Twitter: Can trillions of Tweeting Twits be wrong?

I’ll be honest. I’ve never understood Twitter. It seems dumb.

I admit, I’ve got one, (making me dumb by association?) but it was for Uni. That’s right, Media made me get it, I swear.

I first signed up to see what all the fuss was about, and so I could understand my lectures. I followed a few things: CNN, the UN, Coldplay. All the important stuff. And then, I began to get followers. Complete randoms who would add me, and then, after realising I didn’t actually tweet, would quietly delete me. Weird. (I often get mistaken for Matthew Perry, no biggy.)

Since then I’ve managed to cut Twitter out of my password memory. But recently I’ve started again. For Net Comm, just to help stick my blog out there in the big World Wide Web. And while I’m still not a fan, I can’t help but wonder at how popular, and (apparently) useful, it’s become.

For one, look at the recent social media revolutions. Take the Iran election protests. Then the recent Arab Spring. Both instances where people have been using Twitter, amongst other social media, to circumvent government censorship of traditional media to great success. It seems the ‘140-characters-including-spaces’ is truly mightier than the sword.

Of course, being mindless and popular, it’s no surprise celebrities have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. In fact, celebrities are the biggest twits of all; from Charlie Sheen, who hires someone to tweet for him (he’s probably too busy ‘winning’ with all his coke and pornstars), to Shaquille O’Neal, who recently announced his retirement from the NBA on Twitter.

That’s right, Shaq: 4 time NBA Championship winner, one of the greatest basketballers of his generation. A man loved by millions for his both his post-ups and his personality, and he retires with a measly 11 character tweet. He didn’t even use all of his precious 140. Arrogant.

And so it made me think. If you’re breaking news, you usually want people to hear about it. As many people as possible. Thus, for Shaq to tweet his retirement first; he’s either being a clown, or someone very smart and well paid told him to do so. In the latter more likely case, Twitter’s reach must not only be incredibly widespread, but in fact considered even more so than that of the mainstream media.

Could it be possible? If everyone is not only tweeting, but checking other people’s tweets, then I guess so. It’s a more succinct (and clearly effective) version of Facebook.

I’ve always thought Twitter was for Twits. But the world is changing. And if everyone is a Twit, then maybe it’s time to start Tweeting?

(Still confused as to why it’s so popular? Check this out)

A changing media landscape

Just wanted to post this interesting video. It’s a slick insight into how net communications, and in particular social media, has changed over the past few years.

For those playing at home, it’s one of the many spin offs based on the original “Did You Know” video that does the rounds of the Media and Communications department. I’ll post that one as well for those who haven’t seen it.

Enjoy.

Public vs. private: will Facebook kill privacy?

Week 5:

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on sharing (start at 0:26—stop at 0:39) (http://www.tubechop.com/watch/146252)

“When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more. When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. And in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.” (Zuckerberg, 2010)

Is privacy dead?

[Image: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by opensourceway]

Facebook wants to rewrite the rules of privacy. Or rather, erase them altogether.

The above video, however—released in response to Facebook’s disastrous efforts to make users’ default privacy settings more open—shows that Zuckerberg and Facebook still don’t seem to understand what privacy means to their users.

Let’s consider his two main points:

1. “When people have control over what they share, they’re comfortable sharing more.”

Agreed. Privacy is not about hiding everything; it’s about controlling what you share with whom.

On social networks like Facebook, however, this is not so straightforward. People are often ignorant of exactly what they are sharing, and, even more concerning, other people can easily share things about someone else without their knowledge. The recent Brocial Network scandal revealed the extent to which Facebook privacy can be exploited. Since all of the photos had been uploaded to Facebook by the girls themselves, everything the Brocial Network’s members did was technically legal. In fact, the obvious question is: if those girls didn’t want people to look at those photos, then why did they post them in the first place? (A very Eric Schmidt line of thinking). But it’s not that simple. Those girls may have been happy for their friends to stalk their semi-naked photos, but I doubt they appreciated 8 000 other randoms doing so. It’s hard enough to control what you share on Facebook, let alone what anyone else may. Until this can be sorted, it’s ridiculous for Facebook to try and force people to share more.

2. “When people share more, the world becomes more open and connected. And in a more open world, many of the biggest problems we face together will become easier to solve.”

Logical, yet idealistic and impractical.

Sure, a more connected world would be great, and if everyone on the planet was working towards solving the same problem, well, let’s agree that six billions brains are better than one. Yet, again in the context of social networking, this attitude poses problems. If everyone knows: where and when you go somewhere, and what and with whom you do something, that’s not only creepy, it can be dangerous. Online predators and offline stalkers are enough of a problem, without giving them a copy of your diary. (HINT: If you don’t want to be robbed, don’t status update your location.)

Thanks to the Internet, privacy is more important than ever. As Solove says, “reputations are forged when people make judgments based upon the mosaic of information available” (Solove, 2007: 30), and when drunken photos lose Uni degrees, and accidental YouTube stars are actually victims of cyber bullying, it’s hard to argue that decreased privacy will make life easier. Having 500+ friends can make it difficult to remember with whom you are sharing what, and often a little online over-sharing can lead to a lot of offline hair-tearing.

Whoops.

