Convenient for Us or the Government?

biometrics-154660_1280

Evaluating the use of biometrics in everyday life, specifically facial recognition through Facebook, Aletta Norval and Elpida Prasopoulou’s “Public Face? A critical exploration of the diffusion of face recognition technologies in online social networks” mentions the positive and negative implications of the diffusion of biometric technologies into commercial and social media applications. Although the use of biometrics in public domains is to “deliver improved convenience and value to individuals,” it seems like another way for the government to detect our every move. After all, the biometrics industry began producing products for the government before producing products for the general public.

Biometrics include physical characteristics such as an individual’s voice, fingerprint, iris and hand geometry, and behavior characteristics such as a signature or writing style. The key factors persuading the adoption of biometrics for identification are security related and stress safety in a post 9/11 world. Arguments upholding the diffusion include biometrics enhancing migration control, facilitating economic growth and ease of movement, and contributing to better government services. Biometrics as reliable passwords improve the argument for securing identity and protecting personal data.

In arguing for biometrics use in public domains, proponents state that facial photographs only disclose information that the subject discloses to the general public, facial recognition is non-intrusive and the use of photographs for identification is socially and culturally accepted. Biometrics for commercial and social media applications, in my opinion, are covert ways to detect criminals and observe citizens. Facial scans of crowds and individuals occur through cameras, including cameras at a distance, giving it a covert capability. Contrary to proponents’ arguments, biometrics are invasive and don’t always occur with the subject’s consent. The most invasive form of biometrics is “remote biometrics,” where databases identify and compare subject photographs to watch-lists and other databases, usually without the subject’s consent.

Facial recognition through social media applications like Facebook makes it easier to identify and observe individuals. “Your face is a conduit to an incredible amount of information about you.” On the internet, an obtained faceprint can lead to identifying an individual’s social network profile, their personality traits and known whereabouts. Not only does that enlist privacy concerns with the government, but with other members of society. Individuals should not only worry about government surveillance, but identity theft. Though you make think I’m paranoid, but the government spying on citizens is nothing new.

At Super Bowl XXXV a camera took images of 100,000 fans and matched them against a digitalized police lineup of known criminals without their knowledge. WikiLeaks documents released in 2017 reveal the various methods the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) use to hack devices. A tool called “Weeping Angel” can attack Samsung SmartTV’s. Placing the target television in a “Fake-Off” mode that operates as a bug, the CIA can record conversations in the room and send them over the internet to their server. The CIA can also bypass encrypted software and applications to record the sounds, images and private text messages of citizens, which leads me to believe that the CIA can easily hack into a mobile phone camera and record my conversations.

I’m not saying that biometrics for public use is bad. I’m saying that the government has the means to continuously observe citizens. If facial recognition can offer a blueprint to my life on social networks and is compare subjects’ faces to criminal lists, then other forms of biometrics technologies provide even more data about ourselves. The CIA can hack into our phones and store our fingerprints, iris scans and much more. Just be careful.

                                                      Works Cited

Norval, A., & Prasopoulou, E. (2017). Public Faces? A critical exploration of the diffusion of face recognition technologies in online social networks. New Media and Society, 637-654.

Timberg, C., Dwoskin, E., & Nakashima, E. (2017, March 7). WikiLeaks: The CIA is using popular TVs, smartphones and cars to spy on their owners. Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/03/07/why-the-cia-is-using-your-tvs-smartphones-and-cars-for-spying/?utm_term=.67a92d84dae1

