4/28/10

Hugo Chavez Opens Twitter Account


Chavez Brings Socialism to Twiiter

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez opened a Twitter account on Tuesday, launching himself into the digital fray to combat opponents who have seized on the micro-blogging site to criticize his socialist government.

Known for hours-long speeches, Chavez will now face the challenge of keeping his stream-of-consciousness socialism within the 140-character limit demanded by Twitter.


"Comrades, @chavezcandanga has been reserved, soon we will have messages there from our 'Comandante'," said the head of Venezuela's communications watchdog, Diosdado Cabello, also a close aide of the president, via his own Twitter account.

In some countries candanga translates as 'devil,' but in the Venezuelan lexicon it is used to mean someone who is strong-willed and rebellious, or a troublemaker.

The page @chavezcandanga on twitter.com has 28,000+ followers so far, without Chavez having yet posted anything to the site.

Twitter has seen an explosive rise in usage in Venezuela to more than 200,000 active accounts. With growth of over 1,000 percent in 2009, Venezuela now has one of the highest rates per capita of users of the site in Latin America.

Frustrated by his tireless presence in traditional media, where he often applies a law that forces TV and radio stations to broadcast his lengthy speeches, opponents see networking sites as a means of outwitting the populist president.

They use them to circulate criticism or jokes about Chavez, and even organize rallies and other protest events.

"INTERNET BATTLE TRENCH"

Several times this year, Chavez has ordered his followers to use social networking sites and other Internet media to fight back against detractors.

"The Internet is a battle trench because it is bringing a current of conspiracy," Chavez said earlier in March.

Critics say the president intends to censor the Web, and that a plan to channel all Internet traffic through the state telecom company is a sign he plans to silence online dissent.

Chavez denies any intent to censor, despite having said previously that the Internet "cannot be free."

He points out that Internet use by Venezuelans has expanded dramatically during his 11 years in power, especially among poorer sectors of society.

Back in January, Chavez was quoted as saying that the growing use of Twitter by both citizens from Venezuela and around the world to criticize his government’s policies and tactics was the equivalent of terrorism.

Why, then, would Chavez prepare to enter the Twitterverse himself? More than likely, he and his advisors see it as a way to combat their critics, by using the social media platform to further their Latin American version of socialism.

As of Tuesday evening, April 27, 2010, the account already had 28,000+ followers. Whether or not most are Venezuelan citizens who support Chavez can’t be readily discerned.

The most likely scenario is that, as the news spreads around the globe, many will follow the Twitter account out of sheer curiosity. After all, we’re talking about a man whose previous, infamous quotes include gems such as, “Capitalism leads us straight to hell.”

You don't often come across criticism of capitalism on social media platforms. The very nature of 'socmed' is individualism - the essence of contemporary 'icapitalism.'

One thing's for sure. Chavez's tweets will prove to be much more interesting than Ashton Kutcher or John Mayer!

His first tweet in Spanish landed at 14 minutes after midnight: "Hey how's it going? I appeared like I said I would: at midnight. I'm off to Brazil. And very happy to work for Venezuela. We will be victorious!!" he said.

How regularly the president will compress his freewheeling, folksy, meandering, epic discourses into the new medium remains to be seen. He is a talented TV communicator but by his own admission does not know when to shut up.

His Sunday show, Alo Presidente (Hello President), a largely unscripted monologue, often exceeds seven hours, amounting to 54,000 words, or 333,000 characters, about the length of a romance novel.

The newspaper El Nacional ran the story with a picture of the socialist leader in full flow under the disbelieving headline: "In 140 characters?"

Under pressure from economic problems and legislative elections in September, Chávez has told followers to wage a "media war" for hearts, minds and votes.

His popularity has fallen below 50%, according to recent polls, but in previous campaigns the former tank commander has won back support with a mix of charisma, anti-poverty measures and populist giveaways, such as free fridges and matresses.

In addition to his Sunday show and online column Chávez routinely compels all radio and TV stations to broadcast his speeches and ceremonial events live.

Last month he ordered followers to use social networking sites to combat opponents, especially students who use Facebook and other sites to organise protests against the government.

"The internet is a battle trench because it is bringing a current of conspiracy," he said. In the wrong hands tweeting could be a form of terrorism, he added.

Twitter's popularity in Venezuela has exploded to more than 200,000 active accounts – growth last year exceeded 1,000% – giving it one of Latin America's highest per capita rates of usage.

The president promised to launch his own website to promote what he calls his 21st century socialist revolution. "I'm going to put a lot of information there. It's going to be a bombardment."

4/27/10

Social Media, Capitalism & Individualism




iCapitalism

There is a pervasive myth that each individual human possesses a ‘personality’, a collection of behaviours, instincts, beliefs and other characteristics that persist over time and mark each of us as somehow distinguishable from and separate from each other.

It is a comforting myth, one that hides the more mundane reality that personality is really the product of environment, defined by the brute physical reality of the world and by our interactions with other people.

Each of us exists only in so far as we are defined by the spaces we create between other people, our personalities abstracted from the day-to-day and moment-to-moment encounters.

If there is consistency across time it is only because we generally find ourselves in situations which are similar to the recent past.

The fragmentation and restructuring of personality when a person is transplanted into a wholly new environment is well-attested. Each of us has experienced the sense of anomie and dislocation that comes with a new relationship, a new home or simply a particularly exotic holiday.

This model of personality as abstraction, as a construction rather than a constant or essential aspect of human existence, gives us one of the more philosophical arguments against the growing surveillance society.

If we define ourselves as the space between the people we encounter, then we must know something about those people in order to have personalities shaped by them.

But surveillance, by cameras or listening devices or web-based monitoring or keylogging, is done by people we do not know, for purposes of which we are often unaware.

We cannot shape the person we want to be around our understanding of the watchers because we know nothing of them.

Certainly nothing specific enough to allow us to carry out the daily act of creation which conjures a reasonably coherent personality from the mass of of sensations, perceptions and emotions which make up the raw material of conscious perception in human society.

And as a result our boundaries become more fluid, our outlines less certain, and the nature of our interactions with other people less well-defined.

We become blurred, unable to mark ourselves out clearly, unable adequately to delineate the boundaries of character or personality.

Society loses clarity of purpose as the individuals who make it up lose the power of individuation, and eventually all we have is a soup of undifferentiated behaviours, attitudes and affect.

The reason that social media online is often associated with capitalist democracy is because it does, without doubt, promote certain aspects inherent in a capitalist democracy.

For one, individualism is central to capitalist democracy, just as individualism is central to social media. But to equate democracy with individualism is to completely dismiss the whole point of democracy.

Individualism asserts that the independent thoughts and actions of individuals are meaningful. In a democracy, independent thought makes social and political rights possible, but by no means does independent thought, without being properly channeled, lead to a democracy.

Looking at social media, independent thought is not a means to democracy, but rather, it is an end in and of itself. But what happens when millions upon millions of individuals, whoever or wherever they may be, offer their independent thoughts, without the need for any sort of accountability or regulation?

Those of us who enter the world of social media must then wade knee-deep in millions of bytes of information.

Most of which is offered by opinionated individuals without credentials but with an axe to grind—before we ever get to the important information that social media is capable of disseminating, as in the case of the Twitter/Iran example.

So, in the final analysis, social media does promote the rise of the individual, but on the other hand, social media has not, as yet, had a significant impact in promoting democracy, simple because that is not what social media was designed to do.

4/26/10

The Twitter Generation: Sad, Lonely & Desperate




Social Media Self-Deception

It’s not your followers who are important (the reality of friendship), but the fact that everyone can see who all of your followers are, how ‘cool’ they are, what they do and how much they like you. Social media participation is the world of the hyper-real.

So, have you signed up to MySpace, Facebook, Google Buzz or Twitter yet? What is it about these social networking sites that people find so compelling?

As with most contemporary phenomena, the answer lies in the extraordinary philosophy of the late Jean Baudrillard.

His great insight was that humanity has been steadily replacing reality with signs of reality, leading to the creation of what he described as hyperreality, the ‘more real than real’.

Advertising best illustrates the process. Take the recent Virgin Media advertising campaign featuring Uma Thurman. Thurman’s image is one of supreme coolness (whether she’s cool in reality is another matter).

So, the idea is that by linking a sign of coolness (Thurman) with Virgin Media then Virgin Media becomes cool too and people will feel compelled to purchase its services.

This campaign is conducted entirely at the sign level. Thurman probably has little connection with her screen image, probably doesn’t use Virgin Media services, probably couldn’t care less about the company, and surely a company can’t become cool just because a ‘cool’ person is paid a fortune to say that it is.

