1. Summarise the main points in the readings noting your agreement and disagreement with the ideas and opinions of the author/speaker.
E.J Westlake starts the reading by giving her first impressions on what was the new News Feed in 2006, a big deal because suddenly everyone knew what you got up to on Facebook, every time you logged in. Westlake explains that there was a lot of negative feedback regarding the stalker-like vibes the new look inspired.
Facebook, as Westlake explains, was founded as a way to enhance face-to-face contact on University campuses. Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in February, 2004. Originally to help students get to know each other, it went live to include schools, workplaces and public domains. Westlake admits that Facebook usage may seem to the older generation as “deviant exhibitionism” or as “passive acceptance of intrusive surveillance.” (Westlake, 2008, 23). But Westlake assures that it is neither, rather, willing participants in an ever changing phenomena refusing to be pigeon-holed.
Westlake likens Facebook to MySpace, a similar program that consists of an online diary that includes photos; video footage; comments from viewers and allows people to connect with one another. Both websites “encourage users to share personal information, such as favourite movies and books, favourite quotes, political leanings… and photographs.” (Westlake, 2008, 25). Both websites are reminiscent of the 70’s Slam book. MySpace has been used as a promotional tool and because it includes a blog, it differs from Facebook. Although these sites can be connected to each other, Facebook’s features originally allowed students to meet, especially if they were enrolled in similar courses.
Westlake’s article describes the way we, as users of Facebook, perform; read texts and travel on the web. Just like following links to information that interests us, we are able to use Facebook by linking people through mutual groups, friends and interests. Westlake explains that this is a good example of “read-write culture.” (Lessing, 2007) and such other examples include IMDb and Wikipedia where participatory culture is at its best. With Facebook, friends can not only leave comments and messages, but also tag themselves and others in a person’s photos.
Westlake also lists the different types of generations, older than college students:
- “The “silent” generation (1925–1942),
- The Baby “Boomers” (1945–1960),
- And the “thirteenth” generation (1961–1981)” (Westlake, 2008, 26)
Some of which, Westlake admits, to having difficulty relating to Facebook and its functions of communication. While college students, on the other hand, thrive on the new technology.
Another point Westlake makes is about the way we come across on our Facebook profiles, or the way we perform. Westlake likens our Facebook friends as the audience and even though they cannot see our faces for audio cues, we make use of photos, videos and content in what we write. The audience then takes what we have written and validates us and this seems to be the main reason why the Facebook community works so well.
Westlake then continues by describing what Facebook is and what one would see when they first log in; she explains profile pictures, groups, friends, poking, applications and fake profiles. Again some aspects that an older generation might find puzzling, but to an avid Facebook user, it is indeed, quite addictive. For example, my profile is kept up to date and I communicate often with friends and family and post photos for them to see. It is an ideal communication tool because I live far from my family and it keeps us all in touch. I’ve only recently taught my mum how to log in and navigate Facebook, so it will be great when she feels confident enough to do it on her own.
A valid point that Westlake makes is about surveillance and privacy and one that concerns me a little as well. I heard a while ago that British police had scanned a large number of Facebook profile photos and had them available to them to compare with surveillance footage taken from street cameras and the like. I didn’t know what to think. What if someone looks like me and commits a crime, what will happen then? Will I be charged simply because I look like a criminal..? I wonder if misunderstandings like this could happen. Stalking is another problem faced by Facebook users, and what I’m worried about is that older kids that have access to Facebook may also see some adult content. I worry for my children, and because they are growing up in a technological era, it is up to me to educate them about the internet, from the good things to the bad. What is good to know is that Facebook has strict guidelines to promote a somewhat safe environment for its users. These guidelines are reinforced by other users who are encouraged “to click on “Report Abuse” links on every page.” (Westlake, 2008, 34).
In her next point, Westlake talk about Generation Y and their use of Facebook, and their willingness and openness to new technology, media and politics. “Generation Y Facebook users perform themselves and offer themselves up for surveillance for their chosen audiences, opening new stages for the operation of and the resistance to hegemonic power.” (Westlake, 2008, 38). This generation seems more at home with Facebook and all it has to offer. Westlake concludes with “The internet continues to be a palimpsest of the older ways of communicating, even as it is also
a way of signifying through new technologies.” (Westlake, 2008, 38). And to me that means that Facebook is merely picking up where the older generations left off and I tend to agree. I might be performing for the world to see, but I choose to perform and I choose what they get to see.
