End of the line

This will be my last blog post as  a part of the 303 course I’m taking, but that does not necessarily mean that I wont post more at a later time.
This post will be based on readings again provided by my fellow students and will be much on the same theme as I am writing my thesis on, Participatory culture.

The fist part is a video by Henry Jenkins as a part of the Big Thinkers series.
Henry explains how youth in school actually learn more from engaging in communities where they have a invested interest outside of school. He debates that for a learning environment and the educational process to be successful, you need to also engage the different interests of the youth.
Give them a sense of entitlement and validation for their work not only in school, but outside aswell, and try to bring that fruitful creativity and willingness to learn into the education.

The second part is two chapters in the book Participatory Culture in a Networked Era Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito, danah boyd. Chapter 4 and 5 to be exact.
These chapters delve more in-depth on the theme that Jenkins talks about in his video, how and why we should encourage digital literacies as a part of education.
I wholeheartedly agree with the notion that we need to cater education more towards youths interests then the straight forward classroom teaching.
The fact that youth learn more and faster from engaging with online communities than actual classroom education should serve as a big indicator that it is high time to make some changes.
Creating interest, building interest and molding a solid learning environment should be the next step of education. As a part of the curriculum, there should be time devoted to alternative learning methods, this is where the students can shine, and really come forth with their interests.

The second set of readings are based on the music industry and their link to social medias. As his project my fellow student is creating a work of digital art. By taking comments on Facebook from pages belonging to music bands and rearranging them into new comments. This looks to be a surreal and ironic take on the fact that band can simply pay for likes. A band might have 10000 followers, but only 1-10 comments on their posts, and barely the same number of likes. It will be interesting to look at what this “Comment Generator” will come up with.
In the article from Metalsucks.net Vince Neilstein argues that social media have actually helped musicians to get more in touch with their fans, and have created a more direct stream of revenue from fan to band.
I have to agree with this. If you like a band, you can now just look them up on Facebook, like their page and all of a sudden you are informed of concerts, releases and other events. Just like the good old mailing list.
This of course only works when you are a fan and actually like a page. Though it is evident that bands, especially niche bands, or sub-genre band can exploit this by paying to get followers. These are just empty numbers, and not actual fans that will buy their product. But in the eyes of say, a label company, all they see is that this band has a huge following, and will be worth investing in.

The last reading delves into the music journalism and how journalism as a whole has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing digital trends. The lack of innovation for journalists has led to a “forced sellout” where they hand over their content to other medias like snapchat or instagram, in the hopes that it will peak interest, and again lead to revenue.
The writer of the article Jason Gross talks about how journalism is not wholly suited for the new medias, and how, just like news papers, music magazines are suffering from the uprise of digital medias. Free content and amateur generated reviews are moving in on their turf.
I also believe that the availability of music today has led to music journalists not being needed anymore. “Back in the day”, one would read a music magazine to get inspiration to new music to listen to, or one would go to a record shop, talk to the sellers and maybe be allowed to listen to a track or two from selected bands.
Nowadays, it takes you a single search on YouTube, Spotify or any other digital media hosting music, and there you go. You can listen to anything at any time and make up your own mind than and there instead of reading a magazine, purchasing an album and then go home to listen to it.
Music journalism is dying and the cause is the fact that they are not needed in any capacity any more. We can find and listen to anything we want, and we do not need a journalist to tell us if the music is good or bad, we can make that decision for ourselves now. There is no need for a middle man any more.

Those are my thoughts on the ideas of Jenkins and the educational environment, and the music industry moving to social media as a platform of spreading content.
Hopefully there will be more to come on this blog, but as of now, the only thing left to do is finishing up the semester and do my exams.
Thank you for reading my blog, and I`ll hope you`ll be back if and when I start up again.


My turn

This week its my turn to provide the other students with readings, so I wont be commenting on that. Rather, I will do a short post on what my thoughts for class will be, since I`m going to be in charge of parts of it, and then I`ll write a bit on what I hope to achieve, both with my masters and in class.

