Monday, November 24, 2008

C.9 Dodgeball and Social Organizing

Today we were assigned to read Clay Shirky's Here comes everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations in chapter 9. This reading deals with the "Small World Network" which was a theory by Ducan Watts and Steve Strogatz founded in 1998. Shirky gives the example of someone sitting on a plane talking with the passenger next to him or her, only to find out that he or she knows the same person. This example demonstrates the "Small World Network," and Shirky shows evidence of the chances of this happening are quite good because of something called "Homophily" which means "grouping of like with like" (Shirky p. 213.) This means that you are grouped with others who ride airplanes and that you share with your fellow passengers living in the same city along with sharing the same arrival destination. All of this makes the likelihood of knowing the same people, all that much greater. Shirky also points out that the chances of you knowing the same "highly connected people" as your seatmate are high. (Shirky P. 214) This all leads to evidence of the "Small World Network" existing in everyday communication interactions and the real world applicability of the "Six degrees of separation", which means basically "any two people are connected together by only a few links" (Shirky p. 214), which all the more makes it a much smaller world.

Watts and Strogatz "Small World Network" is illustrated well in the example Shirky gave, but he also notes that this theory has two main characteristics. Firstly, small groups must maintain a pattern of communication in which "everyone connects with everyone" and must be "densely connected" (Shirky p. 215) in order tohave free flowing communication. Also, even if one of the links disappears, the other communication links within that group are unaffected. Shirky also points out that a second characteristic is "Large groups are sparsely connected" and have a lot more connections as a whole (Shirky p. 215.) He notes that if the network's size grew too large it would be unusable and communication would not work well. Shirky finally reaches the conclusion that both of these characteristics must be employed -- having a tightly connected small group is the foundation, and then you can connect all these different various groups.

Shirky gives the example of him going to a bar, and using the social networking site "Dodgeball" which is designed for use with cellular phones. Just by sending a simple text message he informs all his friends of his arrival at the bar, so they all are aware of where he is. "Dodgeball" is a very advanced networking site and like Facebook it uses "friend of a friend networking" which means that it has the ability to show mutual friends that people share. This networking then shows Shirky that there is a shared friend at the bar he is presently at, only minutes later. Sending a digital photo to Shirky's phone of this friend, this example further illustrates the "Small World Patter" made possible with the assitance of the latest technology. This all comes back to Shirky's theory of understanding that "Larger network is a sparsely linked group of more densely linked subnetworks" you can apply it to many real world situations today. (Shirky p. 220)

He also gives examples of protest's being organized in California by students through the use of Myspace and text messaging, through communication chains of friends of friends that share interest of similar topics. A demonstration was born, the people that would be interested in the protest found out about through contacts while other did not. This all surprised the school officials who had no idea of this protest forming. The ability of these new technologies were finally realized, this also illustrates the "Small World Network" because it can spread information or exclude it.


Shirky's reading seems all very interesting to me, it happens to me sometimes that I meet people and we know the same people. Even up here in Albany, I met someone who claimed to know my cousin 200 miles away from here and it turned out they were from the same town and went to the same highschool. In fact they did know each other. I like to look at it as a mystery or a ill-odded coincidence, but this reading explains this phenomena in a way that I can understand it better in some situations. Shirky's gives the same evidence in the reading, because they were from the same town and went to the same school the chances of them knowing eachother is not that unlikely. Which is supported in the reading with examples of it happening. This makes this situation not so much of an mystery anymore, which is what this reading has helped me realize.

Shirky, Clay. (2008). Here comes everybody: The power of organizing without organizations (chapter 9). New York: Penguin.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Essay #4

Gizmodo is a technology blog that has many various posts of new and up-and-coming technologies in the U.S. and other countries. Over seven days I have observed various articles on cars, Mars rovers, speed cameras, robots, supercomputers and NASA rockets, along with many other interesting topics. Gizmodo is the blog to go to for any new technology that you would want to read about. It offers little bits of information and only highlights the important parts, leaving you with a clear understanding of what the post was about, without reading 10 pages. Once you are granted approval by the administrators on this website, you can comment and post your blogs.

I found it interesting that in blogosphere and in various other sites such as Digg, Gizmodo and other blogs, that it is the users that create the content and make the posts, and not some other editor or writer for the website. I think that users creating posts on topics that they find interesting, without any sort of influence from the mass media, is what makes these types of blogs good. The user does not have to be an expert to make a post on any of these sites, but as long as there is some documentation of sources that is adequate enough. Barlow states that "the ability to create at the same time "station" where one receives changes both perception and interaction, bringing the web into a new realm of mass media where resources extend to all of the one-separate media and more, where the user can manipulate the multiplying available items in ever-increasing fashion." (Barlow 45 C.2) Barlow gives the example of "fan fiction" which is when people take parts of Television commercials or situations and create their own productions or episodes based on them, and upload them to the Web. This, Barlow states, shows "people acting on media creations rather then simply absorbing them." (Barlow 45)