Social Media for Validation

social-1710317_1920

The time is nine o’clock in the morning. After turning my alarm clock off I instantly check Instagram for any updates. As I scroll through my timeline looking for posts from the previous day I notice many of my friends posting and commenting. I think to myself, “it’s nine o’clock, why are people posting so early?” Not only are my friends posting pictures from their fun nights, they are posting the same pictures they posted days earlier. Mainly in the hope for more likes.
Why is social media a major part of society that users update at all hours of the day? Is social media important because it connects us across the globe or because we can continually promote ourselves in any way we see fit? Dominic Pettman’s Infinite Distraction argues that social media’s ability to distract us from the ugly parts of reality contributes to its popularity. Social media is simply a coping mechanism for dealing with chaos, war, death and injustice. “The planet is in trouble, and social media is where the majority of us have decided to bury our heads.” (p. 123)
As Pettman argues, social media is perfect for escaping reality when we’re bored, overwhelmed or overworked. With the design of social networking sites giving all topics the same amount of importance, it is much easier to distract ourselves within our distractions. Hilarious animal videos receive the same attention as videos calling for social justice, which undermines the potential for social media to challenge users’ perspectives of the world around us. Although social media pulls users into a continuous loop of distraction, escapism attracts users. I, however, disagree.
“We are becoming ‘exo-subjects’- sending selfies out into the void in search for validation of a self that is now distributed across the wires.” (p. 10) I believe this line from Infinite Distraction perfectly describes the relationship between social media and its users. Whether users are uploading selfies, posting updates of their lives or following along with a hashtag, they seek validation from other users in the form of likes, retweets, shares or comments.
As Pettman also states, “ping goes the phone. Jerk goes the neck.” (p. 121) Whenever our phones notify us of something, we scramble to see who liked, shared or admired our posts. We scramble to see who wants to interact with us. There are various ways users seek validation through social media such as comparing Snapchat scores and “to be honest” posts. Even the number of followers one has determines worthiness on social media.
In fact, a Common Sense survey entitled Children, Teens, Media and Body Image reports that many teens, especially females, active online worry about their image and how they’re perceived. Thirty-five percent worry about friends tagging them in unattractive photographs. And, twenty-two percent feel bad about themselves when other users ignore their photographs.
Though those numbers seem small, they are troublesome. If the goal of social media is to connect us with others around the globe, offer a platform for marginalized groups and market our social platforms ssel-validation is the last thing users should care about. Even I sometimes fret over how many likes my Instagram posts receive. The question now becomes, how do we separate social media and self-acceptance? To be honest, I’m not sure, because my self-esteem connects to my social media accounts as well.

References

Knorr, C. (2018, January 30). How Girls Are Seeking (and Subverting) Approval Online. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-girls-are-seeking-and-subverting-approval-online

Pettman, D. (2016). Infinite distraction. Cambridge: Polity Press.

 

Does participatory culture create social media slaves?

reddit-1007072_1920

Adrienne Massanari’s Participatory Culture, Community, and Play outlines how members of online participatory platforms experience these spaces and how the design of these spaces shape members’ experiences. Focusing on the platform Reddit, Massanari highlights the ways in which participatory culture encourages users to “labor free for nonmonetary gains such as social connections with others and deeper engagement with the platform.” (p. 7) Yes, user-generated content on social networking sites produce benefits, but at what cost? Reddit’s participatory nature enforces a slave-like atmosphere for its users.
Participatory culture is the idea that advance technology in the early 1990s shifted our personal and collective engagement with media. Audience members, previously viewed as passive receptors, began producing media content of their own. Participatory culture yields various benefits such as an increase in citizen journalism and access to elites and various channels of information. Though Reddit creates a feed based on individual interests resulting in “echo chambers,” participatory culture through Reddit is different from platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reddit is a pseudoanonmyous platform where users lack profiles, although there are usernames. A critical aspect of Reddit is that volunteers within Reddit’s community moderate the platform’s content in individual subreddits, essentially being the platform’s governing structure.
Reddit’s user maintained governing system is beneficial for site administrators, while problematic for volunteers moderating the sites content. Moderators maintaining individual subreddits are normally satisfied with laboring for Reddit. When subreddits appear on the platform’s default page for non-redditors, public and private redditors alike to view, moderators experience a heavier burden. As Reddit experiences an increase in membership and the number of people submitting and voting on content, the quality of content decreases. As many users don’t follow the rediquette, a “main and informal articulation of ways redditors engage with one another.” (p. 70) Defaulted subreddits increase pressure on moderators along with redditors of all types posting and creating unappealing and uninteresting content, usually leading subreddits to disappear from existence.
Another strain on individuals earning the site a positive reputation is “gift economies,” systems where people offer their labor for free and results of labor are immaterial. Immaterial results on Reddit include sharing many humorous and disturbing memes for entertainment, showing support to those in need and exchanging knowledge on various topics such as biology and individual queries. Reddit also serves as a gift economy through RedditGifts.com. Redditors anonymously send gifts to one another based on information they’ve gathered primarily through their interactions on Reddit. Although the site encourages participation from both redditors, some don’t receive their gifts. Redditors have admitted that they enjoy the act of giving over receiving, continuing to use the site and exchange with others. This continues to improve the site’s reputation and increase participation, while some redditors spend large amounts of money in exchange for cheap gifts or none at all. If redditors do receive their gifts, it may not represent their interests and preferences.
Unlike other platforms where site administrators use algorithms to suggest and create homogenous communities for users, redditors create subreddits around a theme or a mentioned meme to create homogenous communities for themselves that users search for access. Reddit relies on community members to run its platform, stressing the importance of participant labor for few immaterial and other benefits. Maybe I’m cynical about Reddit’s structure, but Its user-maintained system has produced major consequences as well as benefits. In addition to stressing out moderators, Reddit content is cruel and hatred groups can use memes and play to recruit redditors to interact with their content. This has led Massanari to ask if Reddit and other online spaces should continue allowing the community to moderate content. Reddit site administrators should police objectionable content and easily connect redditors apart from the default page on their platforms to ease moderators and other redditors’ experiences. Creating user-generated content, laboring for participatory platforms for free is enough of a burden. You can learn more about participatory culture here.
Works Cited
Massanari, A. L. (2015). Participatory Culture, Community, and Play: Learning from reddit. New York, New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Second Screening

