When Myspace Was King, Employees Abused a Tool Called ‘Overlord’ to Spy on Users
When Myspace Was King, Employees Abused a Tool Called ‘Overlord’ to Spy on Users
Adversarial Interoperability: Reviving an Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age to Slay Today’s Monopolies | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Voici ce que le mouvement pour le logiciel libre peut apprendre des tactiques des concurrents de Microsoft - si vous ne pouvez pas gagner contre les géants, profitez d’eux.
Today, Apple is one of the largest, most profitable companies on Earth, but in the early 2000s, the company was fighting for its life. Microsoft’s Windows operating system was ascendant, and Microsoft leveraged its dominance to ensure that every Windows user relied on its Microsoft Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc). Apple users—a small minority of computer users—who wanted to exchange documents with the much larger world of Windows users were dependent on Microsoft’s Office for the Macintosh operating system (which worked inconsistently with Windows Office documents, with unexpected behaviors like corrupting documents so they were no longer readable, or partially/incorrectly displaying parts of exchanged documents). Alternatively, Apple users could ask Windows users to export their Office documents to an “interoperable” file format like Rich Text Format (for text), or Comma-Separated Values (for spreadsheets). These, too, were inconsistent and error-prone, interpreted in different ways by different programs on both Mac and Windows systems.
Apple could have begged Microsoft to improve its Macintosh offerings, or they could have begged the company to standardize its flagship products at a standards body like OASIS or ISO. But Microsoft had little motive to do such a thing: its Office products were a tremendous competitive advantage, and despite the fact that Apple was too small to be a real threat, Microsoft had a well-deserved reputation for going to enormous lengths to snuff out potential competitors, including both Macintosh computers and computers running the GNU/Linux operating system.
Apple did not rely on Microsoft’s goodwill and generosity: instead, it relied on reverse-engineering. After its 2002 “Switch” ad campaign—which begged potential Apple customers to ignore the “myths” about how hard it was to integrate Macs into Windows workflows—it intensified work on its iWork productivity suite, which launched in 2005, incorporating a word-processor (Pages), a spreadsheet (Numbers) and a presentation program (Keynote). These were feature-rich applications in their own right, with many innovations that leapfrogged the incumbent Microsoft tools, but this superiority would still not have been sufficient to ensure the adoption of iWork, because the world’s greatest spreadsheets are of no use if everyone you need to work with can’t open them.
What made iWork a success—and helped re-launch Apple—was the fact that Pages could open and save most Word files; Numbers could open and save most Excel files; and Keynote could open and save most PowerPoint presentations. Apple did not attain this compatibility through Microsoft’s cooperation: it attained it despite Microsoft’s noncooperation. Apple didn’t just make an “interoperable” product that worked with an existing product in the market: they made an adversarially interoperable product whose compatibility was wrested from the incumbent, through diligent reverse-engineering and reimplementation. What’s more, Apple committed to maintaining that interoperability, even though Microsoft continued to update its products in ways that temporarily undermined the ability of Apple customers to exchange documents with Microsoft customers, paying engineers to unbreak everything that Microsoft’s maneuvers broke. Apple’s persistence paid off: over time, Microsoft’s customers became dependent on compatibility with Apple customers, and they would complain if Microsoft changed its Office products in ways that broke their cross-platform workflow.
Since Pages’ launch, document interoperability has stabilized, with multiple parties entering the market, including Google’s cloud-based Docs offerings, and the free/open alternatives from LibreOffice. The convergence on this standard was not undertaken with the blessing of the dominant player: rather, it came about despite Microsoft’s opposition. Docs are not just interoperable, they’re adversarially interoperable: each has its own file format, but each can read Microsoft’s file format.
The document wars are just one of many key junctures in which adversarial interoperability made a dominant player vulnerable to new entrants:
Usenet’s alt.* hierarchy
Supercard’s compatibility with Hypercard
Search engines’ web-crawlers
Servers of every kind, which routinely impersonate PCs, printers, and other devices
Scratch the surface of most Big Tech giants and you’ll find an adversarial interoperability story: Facebook grew by making a tool that let its users stay in touch with MySpace users; Google products from search to Docs and beyond depend on adversarial interoperability layers; Amazon’s cloud is full of virtual machines pretending to be discrete CPUs, impersonating real computers so well that the programs running within them have no idea that they’re trapped in the Matrix.
Adversarial interoperability converts market dominance from an unassailable asset to a liability. Once Facebook could give new users the ability to stay in touch with MySpace friends, then every message those Facebook users sent back to MySpace—with a footer advertising Facebook’s superiority—became a recruiting tool for more Facebook users. MySpace served Facebook as a reservoir of conveniently organized potential users that could be easily reached with a compelling pitch about why they should switch.
Today, Facebook is posting 30-54% annual year-on-year revenue growth and boasts 2.3 billion users, many of whom are deeply unhappy with the service, but who are stuck within its confines because their friends are there (and vice-versa).
A company making billions and growing by double-digits with 2.3 billion unhappy customers should be every investor’s white whale, but instead, Facebook and its associated businesses are known as “the kill zone” in investment circles.
