Digital Culture Links: January 29th

Links for January 29th:

  • Vines Map Mashup – See where Vines are being posted in real-time on a map – And now there is a mashup, showing where Vine video snippets are being posted in realtime across the globe. Quite compelling to watch.
  • 3D-print your face in chocolate for that special Valentine’s Day gift [guardian.co.uk] – While I’m a big fan of 3d printing, this seems just a little too creepy for me: “Stuck for a Valentine’s Day gift with that special personal touch? A Japanese 3D-printing company may well have the answer – providing the opportunity for you to print your own face in chocolate. Shibuya’s FabCafe is offering a two-day workshop for budding techno-chocolatiers to learn how to transform their face into a sinister edible treat. For 6,000 Yen (£40), you can have your head scanned and turned into a 3D digital model, which is then printed in plastic in high definition on a ProjetHD printer. A silicon mould is made from this positive form and filled with melted chocolate – and the final product can be secreted in a box of chocolates and presented to your unsuspecting loved one.”
  • Twitter’s Vine Has A Porn Problem [TechCrunch] – Everyone is shocked to discover that since anyone can post their 6-second videos on Vine, a few people are posting porn. *OMFG*
  • vinepeek – An endless stream of recent Vine video posts (hypnotic): “vinepeek shows you newly posted Vines in realtime. Sit back and watch the world in 6 second bites. Best viewed on a desktop browser. This stream is coming straight from Vine and is unmoderated. You have been warned! :) Unlike lightning, sometimes Vines strike twice. Please be patient if you see a Vine more than once. If it seems to freeze, refresh the page.”
  • Vine: A new way to share video [Twitter Blog] – Twitter releases Vine, a micro-video-sharing app, which lets users post videos of up to 6 seconds in length (mp4s, not GIFs).
  • Facebook’s Graph Search tool causes increasing privacy concerns [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – actualfacebookgraphsearches.tumblr.com makes the news: “Privacy concerns are mounting around Facebook’s recently announced search tool, after it was used to unearth lists of people related to supporters of the outlawed Chinese group Falun Gong and companies apparently employing self-declared racists. Graph Search, Facebook’s answer to Google’s search engine, was launched last week by founder Mark Zuckerberg, who promised it would help people find friends who share their interests. Critics argued it could be also be used to unearth compromising information on Facebook’s 1 billion members. In a blog launched on Wednesday, a series of controversial search results have been made public, showing the extent to which those who share photos, personal information and “likes” on Facebook could have their privacy invaded.”
  • How to Protect Your Privacy from Facebook’s Graph Search [Electronic Frontier Foundation] – “Earlier this week, Facebook launched a new feature—Graph Search—that raised some privacy concerns with us. Graph Search allows users to make structured searches to filter through friends, friends of friends, and strangers. This feature relies on your profile information being made widely or publicly available, yet there are some Likes, photos, or other pieces of information that you might not want out there. Since Facebook removed the ability to remove yourself from search results altogether, we’ve put together a quick how-to guide to help you take control over what is featured on your Facebook profile and on Graph Search results.”
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Facebook’s Graph Search, privacy and the social media contradiction

[Last week I wrote the article below for The Conversation. It’s reproduced here mainly for my records …]

 Facebook Jelly Belly

Initial responses to Facebook’s newly announced Graph Search (a name only a software engineer could love) appear to be split into two main camps:

Both responses are entirely valid.

So, what is Graph Search?

If Graph Search works as advertised, then it’s a technical marvel, allowing a huge array of complex searches using real questions, not just keywords.

Type in “Which females in my area, around my age, support the Fremantle Dockers and are single?” and suddenly Facebook becomes a very specific and useful dating service. But this nuanced, “natural language” searching also means that, for many users, it will be even easier to delve into the minute details that are seemingly hidden on your connections’ Timelines.

The discussion around the release of Graph Search highlights something more important – something that could be described as the “social media contradiction”.


 

‘Social’ media?

“Social” implies conversation and other communication which we are accustomed to thinking of as ephemeral – largely disappearing after the interaction is finished. Conversations in the street or telephone calls generally don’t persist once they’re done.

