Internet Communications – By Angela Randall

An exploration of internet communications

Concepts Reflection & Research

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Concept 1 – Permanent Ephemerality

“Sara created a MySpace using an email address that she made specifically for that purpose. After vacation, she couldn’t remember her MySpace password (or her email password). She created a new MySpace page using a new throwaway email address. When i asked her if she was irritated that she had to do this after investing time in the previous profile, she said, ‘nah.. I had too many Friends that I didn’t know anyways.’” (Boyd, 2007a)

The concept of internet ephemerality goes both ways. Many websites and posts are transient in nature, as people remove content for many reasons. Sometimes a company may cease to exist, so the website is removed. Often bloggers will re-think posts they have made and choose to edit or remove the post entirely. Some content is removed for copyright reasons. Whatever the reason is, the removal of online content has become commonplace to users. However, when content is removed it is often backed up somewhere. There are often valid legal reasons for retrieving that backup and supplying it to the relevant authorities. This is also the case with password protected posts in journals. Once the information has been put online it is very hard to take back. There is even a popular term for this difficulty, known as the Streisand effect, noting that when someone tries to suppress information online it inevitably results in duplication and popularisation of the material (Wikipedia, 2008). This seems to be the case regardless of how mundane the original material was. This is also the case with information which people want to keep from the internet entirely. A recent situation arose when Matt Drudge blogged about Prince Harry serving on the front line in Afghanistan (Hedengren, 2008). The issue was officially noted as part of a press blackout and journalists were requested to not report on the issue. Matt Drudge, however, is a blogger and not a journalist asked to abide by the press blackout. The information as therefore reported, an attempt at suppression was made and the information was further distributed. Drudge’s right to originally report on it was argued even further, thus publicising the until recently suppressed information even further.

Site 1:
Title : Ephemeral Profiles (cuz losing passwords is common amongst teens)
Boyd, D. (2007a). “Ephemeral Profiles (cuz losing passwords is common amongst teens)”. apophenia :: making connections where none previously existed. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/01/01/ephemeral_profi.html

Teenagers are one of our greatest insights into how the ephemeral nature of online interaction is changing. While many adults maintain online profiles as long as they possibly can, this article explains that teenagers of today don’t have the same attachment to their profiles. If a password to a particular messaging client is lost, they will simply start again with a new profile, re-inviting all the friends they want to stay in touch with and not regretting losing the rest.

Site 2:
Title : Temporary Contracts: On the Economy of the Post-Industrial Landscape.
Dunham-Jones E., (1997). “Temporary Contracts: On the Economy of the Post-Industrial Landscape”. Harvard Design Magazine. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/research/publications/hdm//back/3dunhamjones.html

This link is useful as an historical account of why ephemerality is on the rise in general. It’s not all about the internet – it’s everything. People get divorced, move countries and take contract jobs instead of permanent ones. The value of money and land changes every day. Nothing is permanent and nothing can be relied upon to be so. Making long term plans is therefore a very risky business.

Concept 2 – Automation

What’s dynamic about the live web are not just the pages, but the links. A link to a weblog is expected to point to a perennially changing page, with “permalinks” for any individual entry, and notification for each change. An RSS feed is thus a much stronger link than, say a bookmark or a link to a single page.” (O’Reilly, 2005)

Web 2.0 is all about dynamic content and automation of everything. RSS feeds and widgets are taking information generated in one place online and spreading it through the rest of the internet. After maintaining a static websites for years, many consumers were quick to see the benefits of this automation. Instead of spending time writing a list of their favourite bands, which needs to be updated often as they explore new music, they have taken to automatically sending their music listening data to web2.0 sites such as last.fm or iLike. This allows users to put widgets in all their online profiles, showing their friends what they are listening to today, what their favourite music is overall, what their favourite albums are – all automatically, saving a lot of time. There are many web2.0 websites which collect and share data automatically in this way and for similar reasons. These websites cover a multitude of topics: movies, music, calorie counting, etc. You name it – there probably is one. If not, you could build it and become a millionaire if you’re quick. Social bookmarking is another hot topic in web2.0 automation. Users submit their favourite websites, blogs and permalinks to articles, photos or movie clips – basically, whatever takes their fancy. The social bookmarking website then automatically turns this information into RSS feeds which show the users what is popular with other users. These feeds can be automatically filtered into categories of interest and read by anyone, even non-users. To take the automation a step further, Popurls.com aggregates the social bookmarking websites, and is therefore very indicative of the fact that attention these days has become so sparse that it has come to automating our automatic aggregators.