Facebook’s advantage is in “network effects”: the idea that Facebook increases in value with every user who joins it (because more users increase the likelihood that the person you’re looking for is on Facebook). But adversarial interoperability could allow new market entrants to arrogate those network effects to themselves, by allowing their users to remain in contact with Facebook friends even after they’ve left Facebook.
This kind of adversarial interoperability goes beyond the sort of thing envisioned by “data portability,” which usually refers to tools that allow users to make a one-off export of all their data, which they can take with them to rival services. Data portability is important, but it is no substitute for the ability to have ongoing access to a service that you’re in the process of migrating away from.
Big Tech platforms leverage both their users’ behavioral data and the ability to lock their users into “walled gardens” to drive incredible growth and profits. The customers for these systems are treated as though they have entered into a negotiated contract with the companies, trading privacy for service, or vendor lock-in for some kind of subsidy or convenience. And when Big Tech lobbies against privacy regulations and anti-walled-garden measures like Right to Repair legislation, they say that their customers negotiated a deal in which they surrendered their personal information to be plundered and sold, or their freedom to buy service and parts on the open market.
But it’s obvious that no such negotiation has taken place. Your browser invisibly and silently hemorrhages your personal information as you move about the web; you paid for your phone or printer and should have the right to decide whose ink or apps go into them.
Adversarial interoperability is the consumer’s bargaining chip in these coercive “negotiations.” More than a quarter of Internet users have installed ad-blockers, making it the biggest consumer revolt in human history. These users are making counteroffers: the platforms say, “We want all of your data in exchange for this service,” and their users say, “How about none?” Now we have a negotiation!
Or think of the iPhone owners who patronize independent service centers instead of using Apple’s service: Apple’s opening bid is “You only ever get your stuff fixed from us, at a price we set,” and the owners of Apple devices say, “Hard pass.” Now it’s up to Apple to make a counteroffer. We’ll know it’s a fair one if iPhone owners decide to patronize Apple’s service centers.
This is what a competitive market looks like. In the absence of competitive offerings from rival firms, consumers make counteroffers by other means.
There is good reason to want to see a reinvigorated approach to competition in America, but it’s important to remember that competition is enabled or constrained not just by mergers and acquisitions. Companies can use a whole package of laws to attain and maintain dominance, to the detriment of the public interest.
Today, consumers and toolsmiths confront a thicket of laws and rules that stand between them and technological self-determination. To change that, we need to reform the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, , patent law, and other rules and laws. Adversarial interoperability is in the history of every tech giant that rules today, and if it was good enough for them in the past, it’s good enough for the companies that will topple them in the future.
What the Myspace wipeout says about the unreliable Internet - The Washington Post
the old social network’s accidental purge of 12 years’ worth of its users’ music uploads — that’s an estimated 50 million songs — is probably a close second.
The tremendous loss of digital artifacts, such as the Flickr photo annihilation, the Tumblr porn purge and the coming Google+ disintegration, highlights the impermanence of the Web, and the ease with which files and posts that helped define Internet culture and history can be so readily discarded.
Myspace loses all content uploaded before 2016
Faulty server migration blamed for mass deletion of songs, photos and video Myspace, the once mighty social network, has lost every single piece of content uploaded to its site before 2016, including millions of songs, photos and videos with no other home on the internet. The company is blaming a faulty server migration for the mass deletion, which appears to have happened more than a year ago, when the first reports appeared of users unable to access older content. The company has (...)
The Biggest Threat to Humanity
The Defense of Champigny, 1879, The Met Open AccessI belong to the generation lovingly known as the millennials. I grew up with the #internet. I lived through the rise and fall of IRC, AIM, MySpace, and now Facebook. I have friends today who I met on IRC in the 90s, and we’re still friends today, albeit the medium has changed (these days we use Telegram).I owe the Internet everything: it taught me how to write software, it helped me emigrate to a new country, find jobs (including a job at one very successful Internet company), apartments, roommates, how to make friends, where to find friends, how to dress like a respectable person, how to fix and repair things, and much more. If not for the Internet, I doubt I would have found the same level of success in life as I have today.The Internet (...)
#developer Spotlight : Leslie Cohn-Wein of Netlify
In this installment of the Cosmic JS Developer Spotlight Series, we sat down with Leslie Cohn-Wein, a Front End Developer and Austin native now residing in Dallas, Texas. Leslie most recently worked as a Front End Engineer for Canvas United, a New York City-based digital agency, prior to starting as a Front End Developer at Netlify. Follow Leslie on Twitter or LinkedIn and enjoy the Q/A.Cosmic JS: When did you first begin building software?Leslie: I taught myself basic CSS in the early 2000s in order to customize my MySpace and LiveJournal backgrounds. To my surprise, that experience kicked off an enduring interest in code.After studying digital media in college and interning at the Denver Open Media Foundation theming Drupal sites for nonprofits, I moved to NYC for a role as a (...)
Best Mobile App For The Steem #blockchain: Partiko
If you’ve been to steemit.com recently, you might be a bit underwhelmed by its pre-Myspace user interface and clunky design.The unsavory mint green logo doesn’t help matters much either. A full two years after it launched, you will still see the beta tag underneath the Steemit logo on the front page of the website. If you want to search for something on Steemit, good luck. The search function doesn’t really give you what you’re looking for. Steemit has been focusing most of its energy on developing the blockchain tech, not UI.Steemit Home PageLuckily, a mobile app has been developed for the Steem blockchain that solves most of these issues, and then some.I accidentally stumbled upon the Partiko app a few months ago, and was impressed immediately, even though the app was only launched a few (...)
