Jan 14

‘You can always quit Facebook’

For those of us who have become alarmed and feel they might be addicted, it might be advisable to quit. Wikihow offers a page with guiding steps to make this happen. If you are not sure if you are addicted, you can check online, for instance by consulting the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale, or if you manage to go outside, consult a local expert.

Even if you are not (yet) addicted, but you still think Facebook is not adding enough to your life and you find it a waste of time, you can leave as well. Or if you have other reasons you want to leave, for example because you disapprove of Facebook’s policies and decision making, you might want to follow Facebook’s own advice and leave too. Anne shows us the way:

[youtube]Insert video URL or ID herehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geiei36HfPU&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Jan 14

Mobilization for political change

The last decade has been characterized by a number of revolutions spurred by social media or mobile telephony, as authoritarian governments have been overthrown after fast mobilization through these communication channels.

Everyone probably knows about the Arab spring revolutions and the role social media played in them.


Prior to these events, governments were also forced to leave in the Philippines (2001), Spain (2004), and Moldova (2009), due to mobilization that occurred through new media (Shirky:2010).

The advantages of the media for organizing opposition, building social movements, and mobilizing large groups of people are amongst others the immediacy and fluidity of these media, as well as the difficulties governments have to control them.

According to White and McAllister (2014), the political consequences of social media are graver for authoritarian regimes than in democratic states.  Authoritarian governments lose control over agenda-setting, and social media by default foster social movements and opposition formation. Responds by governments have been to shut down the internet at crucial periods, build permanent firewalls, monitor information flows, or manipulate information flows.


White, Stephen & McAllister, Ian (2014) Did Russia (Nearly) have a Facebook Revolution in 2011? Social Media’s Challenge to Authoritarianism, POLITICS: VOL 34(1), 72–84

Shirky, Clay (2010), The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change,  Foreign Affairs 90.1

Jan 14

Political Theory

Democratic Development


The enhanced media participation literacy that publics now have due to the internet and social media networks such as Facebook, has turned many people into active media producers. This participation is an important component of democratic development (see for example Carpentier:2011), for several reasons.

First of all it enlarges the public sphere. The public sphere is the realm where public opinion is created, and every unrestricted conversation between citizens on a public issue contributes to the public sphere. The public sphere does not overlap with the state, but rather mediates between the state and society. The public sphere, according to its theoretical origins, was a mechanism to steer and influence the state, and thereby a basic condition of democracy, which it still remains. Calhoun (2002) emphasizes that the public sphere nowadays should be seen as a form of social solidarity that is uniquely created through discourse, and that is a crucial site for the (trans-)formation of political identities. A vital public sphere is furthermore characterized by its multiplicity (of individuals, publics and opinions) and its inclusiveness. Collective (political) identities can be formed without a vital public sphere, for example through nationalism, but a (cosmopolitan) democracy can not.

Secondly social networks like Facebook create imagined communities. Although the concept of imagined communities was originally connected to the nationstate, some have applied it to analyze web-based communities as well.

Thirdly networked individualism, based on individualism and identification, starts with projects and values of individuals and develops in systems of exchange with other individuals (Castells:2009). According to Hopper (Hopper:2007) networked individualism refers to the engagement of individuals in communities of practice, by using ICT’s to participate in networks. It inspires social movements that build on sharing new values, and in combination with communalism, it inspires social movements of resistance (Castells:2009). It furthermore is expressed through communication systems that are characterized by the use of new technologies, autonomy, horizontal networking, interactivity, and recombination of content under the initiative of the individual and her network.


Carpentier, N. (2011). Media and participation: A site of ideological democratic struggle, IL: Intellect

Calhoun, Craig (2002) Imagining Solidarity: Cosmopolitanism, Constitutional Patriotism, and the Public Sphere’,Public Culture, 14:1

Hopper, Paul (2007) Understanding Cultural Globalization, Polity

Castells, M. (2009) Communication power, Oxford University Press

Jan 14

Country-report: Brazil

Anne, who is an inhabitant of Rio de Jeaneiro, tells us about her experiences with social media in Brazil, being an immigrant from the Netherlands.

[youtube]Insert video URL or ID herehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqRKc3UQhg4&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

Jan 14

Users being used

Privacy on Facebook

The most heard criticism towards Facebook is that it does not respect the privacy of its users and shares stored personal data and posted content with third parties. Facebook officials have initially responded quite indifferently and arrogant to the critique, stating that if you do not like what Facebook does, you can always leave. However, after the Edward Snowden informed the world how many personal data was tapped by the NSA, Facebook finally published a transparency report, providing insight in the extent to which different governments request user data from Facebook.

