Response to Social Media Articles – Conor Russomanno

This piece is a response to the following articles:

  • Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities by Akshay Java, Tim Finin, Xiaodan Song, and Belle Tseng
  • Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet – and Keep Google Out by Fred Vogelstein
  • Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us, by Bill Joy

The evolution of new systems that undermine the physical boundaries of our current world is the theme that stands out when comparing and analyzing these three articles.  Each of these articles identifies emerging synthetic life forms that are redefining the world’s power structures. These life forms are systems that humans – as individuals – can create, but once created have little to no control over.

In the article Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities by Akshay Java, Tim Finin, Xiaodan Song, and Belle Tseng, the authors identify a new system of communication referred to as micro-blogging. This system has evolved as a result of rapidly advancing Internet technologies in addition to humanity’s slow evolution into and acceptance of a joint physical-virtual existence. In the last 20 years, the emergence of virtual social media platforms has redefined people’s understanding of community. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Xbox Live have remapped our community of friends and family from a demographic of people within our close physical proximity to a community of individuals that could be anywhere in the world but who share a similar virtual demographic as ourselves. Amidst this evolution there has been a drastic transformation in how information is disseminated from “the source” to “the recipient.” The world in which exist linear channels of information transfer dominated the media no longer exists. Instead information flow resembles more of a spider web pattern where anyone and everyone can and does contribute.  The result of this shift is a world where control of information is virtually impossible.

In the Wired article Great Wall of Facebook: The Social Network’s Plan to Dominate the Internet – and Keep Google Out, the author, Fred Vogelstein, brings up some very daunting facts about how much control Facebook and Google have over our personal information. Even more foreboding is how much our personal information is worth. After reading this article two things stood out to me.

First, I found it incredible how one individual, in this case Mark Zuckerberg, could create a system that had the ability to infect the entire planet in a matter of a few years. At this point, it would be impossible to stop the Facebook pandemic.  Even if Facebook were to destroy all of its servers today, Google would immediately fill the void with Google+ – and if not Google+, then somebody else.  The demand for personal information of the masses is just too high.

The second idea that stood out to – and this is more of a personal opinion than a fact – is the notion that governments no longer monitor and control their citizens.  Instead, it’s the corporations housing our personal information and virtual identities that truly govern us.  In the same way that communication is evolving so is the concept of governance and patriotism. Governments are losing their authority to corporations as a result of new forms of taxation. Corporations are able to tax our virtual identities, properties, and businesses whereas governments can only tax our physical ones. Just a little fact: Apple surpassed the United States government in liquid cash flow in late 2011 (  I would be interested to see a study on the distribution of people who would rather be seen wearing an American flag on their T-Shirt compared to those who would rather have a glowing white apple on their laptop.

I found the third article, Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us, by Bill Joy, to be the most thought provoking of the bunch. Joy raises the issue of the looming threat of human intelligence and the “desire to know” leading to our eventual demise – his biggest concern being emerging genetic, nano-biotechnological, and robotic (GNR) advancements. After reading this article I was disappointed in myself for not having read it in the first 12 years of its existence. I recommend it as a must-read for anybody interested in technology and innovation and who also has an appreciation for ethics and the further existence of the human race. What fascinated me most about this article was how critically Joy examined the existence and importance of the systems of GNR advancements and how keen he was to the volatility of they’re potentials. The viral nature of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are proof of the disastrous capabilities of technologies that attempt to revolutionize fields such as genetics, cells, and robots that augment human life.  It is important that humans proceed with caution before we see the Mark Zuckerberg of genetic engineering to create the Facebook of gene-modifications that can’t be reversed.

Just as a single spark can ignite a container of gasoline, an individual today is able to create a self-replicating system that can infect the entire world. It requires cooperation and careful planning to be able to control and harness these systems to be used for the proper augmentation of human life.

Social Media Project – Physical Hashtags_Research/Sketching

In researching about social media and what direction it is likely to go in, i came across this quote:

“The blending of the offline and online world for consumers will drive the biggest change in how content is shared over the next few years,” said David Hargreaves, CEO, Beyond (article).

