Big Bro is always watching your back

With roughly 1.4 billion active Facebook users, the social media giant continues to dominate the web – but users may be shocked to know just how much of their info Facebook pays attention to. Facebook works, as a digital enclosure where a lot of user info is stored for cybernetic commodities and contextual advertising, but the ones giving this info to Facebook are the users themselves. To test just how much our actions on the social media site matter, Mat Honan, a senior staff writer with WIRED, conducted an experiment where he ‘liked’ everything for 48 hours; to see if I would have similar results I conducted the same experiment. What I found was that Big Brother really is watching every click you make.

In his article Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure, Mark Andrejevic describes digital enclosures as being “interactive spaces which restrict access to the means of interaction to those who ‘freely’ submit to the detailed forms of monitoring that take place within them.” I believe Facebook can be considered one of these interactive spaces based off of its terms of services and data policy. In section 2 of Facebook’s terms of service, the company explicitly states that you are giving them permission to use any of the content you post – this can be seen in the screengrab below:

 

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In their data policy, Facebook also says that the information they collect is what you submit to them when using their services and can include, “information in or about the content you provide, such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created.” They state pretty clearly in their terms and conditions and in their data policy that they will be taking whatever data you provide them, they even state what they plan to do with it.

Cybernetic commodities and contextual advertising are both ways that Facebook uses the information users supply them with. Cybernetic commodities are transactionally generated demographic information about user behavior and contextual ads are ads based on the users location throughout the course of the day. We know that Facebook uses our data to do this exactly – they tell us in the data policy! “We are able to deliver our services, personalize content, and make suggestions for you by using this information to understand how you use and interact with our services and the people or things you’re connected to and interested in on and off our services.” Most users are still shocked to know that Facebook and other sites do this despite their actions being transparent inside of the terms and conditions and the data policy, which is probably because majority of users don’t read these documents due to their length – I know I am guilty of this.

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In Honan’s article, I liked everything I saw on Facebook for two days. Here’s what it did to me, he describes an experiment he conducted where he literally ‘liked’ ever post or article he saw on Facebook, aside from posts about deaths or suggested relatable articles, for 48 hours to see what would happen to his feed – as stated above, I conducted the same experiment. Prior to the experiment, I used to think that the people whom I interacted with the most also posted the most and that my other 300 friends must be inactive, I wasn’t aware of how much Facebook’s surveillance effected my newsfeed. The first thing I saw was a suggestion from Facebook to like The New York Times because I had twelve friends that did already; I too now liked The New York Times.

I started liking everything I saw and over the next day I quickly noticed how everything started to become very similar. Similar to Honan, Facebook began replacing my friend’s updates with similar articles and pages to the ones I had liked hours before. Majority of the posts suggested to me had to do with news articles concerning equality, talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live!, SXSW and other festivals because a large amount of my friends attended this festival and I liked all of their posts about it. Everyone must have been too busy with the festival because none of my friends from Austin commented on my liking spree, the only comment I got was from my other who was upset I was liking all of my friend’s posts from college but not her post about us going out to eat together on vacation. I guess Facebook didn’t deem it worthy enough to appear in my feed. Oh well.

It is obvious that Facebook and other websites our collecting our info for their own research and to cater ads to us but we are the ones freely giving them the info and they are even telling us what is happening in the terms and conditions and the data policy. Despite these articles being at a large length that discourages users to read them, the users aren’t being forced to use the product and they do agree to have read these articles so I don’t think they can not justify complaining if they feel like surveillance is overstepping it’s boundaries. Big brother is obviously watching and if you have an issue with that then read the terms and conditions presented to you and make the choice of whether or not you want to take the risk of using Facebook. It is as simple as that.

 

Works Cited:

Terms of service. (2015, January 30). Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Facebook, Facebook search terms    of service website,  https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

Data Policy. (2015, January 30). Retrieved March 21, 2015, from Facebook, Facebook data policy website, https://www.facebook.com/about/privacy/

Honan, Matt. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | WIRED.” Wired. 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 21 Mar. 2015.

Andrejevic, Mark. “Surveillance in the Digital Enclosure.” The Communication Review. Web. 21 Mar 2015.

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The Transmedia Games

In order to keep their audience constantly interested in a particular movie or television show, many companies are experimenting with different forms of digital transmedia extensions to draw their audiences into digital spaces. This new trend attempts to keep an audience invested in the world that their favorite characters live in in hopes of them returning to buy the next form of movie or remain a viewer of the show. Using the concepts of world-building and hypertext fiction, minigames and alternate reality games are a type of transmedia extensions used by movies like The Hunger Games Trilogy.

