I have an opinion, therefore I blog.

Week 7.

Lovink argues that “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily a tool to manage the self.” Discuss.

I have to admit that I don’t read many amateur blogs – I read my friends’ travel blogs, or one or two literary blogs that I get linked to on Twitter, but overall I get sick of the irrelevant, ignorant, and inane that makes up the content of a lot of blogs out there. Geert Lovink’s assertion that “blogs are primarily a tool to manage the self,” (28) is exhibited in most amateur and professional blogs. Blogs are a way of publishing our daily diaries and blog cultures have made millions think that not only are their daily doings important, but that other people not only care, but they need to know all the details. The “wider culture that fabricates celebrity on every possible level,” (Lovink, 28) is displayed in the blogs of Perez Hilton and Tavi Gevinson who blog about celebrities and fashion respectively. Both have garnered huge followings and become a kind of meta-celebrity. Gevinson is really known just as Tavi and within 18 months of starting her blog she had designed her own t-shirt with some American designers!

Mia Freedman’s professional blog MamaMia highlights both the culture of celebrity and the culture of the self in the blogging world. Freedman moved online after a career in magazine publishing and has created a brand which now includes a book and television show. Freedman writes about her experiences as a mother and her opinions on news and current affairs. Lovink disputes David Weinburger’s argument that “Blogs are not even primarily a form of individual expression. They are better understood as conversations,” but the element of conversation is vital to the success of Freedman’ s site. Interactivity is a major part of the site, with hundreds of comments and comments on comments sharing experiences, opinions and advice. The blog basically brings the Mother’s Group online (this is not meant to be a derogative statement I think the site is pretty cool). Some of the more dedicated followers have their own blogs and use the comments to advertise themselves in a way, they have also become guest bloggers. Freedman and her staff often link to other blogs that write on similar themes (usually not professional ones) .

The challenge for bloggers, according to Lovink, is “how to overcome meaninglessness without falling back into centralised meaning structures,” (30). Some bloggers are are quite happy to post 20 photos of their cats each day without pondering a greater meaning but professionals and semi-professionals do have to grapple with the question of  how much of a difference they can make by blogging and how insightful they really are. The value of a blog is in the influence it has on its readership and on the greater industry or area of interest. The three blogs mentioned here are highly influential and have created celebrity images for themselves. Although they do manage the self in a big way they do create conversations within the blogs and comments but also influence the conversations and issues in the wider media world.

References:

Geert Lovink (2008) ‘Blogging, The Nihilist Impulse’, in Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture (pp. 1-38), London: Routledge.

Sharing or exposing information?

Mark Zuckerberg - Hero?

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Week 5.

Analyse critically the following statement by Mark Zuckerberg while comparing it to privacy issues raised by online social networking collaborative practices:

Mark Zuckerberg was extremely optimistic about the power of sharing our information in the video previously posted here, but my question is, who is empowered by the millions of people sharing their information online? Is it the people losing job opportunities because they have well-documented Saturday nights? Or is it the advertisers targeting every user because of their age and what they and their friends have “liked”?

The buzzwords of the video were sharing, privacy, information and control. Out of those buzzwords, privacy and control seem to be the most difficult to achieve. Danah Boyd’s work on the topic is interesting she says “When the default is hyper-public, individuals are not simply able to choose what they wish to expose – they have to choose what they wish to hide.” (2008:16). I’m an extremely private person on Facebook and agree with Boyd that we shouldn’t be made to feel unusual or wrong if we don’t want to tell our 400 “friends” the minute details of our lives – especially when those “friends” are increasingly including employers, professional contacts, parents, aunts and uncles and (in my case at least!) grandparents.

Education about privacy settings and what they mean is lacking. Most people don’t realise that the information they provide could be enough for someone to steal their identity and Mark Zuckerberg isn’t telling them. Boyd discusses exposure and invasion, two elements that are important in social convergence – basically what social networking online is. These elements are not mentioned at all in Zuckerberg’s video – he doesn’t want people thinking about their negative connotations.

Boyd makes a striking comparison in relation to Facebook and information “Facebook gives the ‘gift’ of infinite social information, but this can feel too much like the One Ring – precious upfront, but destructive long-term.” (2008:18) This is an interesting idea, that we could be destructed by sharing our information.

Increasingly, I’m wondering about information as a commodity. If anyone asked what commodity Mark Zuckerberg traded in, it would be information. He provides a massive service free worldwide (Except in China) which would be impossible without something in return. We give a bit of information, some more and some less, and he gives us a worldwide meeting place.

If we’re trading information with Mark Zuckerberg have we got what we bargained for? Are we empowered by sharing this information? My answer is, no. Are we any closer to solving the world’s problems or are we just buying Mark Zuckerberg’s next Pacific Island when we say something else an advertiser can use?? Well the world’s problems aren’t really going anywhere, and Zuckerberg might want to choose an island somewhere other than the Pacific, because Japan is dumping radioactive water there. Or maybe he thinks Facebook can fix that?

Bibliography.

Boyd, D. ‘Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion and Social Convergence’, Convergence: The International Journal into New Media Technologies 14.4 (2008): 13-20

Journalism and Facebook

 

This links to the page about how Facebook helps Journalists which is interesting because it shows how collaborative practices can work in a practical sense. I find that ethically, this page may have issues for many writers. The idea of ownership and exclusivity is ultra important in the journalism industry which is massively competitive.  Open Source sites like IndyMedia and bloggers-as-journalists would like this but I can’t see this working for the average News Ltd paper. This idea is good but works against some of the most ingrained principles of old style journalism. Axel Bruns believes that a product produced by a large group of unqualified individuals can be better than something by a small group of professionals but in some cases we need the professionals!

How private is private?

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I thought this picture from an iPhone Facebook app was really interesting to contrast with the previous video I posted of Mark Zuckerberg talking about privacy and control because this shows that people don’t have full control over their information. I know lots people have iPhone Facebook apps and no one has asked me yet if I’m okay with Facebook having information about me…