8 Nov 2012, 2:19pm
media & technology research
by jordan

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New blog on anthropology & STS from CASTAC!

My colleagues and I at CASTAC (the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing) have just launched a new blog on anthropological studies of science and technology: blog.castac.org. We’ve got an inaugural post from Editor-in-Chief Patricia Lange and a first post from contributor Lucy Suchman. We’ll also be featuring posts over the next few weeks from David Hakken and David Hess, and will be covering sessions on STS and media at the upcoming annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association.

The official announcement is below — please check out the blog and spread the word! We’re also looking for contributors, so contact me (jkraemer @ uci.edu) or Patricia (plange @ cca.edu) if you’re interested!

 


Announcing the new CASTAC blog, at http://blog.castac.org! Join us for discussion and exchange on the anthropological study of science, technology, and computing. In this blog we seek to promote exchange of ideas on breaking new research trends, tools and techniques, and stories of experiences beyond the academy. Check out our inaugural post from Patricia G. Lange and a first post from Lucy Suchman. Join the conversation!

The CASTAC blog is now live at http://blog.castac.org. Spread the news and get involved — we’re eager to hear from you!

Your CASTAC blog team,

– Patricia G. Lange, Jennifer Cool, and Jordan Kraemer
http://blog.castac.org
@CASTAC_AAA

30 May 2012, 10:35am
media & technology research social media social networks
by jordan

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Anthropology of Social Networking at UCL

Thanks to Daniel Miller at University College London for organizing a new resource for the anthropology of social networking and social media: Anthropology of Social Networking. The website includes information on recent ethnographic projects around the world that seek to understand social networking sites and practices in their everyday context “and their impact on our knowledge and understanding of society, humankind, and social science theory,” as well as a blog. They are still seeking additional contributors.

You can read about my dissertation research, Mobile Berlin: Social Media and the New Europe, as well as my co-conspirator Charles Pearson’s work on social media and the Tea Party movement in the U.S. Charles and I are organizing a panel on the anthropology of social media for the annual American Anthropological Association meetings this fall in San Francisco — more info TBA.

DML Conference in Long Beach this week

I’m looking forward to the Digital Media and Learning conference this week in Long Beach. I’m giving a short talk on Friday at 11am, as part of a panel titled “The Social Dimensions of Emerging Platforms.” My talk, “Scaling the Social: Scalemaking, Friendship, and Social Media in Berlin,” will consider how Facebook and Skype facilitate communication and social networks at multiple geographic scales, bringing together local, regional, national, and translocal relationships in the same digital spaces. I’m also excited about the Ignite Talks, which look interesting!

Conference Program

DML on Twitter

Participate in a study about social media and international users

I’m conducting some research this summer in the San Francisco Bay area, on social media and localization — if you might be interested, read on!

Are you employed in the field of social media or Web 2.0? Interested in participating in an ethnographic study about new media design and international users?

This is a study being conducted by Jordan Kraemer (jkraemer@uci.edu), a graduate student in anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and is titled New Media in Design and Practice: Social Media Companies in Transnational Circuits. Tom Boellstorff is the faculty sponsor (tboellst@uci.edu).

You are eligible to participate if you are at least 18 years of age or older, are employed at a social media or technology company, speak English, and are in some way involved with the design, planning, or maintenance of social media (social networking services, blogging/microblogging, social bookmarking, or other media related to Web 2.0).

The research procedures involve an audio-taped interview that will last approximately 30-45 minutes at a location convenient to you, and an optional follow-up interview (1-2 hours). Your identity will be kept confidential.

There are no direct benefits from participation in the study. However, this study may explain the connection between international users, who are not often the target audience of new social media products, and design practices in the United States. This study will contribute more broadly to understanding the social impact of new technology.

Contact Information:

University of California, Irvine

Lead Researcher: Jordan Kraemer, graduate student, department of anthropology

jkraemer@uci.edu

Faculty Sponsor: Tom Boellstorff, Associate Professor of Anthropology

(949) 824-9944 | tboellst@uci.edu

what ever happened to micro-payments?

with all this talk of the demise of newspapers (and potentially, print journalism), i find myself thinking back to the model of micro-payments (or microcommerce) that has previously been proposed as an effective method for earning revenue from online content (and apparently, more recently in the Times). in theory, micropayment involves charging very small amounts at a time for an online transaction, such as downloading a song or purchasing items in a game. the key, though, is reducing barriers to completing the transaction — such as having an payment account set up in advance, linked to a credit card or bank account. the iPhone, for instance, takes advantage of this model with its App store, and even though iPhone apps aren’t as inexpensive as the payments initially envisioned by the micropayments method, they are often only a few dollars, charged immediately to one’s credit card through a user account which Apple practically requires all iPhone owners create.

