Is Google Wrecking Our Memory?
By Pavan Rohit (3871075) and Danika Blackhall (3888342)
“Twitter is a microblogging service that was founded in early 2006 to enable people to share short textual messages—”tweets”—with others in the system. Because the system was originally designed for tweets to be shared via SMS, the maximum length of a tweet is 140 characters. Though the service evolved to include more uses besides SMS, such as web and desktop clients, this limitation persisted, and so was re-narrated as a feature.” (Boyd et al. 2010).
Once twitter was able to establish itself among a number of people in the IT industry, it didn’t take long before it was adopted by the general public. It rapidly gained users from all around the world. Eventually famous individuals and organisations began to post content on twitter and this attracted an even bigger following for the social network as people began to create accounts to follow their favourite celebrities and companies.
Twitter allows you to set your own username and display name and only requires an email address to register which isn’t shared with any one publicly. The amount of information you are able to share with people is up to your discretion. The settings on twitter allow users to customise their privacy settings appropriately. You have the option of keeping your tweets private, only allowing certain people access to your tweets. You also have the option to let twitter track your location and web sites you visit to tailor the experience to your needs. All of these options are opt-in rather than opt-out allowing users to activate them only if they choose to.
However, while most of the settings of a users twitters account are designed to allow a user to retain their privacy, the usage of the service itself can encourage people to share many details about their private lives which can be spread to a users twitter followers in an instant. According to Humphreys et al. (2010), while twitter allows users to secure their privacy unlike other social networks such as Facebook, this also creates a sense of complacency which encourages twitter users to share much more about themselves in their tweets than Facebook users who are constantly encountering privacy concerns from their service.
Twitter has many different methods of exchanging, distributing and sharing content to followers of your twitter account as well as the general twitter user base and those outside of twitter. Twitter has an inbuilt search functionality that allows users to search for other peoples tweets for specific search queries.
You are able to view another users twitter page and are able to click a button that allows you to follow future tweets from that person. You will be able to keep track of their tweets, as well as tweets from everyone else you have chosen to follow, in real time using the automatically updating feed on the twitter homepage when you are signed into the service. This ability to follow other people allows twitter users to keep track of users that are more important to the user. Twitter users who have amassed a group of users are able to then address the people who are following their tweets as a group. However, there is also a way to refer to a specific twitter user using the “@” symbol and a users username. For example, if I wanted to direct a tweet to the official Google twitter account I would need to insert @google into my tweet and even if the official Google account isn’t following me, they will still be able to see my message in their feed.
Hashtags are used to assign a topic to a particular tweet. For example, if a person is tweeting about a trip to New York, they would include a hashtag such as #newyork and #trip within their tweet or even replace the words “New York” with the #newyork hashtag. Searching for this hashtag would produce other tweets that have also used the same hashtag, thus creating a pool of tweets that are of the same topic. Users are also able to “retweet” other peoples tweets which is essentially repeating a tweet from another user. For example, if you are following @Microsoft but many of your followers are not, you are able to retweet a specific tweet that @Microsoft has tweeted so that it appears in your twitter feed and is shared with all of the twitter users that are following you. From these hashtags that define a topic, twitter is able to determine which topics are popular in relation to other topics.
Interestingly, many of the features described above weren’t actually part of the twitter application programming interface (API) and were created and used by the users themselves before they were officially adopted by twitter and included within the programming of the social network infrastructure.
Due to the 140 character limit, the messages posted on twitter (in English) tend to be short, to the point and refer to very specific things if they are about a certain topic. A general twitter user tends to tweet little snippets of their day to day activity to uncommon activities such as going to a live event, etc. Other people tweet random thoughts and other things that don’t seem to relate to anything at all.
While a lot of tweets are informal and may not have any attached topic or structure, there are plenty of users who tweet for a purpose. Many famous individuals and organisations use twitter to communicate directly and indirectly to their users. For example, a celebrity may use twitter to tweet their random thoughts and places and events they’re at, however they may also post about an event they’ve organised themselves. A corporation such as Microsoft often uses twitter to promote new products and services and a phone company may create a twitter account to handle user inquiries such as outages in a particular area or more information about a product or service.
There have also been many occasions where twitter users have also tweeted about a common event, such as a government election, natural disaster, etc. These major events are often instrumental in distributing information and opinions about a particular event and become so powerful due to this quick form of distribution that they are even capable of instigating social change and acknowledgement.
Twitter allows users to display their follower amount as well as how many people they follow. It also allows users to choose how much they post and whether or not they tag their posts to increase the amount of people who view their posts. However, on twitter, the more followers you have the better. Twitter users are much more narcissistic than Facebook users, they want thousands of followers. They encourage users to follow them and increase the amount of tags they use to increase visibility and gain followers. “The use of media technologies which enable a large-scale production and distribution of informational and symbolic content to reach the largest audience possible” (Flew, T 2008 p. 106) are becoming more and more paramount in Web 2.0 and the more people you can reach on these sites the better. When you follow a certain person on Twitter and they post an update, you are able to tell their online presence by how many likes or retweets they get. You can take part in this also, if you retweet the post, you can tell your own online presence by the amount of retweets or likes you get and so on and so on.
