Category Archives: comm182

collective action on reddit

In your most active personal digital network, why would you say you choose to contribute? Do you think of users differently based on the amount of their activity? How do you think this varies across different social media platforms?

Though I am probably most active on Facebook, I want to answer this question about Reddit, because Instagram because I think its structure lends itself better to answering this question in an interesting way. On Reddit there are 3 fundamental types of users lurkers, contributors, and moderators. Having recently created the /r/comm182 sub, I think I can now speak somewhat knowledgeably to all three roles.

Many users follow a variety of subreddits and vary their activity on each, here are some reasons of my own (and some directly from other Redditors) that explain why we/I choose the various roles in different subs.

Many users choose not to comment in any threads or only have a few in which they like to directly contribute. I only participate actively in two or three different subreddits, and for the rest I only click around and read/watch what is interesting to me. I don’t usually volunteer my feelings about them because for the most part the subreddits have so many subscribers that by the time I have a chance to comment on a post, it has already received so many upvotes that someone has already said what I would have wanted to say, or my comment would never be read because the thread is has received so many comments already. As /u/cleverspainard puts it, “[Reddit] feels like high school. There are the popular redditors with their clever comments. I’m the weird kid that chimes in too late. So I stay quiet and save myself the criticism.”

Commenting on Reddit can make users feel self-concious when they feel like they are not known in the subreddit community in which they are lurking so they choose to soak it up rather than put themselves out there and risk embarrassment.

I choose to actively participate in two threads. /r/sfgiants and /r/fantasyfootball, both for different reasons. During the baseball season, the Giants sub becomes a place of intense bonding and it is a great forum to vocalize ideas in a community that knows my screenname and is small enough (at ~14,000 users) that I see the see the same names pop up consistently (along with the number of times I’ve upvoted them previously) so that I feel as though I am speaking among people who have already formulated generally positive ideas about me and who will be receptive to my ideas. I post in /r/fantasyfootball because during the football season its threads are full of people asking and providing advice. Generally the people who contribute the most (your comments on the thread are tracked) are those who receive the most help, so there is plenty of incentive.

Moderators in Reddit serve something of a community government role, developing and announcing community rules and expectations that help to gel a group together. The people that serve in these roles tend to be highly passionate about their subreddits because they are frequently inundated with comments, submissions, and questions and requests and do this for no compensation except the satisfaction and respect of their communities.

I think these roles are at least somewhat universal across all platforms, with lurkers being people with profiles or accounts who don’t contribute much, commenters being the basic contributors, and moderators being the most active and passionate users.

challenging axelrod and the three conditions

While reading the 3 Necessary Conditions for Cooperation in Robert Axelrod’s 1984 work, The Evolution of Cooperation, I was struck by how cooperation has changed in the last thirty years and how the sharing structure of the web has altered collaboration. I have contentions about each of his three conditions and will try to explain them below:

  1. A likelihood of meeting in the future. Axelrod explains that when parties don’t have plans to meet, it is near impossible to hold others accountable for their ends of bargains. He believes that people are likely to become selfish and abuse the relationship if they cannot be held accountable by the knowledge of a future meeting.
    • The most obvious example to me of this is with musicians. I collaborate with many musicians, especially beatmakers and try to meet them all to gain connections. But, I and many other musicians I know, have also worked with others that we have never, and will likely never meet. It is easy to hold someone accountable online and damage their reputation if they are flaky or stand you up. Also, if each artist, or collaborator in any field is working for mutual benefit (i.e. exposure, a very lucrative currency online) then they have all the incentive necessary to work hard, whether they meet or not.
      • Bike for Three is a collaboration between Canadian rapper Buck 65, and Belgian producer Greetings from Tuskan. The two have never met despite making a great album together. They wrote a song about the concept:
  2. Ability to identify each other. Accroding to Axelrod, if we cannot identify the person across the network from us, we cannot hold them accountable. Therefore everyone we want to cooperate with must be identified as “a person to the system they’re in and the people they’re dealing with.”
    • Each day there is tons of cooperation between individuals and nameless, faceless companies online. I frequently email music blogs for example addressing them by the website name to due lack of an actual name being mentioned and often get responses from them without them providing any name at all.
    • Another prime example is collaboration on reddit, where in r/photoshopbattles for example, users take a picture and riff on it and the ideas and photos of others, upvoting the best or funniest changes to a photo just for fake internet points and the fun of it.
    • Strangers on reddit also order each other food, send Secret Santa presents, or make donations to almost anonymous users on the honor system, paying it forward.
  3. A record of past behavior. The author maintains that the best way to judge future cooperation is by judging someone’s status and reputation.
    • The most obvious example here to me is venture capitalists in Palo Alto. Often companies are founded by young high school or college students or recent graduates, with little to no past experience or reputation to build on beyond a good idea and some flashy marketing. Yet despite this lack of apparently vital industry cred, they frequently receive hundreds of thousands, and occasionally millions of dollars to turn their idea into a reality, making the prospective of future money a better incentive for cooperation than any record of past behavior.