Les travailleurs et travailleuses sous-payées du nettoyage dans le cyberespace. Un article ancien, pourtant toujours d’actualité. Et ce ne sont pas les intelligences artificielles qui résoudront ce problème.
Baybayan is part of a massive labor force that handles “content moderation”—the removal of offensive material—for US social-networking sites. As social media connects more people more intimately than ever before, companies have been confronted with the Grandma Problem: Now that grandparents routinely use services like Facebook to connect with their kids and grandkids, they are potentially exposed to the Internet’s panoply of jerks, racists, creeps, criminals, and bullies. They won’t continue to log on if they find their family photos sandwiched between a gruesome Russian highway accident and a hardcore porn video. Social media’s growth into a multibillion-dollar industry, and its lasting mainstream appeal, has depended in large part on companies’ ability to police the borders of their user-generated content—to ensure that Grandma never has to see images like the one Baybayan just nuked.
“EVERYBODY HITS THE WALL. YOU JUST THINK, ‘HOLY SHIT, WHAT AM I SPENDING MY DAY DOING?’”
So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.
This work is increasingly done in the Philippines.
Uber Paid Hackers to Delete Stolen Data on 57 Million People - Bloomberg
Hackers stole the personal data of 57 million customers and drivers from Uber Technologies Inc., a massive breach that the company concealed for more than a year. This week, the ride-hailing firm ousted its chief security officer and one of his deputies for their roles in keeping the hack under wraps, which included a $100,000 payment to the attackers.
Compromised data from the October 2016 attack included names, email addresses and phone numbers of 50 million Uber riders around the world, the company told Bloomberg on Tuesday. The personal information of about 7 million drivers was accessed as well, including some 600,000 U.S. driver’s license numbers. No Social Security numbers, credit card information, trip location details or other data were taken, Uber said.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it.”
At the time of the incident, Uber was negotiating with U.S. regulators investigating separate claims of privacy violations. Uber now says it had a legal obligation to report the hack to regulators and to drivers whose license numbers were taken. Instead, the company paid hackers to delete the data and keep the breach quiet. Uber said it believes the information was never used but declined to disclose the identities of the attackers.
Dara KhosrowshahiPhotographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as chief executive officer in September, said in an emailed statement. “We are changing the way we do business.”
After Uber’s disclosure Tuesday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched an investigation into the hack, his spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said. The company was also sued for negligence over the breach by a customer seeking class-action status.
Hackers have successfully infiltrated numerous companies in recent years. The Uber breach, while large, is dwarfed by those at Yahoo, MySpace, Target Corp., Anthem Inc. and Equifax Inc. What’s more alarming are the extreme measures Uber took to hide the attack. The breach is the latest scandal Khosrowshahi inherits from his predecessor, Travis Kalanick.
Kalanick, Uber’s co-founder and former CEO, learned of the hack in November 2016, a month after it took place, the company said. Uber had just settled a lawsuit with the New York attorney general over data security disclosures and was in the process of negotiating with the Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data. Kalanick declined to comment on the hack.
Joe Sullivan, the outgoing security chief, spearheaded the response to the hack last year, a spokesman told Bloomberg. Sullivan, a onetime federal prosecutor who joined Uber in 2015 from Facebook Inc., has been at the center of much of the decision-making that has come back to bite Uber this year. Bloomberg reported last month that the board commissioned an investigation into the activities of Sullivan’s security team. This project, conducted by an outside law firm, discovered the hack and the failure to disclose, Uber said.
Here’s how the hack went down: Two attackers accessed a private GitHub coding site used by Uber software engineers and then used login credentials they obtained there to access data stored on an Amazon Web Services account that handled computing tasks for the company. From there, the hackers discovered an archive of rider and driver information. Later, they emailed Uber asking for money, according to the company.
A patchwork of state and federal laws require companies to alert people and government agencies when sensitive data breaches occur. Uber said it was obligated to report the hack of driver’s license information and failed to do so.
“At the time of the incident, we took immediate steps to secure the data and shut down further unauthorized access by the individuals,” Khosrowshahi said. “We also implemented security measures to restrict access to and strengthen controls on our cloud-based storage accounts.”
Uber has earned a reputation for flouting regulations in areas where it has operated since its founding in 2009. The U.S. has opened at least five criminal probes into possible bribes, illicit software, questionable pricing schemes and theft of a competitor’s intellectual property, people familiar with the matters have said. The San Francisco-based company also faces dozens of civil suits.
U.K. regulators including the National Crime Agency are also looking into the scale of the breach. London and other governments have previously taken steps toward banning the service, citing what they say is reckless behavior by Uber.
In January 2016, the New York attorney general fined Uber $20,000 for failing to promptly disclose an earlier data breach in 2014. After last year’s cyberattack, the company was negotiating with the FTC on a privacy settlement even as it haggled with the hackers on containing the breach, Uber said. The company finally agreed to the FTC settlement three months ago, without admitting wrongdoing and before telling the agency about last year’s attack.
