Partner/Chief Science Officer of SNi and Host of The Social Network
Exciting, thought-provoking books, chapters, and articles about what online social networking is doing for us and to us as humans
Browse “Dr. J’s Recommended Reading” below!
Dr. J’s Recommended Reading
Hired! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era
by Jeff Sheehan and Alfred M. Smith
Jeff and Al were a blast to interview and have been enthusiastic and active in recommending The Social Network Show®. That reciprocity characterizes all they do. They are good examples of my motto, “Promoting one another for the good of all.”
Hired! is a whole person catalog of job-finding strategies and tactics. It covers just about every approach there is and explains each one. There are checklists to help you go about your personal marketing campaign methodically and thoroughly. Social networking sites are not only mentioned, the authors provide instructions on how to maximize your activity and results. The only disappointment for me was the lack of blank pages in the book, which gives the text a crowded feeling.
Throughout, Jeff and Al apply their considerable personal concern for your success to bolster bruised egos and, in effect, hold your hand through each phase of the journey toward your next job.
To my mind, one of the most valuable sections is Chapter 5, Keywords & Boolean Searches. The reason is that it is crucial to be sure you are ‘findable’ for those 82% of jobs in the hidden market. That’s how many positions start out with “Don’t call us, we’ll call you” before you are even on their radar. So how are they going to call you if they don’t know your name, let alone your phone number? Jeff and Al explain that this is where the magic of the right keywords comes in. Employers spend a lot of time, money, and effort on trying to hire excellent employees and they need your help to find you. Applying the procedures the authors explain step by step on various social platforms, particularly LinkedIn, will make the difference.
Because the instruction is clear and can be applied in brief sessions, you will be encouraged to actually DO the activities suggested. That will bring you closer to your goal of getting Hired!
Architect and Human–Computer Interaction Designer, Malcolm McCullough, Explores Attention
As information becomes plentiful, attention becomes scarce. That truism from Herbert Simon, a pioneer of cognitive science, has many implications for us as humans in “the information age.” Advertisers vie for our attention—and the competition is fierce. Those who want your attention are progressively filling up every nook and cranny with information. Ads, links, and notices are placed in any spec of unclaimed real estate. Remember when you first heard someone speaking to you from a little gadget attached to the gas pump? Or first saw a video explaining the advantages of a product hung on the end aisle at the supermarket? The same is true of virtual real estate, as when ads are crowded onto websites. As computing goes mobile, our outdoor attention is not only grabbed by billboards and other signage everywhere, but our mobile devices simultaneously demand our attention be directed toward tiny screens and whatever is going on in the online world.
At this point we must ask how our situational awareness (SA) is faring. Do we know what is going on around our body in the physical world? Do we notice our surroundings? Obviously, SA is essential if we are to avoid accidents such as walking in front of a vehicle or falling into a ditch. How many times have you seen a pedestrian walking, even in a busy parking lot, with eyes glued to his or her mobile phone? How many bags or cases have been snatched while the carrier’s mind was distracted with a phone call or text? Yes, SA is important for our safety, but something else is at risk as well. It is our ability to be fascinated with aspects of our surroundings.
Author and Professor Malcolm McCullough (University of Michigan’s Taubman College) observes that, for the most part, we enjoy the superabundance of information in modern life. But perhaps we can use technological advances to better filter it. There is evidence that giving conscious attention to our situational awareness can help us. Attention is not limited to a spotlighted area, nor does it need to be effortful. Recent concepts such as “nature-deficit disorder” and ecopsychology reflect growing awareness that human mental health, indeed, human sanity, depends upon attending to our environment. Professor McCullough would argue that the built, as well as natural, environment can provided valuable structure and be restorative to our frazzled selves.
To learn more, I’d recommend starting with the journal article “On Attention to Surroundings” in the November/December, 2012, issue of Interactions (published by ACM, Association for Computing Machinery), pp. 41-49. The concepts are more fully explored in Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information, also by Malcolm McCullough (MIT Press, 2013). Those steeped in the academic discourse of architecture and design will find it more easily understood than the rest of us, but if you are looking for an intriguing challenge, you will be rewarded for your effort. The references at the end of the article and the endnotes of the book are wonderful. It is also a beautifully designed book; even if I couldn’t read English, I would love this book for its visual and tactile delight, inside and out. http://ambientcommons.org
What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube, by Erik Qualman
“Social” isn’t private by definition, as our friend Rich Guerry (@MyDigitalSafety) is fond of pointing out. We discussed Erik Qualman’s What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube with Equalman (he even has a cape!) in April on our Sunday edition of The Social Network Show.
