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I control my data therefor I am

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Uncertainty. Uncertainty about the existing symbolic order, norms and values and which way out to choose. In ‘Life as a construction box’, Swierstra[1] et al. begin their publication with the conception of ‘way out’ which, in my ayes is a bit heavy (my connotation of ‘way out’ has to do with escape). But then, the publication is a bout the most relevant, current and rather important issues of our days. Issues like privacy, man and machine, ambient and pervasive technology, health and being unhealthy and, as would like to put it, the makebility of reality, an as fundamental as rather intangible confusion trying to surface through solid ethical questions and controversies. Dutch philosopher Peter Paul Verbeek[see Swiestra] questions whether people have the possibility to withdraw themselves from ambient and pervasive technology. And what about our log-time disputed basic right of privacy?

Why would privacy be important? Mooradian[2] quotes Rachel who writes that is important because privacy enables man to selectively enclose information and privacy would engage us to certain desired social behavior. And, privacy is necessary to create and manage certain relationships. Without such control mechanisms, says Rachel, diversity in relationships will disappear. Or better, fade away. Mooradian is less pessimistic. According to him, there is a difference between real friends and those as referred to in social media. And further more says Mooradian; we adjust our behavior according to the situation (or context, I presume).
Then have we passed the station of privacy? Are we beyond privacy? Not according to Mooradian. In our times of social media, one may decide for himself what and how much one speaks (tells) but one cannot control what other speak of him. What apparently seems to be a process of democratization – digital surveillance as Mooradian calls it – can also be interpreted as a panopticum resembling Orwell’s Big Brother spheres.
In her paper about Facebook, Danah Boyd[3] says that information is not private – as in privately owned data – because information is limited and controlled which turns the issue of privacy into the rather difficult dungeons in terms of social convergence. For who limits and controls our data?

Could we, in the context of last months Month of Philosophy in The Netherlands recapitulate that I control my data therefor I am?

[1]  Swiestra, T. e. a. (2009). Leven als bouwpakket, Ethisch verkennen van een nieuwe technologische golf (1st ed.). Den Haag: Rathenau Instituut.

[2] Mooradian, Norman, The importance of privacy revisited, Ethis Inf Technol, Springer Science+Business Media BV, 2009

[3] Boyd, Danah, Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck, Convergence, Berkely 2088

Written by Kees Winkel

May 11, 2012 at 16:52

Frictionless Sharing: a critical view on automated sharing of media texts in social media

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On Februari 16 of this year, Volkskrant[1] published an article called “The future of social media is automated sharing; handy but sometimes a bit embarrassing” in which the author Heleen van Lier notes that the future of sharing media texts lies in automated sharing. Central theme in her article stands Frictionless Sharing; a phrase introduced by social medium Facebook a couple of months ago. Representatives of Facebook, Reuters, Nokia and Microsoft debated Frictionless Sharing (FS) during the Social Media Week in London. The debate panel came to the conclusion that FS is here to stay. Use of the technology is simple; after agreeing once, the user starts sharing his data with other in linked media.

Van Lier’s article has a discourse of, let us say, tempered techno-optimism and it represents the opinion of the mentioned soft-critical panel.

In this short essay I’ll try to analyze the phenomena of FS in social media using the concepts of Technological Determinism and Social Constructivism as compasses with the objective to gain insight in the usability. The reason for using the two concepts lies in the central theme of this writing: Frictionless Sharing: a critical view on automated sharing of media texts in social media. Or to put it in a question: Who profits from Frictionless Sharing?

Frictionless Sharing, automated sharing of data in social media, is a relatively new phenomenon and can be regarded as a form of automated hyperlinkability; de user agrees to the Internet provider’s service to publish certain data (information) on other Internet services. Think for example, of the announcements on your Facebook page that a friend is listening on Spotify to a song by some band.

