Tag Archives: tufekci

Panopticon For whom?

Sometimes it feels that to be a good surveillance theorist you are also required to be a good storyteller. Understanding surveillance seems to uniquely rely on metaphor and fiction, like we need to first see another possible world to best grasp how watching is happening here. Perhaps the appeal to metaphor is evidence of how quickly watching and being watched is changing – as a feature of modernity itself in general and our current technological moment in particular. The history of surveillance is one of radical change, and, as ever, it is fluctuating and rearranging itself with the new, digital, technologies of information production and consumption. Here, I’d like to offer a brief comment not so much on these new forms of self, interpersonal, cultural, corporate, and governmental surveillance as much as on the metaphors we use to understand them.

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Strong and Mild Digital Dualism

When I first began as a graduate student encountering social media research and blogging my own thoughts, it struck me that most of the conceptual disagreements I had with various arguments stemmed from something more fundamental: the tendency to discuss “the digital” or “the internet” as a new, “virtual”, reality separate from the “physical”, “material”, “real” world. I needed a term to challenge these dualistic suppositions that (I argue) do not align with empirical realities and lived experience. Since coining “digital dualism” on this blog more than a year ago, the phrase has taken on a life of its own. I’m happy that many seem to agree, and am even more excited to continue making the case to those who do not.

The strongest counter-argument has been that a full theory of dualistic versus synthetic models, and which is more correct, has yet to emerge. The success of the critique has so far outpaced its theoretical development, which exists in blog posts and short papers. Point taken. Blogtime runs fast, and rigorous theoretical academic papers happen slow; especially when one is working on a dissertation not about digital dualism. That said, papers are in progress, including ones with exciting co-authors, so the reason I am writing today is to give a first-pass on a framework that, I think, gets at much of the debate about digital dualism. It adds a little detail to “digital dualism versus augmented reality” by proposing “strong” and “mild” versions of each. (more…)

Reaction: Turkle, Tufekci and Marche on the Diane Rehm Show

–Listen to the show here–

The Diane Rehm Show took to the air, ending 45 minutes ago, to debate how Facebook is making us lonely and disconnected and ruining just about everything. This is my quick first-reaction. On one side was Sherry Turkle, that avatar of “digital dualism” (more on this below) who recently wrote “The Flight From Conversation” in the New York Times and Stephen Marche who wrote “Is Facebook making us Lonely?” in The Atlantic. On the other side was Zeynep Tufekci, a researcher who communicates as well as these journalists*, responding to Turkle (also in the Atlantic). While Turkle and Marche’s headlines are intentionally catchy and dramatic, they are also sensationalist and misleading. The reality is not as captivating and Tufekci’s headline in response is far more accurate: “Social Media’s Small, Positive Role in Human Relationships.”

This is one of the many lessons provided by this hour of NPR: catchy arguments tend to trump data, even on nerdtacular public radio. Tufekci, outnumbered, did well given the dearth of air time provided relative to the more sensationalist ideas on the show. Further, the show (@drshow) seemed completely unaware of the fast-moving and engaging Twitter backchannel discussing the topics in much more nuance and detail than much of what was said on-air. [You’ve already enjoyed the irony of this as opposed to Turkle’s argument, right? Obviously.]

The next lesson (more…)

#TtW12 Session Spotlight: Revolution, Now what?

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). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

Last year, at the inaugural Theorizing the Web Conference many of the presentations and indeed conversations outside of the formal panels centered on attempting to understand the role of social media in political movements. Understandably many of these discussions were heavily informed by the events surrounding, for lack of a better term, “the Arab Spring.”

A year later criticism about the role of social media in political protests has matured, for the most part the conversation has moved beyond the reductive and simplistic, “Twitter and Facebook caused the revolution vs. Social Media was the least interesting thing” polarity, instead crystalizing on a more nuanced approach. While scholars have more or less come to terms with the notion that social media can play a role in social protest, contributing to a media ecology which empowers revolutionaries in a way not possible during prior struggles, the ensuing struggle has raised questions about the role social media can play in establishing a new power structure (not just in overthrowing an existing one). In short social media might be good for revolutions, but is it good for democracies?

