Tag Archives: Foursquare

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Self Documentation

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.6.12 and was updated to include video on 6.22.12. See the conference website for additional information.

The issue of self documentation is increasingly fertile ground for theorizing the intersection of the digital and the material, illustrating how our identities are increasingly mediated by new technologies and “digital” forms of sociality. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest (as relatively new forms of sociality) produce requisite changes in our self concepts. In the digital era, identity becomes a project of coordinating, collecting, and curating; self presentation becomes a project of self documentation.

Each of these authors acknowledges the paradigmatic changes new technology (especially social networking sites like Facebook) has introduced into our self concepts. For example, Aimée Morrison looks at how norms are created, encouraged, and enforced in the digital realm of Facebook. The Facebook status update field has gone through several permutations, reflecting changing expectations and norms regarding self presentation and self documentation on this popular social networking site. Somewhat differently, Rob Horning addresses issues of power and control in the promulgation of new forms of sociality. More specifically, Horning discusses Facebook’s role in socializing users into the “digital self,” or the self as curated project. Self documentation is integral to the rise of the digital self and the destruction of the inner/private self. In addition, Jordan Frith reflects on how social media incorporates emerging GPS technology into location based social networks (LBSN) like Foursquare. Drawing from qualitative interviews with over 35 Foursquare users, Frith analyzes the impact of this LBSN on both self-presentation and self-documentation practices.

Finally, social media and the ability to self-document also changes our conception of time. As Nathan has argued, “Social media increasingly force us to view our present as always a potential documented past” (Jurgenson, 2011). In this vein, Sam Ladner addresses the proliferation of digital calendaring (MS Outlook, Google Calendar) and resultant changes such technology engenders to our conceptions and use of time. Digital calendars create new affordances but also new risks in time management.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]

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Hey Ellen DeGeneres, Violating Privacy Isn’t Funny

I like Ellen DeGeneres. Lots of people respect what she does and she has a reputation of treating people right. However, I was surprised when I came across a clip from her popular daytime television show where she unsuspectingly broadcasts compromising Facebook photos of random audience members, a sketch I saw for the first time yesterday, and there seems to be at least a few more of these on YouTube.

I get it, it’s a gag on context collapse: photos taken in and for one time and place are dislocated onto broadcast television, to unexpected and hilarious results. Cute. However, the reality of this is not so funny, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show should know better.

The problem here is that Ellen is setting a precedent that it is okay and fun to share each others information to a larger audience than was initially intended; that blasting compromising photos from someone’s Facebook profile to other audiences, large or small, is a funny joke. For many, it isn’t.

Ellen’s lighthearted joke takes the form of much modern bullying; especially what is often called “cyberbullying” (more…)

Do We Need a New World’s Fair? (Part 2)

This is the first of a two-part series dedicated to answering the question “Do we need a new World’s Fair?” It is an honest question that I do not have an answer to. What I aim to do here is share my thoughts on the subject and present historical data on what these sorts of events have done in the past. In the first part, I explore what previous World Fairs have accomplished and what we must certainly avoid. The second part will investigate what a new 21st century fair might look like, and how it would help our economy. Part 1 is here.

Our Generation's Only Exposure to the Concept of the World's Fair. (Copyright Paramount Pictures and Marvel)

Yesterday we looked at the last few World Fairs that were held in the United States. Those  20th century fairs demonstrated technologies that today we take for granted as common-place. Everything from Juicy Fruit gum to fluorescent lighting has been introduced to the world through these massive fairs. World Expos still take place, but are now found in China, Japan and South Korea. The 2012 expo will be held in Seoul, South Korea. The latest World’s Fair, Expo 2010, was held in Shanghai, China and set historic records as the largest and most well-attended expo. But the success of the Shanghai Expo doesn’t quite translate to America’s shores. As The Atlantic’s Adam Minter wrote last year:

To American ears, the concept of a World’s Fair sounds archaic, and when applied to Shanghai, a contemporary symbol of all that is new, vibrant, and even threatening, it’s disconcerting. But in Shanghai, where the future is an obsession, this reported $46 billion hat-tip to the past makes perfect sense: just as New York once announced its global pre-eminence via World’s Fairs in 1939 and, again, in 1964, the organizers of Expo 2010 view the six month event as nothing less than Shanghai’s coronation as the next great world city. (more…)

Life Becomes Picturesque: Facebook and the Claude Glass

I have been thinking through ideas on this blog for my dissertation project about how we document ourselves on social media. I recently posted some thoughts on rethinking privacy and publicity and I posted an earlier long essay on the rise of faux-vintage Hipstamatic and Instagram photos. There, I discussed the “camera eye” as a metaphor for how we are being trained to view our present as always its potential documentation in the form of a tweet, photo, status update, etc. (what I call “documentary vision”). The photographer knows well that after taking many pictures one’s eye becomes like the viewfinder: always viewing the world through the logic of the camera mechanism via framing, lighting, depth of field, focus, movement and so on. Even without the camera in hand the world becomes transformed into the status of the potential-photograph. And with social media we have become like the photographer: our brains always looking for moments where the ephemeral blur of lived experience might best be translated into its documented form.

