Virtual Citizenship, Part VIII: Vernor Vinge, Discussion


Bill Warters, Wayne State University: Did your system include any systems for conflict resolution?
VV: Considering the intellectual ensemble of groups available now with networks, it is possible that you may get better answers to questions.  Area of internet is rich in potential for inventing dispute resolution techniques.  These are areas that I have great optimism about.

Andrew Dyjach, political science student, Wayne State University:  With these "creative engine," shouldn’t there be new engines for figuring out how to figure out how to use these creative systems.  VV: Change produces a constant tension or problem.  Conflict resolution mechanisms should be testable in the current situation.  Social science could be thinking, testing, instrumenting how various forms of problem solving and planning are working.  []

Matt Arnold: Verifiability and establishing truth.  One of the thing about politics is about figuring out who is telling the truth.  What do you think about the ability of us as citizens to tell what is true. 
VV: If a person looks at storage trends, physical science can suck up any given number of exobytes; so can fiction.  Friends of privacy deliberately inserts notable amounts of lies just to create uncertainty in the web and protect privacy; governments actively support this.  It would be interesting to work scenarios around what would happen if notions that "nothing is true" become prevalent.  On the one hand, it seems hard to falsify facebook accounts.  On the other hand, if you look at questions of  spam we see the flowering of false information.  (Incidentally, the fact that nobody predicted spam, despite the fact that it seems eminently predictable given Moore’s law and balance sheets suggests that we may not be as good at predicting as we might think).

Virtual Citizenship, Part VII: Vernor Vinge

Vernor Vinge, "People Power in the Future"

No one knows the future, so scenarios are much preferred to predictions (and for some the most important issues, scenarios are more useful than elaborate probability analysis).

Straight line linear projections, predictions from the futurists of the 1970’s in regard to oil prices proved accurate with regard to amount ($100 per barrel oil) but spectacularly wrong with regard to timing (2007 as opposed to 1979).

With scenarios you do not determine what the future is going to be. 
For each scenario you build a list of symptoms of what to look for and counterindicating symptoms.
You may also be able to write a historical review from the future (in retrospect it was obvious that…)

People are unpredictable; add technology and situations are even more volatile.
As events unfold you track the symptoms and anti-symptoms and you are in a better position to react. 

In planning, you do not just plan for the likely scenario but you plan in a way that minimizes the chance of the worst case scenarios. 

In this I will look at the scenario loosely related to that of my novel Rainbows End
(For alternative kinds of scenarios, see Martin Rees’s Our Final Hour)

The greatest natural resource: people.
Population estimates at present
    China, 1322,000,000
    India, 1,169,000,000
    EU and Russia: 638,000,000
    USA: 303,000,000
In populations this large, there is almost no topic that is too small not to have four or five people who have spent their whole lives thinking about it.  Hook that together with databases and communications and you have what is safe to call a creativity engine and a major feature of the first part of this century.  It is plausible that the creative engine may make our physical and even intellectual productivity look medieval.  Greatest importance of present day internet is as a laboratory for experimenting with collaboration.  We can experiment with collaboration going forward.  What kinds of things are we talking about:

  • eBay
  • Games
  • Social networks
  • Automation of social networks (e.g. yenta)
  • MIT Software Agents group
  • Open education (for exampke, MIT’s online lectures and supporting softare)
  • Prediction markets and prizeboards
  • Movie production as a model for industry

We are potentially doing a great job of finding out what people want, and finding out what people find they want.  The example of usury offers an interesting example: something that started out as a social sin and evil turned out to be something that was extremely important.  Insurance may be another example–early forms of insurance were condemned as a for of gambling.   Talks earlier today talk about the odd things we can do and the ways we can make the world better without money changing hands (the productive tension that exists between those who are out to make billions by monetizing the previously unmonetized–and those who are rendering all-but-free those things which had previously been fabulously expensive.

When cyberspace leaks into to the real world
One generation’s ubiquitous computing is the next generation’s "huh."
Embedding computers allowed software solutions to what previously had been mechanical problems.  We put computers in things to make the processes cheaper. 
In the 90’s we moved into the era of networked embedded systems, in which devices began to talk to one another.  As we move further, the objects know where they located in real space; they can talk to each other.  The place to store data that has to be updated constantly is where "that piece of reality" is.   Physical reality becomes its own database.  Devices take on a whole new competence. 

