November 15 – Social Networks

//November 15 – Social Networks
November 15 – Social Networks 2018-01-07T15:25:11-04:00

Guest Presenter

Jason Varone
Web & Electronic Media Manager
Institute of Fine Arts


Look at IFA’s Mapping the Institute of Fine Arts Alumni project

Dana Boyd. “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications.” Networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites (2010): 39-58. (courtesy of Joanna)

Clay Shirky. “Chaps 2-7” in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. pgs. 25-187.

Arjun Sabharwal. “Social Networks’ Impact on Digital Curation” in Digital Curation in the Digital Humanities: Preserving and Promoting Archival and Special Collections. 2015. pgs 49–67


  1. Isabelle November 11, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    Boyd discusses the permanent nature of online conversations. Dialogue that would normally be momentary and frivolous (“Sup?”), now has a permanent place in social media. One aspect of Facebook that reminds me of this is the “On This Day” feature, which shows users what was posted on their wall on this day every year since obtaining Facebook. I’m curious if these sorts of features will change the way people have online discourse. Will people suddenly become aware of the permanency o their postings, and therefore edit or consider the posts more? And how will that affect the more casual nature of social media conversations? Many of us (I’m sure) have had those moments when we see what we posted eight years ago and laugh (or cringe) at our self-importance, vagueness, idiocy, or something of the like. Having had those revelations, will we be more careful when posting now? Or are we completely wrapped up in the immediacy of online discourse?

    Boyd also mentions teenagers and their ability to adapt to the new social network narrative, because they have always been surrounded by it. The comment was published in 2008, and I feel that it deserves some attention. Teenagers in ’08 had strong memories of a pre-social network world. We (I was 17 at the time) even remember a time before internet was widely available (those phone connections were the absolute worst). So while I think my generation is able to adapt, part of that, I think, comes from the knowledge of a pre-social media world. What does that mean for the kids who solely grew up with social networks? How does this accessibility affect their outlook? Most of their social interactions occur online, so how can they adapt to, for lack of a better expression, real life? Is that adaptation even necessary?

    Shirky talks about a scandal involving the Church and VOTF that came to light in 2002, and credits the attention to a growing social networking world. While I can see how the ability to share and access information would help a cause like this, I’m curious about events that require action. How can we turn online activity into real-life action? We saw it with KONY2012. Countless people supported the cause and shared the video, but hardly anyone showed up to cover the streets with fliers when the campaign asked for it. The recent election found similar obstacles. While I can’t speak to exact numbers, I can only assume that many younger voters were actively engaged in politics online, but their voter turn out was relatively low. Does online activity hinder real life action? Do people feel like they’ve engaged enough thanks to sharing posts, and therefore don’t need to take action offline?

  2. Anna November 15, 2016 at 1:03 am

    In “Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications”
    I wonder if Boyd includes dating apps in what she refers as Social Networks. Because it very seems like they are, including a profile that is a self-representation of how one wishes to appear to others but the Friend list is different since it’s more a “dating” list and it seems very unlikely then that one would add his or her boss/teacher as referred in the Friend List paragraph.

    Later on I’m not sure I understand the concept of the invisible audience. I get that it is an audience that we don’t see or know but isn’t the content build for a specific audience in the first place or to the broader audience possible? Or is invisible audience already established and just non-visible in which case most audiences are invisible.

    In “Here comes everybody”
    I wonder Shirky takes examples where people had to post photos of what was happening around them. I wonder if the experience would have been as convincing if people had had to post text since people are usually even less objective than when taking pictures.

  3. Ariel November 15, 2016 at 4:28 am

    In Boyd, “During that same period, Mitchell argued that bits do not simply change the flow of information, but they alter the very architecture of everyday life. Through networked technology, people are no longer shaped just by their dwellings but by their networks” (4). This is definitely apparent today, if not even more so than when this statement was written in 1995. While I was alive when it was written, it is not like I understood the technology at that time, so I cannot help but question, what was happening at that point in time for Mitchell to make that statement? It’s not Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter were dominating the social landscape like they are today, so what was the influence for this observation?

    Addressing the status updates of Facebook and similar function on Myspace, Boyd comments, “While individual updates are arguably mundane, the running stream of content gives participants a general sense of those around them. In doing so, participants get the sense of the public constructed by those with whom they connect” (6). If these “social interactions” (if they can even be called that) are a part of social grooming, what does that say about the depth of the relationships/friendships that mainly occur in the online world? While not every conversation held in person is of great depth, there is typically a greater duration to in-person interactions that yields a greater connection with that person.

