Author Archives: Betty Hancock

Reading Response: Cass Sunstein’s “The Daily We”

In this article, Cass Sunstein discusses the ways in which the Internet has caused a decline in public knowledge/a coherent public sphere due to the proliferation of self-selection. Online, people can choose to look at the news and sites that interest them, and they can completely ignore or fail to come into contact with pieces that oppose their ideals. Because of online news individualization, we’re seeing more political polarization and blind ignorance.

Sunstein explains that while emerging technologies like the Internet aren’t necessarily the enemy, individualization and the ways in which we currently use new technology pose a threat to democracy, because “a well-functioning democracy depends… on some kind of public sphere, in which a wide range of speakers have access to a diverse public– and also to particular institutions, and practices, against which they seek to launch objections.”

Sunstein suggests several ways in which journalists and media corporations may counteract this problem. All of Sunstein’s suggestions rest on the idea that media producers will willingly choose to band together to reverse the current problem… In my mind, these solutions seem a bit unfeasible. Because media producers compete for audience’s in a capitalist economy, their main priority is increasing audience size and making money. It’s not the most idealistic way of viewing the world, but it’s the reality behind most major news production. And for media producers, individualization is profitable. I find it hard to believe that news producers would band together to do something “for the greater good” without any direct economic incentive. My guess is that in order to inspire producers to create change, we as a national audience must first band together and complain about the problem/push for change. If their audiences are happy and there’s no economic incentive to change the ways in which they operate, media producers won’t have enough inspiration to band together, work cooperatively, and solve the individualization problem.

The real problem then becomes inspiring enough Americans to care about the individualization problem enough to demand change… which will be hard to do because a vast number of Americans enjoy the current atmosphere of individualization and media control.

Balancing Online and Offline Social Capital

“Reflect on a time when you were part of an event (on the Internet) that was trying to establish social capital. Given our class discussion, how do you think that event could’ve been improved or gone better?”

Since I’ve been at Stanford, I’ve had countless friends create apps, launch startups, and attempt to publicize their kickstarter campaigns on the Internet. It seems as though everyone who catches the entreprenurial bug here uses to Internet (and Facebook events in particular) to advertise their big professional moves and try to gain support. However, I think that over time, I’ve grown more and more inattentive to these types of posts. When different friends are inviting me to like their pages for their new startup or inviting me to donate to their fundraising campaigns, it’s hard for me to get fired up about any single invitation. Because it’s so easy to create community online, there’s a danger in overusing the Internet to foster community, and this overuse dilutes the Internet’s effectiveness.

The Internet lacks a personal touch that I find highly compelling for interpersonal communication, especially when trying to gather support or share a passion with a friend. I’ve ignored most of the start-up-y plugs that most of my “friends” post of Facebook, but when a friend of a friend recently sent me a personalized, handwritten invitation to the launch party for his new app and included branded merchandise for the app, I felt much more compelled to attend the event and care about his new venture. I think that personalization and old fashioned communication and community formation will never go out of style, and in this day and age, taking the time to promote something or create a community offline goes a long long way.

I don’t mean to bash on using the Internet as a community builder or promotional tool. It’s obviously too easy and powerful a tool to ignore. But I think there is something to be said for balancing offline and online community and using Facebook and old fashioned communication to get the job done.

Comment on Thoughts 2/21 by Betty Hancock

I was surprised to hear that the event organizers went as far as telling you what signs to hold up. I wonder if from their perspective, it was more about wanting to make things easier for the participants or if they simply wanted to have more control over the PR/publicity/details of the event.

Comment on The place to think… by Betty Hancock

I agree that much of our reputations are based on our online representations, but this adds so much pressure! One can afford a bad first impression or an awkward comment in the real world, because with time and distance, we can prove that we’re better than a poor first impression or that one comment wasn’t a true representation of our thoughts/feelings. People forget about the details and move on. Online though, things are a completely different story. Everything is permanent! We can’t afford to make any single mistakes, post a single bad photo, or get into one overly heated/harsh fight on Facebook. Everything we do is there for the world to see and relive whenever they want!

Reading Response: Peter Kollok’s “The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace”

In this article, Peter Kollock discussed the ways in which the Internet has developed an economy of cooperation and mutual assistance. He walked through several examples of online public goods, including the collaborative development of Linux, and he discussed the ways in which the Internet changes the traditional costs and benefits of participation.

One thing that stuck out to me in particular in this article was Kollock’s claim that “online interaction can reduce the costs of contributing to the production of a public good in numerous ways. Consider, for example, collective protest designed to change the policy of an organization. Even if one believes in the goals of the protest, the temptation is to let others do the work and avoid even such small costs of composing and sending off a letter of protest. To the extent costs are lowered, the more likely it is that individuals will take part in the collective action.”

While I think online communication definitely lowers the barrier to entry for collective action, I think it makes it harder for passion to translate into action. It’s so easy to like a post or share a comment or spread awareness online, but it’s hard to get this action to translate into anything else– any real world commitment to change. For example, the Kony 2012 video spread like wildfire online, but the real world Kony 2012 protests weren’t well attended and very few of the people who shared the Kony 2012 video gave much thought to the cause 2 months later. It’s so easy to spread awareness about a cause online, but because information spreads so easily and there’s a wealth of information, it’s can be really hard to use the internet to promote real world action. Agree or disagree?