The conventional wisdom of this new era
Conventional wisdom:
Software is everything.  if you can’t build software into it, then there’s something wrong with them.
In 20 years the average person might not expect anything to work without active software support

  • Alternate reality games become normal life.
  • Mutual support organizations that leak out into the real work.  Anything known anywhere is known by those who need to know: "synthetic serendipity" really works.  Living in a world where luck is always on your side.  The empowerment of successful trust.  Right now with the internet you can get answers to almost any question very quickly.  When this becomes part of your portable environment, serendipitous events can be generated when you need them.

Keeping up is hard to do
Some demoralizing questions

  • How long does it take to become an expert in a domain of knowledge? (not as long as it takes us these days, but a fairly long time)
  • How long does a domain of knowledge stay relevant? (imagine 1905 and you thought that movies were the wave of the future: how long would you have to make money on silent black and white analog films? 25 years.  Long enough to learn about the constraints, learn to work around them, exploit them.  These days, things happen much faster.  There might be 30 years of depth there, but it does not matter because in 2-3 years it is obsolete.  We are in a situation now where every 2-3 years we dump things that are far from being artistically exploited.  And people who are all up on certain technologies now will be (unless they keep up) fundamentally behind the curve.  This also undercuts the ability to realize fundamental truths, and may also undercut the fundamental truths themselves.  It becomes increasingly hard to discover the metaprinciples (but increasingly important).
  • How temporary can temporary employment become?  Extreme fine grained distribution might determine employment in minutes rather than weeks or months. 
  • How to cope with deprofessionalization?  What happens when professions are undercut (journalists are upset by the emergence of blogs).  Degrees, going to university is still important, but it is the results that actually matter.  Some may have the credentials but cannot compete; others may have no credentials but may just be damn good.
  • How to cope with best-in-the world competition?  It is no longer just enough to be the best person in Eastern San Diego county.   We will see a lot of genius expended to support the best in the world and extend their reach.

What advice (circa 2025)?

  • It is good to know something about something.
  • Choose those things carefully–
    • do you seek to know core domains
    • Determine your style (woodborers v. butterflies)
  • Learn to ask the right questions
  • Innovation is just asking the right question
  • Clever procrastination is the heart of successful planning

The Shape of Populism to Come
Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Could this change?
"We have met the savior and he is us"
Large populations of relatively satisfied people, pursuing their myriad independent goals, but planning and coordinating with one another via computer networks.

Past populism is people in large numbers but pursuing collectively selfish goals.
Future populisms may allow people to see that their selfish interests depend on global wellness.  That global view hooked up with empowerment gives room for hope.  Produces fine-grained attention to detail about what is going on and helps us avoid things that are dangerous.

Bruce Sterling’s Maneki Neko
Marc Steigler’s Earth Web
Gregory Stock’s Metaman

Virtual Citizenship, Part VI: Wendy Chun, Discussion

Vernor Vinge: Was this regarded as acceptable?
Wendy Chun: There was a response both of horror and relief. Some of these relationships became engaged productively as a way of negotiating tension.

Bill Warters: How should we understand paranoia. I’ve always thought it odd that people think that they’re always being watched but that you may be being watched when you least want to.
Wendy Chun: I meant it in terms of the kinds of relationship necessary for dealing with technology (discussed by David Dill). What is intriguing about the internet or the notion of memory as storage is the notion that any time you can be caught for activities committed in the past. But it also produces this incredible mass of information that you would have to look through to catch somebody.

Richard Grusin, Wayne State University: Your presentation has one main actor which is technology. What would it be like with other actors, other spaces, such as shopping malls, which are not truly public but also not truly private. How do you see the technological narrative related to other narratives.
Wendy Chun: One of the early Supreme Court decisions likened it to a combination between a library and a shopping mall. If you take seriously the idea of the internet as the enduring ephemeral, it endures because somebody makes a decision to make it endure.

Sid Smith, University of Michigan: One way of viewing surveillance is to perform for it. Is that part of the dynamic of paranoia and exposure? How is that related to celebrity culture and the “democratization of celebrity.”
Wendy Chun: Talking to web-cam-girls there was a notion that we are always under surveillance but at least this way we have control. There was also a notion of “who cares.”

Audience member: You said that newspapers help to create an imaginary archive, which is also related to stablilization of language. Doesn’t the reactivization of memory create a space for us to renarrate. As regular citizens go, isn’t it useful for us to be able to renarrate and reactivation.
Wendy Chun: This does allow us to rethink in interesting ways what we think. I have found it odd that librarians have embraced digitization as a way of storing, not thinking about obsolete technology problems, compatibility. Furthermore it is not that we do not have access to text but that there is no single text but multiple texts, none of which is definitive.