“Social networks, a very old and pervasive mechanism for mediating distal interactions among people, have become prevalent in the age of the Web. With interfaces that allow people to follow the lives of friends, acquaintances and families, the number of people on social networks has grown exponentially since the turn of this century. Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace, to give a few examples, contain millions of members who use these networks for keeping track of each other, ﬁnd experts and engage in commercial transactions when needed” (Bernado, A 2008, p. 1). Twitter simulates relationships by the use of tweets which give users a chance to converse and discuss relate-able topics. Twitter builds relationships and gets like-minded people together using “tags” which allow users to look up the “tags” they are interested in, in a search and proceed to retweet; follow or simply just reply to those that have posted about the topic and “tagged” it. For example, if I were interested in looking up the tag “gay marriage Australia” I can view previous posts that have this tag and follow the people who are also interested in this topic or retweet other posts that I agree with.
If I follow a person that is interested in equal rights, and they look at my profile and see that I have tweeted about equal rights also, that person may follow me back. Twitter builds relationships built on mutual interest and the availability of finding people with equal interests. It creates relationships in its simplest form but encourages freedom of speech and collective interests. “Twitter users are able to publicly post direct and indirect updates. Direct public posts are used when a user aims her update to a speciﬁc person and are signaled by an “@” symbol next to the person’s username, whereas indirect updates are used when the update is meant for anyone that cares to read it. Even though direct updates are used to communicate directly with a speciﬁc person, they are public and anyone can see them. Often times two or more users will have conversations by posting updates directed to each other. Around 25.4% of all posts are directed, which shows that this feature is widely used among Twitter users” (Bernado, A 2008, p. 3).
Twitter has a high amount of celebrity users, and many everyday users join just to follow the lives of the rich and famous. Twitter’s reputation has grown and is thought of a space to know the intimate details of movie stars, TV presenters, politicians and comedians. Twitter attracts a lot of cyber bullying however, due to the way in which you can remain anonymous if you want to because of the use of usernames and by providing false details. The prominence of cyber bullying is not exactly managed; however, you can self-manage who can post on your profile with blocks. I used to use my Twitter just for watching the feed of profiles and just observation of updates. I no longer use it however because I don’t feel it is as reliable as Facebook or Tumblr. I feel as if it is just another way for celebrities to get more famous. I feel it is also quite harsh on people’s opinions and encourages cyber bullying and “trolls” with the way in which users can be anonymous. My personal opinion of Twitter is that it is quite fake and only encourages narcissistic personalities to express self-love for themselves and post about their breakfast, which is insignificant.
A link to this assignment has been shared on twitter at the following link: http://twitter.com/pav_vu/status/380209804469219328
The above tweet is an examples of a couple of users on twitter interacting with each other. The example shows a tweet that has been posted up by a user that refers to another user and also includes a hashtag. The tweet itself contains a link to an external source (this page) and has also been retweeted by a user that is following the user of the original tweet.
Bernado, A 2008, Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope, Cornell University, NY.
Boyd, D, Golder, S & Lotan, G 2010 ‘Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter’, 43rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, pp. 1-10.
Butterscotchcom 2010, A brief history of Twitter, YouTube video, viewed 17 September 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRHLUsfANG0>.
Flew, T 2008, ‘Participatory Media Cultures’, New Media: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, pp. 106-125.
Humphreys, L, Gill, P & Krishnamurthy, B 2010, How much is too much? Privacy on Twitter, In Conference of International Communication Association, Singapore.
Leelefever 2008, Twitter in Plain English, viewed 17 September 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o>.
SocialMagnitude 2012, How To Use Twitter, viewed 17 September 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-5VqmJYrv0>.
TED 2009, Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history, YouTube video, viewed 17 September 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0>.
The Daily Beast 2007, Twitter: Is Brevity The Next Big Thing?, viewed 17 September 2013, <http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2007/04/29/twitter-is-brevity-the-next-big-thing.html>.
Can we expect to have privacy if we use social Media?
In some form yes. You may be using a site that should mediate your privacy but it is completely up to the user and how they manage their own privacy, eg. how much they post, their privacy settings, wether or not they allow information to be shared, whether or not they are ignorant enough to share their location, mobile phone number, address. etc.
We join these sites with the recognition that we will not have 100% privacy. But we join social media sites because of the way we can share some personal information. if as a person you want %100 privacy don’t join an online social media site. It is that simple.
How do you manage your own privacy online?
Danika: I have both a facebook and a tumblr. I like to be online expecially using social media. However, I manage these two profiles in completely different ways, with facebook I only ever have people that I know personally. I regularly go through my friends list and delete people I wouldn’t talk to on the street. I don’t see the point of having friends on a site such as facebook that you wouldn’t actually talk to in person. Why introduce people into your private facebook posts you would never share a conversation with?
I also untag myself from any embarrassing photos. As a future teacher I have to watch my online credibility, and photos of me drinking, or doing silly things would not look good to future employers that happen to find my profile. I also have all the privacy settings turned on. I regularly check what my profile would look to an outsider (an option you can find on your profile) and know that they would only see my profile picture, my cover photo, and where I work.