You don’t hear Virgin Media talking about the reality of its business operations: poor customer service, technical unreliability, expensive products, limited programming output (of inferior quality), no discernible advantages over comparable services offered by rivals.

Virgin Media wants us to consider its hyperreality and definitely not its reality. We’re supposed to swallow its self-chosen propaganda signs as accurately describing the truth of the company rather than its real, measurable performance.

Advertising relies on our willingness to privilege signs of reality over reality. This process has accelerated in the last few years, driven by the unholy alliance of advertising, internet, TV, 24/7 news, tabloid newspapers, Hollywood and celebrity culture.

All around us is a sea of signs, and these signs are disconnected from what they’re supposed to signify. (If you’ve ever had the misfortune to be a Virgin Media subscriber, you know for sure that it’s not and never will be cool.)

This brings us back to social media. The essence of these sites is that your friendships must be visible to everyone else, indeed to the whole world.

It’s not your followers who are important (the reality of friendship), but the fact that everyone can see who all of your followers are, how ‘cool’ they are, what they do and how much they like you. Social media participation is the world of the hyper-real.

The myspace-facebook-twitter generation are the first hyperreal generation and have lost all contact with reality.

A couple of decades ago, a friendship would have been considered an essentially private matter, something to be treasured, and certainly not paraded in public as if it were a cheap status symbol.

A friend was someone you could confide in, a person to whom you could reveal your true, hidden self. Trust, discretion, and even a certain exclusivity were all required. These qualities are destroyed when they’re flaunted on the internet.

Everything that defines friendship has been lost, replaced by the desperate plea, ‘Look, I have friends – no, really – and these are who they are and this is how many I have.’

Only a member of the hyperreal generation could find any pleasure in being stuck on a hundred MySpace profiles, their photo forlornly staring out from web pages under headings of the ilk, ‘Mike CoolGuy has 68 friends.’

Nietzsche, one of Baudrillard’s primary influences, said, ‘We have measured the value of the world according to categories that refer to a purely fictitious world.’ This could easily be applied to the Twitter generation.

Their measure of value is determined by the rules and conventions of social networking: a simulated reality, a fiction, a world of signs signifying nothing.

No one pays to subscribe to these social networking sites, so how are they funded? The answer is advertising. Social networking is nothing but an opportunity for advertisers to reach a particular, lucrative demographic.

The users of these sites exist to feed th

e advertising machine. They see themselves as cool, trendy, fascinating individuals. In fact, they are mindlessly conformist marionettes being yanked around by the capitalist puppet masters.

The founders of these social networking sites have become multi-millionaires. If you’ve ever heard them speak, you’ll know they’re pitch-perfect in the language of big business.

The people who flock to social networking sites are often the same people who protest about the war in Iraq, Global Warming, Animal Rights, G8 abuses, all the ‘right on’ causes. Yet there they are feeding the voracious advertising industry, helping to create the finest billionaire capitalists.

In other words, they’re doing everything required of them to sustain the capitalist military/industrial complex that they oppose so vehemently. This is the beauty of hyperreality. Capitalism, by judicious use of signs, can manipulate its opponents into doing its precise bidding, while managing to convince them they’re doing the opposite.

The truth is staring us in the face. Social networking is for losers. None of the users of these sites has any really friends.

They are naïve and clueless individuals lacking any comprehension that they’re being cynically exploited by advertisers, and that their real, and indeed only, function is to create another handful of super-rich individuals.

Sad, lonely, and desperate – that’s the Twitter generation. They’re trapped in hyperreality, much as the unknowing masses were trapped inside The Matrix. But no Neo, no Saviour, will be coming along to free them.

If you want to be a real person living in the real world, the first thing you must do is get off the grid. Take the first brave step and delete your Twitter profile.

After all, you surely wouldn’t want the words carved on your headstone to be: "I was registered with Twitter. I had 101 followers (fuck knows who they were). What's Happening? I'm dead."

4/24/10

Disneyland, Social Media & Hyper-Reality


Hyperrealtiy: What's Real? What's Fantasy?

Jean Baudrillard suggests that hyper-reality is where the world we live in has been replaced by a copy world, where we seek simulated stimuli and nothing more. Hyperreality exists in a state where chosen symbols of reality mask our surroundings, thus producing unreality.

Jean Baudrillard noted that with Disneyland, “everyday life has been captured by the signs and sign systems generated to represent it. We relate to the models as if they were reality.

In his argument, California's Disneyland functions as ‘an imaginary effect concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the bounds of the artificial perimeter.’”

Disneyland attendance is much like that of modern-day social media use. Virtual reality provides the same type of hyper-realistic world that was detailed above. In effect, it replaces a reality—social interaction, with another seeming reality—virtual interaction, which creates an element of unreality.


American idealism is forever branded in the American dream: The belief that with some hard work and clever thought, one can achieve his or her utopian world—a world where happiness abounds among equal opportunity, capitalism, consumerism, and industrialism.

Conversely, postmodernism has no such grandiose ambitions. Postmodernism might be considered the satirical twist of the American dream. It objects to objectivity; rather than searching for answers, postmodernism makes a parody of presupposed truths and juxtaposes seemingly unrelated pieces of culture together.

Many meanings can be derived in Disneyland—especially with the larger, capitalist, American culture as the context.

Disneyland exhibits signifiers of each aspect of early American capitalism. “Frontierland can be interpreted as a reference to the stage of predatory capitalism; Adventureland, as a representation of colonialism/imperialism.

Tomorrowland, as state-financed capitalism, or the military-industrial complex; New Orleans Square as a signifier for venture capital; and lastly, Main Street as the period of family and mercantile capitalism.

Hyper-Reality

A discussion on hyperreality is important as it is one key component of the Disney parks. Hyperreality exists in a state where chosen symbols of reality mask our surroundings, thus producing unreality.

Jean Baudrillard, one of the leaders of postmodernism and proponent of hyperreality noted that with Disneyland, “everyday life has been captured by the signs and sign systems generated to represent it.

"We relate to the models as if they were reality. In his argument, California's Disneyland functions as ‘an imaginary effect concealing that reality no more exists outside than inside the bounds of the artificial perimeter.’”

Just as Disney sought to control his company environment, Disneyland, like American colonialism, controls its natural environment.

Rather than allowing nature to be “natural,” Disneyland restrains every aspect its guests’ environment, from the sights and sounds to the available directions guests may go.

Furthermore, “there is no sign of decay, crime, confusion, discontent, pain, poverty, or struggle.” According to one scholar, this cultural interpretation of nature can have negative effects:

“There is a strong presumption that Disney closely records the real thing out there in mountain meadow, prairie and pound. If our first introduction to the natural world is via ‘Disneyvision’ -- and for virtually all of us, it is -- then we cannot help being disappointed by the real thing. Documentary is a dramatic form. Nature is hard put to compete with art.”

Disneyland embodies the presence of an idealized world in which Americans, bred from a culture of idealizing, find comfort in the safe and happy confines of a park where nothing goes wrong.

Many of these aspects of Walt Disney and his park relate his idealistic approach to business, and this idealism coupled with modernism is engrained in the parks.

Disney utilized modernism’s emphasis on the empirical approach to management and creative thinking. He engineered what Boje called the “story machine,” where all aspects of animation and film making, including much of the creative work was systemized and compartmentalized.

Similarly, the creative work and development of Disneyland was also brought about in a similar fashion.

Modernism also deals with commodification. Disneyland makes an increasingly good use of placing price tags on elements and ideas in nature and society. One scholar said that “indirect commodification is a process by which non-salable objectives, activities, and images are purposely placed in the commodified world.”

Disney discovered a great source of revenue when he began commodifying the characters from his films. From that time, commercialism has only increased in the parks. At every attraction there is a retail store, and the walkways are flooded with Disney street vendors.

As Disney embedded commodification in modernism, he also did so with advertising. Globalized corporations sponsor many of the attractions at Disneyland. One scholar said Disney is the “integration of recreation and leisure with hyper-consumption advertising and public relations.”

Like a mall, one cannot escape the thousands of commercialized messages found in every corner of Disney. When the park opened in 1955, Tomorrowland’s featured attraction was CirCarama, sponsored by American Motors. Even the front entrance to the circular theater looked like an American Motors show room.

Disneyland clearly stemmed from modern thinking in the early 1900s. Disney visited the early World Fairs that presented new technology in themed environments.

In fact, much of the early technology at Disneyland, such as the Monorail, were first made known at World Fairs. These technologies were developed during the modern era, where functionality determined design.

Las Vegas, a land of themed casinos, draws much upon the themed approaches which were established by Disneyland. However, modernism is no longer a driving force in contemporary America.

