Notes from #MIT8: ‘Social Media Platforms between Private, Public and Commercial Space’ – Curation by Algorithm

On Friday, May 3rd I attended the ‘Social Media Platforms between Private, Public and Commercial Space’ panel where Tarleton Gillespie talked about Curation by Algorithm. Based on his chapter ‘The Relevance of Algorithms’ [pdf] in the forthcoming book Media Technologies Gillespie posed a few questions: 1. What do these algorithms do? Algorithms are part of the broader ‘content moderation’ picture where devices, search engines and algorithms help us sift through an enormous amount of content, for example by implementing recommendation algorithms. They also help present a carefully managed experience for first users by constructing a welcoming environment filled with (introduction) content or by guiding users to navigate them through the interface. 2. How are these algorithms understood? Algorithms are often discussed in terms of filtering or censoring content, as put forward in The Filter Bubble, but to what extent do algorithms act on or are entangled in practices of censorship by other means? Gillespie shows the example of Apple’s voice search Siri which couldn’t find any abortion clinics when searching for them. While Apple quickly responded that this was a ‘glitch’ and not an intentional omission it caused a ‘Siri is pro-life’ controversy. However, what actually happened is that Siri is a voice interface on top of search engines and […]

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Notes from #MIT8: ‘The Internet as Archive’ panel – Censorship by Algorithm

On Friday, May 3, I presented my paper Exploring the Boundaries of a Website: Using the Internet Archive to Study Historical Web Ecologies in ‘The Internet as Archive’ panel at MIT8. Co-panelist Chris Peterson talked about user-generated censorship as a form of censorship by algorithm. He gave a few examples of this type of censorship: First, the example of Facebook users flagging J30Strike.org links which led to Facebook blocking all links to J30Strike.org and subsequently blocking links from websites linking to J30Strike.org. Second, the example of the Digg Patriots group which down votes all liberal articles to game the system into displaying more conservative articles on the Digg frontage. This type of user-generated censorship by ‘playing’ the algorithm that organizes content is related to Taina Bucher’s work on the threat of algorithmic invisibility on Facebook where she argues that the Facebook algorithm is designed in such a way that constant interaction with friends and the platform is needed in order to be visible to your friends in their NewsFeed. The algorithm does not only play an important role in the organization of content and friends but also in the (in)visibility of content and friends. Whereas on Facebook users may optimize their behavior/interactions […]

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MIT8 Talk: Exploring the Boundaries of a Website. Using the Internet Archive to Study Historical Web Ecologies

Slides and notes from my conference presentation “Exploring the Boundaries of a Website. Using the Internet Archive to Study Historical Web Ecologies” at MiT8: public media, private media. May 3-5, 2013 at MIT, Cambridge, MA. 1. I’m Anne, a PhD candidate and lecturer in New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam. I am part of a research group called the Digital Methods Initiative which is dedicated to developing digital methods and tools to analyze and map web data. In this paper I want to, first, explore the boundaries of a website and propose to reconceptualize the website as an ecology, and second, to put the Internet Archive to new uses by proposing a new method to reconstruct historical web ecologies using Internet Archive data. 2. What are the boundaries of a website? Where does a website begin and end? With the shift towards the web as platform, or Web 2.0, the boundaries of a website become become difficult to establish and delineate. In the early days of the web, often referred to as Web 1.0 or the ‘Web-as-information- source’, websites were created by webmasters and were fairly self-contained units as most content was stored on the same server […]

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On algorithmic friendship, a belated April Fools’ joke

While I was updating my DevonThink today I visited their blog Devonian Times and noticed I missed one of the best April Fools’ jokes related to my research: CareTaker for Facebook is here! Some people say that our apps are not “social” enough now with Facebook and Twitter being still the main trends in the industry. We listened and proudly present a brand new freeware app: CareTaker for Facebook. Never get your friends kicked out of your news feed again. Don’t get calls from annoyed friends telling you that you don’t like their posts. And all this without wasting even more time on Facebook. Once signed in to your Facebook account CareTaker takes care of your friends and fully automatically likes their posts or comments that match the rules you set up. Create rules based on your DEVONthink databases (likes all posts that fit your interests according to your document collection) or use RegEx for even more control. Our unique Artificial Intelligence technology not only does the matching but also creates meaningful, human-looking replies for you. Finally the Toady Mode likes every of your boss’ posts and comments on them with an AI-crafted variant of “That’s great!”. CareTaker for Facebook will be available starting today for free […]

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Dataflows en de politieke economie van sociale media platformen

Transcript van mijn lezing tijdens de studiemiddag voor alumni van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen over sociale media. Universiteit van Amsterdam, 5 april 2013. 1. Introductie Dank voor de uitnodiging. Mijn naam is Anne Helmond en ik ben docent-promovendus bij Mediastudies bij Nieuwe Media en Digitale Cultuur. Hier doe ik onderzoek binnen de onderzoeksgroep het Digital Methods Initiative naar het web als platform en hoe we onze onderzoeksmethoden moeten aanpassen om het web als een ecologie te bestuderen. 2. Mediatie van processen door software Vandaag zal ik het hebben over de onderliggende infrastructuren van het sociale web en hoe hiermee de economische relaties van het huidige sociale media landschap worden georganiseerd. Deze korte lezing gaat in op hoe sociale media platformen relaties en activiteiten structureren aan zowel de voorkant als de achterkant van hun platformen. Om te begrijpen hoe de relaties tussen platformen en gebruikers worden georganiseerd, moeten we kijken naar de rol van zowel menselijke actoren als niet-menselijke actoren die processen mediëren, zoals de technische infrastructuur. Het uitgangspunt hierbij is het platform-specifieke karakter van sociale media platformen waar we een assemblage zien van software, databases, interfaces, content, activiteiten, gebruikers en externe webmasters die samen het platform vormen. Dit zal worden geïllustreerd […]

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Oliver Leistert and Leighton Evans on the Political Economy of Facebook Mobile at Unlike Us #3

Oliver Leistert introduced and moderated the session on the Mobile Use of Social Media with the often overlooked fact that Facebook nowadays has more mobile users than web users. This calls for a critical analysis of the Facebook platform expanding into the mobile market not only through apps but also through telecom infrastructures. Besides m.facebook.com, the mobile website for Facebook on smartphones, the platform has developed several other interfaces on top of its platform that do not require a smartphone and can be accessed using particular “dumb” phones. The first example is Zero Facebook, introduced in May 2010, which can be accessed through selected mobile operators free of charge. Facebook Zero uses the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), an “old” mobile protocol which is not available anymore on most modern smartphones but is usually integrated in many so-called “dumb” phones. A second example is Facebook by Fonetwish which uses the USSD protocol: Fonetwish is an USSD based interactive service which brings the power of internet to every mobile phone. Fonetwish provides access to facebook from any mobile phone without the requirement of any data(internet) connection. Just dial *325# from your mobile phone and get started, fonetwish provides all the major features of facebook like status update, wall post, […]

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