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.

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