I think this quote is an accurate summary as to how Internet usage is likely to go beyond the screen and become more apart of the real world. In addition, “the drive towards immediately consumable short-form content will continue” as well as “the birth of emerging forms of storytelling” (What’s Next in Social Media by Ayelet Noff) will continue to be a characteristic in how we share on the web.

Working with these these concepts I came up with a project called Physical Hashtags (working title), where a hashtag will be embedded as part of a public place so that users can share their different experiences of the same place establishing a common connection. This will provide a way for tweets and places to be connected in the physical and digital world.

Physical hashtags should be located in places that are likely to naturally provide a memorable experience. For example concert venues, public art spaces (Bowery and Houston), places that afford scenic views (Brooklyn Bridge), public parks, art galleries and schools. Below are some mock-ups and images found online.

The next phases will include design of the hashtag and how it will be implemented in the real wold.

response to ‘Social Media Project Readings’

Twitter is a service I feel is here to stay. The concept of micro-blogging and sharing short anecdotal stories, news or events have become a popular shift in Internet usage. Twitter provides a platform for users to connect and share information in real time. With the ability to ‘follow’ users who are leaders in communities like the tech, music or academic spaces, we can become active contributors to conversations or simply consume the information provided.

When a user does become an active participant and post relevant or useful information about a particular area of interest (for example Scobleizer and tech) they become an information source. I would consider myself an information seeker, as I do not post often and check Twitter for news and other information since I primarily follow leaders in the tech and design industry.

Twitter can be a very useful tool; if you build your network around members who are well connected and privy to information and share often, Twitter can be used like a filter for information or put another way, a form of curation. It is because of this characteristic that Twitter does not have the same intentions as Facebook in relation to how they function as a web platform. Twitter is a microblog that globally connects its users to form networks of communities on the Internet, however it seems Facebook wants to become the Internet rather than a platform for social networking on the Internet.

In The Great Wall of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg describes Facebook as being, “more personalized, humanized Web, where our network of friends, colleagues, peers, and family is our primary source of information, just as it is offline”. Which in other words means that instead of searching for information through a search engine, say Google for example, we will find it more efficient to ask our friends for perhaps programming advice, the cost of a book or pair of shoes and cures for illnesses. I interpret this implication as being not only arrogant, but also an inaccurate perception of what people actually use Facebook for.

As we discussed in class, no one would ever consult their Facebook friends for health advice or information that would be considered extremely personal. I think this view is just a misconception of why we use a platform like Facebook for communicating to our friends and a different platform like Google or Amazon for search. Saying that people are going to use Facebook in same ways they communicate in real life is a delusion of grandeur. Striving to become a replacement for Google is a concept that will never manifest itself, the two platforms serve two different functions, plain and simple.

When reading Why they Future Doesn’t Need Us, I had not noticed that the article was written almost 12 years ago until I was nearly half way through it. As fast as we have experienced the growth rate of technologies over the past 10 years, there are concepts and discoveries of technologies that have been documented a decade ago, but have not been a highly discussed matter in the mass media. The concept of living amongst robots is not a new one, but as we continually develop new technological capabilities with the advent of nanotechnologies, we are moving closer to robots, engineered organisms, self-replicating nanobots and possibly moving beyond earth for survival while the development of these technologies take place behind closed doors. I thought the article discussed many important points that are still viable today, if we are to successfully implement nanotechnologies and the use of more electronically embedded objects we must be made aware of the potential negative outcomes and for this to happen more people need to be vocal about these possibilities.

