Description of new report from the National Academies: “Digital media provide humans with more access to information than ever before—a computer, tablet, or smartphone can all be used to access data online and users frequently have more than one device. However, as humans continue to venture into the digital frontier, it remains to be known whether access to seemingly unlimited information is actually helping us learn and solve complex problems, or ultimately creating more difficulty and confusion for individuals and societies by offering content overload that is not always meaningful.
Throughout history, technology has changed the way humans interact with the world. Improvements in tools, language, industrial machines, and now digital information technology have shaped our minds and societies. There has always been access to more information than humans can handle, but the difference now lies in the ubiquity of the Internet and digital technology, and the incredible speed with which anyone with a computer can access and participate in seemingly infinite information exchange. Humans now live in a world where mobile digital technology is everywhere, from the classroom and the doctor’s office to public transportation and even the dinner table. This paradigm shift in technology comes with tremendous benefits and risks. Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) Teams at the 2012 National Academies Keck Futures Initiative Conference on The Informed Brain in the Digital World explored common rewards and dangers to Humans among various fields that are being greatly impacted by the Internet and the rapid evolution of digital technology.”
New Paper on “Influence of Social Media Use on Discussion Network Heterogeneity and Civic Engagement: The Moderating Role of Personality Traits” in Journal of Communication: “Using original national survey data, we examine how social media use affects individuals’ discussion network heterogeneity and their level of civic engagement. We also investigate the moderating role of personality traits (i.e., extraversion and openness to experiences) in this association. Results support the notion that use of social media contributes to heterogeneity of discussion networks and activities in civic life. More importantly, personality traits such as extraversion and openness to experiences were found to moderate the influence of social media on discussion network heterogeneity and civic participation, indicating that the contributing role of social media in increasing network heterogeneity and civic engagement is greater for introverted and less open individuals.”
Ciara Byrne in FastCompany: “Research presented by Linus Bengsston’s Flowminder Foundation to the recent Netmob 2013 held at MIT’s Media Lab showed that our movements after conflicts and disasters are highly predictable. Analysis of mobile phone data from the 2011 civil war in Cote D’Ivoire (CIV), showed that population movements were up to 88% predictable, an accuracy that was consistent with data collected after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In fact, we become more, rather than less, predictable in crises.”
Izabella Kaminska in the Financial Times: “FT Alphaville has been taking a closer look at the collaborative economy, and noting the stellar growth this mysterious sector has been experiencing of late.
An important question to consider, however, is to what degree is this growth being driven by a genuine rise in reciprocity and altruism in the economy — or to what degree is this just the result of natural opportunism…
Which begs the question why should anyone put a free good out there for the taking anyway? And why is it that in most collaborative models there are very few examples of people abusing the system?
With respects to the free issue, internet pioneer Jaron Lanier believes this is because there isn’t really any such thing as free at all. What appears free is usually a veiled reciprocity or exploitation in disguise….
Lanier controversially believes users should be paid for that contribution. But in doing so we would argue that he forgets that the relationship Facebook has with its users is in fact much more reciprocal than exploitative. Users get a free platform, Facebook gets their data.
What’s more, as the BBC’s tech expert Bill Thompson has commented before, user content doesn’t really have much value on its own. It is only when that data is pooled together on a massive scale which allows the economies of scale to make sense. At least in a way that “the system” feels keen to reward. It is not independent data that has value, it is networked data that the system is demanding. Consequently, there is possibly some form of social benefit associated with contributing data to the platform, which is yet to be recognised….
A rise in collaboration, however, suggests there is more chance of personal survival if everyone collaborates together (and does not cheat the system). There is less incentive to cheat the system. In the current human economy context then, has collaboration ended up being the best pay-off for all ?
And in that context has social media, big data and the rise of networked communities simply encouraged participants in the universal survival game of prisoner’s dilemma to take the option that’s best for all?
We obviously have no idea if that’s the case, but it seems a useful thought experiment for us all to run through.”
