Discussing the world's irrevocable digital conversion and its influence on democracy.

UGC and participation — Everyone is speaking, it’s time to listen.

This final blog post will be all about participation — something I think is a crucial component of everything we’ve talked about up until this point. Remix culture, anon/occupy, international communications and revolutions, everything we’ve talked about in how democracy and social media have intersected has come about because people decided to participate in something bigger than themselves. 

The approach that media scholars take toward participation has to change, I think. I want to frame this post around that. 

Both papers address participation in a general sense as something involving the media process that people not associated with the media (As an out-group, almost) actively take steps in doing. However, the way that the two authors seem to vary that does have its differences. Jonsson, when qualifying what “high participation” meant, used a system that said that it was content made for the news process by someone in the out-group without being asked to — yet, that information can/will fit within the boundaries of the news agency. Tacchi, however, points out that participation needs to be more than simply a marketing buzzword. It must be an action that empowers those without a voice in the world of “news.” And deeper than that, participation needs to step out of the traditional bounds of frame within the standard news process. 

Tacchi’s approach is something I firmly agree with. Assumptions of what participation means has got to change in media studies. We cannot assume the early 2000’s “CNN iReport” model as what participation means. Because it’s not really participation in the greater scene of what news is. It’s participating in CNN’s news process. Which is still participation, I guess, but with how connected everyone is through social networks It’s simply not a realistic model for the current age. 

Perhaps this is where I’m personally far too nieve, but I feel like the Jonsson model, which I’ve seen used a dozen times in other studies, far outweighs news as a noun and underweights news as a verb. Just like boyd talked about celebrity as an abstract process, I think, moving forward, that news needs to be seen in its stripped down classical dynamic. News needs to be seen as the act of taking information and distributing it to a wider audience for the greater good of society. That’s it. “Participation” needs to be studies as the contribution to that process, not as fitting in to existing hegemonic systems. What’s really more powerful, in the long run? Tweeting something live from a scene as an “untrained” journalist and having your info seen by hundreds of people directly? Or sending in the photo and hoping that some editor somewhere and hoping it gets shown somewhere on an obscure corner of a traditional site?  

The media world has changed. And so the academic approach to participation needs to as well. 


Remix — A look at the punk rock culture of hands-off borrowing.

For this assignment, I took a look at how the punk scene has approached copyright in a hands-off way, and how the foundations of borrowing and sampling sounds has helped evolved the music over time.

Blog Post 10 – Comments.

I did not complete the assignment this week, so here are my comments instead:


Elections and citizen journalism

Both articles draw an interesting web among traditional media content creators, new media content creators, and those running or an elected office. 

In the Akoh & Ahiabenu article looks at 10 African nations to examine how the growth of new media — from SMS to Facebook — has potentially increased the quality of both elections and traditional media content. They point out that elections across the continent, and even across their sample, are varied in quality and consistency. What they ultimately determine that online media, largely produced by non-professional and less-skilled individuals, plays a vital role in monitoring the activities of those running for office because of the nature of it’s moveable and loose-knit construction. This is partially due to increased technological infrastructure  but also increased interest in more democratic elections and more media input. 

Switching gears to Kaufhold et. al., they conducted a survey looking at trust, knowledge, and participation among those who consume traditional media and citizen media. Trust ended up being the same with both (Which is really interesting, and I feel like I could rant about that some, but I wont), professional media ended up with slightly more knowledgeably when they also trusted the content, whereas the citizen media consumers, when they also trusted the content, tended to be more politically active. 

I think both articles have an overlap in that they discuss emerging trends of involvement. But not just involvement in politics or media, but both, with both being intrinsically motivated by the desire to see more democratic existence. 

