Tag Archives: social media

How Social Media Can Promote Democracy

How Social Media Can Promote Democracy

Preface

As of 2022, there are almost 35 million social media users in Canada. 

In 2018, there were less than 25 million (Dixon, 2022). 

A difference of around 10 million or 40% in just five years.

When beginning to research social media and democracy, I was under the impression that most believed social media is poor for democracy. I did find many recent articles that make the argument “social media is negatively impacting or threatening democracy.” Here are a few articles that make that argument:

However, what I was surprised to find was that a lot of articles did not make that argument. Most determined that social media is not good or bad for democracy, but more of a neutral force with pros and cons. Here are a few articles that come to that conclusion:

While exploring the goodness of social media for democracy is a worthy endeavour, it is one that has been pursued many times and resulted in the articles above. The reality is that social media is going nowhere, the fact that 10 million more users have joined social media in Canada since 2018 proves that. So, even if we were to research the impact of social media on democracy and come to the conclusion that it is bad, we would gain nothing. Rather than explore whether social media is good or bad, here I will explore how social media can actually be used to sustain and promote a healthy democracy. 

Defining a Model

Democracy

Democracy means “rule by the people” (Froomkin, 2022).  This means that power is distributed among the masses so that decisions are made in a manner through which the people approve. Throughout history, it has been fundamental to converging toward a just and equitable society

Social Media

“The term social media refers to a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through virtual networks and communities.” (Dollarhide, 2022). This definition includes platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but it also includes non-centralized media too such as news sites and personal blogs (like this one). 

The Interaction of Social Media and Democracy

Democracy is heavily reliant on the flow of information, as information is what allows people to form views and base their actions in a logical manner. Social media is a technology that accelerates the transportation of information. Resultantly, one might immediately think that social media may allow for democracy to thrive.

Issues With The Model

Centralization – Social Media Platform Incentives Are At Odds With Society (Business)

Today there is an incredible wealth of information available online, and unfortunately, we all only have so much attention to give. Centralized social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Snapchat, all have business models that rely on our attention. Their primary way of earning money is by selling our attention to advertisers by giving them the ability to use the platforms as advertisement media (Mintzer, 2020). An unfortunate truth is that as a result of this, is that the platforms end up promoting content that is likely to send us into outrage because outrage creates engagement and keeps us on social media (Hathaway, 2021). 

Echo Chambers (Individuals)

In his article The problem of living inside echo chambers, Thi Nguyen defines echo chambers as spaces where insiders come to distrust individuals on the outside. The result of this is that insiders start to believe everything those around them say, and begin to refuse to believe anything else outside of their bubble. People are exposed to ideas outside of their echo chamber, but unfortunately, others within their echo chamber do not trust these ideas, and as a result, they follow and refuse to trust those on the outside (Thi Nguyen, 2019). 

Fake News and Censorship (Politics)

A couple of issues that have been at the forefront of social media in the past few years are fake news and censorship. In recent times and especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, centralized social media platforms have become increasingly concerned with what people can and can not say on the internet and this has resulted in frustration across partisan lines. The left argues that not enough disinformation is being stopped and the right argues that facts are being censored from the public. Unfortunately, it really does appear that social media companies are making up rules regarding content moderation on the fly and this is heavily concerning for the future of free speech and spread of fake news (Oremus, 2022).

What To Do

What You Should Do

The unfortunate truth is that platform-based social media problems are unlikely to dissolve themselves quickly. According to the Pew Research Center, “experts are evenly split on whether the coming decade will see a reduction in false and misleading narrative online” (Anderson & Raine, 2022). The good news is that we as individuals have the ability to make choices for ourselves.

What we must do as individuals is be conscious of these issues on social media. When browsing information online, ensure that you are approaching it neutrally and look at multiple sides to the same issue so you can form your own opinion on the matter. Approach all information with the understanding that it might be false, even if it aligns with your own views.

What Government Should Do

Through policy, governments have the power to apply pressure on social media companies to make changes to their platforms. 

This is a difficult path for governments to go down, however, as political parties making decisions regarding what information can be shared is something that people should be skeptical of.

However, this is a bipartisan issue and government can target business models instead of content moderation. Perhaps there is some hope that government can intervene and force social media companies to change their business models (Zubrow, 2022).  

What Social Media Companies Should Do

Social media companies can explore alternative business models that align their interests with those of society. Sara Brown at MIT recommends social media companies explore ideas such as subscription models, identity verification, pay for content models, and giving users control over data (Brown, 2021). 