One scholar compared modernist architecture with that of the Luxor Casino, built in the shape of an Egyptian pyramid while using mirror-like glass for the exterior:

“Modernist architects once promised us cities of glass in which we would live in a continual state of revelation: all would be made clear and available to us. Here, glass hides all, inviting our desires and threatening us with the danger lurking at the heart of the cities we have built for ourselves.”

Perhaps Disneyland, although an ideal world, was never quite so modern as it was postmodern. Its hyperrealistic environment is at odds with modern thinking. Ultimately, visitors who trek to the park aren’t necessarily seeking the ideal world but rather an escape from objectivity.

Disneyland attendance is much like that of modern-day social media use. Virtual reality provides the same type of hyperrealistic world that was detailed above. In effect, it replaces a reality—social interaction, with another seeming reality—virtual interaction, which creates an element of unreality.

Disneyland has few clocks for guests to tell time and many of the attractions take place in dark environments. The buildings and attractions are also disproportionate, creating spatial illusions.

These elements suspend time and space for park guests, further enhancing their notions of hyperreality. As so many have noted, the park allows for guests to relive childhood dreams in a packaged, sterilized world without consequences or adult concerns.

Hyper-reality allows the guests to embrace postmodernism. For postmodernism seeks not to define truths by connections, but rather, it simply makes connections—never coming to conclusions about reality.

I don’t assume to say that Americans have completely forgone attempts to find meaning, but contemporary society, as a whole, is moved by this trend, further pushed by pop culture and mass media.

While Disneyland may still be considered the mind controlling dream land of the 21st century, in the end, it’s this postmodern tendency in our culture that continues to compel us to the gates of the happiest place on earth.

4/23/10

Social Media & False Democracy


The Individual vs. the Collective

Social media is not about truth, it is all about appearance, popularity and interpretation. In a democracy, “knowledge is power.” On social media sites, the most valuable currency is instead information--but not necessarily correct or fact-based information.

Social media is more about self-promotion and aggrandizement. Its supporters have grandiose notions of a 'collective mentality' or general intellect.' But there is no reality in the virtual world. There is no collective action. Everything is reduced to 'white noise.'


Social media sites have been in existence for years, but they have just recently received serious non-social media attention.

When information about the presidential elections in Iran was disseminated solely through the social networking site Twitter in June 2009, social media was lauded as new tool that would promote democracy globally.

Although this particular use of Twitter was definitely extraordinary, before jumping on the media bandwagon, we should consider what social media sites accomplish primarily. We should also consider what, exactly, democracy means.

A democracy, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a government by the people, especially rule of the majority.” Ideally, a democracy is where important decisions concerning the social and political welfare of a population is decided by the population itself.

Now, in the Twitter example mentioned above, Twitter was certainly used as a democracy-promoting tool, because “the people” of Iran exposed government corruption to the rest of the world via the internet, thus holding the government of Iran accountable for its actions.

But, notably, this use of Twitter was an exception to the rule, not the norm. Twitter users found a way to change and redefine the online social networking platform to promote a more democratic voting process.

Social networking online was first primarily used by young people, usually in high school, to connect with a wider audience and to communicate personal concerns and issues under the veil of relative anonymity.

Social networking provided a way to distort one's true identity and emboldened users to say what they usually would not say in their offline worlds. Now, social networking sites make transparent the personal lives of those whom we know, although not necessarily know very well.

A brief sampling of Facebook and Twitter status updates shows that social networking is concerned primarily with the private, not the public and political, self:

“XXX will not be getting any sleep tonight.” “XXX is catching up on office work.” “XXX is watching how tha grinch stole christmas, but tha orginal.”

It is also important to note that, unlike the ordered world that a democracy promotes, there is hardly any regulation of social media sites, except for some privacy features and lax rules against obscenity.

So, anything goes in the realm of social media online. There is no such thing as fact-checking, and, interestingly, there is no need for it. This is simply because social media is not about truth, it is all about appearance, about interpretation. In a democracy, “knowledge is power.”

On social media sites, the most valuable currency is instead information--but not necessarily correct or fact-based information.

The social-media based site Wikipedia, for example, is an encyclopedia where information is collected and presented as fact. Of course, those who run Wikipedia do their best to ensure that all information is accurate.

But, through my personal experience of using Wikipedia, I have, time after time, encountered articles where information is disputed.

For example, the article on Islam is headlined with the warning, “This article needs references that appear in reliable third-party publications.” Here, Wikipedia acknowledges that information on its own site is dependent on reliable, non-social media.

Although these warnings do alert readers that what they may be reading isn't entirely accurate, in the interest of time, those surfing the net will accept this information as fact simply because it is easy to access.

I believe that the reason that social media online is often associated with democracy is because it does, without doubt, promote certain aspects inherent in a democracy.

For one, individualism is a part of democracy, just as individualism is central to social media. But to equate democracy with individualism is to completely dismiss the whole point of democracy.

Individualism asserts that the independent thoughts and actions of individuals are meaningful. In a democracy, independent thought makes social and political rights possible, but by no means does independent thought, without being properly channeled, lead to a democracy.

Looking at social media, independent thought is not a means to democracy, but rather, it is an end in and of itself. But what happens when millions upon millions of individuals, whoever or wherever they may be, offer their independent thoughts, without the need for any sort of accountability or regulation?

Those of us who enter the world of social media must then wade knee-deep in millions of bytes of information—most of which is offered by opinionated individuals without credentials but with an axe to grind—before we ever get to the important information that social media is capable of disseminating, as in the case of the Twitter/Iran example.

So, in the final analysis, social media does promote the rise of the individual, but on the other hand, social media has not, as yet, had a significant impact in promoting democracy, simple because that is not what social media was designed to do.

4/22/10

'General Intellect' Appropriated by Capitalism


Powerful Platforms Exploit Users for Profit

The productivity of social networking seems like the cutting-edge manifestation of a tendency by which the benefits of the “general intellect” - more free time, for instance—ultimately get reappropriated by capitalism.

What is learned, carried out, networked and consumed in the time outside of labor is then utilized in the production of commodities, becomes a part of the use value of labor power and is computed as profitable resource. Even the greater power of social media is always on the verge of being turned into laboring task.


Social media is a resource, not a distraction. Like real resources - oil, diamonds minerals, it's ripe for exploitation.

What we're seeing in social media is rise of a small handful of imperial platforms [Google, Facebook, Twitter] ready to use the productivity of the users for profit.

The social relations and associations captured in the various networks and platforms and media are a productive force of their own, a commons.

The Italian neo-Marxists talk about this in terms of the general intellect. This is the key line from Marx’s Grundrisse:
The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it.
That’s a pretty abstract formulation and allows for a pretty broad range of interpretations. (And it doesn’t really matter what Marx happened to write, if you think about it.)

But I read that as suggesting the ways in which capitalism captures the work we do to maintain our friendships as a kind of productivity.

It used to be a more ephemeral, immaterial thing (hence the associated term “immaterial labor”) referring mainly to ways in which people learn to collaborate in workplaces.

But networking technology has made it possible to archive the product of this social work and find more capitalist applications for it. Social relations are produced socially; their shape is determined to a degree by social needs, or in other words, the general intellect.

The sorts of friendships we have with people are partly dictated by social context; they are not autonomous, or dependent on the unique bond we may believe we are forming.

With social networks increasingly becoming the medium of friendship, the purpose of friendship has likewise been affected—friendship takes the form of all this concrete data-processing labor online, which goes by the benign enough name of “sharing.”

The productivity of social networking seems like the cutting-edge manifestation of a tendency Paolo Virno describes, by which the benefits of the “general intellect”—more free time, for instance—ultimately get reappropriated by capital:
Marx claims that in a communist society, rather than an amputated worker, the whole individual will produce.

That is the individual who has changed as a result of a large amount of free time, cultural consumption and a sort of ‘power to enjoy’. Most of us will recognize that the Post-Fordist laboring process actually takes advantage in its way of this very transformation albeit depriving it of all emancipatory qualities.

What is learned, carried out and consumed in the time outside of labor is then utilized in the production of commodities, becomes a part of the use value of labor power and is computed as profitable resource.

Even the greater ‘power to enjoy’ is always on the verge of being turned into laboring task.
This is why it is worth complaining about social networks being private for-profit entities. The general intellect loses its autonomy, its capacity to function as a public sphere. Instead, it’s just another digital assembly-line product.

4/21/10

The Social Factory


Slaves on the Social Media Plantation

Our efforts in friending one another and creating a social map whose byways can later be retraced by marketing concerns is perhaps the chief form of free labor today, for which we are not compensated with wages but with a stronger, highly particularized sense of self.

With the advent of Web 2.0, the Internet has begun to take on the characteristics of what the Italian autonomists like Paolo Virno called the social factory.

