Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Draft on Web 2.0 Essay

The advent of Web 2.0 technology marked the beginning of a new era in the online world. Millions of internet users utilize the benefits of Web 2.0 software daily. Google and Wikipedia have become the primary source of information for the majority of web users. The growing popularity of social networks has made Facebook amongst the most popular of the Web 2.0 technologies. At first a glance, Facebook can be written of as another means of online communication. However, Facebook has resonated throughout many aspects of our society and has attained its own niche in popular culture. The cultural and sociological implications of this communication medium have propelled Facebook to the top of the Web 2.0 ladder.

Like any other social network, Facebook constructs an online community which facilitates communication and interaction between users in a virtual environment. During the registration process, a potential user must affiliate him/herself with a particular sub network. For example, a SUNY Albany student may affiliate him/herself with the college, previous high school, or State. The networks that users affiliate themselves with determine the level of accessibility they will have to other people’s profiles. For example, a user affiliated with SUNY Albany may only be able to view other users inside the college network. Depending on the privacy settings, that user may be restricted from viewing the profile of a user affiliated with SUNY Binghamton.

Facebook allows users to post extensive personal information and biographical data. In addition, Facebook allows users to post pictures and create photo albums that adhere to their criteria. Although most pictures are allowed, Facebook forbids nude or excessively lewd photos. As the popularity of Facebook has risen, designers have found new ways to satisfy the users. Facebook features simple online games and other entertaining features to intrigue and occupy their users. There are bumper sticker applications, drink applications, online quizzes, etc… The purpose of these features is to allow Facebook users to personalize their profile. Aside from providing basic information such as hobbies and interests, these applications can tell other people what a users favorite drink is, what astrological sign they are, what their favorite band is, and even what drug they would be most inclined to use.

Mark Zuckerberg began the Facebook phenomena on February 4, 2004. Zuckerberg, a Harvard student, created the project as a hobby. The concept successfully spread across the Harvard campus, receiving tremendous popularity. Soon, the Facebook craze spread to Stanford and Yale. Although the website was only limited to college universities, it has expanded its user base allowing High Schools, Colleges, Universities, Organizations, and Companies all across the globe. Currently the website caters to over 120 million active users worldwide, and is the second largest social network in terms of traffic.

As previously mentioned, Facebook is no longer restricted to college students. Users must meet the minimum age requirement of 13, and have a large number of sub networks to affiliate with. There are many reasons that attribute to the rising popularity of this communication media. Facebook makes physical boundaries irrelevant, allowing people all across the world to stay in touch. If a user has family or friends in a different state or country, Facebook provides a simple and cost-free means to communicate. Other users utilize Facebook to make new friends and establish relationships with total strangers. Users may want to communicate with other users who share the same interests or hobbies. In fact, users can state their intentions for using the website on their profile page.

Facebook has gained considerable attention from the general public due to its impact on popular culture, and the sociological implications of its use. From a broad perspective, increased globalization can be considered to be a product of Facebook. As communication technology becomes more advanced, the physical barrier that separates nations become non-existent. Due to the wide user base of Facebook, a user from the United States can communicate with a user from India. Although they may not be able to view each other’s profiles, through messaging, two distant strangers can form a relationship. The whole concept of “friending” another person has a positive connotation. By clicking on the accept button, you are essentially accepting another persons friendship. This can lead to the destruction of cultural barriers and lead to a greater level of understanding. Establishing communication with people of different cultures can broaden a person’s perspective. It may lead him/her to alter their negative views or beliefs and become more accepting people.

An article titled New Age Globalization, by Mark H Leichliter, explores the effect of social networks such as Facebook on globalization. “In this age of on-line ‘social network communities’, we use technology and its models to expand our world view (Leichliter, 2007) .” The author claims that social network communities can combat misinformation and misinterpretation about other people’s cultures. “Take a ten year old in the rural U.S., provide her the means to correspond with a child half a world away, let them talk and see how both their world expand. If a lasting friendship develops, both will begin to share their knowledge, their beliefs, and their dreams (Leichliter, 2007).” This supports the idea that Facebook provides the means to rapidly facilitate globalization. Facebook makes intercultural communication a simple click away.