Virtual Citizenship, Part V: Wendy Chun

Address the relationship between virtual citizenship and new
technologies by the relationship between control and freedom. High speed information technologies put in
place a basic insecurity. This can have
a rather nasty side effect, which is human paranoia. Because we cannot know what our computers are
doing, we become paranoid.

We begin to behave as if the political can be solved by the
technological, or that the technological is already political.

This insecurity is actually what is necessary for the
internet to act as a democratic public media. It does not stem from how the internet gives users control but ways in
which it “exposes” users, points to a freedom from which control can emerge,
though only imperfect, and this depends on how it is imagined.

Revising Benedict Anderson’s notion of a nation as an “imagined
community,” we are now involved in imaginings that are both more or and
less. We are participating into imagined

1. Packet sniffing, or “are you there”

The internet has been sold as a tool of empowerment, as a
medium of freedom. It supposedly establishes
a worldwide marketplace of ideas and goods. It also involves the normalization of exhibitionism: sites like twitter
that enables you to post where you all at all times, as well as personal webcam
sites. The internet has also been linked
ot a network of control (Echelon). It is
also a site of commercial surveillance.  Some have suggested that Google is the “Stasi resource of the 21st century.”

Clip of the Hong Kong Bus Uncle: .  Surveillance here was done by a bystander "in case" there was a fight. 

The internet circulates our representations without our consent or knowledge.
Control derives from French-contreroule–a copy of a roll of an account, etc. of the same quality content as the original.

If there is a worldwide surveillance network, it is due to a conflation of notions of memory and storage.

How is it that such a compromised and compromising resource is bought and sold as a medium of empowering?
Why do we believe interactivity to be a form of mastery and freedom?
Why do we imagine the Internet to be a realm of total control.

2. Global paranoia, technological empowerment

Where as the internet has been sold as empowering elsewhere.  Within the US it is sold as something to which the world is already jacked in.  The desire for technology is for a technology that the other already has, a system of paranoid jealousy, with the constant desire for upgrades.

Cisco Systems "Are You Ready" Commercial

Cisco systems stopped running these in 2001.  People began to worry rather than celebrate.  Technological empowerment is no longer benign.

Other who threatened to have technology was never really supposed to have it or to be able to use it against us.  (You could teach Lacan with these commercials).

Paranoia (as those of you with computers know) is a valid practice for information management.  People have learned the hard way is that prudent practice is what others would think of as paranoia.  People need to be paranoiac when dealing with computers because computers are always failing.  Technology is always failing, but we talk about it as if it always works, as if our intentions could change its operation.

A digital mass of information can always be mined for warning signs read in but not "read" (search terms only become self-evident after an event).  Paranoia is a way of developing search terms before an event happens (but in which people are always seen as criminals in advance). 

A certain paranoid object reduces freedom to control (you can only be free when you are in control).

3. Imagined networks
How do we understand the kinds of interactions, of connectivity.
To exaggerate, the answer to all questions of "what’s new," the answer has always been "it’s the network."  Networks are allegedly not only the content of society but also the structure and message: the diagram for our bureaucratic organizations, our social interactions.

Culture as network is now a tired, banal cliche.  We too readily accept the answer "it’s the network" as a meaningful statement.  What work do networks do?

OED: "A diagrammatic representation of interconnected events, processes,
etc., used in the planning of complex projects or sequences of

We see slippage from network as diagram to network as reality.

"Networks" privilege flows.  They can be reduced to units that flow and thus to data that can be processed.  What slips through a networks is not something that slips through the nets.  Rather, networks composed of things that are not moved, that seek to blanket.

Richard Stallman: "Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement." ( is about the relationship between the on- and the off-line.  It is this connection that makes it a "safe space."  Free flow of information depends on its nature as a gated community.  You do not get an automatic view of others.  It is a geographically bound, sheltered space.  These kinds of books (text facebooks) originated at small, elite colleges.

Networks are valued for the connections that they make possible and freely accessible and the connections that they close down.  Facebook (gated community) and open source (free circulation) thus seem to be diametrically opposed.  But they are not.  Free software depends on expertise, not openess.  Both are also dependent on privatization.  It is not a distinction between public and private but between open and close.

