-took evidence collected from ethnographic observation of practices surrounding political posts on the Facebook newsfeed -analyzed this data through the lens of the 4 “modalities” of the Facebook newsfeed, in particular social NORMS and the ARCHITECTURE of Facebook. -a few other biases to note: This method still gives little insight into the consumption of content on the newsfeed. As I will explore later, this itself has some important political implications.
-We are familiar with tropes about the Twitter revolutions and social media as political catalyst…but is this simply techno-fetishism? -Facebook and social media in general helps individuals to organize, communicate, form communities; lower barrier to political mobilization than ever before. -But what is the impact in a context in which all other factors have been highly determined, when mainstream media has a monopolization on the political spectacle, when literally millions and millions of dollars are being poured into tightly controlling the discourse? -This specific context helps us explore the revolutionary power of a tool in a non-revolutionary setting, and investigate how this technology may influence civic awareness, engagement, and participation in new ways.
-something interesting about considering the “newsfeed” as a parallel to a kind of socially-oriented newspaper. Some kind of equivalency to the NYT, but even more inclusive. -Most serious “political” activity carried out in more private or topic-oriented settings; the newsfeed gives insight into the political consciousness and practices of those who are not necessarily activists, but only incidentally involved.
-one of Lessig’s modalities is “social norms”. Facebook practices are defined by several social norms (which are themselves partially the result of Facebook’s architecture) -for our consideration, it is important to note that Facebook is a particular kind of social network which emphasizes personal social relations, and the posting of highly personal, everyday content (IE- how the Facebook status bar typically asks some variation of: “How are you feeling?”) -Politics does not quite fit in this realm in the way that it does on Twitter -Understanding of Facebook as a kind of escape. The water-cooler as a good metaphor for the Facebook newsfeed; a kind of general mixed company of acquaintances, with the idea of taking a break from the daily grind to socialize and relax, maybe gossip and share news.
One of the most immediately obvious social norms that shaped practices of political news production was the highly pervasive taboo against any kind of political posting. Political posts are never appreciated, but in the case of the elections specifically, the taboo is even stronger since people already feel inundated by the news coverage (SEE: Little girl video), and I would suggest because of the horse-race framing of the elections that emphasizes conflict, rather than issues-based dialogue. Moderate discourse is impossible, it simply takes on the characteristics of sports teams rivalries. -not the same standards as talking about news on climate change or Bloomberg’s latest blunder.
-These posts communicate the feeling of “everyone” and “all my friends” posting about politics; yet ironically seems the majority of political posting is ironic, skeptical, joking. -Possible distorted perception of political content?
1. Inundation 2. Cynicism 3. General social taboo
--Both Facebook and the water-cooler consist of a public, mixed company, and is generally understood to be a “personal” sphere and escape from “public” life of work, etc. Given these factors, the water-cooler, like the Facebook newsfeed, is generally not seen as a place to have serious political discussions. News may be exchanged and lightly commented on, but you don’t wish to incite a public argument or rock any boats in such general company. -Although the newfeeds and the water-cooler have a very similar set of social rules and principals, the architecture of the newsfeed has a few advantages which may allow these social taboos and norms to be transcended.
NOTE: Ironically, in first case, this kind of semi-anonymity may lead to even MORE confrontational political speech. This in turn likely contributes to the taboo against political speech on Facebook, since it removes some of the responsibility of face-to-face interaction. You are free to say things you never would say to a friend or a co-worker to a general audience of friends and co-workers.
-Facebook’s architecture also has another interesting feature which differentiates it from the water cooler: its IMMEDIATE, CONCRETE relationship to the Internet and mainstream media. -Whereas you may reference mainstream media in a face-to-face conversation, FB allows you to directly link to that content, making it more directly accessible to the audience, lending your statements more credibility or support, even allowing you to make a statement without saying anything at all (ie, allowing the link to speak for itself), and potentially making that content more interesting to readers by associating it with a personal tie. -Seems that this structure of hyperlinked authority has some real potential to make interpersonal political discourse easier, more accessible, and more “authoritative” and grounded.
-Interesting case wherein social norms are built into the architecture of the site, directly influencing political speech and even action. -A “randomized controlled trial of political mobilization messages delivered to 61 million Facebook users during the 2010 US congressional elections.” Split into a social group (like image shown), an informational message (minus the information about other friends who had voted) and a control group w/ no message. -Those who received the social message were .39% more likely to vote (cross referenced w/ voting records, not self reported) than those who received no message at all, and .39% more likely than the informational message as well. This number is fairly small, but the authors estimate that across the size of the network, “close friends generated an additional 282,000 validated votes”. -This tells us: a) the power of the social trumps the power of the informational; b) that this social power for mobilization can have a huge effect in a large-scale setting like national elections. -Maybe also tells us that Facebook is getting very good at combining what we know about social norms and building it into their architecture to effectively control and regulate human behavior.