I don’t think the cross-comparisons can be made that well, at least not directly, as the way people approach and care about politics in Africa is largely different that the U.S., and South America as a whole, really. I’d like to see the mechanics of the Kaufhold survey conducted in those African nations to see the result, as I’d imagine that the results would be similar. I would not be surprised, however, if the African results put a stronger connection to political involvement with those who conduct and share citizen journalism. The Internet is harder to come by, as Akoh points out, so those willing to go to that kind of trouble most likely are very involved. However, I also think that if the Kaufhold, mechanic were conducted in Africa, those with Internet connection who are conducting citizen journalism would also be the most knowledgable — they would use the tools on the Internet to inherently learn more about the processes being utilized. 

I was especially interested in Kaufhold’s result about people trusting both types of media, as the research area I want to get involved in is trust and media message. I’d like to see how trust also plays into the Akoh study.

Storify for Twitter presentation

If you click that link, it will take you to the Storify page for the presentation Sese and I put together about Twitter, (mostly real) celebrities and (sometimes fake) politicians.

Viral Online Media — Organically grown fake quotes?

Let me begin by saying that I really enjoyed the Berger & Milkman article, and I’ve added it to the pile of literature to use for my dissertation idea. I’m interested in looking at something very similar to Berger & Milkman, however, I’m interested in the spread of things that are not true — rumor and misinformation — between nodes in online social networks. I’m probably going to achieve that by using a mixed-method SNA/experiment, analyzing placement of the messenger in a given participant’s egocentric network.

But enough of my gibberish.

Berger & Milkman propose that there are three different elements that act as triggers for heuristics that help move a piece of media forward — increased anger, increased amusement, and decreased sadness. These are classical elements of psycho-physiological arousal.

The KONY video does indeed fit with those elements. Maybe not amusement, but certainly anger. The video was designed, through its tone, visual presence, and other elements, to make you angry about the actions of Joseph Kony and the LRA in Uganda. I think the emphasis of that inherent arousal of anger really did help the spread of the video around, but it from RTing it, sharing it on FB, etc.

This distinction, I think, is something I’ve noticed missing a little bit in literature on this topic. I wonder if this kind of distinction is needed — the different between organic and non-organic beginnings of viral media. Because with KONY2012, the intentions of Invisible Children was to get the video as spread as possible. I’m good friends with someone who works in marketing and promotions for Invisible Children, and I know leading up to the video and the month after the launch, she was working 16-hour days, seven days a week. She was posting the video on social link aggregators, contacting media about the video, etc. I think this is inherently different that the absurdly large 7,000 link sample analyzed by Berger & Milkman. The NYT wrote those articles, posted them, and then whatever happens with them, happens. They didn’t have ’round-the-clock marketing promoting the links.

I think, moving forward, researchers examining “viral” need to begin making that distinction. I don’t think that makes organic or non-organic viral any more or less important than the other, simply that the motivation and actions between the two are inherently different, and execute through different mechanisms.

Now, onto my example of a viral thing on the Internet — I’m going back to the very thing that spawned by desire to do what I’m probably doing with my dissertation. And I think it fits well with the Berger & Milkman article:

Shortly after news broke that the U.S. had killed Osama Bin Laden, a 24-year-old English middle school teacher in Japan posted the following Facebook status:

“I will mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. ‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that,’ MLK Jr.”

However, that got corrupted by people taking only the first sentence, which was written by the teacher, and turning it into an MLK quote, which went viral:

“‘I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.’ – Martin Luther King, Jr”.

It exploded on Twitter and Facebook, with celebrities posting it as well. Thousands of people were RTing it, to the point that even my own feed was full of the quote.

Here’s an awesome news article about it:

Out of Osama’s Death, a Fake Quotation Is Born

And a great explanation of the intentions of the creator:

Anatomy of a Fake Quotation

I think this fits the elements presented by Berger & Milkman nicely. It’s something that fits a given situation and relies on decreased sadness. Whereas the KONY2012 video relied on, I believe, anger to spread the video around, the quotation decreased the sadness intensity of the moment, which allowed it to get picked up from one single woman’s Facebook status and churned throughout the world.

I also think this is an awesome example of an organic piece of viral media. The intentions of the original poster was to make a statement — not to spread it forever.

Twitter — Press, Brands, Celebs.