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s Monday night in 2015 and Teen Wolf is coming on MTV at 10 o’clock. I change the channel to 333?, grab my cellphone and open Twitter. After typing #TeenWolf in the search bar, I am good to watch one of my favorite shows. As Teen Wolf plays, my Twitter feed is buzzing with comments from other viewers. I can retweet comments I agree with, while seeing tweets that point out subtle moments of the show many viewers missed. This act is second screening.
Second screening, the act of using a digital device while watching television to access the Internet and social network sites, is a purposive act that unifies traditional media with online media and yields several benefits. While second screening, individuals obtain more information about or discuss the program they are watching, enhance attention to television programs, and collectively remember and bond across generations with others. Second screening, also called simultaneous media exposure, can also potentially encourage or discourage online and offline political participation with the context of conversations on social media. As Williams and Gonlin’s I’ve Got All My Sisters with Me study presents, social media conversations originating from second screening further various discourses on identity politics.
Williams and Gonlin found that second screening during How to Get Away with Murder allows Twitter users to express their views on Black identity, exposes users to potentially opposing views, and give them the opportunity to discuss these ideas with an online community. Second screening viewers compared their Black experiences with those portrayed on How to Get Away with Murder. Moving past racial issues, second screening is important for allowing people to identify with social norms and popular culture.
Simultaneous media exposure results in more media viewing within the same timeframe. This consequence of second screening, a technocultural tool, permits individuals to view television programs while exposing themselves to differentiating or like-minded opinions. Through this tool, television’s process is no longer unidirectional. As I stated earlier, the best thing about second screening is connecting with others who express views similar to mine. Retweeting and liking funny and serious memes and gifs portrays and amplifies our digital culture. Second screening reinforces culture.
Culture is further reinforced through social norms that inhabit second screening. A social norm often repeated during simultaneous media exposure is instantaneous communication. The constant updating of the Twitter feed encourages users to respond to others instantly, which can deter focus from the television program. Although instantaneous responding leads to a potential drawback of second screening, there is a solution. Because second screening interactions form around hashtags, viewers can participate in second screening after viewing their television program.
Another implication of simultaneous media exposure is its ability to influence opinions of viewers. McGregor and Mourão’s Second Screening Donald Trump found that second screening can encourage political participation, online and offline, depending on audiences’ support for the candidate dominating news media content. When the viewers favor the candidate dominating news and social media content, they’re inspired to take part politically online and offline, such as voting, participating in political discussions and donating to campaigns. Second screening’s ability to influence political opinions expands to opinions about other programs. Viewers despised Teen Wolf character Peter Hale until other viewers convinced them his character is useful.
The allowances of second screening results in our dependence on simultaneous media use. That leads us to continuously second screen to connect with like-minded and opposing views, thus perpetuating digital culture in American society. Its ability to influence opinions elevates second screening’s importance. You can learn more about who second screens here.