Imagined networks not only change the spacing of the public, but the timing: 

Benedict Anderson:

"In an anthropological spirit, then, I propose the following
definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community – – and
imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.

"It is imagined
because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of
their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds
of each lives the image of their communion."

This depends on print capitalism, specifically newspapers which he says created homogeneous, empty "time."  It creates an extraordinary mass ceremony: individual all read the same things, but in different places."  As crisis of newspapers makes clear, mass ceremony is in trouble.  But one can argue that they are being replaced by online versions and blogs.  But value of newspapers depended on information that dissolves on contacts, blogs produce archives–the epistolary novel (which Habermas links to the emergence of a public sphere).  Constant updating makes everything automatically stale. 

Older post, older text and video can always be rediscovered as new.  We face the non-simultaneousness of the new.  We must respond over and over again.  This makes old information valuable.  Old newspapers are worthless; old newspapers online are paid services.  Even text messaging which seems to be about the new contains endless options for forwarding old messages.


4. Memories of memories

Major category of digital media is memory.   Idea of digital media as memory was to put into place the future through the threat of exposure.  Most recent election was called the election of YouTube:

George Allen introduces Macaca

The old assumptions that surveillance will lead to good behavior may not necessarily be appropriate (Allen knew he was being taped).

Enlightment idea: better information leads to better knowledge, which in turn guarantees better decisions.  as a product of programming, it was to program the future.

Memory is not storage.  Memory must come alive to become storage.  Without degeneration, there would be no retrieval of storage.  Digital media which is allegedly more durable depends on a degeneration.

Memory derives from same root as martyr, Greek for baneful.

We must take seriously the vulnerability that comes with communications, so that we can work together to create vulnerable systems within which we can live.

Virtual Citizenship, Part IV: Russell Dalton, Discussion


Julie Thompson Klein:
Citizen activism is going on all over the place organized through the internet.
RD: Katrina efforts were impressive, but even more is the transition of spring break to service projects.  Groups of students are institutionalizing the experience and find other ways to go on breaks to do various things.  Among the new norms of citizenship are helping others at home and abroad.  Young people are criticized for being only about themselves, but they are clearly engaged in something broader.

Suzanne Alteri:  How do you combat the disillusionment with government that most young people have?  Why is there so little scholarly literature about the solution and not just the problem.
RD: My recent book on Democratic Challenges, Democratic Choices follows changes over time.  Back in the ’60’s when conditions were more restrictive, people tended to trust their politicians.  Now when conditions are more expansive, trust is much lower.  This may be because people now expect more of their government.  This may be a positive thing.  The same thing, furthermore, is happening across the industrialized world.  It may be part of the general modernization process.
What to do about it?  There has been a lot of research focused on young people and voting.  This generally breaks into two categories:

  • How do you change the institutions? we could certainly make voting easier for students.  They now must register differently when they go off to school?  We could put voting on Veteran’s Day, a day off and one that celebrates Veterans.  So far politicians have resisted not only because of the inertia of institutional change.  If I’ve won, then I do not want to expand it to include people who did not vote before.
  • How do you change campaigns.  Same old campaigns of the past do not work for the present.  Duty is embedded in the current campaigns.  Vote because otherwise you cannot complain about the government; otherwise the government may be even worse.

If both of those things are done, youth participation may increase, but this is almost universal across democracies.  Parties and elections just aren’t the only game in town anymore.

Geoff Nathan, Wayne State University:  Is part of the problem the increasing duration of campaigns, that these happen all the time.

Wendy Chun, Brown University:  Could you discuss more about citizenship and the relationship to corporations.  Buycotting seems to suggest that people start to think about their economic and not their political behavior:
RD: Some have said that if you boycott or buycott a product, that is not political but rather economic.  But this really is not the best way to think about.  I think the boundaries between social and political and economic activism that it is hard to draw a line, and we can see many examples of actions that begin in one realm and move into others.

Sharon Lean, Department of Political Science:  How would various changes in the electoral system help to change political engagement.  Venezuela is currently contemplating lowering the voting age t0 16; Michigan is experiencing problems over the utility of its primary.
RD: There is an ongoing notion that if we fix the institutions, things will work better, but if we look at the 20 core OECD nations, turnout has declined in 18.  Political party identification is declining in 19.  Those include presidential, parliamentary, first-past-the-post, strong governments, weak governments.  Every country has a story that tends to be idiosyncratic to the conditions of the country, but either this is an amazing coincidence of stories in 20 countries, or there is something systematic going on.  The electorate of the 1950’s in the US (or Sweden) is much different than today.  There was little access to 1/2 hour of nightly news.  Few people read quality papers.  Two-thirds had high-school education or less.  We could improve the system, but virtually every country is struggling with the same problem, and there is no simple fix.  Nobody has turned the corner to figure out ways to engage them.  It resembles the difference between the old and new economies: you cannot turn back the clock.  It does not mean that elections are unimportant, but that emerging values do not mesh well with voting as an activity.

