Web 2.0: mindless vaccum? I think not.

Quicks, Reflections Comments Off on Web 2.0: mindless vaccum? I think not.

I’ve been perusing Newsvine. The “Leaderboard” seemed to be a good place to see what other Newsviners like to read. One particular opinional, The Revolution Will Not Be Socialized — The Homogenization of Social Media by Killfile, caught my full attention.

Some see Web 2.0 socialization as nothing but a mindless faux pas, a metropolis for the masses to win their fifteen kilobytes of fame. Killfile makes a cogent argument for the case with a powerful clinch.

In seeking to be truly democratic, these networks relegate themselves to a perpetuity of side-line status, never serious or significant enough to eclipse edited, moderated, and regimented media for more than a fleeting moment.

This is precisely the reason why it is so important to develop a new system of online communication. In its present stage, the internet nearly in anarchy. Anything is utterable. One could even get away with libel in most situations. Don’t get me wrong, though; the nature of open online socialization allows for boundless expression. This is good. But some other issues to consider are productivity, informative accuracy and depth. For instance, it pains me to see such valuable social systems like commenting be reduced to a conduit for depthless, fallacious attacks against other users when the discussion is controversial.

No, Killfile. There is still hope for the internet, even in its current condition, to exist as a means for people to share rich information. And we are headed in the right direction. Newsvine is but a step closer to the ideal intellectual forum. The Urbis economic concept would be a critical addition. Once we can piece together exactly what system would foster intelligent conversation, whether it is controlling how user reputation is portrayed or what rewards are given to quality contributions, the internet culture will evolve into a swifter, more perceptive beast.

Exploring Newsvine

Quicks Comments Off on Exploring Newsvine

NewsvineOnce again, another webgem has surfaced. Newsvine is a completely user-controlled news website. It encompasses many of the characteristics of a self-efficiency that I am interested in studying, especially those of bound structure social networking. Newsvine works like a blog in that users create a profile and post an entry. In this case, entries are expected to function like news articles rather than personal logging. Right now what interests me most with regard to the class is the system used for developing reputation, which focuses on how many users “follow” one another rather than how users arbitrarily “rate” one another. Very interesting stuff.

 You can follow my Newsvine activity at http://mooreblogs.newsvine.com or you can subscribe to my RSS. Alongside this, I will be exploring Urbis as well. I already own an Urbis account, but it will be interesting to study the website under a new frame of thought.

New Media empowering the silenced

Reflections Comments Off on New Media empowering the silenced

A washingtonpost.com article, Giving Voice to Chinese, explains how Chinese environmentalists were able to muster people together to protest the construction of a new factory by communicating with cell phones.

It was a dramatic illustration of the potential of technology — particularly cellphones and the Internet — to challenge the rigorous censorship and political controls…

That is awesome. The Chinese government has earned itself a bad reputation for censorship. For a thorough exampe, read this excerpt from Esse est indicato in Google on the Chinese internet censorship:

Email appears to be filtered at the service provider level, not at the backbone level, and increasingly sophisticated anti-spam filtering software can also be modified for use in political filtering. Blog provides are carefully monitored through keyword filtering, and politically incorrect bloggers are typically removed quickly from the servers. Within China, when one looks for Google, one often reaches alternative search engines such as Openfind, Globepage, chinaren.com, search.online.sh.cn, and fm365.com. These search engines are easily manipulated to carry out the kind of filtering that the Chinese government mandates.

And now, in China, technology is being used to hurdle itself. Cellphones are being used to contact, not only each other, but bloggers, dodging censorship to rally against injustice. Simply amazing!

I think Twitter has found its niche.

Social networking class divisions

Reflections Comments Off on Social networking class divisions

Two days ago, an interesting article caught my eye on BBC News. Reference is made to ethnographer Danah Boyd, PhD, who makes many observations in a non-scholarly blog essay regarding a social schism between Facebook and MySpace. Already, the blog post has received feedback from over 200 people. Essentially, Boyd argues that there is a strongly visible trend for the elite, educated, “hegemonic” teenagers to flock to Facebook while the socially ostracized teenagers swarm to MySpace.