Additionally, each time Facebook changes something in their settings or protocols, users automatically have their settings changed to ‘public’ so all their posts become visible to the entire world. They need to change the settings themselves if they wish to, and many users are not aware of this, at least for a period of time.

Sengupta reminds us how governments use new technologies for surveillance and control purposes, and especially how the boundaries civil rights pose on surveillance and control options are usually first expanded in the Global South. The internet is a space as any other where people’s rights can be violated by governments, because even though it is a virtual space it is interconnected with our physical reality. And blocking of Facebook, such is being done in China, is not the only way governments do this.

User exploitation

Facebook is free for its users. Facebook claims its mission to be to empower people and to make a change in the world. However, there are also large business interests at stake. The owner of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg is currently the richest man of his generation on this planet. Many users are not empowered at all by using Facebook, but rather exploited by it (Van Dijck:2012). Users are the products of the industry. And even though it is known that users do not want their page flooding with advertisement (Beauchamp:2013), Facebook still increases the amount of advertisement more and more each year.


van Dijck, José (2012) Facebook and the engineering of connectivity: A multi-layered approach to social media platforms, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(2) 141-155

Beauchamp, Michelle Bednarz (2013) Don’t Invade My Personal Space: Facebook’s Advertising Dilemma, Journal of Applied Business Research, 29

Jan 14

Facebook addiction

When Facebook does not empower

It has become a serious problem for many people in Western countries: internet addictions and more specifically social media addictions. Internet addiction will even be included in this years’ edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-V).

Facebook in particular is designed to gratify a large range of personal needs: in the Facebook environment it is easy to shift between different sets of functions. On the newsfeed, users are being fed short chunks of information and pictures uploaded by their friends, groups, communities and advertisers, and that are often designed to please, entertain or attract attention. Then it is possible to have instant chat conversations with any of the listed friends of users that are online. Emailing with off-line users is also possible. And there are a large number of pages of celebrities, groups, issues, channels and music that can be visited while staying in the Facebook environment. Additionally Facebook launched a number of apps and games, that can keep users busy and entertained while staying on the site. Facebook is designed to keep users as long online as possible, as they are the source of income for the owners.


Especially for people who have difficulties in life outside the internet, and are therefore generally more vulnerable to addictions, the risk to become Facebook addicted is obviously much larger. Whereas all the options Facebook offers are for many people simply entertaining, informing or life-improving, most users recognize its pulling and time-consuming quality as well, and can understand the risk of it becoming addictive.

Jan 14

The Digital Divide


We live in a digital age. With the massive role internet now plays in the lives of the West, it is sometimes overlooked that there are still large areas int he world where access to internet is minimal, especially for the poor. This inequality in access is often referred to as the digital divide.


source: http://blogs.worldbank.org/publicsphere/archive/201301

However, within the population of regular internet users, there is already a divide in literacy, between the programmers and the users. Santo (2013) argues that there is therefore a need for hacker literacy; which he calls the third wave of media democratization. During the 21st century he saw the first wave as critical media literacy; the ability audiences developed to transform from passive receivers to responsive publics that questioned the intent, assumptions and biases of media producers. Subsequently, the internet spurred the possibility for publics to create and share content, as they developed participatory media literacy. However, the programmers are still to a large extent responsible for the communication flows and how messages are being distributed. Therefore publics should become literate themselves in this field, so they can influence decisions being made regarding the design of the infrastructure there communication is depending on.

Yet in discussing development goals regarding ICT, it is often not yet a question of how internet should be used, but rather how it can be made available. Robinson (2005) for example discusses the access to communication tools of several Latin American communities, and shows that mobile telephony is far more important than internet. The same goes for most African countries, as well as most of Central Asia. Often large companies have a stake in keeping the communication tools that are available to people inefficient and limited, which hinders an increased distribution of internet accessibility. However, merely providing access to internet for these publics should not be the goal. As Pieterse (2005) has stressed, the cyber-utopian idea that internet access will solve all the problems of these publics, is a delusion concocted by large companies and stemming from capitalist ideology as well. Access to internet alone might not change social inequality but could even further enhance it, if technology is not disembedded from capital.

To get back to social media for instance, recent history has shown social media’s ability to have severe effects on political and social developments. However, the risks are numerous too and should be taken into account. Shirky (2010) for instance mentions risks of promoting internet freedom as a development goal, and shows examples of how things have developed for the worse.

digital divide

Every now and then we all think back to the times when we did not use internet. How was life back then? It seems hard to imagine as we now spend most of our time on the web. But we could live without it. And many in the West now try to limit their time spent on the web, and for example decide to delete their Facebook account as an incentive to stay away from the computer.