-Voting day featured a flood of “IM VOTING” comments; a whole other phenomenon to examine. This seems to be an updated version of the “I Voted” sticker which acts as a kind of public badge which “rewards” you doing your patriotic duty, and encourages others to do so. Even MORE rewarding b/c it is visible to your entire social network, not just strangers on the street. -Very effective tool for mobilizing political action and speech, but ultimately not “revolutionary”.
-The structure of the newsfeed is such that “agreement” takes the form of a “like”, or perhaps a re-share. Dis-agreement takes the form of vocalized argument, creating the famously long and ranty arguments you see across the internet on places like youtube, that never resolve into anything more than a public brawl. -This format reinforces existing political alignments and showcases political disagreement; does little to help generate “disruptive” conversations
Updating the discourse: practices of political news production and consumption on the Facebook news feed - Linda Huber
Updating the discourse: practices of politicalnews production and consumption on theFacebook news feed Linda Huber Sarah Lawrence College @_puellaludens
• A Lessig-inspired analysis of the Facebook newsfeed during the 2012 presidential elections• Caveat: most analysis is of my own Facebook newsfeed, and brief access I was granted to 3 other accounts. Make no claims to complete representation; would be interested to hear about different experiences.
Main Questions:• Challenging tropes about social media as a literally revolutionary political tool• What is the revolutionary potential of this tool in the context of highly controlled mainstream/traditional media? IE- Presidential Elections.• How does the FB newsfeed contrast with the traditional news media as a tool to influence civic awareness/engagement/participation?
Site of Study:• In particular, focused on the Newsfeed; complex community on Facebook, wide array of practices, but how does the central hub of Facebook function as a general political apparatus?• Most direct parallel to traditional media? A “stream” of news, largely passively read and occasionally contributed to. Different from Groups, personal profiles, etc.
Norms:• Unlike Twitter, FB is largely a network of personal relations. Content posted here is highly personal, and most intimately connected with everyday lives.• A recent study explored the patterns of content posted on Facebook, and found that sports, art, and entertainment were the dominating topic, making up 40% of all posts. Current events made of 15%, and politics just 9% (Baresch, 2011).• Expectation that Facebook provides a kind of “asylum” from the stresses of the “real world” (Relate to water-cooler metaphor).
Norms:• Social taboo against posting about politics; a continuation of the age-old rule to avoid speaking about sex, religion, or politics in “public” settings.• In particular, taboo against posting about the elections.• Likely attributable to A) Inundation in the traditional media B) Horse-race framing of the elections emphasizes conflict, rather than issues-based dialogue.• Two acceptable forms of political post: cynicism and humor/ meta-commentary.
Cynicism http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Vh8ntzGBQio “How to block Annoying political posts on Facebook” http://lifehacker.com/5940319/how-to-b
Architecture:• Architecture is a modality that directly controls behavior through the “Code” or site architecture.• Facebook’s architecture disrupts the structure of the water-cooler conversation, allowing for a kind of bypassing of social norms.
Posting on Facebook Similarly, the audience ofnewsfeed largely blind; the Facebook newsfeedawareness of audience is are voyeurs, and do notnot immediate in the way need to respond, or revealthat it is in a direct that they may even bemessage or smaller group, listening. This helps to de-or in face-to-face contact. politicize the act ofMuch less confrontational listening.setting for politicalspeech.
Architecture: • Also allows for a hyper-linking of authority; individual political statements are supported by the authority of a direct link to trusted media•Double effect of mutually reinforcing the personal sources.relevance of news media by putting news stories in asocial context, potentially making readers moreinterested in content thus endorsed by “Friends”•Hyperlinked authority offers the potential of moregrounded political discourse by linking the authorityof news media with the deeper engagement of social
Norms/Architecture:• In a massive study, we see clearly the influence architecture of FB exerts over social norms and even political mobilization Bond, Robert M., et al. "A 61-million-person experiment in social influence and political mobilization." (2012). LINK: http://www.uvm.edu/~cmplxsys/newsevents/pdfs/2012/bond-nature-voting-2012.pdf
ArchitecturE:• YET- Hyperlinked authority still relies on the authority of mainstream media, thus undermining the potential of “alternative” discourses, perhaps even contributes to media control of the political discourse.• The structure of FB may mimic the current political landscape in that agreement is largely silent, and disagreement is what becomes hyper-visible. (Feeding back into taboo of political posting).
Conclusion: • Despite some potential of Facebook’s architecture to A) disrupt social taboos and B) reinforce political content by combining authoritative media sources with the authority of strong social ties, evidence seemed to suggest that in the case of the 2012 elections, practices of political new production and consumption were still largely exemplified by cynicism and disengagement. • The revolutionary potential of any technology requires a certain culture of practice, and a certain kind of political and media environment. The technology itself is not deterministic! • Looking forward: How can social media help to cultivate a culture of political engagement and alternative dialogue in the highly conservative system of the U.S. political landscape?