In-Class Exercise Feb 2nd – Making Household Objects Social

This post is for the group exercise in class on February 2nd where we had to choose between a hair dryer, a dishwasher or a microwave and give these objects social, critical and feedback capabilities. In my group were Vanessa, Youmna and Conor. Below is a summary of our chosen objects:

Hair Dryer

– functions (high medium low) based on temperature outside
– turns off/vibrates when you get a text message
– lowers the setting based upon the amount of electricity is being used
– notification of overuse for level of health of hair
– multiple functions of hair dryer, besides drying hair, make an app that tells you the other possible functions; website where you can post what you did with your hairdryer that day
– mechanical hair dryer, hand crank
– speaker embedded to tell you if you have a call or text

– will only run when reaches max capacity of dishes, tell you what else you can add if not at capacity, what you have room for, won’t run unless full- when finished lets everyone in the house know the dishes are clean, makes a sound or indication when clean
– play a song when its running, stops playing when done, relaxing sound

Social Media Project

I changed my project idea. I though further after the “Why the Future doesn’t need us” reading about uncontrolled self-replication and that Self replication equalling total destruction. That brought me to the word TOTAL. The quality or state of being total. Complete, utter, absolute…however, total can also stand for wrecking completely, demolishing.

In visual sense, I am curious about exploring ways of representing space in its totality. What makes the space total? ( in this case space would be the computer window ). When is a space an empty space, non-total? Is there such thing as an empty space?  Is the empty window on our desktop then a space or an object? Do objects make the space TOTAL?

To take the project into Social Media territory, I am going to create an OF platform where ppl will collectively decide whether or not the Space ( Room on screen ) is total or not by adding or removing objects from it. I will set the limit to how much things you can squeeze into the space for that TOTAL Destruction effect.

I am also thinking of making the OF space abstract and then I would have a real space as well. Some kind of a box with objects in it.  I wonder how people would approach the real and the digital space.





Reading Response – Great Wall of Facebook/ Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us/ Why We Twitter

I wanted to iterate on a point I brought up in class that I didn’t really get to explain the other day because I had trouble articulating my thoughts on the spot. I remember coming across the “Great Wall of Facebook” article last semester, and being taken up by the story of the intense competition between Facebook and Google trying to compete for the playing field that is the internet. It didn’t really make sense to me, at the time, why Facebook was becoming a basis template for new social networking sites; it seemed, when designers tried to come up with concepts for how to re-approach profiles and social networks and how we used them, they always would work off of what they already knew, whether they intentionally meant to or not. Twitter’s success mostly lends itself to allowing users to post short diatribes rather than elaborate paragraphs defending their arguments and so on,  but it’s character limits can be suffocating for the embattled writer (I’d like to see anyone try to write this much on a twitter subject line…) . So anyway, when I said I felt that social networks were more or less a trend, I was going on what I already knew about the internet; that email accounts are slowly no longer being disbursed by schools, and if this was happening to email, who’s to say the same wouldn’t happen with a social networking site? We only communicate through them because we haven’t gotten accustomed to any other way of communication, we rely on the people we know in our lives simply being available whenever it conveniences us. The convenience of having our friends and cake too made me cynical of what can be pushed in terms of innovation of social networks that hasn’t already been done or is in the process of being done.

As for Bill Joy’s “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”, there seems to be a constant theme of humanity merging with technology to the point where humans, as a single organism, cease to exist. But depending on how you approach this dilemma, if you can even call it a dilemma, is this really such a bad thing after all? I argued last year about books like Fahrenheit 451 in my Collab classes, how there seems to still be a prevalently accepted paranoia about technology and the dark and new places it can take us. Indeed, I’ve heard many interesting words used to describe people who have a co-dependence on technology to be able to live, to the point of them being dismissed as mere cyborgs. If technology can give people the power of being able to continue living, to know a diagnosis without having to see a doctor, in an area of the world where they might not be getting immediate coverage, is that a bad thing? Furthermore, when does someone stop being human? When they’re no longer able bodied?

All three articles got me thinking about social networks and how marketing plays a huge role in our daily usage of them, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but would we use Twitter and Facebook if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s the most easily accepted way for people to communicate? If not that, how about the advertising? Facebook continues to receive intense scrutiny for sharing user information with advertisers, but it’s not like people are as transparent about what brands they use, or what they like. Facebook pages for products such as Tide, Starbucks, KFC and so on receive thousands of likes each day, and all of these pages get added to profiles for over a million users. Companies constantly search Twitter for negative/positive comments, and to gauge user feedback on their products. In a way, social networks have made it easier for us to always be watched. Depending on how you feel about that, some may not see that as a negative, but a minor inconvenience for the luxury of using something they otherwise can’t live without for free.