    Also in Boyd, “In a world of bits, there is no way to differentiate the original bit from its duplicate. And, because bits can be easily modified, content can be transformed in ways that make it hard to tell which is the source and which is the alteration. The replicable nature of content in networked publics means that what is replicated may be altered in ways that people do not easily realize” (8). With so much content appearing on networked publics, i.e. Twitter, and with the ability to reshare, will the value we give to the original be diminished? Are social sites and the ability to not only forward but also easily manipulate and then reshare slowly changing how we view originals?

  4. kcauley November 15, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Boyd discusses physical architecture and it’s relation to digital space, and the commonality of being ‘influential in shaping how people interact with one another.’ This had me thinking about how architecture has historically been used as a mechanism for confinement and oppression of disenfranchised communities.. Does social networking build space for the few and marginalize many? Are certain communities more confined than others when navigating the digital realm, or does the internet provide a truly free market/equally distributed social platform?

    “The hallmark of revolution is that the goals of the revolution cannot be contained by the institutional structure of the existing society.” Thinking in terms of the information revolution, what have we got wrong? Has the influx of data just overwhelmed society to a point where fact is irrelevant (I’m referencing our political situation). How is it that in an age where science and information can disprove 90% of what comes out of the president-elect’s mouth, too many people are just choosing to stay ignorant? Is society in an overwhelmed state?

    The Shirky piece offers some great incite to the ways in which social organization is enhanced through mass amateurization. The examples of VOTF & Trent Lott perfectly convey the way the web has transformed social justice efforts. However, I feel that Shirky doesn’t properly address the alternative effects. Do we feel that the anonymity of web encourages hate speech and the organizing of communities that may have been rejected from other media sources? For example, the web allowed for VOTF to organize and take action against a sex offender, however the web also provides a space for sex offenders to organize. How do we, as a society, deal with these consequences without denying some their constitutional rights?

  5. Zejun November 15, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    After 2016 presidential election, I cannot stop thinking about the vital (if not detrimental) role social media played a part. Print media and news giants’ websites are no longer the first choices for most people when accessing information. Social media enables more individual voices to be heard. However, the seemingly transparency embraced by this “everyone could come to play” playground also put the biased comments and false data under the daylight. Without a proper data validation, the content post on social media is hard to tell its validity and even its original contributor. Rumours can be disseminated and multiplied faster than ever.

    Back to this week’s readings. All authors mention the scalability of the social media increases one’s visibility and possibility of connecting to a wider group. I am wondering, what is the meaning of connection? Are we truly expanding our mentality while following a friend of a friend, or are we only follow/share something we already tend to believe? Is the expanding social network only a skewed stretching of the existing one?

    In Boyd’s article, she discusses being public online as “one’s social network profile can be accessible to anyone,” and being private as modifying visibility setting to create a “narrower public.” (P5) Does it mean there is nothing private online?

    Boyd also describes an interesting phenomenon of the invisible nature of networked publics’ audience (P10). Since the actual audience is unpredictable and always changing, does social media still care about target audience? Does the nature of social media is fated to be self-centred?

  6. Shoshanah November 15, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Boyd’s writing on architecture, the structure of networked publics, and the properties of bits vs atoms brings me back to Kaprow’s notion of habitat: “The place where anything grows up (a certain kind of art in this case), that is, its “habitat” gives to it not only a space, a set of relationships to the various things around it, and a range of values, but an overall atmosphere as well, which penetrates it and whoever experiences it” (Kaprow, 18). Boyd defines social networks as networks restructured by networked technology. Does stringing together Kaprow’s notion of habitat and Boyd’s ideas on structure help us conceptualize the difference between the properties of physical atoms and digital bits?

    I like the description of constructing a profile on social networks as, “writing oneself into being in the digital environment,” rather than “curating an online identity.” Writing oneself into being has an optimistic notion of possibility, of creation. Curating an online identity seems to have a negative connotation. The act of curating involves choosing between what to share and what not to share; this implies a hint of secrecy and deception. What if we look again at the etymology of the word curation (a caretaker, referring to souls)? Does this change the notion of curating an identity; bringing it closer to “writing into being”?

    In Performance and Technology we studied something called Finstagram. Finstagram refers to someone having two instagram accounts: one which is public and highly curated, another which is private (for close friends only) and which is a more “real” representation of who they are IRL. If you can write yourself into being twice, how does that shift our notion of the performance of identity online?

    Shirky discourses on mass amateurization, specifically in reference to publishing, “Our social tools remove older obstacles to public expression and thus remove the bottlenecks that characterized mass media. The result is the mass amateurization of efforts previously reserved for media professionals” (55). This brings me back to Richard Schechner’s theory of the avant-garde as moving in converse cycles of excellence and innovation. As technology improves (innovation) access to public expression (self-publishing and blogging) creates a mass amateurization in the literary world. If what Schechner claims is true, we are soon due for a period of excellence. What will that look like? How will professional writers rise to the top in a world where everyone with a twitter handle is a “writer” and anyone with a blog is a “journalist”?