Indeed a year out critics are now pointing out that the social media enabled protests in Egypt have yet to yield a stable democracy. And in another example critics are also quick to claim that while social media helped to drive the Occupy Protests, the digital network has not been as useful in helping the Occupy Movement produce any substantial policy change.

This session seeks to address these questions, examining the effects of social media on re-building power after a revolution, asking not only what effect has it had, but how might social media technologies be engineered to help with the moments after the revolt.

Panelists after the jump: (more…)

#TtW12 Keynote: Who is Andy Carvin?

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). See the conference website for information as well as event registration.

Experiencing global events through social media has become increasingly common. For those in the West, the uprisings over the past few years in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere were especially striking because social media filled an information void created by the lack of traditional journalists to cover the dramatic events. By simply following a hashtag on Twitter, we tuned into those on the scene, shouting messages of revolution, hope, despair, carnage, persistence, misinformation, debate, sadness, terror, shock, togetherness; text and photos bring us seemingly closer to the events themselves.

But of course the Twitter medium is not neutral. It has shaped what we see and what we do not. Where is the truth in all of this? The intersection of knowledge, power, struggle and the radically new and transformative power of social media begs for intense theorizing. How we conceptualize, understand, define and talk about this new reality lays the path forward to better utilizing social media for journalistic and political purposes.

This is why the keynote for Theorizing the Web 2012 conference (College Park, MD, April 14th) features Andy Carvin (NPR News) and Zeynep Tufekci (UNC) in conversation. Carvin (@acarvin) has become well known for his innovative use of Twitter as a journalistic tool. Tufekci (@techsoc) has emerged as one of the strongest academic voices on social movements and social media and brings a theoretical lens to help us understand this new reality. Together, insights will be made that have impact beyond just journalism but to all researchers of technology as well as those outside of academic circles.

Who is Andy Carvin; and What Do We Call Him?

Without a deep background in professional journalism, Carvin’s actual title at NPR is “Senior Strategist.” However,  (more…)

Chat: Debating Augmented Reality With Zeynep Tufekci

There has been some terrific debate on my theorizing of what I call “augmented reality.” In brief, I reject “digital dualism”, the tendency to view the on and off line as separate spheres, and instead argue that we should view them as enmeshed, creating what I call “augmented reality.” [I talk more about this here.]

Today, I am posting some of the debate that occurred over Twitter and another post responding to a critique of a talk I gave on the topic.

One criticism has been that the augmented reality perspective somehow obscures the important ways in which the on and offline are different. I agree that the spheres indeed have different properties. I write here and here about, for example, how atoms tend to be more scarce than bits. Further, I write here about how these important differences are best viewed through the augmented lens.

It is this last point which I feel is most important in responding to the specific criticisms given by Zeynep Tufekci over Twitter. It is my hope that future conversations on this topic take into account the points made in that short essay. I’ll post the debate, still ongoing, below.

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Using Digital Dualism to Sell Cars

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NPiCYmcgLpY

This Toyota commercial is narrated by a young woman who gets her parents on Facebook because they supposedly are not social enough. While she scoffs at how relatively few “friends” her parents have, the parents are shown to be out living by mountain-biking some decidedly offline trails. The daughter remains confidently transfixed and anchored to the digital world of her laptop screen.

I spend lots of time on this blog pointing out what I call “digital dualism,” the fallacy of viewing the physical and digital as seperate worlds (think The Matrix). Instead, the position myself and others on this blog favor is what we call “augmented reality,” the realization that our world is one where atoms and bits come together. Read more about this idea if you want.

Enter Toyota. They are playing off the pesky social media misnomer that people are using Facebook instead of doing things offline. Research consistently disproves this zero-sum/one-or-the-other fallacy by demonstrating (more…)