Surveillance in Everyday Life

Surveillance, the idea of it seems scary but the reality is that it has been pretty normalised in today’s society. Whether it be by CCTV in our homes, workplaces, the streets or even while we are casually surfing the web the truth is we are constantly being watched. What I find  interesting is how we associate the term ‘stalker’ so casually with social media. I’m sure every single one of us has sat and ‘stalked’ someone on Facebook or another social media site, whatever the reasoning behind it might be.

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                                                                Social Media by Magicatwork CC BY 2.0

Whenever I talk to my friends from back home the question ‘so what have you been up to lately’ seems redundant because we already know, whether it be on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat we are constantly documenting our lives for others to see. When we in turn spend time going through, commenting and liking each others actions on various social media platforms, we begin in a kind of a way, surveilling each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but maybe it gives a little insight into why we have become more or less indifferent to the excessive amount of surveillance that is conducted on us today- particularly on social media.

Since starting a unit on surveillance as part of my media and communications degree at university, I have been thinking a lot more about this issue. Naturally I began starting to discuss some of these issues with my friends and family.

The tweet above pretty much summarises a chat I recently had with my mum about webcam hacking, although initially her response was one of absolute outrage,what I found was that even though she was unnerved by the idea that someone could be watching her through her webcam or tracking her internet search history, it was never going to make her abandon the internet completely.

Like the example above, every other conversation I have had with my circle of friends and family have gone the same. Yes, they were a bit uneasy when confronted with the idea that they are being tracked continuously online. At the same time however, their end response, most often was one of acceptance. the phrase ‘well I guess that’s the world we live in’ was one I heard too many times.

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                                                       Privacy by Owen Moore CC BY 2.0

That is the truth isn’t it? Privacy has become a privilege more than a right in today’s society, and as a result of this, surveillance has become a part of our everyday lives. We watch each other on social media, and we sometimes even keep track of ourselves through things like fitness and nutrition apps.

 

When you sit and think about how much surveillance we conduct on ourselves and our friends and family members, you begin to understand why companies are able to get away with all the tracking they do. The truth is, “most social media users are less concerned with governments or corporations watching their online activities” (Marwick, 2012). We are too busy networking and being entertained online to stop and think that there maybe someone tracking our activity.

Of course, I’m also not saying that we should sit back and let big companies and Governments invade our privacy- ignorance is never a good thing. The thing is, even in the midst of all the surveillance that is going on, there are also people and organisations that are bringing these issues to light. As the tweet embedded above shows, people are being told about the changing privacy policies of the apps they use.  This is an amazing thing, because at the very least people are being made aware of what is going on and as a result might be a little bit more savvy about how they conduct themselves online and in their day-to-day lives.

At the end of the day, there is no escape. Even if you decide that you want no part of it and delete yourself completely from the internet to go and live under a rock in some remote area- who’s to say a drone flying up in the sky won’t catch some footage of you while you’re sleeping?

 

 

 

References

Marwick, A. E, 2012, The public domain: Social surveillance in everyday life.Surveillance & Society, 9(4), 378-393. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.deakin.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1314689547?accountid=10445

 

 

 

 

Shopping For Facebook- How Target Ads Benefit Businesses.

Last week during my daily (ok, hourly) Facebook scroll there was an ad on my news feed that caught my eye. What I found interesting was how it ended up on my news feed in the first place. I hadn’t visited the site before, nor had I searched for the product on any other site, yet it was something that I never knew I wanted, I just had to buy it.

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                          Illustrated by Anithra Ratnayake, September 2016

In a previous blog post I said that social media sites sometimes know us even better than we know ourselves. The idea of this can be quite unnerving,is that how they knew I was planning on travelling to the Maldives in the summer and therefore needed beach accessories?

The ads that appear on your Facebook feed are there for a reason, they are targeted directly at you and the type of person that they believe you are.

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Illustrated by Anithra Ratnayake, September 2016

 

Traditionally, advertising was seen as a media message that the audience was expected to consume. Through the process of social media advertising however, individuals are now able to “become part of creating, developing and distributing advertising content” (Kim, et. al, 2015, p. 323). When we are shown advertisements that we are genuinely interested in seeing, we are more likely to interact and share that content with our friends.

