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FarmVillains? Social Games, Data Mining and the Social Media Contradiction
 

FarmVillains? Social Games, Data Mining and the Social Media Contradiction

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The increasingly complex intermingling of online social interactions and data mining that take place through social media, web search and online games invites further discussion and examination. Both ...

The increasingly complex intermingling of online social interactions and data mining that take place through social media, web search and online games invites further discussion and examination. Both activities – the increasing necessity of engaging in social interaction through online commercial providers such as Facebook alongside the ability of providers to extract, aggregate and commercialise the outcomes of such activities as a result of the data trail that is produced – have attracted considerable attention amongst the media and academic commentators alike. The implicit contract that the public who use these services necessarily engage requires them to trade information about their friends, their likes, their desires and their consumption habits in return for their participation in the service. The recent release of Facebook’s Graph Search functionality makes this trade off quite explicit, demonstrating how multifaceted data mining of social interaction creates complex and useful information.
The dramatic rise in the creation and exploitation of what’s now called big data leads to a range of ethical questions, not least of all being the transparency of data mining operations (boyd & Crawford, 2012). While much of the attention has been focussed on social networking services such as Facebook, it is equally important to recognise the more widespread adoption of large-scale data mining practices in a number of realms, including social games such as the well-known Farmville and its sequels, created by Zynga. In examining data mining in social games, the question must be asked as to whether users are making a fair exchange – trading a full record of their every choice, click and action for mostly free gameplay – or is this choice so occluded that users are insufficiently aware of the exchange they have legally agree to, usually via impenetrably dense Terms of Use? Moreover, is this example indicative of a broader social media contradiction which sees users largely focused on the social side, which is usually about ephemeral communication and sharing, while the online service providers tend to focus on the media side, which entails lasting, durable and minable information and data. This paper will critically explore the realm of social games utilising Zynga as a central example, with a view to examine the practices, politics and ethics of data mining and the inherent social media contradiction. In determining whether this contradiction is accidental or purposeful, this paper will ask, in effect, whether Zynga and the big data miners behind social games are entrepreneurial heroes or FarmVillains?

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  • Our lives are increasingly enacted through technologies -capturing, archiving, matching and analysing what we do and how, producing complex and rich data sets that are seen as an extremely desirable resource by many. As the recent revelations about PRISM and the NSA surveillance practices demonstrate, [prism slide]
  • this resource is understood as capable of producing information about a customisable range of practices and also potential practices (with data matching, profiling, association rules and so forth). Perhaps what is surprising is in fact, not that surveillance, data capture and analysis was taking place, but that people were so stunned at the revelations that the NSA was unable to ignore such an attractive potential resource. [slide]
  • Despiteoutrage about government agency practices, people seem disturbed but less concerned about the practices of the private sector which in many ways is less regulated and accountable than that of the public sector.
  • What do we mean by social gamesNext slide - examples
  • Unlike the NSA capturing and use of personal information which has been illicit and largely undertaken without direct consent from the sources of that information, social game users do accede to access to their information
  • what Lane DeNicola (2012, p. 274) describes as a “cultural opacity” where the combination of the legal terms, way they are positioned (basically near-hidden), and the platform context all work against a user ever seriously engaging with, or even reading, the impenetrable legal terms which bind their use.
  • how the three most popular Facebook gaming companies (Zynga, Playfish and Playdom) were making money off their customers in unethical ways.
  • Viral nature of marketing generated a backlash and a range of memes [slides]
  • But more importantly, in 2010 Facebook started restricting the messages
  • , and Zynga’s traffic dropped sharply.
  • either to refine the addictiveness of the games, to increase the potential for users to pay for virtual goods, to refine other approaches to monetisation player activity
  • That strategy of tweaking every bit of a game’s design to increase growth, retention, engagement, and monetization is arguably what made Zynga so financially successful in its early years. It may have also eventually contributed to low morale, fleeing talent, and the inability of Zynga to produce any hit games recently.
  • Zynga’s practices may lead to their eventual demise, though still too early to call. However, the issue of transparency around data collection and emerging issues around big data collection are only just beginningto emerge.

FarmVillains? Social Games, Data Mining and the Social Media Contradiction FarmVillains? Social Games, Data Mining and the Social Media Contradiction Presentation Transcript

  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Michele Willson & Tama Leaver FarmVillains? Games, Data Mining and the Social Media Contradiction. 04.07.2013
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Part of a larger .. ARC Linkage (LP11200026 ): The New Entrepreneurial Communities: an applied ethnographic study into social gaming on the Internet 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Outline  Value of Data  Zynga and its Social Games  The Contract  Questionable Practices: Zynga’s relationship to (personal) data  Social Media Contradiction 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Every mouse click aggregates onto a wider body of data that is stored indefinitely, to be queried and analyzed to ends that are boundless at most, and vague at the very least. (Chow-White, P., Chee, F., & Smith, R. 2011, p.18) 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J We’ve become more valuable to the Internet and its scanbots as aggregate data inputs than we ever were as consumers of banner ads. (McKelvey, Tiessen & Simcoe, 2013) 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Social Game defined: The term ‘social game’ is contested; the two main uses being either a game involving multiple players interacting socially or, more recently, games specifically played within online social networking platforms (emphasis added, Jacobs & Sihvonen, 2011) 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Microtransaction revenue Advertising revenue Data gathered about player mechanics, frustrations, desires etc Access to FB users and their social networks 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Mark Pincus (CEO) on Zynga.com We think we’ve built the best hosting for social games and deep analytics. You can make your network available to companies through APIs, and we are in the early stages of doing that. (http://allthingsd.com/20120530/mark-pincus-at-d10/) 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J The contract You own your User Content. You hereby grant Zynga and its Affiliates a perpetual and irrevocable (other than as provided below), worldwide, fully paid-up and royalty free, non-exclusive, unlimited license, … [to use] in any way now known or in the future discovered, your User Content ..[you]waive any moral rights you may have in any User Content. The license …ends when you delete your User Content or you close your Account unless your User Content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it. However, you understand and accept that removed content may persist in back-up copies for a reasonable period of time. (http://company.zynga.com/legal/terms-of-service) 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Accessing Farmville on Facebook … 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia. New users are neither required to read (or click something to say they have read) either Zynga’s Terms of Service or Privacy Policy in order to access the game.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Questionable practices 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Late 2009, Arrington (TechCrunch) article series 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Oct 2010 – class-action lawsuit Zynga is sued over a Facebook privacy scandal. Allegation: Zynga collected and shared the data of 218 million Facebook user IDs with advertisers and data brokers. …violated federal law and its contract with Facebook by sharing user data with third parties. 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Facebook user backlash 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia. FarmVille had a 26 % drop, from about 83 million in March 2010 to 61 million monthly users, July 2010
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Social media contradiction The front-facing experience of Zynga’s games encourages players to focus on the social side: the play, the competition, and social interaction. Yet, for Zynga these elements are secondary to the data collection, aggregation, analytics and monetization of player activity. 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Dec 2011 – Zynga goes public, with very disappointing results. Oct 2012 –drastic cost-cutting: mass firings, game closures Nov 2012 – Facebook announces Zynga will no longer enjoy a privileged position as of March 31st 2013 March 2013 – CityVille 2 closed-lack of players June 2013 – cuts 18% jobs, closes offices 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia.
  • Curtin University is a trademark of Curtin University of Technology CRICOS Provider Code 00301J Premature? 04.07.2013ANZCA 2013, Fremantle, Western Australia. Image Source: http://www.stayawake.tv/ViewBlog/How-Zynga-has-killed-Facebook-games-75