioni (e in linea con la Carta di Treviso del 1990), ha invitato a non pubblicare sui giornali i dati identificativi dei minori se non è essenziale per l’interesse pubblico della notizia.
    http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/commen...figlio-web-073203.shtml?uuid=AEvC46bD
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  6. A former Facebook executive has said he feels “tremendous guilt” over his work on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works”, joining a growing chorus of critics of the social media giant.

    Chamath Palihapitiya, who was vice-president for user growth at Facebook before he left the company in 2011, said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”

    The remarks, which were made at a Stanford Business School event in November, were just surfaced by tech website the Verge on Monday.

    “This is not about Russian ads,” he added. “This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
    Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human 'vulnerability'
    Read more

    Palihapitiya’s comments last month were made a day after Facebook’s founding president, Sean Parker, criticized the way that the company “exploit s » a vulnerability in human psychology” by creating a “social-validation feedback loop” during an interview at an Axios event.

    Parker had said that he was “something of a conscientious objector” to using social media, a stance echoed by Palihapitiya who said that he was now hoping to use the money he made at Facebook to do good in the world.

    “I can’t control them,” Palihapitiya said of his former employer. “I can control my decision, which is that I don’t use that shit. I can control my kids’ decisions, which is that they’re not allowed to use that shit.”

    He also called on his audience to “soul-search” about their own relationship to social media. “Your behaviors, you don’t realize it, but you are being programmed,” he said. “It was unintentional, but now you gotta decide how much you’re going to give up, how much of your intellectual independence.”
    https://www.theguardian.com/technolog...ormer-executive-ripping-society-apart
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-16)
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  7. 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.
    https://www.theatlantic.com/technolog...ans-to-understand-our-internet/547463
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  8. 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.
    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/...-social-era-twitter-facebook-snapchat
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  9. The bubble filter demonstrates the internet as shifting from a tool of global connectivity to individual disconnect; personal opinion becomes fossilised while public discourse withers away. Without meaningful public discourse, the internet exposes us to competing opinions only through (often anonymous) trolling. This is dangerous. With little to no space for productive debate, ideological conflicts are carried out institutionally – as evinced by the onslaught of fake news accusations that characterised the final American presidential debate.

    When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner.

    As a product of the neoliberal project, the bubble filter caters to our perceived demands for constant personalised stimulation and to the commodification of the digital experience. We find ourselves further removed from neighbours to whom we occupy distant ideological worlds; we cease to understand each other as we increasingly lack basic exposure to each other. When we live in bubbles, we forget how to engage and disagree in a civil manner. This situation has the potential to normalise extreme polarity and reactionary populism. Left without public forums to negotiate competing worldviews and engage with each other, we should not be surprised if ideological conflicts start to increasingly escalate in violent ways.
    https://www.opendemocracy.net/digital...erm=0_717bc5d86d-5aca16cdcc-407399415
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  10. For a long time I told the same basic joke about Silicon Valley, just updating as some new walled garden network replicated long-existing technology in a format better able to attract VC cash and, presumably, get them ad dollars.

    2002, Friendster: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2003, Photobucket: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2003, Myspace: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2004, Flickr: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2004, Facebook: At last, a way to connect with friends on the internet!
    2005, YouTube: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2006, Twitter: At last, a way to post text on the internet!
    2010, Instagram: At last, a way to post pictures on the internet!
    2013, Vine: At last, a way to post video on the internet!
    2013, YikYak: At last, a way to post text on the internet!

    You get the idea. An industry that never stops lauding itself for its creativity and innovation has built its own success mythology by endlessly repackaging the same banal functions that have existed for about as long as the Web.
    https://medium.com/@freddiedeboer/the...silicon-valley-horseshit-95cc5a85e8a4
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