To Facebook and other social media service providers, it’s the media side of social media that matters. Media fills the databases – the most valuable part of Facebook to marketers (the actual customers of Facebook) – and this media has no expiration date.

Once entered, my relationship status, likes, photos, comments on friends’ photos, silly news stories I share and current location are all media elements which are in the Facebook database in perpetuity … unless I go to some pains to remove them.

Social media networks generally aren’t run by governments, and rarely by philanthropists. Most are for-profit corporations. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and most other online services have shareholders and are out to make a profit.

Different, but increasingly similar

Every time someone has a conversation on Facebook, or does a search on Google, that information gets stored in a database. Google and Facebook make their money by harnessing that enormous database and allowing advertisers to reach people making specific searches or discussing specific topics.

Graph Search makes the experience of Facebook more like the experience of Google. An effusive profile of the Graph Search team in Wired notes that the core software engineers have both defected from Google, including Lars Rasmussen who was one of the original creators of Google Maps (and the ill-fated Google Wave).

Notably, while Facebook is becoming more searchable, Google has been trying to gather more social information about its users by merging the privacy policies governing all of its products into one, and linking them all to the company’s social network, Google Plus.

These two online giants might have different origins, but they are looking increasingly alike.

‘Privacy aware’?

Be it Google or Facebook, privacy is a key issue in social media, and one which is at the heart of the social media contradiction. At any given moment, the design of a service like Facebook may make some information feel private, even when it’s technically not.

When Facebook shifted from profiles to Timelines, old conversations that were buried in the past were suddenly easy to find by scrolling back through the years. Graph Search takes that a step further, as anything in your history – any past conversations, any old photos or anything else shared on Facebook – will be searchable by others if your privacy settings allow it.

Limiting the visibility of a photo to “friends of friends” doesn’t just control who will see it initially on their newsfeed. It now controls who is able to search for that photo, in terms of location, caption, people tagged in it, or whatever other data exists about that photograph.

Facebook touts Graph Search as “privacy aware” but all that really means is the service will respect Facebook’s already complicated privacy options.


 

Be aware, act sensibly

As Facebook makes our data accessible in yet another unexpected way, it’s perhaps time to stop reacting to each change with outrage, and become aware of the ongoing social media contradiction.

Every online conversation we have, every photo we upload, every item we share goes into a database. Corporations will try to harness that database to make money. That doesn’t make Google or Facebook malicious, it just makes them a business.

The social media contradiction occurs when we imagine Facebook or Google to be a service, not a business. If we keep in mind anything shared will be stored forever, analysed, and harnessed to make money, then, like Facebook, we’ll be aware that social media is media, not just social.

As users, our business is to try and be aware of the privacy settings available on these services and take our options seriously. Facebook might change how their database is accessed and utilised, but if we’ve only shared something with our Facebook friends, they’re the only ones who can search for it.

Of course, if it’s not on Facebook at all, no-one can use Facebook to find it.

[This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article. ]

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Digital Culture Links: January 16th

Links through to January 16th:

