Yet somehow the algorithm had correctly identified this as the thing likeliest to make me click, then followed me across continents to ensure that I did.
It made me think of the old “Terminator” movies, except instead of a killer robot sent to find Sarah Connor, it’s a sophisticated set of programs ruthlessly pursuing our attention. And exploiting our most human frailties to do it.
Much like the demise of the innovation on the web and within the blogosphere as the result of the commodification of social media by silo corporations like Facebook, Twitter, and others around 2006, the technology space in education has become too addicted to corporate products and services. Many of these services cover some broad functionality, but they have generally either slowed down or quit innovating, quit competing with each other, are often charging exorbitant prices, and frequently doing unethical things with the data they receive from their users. The major difference between the two spaces is that Big Social Media is doing it on a much bigger scale and making a lot more money and creating greater damage as a result.
Instead, let me make some recommendations to thought leaders in the space for more humanistic and holistic remedy. Follow the general philosophies and principles of the IndieWeb movement. Dump (or at least gradually move away from) your corporately built LMS and start building one of your own. Ideally, open source what you build so that others can improve it and build upon it. In the end, you, your classes, your departments, and your institutions will be all the stronger for it. You can have more direct control over your own data (and that of your students, which deserves to be treated more ethically). You can build smaller independent pieces that are interchangeable and inter-operable. The small pieces may also allow new unpredictable functionalities when put together. You can build to make better user interfaces, better functionality, and get what you’d like to have instead of just what you’re given.
the technology space in education has become too addicted to corporate products and services.
More on indie ed-tech:
A contrast between parents and teens in how they use their phones from “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens”.
The teens I observed were not making calls. They whipped out their phones to take photos of the Homecoming Court, and many were texting frantically while trying to find one another in the crowd. Once they connected, the texting often stopped. On the few occasions when a phone did ring, the typical response was an exasperated “Mom!” or “Dad!” implying a parent calling to check in, which, given the teens’ response to such calls, was clearly an unwanted interruption. And even though many teens are frequent texters, the teens were not directing most of their attention to their devices. When they did look at their phones, they were often sharing the screen with the person sitting next to them, reading or viewing something together.
The parents in the stands were paying much more attention to their devices. They were even more universally equipped with smartphones than their children, and those devices dominated their focus. I couldn’t tell whether they were checking email or simply supplementing the football game with other content, being either bored or distracted. But many adults were staring into their devices intently, barely looking up when a touchdown was scored. And unlike the teens, they weren’t sharing their devices with others or taking photos of the event.
Although many parents I’ve met lament their children’s obsession with their phones, the teens in Nashville were treating their phones as no more than a glorified camera plus coordination device. The reason was clear: their friends were right there with them. They didn’t need anything else.
I had come to Nashville to better understand how social media and other technologies had changed teens’ lives. I was fascinated with the new communication and information technologies that had emerged since I was in high school. I had spent my own teen years online, and I was among the first generation of teens who did so. But that was a different era; few of my friends in the early 1990s were interested in computers at all. And my own interest in the internet was related to my dissatisfaction with my local community. The internet presented me with a bigger world, a world populated by people who shared my idiosyncratic interests and were ready to discuss them at any time, day or night. I grew up in an era where going online—or “jacking in”—was an escape mechanism, and I desperately wanted to escape.
The teens I met are attracted to popular social media like Facebook and Twitter or mobile technologies like apps and text messaging for entirely different reasons. Unlike me and the other early adopters who avoided our local community by hanging out in chatrooms and bulletin boards, most teenagers now go online to connect to the people in their community. Their online participation is not eccentric; it is entirely normal, even expected.
“Social media is in a pre-Newtonian moment, where we all understand that it works, but not how it works,” Mr. Systrom told me, comparing this moment in the tech world to the time before man could explain gravity. “There are certain rules that govern it and we have to make it our priority to understand the rules, or we cannot control it.”
A great short video from @johnmaeda that touches on social media, ownership, control, identity, and the why of blogging.
“The young progressives grew up in a time when platform monopolies like Facebook were so dominant that they seemed inextricably intertwined into the fabric of the internet. To criticize social media, therefore, was to criticize the internet’s general ability to do useful things like connect people, spread information, and support activism and expression.”
The older progressives, however, remember the internet before the platform monopolies. They were concerned to observe a small number of companies attempt to consolidate much of the internet into their for-profit, walled gardens.
To them, social media is not the internet. It was instead a force that was co-opting the internet – including the powerful capabilities listed above – in ways that would almost certainly lead to trouble.
The social internet describes the general ways in which the global communication network and open protocols known as “the internet” enable good things like connecting people, spreading information, and supporting expression and activism.
Social media, by contrast, describes the attempt to privatize these capabilities by large companies within the newly emerged algorithmic attention economy, a particularly virulent strain of the attention sector that leverages personal data and sophisticated algorithms to ruthlessly siphon users’ cognitive capital.