The new CEO said his goal is to change Uber’s ways. Uber said it informed New York’s attorney general and the FTC about the October 2016 hack for the first time on Tuesday. Khosrowshahi asked for the resignation of Sullivan and fired Craig Clark, a senior lawyer who reported to Sullivan. The men didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Khosrowshahi said in his emailed statement: “While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes.”
The company said its investigation found that Salle Yoo, the outgoing chief legal officer who has been scrutinized for her responses to other matters, hadn’t been told about the incident. Her replacement, Tony West, will start at Uber on Wednesday and has been briefed on the cyberattack.
Kalanick was ousted as CEO in June under pressure from investors, who said he put the company at legal risk. He remains on the board and recently filled two seats he controlled.
Uber said it has hired Matt Olsen, a former general counsel at the National Security Agency and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, as an adviser. He will help the company restructure its security teams. Uber hired Mandiant, a cybersecurity firm owned by FireEye Inc., to investigate the hack.
The company plans to release a statement to customers saying it has seen “no evidence of fraud or misuse tied to the incident.” Uber said it will provide drivers whose licenses were compromised with free credit protection monitoring and identity theft protection.
Sci-fi doesn’t predict the future. It influences it.
Predicting the future is a mug’s game, anyway. If the future can be predicted, then it is inevitable. If it’s inevitable, then what we do doesn’t matter. If what we do doesn’t matter, why bother getting out of bed in the morning? Science fiction does something better than predict the future: It influences it.
If some poor English teacher has demanded that you identify the “themes ” of Mary’s Frankenstein, the obvious correct answer is that she is referring to ambition and hubris. Ambition because Victor Frankenstein has challenged death itself, one of the universe’s eternal verities. Everything dies: whales and humans and dogs and cats and stars and galaxies. Hubris—“extreme pride or self-confidence” (thanks, Wikipedia!)—because as Victor brings his creature to life, he is so blinded by his own ambition that he fails to consider the moral consequences of his actions. He fails to ask himself how the thinking, living being he is creating will feel about being stitched together, imbued with life force, and ushered into the uncaring universe.
Many critics panned Frankenstein when it was first published, but the crowds loved it, made it a best-seller, and packed the theaters where it was performed on the stage. Mary had awoken something in the public imagination, and it’s not hard to understand what that was: a story about technology mastering humans rather than serving them.
In 1999, Douglas Adams—another prodigious predictor of the present—made a keen observation about the relationship of young people to technology:
I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
Internet social networks were already huge before Facebook: Sixdegrees, Friendster, Myspace, Bebo, and dozens of others had already come and gone. There was an adjacent possible in play: The internet and the web existed, and it had grown enough that many of the people you wanted to talk to could be found online, if only someone would design a service to facilitate finding or meeting them.
A service like Facebook was inevitable, but how Facebook works was not. Facebook is designed like a casino game where the jackpots are attention from other people (likes and messages) and the playing surface is a vast board whose parts can’t be seen most of the time. You place bets on what kind of personal revelation will ring the cherries, pull the lever—hit “post”—and wait while the wheel spins to see if you’ll win big. As in all casino games, in the Facebook game there’s one universal rule: The house always wins. Facebook continuously fine-tunes its algorithms to maximize the amount that you disclose to the service because it makes money by selling that personal information to advertisers. The more personal information you give up, the more ways they can sell you—if an advertiser wants to sell sugar water or subprime mortgages to 19-year-old engineering freshmen whose parents rent in a large Northeastern city, then disclosing all those facts about you converts you from a user to a vendible asset.
Invitation to join the network (a series of events, reader, workshops, online debates, campaigns etc.)
Concept: Geert Lovink (Institute of Network Cultures/HvA, Amsterdam) and Korinna Patelis (Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol)
Thanks to Marc Stumpel, Sabine Niederer, Vito Campanelli, Ned Rossiter, Michael Dieter, Oliver Leistert, Taina Bucher, Gabriella Coleman, Ulises Mejias, Anne Helmond, Lonneke van der Velden, Morgan Currie and Eric Kluitenberg for their input.
The aim of Unlike Us is to establish a research network of artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers who work on ‘alternatives in social media’. Through workshops, conferences, online dialogues and publications, Unlike Us intends to both analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and to propagate the further development and proliferation of alternative, decentralized social media software.
Whether or not we are in the midst of internet bubble 2.0, we can all agree that social media dominate internet and mobile use. The emergence of web-based user to user services, driven by an explosion of informal dialogues, continuous uploads and user generated content have greatly empowered the rise of participatory culture. At the same time, monopoly power, commercialization and commodification are also on the rise with just a handful of social media platforms dominating the social web. These two contradictory processes – both the facilitation of free exchanges and the commercial exploitation of social relationships – seem to lie at the heart of contemporary capitalism.
On the one hand new media create and expand the social spaces through which we interact, play and even politicize ourselves; on the other hand they are literally owned by three or four companies that have phenomenal power to shape such interaction. Whereas the hegemonic Internet ideology promises open, decentralized systems, why do we, time and again, find ourselves locked into closed corporate environments? Why are individual users so easily charmed by these ‘walled gardens’? Do we understand the long-term costs that society will pay for the ease of use and simple interfaces of their beloved ‘free’ services?
