DIG 210 Group 3 Responders: Can you buy a vote?

Can social media ads be used for a greater purpose? If you believe that any system can be more than the sum of its parts then the answer should be obvious. Yes. During Tuesday’s class we discussed social media ads and their effectiveness across different demographics and political partisanships. We as a class agreed that banner advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, etc. are especially effective for promoting E-Commerce websites that rely on driving traffic to product pages. After all, we live in an age where full shopping sprees can take place purely from one’s bedroom and companies need to distinguish themselves any way they can to make sure that you, the consumer, choose them over their competition. But does this idea translate to deeper views, such as political partisanship and ideologies? Ultimately, we believe that social media ads can open the door these ideas, but you cannot buy a vote the same way that you buy a new pair of shoes. When politicians are spending billions of dollars on presidential campaigns every term, they need to focus their efforts on moderate voters versus hard-line partisans. So, in 2012, candidates targeted specific constituents around election day, but proved to be unsuccessful. “Voters randomly assigned to view a candidate’s online ads a number of times did not have significantly differing opinions of him and indeed did not recall seeing his ads at all.” Researchers concluded based off the study below that the most important part of their ads were the various landing pages for each candidate and if the post was “promoted” or shown above the page fold. Nonetheless, these researchers did not see a significant correlation between social media ads and political participation.



Readers Group 6 DIG210

Manovich’s article, “Debates in the Digital Humanities” raises interesting and insightful points about the realities of the application of big data. Now that we have access to such an expansive resource with seemingly no limits on its size, it seems like our opportunities are endless. In the world of social and cultural studies and research we no longer have to chose between “surface data” about lots of people and “deep data” about small groups or individuals – we can have both. In theory, such opportunities are massive and in some ways limitless. However, in practice, there are many limits that exist and must be considered.

We found the most interesting limit discussed in this paper to be that people’s presence on social networks and their digital footprint are likely not authentic. We can relate personally to this, because we actively participate and see friends participating in curating social media accounts to project a filtered and idealized life. In a way, many social media accounts are like a highlight reel of one’s life, not an accurate depiction of their truthful life. We only post things on Instagram if it’s of us having a good time doing fun things with friends or family, not when we’re sad, struggling, or doing something “boring” like studying.

Marwick’s article talks about how even though we are all up in arms about the government taking down our data, we freely give it up to advertising agencies and websites that we make purchases from.  Even companies like Apple (though they have very heavy security and haven’t had any breaches to date) still have most if not all of our data. If we could see all our data and all the companies that have our digital profiles would it bother us? Also, what causes us to give up our data so freely?

DIG 210 Group 2 Readers

Following mass shooting incidents, the terms “false flag” and “crisis actor,” occur alarmingly frequently on the internet. These terms are web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be. They are a part of alternative media ecosystems on the internet that seeks to provide another perspective for their readers regardless of the validity of their reporting. The scary thing about these alternative media ecosystems is that on the internet they can appear as legitimate new sites.

In the article “The information war is real, and we’re losing it”,  UW professor  Kate Starbird found that  “The true common denominator,”… “is anti-globalism — deep suspicion of free trade, multinational business, and global institutions. To be antiglobalist often included being anti-mainstream media, anti-immigration, anti-science, anti-U.S. government, and anti-European Union”.

In light of the extremely recent tragedy of Las Vegas Shooting, Kate Starbird’s findings are all to present on the internet. StateoftheNation2012.com, for example, asserts that the recent shootings were caused by the authorities to try to influence a wide range of policy in the government on both sides of the aisle. Other sources using the “false flag” tag assert that

“The very fact that so many were apparently killed and wounded makes this a classic black operation conducted by the C.I.A in close cooperation with the F.B.I and local law enforcement” (StateoftheNation2012.com).

Never before in human history have fringe groups and conspiracy theorists been able to attract such tremendous audiences. Though to many, claims such as those tagged with “false flag” above seem absurd and unworthy of attention, but they are becoming more and more significant concerns. As our reading’s title states, “the information war is real, and we’re losing it”.

DIG 210 Group 3 Observers Week 6

When the survey was first sent out there were 8 responses within 17 minutes, of those 8, 5 came in less than 3 minutes. When the second reminder was sent out, there were four responses within 2.5 hours of that. The third reminder got one additional response within fifty minutes. Thus, of the 16 total responses, only 3 did not come during one of the aforementioned periods, and all of those came in the hour preceding class on the morning after the survey was first sent out. This response time provides a lot of information. This indicates the typical mindset of the average student: to eliminate small obligations from their itinerary, and to move on to work on more important things. Also, it indicates a “strike while the iron is hot” mentality, where individuals will act on the most recent addition to their to-do list. Rather than telling the story ourselves, we allowed the data to tell its own story.