Site 1:
Title : Popurls.com
Marban, T. (2008).
Popurls.com. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://popurls.com/

This is my favourite automatic website. It pulls in RSS feeds from all the top link aggregators around today such as DIGG, Del.icio.us, Reddit, Flickr, Youtube etc. It has a very slick layout which intersperses text links with picture links so that it’s visually appealing. Popurls.com saves me the hassle of checking each of those RSS feeds individually. Plus, I know that if a new link aggregator becomes worth watching it will end up on the page soon enough. Another neat feature is the “latest post” links of some of the top blogs worth watching.

Site 2:
Title : What is Web 2.0?
O’Reilly, T. (2005). “What is Web 2.0?. O’Reilly.net. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

O’Reilly gets into the nuts and bolts of web 2.0 in this article. He explains that Web2.0 is really all about automation and how that automation is used to build community and networks. This automation has improved internet accessibility, allowing the non-geeks to have a voice online, especially with the introduction of easy-to-use social networking sites like Facebook. It also facilitates the flow of information through the system.

Concept 3 – Cyberspace is informationally created ‘space’

“Parents are restricting their youth from hanging out in public spaces for fear of predators, drug dealers, and gangs. Likewise, while adults spend countless hours socializing over alcohol, minors are not only restricted from drinking but also from socializing in many venues where alcohol is served.” (Boyd, 2007b)

There are many reasons why people want to consider the internet as another form of social ‘space’. This is why so very many forms of space have evolved. The early days of the internet saw the popularisation of MUDs and MOOs, IRC chat rooms and the beginnings of public forums and mailing lists. Many of these still exist today, however there are fewer people interested in these forms of public ‘space’ and more interested in the social networking websites and instant messaging protocols. Whatever the protocol, wherever the ‘space’ may be, the concept is the same. People are looking for a ‘space’ where they an connect to like minded people. This may involve people from all walks of life with a specific interest in a particular niche area, or it may be high school students with a need for a ‘space’ to hang out with friends. It is something that people aspire to have – this connection with others. However the connection is facilitated, it is still much desired and the spaces will continue to evolve and change as the technology changes and people adapt to the change. Even simple websites and blogs are encouraging comments these days, thus fostering the beginnings of a community based around their own website. In the case of MUDs and MOOs, the ‘space’ is created by a text based interface to a database of information describing people and places as you explore the ‘space’. These days the interfaces are often graphical, or purely social. In comparison, it makes MUDs and MOOs seem more like games than ‘spaces’, yet they are online worlds unto themselves and entirely interactive.

Site 1:
Title : Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.
Boyd, D. (2007b).“Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.”. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.danah.org/papers/WhyYouthHeart.pdf

This essay explores the reasons for teenagers ‘hanging out’ on social networking sites like Myspace. Due to increased safety concerns by most parents, teenagers are searching for a ‘place’ to meet friends and just generally chat. For generations past, this was the local milk bar or the mall. For the current generation of teenagers, they do not have that luxury, so sites like myspace are increasingly used as ‘public space’.

Site 2:
Title : Second Life.
Second Life (2008). secondlife.com. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://secondlife.com/

Second life is one of the most obvious examples of virtual space available to us today. Unlike other social networking websites, Second Life makes a big effort to immerse the user in another world. The graphical nature of Second Life assist them greatly in this task. Other factors, such as having an official currency, only further enhance the feeling of real ‘space’ online.

