At last week’s Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) conference at Swinburne University in Melbourne I gave a new paper by myself and Tim Highfield entitled ‘Mapping the Ends of Identity on Instagram’. The slides, abstract, and audio recording of the talk are below:

While many studies explore the way that individuals represent themselves online, a less studied but equally important question is the way that individuals who cannot represent themselves are portrayed. This paper outlines an investigation into some of those individuals, exploring the ends of identity – birth and death – and the way the very young and deceased are portrayed via the popular mobile photo sharing app and platform Instagram. In order to explore visual representations of birth and death on Instagram, photos with four specific tags were tracked: #birth, #ultrasound, #funeral and #RIP. The data gathered included quantitative and qualitative material. On the quantitative front, metadata was aggregated about each photo posted for three months using the four target tags. This includes metadata such as the date taken, place taken, number of likes, number of comments, what tags were used, and what descriptions were given to the photographs. The quantitative data gives also gives an overall picture of the frequency and volume of the tags used. To give a more detailed understanding of the photos themselves, on one day of each month tracked, all of the photographs on Instagram using the four tags were downloaded and coded, giving a much clearer representative sampling of exactly how each tag is used, the sort of photos shared, and allowed a level of filtering. For example, the #ultrasound hashtag includes a range of images, not just prenatal ultrasounds, including both current images (taken and shared at that moment), historical images, collages, and even ultrasound humour (for example, prenatal ultrasound images with including a photoshopped inclusion of a cash, or a cigarette, joking about the what the future might hold). This paper will outline the methods developed for tracking Instagram photos via tags, it will then present a quantitative overview of the uses and frequency of the four hashtags tracked, give a qualitative overview of the #ultrasound and #RIP tags, and conclude with some general extrapolations about the way that birth and death are visually represented online in the era of mobile media.

And the audio recording of the talk is available on Soundcloud for those who are willing to brave the mediocre quality and variable volume (because I can’t talk without pacing about, it seems!).

Links through to May 21st:

  • Sensis Yellow Social Media Report 2013 [PDF] – The new Sensis Yellow Social Media Report is out (based on a survey of 937 Australians in March and April 2013), showing widespread social media use, with growth in mobile and second screen uses:
    * 95% of AUstralian social media users use Facebook
    * The typical Australian spends 7 hrs/wk on Facebook
    * 67% of Australians access social sites on a smartphone
    * 42% of Australians use social media while watching TV
  • A better, brighter Flickr [Flickr Blog] – Yahoo have majorly redesigned Flickr, giving new free (ad-supported) accounts 1Tb of storage, which is an awful lot of photos. The Android app is now almost identitcal to the iOS app, but the new aesthetics of the web-based version are a big change, looking more and more like every other photo-sharing service around today. Quite a few long-term Flickr users (of which I am one) have voiced a range of concerns about the design changes. Also, what this redesign means for people who’ve already paid for Pro accounts is deeply unclear on the main Flickr pages. (The Twitter account seems to suggest nothing changes.)
  • Yahoo! to Acquire Tumblr / Yahoo [Yahoo News Centre] – Yahoo buys Tumblr for $1.1 billion and, in their words, “promises not to screw it up”. A clever buy for Yahoo, but it’ll be hard to integrate the rebellious/youth Tumblr userbase into the Yahoo brand.
  • Introducing Photos of You [Instagram Blog] – Just in case you momentarily forgot that Facebook owns Instagram, the photo-sharing service has just added the ability to tag photos (remarkably similar to Facebook’s tagging function). Looks like Instagram needs a better map of your personal networks before they can harness it commercially.
  • Follow the audience… [YouTube Blog] – May 2013 and YouTube users “are watching more than 6 billion hours of video each month on YouTube; almost an hour a month for every person on Earth and 50 percent more this year than last.”

