Facebook has Always Manipulated Your Emotions


emotion 1

Emotional Contagion is the idea that emotions spread throughout networks. If you are around happy people, you are more likely to be happy. If you are around gloomy people, you are likely to be glum.

The data scientists at Facebook set out to learn if text-based, nonverbal/non-face-to-face interactions had similar effects.  They asked: Do emotions remain contagious within digitally mediated settings? They worked to answer this question experimentally by manipulating the emotional tenor of users’ News Feeds, and recording the results.

Public reaction was such that many expressed dismay that Facebook would 1) collect their data without asking and 2) manipulate their emotions.

I’m going to leave aside the ethics of Facebook’s data collection. It hits on an important but blurry issue of informed consent in light of Terms of Use agreements, and deserves a post all its own. Instead, I focus on the emotional manipulation, arguing that Facebook was already manipulating your emotions, and likely in ways far more effectual than algorithmically altering the emotional tenor of your News Feed. more...

Self-Tracking: A Low-Tech Practice


via measuredme.com

I have a dear family friend. She is highly educated, happily married, a wonderful mother, and incredibly successful in her career. She has also, however, always struggled with her weight.  Like many people, she tried dieting about a million times. This produced the kind of yo-yo style results which bring people to maintain several wardrobes of varying sizes. Then, about five years ago, she started journaling. She wrote down everything she ate and the approximate caloric count of each item. With this tactic, this dear family friend was, for the first time, able to maintain her desired body size.

Don’t worry; this is not a post about how to lose weight. I could write one of those, but the anti-feminist self-loathing would probably be too much for me to bear. Rather, this is a short post about self-tracking. We all know that Cyborgologist Whitney Erin Boesel (@phenatypical) is our resident expert on self-tracking however, as she makes her way from one side of the country to the other, I will pick up the self-tracking ball and talk about some recent findings from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. more...

Communication Platforms and the Shaping of Desire

What do people want? As it turns out, it depends on how the question is asked. At SXSW this year, NetBase.com presented a social media analysis of expressed desire. Specifically, they analyzed 365 days of 27 million status updates that begin with the words “I want.” Recently, they followed up with a Harris survey in which they asked 2,000 participants (1,000 men and 1,000 women) “What is the one thing you want right now? Be as specific as possible.” Unsurprisingly, the results varied dramatically. First, check out the infographic, then keep reading for my analysis. more...

The All-in-One Consumption Tool Kit?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project and researchers from Elon University asked over a thousand “experts” about the future of money. Specifically, they were interested in the potential replacement of cash and credit/debit cards with smart-device technologies.

The majority of respondents (65%) believe that smartphones will largely replace cash and credit/debit cards by the year 2020. Others, however, believe that our infrastructure is too closely tied with a cash/card based system to be fully replaced. Further, most experts note that not ALL consumers will make the switch, as some will resist over concerns about privacy and anonymity. Finally, many predict that adoption will differ across demographics (with younger consumers replacing cash/credit at a faster rate than older consumers). Read the full report here.

Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine a largely smart-device based currency system—as this is already prevalent in Japan and growing in the U.S..  The next step is to imagine the social implications of such a system. I believe that these implications will be twofold: First, we will become more efficient consumers. Second, identity and practices of consumption will be more explicitly and directly linked—solidifying the connection between self and stuff. more...

The Problem with Internet Addiction

SodaHead, an opinion gathering website, recently asked its users about “Internet Addiction.” From user responses (N=602), they produced the infographic below.  In the present post, I am not going to discuss this infographic in its own right. Instead, I am going to discuss “Internet Addiction” (from here on referred to as IA) as a condition—one that is slated for inclusion in the upcoming DSM-V. Specifically, I will argue that its existence rests on faulty assumptions, and that it is a problematic diagnostic category.

From SodaHead.com

To deconstruct IA as a diagnostic category, I must begin with a brief discussion on the philosophy of science—specifically addressing the mutually constitutive relationship between research design and social reality. Simply put, no research is objective. The very questions that we ask are bound by the logics of culture, politics, and language—as are the measures we use to answer these questions. Moreover, new studies are rooted in existing research, further limiting the lens with which reality is viewed and understood. In turn, research findings influence how we think about our physical and social world, the language that we use, and the logics with which we understand ourselves and that which surrounds us. IA, as a diagnostic category, a social problem, and a potential identity, must be understood within this context. more...

Siri by Gender and Language

In an earlier post, I wrote about the intersections of gender, technology, and economy using Apple’s “personal assistant” Siri as an example. With the recent release of the Japanese version of Siri, I thought I would provide an update on the available languages and their use of a default masculine or feminine voice.


Using Google Correlate to Examine Popular Search Trends

I have been really enjoying the Google Correlate function lately. I think it is a very powerful tool for examining popular topics because more and more people are going online to look for information. More specifically, Google Correlate allows you to see the correlations between search terms, allowing you to see what other search terms are associated with one another. In some sense then, it provides a “window” into the Internet user’s mind. I took this as an opportunity to do a little investigating about the popularization of tattoos and tattooing. What I found is striking.


Mapping #ASA2011 Tweets with NodeXL

The 2011 American Sociological Association Meetings are about to start this week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

As the conference gets underway, the volume of tweets containing the #ASA2011 hashtag is rising.

Using NodeXL, I collected a set of tweets with the #ASA2011 tag and mapped the connections among the people who tweeted that term.

ASA 2011 NodeXL SNA Twitter Map

These are the connections among the Twitter users who recently tweeted the word ASA2011 when queried on August 15, 2011 more...

Visualizing Twitter and Flickr Global Geotagging

The orange represents the intensity of Flickr images taken and geotagged to a particular area. The blue is Twitter use. Looking at New York City above, we see that people tweet from different places than they photograph. For example, tourists photograph some areas while people tweet more from work and home.

More images after the jump. Viamore...

Augmenting the City to Combat HIV/AIDS


The card being used to advertise the service
The SMS service will be advertised using an ad campaign that is based on field work from the previous year by Dr. Audrey Bennett of RPI's Language Literature and Communication Department..

Next month I’ll be in Kumasi, Ghana doing field research and I thought I’d share what I hope to accomplish over there, since my work is informed by much of what I write about on this blog. (I will be blogging over here.) We hope to set up an information system by which Ghanaians can find condom sellers nearby. The primary interface will be text messaging using a fantastic open-source project called FrontLineSMS. By texting a certain number, the user will be asked to send their district and a list of nearby landmarks. The database will send back a list of condom sellers within a reasonable walking distance. We also hope to have several other front-end access points that are already becoming popular places to socialize. Our aim is to increase access to condoms in order to reduce the infection rate of HIV/AIDS. As of 2009, according to UNICEF, 230,000 people (about 2% of the population) live with HIV in Ghana. I should also note that cell phones are not a luxury item in Ghana. Adoption has exploded over the past several years, and it is estimated that about 67% of Ghanians own a cell phone.