Clay Shirky provides a similar argument in his book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. Shirky believes that Web 2.0 such as Facebook can lead to the “Small World” phenomena. Through social connections seemingly unconnected people actually connect. He provides an example of two unrelated people seated next to each other on an airplane. “When you are trying to find a link with someone else, you are unlikely to know any given contact of theirs, as we would expect in a sparsely connected environment. But you are very likely to know one of the most connected people they know. It is the presence of these highly connected people that forms the backbone of the social networks (Shirky, 2008, p. 213)”. Shirky argues that complete strangers can form a relationship or connection through their highly connected mutual contact. This shows the interpersonal implications of Facebook. Personal research yielded information that coincided with the ideas of the previous two authors. As I navigated around Facebook, I came across a tab that was titled “Friend Suggestion”. This feature allowed a user to recommend a friend to another user. Looking through my friend suggestions, I noticed that although I did not know any of these people, I was connected to them through one or more mutual friends. This leads to the expansion of a social network and helps build interpersonal relationships between other people.

As people begin to make interpersonal connections through this social network, congregations of people emerge. Groups are formed by people who share similar beliefs, ideas, or opinions. While browsing through Facebook, I saw that I had multiple group invitations. Generally, I joined the group that appealed to my interest or was relevant to me. For example, I belonged to a group on Facebook called “You know your from Westchester when…” This was a group for people who came from the town of Westchester and shared similar experiences. This group brought together many people from a similar community who may never have met each other. Facebook is an ideal network to find other people with similar interests and beliefs. Shirky refers to this as “homophily”, “or the grouping of like with like (Shirky, 2008, p. 213).” Facebook is an ideal network to find people who you can relate to. The physical boundaries and environmental restraints that have prevented a person from finding a group of people with the same beliefs are no longer a factor. In fact, one can search groups through the Facebook search engine to find one that suits them. If a particular group does not exist, the user has the power to create a new group and attract potential members. This shows the horizontal structure of Facebook. There is no central hierarchy, and every user is given the same amount of representation. The effect that Facebook has on group identity is notable. People who were out-casted for their beliefs can form a group identity to voice their opinions.

A major byproduct of the Facebook social network is the empowerment of the youth culture. An article titled Social Networking and Values, by Danah Boyd, reflects on the relationship between social networking and public space available to the youth. Boyd states, “Teens have increasingly less access to public space. Classic 1950’s hang out locations like the roller rink and burger joint are disappearing while malls and 7/11’s are banning teens unaccompanied by parents (Boyd, 2008) . ” She believes that virtual social networks give the youth access to public space in a physically safe environment. Our society has become more fearful, and parents do not give children the same freedoms as they used to. Through Facebook, the youth are not denied interaction, and are given a stronger voice. The opinion of the youth are often disregarded, however Facebook allows them to boldly state their voice. A child, neglected in a public arena, is empowered in the virtual arena. Through Facebook, the youth can construct their own environment, promoting youth culture.

Facebook has transformed organizational and democratic procedures in the United States. Organizations can create invitations and send them out to a broad base of users. All a person or organization has to do is create an event and send out mass invitations. In turn, other users will invite their friends to the event, increasing publicity. Fliers and handouts are a thing of the past and considered to be an archaic means of promotion. Many of my closest friends utilize Facebook to promote for the clubs that they work for. I have received dozens of invitations to attend events at clubs and other public spaces. Facebook allows news to travel a larger group of people in a shorter amount of time, affecting organizational procedures.

The impact of Facebook has resonated into the political arena as well. Facework on Facebook, by Steffen Dalsgaard, is a journal article that discusses the impact of Facebook on political mobilization. “On Facebook, political mobilization has become so popular that politicians as a category of people now have specific kinds of profiles, where they have ‘supporters’ instead of ‘friends’ (Dalsgaard, 2008, pg 11).” This shows the effect of Facebook on our democratic system. Dalsgaard believes that social networks such as Facebook have made our elections into popularity contests. “Here it is not the votes that strengthen the politician, but the relationships, and it is the revelation of their quantity rather than their quality which counts (Dalsgaard, 2008, pg 11).” The popularity of Facebook impacts the manner of an election. The more ‘supporters’ a candidate has on Facebook helps his public appeal. The candidate with the most friends or supporters is considered to have widespread public appeal. Therefore, campaigns are more focused on having more online supporters in order to strengthen their public perception. The simple click of a button can alter the fate of an election. While browsing through the politician’s profiles and groups, I understood the effect of the number of supporters that each candidate had. In a politically ignorant society, one is more inclined to show support for the candidate that everyone else is showing support for.

