If we live in media, then our knowledge of our social lives must, at least partly, come from those media. It is in this context that I analyze www.facebook.com/peace, a page that claims to show “how many new friendships formed just yesterday” between Facebook users from the opposing sides of three different protracted conflicts. However, the numbers seem unfeasible, leading to a series of attempts to try and evaluate them independently, as well as to ask Facebook if they could explain them. This paper presents these failed efforts to verify the numbers published by Facebook, and the subsequent conclusion that they are, technically speaking, bullshit, and more specifically, social media bullshit. It is in reaching this conclusion that the article contributes to theoretical discussions around data, social media, and knowledge.
This article examines smartphone usage among deaf and hard of hearing people, and shows how it is deeply shaped by the core function of the voice call. Indeed, while the smartphone appears accessible, it actually reproduces communicative norms of the hearing hegemony. In-depth interviews highlight the social norms of voice calls both as a communicative practice and as forcing communicative values on textual smartphone interactions. People who cannot perform voice calls must obey these norms of immediacy and priority while interacting accessibly via WhatsApp and video calls. Moreover, users’ auditory diversity is reflected in their responses and practices vis-à-vis voice calls, highlighting this as a representation of the hegemonic hearing society. Critical examination of these phenomena shows how deaf and hard of hearing smartphone users’ communicative practices result from intersections of their audiological capacities and other stigmatized positions, which has profound implications for our understanding of media accessibility.
Adopting an agnotological perspective, this article extends the critical literature on APIs (application programming interfaces) by systematically showing that social media APIs are largely blind to acts of disconnectivity such as unfriending and unliking. We do this through analysis of the traces of social media usage that are not accessible through APIs as gleaned from the technical documentation published for developers by 12 major SNSs. Our findings make two main contributions. First, we show for the first time that APIs offer virtually no access to data about disconnectivity. Second, we show that APIs offer a very limited historical perspective, particularly regarding disconnectivity. However, for types of users that might spend money on advertising, far more historical and disconnectivity-oriented information is accessible through the API. This has practical consequences for research, and contributes to an agnotology of social media that sheds critical light on the advertiser-friendly atmosphere of connectivity that social media try to create.
This article explores the meaning of political unfriending and proposes the concept of the personal public sphere. Interviews with Jewish Israeli Facebook users who unfriended during the Israel–Gaza conflict of 2014 show unfriending to be a form of boundary management for the self in conditions of networked sociality. They shed light on deeply rooted perceptions of the “networkedness” of society as a fundamental organizing principle for the self and collective. Thus, we conceptualize unfriending as exercising sovereignty over one’s personal public sphere while also acknowledging that everyone else has their own personal public sphere too. The concept of the personal public sphere accounts for a crucial feature of politically motivated unfriending: the dissonance between the justifications for unfriending and the act itself.
This study focuses on the perceptions and practices of anonymous communication with friends enabled by tie-based anonymous apps. Based on qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with users of the application Secret, the strategies deployed by interviewees in order to de-anonymize other users are emphasized and placed within the broader context of the real-name web. The article shows that Secret was not only based on pre-existing social networks but also drew on the network as a structure of thought. The concept of networked anonymity is introduced to account for the ways that anonymous actors imagine one another as “someone,” rather than as an unknown “anyone.” As such, the survivability of this communicative model is inherently limited by competing forces—the drive to connectivity, on the one hand, and to anonymity, on the other.
It is a curious fact how much talk about privacy is about the end of privacy. We term this “privacy endism,” locating the phenomenon within a broader category of endist thought. We then analyze 101 newspaper articles between 1990 and 2012 that declare the end of privacy. Three findings follow. First, claims about the end of privacy point to an unusually broad range of technological and institutional causes. Privacy has been pronounced defunct for decades, but there has never been a near consensus about its causes. Second, unlike other endist talk (the end of art or history, etc.), privacy endism appears ongoing and not period-specific. Finally, our explanation of the persistence and idiosyncrasy of claims to the end of privacy focuses on Warren and Brandeis’ 1890 negative conception of privacy as “the right to be let alone”: namely, modern privacy talk has always been endist because the right to privacy was born out of the conditions for its violation, not its realization. The conclusion comments on implications of that basic proposition.
