data

Apple users usually expect for their devices to perform basic system management and maintenance, monitoring background processes so that a rogue task doesn’t drag down the currently active app, for example. But when Apple confirmed users’ suspicions that a recent update was aggressively slowing older devices, the story quickly gained national attention, culminating in the company cutting the price of battery replacement service and apologizing for the misunderstanding in an open letter to customers. Though Apple never goes as far as to admit wrongdoing in the letter, their direct appeals to customers’ “trust” and “faith” serve as an implicit acknowledgement that the company disregarded a boundary somewhere.

The new power management system has received justifiable attention and it isn’t the only update the company surreptitiously added recently. In a separate update, wireless and Bluetooth controls that previously functioned like manual on/off switches now only disable connectivity temporarily, until the system automatically reactivates them the following day. Similar to the new power management feature, the connectivity controls weren’t publicized and users weren’t notified of the altered functionality until a subsequent release.

Given how social media and messaging services have, as Jenny Davis says, “extended beyond apps and platforms, taking on the status of infrastructures and institutions,” Apple’s moves to smooth device performance and subtly automate connectivity make some sense. “They have become central to society’s basic functions, such as employment, public safety, and government services,” Data & Society scholars argued in response to Carpenter v. United States. On a basic level a phone’s remaining battery life can, as Jenny Davis wrote of her second night living in Australia, be the difference between calling an Uber or cab home and staying lost and stranded at night in an unfamiliar city on the other side of the world. “I could mess up, (which I did) and have layers of contingency preventing my mishap from becoming a catastrophe.” more...

In last week’s much-anticipated conversation between Barack Obama and Prince Harry, the pair turned to the topic of social media. Here’s what Obama said:

“Social media is a really powerful tool for people of common interests to convene and   get to know each other and connect. But then it’s important for them to get offline,  meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighbourhood and get to know   each other.”

The former president’s statements about social media are agreeable and measured. They don’t evoke moral panic, but they do offer a clear warning about the rise of new technologies and potential fall of social relations.

These sentiments feel comfortable and familiar. Indeed, the sober cautioning that digital media ought not replace face-to-face interaction has emerged as a widespread truism, and for valid reasons. Shared corporality holds distinct qualities that make it valuable and indispensable for human social connection. With the ubiquity of digital devices and mediated social platforms, it is wise to think about how these new forms of community and communication affect social relations, including their impact on local venues where people have traditionally gathered. It is also reasonable to believe that social media pose a degree of threat to community social life, one that individuals in society should actively ward off.

However, just because something is reasonable to believe doesn’t mean it’s true. The relationship between social media and social relations is not a foregone conclusion but an empirical question: does social media make people less social? Luckily, scholars have spent a good deal of time collecting cross-disciplinary evidence from which to draw conclusions. Let’s look at the research: more...

Technological advancements have had a profound influence on social science research. The rise of the internet, mobile hardware and app economies generate a breadth, depth and type of data previously unimaginable, while computational capabilities allow granular analyses that reveal patterns across massive data sets.  From these new types of data and forms of analysis, has emerged a crisis and renaissance of methodological thought.

Early excitement around big data celebrated a world that would be entirely changed and entirely knowable. Big data would “revolutionize” the way we “live, work, and think” claimed Viktor Mayer-Schönberger and Kenneth Cuckier in their 2013 monograph, which so aptly captured the cultural zeitgeist energized around this new way of knowing. At the same time, social scientists and humanities scholars expressed concern that big data would displace their rich array of methodological traditions, undermining diverse scholarly practices and forms of knowledge production. However, with the hype around big data beginning to settle, polemic visions of omnipotence on the one hand, and bleak austerity on the other, seem unlikely to come into fruition.

While big data itself enables researchers to ask new kinds of questions, I argue that big data’s most significant effect has been to bring social thinkers back to the methodological (and philosophical) drawing board. For decades, more...

 

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...

 

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...

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 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...

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...

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.

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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.

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