E.J Westlake (2008). Friend me if you Facebook: Generation Y and performative surveillance. The Drama Review 52(4), 21-40.
Evan Williams on TED, in February 2009, talks about how he came up with Twitter, with the help of Jack Dorsey, as a side project while working at ODEO. This talk is fascinating to me because I have never heard of how Twitter was born. I have said many times that while Facebook is an all rounder in terms of having status updates; photos; games and messaging, Twitter to me has always been a little boring as there’s not a lot to do but state what one is doing at any point in time. Having said that, I find it amazing how a concept has taken on the world and become not only popular, but addictive.
Williams explains that Twitter is “based around a very simple, seemingly trivial concept. You say what you’re doing in 140 characters or less. And people who are interested in you get those updates.” (Williams, 2009). What is interesting is that one can receive an update on their mobile phone, on the go. So I don’t even need a computer, just a Twitter application and I’m ready to tell the world what I’m doing, where ever I might be doing it!
I can relate to this on some level because I have heard of celebrities Twittering about their lives, sharing important, very personal information as well as very insipid details that no one needs to know. I understand that normal people like me might make use of Twitter to be part of a community no matter where they are in the world. This of course leads on to the use of Twitter during a crisis like what Williams uses, the San Diego fires in 2007, where people Twittered to let others know what was happening as well as to tell loved ones that they were safe. Both the LA Times and Emergency Personnel also used Twitter to relate news and information.
Unsurprisingly, businesses have begun using Twitter to advertise, but what is interesting is politicians utilising Twitter for their campaigns. “In fact, there’s 47 members of congress who currently have Twitter accounts [in America].” (Williams, 2009).
Another point I found impressive was Williams willingness to let other people tweak and change Twitter for the better, for example:
- Inventing the reply feature, so you can reply to a specific person or message
- API, or Application Programming Interface, where “programmers can write software that interacts with Twitter.” (Williams, 2009)
- Twitter being accessible on Macs, Windows, iphone, BlackBerry
- And a search engine by Summize
Williams concludes with admitting that Twitter has grown from what was originally a side project intended to keep family and friends connected to people all over the world utilising the software to broadcast news and information to even helping politicians with their campaigning, and helped people raise money for various causes. And here I thought Twitter was boring!
TED talk – Evan Williams on Twitter
2. Reflect on your own use of messaging, Facebook, and twitter concerns or fears you may have and economic opportunities you might recognise.
It’s funny, but for the longest time, I have texted rather than called anyone on my mobile phone book and very rarely picked up my land line. Is it because I just don’t want to talk to anyone? Could be. I’ve been described as chatterbox in the past, but talking on the phone is something I don’t much enjoy.
I have a Facebook account and I enjoy immensely keeping it up to date with new a status almost every day, new photos of my children for my friends and family to view and keeping in touch with friends that I don’t often see. At times it is the best way to get in contact with me as more often than not my phones will be out of action. I have two young children who love to explore and take things apart to see how they work!
With Facebook, I get the whole deal, I can message, view photos and play games. Twitter, on the other hand, is boring by comparison and I hardly update the status. I’ve already done it on Facebook, so why do it again? Also, there’s nothing else to do on Twitter, so I’m not fond of it.
My only concern with Facebook is the privacy aspect of it, and whether I’m setting my self up for a fall, when I upload so much of my life on the social network. I have taken precautions to ensure only friends have access to my profile, and I never write private details, such as phone numbers or bank details, where everyone can see. Even so, there are people out there that, if they want that information bad enough, they will find a way. That is a bit scary.
As for economic opportunities, people can have a profile devoted to their product or services and the ads that appear on the right hand side may be noticed by people looking for something in particular. I have noticed that some ads correspond to the interests I have stated on my profile, which is rather cunning. For example, I was reading a lot of baby related adverts (like Huggies) while I was expecting and now, I am seeing ads for Jobs from home; gym clothes and new furniture!