Andrew Dyjach:  Could you talk about those countries where electoral decline has not happened.  What about the outlier cases?
RD:  That is a good political science question, but the answer is not as insightful as we might hope.  In many of these countries, we have data series that are shorter or of lower quality.    Big declines in the US occurred between the mid-60’s and late-70’s and if we started measuring in the 80’s, as they did in many countries, we wouldn’t have caught it.  some say that 18 is a bad minimum age for voting because that is exactly when students are moving, leaving high school and so on, but in Japan they did not change the age (it is still 20) and they see the same decline.

Michael Sansibaw: What does the research show about engagement at various levels: local and state as well as federal.
RD: A lot of the disenchantment that Americans (or Swedes or others) feel about national government is not felt as strongly at the local governments.  People have greater trust in those organizations that are closer to home.  One of the questions that we asked was a question about engagement in one’s local community–the epitome of what Tocqueville cited regarding the strength of American democracy.  There is a presumption that local involvement has declined, but in fact more people are connecting to their local community than ever before.  The difference is that we are engaged in in ways that we did not think of as engagement before.  We might not be as involved in the PTA but being active in soccer clubs, neighborhood associations, crimewatches, raising money for schools, cleanups has actually increased.  That is very compatible with old and new styles of citizenship, but even more with the new style.  If you are going to go help out after Katrina, you need to be involved in your community. 

Bobby:   Your research suggests a new style of citizenship but it seems like you’ve spun that into something we should be content with and that politicians should adapt new styles but it seems like you’re brushing off the real problem. 
RD: My frame of reference is the literature that American democracy is bad, but I want to suggest that the situation is more complex and perhaps better than it might seem.  Some say the glass is half empty and getting emptier; I think it is half full and could get fuller.  How to full it up:  the evidence suggests that the way to fix it is to understand that the marketplace has adapt and to understand why people vote.  You vote because that’s how you get what you want out of the political system.  That is probably healthier than voting "because it is my duty."  But that would mean that politicians have to stop acting like old-style politicians (I’m going to answer in a way that you don’t know what my answer is). 

Rob Warren, Wayne State University:  There are various proposals for mandatory national services.  This has been done in Europe for many years.  Is that something that is feasible.
RD: If it is proposed it should suggest that it starts with people on their 50th birthday and then see if it flies.  Part of these proposals are based on the notion that young people are lazy (Hillary Clinton suggested that some young people think work is a four letter word) which the statistics do not support.  If it is to make them like their grandparents, it is not going to work.  And they are not less concerned about their communities.  A lot of the things that such a policy would potentially solve are already underway in a decentralized way.  My initial research was on Germany, which has such a program, but there are problems with imposing this kind of service.  Might it not be better for us to help young people do it because they want to.  Older politicians misdiagnose the problem and therefore misapply a solution.

Break for lunch

Virtual Citizenship, Part III: Russell Dalton

Is American Democracy at Risk?

The best and brightest on American democracy suggest that democracy is at risk because of /us/, because we are poor citizens.   This is consistent with a whole range of studies claiming we are disengaged from politics and American democracy is at risk.  And who do they say is most at fault: young people.  "The grim reaper steals away the greatest generation" and replaces them with … well, you.

Pundits say citizenship is the solution.  George W. Bush says citizenship is the solution.

What does it mean to be a good citizen?

