Have you ever traveled to a foreign city and felt like a fish out of water in your jeans, tshirt and converse, surrounded by locals who are dressed completely different from you? Some cultures around the world are known for their different dressing habits, whether that means women are covered from head to toe for religious purposes or men are wearing burlap because of the local climate. Check here every week for pictures and stories of clothing traditions from around the world. This blog can be read as a how-to for those who are traveling around the world and need to update their wardrobe, or as a photo inspiration for those snuggled up at home, curious about far off cultures.
My friend called me the other night so excited … her Klout score had gone up by 2 points! I’m sorry, your what?! It seems she had been working hard all week to tweet comments about and links to as many influential articles as possible, in hopes that her favorite magazine would retweet one of her posts. Okay, fine I said, but what does this have to do with this klout thing? Well, when this magazine retweeted her post, a website called Klout re-categorized my friend’s ‘Klout Style’ as a Thought Leader. Happy for my friend’s new fame, but still in the dark about the gist of the whole thing, I did some research.
Two weeks ago in class we learned about Page Rank — the rhyme and reason as to how search engines rank your search results. How do they decide which result goes first and which goes on the 10th page? Well, we discussed that the page rank algorithm is a formal method that calculates a page’s rank based on incoming links. A page with 4 incoming links will be ranked higher than one with only 3, for example. Furthermore, two pages might have the same number of incoming links but one will be ranked higher than the other if the pages that link to it are ranked higher. Although this is a somewhat simplified version of the algorithm, we can argue that all pages on the web are ranked based on their popularity, that is, how many pages link to them.
How then, do we determine the popularity of one social media user compared to another? Do we also have incoming links that we can just count up? Well, we have friends in a social network, but if you ‘friend’ everyone you’ve ever met and accumulate thousands of friends online but never talk to them again or post anything interesting, is that really an accurate measure of your popularity or online influence? Klout seems to think not.
Along these same lines, are incoming links really the best way to determine a page’s popularity? What if the links pointing to this page are never clicked on? What if a page has a ton of outgoing links to pages, causing them to become popular, but this page with all these links is never really viewed?
According to their website, Klout “measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage, you influence others.” Herein lies the key to the elusive Klout score: it isn’t based on how many complete strangers you might connect with online, rather it’s based on what type of content you share and create, and whether or not your friends read, share, like, retweet, and comment on this content. The Klout Score uses data from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ to measure the following:
True Reach: How many people you influence
Amplification: How much you influence them
Network Impact: The influence of your network
It seems that while search engines have found a finite way to score and rank pages, so too has Klout now found a way to score and rank our individual activities online. In a society so concerned with popularity, I am not surprised that the people obsessed with perfecting their online image wouldn’t want some credit for it. After all, there are rumors that people with higher scores are posting their scores on resumes and sometimes getting job offers because of it!
When you register for Klout, they tell you “A higher score means you are driving more online action.” I’ve since been named a dabbler! So what are you waiting for? Start sharing and driving action!
Here is a link to a potential resource for my final term paper this semester about Networks. I’m interested in how weak ties might play different roles and appear differently in different social networks such as Facebook vs. LinkedIn. This article suggests that different social networks play different roles based on the frameworks in which we put them.
More to come.
How many Facebook friends do you have? 50? 272? 725? 1340? A quick sampling of random students last night suggests that Cornell undergrads have approximately 830 Facebook friends, with some exceeding 1200. But is it possible to actually know this many people? Many of us who are familiar with Dunbar’s number will know of course that the cognitive limit to how many people you can actually have an interpersonal relationship with hovers around 150 people. How then, do we categorize and justify having close to 1,000 friends online?
As we learned in the first weeks of class, there is a distinct difference between our relationships. Some friends represent weak ties, while others are stronger ties. Arguably, your 150 ‘real’ friends are those with whom you share strong ties. You grew up together, live together, and play on sports teams together. The weak ties on the other hand are the people whom you’ve met along the way; the random guy at the end of your freshman hallway, the kid you sat next to in calculus, and the girl you met once at a party. Facebook has emerged as a way to keep tabs on these weak ties, see what they’ve been up to since middle school, and practice your best stalking skills.