Links through to April 22nd (catching up!):

  • Siri secrets stored for up to 2 years [WA Today] – “Siri isn’t just a pretty voice with the answers. It’s also been recording and keeping all the questions users ask. Exactly what the voice assistant does with the data isn’t clear, but Apple confirmed that it keeps users’ questions for up to two years. Siri, which needs to be connected to the internet to function, sends all of its users’ queries to Apple. Apple revealed the information after
    Wired posted an article raising the question and highlighting the fact that the privacy statement for Siri wasn’t very clear about how long that information is kept or what would be done with it.”
  • Now playing: Twitter #music [Twitter Blog] – Not content to be TV’s second screen, Twitter wants to be the locus of conversations about music, too: “Today, we’re releasing Twitter #music, a new service that will change the way people find music, based on Twitter. It uses Twitter activity, including Tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists. It also brings artists’ music-related Twitter activity front and center: go to their profiles to see which music artists they follow and listen to songs by those artists. And, of course, you can tweet songs right from the app. The songs on Twitter #music currently come from three sources: iTunes, Spotify or Rdio. By default, you will hear previews from iTunes when exploring music in the app. Subscribers to Rdio and Spotify can log in to their accounts to enjoy full tracks that are available in those respective catalogs.
  • Android To Reach 1 Billion This Year | Google, Eric Schmidt, Mobiles [The Age] – “Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt predicts there will be more than 1 billion Android smartphones in use by the end of the year.”
  • Soda Fountains, Speeding, and Password Sharing [The Chutry Experiment] – Fascinating post about the phenomenon of Netflix and HBO Go password sharing in the US. When a NY Times journalist admitted to this (seemingly mainstream) practice, it provoked a wide-ranging discussion about the ethics and legality of many people pooling resources to buy a single account. Is this theft? Is it illegal (apparently so)? And, of course, Game of Thrones take a centre seat!
  • “Welcome to the New Prohibition” [Andy Baio on Vimeo] – Insightful talk from Andy Baio about the devolution of copyright into an enforcement tool and revenue extraction device rather than protecting or further the production of artistic material in any meaningful way. For background to this video see Baio’s posts “No Copyright Intended” and “Kind of Screwed”.
  • Instagram Today: 100 Million People [Instagram Blog] – Instagram crosses the 100 million (monthly) user mark.

Links through February 23rd:

  • Nielsen Agrees to Expand Definition of TV Viewing [The Hollywood Reporter] – Nielsen ratings reflect that online TV ratings are growing and matter: “The Nielsen Co. is expanding its definition of television and will introduce a comprehensive plan to capture all video viewing including broadband and Xbox and iPads … By September 2013, when the next TV season begins, Nielsen expects to have in place new hardware and software tools in the nearly 23,000 TV homes it samples. Those measurement systems will capture viewership not just from the 75 percent of homes that rely on cable, satellite and over the air broadcasts but also viewing via devices that deliver video from streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, from so-called over-the-top services and from TV enabled game systems like the X-Box and PlayStation. While some use of iPads and other tablets that receive broadband in the home will be included in the first phase of measurement improvements, a second phase is envisioned to include such devices in a more comprehensive fashion.”
  • Billboard and Nielsen Add YouTube Video Streaming to Platforms [Billboard] – The Billboard music charts in the US finally adapt to include online activity, including YouTube streaming data, and suddenly Baauer’s meme-tastic ‘Harlem Shake’ debuts at the top of the Billboard chart! The ratings, they are a-changing.
  • Why I’m Done Posting Photos of My Kid On Facebook [Chicago Now] – Short but well written piece on why parents should be more careful about what photos etc they share of their kids online. Author calls parents “online guardians”. “We all want to believe that Facebook takes parents’ concerns about privacy seriously. But the truth is that Facebook is a publicly traded company that cares first and foremost about making its shareholders happy. We have no idea how far it will go to do so, especially since the company is not extraordinarily profitable right now. But what we do know is that Facebook is pushing our boundaries now, often, to see just how much of our privacy we’re willing to give away.”
  • Instagram users begin fightback against stolen photos [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – Solid piece on the challenges of photos from Instagram (and the web in general) being used by others without permission. Copyright, theft, credit and ethics all get a mention, but the short version is: if copyright is understood on the web (often it’s not), it’s often not respected whatsoever. For the Instagram examples, I can only image this will get worse, not better, with Instagram moving more solidly onto the web proper, not just mobile devices.
  • Introducing Your Instagram Feed on the Web [Instagram Blog] – Furthering their shift to looking more and more like parent-company Facebook, Instagram have expanded the web presence associated with each username, allowing the liking, commenting and exploring of the people you follow on Instagram without use of a mobile device. The only thing you can’t do is upload an image from the web (yet).
  • Coming and Going on Facebook [Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project] – “Two-thirds of online American adults (67%) are Facebook users, making Facebook the dominant social networking site in this country. And new findings from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project indicate there is considerable fluidity in the Facebook user population: * 61% of current Facebook users say that at one time or another in the past they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more. * 20% of the online adults who do not currently use Facebook say they once used the site but no longer do so. * 8% of online adults who do not currently use Facebook are interested in becoming Facebook users in the future.”

