Facebook: Grooming the World’s Most Valuable Asset

This week’s reading and guest speakers made for some very interesting discussions about privacy.  In this blog posting, I’ll discuss the privacy settings of Facebook and what they mean to the average user.  Before I start the discussion, a special thanks to Eva Galperin, a privacy expert.  We were fortunate to have her Skype in on Wednesday’s class and offer some excellent insights (some quite frightening) into privacy.  In this post, I’ll discuss some of the topics from the reading Facebook privacy settings: Who cares?, written by Danah Boyd and Eszter Hargittai and also our in-debth discussion with Eva.

The Boyd and Hargital article focuses on the history of privacy on Facebook, the different settings available, and the user experiences.  Facebook started out as an exclusive social networking site, only allowing students at the same University to view their peers.  Over the past few years, Facebook has expanded the network to make profiles available to “everyone” resulting in over 700 million users.  With the new evolution, Facebook introduced privacy settings, which allowed the users to control what is seen.  With these new settings, upgraded frequently, the default choices allow for the profile to have the most lenient privacy settings.  This results in users unknowingly sharing the majority of their information with everyone.  When the authors did a study, the found that the majority of users do not know their privacy settings.

To take it a step further, our guest lecturer provided even more detail and concern about the information users are putting online.  Although, we create our own profile and configure our own privacy settings, at the end of the day, Facebook controls the information.  Essentially, our information is owned by third parties, creating a potentially huge concern for users.  Even more concerning is that once the information is posted on the site, it is at their disposal, even if the individual “deletes” the posts.  The customer/user has become the product.  Because Facebook produces very few revenues from the users, they rely on their advertisers.  In turn, advertisers want to be able to target specific users to maximize their potential effects on users.  This combination results in the commoditization of the user, with our personal information being the most valuable aspect.  All in all, the readings and discussions were eye-opening, and it definitely raised my awareness of what happens to everything I put on a third party site.

Who Put the Right in Copyright?

For this weeks reading, we looked at sections of two books by Lawrence Lessig, a preeminent scholar dealing with the concepts of open-source, copyright, regulation, etc.  In this posting, I’ll talk about the section we read in Lessig’s Code 2.0, and the chapters in his later book, Remix.  In Code 2.0, Lessig discusses the idea of regulation and code as law.  Throughout Remix, he discusses the idea of a hybrid economy composed of a blend of commercial and sharing aspects.  I’m going to describe the topics he discusses in each section and then I’ll try to make sense of what they mean for the future.

I’ll start with Code 2.0, a book originally written in 2000, but was updated in 2006.  Throughout the first five chapters, Lessig emphasizes the regulation of cyberspace, what he describes as a deeper level of the Internet.  With the changes in the Internet, one of the main reasons he updated his book, there is an underlying presence of control.  This control isn’t inherently evil, but the idea of control or architecture is almost the exact opposite of what the internet was at creation.  Lessig sums it up nicely when discussing this profound change: “This book is about the change from a cyberspace of anarchy to a cyberspace of control.”  To him, there is control taking shape, but it is important that it remains relatively harmless.

Lessig’s argument has evolved in Remix to discuss a bit more about what effective control looks like in the future.  Acknowledging that an Internet void of control is impossible, he takes a realistic approach to what would be a healthy compromise between the commercial and shared.  A commercial economy relies on paid labor, ownership, potential exploitation, and structure, to name a few aspects.  An economy based on sharing emphasizes labor exchange, community, decentralization, etc.  Both of these economies have merit in themselves, but Lessig proposes we must have a hybrid of the two.  While Lessig leans on the idea of open-source, with limitations on the power of copyright, I find myself conflicted.  I like the idea of user regulated environments that make things like Wikipedia possible; however, I support George Lucas, who created the Star Wars franchise from scratch and has always been stringent about using its likeness.  I think Lucas is at the extreme, but Star Wars was his idea, and I think he should be able to dictate if other people can make money off of it.  When it comes to people wanting to make derivative ideas purely for fun, then absolutely.  My issue is when you could potentially be taking money away from the owner.  These issues are becoming more important and constantly rewritten with interactive media.

 

 

Regulation of Internet

How do we find the blend between regulations and freedom of a seemingly free open-source Internet?  Who will police the cyberspace?  Does it need policing?

As far as the US is concerned, what does the Constitution protect when it comes to the Internet?

The author describes the idea of a nature is the product of design, meaning the design of the way we use the Internet can be changed.  What could be changed about the Internet?

How does the idea of regulability and traceability work with then anonymity

Media Convergence and Participatory Culture

For this weeks reading, we looked at Henry Jenken’s article “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars?: Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture,” and the book You Are Not a Gadget. I’m going to discuss some key concepts from the two readings.  In Jenken’s article, he emphasizes the concept of amateurization and the participatory culture playing out in the digital age.  In the second section of You Are Not a Gadget, the author, Jaron Lanier, provides an interesting perspective on technology and the future.  Lanier discusses a multitude of ideas, but I will emphasize the idea of the open-source marketplace surrounding the recording industry.

What is amateurism?  Amateurism, in the digital age, is the availability of technologies allowing amateurs to produce professional quality work, which was previously impossible because of a lack of resources.  An example would be the fan-fiction created for almost 40 years based on Star Wars.  Fans have been creating parody movies (some very high quality) and fiction novels for years.  As technology becomes more available, the quality of work has risen precipitously, but the most important evolution is with the audience.  The Internet provides these films and novels a massive audience, previously unavailable.  Jenkins discusses two ideas of the impact of amateurism: a media convergence and participatory ownership.  Media convergence offers the idea that more and more of the produced media are owned by fewer and fewer conglomerates, hence the media is converging.  According to Jenkins, the participatory culture have changed and “…have been profoundly altered by a succession of new media technologies which enable average citizens to participate in the archiving, annotation, appropriation, transformation, and recirculation of media content.”  I think Jenkens prefers the second idea, and pans to the idea of media convergence.  Who doesn’t love a fan-produced film called George Lucas in Love?

            In You Are Not a Gadget, Lanier gives an interesting perspective about the future of the recording industry.  The recording industry has seen a paradigm shift in the way people are consuming music.  He discusses the idea of an open-source market for music, which enables people to obtain, or “steal,” music for which they normally would’ve had to pay.  Lanier suggests that they should leverage this open-source, instead of combating it.  This is allowing musical acts a new avenue to commercial success.  What used to involve being signed by a label, the process can now be achieved via Youtube or Vimeo.  I think the record labels will be necessary in the future, but they need to adapt now or slowly whittle away.  Lanier introduces some interesting suggestions about returning physical objects back into purchasing music (i.e. cds, promotion, etc.).  He thinks they need to reintroduce romance into music.  Both authors offer some enlightening topics, and I think they have a good perspective about the changing digital age.

The Future of Filmmaking

What effect will it have on the creative integrity of individuals if they begin thinking of ideas as franchises?

How or can we restore the old idea of individuals as participants instead of consumers?

It seems like studios should take advantage of the fanboy amateur films?  How could they be leveraged for promotional means?

I find it interesting that the same fans creating parodies are receiving commercial success in the same vein of the original (obviously not on the same scale).