This discussion is not meant to be about Facebook, however. Rather, I want to explore the ties we maintain using LinkedIn. While some people may have fewer connections on LinkedIn than friends on Facebook, the number of strong ties we have on LinkedIn is proportionally much less than on Facebook. Simply put, we are more likely to connect with people on LinkedIn with whom we share relatively weak ties. Why is this? Why would a social network take off that connects us to people we aren’t even really friends with?
We discussed in class the strength of weak ties and how a local bridge gives us access to parts of a network that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. It seems this is how people are most likely to find a job––which is arguably the goal of LinkedIn. I did further research to see what Granovetter says about this. According to his paper, “Individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends.” Evidently, this deprivation of information from beyond our closest friends and colleagues insulates us from opportunities beyond our social circle and puts us at a disadvantage. However, weren’t we always taught not to talk to strangers? Why then should we consider connecting with them online and sharing personal information like work history and where we went to school?
While LinkedIn has become increasingly popular in the working world and among college students seeking jobs, I argue that it causes us to stop and think about our definition of a social network. In the beginning, social networks like MySpace and Facebook were a way to connect socially with friends, whether strong ties or not. Now, a new version has emerged in LinkedIn. Today, we are sharing personal information with weak ties we met at a networking event and are even requesting to connect with their connections, the people who form our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree connections. But would you friend these people on Facebook? I’m willing to bet not.
Herein lies the difference between these two social networks: the willingness to connect with a weak tie on one network and not the other. I wonder then whether there is a further difference between the types of weak ties we create based on if and where we’ve met these people and what type of social benefit we hope to gain from them.
This week, inspired by Dan Hill’s picturesque assessment of seemingly invisible information technologies, I want to take a creative spin to this blog post. As students, we often run around campus in a daze, consumed with our work load, stressed about where to meet friends for lunch, and essentially blind to the “twitching, pulsing cloud of data” that surrounds us. Hill suggests what consumes our campus is “a new kind of data, collective and individual, aggregated and discrete, open and closed, constantly logging impossibly detailed patterns of behavior.” This is the behavior of our campus, our beloved bubble we call Ithaca.
Such data emerges from my student ID card that I swipe as my friends and I get on the city bus in the morning. My info is cross-referenced with a database that confirms I’ve paid for a semester-long bus pass and the light turns green, letting me on the bus. This same computer system tracks what time it is and whether or not the bus is on time for its next scheduled stop. The GPS locator tracks where on campus the bus is and when the PA system announces we’re approaching Goldwin Smith Hall, I am jolted awake from my morning daze and pull the cord by the window, telling the bus driver I have to get off.
I run up the hill towards the Ag Quad, stopping first to swipe my ID again to get a NYTimes paper from the box where only a student can get a free copy of the day’s paper. I presume the control system in the box records that a paper was taken and how many are left. I stop quickly for a cup of coffee, where I of course swipe my all-powerful ID card again. This time, the swipe will send a message to the bursar’s office, adding $2.25 to my bill that I’ll later pay online. I rush into class where the professor is asking the first iClicker question. The receiver on his desk will record my answer, confirming that although a minute late, I was in class that day. After class, the clicker machine will communicate with the professor’s online grade book, guaranteeing me another extra credit point towards my participation grade.
Across campus, my friend is having a very different morning. After being woken by her ipod, which is set to play her favorite play list at exactly the right time, she flips on the television to get the morning’s headlines, which are being broadcast from New York. She opens her computer to check her email and notices a browser still open from last night … pushing the ‘back’ button, the cookies in her browser recall the last page she was on. As my Facebook account pops up, she is reminded of the funny pictures of our friends we were surfing last night. As she comments on one of the pictures, our third friend’s iphone buzzes in class as she gets a ‘push notification’ that someone has commented on a picture of her. Just then, back in the apartment, my friend’s blackberry goes off, reminding her she has an appointment at the gym. She gets in her car where her GPS signals to her car dealership her exact location. When she gets to the gym, she is granted access by a small reader that recognizes her finger print and pulls her picture up on the screen for the desk attendant to confirm. She goes upstairs and plugs in her ipod to the elliptical where the system recognizes her and pulls up her most recent workout history. For the next hour during her workout she proceeds to send Blackberry Messenger messages to our friend studying abroad in Italy.