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…”

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.”

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.

At today’s first day of the Perth CCI Symposium I presented the next section of my ongoing Ends of Identity research project as part of the Cultural Science session. I’ve attempted to use the BBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are? to explore how social media both before, during and after our lives shapes, frames and reframes who ‘we’ are in various ways.

As always, comments, questions and criticism are most welcome! Smile

Links for October 29th through November 8th:

  • Backdown on internet filter plan [SMH] – YAY! “The [Australian] government has finally backed down on its plan for a controversial mandatory internet filter, and will instead rely on major service providers to block ”the worst of the worst” child abuse sites. The retreat on the filter, which Labor proposed from early in its term, comes after a strong campaign by providers. Opponents argued it would not be effective, would be costly and slow down services, and involved too much censorship. Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, who strongly argued the case for years, will announce on Friday that providers blocking the Interpol worst of the worst list ”will help keep children safe from abuse”. ”It meets community expectations, and fulfils the government’s commitment to preventing Australian internet users from accessing child-abuse material online.” The government will use its powers under the telecommunications legislation, so Senator Conroy will say a filter law will not be needed.”
  • Barack Obama victory tweet becomes most retweeted ever [guardian.co.uk] – “Barack Obama has celebrated winning another term as US president by tweeting a photograph of himself hugging his wife, Michelle – which almost immediately became the most popular tweet of all time. The tweet, captioned “Four more years”, had been shared more than 400,000 times within a few hours of being posted, and marked as a favourite by more than 70,000.” (It’s now over 800,000 retweets!)
  • Announcing Instagram Profiles on the Web! [Instagram Blog] – Instagram adds full web profiles for all (public) Instagram accounts. While users can still only upload from mobile devices (for now), Instagram embracing the fuller web, probably as part of the larger integration with Facebook.
  • Mobile Apps Have a Ravenous Ability to Collect Personal Data [NYTimes.com] – “Angry Birds, the top-selling paid mobile app for the iPhone in the United States and Europe, has been downloaded more than a billion times by devoted game players around the world, who often spend hours slinging squawking fowl at groups of egg-stealing pigs. While regular players are familiar with the particular destructive qualities of certain of these birds, many are unaware of one facet: The game possesses a ravenous ability to collect personal information on its users. When Jason Hong, an associate professor at the Human Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, surveyed 40 users, all but two were unaware that the game was noting and storing their locations so that they could later be the targets of advertising.”

Links – catching up – through to August 22nd:

  • Instagram 3.0 – Photo Maps & More [Instagram Blog]- Instagram releases a substantial new update for iOS and Android, adding a new photo maps feature. If the user chooses to do so, the photo maps places all geotagged photos onto an interactive map of the globe which can be navigated by Instagram users’ contacts.
    Instagram 3.0 – Photo Maps Walkthrough from Instagram on Vimeo.

    While the maps function is being rolled out with very clear warnings about revealing locations publicly – with tools to remove geotags from some, groups or all photos – this rollout will no doubt remind (and shock many) users that the geographic tags on their photos mean that these aren’t just photos – they’re important and complex assemblages of data that can be reused and repurposed in a variety of ways.