Though I have more to contend with the first condition, I believe that each of these conditions has shifted due to the changing structure of the internet economy. It will be very interesting to see how these tenants of collaboration hold up in say, 50 years. Will they even exist at all?

is networked individualism selfish?

In reading Wellman and Rainie’s piece on networked individualism, I kept shifting back and forth about whether or not all of these trends about changing support structures are creating a worrisome one in which we are all becoming more selfish. Networked individualism is inherently self-centered in the literal sense of the phrase, but does that mean people are more focused on themselves than ever?

Obviously friendship trumps selfishness and people like to do things for other people when they’re in need. Peter and Trudy’s story is case in point, but I sometimes worry that with the disintegration of small groups and the family support structure, that despite the fact that we’re “hooked on each other” that we focus more on maintaining a “brand” and portraying an image of ourselves than paying attention to others’ needs unless we’re asked to directly. It’s so easy to lose yourself in your profile and begin to feel that your online image is your real self and that when someone asks for help online and decide you don’t want to “share” their link or something else like that because it risks losing your online social capital. But in person, I feel like people are much more willing to help out because they have to own their action of choosing not to help, because everyone can SEE you not helping.

I think I may have asked the wrong question. Looking back, I think that networked individualism is not selfish in and of itself, but it makes selfishness easier, while simultaneously increasing our capacities to both help and be helped. It’s a complicated thought and I’m still working it out, but that’s where I’m at right now.

curating self

Think about the social media platforms that you use on a regular basis. What kind of image, if any, do you try to portray online? Do you create separate personas for different platforms? How representative would you say your online profiles are of you as a whole?

As I’ve become somewhat of an adult (I’ve decided I never plan on fully growing up), I’ve become comfortable in my own skin (I swear this isn’t a native advertisement for Dove for Men). I actually don’t focus very much on my image most of the time, because I’m surrounded by people I know. Of course when I’m talking to new people whom I respect, I’m careful to sound professional, organized and thoughtful, but the rest of the time, I trust my values and their social manifestations portray my image well. I simply try to never stray too far from my basic principles of kindness, humor/self-depreciation, a little bit of internal rebellion against the status quo (formerly angst), and I balance that out by thinking pretty carefully about risk management.

In person, I am much more complicated than my social media would indicate. Of course I’m sure that this is true for everyone but my interests are broader, my emotions vary more widely, my speech is more frequently off-color and sarcastic, and my personality shifts from more extroverted online, to more introverted in person.

My social media outlets display a version of me whose interests align with Facebook Pages, hashtags and other neat little boxes that corporations have constructed in which we can express ourselves. The things that I post tend to be accurate reflections of me, but only in a select few moments when I’m especially excited about something. This edited way of life allows me to cut out the vast majority of my activities to make me seem like a constantly happy, ever-exciting person, which of course no one is.

All this said, I do work hard to curate an image of myself that is representative of my passions, most specifically music, but it never accounts for the long hours of work I put into the things that I do, I just share the result. I think that’s kind of a metaphor for social media in general. It’s all the results, none of the work, which reflects people’s happy extroverted, sides and interests but does not necessarily demonstrate how they are the vast majority of the time.

interview about mormonism and the internet

This week I wanted to look at how social media and the internet disrupt culture and tradition. I thought an interesting lens through which to look at this topic was via an interview with one of my best friends, Cale, who was in my dorm freshman year. Below is his story:

Could you summarize the transformation in your faith over the last few years?

I came to Stanford essentially unchallenged in my faith. I grew up in a family that was incredibly active in the mormon church and took their faith quite seriously. Through high school, I probably spent 12-15 hours a week on purely church-related endeavors and was praised for it by a community that uses spirituality and religious commitment as a form of social currency.

Coming to Stanford, people were naturally curious about by beliefs and upon sharing them with people I realized that I had some serious concerns about certain parts of the church’s doctrine and culture. Because it was expected of me by friends and family at home, I left school to go on a mission to proselyte in Japan. As my date to leave approached, the cognitive dissonance between what I had been taught my whole life and the concerns I had became too big and I left the mission process getting somewhat exiled from my home and community. I left because I didn’t want to commit to two years unless I was fully invested in the church, so once I left, I spent the entire following summer researching the mormon church as well as religions specifically and in general. After being exposed to other ways of thought I am currently agnostic in belief and trying to focus on the questions that I believe I can answer rather than trying to debate religious questions, many of which I believe are unanswerable.