The idea is that since many of us no longer have all that much to offer society, in terms of operating machinery or that sort of thing, the new way of extracting surplus value from our “labor” is to turn our social lives into a kind of covert work that we complete throughout the day, but in forms that can be co-opted by capitalist firms.

Work processes, as Virno explains in A Grammar of the Multitude [Semiotext(e); 2004], become diverse, but social life begins to homogenize itself in the sense that our identity becomes something we all must prove in the public sphere—we all become concerned with the self as brand.

This results in the “valorization”—Marxist jargon for value enhancement—“of all that which renders the life of an individual unique”—which is to say our concern for our uniqueness, our identity in social contexts, becomes a kind of value-generating capital, or rather a circulating commodity.

This plays out in seemingly innocuous ways. It can be a matter of hyping a product free of charge but using it or talking about it.

Or it can be a matter of going to parties with co-workers, learning to get along better and therefore increasing the efficiency of processes on the job.

Or it is a matter of behaving politely among strangers, extending a system of politeness and trust that can be harvested economically as a reduction in transaction costs.

To put it in sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s terms, our habitus—our manifest and class-bound way of being in the social world—has been transformed into an explicit productive force without our conscious consent by the way various social media have infiltrated everyday life.

The most obvious place in which this now occurs is online, as Tiziana Terranova details in Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy (Social Text - 63, Volume 18, Number 2, Summer 2000, pp. 33-58):

“The Internet is about the extraction of value out of continuous, updateable work, and it is extremely labor intensive.”

In a separate passage, she notes that “the productive capacities of immaterial labor on the Internet encompass the work of writing/reading/managing and participating in mailing lists/Web sites/chatlines.”

Where Terranova writes of mailing lists and chatlines, we can substitute in their heir, social networks.

Our efforts in friending one another online and creating a social map whose byways can later be retraced by marketing concerns is perhaps the chief form of free labor today, for which we are not compensated with wages but with a stronger, though highly particularized, sense of self, measurable in hard, quantifiable terms.

This identity seems much more fragile and vulnerable than previous conceptions of the self, contingent as it is on associations and meanings that are always rapidly shifting.

For while we are building identity in social networks, our online behavior generates a plenitude of information, meanings and content that constitutes a “cognitive surplus” generated by the “hive mind”, to use terms from technopunditry, or is a concrete manifestation of the “general intellect”, to stick to Marxist jargon.

The surfeit of suddenly accessible information threatens to overwhelm us, with the flood destroying what value there might be in any single piece of data.

As the flood rushes past it sweeps away what we thought we knew about what the stuff and relationships in our lives meant and what we thought we knew about ourselves.

How worried should we be about this? Are we still people? Would we even know? Are we reading, or are we just processing for the benefit of the “lords of the cloud” as some calls them, the ultimate beneficiaries of all the immaterial labor we conduct online.

The fear is that social media are the newest and possibly most exploitative forms of capitalism since the use of slave labor. We work [twitter] for nothing to create surplus profit for socmed owners.

4/19/10

Exclusive: Facebook To Change Its Name to "WeWatch"




Facebook Is Watching You

Facebook is turning into a web monster. It now wants to keep tabs on its users' web history so that the platform can better target its ads.

This is the stuff of Big Brother is Watching You. That's why we facetiously suggest a name change to the upfront "WeWatch."


Facebook is planning to unveil a content-sharing button this week that other websites can embed on their pages, according to marketers briefed on the plans.

The “like” button will be similar to products from Twitter and Digg that let users share content with their social networks. It new function will allow users to signal the content they like on internet sites.

The announcement will be one of several that come at F8, Facebook’s annual conference which begins on Wednesday in San Francisco.

Some marketers said that Facebook would use data from these interactions to target them with related adverts once they return to Facebook.com.

Facebook was not available for comment when asked about the development on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday evening, a Facebook spokesperson denied that the new tool would allow the company to track users.

“All the products we are launching at F8 are focused on giving developers and entrepreneurs ways to make the web more social,” said the spokesperson. “We have no announcements or changes planned to our ad offering and policies.”

Facebook currently targets ads based on what information users fill out in their profile, including location, age, gender, and favourite activities and music bands.

Facebook is also expected to roll out the “like” function to other parts of the site, including its “engagement ads” – the brand advertising through which it makes most of its money.

Engagement ads encourage users to “become a fan” of brands such as Starbucks and Coca-Cola. This means agreeing to receive messages or special offers from that brand – making it easier for advertisers to insert promotional information into users’ newsfeeds and potentially gain access to their personal data.

Under changes to be announced this week, Facebook will replace the “Become a fan” button with an invitation to say “I like” a brand.

If Facebook Ruled the World

Some FaceBook fans may be a bit perturbed to hear that their favourite website intends to become even more intrusive in their lives.

F8 is the working title of a new method that FaceBook hotshots have developed for ensuring that their advertisements are now more targeted towards users of their site.

This new system will use your web history to determine what ads you see in the future. Using web history is not a new idea but this social media site has put a whole new spin on it.

The way that F8 works is unlike other forms of targeted advertising. FaceBook already uses your profile page to get an idea of the types of things you like.

This new method uses your interactions with friends through the site to determine ads; your friends will share links through FaceBook Connect with you and the site will keep an eye on these links.

This intrusive approach will use your friends to find out what you like. How impressive is that?

Reaction to this new method of advertisement is sure to get mixed reviews. Some people may feel that it is a sign that their privacy is now even more under threat. Who knows? Maybe a lot of people may even stop using the site because of it.

Rather than being the coolest bar in town (and losing its clientele when they leave for a hipper spot), Facebook plans to become the Starbucks of the web, with a Like button on every corner.

Facebook’s Achilles Heel

Like all great plans, however, this one has a loophole: It relies upon Facebook owning the “social graph” — your network of connections (and, with the addition of “Likes”, your preference data too).

It’s in Facebook’s interests to lock up your social graph, and it’s in your best interests that they don’t.

If Twitter, Google (Google) or another player were to make your social graph portable, you wouldn’t be siloing all your information in Facebook — you could do whatever you please with it.

Perhaps Facebook need not worry. Most users neither understand nor care about social graph portability, and ideas like Facebook Connect, Likes and toolbars give just enough access to the data to satisfy developers and all but the most discerning web user.

Facebook Seeps onto Other Websites

With about half of Facebook’s 400 million users checking in daily, the social networking company has established itself as one of the Web’s most popular destinations.

Now Facebook is intensifying its efforts to expand its empire beyond its Web site; the company wants to turn scores of sites across the Internet into satellites where users will be able to interact with their Facebook friends.

Details of Facebook’s plans — which involve a variation on its “Share” button, already prevalent on many sites — are expected to be introduced by Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, on Wednesday during its conference here for third-party developers. But even before Facebook makes its plans public, its aim to become a social networking force across the Web is facing competition.

On Monday, a coalition of other companies, including some Facebook rivals like Google and MySpace, are banding together to establish a new standard for Web sites to allow visitors to share information, not just with Facebook but also with dozens of other social networking sites.

The coalition is led by Meebo, a company that offers a toolbar featured at the bottom of many Web sites that visitors can use to share articles, photos and other links with a variety of social networking services.

In the meantime, Twitter is also looking to expand its presence across the Web with its @anywhere service, which will allow people to log in to Twitter from other Web sites.

The moves by Facebook and its rivals set up a battle for control over social interactions across the Internet.

“There is definitely a multiround fight that is going to be happening here,” said Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at the Altimeter Group, a digital strategy consulting firm.

Analysts say Facebook’s desire to spread its tentacles across the Web could run into privacy hurdles, as it will require the company to share increasing amounts of personal information about its users with other sites.

“They are going to have to secure more consumers’ approval for data-sharing,” said Augie Ray, an analyst at Forrester Research.

Social Media: The Narcissist's Paradise


Why Narcissists Love Social Media

Spend any length of time in the social media scene and you’ll almost certainly encounter a person with a severe psychological issue called Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).

The psychiatrists’ DSM manual describes it as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”

Narcissists (NPD people) have a “big personality” that is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power and prestige. Everyone has some need for attention, but NPD people are pathologically obsessed with it.

NPD is Commonplace in the Social Media Scene

People with NPD have a fragile, deeply wounded self-concept and they puff their ego up like blowfish in order to hide the flaw and overcompensate for it. Some use their cunning & charm to become materially successful and accomplished in the business world.

A significant percentage of venture capitalists (VCs) have high-functioning NPD… and some of the online “rockstars” and glitterati do too.

If you go to a big city tweetup or social media conference, you’re almost guaranteed to meet a clique of NPD people and their minions engaged in an ego-stroking circle jerk.

Certain professions supply a continual buffet of ego food: politics, acting, modeling, television, pro sports and social media. Social media participation has no barriers to entry and take minimal skills – just drive and copious free time.