It’s only 10am and my two friends and I have already contributed to the large haze of the data cloud that looms over Cornell’s campus.
The semester is almost over and I’m still struggling to concisely define the term ‘new media.’ I know we study new media in class … after all it IS called New Media and Society. The problem is that new media encompasses all technology that is ever changing and so I think as such the definition and implications of New Media also continue to change. So I thought, what better place to consider the definition of a changing phenomenon than Wikipedia? After all, a wiki by definition is always changing, presumably just as fast or faster than today’s new media. So, here is a look at how Wikipedians define the term New Media.
A technology lover, I am sometimes inclined to say ‘technology makes everything better!’ But before I commit to this sweeping generalization, I am going to step back and consider whether or not it’s actually true. I’m not sure that technology actually makes things better. Rather, I think the advent of technology changes our reality and perspective … life is definitely different, but better is a whole different conversation.
This week’s prompt questions whether or not I think that I and other undergraduates are more or less well-informed than people in our position ten years ago. My blind, technology loving self would say ‘absolutely – we’re all so much more plugged into the news now than ever before, thanks to the internet!’ However, I’m going to argue a slightly different conclusion … I propose that the internet provides a different way to be informed than was available 10 years ago. Undergraduates of 10 years ago were not exactly living in the stone age. It’s true that without 4 lb. laptops and impressively fast iPhones they didn’t have today’s internet at their fingertips. However, I presume daily print newspapers were not hard to come by. Yes … I said print! We must remember print newspapers are also a product of technology, even if they don’t resemble today’s intel chips we’ve come to take for granted.
Let’s talk about me for a minute. I would consider myself to be more or less well-informed. In a previous post I’ve already admitted to my love affair with The New York Times … I always read the front page and would of course die without the Style Section. It’s true that because of my impossibly hectic schedule I now have to get my news fix online, rather than being able to enjoy the luxury of the print edition. While I benefit from the online version – a byproduct of today’s technology that wasn’t available 10 years ago – recognize that I still have to make the effort to go online and actually read the news. Even though this content may be more accessible than the print edition, since I can get it with the convenience of my computer, the web edition doesn’t allow any more time in my day to read the news. If there were such a technology that could add more time to my day though I would definitely be interested! Increased accessibility to news through online versions is definitely a benefit. There is admittedly more space online in the boundless Internet for content than there is in the limited pages of a print newspaper. Some would say, as Fenton suggests, “more space equals more news”. However, I argue we still need to make an effort to access this content; just because more space and therefore more content exists doesn’t mean we’re going to consume it. Additionally, the more news there is, the more intimidating it can be to have to search through so much content to find what you’re looking for. The increased space the internet provides is a benefit over the comparably limited scope and accessibility of the news from ten years ago, but it’s not an automatic fix-all.
Enough about me … let’s get back to all undergraduates. I don’t think we’re more well-informed than students were 10 years ago. I believe how well informed a student is depends on their commitment to and desire to be so plugged in. Some individuals are characteristically interested in current events. These students are the ones who will make the effort to access the content – whether in print or online. We have no more incentive today to be informed than students had 10 years ago. The one benefit I will admit that we have is increased space, which affords more specialized content – we have the option today to be more informed about specific topics we’re interested in through the ease of a simple google search. We can be more easily informed, especially about specialized topics if we want to be but I’m sticking to my original argument – it still takes effort. Until technology can beam the day’s news headlines into our DNA, I think it’s up to each student to maintain a well-balanced news diet. Online news content definitely makes it easier to be informed today, but just as it wasn’t impossible to be informed 10 years ago, it’s still not guaranteed that all students will make the effort to be plugged in today.
