The more I seeread, and hear about the vagaries of social media; the constant failings and foibles of Facebook, the trolling dumpster fire that is Twitter, the ills of Instagram; the spread of dark patterns; and the unchecked rise of surveillance capitalism, and weapons of math destruction the more I think that the underlying ideas focusing on people and humanity within the IndieWeb movement are its core strength.

Perhaps we need to create a new renaissance of humanism for the 21st century? Maybe we call it digital humanism to create some intense focus, but the emphasis should be completely on the people side.

Naturally there’s a lot more that they–and we all–need to do to improve our lives. Let’s band together to create better people-centric, ethical solutions.

🎧 Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 380 The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Leo Laporte from TWiT.tv

Shoshana Zuboff is the author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. She talks with Leo Laporte about how social media is being used to influence people.

Links

Even for the people who are steeped in some of the ideas of surveillance capitalism, ad tech, and dark patterns, there’s a lot here to still be surprised about. If you’re on social media, this should be required listening/watching.

I can’t wait to get the copy of her book.

Folks in the IndieWeb movement have begun to fix portions of the problem, but Shoshana Zuboff indicates that there are several additional levels of humane understanding that will need to be bridged to make sure their efforts aren’t just in vain. We’ll likely need to do more than just own our own data, but we’ll need to go a step or two further as well.

The thing I was shocked to not hear in this interview (and which may not be in the book either) is something that I think has been generally left unmentioned with respect to Facebook and elections and election tampering (29:18). Zuboff and Laporte discuss Facebook’s experiments in influencing people to vote in several tests for which they published academic papers. Even with the rumors that Mark Zuckerberg was eyeing a potential presidential run in 2020 with his trip across America and meeting people of all walks of life, no one floated the general idea that as the CEO of Facebook, he might use what they learned in those social experiments to help get himself (or even someone else) elected by sending social signals to certain communities to prevent them from voting while sending other signals to other communities to encourage them to vote. The research indicates that in a very divided political climate that with the right sorts of voting data, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of work for Facebook to help effectuate a landslide victory for particular candidates or even entire political parties!! And of course because of the distributed nature of such an attack on democracy, Facebook’s black box algorithms, and the subtlety of the experiments, it would be incredibly hard to prove that such a thing was even done.

I like her broad concept (around 43:00) where she discusses the idea of how people tend to frame new situations using pre-existing experience and that this may not always be the most useful thing to do for what can be complex ideas that don’t or won’t necessarily play out the same way given the potential massive shifts in paradigms.

Also of great interest is the idea of instrumentarianism as opposed to the older ideas of totalitarianism. (43:49) Totalitarian leaders used to rule by fear and intimidation and now big data stores can potentially create these same types of dynamics, but without the need for the fear and intimidation by more subtly influencing particular groups of people. When combined with the ideas behind “swarming” phenomenon or Mark Granovetter’s ideas of threshold reactions in psychology, only a very small number of people may need to be influenced digitally to create drastic outcomes. I don’t recall the reference specifically, but I recall a paper about the mathematics with respect to creating ethnic neighborhoods that only about 17% of people needed to be racists and move out of a neighborhood to begin to create ethnic homogeneity and drastically less diversity within a community.

Also tangentially touched on here, but not discussed directly, I can’t help but think that all of this data with some useful complexity theory might actually go a long way toward better defining (and being able to actually control) Adam Smith’s economic “invisible hand.”

There’s just so much to consider here that it’s going to take several revisits to the ideas and some additional research to tease this all apart.

👓 Instacart and DoorDash’s Tip Policies Are Delivering Outrage | The New York Times

Read After Uproar, Instacart Backs Off Controversial Tipping Policy (New York Times)
The delivery app’s practice of counting tips toward guaranteed minimum payments for its contract workers drew accusations of wage theft.

👓 Is YouTube Fundamental or Trivial? | Study Hacks – Cal Newport

Replied to Is YouTube Fundamental or Trivial? by Cal Newport (Study Hacks)

As a public critic of social media, I’m often asked if my concerns extend to YouTube. This is a tricky question.

As I’ve written, platforms such as Facebook and Instagram didn’t offer something fundamentally different than the world wide web that preceded them. Their main contribution was to make this style of online life more accessible and convenient.