  7. Whitney November 15, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    1.) I was intrigued by Boyd’s statement on the performance aspect of dialogues that occur on an individual’s profile page (i.e., a Facebook wall) – that such dialogue is not simply conversation, but a “performance of social connection before a broader audience.” This immediately reminded me of seeing “I love you so much”-type posts between couples come up on my Facebook news feed and the clear public/digital display of affection these people are producing in doing so. Maybe this is just me, but why might such performances carry negative connotations or get made fun of more so, as if they are somehow less “real” than the other sorts of declarations between friends and family? How do we determine which sorts of performances are social acceptable online?

    2.) What do you all make of the quote “persistent-by-default, ephemeral when necessary” from Boyd’s article? It was given in relation to structural affordances of networked publics.

    3.) I’m not sure that I agree with Shirky’s argument at the beginning their article that “basic human desires and talents for group effort are stymied by the complexities of group action.” Group work usually lessens the responsibility of the individuals, but I would definitely say that acceptance is a basic human desire that is zeroed in on in a group dynamic. Not to mention competition that certain individuals see increased in group environments as opposed to singular endeavors. Does anyone else have an issue with this argument?

  8. lbowen November 15, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Boyd remarks “Networks appear to reproduce many of the biases that exist in other publics — social inequalities, including social stratification around race, gender, sexuality, and age are reproduced online” (14). I ask, is the replication of real life social divisions in networks at all surprising? And does this observation of continued inequality fly in the face of the notion of the internet as a democratizing space with its much touted “accessibility”?

    Along the lines of my comment above, while reading Shirky, I kept thinking about cyberbullying and trolling and how often they are left out of the conversation when discussing mobilizing online and the formation of online communities or publics. In the aftermath of the election, I have witnessed a number of attempts to mobilize people against the most recent wave of islamophobia, homophobia, racism, etc through the use of social media and other online platforms designed to pair neighbors with each other to accompany them (thereby shielding them from violence) during their subway commute and tracking systems for hate crimes. I shudder to even think about it, but I wonder if the inverse is occurring? How is the alt-right movement for example mobilizing its public online and which (if any) scholars conducting research on the sinister side of social networks?

    There is a tendency to distinguish online activism from offline activism, with the subtext that the former is not as effective as the latter or perhaps in an excuse to avoid real life activism. Does this dichotomy reflect a failure to recognize networked publics as both “simultaneously a space and a collection of people” as described by Boyd? And what does this say about collective valuation of social media, technologies that increasingly dominate huge swaths of time for significant sectors of the U.S. population?

  9. Leslie November 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    As I was looking at IFA’s Mapping the Institute of Fine Arts Alumni project, I became a little disappointed. At first glance, the design is clean and the amount of pins is impressive, considering the scope of IFA’s influence, if you will. What disappointed me was that there was little information on the pins and the pins didn’t take you anywhere.

    1. Am I using the tool incorrectly?
    2. Are they still building the tool and will add that information in later?
    3. Did they leave that information out for simplicity’s sake?

  10. Lauren November 15, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Overall I think the infogram is missing a piece of information , why is that an interesting thing to show (the actual lines of distance rather than just showing the location of people) , why not just the dots instead of the edges? Edges seem to have little meaning here?

    Many of Boyd exploration was around the audiences and how the world has shifted as people become more comfortable and knowing of the work. In both Boyd and Sabharwal the argument is made that be using social networks you are opening up the world to more participants who will be able to add value to the curation of content. This open up the governance question again and who is really the expert as we take a look at a digital collection? Who should be allowed to participate? Is the use of social networks skew the population in a way that it becomes a more homogeneous audience? (social class skew, age skew) as we enter a world where the newest generation only knows of a post digital relationship world will this change the ecosystem even more ? Shirky spends a little time exploring the relationship between the publisher and the publish material and that everyone is the media outlet, I was curious in exploring how the audiences that use the collections changes as you move to digital, what are the audiences and is their connection important in a network sense or a more blob sense (aka is it just an ecosystem or do the particular people matter?) Another piece is how does social networking change the way we consume the work, is it the old pull mechanisim (you go and collect the information you want) or a more push world (click bait, twitter, mass email spamming). How much has digital and social networking pushed us to a pull world? How do you track the actual source of news, how do you track the overlays of authorship? Is the world of pure pulling media dead and will be completely a push society (twitter failing is an example of this not being true and going back to a pull society)

    Are we always in a information revolution? Is the way wave of digital /social networking a wave of information revolution ? Is it new information that is now available that is allowing the change? The ease of access or the ease of manipulating the data that is creating the revolution?

Leave A Comment