Process Post (9) The Global Picture
Internet Vs. The World Wide Web
This week, guest speaker Professor Juan Pablo Alperin spoke to us about the vast world of the Internet and world wide web. He explained that although the Internet and web are often treated as synonymous, they are two distinct concepts. The Internet is the broader, physical infrastructure and actual network. The web is an application. These technologies aid in the shirking of time and space, reducing barriers between countries and creating what McLuhan refers to as a global village. But even though the barriers to Internet access are low, the design does in fact still affect who can use and benefit from these platforms.
The Fall of Facebook
Professor Alperin gave us a couple discussion questions at the end of his lecture which we were encouraged the answer in this process post. They were: What would be the events that could lead to the decline of Facebook as the dominant force on the web? What are the shifts/changes that might be possible? Reflect on the constraints Facebook puts on you and the influence it has on shaping what you do. How can you break free of those constraints?
Facebook’s mandate is“to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”. This is a social media platform I use almost every day and shapes my online behaviour and view of the world more than I’d like to admit. Firstly, Facebook requires me to share my personal information with them in order to gain access to an account. This along with many other social media platforms may appear to be free to users, but it does come at a price. We must exchange our personal data for access to the platform, thus constraining us from keeping our personal details private and commodifying our online actions. How Facebook makes its money directly affects how we interact with the platform. They use surveillance to collect highly profitable info on us and sell it to advertisers, who in return have the ability to embed targeted ads into our newsfeeds. The owners of Facebook have the power to steer our choices in particular ways, undermining democracy as they create echo-chambers – showing us only what we want to see based on our digital footprint.
On another note, Facebook shapes my participation online. This platform claims to create a more “authentic” experience for its users but more importantly and less publicly admitted, they want to gather as much info on you as possible to figure out who you are and what they can sell to you. Facebook recently made a new update to their algorithm, tweaking what people see on their newsfeeds to more “meaningful” content from personal connections rather than business pages. This emerged from what I’ve heard as a “context collapse” where people are sharing less info about themselves online such as status updates. Personally, I’ll like this change, but part of my job is using Facebook to distribute our content, so we did some research on how we can maintain engagement with our audience, and basically, we need to create conversation and increase interactions through our posts. This is something that forces me to alter my online practices for the benefit of Facebook because the more we comment and share info about ourselves, the more data Facebook can sell to advertisers.
If the unattractive side of Facebook becomes more apparent to its users (such as the fact that it is able to mine your data and use it as it pleases, as well as form a narrow outlook of the world around you by filtering what you see on your newsfeed), users may start to worry about the negative implications it has on us and begin to delete their accounts. This would allow users to regain their privacy and control over their online lives, but I don’t see this happening anytime soon. In my opinion, the act of boycotting something doesn’t tend to successfully make a lasting difference. Another potential force which could lead to the decline of Facebook’s dominating influence on the web is the rise of a new social media platform. One that is bigger and better, giving users a stronger sense of power over their online behaviours on an Internet that is alternatively shaped heavily by corporate control.