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                                                                                                                              Infograph created by Anithra Ratnayake via Canva, September 2016

 

Social media sites are invaluable to businesses when it comes to advertising. The infograph on the right highlights the top three reasons why companies are using Facebook for advertising.

All three of these reasons come together because of target advertising. This means that now companies can ensure that they are reaching their most relevant demographics. By doing this, it also ensures that no funds are wasted as “the aim of sophisticated targeting through advertising is not to waste a single eyeball” (Curran, et.al, 2011, p. 29).

The rise of target advertising on social media comes as no surprise. One of the main reasons people log on to social media is to interact with friends and content that they are interested in. Therefore when it comes to advertising on social media, companies need to make sure that they are visible on profiles that share common interests with their products. People don’t want annoyance and interruption while browsing through their news feed, target marketing guarantees that ads reach their most relevant audiences.

Facebook offers a range of campaigns for businesses to choose from. Like Ads and their ‘clicks to website’ features are just two of the many that are on offer. My friend recently launched an active wear line and she used both these features to generate more traffic on her website and her Facebook page. The interview below touches on some of her experiences using the site and highlights some of the benefits this type of advertising can have on small businesses.

There is no question that advertising on social media is one of the most efficient methods a business can adopt to ensure their most relevant demographic is reached.

When it comes to the privacy concerns that arise from this, what we most often fail to see is that we too benefit from this method of advertising, as the poll results above indicate, the ads we see on Facebook are now ones that we most often want to see, and that doesn’t seem too bad does it?

Word count: 542 (not including captions & Citations)

 

References

Curran, K, Graham, S, & Temple, C 2011, ‘Advertising on Facebook’, International Journal of E-Business Development, vol.1, no.1, p.29

Kim, S, Lee, J, & Yoon, D 2015, ‘Norms in Social Media: The Application of Theory of Reasoned Action and Personal Norms in Predicting Interactions With Facebook Page Like Ads’, Communication Research Reports, vol. 32, no. 4, p. 323. Available from: 10.1080/08824096.2015.1089851. [6 September 2016].

 

Music in podcast

Good Morning by LAKEY INSPIRED CC BY 3.0

Social Media Surveillance- How Concerned should we be?

Along with the rest of the world I have become a victim of the Pokemon Go phenomenon- I find myself spending endless hours searching for Pokemon everywhere that I go- I just have to catch ’em all!

Recently though I have been seeing a lot of articles that are questioning the privacy settings of the game- claiming that its makers will have access to private information which among others includes access to our emails. Of course, since this has come to light the company has made statements claiming that they are doing their best to rectify the matter. All this chatter has gotten me wondering about all the other games and social media that we use constantly throughout the day and if we are unknowingly (or sometimes even knowingly) giving people access to information about ourselves.

Most games or even productivity apps for that matter all require you to sign up using either an email address or a social media account such as Facebook or Twitter. I myself am one of those lazy people who opt to use my Facebook account to sign up most of the time so that I don’t have to spend those extra seconds typing in my email address and password in order to set everything up. The disclaimer at the bottom stating that “this app does not post to Facebook without your permission” tends to give me some sense of security.

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Self Snitch by Poster Boy CC BY 2.0

My privacy settings on Facebook are set at its highest to the extent that only around 30 of my 800 friends have full access to my entire profile. In this day and age however, I don’t think that should give anyone any sense of security- information is almost too easy to find these days- If there is a will there is a way, right?

Social media knows a lot about us. Sometimes even more than we know about ourselves. I know that the idea of this may seem scary- at the same time however, what we don’t realise is that we do have some control through things like privacy setting. As social media users, it can be said that control is in our hands and as a result we are able to “choose whom to accept or deny as friends” (Fuchs et al, 2013. p.91). This gives us the opportunity to be strategic in what we post and what messages that it send out to the world.

 

Tweet embedded from my twitter profile on the 27th of July 2016

 

This article that I tweeted out however, concerns me somewhat. I understand that safety and security will be some of the reasons that Facebook would use to justify their ability to read your Facebook messages- but the very thought that they can do it is somewhat unsettling isn’t it? The article does say that Facebook is now offering us the option of turning on encryption so that they won’t be able to access messages, so at least now we can feel that our privacy is somewhat protected.

