Posts Tagged ‘ pj.rey ’

Ambient Documentation: To Be is to See and To See is to Be

This post was co-authored with Nathan Jurgenson.

We begin with the assumption that social media expands the opportunity to capture/document/record ourselves and others and therefore has developed in us a sort-of “documentary vision” whereby we increasingly experience the world as a potential social media document. How might my current experience look as a photograph, tweet, or status update? Here, we would like to expand by thinking about what objective reality produces this type of subjective experience. Indeed, we are increasingly breathing an atmosphere of ambient documentation that is more and more likely to capture our thoughts and behaviors.

As this blog often points out, we are increasingly living our lives at the intersection of atoms and bits. Identities, friendships, conversations and a whole range of experience form an augmented reality where each is simultaneously shaped by physical presence and digital information. Information traveling on the backs of bits moves quickly and easily; anchor it to atoms and it is relatively slow and costly. In an augmented reality, information flows back and forth across physicality and digitality, deftly evading spatial and temporal obstacles that otherwise accompany physical presence.

When Egyptians dramatically occupied the physical space of Tahrir Square this past January Continue reading

Frictionless Sharing and the Digital Paparazzi

(Or: How we’ve come to be micro-celebrities online)

(Co-Authored by Nathan Jurgenson)

Facebook’s recent introduction of “frictionless sharing” is the newest development in a growing trend: data is being increasingly produced passively as individuals conduct their day-to-day activities. This is a trend that has grown both on and offline. We will focus on the former here; especially “frictionless” sharing that involves syncing Facebook with other sites or apps. Once synced, much of what a user listens to, reads or otherwise accesses are automatically and immediately published on Facebook without any further action or approval. Users may not even need to “opt into” frictionless sharing because many services are changing their default setting to automatically push content to Facebook. In short, we can say that users play a passive role in this process.

Contrast this to more active sharing: when we “like” or “+1” something (by clicking the eponymous buttons that have spread throughout the Web) it requires the user to make a conscious and affirmative action to share something with others in their network. Nathan Jurgenson (one of this post’s co-authors) previously described these two models as types of “documentary vision:” We actively document ourselves and our world around us as if we have a camera in our hand (“liking”, status updates, photos, etc.), or we can passively allow ourselves to be documented, curating our behaviors along the way (e.g., reading a magazine article so that you can present yourself as the type of person who “likes” that sort of magazine) much like a celebrity facing a crowd of paparazzi photographers.

Let’s make another layer of complexity to this documentary model Continue reading

Where’s the Money in Prosumption: Predictions for 2010

(Reposted from Sociology Lens)

A recent article in the New York Times, “Experts Predict 2010 the Year for Social Media ROI” summarizes a Trendspotting.com report entitled “TrendsSpotting’s 2010 Social Media Influencers – Trend Predictions in 140 Characters.” The Trendspotting.com post identifies six trends to look out for in social media over the coming year: “Mobile, Location, Transparency, Measurement, ROI, [and] Privacy.” The Times article focuses, particularly, on return on investment. The articles reports three strategies for garnering profit from user-generated content (i.e., prospecting, stewardship, and advocacy) but fails to provide much analysis. Viewing the proliferation of user-generated content from a sociological perspective, I’d like to consider the prospects for these three strategies.

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Cyborg Systems: Sociology’s Proper Unit of Analysis

(Reposted from Sociology Lens)

The increasing centrality of the Internet in our daily lives has precipitated a spate of theorizing about how we – as humans and as a society – are changing (or not) due to the constant technological mediation of our most basic interactions and activities. Let’s face it: This sort of theorizing is populated mostly by men of considerable privilege (with some very notable exceptions). A cynic might hold that the problems concerning human techno-social interactions are relatively insignificant compared to more pressing issues of race, class, gender, age, etc. One cannot but be sympathetic to such charges.

