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Category Archives: Social Media

Do photographs really enhance our memories?

Have you ever questioned whether taking a photograph is the only way to preserve a memory? I used to be the person who always carried a camera. Sometimes two, plus a tripod.

But over the past few years I’ve begun to wonder if preserving important moments in life on a camera –and processing these salient moments through a camera lens –is actually useful. The question resurfaced in the past few days, twice.

First Google keeps sending me albums it randomly puts together, without me as much as even asking for this feature. (Yes, Facebook users, I see a lot of that too, ad nauseam.). I find that irritating. Who does it think it is to decide what I want to remember?

Second, a student commenting on a discussion in class, mentioned that one thing that irritated was having a parent point a camera at everything. The student complained that it was terrible how adults appear to want to save every moment, but miss looking at Real Life, as is.

The discussion turned to smart phones, and how everyone today pretends to be (or yearns to be) a photojournalist, documenting history as it were. The pictures are often badly taken, have no photographic or artistic value. And yet the screens are held up. The shutters click. Those with absolutely no photographic skills, can of course use built in filters, either on the device or on platforms such as Instagram.

So my question to them was this: If you were to witness an unfortunate event, or a run into a celeb you least expected, would you process it through your God-given optical lenses, and store it in your internal memory? Or would you rather take it in through a camera lens, and store it in the Cloud – just in case?

And my question to you: Is there a  significant event seared in your memory that has absolutely no photograph to document it? If so, what was it? More important, if you had a chance to go back in time, would you  (or have someone) photograph it?

 

Analog Yearbook data embarrasses. Imagine life after Facebook for public officials in 2048

I’m sure everyone in public office must be paranoid what someone might pull from their Yearbook entries thirty years ago. Now imagine what students of today might have to face in, say, 2048!

Anyone challenging a public official thirty years from now would have access to troves of data, not just on Facebook, but through deep searches using anything from selfies on Instagram, to SnapChat and Twitter that could reveal ‘background’ information. This could involve the precise location where someone was, and corroborated information gleaned from friend’s tagged photos and posts on other platforms. Would it be possible for a court to subpoena  backed-up photos on a Cloud service –just to establish a timeline?

When we teach digital literacy, we tell students to consider the digital trails they leave behind. Brett Kanaugh’s Yearbook entries being parsed by the media, investigators, and late night TV hosts are a lesson for anyone.

 

 

Egg-on-Facebook. Is this a confession or face-saving ploy?

Confession, or mea culpa?

Mark Zuckerberg’s published statement to Congress, tries to make it a bit of both. But that doesn’t easily get Facebook off the hook.

I find it incredulous that many of the data leaks (not hacks) were something Facebook ‘learned’ about from journalists at The Guardian, and Channel 4 etc. Or so Zuckerberg claims. How is it that a company that specializes in data harvesting and monitoring of millions of people and entities, didn’t have an algorithm or human sniffers to alert it to what was being done through its servers?

I find it odd that a company that was founded by a guy who literally ‘scraped’ data off Harvard’s computers (and thus stumbled on the business model) didn’t look out for the same thing happening to his domain.

 

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Has Facebook ‘made things worse’ in Sri Lanka?

Singapore asked Facebook some tough questions. I hope Sri Lanka did.

On January 10th, Singapore’s ‘Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods’ took a deep look at how news spreads. It addressed such things as ‘digital manipulation’ and ‘hyper biased news’ in a well footnoted ‘green paper.’ Testifying at the hearing were the big 3, Facebook, Twitter and Google.

Facebook has been infected by social bots and seems to be unwilling or inept at fixing things, as we have seen in Sri Lanka’s case involving a complaint by lawyer, Jeevanee Kariyawasam. (Reported in the LA Times last week. The article quotes Sanjana Hattotuwa and Mario Gomez.)

Really worth a Read: Hate Speech on Facebok

(A report by the Center for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka)

It’s time to be proactive about social media platforms as they become de facto news feeds. Not by shutting down, but by timely, smart inverventions, as the CPA study recommends. The video below of Singapore’s stance, is worth watching!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Social Media, Technology

 

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No, WhatsApp is no substitute for Facebook

It may seem tempting to think WhatsApp could be a great Facebook substitute. But that’s amlost like giving up donuts for breakfast, and having a bar of chocolate instead.

For starters, Facebook owns WhatsApp – a little known fact. It bought it for $19 billion in 2014. That was when many were becoming aware of that thing called ‘Chat apps.’ This means much of user data, inclusing phone records, pictures, text chats etc are being scooped up into a giant data blender.

Also, Whatspp is not a mini broadcast station. No ‘PDA’ feature – for public displays of affection.

And just in case you’re wondering if Instagram might be an substitute, bad news. Facebook owns that too. Like not putting cream and refined sugar in your tea, and using consensed milk instead.

 

 
 

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Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever designed.by the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…

 

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Banning hate speech in Sri Lanka poses social media conundrum

The apps stopped working in Sri lanka sometime on March 7th. The blanket decision to curb the hate speech that ensued after the clashes in Kandy was both a blessing and a curse. It’s not the best strategy, but it’s often the only one left when a government is caught unprepared.

Censorship – what else could we call it?- is a curse. “Social media is a noisy and contested space,” observed Nalaka Gunawardene. After all, “many have been using the platform to counter myths, misconceptions and prejudices.” Hate speech lives here alongside the more commendable forms of social interatcion. We have seen this movie before, though. Social media companies are often unable to, or incapable of filtering out the noise. Or the conspiracy theories, or the fake news. So pulling the plug is a hard choice. But it should go with long-term preventive measures that prevent offline hate speech. Which, as has been well documented, the government has not addressed for years. Again it’s worth quoting Nalaka who observes:

We did not reach this point overnight. For many years, ultranationalists have been poisoning the public mind with racial and religious hatred. Some local language newspapers – in both Sinhala and Tamil – regularly use racially-charged language and accommodate extremist viewpoints. Privately owned TV channels, engaged in a fierce competition for ratings, have also sometimes played with fires of communalism. 

His article, a long read, is titled “Smart phones and stupid governments.”

In 1983, the outbusts of hatred and bigotry travelled over long distances with no help from phones, let alone smart phones. There was no platform to block or blame. The culprit? Politicians! People at the top of the totem pole with no crisis plan, no leadership.

 
 

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