The fact of the matter is that all social media sites use one method of surveillance or another. Although this can seem like an invasion on privacy (and justifiably so), It is technically what we signed up for. As for how concerned about this we should be about this- honestly, I’m not so sure myself- but I am looking forward to researching this topic more to find out!

 

 

 

References

  • Fuchs, C, Boersma, K, Albrechtslund, A, Sandoval, M, 2013,  “The Challenges of Web 2.0 and Social Media”, in Trottier, D, Lyon, D, “Key Features of Social Media Surveillance”, Taylor and Francis, p. 91

Crowdfunding in Times of Crisis

Crowdfunding has gained significant traction in the last couple of years. Websites such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indigogo (to name a few) have made great strides in enabling people to see their goals and dreams come to life. Although most of the time these campaigns that are funded include new and innovative products that will make our lives easier and more enjoyable, there is also a huge scope for more humanitarian efforts as people are able to go on these crowdfunding websites and ask for donations for things such as medical necessities and charitable efforts. 

In the last couple of days my home country Sri Lanka has been experiencing terrible rains which in turn has caused severe flooding leaving as many as 63 people dead and over thousands of both animals and humans displaced. My Facebook Newsfeed has been filled with horrifying images and videos about the devastation that has occurred and I have been getting constant notifications in the last few days of people marking themselves as ‘safe’ so that friends and family from all around the world know that they are out of harms way. 

What was interesting to me, is how crowdfunding and crowdsourcing has played a significant role in collecting donations for relied efforts in the Country. Many people and organisations have stepped up and urged citizens to donate things like clothes, rations and money. Social media has also helped greatly here in that it provides a much easier and effective method of communicating. 

Seeing all this really got me thinking about how crowdfunding has the potential to make a difference and bring people together. Before websites like these were set up, collecting donations, especially financial ones would have been difficult as it would have probably required people going door-to-door collecting funds (which would be difficult in this case- because you would need a boat!) and even then it is quite limited. These crowdfunding campaigns allow people from all around the world to donate money and aid victims, and as a result the sum of money that will be collected will be far greater. 

Crowdfunding websites obviously are also very effective when it comes to helping start up companies or individuals meet financial goals in order to bring a product out in to the market. At the same time, as you can see from the example that I provided above, it also has the potential to bring communities together in a crisis and aid people and countries in times of need- and I think that is pretty amazing. 

 

Social Media for Change.

One of the many positive effects of social media in today’s society is the power that it has to bring people together. People from all around the world are able to unite and bring awareness to a cause that they believe in. The creation of social movements however is not a new concept, instead it is something that has evolved over time and increased in its efficiency, thanks to the rise of social media.

Significant public interest in various causes has given rise to the term ‘social movements’. Carty describes a social movement as “neither a riot or electoral politics. Rather, it is a sustained collective articulation of resistance to elite opponents by a plurality of actors with a common purpose” (Carty, 2015 pp. 6-7). Although there are many components that define a social movement and its strategies, such as campaigning, it is important to note that the means by which the message is put across to the public is influenced by the types of platforms that are available at the time. for instance, in todays society, activists are more likely to put up petitions online for interested publics to sign rather than go around from door to door with pen and paper.

Activists tend to utilize the most effective tool of communication that is available at the time, and as a result of this today, social media, with its easy to access and cost effective features seems like their most obvious bet. Websites such as change.org, advertising themselves as ‘the world’s platform for change’ its allow users to create online petitions and raise awareness about different issues.It is also able to circulate all around the world instead of being restricted to a particular country or community.

The state of the Zoo in my home country, Sri Lanka has been heartbreaking from the time I remember. Going to the zoo back home as a child was never a exciting experience for me, instead every time I have gone there (I think its only been twice), I have come back disheartened and angry by the conditions that the animals were forced to endure. I even remember a time where I asked my parents if we could take some of the animals home so they could live in our garden- to me, anything seemed better than them living in that horrible Zoo.

