Bookmarked Are you an academic labouring for social media impact? Here’s a must-read

I am writing this essay to complicate the idea of academic use of social media by considering it in terms of digital labour. I do not wish to discourage academics from using social media. If academics stopped using it, I wouldn’t have anything to research. Please don’t! However, if use of social media is considered part of academic impact, then the labour involved must be given greater attention.

Naomi Barnes explores the labour associated with the use of social media by academics. A part of this is the work associated with translating academic research for different contexts, the cruel optimism of edu-influencer asspiration and the impact of the pressure to make an ‘impact’.
Bookmarked What Happened to Tagging?

Whether you used tags to categorize your own blog posts on the fly, pull relevant stories into your newsreader, or build self-populating websites, the combination of tags and RSS had the effect of decentralizing and democratizing the organization of information, as well as the development of community and relationships. In contrast with established, coordinated taxonomies for categorizing information (like the Dewey decimal system, in widespread use by libraries), tagging systems were “folksonomies:” chaotic, self-organizing categorization schemes that grew from the bottom up. Anyone could join in the conversation around nptech, fairuse, or webstandards by writing a blog post, bookmarking a web page on del.icio.us, or adding a photo to Flickr—all you had to do was apply the relevant tag.

Alexander Samuel reflects on tagging and its origins as a backbone to the social web. Along with RSS, tags allowed users to connect and collate content using such tools as feed readers. This all changed with the advent of social media and the algorithmically curated news feed. Samuel wonders if we have missed a trick in making everything so seamless.

Yes, it required a little more effort. But when I look around the web today, and at the many problems that have emerged from our submission to the almighty algorithm, I wonder if the effort was a feature, not a bug. By requiring us to invest ourselves in the job of finding content and building community, tag-driven conversations made us digital creators, not just digital consumers. It’s a social web we could have again—and one for which we could be truly thankful.

It is interesting to reflect upon this as I was not really active on the early social web. That always felt like someone else’s thing. Also, I wonder where the IndieWeb and interoperability sit within all of this discussion.

Also posted on IndieNews

Bookmarked A Teen’s Guide To Privacy (BuzzFeed News)

How to be a private public person as you’re figuring out how to be an adult.

Lam Thuy Vo and Caroline Haskins provide some ways to think about online habits. This includes knowing which context you are in, the various ground rules at play, knowing that words will always be taken out of context and that the internet is not the place for everything.
Replied to How will we try to fix Facebook? (Bryan Alexander)

A rising tide of criticism holds that the world’s largest and richest social media enterprise, Facebook, is a disaster for civilization.  From Zuboff’s critique to the techlash, people charge Facebook with subverting democracy, fomenting hatred and violence, boosting hideous political ideologies, selling user privacy, and warping our attention, among other things.

So what is to be done?

Bryan, I find the ‘return to vintage Facebook’ narrative interesting. It paints the picture that the time when news feeds were full of ‘Which … are you?’ quizzes was somehow more ideal? I think what was ideal about that time was the mass naivety behind much of this in regards to users?
Replied to Abstaining From Social Media Doesn’t Improve Well-Being, Experimental Study Finds (Research Digest)

The research does suggest that panics linking social media use to poor mental health are overblown. Of course, there may be plenty of other reasons to go cold turkey on social media — but for now, it’s not clear that our psychological well-being is one of them.

For me, this is no surprise. Expecting a digital detox to solve any issues associated with social media is like pulling out the willows that line many of the irrigation canals in country Victoria while expecting that the walls will not be compromised. Technology is a system, simply deactivating an account does not answer what it may have been satisfying. For example, over the last year or so I have moved away from spaces like Twitter and Voxer to focusing on RSS and blogs. This ‘detox’ had the consequence of loosing contact with some bloggers who had moved to spaces like Twitter and Instagram using mediums like threads. What I learnt is that such platforms are ingrained to the connections made. Although I have managed to use things like Granary to follow on my own terms, I am still not completely sold on a pure break.
Bookmarked Sacha Baron Cohen’s Keynote Address at ADL’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate (Anti-Defamation League)

It’s time to finally call these companies what they really are—the largest publishers in history. And here’s an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day. We have standards and practices in television and the movies; there are certain things we cannot say or do. In England, I was told that Ali G could not curse when he appeared before 9pm. Here in the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America regulates and rates what we see. I’ve had scenes in my movies cut or reduced to abide by those standards. If there are standards and practices for what cinemas and television channels can show, then surely companies that publish material to billions of people should have to abide by basic standards and practices too.

