Thursday 4 November 2010

Topic 2.3 - The Relationship between Society and Technology

Williams, R. & Edge, R. (1997). What is the Social Shaping of Technology?. The Research Centre for Social Science.

These authors criticise the exaggeration of the inherent qualities of technology. What is SST? What is technological determinism? What does SST offer in contrast?

Micah M. White, “Facebook Suicide ,” Adbusters, June 4, 2008. Archived by WebCite.

This piece for an activist magazine issues a call for to leave Facebook; read the comments as well. What relationships between the control of our social networking information (power), community, identity, profit (economy) and privacy does this highlight?

  1. With reference to Facebook, an online game, or any other Internet application or technology, look into how the developers and users negotiate its development:
    1. Are there examples of the developers and the users disagreeing with some change or other? What was the outcome of these?
    2. Have the people using the application found uses that the developers may not have anticipated?
The Facebook privacy issues were a classic case of Facebook going just that bit too far, and users revolting.  Earlier this year changes to the Facebook platform resulted in everything I had previously clicked "Like" next to suddenly being visible to the whole world next to my name, even though my privacy settings were all set to only allow myself or people on my friend list to see my profile.  And there was no way to stop that from showing.  So I went in and removed all of my Likes (although I've since put some back, but now they're all carefully "neutral" or "professional", in case they decide to do it again one day).  There were people all over the world threatening to leave Facebook, which resulted in this email from Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, to a friend (intriguingly, the friend questions his own right to publish the email, and only does so when Mark gives him permission, which I found quite hilarious at the time - I was wondering what excuse Mark could possibly come up with to make his friend protect his privacy!)

The privacy issue was covered in the media and finally Facebook announced that they would be "Making Control Simple", which I thought was really a very subtle way of saying "we stuffed up".

This was reported in what I considered to be a more HONEST way by many media outlets:

Google has also encountered privacy problems with applications such as StreetView and Buzz, resulting in lawsuits by various governments including Australia, Canada and the European Union.
To answer the second part of this question, the best example I could think of was Twitter, with users creating the @username and #hashtag, but now that I've logged into Blackboard I see that William beat me to it!



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