John, N. A. (2016). Sharing. In B. Peters (Ed.), Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture (pp. 269-277) . Princeton, Princeton University Press. Publisher's Version
This paper explores Facebook unfriending during the Israel-Gaza conflict of 2014. We suggest that politically-motivated unfriending is a new kind of political gesture. We present an analysis of a survey of 1,013 Jewish Israeli Facebook users. 16% of users unfriended or unfollowed a Facebook friend during the fighting. Unfriending was more prevalent among more ideologically extreme and more politically active Facebook users. Weak ties were those most likely to be broken, and respondents mostly unfriended people because they took offense at what they had posted or disagreed with it. While social network sites may expose people to diverse opinions, precisely by virtue of the many weak ties users have on them, ourfindings show these ties to be susceptible to dissolution.
Attempts by the state and the entertainment industry to impose the term “piracy” on practices of digital file sharing have been challenged by academics and activists alike. The notion of “file sharing,” however, seems to have escaped our attention. By placing that term in the context of the history of computing, where sharing of different kinds has always been a central feature, and by drawing on a nuanced understanding of the many meanings of “sharing,” this article shows that “file sharing,” unlike “piracy,” is a bottom-up term that has emerged from the field itself. The article shows that those who oppose the term “file sharing” certainly have good strategic reason to do so: sharing is by definition a positive social value and bestows a warm glow upon that which it touches. It is argued, though, that we should not allow the “war on piracy” metaphor to gain the ascendancy—not only because “piracy” is a such a negative term, and not only for strategic reasons, but also, and mainly, because when we call file sharing “file sharing” we are issuing a critical challenge to the current copyright regime.
This paper examines the technologies that enable the representation of Hebrew on websites. Hebrew is written from right to left and in non-Latin characters, issues shared by a number of languages which seem to be converging on a shared solution—Unicode. Regarding the case of Hebrew, I show how competing solutions have given way to one dominant technology. I link processes in the Israeli context with broader questions about the ‘multilingual Internet,’ asking whether the commonly accepted solution for representing non-Latin texts on computer screens is an instance of cultural imperialism and convergence around a western artifact. It is argued that while minority languages are given an online voice by Unicode, the context is still one of western power.
This article explores the concept of sharing in three distinct spheres: Web 2.0, whose constitutive activity is sharing (links, photos, status updates, and so on); “sharing economies” of production and consumption; and intimate interpersonal relationships, in which the therapeutic ethos includes a cultural requirement that we share our emotions. It is argued that a range of distributive and communicative practices—not all of which are entirely new—are converging under the metaphor of sharing. Thus, practices in one sphere are conceptualized in terms of practices from other spheres. What all three spheres of sharing have in common are values such as equality, mutuality, honesty, openness, empathy, and an ethic of care. Moreover, they all challenge prevalent perceptions of the proper boundary between the public and the private.
Sharing is the constitutive activity of Web 2.0. But when did ‘sharing’ become the term used to describe the activities that constitute participation in Web 2.0? What does sharing mean in this context? What is its rhetorical force? This paper argues that a new meaning of sharing has emerged in the context of Web 2.0 with three main features: fuzzy objects of sharing; the use of the word ‘share’ with no object at all; and presenting in terms of sharing functions of social network sites that used not to be so described. Following a critique of the use of the notion of sharing by social network sites, the article concludes by suggesting affinities between sharing in Web 2.0 and in other social spheres.
This article investigates the values associated with the early Internet in Israel. Given that the Internet was imported from the United States, it asks whether the techno-utopian discursive style surrounding the Internet in that country was imported to Israel too. Representations of the Internet are analyzed among three groups of actors: the press saw it in utopian terms, Israel’s “Internet pioneers” described its importance in a combination of religious and nationalist terms, and the owners of Israel’s first ISPs attributed no values to it at all. It would appear that the closer we get to the actual provision of the Internet to people’s homes, the less likely we are to find techno-utopian representations of it.
This article portrays the first decade of Internet connectivity in Israel. It focuses on the technology of the Internet, i.e. on the cables and wires that carry the Internet around the world, and on the bureaucratic processes that are called into play as the Internet reaches a new country. While the Internet appears to be a supranational technology, its institutionalization in Israel – and indeed throughout the world – can be seen to have been heavily dependent on state-level machinations, thereby inviting a somewhat more Westphalian approach than might be considered appropriate when dealing with such a global phenomenon as the Internet.