Category: Software Studies


The Like economy: Social buttons and the data-intensive web

My co-authored article, with colleague Carolin Gerlitz, has been published in New Media & Society in Online First on February 4, 2013. Abstract The paper examines Facebook’s ambition to extend into the entire web by focusing on social buttons and developing a medium-specific platform critique. It contextualises the rise of buttons and counters as metrics for user engagement and links them to different web economies. Facebook’s Like buttons enable multiple data flows between various actors, contributing to a simultaneous de- and re-centralisation of the web. They allow the instant transformation of user engagement into numbers on button counters, which can be traded and multiplied but also function as tracking devices. The increasing presence of buttons and associated social plugins on the web creates new forms of connectivity between websites, introducing an alternative fabric of the web. Contrary to Facebook’s claim to promote a more social experience of the web, this paper explores the implementation and technical infrastructure of such buttons to conceptualise them as part of a so-called ‘Like economy’.   The full article is available from New Media & Society. A first version is available as a PDF but please note that this pre-peer-review version is substantially different from the final version.

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Video: Reworking the fabric of the web: The Like economy

Conference presentation at Unlike Us #2: Understanding Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Session 4: Software Matters Anne Helmond (NL) and Carolin Gerlitz (UK) – Reworking the fabric of the web: The Like economy. Conference Day 2: March 10 2012 Amsterdam, 11.00 – 12.30 Abstract In recent years, Facebook has increasingly expanded beyond the limits of its platform, first through social buttons and the Open Graph, and more recently through new possibilities of app development, frictionless sharing and differentiated Facebook actions. These digital devices allow Facebook to turn user interactivity instantly into valuable data, creating what we have described as a Like Economy. In this paper, we explore how the platform produces a very particular fabric of the web with its software design by focusing on social buttons, apps and actions. The introduction of social buttons and social plug-ins allowed for a partial opening of the platform as walled garden – carefully regulated by its Graph API – and led to an increasing decentralisation of the web. Yet, the new apps, sharing possibilities and actions introduce a recentralisation as content and user activities are designed to remain within the platform. By tracing the data- and content flows enabled between the platform and […]

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Visualization: Amazon recommendation network for “Software Studies: A Lexicon”

I recently came across a post on O’Reilly that highlighted Christopher Warnow’s network visualization for the book A Thousand Milieus. Warnow created a tool using Processing, based on the Gephi API, that retrieves the Amazon recommendation network for a book. You can download the tool, input your own book and visualize the recommendation network. The tool allows you to export the network as a PDF which unfortunately was, in my case, absolutely unreadable so I took a few hours to adjust the readability in Illustrator. It would be even nicer if you could export the network as a Gephi file for direct manipulation. With the tool I created the Amazon recommendation network for “Software Studies: A Lexicon” (see also my review of the book). The network could not only serve as a “what to read next” within the field but it also shows a couple of interesting clusters aligned to different strands within Software Studies or fields aligned with Software Studies. Download hi-res PDFs to explore the full map: Amazon recommendation network for “Software Studies: A Lexicon” (PDF) & Color-coded clusters within the Amazon recommendation network for “Software Studies: A Lexicon” (PDF) Thanks to Christopher Warnow’s effort to create this wonderful tool!

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Digital Methods Winterschool 2012: APIs – Variations and Change

After the introduction to APIs and API critiques Bernard Rieder talked about APIs from the perspective of  “Variation and Change.” This transcript is compiled from collaborative notes by the Digital Methods Initiative. API: a means and protocol for two systems to exchange data and functionality. APIs can be seen as data sources and as objects of study that can be historicized, analyzed, critiqued, etc. Before taking the API as a research object we also need to get a better understanding of “what we can get” out of APIs and asses our level of confidence when researching. The API can be used as a means to study a service and possibly the evolution of the Web? The ‘past’ Andrew D. Birrel and Bruce Jay Nelson, Implementing Remote Procedure Calls, ACM Transactions on Computer Systems 2(1):39-59, February 1984. Webservices, SOA –   XML-RPC, SOAP, WSDL – B2B, e-commerce Google SOAP Web API: 2002 (Java, .NET), Amazon Web Services: 2002 The history of APIs; they came out of business context, B2B, e-commerce transactions, to ensure transactional integrity. They were heavy protocols first written in ‘hard-core’ programming languages such as Java and not PEARL, PHP and JavaScript. The ‘turn’ Flickr (feb 2004), API (aug 2004): Easy to use API. Less about transactional integrity. […]

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Digital Methods Winterschool 2012: APIs as Interfaces to the Cloud

From 25-27 January 2012 we held our fourth annual Winter School with the theme “Interfaces for the Cloud: Curating the Data.” The first day consisted of paper presentations and responses/feedback. The second day we collaboratively kicked off a workshop on API critique where I started with an introduction to APIs and API critiques, followed by Bernhard Rieder on API variations and change, followed by Richard Rogers introducing project ideas for the next day and a half. This blogpost contains the slides and a pointy transcript of the morning session. Anne Helmond – Introduction to API critique What is an API? An application programming interface (API) is a source code based specification intended to be used as an interface by software components to communicate with each other. An API may include specifications for routines, data structures, object classes, and variables. (Wikipedia) “set of tools that developers can use to access structured data” (boyd and Crawford 2011) “Machine-interfaces for your application” (Bell p. 331) “software interface to your website” (Bell p. 332) “weaving the Guardian into the fabric of the web “(Bell p. 331) In Building Social Web Applications Graham Bell describes how being on the web was the cry of the 90s […]

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Funware: Wilfried Hou Je Bek – The programmer as shaman?

This series of reports on the Software Fun (Funware) symposium held on November 27, 2010 at Baltan Laboratories were commissioned by Baltan and MU. At the beginning of his talk Wilfried Hou Je Bek admits he is struggling with the idea of software and fun. He starts his talk with passages from William Burroughs, who was once in touch with a mysterious computer from Venus named Control: […] in Fulham Road Willy Deiches and Brenda Dunks, two would-be one-were computer operators with IBM who now function of their own (,) have perfected a scrapbook system from newspaper cuttings for predictions and assessments along the lines of Wm’s scrapbooks, but with a built-in 24-hour mathematics of their coordinate points for greater accuracy. They also claimed to be in touch with Control in Venus through IBM Seattle. Questions may be put to Control at 12 shillings a time (it used to be free) and the answers are interesting. Wm has sent in a whole lot and we are waiting for these answers … (Anthony Balch to BG, November 4 1968)… Q: What is word ? A: Word is ETC. W: What does ETC mean ? A: Electrical time control. Q: what is virus […]

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