Switch Project- GreedSpider 1.0

I posted about the GreedSpider Project over at my Blog.

Here’s a link to follow to my post.

forgot the link


Here’s that link to the phonebooth project i referred to in the previous post:

Kinematics-Color Conversion Switch Recap

Check out the post on my blog:

Reading Response

*please excuse any disjointed arguments being made, this is a gut reaction to the readings…

Blade Runner


In Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner, a test titled the Voight Kampff Test is used to determine if a suspected replicant, an artificial intelligence in the form of a human-like machine, is in fact human or not. In the above scene Deckard (Harrison Ford) comes across Rachel (Sean Young), and for the first time in his lengthy career as a Blade Runner (a hunter and killer of replicants), he meets a replicant that doesn’t know it’s a replicant.

“How can it not know what it is?” he asks.

Blade Runner, based on Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, is loaded with the ethical dilemmas raised by technological progress. Among the multifarious questions dredged up… if we (humanity) create a sentient being, do we have the right to cloud its memory, suppress its intelligence, lifespan, or impose any other artificial hindrance? Things become even messier when we append another question, do we need to control a superior intelligence of our creation by artificial means (such as planned obsolescence or censorship) in order to ensure our supremacy? Do we even deserve supremacy in the first place?

It’s entirely possible that we are already being faced with real scenarios for these questions, but not in the way we expected.

Social networking has enabled people to begin communicating freely (for now) in a quantity and frequency never seen before. For many, this is a great leap forward for humanity. From this new interconnectedness it can be argued that humans have created a “paraintelligence” a human intelligence that exists beyond the individual– a kind of collective intelligence manifested by rapid reactions to ideas and events. People certainly have greater access to information and this access is changing behavior in measurable ways, though the change is not fully understood.

If we are in constant communication with one another, how much individuality exists? We’ve seen fracturing of the self. Google+ allows users to categorize their friends by group, almost encouraging people to create numerous personas. If each person manages many different personas, are they still an “individual”? Is this self fracturing leading to a point when the individual has no real distinct traits and exists as an amalgamation of persons with different traits? At which point would it really be a significant leap for that person to merge with all the other fractured selves on the internet?

Conversely, the internet has brought about a spike in anarchist behavior, hacktivist groups and manifesto-less street protests exists in significant number, frequency, and scope. Is the internet creating hyper-individuals who ban together only to destroy established power structures?

Social networks have been around since the beginning of the internet (the internet is after all a communication device) but only recently have they become business models. And while investors try to predict the next big thing in social media, as Facebook and Google jockey for a ruling position, ultimately they have no real clue. The “problem” that arises when people become interconnected on such a scale is that no group talks about the same thing… things are messy, people disagree on things, which leads to bickering. Navigate to any posted article, video, or status and you’re likely to see an argument below. Trolling, instigation for the sake of instigation, has become an misunderstood art-form. All of this fighting isn’t meaningless however, it seems to be serving a purpose, which is the acceleration of ideas. And when ideas are hyper accelerated, the outcome isn’t linear or logical– no matter how many people say they know, no one can produce a reproducible equation for conceptual virality–the spread or tipping point of an idea or service. It’s like predicting the long term behavior of a not full developed animal. There isn’t enough information to make predictions.

The only trend certain is that as new ideas arise, old ideas fall. If we define intelligence as the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skill, then intelligence is not limited to a singular entity and can indeed be applied to a group– this is known as group intelligence, a term that can directly be applied to the internet.

It seems bizarre that people still speak about artificially created intelligence as being some far off impossibility, when the reality of the situation is we’ve already artificially created a new form of intelligence. And like Decker I have to raise the question,

“How can it not know what it is?”