It’s the perfect habitat for NPD people to put themselves on a digital pedestal and receive lots of one-way attention (“narcissistic supply”). The exhibitionist aspect provides endless opportunities for narcissists to reinforce their vanity and activate their grandiosity.

Identifying Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Some common characteristics of NPD types who inhabit the Web 2.0 / social media scene:

* Narcissists can be irresistibly charming. They appear to be so deeply in love with themselves that others get taken along for the ride with them.

They develop polished communication and manipulation skills that can easily dazzle you like the Wizard of Oz. Narcissists “go big” leave an “epic” first impression on many people.

* Narcissists are all about themselves. A relationship with a narcissist is typically a “one-way street.” When the conversation is focused on the narcissist, they become alive and animated. When it’s someone else’s turn to talk or take the stage, they tend become distant and withdrawn.

* Narcissists lack empathy for others. Narcissists are impostors who are so wrapped up in the drama of their own internal world, they almost completely lack the ability to empathize with others.

The best they can offer is “psuedo-empathy” of the type that a telemarketer offers during a closing pitch. They may act nice when they want something from you, but that’s about it.

* Narcissists are preoccupied with power, status, recognition, money, followers, fame. They will stop at nothing to get more fans, more followers, more time in the limelight, more accolades.

They are relentless, inexhaustible social climbers who sometimes excel at sales, business development and executive roles. Many high-level narcissists use money and its privileges as the perfect bait to draw the chosen into their inner circle of loyal supporters and admirers.

* Narcissists are defensive & hypersensitive to criticism. NPD people protect their brittle self-esteem by launching biting, harsh attacks on those who dare to criticize and question them.

They are also very controlling about how others view and think of them – by positively rewarding the praise and tyrannically punishing dissent. When it’s impossible for them to attack the critic directly, they’ll do anything in their power to block or sabotage their future success.

* Narcissists indulge themselves extravagantly. They’ll do anything to get first class travel, new gadgets, sexual conquests, spa treatments, exclusive after party invites, fancy swag bags, exclusive club memberships, extravagant homes and cars.

All these things provide external proof of their adequacy and help (momentarily) fill the enormous emptiness inside them. When they get them, they’re quick to brag about it and post lots of details and TwitPics.

* NPD people can be exhibitionists. In order to keep the life-sustaining supply of attention focused on them, they will metaphorically “drop their pants” and reveal TMI that most professionals never would.

They will open talk about their drug use, sexual life or fantasizes, their income, their enemies or their business exploits. They especially love speaking gigs, interviews, video blogging, karaoke, etc., – becuase moments in the limelight are life-sustaining soul food for their inadequate self concept.


* NPD people keep score. They watch rivals with microscopic vigilance, and will come up with cunning ways to sabotage, outdo or humiliate them. Multimillionaire VCs with NPD are envious of the billionaire ones.

On Twitter, you’ll notice that narcissists almost always maintain a very high ratio of followers to friends — reflecting their lack empathy and primal need for their numbers to reflect “one- way” attention. They never “give back” and pay attention to someone else unless they absolutely have to.

* Narcissists demand total loyalty from their followers. No matter how badly an NPD person behaves, their fans and subordinate “yes men” will cheer them on and publicly declare how “awesome” they are, etc.

People (unconsciously) sense they have a dangerously fragile self-concept… and are intuitively afraid of getting on their “bad list” – so they tend to leave lots of ego stroking (“You rock!”) comments. One you get on the bad list, there is no way off without heavy ass-kissing and contrition. (Unless you get access to something they desperately want.)

The Narcissist’s Bleak Inner World

The narcissist selectively chooses an “inner circle” of others who will resonate with her vision of self. The successful NPD person creates an intricate matrix of positive feedback in the form of fans, friends, followers and partners who fulfill their endless needs.

When the sources of these ego rewards (comments, accolades, retweets, speaking gigs) become unavailable or fail, the narcissist experience intense feelings of emptiness.

In her excellent book on high-level narcissism, Dr. Linda Martinez-Lewi says:
The narcissist’s experience of emotional emptiness is beyond longing or sadness. It is a severe and intractable wounding, a pain so savage and deep that it seems intolerable.

The psychological landscape of the narcissist is bleak. He has no inner resources to sustain him. He cannot turn to himself or others for real affection or solace. Although he enjoys the transient loyalty of dedicated followers, no one really cares about him.
Social media addiction is the ultimate dual-action stimulant + painkiller for the narcissistic personality.

4/18/10

A Mashed-up, Deconstructed & Destroyed Culture


We're Going Gaga

Easy access to stardom has demystified fame as a category. The explosion of reality television, flash-in-the-pan internet memes, and the proliferation of previously unpublishable celebrity trash leaves us in our present abject condition: obliged to wade through the disillusioning images of “Stars: They’re Just Like Us”.

While every exhibitionistic social-media outlet reinforces the growing sense of “Us: We’re Just Like Stars”. Slumped in isolation before a computer screen, working to maintain our enviable followers-to-following ratio on Twitter, we realize that fame, as such, is not tantamount to glamour.


Wired editor Chris Anderson noted in his influential article The Long Tail, “we live in the physical world and, until recently, most of our entertainment media did, too.”

Because of the limits and costs of making physical objects, consumers’ entertainment options were necessarily limited.

To justify the costs of touring and manufacturing, a set of songs has to guarantee that bodies will gather in concert halls and CDs will fly off the shelves.

After all, someone’s got to pay the rent, and since venues can only book one gig a night and record stores have only so much shelf space to stock, the inflexibility of space and time is, culturally speaking, extremely limiting.

Similarly, as radio and TV can have only so many stations, and because their signals only transmit so far, they must ensure large audiences in small geographic areas, which means that even slightly obscure programming gets tossed.

Materiality is inimical to variety. In the physical world, we are the unwitting subjects of the cruel tyranny of the hit. But those days are behind us. Online, there’s no “there” there.

“What do we really want?” asks Anderson. “We’re only just discovering, but it clearly starts with more.”

The advent of Web 2.0 is indeed a revolution of choice (as much as the disorientation brought on by market segmentation can be deemed “choice”), but it has yielded a deficit of consumer attention—limited, it turns out, by the pesky inflexibility of space and time.

Mainstream media no longer pulls in the audiences it used to, and advertisers are looking elsewhere to corral whatever scattered attention they can.

Experimental and idiosyncratic works, once condemned to obscurity, are now MySpace-Friending and Amazon Recommends-ing their way into newly individualized media spheres—without the normalizing influence of mass culture.

As a result, we’ve lost a sense of shared meanings. Popular music’s most effective tool for creating shared symbolism—its organizing principle—is the celebrity, which is not a debased distraction from life’s more important things but rather a social tool to help us conceive coherent identities amid the miasma of postmodern culture.

In late 20th century America, celebrity may have been the closest we came to objective meaning in culture.

Greil Marcus drives the point in “Blue Hawaii”, his 1977 eulogy for Elvis Presley:

"I didn’t write about “a real person”; I wrote about the persona I heard speaking in Elvis’ music. I wrote about the personalization of an idea, lots of ideas—freedom, limits, risk, authority, sex, repression, youth, age, tradition, novelty, guilt and the escape from guilt—because they were all there to hear.

"Reading my responses back onto their source, I understood Elvis not as a human being…but as a force, as a kind of necessity: that is, the necessity existing in every culture that leads it to produce a perfect, all-inclusive metaphor for itself.

The continued resonance of Marcus’s words reminds us that the social-media age has not stripped celebrities of their iconic power.

Celebrities are still capable of making a disparate and fragmented public cohere around mass-cultural symbolism. But by what metaphors are we united today? The conspicuous absence of popular culture’s myth-makers has made us turn to one another to fill the void.

Broadcast media (one-to-all) once defined a common, if limited, cultural vernacular, structured by the personae and symbolism that made modern identity intelligible. Social media (all-to-all), however, is slowly robbing us of commonality.

Instead, we are offered platforms on which we create our own personae and announce ourselves to others. Now that niche culture is the principal output of culture in general, celebrity has become highly relative.

Jon and Kate Gosselin, lonelygirl15, and your extended family’s blogs and Facebook pages aren’t exactly the stuff of American mythos. You wouldn’t put Kelly Clarkson on a par with Elvis, although she too has been America’s idol.

Easy access to stardom has demystified fame as a category. The explosion of reality television, flash-in-the-pan internet memes, and the proliferation of previously unpublishable celebrity trash leaves us in our present abject condition: obliged to wade through the disillusioning images of “Stars: They’re Just Like Us”.