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg introduced the conception of Frictionless Sharing during the 2011 F8 Developers Conference. His explanation was that it would enable a “real-time serendipity[i] in a frictionless experience” (Sheilla Shayon 2011[2]). In his AdAge column of January 30, 2012, Dave Williams[3] explains that Facebook’s core mission is to help people share their lives and their favorite things, such as branded products, music, films, etc.

Williams also implies an economical objective for the introduction of automated sharing. Van Lier also touches the issue as she cites the Spotify example.

Whether Frictionless Sharing comes as handy is one out of a series of similar questions through which people try to explain the role of technology in society. These questions have different discourses running from academic neutrality to the rhetoric of marketing. Within these discourses long lasting and divers debates are carried out, all with one central question: is technology the determining factor for the development of the society (Technological Determinism) or does society cooperates to construct and shape products and services using technology (Social Constructivism).

Lister et al. (2009 p. 429[4]) state in their glossary that Technological determinism remains, as Mackenzie and Wajcman ([1985] 1999) argue, the ‘dominant account’ of technology in everyday or ‘common sense’ culture. So according to Mackenzie and Wajcman technology is the driver of society in the sense that social arrangements are determined technological arrangements. Yet opposite to Technological Determinism we face the conception of Social Constructivism in which Social Shaping of Technology is the key perspective. It is all about the ‘makeable society. Technology as such is not the goal, it is a mere auxiliary plea – or perhaps even, as McLuhan might have gimmicked, a medium – to make a better world. Up to recent days, a fitting example has been Kony 2012[5], the global viral attempt to trial the former Uganda guerilla leader Joseph Kony before an international jury. This action, using FS through mainly Facebook and Twitter disseminated at warp speed[6] as the Australian Times reported. Let us conclude that, at least for the initiators of this action, the available and dominant technology was used to accomplish a human (charity) goal.

Brussee and Hekman (2010) state that social media are highly accessible media; users need not have much (if any) knowledge of technology in order to use them. (Perhaps in this sense, it is more relevant to say that users need not have much literacy, media-usage-literacy that is. There is still overwhelming popular discourse in which social media are disputed leading to Netherland’s sovereign Beatrix who neatly copied the words of the Dutch government that social media lead to non-social behavior? In my opinion a rather dystopian technological deterministic fallacy.)

High accessibility results in fast groups of people having access not only the original role of the (media text) user, or better consumer, but also to the functionalities of these technologies that actually provide control of other parts of media chain, i.e. aggregation and publication. High accessibility and ubiquity of the Internet (wired, wireless and mobile) are most likely the reason why so many people use the Internet and social media in particular. Or, as the voice over in the Kony 2012 video states: “There are people who have a Facebook account today than the amount living on the earth two hundred years ago”

According to the debate panel members in Van Lier’s article, automated sharing through social media is here to stay. In fact, it becomes a second nature to users. According to Facebook’s Trevor Johnson, one of the panel members, this may cumulate in Facebook being spammed with way too much uninteresting information. Facebook tries to clear this problem by offering users to personalize their profile pages according to ones likings en preferences in order to specify data streams. As Van Lier states in her article: “every website can be personalized on the basis of ones preferences and what friend suggest’.

Personalizing on the basis of preferences and deliberate admission of information of people certainly will limit the amount of information with which Facebook users are confronted currently. Whether Johnson’s approach bears the characteristics of Social Constructivism or Technological Determinism can only be made clear if we get a proper answer to his statement in which he says that Facebook is concerned about the people, not the company: “If one thinks of Facebook than not think of Facebook.com but at three million sites and hundreds of thousands of apps with which we are integrated. At first sight that seems pretty much SC but considering the intrinsic technological imaginary I am convinced that a company like Facebook, their representatives included, are rather techno-optimists and put technology in an (imaginary) position as shaper of (their) society.