The book is a wonderfully useful miscellany spreading across the gamut of things that are often going wrong online and how to avoid them. It contains hundreds of ‘snippets’ that can be read in seconds yet enrich your understanding of staying safe and savvy online. This makes it a tremendous gift because you are not burdening the recipient with a reading assignment! It’s a great book to glance at while waiting a whole ten seconds for a site to load or during a commercial. In less than 10 seconds I learned that identity thieves slip fake menus under doors waiting for “orders,” then steal your credit card info when you call in! A bummer, not to mention the long wait for an order that will never come.
The first chapter contains and explains 36 new rules of reputation. The premise is that if one needs public engagement to any degree in one’s life, it is essential to know and follow these rules to avoid the pitfalls so common in this huge transition we are going through.
Chapter Two shares Lessons Learned, brief accounts from experienced people about Business & Hiring, Personal & Family, Teams & Athletics, and Crime & Politics.
In Chapter Three you’ll find 15 top digital tools to manage your online reputation (each one just a paragraph long). And as Alan Katzman of SocialAssurity.com told us, it is important for youngsters to start building content that reflects their serious side to counterbalance their occasional silly slip before job and college applications are assessed by decision-makers searching for them online.
Twenty tactical tips for protecting your identity are outlined in Chapter Four, again a paragraph to each. Chapter Five provides some relief from the self-defense mode by providing 20 tips to come across better in videos! By this time you are grasping the fact that this is a book of annotated lists that you can dip in and out of at will.
Chapter Six covers 14 ways to prevent and stop cyberbullying. Most are just a sentence long, with the same brevity continued in Chapter Seven’s 10 tips to keep your family safe online. Families, along with teams in business, even athletics, can benefit quickly from the discussion prompts and a quiz in Chapter Eight.
Take a look at the collection of many individuals’ “digital stamp” in Chapter Nine. In the Glossary—yes! there’s a glossary!—Erik defines this as the culmination of your digital footprints and digital shadows (also defined)—your epitaph in cyberspace. You will find how many (about 200) contributors thought they’d like to be remembered. The book concludes with insights from four individuals who have met with success in the digital age, in Chapter Ten. In addition to the short glossary, there are endnotes and a list of books Erik recommends.
The subtitle, Privacy is Dead, is a valuable caution, but true in proportion to how true we make it by our digital behavior. We can have some privacy by being much savvier about what we post and always bearing in mind that anything uploaded or sent through cyberspace is not private. Some degree of privacy is offered by alternatives to the Big Dogs. We spoke recently with David Hosei (interview to be uploaded 7/21/14) about eFamily.com where a secure website is created for each family, who can then add the family members who wish to share news, photos, and videos, to stay united despite great distances.
When you buy a copy of What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube as a gift, be sure to buy two, because you aren’t going to want to part with it.
The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us–and How They Don’t
June 1, 2014
The Proteus Paradox: How Online Games and Virtual Worlds Change Us—and How They Don’t by Nick Yee
It is hard, if not impossible, to get away from ourselves. That is the takeaway from Nick Yee’s research. For whatever reason, who we are in this life seems to inevitably follow us into the virtual realm. No matter how limitless the possibilities in creation of new worlds, the intangibles, at least, of this worldly existence seem to rear their familiar heads. That is The Proteus Paradox.
The Proteus Effect was described earlier in the Daedalus Project, whose study participants were more confident in f2f interactions after having been given a tall avatar within an online game. I didn’t realize being tall conveyed that much of an advantage in f2f life, but then, tall individuals do spend most of their time ‘looking down on’ those around them.
Dr. Yee has studied online games and virtual worlds for more than a decade. He earned a doctorate in Communications at Stanford University. For his dissertation study (the Daedalus Project mentioned above) he surveyed over 50,000 online gamers and examined who the gamers are and why they play these games. Then continuing at the Palo Alto Research Center, he ran psychology experiments and analyzed large amounts of data to explore how our virtual selves and offline selves are related.