Social media companies should realize their obligation to society goes beyond making profits because their actions have incredibly broad implications for society. 

How This Makes Social Media More Democratic

Making social media more democratic requires collective action. Individuals need to become more aware of social medias flaws, government needs to implement policy, and social media companies need to adapt. If this occurs, social media will be a more democratic space, as it will become one in which healthy discourse is encouraged; as opposed to the current environment in which there is discourse, except neither side really listens to the other.

References

Anderson, J. & Raine, L. (2022). The future of truth and misinformation online. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2017/10/19/the-future-of-truth-and-misinformation-online/ 

Brown, S. (2021). The case for new social media business models. 

Dixon, S. (2022). Number of social network users in Canada from 2018 to 2027. Statista. https://www-statista-com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/statistics/260710/number-of-social-network-users-in-canada/ 

Dollarhide, M. (2021). Social Media: Definition, Effects, and List of Top Apps. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/social-media.asp 

Hathaway, B. (2021). ‘Likes’ and ‘shares’ teach people to express more outrage online. YaleNews. https://news.yale.edu/2021/08/13/likes-and-shares-teach-people-express-more-outrage-online 

Froomkin, D. (2022). Democracy. Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/democracy/Democratic-institutions

Mintzer, A. (2020). Paying attention: the attention economy. Berkeley Economic Review. https://econreview.berkeley.edu/paying-attention-the-attention-economy/ 

Oremus, W. (2022). How social media ‘censorship’ became a front line in the culture war. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/10/09/social-media-content-moderation/ 

Thi Nguyen, C. (2019). The problem of living inside echo chambers. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-problem-of-living-inside-echo-chambers-110486 

Zubrow, K. (2022). Social media ethicist says regulation goes beyond moderating content. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/social-media-ethicist-tristan-harris-government-regulation-60-minutes-overtime-2022-11-06/

Essay 2: Not the end!

Last April, I have created my first website with Wix.com. It serves as a portfolio to showcase my photography work to others, especially to the employers when I am applying for jobs. I did not intend to write and post other content on the website because I feel self-conscious when people read what I wrote.

I haven’t updated the website for months as I was too busy at school. But when I receive my acceptance letter as an exchange student in SFU, I thought it’ll be a great opportunity to reactivate my website to post so I can document my journey in Canada. I am glad that I took PUB101, which “forces” me to post on a regular basis. It was frustrating at first when we have so much freedom in this course and I was still adjusting to the new learning environment here, jet lag and everything. I remember I couldn’t think of a name for my domain until I was unpacking my clothes from my luggage, then I realised how many stripes clothes I have. That’s how lilyinstripes was born.

It took me a whole night to complete the setup of the blog, from purchasing the domain and picking the theme that best matches my content. As these 12 weeks progresses, I am proud of the content I created and the positive feedbacks that I received from peers and friends from around the world.  It has resulted in a reduction in bounce rate to 61.67% and an increase in session duration to 2 minutes 13 seconds compared to the last 30 days. Google Analytics is by far one of the most useful and important tools that I’ve mastered in this course. The analytics provides me with insights to create intriguing content that will allow users to stay longer on my blog.

According to Patel (2019), bounce rate refers to the “bounce” that someone visits your website and leaves without interacting further with your site. As of the statistics by Google Benchmarks 2017, the bounce rate in the arts & entertainment industry is 58.69% (Ritwick, 2018), which is three per cent below mine. I will continue to post when the semester ends, aiming to reach through this three per cent difference by including more engaging content. When I look at the pages that my users most frequently visit, I notice that more people visit the photography page rather than the portfolio page. I think they may have expected to see more of my photography work under “photography” while I put them under “portfolio”. To avoid confusion, I will remove the photography category and use portfolio instead, so people can easily access to my photos.