The accelerated growth and scope of Facebook’s social space, for example, is unheard of. Facebook claims to have 700 million users, ranks in the top two or three first destination sites on the Web worldwide and is valued at 50 billion US dollars. Its users willingly deposit a myriad of snippets of their social life and relationships on a site that invests in an accelerated play of sharing and exchanging information. We all befriend, rank, recommend, create circles, upload photos, videos and update our status. A myriad of (mobile) applications orchestrate this offer of private moments in a virtual public, seamlessly embedding the online world in users’ everyday life.
Yet despite its massive user base, the phenomena of online social networking remains fragile. Just think of the fate of the majority of social networking sites. Who has ever heard of Friendster? The death of Myspace has been looming on the horizon for quite some time. The disappearance of Twitter and Facebook – and Google, for that matter – is only a masterpiece of software away. This means that the protocological future is not stationary but allows space for us to carve out a variety of techno-political interventions. Unlike Us is developed in the spirit of RSS-inventor and uberblogger Dave Winer whose recent Blork project is presented as an alternative for ‘corporate blogging silos’. But instead of repeating the entrepreneurial-start-up-transforming-into-corporate-behemoth formula, isn’t it time to reinvent the internet as a truly independent public infrastructure that can effectively defend itself against corporate domination and state control?
Going beyond the culture of complaint about our ignorance and loss of privacy, the proposed network of artists, scholars, activists and media folks will ask fundamental and overarching questions about how to tackle these fast-emerging monopoly powers. Situated within the existing oligopoly of ownership and use, this inquiry will include the support of software alternatives and related artistic practices and the development of a common alternative vision of how the techno-social world might be mediated.
Without falling into the romantic trap of some harmonious offline life, Unlike Us asks what sort of network architectures could be designed that contribute to ‘the common’, understood as a shared resource and system of collective production that supports new forms of social organizations (such as organized networks) without mining for data to sell. What aesthetic tactics could effectively end the expropriation of subjective and private dimensions that we experience daily in social networks? Why do we ignore networks that refuse the (hyper)growth model and instead seek to strengthen forms of free cooperation? Turning the tables, let’s code and develop other ‘network cultures’ whose protocols are no longer related to the logic of ‘weak ties’. What type of social relations do we want to foster and discover in the 21st century? Imagine dense, diverse networked exchanges between billions of people, outside corporate and state control. Imagine discourses returning subjectivities to their ‘natural’ status as open nodes based on dialogue and an ethics of free exchange.
To a large degree social media research is still dominated by quantitative and social scientific endeavors. So far the focus has been on moral panics, privacy and security, identity theft, self-representation from Goffman to Foucault and graph-based network theory that focuses on influencers and (news) hubs. What is curiously missing from the discourse is a rigorous discussion of the political economy of these social media monopolies. There is also a substantial research gap in understanding the power relations between the social and the technical in what are essentially software systems and platforms. With this initiative, we want to shift focus away from the obsession with youth and usage to the economic, political, artistic and technical aspects of these online platforms. What we first need to acknowledge is social media’s double nature.
Dismissing social media as neutral platforms with no power is as implausible as considering social media the bad boys of capitalism. The beauty and depth of social media is that they call for a new understanding of classic dichotomies such as commercial/political, private/public, users/producers, artistic/standardised, original/copy, democratising/ disempowering. Instead of taking these dichotomies as a point of departure, we want to scrutinise the social networking logic. Even if Twitter and Facebook implode overnight, the social networking logic of befriending, liking and ranking will further spread across all aspects of life.
The proposed research agenda is at once a philosophical, epistemological and theoretical investigation of knowledge artifacts, cultural production and social relations and an empirical investigation of the specific phenomenon of monopoly social media. Methodologically we will use the lessons learned from theoretical research activities to inform practice-oriented research, and vice-versa. Unlike Us is a common initiative of the Institute of Network Cultures (Amsterdam University of Applied Science HvA) and the Cyprus University of Technology in Limassol.
An online network and a reader connected to a series of events initially in Amsterdam and Cyprus (early 2012) are already in planning. We would explicitly like to invite other partners to come on board who identify with the spirit of this proposal, to organize related conferences, festivals, workshops, temporary media labs and barcamps (where coders come together) with us. The reader (tentatively planned as number 8 in the Reader series published by the INC) will be produced mid-late 2012. The call for contributions to the network, the reader and the event series goes out in July 2011, followed by the publicity for the first events and other initiatives by possible new partners.
Topics of Investigation
The events, online platform, reader and other outlets may include the following topics inviting theoretical, empirical, practical and art-based contributions, though not every event or publication might deal with all issues. We anticipate the need for specialized workshops and barcamps.
1. Political Economy: Social Media Monopolies
Social media culture is belied in American corporate capitalism, dominated by the logic of start-ups and venture capital, management buyouts, IPOs etc. Three to four companies literally own the Western social media landscape and capitalize on the content produced by millions of people around the world. One thing is evident about the market structure of social media: one-to-many is not giving way to many-to-many without first going through many-to-one. What power do these companies actually have? Is there any evidence that such ownership influences user-generated content? How does this ownership express itself structurally and in technical terms?
