Assessment 3 · Social Media Communication · Uncategorized

The Hidden Conflict in Sharing: Connectedness vs. Connectivity

“Hey Cathy, Can I add you on Facebook?”

“Sure. My full name is…”

“Got it! You’re on top of the result since we have 12 mutual friends.”

“Awesome!”

This has become a common scenario in our everyday life. Thanks to technology, we are able to connect with people inside and beyond our circles. In fact, most of us wouldn’t even blink before sharing our personal information on the Internet in exchange for a greater level of connectedness. However, according to Jose van Dijck, connectedness is only one of the two meanings of “sharing” in the context of connective media. “It relates to users distributing personal information to each other, but also implies the spreading of that personal information to third parties (van Dijck, 2013)” In other words, “sharing” is consisted of “connectedness” and “connectivity”. In her article “Facebook and the Imperative of Sharing”, she argues that in Facebook’s history, “sharing” is an evolving norm whose meaning has been negotiated by both its owners and users; moreover, with the assistance of coding technology and interface strategies, Facebook has formed the ideology meaning of sharing that is now not only widely accepted by the whole social media society, but also partially legalized.

Facebook’s Coding Technologies

In the first part of this chapter, van Dijck explains how Facebook uses coding technologies basing on the double meanings of sharing. The first type of coding is intended for connectedness, which encourages users to share information with other users via “purposefully designed interfaces”, whereas the second type is related to connectivity, that is, sharing user data with third parties (2013). The reason for differentiating the two meanings and their coding structures is that they determine information is control – who is authorized to share the information, and to whom.

Although the two mechanisms are entirely different in theory, one is more recognizable than the other in real life scenarios. Facebook, as well as other owners of social media platforms, tries to promote or even exaggerate connectedness to distract the users from noticing the hidden connectivity. That being said, there is a conflict of interest in information control – social media owners pursuing completely openness, that is, both connectedness and connectivity, while many users demanding maximum connectedness yet minimum connectivity. There is no doubt that users are the ones feeding the owners and have the rights to ask for favorable adjustments. However, owners have the power over coding technologies, and, therefore, the advantage over users (2013).

The Lesson Learned from Beacon

Of course, it’s not all not all sunshine and roses for Facebook in the process of normalizing its ideology of sharing; one of the biggest storms would be the introduction of Beacon in 2007. Back then, users were signed up to Beacon by default without opt-out and forced to see their friends’ purchases on 44 companies. The fact that Facebook had no intention sugarcoating its commercial purposes and that “sharing” was still not a norm in the online environment have caused outrage among users, and, eventually, the shut down of Beacon (2013).

beacon.png
Beacon using personal information for commercial purposes on Facebook

Realizing the online society wasn’t ready for this level of sharing, instead of giving up the approach, Facebook decided to expand the idea of sharing in people’s mind instead. In order to do that, Facebook surprised everybody and adopted a new strategy – to further exploit the technical features of the platform to allow the exposure of more companies. To do that, Facebook developed a series of APIs and tools that allow the platforms interactions between Facebook and third parties. According to van Dijck, platforms, “The contextual meanings of ‘connectedness’ and ‘sharing’ thus shifted from interaction inside the social network site to interaction with all virtual life outside Facebook’s territory” (2013).

A Further Step: Open Graph and the Like Button

Most of us are already familiar with the like button, but what is Open Graph? “The Open Graph API allows external websites to deploy user data collected on Facebook to create personalized experiences on their own websites”, van Dijck explains (2013).

(The Best Facebook Open Graph WordPress Plugin, 2016)

facebook-open-graph-overview-1-728.jpg

 

(The Best Facebook Open Graph WordPress Plugin, 2016)

To my understanding, Open Graph is, to an extent, “Like Button 2.0”. According to Simon from the Facebook platform team, like button is for users to building their identities by expressing their preference (What is Open Graph, 2013). However, we do more than just “like” and “dislike”; we do, we listen, we play – we make actions. Therefore, Open Graph is introduced to collect the exact things that users are doing and to use these data to provide information on users’ timelines.

(For more information on Open Graph, check out the introduction by Facebook developers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Q207Z-HkUo)

The Mysterious Algorithms

With Open Graph, more data are collected and used for “magic”. Have you ever seen updates on posts that your friends have liked? Chances are, they are always from theses few friends of you. Sounds odd, right? It is actually not strange if you understand how algorithms manipulate your timeline. Van Dijck reveals that behind these features are “proprietary algorithms EdgeRank and GraphRank, which filter data produced by users and shape them into a meaningful stream of information for that specific user” (2013). In fact, using these algorithms, Facebook has a “ranking” of your friends. Those who you are closer to, as in chatting with more, tagging more or simply closer to geographically, are worth more. For example, your bestie who you always hang out with would worth more than the middle school classmate that you haven’t talked to for years. Thus, the visibility of your friends on Facebook is actually determined by the algorithm – what it thinks you want to see or don’t want to see.