Even though there have been many attempts to raise awareness about this issue, it is only recently that a video uploaded by the magazine Life Times Sri Lanka that showcases the horrible treatment of the animals at the Dehiwala Zoo has started going viral on Facebook, so much so that it has even caught the attention of the well-known animal welfare group PETA Asia with them sharing it on their social media pages as well. It is clear that Social media has played a huge part here in gathering supporters and encouraging people to speak up.

Since its release, the video has been shared over 1000 times of Facebook and a petition has even been started online demanding that the Zoo be closed and the animals be kept in sanctuaries instead. The petition is addressed to the President of Sri Lanka and again ties back into the definition of a social movement, in that it targets the elite.

Prior warning, this video, if you do choose to watch it, is not for the faint hearted. however, it is made in such a way that it is impossible to ignore and as a result effectively manages to raise awareness. Hopefully it will raise enough awareness and eventually act as a catalyst for change in the near future.

 

 

References

  • Carty, V 2015, Social movements and new technology, Westview, New York, pp. 6-7

 

Me, Myself and Social Media

The famous quote “all the worlds a stage, and all the men and women merely players” (Shakespeare et al., 2004 pp.165) from William Shakespeare’s as you like it comes to mind when thinking about the different identities that we create for ourselves online. Granted, back then it was meant to be a metaphor of the different roles that we as individuals play in society throughout our lives, I think it is also very relevant to our online presence and how we strategically engage across different social media sites. In order to truly understand why we construct different online identities we must acknowledge the fact that “a poststructuralist conception of identity involves rejecting the notion of a singular ‘true’ self and acknowledge that there are multiple ‘selves’”(Chalkley et al., 2012, pp. 168).

The first time I actually thought about online identity and how we portray ourselves online was about 4 months ago. It wasn’t some incredible epiphany that I had, but rather it was a conversation I had with one of my best friends about the way she uses the social media site, Snapchat. I was using her phone (my phone was out of battery) to film our other friends having a hilariously heated discussion about the merits of Leonardo DiCaprio, and just when I was about to post the video onto her Snapchat story she stopped me and said “that’s not the type of stuff that I post on my story”. This statement was very interesting to me because it demonstrated how we as individuals create different versions of ourselves online, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we are creating a false image of ourselves, instead I think It just mean that we as users have become increasingly aware of how we use media and as a result we have now created specific rules for ourselves as to what we post online and what image it sends out to the rest of the world.

Online identity is a subject that many people are dealing with nowadays. The increasing number of social media sites that are emerging on the internet today means that we are finding more and more ways to present ourselves online. I believe the different personas that we present online are a direct result of the social media site itself and its features. For instance when I look the different identities that I have constructed for myself across all the social media platforms that I have signed up for, this pattern is very evident.

My online presence has grown a substantial amount over the years. Everyday I scroll and post on different social media sites, the fact that all these sites are now available as apps on my phone enables me to essentially have the digital world at my fingertips. It is interesting to see how I manage to conduct myself differently through each site and post and interact accordingly.

digital-footprintInfogram made using Piktochart showcasing the digital footprints I have created over the years through various social media sites.

When I think about my own online identity and how it varies across different social media sites, there are two key factors that come into play. One such factor I believe is age, as I have grown older the way in which I use social media has also matured with it. For example, Recently, It became clear to me that my Facebook profile was severely outdated, I was becoming increasingly annoyed by my newsfeed- the posts that I was seeing were really not appealing to me. Eventually I realised that this was because I had outgrown the pages and groups that I had ‘liked’ and as a result I wasn’t interested in what they were posting. This prompted me to go on an ‘un-liking’ spree and the end result was a completely different and updated newsfeed which gave me a much more enjoyable experience on the site. As a result of this it can be said that the way in which our social media actually evolves over time makes us more self-aware and “becomes a function of adulthood” (Fleur, 2014, pp.109). In this way it is evident that over time the way in which I use social media has changed and will continue to do so.

IMG_1645 (1)clicking the ‘unlike’ button for pages I was no longer interested in following gave me a better overall experience of the site.