The Proteus Paradox is thus based on research evidence, not just a rambling proposal of what might be true. The resulting image strikes a non-gamer such as me as more than a little bizarre. There are rules to be learned, moves to be executed, playing (living) according to social norms of the online world of choice. One can accomplish things, earn points, and advance to new levels. Not terribly different from many social/service clubs in the f2f world. Actually, not too different from work, as it turns out! Rising to a high enough level brings position and responsibility, which some describe as an additional part-time, even full-time, unpaid job. The repetitious killing of monsters required to progress to a new level is termed the grind, reflecting the monotony of it all.
Strange things happen in virtual worlds. Economies form and collapse. Plagues sweep through, decimating the population. National and racial animosity develops. Because of such events, virtual worlds can be used to run large-scale and long term experiments that would be ethically, if not practically, impossible among actual human communities. Yee describes virtual worlds as the “grandest social experiments that have ever existed [because] any variable in the world, in the rules, in the way players interact with each other, can be infinitely tweaked” to see how outcomes are affected.
Covering topics such as superstitions, falling in love in a virtually, how commerce enters virtual worlds, and introverted elves and conscientious gnomes, The Proteus Paradox is sure to delight as well as inform.
The Boy Kings: Cyber Abuse as Clash of Cultures
April 6, 2014
Kate Losse wrote The Boy Kings: Journey to the Center of the Social Network to tell her story of Facebook starting with her hire in 2005 as a member of the first Customer (“User”) Support team, through her decision to leave and departure in 2010. I’d been wishing for an inside history, and here it is.
Before anything else, I’ll say, “READ THIS BOOK.”
Here are a few of the things I learned from Kate Losse:
- As non-technical (non-engineer) workers, those dealing with “users” were far behind engineers in any measure of status, including pay and advancement prospects, in the Facebook offices. So concern about users (almost sounds like those upon whom the business depends are actually free-loaders, doesn’t it?) has obviously NEVER been a priority at Facebook.
- Before Facebook, Kate felt that going on the Internet was very risky for women, an open invitation to have any photos grabbed by predatory guys, Internet predators being the rule, rather than the exception. She felt safer with Facebook because it was mainly to connect with people you already knew and trusted. Things changed early on with News Feed which suddenly, and without warning, proactively sent people’s updates to all their followers. But that was nothing compared to making everyone’s profile visible to strangers, which had not been the case to begin with.
- Mark Z’s dream for all of us “users” is to become cells in one big planetary organism, called Facebook, of course–this “nouveau totalitarianism in which the world would become a technical, privately owned network run by young ‘technical’ people [engineers] who believe wholeheartedly in technology’s and their own inherent goodness, and in which every technical advancement is heralded as a step forward for humanity—reasoning that is deeply flawed.”
- Many, many more fascinating glimpses and insights brought to us by an amateur, but gifted, anthropologist/ethnographer who, lucky for us, is also a writer by training and trade.
- But, my greatest epiphany came as a result of Kate’s enumeration of the Rules of the Internet. She listed them when relating an experience playing Rock Band with some of “the boys” (p. 175-6). They live-streamed it, since just doing something isn’t any fun unless the entire world can watch you do it and interact with you in real time. The comments from far and wide included misogynist and even violent observations due to her presence as a female. I believe she meant the rules that had developed in earlier years of Internet culture, but were (are) still strong among many spending a great deal of time online. The rules:
- There are no girls on the Internet.
- Question people’s sexuality, for no reason.
- Never argue with a troll. If you do, the troll wins.
- There is porn of anything. There are no exceptions. (p. 212)
Upon reading that, it was as if I experienced a Gestalt shift of perception—clearly “foreigners” who wander into the territory of people who developed those rules are not going to have a comfortable time of it. It’s just as when landing in any foreign land with its own, vastly different system of values, norms, practices: we are taken aback by what we encounter. If we hold on to our own, different, viewpoints, we will engage in a culture war. That is precisely what I think has been going on for some time since the Internet and the World Wide Web went mainstream. Remember hearing how Facebook became less popular with the young as their parents, and good grief, even their grandparents started using it? That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
A case in point is our response to trolls. In the ‘troll culture” (here I am speaking as an instant expert, having read one eye-opening book that wasn’t really even specifically about them), everything is a game. Part of the game is to see how utterly outrageous you can be. What is the culturally appropriate response? I refer you to Rule #3, above. Now clearly, mainstream, non-trolling, people do not typically say, “Oh, this is how one behaves on the Internet. I’ll do as the Romans do, and follow their crazy rules, fit in, and live happily ever after.” For one thing, the territory is disputed (just because they were the first there doesn’t mean they still ‘own’ it), and as in the physical realm, disputed territory usually means WAR.