**Our data is presented in a tableau format. Click on one bar in one graph, and all of the other graphs will update.


DIG 210 G2 Response

The premise that the popular mobile game Neko Astume reveals our innate desire to survey others is a unique one. When Jacob played the game a few years ago, he took it as a quirky, fun way to pass some time and build towards a goal. He never had quite considered the subconscious ways that the game brought out our voyeuristic tendencies through using the cute kittens as a subject to our surveillance. At the same time, he does not find it far-fetched, knowing what we know now about how big data companies are able to manipulate consumers. However, the interesting part about Neko Astume is the fact that it was not at all made by a large company, instead a small, foreign game design studio. I love the way that the article points out the “data currency” that exists within the game, as Owen further elaborated on in class. According to Owen, the player is able to fulfill these hidden desires to collect information and store it without having to do the nuances that come with this field. While perhaps not this elaborate, it is very feasible that this currency of learning about and storing information on these range of cats is a major draw for players. What the article, nor us in class today, did not elaborate upon is the infrequency of finding a rare cat. This creates a sense of accomplishment when one comes to visit, and even more so when you catch one in the act of playing with a ball. This element of challenge to it is also noteworthy in regards to data surveillance, as it just heightens the sense of desire to extract the information from one of these who keep it more closely.

DIG210 Group 6 Response

​Surveillance is something that is very prevalent in today’s society from Snowden’s WikiLeaks to simple government surveillance. Group 5 touched on some interesting bases in terms of surveillance, but this was not simply surveillance of your every move but more so just your data. In Matt Cornell’s article, he mentions that you gain monetarily in the game from taking pictures of cats but they don’t really know that they are being watched. This is very similar to the panopticon that we have talked about in past classes.
Something we also talked about in class is how surveillance is being “covered up” so to speak by what seems like harmless gestures that seem to make an app or an operating system more user-friendly. For example, Snapchats new mapping feature maps out where your friends are on the globe and when you zoom out you can see where they are all located via the GPS in their phone. What most people don’t realize is that we voluntarily gave up our right to be surveilled by Snapchat and anyone else who has access to the mapping feature within the app. This is also similar to the “What the Internet Can See From Your Cat Pictures” where the site collects the metadata from the photos of the cats and maps them on the web via Google maps.
“Do Not Track” episode six raised a valid question: “are we optimizing for clicks and traffic or for an informed public?” A consequence of the constant surveillance we experience from the internet is that we are often shown news and advertisements based on what we would like to see based on the information gathered from surveillance instead of being exposed to alternate content that may tell a different side of the same story, expanding our horizons, perception, and understanding of the world.
Group 1 brought up an interesting point in how your fear and outrage are being sold for profit: “the terror was far more contagious than the virus itself”. We were left with some questions after reading these posts such as: why do we willingly give up our data? As well as: how important is our personal data to us really?


In Matt Cornell’s, “Purr ideology: the neoliberal pleasures of Neko Atsume” (2015), he analyzes the game Neko Astume and connects the monetization and surveillance of data from the internet to the monetization of surveying the cats in Neko Astune. A game where you receive value in the game from taking pictures of cats. This analysis is interesting because cats don’t notice you watching them (or maybe they don’t care), so it’s interesting to think if humans also didn’t care if their data was being tracked or monetized, would we never contest our rights to privacy? If no one cared about being surveyed would our government track our every move?

Cornell’s mention of Derrida being seen naked by his cat relating to when the cats in the game notice the player is very intriguing. Just as Derrida suddenly feels awkward being noticed by his cat while naked, the game stops and the screen goes black when the cats take notice of the player. Reading this, I thought of when Edward Snowden accused the US Government of surveying US citizens after they stated that they weren’t. The government perhaps feeling similar to Derrida naked and awkward as he was finally realized by his cat’s gaze.


In Tobias Rose-Stockewell’s article, “This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit”, he discusses how one small outbreak or scare can catalyse and translate into mass, online hysteria. The example of a doctor testing positive for Ebola in New York City emphasises the misinformation that can be created within minutes of its publishing in the press or on social media. It reminds me of the game of “Chinese Whispers”, where a phrase can be misheard of misinterpreted very easily after being passed through multiple sources. What many consumers of online news do not realise is how easily our readership plays into the pockets of online advertisers who push content related to what we are reading, like Ebola-related material in Rose Stockewell’s example.

Later, Rose Stockewell claims that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is one of the most important pieces of code ever written. This assertion is particularly pertinent today, as we examine the role of ‘fake news’, persuasive posts, divisive claims and Russian-bought advertisements appearing on Facebook in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. election. Just a few days ago, Facebook turned over more than 3,000 politically-themed Russian ads to Congress and acknowledged the need for further oversight of politically-linked content on the social media site.


Alexis C. Madrigal and Derek Willis emphasize in their publication “What the Internet Can See From Your Cat Pictures” in the New York Times the fading data privacy in our day and age, which is substantiated by Professor Mundy’s “I Know Where Your Cat Lives” project. By accessing the longitude and latitude of cat pictures, which were subsequently uploaded to Flickr, Twitpic and Instagram, any cat owner in the world could basically be tracked down. As a result, the project exemplifies the universal applicability of metadata and its ability to surpass any privacy boundaries, which can ultimately only be brought back under control by a paradigm shift in the online sharing culture.