  • Google to push pirate sites down search results [BBC - Newsbeat] – “Google is changing the way it calculates search results in an effort to make sure legal download websites appear higher than pirate sites. The world’s biggest search engine announced the change in a blog post on its website. The move has been welcomed by record companies in the UK and Hollywood film studios. Movie and music firms have complained in the past that Google should have been doing more to fight piracy. They say searching for an artist, song or film often brings up pages of illegal sites, making it hard to find a place to download a legal version. From next week, search results will take into account the number of “valid copyright removal notices”. Sites with more notices will rank lower, although Google has not said what it considers a valid notice.”
  • Gotye – Somebodies: A YouTube Orchestra [YouTube]- Fantastic remix by Gotye, using a huge range of fan remixes of Somebody that I Used to Know and mashing them together. Comes with a full credits list, too: http://gotye.com/reader/items/original-videos-used-in-somebodies-a-youtube-orchestra.html (A great example for Web Media 207.)
  • Facebook removes ‘racist’ page in Australia [BBC News] – “A Facebook page that depicted Aboriginal people in Australia as drunks and welfare cheats has been removed after a public outcry. The Aboriginal Memes page had allowed users to post jokes about indigenous people. An online petition calling for the removal of “the racist page” has generated thousands of signatures. The government has also condemned it. The page’s creator is believed to be a 16-year-old boy in Perth, reports say. “We recognise the public concern that controversial meme pages that Australians have created on Facebook have caused,” Facebook said in a statement to local media. A meme is an idea that spreads through the internet.”
  • Twitter ‘sorry’ for suspending Guy Adams as NBC withdraws complaint [Technology | guardian.co.uk] – “Twitter on Tuesday reinstated the account of a British journalist it suspended for publishing the email address of an executive at NBC, which had been attracting a significant amount of incoming fire over its Olympics coverage. The incident has not done Guy Adams of the Independent much harm. Apart perhaps from a little hurt pride, he has returned to the twittersphere with tens of thousands of new followers. For NBC, it was another blow to its already battered reputation over its coverage of the London Olympic Games. But Twitter found itself in a deeply unfamiliar situation: as the subject of one of the firestorms of indignation that characterises the platform, but which are usually directed at others.”
  • Murdoch’s tablet The Daily lays off nearly a third of its staff [Media | guardian.co.uk] – “The Daily, Rupert Murdoch’s tablet newspaper, has laid off close to a third of its staff just 18 months after its glitzy launch. Executives at the News Corp-owned title told its 170 employees on Tuesday that 50 of them would be let go. Sources told the Guardian that security staff were brought onto the Daily’s editorial floor at News Corp in New York to escort the laid-off employees out of the building. Earlier this month the paper’s editor-in-chief Jesse Angelo denied reports that the media giant had put the title “on watch” and was considering closing it. In a statement Tuesday Angelo said the title was dropping its opinion section and would be taking sports coverage from Fox Sports, also part of News Corp, and other partners. In another cost-saving move the title will also stop producing pages that can be read vertically and horizontally on a tablet, sticking to straight up and down.”
  • If Twitter doesn’t reinstate Guy Adams, it’s a defining moment [Dan Gillmor | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk] – “Once again, we’re reminded of a maxim when it comes to publishing on other people’s platforms: we publish at their sufferance. But there’s a corollary: When they take down what we publish, they take an enormous risk with their own futures.
    This time, Twitter has suspended the account of a British journalist who tweeted the corporate email address of an NBC executive. The reporter, Guy Adams of the Independent, has been acerbic in his criticisms of NBC’s (awful) performance during the Olympics in London. Adams has posted his correspondence with Twitter, which claims he published a private email address. It was nothing of the kind, as many, including the Deadspin sports blog, have pointed out. … What makes this a serious issue is that Twitter has partnered with NBC during the Olympics. And it was NBC’s complaint about Adams that led to the suspension. That alone raises reasonable suspicions about Twitter’s motives.”