Social Media, the Separation of Time and Space, and a Plea for a Critical Look at Technology

Considered by James Carey to be the first medium of electronic communication, the telegraph was a revolutionary development, since it was the first communication medium to separate time and space for the purposes of communication. Before the invention of the telegraph, message speed was bound to how fast a messenger could travel: by foot, horse, or railroad. After the invention of the telegraph, messages could travel faster than a messenger ever could. This development thus had ripple effects on markets, democratic participation and community.

A picture of a telegraph machine
Telegraph by SparkFun Electronics. Available on Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/fCs2oC (CC by 2.0)

 

 

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Social Media, the Separation of Time and Space, and a Plea for a Critical Look at Technology

Celebrity “trumps” truth: The key difference between the liberal press and Twitter

Today, The Verge published an article stating that Twitter has drawn a small line in the sand with respect to the tweeting habits of the 45 president of the United States. Adi Robertson reports that Twitter has suggested that while it is important not to censor or remove important public figures like the president from the platform, it will draw the line at “tweets that reveal a private address or phone number”. Of course, not all people agree with this stand. For example, Sam Harris clearly stated in a recent podcast that he thinks Trump should be banned from Twitter, since the damage he can do via a Tweet is just so great. Twitter’s response though, is one worth considering. When is it appropriate to silence a public figure on a platform like Twitter? And when is it actually in the public interest to support a person’s right to make even crazy or patently false claims on the site?

A tweet made my Donald Trump in which he complains about fake news
A tweet made by Donald Trump: Picture from “Mother Jones” http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/donald-trump-edits-tweet/

 

 

 

 

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Celebrity “trumps” truth: The key difference between the liberal press and Twitter

A Level Playing Field? Social Media Logic and the Breakdown of Democratic Communication

When the participatory web was new, activists and researchers alike were excited by the potential of this new medium to connect groups without the need for conventional gatekeepers. Because social media allows anyone to post information that anyone (everyone) else can theoretically access, it changed the broadcast model of communication from a one to many (or point to multi-point) to a many to many (or multi-point to multi-point) system. Initially, this change delivered on its promise, facilitating movements like #occupy, #idlenomore, and #blacklivesmatter. More recently, however, even though social media still connects people and facilitates some political organization, it has also revealed its darker side.

A handwritten protest sign, reading: The revolution will not be televised but it will be downloaded and streamed live
Protest Sign05 by a.mina. Available from Flikr: https://flic.kr/p/audzig

 

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A Level Playing Field? Social Media Logic and the Breakdown of Democratic Communication

Learning is Uncomfortable, or Why Self Help is Misleading

If you find your calling, everything will fall into place. You will receive a “sense of energy” or “flow”. Your inner voice will speak its “truth” and you will always feel like you have made the right choice. If you “align your personality with your purpose then no one can touch you“. Sound familiar? These might, because I’ve pulled them from popular life advice articles. These claims sound right to us, they sound (much like, it’s claimed our calling does) true. But I believe that I see evidence every day in the classroom that these claims and ones like them do us a grave disservice when it comes to our own personal development, growth and learning.

A picture of hot air balloons over a desert with inspiring words written on it
Balloons by foam. Available from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/oqvMzp

Why are these beliefs troublesome? They feel right, and everyone wants to find their calling in life. By simplifying purpose though, I think they overlook important facts about how difficult true growth is, and how meaningful the experience of difficulty can be for growth. Though not explicit, the unspoken subtext of this and similar advice is this: If you find your true calling, if your purpose is aligned with your true self, then the steps you take in the process of achieving that calling will be smooth and without struggle. And this is just plain wrong. On the contrary – most meaningful growth requires tremendous struggle. Learning is uncomfortable.

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Learning is Uncomfortable, or Why Self Help is Misleading

Just Because I Grade You, Doesn’t Mean I’m Judging Your Intelligence

Just in time for the term to end, and grading to begin at many institutions, I wanted to write about how I, and almost all other instructors or professors I know, view the grading process. I think it’s important as a student to approach assignments with this view in mind, as it will help you to let go of some of the feelings or road blocks that may be currently holding you back.