First of all, follow my professional Twitter account — @MrRiley_Writes 

I followed three lists from the Listorious site: “Media,” “World News Brands,” and “NFL-players.” For me, this was a strategic selection. Two of the groups — Media and NFL, were mostly individuals. Within those differentiations, the atheletes were using their Twitter accounts for both brand management and personal interaction, whereas the news media individuals were largely using their presence for promotion to their employment. On the other side, the “Brands” were exactly that — they were representative of larger companies or publications. 

To me, this showed a nice variety in different uses for Twitter. Especially when I consider the point of the Marwick & boyd article (If I may, I’m a big an of danah boyd. I sort of consider her a role model of sorts), which was that “celebrity” is almost more of a verb, or a behavior in a sense, than a noun. 

Looking just at the NFL players list, I see kicker Rob Bironas interacting with a fan who had asked him what he had written on his arm during today’s game. Clay Matthews tweeted a photo of a little girl in a Packers uniform doing an impression of him, with the question “whose kid is this?!?” That sort of thing is common among a lot of NFL players on this list — they interact with fans who ask them questions, fostering a sense of intimacy and dialogue. They also conversate with other players in the league, like Donte Stallworth talking with Brandon Lloyd about his catch being in-bounds or not. This allows fans to see that interaction. 

The news media personalities are slightly different. I didn’t see nearly as much interaction with fans, however I did see some interaction with each other (Bloggers tweeting other bloggers, for example). It seems like mostly it’s posting links and promoting back for the company they work for. It was “worse” for the news brands. Pretty much all they did was post news links and promote their own work. 

And that’s not a bad thing at all. But I think, just going by Marwick & boyd’s definition of celebrity as a behavior  the athletes met that criteria quite a bit more than the journalists — but then again, that may just be the nature of the game. 

Moving on to the Wilson perspective, I didn’t see any faking going on — which is kind of a bummer. I was really hoping that I would see a few. I follow some in real life, but there were not any in the lists I was following. However, I think some things are still applicable. Namely, Wilson talks about the idea of a changing, engaged audience. No longer is news something like a pill hidden in a hunk of cheese for a dog. Political news is something we can either take or leave. And those who are choosing to take it are taking more and more of it all the time. 

When I look at the news accounts, especially in the World News Brands list, I see A LOT of RT-ing. I was seeing NYTWorld and Mumbai Times tweets that were getting RTed hundreds of times — and who knows how many times it was RTed from those hundreds. 

Just looking back while writing this, 9 minutes ago, the LA Times @LAtimes Tweeted that the former king of Cambodia had died. In those 9 minutes, it already had 14 RTs. 

While I didn’t see as much participatory culture as I did with the athletes, I did see more engagement on the RT side of things. I think this goes back to Wilson’s poing of an intrinsically engaged audience. People interested in political news are going to follow political news portals. 

And that’s an interesting intersect of both articles. The modern Twitter world is engaged in two powerful things — intimacy/access, and a widely engaged audience. And I think that is a powerful crossroad at which to be. 

Hacktivism and pirate culture — Stop helping.

I think the temptation in this assignment is to find where the hacktivism was seen as a positive.

However, I decided to go with an example where the hacktivism was actually seen as not helping the perception of online activist culture.

Forbes from May 2012 — Pirate Bay Scolds Anonymous Hackers For Cyberattacks On Its Behalf

Like Lindgren and Lundström analyzed in their work (Which I now know how to read, thanks to taking social network analysis) the social-collectivist attitudes that become present in computer-mediated social spaces can help ferment “hacktivist” mindsets. And in this situation, post-Pirate Bay’s takedown, that mindset again showed itself. The Forbes article indicates that Anonymous was using Twitter to communicate their plans and ideology in their attacks on Virgin and others, similar to Lindgren and Lundström’s look at calls to action. As the Forbes article states, Anonymous used their Twitter feed to comment that they were indeed taking action, and did respond when Pirate Bay told them to stop — although I don’t know if they actually halted the DDoS.