  • Beatles’ First Single Enters Public Domain — In Europe [Techdirt] – The Beatles remain the iconic pop group, so news on VVN/Music that their very first single has now entered the public domain is something of a landmark moment in music:
    The Beatles first single, Love Me Do / P.S. I Love You, has entered the public domain in Europe and small labels are already taking advantage of the situation.The European copyright laws grant ownership of a recorded track for fifty years, which Love Me Do just passed. That means that, starting January 1 of 2013, anyone who wants to put out the track is free to do so.
    Unfortunately, if you’re in the US, you’ll probably have to wait until 2049 or so. And things are about to get worse in Europe too. As Techdirt reported, back in 2011 the European Union agreed to increase the copyright term for sound recordings by 20 years,
  • App Store Tops 40 Billion Downloads with Almost Half in 2012 [Apple - Press Info] – Apple passes 40 billion app downloads: “Apple® today announced that customers have downloaded over 40 billion apps*, with nearly 20 billion in 2012 alone. The App Store℠ has over 500 million active accounts and had a record-breaking December with over two billion downloads during the month. Apple’s incredible developer community has created over 775,000 apps for iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch® users worldwide, and developers have been paid over seven billion dollars by Apple.”
  • World Map of Social Networks [Vincos Blog] -“December 2012, a new edition of my World Map of Social Networks, showing the most popular social networking sites by country, according to Alexa traffic data (Google Trends for Websites was shut down on September 2012). Facebook with 1 billion active users has established its leadership position in 127 out of 137 countries analyzed. One of the drivers of its growth is Asia that with 278 million users, surpassed Europe, 251 million, as the largest continent on Facebook. North America has 243 million users, South America 142 million. Africa, almost 52 million, and Oceania just 15 million (source: Facebook Ads Platform). In the latest months Zuckerberg’s Army conquered Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Vietnam.”
  • Over 8 million game downloads on Christmas Day! [Rovio Entertainment Ltd] – Rovio’s big Christmas download haul: “Wow, what a year! We released four critically-acclaimed bestselling mobile games, developed two top-rated Facebook games, and reached more than a billion downloads — all before our 3rd “Birdday”! Angry Birds Star Wars and Bad Piggies in particular have dominated the app charts, with Angry Birds Star Wars holding the #1 position on the US iPhone chart ever since its release! To top it all off, we had 30 million downloads during Christmas week (December 22-29) and, on Christmas Day, over 8 million downloads in 24 hours alone!”
  • R18+ game rating comes into effect [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – Finally: “An R18+ video game rating has come into effect across Australia after a deal between the states and the Commonwealth last year. The change means some games that were previously unavailable to adults can go on sale, whereas others that could be accessed by children will become restricted. The issue had divided interest groups, with some claiming the new classification would protect children but others feared it would expose them to more violent games. Legislation to approve the rating was passed by the Senate in June. Under the previous classification regime, the highest rating for computer games was MA15+, meaning overseas adults-only games were either banned in Australia or given a lower classification, allowing children to obtain them.”
  • Two billion YouTube music video views disappear … or just migrate? [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – Despite rumours of massive cuts to major record labels’ YouTube channel counts, the explanation is rather more banal: “Universal and Sony have, since 2009, been moving their music videos away from their YouTube channels and over to Vevo, the music industry site the two companies own with some investors from Abu Dhabi. YouTube, meanwhile, thinks that is only right to count channel video views for videos that are still actually present on the channels – which means that whenever YouTube got round to reviewing the music majors’ channels on its site, a massive cut was always going to be in order.”
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A reminder about academics giving comments to journalists (and sex, and the web, too!)

My Sunday began with a twinge of disappointment as I found out that an interview I’d given to a local reporter had been used to give credence to an awfully sensationalist moral panic piece about young people, sexting, and anonymous messaging apps (mainly Snapchat and Facebook’s new Poke). While The Sunday Times isn’t exactly a bastion of investigative journalism, I was nevertheless disappointed since I’d tried to provide a bit of context for these apps, emphasising that in the vast majority of cases the material being sent was harmless, but that when more intimate material was shared, the most important dynamic was trust between the people communicating, not the nitty gritty technical details of the app itself (if someone really wants to find a way around deleting online material, they will). I know academics should always be wary of journalists reporting on sensationalist topics, and to be fair I’m not actually misquoted, just used to add support to an otherwise pretty vacuous piece, but it nevertheless smarts to be associated with a story using the headline ‘Teen Sext Trap’ in giant letters.

My first instinct was to be very annoyed with the journalist, Katie Robertson, who I’ve provided comments for in the past. However, after searching the web, I was swiftly reminded that journalists are but one (small) cog in the machinery of sensationalism. This became evident when I found several versions of the same story, in different locations all owned by Murdoch’s NewsCorp (as is the Sunday Times).

Take a look, for example, at the Sunday Times version:

Sunday Times Version

(You can see article on the Sunday Times front page in all its glory.) An online version under the headline ‘Teenagers embrace new secret sexting craze on smartphones’, with the same text from the Sunday Times version, also appeared on the Perth Now website, and The Australian website.