While every exhibitionistic social-media outlet reinforces the growing sense of “Us: We’re Just Like Stars”. Slumped in isolation before a computer screen, working to maintain our enviable followers-to-following ratio on Twitter, we realize that fame, as such, is not tantamount to glamour.

Matt Mason, author of The Pirate’s Dilemma, sees social media’s DIY fame culture as part and parcel of what he calls punk capitalism. “Fifty years ago the world operated like a conventional rock concert,” Mason writes.

“The producers, bosses, and owners are the rock stars above, generating the goods, services, salaries, and content we the fans consume below the inaccessible stage, singing along obediently with our lighters in the air.”

Mason compares this with punk ethics: the anarchy of egalitarianism, the destruction of hierarchy, the, er, participatory nature of the audience hurling beer bottles and spit at the band (a precursor to comment threads?).

Mason beams, “Our world today is starting to look a lot more like a punk gig ... The barriers to entry are being kicked down, and this new breed of fans-turned-performers, including you, is rushing the world stage.”

The analogy is colorful and well-taken, but its logic crumbles over what is precisely punk’s most culturally significant aspect: its symbolic content. In Subculture: The Meaning of Style, his book on youth subcultures, Dick Hebdige writes, “the punk subculture signified chaos at every level, but this was possible only because the style itself was so thoroughly ordered. The chaos cohered as a meaningful whole.”

The unity of punk iconography in fashion, music, attitudes, and slang have made it one of the few subcultures that remains well-structured decades after its cultural peak.

Punk’s continued intelligibility is due to its oppositional stance. Whatever it is, punk’s against it, warring against popular culture by remixing its symbols to imbue them with new and often shocking significations.

The Sex Pistols used the iconic image of Queen Elizabeth II, her eye and mouth areas torn off, on the cover of their counter-anthem, “God Save the Queen”.

The Ramones subverted the meaning of America’s own iconographic royalty by donning Mickey Mouse T-shirts with ripped jeans and long hair.
Without pop, punk is disempowered.

But without a coherent opposition to oppose, punk’s loud iconographic refusals recede into the white noise of cultural relativism. Without pop, punk is disempowered.

Andy Warhol attracted early innovators of American punk to his ‘60s pad (dubbed “The Factory”) with the irreverent spirit of his silk-screened art, budget films, and in-house band, the Velvet Underground—but before all this had to come Campbell Soup and Marilyn Monroe.

If DIY, anti-hierarchical, egalitarian anarchy is punk’s defining principle, then its triumph is self-cannibalizing. We’ve so thoroughly mashed-up, deconstructed and destroyed shared culture that we’re starved for more. We demand the equal and opposite of punk: pop with a vengeance. So we create a Fame Monster: step forward, Lady Gaga.

4/16/10

Why Facebook Will Fail




Facebook's Five Fatal Flaws

Facebook is the undisputed King of social media have you ever heard that “if Facebook were a country it would be third largest in the world?” Well Facebook isn’t a country it’s a communications platform with some pretty fundamental flaws. And it's already failing.

That means the King of social media isn’t wearing the most remarkable suit of clothes I have ever seen. The King is actually in the all together but all together, it’s all together the very least a King has ever worn!”

Here are five Fatal Flaws that will kill Facebook

1. Facebook technology is fundamentally underwhelming

Design-wise, Facebook is as ugly as it is big and with very limited personalisation the only brand consistency you get is Facebook’s! The set-up stage is clumsy and navigation is poor, confusing and inconsistent throughout the site leading to usability issues.

And finally in a marketing context I am not to see adverts for a credit cards offering “fast approval and high credit limit for people with a poor credit rating” beside my clients brands.

2. Facebook can be a Marketing and ORM liability

Online Reputation Management is a growing concern for businesses big and small. If you are a big faceless corporation then “being social” is probably not in your DNA, you hire PR firms not to engage with the press but to control them and you are on Facebook because you felt you had to be.

Now if you are Innocent Drinks then your brand ethos and ethical business stance may well support more open social engagement with consumers but if you are Nestle, British Airways or Craft be very careful you might just be opening a direct channel to your customers for complainers or campaign groups.

Watch the BBC3 video above. Itmakes this point very clearly and will give you a laugh into the bargain.

1. Facebook facilitates low value interaction

Facebook can be high maintenance if you don’t continually post to your wall it very quickly looks out of date and you spend a lot of time ignoring updates, irrelevant friend requests and application updates.

Also do you really need to know who is playing the Farmville or Mafia Wars games? Ever had an update telling you that one of your friends has just bought a new pig? Or do you think sending Facebook “pokes” or “gifts” is high value?

4) Privacy is a Very Big Issue

When you create a global communications giant with a business model based on exploiting the personal data of anyone over the age of 13 you had better have an ethical and rock solid privacy policy.

Well the phrase “Facebook Privacy Policy” is a bit of an oxymoron, it is long complicated and contradictory; here is what a conversation with their privacy department might sound like:

You: Hi Facebook can you delete my account please?

Facebook: If you want to stop using your account you may deactivate it or delete it. When you deactivate an account, no user will be able to see it, but it will not be deleted. We save your profile information (friends, photos, interests, etc.)

You: Well at least it won’t be seen by others anymore?

Facebook: There are limitations on removal. Even after you remove information from your profile or delete your account, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere to the extent it has been shared with others, it was otherwise distributed pursuant to your privacy settings, or it was copied or stored by other users.

You: So only my friends could see my personal date and postings?

Facebook: We cannot control the actions of other users with whom you share your information. We cannot guarantee that only authorized persons will view your information. We cannot ensure that information you share on Facebook will not become publicly available.

You: If I keep my account can you stop sending me all those spammy update emails?

Facebook: You may opt out of all communications except those we deem to be essential updates on your account notifications page. We may include content you see on Facebook in the emails we send to you.

You: So basically opting out doesn’t mean opting out isn’t there a law against that?

Facebook: By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States and it will be processed and managed in accordance with the privacy laws of the United States…

You: Oh in that case I am deliriously happy!

5. Facebook is already failing

How could it fail it’s so big and if Facebook were a country…?” Remember Compuserve, E-groups, Friends Reunited, Geocities and soon Bebo? All were once dominant in the online community / social media space and all now either dead or dead men walking.

The life cycle of communication technology platforms has changed the speed of adoption of the social media platforms has been phenomenal but it will be matched by the speed of redundancy.

What goes up must come down. Newsprint had more than a hundred years, radio, television and fixed line telecoms all had a good long innings but they are all now at varying stages of redundancy.

Facebook doesn’t have an edge other than size and everything it does someone else does better Ning, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress etc – if there is a reason to use it is because your customers use it – so what happens if they leave?

Facebook would have to innovate at a speed unheard of for a social networking platform just to stay even remotely relevant. If size alone protected companies we wouldn’t be in the process of recovering from a global banking crises.
Conclusion

In my opinion it is a completely underwhelming piece of communication technology and its days are all together numbered. In the future we will look at Facebook in the way we now look at video recorders we all had one but not anymore.

4/14/10

Social Media & The Herd Mentality

The Bandwagon Effect

Herd mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behavior, follow trends, and/or purchase items.

Examples of the herd mentality include the early adopters of high tech products such as 3G cell phones and iPads.

Groups [herds] which hang out together tend to stick up for each other. As can be seen on MySpace, FaceBook & Twitter, members of a tribe will work to promote each other. When one of them tweets, other members of the tribe will retweet it.


Herd mentality describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behavior, follow trends, and/or purchase items.

Examples of the herd mentality include the early adopters of high technology products such as ipods and iPads, as well as stock market trends, fashions in apparel, cars, home décor, etc.

Social psychologists study the related topics of group intelligence, crowd wisdom, and decentralized decision making.[citation needed]

People in these herds are broken up into two groups, explains Friedrich Nietzsche, a philosopher who coined the phrase.

One lent itself to the religious points of views- their beliefs and how those dictated their actions- while the other lent itself to influence by the media- based upon what others perceive as 'right' (following trends, social norms, etc.).

Nietzsche perceived these two forms of subservience to be a weakness among the common man, and that the "Superman" as Nietzsche terms is the one who overcomes the values of the fallible herd.

Herd mentality implies a fear-based reaction to peer pressure which makes individuals act in order to avoid feeling “left behind” from the group. Herd mentality is also sometimes known as "mob mentality.

Another way of describing this phenomenon is called social proof or informational social influence.

It's a psychological phenomenon that occurs in ambiguous social situations when people are unable to determine the appropriate mode of behavior.

Making the assumption that surrounding people possess more knowledge about the situation, they will deem the behavior of others as appropriate or better informed.

Since observation of others usually provides only inconclusive information about what behavior is most profitable, the term 'informational social influence' is superior.