I suspect that people have generally been exploring some of this already, particularly with embedding. The difficult part on moving past YouTube, Vimeo, et al. with streaming or even simple embedding is that video on the web is a big engineering problem not to mention a major bandwidth issue for self-hosters. I’ve seen scions like Kevin Marks indicate in the past that they’d put almost any type of content on their own websites natively but video. Even coding a JavaScript player on one’s site is prohibitively difficult and rarely do major corporate players in the video content space bother to do this themselves. Thus, until something drastic happens, embedding video may be the only sensible way to go.

As an interesting aside, I’ll note that just a few months ago that YouTube allowed people to do embeds with several options, but they’re recently removed the option to prevent their player from recommending additional videos once you’re done. Thus the embedding site is still co-opted to some extent by YouTube and their vexing algorithmic recommendations.

In a similar vein audio is also an issue, but at least an easier and much lower bandwidth one. I’ve been running some experiments lately on my own website by posting what I’m listening to on a regular basis as a “faux-cast” and embedding the original audio. I’ve also been doing it pointedly as a means of helping others discover good content, because in some sense I can say I love the most recent NPR podcast or click like on it somewhere, but I’m definitely sure that doesn’t have as much weight or value as my tacitly saying, “I’ve actually put my time and attention on the line and actually listened to this particular episode.” I think having and indicating skin-in-the-game can make a tremendous difference in these areas. In a similar vein, sites like Twitter don’t really have a good bookmarking feature, so readers don’t know if the sharing user actually read any of an article or if it was just the headline. Posting these things separately on my own site as either reads or bookmarks allows me to differentiate between the two specifically and semantically, both for others’ benefit as well as, and possibly most importantly, for my own (future self).

👓 I Tried Predictim's AI Scan for 'Risky' Babysitters on People I Trust | Gizmodo

Read I Tried Predictim's AI Scan for 'Risky' Babysitters on People I Trust (Gizmodo)
The founders of Predictim want to be clear with me: Their product—an algorithm that scans the online footprint of a prospective babysitter to determine their “risk” levels for parents—is not racist. It is not biased.

Another example of an app saying “We don’t have bias in our AI” when it seems patently true that they do. I wonder how one would prove (mathematically) that one didn’t have bias?

📑 Three things about Readers during IndieWebCamp Nürnberg | Seblog

Highlighted Three things about Readers during IndieWebCamp Nürnberg by Sebastiaan AndewegSebastiaan Andeweg (seblog.nl)
I have a problem with algorithms that sort my posts by parameters I don’t know about, made by people who want to sell my attention to others.  

📑 Reply to Ben Werdmüller | Interdependent Thoughts

Annotated Reply to Ben Werdmüller by Ton Zijlstra (Interdependent Thoughts)
They can spew hate amongst themselves for eternity, but without amplification it won’t thrive.  

This is a key point. Social media and the way it (and its black box algorithms) amplifies almost anything for the benefit of clicks towards advertising is one of its most toxic features. Too often the extreme voice draws the most attention instead of being moderated down by more civil and moderate society.

👓 How Students Engage with News: Five Takeaways for Educators, Journalists, and Librarians | Project Information Literacy Research Institute

Read How Students Engage with News: Five Takeaways for Educators, Journalists, and Librarians [.pdf] by Alison J. Head, John Wihbey, P. Takis Metaxas, Margy MacMillan, and Dan Cohen (Project Information Literacy Research Institute)
Abstract: The News Study research report presents findings about how a sample of U.S. college students gather information and engage with news in the digital age. Results are included from an online survey of 5,844 respondents and telephone interviews with 37 participants from 11 U.S. colleges and universities selected for their regional, demographic, and red/blue state diversity. A computational analysis was conducted using Twitter data associated with the survey respondents and a Twitter panel of 135,891 college-age people. Six recommendations are included for educators, journalists, and librarians working to make students effective news consumers. To explore the implications of this study’s findings, concise commentaries from leading thinkers in education, libraries, media research, and journalism are included.

