The Dark Side of Spreadability

The Dark Side of Spreadability

Panel at #MIT

  1. Panelists: Kevin Driscoll Sam Ford Kate Miltner Whitney Phillips Respondent: Jonathan Zittrain Moderator: Chris Weaver
  2. .@csweaver opening the panel: “Everything has a context. You’re providing tools at the time of the electronic Wild West.” #mit8
  3. Spreadability is the context
  4. Spreadability “has a tendency to amplify the worst of us, just as it has a tendency to amplify the best of us.” @csweaver #mit8
  5. Depending on who’s posting and where they’re posting it, expectations are different. #MiT8
  6. Trolls believe that they have the right to engage in any behavior, wherever, whenever, simply because they can. #MiT8
  7. Other have an expectation that they can have a conversation free of trolling and personal attacks. #MiT8
  8. Where do our rights begin?
  9. .@csweaver: “Where do our rights begin?” @wphillips49: Context and content-dependent. Best approach is to start with case study. #mit8
  10. The way this clash plays out is both context and content dependent. Have to consider the sites of these clashes, norms, etc. #mit8
  11. .@katemiltner brings up the concept of potential harms—“people are really bad at imagining the potential downsides of their actions” #mit8
  12. .@katemiltner shares story of mom who posted photo of her kids on iPads. Got reddited and meme-ified. #mit8
  13. .@wphillips49: Many operate online under the philosophy of “If it’s on the Internet, it’s fair game.” #mit8
  14. There’s a difference between fan commentary on media texts meant to be consumed, and redditors editing a mom’s pic of her kids. #MiT8
  15. MT @l_e_s: So people don’t realize when they’re creating something spreadable & thus don’t consider what such visibility might mean… #mit8
  16. .@s2tephen @l_e_s Scalability is a property of the content is not a state of necessity: spreadability is a prop. of the connections #mit8
  17. @sam_ford: Everybody in a small town posting on is a public figure. #Mit8 @katemiltner asks: isn’t that true offline as well?
  18. Everyone’s public =/= everyone’s material is “fair game” — this is a good distinction. #MiT8
  19. Being public, living in public
  20. Seems like a distinction needs to be drawn here between being a “public figure” and the consequences of living in “public.” #mit8
  21. .@wphillips49: “self-policing assumes that the community isn’t part of the problem.” What if they’re on board w/ the behaviors? WAT DO #mit8
  22. Problem with community policing is that sometimes the community is on board with the problematic behaviors says @wphillips49 #mit8
  23. #mit8 I get nervous when we talk about policing the transforming an image; how do we decide what is the dark side? And who gets to decide?
  24. RT @elizabethapitts: Zittrain: if we bring in the law to regulate Internet rights, privacy, ethics, we’ve already lost #mit8
  25. if so, i’d rather it have remained dead .RT @danfaltesek: Is the meme the reinstantiation of wit? #MIT8
  26. .@katemiltner offers a caveat for Internet vigilantism: “Crowds are notoriously imprecise.” #mit8
  27. Reddit
  28. .@zittrain notes the distinction between intentional griefers and “good faith” vigilantism gone wrong (e.g. tweeting misinformation) #mit8
  29. “The only thing worse than leviathan is “let’s go get some pitchforks!”” – @zittrain #mit8
  30. #mit8 @zittrain can we reverse engineer mass inaccurate retweet journalism via massively spread redaction? #twitter
  31. Let’s talk about the actual owners of reddit. At what point do/can/must we hold them responsible? #MiT8
  32. Platform matters. Problematic on twitter =/= problematic on reddit. #MiT8
  33. Responsability
  34. Stuff that shows up on one site instantaneously shows up on other sites stripped of context and repurposed – @wphillips49 #mit8
  35. .@zittrain: even 10 yrs after post-Napster era it’s still unclear what responsibilities are for a site hosting problematic content. #mit8
  36. RT @s2tephen: .@zittrain: even 10 yrs after post-Napster era it’s still unclear what responsibilities are for a site hosting problematic co…
  37. RT @mrliterati: Centralized vs distributed responsibility… Responsibility vs agency? Classic problem of democracy #MIT8
  38. Civic class of the st century
  39. .@zittrain calls for a kind of “data genealogy,” which would encourage people to think twice before sharing content. #mit8
  40. @sam_ford: what does the civics class of c21 look like? Acts of circulation entail moral judgment and culpability. #MiT8
  41. .@kouredios 21st-c civics class should be: participatory; involving digital literacies; giving students agency to work toward change #MiT8
  42. First, we need to RESTORE civics classes, then we can talk about how the curriculum should be updated for a spreadable world. #mit8
  43. RT @vVvA: a good reason for why wikipedia needs to be inside schools: so youth can understand limitations and affordances of spreadabilit…
  44. Spreadability is the design
  45. .@katemiltner makes ace point that platforms are DESIGNED to encourage mass spreadability. It’s architecture and business model. #mit8
  46. @katemiltner talks about the technological agency of the platforms. I would add: and their interfaces which are not transparent #MIT8
  47. .@wphillips49 platforms encourage spreadability so users can accrue social capital or some commercial asset #MIT8 excellent point
  48. .@wphillips49: SNS incentivize problematic spreadability as a way to accrue economic/social capital. How to establish ethics within? #mit8
  49. Metrics
  50. MT@s2tephen: just looking at metrics (e.g. Klout) only tells half the storyspreadability automatically assumed positive -@katemiltner #mit8
  51. Klout = “How ‘spready’ are you?” #MiT8
  52. Sometimes it’s ok to just not read what’s been said about you. We can learn this from celebrities says Kristine Busse. #mit8
  53. Metrics can only tell you so much: “No one’s talking about this”? Again, depends on context and platform. Industry, maybe. #MiT8