When I started my first blog, I asked myself “How should I differ from other travel or photography blogs?” I knew exchange or studying abroad may seem interesting to my audiences, so I thought it’ll be a good idea to share Hong Kong culture to my Canadian friends and also allow my family and friends in Hong Kong to know what I’ve been up to in Canada. Tobi Cheung, one of the classmates who did a peer review on my blog said the Cantonese characters and pronunciations in each blog posts adds a personal touch and connection to my audience (Cheung, 2019)[, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve. Even though Cantonese is not a very common language to most Westerners, I hope to connect with my audiences by showing Hong Kong’s language so my users can understand my background and the place where I grow up in better. I see language as a way to connect with others. I realise most Westerners cannot tell the difference between Hong Kong and China (that’s the most frequently asked question by Uber and taxi drivers), we share similar language, similar characters but they are not the SAME. Therefore, I’ve decided to always include a Chinese keyword in traditional Chinese characters and its Cantonese pronunciation, so it tells more about what’s special about Hong Kong. As Adam wrote in the peer review, “One of humanity’s defining features is its ability to communicate with language.” (Schmidt, 2019). I hope my audience can get an overview and know more about Cantonese and Hong Kong culture when they read through my blog posts.

Looking back at the blog posts I’ve written, I realized how much I’ve grown and experienced in the past couple of months. First time blogging, first time studying abroad, first time skiing, first time seeing aurora and of course, my first solo trips. I am glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and experienced so many new things here! I will keep on posting when the semester finishes. I will be doing lots of travelling before I head back to Hong Kong, hopefully, there’ll be more photos coming up! Also, stay tuned to my blog if you’re interested in my life in Hong Kong! The support from all of you is the greatest motivation to keep my blog running.

This is by far the most rewarding class I’ve taken in university. Thank you all for making the first half of 2019 extra special and memorable!

References:



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The end of a chapter but the beginning of a book

The end of a chapter but the beginning of a book

For as long as I can remember, my camera has always been my side-kick.  Something about being able to capture a moment, an emotion, or a light in turn captured me.  From the beginning of the semester I knew I wanted to create an online space for my photography. In reality, it was the reason I enrolled in PUB 101; while I didn’t lack initiative, I lacked the knowledge and tools to create and curate a platform for my photography.  Finding a domain name and aesthetic was the first challenge.  It was important to have a very visual, professional, and clean blog – a space where images could stand out. Eventually, after much thought, I settled on One More Klick.

One More Klick features a blend of photography, travel, and the outdoors. “Klick” is another word for kilometre, which was very fitting with both the outdoor and travel aspects of tis blog, marking the distance traveled, in addition to klick also being the phonetic sounds of a camera’s shutter.  Since traveling, photography, and the outdoors are a passion of mine, I aspire to always challenge myself by going further, reaching higher, and persevering through the fear of the unknown.  For these reasons, there will always be one more klick – whether it be one more photograph, or one more kilometre.

With the help of photographs taken during various travels and adventures, my blog aims to share the stories behind photos, and provide context.  While some posts feature more personal stories, they still hold some informative content – whether it be in the form of tips and tricks, political context, or specific photography settings to achieve a photograph.

Currently, the majority of the audience reading One More Klick consists of direct family and friends, with some page views coming from countries outside of North America. Some of the perks of traveling abroad include creating friendships and connections across the globe.  Maintaining these friendships are even easier in light of the digital age.  According to the 2018 Digital Media Report, there are over 4 billion active internet users across the globe, and there has been a 13% increase in active social media users since January 2017.  The internet allows for greater connectivity, breaking the barriers of time and space.  In just the touch of a finger, users can connect with anyone, anywhere.  This immediacy has allowed me to connect with people from around the globe in little to no time.  For example, I reached out to Hasham to ask for his permission to post his photograph for the Friends in Foreign Places blog post.  Despite residing in Qatar at the time, within a few hours I received a response and we were connected once again.

This is especially useful for this blog, as I hope to expand the audience internationally.  Already, this blog has most of its’ international traffic coming from the United States, with other countries including France, the United Kingdom, Australia, Croatia, Ireland, and Luxembourg to name a few.  

It’s possible that some of the page views from the countries above are just bots, which are basically software that run automated tasks over the internet.  This would become more apparent when cross referencing with the amount of time spent on the page and the bounce rate.  Because I don’t know of anyone personally in Kenya, Sri Lanka, or Russia, I would assume that they aren’t actually real people reading my blog.  If you’re reading this and you are currently in Kenya, Sri Lanka, or Russia, let me know!

With the goal of eventually creating a stronger following and international audience, having a strong social media presence would be a huge asset.  Currently, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram hold the podium for most popular social networking sites:

2018 Digital Media Report, page 68

“Let’s face it: we have entered an era of media convergence that makes the flow of content across multiple media channels almost inevitable.”