In my opinion — this could be construed as a political action, but ultimately I don’t believe that it was, personally. This is perhaps one of the only things I’m sort of conservative about. I think a lot of the claims by Internet groups like Anonymous or those in darknet culture that claim they really strive for Internet democracy actually want to steal. The issue it seems most have against the takedown of Pirate Bay isn’t a philosophical issue with freedom of action online, it’s them being upset that their favoriet torrent site got taken down.

I’m all about free and open distribution of things that were made and designed to be freely shared. I’m obsessed with freeware. I’ve never paid for a mobile application because someone always makes a better version for free that everyone can update and help fix. I use shareware academic software for social network analysis. I love remix and remix culture, where the action is that of sampling. I think Wikipedia is revolutionary.

What I don’t like is theft and blatant copyright violation. Stuff like movies, TV shows, video games, etc., cost money to make, and a lot of people work for a long time to make these things possible. I’m not saying I’ve never done it in my past, but I don’t try to justify it, either.

In my opinion, this was a criminal action — the DDoS, at least. And I think that Pirate Bay showed a smidgen of responsibility by telling Anonymous to back off. From a PR perspective, this helps Pirate Bay out quite a bit, I think. Pirate Bay’s main argument needs to be that it was a conduit for people to share files, not that they were explicitly looking to cause havoc.

Looking at the events with Pirate Bay and Anonymous, the actions of Anonymous were very similar to their past actions: Coordinated attacks against a target seemingly responsible for limited “pirate culture”

But I personally feel that actions like these — attacking those who protect copyright and host sites who do so — cheapens legitimate hacktivism.

And I do think there can be legitimate hacktivism — an example being the very same Anonymous attacking Iranian government servers that were blocking open Internet in Iran during the Green Revolution. Or those who posted mirror sites for WikiLinks. Or those who opened up channels for those in Egypt and Libya during the Arab Spring.

Attacking copyright enforcement agencies makes beneficial online activism seem like behavior only used so people can get free things.

Privacy and Online Media — +3 for being mayor.

The service I chose is Foursquare, a location-based application used on mobile phones. 

Here’s the link to the privacy policy. 

The way Foursquare works, the application uses your phone’s GPS to “check in” into various locations that are programmed into the system by users.  Your friends on the system can see where you check in. Checking in gets you points, with extra points if you’re the “mayor,” or the one with the most check-ins at that location. 

It’s an interesting dynamic for this assignment, as Foursquare takes something inherently private — where you are, geographically — and has the user voluntarily hand that information over. 

I’ll admit, I use Foursquare all the time — even to announce when I’m at my apartment, which then shows where my apartment is. I made a Foursquare location for my office downstairs in Weimer. So not only does Foursquare fit in the dynamic that Fuchs and Kovacs talked about in their article and video respectively, it’s also something I personally battle with. 

Both Fuchs and Cho et al. talk about opt-out vs. opt-in. (Cho et al. looking at it in a loaded factor analysis with other privacy forms) Upon looking at Foursquare’s privacy form, the product does report that you can opt-out of Google Analytics collecting information. However, in the same section of the privacy form, it doesn’t explicitly say that opting out of the G-A sending will prevent your information from being used for specialized advertisements, which they say: “deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you.” 

An interesting dynamic talked about by Kovacs, and demonstrated by the Collusion plug-in, is the idea of third-party searching. According to the Foursquare privacy policy, this is allowed. Essentially, Foursquare says it won’t sell your personal profile information to third parties, but if they advertisers they allow on the site have imbedded data-mining software that tracks your actions, well, then take it up with the advertisers (In fewer words).  

I’d imagine that this is something that those in individualistic cultures, like Cho et al. writes about, would be less than pleased about. 

I’d imagine Fuchs would be none-too-pleased about this bit, either: Foursquare explicitly states that all check-ins, photos posted to check-ins, comments on check-ins, likes, and other user-generated content is open to be used by Foursquare for promotional materials on their own site — and here is the kicker — if data-searching programs trawl Foursquare and happen to collect your info based on that, then it wasn’t really Foursquare’s doing. If you don’t like that, don’t use the service, in fewer words.