I believe this is the same with blogs -- the ability that we all have to create web content from all these different sources on the Internet allows any of us to become producers of our "own" content. Anyone can now take a story that they read on a news website or that they heard on the news, and go to Gizmodo and consolidate the information down to the important facts. This ability that we all have is important because now instead of simply just absorbing what all these different media outlets are telling us (becoming passive), we now become active and can create our own responses to this information. By creating our own posts with opinions and thoughts on various content we are becoming an active audience. As I have observed on Gizmodo, a user read an article on a new type of car coming to our country and got some basic information. This user then had the ability to create his or her own post and consolidate the information in a way that they saw more informative or interesting. I think the ability to do this is exactly what Barlow was talking about -- as an audience, we are becoming much more "active" by creating our own content and commenting on others, as well as editing existing posts, as opposed to a passive audience that just absorbs whatever the media gives them. The best part about blogs is that the information cannot really have any bias or mass media influence. It's the users creating the posts -- not some newspaper editor that is writing for a job or political influence.

Becoming a producer of content also comes with great responsibility of obeying legal constraints and avoiding plagiarism at all costs. The question of ownership on the Internet, as Barlow states, is one of the biggest controversies today. As I have observed, many posts on Gizmodo incorporated videos from YouTube and other video sites, audio clips, and various images from all over the Internet. I feel that this is what makes all these posts interesting, and by using pictures and video it really enhances the blogs for everyone. I believe that credit for copyrighted materials must be given when it's due and that more authors must utilize the concept of the Fair Use Act. This act stipulates a four proponent test to determine if use of the copyrighted material is legal without consent of the author. This is important for users to understand if they want to become producers of online content.

Observation # 5

Today on Gizmodo there was a post on the Mars rover called Spirit, that may become in-operable soon. The rover had been on Mars for about five years and has collected a vast amount of information for NASA. The scientist say that a bad sand storm messed with the solar panels on the Mars rover and might make it in -operable from now on. The comments on this blog were pretty funny, alot of people felt that NASA should have known about this problem and took actions against it. The user "Navvywayy"comments pretty much spoke for everyone when he/she said

"What would we have discovered if the thing still worked?

Nasa Scientist 1: So, is mars still red today?
Nasa Scientist 2: Let me check the rover. Dammit - it's shut down! HOW ARE WE GOING TO TELL IF MARS IS STILL RED?!"

Althought this obviously is not the case, its still funny and shows how much they like to joke around on this blog and make fun of things.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Observation # 4

Today on Gizmodo I read an article about Speed Trap cameras in many other countires, and how they are just coming here to the U.S. In this post they talked about how all these cameras are placed around the country already are catching a large number of people speeding. A lot of people on the blog felt that this new type of technology was an invasion of privacy, and offerd advice and stories of ways to beat these new camears. The user "Sortafast" had this to say

"If speed limits were about safety, cars would be electronically limited to 55mph.

Speed limits are about REVENUE. It's all about catching you speeding so the local municipality can make money off the tickets.

I call it what it really is. The "Highway Tax"."

And alot of the other people on this blog agreed with him, although one user " Alchemistmerlin " was in opposition to what the majority of people were saying stating that "

"Wow.

"I should only follow the law if someone who might punish me can see me. Otherwise I should do whatever I want."

Your parents have taught you fantastically, and I'm glad you have such consideration for the safety of others on the road."

And took basically a vigilant approach on this topic, that others did not seem to wholly agree with. Some users felt stongly against this technology, although a few others felt it was justified and were criticizing others.

Observation # 3

Today on Gizmodo I observed a post on a posture correcting device, which basically gives the user a small shock when perfect posture is not being used. This product just came to the United States and people on the blog are skeptical about it. A lot of users where basically saying it was a waste of money, although many did acknowledge that poor posture is a problem affecting many American today. Some of the users brought up issues of the products high price, of 90 U.S. dollars. Saying it was way to much money for this product.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obseravtion # 2

Today I looked at a post on Gizmodo about Dell computers deals on black friday and I left comment on how every year they do the same thing and offer great savings to customers. This year is better then ever in the specials they are offering, specifically due to people are not going to be spending as much on the holidays this year. Still waiting to be approved for comments on the Gizmodo Blog, I might have to choose another blog to obeserve because for whatever reason I am not able to the right to comment yet.

Observation #1

I have been observing the Blog Gizmodo and was looking at a post on the new Nissan GTR,
in the discussions I found that a few people posting on these message boards were pretty knowledgable about cars for a technology blog.With this blog you need to be approved by the administrators to comment, so I am awaiting approval still. The blog conversations seem friendly and everyone seems to get along on this blog. There are a lot of interesting posts on Gizmodo about a lot of new technologies.