Henry Jenkins, 2003

In his article Transmedia Storytelling, Jenkins (2003) highlights the importance of using a multitude of different social media platforms as opposed to restricting your content to just one.  The advantage here is not only more exposure, but also meeting your audience where they are.  With this is mind, I have created a Facebook page to share my blog posts.  Having a separate page for One More Klick that is independent from my personal page means traffic won’t be restricted by my own personal privacy settings.  Eventually, I will create an Instagram page which will feature different photographs linking them to their blog posts.  If it weren’t for social media, very few people would know about my blog and even fewer would be reading it. 

With blog posts being shared on social media, it was increasingly important for my blog to be responsive and mobile friendly. In Design Machines: How to survive in the digital Apocalypse, Travis Gertz (2015) criticizes the homogeneity of basic website designs. While I was trying to create a unique and customized aesthetic for my website, I ran into some serious challenged. While the desktop version worked perfectly, the layout didn’t translate well for mobile devices. As the majority of internet users access websites on their mobile devices, it was extremely important for my website to be responsive and mobile-friendly.

Social media allowed for networking and collaborations with other artists.  My first essay 21st Century Nudes covered the topic of censorship of artistic nudity on social media platforms. This essay was inspired by Vince Hemingson, a photographer, filmmaker, and bestselling author based out of Vancouver, who’s beautiful photographs routinely encounter censorship.  In wanting to share my essay on social media, I reached out to Vince for permission to tag him.  Not only did he agree and share my article with his network, he commended my work and asked for my feedback and comments on his Artist’s Statement for his Nude in the Landscape series.

Already, creating this blog has allowed me to build concrete skills by learning how to use WordPress and Google Analytics, along with broadening my artistic and professional network. This blog acts as a live document, changing and improving as I continue to learn and create. I plan on continuing this blog alongside my adventures, and hope that one day it might flourish into something larger.



References

Gertz, T. (2015). Design Machines. How to survive in the digital Apocalypse. July 2015. Retrieved from https://louderthanten.com/articles/story/design-machines

Hemingson, V. n.d. Artist’s Statement: The Nude in the Landscape. n.d. Retrieved from http://hemingsonphotography.com/fine-art/nude-in-the-landscape/

Jenkins, H. (2003). Transmedia Storytelling. January 15 2003. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/401760/transmedia-storytelling/

Kemp, S. (2018). We are social – Digital report 2018. Retrieved from https://digitalreport.wearesocial.com/

Essay 1: Social Media is Capitalistic, Not Democratic

On February 2014, Facebook introduced an update called the real name policy (Bivens, 2017). This introduction increased gender identifications from 2 to 58 (Bivens, 2017). As an attempt of inclusivity, Facebook is perceived to be giving a democratic response to a growing concern of minorities in online spaces. More users can now choose who they identify themselves as without compromising their self-identity. However, after the policy has been implemented, many queer and LGBTQ members reported that they can no longer access their profile because their names do not fit with their supposed identity (Bivens, 2017). Facebook may be giving power to its queer users, but I argue that’s not the case. I argue that social media is capitalistic, not democratic. LGBTQ users’ names and genders are to fit in the heteronormative standard in order for marketers and the state to keep track of its citizens through surveillance and protection (MacAulay & Moldes, 2016). Non-binary users are always recoded back to the binary system, exposing the inauthentic gesture of Facebook as inclusive and democratic (Bivens, 2017). LGBTQ users’ fluid and changing experiences cannot be truly represented online. Thus, hindering their entrepreneurial pursuits and community building (Lingel & Golub, 2015).

On Facebook’s Help Center, there is a section that acknowledges names on Facebook (Facebook, 2018). Aside from the things to keep in mind, the standards specify that the name should appear on and ID or part of their ID document list (Facebook, 2018). This means that an expected first and last name must be created for the user. This may not necessarily reflect on queer identities and that already causes conflicts. 

The PEW Research conducted a survey on 1197 self-identified LGBT adults 18 years or older asking about their online use (PEW, 2013). Eighty percent of respondents use sites such as Facebook and Twitter, but the survey shows prohibiting behaviours online (PEW, 2013). Fifty six percent of surveyors said that they have not revealed their sexual identities online, and 83% do not regularly discuss LGBT issues online (PEW, 2013). LGBT groups experience different treatment in these online spaces, but still continue to use it. With Facebook’s real name policy, there was an attempt to be inclusive. Facebook is now in support of these minorities, and empowering them through their profiles. But as seen in MacAulay & Moldes, Bivens, and Lingel & Golub’s works, Facebook is driven by capitalistic notions, disguising their authentic gestures to mask its market driven responses.