What conflicts arise when a platform like Facebook is appropriated for public or political purposes, while access to the medium can easily be denied by the company? Facebook is worth billions, does that really mean something for the average user? How does data-mining work and what is its economy? What is the role of discourse (PR) in creating and sustaining an image of credibility and trustworthiness, and in which forms does it manifest to oppose that image? The bigger social media platforms form central nodes, such as image upload services and short ulr services. This ecology was once fairly open, with a variety of new Twitter-related services coming into being, but now Twitter takes up these services itself, favoring their own product through default settings; on top of that it is increasingly shutting down access to developers, which shrinks the ecology and makes it less diverse.
2. The Private in the Public
The advent of social media has eroded privacy as we know it, giving rise to a culture of self-surveillance made up of myriad voluntary, everyday disclosures. New understandings of private and public are needed to address this phenomenon. What does owning all this user data actually mean? Why are people willing to give up their personal data, and that of others? How should software platforms be regulated?
Is software like a movie to be given parental guidance? What does it mean that there are different levels of access to data, from partner info brokers and third-party developers to the users? Why is education in social media not in the curriculum of secondary schools? Can social media companies truly adopt a Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights?
3. Visiting the Belly of the Beast
The exuberance and joy that defined the dotcom era is cliché by now. IT use is occurring across the board, and new labour conditions can be found everywhere. But this should not keep our eyes away from the power relations inside internet companies. What are the geopolitical lines of distribution that define the organization and outsourcing taking place in global IT companies these days? How is the industry structured and how does its economy work?
Is there a broader connection to be made with the politics of land expropriation and peasant labour in countries like India, for instance, and how does this analytically converge with the experiences of social media users? How do monopolies deal with their employees’ use of the platforms? What can we learn from other market sectors and perspectives that (critically) reflect on, for example, techniques of sustainability or fair trade?
4. Artistic Responses to Social Media
Artists are playing a crucial role in visualizing power relationships and disrupting subliminal daily routines of social media usage. Artistic practice provides an important analytical site in the context of the proposed research agenda, as artists are often first to deconstruct the familiar and to facilitate an alternative lens to understand and critique these media. Is there such a thing as a social ‘web aesthetics’? It is one thing to criticize Twitter and Facebook for their primitive and bland interface designs. How can we imagine the social in different ways? And how can we design and implement new interfaces to provide more creative freedom to cater to our multiple identities? Also, what is the scope of interventions with social media, such as, for example, the ‘dislike button’ add-on for Facebook? And what practices are really needed? Isn’t it time, for example, for a Facebook ‘identity correction’?
5. Designing culture: representation and software
Social media offer us the virtual worlds we use every day. From Facebook’s ‘like’ button to blogs’ user interface, these tools empower and delimit our interactions. How do we theorize the plethora of social media features? Are they to be understood as mere technical functions, cultural texts, signifiers, affordances, or all these at once? In what ways do design and functionalities influence the content and expressions produced? And how can we map and critique this influence? What are the cultural assumptions embedded in the design of social media sites and what type of users or communities do they produce?
To answer the question of structure and design, one route is to trace the genealogy of functionalities, to historicize them and look for discursive silences. How can we make sense of the constant changes occurring both on and beyond the interface? How can we theorize the production and configuration of an ever-increasing algorithmic and protocological culture more generally?
6. Software Matters: Sociotechnical and Algorithmic Cultures
One of the important components of social media is software. For all the discourse on sociopolitical power relations governed by corporations such as Facebook and related platforms, one must not forget that social media platforms are thoroughly defined and powered by software. We need critical engagement with Facebook as software. That is, what is the role of software in reconfiguring contemporary social spaces? In what ways does code make a difference in how identities are formed and social relationships performed? How does the software function to interpellate users to its logic? What are the discourses surrounding software?
One of the core features of Facebook for instance is its news feed, which is algorithmically driven and sorted in its default mode. The EdgeRank algorithm of the news feed governs the logic by which content becomes visible, acting as a modern gatekeeper and editorial voice. Given its 700 million users, it has become imperative to understand the power of EdgeRank and its cultural implications. Another important analytical site for investigation are the ‘application programming interfaces’ (APIs) that to a large extent made the phenomenal growth of social media platforms possible in the first place. How have APIs contributed to the business logic of social media? How can we theorize social media use from the perspective of the programmer?
7. Genealogies of Social Networking Sites
Feedback in a closed system is a core characteristic of Facebook; even the most basic and important features, such as ‘friending’, traces back to early cybernetics’ ideas of control. While the word itself became lost in various transitions, the ideas of cybernetics have remained stable in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the biopolitical arena. Both communication and information theories shaped this discourse. How does Facebook relate to such an algorithmic shape of social life? What can Facebook teach us about the powers of systems theory? Would Norbert Wiener and Niklas Luhmann be friends on Facebook?