Civics texts of the 1950’s shows us what a good citizen is:

  • A good citizen obeys the law
  • A good citizen "stands tall"
  • A good citizen "eats meat"

My research is on public opinion, surveys that ask citizens what is important to them:
Citizens were asked "To be a good citizen, it is important to "
and asked to label

  •     Vote
  •     Be active in associations
  •     Obey the law
  •     Never evade taxes
  •     Keep watch on government
  •     Understand others
  •     Serve in the military
  •     Buycott
  •     Support worse off in the world
  •     Support worse off in the United States

These divide into two clusters, some that emphasize duty:

  •     Vote in elections
  •     Obey the law
  •     Never evade the law
  •     Serve in the military

And others that emphasize engagement:

  •     Active in associations
  •     Keeping watch on government
  •     Understand others
  •     Buycott
  •     Support the worse off in the US
  •     Support the worse off in the World

It is not that we are becoming less good citizens, but that we are becoming different kinds of good citizens.  The WWII generation emphasizes duty way up at the top and emphasizes others less much.  Younger citizens emphasize engagement.  A lot of the criticisms of young people and declining citizenship in America are the result of our focus on the things that are declining without attention to the things that are improving.  There is a nostalgia for the 1950’s but the 50’s were not such a great place for everybody. 

Despite the fact that we have a lot of politicians on television who apparently have no tolerance, our understanding of citizenship is changing toward tolerance.

Among the engaged citizen, the goal is not to be active because it is a duty but for a reason:

  • Does it help others?
  • Does my effort make a difference?
  • Am I directly engaged?
  • Do I trust the organization?
  • Is it cool; are my friends doing ?

Older kinds of participation (working for a party, voter turnout) /are/ declining among the young.  It is empirically true.  But it is because young people sense that their voice in these realms is not particularly (and when young voters do encounter politicians who behave differently, like Obama or in a sense, Colbert, they get very excited).

In other realms, Americans are more politically active than ever: young people are more than twice as likely to be involved in this regard.  New activity is counterbalancing the decline in traditional forms of participation.

Survey asked how useful the internet was for particular tasks.    Over 1/2 of the American public says that the internet sometimes helps them gain information about/understand politics.  Older generations suggest that young people do not use newspapers and therefore do not know about politics.  (Saying that is like saying that because young people do not wear watches, they do not know what time it is).  Engaged citizens are much more likely to use the internet politically.

The good news is that the bad news is wrong.  Democracy has some problems but it will probably be ok.

  • Youth volunteerism is up and it continues into adulthood
  • We are developing a more assertive, activist definition of citizenship
  • Participation continues between elections
  • But… the young need to vote more; we need reforms to match the new electorate rather than the old electorate.  One of the reasons why people do not vote is that parties want them to behave like their grandparents do. 
  • Parties need to adapt to n ew voters and motivations.

The result can be to strengthen democracy, to make the good news even better.

Virtual Citizenship, Part II: Fred Stutzman

Audience Member: With the Facebook newsfeed, I’m wondering how the virtual connections are affecting peoples communication in the real world.
FS: The question is are these networks changing everything.  As humans, I think we change pretty slowly.  It does not become acceptable to do things just because they are on the social network.  These things are, however, changing our lives.  But people are finding out more information and doing new things:  you used to need to /invite/ people to your party.  You can put it out there for the public and so some of the social pressure is taken off.  We’re still acting in the same ways, but there are some efficiency gains in these networks.  We are doing some things better.
Think about a social network for your neighborhood.  There is a lot of latent information
iNeighbors project of Keith Hampton shows interesting potential.  But in general the "lizard brain" changes slowly.

Audience Member: Have you found in your research that there is a polarizing effect for people who do not have many friends, who are not the most popular kid, that this exacerbates feelings of loneliness?
FS: I haven’t studied that specifically, but looking at the network.  It seems like everybody can have around 300 friends.  These are not places where people continue their introversion.  Research has not found introversion affecting online friendship formation.  It might be the popular people who feel the need to restrict their access.

Judith Arnold: Are people studying who is not participating.  I thought of the Myers-Briggs Personality profile.  As an INFP, I wonder if there are people who feel social pressure to participate but who do not necessarily find it appealing. 
FS: One of my students presented on the non-participants, but these were hard to find, actually.  There were not many non-participants.  In many ways if you were/are not on facebook, you were a nonparticipant.  If I could not find you, you were invisible socially.  We found about 6% of people who were not participating.  It seems more or less that everyone was part of this; the pressure to join was very real.

Suzanne Alteri:
I’m on three social networks.  The one that I use the most is Friendster.  I was wondering if you’ve noticed different levels of participation on various networks.  Are there differing levels when people are on multiple network sites:
FS: That’s a great question.  The places that matter to you in the social context are places where your friends are.  If your friends are there, then you stay there and the affordances are not enough to make you switch.  What we tend to see is a cascade effect.  For people to switch, they need incentives.  As more and more people join, the incentives to shift become greater.    It is actually quite normal to stay where you are if you are getting what you need. 

