The Army of Twitter Bots.

Want to know something mind blowing? It is estimated that there are over 20 million automated Twitter users (Kessler 2014). These ‘bots’, created by skilled programmers, are capable of re-tweeting, replying and even creating their own content.

Put simply, it’s relatively hard to spot a Bot. They become popular by tweeting in large quantities, following back those who follow them and targeting people that tweet about similar subjects that they’re designed to tweet about (Kessler 2014). They can amass large followings and, in extreme instances, inspire sympathy and conversation from those that follow them and read their content.

This is what happened to @trackgirl. ‘Her’ account is now suspended but the Bot, created by Greg Marra, would recycle tweets from runners and follow twitter profiles from within the long distance running community. 35% of users who @trackgirl followed followed her back. In mid 2008 she recycled a tweet saying she’d hurt her ankle and was inundated with messages, but public and private, inquiring about her injury and wishing her well (McMillan 2012).

Another high-profile example of Twitter Bots conning the public is @scarina91. Carina Santos, who claims to be a female journalist based in Rio de Janeiro, is actually a Bot, created by the computer science department at Brazil’s Federal University of Ouro Preto, that collects and tweets over 50 news alerts a day (Bosker 2013).

“Social bot attacks are actually about building a trust relationship” Marra explains, describing how these Bots can be used to build a relationship with fellow Twitter users and then flooding that user with (in some cases) spam, sales pitches and viruses. The invention of BimBots (Feifer 2012)- Twitter Bots that are designed to appear attractive to users – are particularly effective at this practice.

On a lighter note, these bots are among some of the funniest reads on the internet. I follow a couple of Bots that I’m aware of but it does make me wonder…Who online is really who they say they are?

References

Bosker, B 2013, ‘Twitter Bots Have No Trouble Fooling You, Getting More Influence Than Oprah’, The Huffington Post: Tech, 08/07/13, accessed at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/twitter-bots-influence_n_3542561.html>

Feifer, J 2012, ‘Who’s That Woman In The Twitter Bot Profile?’, Fast company, August 8 2012, accessed at <http://www.fastcompany.com/3000064/whos-woman-twitter-bot-profile>

McMillan, R 2012, ‘A Twitter bot so convincing that people sympathise with “her”‘, Wired UK, 26 June 2012, accessed at <http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-06/26/twitter-bot-people-like>

Kessler, S 2014, ‘How Twitter Bots Fool You Into Thinking They Are Real People’, Fast Company, June 10 2014, accessed at <http://www.fastcompany.com/3031500/how-twitter-bots-fool-you-into-thinking-they-are-real-people>

DIY Digital Transformation.

Now, loyal internet lovers, you need to be kind with me on this one. I wanted to demonstrate the (frankly fascinating) notion of material to digital transformation with my own two hands. I had grandiose ideas of drawing something adorable, rendering it in Photoshop and comparing the two. I had Dr Jo Law’s lecture to inspire me and Esther Leslie’s article to spur me on.

But I can’t draw. Nor can I Photoshop. I am largely talentless; aside from my knack of just getting stuff done. So, in the most basic way imaginable, I’m going to give you a visual representation on the material turning digital.

IMG_3440This quote, handwritten by yours truly, is a handful of words that captured my imagination, so I manually jotted them down. I then took a photo of it and stuck it upon my wall because I liked the way it was presented. The photo then turned it into something digital.

IMG_3443 Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 3.30.52 pmThese two images, of the same quote done in a Word document, are arguably no different. Same font, same content, same look, but their meaning can be altered and they can be viewed differently depending on how they’re finished and presented to the world. I printed one out and stuck it on the wall, similar to my hand-written note, giving it a rustic, inspiring feeling. The screenshot of the same text makes the meaning, arguably, more polished and professional. You can see such a picture as a bumper sticker or as one of those dreadful, inspiring fridge magnets.

IMG_3446This one though? This is my favorite, most basic, inception-inspired image: Something material, turned digital, turned material, turned digital. An image like this will make the viewer think – even if it is just “What the hell is on her wall?”

IMG_3445

I guess what this clumsy interpretation of the concept is trying to demonstrate is that the medium is the message, just as much as the message is the message. The way things are constructed and presented have just as big an impact on the interpretation of the message as the actual message itself. Digital craft and the idea of transforming the material in the digital adds a new dimension for artists and audiences.

Oh, and it’s awesome.

For some real artists and digital crafters , look here, here and here.

Quote reference:

Leslie, Esther (1998) ‘Traces of Craft’, Journal of Design History, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 5-13

Transmedia; The Marvel Way.

I did a (sort of horrible) little video about Marvel and their utilisation of the transmedia model. I think the most important thing to remember about this concept is that it is not multimedia – transmedia storytelling uses multiple platforms, yes, but it adds and introduces new concepts and ideas to the narrative.

