OII Day 3

Posted on: July 22, 2007

This was an incredibly busy day, with 3 formal presentations followed by student presentations. I was very brain dead by the end of this day, so my recap for this particular day might not be terribly coherent.

Old Media, New Media: Citizens, Journalism and the Net presented by Dan Gillmor

Dan talked about ‘democratized’ media in the sense of participation, production, access.

Traditional media was about producing and distributing, now its about access. People can access media where and when they want it. Technological advances have turned consumers into producers, and producers into collaborators. The participatory nature of new technologies has allowed the movement away from ‘me’ and ‘my’ towards a more collaborative sense of ‘us’ and ‘ours’. Some examples are blogging collectively, sharing videos, and discussing events.

Who is a journalist? What is journalism?

Journalism can now be no longer constrained to traditional definitions, but can now be found in many arenas and defined in a multitude of ways:

  • Niche focused news
  • Hybrid news (citizen reports, and professional editors)
  • NGO: Advocacy journalism (non-profit model: global voices)
  • Blogs by professors
  • Companies/Corporate entities (Steve Jobs thoughts on DRM)

Due to the movement towards democratized media, the rules for journalism and news makers have evolved in the following ways:

  • More difficult to keep secrets
  • Media decline and renewal
  • Advertising Competitors (ebay, craigslist)
  • Database Journalism (Washington Post sorting lists of fallen soldiers)
  • Web 2.0, maps and mashups (marking pot holes on google map – will effect how government in the city will do their work)
  • Journalists are not oracles but guides
  • Asking audience to help with journalism (“help us investigate”)

All of this is not new (ex: the Kennedy assassination was filmed by a spectactor with a home video recorder), the difference is the quantity of people who are all connected in a digital network.

With so much information, the problem now arises with understanding what to trust. What is accurate? How do we do this in a ‘photoshop’ world? Dan suggestions the following:

  • Need new media literacy. Basic principles for audiences.
  • Be skeptical about everything, not equally skeptical – trust meter (different skepticism for NY times versus blog comments)
  • Adjust “trust quotient” for each site
  • Keep reporting
  • Learn media techniques (understanding manipulative power of media)

What next?

  • Mobile, location based journalism
  • Let communities tell its own story
  • Objects can tell us stories (ex: bar code readers)

Key Thought:

We are witnessing an evolution of an ecosystem between the blogosphere and traditional journalism, as both are dependent on each other for news and dissemination.

Attentive Clusters and Info Bundles: Online Discourse Networks in the Blogosphere
presented by John Kelley

This was an incredibly interesting presentation on the use of social network methods to map the interactions on the political blogosphere. John showed some incredibly pretty network graphs and presented some very surprising results. Read his paper: Debate, Division, and Diversity: Political Discourse Networks in USENET Newsgroups

John studied the attentive clusters of the political blogosphere. Attentive clusters are a grop of bloggers that are attentive to the same streams of information, and groups of people that are linking to the same thing.

One of Johns findings indicated that the New York Times is right in the center of the attentive cluster. So the political blogosphere talks about stories from the NYT as well as links to it to support their statements. This is true for both the right and left.

Regarding tagging on blogosphere (which is of course very interesting to me):

  • The intelligentsia is more like each other on the right and left, compared to the mid-western blogger, or the mom-blogger
  • You cannot rely on bloggers who tag their posts with “politics”, as you will actually end up missing 2/3 of the political bloggers
  • More conservatives use the tag “conservative”
  • Equal number of people use the tag “republican”, “democrat”

One of the points that was brought up during John’s discussion is that linking behavior has different meaning in different social contexts, for example there is a difference between links in posts and links in blogrolls. John does not differentiate in his blogosphere link-analysis.

John also mentioned that the A-list bloggers have a star shaped network, and have over 10K
links. The most interesting churn and network structure is the seed bed for the A-listers
that have about 1K links (are right below the A listers on power
curve). Then it quickly drops off to long-tail into fragmented

Finally, John mentioned that Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are different version of technical media, they are not channels as in shannon-weaver model. Unlike newspaper and radio, which are channels of communicate, it is much more difficult to separate technical media into channels. Additionally, there are waves of users of technical channels with the leaders coming first and then leaving when they hit mainstream.

Key Thought (mirrors Dan Gillmor):
The press and the blogosphere are dependent of each other in a symbiotic relationship.