Sacha Baron Cohen provided the keynote address for the Anti-Defamation League’s 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate. Stepping away from his many guises, Baron Cohen discusses the current threat to democracy being served by the ‘Silicon Six’. He argues although they often reference ‘freedom of speech’ as an excuse, this often leads to a freedom of reach for those wishing to manipulate the structure of society.

This reminds me of danah boyd’s discussion of cognitive strengthening, filling the gaps and the challenges of the fourth estate. Also, Ben Thompson provides a useful discussion of the challenges associated with moderation, one being the human side of the process, while Tarleton Gillespie suggests that moderation is not the panacea.

Doug Belshaw provides his own response to Baron Cohen’s speech, suggesting that the issues are associated with the financial roots of platform capitalism, the need for more local moderation and the problem of vendor lock-in.

Mike Masnick pushes back on Baron Cohen’s argument that social media is to blame for fake news and instead argues that things did not take off until Fox News validated things. In addition to this, Masnick questions whether there really is a solution to the problem of moderation and communication.

Marginalia

Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.

Voltaire was right, “those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” And social media lets authoritarians push absurdities to billions of people.

Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach.

Zuckerberg at Facebook, Sundar Pichai at Google, at its parent company Alphabet, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Brin’s ex-sister-in-law, Susan Wojcicki at YouTube and Jack Dorsey at Twitter. The Silicon Six

Those who deny the Holocaust aim to encourage another one.

Bookmarked Fraidycat

Fraidycat is a browser extension for Firefox or Chrome. (Just those right now – it’s brand-new, quite experimental.) I use it to follow people (hundreds) on whatever platform they choose – Twitter, a blog, YouTube, even on a public TiddlyWiki.

Along with other applications like Granary, Aperture and Indigenous, Fraidycat offers a different way of consuming the web. I just wonder about the possibility of adding OPML files, rather than links one at a time.
Bookmarked Social Media Has Not Destroyed a Generation   (Scientific American)
  • Anxiety about the effects of social media on young people has risen to such an extreme that giving children smartphones is sometimes equated to handing them a gram of cocaine. The reality is much less alarming.
  • A close look at social media use shows that most young texters and Instagrammers are fine. Heavy use can lead to problems, but many early studies and news headlines have overstated dangers and omitted context.
  • Researchers are now examining these diverging viewpoints, looking for nuance and developing better methods for measuring whether social media and related technologies have any meaningful impact on mental health.
Lydia Denworth discusses the anxiety around the use of social media by children. Exploring the past, this is a trend that stems from Socrates. One of the aspects feeding this is that the science and research is still in its infancy and therefore lacks context and nuance:

Nearly all assess only frequency and duration of use rather than content or context. “We’re asking the wrong questions,” Hancock says. And results are regularly overstated—sometimes by the scientists, often by the media. “Social media research is the perfect storm showing us where all the problems are with our scientific methodology,” Orben says. “This challenges us as scientists to think about how we measure things and what sort of effect size we think is important.”

Although people like Jean Twenge might be right about the impact of social media on health, correlation does not always equal conclusion:

No one disagrees about the importance of young people’s health, but they do think that Twenge has gotten ahead of the science. “Why wait for causal evidence?” says Dennis-Tiwary. Because the story might not be so straightforward.

For example, in an analysis of 24 longitudinal studies, it was found that framing the discussion around addiction often makes negative findings more likely.

“It’s ironic that in the end the real danger is not smartphones—it’s the level of misinformation that’s being directed at the public and at parents,” Odgers says. “It’s consuming so much of the airtime that it’s causing us to miss potentially some of the real threats and problems around digital spaces.” For her part, Odgers is far more worried about privacy and unequal access to technology for kids from families with lower socioeconomic status. She also suspects that some adolescents find much needed social support online and that adults should pay closer attention to what works in that regard.

Responding to this situation, two researchers, Amy Orben and Andrew K. Przybylski, produced a series of papers designed to ‘tackle some of the pitfalls’:

Denworth explains that although some of these reports provide more nuance through their methodology, there is still more needed in understanding social media and screentime. This all captures danah boyd’s message that the relationship between technology and teens is complicated and that the negatives and benefits can depend. Also, for more research and advice on screentime, Ian O’Byrne and Kristen Turner have created the site The Screentime Age.