I’m no video editor, so please forgive the rough edges.

References:

Gevorkian, A 2012, ‘The implementation of Transmedia Storytelling by Marvel Comics’, Transmedia Entertainment and Marketing, September 19 2012, accessed at <https://ibcomtransmedia2012.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/the-implementation-of-transmedia-storytelling-by-marvel-comics/> viewed 29/04/15

Jenkins, H 2007, ‘Transmedia Storytelling 101’, Confessions of an Aca-Fan, March 22 2007, accessed at <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html> viewed 29/04/15

Scolari, C A 2009, ‘Transmedia Storytelling: Implicit Consumers, Narrative Worlds, and Branding in Contemporary Media Production’, International Journal of Communications, 3, 586-606, <http://beta.upc.edu.pe/matematica/portafolios/nmynt/transmedia_storytelling-.pdf> viewed 29/04/15

Decentralising Superpowers: The impact of Citizen Journalism.

I’m an Australian and as a citizen of this country I, largely, have faith that I live in a fair and democratic society. Despite the media ownership and media bias I may face, I can be fairly confident that I can get the correct information about important events, like, say, election results.

But imagine if that wasn’t the case. Imagine living in a country shrouded in corruption and feeling as though you have no way of knowing the truth about, say, election results. Then a small band of people come together and reveal the truth, online, for the whole world to see.

This is what happened in Turkey last year and it’s absolutely brilliant.

Following last year’s general election in Turkey, 300 volunteers, working for @140journos, used social media connections they each had – as well sending out a ‘public call out’ on the company’s Twitter, Facebook and website – to gather original images of ballot reports for every single one of Turkey’s polling stations. Their goal was to compare the official reports from the electoral council to what they found and report any inconsistencies. The inconsistencies were remarkable and allegations of fraud, leveled at Prime Minister elect Tayyip Erdogan, ran rampant (Lichterman 2014).

Is this the future of newsrooms?

This wasn’t just out of the blue, @140journos was created in response to the massive bias found in Turkey’s traditional media. They had to circumnavigate a block to Twitter that was imposed just before the elections because their Prime Minister at the time, Tayyip Erdogan, viewed it as “the worst menace to society” (in Anderson 2013)

“When we started, our goal was to share news, without any bias, in a way that every group in Turkey can consume,” Ogulcan Ekiz, one of @140journos founding members, explains (in Gebeily 2014). “Basically, we put what’s happening in front of people’s eyes.”

In situations like these, where the chance to protest is restricted and the media is heavily censored, citizen journalism is extremely powerful. Non-professionals, without an education in journalism, are broadcasting news to the masses, In moments such as these, they are journalists and they are supplying the world with a vital service.

“The citizen journalist is becoming more valuable than ever. He has the opportunity to present a unique perspective — to breathe fresh air into a society herded by mainstream media.” – Revis 2011.

References:

Image Credit.

Anderson, S, ‘Turkey riots latest: Erdogan blames ‘extremists’ for nationwide riots as protester, 22, is killed near Syrian border’, The Independent UK, June 4 2013, <http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-riots-latest-erdogan-blames-extremists-for-nationwide-riots-as-protester-22-is-killed-near-syrian-border-8641777.html> [accessed: 27/04/15]

Gebeily, M, ‘A New Idea Out Of Turkey: Using Twitter To Verify Election Results’. Global Post, April 8 2014. <http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/turkey/140408/meet-140journos-twitter-group-trying-prove-election-fraud-turkey> [accessed: 28/4/15]

Revis, L, ‘How Citizen Journalism Is Reshaping Media and Democracy’, Mashable: Social Media, November 11, 2011. <http://mashable.com/2011/11/10/citizen-journalism-democracy/&gt; [accessed: 28/04/15]

Remix, Remediate, Repeat.

So a while ago I discovered this absolutely killer playlist on 8tracks – 8tracks is a website that allows users to distribute their own content (Bruns 2010) in the form of filesharing playlists – and I thought to myself “Man, how cool would it be if all these songs were mashed together”. And you know what? I TOTALLY CAN! I may be completely rubbish at it but, the point is, if I want to remix a bunch of songs into one jam for myself, I can. I can then pop it online for everybody else to enjoy (or not).

John Phillip Sousa claimed in 1906 that recording technology would leave us with no vocal cords left (in Lessig 2008, p25) but I must say I disagree with the legendary composer; remixing and remediating music gives less musically talented folk like me the power to appropriate and re-imagine just about any song I can imagine.

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination …  Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery — celebrate it if you feel like it.” Jim Jarmusch.

If interested, that is my valiant attempt at a remix. If you want something a little more, talented, have a listen to the guys over at The Mashup Radio.