I don’t have a witty title for this week’s post … I think the best way to approach the political goals of the Save Darfur Coalition website is to give you the straight facts of the organization that inspired me to become more politically and globally aware at a young age. The coalition was founded in order to raise awareness of the atrocities in the Sudan; their website was launched in 2004. Today, the coalition has grown into an alliance of more than 180 religious, political and human rights organizations committed to ending the genocide in Darfur, but I remember it from when it first resembled a grass roots organization.
Their current website is primarily used to provide information to the public about the current state of affairs in the Sudan. The site features sections such as the ‘Darfur Daily News’ and a link to ‘Learn More.’ Their headquarters are located in Washington, DC and the coalition is consistently politically involved with the U.S’s policies and relationship with the UN, regarding Darfur and the Sudan. Recently, they have mainly used their website to raise money in an effort to petition to and advertise about the President’s relationship with and actions regarding the situation. The coalition commonly asks fellow activists to call and petition their congressmen, the President, and others.
The Save Darfur Coalition site, in truth, is somewhat didactic. They take a lot of space on the site to say why they are unquestionably in the right and that every upstanding citizen should follow in their ways. The site does not strike a balance between presenting political information and hosting political discussion. While I happen to personally agree with their intentions, – to bring justice to the Sudan and end the genocide – I must admit the site does not immediately foster a sense of community. It does not provide a forum where users can come together to either share in the aspirations of the coalition or even question them. There is a blog section that seems to feature blog posts from employees from the organization and this page features their twitter feed, which I presume users can re-post from and respond to. While the coalition undoubtedly must work to maintain their important message, I don’t think they effectively create a space that features their users’ voices and opinions, nor do they strive to connect their many dedicated activists. I truly believe that for the community they are trying to build to truly be a success, the users of the site must be able to feel a sense of belonging and participation, which will lead to pride and an eagerness to contribute to the site’s efforts even more.
The following is an excerpt of my midterm paper. Considering Papacharissi’s description of the Habermasian public sphere, pictured left, I argue that social network sites in their current form do not promote but rather disrupt the public sphere.
Millions of users communicate through and interact with social network sites on a daily basis. We keep track of friends’ birthdays, post messages on people’s walls, and update our statuses with our ever-fleeting thoughts. Modern society would suggest these actions not only enhance, but also define our social survival. But through this interaction and precious time are we necessarily contributing to a public sphere? Boyd and Ellison (2007) suggest that many social network sites (SNSs) have “various technological affordances that support a wide range of interests and practices” (p. 1). However, Habermas, as featured in Papacharissi’s paper (2008), specifically says an effective public sphere must “facilitate uninhibited and diverse discussion of public affairs” (p. 5). A productive public sphere promotes public accord and decision-making. While social network sites definitely provide an online public space where users may post content and interact with each other, they don’t always promote the public discourse and civic action characteristic of a public sphere. I argue that the current business models of these online SNSs prevent them from facilitating a democratic Habermasian public sphere. Any virtual public sphere that does exist – as defined by Habermas – exists independently from and is not promoted by modern social network sites. In this paper I will suggest that in order for today’s SNSs to become a platform that both fosters productive civic discourse and inspires public action, the corporations that manage them must first drastically reassess their implications for reciprocity and commercialization.
Habermas believes a public sphere is only successful when it effectively facilitates rational, uninhibited discourse of public affairs. For this discourse to be both productive and democratic, it must involve “two-directional communication, cover topics of shared interest, and be motivated by a mutually shared commitment to rational and focused discourse” (p. 10). Only when a technology affords this degree of reciprocity will a public sphere emerge. Currently, SNSs are “too amorphous, fragmented, dominated by few, and too specific” to inspire such rational accord (p. 10). In order to emulate the productive environment characteristic of Habermas’s model, modern SNSs must increase trust by reducing anonymity and promoting more diverse communities.
… enjoy spring break. I know I will!