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The articles we read for today focused on the lack of an overarching consensus structure to today’s digital realms, and the network structure’s effects on society. “Data Occupations”  compared the Quantified Self movement to Occupy Wall Street, where each individual gathering their own data / making their own stance in a common space can be seen as a larger group effect, but is organized from the bottom up not the top down. There are no decisions made about who can say what, in what way or when, no hierarchical structures planned out for content to be created within.

Ulises Ali Mejias in “Computers as Socializing Tools” echoed this thought in his comments about the system of “tagging” in modern social media. Each person creates their own content and tags it in a manner by which it can be found, but there is no hierarchical structure of agreed-upon tags and tagging conventions a from which a user chooses. He writes, “… the digital network does not facilitate all kinds of social behaviors equally, it merely conserves or solidifies those behaviors that can be observed, measured, and quantified.” In this way, the users behaviors are adapted to the format of the content sharing, conforming our actions to be computer-readable.

We are encouraged into this format because “The economics of the network are such that a node’s existence depends on its ability to obtain attention from others, to allow its movements to be monitored and its history to be known.” We desire the economic currency of likes, shares, and followers to validate our own existence as a hub node in the network. We try to maximize our economic values by gaming the system, by posting content at peak times or tailoring our content to target certain audiences that will guarantee that our online actions will garner attention. He writes that we need no censorship online because we censor our own content in order to highlight what we want to be seen, to maximize the presence of our digital personas.

Mejias also makes the connection of algorithms as allegories for social acts – to friend, to like, to follow. Is our digital society shaping the way our actual society functions? Have the definitions of friend, like, and follow changed because of their digital values? Is this necessarily a bad thing?

  • Julia, Niall and Charles
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