Cindy Smith, University of Michigan:  Have you done studies of social network impacts in other places such as China.  Are there any longitudinal studies designed to watch the process over 20-30-40 years for what happens with the conceptualization of friendship.  What does it mean to have a 24-7 identity in social space.  How is our relationship with our past likely to change through this new persistence in a much more dense way.
FS: People think of social networking differently in different places.  In Asia, Western Europe it may be more in terms of mobile devices.  For many of us the vector is facebook.  For others it comes in other ways.    Richard Ling does amazing work with mobile devices.  There are a variety of longitudinal studies conducted by Pew (Internet and American Life). 

Aaron Retish, Wayne State University:  How do you think the concept of citizenship or social relations is going to transform.  Not only is the public sphere transforming, but corporations are transforming corporate network.  Will this tension disappear as people give way to corporate influence and allow themselves to be shaped.  Can this exist outside of a capitalist economy.
FS: Some of my early work was on political identification in Facebook.  Do you put your real identity out there or do you list your accurate views.  From the data, people tended to present a more centrist view or withheld that information. 
The concept of the interaction with corporate interests is interesting.  We are really at a critical point.  Corporations are really attempting to monetize this social graph and making it part of your identity.  Part of Facebook’s strategy also includes friending brands; you can now make Coke a friend of yours.  Young people, however, seem able to communicate in these realms.  Club Penguin, a network for young people, has developed its own language.  Because you cannot swear, people began to use numbers; now they have banned the use of numbers.  Nobody is speaking up for the communicator here.
The next few iterations of this are going to be standards-based.  Email exists as a standard that is not-branded. 

Bill Warters:
Just last night I blogged about a site called, a tipping point blog that tries to deal with the free rider problem ("I’m going to have a party if X-number of people show up.")
FS:  This is an expanding field and sites such as and eventful demands have actually been used to get political candidates to places that want those candidates.

Kevin Deegan-Krause, Wayne State University:  How do we organize our professional lives to make use of this in academic setting.
FS: There is so much latent information out there and I think all of us wish we knew when our colleagues were publishing, writing, thinking.  The question arises "should we invest in facebook?"  Some will and some won’t. I have seen some academic communities emerging, but you have to convince people to join them.  Joining another site is time and energy consuming.  Network migration does happen; we don’t always go to the same restaurant all the time.  We move from one place.  Where do I invest my effort and what happens if they shut down or if they introduce a terrible upgrade.  It is sort of unresolved.  But as we iterate, as we develop greater levels of facility, it becomes easier.  As we think about how communication is adopted, we will carry our communications practices forward.  I can imagine a time when we use these structures in lieu of sending pdfs to one another.

Time for a break.  Russell Dalton comes next.

Virtual Citizenship, Part I: Fred Stutzman

On the occasion of our Symposium on Virtual Citizenship
I will attempt a bit of live blogging. 

Fred Stutzman

Theories of Networks

danah boyd’s Theory of Network Publics
1. Persistence – what you say, what you do, exists.  It stays in the network.  It is like your google profile–it will stay with you whether you want it to or not.
2. Searchability – You can throw somebody’s name into a search engine.  It flattens the network hierarchy.
3. Replicability – You can cut and paste your identity, transferring it to elsewhere, replicated in other places
4. Invisible Audience – Who is your audience–you might have 10 friends, you might (like most students) have 300.  So there is a large population of people you cannot see.  You are creating your identity for an ambiguous space.

See Jurgen Habermas, The Public Sphere

Social Network Interactions

  1. Offline to Online – 5 years ago people were talking about transferring online relationships to the real world (meeting somebody you met online).  Now we are seeing people meeting others in person and then transferring their relationship into the social network.
  2. Peripheral Participation (Social Surveillance).  You can have a group of friends and know what they are doing without having to be engaged.  It is an efficient way to gain knowledge about more people.  We are afforded a view into situations that we might not otherwise have.  We are always watching.
  3. Articulated Networks.  "Friendship" is an ambiguous concept.  It is binary–yes, no–and so quite limited and not reflective of our actual relationships, but it is a way to articulate who our friends and acquaintances are.  What we see is an incredible opportunity to maintain our weak ties (see Mark Granovetter’s "The Strength of Weak Ties 1973 and Wellman, 1979).  But this can be criticized to the extent that once in a social network we may not feel the need to leave it

Facebook Newsfeed

When it was introduced it was extremely controversial.  When people began in Facebook, they simply had a network.  Once the newsfeed was introduced, it changed the dynamic because suddenly everybody was seeing what everybody else was doing.  Because people do not really care about all of their friends in the same way, people began to worry about too much information coming in, and information going out to too many people. 