However, I would posit that a complicated set of processes are at work in causing many to view theory surrounding the Internet and its ever-expanding litany of technical terms (e.g., Web 2.0, prosumption, produsage, playbor, or sousveillance) as largely irrelevant to the salient social issues of our day: 1.) The theorists of the Web, tending to work from a position of privilege, perhaps, simply lack awareness of feminist and other situated discourses, thus failing to acknowledge their relevance. 2.) Privilege may also account for a willingness to be satisfied by grand theoretical projects that produce political objectives couched in inaccessible language, too impractical to be actionable, altogether irrelevant, or simply nonexistent. 3.) Disciplinary specialization is such that the theorists from Marxian, post-structuralist, and/or science and technology studies traditions who are studying similar phenomena may not be in dialogue with one another. Continue reading

Conference Summary Part I: The Internet as Playground and Factory

(Reposted from Sociology Lens)

The New School held a conference last week that may be of interest to many Sociology Lens readers, so I have decided to devote this week’s entry to sharing some notes from the conference.

The implosion of work and play was the most recurrent theme in the panels that I attended. The term “playbor” was frequently used to describe the product of this implosion. Panelists generally seemed to assume that playbor was a relatively new and increasingly prevalent phenomenon. However, one dissenter, an artist named Stephanie Rothenberg, argued that play and productivity have coincided from the earliest days of capitalism. She explained that hobbies (e.g., collecting, handicraft, parlor room singsong, gardening, and animal raising) are voluntary forms of play that produce objects with no intent to exchange them on the market. These activities often have significant social aspects and some hobbies, like music or quilting, are even done collaboratively. Given the resemblance to hobbies, Rothenberg urges that we view playbor as the latest instantiation of a historical trend, rather than newly emerging paradigm. In fact she claims that online environments like Second Life mimic the world so hyperbolically that they offer an unprecedented opportunity for us to turn a critical eye on ourselves. In our distanced view of these “simulacrums,” we find our own distanced reflections.

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When Prosumption is Law, the Prosumer is King (for Now)

(Reposted from Sociology Lens)

Smokers, if I told you that I could get you high-quality cigarettes for half the usual price, you’d probably smartly ask, “what’s the catch.” “The catch,” I might respond, “is that I need five minutes of your labor-time per pack.” This is precisely the bargain customers are making with a Brookline, New Hampshire store called Tobacco Haven – a bargain, we social theorists might call prosumption. The shop houses a roll-your-own cigarette machine, where customers feed piles of loose tobacco and assemble their own packs.

The prosumer has been discussed widely on this blog (see, for, example: prosumers of the world unite, Light capitalism, prize economics, and the prosumer, Out of Print: Prosumption and the Triumph of New Media, the prosumer and intimate profit). Yet, often analysis has focuses on examples connected to the digital world. A recent story, however, illustrates how relevant this concept is even offline.

Customers are happy to spend a few extra minutes to get dirt cheap cigarettes and Tobacco Haven is happy with the tidy little profits it sweeps up facilitating the work of the consumer. The state of New Hampshire, however, isn’t amused and is suing the tobacco shop. New Hampshire claims that regardless of who does the production – company or consumer – the place where cigarettes are assembled should be considered a “cigarette manufacturer” and thus bound by the decade-old tobacco industry settlement as well as obliged to pay state and local taxes.

The ruling on this issue, however, has broader implications than the price of cigarettes Brookline. The courts are going to rule whether or not the labor a consumer does to obtain commodities for her own use is taxable as if it were manufacturing activity. If we start down this path, what’s next? Pumping one’s own gas? Filling one’s own fountain drinks? Assembling Ikea furniture? Updating a Facebook profile?

Hard to tell where to draw the line, but one thing is clear: prosumption will be a significant issue for the courts of the 21st Century.

Square-eye “Roll-It-Yourself Tobacco Shop Under Fire” by Sheryl Rich-Kern

Square-eye “The Intersecting Roles of Consumer and Producer: A Critical Perspective on Co-production, Co-creation and Prosumption,” By Ashlee Humphreys and Kent Grayson

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