Replied to People will come to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think by Doug BelshawDoug Belshaw (Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel)

I’ve got no issue with having an ‘outboard brain’ where I store things that I want to look up instead of remember. It’s also insanely useful to have a method by which the world can join together in a form of ‘hive mind’.

What is problematic is when this ‘hive mind’ (in the form of social media) is controlled by people and organisations whose interests are orthogonal to our own.

Great post Doug. I like your three things:

  • Hive-mind not linked to shareholder value
  • Find voices in other places
  • Curate not just consume

Personally speaking, I have not found a home on Mastodon, but spend less time on Twitter. Instead, I scroll through my feed within Inoreader, while follow up links captured through Nuzzel.

In regards to voices in other places, I subscribe to a number of blogs, podcasts and newsletters.

I also try and curate what I read. However, I feel that I could probably do more to join the dots.

Replied to All is petty, inconstant, and perishable (Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel)

Zooming out a bit, and thinking about this from my own perspective, it’s a good idea to insist on good security practices for your nearest and dearest. Ensure they know how to use password managers and use two-factor authentication on their accounts. If they do this for themselves, they’ll understand how to do it with your accounts when you’re gone.

Thank you for the reflection Doug. I must admit that it is not something that I had necessarily thought about. I think in regards to social media, it makes me glad that I have scripts setup to constantly delete my content.
Bookmarked Kate O’Halloran made a mistake on Twitter. But admitting it wasn’t enough for trolls – ABC Life (abc.net.au)

Freelance journalist and sportswriter Kate O’Halloran knows the risks of being a woman online and daring to comment on areas traditionally dominated by men. Kate was abused, harassed and left fearing for her safety after making an error in a tweet she posted while watching a game of AFL.

Kate O’Halloran reflections on her mistake on Twitter. She discusses how she was trolled, firstly on Twitter and then on Facebook. Associated with all this, O’Halloran discusses the toll that it took on her and her family.

I still haven’t read the comments on the post I made before I logged off. In fact, when I re-read over the abuse I received for the sake of this article, my smartwatch warned me that an “abnormal heart rate” had been detected.

She closes the piece encouraging people if they care for the welfare of those being targeted to contact them to provide support.

Patrick Wright discusses O’Halloran’s example to unpack the statistics associated with online abuse and bullying. He also provides a number of suggestions of what to do when placed in such a situation, including reporting, deflecting comments, using humour and blocking.

Replied to

Personally, I think that we need to create structured spaces for students to learn to be in such spaces together, This is a better answer IMHO than running away from them. Plus, I think that social media can be positive, it is not all negative, right?
Replied to Likes, likes, and more likes

I’m not sure I’m going to change my habits back? It feels rude. Isn’t that interesting? I feel an obligation to be more generous, more ‘like’-able. I share an anniversary photo on Facebook, someone takes the time to send us well-wishes, I guess I should like their comment. I share something on Twitter and someone responds. I don’t have a response in return, so I should like their tweet as my response/acknowledgement. Someone shares a wonderful family moment on Instagram, I should be nice and like it, after all, they liked my family photo. And so suddenly my habits above became watered down to things I should do to be polite on social media.

David, your discussion of the act of liking reminds me of a post from Kevin Hodgson. In a lengthy response, I clarified my personal use of ‘likes’ and how it might differ to others.

I also enjoyed Doug Belshaw’s reflection of Twitter about likes versus bookmarks:

Bookmarked The machine always wins: what drives our addiction to social media (the Guardian)

The interesting question is what it is that is so addictive. In principle, anyone can win big; in practice, not everyone is playing with the same odds. Our social media accounts are set up like enterprises competing for attention. If we are all authors now, we write not for money, but for the satisfaction of being read. Going viral, or trending, is the equivalent of a windfall. But sometimes, winning is the worst thing that can happen. The temperate climate of likes and approval is apt to break, lightning-quick, into sudden storms of fury and disapproval.

In an edited extract from The Twittering Machine, Richard Seymour touches on the addictive nature of social media. Whether it be positive or negative, it feeds our tendency for more. It reminds me of the Two Minutes of Hate in George Orwell’s 1984. This is something that Cal Newport touches upon. The question I was left wondering is whether blogging and platforms like WordPress are any different? If so, how?
Bookmarked A Framework for Moderation (Stratechery by Ben Thompson)

The question of what should be moderated, and when, is an increasingly frequent one in tech. There is no bright line, but there are ways to get closer to an answer.