Concept 4 – Information and attention

“So, at last, what is this new economy about? Well if the Net exemplifies it, then you might guess it has less to do with material things than with the kinds of entity that can flow through the Net. We are told over and over just what that is: information. Information, however, would be an impossible basis for an economy, for one simple reason: economies are governed by what is scarce, and information, especially on the Net, is not only abundant, but overflowing. We are drowning in the stuff, and yet more and more comes at us daily. That is why terms like “information glut” have become commonplace, after all. Furthermore, if you have any particular piece of information on the Net, you can share it easily with anyone else who might want it. It is not in any way scarce, and therefore it is not an information economy towards which we are moving. What would be the incentive in organizing our lives around spewing out more information if there is already far too much?” (Goldhaber, 1997)

People are fickle. The internet is full of information. We skim, we scan and we click on the next link. If your content hasn’t grabbed us we will be on to then next thing and away without a second thought. This is the way of the world these days. It’s as if we all have a mild attention deficit disorder. I have noted many articles on how to stay focused, how to increase your productivity and how to streamline the information you receive so that it does not overload you. I have also noted many articles written for web designers, bloggers and journalists on how to maintain a reader’s attention. There are many hundreds of articles online about how to gain a reader’s attention with catchy titles and how to maintain that attention with punchy first and second paragraphs. Team that with the quality information on layout and design for optimum reader interest and you really begin to wonder why we can’t stay focused on the page for more than 20 seconds. This attention deficit follows for other industries also. Lots of work goes into designing promotional material and box covers across all forms of merchandise. It is well documented that consumers are overloaded and the process of maintaining attention is a difficult one. The topic of information and attention ties in very well with the topics of automation and permanent ephemerality, in that we increasingly rely on automation to streamline our information, while at the same time we often quite easily discard things, for example profiles and consumer items, which used to be of important to us (Boyd, 2007a). We are spoiled for choice, and thus follow trends and peer reviewed aggregators in order to find new things to read, look at and buy. And interesting paradox which emerges is that despite the overload of information, we are increasingly bored with the media we are presented with. The knowledge that we can look away at any time leads us to continually strive for a website or tv show worth our attention, resulting in us consuming nothing.

Site 1:
Title : The Attention Economy: The Natural Economy of The Net
Goldhaber, M. (1997).
The Attention Economy: The Natural Economy of The Net. First Monday. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue2_4/goldhaber/index.html

This article is from a reputable, peer reviewed journal. This speech, written in 1997, was way ahead of its time. Goldhaber got straight in and declared that the internet was full of information and that getting attention online was going to become more and more difficult over time. Attention is a limited resource, information is not. He also delves into methods for obtaining and maintaining attention, such as asking questions. I believe this article to be just as relevant today as it ever was.

Site 2:
Title : Eye Tracking: Implications for writing web content.
McAlpine, R. (2005). “Eye Tracking: Implications for writing web content
. Quality Web Content. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.webpagecontent.com/arc_archive/123/5/

It is interesting to see just how many websites are dedicated to typography and layout methods which strive to maintain the attention of the reader. Many have used eye-tracking techniques to research how people really view websites. This particular website imparts some of the results of this research in a very easy-to-use manner. I think it is extremely valuable information for any budding web designer.

Bibliography

Boyd, D. (2007a).“Ephemeral Profiles (cuz losing passwords is common amongst teens)”. apophenia :: making connections where none previously existed. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/01/01/ephemeral_profi.html

Boyd, D. (2007b).“Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.”. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.danah.org/papers/WhyYouthHeart.pdf

Dunham-Jones E., (1997). “Temporary Contracts: On the Economy of the Post-Industrial Landscape”. Harvard Design Magazine. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.gsd.harvard.edu/research/publications/hdm//back/3dunhamjones.html

Goldhaber, M. (1997).The Attention Economy: The Natural Economy of The Net. First Monday. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue2_4/goldhaber/index.html

Hedengren, T. (2008). “Should Matt Drudge apologize for reporting the news?”. The Blog Herald. Retrieved 6 May, 2008, from http://www.blogherald.com/2008/05/05/should-matt-drudge-apologize-for-reporting-the-news/

Marban, T. (2008). popurls.com. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://popurls.com/

McAlpine, R. (2005). “Eye Tracking: Implications for writing web content. Quality Web Content. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.webpagecontent.com/arc_archive/123/5/

O’Reilly, T. (2005). “What is Web 2.0?. O’Reilly.net. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html

Second Life (2008). secondlife.com. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://secondlife.com/

Wikipedia (2008). Wikipedia.com. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Streisand_Effect

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Written by Angela Alcorn

May 9, 2008 at 1:42 pm

Posted in assignments

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