Author Archives: jennydavis

Facebook’s Structure of Compulsory Happiness

happy

The end of a year is an introspective time. We reflect on the past 365 days and lay plans for the year to come. This is a time of remembering, analyzing, hoping, and figuring. Helping us through this introspective process is Facebook’s Year in Review.  This app compiles the “highlights” of each user’s year through images, events, and status updates. It then displays this compilation for the user, and gives the option to share the review with Friends.  The default caption reads: “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being part of it[i].”

Quickly, the app garnered negative attention when web designer Eric Meyer blogged about his heart wrenching experience of facing pictures of his 6 year old daughter who passed away not long ago. There was no trigger warning. There was no opt-in. There was simply an up-beat video picturing his daughter’s face when he logged into his Facebook account. He aptly attributes this experience to “inadvertent algorithmic cruelty.”

Although the cruelty was indeed inadvertent, it was none-the-less inevitable. It reflects a larger issue with the Facebook platform: its insistent structure of compulsory happiness. This insistence is reflected in a “Like” button, without any other 1-click emotive options; it is reflected in goofy emoticons through which sadness and illness are expressed with cartoon-like faces in cheerful colors; it is reflected in relationship status changes that announce themselves to one’s network. And as users, we largely comply. We share the happy moments, the funny quips, the accomplishments and #humblebrags, while hiding, ignoring, or unFriending those with the audacity to mope; to clog our newsfeeds with negativity. But we do not comply ubiquitously nor condone/censure unanimously. Sometimes we perform sadness, and sometimes we support each other in this. (more…)

We Don’t Have Data, We Are Data

the-interview

Does anyone else feel like the terms ‘cyber-attack’ and ‘cyber-terrorism’ should always be accompanied by cold-war style red flashing lights?  Maybe I’m just watching too much mainstream news. In any case, I argue below that the ‘cyber’ prefix is not only dated and dualist, but imprecise. I suggest ‘data’ as an alternative. This relies on the assumption that we don’t have data, we are data; an attack on our data is therefore, an attack on us. (more…)

Facebook Remembers

Facebook remembers

Facebook announced this week that it will add a new search feature to the platform. This search feature will, for the first time, allow users to type in keywords and bring up specific network content. Previously, keyword searches lead to pages and advertisements.  Now, it will bring up images and text from users’ News Feeds. Although search results currently include only content shared with users by their Friends, I imagine including public posts in the results will be a forthcoming next step.

Facebook, as a documentation-heavy platform, has always affected both how we remember, and how we perform. It is the keeper of our photo albums, events attended, locations visited, and connections established, maintained, and broken. It recasts our history into linear stories, solidifying that which we share into the truest version of ourselves. And of course, the new search feature amplifies this, stripping users of the privacy-by-obscurity that tempered (though certainly did not eliminate) the effects of recorded and documented lives.

The search feature also does something interesting and new. It aggregates. For the first time, users can take the temperature of their networks on any variety of topics. Music, movies, news events and recipes can be called up, unburied from the content rubble and grouped in a systematic way.

Perhaps because I’ve been able to think of little else lately, I immediately considered what this new feature means for how we will remember the events of Ferguson, Staten Island, and the parade of police violence against young men of color. And relatedly, I considered how we will remember ourselves and each other in regard to these events. (more…)

Ferguson: White Bodies Bearing Witness

MB

The mobile phone camera has become an embedded tool of protest. It has given rise to the citizen journalist and is a key mechanism by which surveillance is countered with sousveillance. In a New Media & Society article earlier this year, Kari Andén-Papadopoulos names this phenomena citizen-camera witnessing. This is a ritual through which bodies in space authenticate their presence while proliferating images and truths that contest with the stories told by The State.  The citizen camera-witness is not merely witnessing, but bearing witness, insisting upon articulating, through image, atrocities that seem unspeakable. Indeed, as W.J.T. Mitchell compellingly claims: Today’s wars and political conflicts are to an unparalleled extent being fought on behalf of, against and by means of radically different images of possible futures.