One of the things fans are most fascinated with is not the characters from movies or television shows but the world that the characters live in. A term described by Henry Jenkins on his blog post Transmedia Storytelling 101, world-building is where fans can learn more about their fantasy world in many ways past the screen. As described by Jenkins, the reason audience is fascinated by this is because, “We are drawn to master what can be known about a world which always expands beyond our grasp. This is a very different pleasure than we associate with the closure found in most classically constructed narratives, where we expect to leave the theatre knowing everything that is required to make sense of a particular story.” (Jenkins) A successful example of this is when The Hunger Games trilogy created a Facebook game where fans can explore the world of Panem and interact with their favorite characters. The game also works as publicity for the film by allowing fans to invite their friends to play and a way to make extra earnings by offering in-game purchases. The game can be found here.

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Another concept used is hypertext, which as described by Janet Murray in her book Chapter 2: Harbingers of the Holodeck, is “a set of documents of any kind (images, text, charts, tables, video clips) connected to one another by links.” (Murray) This is an interactive process where stories written can have more than one entry point, offer many internal branches, while not having a clear ending. This offers a new experience for the fan where they have the ability to create the story based on their own decisions. The Hunger Games Trilogy also offers this concept in a hypertext game where fans can pretend that they’re a victor and each click determines the path they take in a Hunger Games and could determine life or death. As you see below, I was unfortunately no Katniss Everdeen and found out I would not survive in a Hunger Games! You can give it a shot yourself here.

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Transmedia ensures that fans stay interested in their favorite worlds while offering a fun experience to learn more!

 

Sources:

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html&gt>

 

Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Chapter 2: Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: Free, 1997. Print.

GIFs: Bridging the Gap Between Users Everywhere

Created by user world-of-some-girl-stoya on tumblr.com  http://world-of-some-girl-stoya.tumblr.com

Created by user world-of-some-girl-stoya on tumblr.com http://world-of-some-girl-stoya.tumblr.com

A common way for fans of a popular television show or movie to connect is through the spreading of GIFs they either created or have come across. GIFs act as a shared social phenomenon where someone in Justin, Texas can form an immediate bond with someone in Blackpool, England by sharing a looping animated picture of the faces of American Horror Story characters on the dancing bodies of Mean Girls characters. But what is it about these moving graphics that make them so fascinating to us? In her post Why We Love Animated GIFs, Leigh Alexander describes why the phenomenon is so attention grasping by stating, “The animated GIF’s ability to preserve a single moment for endless viewing, to be forever owned to the last pixel by the eyes, gives it the unique opportunity to revive that fascination; tiny movements that would be lost in the grand landscape of a larger work become almost precious when isolated by themselves.” As captivating as the images are, there must be something about them that connects the people who share them. Usually, the most personal connections that people have with each other involve face-to-face contact, a quality GIFs do not have. Nancy K. Baym brought up the issue of how personal digital media really is in her book Personal Connections in the Digital Age, “Because computer-mediated interactions are unable to see, hear, and feel one another, they cant use the usual cues conveyed by appearance, nonverbal signals, and features of the physical context.” I believe that the reason we all find GIFs so enjoyable is because we can instantly be connected to another online user by viewing an image that may be from your own favorite show or movie and it triggers a feeling of nostalgia.

But what is better than seeing a nonstop loop of 2 seconds of your favorite show? Combining multiple of your favorite things into a nonstop 2 second loop! The American Horror Story fandom loves a good GIF of seeing one of their favorite characters flipping a bus or sawing someone in half, but we have a funny bone too. In order to have a good GIF that others will like, it must be relatable. These two popular AHS (American Horror Story) GIFs kept in mind what other users will find relatable:

Supreme-Bey

Created by user kevin-b146-anderson on tumblr.com http:// kevin-b146-anderson.tumblr.com

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Created by user sckrpnch on tumblr.com http://sckrpnch.tumblr.com

 

The users (kevin-b146-anderson and sckrpnch) used two well known scenes from the FX television show and added in two things most of the users have in common: a love for Beyonce and an obsession with tumblr. Assuming that most of the online community considers Beyonce their “Queen” was a safe bet, and posting the GIF about how distracting tumblr is on the tumblr website was an even safer one. After observing what made other AHS GIFs so popular and being a fan of American Horror Story for years, I decided to try and make my own GIF. I used a popular scene from the fourth season of AHS where the villain, Dandy, tries to get a closer look at the “freaks” he is so fascinated with. I wanted to make my GIF unique and relatable so I wanted to replace the actual American Horror Story freaks with a family that most of America considers freaks. I combined two clips from the two different shows American Horror Story and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo in photoshop and saved them for the web (that’s you). The GIF can be seen below, enjoy!

FreakShowBooBoo

Citations:

Alexander, Leigh. “Why We Love Animated GIFs.” Thought Catalog. N.p., n.d. Web.
8 Feb. 2015. <http://thoughtcatalog.com/leigh-alexander/2011/05/
why-we-love-animated-gifs/>.

Shifman, Limor. Memes in Digital Culture. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.