Facebook may also affect the desire to create a virtual identity and the privacy associated with that identity. Many users, including myself, create a unique persona on Facebook. Facebook allows individuals to express themselves and create an identity separate from the real world. Many users create a unique identity through their profile and the pictures that they post. The information they present may be acceptable to their friends, but may not be to others. Users may only feel comfortable allowing their friends to view their picture or information. In an article titled Internet social network communities: Risk taking, trust, and privacy concerns, Joshua Fogel claims that internet users seek privacy in order to “avoid behavioral response from others, avoid embarrassment, avoid evaluation by others, protect information about the self, protect self image (Fogel, 2008, pg 153) .” Fear of being judged is one of the main reasons for privacy control. Some Facebook users, impervious to social criticism, may not care if total strangers view their profile. In many users minds, including my own, the virtual world is separate from the real world. However, it is when these two worlds converge, when the user begins to worry. Employers and school administrators have found ways to obtain passwords into the sub-networks. Therefore, the pictures that were only meant for friends to see, now are being evaluated by potential employers or school officials. Although there are privacy controls, it is na├»ve to believe that the pictures are totally inaccessible to other people. Furthermore, the virtual identity that a user creates can come in conflict with aspects of reality.

Web 2.0 technology has expanded the boundaries of communication. The advent of social networks, specifically Facebook has had tremendous implications aspects of our society and culture. Facebook has led to globalization, greater interpersonal relationships, empowerment to the group identity and youth culture, changes to organizational procedures, transformations in our democratic system, and decreases in individual privacy. Social networks have bridged many communication gaps that previously existed and increased interaction between people.

Works Cited
Boyd, D. (2008). Danah Boyd on Social Networking and Values. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from Georgetown, Digital Commons:​blogs/​isdyahoofellow/​danah-boyd-on-social-networking-and-values/.
Dalsgaard, S. (2008). Facework for Facebook. [Editorial]. Anthropology Today, 24, 8-12.

Fogel, J. (2008). Internet Social Network communities: Risk taking, trust and privacy concerns. [Editorial]. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 153-160.

Leichliter, M. (2008). New Age Globalization. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from Suite 101:​article.cfm/​new_age_globalization.

Tee, K. (2008). Exploring Communication and sharing between extended families. [Editorial]. International Journal of Human Computer Studies, 67, 18-138.
Toomey, S. (2005). Facebook is new who's who for students. Retrieved December 01, 2008 from Chicago Sun-Times, Nacufs:​files/​public/​suntimesfacebookarticle.pdf.
Clark, S. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: Power of Organizing without Organization. New York: Penguin.

Final Web 2.0 observations

As I navigated around Facebook, I came across a tab that was titled “Friend Suggestion”. This feature allowed a user to recommend a friend to another user. Looking through my friend suggestions, I noticed that although I did not know any of these people, I was connected to them through one or more mutual friends. This leads to the expansion of a social network and helps build interpersonal relationships between other people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Clay Shirky

This chapter is about social networking and grouping. There are large social groups and small social groups. Large social groups are formed and function much differently than small social groups. There are different ways in which people are connected in networks. There are people who are very well connected and people who are more reclusive.