For my tumblr there is more of an anonymous aspect so I am much more lenient with what I post and who I allow to follow me. I even encourage people to follow me. However, I do not state where I live, (only say I live in Australia) or any personal information, especially contact details.
Pav: I don’t participate in any form of social media that requires me to give up any information that I don’t want to have distributed to the Internet. I’ve been on the Internet since 1997 when I was still fairly young. One of the big things about that era of the Internet was the usage of alias names on online chatrooms and message boards.
Back then, no one used their real name and shared very little information about themselves voluntarily, there was no such thing as Facebook or similar sites that encourage people to share their identities. Since I started using the Internet during this time, I’ve been able to create an alias for myself that run parallel to my “real life”… or to be more accurate, my physical world life is separate from my virtual world life.
If you search for me on the Internet using my real name and images of myself, you won’t find anything no matter how hard you look. However, if you search for my online alias, you will find quite a lot of information dating all the way back to the late 90s.
The key here is that the online alias, a virtual identity, will not lead back to my physical identity. Due to this separation of identities, I am free to say and do what I want on the Internet without it affecting my real life which I choose to keep private.
What are the implications of the recent instances of data leaks (eg. Snowden, Wikileaks)?
The effect of Wikileaks and similar groups has had a profound effect in making governments, corporate bodies, media, etc, realise that the distribution aspect of the Internet is extremely powerful and not something they have complete control over. Many of these entities have reacted by trying to implement laws and other measures to try to get more control over data/content/interactions that happen on the net.
While whistleblowers and data leaks have occurred before the Internet, the Internet itself makes it easier for data to be distributed throughout the world. The current Internet landscape, right now, is a battleground for these individual entities to try to control the distribution of data as well as what kind of data is distributed. This is done through several methods such as censoring the Internet, creating laws to make certain things illegal to give governments and other organisations the power to stop and punish people who go against such laws. Some organisations also try to take controls of the distribution networks themselves.
Even with all of the measures described, these organisations will never be able to completely silence whistleblowers and any one else who has released private data relating to those organisations. The internet itself is simply a distribution method with many channels of distribution. If one channel is stopped, another will take its place… and if by chance, all of the channels of distribution on the Internet are theoretically blocked, offline channels will be used to distribute this data.
Is google making us stupid? I believe google is enhancing our ability to discover and access information. It has become the norm to “just google it” due to the easy way in which we can discover information and problem solve in every day life. It may make us less able to remember information however, but I believe this is simply the way things will be due to the internet being so prevalent in our lives. perhaps one day we will no longer need to remember facts like we did back in the dusty library book days, which will in time, definitely make us more stupid.
Has it affected our ability to concentrate? I believe so yes. I personally can no longer concentrate on one thing at a time, if i’m watching tv I no longer just sit and watch it, I am facebooking, tumblring and discussing things with my family. I also do not like to get my information from the one source, I change each time the information begins to bore me or when it does not satisfy my needs for the information.
Consider Carr’s argument, do you agree? In some ways yes.
Are we becoming digital narcissists with social media? I think it has highlighted our narcissism rather than just brought it about. We can see narcissists more easily now and they have more ways to express their obsession with themselves.
How do you manage your online identity? I have a Facebook which is on private. (As much as facebook is private anyway) which I now only have friends I’ve spoken to in the last few years or so. Or some old friends/family I used to know when I was younger. I unfriended a lot of people last week because I wouldn’t talk to them in the street so I didn’t want them to know everything about me on facebook when I don’t even know them enough to say hello.
I also have a tumblr that does not have any privacy but has a small amount of anonymity because I do not give it out to anyone I know.
Yes… yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of a remix that uses material from an original source in an extremely creative way AND is accepted by the copyright holders, both in the US and Japan, is Dragonball Z Abridged by TeamFourStar. In DBZ Abridged, a team of amateur voice actors and media students have banded together to create a parody version of the anime series, Dragonball Z, using all of the footage from the anime itself and simply editing it together and adding their own voice work. The result is a surprisingly creative series of 8-14 minute episodes that are comedy gold.
All of the episodes released of DBZ Abridged can be viewed on YouTube.
What are some of the things that can be created by communities of produsers?
Some great examples of something that is created through a community of produsers are various open-source software. One particular example is WordPress which was initially developed by a small number of people, but is based on an open source model that allows people to contribute and add to the project.
Can produsage eventually replace production in some areas?
Yes, these days everyone has an opinion on everything. Everyone also likes to have their opinions heard and so interactive produsive media will become more and more prevalent than the production of media.
Danika: “Not particularly. We may have expanded on the number of people it is possible to reach with our thoughts and ideas but generally we do not interact personally with more than Dunbars’ number. Not every person will like my posts on Facebook let alone meet in person with me. I may have X amount of friends but I most likely would not be firm friends with each and every one.”
Pav: “I don’t use Facebook so I have no basis of comparison, but I assume from using common sense that you’re not going to have close personal relationships with every one of the people on your friends list.”