However, in contrast, another version appears in print on the other side of the country in the Tasmanian Sunday:

Sunday Tasmanian Version

The Tasmanian Sunday version, written by the same reporter, released on the same day, is far more balanced and does justice to what I’d mentioned in her interview. I suspect  – and haven’t yet asked – that this second version is closest to the article  originally written, and that the Sunday Times (and online) version has seen a lot more input from editors seeking to increase sales. This is always the case – that the editors overrule the journalists – but often this input is, initially, invisible. Now I’ve been reminded, I’ll do a better job of remembering that even when you feel a decent rapport with a journalist, they often won’t have control of the words that are released under their name. That said, I do think it’s very important that academics engage with the press since it’s often in that arena where the public come across important information. For me, it just means being a little more wary (and possibly sticking to radio whenever possible).

In terms of this story, it’s the last few lines of the Tasmanian Sunday version that I think matter the most, and since they’re my words, I thought it would be worth posting them here. With regard to Snapchat, Facebook’s Poke or any other self-deleting messaging app that comes along:

There will always be safeguards in place, but you can almost always get around them if you try. Any form of communication online has to involve a level of trust. In 99.9 per cent of cases, though, the fact that it is deleted will mean it is deleted. … But parents should always have a chat with their kids about anything shared online as it has the potential to last forever.

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Digital Culture Links: Last Links for 2012.


Happy New Year, originally uploaded by Tama Leaver.

End of year links:

  • Best Memes of 2012: Editorial Choices [Know Your Meme] – The best memes of 2012, according to Know Your Meme:
    #10: Sh*t People Say
    #9: What People Think I Do
    #8: Overly Attached Girlfriend
    #7: Ehrmagerd
    #6: Ridiculously Photogenic Guy
    #5: Somebody That I Used to Know
    #4: Kony 2012
    #3: Call Me Maybe
    #2: Grumpy Cat
    #1: Gangnam Style
    Personally, I’d add Texts from Hillary, McKayla is Not Impressed and Binders Full of Women to the list!
  • Posterous Spaces backup tool available now [The Official Posterous Space] – Posterous adds the ability for users to download their entire Posterous sites as a zip file, complete with images and a usable (if dull) html interface. There hasn’t been a lot of movement with Posterous since the team were bought out by Twitter, so this new tool may signal the beginning of the end of the end for Posterous, which is a real shame since it’s still a more robust tool than Tumblr in a number of ways.
  • App sales soar in 2012 [Technology | The Guardian] – “Shiny new tablets and smartphones given as presents make Christmas Day and Boxing Day the two most lucrative days of the year for app sales. Yet in the apps economy, turkeys are a year-round phenomenon. Thousands of new apps are released every week for devices running Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, but most sink without trace. With an estimated 1bn apps released so far on those two platforms alone, there are relatively few winners and many losers. This month, industry analyst Canalys claimed that in the first 20 days of November, Apple’s US App Store generated $120m (£75m) of app revenues, with just 25 publishers accounting for half of that. And 24 of those 25 companies make games, including the likes of Zynga, Electronic Arts and Angry Birds publisher Rovio. But analysts suggested in August that two-thirds of Apple store apps had never been downloaded – a lifeless long tail of more than 400,000 unwanted apps.”
  • 2012’s Most Popular Locations on Instagram [Instagram Blog] – “What was the most-Instagrammed place in the world this past year? The answer may surprise you. Out of anywhere else in the world, Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport tops the list. Over 100,000 photos were taken there last year! What other locations were popular in 2012? From Asia to Europe to North America, Instagrammers shared their view of the world. Read on for the full list:
    * Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) ท่าอากาศยานสุวรรณภูมิ in Bangkok, Thailand
    * Siam Paragon (สยามพารากอน) shopping mall in Bangkok, Thailand
    * Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California
    * Times Square in New York City
    * AT&T; Park in San Francisco
    * Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
    * Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
    * Eiffel Tower in Paris
    * Staples Center in Los Angeles
    * Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles”
  • Wikipedia’s most searched articles of the year revealed [BBC News] – “A study of 2012′s most read Wikipedia articles reveals striking differences in what proved popular across the different language versions of the online encyclopaedia. Facebook topped the English edition while an entry for adult video actresses did best in Japan. Hua Shan – a Chinese mountain featuring “the world’s deadliest hiking trail” – topped the Dutch list. By contrast, cul-de-sacs were the German site’s most clicked entry. … Lower entries on the lists also proved revealing. While articles about Iran, its capital city Tehran and the country’s New Year celebrations topped the Persian list, entries about sex, female circumcision and homosexuality also made its top 10. …
    English language most viewed
    1. Facebook
    2. Wiki
    3. Deaths in 2012
    4. One Direction
    5. The Avengers
    6. Fifty Shades of Grey
    7. 2012 phenomenon
    8. The Dark Knight Rises
    9. Google
    10. The Hunger Games”
  • Bug reveals ‘erased’ Snapchat videos [BBC News] – Using a simple file browser tool, users are able to find and save files sent via Snapchat, an app that’s meant to share and then erase photos, messages and video. Not surprisingly really, since all communication online is, essentially, copying files of some sort or another.
  • Web tools whitewash students online [The Australian] – Universities offering web presence washing at graduation. Perhaps teaching grads to manage their own would be better.
    “Samantha Grossman wasn’t always thrilled with the impression that emerged when people Googled her name. “It wasn’t anything too horrible,” she said. “I just have a common name. There would be pictures, college partying pictures, that weren’t of me, things I wouldn’t want associated with me.” So before she graduated from Syracuse University last spring, the school provided her with a tool that allowed her to put her best web foot forward. Now when people Google her, they go straight to a positive image – professional photo, cum laude degree and credentials – that she credits with helping her land a digital advertising job in New York. “I wanted to make sure people would find the actual me and not these other people,” she said. Syracuse, Rochester and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore are among the universities that offer such online tools to their students free of charge …”
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s sister learns life lesson after Facebook photo flap [Technology | The Guardian] – A photo from Randi Zuckerberg’s Facebook page gets taken out of context and reposted on Twitter and she complains, then goes overtly moral, tweeting: “Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency”The Guardian’s take: “But what’s most odious about the episode is the high-handedness of Zuckerberg’s response. Facebook makes money when users surrender their privacy. The company has made it the user’s job to defend personal information, which otherwise might be made public by default. Got a problem with that? The company’s answer always has been that users should read the privacy settings, closely, no matter how often they change. … Eva Galperin said that while Facebook has made amendments to their privacy settings, they still remain confusing to a large number of people. “Even Randi Zuckerberg can get it wrong,” she said. “That’s an illustration of how confusing they can be.”
  • Twitter and Facebook get on the school timetable in anti-libel lessons [Media | The Guardian] – Some private schools in the UK are now embedding social media literacies into their curriculum, especially how to avoid defamation of others, and, I guess, how not to get sued. While it’d be nice to hear about more well-rounded literacies – like managing your identity online in its early forms – this is nevertheless a step in the right direction. I fear, though, a new digital divide might appear if social media literacies are embedded for some, not all.
  • Top Tweets of 2012: Golden Tweets – Twitter’s official list of top 2012 tweets, led by Barack Obama’s “Four more years” and in second place … Justin Bieber.
  • Facebook’s Poke App Is a Head-Scratcher [NYTimes.com] – Ephemeral Mobile Media: “.. it’s hard to grasp what the point of the Facebook Poke app really is. Poke, which came out last week, is a clone of Snapchat, an app popular among teenagers. Many have labeled Snapchat a “sexting” app — a messaging platform ideally suited for people who want to send short-lived photos and videos of you-know-what to get each other feeling lusty. The files self-destruct in a few seconds, ideally relieving you of any shame or consequence, unless, of course, the recipient snaps a screen shot. (Poke and Snapchat alert you if a screen shot has been taken.) It’s a bit of a head-scratcher for adults, like me and my Facebook friends, who aren’t inclined to sext with one another. We’re more used to uploading photos of pets, food, babies and concerts, which aren’t nearly as provocative. The most interesting aspect of Poke is that you can send photos and videos only of what you’re doing at that moment; you cannot send people a nice photo saved in your library …”
  • Game of Thrones tops TV show internet piracy chart [BBC News] – Game of Thrones has emerged as the most-pirated TV show over the internet this year, according to news site Torrentfreak’s latest annual survey. It said one episode of the series had racked up 4,280,000 illegal global downloads – slightly more than than its estimated US television audience. … Despite all the closures, one episode of of Game of Thrones racked up 4,280,000 illegal global downloads, according to Torrentfreak. That was slightly more than than its estimated US television audience. The level of piracy may be linked to the fact that the TV company behind it – HBO – does not allow Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime or other US streaming services access to its programmes. It instead restricts them to its own HBO Go online product, which is only available to its cable subscribers. Outside the US, Torrentfreak noted that Australia was responsible for a disproportionate amount of illegal copies of Game of Thrones…”
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Digital Culture Links: December 24th