Works Cited
Williams, A., & Gonlin, V. (2017). I got all my sisters with me (on Black Twitter): second screening of How to Get Away with Murder as a discourse on Black Womanhood. Information, Communication & Society, 20(7), 984-1004. doi:10.1080/1369118x.2017.1303077
Mcgregor, S. C., & Mourão, R. R. (2017). Second Screening Donald Trump: Conditional Indirect Effects on Political Participation. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 61(2), 264-290. doi:10.1080/08838151.2017.1309418

Creating Public Safe Spaces

Have you ever been bullied? What about cyberbullied? According to Statistic Brain, fifty-two percent of student-aged adolescents experience bullying online, and thirty-three percent receive online cyber-threats. Wendy Chun’s Updating to Remain the Same explains bullying as one of the dangers of Web.20. Forms of bullying online include slut shaming, sexting, revenge porn and catfishing.

One argument Chun makes is that social networking sites’ ability to amplify offline relations through expanding the temporal and spatial range of their users’ interactions results in the expanded range and force of bullying. Using the Amanda Todd and Jonah Mowry videos as examples, Chun reveals how users denigrated the videos. Though the videos revealed their vulnerabilities, users’ comments focused on the authenticity of Mowry’s video, and slut shaming Todd’s. Users regarded Todd’s video as authentic, because she committed suicide. They, however, regarded Mowry’s as inauthentic after a cheerful YouTube video surfaced.

In addition to admiring Todd’s beauty, some users supported her harassment and suicide. Through slut shaming, users blamed Todd for her online harasser’s actions. As an element of slut shaming, Todd’s topless picture granted her no protection nor privacy from online criticism. Further analysis of this danger of the web led to Chun wondering how users can loiter in public without getting attacked. Specifically, she asks, “how can we understand publicity not in terms of a need for safety and protection, which is neither safe nor protecting, but rather the fight for a space in which one can be vulnerable and not attacked?” (p. 158) Thinking about my experiences with bullying offline has connected to my life online, I believe there should be personality tests that take cyberbullying into account to determine which users are compatible with one another.

To match potential friendships, social networking sites use algorithms to determine what and who users will interact with. Social networking sites’ algorithms use geographical locations, as well as other factors, to match potential friendships. Unfortunately, these sites could request offline bullies as friends to those bullied, or the bullies could request the friendship for various purposes, such as cyberbullying. For the sake of not being rude or allowing bullies to “control their actions,” those bullied will accept those requests. My childhood bullies follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snap chat. And, of course I accepted the requests for fear of being rude and looking afraid of them. Although I didn’t experience cyberbullying, my bullies used material from these sites to bully me offline; the social network sites expanded the range and force of their bullying.

In addition to monitoring users’ online interactions, preferences and content, social networking sites should provide personality tests that explore their experiences with bullying. Asking questions about if, where, how and when users experienced bullying allows users to contemplate how their experiences affect them. If users are aware of how others negatively treat them, they will monitor their behavior toward others in a positive manner. I also suggest that social networking sites use these tests to connect users with support groups and mental health specialists for help.

Wishing that my social networking sites didn’t allow my offline bullies to request friendships with me, sites can allow users to secretly search their bullies and block them when they sign up for the app. Allowing users to do this before their profiles are public minimizes the chance bullies will see their victim’s pages and request friendships. Minimizing bullying occurring between those associated with one another offline and online is the first step toward providing a safe space for vulnerabilities online.

To provide a safe public space between users and their weak ties, social networking sites can screen comments before they’re posted. Rather than deleting inappropriate content after it’s posted, the sites would detect and delete the content before it goes public. A code to complete this process within a reasonable time is needed for these sites to continue broadening the temporal and spatial range of users’ interactions. I’m not sure how well this will work, but having the idea is a start.