Mark Zuckerberg’s “real-time serendipity in a frictionless experience” also sounds as a zenith of Social Constructivism. In my opinion it even bears a touch of a connotation of a utopic ideology (Facebook constructing a better world in which all are related as friends). Nice thought yet was it not Dave Williams who peoposed in his earlier mentioned article that “Because the new breed of apps measure actions and mentions, they make it easier for marketers to measure when people are talking about certain brands, activities, news stories, or other content. This improved insight onto the social graph gives marketers a far greater picture of users’ interests, helping them shape relevant ad experiences that can be used to drive engagement”. In this quote perhaps lies the thought of affordance of Frictionless Sharing in the context of both Technological Determinism and Social Constructivism. Lister et al. Summarize the difference between the two perspectives as: ‘[…] to be a realist about technology entails asking what technology really is’. This is the realism for which this concluding section pleads: we should attend not simply to the social constructedness of technological phenomena, but to the extended effects they create, the causes they exploit and the rearrangement of parts and processes they effect”.

For me, FS – Frictionless Sharing –min terms of marketing is a scrupulous tool to hyper-profile potential customers. I think I should start reading Pariser and Sloterdijk. They might clear my mind on matters of tech first or society first.

So, what do you think?

[1] http://www.volkskrant.nl/vk/nl/2694/Internet-Media/article/detail/3185440/2012/02/16/De-toekomst-van -sociale-media-is-geautomatiseerd-delen-handig-maar-soms-ook-genant.dhtml

[4] Lister M., Dovey J., Giddings S., Grant I., Kelly K. (2009). New media: A critical introduction second edition (second edition ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Written by Kees Winkel

April 1, 2012 at 19:02

What 2012 Holds for Social Media

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We’ve already taken a detailed look at how outsourcing of social media could increase in 2012, but how else is the industry set to change in the coming year? There’s a lot to be expected in 2012, from Facebook’s impending and much-anticipated IPO, to seeing how the Google+ and Facebook rivalry will finally play out.

With the three heavy hitters – Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – taking up most of the social media space, it’s hard to imagine a new company coming into the picture and taking people’s attention away from existing services. Instead, we’ll probably continue to see services that plug into the existing environment, like Flipboard and its many competitors, which have capitalized on how social media has become a tool for the curation of current events and news. While the news aggregator space is overcrowded as it is, other tools may come to the forefront in 2012, capitalizing on social media as a tool to be used in politics, particularly with the US presidential elections on their way, and in education.

At the same time, new networks, like Path, have seen impressive growth rates, and with its focus on the mobile experience, 2012 may have a lot of good things in store for the unexpected service, but will it last? We take a look at these questions and more in the following list of 5 predictions for what 2012 holds for social media.

Continue via What 2012 Holds for Social Media.

Written by Kees Winkel

January 8, 2012 at 10:57

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People on Facebook

  • More than 800 million active users
  • More than 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends

Activity on Facebook

  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • More than 2 billion posts are liked and commented on per day
  • On average, more than 250 million photos are uploaded per day

Global Reach

  • More than 70 languages available on the site
  • More than 75% of users are outside of the United States
  • Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application


  • On average, people on Facebook install apps more than 20 million times every day
  • Every month, more than 500 million people use an app on Facebook or experience Facebook Platform on other websites
  • More than 7 million apps and websites are integrated with Facebook


  • There are more than 350 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices
  • There are more than 475 mobile operators globally working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products

via Statistics (6).

Written by Kees Winkel

September 25, 2011 at 12:23

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Why Twitter doesn’t care what your real name is

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Via GiGaOm

Amid all the noise and fury over Google’s policy of requiring real names (or at least real-sounding names) on its new Google+ network — a policy that Facebook also has, and one we have been critical of in the past — it’s easy to forget that there’s a pretty large web service that doesn’t much care what your real name is. Although it does prevent you from pretending to be people you aren’t, Twitter doesn’t block or ban users for having pseudonyms the way Google and Facebook do. Why is that? I think it’s because Twitter realizes it can provide plenty of value for users (and thus for advertisers) without having to know your real name. The social web is about reputation and influence, not necessarily names.