On the surface, users are able to gain a more customized experience with better connections with their social circles, which aligns with the first meaning of sharing. Yet, the more we appreciate the first meaning the more we tend to neglect the hidden algorithms and protocols that are related to the second meaning. In van Dijck’s words, Facebook uses the user-centered rationale of connectivity to hide the owner-centered logic of connectivity (2013).

Evolving Strategies and Business Models

Over the years, Facebook has been deploying effective means to grow its global business. In 2011, Facebook changed its traditional interface of a database structure to a narrative structure – Timeline. By doing that, Facebook aims at imitating a real life experience for the users to develop emotional connections with the platform. It also allows companies to advertise in a narrative way, which is proved to be more eye-catching and effective. In this case, not only does Facebook push acceptance of a narrative form on the site, it also changes the way most corporates sell their stories. In addition, Zuckerberg never stops partnering with apps to boost the traffic and to monetize connectivity, in the name of a smoother user experience. The company has been sticking to the core values of online social network economic, including attention and population. There are numerous of other examples, such as granting members access to online games to receive 1/3 of the sites’ revenues, allowing brands to pay KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to promote products, etc. (2013).

Over years, it is not just the Facebook interface that has been changed; it is also the shared norms. Nowadays, how many people still remember that the initial understanding of sharing is simply a user-to-user exchange? Sharing in today’s context basically means unfolding your life to the whole world. “Facebook’s success ultimately deepens on customers’ willingness to contribute data to allow maximum data mining” (2013). In creative ways, it actually altered the online environment and people’s mindset for its own interest.

As Social Media Owners

Although the double meaning of sharing doesn’t sound nice to the audience, it is a principle for social media owners to bear in mind. Similar rationale can also be adopted in other business modes. In other words, before we achieve our purpose, be it collecting information or selling product, we should find a way for the users to feel that they are getting the maximum from us.

Currently, I am working as a digital marketer in a research company. The campaign aims at collecting data on China’s market in the form of giving out free skincare products (to claim the free product, users have to finish a questionnaire). In order to get the highest exposure possible, we approached KOLs for cooperation. To do that, we intend to reward 1000 followers of a KOL with free products in exchange of promotion of the brand on social media. During the process of convincing KOLs to accept the deal with the lowest commission possible, I stressed on how much they can get from this campaign. First of all, the campaign is going to drive up traffic on their sites and therefore expand their influence. Secondly, interacting with followers in a rewarding way increases reputation. Thirdly, since I chose KOLs with similar characteristics (beauty, health, quality) of our products (organic and healthy), I emphasized on how much the campaign would enhance their own images. When it comes to convincing users to provide their information, we focus on the purpose of offering more personalized services instead of being too explicit about the goal of collecting user data.

 

References

Knightsof Reason,. (2009). Retrieved from http://orig06.deviantart.net/d72a/f/2009/002/8/a/scary_facebook_by_recursiveloop.png

Van Dijck, J. (2013). Facebook and the Imperative of Sharing. In The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.

The Best Facebook Open Graph WordPress Plugin. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.digitechwebdesignaustin.com

What is Open Graph. (2013).

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One thought on “The Hidden Conflict in Sharing: Connectedness vs. Connectivity

  1. Mobile Games and Their Relationship to SNS’
    By Elizabeth O’Neill
    The online world has created extremely lucrative business opportunities for people. Shopfronts, advertising in magazines and on billboards are fast becoming a thing of the past with the rise of social networking sites (SNS). People can market their business from the comfort of their home and at any time of the day thanks to SNS’. Online games and SNS-based games have rapidly grown in popularity and provide not only a large stream of revenue (if successful) but also a way to tap into a large network of users and learn their preferences. However, one of the hindrances of online gaming is the potential legal ramifications of cyber-crimes and the how to decipher jurisdiction.
    Smartphones and social media has globalised the world and allowed us to communicate with people from all around the world anywhere, anytime and with ease thanks to these devices. The downside that these devices have caused is a plethora of potential legal issues that lawmakers must navigate. With such ease of communication and relations with foreign countries it becomes a seemingly grey area of where a person has committed a crime and in what way they have broken the law. The mobile gaming world, and more specifically the mobile gambling world, is an area where place and jurisdiction can be extremely difficult to work out. Albarran Torres and Goggin acknowledge that “the portability of devices and assuming reach of networks, [means that] mobile gambling could be construed to happen everywhere and nowhere at the same time,” (95). In the US, mobile gambling falls under state law rather than a blanket federal law, further complicating how to correctly govern the issue. For example, a person in California could gamble on their mobile before boarding a flight to Las Vegas, then one to Oklahoma, and then to Cleveland, where all three states have differing gambling penalties, (Owens, 354). In 2013 a number of US states that were prevalent gambles states passed laws that permitted the use of online gambling, (Albarran Torres and Goggin, 95). In order for the realm of online gambling to prosper lawmakers need to find a solution for people using online gambling applications in foreign countries and where jurisdiction lies whether it be where the gambling company and/ or their servers are located or with the bettor. This involves working out whether the bettor’s country allows individuals to gamble and how to best tax revenue generated from online gambling.