Facebook reacted by saying that no new information was being provided,
but they failed to realize that privacy was qualitative as well as
quantitative.  The feed fundamentally changed the way that people
viewed one another.

Students reacted with "Students Against Facebook News Feed," one of the earliest examples of on-line activism, included about 9% of all users.  Ironically it leveraged the newsfeed itself to spread.
Immigration walkouts of students, while driven by well-funded organization, but using social networks to coordinate action

Other examples
1,000,000 Strong for Barack Obama site
1,000,000 Against Hillary Clinton
1,000,000 Strong For Stephen Colbert
Facebook US Politics Application, feed from ABC news


When you engage in particular activities on sites with Facebook Beacon links, that news can be broadcast to others
Irwin Altman, Privacy as Boundaries
We set up imaginary boundaries–we cannot see through walls so we believe we are keeping information private.
With Beacon, actions that we take on other sites become part of our identity and are broadcast to our friends is starting petition drive against Facebook arguing that Beacon is using our likeness and images to advertise products.
Last night at midnight, Facebook conceded and agreed to change privacy settings.


Jane Jacobs, 1961
1. Mixed use,
2. Short blocks
3. Varied building types
4. High density

How do we make social networks vibrant spaces when they are controlled by corporate entities.
People are doing this quite well; providers often act as ‘governments’ doing surveillance and control.

Can we develop a stable network where we can feel comfortable.
Or do we migrate from place to place?

1.  Controls of space/discourse? If we do not have any control over the space, can we feel comfortable there.
2. How do we effectively listen to social networks?  We learn to listen to groups, to petitions.  It’s commonly believed that people do not react to privacy issues, but we actually do.
3.  How do we devise any standards for meaningful actions?


Political Engagement – How do we do this in with these networks

Transitions – why do we shift from network to network,

Audiences and Influences – how are we crafting our messages for audiences that we do not know about.

Vernor Vinge:  I’m not a facebook participant but this seems to be a world of amazing possibilities.  You could merge stockmarket watchlist technology with facebook and find out if somebody you wanted to date had broken up with somebody else.
FS: Absolutely.  People going to colleges can use this to fill information needs for new college freshman.  They gather huge amounts of social intelligence.  The average freshman added 65 friends in their first semester.  It is social surveillance because we are watching our friends, but we are engaged with them as well; our identity is crafted for them as well.

Bill Warters: I’m wondering about Google’s idea of Open Social.  Can you explain it and talk about its implications.
Fred Stutzman:  Google is working on a standard that allows social networks to exist in the fabric of the web.   At present it is a bit half-baked.  It is not exactly a standard in the traditional sense; it is more of a "super-standard"–a standard pushed by a single firm.  It does not provide the same satisfaction as social networks.  It may exist more as a metalayer on the web.

Andrew Dyjach:  I am a facebook addict.  I use it to build social networks and activist groups but there is a big free-rider problem.  People join networks but do nothing. 
FS: There are several options.  Facebook needs to design these spaces better.  People need incentives to keep coming back to a space.  Furthermore, many people use that as a "Bumper sticker," a one-time show of support.  So we need to work on how to make these discussions more useful.  I am teaching a course using Facebook and it is incredibly successful, but if my students did not /have/ to come back to it for participation grades, they wouldn’t.

Audience Member: I wonder if you could speculate about "new subject formation."  How this technology creates a new experience of the subject.  Could you also speculate about authenticity and hoaxing.  Because you do not know who is on the other end of the keyboard, it raises questions because there are all kinds of ways in which identities can be manufactured.
FS: Identity is in essence conversational.  We see that to be an effective user, you have to adopt various practices.  There are various things that students do to show that they belong there.  There is so much coded language there that unless you are part of that network, you do not know what they are talking.  They are creating language and code for their network.  The idea of truthfulness or "reality" is murky.  Facebook wants to leverage who you are and what you think (as does Google).  There is this high-technology bias: if we just get the Bayesian filter right, we can predict what you are going to do.  And to some extent this is true.  But it only captures part of the information–a small part.  As for hoaxing, it is relatively limited in Facebook; for the most part people are playing themselves.  We see people attempting to present an identity that reflects their own identity.