Digital Identity presented by Judith Donath

I heard Judith speak about signaling theory at the C&T conference. This talk also briefly covered those concepts. I really like her approach to tying in the socio-technical phenomenon that are occurring online to theories from other disciplines, such as signaling theory in the animal kingdom. I would highly recommend reading her Identity and Deception in the Virtual Community paper.

In her talk, Judith presented the concept of individual identity, which is centered on the idea that you have a single body, for each person a singular concept of “I”.

  • Authenticating identity relies on the notion of embodied/individual identity
  • Biometric measure of identity (fingerprints)
  • Online we use email addresses for identity
  • The face as a marker for identity

Many markers for individual identity also give us a lot of social markers, such as facial expression, dress, choice of usernames or email addresses.

However, social identity is less about who a particular individual is, but rather the type a certain person is, in the sense of categorizing/stereotyping people. A category would be “European” or “African-American”, and the preconceptions and notions about the person that come with those categories, which are informed by social norms and values.

People also have facets of identity where they present different ‘facets’ of themselves in different situations. Interestingly for me, I actually feel like a different individual if I am in a Russian community versus an American versus an international one.

Judith mentions identity signals are aspects of identity we try to control, the
impression that people are trying to convey to each other. Even as we try to present out best selves, other people are attempting to figure out ‘who they really are’.

Finally, identity deception involves false signals (such as renting expensive cars to appear wealthy) or actually faking/stealing and identity.

In the digital world, avatars (especially more realistic ones such as those found in Second Life) are utilizing a lot of the identity markers in
order to lend credence the person’s identity, but there is not actually any information in the avatar. Thus an avatar that has a rounded face and is smiling is not actually providing you any information about the person that is operating the avatar.

When designing digital spaces, take into consideration how much of identity play you will allow in the space. The design/architecture of spaces often presupposes the type of social behavior that will occur in the space.

Key Thought: People construct an identity narrative

The Social Physics of Identity presented by John Clippinger

John asked: Is there a scientifically principled way of talking about identity? Can the principles be used to design digital identity systems?

John goes on to state that all livings thing negotiate their identity for survival and must learn what to characteristics to assert as well as whom to trust. He uses the example of the human immune system, which does not actually know who you are, but does know who are your are not, and thus is able to attack entities it identifies as foreign. He believes we could perhaps structure future digital identity systems on the immune system concept.

John goes on to outline what he calls the “Social Physics of Identity”:

  • persistent identity is needed to build trust and achieve accountability
  • cannot have community without persistent identities
  • identities co-evolve through the interactions – joint constructions – of the group and the individual
  • identities are continuously being negotiated in social contexts to manage for the risks of deceptions

Key Thought: What you are is a negotiated and socially constructed identity

Important terms

  • identification – ties to the biological, personal, biometric
  • authentication – tied to an accepted identifier – ssn
  • verification – third party verification of a claim – e.g. Age

Designing identity, reputation systems

  • Can be authenticated – persistent – and anonymous
  • Principle of minimal disclosure – don’t need to disclose anymore than necessary
  • Challenge between defining cooperative or competitive games – manage risk
  • Relationship vs Transaction, end in itself vs instrumentality, multiple vs single trial games
  • No totally secure system
  • Manage risk at the margin, minimize costs of failure
  • Respond to the failure

User centric identity

  • designed on principles of a self-organizing networks – where control and storage are distributed
  • control is transfered through meta-data and localized policies over discrete data about user
  • user is the locus of control – they can assign it to proxies
  • identities can be multiple, and need policies to manage

You can find out more about John’s ideas at:

I asked Judith and John: What social solutions can we have for identity management?

John believes that in a few years time, appropriate technology will be available to manage the social aspects of identity management. He thinks we increasingly need evolving algorithms for managing and protecting identity, and that we need need to create a framework to protect and express identity. Because the technology is quickly changing, he advocates for the need to understand social physics of identity.

Judith mentioned that we could utilize:

  •  social networks/small worlds for identity – invitation systems where you are responsible for the people you invite
  • have different levels of privileges based on behavior
  • let communities define social conventions for dealing with social problems

I truly have a problem with attempting to solve social problems with
technology. I believe a social problem can only be solved with a social
solution that may perhaps be mediated or advanced through user-centric technology.

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Alla Zollers

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