This perspective makes me think differently about cyber abuse. It is certainly still abusive, make no doubt. But it now looks like the result of visitors to a foreign country (or dodgy neighborhood) who are responding in a way reasonable to their home culture, but not according to the social norms of the unfamiliar culture. And tragic results sometimes ensue. This doesn’t apply to all cases and is probably of mostly historical interest. But it does give me some background to make a bit more sense of the obnoxious manner some adopt online and why some may say, “I was only kidding. It was a joke.”
A further complication is though, “Who is really part of that culture?” In contrast to, “Who is simply co-opting the standards of an earlier time and population to get off on, and away with, being cruel?”
You can keep up with Kate at http://www.katelosse.tv/
Does removing some content make Social Network Sites liable for content they allow to remain?
January 23, 2014
Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website includes an interesting page about their support of Section (§) 230 http://www.eff.org/issues/cda230 . I find the legal aspect of social networks a wonderful way to learn about them. But as a lay person when it comes to law, I ask the indulgence of J.D.s for errors I’m sure to make. The ‘Legislative History’ section on EFF is very helpful as it references Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy which is where that idea of ‘all or nothing’ that I’d heard of (and reference in the title of this post) must have come from. At that time (1995), because Prodigy removed some content, the court decided it was liable for any and all content they left visible. More recent legislation changed that. However, here I outline a little of that history reported by EFF.
February, 1995: the Communications Decency Act (CDA) was introduced by Nebraska Senator James Exon with the purpose of regulating online obscenity and indecency. It would make knowingly sending or showing obscene or indecent content to minors via the Internet illegal.
In the House, Representatives Chris Cox (California) and Ron Wyden (Oregon) were concerned that Stratton Oakmont would erode free speech; they introduced an amendment to the Communications Decency Act. That amendment is what we know today as Section 230. The House passed it 420-4.
[My comment: The 1995 rationale behind the immunity § 230 granted was that legal regulation of the Internet would interfere with its growth and development. Online services were expected to develop and implement their own policies and provisions for child safety. I leave it to my readers to assess how well that has worked and how much extra help the Internet needed, in comparison to offline communication technologies, such as print, in order to thrive. I’ll be discussing possible improvements to § 230 with law professor Nancy S. Kim on The Social Network Show, February 7, 2014. At this point, I see problems with EFF’s defense of § 230, but they are definitely a vital part of the discussion and action surrounding a wide variety of Internet legal questions. You can find Professor Kim’s arguments relative to § 230 at Website Proprietorship and Online Harassment and Website Design and Liability. She has also written extensively on the topic of Terms of Service as contracts: Wrap Contracts: Foundations and Ramifications.]
February 8, 1996: the Telecommunications Act, containing the amendment, was signed into law. ACLU immediately challenged the bill’s indecency provisions.
June 26, 1997: the Supreme Court struck down the anti-indecency sections of the CDA (by 9-0) as violating the First Amendment to the U.S. constitution, but left § 230 intact.
According to § 230, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
That is the blanket indemnity that is being questioned by legal scholars (not those at EFF, who champion it).
The good news is that, to answer my original question about “all or nothing,” § 230 (c) Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material provides under (2) Civil Liability that
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of—
(A) any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected; [emphasis mine] or
(B) any action taken to enable or make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to material described in paragraph (1).” Accessible here from the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School.
So, if I’ve got this right, Internet services are legally able (though not required) to monitor content and remove anything they object to, simply on the basis that they (or their users) object to it. I like the quote from the original founder of RateMyProfessors.com from EFF’s case studies (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/01/cda-230-success-cases-ratingz-network, in answer to seventh and last interview question):
“I do have some qualms about the fact that a website can leave untrue content up. Even if I knew there was libel on my site, I can just leave it up there. I have a little [!] personal problem with doing that. There have been some postings where it’s pretty clear, and when they were brought to my attention, I have taken ratings down. Legally I don’t have to, but sometimes I do feel sorry for certain people who get rated unfairly on our websites.”
That really highlights the gulf that can exist between what is “legal” and what is “ethical”!
Just as a host of a face-to-face gathering is not prohibited from making guests leave when they violate the host’s personal standard of acceptable behavior, proprietors of SNSs or any online community are not prohibited by constitutionally protected freedom of speech from maintaining community standards. The question is do they want to?
