Tag Archives: Class Material, PUB101

Social Media and Democracy – An Entanglement.

In its early stages, social media was thought to be a revolutionary aid for democracy. Creating enormous networks of connections and facilitating the spread of ideas and discussion of opinions was the optimistic outlook of how social media would connect the world(Haidt, Rose-Stockwell, 2019). However, as we move away from the “unprecedented democratization of writing” of blogs (Derakhshan, 2015), we move into an era dominated by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook. As we advance into this new digital world, it becomes clear that the impacts of social media on democracy are much more complex and multifaceted than we had initially expected. The anticipated network of connections is often hindered by filter bubbles. These filter bubbles, combined with the spread of disinformation makes for highly polarized political extremes. When worlds collide, it’s often aggressive – far from the harmonious discussion which had once been hoped for.

These “filter bubbles”, a termed coined by Eli Pariser in a 2011 Ted Talk, are the algorithms which show the reader information which reinforces one’s current perspective, without introducing the opposing point of view (Derekhshan, 2015). With algorithms working to polarize you to further extremes, it is easy to get entrenched in one’s view point. As Mod states in his article “How I Got My Attention Back”, humans have become easily manipulated by these algorithms, and are generally speaking, indifferently synchronous to what we are consistently exposed to on social media (Mod, 2017). 

The unprecedented rapid spread of disinformation is particularly pertinent now, during the covid-19 pandemic, but also consistently relevant to politically charged debates. Often, these social media disinformation campaigns are to support authoritarian and far-right parties. This is achieved by stirring up panic about minority groups, manifesting mistrust in mainstream media, and generating falsehoods about their political oppositions (Beauchamp, 2019). The dissemination of disinformation, more disaffectionately referred to as “fake news”, is spread by taking advantage of the algorithms which promote highly “engaging” content. Content which is outrageous and “pushes boundaries” so to speak engages the most interactions from social media users, thus it is propagated across the web and shown to more users (Haidt, Rose-Stockwell, 2019). 

To fan the flames further, those using social media, engaging in egregious political debates, and disseminating false information are wholly disinhibited by invisibility, asynchronicity, and dissociation of online behaviour from “real life” (Suler, 2004). This makes for political discussions which are more aggressive and polarized than we might see in real life. On the other hand, separating social media and politics is not feasible, nor advisable. 

Many (if not all) politicians have come to rely on social media in some capacity to relay information about their campaigns to the general populace. In the same sense, many members of the general public rely on some stream of social media to remain politically informed. Thus, removing politics or politicians from social media (while it would certainly remove a lot of aggression), would also leave millions uninformed about the politics of their nation. Moreover, the general public often uses social media platforms to discuss the actions of their leaders among themselves, and when unsatisfied, use social media to confront their leaders with demands for change. Removing this power from the people would be unacceptable, and an assault on the freedom of speech of the people. 

A recent example of the public holding their figure of authority accountable is the swift and harsh response to Ted Cruz attempting to flee to Cancun during the weather emergency in his home state of Texas. When the democratic and leftist communities of Twitter found out about him abandoning his people (and travelling internationally during a global pandemic), the communal outrage was such that he returned within hours. This “cyberbullying” as many called it of a US senator is a clear example of minimization of authority (Suler, 2004). Without the connectedness of the digital social media community, it is impossible that such pressure could be exerted on someone with Cruz’s power and influence. Indeed, it is impossible that millions of people would even be aware of a politicians’ actions within hours of them occurring.

This newly essential line of communication between the people and their figures of authority is perhaps part of the reason as to why Donald Trump was allowed to remain active on his favourite soap box for so long. While his actions were certainly violating the terms of conditions of Twitter, removing the active president of the united states from social media is an action which holds a lot more weight than removing a simple “troll” with 300 followers. 

In conclusion, we are a far cry from the optimistic future we had envisioned when social media was in its infancy. Filter bubbles, disinformation, and toxic disinhibition plague our pages and creep through our content. However, we must bravely forge onwards into the unknown, because after all, what other choice is there?

REFERENCES

Beauchamp, Z. (January 2019). Social Media is Rotting Democracy from within. Retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/1/22/18177076/social-media-facebook-far-right-authoritarian-populism

Derakhshan, H. (July, 2015). The Web We Have to Save. Retrieved from https://medium.com/matter/the-web-we-have-to-save-2eb1fe15a426

Haidt, J., Rose-Stockwell, T., (December 2019). The Dark Psychology of Social Networks. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/12/social-media-democracy/600763/

Mod, C. (January 2017). How I Got My Attention Back. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2017/01/how-i-got-my-attention-back/

Pariser, E. (March 2011). Eli Pariser: Beware online “filter bubbles” [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles/up-next?language=en

Suler, J., (2004). The Online Disinhibition Effect, CyberPsychology & Behaviour 7(3), 321-326 DOI: 10.1089/1094931041291295

Review the Design and Layout of Spotify

The layout of the spotify app and web player is intuitive, efficient, and intriguingly laid out. The design of Spotify is clean, black, with grey text. Hovering the mouse over any text highlights it, changing the text colour to white. 

The home screen bears a banner of newly released music which (based on your listening algorithms) the app predicts you might like. Underneath this banner, you’re shown 6 playlists or albums which you’ve saved and been listening to intensively. Below that are the most recent playlists or albums you’ve played (even for a single song).

The Home Page of Spotify

As you scroll further down, Spotify predicts artists, albums, and playlists which you might enjoy, based on your recent listening. 

If you choose to search a piece of music, the page shows you both your most recent searches (be it artists, songs, or playlists), and your top genres – the top genre always seems to be pop, no matter what you listen to. Below your top genres, you can browse all categories, each with their own muted coloured icon.

The Search and Browse Function
The Search and Browse Function

Below the search icon, you can see your personal library, broken into playlists you’ve created or saved, artists you follow, or albums you’ve saved. The main focus of this page is “Liked Songs” – a feature I understand the importance of, but rarely use, except as a sort of dumping ground before the song is appropriately sorted. All my songs are categorized into playlists with other “like minded” songs so to speak. A feature which I particularly appreciate is the ability to create an album cover for each of the playlists you create. Each of my playlists gets a specially curated photo which I photoshop myself to match the exact mood or theme of the playlist. The latest Spotify update allows you to change the album cover from your phone as well as from the desktop app (finally!).

A listing of your playlists (conveniently ordered  by recently created) is listed on the left hand side, below the “home” “search” and “your library” shortcuts.

Your Library

On the right hand side, you can see what your friends are listening to, or have been listening to recently. This is, at face value, an interesting way to discover new music. It’s also a good way to check in on the mental wellbeing of your friends. While many are not comfortable reaching out when they need support, it’s fairly easy to tell when you look at the music they are listening to recently (Cigarettes After Sex for 4 days straight? Bring them a casserole). 

Side and Bottom Bar Functions

Along the bottom of the screen, you can see the song you’re currently listening to (in the far left corner). You can add this song to any playlist by clicking it, dragging it, and dropping it into any of the playlist buckets above it. On the far right, you can see the queue of songs which are to play, you can see the device which you are currently streaming music on, and you can adjust the volume of the music. This is a nice feature if you want to listen to music softly while you also listen to a lecture recording.

Website Layout

The homepage of the blog has an animated title against an impactful and relevant picture.

When you scroll down from the homepage, you’re shown all the recent posts made in all categories of the blog – blog posts, mini assignments, and process posts. there’s also shortcuts to all recent comments and posts on the ride hand side.

For certain posts, I’ve selected a significant image to reflect the content of the blog post.