Networks vary by the way people are connected. There are small densely connected networks, in which everyone knows each other and messages relay much faster. In contrast there are large sparsely connected networks, where people begin to be connected by friends of friends and so on. The dense network’s connectivity is undisrupted if one of the people drop out, where as in the larger network this would cause some problems. The perfect network would be a combination of the model dense network and model sparse network. In this network there would be several groups of densely connected people, which will then be connected to each other through members in each group that are connectable. According to Clay Shirky, this is called a “small world network.” This network is held together by the highly connected individuals. There are two main tools of connecting people; bonding capital and bridging capital. Bonding capital increases the depth of connections and unity of a group. Bridging capital is used to connect the groups to each other, expanding the network. For the purposes of sharing information and having good ideas, it is better to be part of a broader network. When in a broader network you hear different information, while in a very densely connected network you will hear a lot of the same things. The “small world” network is a good compromise between reclusive and over connected, and being an unusable network and an unbuildable one.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fourth Essay

Within the past decade, web technology has broadened the means of communication. Specifically, the advent of the blogosphere has led to an extension of interaction between people all around the world. The blogosphere provides an arena for discussion that most similarly resembles the public sphere. My observations on a particular blog, lead me to accept Barlow’s belief that blogospheres and political spheres share the characteristics of equality, decentralized authority, and inclusivity.

The blog that I chose to observe is called Awful Announcing. Created by Brian Powell in May of 2006, it is essentially a sports blog that focuses mainly on the perils and follies of the Sports Media. In addition, the site critiques and reviews those within the Sports World. The site has gained massive recognition through major sports programs such as Sports Center, ESPN Radio, and WFAN. I particularly liked the manner in which the blog was organized. There was little to no advertising on the website, and the information was easily accessible. The only advertisement on the site was for Yardbarker Networker, which promoted blogs by promising increased blog traffic and wealth of a user. The postings are created by Powell, who operates under the name Awful Announcing. He is assisted by two contributors who are referred to as Signal to Noise and Extrapolater. The three writers create postings and allow users to comment, criticize, and provide feedback on their articles.

For five days, I recorded my observations of all the things I saw in the blog. I made observations regarding the functioning of the blog and the interaction between users. The anonymity of the blog comforted me in some ways. Prior to this assignment, I had only participated in small forum discussions. Because I had known the other users in the forum, I would often refrain from freely expressing my ideas. Awful Announcing, is a large blog site with many different users. Therefore, people are free to express their ideas and discuss topics without embarrassment.

The first article that I observed was one regarding the Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets game. One user made a post questioning a decision made by the referee. Within thirty minutes, another user replied to the question. The users engaged in a discussion about their favorite teams and which team they thought was better. Users were not criticized for their opinions, and the discussion was conducted in a civil manner. The flow of discussion reminded me of an ideal public sphere. Users were equally allowed to express their ideas and opinions without being persecuted for their beliefs. The discussion was not regulated by any governing body, nor was the site in the hands of professionals. The flow of the discussion followed the horizontal structure that was described by Barlow. Average users were able to freely post their ideas.

Over the next few days I noticed that the blogs became more interactive and fostered heated debates. This can be attributed to the wide variety of topics that are discussed in the blogosphere. This characteristic of inclusivity is seen in the public sphere as well, strengthening the notion that the blogosphere is merely an extension of the public sphere. The next post I observed was called “The Pam Ward Chronicles”. It was a post explaining the past week in college football and highlighted pertinent issues in the sport. The author of the article received criticism from a user called Jfein. This user pointed out a grammar error in the article. Soon after, another user came to the defense of the author by calling Jfien a sexist. Although the argument between the users soon became off topic, the blogosphere still was open to any form of comment or criticism without any consequences. The inclusivity of the sphere allows the users to talk about any topic of their choosing even if the purpose of the site is sports issues. The argument between Jfien and the other user reminded me of discussions that happen in a public sphere. Arguments between people often get off topic and statements are manipulated. In political debates, candidates’ often try and twist the words of their opponents in order to make the other party look bad. In this case, the user brings up the issue of sexism in response to a grammatical correction made by another user. Irrespective of the intentions of Jfien, the other user brings up an irrelevant issue in order to place Jfien in a negative light.