app-store.jpg

the benefit of micropayments lies in the ease of accessing content, at low cost to users, while potentially generating significant revenue for content-providers when all those little payments add up (especially given the low cost of delivering content digitally, rather than through offline distribution channels). in addition, micropayments make it possible to earn revenue without relying entirely on advertising, which means content isn’t as dependent on appealing to preferred audiences — or on a secondary market of consumer goods (and such advertising has notably been slumping of late).

for newspapers, however, charging small amounts per article might still not represent a viable solution — unlike a song or an app, an article is more like a television show, something you might want to consume once but don’t need to own. moreover, reading an article online isn’t the same as reading the paper — a paper you can peruse, strew all over the coffee table, easily share with members of your household. so the challenge should be how to charge a modest amount for access to premium online content that is commensurate with its value to the consumer. perhaps very inexpensive subscriptions, on weekly, monthly, and yearly bases would fit this niche — i can see myself paying a few dollars a month to read a website like the NYTimes.com, as long as i know up front what it will cost.

online sources also have to consider how readers access their content — users are unlikely to pay in advance for something they aren’t sure they’ll use. perhaps trial services and subscriptions could address that issue. but it does seem to me that at low enough prices, with instant, easy-to-use payment services, some kind of micropayment system might be a viable way to keep supporting journalism and other kinds of professional-produced content.

writing for TechCrunch, Brian Solis has argued for a Darwinian-like survival-of-the-fittest model for journalism, mobilizing online social networks to cultivate successful individual journalists. this approach might work well for music, television, and other media whose value lies in their consumption, and where there can be niches for different tastes (independent music, for example, can benefit from the low cost of distributing songs directly to fans). but journalism it seems to me is more like research — sometimes you have to support investigation that leads to dead ends in order to uncover important findings. while i don’t want to over-romanticize the role of journalism in a consumer society, i do think there’s a place for investigative reporting that requires new revenue models in a world of digitized media.

19 Mar 2009, 12:19pm
social networks twitter
by jordan

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From anonymity to exhibitionism: whither Twitter?

It’s funny how, once upon a time, people both valued and mocked anonymity on the internet — most users picked a “handle” or an online moniker, and avoided sharing their real names or identifying details, while it was joked that “on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” (or an adult man pretending to be a teenage girl, as was often imagined). Facebook has gone some way towards undermining that convention, encouraging users to use their full names, and making it easy for people you once knew (say, in high school) to find you. And though not required, plenty of people put their real names on Twitter — including numerous well-known people and celebrities, from actors and musicians to social media authors (I tend to assume that anyone famous with thousands of followers is probably who they say they are — but who knows?).

Microblogging as superficial exhibitionism

Twitter, in its increasing popularity and visibility, is generating some anxiety as well. A teaser for new animated series “Supernews” describes Twitter users as exhibitionists who have only superficial online friendships, and who confuse microblogging with real social connections (“if they were _really_ your friends, wouldn’t they call you personally to see how you’re doing?”). It’s entertainingly short-sighted to imply that a phone call is more intimate than an online interaction, when not so long ago, people were anxious about the social consequences of telephones replacing in-person communication.

The future of Twitter

At the other end of the spectrum, Nova Spivack voices concerns about the widespread adoption of Twitter, a service which as yet doesn’t offer much in the way of filtering. Twitter, in its relative simplicity, can be used in many different ways by its participants — and whom you follow determines the kind of conversation you’ll experience (Howard Rheingold, for example, advocates “sampling” from the Twitter stream, not trying to stay constantly up-to-date). Spivack describes the various ways in which Twitter is subject to possible overload — users who post too often, but have little to say, spammers who hijack hashtags (twitter content tags marked with a # sign) and @replies, and an excess of notifications, from news updates to your own desktop apps. Twitter for now remains a relatively even space for communication, in which the biggest distinction between famous or popular accounts is their number of followers. The downside of this lies in the equal access Twitter provides for spammers, advertisers, and other potentially unwanted content providers. Spivack concludes that some form of filtering will be necessary to preserve Twitter’s usefulness, ideally through some kind of metadata to allow ranking by popularity, credibility, content type, provider type, and so forth (assuming these are straightforward to implement, that is!).

'The Theory of Twitter Overload' by raster on flickr, some rights reserved For my part, I’m always most fascinated by the unintended uses of sites like Twitter, and the creative ways users appropriate online services and technologies. While Twitter may be risking its longterm viability, as Spivack suggests, its very simplicity permits users to innovate and generate new applications its creators never envisioned.

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