New Paper (By Juliet E. Carlisle and Robert C. Patton) analyzing Facebook and the 2008 Presidential Election in Political Research Quaterly: “This research conceptualizes political engagement in Facebook and examines the political activity of Facebook users during the 2008 presidential primary (T1) and general election (T2). Using a resource model, we test whether factors helpful in understanding offline political participation also explain political participation in Facebook. We consider resources (socioeconomic status [SES]) and political interest and also test whether network size works to increase political activity. We find that individual political activity in Facebook is not as extensive as popular accounts suggest. Moreover, the predictors associated with the resource model and Putnam’s theory of social capital do not hold true in Facebook.”
Venturebeat: “The realm of public data is like a vast cave. It is technically open to all, but it contains many secrets and obstacles within its walls.
Enigma launched out of beta today to shed light on this hidden world. This “big data” startup focuses on data in the public domain, such as those published by governments, NGOs, and the media….
The company describes itself as “Google for public data.” Using a combination of automated web crawlers and directly reaching out to government agencies, Engima’s database contains billions of public records across more than 100,000 datasets. Pulling them all together breaks down the barriers that exist between various local, state, federal, and institutional search portals. On top of this information is an “entity graph” which searches through the data to discover relevant results. Furthermore, once the information is broken out of the silos, users can filter, reshape, and connect various datasets to find correlations….
The technology has a wide range of applications, including professional services, finance, news media, big data, and academia. Engima has formed strategic partnerships in each of these verticals with Deloitte, Gerson Lehrman Group, The New York Times, S&P Capital IQ, and Harvard Business School, respectively.”
Tom Cochran (CTO at Atlantic Media) in All Things D: “The currency of the 21st century digital economy is your personal information. It has no transaction costs and does not decrease in value when the supply increases. Contrary to the laws of economics, it may even increase in value with greater supply. The more information you provide to companies, the more value they can extract from it….
Conversely, we tend to ignore this process because the most magnificent, technologically advanced and socially connected digital city is being built from it.
You are living in this growing digital city, and I’m guessing that you really like it here. Unfortunately, you can’t live in this city for free. Your rent is due in the form of your personal information, and you have to accept a certain loss of your privacy….
As a society, we need to define the rules under which our personal information can be mined. Our collective unease is largely the result of not having clear parameters to create an equilibrium between privacy and personalization.
These parameters will help shift our focus from the negatives to the positives, because in return for your personal information, you realize a net benefit with tremendous value.”
Wilson Center: ” The Commons Lab today released a new policy memo exploring the vulnerabilities facing the widespread use and acceptance of social media and crowdsourcing. This is the second publication in the project’s policy memo series.
Using real-world examples, security expert George Chamales describes the most-pressing cybersecurity vulnerabilities in this space and calls for the development of best practices to address these vulnerabilities, ultimately concluding that it is possible for institutions to develop trust in the emerging technologies. From the memo’s executive summary:
Individuals and organizations interested in using social media and crowdsourcing currently lack two key sets of information: a systematic assessment of the vulnerabilities in these technologies and a comprehensive set of best practices describing how to address those vulnerabilities. Identifying those vulnerabilities and developing those best practices are necessary to address a growing number of incidents ranging from innocent mistakes to targeted attacks that have claimed lives and cost millions of dollars.
Click here to read the full memo on Scribd.
Statement from the Boston Children’s Hospital: “The higher the percentage of people in a city, town or neighborhood with Facebook interests suggesting a healthy, active lifestyle, the lower that area’s obesity rate. At the same time, areas with a large percentage of Facebook users with television-related interests tend to have higher rates of obesity. Such are the conclusions of a study by Boston Children’s Hospital researchers comparing geotagged Facebook user data with data from national and New York City-focused health surveys.
Together, the conclusions suggest that knowledge of people’s online interests within geographic areas may help public health researchers predict, track and map obesity rates down to the neighborhood level, while offering an opportunity to design geotargeted online interventions aimed at reducing obesity rates.
The study team, led by Rumi Chunara, PhD, and John Brownstein, PhD, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Informatics Program (CHIP), published their findings on April 24 in PLOS ONE. The amount of data available from social networks like Facebook makes it possible to efficiently carry out research in cohorts of a size that has until now been impractical.”