Firstly, my thesis will be on The silent majority and participatory culture. What I hope to achieve, my “end goal” so to speak, will be to identify reasons why people want to participate in the online discourse, how to generate an interest in participating and lastly reasons why people avoid participating.
I hope to produce something akin to a book, or a guide to participatory culture, and I think the key to success here, is to identify why and why not people want to partake in this. By reading my thesis, people would gain a greater understanding of what it is to participate and the benefits from that one can reap from this.

I will have to divide my focus into two groups, the silent majority and the vocal minority. Hopefully by identifying key reasons why people participate, I will be able to come up with a sort of guide or rule of thumb on how to increase participation. My thoughts are that this will be useful in any scenario where one is dependent on the crowd and their feedback.
I aim to look at participatory culture in a few distinct areas with a different form of participation. The ideas I have at the moment are the gaming community and specifically those who produce content made to benefit others, guides, lore, tactics on forums and bulletin boards, and those who stream or produce video content and are engaging their audience that way.
I will also look at other forms of participation, like those who produce and/or correct information on sites like Wikipedia and lastly I will look at participation and the lack thereof as a whole.

One of the biggest issues I have encountered so far will be to define participation and the quality of contributions. Do I need to split them into different categories or genre’s? Will it suffice to call something useful or useless? An example would be someone who has spent 50 hours creating a game guide for no other reason then to help others V.S. one who posts a picture of food on a website or social media and just types #dinner #food.
Creating these definitions will be a challenge, and also trying to avoid being biased when labeling contributions. We all have biases, but being aware of them and hopefully being considerate while working might help me avoid the bigger issues, or so I hope.

The second large problem I know I will encounter, is how to reach out to the silent majority!? By posting on different forums, by using amazon Turk or by actively engaging with streamers, wont I just be reaching the vocal minority? So how do I reach the counterpart then? One idea I have would be to create an anonymous questionnaire and hopefully have the faculty spread it to students at UIB, and going by unconfirmed statistics, most of the answers I get would be from the silent majority. I can also post it on open forums and take my chances that seeing who its anonymous and does not require a login or giving up credentials to answers it, I might get a few lurkers there aswell.
Who knows, and that is the hard part of trying to research the silent majority, they are silent… And therefore hard to reach, and harder to research.

I’m thinking that my research will be part case study part elimination process, by eliminating factors as I go, I hopefully will end up with a few key factors that play an important role in participating or not. These factors will then be easier to research once they are narrowed down.
One topic I will also look at, which is more theoretical and academic will be the consequences of participation.  I will use the 90–9–1 rule as a basis here. This is translated into 90% lurkers, 9% vocal but less engaged and 1% being the most vocal and those who regularly produce content.
Going by these numbers, it would mean that EVERYTHING we see online today, all the websites, all the forums, all the blogs and all the user-created content you can think of, is created by 10% of the internet users we`ve had since its origins… Digest that for a minute.
Now, imagine we could bump that number up to say 15 or even 20%. How would that change the web as we know it? We already have an incredible amount of information online, and we live in a society of total and utter information overload. What then, will be the consequences of increased participation. Would it cause a collapse, seeing how incredibly much content could be produced. Would sites like Reddit and Wikipedia soar to new heights and in turn become major online economics, like others have before them, Facebook, YouTube and Google to name a few.
Will crowdsourcing become the new way of getting things done? Crowdfunding be the new investors? If 15% of those who have access to the web gave you 0.1$ you would have 55,500,000$. That is insane, and surely more than enough money for any startup business to get on its feet.

So there you have it, that’s what I have planned for my thesis, as of now at least, and parts of what I have in mind for my session in class.
So if there are any lurkers out there, which I know there is, gimme a feedback, write me a comment, or even better, tell me why you don’t want to or like to participate!
In advance, thank you.


Filter bubble.

This weeks blog will be on algorithms, how they work and how they shape our movement on the web, whats available to us and how to break the cycle.
A fellow students thesis revolves around algorithms and the filter bubble, so this week, its his readings I`ve been looking into and it will be his thesis in the crosshairs in the days to come. If the readings are anything to go by, it will be a most productive session we have in store.