This is a concept Fuchs talks about — the users doing all the work, yet they do it for no money. They are exploited as users.

And I think Foursquare fits that so very well. Because unlike things like Facebook and web browsers, Foursquare is actual locations. Geographic places on the map. Where you live, where you work, where you eat. 

Fuchs talks about the kid who posts photos and posts and likes to Facebook as the exploited worker. What about the person using Foursquare — they actually have to GO somewhere. 

Most of all, I think the interesting dynamic, after watching the video and reading both articles — Foursquare doesn’t talk about geotracking data on its privacy form, that I can see. Do they scrape data from your phone’s GPS even when you don’t use the system? I don’t know. 

Will I keep using Foursquare? Probably. Will I think about the implications of my actions more now? Probably. 

Foreign Policy & the Internet — What do Orlando and Pyongyang have in common?


Ok, so off the bat, I’m using a column by John Feffer that compares the North Korean approach to stifling free speech, assembly and expression to market-control approaches used by Disney.

Exaggeration? Probably. But based on the two readings this week, I think there might be some truth somewhere within. Feffer argues that the North Korean dictator watching Disney is not some kind of tell-all that he’ll be a reformer, or will allow more Westernization, or really will do anything different than his father or grandfather. The reason is because of Disney’s corporate structure — one of creating a false sense of agreement, of shutting down individualism, and actively spying on those who dare speak up.

Starting with the Shirky reading, he (Of whom I am a really big fan) talks about the need for the U.S. to foster open communication in repressed societies abroad. Shirky, like Comor & Bean, argues that the U.S. cannot simply open up access to Google and Facebook and hope everything comes out OK — U.S. foreign diplomacy must be engaged in opening up broad personal-communication channels, such as text messaging. Which, Shirky adds, are not simply under fire in southern-hemisphere dictatorships — South Korea has dabbled in these restrictions as well. The reason is because things like text messaging and instant messaging have the powerful ability to cause a cascade where dissatisfied people find out they are not alone in being dissatisfied on a big scale.

Comor & Bean add another element to this by suggesting that the U.S. needs to start thinking about the big picture of social engagement and conversation instead of thinking like a salesman. Disingenuous use of Facebook and Twitter, for example, is seen as such by those in the countries the U.S. is trying to sway. Simply using Facebook to deliver the same kind of sales tactics will do the opposite of what you want by giving people the ability to point out that you’re not listening to what they have to say, you’re just posting a sales pitch. And it’s clear that a sales pitch is the point, as Comor & Bean point out, both Bush and Obama hired people with backgrounds in sales and marketing, not diplomacy, to try to grow these dialogues in the Middle East.

Looking at the idea that North Korea operates like Disney, what Shirky and Comor & Bean suggest starts to make a lot of sense.

The U.S. would do good to look at this dynamic between North Korea and Disney, specifically when dealing with foreign relations with North Korea. As Comor & Bean critique, treating diplomacy like marketing, using traditional public relations concepts, isn’t going to work. Yes, Disney is a successful company when it comes to making money, controlling corporate message, and hooking in users. But then again, if that’s how we’re judging success, is North Korea not successful? They control the message of their regime. People worship the dictator and state as almost holy beings. Dissent is frowned upon. Some may disagree, but most don’t know that others too disagree. How do we as a country share our fingers at their utter control of the message when it shares so many similarities with what we want to do in places like the Middle East, or back at North Korea?

This should be a solid example that you can have one of two things: Freedom or control. North Korea, like Disney, has a lot of control. In classical PR literature, like Comor & Bean argue, this is a good thing. But, as both Comor & Bean and largely Shirky argue, the reputation of the U.S. needs to be more than a marketing message — it needs to be a protector and fosterer of freedom, even if that freedom leads to oppositional voices to that of U.S. policy.