Designing digital publics for participatory parity

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In networked publics, power based on network positionality replaces media power. How can we design networked publics to improve parity? I present @TheTweetserve, a prototype solution.

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Designing digital publics for participatory parity

  1. 1. Designing Digital Publics for Participatory Parity Sebastian Benthall UC Berkeley I School
  2. 2. The talk ● A model for how inequality and social influence are related ● Public sphere -> publics -> networked public ● Inequality of social network formation ● Hacking social network formation with a cool Twitter bot ● Invitation to shape design with GitHub tickets
  3. 3. Equality: we like it* * assumed for this talk
  4. 4. A theory of inequality ● Everyone’s talking about how unequal U.S. society is ● Everyone’s talking about what the “real cause” of inequality is ● Claim: Inequality is complex.
  5. 5. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Influence Education Brains Organization
  6. 6. A theory of inequality ● Lots of ways power and privilege reinforce each other ● We can dispute the details but… ● ...it’s worth trying to make an impact by targeting one piece at a time
  7. 7. We can build an equitable public sphere
  8. 8. A story (from Habermas, 1962) ● Absolutist monarchal states overthrown by capitalists - the bourgeoisie ● They communicated freely and came to rational agreement that guided politics… The public sphere. It was great. ● Until consumerism makes advertising more important than politics, so media power!
  9. 9. A critique (from Fraser, 1992) ● Ok yeah bourgeois men did that ● The people they excluded (e.g. women, working class) got together to agree on different politics -- counterpublics ● The public sphere is not equalizing common ground, but a nexus of unequal publics
  10. 10. Network publics (boyd, 2010) ● Social network sites are publics ● Mediated by the network technology
  11. 11. the uneven shape of social networks
  12. 12. Kurakin, 2004 http://www.alexeikurakin.org/main/lecture4Ext.html
  13. 13. Hong, http://sydney.edu.au/engineering/it/~shhong/scalefree.htm
  14. 14. from Barabasi, Linked
  15. 15. preferential attachment the rich get richer
  16. 16. Networked power (Castells,2009) ● In networked society, our communication networks are the channels of power ● Power based on position within a network is networked power ● Unless designed otherwise, networked publics will be highly unequal!
  17. 17. agenda setting
  18. 18. reframing
  19. 19. In networked publics, networked power succeeds media power
  20. 20. This will reinforce existing power dynamics
  21. 21. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Influence Education Brains Organization
  22. 22. So what can we do? Influence
  23. 23. So what can we do? Influence
  24. 24. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Education Brains Organization Influence
  25. 25. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Education Brains Organization Influence
  26. 26. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Education Brains Organization Influence
  27. 27. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Education Brains Organization Influence
  28. 28. Money Representation Beauty Leisure Social Status Education Brains Organization Influence
  29. 29. culture hack Influence
  30. 30. Algorithms ● Networked publics use relevance algorithms (Gillespie, 2012) to direct information ● Building alternative infrastructure for political reasons -- infrastructure-based activism (Sauter, 2013) ● Could we reverse this process with something else… an irrelevance algorithm?
  31. 31. sure we can
  32. 32. Designing for parity
  33. 33. Example: The Listserve ● NYU ITP project by Begley et al. ● An “email lottery” -- once a day a subscriber is chosen to write the rest of the list ● ~25k members and great parity properties!
  34. 34. @TheTweetserve
  35. 35. @TheTweetserve v0.1 ● Periodically, find all the users who both ○ mentioned @TheTweetserve recently ○ follow @TheTweetserve ● Retweet the most recent status of one of them at random
  36. 36. #revolutionary ?!?!
  37. 37. An invitation ● This is just a proof of concept ● The real point is an invitation to praxis ● If you have ideas about how it could be better, please file a ticket on GitHub ● GitHub is like a networked public of people that build your networked publics
  38. 38. fork-friendly and patches welcome!
  39. 39. Thanks! Questions? Contact me @sbenthall or sb@ischool.berkeley.edu

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