Pubblico/privato nei social network: appuntamento al MIT8


Media in Transition è una conferenza biennale organizzata dal Comparative Media Studies – MIT di Boston che racconta la trasformazione in atto attraverso lo sguardo su tecnologie e forme sociali da oltre dieci anni.

Il tema di quest’anno al MIT8 è la distinzione e il racconto della relazione public media/private media, in un’epoca in cui gli stati di connessione ridefiniscono e sfumano il confine.

Noi presentiamo un panel a partire dalla ricerca PRIN in corso su Social Network Studies Italia dal titolo “Public / Private in Transition: SNSs in National Contexts” in cui abbiamo coinvolto diversi colleghi per capire come diverse comunità nazionali ridefiniscano il confine tra pubblico e privato nei siti di social network. Si tratta infatti di spazi online che sfumano l’opposizione dicotomica tra pubblico e privato, ed aprono la strada ad una nuova semantica che si fonda sulle concrete pratiche degli utenti che costruiscono e ricostruiscono il confine a partire dalle possibilità che le piattaforme mettono a disposizione e dalle forme culturali che creano.

Gli utenti usano strategicamente la distinzione pubblico/privato nei social network per modellare una narrazione pubblica di sé e cercheremo di capire in che modo i diversi contesti socio-culturali incidano.


Di seguito gli abstract che discuteremo:

Facebook and Intimacy in the Facebook Italian Users, Giovanni Boccia Artieri, Manolo Farci, Fabio Giglietto, Luca Rossi
In Italy, social media have already reached 28 millions of users, 51.2% of the population, with an increase of the 5.1% over the last year. This paper investigates how the practices of friendship on Facebook offers new meanings to the notion of intimacy – overlapping the boundaries between family, love, colleagues or peer group – and reshape the distinction between private and public community (Lange 2007, boyd Ellison 2007, boyd 2008). The research project employs a mixed method that combines an integrated quali-quantitative analysis. The qualitative phase – the first at this scale in Italy – is based on more than 120 in-depth interviews made in the Italian national territory. The quantitative phase is based on an ad hoc developed software tool aimed at collecting social information from a SNS and storing them into a large social database. This approach enables researchers to merge a large amount of data extracted from the database with the qualitative hypothesis obtained from the interviews.

