Posts Tagged ‘Tim Burners-Lee (SOLID)’

Originally written as a Facebook posting to my Facebook friends….
“Facebook has declared sovereignty”

writes Molly Roberts in the Washington Post today (31/1/2019)


“This is not a missive from a dystopian future, but rather a fair reading of the company’s recent announcement that it will move forward with creating a supreme court. Facebook will select “judges” from experts around the world with the authority to overturn decisions about what content or accounts are approved or removed from the platform. The court also may help Facebook shape the policies under which those content-moderating decisions are made.” [1]

Indeed all the signs of a new independent state that will soon fly it’s flag in the forest of flagpoles beneath the high rise headquarters building of the United Nations are there. As always utopian and dystopian visions are oscillating in the wind of times to come, like state flags and coins do have two sides. We, the ones that perceive ourselves as citizens of the world try to carve within this global message network our own shared space, beyond all borders, instantly without bodily traveling. It is also us users of this network that not only feel, but know we are spied on all the time, mostly for reasons of direct profit of the upper class of the Facebook nation, sometimes as well by secret services of the traditional national states and the supra surveillance bodies they have created.

Molly Roberts observes further on in her article Facebook’s inability – having the structure of a corporation however large it may be – to mimic the constellation of states with their separation of power between the political and law system…

“Facebook’s decisions can fundamentally alter the speech ecosystem in a nation. The company does not only end up governing individuals; it ends up governing governments, too. The norms Facebook or its court choose for their pseudo-constitution will apply everywhere, and though the company will strive for sensitivity to local context and concerns, those norms will affect how the whole world talks to one another.”

I invite my readers to read the whole article and give the questions raised in it a thought, a thought beyond the too obvious superficial conspiracy phobia. [direct link at the bottom of this posting].

Can one say that in the sense of media theoretician Marshall McLuhan, “the medium has become the message”, that the phenomenon of ‘social media’ is just a means in itself for message traffic – whatever it’s content – in the end only serving Big Brother control mechanisms and the insatiable hunger of global profit making molochs like Facebook?
I refuse to see it that way, there is a positive sense as well in such global networks, the oportunity to keep abreast of what friends nearby and far away are up to, to make new friends, to admire, to like, to dislike, to quarrel, to lose friends, all that being social acts, not in real but in electronic space.
I am wary of all those negative campaigns against ‘social-media’, with their implicitly condemnation of the social act of ‘two way’ communication – open to all – leaving us with the ‘one way’ model of mass media. Studies and articles are frequent now on the ‘addictive effects of social media like this article of today in The Guardian (1/2/2019):

“Delete your account: leaving Facebook can make you happier, study finds New study from Stanford and NYU finds logging off causes ‘small but significant improvements in wellbeing’.” [2]

The headline of the article rubs in the negative, while when one reads the whole text of this study about the behaviour of only two thousand or so USA participants (while Facebook users are all over the world and number in hundreds of millions) but when one reads on the positive social aspects are mentioned as well. It is interesting that the latest communication means tend to be under attack , often in a moralistic way (explicit or implicit) while one would laugh when the same sensational slogans would be applied to previous forms of communication. ‘Pull out your television cable’, ‘cut your telephone wire’, ‘burn you letterbox’…

I do have my own utopian ideas of how electronic social media communication can be enhanced; to make it better; how the sneaky peeking elements can be limited; how the financing of the network can be a ‘shared by all according to ability’; how advertisements can be limited to a bearable level; how to establish real user control…
Is it not so that this new medium is very young, that its techniques are so versatile that they can serve other means and goals? These two way communication new media have the potential to change the McLuhan paradigm of mass media:
The medium is what we are able to formulate and make of it!

Technology is always an expression of existing social-relations. Technology appears to many as a major agent of change change in society. In my view the role of technological innovation is less fundamental. New technology tends to amplify the existing social relations, the power structures in a society… one can recognise that observation through the whole of time. So the sovereign nation of Facebook, LET’S FACE IT, is only momentary, new post-national-electronic communities will arise, both on a micro and a macro level and combinations thereof… It is to us to come up with ideas [3], to resist the misuse, and meanwhile also to enjoy being able to do what I just do here at the moment, sitting at my desk, writing and knowing when I press the button it may be read by others, it may have some impact, be it not more than an electronic space butterfly effect.

Facebook is not here to stay forever, like states are not, such supra structures seem to be solid, but over time their structures ossify, get brittle and crumble… fall apart… forming the breeding ground for new forms of social association.

[2] The Guardian article (1/2/2019):
The study, titled The Welfare Effects of Social Media, from researchers at Stanford and NYU, is being praised as one of the most rigorous to look at what happens to people when they log off. Logging off seems to be as positive as you probably expect it would be, leading to increased subjective wellbeing, less political drama and attention span agitation, and increased time spent with friends and family. On the other hand, it also led to a decrease in awareness of the news. Although, to be honest, that sounds pretty nice too. To track social media’s effects, the researchers recruited 2,844 Facebook users, then randomly assigned half of them the task of temporarily deactivating their accounts for a month. To ensure compliance, subjects were paid for their efforts, and their accounts were monitored to make sure they weren’t scrolling their timeline on the sly. The authors checked in with them regularly via text to see how they were feeling during the cleanse. “Deactivation caused small but significant improvements in wellbeing, and in particular on self-reported happiness, life satisfaction, depression, and anxiety,” they concluded.
The study acknowledges there are, clearly, benefits to Facebook and social media at large. Facebook is still, for all its faults, an important means for people to stay connected to friends and family and as a source of information, community, and entertainment, particularly for those who are otherwise socially isolated. But, they conclude: “Our results also make clear that the downsides are real. “We find that four weeks without Facebook improves subjective wellbeing and substantially reduces post-experiment demand, suggesting that forces such as addiction and projection bias may cause people to use Facebook more than they otherwise would.”

[3] Like this initiative of Tim Berners-Lee:

“Welcome to Solid Solid was created by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Its mission is to reshape the web as we know it. Solid will foster a new breed of applications with capabilities above and beyond anything that exists today. Get a Solid POD How it Works THIS IS FOR EVERYONE Solid empowers users and organizations to separate their data from the applications that use it. It allows people to look at the same data with different apps at the same time. It opens brand new avenues for creativity, problem-solving, and commerce.”


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