Works Cited

Chun, W. H. (2017). Updating to Remain the Same. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Statistic Brain Research Institute. (2017, August 24). Cyberbullying/ Bullying Statistics. Retrieved from Statistic Brain: https://www.statisticbrain.com/cyber-bullying-statistics/

 

 

The Secret to Branding on Social Media

An important capability of social media is branding. Through user-generated content, users can brand themselves to other users, future employers, and various organizations. Self-branding on the internet, also known as a visual representation of yourself, is maintained through updated representations of the self with photos, videos, news stories, memes, and other user-generated content produced or found. In addition to self-branding, companies can use branding to implement their product in consumers’ social lives. As a novel businesswoman I found Carah’s “Algorithmic brands: A decade of experiments with mobile and social media” very interesting. The article explained the meaning of contemporary branding, how branding works, and how algorithms play an effective role in advertising brands.

As Carah stated, a “brand is a network of human relationships mediated by a digital infrastructure that orchestrates action, generates data, and shapes flows of attention through time and space.” (p. 387) Branding is successful when brands permit consumers to make themselves seen and felt in the social world, creating value for the brand and the consumer. Branding occurs often. The most recent account of branding I remember regards the new Black Panther film starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o. Audiences have photographed themselves in African clothing and Black Panther masks, custom-designed “Wakanda” clothing, with the movie poster and their movie tickets to promote the film and the African culture displayed in the film and to remain a part of the social conversation around the film.

Contemporary branding contains several core components. Consumer participation in the creation and circulation of content are crucial to branding. Consumers engage in controlled forms of involvement in realistic social spaces using mobile devices. Lastly, consumer participation with mobile devices in realistic social spaces generates data. How do these core components lead to creating a successful brand?

Carah answers that question with algorithms. Based on consumers’ content, connections, and perceived interests on social networks, algorithms target, evaluate and integrate editorials and advertisements. As a cultural product, brands operate through algorithms that broker consumers’ attention and engagement, as well as manage consumers’ social networks. To broker the attention and engagement of algorithms, a brand must create value through building “an infrastructure for reflexively responding to the open-ended nature of cultural life.” (p. 394) In other words, brands should activate consumers to create and curate flows of content that implant the brand within their depictions of their identity and culture. Social and mobile media are valuable to activating brands because they allow real world interaction with consumers to influence the gain of attention online.

Algorithms organize brands on consumers’ social networks. Algorithms choose brands that relate to consumers’ cultural identities. Once I create a brand that relates to my target demographic, everything should go smoothly from there, right? No. Another article I found interesting was Waddell and Sundar’s “#thisshowsucks! The Overpowering Influence of Negative Social Media Comments on Television Viewers.” Testing the effects of social media comments of the show “30 Rock” on viewers’ enjoyment, they found that negative commentary has robust effects, affecting viewers who vary in their processing as well as those who already formed an opinion towards the show. Viewers adjusted their attitudes towards the program according to the opinions of others. That mentality is the bandwagon heuristic.

If negative comments on social media about a television program can induce the bandwagon effect, negative comments about any brand may induce the bandwagon effect. Social media is a powerful tool that affords users the ability to express their own opinion or observe the collective agency of other users. Algorithms choose brands with positive images and large followings. A positive image is central to gaining a large following. Keeping a positive image that engages users to create content with embedded brands that algorithms will choose is dependent on the value the brand creates. I understand that this is a lot of information and algorithms are more complex than I make them seem, but as a fellow entrepreneur I am learning too. Together we’ll figure out how to incorporate our brands into the social reality of our consumers.

Works Cited

Carah, N. (2015). Algorithmic brands: A decade of brand experiments with mobile and social media. New Media and Society, 384-400.
Waddell, T. F., & Sundar, S. S. (2017). #thisshowsucks! The Overpowering Influence of Negative Social Media Comments on Television Viewers. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 393-409.

Social Networks: The Bad and The Ugly!

For several weeks I have championed the use of digital technology and social networks. Positive outcomes associated with use are faster connectivity, strengthened relationships and opportunities to notice marginalized groups. My last blog entry, specifically, discussed an effective method for mobilizing and maintaining viral movements on social platforms like Twitter. Listing instantaneity, crowd-sourcing of elites, solidarity, and ambience as important values in sustaining viral movements, I may have convinced readers that connecting to millions on the Internet is easy. That, however, is not the case.