Although self-regulation of Internet services has a rather dismal record, perhaps an attainable goal might be for consumers to insist on sufficient staff being hired to properly review reports of objectionable content such as libel or defamation. (When it comes to illegal content, child porn and non-consensual porn, for example, the appropriate response is to report it to law enforcement.) And not only after 450 reports, either! That is what a computer technician told me Facebook’s requirement is, based on his research and efforts on behalf of a defamed friend. IF that is the case, apparently it’s considered possible that the first 449 might be false reports filed by enemies of the originator of the content to cause them trouble. If SNS proprietors would be honest in their “Community Standards” and not (to take a lesson from good parenting) make any rules they were not prepared to enforce, then users could pick and choose their networks according to where they wanted to draw the line.
We “live in interesting times,” wrestling with new issues while we watch to see where the lines will settle. A quick reality check, however, reveals that even in the physical world it’s not as if everyone agrees on the rules and lives in happy compliance with them!
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Dr. J’s Recommended Reading
December 27, 2013
I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy by Lori Andrews (New York, NY: Free Press, 2011)
Lori Andrews is an attorney and law professor who has written on a couple of subjects of interest to me. I first came across her books about the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of the human genome project and biotech. Since they impressed me favorably, when I learned she wrote about the “ELSI” of cyberspace, I knew I had to read that, too! And this from her Amazon page bio gives you some idea of the person we’re dealing with: “Lori started her consumer activism when she was seven and her Ken doll went bald. Her letter to Mattel got action. She’s been fighting for people’s rights ever since.” Not to mention dolls’ rights!
The foundation of Professor Andrews’ book I Know Who You Are and I Saw What You Did is the intriguing process of drafting a hypothetical Social Network Constitution that would define the rights of netizens, presumably the world over. The discussion about social networks that is taking place within the legal arena is one of the most fascinating to be found. Perhaps that is because in a legal context one is forced to be very specific as to terms and definitions thereof. The rights and freedoms of all parties must be considered and, ideally, balanced against one another. This requires tradeoffs – no one ‘side’ can have it all at the expense of the other sides. If you haven’t looked at the law scholarship concerning Internet interactions between people, I highly recommend you do so. Danielle Citron, for example, has been writing on the application of civil rights law to cyber hate since 2007. Daniel Solove is a prolific expert on the topic who has written on the need for balance among privacy, free speech, and anonymity. An excellent free source of articles and chapters on the topic is Social Science Research Network, http://ssrn.com.
But for less academic reading Professor Andrews’ book is the place to start. It is replete with fully documented accounts of the touchstone cases in the history of cyber abuse. Notes are unobtrusive, yet not too difficult to find as the endnotes are labeled with both the chapter number and the name of the chapter—a small, but appreciated, help for the interested reader!
You will learn about cases such as AutoAdmit, JuicyCampus, actions of early versions of the ever-changing group Anonymous, and other attacks against individuals resulting in loss of privacy, mental health, livelihood, and sometimes even life itself. Professor Andrews explains what members pay for “free” social networks and search services. She reveals the data collection essential to behavioral advertising (targeted ads) and instances when supposedly anonymous data has led to betrayal of people’s identity. Yes, this is a collection of some incredible things that have really happened and related legal decisions, some reassuring, some decidedly not. Although I am very watchful of my “A-Index” (how much Absurdity I can safely be exposed to on an average day), it is incredibly important to educate ourselves on what has happened and is happening when it comes to adapting or expanding privacy and free speech legislation written prior to the advent of the Internet. This is one of several major transitions human society is currently experiencing and to see what has shaped it so far makes for an absorbing read.
The Social Network Constitution includes ten Articles: the right to connect; the right to free speech and freedom of expression (“Employers and schools shall be prohibited from accessing social network pages.”); the right to privacy of place and information; the right to privacy of thoughts, emotions and sentiments; the right to control one’s image; the right to fair trial; the right to an untainted jury (evidence not to include “information or inferences acquired from social networks, search queries”); the right to due process of law and the right to notice (“Access to a social network shall not be denied based on a decision not to consent to the collection, analysis, or dissemination of information.”); freedom from discrimination; and freedom of association (including “the right to keep their associations private”).
You might find yourself disagreeing with the author on a number of points. Indeed, other legal scholars have quite different opinions. But you will find Lori Andrews’ reasoning and reflections intriguing and thought-provoking. You can follow her examination of new developments at http://www.socialnetworkconstitution.com/blog.html