MacAulay & Moldes acknowledges that Facebook uses the real name policy to justify legal precedents and cite harmful actions towards others such as harassment, impersonation and trolling (2016). While these seem legitimate concerns, they find that they’re less interested in protecting them rather than making the users ‘transparent to the market and the state’ (MacAulay & Moldes, 2016). A key concept they identify stemming from queer theory is normativity (or heteronormativity). This is described as a regulatory system that naturalizes sex and gender (MacAulay & Moldes, 2016). This process of normativity means that agents and groups take the effort to impose and force individuals to fit into existing systems to keep order or regulate easier. Heteronormativity then entails that binary systems (male and female) are the correct and only way to follow due to economic and legal precedents. This means that anyone who deviates from it are not ‘performing correctly’ (MacAulay & Moldes, 2016). Data collection is another issue that they bring up because this forces users who actively avoid as part of Facebook’s marketer aggregation. They have to choose between binary choices that will not fit them, and that can result in their accounts being banned or ultimately not use the service anymore. A democratic practice in social media will allow any individual to self-express and create within their own public spaces, but the notion of heteronormativity does not give that space to queer users. It simply favours what funds the company running the service. They also cite the increase of market shares that occurred in 2014 after the real name policy was introduced. Market shares in 2011 decreased to 19.82 USD after reports of fake users on Facebook surfaced and after the real name policy was implemented, the shares rose to 78.02 USD in December 2014 (MacAulay & Moldes, 2016). The theory of normativity serves as a great interest to what can be marketed and how that affects minorities who want to use Facebook. And these experiences continue to exist.

Bivens examined Facebook’s gender coding system and found that when coding the genders, females were assigned 1, males were assigned 2, and the ‘undefined’ were assigned 0 (2017). This undefined category has been the standard for coding non-binary genders and how that allows Facebook to include so many gender options. On one hand, the number 0 allows for the existence of non-binaries, but does not exactly fit into the binary code (Bivens, 2017). Bivens found that later updates to the code see that newly assigned genders and their code will default to the undefined because the codes were not established since creating it (2017). The 56 additional genders are now, in the back end, defaulted to 0 even if it is given a defined gender (Bivens, 2017). This allowed Facebook to easily aggregate data that can be sent to marketers who are only interested in the binary genders (Bivens, 2017). The nuances and multiple gender identities have been devolved to 0 and continuously will not receive the technological support on Facebook. These regulations are masked as authenticity, and it does not seem democratic. Rather, it forces its users into shaping to what is acceptable online and what numbers can be easily assigned to them so that it can be quickly shared and sold online. 

It does not support the lives and work of other members of the community too. Drag users are greatly affected by restricting user information flexibility to fit with their fluid and changing personalities to continuously be entertaining drag queens (Lingel & Golub, 2015). Online identity work has become an extension of their own work, and that continuity allows them to stay connected with their fans and fellow queens. It supports them in a capitalistic sense that allows them to advertise their shows and market their identities, but it does not allow multiple identities (Lingel & Golub, 2015). This, again, falls into the notion of normativity where they are forced into one trackable identity. Facebook acknowledges an inclusivity of users, but does not acknowledge multiple and fluid online identities (Lingel & Golub, 2015). Instead, it advocates a unifying and unitary profile (Lingel & Golub, 2015). While drags do not represent the majority of the LGBTQ community, these collective experiences contribute to a shared, limited, and constrained online experience that does not allow the desired expectation to freely express themselves. Rather, they have to fit the normative mold to appease Facebook’s marketers and regulators. The real name policy is just another example in online social spaces that operates to generate revenue. Facebook acts for money, not for its users.

Reference

Bivens, R. (2017). The gender binary will not be deprogrammed: Ten years of coding gender on Facebook. New Media & Society, 19(6), 880–898. https://doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1177/1461444815621527.

Facebook (2018). What names are allowed on Facebook? Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/help/112146705538576?helpref=faq_content.

Lingel, J., & Golub, A. (2015). In Face on Facebook: Brooklyn’s Drag Community and Sociotechnical Practices of Online Communication: IN FACE ON FACEBOOK. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(5), 536-553.

MacAulay, M., & Moldes, M. (2016). Queen don’t compute: Reading and casting shade on Facebook’s real names policy. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 33(1), 6-22.

PEW Research Center (2013, June 13). A survey of LGBT Americans: LGBT adults online. Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/06/13/a-survey-of-lgbt-americans/.