Links for December 18th through December 22nd:

  • From Grumpy Cat to Gangnam Style: The Best Memes of 2012 [Wired.com] – 2012 was a big year for memes, from McKayla Is Not Impressed to Texts From Hillary. And Gangnam Style …
  • Gangnam Style Makes YouTube History: First Video to Hit 1 Billion Views [YouTube Blog] – Gangnam Style the first YouTube video to clock one billion views! ”A million views? You know what’s cool? A billion views. Today, a 34-year-old K-Pop artist made online video history when his viral video, Gangnam Style, smashed our records and became the first video ever to reach one billion views. Yup, that’s right one BILLION views! PSY’s success is a great testament to the universal appeal of catchy music– and er, great equine dance moves. In the past, music distribution was mostly regional. It was more difficult to learn about great artists from around the world. But with a global platform at their fingertips, people are now discovering and sharing amazing music from all over the planet, by artists like Brazilian Michel Teló and Belgian-Australian Gotye.”
  • Your Twitter archive [Twitter Blog] – Twitter finally rolls out – for everyone – the ability to download your entire Twitter archive: “Today, we’re introducing the ability to download your Twitter archive, so you’ll get all your Tweets (including Retweets) going back to the beginning. Once you have your Twitter archive, you can view your Tweets by month, or search your archive to find Tweets with certain words, phrases, hashtags or @usernames. You can even engage with your old Tweets just as you would with current ones. Go to Settings and scroll down to the bottom to check for the option to request your Twitter archive. If you do see it, go ahead and click the button. You’ll receive an email with instructions on how to access your archive when it’s ready for you to download.”
  • i-am-cc.org – Free your Instagram photos with a Creative Commons license! – That’s a clever idea: an explicit tool for adding a Creative Commons license to your Instagram photos, and for finding Instagram photos which have Creative Commons licenses.
  • Germany orders changes to Facebook real name policy [BBC News] – “A German data protection body has ordered Facebook to end its policy of making members use their real names. The policy violates German laws that give people the right to use pseudonyms online, said the data protection agency in Schleswig-Holstein. The agency has issued a decree demanding that Facebook let people use fake names immediately. Facebook said it would fight the decree “vigorously” and that its naming policy met European data protection rules. “It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law unopposed and with no prospect of an end,” said Thilo Weichert, head of the regional data protection office in Schleswig Holstein, in a statement. … The decree issued by the Schleswig Holstein office was “without merit” a Facebook spokeswoman told tech news site IT World adding that it planned to fight the order.”
  • Coming Soon: Nielsen Twitter TV Rating [Twitter Blog] – The second screen just got serious: “Today Nielsen announced an agreement with Twitter to create the “Nielsen Twitter TV Rating,” an industry-standard metric that is based entirely on Twitter data.  As the experience of TV viewing continues to evolve, our TV partners have consistently asked for one common benchmark from which to measure the engagement of their programming. This new metric is intended to answer that request, and to act as a complement and companion to the Nielsen TV rating. You can read more about the news on Nielsen’s site here. Ultimately, we have one goal for this new metric: to make watching TV with Twitter even better for you, the TV fan. I look forward to sharing more about this effort in the months to come.”
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Instagram’s Terms of Use Updated … Badly.

Instagram LogoDespite Mark Zuckerberg implying that Facebook’s purchase wouldn’t alter the core fabric of Instagram, a billion dollar purchase price (okay, less than that after Facebook’s share price tanked) means an expectation of a significant return. Sadly, today, Instagram announced a significant update to their Terms of Use which show the decidedly Facebooksih direction that the photo-sharing service is taking to try and bring in the cash. The changes were framed by a blog post which suggests nothing major is changing, but that’s just not true. Here’s a key passage from the updated Terms of Use (which are legally binding as of 16 January 2013):

2. Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

3. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.