References:

Bruns, Axel (2010) Distributed Creativity: Filesharing and Produsage http://snurb.info/files/2010/Distributed%20Creativity%20-%20Filesharing%20and%20Produsage.pdf

Lessig, Lawrence (2008) ‘Culture of our past’, in Remix: making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy, pp.23-31. https://archive.org/stream/LawrenceLessigRemix/Remix-o#page/n46/mode/1up

Buy the original tracks:

Taylor Swift’s Blank Space

MIA’s Bad Girls

No Doubt’s Just a Girl

The power is quite literally in your hands. Well, at least beside you.

Okay, make a bet with me. I bet that, right now, your mobile phone is within arm’s length of you. It’s sitting right next to you, isn’t it? Hell, it might even be clutched in your clammy little hand as you read this. Now, think of the people you know who don’t own a mobile phone. I bet that number is pretty low, yes? The only person I can think of without a mobile is my 84 year old grandmother.

Clay Shirky, who alongside Lawrence Lessig is fast becoming my favourite human ever, claims that the mobile phone is so interesting as a social tool in today’s society because it has become technologically boring. It is when everybody is able to take the technology for granted that it’s unique uses can permeate society and make impacts that we were perhaps not able to foresee.

This wireless communication capability, the ability to communicate and get a response back virtually anywhere,  has completely transformed the media landscape and has been described as the “largest increase in expressive capability in human history” (Shirky 2009). Regular people, armed with their phones, can broadcast important information to whoever they feel needs it. This has demonstrated in such events as the SARS outbreak in China, where people passed on vital information about the virus via text message (Gordon 2007, p5), and during the London Bombings in 2006. In this instance, commuters were able to capture photos of the alleged bombers as well as contacting family and friends to relay they were safe amongst the chaos (Gordon 2007, p9).

This TED talk further explores the idea that mobile phones can and are making a massively beneficial difference in our society.

Oh and that bet? If I was wrong, come find me on campus and I’ll buy you a coffee. I admire your self control.

References:

Gordon, J (2007), The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations, Convergence 13/3 Pages: 307-319.

Quadir, I (2007), ‘Iqbal Quadir: The power of the mobile phone to end poverty‘, TED Talks, YouTube, Jan 16 2007, accessed at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixjxvzb2-Fw>

Shirky, C (2009), ‘Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history’, TED Talks, YouTube, June 16 2009, accessed at <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_iN_QubRs0#t=338>

Please keep your revolutionary demands to 140 characters.

This week’s research, particularly this TED talk with Evan Williams and this chat with Clay Shirky, led me back to my first love – Twitter. In particular, Twitter’s vast impact on social and political change. I had a bit of fun with a Prezi to bring to you some of the more dramatic things Twitter has contributed to since it’s 2006 creation.

Now, full disclosure, I had A LOT of trouble figuring out the whole plug-in thing, so have a simple link instead.

Some Rights Reserved.

How can archaic copyright laws fit into the participatory, technological society that we find ourselves in today?

Now, I’m sure you didn’t come to this blog for a history lesson, but bear with me for a second. It’s worth knowing that world copyright laws, as they stand today, are amended versions of the Berne Convention, which was written in 1886. 1886. I can’t imagine those laws being too relevant to today’s digital age and I’m not the only one – some much smarter and much more influential people than I have been looking at this very issue. So where does this leave us?

Lawrence Lessig, the insanely intelligent US academic and TED draw-card (he has MILLIONS of views) explains in this video that User Generated Content, often including remixed and altered copyright material, is “a literacy for this generation. It is how our kids speak”. Lessig argues that it is not piracy because the material isn’t being stolen – it’s being recreated to deliver an entirely new message.

So how does one keep the old, foggy copyright giants and the hip young remixers happy? Lessig’s idea is pretty simple – that 1) The artists/creators of completely new and original content choose to have their work available more freely – for amateurs/non-commercial use and 2) that the businesses involved need to embrace this new culture and give it a neutral platform.

This idea, that artist choice is the key for new technology to be ‘open for business’ is pretty much the driving force behind the Creative Commons License. Which is pretty much summed up by the artist/creator saying some, but not all rights, are reserved. This video sums it up better than I ever could-

People like Amanda Hocking and websites such as WeLoveFine have demonstrated that it’s possible for the old and new to go hand in hand, if everybody is willing to do it in a fair, innovative way.

How do I meme?

Welcome to the digital jungle Emma! I’m having way too much fun with these. Inspired by this article on digital convergence and our increasing reliance on technology, I created a couple of fun memes describing this phenomenon. Henry Jenkins, in this video, describes a new media landscape that allows us regular people to “watch big brother” and gives us the opportunity to tell our version of a story, across a variety of mediums. Welcome to “convergence culture”, indeed.

Oh and the first few? They were just inspired by my increasing anxiety over choosing an ’emerging media platform’.