The implications of digital technology are vast. As Groshek and Tandoc (2017) note, social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, permit audiences to participate in the news construction process. Users can publish their opinions about political issues discussed in the news on their pages, as well as criticize the news media. Content creation and circulation through social networks empowers citizens to become interested and involved in politics (Penney, 2017). Internet use and frequent social network use positively correlates to the three types of social support: perceived, enacted, and received (Lu and Hampton, 2016).

It also is true that social networks allow users to connect with others on a global scale, allowing for more diverse, and otherwise impossible, connections. Associations on the web, however, tend to match those physically established. Users form connections with those who share similar interests and characteristics creating homogenous groups, also known as homophily. Shin et al. (2016) credits this homophily to selective exposure, where users avoid psychological discomfort from situations that challenge their beliefs. This poses a challenge for those attempting to reach broad audiences, especially on Twitter.

The simplest method of widely disseminating information on Twitter is through retweets and hashtags, where homophily on Twitter usually manifests. Retweeting indicates endorsement and friendship, and the primary audience for retweets are one’s followers. Hashtags create a separate environment on the network where people sharing similar interests gather. It seems hassle-free to start movements with tweeting your message, adding a hashtag, and hoping it spreads through retweets. But, that’s where homophily can hinder the movement.

Retweets depend on how relatable the message is to your followers. They also depend on how supported you are on the network. In this case, followers don’t equal retweets; some users don’t engage, they lurk. Once a post is retweeted, there is no guarantee that the retweeter’s followers will show interest in your message as well. Although hashtags are public and easily accessible to all Twitter users, noticed, retweeted, and mentioned tweets are those appealing to the interests of the users.

It is also important to note that connections among social networks regulate information flow. For sustaining a viral movement, the best typology of Twitter topic-networks is broadcast and support, also known as “hub-and-spoke-topology” (Himelboim et al., 2017). In this typology, users connect to a single or small number of actors for most of their information. Hub-and-spoke-topology can result in unstable communication when an actor reduces their use and activity on a network, which can disconnect most users from information, disrupting the overall flow of the movement.

There are other hindrances to movements online as well. Not only do marginalized groups have a platform, but anyone who desires a platform, regardless of ethical or moral concerns, can have one. As participatory culture encourages users to engage in politics, it also enables disturbing practices that include spreading hate speech and various forms of harassment. 2016 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, using social media to promote his campaign initiatives, received negative press over an unofficial online movement associated with his official campaign. Sanders supporters, labeled “Bernie Bros,” acting disrespectfully towards others who disagreed with them potentially cost Sanders the presidential election due to their online activity.

Although there are various consequences associated with digital technology and social network use, I still believe digital communication and social networks have many implications for society. I realized that I didn’t properly convey the consequences and portrayed social networks as simple applications that allow connectivity. That’s not right. Social networks are complex platforms that thrive on communication, which is a complication in itself. To successfully navigate through them, you have to know every affordance.

 

Works Cited

Groshek, J., & Tandoc, E. (2017). The affordance effect: Gatekeeping and (non)reciprocal journalism on Twitter. Communication in Human Behavior.

Himelboim, I., Smith, M. A., Rainie, L., Shneiderman, B., & Espina, C. (2017). Classifying Twitter Topic-Networks Using Social Network Analysis. Social Media and Society.

Lu, W., & Hampton, K. N. (2016). Beyond the power of networks: Differentiating network structure from social media affordances for perceived social support. New Media and Society.

Penney, J. (2017). Social Media and Citizen Participation in “Official” and “Unofficial” Electoral Promotion: A Structural Analysis of the 2016 Bernie Sanders Digital Campaign. Journal of Communication.

Shin, J., Jian, L., Driscoll, K., & Bar, F. (2016). Political rumoring on Twitter during the 2012 US presidential election: Rumor diffusion and correction. New Media and Society.

 

 

How to Create a Viral Movement on Twitter

Have you ever participated in an online political movement through Twitter? More specifically, have you participated in a viral movement on Twitter? If you’ve tweeted with a trending hashtag, chances are that you have. Do you ever wonder how viral movements are established and sustained? ZiZi Papacharissi’s Affective Publics uses affect to explain how viral movements on Twitter emerge and maintain momentum.