8. Is Research Doomed?
The design of Facebook excludes the third person perspective, as the only way in is through ones own profile. What does this inbuilt ‘me-centricity’ imply for social media research? Does it require us to rethink the so-called objectivity of researchers and the detached view of current social research? Why is it that there are more than 200 papers about the way people use Facebook, but the site is ‘closed’ to true quantitative inquiry? Is the state of art in social media research exemplary of the ‘quantitative turn’ in new media research? Or is there a need to expand and rethink methods of inquiry in social media research? Going beyond the usual methodological approaches of the quantitative and qualitative, we seek to broaden the scope of investigating these media. How can we make sense of the political economy and the socio-technical elements, and with what means? Indeed, what are our toolkits for collective, transdisciplinary modes of knowledge and the politics of refusal?
9. Researching Unstable Ontologies
Software destabilizes Facebook as a solid ontology. Software is always in becoming and so by nature ontogenetic. It grows and grows, living off of constant input. Logging on one never encounters the same content, as it changes on an algorithmic level and in terms of the platform itself. What does Facebook’s fluid nature imply for how we make sense of and study it? Facebook for instance willingly complicates research: 1. It is always personalized (see Eli Pariser). Even when creating ‘empty’ research accounts it never gives the same results compared to other people’s empty research accounts. 2. One must often be ‘inside’ social media to study it. Access from the outside is limited, which reinforces the first problem. 3. Outside access is ideally (for Facebook and Twitter) arranged through carefully regulated protocols of APIs and can easily be restricted. Next to social media as a problem for research, there is also the question of social research methods as intervention.
10. Making Sense of Data: Visualization and Critique
Data representation is one of the most important battlefields nowadays. Indeed, global corporations build their visions of the world increasingly based on and structured around complex data flows. What is the role of data today and what are the appropriate ways in which to make sense of the burgeoning datasets? As data visualization is becoming a powerful buzzword and social research increasingly uses digital tools to make ‘beautiful’ graphs and visualizations, there is a need to take a step back and question the usefulness of current data visualization tools and to develop novel analytical frameworks through which to critically grasp these often simplified and nontransparent ways of representing data.
Not only is it important to develop new interpretative and visual methods to engage with data flows, data itself needs to be questioned. We need to ask about data’s ontological and epistemological nature. What is it, who is the producer, for whom, where is it stored? In what ways do social media companies’ terms of service regulate data? Whether alternative social media or monopolistic platforms, how are our data-bodies exactly affected by changes in the software?
11. Pitfalls of Building Social Media Alternatives
It is not only important to critique and question existing design and socio-political realities but also to engage with possible futures. The central aim of this project is therefore to contribute and support ‘alternatives in social media’. What would the collective design of alternative protocols and interfaces look like? We should find some comfort in the small explosion of alternative options currently available, but also ask how usable these options are and how real is the danger of fragmentation. How have developers from different initiatives so far collaborated and what might we learn from their successes and failures? Understanding any early failures and successes of these attempts seems crucial.
A related issue concerns funding difficulties faced by projects. Finally, in what ways does regionalism (United States, Europe, Asia) feed into the way people search for alternatives and use social media.
12. Showcasing Alternatives in Social Media
The best way to criticize platform monopolies is to support alternative free and open source software that can be locally installed. There are currently a multitude of decentralized social networks in the making that aspire to facilitate users with greater power to define for themselves with whom share their data. Let us look into the wildly different initiatives from Crabgrass, Appleseed, Diaspora, NoseRub, BuddyCloud, Protonet, StatusNet, GNU Social, Lorea and OneSocialWeb to the distributed Twitter alternative Thimbl.
In which settings are these initiative developed and what choices are made for their design? Let’s hear from the Spanish activists who have recently made experiences with the n-1.cc platform developed by Lorea. What community does this platform enable? While traditional software focuses on the individual profile and its relation to the network and a public (share with friends, share with friends of friends, share with public), the Lorea software for instance asks you with whom to share an update, picture or video. It finegrains the idea of privacy and sharing settings at the content level, not the user’s profile. At the same time, it requires constant decision making, or else a high level of trust in the community you share your data with. And how do we experience the transition from, or interoperability with, other platforms? Is it useful to make a distinction between corporate competitors and grassroots initiatives? How can these beta alternatives best be supported, both economically and socially? Aren’t we overstating the importance of software and isn’t the availability of capital much bigger in determining the adoption of a platform?
13. Social Media Activism and the Critique of Liberation Technology
14. Social Media in the Middle East and Beyond
The justified response to downplay the role of Facebook in early 2011 events in Tunisia and Egypt by putting social media in a larger perspective has not taken off the table the question of how to organize social mobilizations. Which specific software do the ‘movements of squares’ need? What happens to social movements when the internet and ICT networks are shut down? How does the interruption of internet services shift the nature of activism? How have repressive and democratic governments responded to the use of ‘liberation technologies’? How do these technologies change the relationship between the state and its citizens? How are governments using the same social media tools for surveillance and propaganda or highjacking Facebook identities, such as happened in Syria? What is Facebook’s own policy when deleting or censoring accounts of its users?
How can technical infrastructures be supported which are not shutdown upon request? How much does our agency depend on communication technology nowadays? And whom do we exclude with every click? How can we envision ‘organized networks’ that are based on ’strong ties’ yet open enough to grow quickly if the time is right? Which software platforms are best suited for the ‘tactical camping’ movements that occupy squares all over the world?
