Tag Archives: data

Facebook has Always Manipulated Your Emotions


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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…)


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I walk my two dogs, Laika and Sputnik, once or sometimes twice a day. On these walks, they sniff around a lot. One day, while they were on a particularly strong sniff binge, I wondered how their olfactory interaction with the physical world translated into a metaphysics, specifically, into an understanding of time. Sputnik and Laika could smell this patch of sidewalk’s recent past–they knew that my neighbor Mickey and her dogs Bentley and Beauty had taken a walk earlier this afternoon (I’m guessing this was the case because they go nuts for their scent, as Mickey always gives them treats). That’s not something I would know unless I (a) talked to Mickey, or (b) had surveillance camera data from the car dealership by this particular patch of sidewalk. What, for me, was an imperceptible, unknowable “past” was for them a perfectly accessible fact. The past was physically present for them in a way it was not for me. Surely this different perceptual orientation to the physical world translates into a different metaphysical experience of time and, well, of reality more generally. When the world is sniffed rather than seen, different features and patterns of relationships emerge as the prominent, organizing factors of that world.

I wasn’t particularly interested in following up on that idea until I read that “sniffing” is a metaphor commonly used to describe a specific type of data surveillance.


More eyes, different eyes: droning & Google Glass

Three articles came out this week that help me develop my concept of droning as a general type of surveilance that differs in important ways from the more traditional concept of “the gaze” or, more academically, “panopticism.” There’s Molly Crabapple’s post on Rizome, the NYTimes article about consumer surveillance, and my colleague Gordon Hull’s post about the recent NSA legal rulings over on NewAPPS. Thinking with and through these three articles helps me clarify a few things about the difference between droning and gazing: (1) droning is more like visualization than like “the gaze”–that is, droning “watches” patterns and relationships among individual “gazes,” patterns that are emergent properties of algorithmic number-crunching; and (2) though the metaphor of “the gaze” works because the micro- and macro-levels are parallel/homologous, droning exists only at the macro-level; individual people can run droning processes, but only if they’re plugged into crowds (data streams or sets aggregating multiple micro- or individual perspectives).


What is the Quantified Self Now?

There's A LOT more to (self-)tracking than Quantified Self

There’s A LOT more to (self-)tracking than Quantified Self

When people ask me what it is that I’m studying for my PhD research, my answer usually begins with, “Have you ever heard of the group Quantified Self?” I ask this question because, if the person says yes, it’s a lot easier for me to explain my project (which is looking at different forms of mood tracking, primarily within the context of Quantified Self). But sometimes asking this return question makes my explanation more difficult, too, because a lot of people have heard the word “quantified” cozy up to the word “self” in ways that make them feel angry, uncomfortable, or threatened. They don’t at all like what those four syllables sometimes seem to represent, and with good reason: the idea of a “quantified self” can stir images of big data, data mining, surveillance, loss of privacy, loss of agency, mindless fetishization of technology, even utter dehumanization.

But this is not the Quantified Self that I have come to know. (more…)

Data Based

Data Based is a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.

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Data Based is a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.

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Data Based

This is the second installment of Data Based,  a weekly Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.



Data Based

Data Based is a brand new Cyborgology feature producing original, insightful, and fun data visualizations.

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The Qualified Self


This post, however, takes a break from The Great Dualism Debates of 2013 and reflects instead on some musings that have been whirring around in my brain since #TtW13 based on discussions surrounding the Quantified Self.

qualified self

After returning from my favorite professional weekend of the year (AKA the Theorizing the Web annual conference), I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with a good friend. She asked about my presentation, and we got talking about Self Quantification and Identity.  This particular friend is also an occasional running partner and a fellow nutrition enthusiast. We seamlessly moved into her personal tracking habits, and she shared with me that when she uses her calorie tracking app, she ends up omitting a good deal of information, and contextualizing other data. Specifically, she tells me that she “forgets” to track her food while spending weekends with her long-distance boyfriend (during which she tends to eat more), and made a point to write down that it was her birthday to explain why she was so high above her daily allotment one day last month. Interestingly, she does not have any followers on this app, which means her justifications and omissions are purely for own benefit. She is not keeping up appearances for others, but rather, maintaining meanings for herself. (more…)