In simplstic terms, affect is the intensity involved in how the public interprets and responds to an event. In the case of Twitter, the public experiences an event through multiple perspectives shaped by the flow of retweets, mentions and commentary. Twitter is an ideal platform for voicing opinions and spreading widespread knowledge. It strengthens individual perspectives and connective expression through naturally formed and free organizing outside formalized structures of democracy and organizations. The instant transmission of information on Twitter gives access to information as an event occurs.

Establishing a viral movement on Twitter is difficult. As an individualized platform, Twitter requires values differing from traditional Western mass media norms. Analyzing the 2011 #egypt movement on Twitter, Pappacharissi notes that instantaneity, crowd-sourcing of elites, solidarity, and ambience sustain virality. As stated before, instantaneity provides access to information in real-time, it also allows access to information at any time. Crowd-sourcing of elites allow hashtag movements to dominate news streams that develop online. Two groups of elites emerge from Twitter movements: mainstream media and an aggregate of bloggers, activists, and intellectuals. Retweets, mentions, and comments reveal who elites are.

Crowd-sourcing of elites forms organically throughout viral movements. Dominance in mentions, retweets, and comments determine elites. Though mainstream media try to balance their values of news organization with those involved in movements, as the movement progresses, objective information will become indistinguishable from opinion. As troubling as that sounds for disseminating unbiased, accurate news, affect impacting accounts of events related to a viral movement is crucial to sustaining a movement. Combining emotions, drama, opinion and fact to produce affectively driven content develops narratives that lead to the possible assembly of events. Papacharissi’s analysis of the #egypt movement revealed that emotive, conversational tweets reached prominence. “Prominent and popular tweets are reproduced and endorsed, contributing to a stream that did not engage the reader cognitively but primarily emotionally.” (p. 58)

Solidarity connects individual leaders with crowd-sourced elites, further validating a conversational atmosphere. Solidarity can lead to networked frames that portray movements in particular perspectives. Elites’ shared support for movements combined with individualized experiences shape movements to what the public prefers. Participants in the #egypt movement framed it as a revolution. The last value, ambience, is also crucial to sustaining viral movements. The sense of community established through movements results in “an always-on news and social environment” that continues the movement online and offline. Users will continuously repost information about the movement to keep the conversation going.

To recall, establishing and maintaining a viral political movement on Twitter relies on the instantaneity of the platform and crowd-sourcing of elites to elevate and bring greater awareness to the movement’s purpose. It also relies on solidarity creating an informal environment and ambience to continue to movement. Though creating and maintaining a social movement is easier said than done, Affective Publics yields meaningful insight into this area of social media use.

 

 

The Digital Divide: Studying the Determinants of Internet Skills and Use

The digital divide focuses on the inequalities in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), particularly the Internet, access, use, skills, and consequences. Hargittai defines the digital divide as “the difference between the connected and those not online at all.” The digital divide consists of three levels: first-level digital divide studies the inequalities of Internet access, while second-level digital divide focuses on skills and use of the Internet. Third-level digital divide considers the physical consequences associated with Internet use. Determinant factors impacting all levels of digital divide include motivational access, socio-economic factors, and sociodemographic influences.
Reisdorf and Groselj’s “Internet (non-)use types and motivational access” finds that socio-economically advantaged Britons are more likely to engage more consistently and broadly with the Internet. They also find that attitudes toward general technologies and Internet use play a major role in predicting use and non-use as well. Hargaittai’s “Digital Natives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the ‘Net Generation’” finds that having greater access to the Internet positively correlates with greater and diverse Internet use and skills. Higher skill levels correspond with higher education backgrounds.
Scheerder et al.’s “Determinants of Internet Skills, Uses and Outcomes” discusses two limitations of digital divide research. First, research prioritizes identifying determinants of Internet use, rather than Internet skills. Second, sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors are the most common determinants of research. I am focusing on the first limitation of digital divide research. Identifying determinants of Internet skills are important to digital divide research, because important influences of Internet use connect to influences of Internet skills. In a sample of 1072 articles for a content analysis of digital divide research in its entirety, Scheerder et al. found that the common determinants of Internet skills and use are sociodemographic, economic, and motivational. Increased Internet use results in increased Internet skills, however, low attitudes toward ICTs and the Internet lead to low motivational access, affecting Internet use, and therefore, skills. Increasing research in Internet skills will solidify the established connection between the common determinants of Internet use and skills. It will also provide a closer look at the smaller and non-existent determinants of Internet use and skills such as cultural, material, and personal.
In addition to focusing on the first limitation of digital divide research, I propose another limitation to this area of research: researchers generally study the three levels of digital divide research exclusively. The three levels of digital divide research relate, and some scholars have attempted to compare results from certain levels to generalize how and why users interact with ICTs and the Internet. Analyzing data concerning the three levels of digital divide mutually will offer a thorough examination of what influences Internet use and participation offline. Scheerder et al.’s analysis identified the common determinants for third-level digital divide as the same for the first and second levels. With similar determinants, it’s easier to conceptualize how Internet access, use, skills, and outcomes connect to create the digital divide.
As Hoffmann et al.’s “Content creation on the Internet” applied the Social Cognitive Theory to Internet use, it can apply to skills and outcomes. A main influence of Internet use is self-efficacy, one’s perception of their own ability to perform a specific behavior. According to Hoffmann et al. self-efficacy drives all three types of content creation: skilled, social and entertainment, and political. If self-efficacy can affect use, it can limit skills, motivation to access technologies, offline participation garnered through technologies, and negative and positive outcomes of Internet use. Low physical access or attitudes toward technologies restricts Internet use, hampering skills, and participation. When hindrances occur within the first and second levels of digital divide, the third level is non-existent.