I would like to expand on this point by going back a little further in the history of documentation technologies to the 17th century Claude glass (pictured above) to provide insight into how we position ourselves to the world around us in the age of social media. (more…)

Rethinking Privacy and Publicity on Social Media: Part I

This essay, like the one I posted last month on faux-vintage photography, is me hashing out ideas as part of my larger dissertation project on self-documentation and social media. Part II will argue that the media also overstate how public we have become, sensationalizing the issue to the point that the stigma associated with online imperfections erodes more slowly. It is no stretch to claim that we have become more public with social media. By “public” I mean that we are posting (1) more pieces information about ourselves online in (2) new ways (see the Zuckerberg Law of Information sharing), and are doing so more (3) honestly than ever before. We are connected to the web more often, especially given the rise of smart phones, and new layers of information are being invented, such as “checking in” geographically. And gone are the days when you could be anyone you want to be online; today we know that online activities are augmented by the physical world. People are mostly using their real names on Facebook and nearly everything one does there has everything to do with the offline world.

But we are not as public as this suggests. We need a balance to this so-called triumph of publicity and death of anonymity (as the New York Times and Zygmunt Bauman recently declared). “Publicity” on social media needs to be understood fundamentally as an act rife also with its conceptual opposite: creativity and concealment. And I am not talking just about those who use false identities on blogs (see Amina) and pseudonyms on Facebook, those with super-strict privacy settings or those who only post a selective part of their multiple identities (though, I am talking about these folks, too).  My point applies to even the biggest oversharers who intimately document their lives in granular detail.

I’ll describe below how each instance of sharing online is done so creatively instead of as simple truth-telling, but will start first by discussing how each new piece of information effectively conceals as much as it reveals. (more…)

The (Digital) Image of the City

 

Kevin Lynch's Original Study (Copyright MIT Press 1960)

In 1960 an architect by the name of Kevin Lynch embarked on a fascinating three-city study of how urban dwellers keep mental pictures of their hometowns. He and his team identified five “elements” of the city: 1) paths, 2) edges, 3) nodes, 4) districts, and 5) landmarks. These five components constitute most of the ways individuals think about and navigate their city. As smartphones become more and more ubiquitous, the way we navigate cities has changed. We have GPS devices, interactive maps, social networking applications that tell us where our friends are and where they like to go for pizza. The city exists in physical space, it exists in our minds, and now it exists in the digital “cloud.” How does this new layer of bits effect the way our cities look, act, and feel?

I want to briefly discuss the five elements before conjecturing how access to information changes what these elements look like and how we organize the city in our heads. Paths can be (more…)

Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality

The power of social media to burrow dramatically into our everyday lives as well as the near ubiquity of new technologies such as mobile phones has forced us all to conceptualize the digital and the physical; the on- and off-line.

And some have a bias to see the digital and the physical as separate; what I am calling digital dualism. Digital dualists believe that the digital world is “virtual” and the physical world “real.” This bias motivates many of the critiques of sites like Facebook and the rest of the social web and I fundamentally think this digital dualism is a fallacy. Instead, I want to argue that the digital and physical are increasingly meshed, and want to call this opposite perspective that implodes atoms and bits rather than holding them conceptually separate augmented reality.

In a 2009 post titled “Towards Theorizing An Augmented Reality,” I discussed geo-tagging (think Foursquare or Facebook Places), street view, face recognition, the Wii controller and the fact that sites like Facebook both impact and are impacted by the physical world to argue that “digital and material realities dialectically co-construct each other.” This is opposed to the notion that the Internet is like the Matrix, where there is a “real” (Zion) that you leave when you enter the virtual space (the Matrix) -an outdated perspective as Facebook is increasingly real and our physical world increasingly digital.

I have used this perspective of augmentation to critque dualism when I see it. For instance, (more…)

Foursquare Infographic

See the full data visualization here.

Data’ll Show ‘Em: Foursquare, Gowalla, and the Geosocial

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released new figures on the use of what they are calling “location based” or “geosocial” services (e.g., Foursquare, Gowalla, or Facebook Places).  These services encourage social interaction through the sharing of location-based information.  Usage patterns break down along some interesting lines.  I have taken the liberty of compiling some tables for you.

Men are currently twice as likely to use geosocial services as woman. (more…)