Indeed many experienced social networkers, including myself, have commented on the apparent superiority of Facebook to MySpace. To many Facebookers, there seems to be this upper class prestige that comes with the Facebook network. This probably has to do with its history. Facebook was once restricted only to college students. Then the site gradually opened itself fully to the public, which perturbed a great deal of Facebook veterans who preferred the more intimate environment.

Still, the sleek look of Facebook, among other things, gives it an aesthetic that the liberally customizable MySpace lacks. Facebook limits expression mostly to language, encouraging (or so it seems) more refined articulation. MySpace encourages expression more through visuals and music, many times through others artists and icons; and somehow this is perceived to be inferior by the more upper-class Facebookers. Boyd’s assumption appears to be spot-on.

Her post can be read in full-text here: http://www.danah.org/papers/essays/ClassDivisions.html

Boyd is careful to remind us that her essay is personal, not academic. Often the essay shifts focus between observations and ethics. But I find the essay to be a fruit of insight for the public. For the purposes of this blog, I would like to quote a few tidbits that pertain to the state of New Media:

The division around MySpace and Facebook is just another way in which technology is mirroring societal values.

…when orkut grew popular in India, the caste system was formalized within the system by the users.

…what does it mean in a digital world where no one’s supposed to know you’re a dog, we can guess your class background based on the tools you use?

Clearly the “metaverse” we call the internet transcends virtuality. People put forth their identities, their consciousness and thus their existence, into the internet. More than just words or pictures are the minds of people linking to this convoluted web. An utterance in the metaverse is truly an utterance in the universe. Our interactions online persist offline.

Boyd deserves some consideration when she says

When it comes to ostracized teens, I’m worried about the reasons why society has ostracized them and how they will react to ongoing criticism from hegemonic peers. I cringe every time I hear of another Columbine, another Virgina Tech, another site of horror when an outcast teen lashes back at the hegemonic values of society.

Consider the power that our online socialization has to affect our offline socialization. The metaverse and the universe, though fundamentally separate, are one and the same in consciousness. Consider, in the age of New Media, the social dynamics that siphon between these two states of reality.

Urbis: a concept to consider

Concepts Comments Off on Urbis: a concept to consider

Where stands literature in the age of New Media? Check out Urbis. Conceived in the mid 2000s, Urbis is a means for writers to kindle their craft as the New Media generation demands vigorous creativity and uniquity. Essentially, Urbis is a social network for writers to share and critique each others’ poetry and prose. But what makes this network unique is its complex crediting system.

Each new member is granted with a number of credits. And as one member uploads a piece of literature, another member can critique it. The critique will remain hidden to the intended author, who must spend an amount of credits proportional to the word-length of the critique. Credits may be received by critiquing another member’s literature. Again, credits are proportional to the word-length of the critique, so a longer critique yields a greater credit income. Abuse of this system has led to the implementation of some checks and balances. If a critique is great, the author can mark it as “helpful”. If the critique is bogus, skimpy, or in other ways not helpful, the author can report it as inappropriate and refund his or her credits.

The idea of this crediting system is to promote constructive criticism. A writer joins Urbis to perfect his or her abilities and wants to know what others think of his or her literature. Urbis gives that luxury to the writer only if the writer gives it to others. And theoretically, this whole process of constructive criticism should cultivate better writers.

What appears to make this system so effective is its bound structure. Urbis users are inherently forced to interact in a specific fashion—in this case to provide constructive criticism—or else bankrupt their ability to interact. Juxtapose this to a free commenting system like that of deviantART and notice the stark difference in commenting diligence. Most Urbis comments are lengthy and substantial, whereas the typical DeviantART comment consists of a pat on the back or a trivial emoticon, nothing genuinely beneficial to the artist.

What if more websites harnessed this concept of economy? By providing a service in which users must reciprocate with a mutually substantial service, we might see more constructive thought flowing through the internet. Perhaps we would see less ad hominem attacks on political forums. Perhaps we would see more insightful comments to news articles. If websites could somehow regulate user contributions through economic systems like that of Urbis, as opposed to open forums or manual regulation, the internet might experience a more productive use of its existence.

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