Or, if I could translate slightly: Instagram may, at their discretion and without telling you, use your photo to sell or promote something to other Instagram users – most likely your followers – and not even clearly identify this as an advertisement or promotion. While, strictly speaking, these Terms don’t alter the copyright status of your photos on Instagram (you own them, but give Instagram explicit permission to use them, re-use them, or let third parties use them as long as you’re still an Instagram user) the tone and spirit behind those uses have changed substantially. Sure, this might be a trade-off that many people are happy with: they get to keep using Instagram for free, and all sorts of new advertisements and promotions appear, some using images you’ve posted.

However, I fear that most people will ignore these Terms of Use changes and notifications. Ignore them, that is, until an advertisement pops up with their head or photo in it and then everyone will get loud, and angry, but unless you’re prepared to delete your Instagram account, there new Terms are absolutely binding. In the mean time, keep in mind you can always export and download all of your Instagram photos and maybe set up with a different service. For more details about what the changes mean, I recommend reading these overviews at the NY Times Bits Blog and the Social Times.

These updated changes may not worry you in the slightest, but please take the time to consider what they mean before they come into effect.

Update (21 December 2012): After considerable public backlash against the new Terms, Instagram have, for now, chosen to largely revert to their previous terms. This is a short-term win insomuch as Instagram are now aware that there are lines that their users don’t want to see crossed. Even though there was considerable misinterpretation (as far as I can see, Instagram never intended, for example, to wholesale sell anyone’s photos), concerns raised were legitimate. However, the longer term problem remains: few people ever read Terms of Use, so a change like this is only ever interpreted as a knee-jerk response against the most sensational media reports. Perhaps the salient lesson here is that at least a passing familiarity with all Terms we’ve signed up for makes us more aware of where we really stand as users, consumers and participants in a mobile media culture?

Incidentally, I’d love it if Instagram added native support for Creative Commons licenses, but I understand that as a Facebook-owned company, that’s highly unlikely. The lesson Instagram might learn from a conversation with Creative Commons, though, is having layered Terms where human-readable terms means read by all humans, not just those with law degrees.

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Digital Culture Links: December 17th

Links through to December 17th:

  • The Web We Lost [Anil Dash] – Spot on: “Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. … But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks. The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that’s about Twitter’s business model or Google’s social features or anything else. We have to know what’s been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.”
  • False Posts on Facebook Undermine Its Credibility [NYTimes.com] – A reminder that Facebook’s battle against fake accounts is all about the authenticity the SELL ADVERTISERS: “For the world’s largest social network, it is an especially acute problem, because it calls into question its basic premise. Facebook has sought to distinguish itself as a place for real identity on the Web. As the company tells its users: “Facebook is a community where people use their real identities.” It goes on to advise: “The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, student ID, etc.” Fraudulent “likes” damage the trust of advertisers, who want clicks from real people they can sell to and whom Facebook now relies on to make money. Fakery also can ruin the credibility of search results for the social search engine that Facebook says it is building. … The research firm Gartner estimates that while less than 4 percent of all social media interactions are false today, that figure could rise to over 10 percent by 2014.”
  • Android overtakes iOS in Australian usage [Ausdroid] – December 2012: “Android has been growing globally at an extremely rapid rate with statistics from November indicating that Android currently enjoys a 75% market share. In Australia this year over 67% of Smart Phone sales were Android handsets and now research analysis firm Telsyte is advising that market penetration of Android devices in Australia has finally overtaken iOS with Android now on 44% of the 10 Million mobile phones currently in use here. iOS still enjoys a 43% market share …”
  • Social Media Report 2012 [Nielsen] – Nielsen’s Social Media Report 2012 provides statistical evidence of the trends for 2012, which shows the internet use, mobile use and social networking time are all up. A third of people engaging in social networking “from the bathroom”!
  • Text messaging turns 20 [Technology | The Observer] – “Long ago, back before Twitter, way before Facebook, in a time when people still lifted a receiver to make a call and telephone boxes graced streets where people didn’t lock their doors, Neil Papworth, a software programmer from Reading, sent an early festive greeting to a mate. “Since mobile phones didn’t yet have keyboards, I typed the message out on a PC. It read ‘Merry Christmas’ and I sent it to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone, who was enjoying his office Christmas party at the time,” said Papworth. On 3 December 1992, he had sent the world’s first text message. Text messaging turns 20 tomorrow. More than 8 trillion were sent last year. Around 15 million leave our mobile screens every minute. There is now text poetry, text adverts and text prayers (dad@hvn, 4giv r sins) and an entire generation that’s SMS savvy. Last week saw the first major act of the text watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, in fining two men £440,000 over spam texts.”
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Digital Culture Links: November 29th

