Archives for posts with tag: Guardian

In May 2011, the documentary maker Adam Curtis (for it is he) was interviewed by the Guardian, commenting on social networking as the commodification of emotion:

On Facebook and Twitter, you are performing to attract people – you are dancing emotionally, on a platform created by a large corporation. People’s feelings bounce back and forth – happy Stakhanovites, ignoring and denying the system of power. It’s like Stalin’s socialist realism. Both Twitter and socialist realism are innocent expressions of the ideology of the time, which don’t pull back and show the wider thing they are part of. We look back on socialist realism not as innocent but as a dramatic expression of power; it expresses the superiority of the state, which was the guiding belief at the time.

Yesterday, Adrian Short wrote a piece on the recent redesign of Facebook and why he wouldn’t be caught dead on social networking sites. By supporting the social networking sites, he suggests, we are helping to hinder and restrict a free, open and independent internet:

When you use a free web service you’re the underclass. At best you’re a guest. At worst you’re a beggar, couchsurfing the web and scavenging for crumbs. It’s a cliché but worth repeating: if you’re not paying for it, you’re aren’t the customer, you’re the product. Your individual account is probably worth very little to the service provider, so they’ll have no qualms whatsoever with tinkering with the service or even making radical changes in their interests rather than yours.

We give more power to Big Web companies with every tweet and page we post to their networks while hoping to get a bit of traffic and attention back for ourselves.

Facebook’s Open Graph technology allows third-party websites to tell Facebook what people are doing. It extends Facebook’s Like button to include any action that the site owners think might be interesting to Facebook.”

Okay, if you “like” something, you’re actively seeking something out. What about if you don’t actively like something? It doesn’t matter, Facebook knows you’re looking at it:

What most people don’t know is that the Like button tracks your browsing history. Every time you visit a web page that displays the Like button, Facebook logs that data in your account. It doesn’t put anything  your wall, but it knows where you’ve been. This happens even if you log out of Facebook. Like buttons are pretty much ubiquitous on mainstream websites, so every time you visit one you’re doing some frictionless sharing.

The result is that, without a paid-for contact, these mass internet hubs are creating a restricted, unhealthy, limited version of the web. We are given what they think we want and perhaps we accept that because the change is gradual rather than sudden. All together, now: Code is Law. We get used to it, and when we really want to find out, say, what is happening on Wallstreet with the protesters, we can’t even find the independent sites that’ll report it accurately.

Your identity will be your accounts at Facebook, Google and Twitter, not the domain name you own. You don’t pay Big Web a single penny so it can take away your identity and all your data at any time.

The resulting mindset sounds paranoid, but not unreasonable. It is also evident that it is not an innocent transaction: we are not simply using these networks freely in exchange for their increase in popularity (and it, thus, seem profitability in the market). Instead, we are signing away the power to create and use the net as we want, or even, need. What is more, we won’t even own our (online) identity anymore.

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The British investigative journalist Jon Ronson has started a short documentary series about how the internet is being used in various ways to manipulate the layman (“layperson”?). (That is it in very, very basic terms).

While he doesn’t mention any theory or theories (his first video, anyway, bares no hint of sociological or anthropological idea’s of how society, (none-internet) media, and programmers already help define how we use the internet), his investigations are always illuminating and very interesting. He will, I have little doubt, add some good pieces on the subject of how the internet is being used both from above and below.

Esc & Ctrl: Jon Ronson’s stories about people trying to control the internet