How the Temporal Structure of Mediated Communication Enhances Communication

Nancy Baym’s Personal Connections in the Digital Age lists the temporal structure of a communication medium as an important feature of communication that has changed the ways people relate to others and themselves. Arguments presented in the book list asynchronous and synchronous communication as factors that can either strengthen or hinder mediated relationships. Also seeing the “fundamental purpose of communication technologies as allowing people to exchange messages without being physically co-present,” (p. 2) I believe that asynchronous and synchronous communication can only strengthen mediated relationships. Synchronous communication such as face-to-face encounter, phone calls, and instant messaging, occurs in real time, allowing for the rapid conveyance of messages. Asynchronous communication, like email and online blogs, have time delays between messages. This encourages sustained interaction between members of very large groups and allows respondents to reply whenever they like, placing fewer demands on time.
Baym argues that asynchronous interaction, though enabling strategic messaging and having a farther reach of audiences, results in a lower sense of connection. Attributed to this lower sense of connection is the lack of social cues present with asynchronous media. On the contrary, asynchronous media, with fewer social cues, inspires hope for equality and people being valued for their character rather than their social identities. The greatest aspect of asynchronous platforms is their ability to connect like-minded individuals. Through these platforms, like social network sites, not only are existing relationships maintained, but new relationships are easily formed.
Another concern with asynchronous and synchronous communication is that they contribute to the diminishing of the English language. Informal language consisting of non-standard spellings, deletions, casual vocabulary, greetings, and sign offs occurring within mediated communication can create immediacy and serve as resources for building friendly conversations. In plain text, the casual language inspired from asynchronicity and synchronicity allows strangers to easily connect.
Asynchronous platforms also allow users to present themselves strategically. As stated in the text, the use of written language in textual media is a far more powerful force in making impressions than it is when people interact body-to-body. Given time to construct language about ourselves that present us as articulate, insightful, and witty increase our popularity, social presence, and positive feedback online.
Unlike asynchronous platforms, synchronous platforms enhance users’ sense of intimacy. Through an interview study with participants in Second Life support groups, Green-Hamann at al. found synchronicity stimulates hyperpersonal relationships and intimacy. Participants appreciated others staying online after group chat meetings to converse privately and being online and available at other times.
Asynchronous and synchronous communication has connected people with vast amounts of people for longer and across greater distances than ever before. Social platforms create opportunities for the mass organization of ideas and social causes. As Baym demonstrates through the work of Full and Collins-Jarvis (2001), mediated communication is inferior when communication involves personal identities and feelings. Mediation, however, allows communication to occur beyond time and physical constraints. Phone calls and Skype messages substitute face-to-face encounters. Group chats substitute for meetings with friends. Mediated communication strengthens relationships with greater use, especially those disconnected through distance.