Social influence in general can lead to conformity of large groups of individuals in either correct or mistaken choices, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as herd behavior.

Although informational social influence at least in part reflects a rational motive to take into account the information of others, formal analysis shows that it can cause people to converge too quickly upon a single choice, so that decisions of even large groups of individuals may reflect very little information.

The Partly Blind Leading the Blind

It's only been in the past five years or so that we've seen the social web revolution roll out. And sociologists and psychiatrists should be watching with interest, because there's a gold mine of research just lying around waiting to be scooped up.

One effect we've noticed is the herd mentality. Sites like Digg, Reddit, and Slashdot allow peer submission and peer moderation.

The result is that popular ideas get voted up, while dissenting views get modded down. And that creates a polarizing effect, where popular ideas draw even more supporters, while less popular ideas get shoved into the shadowy corner, where they never break free.

Yet the crowd isn't always right; in fact, it's frequently proved wrong. Look how many buyout rumors, vaporware announcements, and market predictions in the technology field alone have been boldly made, widely accepted, and fizzled out. So pervasive is this effect of social media that its spawned several terms to describe it:

- Groupthink. Where group members who try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas.

- The Bandwagon effect. Where people do and believe things because many other people do and believe the same things.

- Opinion leadership. Where one person interprets ideas so that others can digest them easily, and the opinion followers look up to that person.

- Crowd psychology. Where ordinary people gain more direct power by acting collectively than they would if acting alone.

This affects the idea economy. If information is the currency of Internet culture, as is frequently cited, then herd mentality shapes the market of ideas. Sort of like a stock market, an idea's perceived value rises and falls with the number of people "invested" in it.

But unlike stocks, which rise and fall incrementally, ideas on the social web tend to stay low in ranking until they reach a critical mass of adopters, and then they shoot up the scale. Suddenly everyone is talking about it! Then it falls, pushed over the cliff by the next idea to come up the scale.

A related idea is that groups which hang out together tend to stick up for each other. As can be seen on MySpace, FaceBook & Twitter, members of a tribe will work to promote each other. When one of them makes a submission to Digg.com, they notify their tribe so they can all go vote it up.

What we end up with is the cliques of the school age again, without the restraint of having to be polite about it when we deal with others face to face.

It's just something to keep in mind if you participate in social networks. It isn't that the link you submitted wasn't likable, it's that you didn't have enough friends watching to vote you up yet.

Gaining that critical mass of friends, however, is a challenge that most find too daunting. That's the thing that keeps herd mentality going; it isn't unbreakable, but breaking it appears to outsiders to be more trouble than it's worth.

Lady GaGa, Social Media & Loss of Meaning




The Age of Relativism

Social media’s decentralization and relativism run amok have brought us to a breaking point.

Succeeding the modernist age of alienation, ours is the postmodern age of anomie.

With the rest of would-be mass culture riding the greased slide of Web 2.0’s “long tail” into relative obscurity, Lady Gaga’s massive popularity suggests that the disappearance of the mainstream has been a deeply felt loss for culture at large.


The colossal success of Lady Gaga’s latest single “Telephone” has made her the only artist in history to have six consecutive No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts.

Within a year of the release of her album The Fame Monster, “Let’s Dance”, “Poker Face”, “LoveGame”, “Paparazzi”, and “Bad Romance” all reached the pop music summit. In the wake of these successes, the popularity of “Telephone” comes as no surprise. Gaga’s ascendancy is manifest.

The song’s sheer cultural ubiquity (instigated by, of all things, that relic of the MTV era—its music video) is remarkable.

Since the “Telephone” video was released, the song and Gaga herself have ranked extraordinarily high in every reliable marker of cultural attention: posts on Tumblr and other blogging platforms, statuses on Facebook, listening statistics on last.fm and MySpace, and as a trending topic on Twitter.

The pop appeal of Gaga’s music, though undeniable, cannot on its own explain the magnitude of her fame. The “Telephone” phenomenon has the look and feel of mass culture.

If this article were being written in March 2003, we might be tempted to dismiss it as just that, part of a strategic master plan devised by BlackBerry-toting heirs to Dick Clark. But it’s 2010, and new technologies are making the establishment media of yesteryear irrelevant.

Social media’s decentralization and relativism run amok have brought us to a breaking point. Succeeding the modernist age of alienation, ours is the postmodern age of anomie.

With the rest of would-be mass culture riding the greased slide of Web 2.0’s “long tail” into relative obscurity, Lady Gaga’s massive popularity suggests that the disappearance of the mainstream has been a deeply felt loss for culture at large.

Gagaism has all the intensity of backlash, because that is precisely what it is: pop culture’s response to the disorientation of normlessness, the outburst of a complaint simmering in our collective unconscious.

As Wired editor Chris Anderson noted in his influential article The Long Tail, “we live in the physical world and, until recently, most of our entertainment media did, too.”

Because of the limits and costs of making physical objects, consumers’ entertainment options were necessarily limited. To justify the costs of touring and manufacturing, a set of songs has to guarantee that bodies will gather in concert halls and CDs will fly off the shelves.

After all, someone’s got to pay the rent, and since venues can only book one gig a night and record stores have only so much shelf space to stock, the inflexibility of space and time is, culturally speaking, extremely limiting.

Similarly, as radio and TV can have only so many stations, and because their signals only transmit so far, they must ensure large audiences in small geographic areas, which means that even slightly obscure programming gets tossed.

Materiality is inimical to variety. In the physical world, we are the unwitting subjects of the cruel tyranny of the hit. But those days are behind us. Online, there’s no “there” there.

“What do we really want?” asks Anderson. “We’re only just discovering, but it clearly starts with more.”

The advent of Web 2.0 is indeed a revolution of choice (as much as the disorientation brought on by market segmentation can be deemed “choice”), but it has yielded a deficit of consumer attention—limited, it turns out, by the pesky inflexibility of space and time.

Mainstream media no longer pulls in the audiences it used to, and advertisers are looking elsewhere to corral whatever scattered attention they can.

Experimental and idiosyncratic works, once condemned to obscurity, are now MySpace-Friending and Amazon Recommends-ing their way into newly individualized media spheres—without the normalizing influence of mass culture.

As a result, we’ve lost a sense of shared meanings. Popular music’s most effective tool for creating shared symbolism—its organizing principle—is the celebrity

It isn't a debased distraction from life’s more important things but rather a social tool to help us conceive coherent identities amid the miasma of postmodern culture. In late 20th century America, celebrity may have been the closest we came to objective meaning in culture.

4/13/10

Twitter Capitalism [Making Money out of Tweeters]


Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, right,
said promoted tweets which fail to resonate
with users would 'disappear.' Oh, yeah?

Twitter Exploits Tweeters

It seems that contributors to Twitter are about to become slaves on Twitter's Capitalist plantation. Twitter has unveiled its plan for making money from advertising.

The exploitation of the tweeter is not obvious. That's hardly surprising in an unchained capitalist society. But social media generally use the energy and productivity of their contributors to make money.

Bloggers, tweeters and facebookers work for corporate entities, capitalist enterprises. It is digital slavery.

We, as contributors to corporate profits, receive no salary, wage or dividend. All we get is a bit of ego-enhancement and identity promotion. It's the perfect capitalist storm: making money out of unpaid workers.


Twitter will unveil on Tuesday a much-anticipated plan for making money from advertising, finally answering the question of how the company expects to turn its exponential growth into revenue.

The advertising program, which Twitter calls Promoted Tweets, will show up when Twitter users search for keywords that the advertisers have bought to link to their ads. Later, Twitter plans to show promoted posts in the stream of Twitter posts, based on how relevant they might be to a particular user.

Several companies will run ads, including Best Buy, Virgin America, Starbucks and Bravo.

“The idea behind Promoted Tweets is that we want to enhance the communications that companies are already having with customers on Twitter,” said Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief operating officer.

Since Twitter started in 2007, its growth has resembled a hockey stick, increasing almost in a vertical line.

According to comScore, Twitter.com had 22.3 million unique visitors in March, up from 524,000 a year ago, and that does not include the millions more who use the service through third-party smartphone and Web applications like TweetDeck or Tweetie.

Yet Twitter has been slow to monetize those users. Its founders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, have said that it is following Google’s path — building a service that many people use, then figuring out how to make money.

Though Twitter already has some revenue from deals to license its stream of posts to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, Twitter’s announcement is the first significant step toward a business model.

The ads will let businesses insert themselves into the stream of real-time conversation on Twitter to ensure their posts do not get buried in the flow.

Starbucks, for instance, often publishes Twitter posts about its promotions, like free pastries. But the messages quickly get lost in the thousands of posts from users who happen to mention meeting at Starbucks.