Another factor that has an effect on how I portray myself online is communication. I think this is a factor that affects a lot of people as “lives presented are often interactive; they are co-constructed; they are linked to others- family, friends, employers, causes and affiliations” (Smith & Watson, 2014, pp. 71). As a result of this, having multiple versions of yourself online can actually be justified in that an individual needs to adjust their personality accordingly depending on the groups of people that they are targeting.

Take for example my use of the micro blogging site Twitter. Even though I had actually created my Twitter profile as far back as 2009, it wasn’t until I started my media and communication degree at Deakin last year that I actually started to use it actively. My units required me to post on the site and in doing so I was better able to engage and communicate with both my peers and lecturers. It is the same for other more professional sites such as LinkedIn. You conduct yourself in a more professional manner as a result of the nature of the site and your own expectations of it. The concept of different social media sites having specific requirements of its users is called affordance and as a result of this these sites “direct us to act in certain ways and even be a certain type of person” (Poletti & Rack, 2014, pp. 5)

links to tweets that I have made since starting my degree.

In comparison, my use of more relaxed social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are more casual and social in nature. These social media sites are key in my being able to maintain a connection with my friends and family back in Sri Lanka while I complete my degree here in Australia. Here I find that I share my more social activities such as pictures of my vacations or outings with friends and family, and I do so because I believe that this is the aspect of my life that my followers and friends would be more interested in seeing. Posting my resume or thoughts about various academic content would not be interesting to my friends nor will it help me advance in my career. Therefore, as a result of this, I have without really being aware of it, adjusted my online identity accordingly.

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A screenshot of my Instagram profile which I use to showcase  what I believe is a more casual, adventurous side of myself.

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A snapchat that I sent out during the semester break while i was in Kalpitiya, Sri Lanka.

Ultimately at the end of the day, whether we are aware of it or not, out online identities are ones that we have strategically constructed according to the characteristics of different social media sites and who we are engaging with as a result. As for the future of my online presence, I think that now as a result of me being more aware of how I present myself online it will enable me to more effectively create my online persona and build up my portfolio as I go on.

(1080 words not including citations and captions)

 

References

Chalkley, T, Brown, A, Cinque, T, Warren, B, Hobbs, M & Finn, M 2012, Communication, new media and everyday life, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Vic.

Gabriel, F 2014, ‘Sexting, selfies and self-harm: young people, social media and the performance of self-development’, Media International Australia, no. 151, pp. 104-12

 Poletti, A and Rak, J 2014, ‘Introduction: Digital Dialogues’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 3-11

Shakespeare, William, Marshall Cynthia, Hankie, Julie 2004, As You Like It, Cambridge University Press, New York

Smith, S and Watson, J 2014, ‘Virtually Me: A Toolbox about Online SelfPresentation’, in Poletti, A and Rak, J, Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 70-95

 

My broader online activity and engagement

In the 6 weeks since i have started this unit I have made a conscious effort to strengthen my level of online engagement. I have done so by increasing my level of activity on Twitter  (and have also written a blog post about effective twitter use) and created an About.me profile for myself as well, which also provides links to the other social media sites that I am active on. Although I have had a LinkedIn profile for sometime now, I have spent some extra time updating my profile by adding more information such as links to previous articles that i have written for magazines as a freelance writer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#Effective Twitter use

One of the many topics being discussed in my current media studies class is Twitter and how we can be effectively make use of the social media site that recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

Looking up ‘how to use twitter effectively’, online there seems to be a general trend of advice that runs through each and every article. one such piece of advice shared tells people to be selective of their following.

when you think about this, it makes sense. you will never find any social media site interesting if your feed was filled with pictures or articles from people or sites that you had no interest in. Take your Instagram (my current favourite social media site- sorry twitter!) feed for example, why would you bother scrolling through it if you had no interest in the pictures that people were posting. Twitter is the same, you follow people or sites that interest you, and as a result you will get the most out of it.

Another interesting piece of advice that i came across was to not delete tweets and i think this as a result also ties into the fact that you should think twice before you post online. once you hit send- it’s out there and your online footprints are there to stay. sometimes deleting a tweet that you regret will not get rid of it- especially if someone has responded to it!

Obviously there are a lot more ways to effectively use twitter- but in all honesty the best way to figure it out is to get out there and find out for yourself! Happy tweeting!