Posts Tagged ‘entertainment

Fans will have 18,000 words of new Harry Potter content to devour in a matter of hours. Meanwhile, Rowling has deftly cornered the market on proceeds from the sale of her books online, without having to pay Apple or Amazon one galleon

Sonia van Gilder Cook

Techcrunch are playing around with the whole Huffpost acquisition/ SEO-on-steroids thing here, discussing what Justin Bieber’s movie Never say Never means for social media, when Paul Carr speculates, in relation to the media / music industry:

“The machine has now got super-smart and realised it can use social media to convince you the machine doesn’t exist…”

So are he and Morozov right, is ‘social media’ disappearing into the same old machine?

Or are there intrinsic properties of the social web – web culture – that means its use, on balance, will support more collaboration, open-source working and democratisation of ideas in our businesses and societies?

Or, is it what we do with these tools – these tools with disruptive potential – how we build and use them, how new participatory experiences are designed – that will determine the benefits they bring to society and commerce?

This is where Warren Sack’s writing is valuable – for he lays out the dangers of designing ‘technologies of power’: that put users in as much danger as promise them liberty. Drawing on Michel Foucault from a socio-technical standpoint, Sack (2005, p277) writes that those developing websites to enable democratic discourse online must make deliberate choices to avoid the creation of technologies that enable elites to trace opinions back to their holders.

If we are to be active, conscious citizens that participate online, Sack suggests democracy needs technologies of ‘larger selves’ – for citizens that can form self-governing nations – rather than technologies of power, that may be coralled against individuals.

There is a practical issue here. On one hand, social sites are collecting personal information and opinions which can be traced to and used against people. On the other hand, anonymity cannot work all the way to the ballot box in our current national democracies – where identity is crucially important to ensure one person, one vote. It is even problematic in online focus groups (larger selves, if you like) intended to influence policy – where ‘real identities’ can guard against participation skewed by hidden agendas.

Moving from the political to the commercial realm – the dilemma is similar. Connecting information on what people buy and do to their identities may have implications for their current and future relationships and careers, as well as being politically sensitive. But data on real names, addresses and social presences online is highly valuable for customer relationship management and marketing; and seeing a purchase or review from a genuine friend gives a recommendation great kudos.

So there is no simple answer, but instead of worrying how smart the machine is becoming, those working in all realms (civil society, media and commerce) to build participatory experiences online – can design them to collect only the personal information, preferences and behaviour it is absolutely necessary to store.

… Asking  if ‘real’ names and adresses are really needed and if so, must they be stored with all purchases, or with all previous written posts? Is it essential for advertisers to know site visitors’ exact locations and behaviour? Is it necessary, for example, (as illustrated above) for those running Facebook apps to be able to collect information on the political and religious affiliation of friends of their customers? Should IP addresses and geographical locations be collected along with user submissions?

And if it turns out all that data is not really needed – will it be responsibly destroyed? (As the UK ID database example shows – every now and again, even really big machines can change and back-pedal).

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