A stamp on plywood stating "Grade B" in large block letters
Grade B: Upper Queen Street, Ruined House. By wonderferret. Available on Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/33XsFf

Just because I grade your work, doesn’t mean I judge your intelligence, or your abilities, or your worth as a human being or contribution as an individual. That’s not what grading assignments is about at all. At least, not to me. Continue reading “Just Because I Grade You, Doesn’t Mean I’m Judging Your Intelligence”

Just Because I Grade You, Doesn’t Mean I’m Judging Your Intelligence

Goliath vs. Goliath: Or Why the Net Neutrality Debate is Complicated

You may have noticed that net neutrality was in the news quite a bit this week after US FCC Chairman Ajit Pai tried to slip a release into the pre-long weekend news burial ground stating that he plans to roll back any legislation related to Net Neutrality. In response to this, Netflix released a statement that it opposes any attempts to roll back net neutrality rules. Back in July, when the idea of gutting net neutrality law was first floated under the Trump administration, all of the major platform players such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon, spoke out against these proposed regulations. But a Google search that I conducted this morning shows news in which Twitter, Pinterest, AirBnB and of course the aforementioned Netflix make statements opposing the new legislation while Facebook and Google are conspicuously absent.

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Goliath vs. Goliath: Or Why the Net Neutrality Debate is Complicated

Because You’re a Media Company

Yesterday, Sandy Parakilas published an insightful op-ed in the NY Times. Titled We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself. In this article, Parakilas,  a developer for Facebook leading up to the 2012 IPO, describes Facebook as “a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse.” Parakilas writes:

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

In my PhD dissertation, completed in 2013, I made this very point from the outside, arguing for strong evidence that Facebook is in essence a media company rather than the technology provider that at that time they claimed to be. There is an important difference between a technology company and a media company of course. A technology company doesn’t tend to make money off of advertising whereas advertising is essential for media companies. What is particularly insidious about Facebook, as highlighted in Parakilas’ op-ed, is that beyond simply providing attention to advertisers, Facebook also mines and sells user data.

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Because You’re a Media Company

Twitter politics, polarization and a lack of trust in media: The case of #cdnmedia

One of the hallmarks of the last year of US politics has been a steady stream of messages from the president about “fake news” or the “lying media”. Arguably, this has been a mainstay of Trump’s political strategy since he announced his run for the presidency, and it remains a tactic that he employs, and his followers seem to take at face value. So it’s not surprising to learn that in the US, trust in traditional media is at an all time low. In fact, recent research from the American Press Institute and Associated Press shows that 41% of Americans report having hardly any confidence in the traditional press.

Hashtag symbols painted on concrete
Hashtag by Susanne Nilsson. Available from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/VeKQb7

What was surprising for me though, as a Canadian researcher, was learning that this is more than just an American issue. In Canada, Statistics Canada reports that only 40% of Canadians report feeling confidence in the national media. With so much information available from so many different sources, it seems as though we just don’t know who or what we should trust anymore. This is true in 2017 and, unfortunately, my research also shows evidence of this trend as early as our Federal election in 2015. We collected thousands of tweets in the month leading up to the 2015 federal election, and we analyzed a sample of them using corpus analysis software along with human content analysis.

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Twitter politics, polarization and a lack of trust in media: The case of #cdnmedia

Why Does Fake News Spread on Social Media? Because Of Our Caveman Brains

In a world of 24/7 cable news, round the clock Amazon Deliveries, and infinite social media notifications, it’s been difficult to not notice how the ways we interact with each other and information is changing each passing day. Chief among these changes of course is the problem of fake news (#fakenews, I guess) or the spread of misinformation in an online environment. Some people blame Facebook and Twitter, who are currently in the news for the role their platforms played in Russian trolling of the 2016 US election. Their involvement notwithstanding, it seems to me that though the platforms had a role to play in the spread of fake news, it was more a passive role in which they took advantage of human frailty, rather than an active one in which their algorithms spread fake news because it’s more exciting content or something. Allow me to explain.

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Why Does Fake News Spread on Social Media? Because Of Our Caveman Brains

Why I Don’t Use Facebook: Part 3

This is part three in a series which details why I think you can be an effective social media advisor, even if you are not personally on Facebook yourself. In this post, I’m going to briefly discuss some of the personal reasons why I do not engage on Facebook, and why I’m thinking about withdrawing my participation from social media completely. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Even if you don’t work in a social media or technology-related field, sometimes keeping up with social media can feel like a second full time job. For some, this second job is worth it, but for others, it might not be, and social media use is more a compulsion, something you do out of habit, even when it stops feeling fun. Like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, or a regular sugar habit, this activity initially delivers feelings of happiness, euphoria or satisfaction, only to devolve into a monkey on the users’ back.

Continue reading “Why I Don’t Use Facebook: Part 3”

Why I Don’t Use Facebook: Part 3