While you were growing up at home, what was your social media presence like? If you had one, would you say most of your friends were mormon or non-mormons?

I’ve moved a whole lot throughout my life and only in high school was I surrounded by mormons, so I would say that my friend pool was probably equal parts mormon and non mormon. I would note though that my mormon friends are significantly more likely to post about their personal beliefs than my non mormon friends (whether about religion or not). I think this is probably because many of them have a fairly homogenous social media scene and there is little threat to their beliefs within the circles they exist in.

How would you describe the church’s feelings and approaches on social media?

The church has a really really strong social media campaign and marketing campaign in general. They spend a huge amount of money marketing in Time Square, the London rail systems and sending thousands of missionaries across the world each year so they certainly aren’t messing around. Recently, they’ve really tried to up their social media game primarily with, a website where mormons can create profiles describing their faith and how they worship. It’s meant to be a place where people interested in the church can get answers directly from members of the church see that mormons are normal people. They also had a fairly successful “I’m a Mormon” video campaign on youtube that partnered with and served a similar purpose. I think that generally, what the church does is harmless (a lot of their videos are about spending time as a family, gratitude, service, etc), but the recruiting aspect is a little more troublesome. I don’t think that social media full of hastags is a way to discuss really critical and important questions that religions often try to tackle. It’s superficial nature glosses over many of the troubling aspects of the church’s doctrine and misleads a lot of curious people who don’t do more thorough research into the church. I often hear stories of people saying “I wish I would have known more before I joined the church.” I think the church is aware of this and intentionally fails to mention controversial topics to people to  increase the likelihood that people join.

Additionally, it seems as though there is a growing effort of the church to address some of the more controversial topics (i.e. the church’s position on same-sex marriage, their racism in the 60s-70s, and polygamy) however I think the church is largely unapologetic for their past mistakes and still fail to address the key components of these controversies.

What role would you say social media and the internet played as you began to separate yourself from your faith?

I think that one of the biggest helps to me leaving the church were websites like and They fairly address the many problems in the church and bring to light things that mormon culture has managed to conceal for a long time. They are also full of stories similar to my own, offering advice and direction for people questioning the church or considering leaving. They attached me to a community of like minded people with similar backgrounds. This was huge for me because I believe that there is a brainwashing aspect to the church. The church generally condemns anything that they consider “anti-mormon” which to them is anything that they didn’t publish that they don’t agree with so it can be really scary looking at websites like that because they make you fear for your soul if you do. Controlling what you can read is a scary scary thing and these online communities helped me remove that fear and allow myself to honestly look at the church with a clear mind. If I hadn’t read many of their stories, I may not have ever had the courage to break rank and leave the church.

Would you say it was a valuable resource for you as you underwent this transformation? Or was it more of an unfriendly place based on the non-Stanford (Mormon) contingent of your network?

Social media, like many things, seems to be a double-edged sword. The online communities on and the like definitely provided me with a lot of answers that no one in the church could/would provide. But, my social network full of mormons on Facebook is constantly bombarding me with mormon messages trying to get me to question my current beliefs and seems to have effectively done that to many people. Honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if Sunday school lessons started to include sections on “proper use of the #churchistrue hashtag” or “Establish a profile, even a profile of God”.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t think mormons are bad people, I just think they’re misled in a bunch of important areas. The increasing prevalence of social media in the church marketing campaigns worries me because it may continue to stick with the superficial, especially dangerous because it’s a lot easier to share a link than it is to have an intellectual discussion.

technoloy & community



This week’s blog prompt:

 Look at the image of the community you drew before discussion today as a case study. From the discussion we had today, what traits do you think makes it a community? Do you think social media and modern technology could impact on how your community functions?

Each of the following elements in my diagram of the important elements of my Stanford community are affected in a variety of ways by social media:

  1. a blend of social, personal, and professional/work life
    • Social media and the internet allow me to participate in my Stanford community much more easily than if I didn’t have it. I find out about lots of social events through social media, as well as keep in touch with friends and family involved in Stanford, and it definitely helps me work on projects and stay up-to-date on the goings on at IDA where I work. While all of these tools certainly have the possibility to take me out of my community and pay less attention to the events happening around me, I would say that they have a net positive effect on my communal engagement.
  2. a nurturing environment
    • Stanford certainly uses social media to make people feel welcome, especially with the class of 2016 Facebook page (and for all the other classes). At the same time, people are probably less likely to see that their friends are in need of help if they mainly keep in touch through social media, because people tend to portray only their happiest selves online, which might mean that fewer people would reach out should a friend really be in need of help.
  3. leadership and structure
    • The class of ’16 Facebook group helped me to develop an understanding of the structures and hierarchies at Stanford before I ever got there (though now it is little more than a spam-filled message board).
  4. space to grow
    • I think Solnit was right when she stated, “ Space for free thought is routinely regarded as a void, and filled up with sounds and distractions.” I think in some respects at Stanford, technology prevents us from delving as deeply into conversations, arguments and discussions, since it’s so easy to talk either talk to someone else and not have the conversation in the first place, or to hop online to avoid confrontation. With that said, I think within the STS department, they explore social media and allow us to delve more deeply into its theory and thereby use it as a space in which to grow.