[Image: Courtesy All Facebook]

In any case, people aren’t ready for such an open world yet. Studies by the Pew Research Center, an American think-tank, have shown that in fact young adults are the most conscientious demographic when it comes to online privacy and reputation management. Over 70% of 18-29 year olds admitted having changed their social network privacy settings, to limit what information was viewable by whom (Madden and Smith, 2010). After all, reputation is one of our “most cherished assets”. (Solove, 2007: 30)

People have long been predicting the end of privacy. And now Zuckerberg wants to bring that about by making the world’s social network, well, more social. But if you’re listening Mark, take note:

People still want their privacy. They want it protected. And that needs to be respected.

[Image: AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Florian SEROUSSI]

Words: 551 (excl. Zuckerberg quotes)

References:

Madden, M. and Aaron Smith (2010). Reputation Management and Social Media: How people monitor their identity and search for others online. Pp 2. (http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Reputation-Management.aspx) 26 May [date accessed 16 April 2011]

Solove, Daniel. J. (2007) The future of reputation: gossip, rumor and privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 30

Zuckerberg, M. (2010) Mark Zuckerberg on making privacy controls simple. Facebook. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWDneu_w_HQ&feature=player_embedded [Video: date first accessed 14 April 2011]

Citizen journalism: can journalism by anyone be trusted by everyone?

Week 4:

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: “Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?” (Reader, page 136). Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

Thanks to the Internet, anyone and everyone is now a journalist. Stories are breaking in real time as people share what they see. In fact, the Internet is “dissolving the boundaries between professional journalists and amateurs” (Solove, 2007: 23) so thoroughly, that the mainstream media increasingly relies on its readers for content.

Debating whether citizen journalism more effectively informs the public has arguments for both sides. Russel et al. argue that bloggers have “editorial independence, collaborative structure[s] and merit-based popularity” (Russell et al., 2008: 67). They can operate much faster than the mass media (often in real time) and usually have first hand information. Furthermore, while the mass media has long been preferred for factual credibility and objectivity, the more cynical observer knows that, in the modern age, news is just another commodity. Stories are slanted and certain issues are covered specifically to maximise profits. In such an environment, citizen journalism does appear an enticing alternative.

Yet for all its potential, it would be premature to say that citizen journalism is more effective at informing the public than the mass media. At least not yet.

Firstly, the majority of citizen produced content is actually poached from the mass media itself. Bloggers simply use the “mainstream media as a springboard for critique and discussion” (Russel et al. 2008: 70). Furthermore, there are far too many voices to create an effective, coherent news service. While this “wider range of opinions” (Sonwalkar, 2009: 77) is often touted as a positive of alternative media, in practice it is impractical. Russel et al. suggest that “all voices can be heard, but not all voices attract equal amounts of attention” (2008: 67), however, I agree more with Trueman’s assessment that “where everyone has a right to speak….nobody in particular is listened to” (Quoted in Lovink, 2008: 27).

The two biggest issues, however, are obviously: credibility and objectivity.

While you should by no means take everything you read in the newspaper as gospel, you can usually trust that the facts are correct. Why? Because someone will be held accountable if they are not. A key difference of citizen journalism is that no-one is accountable. If I write something false on my blog, and you read it and believe it… Well, who cares? I won’t go to jail. I won’t get fired. I’m going to bed. In fact, efforts to improve editorial content quality have often “discouraged potential contributors” (Robinson et al., 2010: 170). Thus, even if the vast majority of bloggers strive to be factual and honest, there will always be those who won’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. How will you know who’s right?

Secondly, professional journalists are trained to put aside their prejudices and report in an objective manner. While it’s certainly not bulletproof, it is better than nothing. Yet, as Dheere writes, bloggers “often see themselves as taking a more active role in the news than simply reporting it. They are often instigators of change in the first place” (Dheere, 2008). In light of this, how can the public reasonably expect objectivity over an issue the journalist was involved in? It’s one thing to write a story, it’s another to be the story.

The shift from mainstream media, as the primary source of news, towards social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) is undoubtedly underway. But it’s not there just yet. The Age website might have to be my homepage a little while longer.

(Still doubtful? This video cleverly summarises Citizen vs Mainstream Journalism. Using Lego!)

Words: 556

References:

Dheere, J. (2008) ‘Arab bloggers meet to discuss free speech, reject ‘journalist’ label’, PBS MediaShift. http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2008/09/arab-bloggers-meet-to-discuss-free-speech-reject-journalist-label256.html, 12 September, [accessed 11 April]

Lovink, G. (2008) Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London, UK: Routledge. pp 1-38

Robinson, S., DeShano, C., Nakho, K. and L. A. Friedland (2010) ‘Madison Commons 2.0: A platform for tomorrow’s civic and citizen journalism’ pp. 162-172 in Rosenberry, J. and  J. Burton St. (eds) Public journalism 2.0: the promise and reality of a citizen-engaged press. New York: Routledge.

Russell, A., Ito, M., Richmond, T., & Tuters, M. (2008). Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Participation. pp 43-76 in K. Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Solove, Daniel. J. (2007) The future of reputation: gossip, rumor and privacy on the Internet. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 23

Sonwalkar, P. (2009) ‘Citizen journalism in India: the politics of recognition’ pp 75-84 in S. Allan and E. Thorsen (eds.) Citizen journalism: global perspectives. New York: Peter Lang Publishing