Software, Culture, and Political Economy in New Media Capitalism

Here’s a link to the book of the title of this post – a book about social media, the software that it uses, and the uses of that software.

there’s a free chapter to download at the site, so perhaps worth taking a look.

for purposes of future comprehension re the provision of this link, here is an excerpt from the blurb page:

 

Gehl adeptly uses a mix of software studies, science and technology studies, and political economy to reveal the histories and contexts of these social media sites. Looking backward at divisions of labor and the process of user labor, he provides case studies that illustrate how binary “Like” consumer choices hide surveillance systems that rely on users to build content for site owners who make money selling user data, and that promote a culture of anxiety and immediacy over depth.

Reverse Engineering Social Media also presents ways out of this paradox, illustrating how activists, academics, and users change social media for the better by building alternatives to the dominant social media sites.

 

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

I turned off Google Buzz for several reasons. The most important reason is that social apps such as Buzz and Facebook aren’t compelling in any awesome way for me. It could be said that I indulge Facebook. I spend less than an hour ‘there’ in a given week. It is not the best way, using the internet, to communicate with me. Basically, I can take it or leave it. Although reconnecting with old friends has been rewarding, real connection makes demands Facebook doesn’t support.

On the other hand, I like Facebook’s gallery feature, and, I like the feature that allows for publicizing blog posts, (where the feed automatically posts slugs from blog postings across my two personal blogs, and netdynam. Facebook would add more value if I leveraged it more in that direction. But, I do not.

So, Google Buzz, doesn’t trip my undeveloped social app triggers at all. It’s more intrusive in being tied into gmail, and, as it happened, I was forced to deprecate gmail its HTML interface because–in the aftermath of Buzz’s rollout, I discovered add-on java broke Gmail’s java as far as its advanced interface goes on OSX Tiger. between Tiger’s awful java implementation and Google’s hellish support, I was stuck.

I’m on Myspace-Musicians too. (Kamelmauz) Ugh.

A netydnam colleague emailed an interesting article from The New York Review of Books,

In the World of Facebook, by Charles Petersen; reviewing two books, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal (by Ben Mezrich) Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America (by Julia Angwin).

The article’s second paragraph:

What is “social networking”? For all the vagueness of the term, which now seems to encompass everything we do with other people online, it is usually associated with three basic activities: the creation of a personal Web page, or “profile,” that will serve as a surrogate home for the self; a trip to a kind of virtual agora, where, along with amusedly studying passersby, you can take a stroll through the ghost town of acquaintanceships past, looking up every person who’s crossed your path and whose name you can remember; and finally, a chance to remove the digital barrier and reveal yourself to the unsuspecting subjects of your gaze by, as we have learned to put it with the Internet’s peculiar eagerness for deforming our language, “friending” them, i.e., requesting that you be connected online in some way.

If I wanted to look up the author, Charles Peterson, on Facebook, I would be unable to do so. His name is too common. It’s interesting: if you have a unique name you’re much more accessible on Facebook.

The article is fascinating and worth reading in its entirety. Still, here’s a Netdynamics-worthy clip:

But Facebook doesn’t want to simply branch out onto a few more Web pages; the site hopes, in a somewhat sinister but potentially very useful (and profitable) way, to begin following us around the entire Web. This is the ambition of “Facebook Connect,” a special service that members may activate, and that has enabled many popular Web sites, such as Netflix, YouTube, and the Huffington Post, to tie activity elsewhere on the Internet back to Facebook profiles. If you leave a response on a Huffington Post story, for instance, it can, via Facebook Connect, automatically be shared with your friends on Facebook; subsequent responses by Facebook friends could eventually appear both on your Facebook page and on the original Huffington Post story.

If Facebook Connect is widely adopted—and the service has been quite successful so far, with Yahoo and even MySpace signing up—we may begin to see changes to many of our basic assumptions about the Internet. Once a commenter knows that a vitriolic statement will be shared with a large and personal social circle—appearing more like a letter to a small-town newspaper than an anonymous outburst—the typically venomous atmosphere of online comments, for example, may well diminish.

Aggression‘ mitigation? Sure. It would be hard to conceptualize a Facebook driven by users identified by handles or nicks. Meanwhile, Buzz uses your address book–at the least. I haven’t investigated Buzz of course, yet I recognize it’s a slightly different experiment.

Too Much Time?

Having read resources offered by Frank, I’d like to elevate one. Clay Shirkey: Gin, Television and Social Surplus. April 23, 2008.

If I had to pick the critical technology for the 20th century, the bit of social lubricant without which the wheels would’ve come off the whole enterprise, I’d say it was the sitcom. Starting with the Second World War a whole series of things happened–rising GDP per capita, rising educational attainment, rising life expectancy and, critically, a rising number of people who were working five-day work weeks. For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before–free time.

And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV.
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And it’s only now, as we’re waking up from that collective bender, that we’re starting to see the cognitive surplus as an asset rather than as a crisis. We’re seeing things being designed to take advantage of that surplus, to deploy it in ways more engaging than just having a TV in everybody’s basement.

Questions about how people use time, these days, may be framed (and analyzed,) within the rubric of behavioral economics. (I can’t do this myself, like Mr. Shirkey, I’m only able to offer phenomenological intuitions.) Still, I bring the frame of ‘time investment’ up because I suppose a finely differentiated analysis of how people actually deploy their time, with various internet utilities comprising part of the picture, would enrich intuitions.

For example, as I’ve mentioned before, a music fan can acquire more music (mp3s) than this fan can expect to deal with in the old sense of ‘dealing.’ This is true for other resources, such as ebooks, articles, movies, software; is true for any ‘object of potential interest’ discovered in the web, (or candy shop,) of intended and unintended distribution.

Time deployment exists in various contexts. These contexts can be described too. (I’m fairly sure Shirkey’s idealization doesn’t wash, were it to be suffer the details.) I wonder if cognitive surplus is accompanied in specific cases with its own surplus-derived stress?

What would constitute a robust conceptual ecology with respect to the factors of time investment and anticipation of benefit? Each of these is a very broad brush. For example how would time spent commenting on blog posts be accounted for were some benefit to figure into the account?

Another feature–these days–I term, truncation. Twitter exemplifies this, yet, also there are the short form messages tacked to Facebook walls, terse emails, blog and forum comments, abbreviated annotations of various sorts, and, of course, text messages.

I reckon truncation is not the result of having too much time.

Happiness Synthesized

excerpt

Facebook Tries to Monitor Happiness
By Chris Crum – Tue, 10/06/2009 – 16:31

Reveals Data Regarding the Moods of Users

Facebook has revealed the United States “Gross National Happiness,” the results of a study on the collective mood of Facebook users. Facebook “data scientists” started a project earlier in the year to measure the overall mood of people from the US on the social network, based on what they said in status updates.

The measurements come from the numbers of “positive” and “negative” words used in updates. It is unclear what words are considered positive and which ones are taken into account as negative.

“When people in their status updates use more positive words—or fewer negative words—then that day as a whole is counted as happier than usual,” says Adam D. I. Kramer, a Ph.D. student in social psychology at the University of Oregon and an intern on Facebook’s data team.

A context for: synthesis of happiness

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we’ll be miserable if we don’t get what we want. Our “psychological immune system” lets us feel truly happy even when things don’t go as planned.

Free Will and Facebook

You, like all adults, have free will. Then why do you feel manipulated on Facebook? Read the rest of this entry »

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