A great little paper about how teens and college students are finding, reading, sharing, and generally interacting with news. There’s some nice overlap here on both the topics of journalism and education which I find completely fascinating. In general, however, I think in a few places students are mis-reporting their general uses, so I’m glad a portion of the paper actually looks at data from Twitter in the wild to see what real world use cases actually are.

Perhaps there are some interesting segments and even references relevant to the topics of education and IndieWeb for Greg McVerry‘s recent project?

As I read this, I can’t help but think of some things I’ve seen Michael Caulfield writing about news and social media over the past several months. As I look, I notice that he’s already read and written a bit about a press release for this particular paper. I’ll have to take a look at his take on it tomorrow. I’m particularly interested in any insights he’s got on lateral reading and fake news above and beyond his prior thoughts.

Perhaps I missed it hiding in there reading so late at night, but another potentially good source for this paper’s recommended section would be Caulfield’s book Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The purpose of this study was to better understand the preferences, practices, and motivations of young news consumers, while focusing on what students actually do, rather than what they do not do.  

October 22, 2018 at 08:28PM

YouTube (54%), Instagram (51%) or Snapchat (55%)  

I’m curious to know which sources in particular they’re using on these platforms. Snapchat was growing news sources a year ago, but I’ve heard those sources are declining. What is the general quality of these sources?

For example, getting news from television can range from PBS News Hour and cable news networks (more traditional sources) to comedy shows like Stephen Colbert and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah which have some underlying news in the comedy, but are far from traditional sources.
October 22, 2018 at 08:35PM

Some students (28%) received news from podcasts in the preceding week.  

October 22, 2018 at 08:38PM

news is stressful and has little impact on the day-to-day routines —use it for class assignments, avoid it otherwise.” While a few students like this one practiced news abstinence, such students were rare.  

This sounds a bit like my college experience, though I didn’t avoid it because of stressful news (and there wasn’t social media yet). I generally missed it because I didn’t subscribe directly to publications or watch much television. Most of my news consumption was the local college newspaper.
October 22, 2018 at 08:46PM

But on the Web, stories of all kinds can show up anywhere and information and news are all mixed together. Light features rotate through prominent spots on the “page” with the same weight as breaking news, sports coverage, and investigative pieces, even on mainstream news sites. Advertorial “features” and opinion pieces are not always clearly identified in digitalspaces.  

This difference is one of the things I miss about reading a particular newspaper and experiencing the outlet’s particular curation of their own stories. Perhaps I should spend more time looking at the “front page” of various news sites?
October 22, 2018 at 08:57PM

Some (36%) said they agreed that the threat of “‘fake news’ had made them distrust the credibility of any news.” Almost half (45%) lacked confidence with discerning “real news” from “fake news,” and only 14% said they were “very confident” that they could detect “fake news.”  

These numbers are insane!
October 22, 2018 at 09:04PM

As a matter of recourse, some students in the study “read the news laterally,” meaning they used sources elsewhere on the Internet to compare versions of a story in an attempt to verify its facts, bias, and ultimately, its credibility.25  

This reminds me how much I miss the old daily analysis that Slate use to do for the day’s top news stories in various outlets in their Today’s Papers segment.
October 22, 2018 at 09:15PM

Some respondents, though not all, did evaluate the veracity of news they shared on social media. More (62%) said they checked to see how current an item was, while 59% read the complete story before sharing and 57% checked the URL to see where a story originated (Figure 7). Fewer read comments about a post (55%) or looked to see how many times an item was tweeted or shared (39%).  

I’m not sure I believe these self-reported numbers at all. 59% read the complete story before sharing?! 57% checked the URL? I’ll bet that not that many could probably define what a URL is.
October 22, 2018 at 10:00PM

information diet  

October 22, 2018 at 11:02PM

At the tactical level, there are likely many small things that could be tested with younger audiences to help them better orient themselves to the crowded news landscape. For example, some news organizations are more clearly identifying different types of content such as editorials, features, and backgrounders/news analysis.57More consistent and more obvious use of these typological tags would help all news consumers, not just youth, and could also travel with content as itis posted and shared in social media. News organizations should engage more actively with younger audiences to see what might be helpful.  

