Facebook in 2008

Looking back it’s quite possible to see that everything said in 2018 about Facebook was pretty obvious more than a decade ago. There’s a great deal of wishful thinking about social media and the Internet generally, especially regarding its supposed emancipatory potential. And the problem is deeper than one corporation, however dominant. It hinges on the underlying structure of the Internet. BJ Fogg’s concept of Captology (Computers as Persuasive Technologies) was coined in 1996.

Here’s what I wrote about Facebook in 2008:

Facebook is part of a process of great social change…

…and we probably can’t even begin to guess what the bigger implications are, except that they’re pretty big…

I’ve been discussing this a bit with David, and Ballantyne, and Chris and John have mentioned it; Emily likes Facebook, but Kym’s left, like she said she would.

A fist full of links:

Is Google Making us Stupid?
It’s making the writer stupid, at any rate. It’s making me highly intelligent. And very handsome. Just like my slide rule did in 1978.

Jon Marshall of UTS on
political implications of open source. This is more like it. A bit nuanced.

Psychology of Facebook. This is genuinely fascinating/scary. BJ Fogg teaches students at Stanford how to use psychological techniques to persuade people to do things on Facebook.The subtext is ‘and get very rich’. Don’t read it.

See, it works!

Charles Leadbetter, ‘We Think. This is the ‘we will all benefit’ view in book form. I’m not sure there is a ‘we all’, though. Inclusion and reward and damage tend to be differential. Discuss.

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody – another commentator who’s quite keen on the whole thing. I think Jon Marshall (above) calls some of this enthusiasm into question, without being a doom-monger.

But I liked Shirky’s recent talk on gin and TV as sinks for the ‘cognitive surplus’ of society, which the internet is now changing in interesting ways. Broadcast TV, now there’s a blast from the past.


'The Internet isn't everything Get out of the house' (cc marcogomez on flikr


Coding is still not the new literacy


If coding isn’t the new literacy, what is?

According to Chris Granger, modeling is.

Modeling is creating a representation of a system (or process) that can be explored or used… To put it simply, the next great advance in human ability comes from being able to externalize the mental models we spend our entire lives creating.

Incidentally, this is corroborated by Douglas Rushkoff’s very brief history lesson, Social Control as a Function of Media, in which he predicts that the corporate controllers will only encourage  programming skills when the programs of the masses can already be assimilated.


The A=href test

How to spot a model that actually works

How to choose the best online citation tools

Just as I finally get used to loving Zotero, it looks like Mendeley is set to claim my heart. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, these are on-line citation tools for academic research and writing. They use various different methods for collecting and manipulating metadata relating to books, journals, papers and websites – and then linking it all together automagically. They hold out the promise of automating activities that until now have been painstaking and laborious for researchers, and of creating new opportunities for collaboration that never existed before. But there is a down side. Continue reading “How to choose the best online citation tools”

God-like Google?

Nick Carr posted a piece about the ‘Omnigoogle’, accusing it of being messianic in tone. People seem confused about the status of Google. it can be clarified thus.

  1. Although Google’s working mantra is supposedly ‘don’t be evil’, evil is exactly what it has been doing in relation to Chinese censorship. This makes it a lot like a number of other US based companies who will do anything the Chinese government wants as long as there is money to be made. Google is no different from American business generally in this regard. It’s the same old same old. Compare US business attitudes to pre-war Germany.
  2. If there was ever an organisation with deep connections to the CIA, Google is it. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. It’s just obvious that if the CIA isn’t deeply involved they’ve missed the best opportunity in the history of intelligence-gathering.

These two factors suggest a strong case for improved regulation. It’s as though the technology has moved so fast and scaled so quickly that the citizens not only haven’t protected themselves yet – they mostly haven’t even worked out they need protecting. This seems a dangerous moment. But it’s difficult because with the hand we can see, Google seems to be offering us greater freedom. This is exactly the freedom it’s busy taking away with the other hand out of sight under the table. Neat trick if you can pull it off. The end result is that we’re made ambivalent about curtailing Google’s powers.

So what would clean Google up? Less censorship of content overseas, and less ownership of data at home. I think a revamp of law is required to make the data I generate online mine, not some company’s to do what it likes with. Oh, and if a few more people said “what if Google supports/ is supported by the CIA?” perhaps someone would start investigating it, instead of assuming that ‘don’t be evil’ means what it says.

By the way, the religious stuff – messianic, god-like and all – is a red herring.

Linking Virtual Worlds

Supposedly, Australians are leaving Second Life in droves.

It seems, though, the researcher Kim MacKenzie’s words were taken out of context, and she’s fed up about the media looking for ‘Second Life is dying’ stories.

Beating the Ghost Town effect

Reading about the ghost town effect, and having experienced it myself in eery lone visits to Australian landmarks, it’s clear that Second life could have done with a few more European-style urban planners or American new urbanists on the team. They would have pointed out that endless sprawl leads not to a feeling of spaciousness but to isolation. Second Life is effectively a lesson in the pitfalls of suburban sprawl taken to its dysfunctional conclusion. To enter Second Life is the online equivalent of moving from Boston or Seattle to Phoenix, Arizona, or from London to Adelaide. It isn’t that there are no people, just that the residents are spread out over an unfeasibly large area. The ghost town effect is a direct consequence of trying to abolish the scarcity of ‘land’. The saving grace here is that it is in fact already possible to do the opposite – to recreate online the super dense urban slum, that allows maximum, if not optimum, conviviality. Second Life already contains a reconstruction of Hong Kong’s famous and no longer existing Walled City – a city quarter that was in its heyday the densest spot on earth. In SL it’s mostly empty. But In a virtual environment one can have all the benefits of density – connection, liveliness, collaboration – with none of the pitfalls – open sewers and hacked power supplies. Now all that’s needed is to lead people to that kind of space by culling the suburbs. It may seem a bit harsh for those users who prefer to camp out on their exclusive islands in splendid isolation and have no visitors, but the commercial alternative for Second Life is Second Death. Fortunately, Linden Labs is already planning to introduce zoning. It’s a start.

Linking 3D with 2D

Having said that, the real problem with all these virtual spaces is Continue reading “Linking Virtual Worlds”