Ben Thompson responds to CloudFlare’s decision to terminating service for 8chan with a look into the world of moderation. To start with, Thompson looks at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the responsibility platforms have for content:

Section 230 doesn’t shield platforms from the responsibility to moderate; it in fact makes moderation possible in the first place. Nor does Section 230 require neutrality: the entire reason it exists was because true neutrality — that is, zero moderation beyond what is illegal — was undesirable to Congress.

He explains that the first responsibility lies with the content provider, however this then flows down the line to the ISP as a back stop.

Bookmarked Time to Rejoin Tumblr? Thoughts on a Social Media “Reunion Tour” (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

Five social networks that offer ripe opportunities for a “reunion tour” of your own

  1. Flickr. Owned and acquired, and later sold in a fashion very similar to Tumblr itself, the photo-sharing service (now owned by SmugMug) has moved to a pay model, but it could still be a great tool for folks that are looking for a more low-key version of photo sharing.
  2. DeviantArt. Going back to a vintage site doesn’t necessarily mean that the site will look like it did 15 years ago—something that can definitely be said of DeviantArt, which just released an ambitious redesign that was so out of character for the old-school platform that it recently trended on Twitter. It’s an opportunity to go back just after a snazzy renovation.
  3. LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. Technically, the old-school LiveJournal is still around, and the one you definitely don’t feel like sharing might still be online. But its ownership has changed dramatically over the years, in keeping in tune with its Russian user base, and it has led to moves that you might not be cool with. Fortunately, there’s an alternative in the form of DreamWidth, a fork of the original LiveJournal that’s been around for a decade.
  4. Internet Relay Chat or Usenet. If you’re a bit older, you may have gotten your first taste of a social internet through either of these digital protocols. They’re still around, though their focuses have changed dramatically, and you may find yourself most at home if you’re a developer. (IRC will be easier to get back into, just an FYI.)
  5. Blogging. As I wrote at the beginning of the year, the blogosphere is a culture worth defending, and if you can add something to it, you should! If you’re looking for the most retro-seeming blogging experience possible, Blogger is a good choice because Google hasn’t updated it in years.
Ernie Smith reflects on Automattic’s purchase of Tumblr and uses this as an opportunity to review and revisit some social media spaces that have seen better days, but still might be worth our revisiting. Personally speaking, I am an advocate for blogging and possibly POSSEing to some of these other places. Therefore, hedging your bets both ways.
Bookmarked Shame Cycles and Twitter Rage (edifiedlistener)

How do I engage someone whose viewpoint differs significantly from mine without necessarily triggering the shame-defensiveness-anger cycle?

I don’t have definitive answers but I’m thinking of ways I can help myself wrestle with these situations more effectively – which means in a way that I consider my own care and safety first before trying to save the world that’s already on fire.

Reflecting on the recent furore that has arisen around Tom Rogers’ post sharing who to follow on Twitter, Sherri Spelic share some tips and questions to consider when dealing with the toxic side of Twitter.

– Is my engagement here necessary or essential?
– Will this conversation be helped by my intervention? In what way?
– Use a side commentary by quote-tweeting the original source of conflict.
– Use questions or invite the person to elaborate on a point of confusion.
– What is this involvement calling forth in me?
– Is this time I have to dedicate to this cause right now?

This always has me coming back to Ian Guest’s PhD about Twitter and wondering about all the possibilities, as well as what part Twitter itself plays with all this.

Marginalia

The next time we feel drawn into a rage-inducing exchange, we can perhaps first ask ourselves how the platform benefits and if that’s where our energies are really best spent. Twitter loves our rage. Our individual and public health do not.

Bookmarked How YouTube Radicalized Brazil (nytimes.com)

YouTube built its business on keeping users hooked. This has been a gift to extremist groups. An investigation in the company’s second-biggest market found serious consequences.

Max Fisher and Amanda Taub look at YouTube’s roll in subverting the traditional methods of political engagement in Brazil. This reminds me of what is happening in Italy and Hungry.
Bookmarked Remembering Instagram Before the Influencers (Vice)

Artists like Audrey Wollen, Alexandra Marzella and Arvida Bystrom moved to Instagram from Tumblr in the early 2010s. But the past few years have seen the platform shift.

Daisy Jones takes a look at the early adopters of Instagram and what happened to them. It would be interestingly to look at the early adopters across all the different platforms, whether it be Tumblr, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook and Mastadon. I wonder if there is a correlation across the different platforms and the creativity and voices they foster.