    http://www.tymoshchuk.com/mobile/
    The idea of social media games was something that really resonated with me over the course of the semester. It is a great way to get potential customers to engage with a product or brand whilst at the same time accumulating data. The ability to access data and learn from the user is central to being able to tailor a product that suits their needs. It allows the business to be in a unique position of almost conducting market research whilst at the same time promoting a product. If I’d had the opportunity to conduct my social media campaign over a longer period of time, I would have developed a game that allowed users to learn more about healthy eating and nutrition in a fun way. A game like this would have allowed me to learn about the eating habits of my target audience and what sort of foods they like to eat. As a result, I would have been able to alter my menus to make sure they included foods that customers like. In addition, I would be able to tap into their friends network through social media and access a larger set of people to promote my product to. As Hinton and Hjorth point out “SNS-based games… have played an important role in building the subscription bases of social media as players seek friends to play with,” (102). In this way, SNS-based games are not a solitary activity, rather they are a way for individuals to socialise in a virtual setting that is not bound by all players being in the exact location. It is a way for players to develop or enhance relationships through a common interest.
    SNS-based games have thrived in recent years. Hinton and Hjorth note that “although the technology to make casual games has been around for more than ten years, there was no consistent way for game developers to get their games to large groups of users and to receive suitable financial compensation,” (106). The development of SNS’ has changed that and has seen Facebook develop lucrative relationships with the gaming company Zynga which accounted for “12% of Facebook’s revenue in 2011,” (Albarran Torres and Goggin, 102). However, I know that if I were to develop a game for my social media project I would have found it overwhelming to understand jurisdiction laws in terms of crime and taxation. This is a significant hindrance of potential gaming entrepreneurs in being able to develop an SNS-based game.

    http://www.seputaraceh.com/read/14315/2012/12/04/zynga-menarik-diri-dari-facebook
    In terms of my social media campaign, I would also be able to see patterns of when customers accessed the game and social media. This would give me a good idea of whether there were times when users consistently used their smartphones and would allow me to advertise and upload posts to social media at specific times when users are most likely to see the posts, thus furthering promoting the business.
    Huizinga, Salen and Zimmerman coined the term ‘magic circle’ to describe games that are separate from the reality of a player’s life, (Hinton and Hjorth, 103). Therefore, “inside the game world you are completely free to play, to try things out and to fail without fear of there being any real-world repercussions,” (103). In this sense, players are exposing themselves to a more vulnerable side of themselves and doing things that they may well fear in the real world. Players have the ability to take risks that they wouldn’t normally be able to do and see how their luck pays out. I think that this concept is not limited solely to the idea of online gaming, but to social media in general. Users can expose themselves and take risks with photos or statements that they upload knowing that they can delete the post if they are unhappy with it or wait until the post slowly descends to the bottom of their subscribers’/ friends’ newsfeed where it will likely be no longer viewed.
    Smartphones are fast becoming a necessity as opposed to a luxury item in the develop world. We carry them everywhere we go and use them regularly throughout the day. I know myself I would be lost without my phone as it has replaced things like a watch and a diary. I access most of my personal information and SNS’ through it. I believe in the future games will be targeted and advertised to suit my preferences. Many online games can already access the user’s friends lists on SNS’ and, coupled with the information the user and their friends post on social media, the gaming company and SNS can use their analytics to discover a myriad of information about the user. I believe we will see a lot more products advertised through SNS’ and at specific times that the user mainly engages with the technology. I think a much wider group of people will start using games as a result of a pressure felt by their friends joining the game. The competitive nature of people will come out and they will further engage with the game so that they don’t lose face by a friend out beating them. I know myself that I have felt the pressure to sign up to things because all of my friends have and I don’t want to be left out. Moreover, I have realised that I’m actually a gamer. I used to think that because I didn’t use a gaming console like a Nintendo or play World of Warcraft on my laptop I couldn’t be a gamer, and that the typical gamer was a nerdy teenage boy. SNS’ are changing the demographic and my preferences to play Candy Crush Saga and Words With Friends makes me just as much of a gamer if not more. I may play these games intermittently as opposed to spending hours on end in one sitting, but I may be spending just as much time playing these games in smaller sessions. Alarmingly, by giving these companies access to my SNS’ they are learning a lot more about me than what I would probably give to any other type of company.

    Works Cited
    Albarran Torres, C., & Goggin, G. (2014). Mobile Social Gambling: Poker’s Next Frontier. Mobile Media & Communication, 2(1), 94-109.
    Hinton, S., & Hjorth, L. (2013). Social Media Games. Understanding Social Media, (pp. 100 – 119). London: SAGE Publications Ltd.
    Owens, M. (2012). The Elephant in the Room is Now in Your Pocket: Mobile online gambling and the jurisdiction question. Gaming Law Review and Economics, 16(6), 353-357.
    Redaksi. (2012). Zynga Menarik Diri dari Facebook. Seputaraceh. http://www.seputaraceh.com/read/14315/2012/12/04/zynga-menarik-diri-dari-facebook
    Tymoshchuk, http://www.tymoshchuk.com/mobile/

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