I started thinking about this again, not just because the real-name issue continues to draw heat from Google+ users — and because Facebook’s real-name policy threatened to become a legal issue if legislation that was being proposed by Congress passed — but also because I had a chance to re-read Clay Shirky’s excellent take on group dynamics from 2003, in which he talked a bit about identity online. If you haven’t had a chance to read his presentation, I highly recommend it. Before he became a media guru, Shirky spent years studying early online worlds such as LambdaMOO and The Well, and his insights are worthwhile for anyone interested in the topic of community online.

When he gets around to the issue of identity, Shirky says that he generally avoids the topic because it “has suddenly become one of those ideas where, when you pull on the little thread you want, this big bag of stuff comes along with it” — something just as true now as it was eight years ago when he said it. He notes that while anonymity doesn’t work well in group settings (as supporters of Google’s policy like to point out), the answer isn’t necessarily requiring real names, but rather some structure that allows for persistent pseudonyms or “handles.”

Not real names — persistent identity with reputation attached

There has to be some permanence to these handles, Shirky says, because otherwise there’s no reputation hit to changing your online name and behaving completely differently — and users need to be able to know who they are talking to or interacting with from one minute to the next, even if they don’t know their real name. As he puts it, weak (or non-persistent) pseudonyms don’t work well because:

I need to associate who’s saying something to me now with previous conversations… If you give users a way of remembering one another, reputation will happen, and that requires nothing more than simple and somewhat persistent handles.

Does that sound like any kind of online network you know of? It sounds a lot like Twitter to me. In a recent open house at the company, CEO Dick Costolo talked about how the service doesn’t really care what your real name is — all it wants to do is connect you to the information that you care about. And if that information happens to come from a “real” person, then so be it; but if it comes from a pseudonym, then that’s fine too. Twitter isn’t necessarily married to the idea of users having pseudonyms, Costolo said — it’s simply “wedded to people being able to use the service as they see fit.”

I think Mat Honan at Gizmodo hit the nail on the head in a post he wrote about Costolo’s remarks, in which he talked about how Twitter doesn’t care what your name is because it has realized that you and your activity are just as valuable to advertisers with or without a real name. That’s because advertisers want to target their messages based on interests, demographics, reputation and influence — things that have little or nothing to do with what name you use. You could argue that people who use real names are more likely to tell the truth about their age, marital status etc., but even those aren’t the real goal.

Reputation and influence matters — not names

The reason why services like Klout have been gaining steam is that advertisers and marketers are looking to build a “reputation graph” that they can tie to the interest graph they get from watching behavior on social networks. They need to know not just what is being talked about but who is saying it, and whether they are influential. Does their real name matter? Not really. Did anyone care that Perez Hilton used a fake name as he built a small media empire under the noses of the mainstream media? No. Advertisers certainly didn’t care, because he had influence in the markets that they were interested in.

Shirky’s point is that for a functioning online community, all you really need is some kind of system for attaching reputation points to a user’s “handle” or pseudonym. Klout is trying to do that with a number that rises and falls based on your activity on networks like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Tumblr. It may not be the best system, and Klout has its share of critics, but it is the closest thing we have right now to a reputation graph that is based on Twitter and other social-network activity. If you behave badly and you lose followers, your ranking falls, regardless of what your name is.

That kind of penalty — a loss of status, a loss of followers, etc. — matters to most users (other than pure trolls, or what online researchers call “griefers”), and so they will behave in ways that protect it. It’s the same in successful online communities like Slashdot and Metafilter, where users have invested a lot of time in their online personas, whether they use their real names or not (I’ve talked about this before as being a little like levelling up in online games like World of Warcraft). And of course, the “real” names of many Twitter users and gamers can be discovered fairly easily with a web search.