Comment on Social Capital and Trust in the Sharing Economy by Betty Hancock

Your example of services like Lyft and Uber really sticks with me! I would never hitchhike or accept a ride from a stranger, but knowing that the company has performed a background check on their drivers and that other customers have had positive experiences make Uber drivers so so so approachable. I use Uber all the time and never think twice about hoping in a strangers car, but I would never never trust someone to transport me around if I didn’t have that social security blanket.

Extra Post: Reading Responses to Reccommended Readings

Hi All! After missing class last week, I worked with Professor Rheingold to come up with an activity to do to make up for my absence. I spent a few hours this week doing some of the recommended readings, and I wanted to post some short summaries/responses. My goal is to inspire you guys to take a look at some of the recommended readings as well, or at least just be exposed to some of them via my summaries. I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely want to do more reading than is assigned, especially when getting through just the required reading can be pretty time intensive. But Professor Rheingold has such a wealth of knowledge and so many of the recommended readings are really valuable!

“Everyone– Think Before You Post” (video)

This video looks like it was some sort of PSA targeted towards young internet users to be aware that everything they post online is visible to a wide audience. Your parents, teachers, friends, and even strangers can view what you post online, and giving the wrong people the wrong type of knowledge or the wrong impression can be downright dangerous.

It really made me think back to the days when the Internet was new and how much of a problem this was for early users! As I grew up, my parents were very wary of the internet and internet safety, so I was taught to be very very cautious about what I posted online. For children whose parents didn’t have the same concern about the internet or the time to share their concern with their children, early internet usage could have been so so different!

“Facebook Manners and You” (video)

This video was hysterical! It was done in black and white and with a purposefully very cheesy attitude. The video listed advice for how to behave politely on Facebook, such as not changing relationship status’s without consulting the other person and not airing your personal dirty laundry online for the world to see.

It got me thinking about online social norms, and how many unwritten rules there are. Because so many of the online cultural norms go unsaid and seem to just be widespread knowledge, I can imagine that it would be extremely difficult for someone from an older generation or for someone who grew up without access to technology to adapt to join online communities and participate effectively.

“Facebook Ettiquette: Five Dos and Don’ts” (article)

This article was similar to the Facebook manners videos, and my favorite of the Facebook rules it listed was on how to thoughtfully select your profile picture. Your profile picture is someone’s first impression of you online, and first impressions are hard to change.

Friends, Friendsters, and Top 8: Writing Community into Being on Socaial Network Sites

I really enjoyed the mandatory reading by Danah Boyd, and this piece had a really similar perspective/style. In this piece, Boyd talked about the complicated real world effects of choosing your top 8 friends on MySpace. This feature made people start thinking about their friends in terms of how much social capital they brought to the table, and choosing your top friends to display to the world really complicated the notion of juggling multiple groups of friends.

I personally hated the top friends feature on Myspace, and I agreed with all of Boyd’s conclusions about how the feature was potentially damaging and harmful. I know that if I ever had people in my top 8 friends, and I wasn’t in their top 8, I was slightly hurt. I hate that online communities can cause real world drama and real world hurt, and this feature certainly enables that. Great piece. I’d definitely recommend checking it out!

The Benefits of Facebook “Friends:” Social Capital and Colege Students’ Use of Online Social Network Sites

This was a study done in 2007 about Facebook use and college student’s social capital. A lot of the findings support what I think of as common sense outcomes of Facebook use, but it was interesting to think about how wide Facebook’s social effects were when it first came out and how much was unknown about social media when it first became mainstream.

The study found that there is a positive relationship between certain kinds of Facebook use and the maintenance and creation of social capital. They found that most Facebook members use the site to keep in touch with old friends and to maintain or intensify existing relationships rather than use the site to meet new people.

One thing that was particularly striking was that the article found that Facebook may provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction. This seemed to contradict new research that suggests that Facebook may actually cause depression and low self-esteem because when people compare themselves to the best versions of their friends (as portrayed online), they are likely to feel down.

At What Age is Cell Phone Ownership Appropriate?

After reading Gabriel’s post this week about cell phone dependence, I started thinking about how much different it must be for children who’ve grown up with ipads and iphones their whole lives than it is for me (I got my first cell phone in high school). According to this article published by The Guardian (link below), the average age for children in America to receive their first cell phone is 11. And nearly 1 in 10 kids has their own phone by age 5. That is absolutely crazy to me! So much of my childhood socialization was based on physical isolation and the need to make an effort to see/talk to people. If I was bored on a Saturday afternoon, I ran down the street to my neighbor’s house to play, or I biked over to my friend’s house to convince her to hang out. I joined soccer leagues and volleyball teams so that I’d have scheduled times every week where I got to see my friends and be active and play.  My parents scheduled playdates with my friends’ families after school every day so I always had someone to be with. There was a personal element tied to all of my socialization and communication because I had no other way to connect with people. I wonder though, with children getting phones at earlier and earlier ages, how this will effect their socialization skills and activity levels. How many children still spend their Saturday afternoons running around the yard with their neighbors? I suspect that with cell phones, it’s much easier for them to pass the time sitting inside texting their friends from afar rather than actually hanging out with them. I don’t have any little siblings, so most of my fears are based on assumptions rather than my own experience/observations. But do any of you have little siblings or cousins that you’ve noticed strange/new patterns of socialization in? I’d be curious to see how getting a phone at such an early age changes ones socialization patterns… because childhood socialization is so crucial for many later skills in life!