The failure to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown and the protests that continue to follow, set the stage for drastically different futures. The way we tell this story will guide which future is most plausible, most logical, and most likely.   (more…)

#ShirtStorm: On Forgiving Taylor but not The Internet

Via ESA http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/The_Rosetta_lande

 

Earlier this month, Science had a big victory. The Rosetta Project landed their spacecraft, Philae, on a comet.  This was a billion Euro and entire careers in the making. This was a huge step in space exploration. The accomplishment is unprecedented and data gleaned from this project are entirely unique. Good job, Science.

Meanwhile down on earth, a #ShirtStorm broke loose. Rosetta Scientist Dr. Matt Taylor gave a television interview about the project. His choice of attire—a naked-lady shirt—was ill conceived. Moreover, he described the project as the “sexiest mission,” feminizing and then validating the probe as “sexy” but not “easy.”

Thank goodness women don’t have a science problem!! Oh, wait…

Quickly, Atlantic writer Rose Eveleth posted this tweet: (more…)

Identity Prosumption GeekOut

ProcessProsumption is something of a buzzword here at Cyborgology. It refers to the blurring of production and consumption, such that consumers are entwined in the production process. Identity prosumption is a spin-off of this concept, and refers to the ways prosumptive activities act back upon the prosuming self. Identity prosumption is a neat and simple analytic tool, particularly useful in explaining the relationship between social media users and the content they create and share.

If you’ll stick with me through some geekery, I would like to think through some of the nuances of this humble bit of theory.   (more…)

Commodifying Voice: The Net Neutrality Debate

InternetSlowdown_Day

Net neutrality is back in the news. It’s been a minute, so in case you forgot, some broadband providers want to speed up high traffic services (e.g. Netflix), creating a tiered model of delivery speed. In turn, proponents of net neutrality have lobbied the FCC to classify broadband companies as “common carriers,” requiring that all Internet traffic receive equal treatment (i.e., equal speed of delivery).

In light of overwhelming public support for net neutrality, conflicting with strong lobbies from broadband companies, the FCC is still working towards a solution. Some of this work was leaked last week, revealing a sort of hybrid plan, in which broadband companies could sometimes establish “fast lanes” for service providers, but only when they deem it is “just and reasonable” (whatever “just and reasonable” means).

Whitney Erin Boesel does a fantastic job laying out the policy and delineating a strong argument in support of Open Internet. I want to take a bit of a simpler approach, and address one issue which underlies the debate in its entirety: the relationship between speech and money. (more…)

BuzzFeed’s Halloween #RaceFail

“It’s okay, see? There’s a black guy in the picture with me!!”

After my annual in-class Race and Halloween conversation, one of my students sent me  this BuzzFeed link. Check it out, and then see below for commentary.

(more…)

Technologies of Violence

Swedish Non-Violence Sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

Swedish Non-Violence Sculpture by Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

As a social scientist and theorist of technology, I follow some general rules in my thoughts and writings. One such rule is that I make no claims about the nature of people or the nature of things. Below, I do both. I then put these rule-breaking claims to use in beginning to make sense of the Washington school shooting, in which a reportedly “popular” and “normal” 15 year old boy shot 5 classmates before killing himself.

I begin with two claims about human nature: (more…)

Hey Hun, can you stick those eggs in the freezer for a few?

eggs

 

Facebook and Apple are offering  women employees the opportunity to “lean in,” which is great…right?

Humans both make and use technologies. Because of this, technologies themselves are imbued with politics, and the way people employ technologies have political implications. Untangling what those politics are, is sometimes a tricky process, as technological potentialities in both design and use are multiple and sometimes contradictory. Such is the case with egg-freezing technologies and the offer from Apple and Facebook to cover this procedure for women employees.

Since their announcement—a clear response to criticisms over Silicon Valley’s disproportionately dude populated work force—commentators have tried to discern the political implications. While the move certainly offers an opportunity for women who want to delay childbirth, it also presents a pressure to do so. (more…)