Google has made it clear that it wants Google+ to become a central kind of “identity service” that it can build other services on, although it’s not clear what kinds. But the real-name requirement must be based on something other than just wanting to have a well-designed online community or network in which people are free to share information, because Twitter has shown that doing this doesn’t require real names — and never has.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr users Klobetime and Danny Cain

Written by Kees Winkel

September 18, 2011 at 16:40

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Facebook is huge in Asia—now the continent’s fourth largest nation

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These two interesting infographics developed by Ogilvy demonstrate the size and potential of Facebook in Asia.

It is well known (and much quoted) that, were it a country, Facebook would be the third most populated in the world. But did you know that, if it were a country in Asia (based on its Asian userbase), it would be the region’s fourth largest?

As shown in the graphic below—originally posted by Ogilvy’s Thomas Crampton—only China, India and Indonesia eclipse Facebook’s 179 million Asian ‘population’.

Furthermore, Asia is a fast-growing segment of Facebook’s total user-base, with the continent now responsible for a full quarter of all visits to the world’s largest social network.

The second graphic shows that the user-base for Facebook in some countries is equal to more than 50% of its total population. In essence, this means that Facebook is more popular in Singapore and Hong Kong than it is in the US, its own backyard.

Generally speaking, Internet access is an issue for many Asian countries, and that is reflected in some of these statistics.

While the data on the right hand side of the second graphic shows that in many Asian countries, more than sixty percent of those with Internet access (based on the national Internet penetration statistics) use Facebook, the percent of the overall population on Facebook is still considerably lower for a number of countries, including the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Vietnam. This can be explained by the low Internet penetration in these markets.

So, while Facebook is popular in India, for example, it has considerable room to grow if more people in the country can get access to the Internet.

It’s worth noting that these statistics does not include Internet access from mobile, a key Internet access point for so many across the continent, and therefore do not tell the full story. Many people can, and do, access Facebook when away from their PCs.

We cannot be sure just how how large the number of mobile Internet users is, but we do know that increasing mobile access, and the growth of smartphones, is helping to increase the number of Internet (and Facebook) users in Asia, and across the world.

All things considered, these statistics are interesting and help reinforce that, while Facebook has experienced a slump in western markets, it continues to thrive in developing continents like Asia, and clearly has the potential to grow even further.


Written by Kees Winkel

September 10, 2011 at 13:02

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Facebook Has Just Added In-Stream Ads – TNW Facebook

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Ads on Facebook have pretty much always had their place ; we know they’re going to pop up on the right hand side, clearly labelled under sponsored content. And up until the introduction of Sponsored Stories, we knew exactly what these ads looked like. They looked like – ads – promoting a service or company and following a standard format. Sponsored Stories changed that once when the content advertised became ‘natural’ stories on Facebook.

Now Facebook have gone one further than that and introduced something that has far-reaching consequences for the role of advertising on the site : ads in the newstream.

Now We Know Why The Ticker Was Built

When Facebook introduced its news ticker for apps, where you can see recent activity your friends have made on apps :

This is all well and good, as it provided a new way to discover friends’ activity on Facebook. But when this update was made, they kept something a little quieter – the fact that Sponsored Stories will now be appearing in this ticker as well. This is the first time that we have seen Facebook integrate advertising so seamless into the organically created content on the site, and it looks as if they’re experimenting with this in a ‘quieter’ place on the platform, away from the main newsfeed. As reported on Inside Social Games, the Sponsored Story will appear with the line ‘sponsored’ below, but this is hard to spot and apart from this it looks identical to the organic stories in the ticker :

This is a hugely significant change from Facebook, as it shows they are willing to blur the lines between natural and sponsored content in a way that they have never really done before. It seems as if they are testing this on the app news ticker softly, to gauge user reaction and the rate at which the sponsored stories are clicked ahead of the natural stories.

Read on via Facebook Has Just Added In-Stream Ads – TNW Facebook.

Written by Kees Winkel

September 2, 2011 at 08:41

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