Emerging Media Episode 3: Attention Economies

To heighten everyone's nerves for a moment, before we renter into the cerebral world of Matthew Hindman’s postulations, because I think it’s critical to examine the most up-to-date emerging topics as they happen, in relation and content, and this one is very new...

As of last week, we now have a tool to monitor and control our Off Facebook Activity. Announced, just a few days ago, an article on VOX, “How to delete what Facebook knows about your life outside of Facebook”, highlights the bells and whistles of a new tool that let's users “tell you which companies are supplying Facebook with information about your real-world activity — for example, that you visited their website or purchased a product from it.” Are we finally going to be able to control our own information at this new microscopic level, or is it, in itself, a trap / tool to record an even deeper level of user information?

According to a blog post from August 2019, Facebook announced: “Now You Can See and Control the Data That Apps and Websites Share With Facebook”. Written by By Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Policy, and David Baser, Director of Product Management for Facebook, the public announcement comes with a hefty amount of spin from the top: “Many apps and websites are free because they’re supported by online advertising. And to reach people who are more likely to care about what they are selling, businesses often share data about people’s interactions on their websites with ad platforms and other services.” I find this wording to be particular and minced, putting ‘people’ at the front of the syntax and ‘services’ at the end, makes it sound like it part of an empathetic society, when in reality they are outright telling us that our information is bought and sold by those who buy and sell it. When they write: “to help shed more light on these practices that are common yet not always well understood, today we’re introducing a new way to view and control your off-Facebook activity,” they don’t exactly state for who they created this for, themselves or for the users. And, I guess, in the end, we know that while it may be both, the ability to get MORE out of that IS them.

But back to the centerpoint here, and Matthew Hindman's The Internet Trap. In its essentiality Hindman is wanting to give us a tool that allows us to fight the battle of concentration and dispersion, in an effort to more fully address new disparities and level the playing field, where, as Time Berners-Lee opined: “There is no top to the WEB”. But we know that at the present time this is wholly unntrue. Hindman’s state-of-the-situation speaks of how audiences and revenues are concentrated, a small-scale peep hole that is presented above (I would add that this above information, about how FB uses our information + a more full understanding of the facebook’s ads manager environment from a research/ advertisers perspective can give a unique overlap of perspective that is incredibly insightful). An examination of this information from the user’s side here is astounding, each click, each selection, each interaction on a particular app is included and monetized, based on this new user’s view. This is, in real-time, what Hindman might argue as the process where “attention transaction replaces currency” using his dystopian-leaning example. The key concepts arrive at how exactly these larges players have an online advantage and how the audiences end up following in a concentrated law of patterns, and, in essence, aggregating the power all in one place.The tilted playing field is real and the effects and advantages, be it via data architecture, design, or cutting edge advertising advantages - the power and influence is overwhelming.

Finally, in other related emerging media news: "TikTok Permanently Bans Live Action Over Unspecified ‘Community Guidelines Violations"’ effectively silencing an aggressive pro-life propoganda group from their platform - perhaps a discussion for class?

Also food for thought: Have you ever had a sneaking suspicion that your phone is listening to you? Well, you can decide for yourself, but this is a summary of how one journalist thinks it all works.

Further Resources: I decided to go down the rabbit hole a little bit to understand some context and background. For my own notes, I created some other quick access poots to explore the roots of ideas of Matthew Hindmann (Matthew Hindman - GW | Department of Political Science (Current), many of which can also be found in his previous influential work The Myth of Digital Democracy, some of which can be consumed here, via YouTube:

Interview with Matthew Hindman, Internet and Politics (Youtube 2008)

“I think we need to think hard about what kind of trade-offs we’re willing to make. There would certainly be an advantage to having a more substantively representative blogosphere, having a public sphere that does a better job representing not just one gender both genders, and less overwhelmingly white, but at the same time there certainly are some advantages to having a blogosphere that is so focused on the thoughts and ideas of elites, it’s a very mixed blessing”

Matthew Hindman: The Googlearchy and Politics (Youtube 2011)

  • “Sites that win on the web are sticky”

  • “The rule of the most heavily linked...sites that get a lot of links from sites that also get a lot of links from sites that also get a lot of links are the sites that tend to rise to the top of the Google ranking”

  • “Simply because politics isn’t very important on the larger web, doesn’t mean that the web isn’t important to politics.”

  • “It was very long ago that a very large chunk of what campaigns actually did was convince people to put pamphlets in envelopes. That really doesn’t happen anymore in campaigns, and it’s important to understand that these information technologies and the growth of the web come hand in hand with other information technologies that change the way politics work.”

2 of 3 Myths About the Media: Audience, Business, and Money (Youtube 2011)

BookTV: Matthew Hindman, "The Myth of Digital Democracy" (Youtube 2011)

Matt Hindman (George Washington University) @ The Academy of Global Governance (2012)

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