Links for November 25th through November 29th:

  • Aussie viral video, ‘Dumb Ways to Die’, lives on [The Age]- “Australia’s fastest-spreading viral video, “Dumb Ways to Die”, has taken on a life of its own, inspiring more than 65 cover versions, 85 parodies and 170 re-posts on YouTube. The original clip, made to promote safety on Melbourne Metro Trains, has amassed more than 28 million views on YouTube since it was posted on November 14. Its creator, ad agency McCann Worldgroup Australia, said its “conservative” estimate was that the campaign had generated $50 million in “global-earned media value” so far, in addition to more than 700 press hits. A new parody clip by Seattle-based creative team Cinesaurus about the Curiosity Mars mission, dubbed “Cool Things to Find”, joins dozens of other parodies and covers including a classic rock version, a Russian cover … “It’s entered popular culture,” said John Mescall, executive creative director of McCann Worldgroup Australia.”
  • Google is publisher according to Australian court [David Banks | Law | guardian.co.uk] – “Google will have to be quicker to remove defamatory content, at least in Australia, after it lost a $200,000 libel action there. […] the tale of Australia’s most successful libel litigant may give Google and other search engines pause for thought. Milorad Trkulja, a music promoter, took action against Google over material online, which linked him with criminal figures in Melbourne. Trkulja has never been involved in any criminal activity, but was unfortunate enough to have been shot in a restaurant in 2004. His lawyers wrote to Google in October 2009 asking for the offending material, which included a number of images, to be removed, but received a reply saying that in line with Google’s policies on content removal he should contact the owners of the website concerned instead. Trkulja sued Google and the jury concluded that the search engine was the publisher of images of Trkjulja and related information which suggested he was involved in crime … “
  • The one-way street to digital lock-in [The Age] – A simple but very important reminder from Hayley Tsukayama that when you buy a mobile device, you’re not just buying a device – you’re committing to a cloud ecosystem and a provider of apps and content that you’ll be locked into for a long time, and probably can’t easily transfer between devices. iPhone apps won’t ever work on a Nexus tablet, nor will Google Play books end up being read on iPads any time soon.
  • PSY Passes Bieber; ‘Gangnam Style’ New Most-Viewed Video of All Time [YouTube Trends] – “Today, global sensation PSY and his wildly popular “Gangnam Style” music video surpassed Justin Bieber’s “Baby” as the most viewed music video (and overall video) of all time on YouTube. As of noon on Saturday (24 Nov 2012), the viewcounts stood at 805 million to 803 million.”
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National Teaching Award!

Australian Award for University Teaching

At an amazing ceremony and dinner at the National Gallery in Canberra tonight I was surprised, flattered and delighted to receive an Australian Award for University Teaching in the Humanities and Arts. This is a huge honour, and I’m extremely grateful to have my approaches to learning and teaching acknowledged in this manner. That said, I’m incredibly conscious that no one teaches in a vacuum, and in Internet Communications I am but one cog in a very complex and well-maintained machine, so this award is at least as much testimony to all of our team at Curtin University as it is to me.

Most importantly, though, I wanted to publicly thank the students who offered their thoughts and feedback about my teaching. We live in an era where students get asked to fill in an awfully large number of feedback forms, surveys and evaluations, so adding even one more thing to that pile is a big ask. So, THANK YOU to all of my students, current and past, whose kind words led to this award.

I’d also like to think that this award is a reminder that despite the huge media attention being paid to MOOCs and so forth, quality online education has been available and refined over more than a decade, and our Internet Communications program is one such example. I truly hope that as this next generation of online learning matures, close attention will be paid to successful examples already available! Successful learning and teaching is, after all, built on understanding the successes and failures of the past.

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