From Networks of Affiliation to Ad Hoc Publics: Mapping the Australian Twittersphere, Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns
This paper maps networks of affiliation and interest in the Australian Twittersphere and explores their structural relationships to a range of issues-based ad hoc publics (Bruns, Burgess 2011). Using custom network crawling technology, we have conducted a snowball crawl of Twitter accounts operated by Australian users to identify more than one million users and their follower / followee relationships, and have mapped their interconnections. In itself, the map provides an overview of the major clusters of densely interlinked users, largely cenetred on shared topics of interest (from politics through parenting to arts and sport) and/or socio-demographic factors (geographic origins, age groups). Our map of the Twittersphere is the first of its kind for the Australian part of the global Twitter network, and also provides a first independent and scholarly estimation of the size of the total Australian Twitter population. In combination with our investigation of participation patterns in specific thematic hashtags, the map also enables us to examine which areas of the underlying follower / followee network are activated in the discussion of specific current topics – allowing new insights into the extent to which particular topics and issues are of interest to specialized niches or to the Australian public more broadly. Finally, we investigate the circulation of links to the articles published by a number of major Australian news organizations across the network.

Tweets in the Limelight: Contested Publicness around the Use of Twitter in South Korea, Yenn Lee
What is happening on Twitter has been significantly reported in South Korean mass media. In the course of year 2012 alone, 49,257 news articles contained the word “Twitter” and 1,696 out of them were headlined with the word. Based on an analysis of those 1,696 articles, the present study discusses what kind of tweets have been picked up by the mass media in the country and what kind of culture-specific discourses have been constructed and promoted around them. This discussion is carried out through the theoretical framework of “newsworthiness,” first put forward by Galtung and Ruge (1965) and subsequently revisited by many other media scholars such as Harcup and O’Neill (2001). By examining in what process an individual tweet becomes “news,” with a focus on three most high-profile cases (i.e. a celebrity authoress’ rants, alleged bullying within a girl group, and leak of a teenage girl singer’s dating photo), this study aims to shed light on the specific media context where global social networking services such as Twitter are placed and intersect with local mass media.

Like, Share, Comment: Facework and Facebook in Brazil, Raquel Recuero
With more than 60 million users, Brazilians are now the second largest population on Facebook. Because Facebook is now part of the everyday life of hundreds of thousand Brazilians, it is creating new challenges for people in the management of their discursive identities and faces among their different social circles. In this context, this paper focuses on how Brazilian are appropriating Facebook tools for face work (Goffman, 1967), to convey their roles in different social networks (such as family, friends, co-workers and etc.) (Goffman, 1974) and create and share social capital (Lin, 2001). We also discuss how users shape their discourses in order to adequate their identities to each online
group’s expectations and how aggressive discourse and collapsed contexts (boyd, 2008; Davies, 2011) play a role in their choices. Through a qualitative approach we bring data from observation, 40 interviews and a survey with 500 people to point and discuss these strategies, we particularly focus on four Facebook tools: profile, comments, likes and shares. Our main findings focus on the different uses of each tool for face work, the creation of different profiles for different publics, the implications of collapsed context and aggressive discourses in user’s choices of participation and the shift in privacy perceptions. We also discuss how the perception of different types of social capital play a key role in Facebook’s appropriation and adoption in the country.

Being Aware of One’s Imagined Audience: Privacy Strategies of Estonian Teens, Andra Siibak and Egle Oolo
Previous studies (Siibak & Murumaa 2011; Jensen 2010) indicate that young people are not only often unaware of the omnopticon of social media, but many of the teens have not yet grasped the idea that our interactions on online platforms tend to be public-by-default and private-through-effort (boyd & Marwick 2011). Nevertheless, only a small number of studies so far (Oolo & Siibak, forthcoming 2013; Davis & James 2012; boyd & Marwick 2011; Siibak & Murumaa 2011) have aimed to gather knowledge about more complex strategies, e.g. social steganography, teens implement to protect their privacy.
The presentation will give an overview of the perceptions the 13-16 year old Estonian teens (N=15) have about the imagined audience in networked publics. Based on the findings of semi-structured interviews with the young we also highlight the main privacy strategies Estonian teens implement in order to manage their extended audience. Our results challenge widespread assumptions that the young do not care about privacy and are not engaged in navigating privacy in social media. Although several of our interviewees confessed that they only kept the members of the “ideal audience” (Marwick & boyd 2010), i.e. close friends and schoolmates, in mind while publishing posts, others claimed implement strategic information sharing, self-censorship and social steganography when performing for one’s imagined audience. The latter technique was practiced especially on the public sections of social media where with the help of inside jokes, keywords and citations from movies, games, songs, or poems or a secret message was compiled.