October 22, 2018 at 11:37PM

When news began moving into the first digital spaces in the early 1990s, pro-Web journalists touted the possibilities of hypertext links that would give news consumers the context they needed. Within a couple of years, hypertext links slowly began to disappear from many news stories. Today, hypertext links are all but gone from most mainstream news stories.  

October 22, 2018 at 11:38PM

“Solutions journalism’ is another promising trend that answers some of the respondents’ sense of helplessness in the face of the barrage of crisis coverage.62  

October 22, 2018 at 11:40PM

👓 What We Learned from Studying the News Consumption Habits of College Students | Dan Cohen

Read What We Learned from Studying the News Consumption Habits of College Students by Dan CohenDan Cohen (Dan Cohen)
Over the last year, I was fortunate to help guide a study of the news consumption habits of college students, and coordinate Northeastern University Library’s services for the study, including great work by our data visualization specialist Steven Braun and necessary infrastructure from our digital team, including Sarah Sweeney and Hillary Corbett. “How Students Engage with News,” out today as both a long article and accompanying datasets and media, provides a full snapshot of how college students navigate our complex and high-velocity media environment.

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

Side note: After recently seeing Yale Art Gallery’s show “Seriously Funny: Caricature Through the Centuries,” I think there’s a good article to be written about the historical parallels between today’s visual memes and political cartoons from the past.  

This also makes me think back to other entertainments of the historical poor including the use/purpose of stained glass windows in church supposedly as a means of entertaining the illiterate Latin vulgate masses.
October 22, 2018 at 08:07PM

nearly 6,000 students from a wide variety of institutions  

Institutions = colleges/universities? Or are we also considering less educated youth as well?
October 22, 2018 at 08:08PM

A more active stance by librarians, journalists, educators, and others who convey truth-seeking habits is essential.  

In some sense these people can also be viewed as aggregators and curators of sorts. How can their work be aggregated and be used to compete with the poor algorithms of social media?
October 22, 2018 at 08:11PM

👓 Free Speech in the Age of Algorithmic Megaphones | Wired

Read Free Speech in the Age of Algorithmic Megaphones (WIRED)
Researchers have long known that local actors—as well as Russia—use manipulative tactics to spread information online. With Facebook suspending a slew of domestic accounts, a difficult reckoning is upon us.

We need something in the digtial world that helps to put the brakes on gossip and falsehoods much the same way real life social networks tend to slow these things down. Online social networks that gamify and monopolize based on clicks using black box algorithms are destroying some of the fabric of our society.

Lies were able to go across the world before the truth had a chance to put on it’s breeches in the past, but it’s ability to do so now is even worse. We need to be able to figure out a way to flip the script.

📺 Facebook: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO) | YouTube

Watched Facebook: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver from HBO via YouTube

Facebook’s global expansion has been linked to political turmoil overseas, so maybe their ads should focus less on how they “connect the world” and more on why connecting people isn’t always the best idea.

Some solid reasons to completely abandon Facebook.

👓 'I was shocked it was so easy': ​meet the professor who says facial recognition ​​can tell if you're gay | The Guardian

Read 'I was shocked it was so easy': ​meet the professor who says facial recognition ​​can tell if you're gay by Paul Lewis (the Guardian)
Psychologist Michal Kosinski says artificial intelligence can detect your sexuality and politics just by looking at your face. What if he’s right?

How in God’s name are we repeating so many of the exact problems of the end of the 1800’s? First nationalism and protectionism and now the eugenics agenda?

👓 ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans | Washington Post

Read ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans (Washington Post)
As treasury secretary, Tim Geithner criticized predatory lenders. Now the private equity firm he leads runs a company that mails high-rate loans to risky customers.

📑 ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans | Washington Post

Annotated ‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans (Washington Post)
Despite the risks, however, Mariner Finance is eager to gain new customers. The company declined to say how many unsolicited checks it mails out, but because only about 1 percent of recipients cash them, the number is probably in the millions. The “loans-by-mail” program accounted for 28 percent of Mariner’s loans issued in the third quarter of 2017, according to Kroll. Mariner’s two largest competitors, by contrast, rarely use the tactic.

Incidentally 1% is the response rate necessary to make spam email and fax financially viable. Coincidence?

Do businesses that rely on a low response rate of 1-2% and succeed have something in common? Could they all be considered predatory?