“When people are searching on Starbucks, what we really want to show them is that something is happening at Starbucks right now, and Promoted Tweets will give us a chance to do that,” said Chris Bruzzo, vice president of brand, content and online at Starbucks.

When a Twitter user searches for a word an advertiser bought, the promoted message will show up at the top of the results, even if it was written much earlier.

The posts say they are promoted by the company in small type, and when someone rolls over a promoted post with a cursor, it turns yellow.

The ads will also be a way for companies to enter the conversation when it turns negative. Several companies have created tools to measure sentiment on Twitter, but until now, businesses can do little with that information.

Even if they write a post in response, it also quickly gets lost in a sea of complaints.

Companies will “be able to increase awareness in that instance when the iron is most malleable,” said Anamitra Banerji, who manages commercial products at Twitter.

If a new movie is getting negative reaction, the studio could use the ads to link to a positive review, for example.

Businesses have been eager to wade into conversations on social media, said Bernardo Huberman, senior fellow and director of the social computing lab at Hewlett-Packard’s research and development arm and co-author of a recent study that found that chatter on Twitter can forecast box-office revenue for movies. But he is not convinced that it can change people’s opinions.

Studios have already been writing Twitter posts about new movies. “Our study shows that the influence of those tweets was minimal compared to the conversation that people were having about those movies,” he said.

“Media like Twitter and Facebook are so enormous that it’s very hard to imagine it would be easy to manipulate the conversation.”

Twitter will measure what it calls resonance, which takes into account nine factors, including the number of people who saw the post, the number of people who replied to it or passed it on to their followers, and the number of people who clicked on links.

If a post does not reach a certain resonance score, Twitter will no longer show it as a promoted post. That means that the company will not have to pay for it, and users will not see ads they do not find useful, Mr. Costolo said.

At first, companies will pay per thousand people who see promoted posts. Once Twitter figures out how people interact with the posts, it will figure out alternate ways to charge advertisers.

In the next phase of Twitter’s revenue plan, it will show promoted posts in a user’s Twitter stream, even if a user did not perform a search and does not follow the advertiser.

For example, if someone has been following people who write about travel, they could see a promoted post from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts.

Anyone who uses Google has grown accustomed to seeing ads alongside their search results, but Twitter users could resent seeing promoted posts in their personal content stream.

Twitter is aware of that risk. It is still figuring out how to determine which promoted posts should appear. It could be based on topics they are writing about, geographic location or shared interests of people they follow.

“One of the reasons we’re not rolling that out right now is because we only want to show tweets that help the user experience,” Mr. Costolo said.

Once Twitter figures out how to measure the number of people who read posts other than on Twitter.com, it will also allow third-party developers to show ads and share revenue.

Early on, Twitter’s founders said they wanted to avoid showing ads as other social networks do, displayed on the right side of the page. The new ad platform is different, Mr. Costolo said, because the promoted posts also exist in the organic Twitter stream.

“The ability of companies to engage with customers around this interest graph is more compelling than trying to wedge yourself into these social interactions,” he said.

4/11/10

I Tweet, Therefore I Am


Twitter Exemplifies Self-Absorption

As the physical world takes on more of the characteristics of a simulation, we seek reality in the simulated world. At least there we can be confident that the simulation is real.

At least there we can be freed from the anxiety of not knowing where the edge between real and unreal lies. At least there we find something to hold onto, even if it's nothing.

Yet we continue to tweet he minutiae of our lives. The moment-by-moment answer to what is, in Twitterland, the most important question in the world: What are you doing? Or, to save four characters: What you doing? And now, updated to What's happening?

That used to be hippie greeting: What's happening, man? To which one responded "nothing much". If only tweets were reduced to those two words.

Unfortunately, Twitter has become the telegraph of Narcissus. Not only are you the star of the show, but everything that happens to you, no matter how trifling, is a headline, a media event, a stop-the-presses bulletin. Quicksilver turns to amber.

Narcissism is just the user interface for nihilism, of course, and with artfully kitschy services like Twitter we're allowed to both indulge our self-absorption and distance ourselves from it by acknowledging, with a coy digital wink, its essential emptiness. I love me! Just kidding!

The great paradox of "social networking" is that it uses narcissism as the glue for "community." Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together.

The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self's bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence?


And so it comes to pass. After passing through Email and Instant Messaging and Texting, we arrive in the land of Twitter.

The birds are singing in the trees – they look like that robin at the end of Blue Velvet – and the air itself is so clean you can see yourself in it.

Twitter is the telegraph system of Web 2.0. Like Morse's machine, it limits messages to very brief strings of text. But whereas the telegraph imposed its limit through the market's will - priced by the word, telegraph messages were too expensive to waste - Twitter imposes its limit through the iron law of code.

Each message may include no more than 140 characters. As you type your message - your "tweet," in Twitterese - in the Twitter messaging box, a counter lets you know how many characters you have left. (That last sentence wouldn't quite have made the cut. It has 146 characters. Faulkner would have been a disaster as a Twitterer.)

Only on the length of each message is a limit imposed. Because there's no charge to send a message and no protocol governing the frequency of posting, you can send as many tweets as you want.

The telegraph required you to stop and ask yourself: Is this worth it? Twitter says: Everything's worth it! (If you're sending or receiving tweets on your cell phone, though, you best have an all-you-can eat messaging plan; Twitter is, among other things, a killer app for the wireless oligopoly.)

You can also send each tweet to as large an audience as you want, and the recipients are free to read it via mobile phone, instant messaging, RSS, or web site. Twitter unbundles the blog, fragments the fragment. It broadcasts the text message, turns SMS into a mass medium.

And what exactly are we broadcasting? The minutiae of our lives. The moment-by-moment answer to what is, in Twitterland, the most important question in the world: What are you doing? Or, to save four characters: What you doing? And now, updated to What's happening?

That used to be hippie greeting: What's happening, man? To which one responded "nothing much". If only tweets were reduced to those two words.

Unfortunately, Twitter has become the telegraph of Narcissus. Not only are you the star of the show, but everything that happens to you, no matter how trifling, is a headline, a media event, a stop-the-presses bulletin. Quicksilver turns to amber.

Are you exhausted yet?

Dave Winer has succeeded in creating a New York Times feed through the Twitter service, as if to prove that everything is equal in its 140-character triviality. "All the news that's fit to tweet," twitters Dave. The world is flat, and so is information.

my dog just piddled on the rug! :-) [less than 10 seconds ago]



Seventeen killed in Baghdad suicide bombing [2 minutes ago]



Oh my god I cant believe it I just ate 14 double stuff Oreos [3 minutes ago]



A conflicted Kathy Sierra explains why Twitter is so addictive. Boiled down to a couple of tweets, it goes like this:

Using Twitter presents us with the possibility of a social reward, while not using it presents us with the possibility of a social penalty - and the possibility of a reward or penalty is a far more compelling motivator than the reality of a reward or penalty. Look at me! Look at me! Are you looking?

Tara Hunt says, "Twitter is a representation of my stream of consciousness."

What used to happen in the privacy of the mind is now tossed into the public's bowl like so many Fritos.

The broadcasting of the spectacle of the self has become a full-time job. Au revoir, Jean Baudrillard, your work here is done.

Like so many other Web 2.0 services, Twitter wraps itself and its users in an infantile language. We're not adults having conversations, or even people sending messages. We're tweeters twittering tweets. We're twitters tweetering twits. We're twits tweeting twitters. We're Tweety Birds.



I did! I did taw a puddy tat! [half a minute ago]

I tawt I taw a puddy tat! [1 minute ago]

Narcissism is just the user interface for nihilism, of course, and with artfully kitschy services like Twitter we're allowed to both indulge our self-absorption and distance ourselves from it by acknowledging, with a coy digital wink, its essential emptiness. I love me! Just kidding!

The great paradox of "social networking" is that it uses narcissism as the glue for "community." Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together.

The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self's bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that.

For verification that it has a role to play. As I walk down the street with thin white cords hanging from my ears, as I look at the display of khakis in the window of the Gap, as I sit in a Starbucks sipping a chai served up by a barista, I can't quite bring myself to believe that I'm real.

But if I send out to a theoretical audience of my peers 140 characters of text saying that I'm walking down the street, looking in a shop window, drinking tea, suddenly I become real. I have a voice. I exist, if only as a symbol speaking of symbols to other symbols.

It's not, as Scott Karp suggests, "I Twitter, therefore I am." It's "I Twitter because I'm afraid I ain't."

As the physical world takes on more of the characteristics of a simulation, we seek reality in the simulated world.

At least there we can be confident that the simulation is real. At least there we can be freed from the anxiety of not knowing where the edge between real and unreal lies. At least there we find something to hold onto, even if it's nothing.

I did! I did taw a puddy tat!