The term filter bubble was first coined by Eli Pariser around 2010, and here you have the Wikipedia definition of what it is;
“A filter bubble is a state of intellectual isolation[1] that can result from personalized searches when a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user, such as location, past click-behavior and search history.[2][3][4] As a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.[5] The choices made by these algorithms are not transparent. Prime examples include Google Personalized Search results and Facebook‘s personalized news-stream. The bubble effect may have negative implications for civic discourse, according to Pariser, but contrasting views regard the effect as minimal[6] and addressable.

In the opening pages of chapter two in his book “The Filter Bubble. What the Internet is Hiding from you” Eli Pariser talks about how the news press and published journals lost their advertisement revenue due to the same content being available online. Those who used to purchase ads in newspapers now turned to websites instead. Anyone who has spent time online over the past few years will have noticed the evolution of online advertisement. At first it was “pay to be on the site”, and you got the same ads on the same pages because that’s what companies paid for. Then it evolved into more regional ads, suddenly they where in your native language, and for stores and companies in your country. This again evolved into the stage of I.P targeted commercials, where they used your I.P address to give you ads from local stores and businesses. Lastly, this again, evolved into the data mining algorithms that tailor online ads especially for you, by looking at your search history, website visits and what links you`ve clicked on other websites. Algorithms are now in charge of all online advertisement, and they are uncannily accurate.

It is hard not to leave any sort of traces behind when traversing the web, but if you manage to stay somewhat under the radar, the algorithms will have a  hard time to target you. They will instead show you commercials of interest for the populus in your general area or town instead.
Some easy steps you can do is to clear your web history, and make sure to delete cookies aswell, since this is where most of the algorithms gather their information. You can also make sure not be logged in on sites like YouTube or your google account when doing searches. This will prevent them to link and store information about you on their servers aswell as your cookies.
Something that was very popular was Ad-block extensions to your web-browsers, but websites soon learned how to block their content from being shown if you had such an extension. Sites like YouTube took this a step further and deliberately gave users with Ad-blockers the longest commercials and removed the “skip” function that commercials that last more than 30 seconds have.
Ad-blockers still work, though more and more web-sites are getting better at blocking the blocker, literally.

Pariser later talks about how the future of news online will be personally tailored, with a few major events being present and the rest being all local news, tailored to meet your specific interests and likes. The danger of having such a personalized news filter is that the odds of missing out on a major event becomes all the more present. By filtering in only a few global events, there are plenty of cases that might be ignored and left out, case that you might find interesting and of importance. The algorithms wont take this into account though, it will only report to you that which it has parameters to do. Today at least, you can get varied news by visiting the different major new sites and local sites, but when you read articles like this http://www.journalism.org/2017/09/07/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2017/ where a scary high amount of people state social media as their main source of news than things get complicated.

These algorithms are affecting all our lives, whether we are aware or not, and it can be an increasingly difficult task to circumvent, break or reset them.
When reading the work of Emilee Rader and Rebecca Gray on algorithmic curation in the Facebook news feed, it is apparent that we share concern. Concern at people’s ignorance at what algorithms actually produce.
The algorithms are biased, the information the filter and show you on your feed are biased and in the end, if you do not realize this, those “objective and partial” pieces of information you are given will give you a false sense of neutrality.
Knowing the information you receive is biased is one thing,  but doing something to change that is night but impossible, at least when it comes to Facebook.
There are ways to increase the amount of difference you can be shows, and that is simply by pressing like on a lot of different and unique things. The more stuff you like, the more diverse ( or not at all ) your Facebook wall will become, or at least that is the thought behind the algorithm. So keeping in mind what you give a thumbs up and not can make a big difference in the long run.

One issue what Rader and Gray points out is that in privacy settings on Facebook, you can elect who can and cannot see your posts and you have no real way of telling if someone has elected to put you on such a list. From the questionnaire they ran, they were given the result that 73% of those that answered believed that they where not shown all of their friends posts. This could be due to different reasons, like mentioned above, people electing to remove a person from viewing posts.  An issue that was also brought up from the questionnaire was the fact the some of those that answered felt that Facebook filled their wall with posts that the algorithm “thought” they would find interesting. In effect, the algorithms taking away choices from us.