Santo, R. (2013) Towards hacker literacies: What Facebook’s privacy snafus can teach us about empowered technological practices, Digital Culture & Education,5:1, 18-33

Contributions by Pieterse and Robinson in: Lovink, Geert & Zehle, Soenke (2005) the Incommunicado Reader. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures

Shirky, Clay (2010), The Political Power of Social Media: Technology, the Public Sphere, and Political Change,  Foreign Affairs 90.1

Jan 14

Designing is deciding

‘If you do not like our decisions, then don’t participate’

Facebook is a tool that creates and enhances connectivity. It consists of different technological levels of design. There is the architectural design and the software that it is based on; this is the Facebook platform. Then there is protocol, which refers to the concepts and rules that its design of functions are based on. They include embedded values, which are possibly held by the decision maker(s). Lastly there is the user interface, which is the Facebook that users can see and access through the website (van Dijck:2012). On all these levels Mark Zuckerberg, who is the owner and CEO of Facebook, has the final say in the decisions being made.

designThe decisions of design have large impacts and social effects, to the extent of norming sociality and embedding values while people are not aware of this (Santo:2013). With nearly 2 billion users worldwide for whom Facebook is a public sphere, and an important communication space, there are however many who have criticized the lack of democracy in Facebook’s decision making process. A study of Stein shows, that the level of participation that Facebook allows its users is very low (Stein:2013). Facebook by now allows some participation regarding their user policies , but none whatsoever regarding permitted content, copyrights, or software modification. Regarding the use of personal data they operate according to a silent consent rule, which has caused a lot of critique.


van Dijck, José (2012) Facebook and the engineering of connectivity: A multi-layered approach to social media platforms, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 19(2) 141-155

Santo, R.(2013) Towards hacker literacies: What Facebook’s privacy snafus can teach us about empowered technological practices, Digital Culture & Education,5:1, 18-33

Stein, L. (2013) Policy and Participation on Social Media: The Cases of YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia, Communication, Culture & Critique 6 , 353–371

Jan 14

Social media or Facebook

Facebook is a good focus of study when writing about social media worldwide, since it is by far the largest and most used social network/ social media site on the web to date. With 1184 million users globally, Facebook is followed by Qzone; its Chinese equivalent (see chart below). The other big platforms mentioned in the chart – LinkedIn, Twitter and Tumblr and Tencent Weibo – are not equivalents of Facebook, since they have more specific functions and offer to a much lesser extent an entire environment to its users that provides space for a large multitude of activities and social interactions, such as Facebook and Qzone do.

<a href="Statistic: Leading social networks worldwide as of January 2014, ranked by number of active users (in millions) | Statista

When looking at social network use per country instead of worldwide, a few years ago there still used to be a considerable variety of sites that were largest in each country. But since 2012 there remain only 3 alternatives that are used more than Facebook; Qzone in China, Cloob in Iran and VK in Russia. However, a large number of countries where a small percentage of the population had frequent access to internet, is not included in these statistics.

In China and Iran Facebook is officially blocked by the government, which is the main reason the alternative platforms have become larger. Yet in Russia, where Facebook is used a lot as well, VK is simply more popular. Russians are therefore the only noted voluntary exception to Facebook domination of its online social sphere.

VK is an equivalent of Facebook in usage, the main difference being the integrated use of torrent downloads and filesharing of music and videos.

Until 2012, other platforms that were popular included for example Orkut (in India and Brazil) and Mixi (in Japan).
Orkut is mostly focused on network building, social circles and communities, as opposed to individual-user focused entertainment. Orkut was launched and owned by Google and has often showed technical mistakes and flaws, and it is prone to abuse. It also does not have a serious privacy policy in place. However, it still has 120 million users.

Mixi, which was launched in Japan, is based on open source software and is focused on community entertainment. It automatically creates music playlists of its users, based on music they have bene listening to.

Jan 14

Process orientated reflection

Writing a blog about social media is confrontational in two ways.
First of all while reading studies and articles about social media use and effects, quite soon I realize I have not reflected on the issue a lot on a personal level. I have used social media a lot. Many people have probably become aware of their social media use to some extent over time, but yet it remains a space that can easily be accessed in subconscious states of mind. When used for personal interactions, rather than professional, it is a space for the kind of activity you can be involved in without effort, without much attention. The kind of activity you engage in when you need a break, want to be distracted, or relax. That is one of the reasons it can become an addiction, and has a large probability of gradually consuming more and more personal time. But there are numerous other factors that contribute to this effect. Many people have left the social media arena, possibly for this reason. And admittedly, there have been numerous moments the last few days, that while it was my aim to do research on social media, I find myself involved in social media personally. Isn’t it ironic.

Dec 13

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