week one: expectations, knowledge, and the role of social media

I’ve had the opportunity to study social media from a plethora of interesting perspectives. I have seen (part of) the CS side, having taken the CS 106 series. I have looked at it from a psychological, biological, and political economic side in communications, and most recently from philosophical and evolutionary standpoints, during my time abroad at The University of Sydney where I took a course entitled Web Transformations.


I think COMM 182 will be very different from any of these courses because the co-learning structure will keep it highly relevant to current issues and technologies, provide a wide variety of perspectives from heavy social media users, and will allow us to explore many different forms of social media through our various blogging, wiki, and forum platforms, among others.


Each of us brings a unique angle to this class that will allow any one of us to teach everyone else something new. My own role is unique because I am simultaneously studying the effects of social media while trying to put my knowledge into practice to promote my music. Throughout my musical career, I have used nine different platforms and have found huge problems, amazing benefits, and interesting features in each. Some of these findings come from practical use and others come from things I’ve learned studying the material. I’m really looking forward to sharing my specific insights with the rest of the class and hearing about everyone else’s as I continue to get to know them.


I’ll finish this blog post with the platforms I use most frequently, and the ways in which I use them:



I usually have Facebook open somewhere on my computer but only post something maybe 2-3 times a day, most of which are likes or comments. It’s great for sharing large groups of photos with everyone I know, promoting my music on my artist page, easily chatting with anyone I know, and keeping tabs on all my friends outside of school who I don’t get to see as much as I would like. The downside is that Facebook is a total timesuck. It’s cluttered and filled with information about people and topics I’m not interested in as a result of socially necessitated Facebook friendships.



Probably the most interesting place on the internet. It’s a constantly updating feed of everything I’m interested in and by reading it, usually allows me to be among the first of my friends to see a meme, hear a song, or pick up a trending player in fantasy football. It’s anonymity, while presenting a few downsides also allows it to be a more free-thinking progressive part of the internet (at least the subreddits to which I am subscribed are).



Soundcloud is an invaluable tool for musicians. It provides an aesthetically pleasing, yet customizable platform for all the music I want to share with the world. At the same time, I can also comment on other people’s tracks, find interesting new artists and at the same time, increase my own musical following. Bandcamp is also good, but it is more of a music store than a social network, hence it was not included on my list.



The only social network I ever want more of. I get to see most of the cool stuff my friends are doing and don’t feel the need to follow anyone whose life doesn’t interest me. It’s just a feed of delicious food, cool events and parties, and people’s adorable pets. The only downside to me is its incredible potential for jealousy and depression if you are not happy with your current circumstances. As a fairly happy person, this usually does not bother me, but at times in my life I have almost cut it out entirely.



Twitter is very good for getting up-to-the-second news on anything I am interested in, but is not particularly effective for keeping up with friends or promoting music for me because there are so many people constantly posting that it’s very difficult to keep up with one person without actively seeking out their Tweets.



I do not spend a ton of time on YouTube, or at least not as much as most people I know, but it is clearly an essential resource for any creative person and is full of interesting, funny, or beautiful ideas, songs, demonstrations, and news clips. Interestingly, as large as the site is, most of the promotion of YouTube videos goes on outside of YouTube, which has always felt strange but I don’t know if I can explain why.


Yik Yak

Yik Yak is brand new to me but I really enjoy its localization and anonymity, which serve almost as a real-time feed of my community’s thoughts and jokes. It has the potential to be very hurtful, but at the same time, its voting system seems to even things out relatively nicely.

COMM 182 – 1st Post

Hello! I’m looking forward to meeting you guys.

My name is Joe Hemschoot. I’m looking forward to an engaged section every Tuesday afternoon. Judging by this assignment before the first day, I’m sure we will have plenty to stay busy with. I’m excited for discussion about the various issues in this class. I hope to come away with a better understanding and appreciation of social media and how to best use it.

I’m currently in my 5th year at Stanford pursuing a coterm in Communications. I finished my STS degree this past fall (woo!), and I’m interested to meet everyone from unique academic backgrounds.

Cheers! See you in class.