The Future of Identity in a Digital World by Tobias Leingruber at Unlike Us #3

Facebook as an identity provider Tobias Leingruber, a member from the Free Art and Technology (F.A.T.) Lab, discussed the future of (online) identity in relation to Facebook. He started his talk with an anecdote of bouncers at nightclubs checking attendees’ Facebook accounts on their phones as a way of identification, see BBC’s article on “Bouncers ‘checking Facebook on phones’ as identification.” This implies an interesting shift from traditional identity mechanisms, where the ID is provided by the state (the passport or the driving license) to the social network profile as an un-official identification to enter a club. Facebook has become a very prominent identification mechanism online with Facebook Login (previously known as Facebook Connect) which is used by webmasters and game developers to use the Facebook platform as an identity provider. This is often done because Facebook has a real-name policy: “Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you’re connecting with.” (Facebook Help). The consequence of the increasing presence of Facebook as an identity provider is that in some cases websites cannot be accessed, apps cannot be run or blog posts cannot be commented upon, before identifying with and […]

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Minds Without Bodies: Rites of Religions 2.0 by Karlessi from Ippolita at Unlike Us #3

Karlessi from the Italian research group Ippolita talks about the increasing data production of web users and how we contribute to measurement systems and the dissemination of real-time dataflows often discussed in terms of big data. He argues that big data is not only produced for “Big Brothers” but that the act behind the production of this data, for example tweeting, liking, sharing and commenting have become rituals inscribed in the mediation of sociality by platforms. Mediated rituals For Karlessi the ritual recalls the flow of water where a rite is something that flows, changes but also repeats itself in proceeding. These repeated practices can become rituals of interaction to “make things happen” in a relatively predictable manner. Such procedures, for example established rituals, are structured in a predictable manner and therewith are the very means to control crowds. In Crowds and Power (1960) Canetti describes how we do rituals to avoid open crowd eruption whereas in Religion for Atheists (2012) Alain de Botton discusses rituals as a way to organize communities (in both religious and secular states). In secular societies we still have many rituals and the inscribed mechanisms within social media platforms. Karlessi jokes how it’s very good […]

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Facebook Demetricator and the Easing of Prescribed Sociality by Ben Grosser at Unlike Us #3

At Unlike Us #3 Ben Grosser presented the Facebook Demetricator which is a web browser extension that hides all the metrics on Facebook and therewith demetricates Facebook’s interface. Grosser describes his project as a piece of critical software that intervenes in the numerical focus of Facebook. The quantification of social relations: More! Ben Grosser narrates a scene from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps where Jacob asks his new boss, Bretton James: “What’s your number?” “Everybody has a number, a set amount of money that once they hit, they’ll leave the game and just go play golf for the rest of their life. What’s yours?” and his response is: “More.” The scene depicts a moment in the movie, which deals with the 2008 USA financial collapse, before the financial crisis and shows capitalist society’s fetish with increasing numbers and numerical growth which eventually came to a collapse. He describes the human desire to make numbers go higher, whether this means stocks rising, calories burned, friends added, likes accrued or comments left. Grosser states how we are obsessed with these numbers and that we’re paying more attention to the numbers than the actual content of the interaction. He defines metrics in relation to […]

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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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Paper: The Like Economy. The Politics of Data and Dataflows in the Social Web

This short paper was written for the BOBCATSSS 2012 conference proceedings. Republished here with permission. Download as PDF: The Like Economy: The Politics of Data and Dataflows in the Social Web. Helmond, Anne. 2012. “The Like Economy: The Politics of Data and Dataflows in the Social Web.” In Proceedings BOBCATSSS 2012 – 20th International Conference on Information Science, pp. 10–13. Amsterdam, 23-25 January 2012. Ed. Wolf-Fritz Riekert and Ingeborg Simon. Bock+Herchen Verlag, Bad Honnef, Germany. ISBN: 978-3-88347-287-4. March 2012. Abstract In this paper I would like to draw attention to the various actors involved in creating and maintaining a particular infrastructure of the social web, which is currently enabled by Facebook’s social plugins and Open Graph. This infrastructure allows the platform to transform web activities, in the form of willing and unwilling contributions, into comparable and valuable data in a Like Economy. By focusing on the medium-specific features of this infrastructure, the social plugins and Open Graph, possible ways out of these unwilling contributions will be explored. Introduction On 24 December 2011, software developer and long time blogger Dave Winer declared his blog a “Facebook-free zone.” A blog without a Like button, Facebook comments, or any other plugins connected to Facebook. The choice […]

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On Retweet Analysis and a Short History of Retweets

On November 05, 2009 Twitter started a limited rollout of the ‘retweet’ feature to its users. The practice of retweeting has been invented two years earlier by Twitter community and the first ReTweet is often attributed to user Eric Rice. He is said to have coined the term ‘ReTweet’ on 18 April 2007: Rice’s ReTweet would soon be shortened to RT due to Twitter’s 140-character limit and the practice of retweeting was quickly adopted by other users, third-party application developers and eventually by Twitter itself. Users and third-party apps developed their own retweet practices. Most commonly the whole tweet would be copy pasted and prefixed with RT @username (of the original poster) but some users would modify the retweet slightly by editing it so it would fit the 140-character limit. This also gave rise to the ‘fake retweet’ by pretending to retweet an existing tweet, but instead, this tweet would be newly created. Such fake retweets often concern celebrities, where users will impersonate celebrities by creating (humorous) fake retweets. In addition, these fake retweets were used by spammers by including spammy links in the tweets to trick users into thinking a reliable account had sent out that link, and therewith posed a security problem for Twitter. In […]

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