15. Data storage: social media and legal cultures
Data that is voluntarily shared by social media users is not only used for commercial purposes, but is also of interest to governments. This data is stored on servers of companies that are bound to the specific legal culture and country. This material-legal complex is often overlooked. Fore instance, the servers of Facebook and Twitter are located in the US and therefore fall under the US jurisdiction. One famous example is the request for the Twitter accounts of several activists (Gonggrijp, Jónsdóttir, Applebaum) affiliated with Wikileaks projects by the US government. How do activists respond and how do alternative social media platforms deal with this issue?
From Myspace’s Ashes, Silicon Start-Ups Rise - NYTimes.com
It is easy to forget that #Myspace started before Facebook and could have been worth billions, but a variety of miscalculations and missed opportunities turned what was once a nearly $600 million company into an afterthought. By 2011, many of its users had abandoned it, the founding team had departed and its owner, News Corporation, sold it for just $35 million. (It is now reinventing itself as a site for musicians and other artists to connect with their fans.)
Further left field than the “Million Miles” video for Tunde Adebimpe and his TV On The Radio band you won’t get them this week, but Myspace won’t let me embed it. Damn. No worries, here are ten other videos. First up, set in Cape Town, a creative video for #Alec_Lomami, #Sammus and #Badi_Banx […]
Social Media Before the Internet: Tales of Victorians, Comic Book Fans, Phone Phreaks and CBers - Knowledge Wharton
Although the current spate of social media platforms burst onto the scene within the last several years, these tools have antecedents in earlier, traditional media. Long before the rise of Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, people found innovative ways to use technology to interact. Kendall Whitehouse, Wharton’s director of new media, takes a look at how our desire to virtually connect with others is evident in media — from the telegraph and newspapers to comic books and radio.
Here’s Why Google and Facebook Might Completely Disappear in the Next 5 Years - Forbes
We think of Google and Facebook as Web gorillas. They’ll be around forever. Yet, with the rate that the tech world is moving these days, there are good reasons to think both might be gone completely in 5 – 8 years. Not bankrupt gone, but MySpace gone. And there’s some academic theory to back up that view, along with casual observations from recent history.
HybridAuth, Open Source Social-Single-Sign-On Solution for authentication through Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, LinkedIn, AOL, Vimeo, FourSquare, OpenID and other Identity providers
HybridAuth is an open source web-based #authentication and authorisation solution that combines the strengths of several major social networks and Identity Providers services into one simple PHP Library.
repéré par @b_b
HybridAuth, Open Source Social-Signle-Sign-On Solution for authentication through Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, MySpace, LinkedIn, AOL, Vimeo, FourSquare, OpenID and other Identity providers
HybridAuth is an open source web-based authentication and authorisation solution that combines the strengths of several major social networks and Identity Providers services into one simple PHP Library.
slight paranoia : How Dropbox sacrifices user privacy for cost savings
What this means, is that from the comfort of their desks, law enforcement agencies or copyright trolls can upload contraband files to #Dropbox, watch the amount of bandwidth consumed, and then obtain a court order if the amount of data transferred is smaller than the size of the file.
Last year, the New York Attorney General announced that #Facebook, MySpace and IsoHunt had agreed to start comparing every image uploaded by a user to an AG supplied database of more than 8000 hashes of child pornography. It is easy to imagine a similar database of hashes for pirated movies and songs, ebooks stripped of DRM, or leaked US government diplomatic cables.
le concurrent #spideroak qui est plus geek hard-core crypte les fichiers avec une clé unique par utilisateur, et serait donc immune à ce problème.
Mystérieux #totems contemporains // AJ Fosik Outstanding Artworks | Abduzeedo | Graphic Design Inspiration and Photoshop Tutorials
Is really funny how internet at the same time that brings us some fresh artists, it just don’t tell us more about them. AJ Fosink is one this cases, he got just a Myspace account and a Flickr, with no references about his person. The first time I saw his artworks I though they were hyper realistic paintings, however I got quite confused when I discovered it was all about wood, paint and nails.
#Bieber Needs Operation #Anonymous | Death and Taxes
If Bieber’s fan-hackers were anywhere near the hacking caliber of Anonymous, Spalding’s Myspace page (indeed, maybe all of Myspace) would be replaced this morning with the message: “This is the supply, boyish skin of the Bieber hand bitch-slapping you (ever so gently) in the face.”
#Facebook hype will fade - Douglas Rushkoff
quand on atteint le sommet c’est le début du déclin
the hype and market has reached its peak ; social networking competitor LinkedIn is maneuvering toward its own IPO, which it likely hopes to complete before Facebook eventually gets there and poisons the well. These companies are being valued as if they will be our permanent means for identifying ourselves.
MySpace: is this the beginning of the end? - Telegraph
The restructure, which will see the majority of MySpace’s depleting workforce reside in the US alone, as the London, Sydney and Berlin offices are left with a skeleton staff, is a very similar strategy to AOL’s final handling of Bebo, before selling the struggling social network on for a comparatively small sum to a venture capital fund.
A Completely Unscientific (Yet Accurate) Look at Social Sites
Interested in joining a community based site but not sure which one is right for you? There are many different options out there that will cater to your specific interests and demographic.