My personal issue and use of algorithms.
Firstly I must say that I am a victim of these algorithms as much as the next, but I am fully aware of them, and I actually go to great lengths to throw them off-balance.
I have both  a Netflix and YouTube account, where algorithms are hard at work tailoring films, series, streamers and content just for me.
The way I break the Netflix algorithm is that I have created multiple profiles, I have my own, which I use for movies and series that I like, namely sci-fi and crime, but I have another profile that I share with my wife. On this profile, we look at series together, comedies, stand up shows and the odd documentary. I also share the Netflix account with a friends of mine, who in return, shares her ViaPlay account. We have vastly different tastes in both film and series, and by letting her use my account, she looks up stuff I would never consider. Or so I thought. It turns out, we have a few interests in common, films and series I would not have found, if not for my friend using my account.
As for YouTube, I have channels I subscribe to, I have my musicians that I look up and I have my favorite streamers. This gives me basically the same content every time I log on, my “recommended” tab is always the same. Not the same videos or songs, but the same in ways of content. Its gaming, music and british panel shows.
The way I break this cycle is that  once or twice a month, I have friends over for  a “YouTube” night.
It basically consists of my friends and I, looking up all sorts of stuff, showing each other certain gems we`ve found in the course of our browsing of YouTube. What happens it that in a week or so after my friends have been over, my “recommended” tab is full of new and unique content. Suddenly I have  a ton of new stuff to explore, or not to if I so choose, but at least I have fresh content and new stuff to view.

How do you break or interact with the algorithms affecting your time online? Please leave a comment if you have any comments or thoughts on the issue.

Until next time.

This week in science

Today my post will be on the subject of my Masters Thesis and how I aim to present it at the end of this semester. Not my full thesis, but my layout, ideas and the thoughts I`v made on how I’m going to present it once it reaches full-scale.

My topic, for those of you who are wondering, is going to be The Silent Majority.
Now what is this silent majority you say? It is the hundreds of millions of internet users, that during their time online, ever so seldom, or never participate in a productive way. When I say productive, I mean participating in online discussion on open forums, so that its available to those who would like to see it. It are those who only use instagram/twitter/pinterest/imgur to browse pictures or look up people, without engaging with the community. Perhaps some will leave a comment, but I do not count #cool as a means of participating in a productive way.

My thesis will focus on 3 main aspects ( might change ).
1. What is the Silent Majority –  how do I define it in my thesis and how do I separate meaningful participation from meaningless participation.
2. How do you reach the Silent Majority and how can you increase the “want” to participate
3. How do you increase participation in a group that avoids just that and what would it take to make this happen. Also, what would be the potential consequences of a vastly increased amount of participation in the online communities.

For the end of this semester, I will focus on the first topic, what is the Silent Majority.  I will use the introduction and the definition to build anticipation and interest in my thesis and the work I will have ahead of me.
It will be in comparison to the first chapters of a book, in where you get to know the protagonists, where they come from, and get the gist of how the plot will develop.

For my research, I will be reading on the topic of Participatory culture, since it is my goal to have the Silent Majority engage in just this. I will also look at those I call the Vocal Minority.  The group of people who actually are very active and produce not only a great deal of public content, but actively engage each other in discussion and in creating communities where they thrive.
I will look at why they are active, what they stand to gain from creating public content, i.e.g guides for computer games, learning guides on forums and/or streaming sites. The reason I will look to this group aswell, is to get a ground for comparison with my findings on the silent majority.
I feel it is of great importance to represent both sides in a matter, even though my focus will be mostly on the silent majority.

My biggest fear on this thesis is the lack of work done previously around the silent majority and participatory culture. So I will have a hard time finding relevant literature, but that will not discourage me from pursuing this topic.

A short post from me this time, but that is basically what I have to offer on the insight on my thesis at the moment. I am just in the opening phase of my writing, so there are bound to be changes along the way, but my topic will very much remain.

As always, leave a comment if you have one.