After witnessing the argument between the two users, I was curious to see if the structure of this blogosphere was truly decentralized. I decided to make comments that would make me unfavorable amongst the users. My intentions were to see if I would be punished for my comments from a central body. The comment I posted was as follows: “San Fran is going to beat the Card’s what are you guys talking about… You are all stupid… It is a great Monday night game.” I wished to belittle the other users by calling them stupid and imply that I was laughing at them. However, no user responded or reacted to my comment. They went along with their discussion as if I had never said anything. To further press the matter, I posted “If you think the Card’s are gonna win you are dumb. You idiots hahahahaha.” This time, I was convinced that my immature insults could not go unpunished. I thought that the creators of the blog would block or preventing me from commenting on their site. To my surprise, I was still able to post comments hours later. The only responses that I received to my statement were requests for me to leave the discussion. Upon reflection, I realized that no user had any power over the other and that everyone was truly free to say whatever they pleased. However, for the sake of maintaining the structure and purpose of the blogosphere, users attempted to stay as civil as possible.

From my observations of Awful Announcing, I am able to conclude that the Blogosphere shares the same traits as a public sphere. Like a public sphere, Awful Announcing allowed its users to post their ideas freely without discrimination or bias. All users, regardless of their beliefs or opinions, were able to write what they wanted on this website. Furthermore, the site had no government or MSM regulation and was not in the hands of professionals. The structure of the blog was decentralized and there was no punishment for unfavorable postings. As web communication expands its horizons, our perception of the public sphere is extended. The blogosphere has fostered greater interaction allowing us to partake in discussions and debates with people from all across the globe.

Barlow, A. (2008). Blogging America The new public sphere. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Journal Day #5

November 10, 2008

After observing the blog for several days I got a feel how this blog operated and I thought it was my time to chime. I posted comments on a blog with the intensions of sparking a conversation. I chose to comment on a post by Awful Announcing which was about the Monday night football game, San Fransico 49ers vs. Arizona Cardinals. The post talked about how there were two bad teams playing each other and how the game was going to be horrible. So I decided to make a comment.

My comment was, “San Fran is going to beat the Card’s what are you guys talking about…….You are all stupid….It is a great Monday night game.” After this comment went up nobody reacted to it or responded to me and went on talking about the game. Then I decided to post another comment. I posted, “If you think the Card’s are gonna win you are dumb…….you idiots hahahahaha.” This comment sparked a reaction.

Someone by the name of ssreporters told me to go away. He is quoted saying, “go away John….” It was like I wasn’t accepted in there online world….then a few comments later someone said, “Yes John, just do us all a favor and go away.” His user name was jamescraven. After that I stopped posting. And the people kept talking about the game and how it was it going.
There was something that I noticed while I read the comments to this post. The comment’s to the post was like a play by play of the game. People were talking about what was going on in the game online as it was underway in real life.

The communication that was going on is like what Barrlow is talking about. It is shown how offline and online worlds are converging. While reading the comments it feels like I am at a bar or sitting home with my friends watching the game and talking about it.

After observing the blog for several days I was able to determine who ran the conversation and dominated it. These people commented most to the posts on the blog and in my eyes ran the conversation. The four people that dominated the blog by there user name was ssreporters, jamescraven, Mal, and Jfien.

Journal Day #4

November 9, 2008

There were numerous articles posted today by AA when I took a look at the blog. One article was about the previous week in college football. It listed the scores of all the games and some of the statistics for the games. I checked back a little later to see if anything else interested me and found a few more posts.

One of the posts was about what NFL games were on today and what channel they would be televised on. I glanced at a similar post and that post showed the progress of the current games that were underway. The last post that I looked at was an article about the way college teams were ranked. After I read the comments to this post I was able to formulate an idea of the things they were talking about. I found that people were discussing the possibility of teams playing certain teams and the match up’s in these games.

Journal Day # 3

November 8, 2008

There was only one post today that I saw opposed to other days where there were more postings by Awful Announcing. The post was called “The Pam Ward Chronicles.” It was a post explaining the past week in college football. There was certain highlights and issues discussed that pertained to college football.

After seeing this I did some research on who Pam was and I found out that she works for ESPN. She is one of two women announcers at ESPN and she covers college games. She writes articles for this blog and is part of it even though Powel has the final say on what is posted.

When I clicked on comments for this post I found that she was criticized on a grammar mistake pointed out by Jfein (user name). He said that is was one of her first of many mistakes today. Soon after that comment was posted an anonymous person came to Pam’s defense and told Jfien he is sexist and to leave Pam alone. I was unable to determine the sex of the individual that defended Pam.