Annewil Neervens

New Media Blog

(Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users October 17, 2009

Filed under: New Media,Online Social Networking,Personal,Thesis,Work — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p10

It’s a little overdue, but I hereby officially want to post my MA thesis for everyone to read (and/or use under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Netherlands license). This thesis was written in a total period of about five months under the supervision of Prof. dr. Richard Rogers, with Dr. Geert Lovink as the second reader. As I already mentioned in previous posts, this thesis deals with the relation between social networking sites (SNSs) and its underlying software, as well as the influence this might have on the user.

The ‘outcome’ of SNSs has been widely researched over the past few years. By outcome I mean user-generated information, such as user demographics and statistics. All of these topics have been researched by using – what I call – ‘interface information’: the information you’ll find by examining a user’s profile. In (Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users, I employ the idea that the ‘input’ of SNSs – the very construct: the software – plays an equally important role and must therefore be thoroughly examined.

The influence of software on the user is also addressed in this writing. By using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine I make use of a new reconstructive approach to reveal Facebook’s power (over users) by looking at their history of software changes and subsequent consequences for the user.

Here’s the abstract of my MA thesis:

This thesis examines the relationship between social networking sites (SNSs), software and its
influence on the user. Two frames of thought are employed here: (1) there is a void in software research. Especially when it comes to social networking sites, not much research has been conducted as to how profiles are constructed by software and what consequences these constructions may have. This seems paradoxical, since this input might be of great influence on a user’s output (by which is meant both user-generated information found on profiles and
the questions as to why and how these sites are used). It is argued here that thorough academic research on SNSs should look at both the input and output. (2) A user is able to shape himself within a profile, but he is also shaped by the software. Software relations and the influence on users are therefore also discussed. Additionally, this thesis makes a new attempt in conducting practical software research by using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to reconstruct the history of Facebook’s software changes. It is thus, that the influence and symbioses of software and the user becomes clear.

You are very welcome to read the rest here: (Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users


MA thesis on Social Networking Sites and Software September 10, 2009

Filed under: Blog,New Media,Online Social Networking,Personal,Thesis — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p09

It was a long, fun and interesting journey (and yes, I must admit, it was also tiring at times), but I’m happy to announce that my MA thesis on the software behind social networking sites (SNSs) is finally finished and submitted. Right now I’m waiting for the ‘official’ grading to be processed, but once that’s in I will post my thesis entitled ‘(Re-)constructing Social Networking Sites: Examining Software Relations and its Influence on Users’ on here ASAP.

As you can tell by the title, it treats both the software (the very construct) of SNSs and the influence this has on the user. One of the main claims in this writing is that software research – especially when it comes to SNSs – is still underdeveloped and more attention should be paid to the input just as well as the outcomes, which are now usually the subject of SNS studies.

Stay tuned!


New Media Final Papers March 12, 2009

Filed under: New Media,Personal,Work — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p03

The last few months I’ve been particularly preoccupied with (school) work and the research for my MA thesis (on the software behind social networking sites – more about this later). I did however, finish a couple of classes for which I wrote two final papers that I’d like to share.

First off, the class New Media Research Seminar required for us to read ‘Protocol: How Control Exists After Decentralization’ by Alexander R. Galloway and ‘Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiberoptics’ by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Both books were a very interesting read, although I must admit that ‘Protocol’ is more up my alley. For the final paper I’ve compared and contrasted these books, adding my own commentary and questions. I start off by summarizing and critiquing both books and finally take out a few of their main points for contrast and comparison.

Here’s the abstract:

This paper attempts to compare and contrast the main points of the books ‘Protocol:
How Control Exists After Decentralization’ by Alexander R. Galloway and ‘Control
and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics’ by Wendy Hui Kyong
Chun. By briefly discussing both ‘Protocol’ and ‘Control and Freedom’, I will map the
discourse in both books, thereby revealing the larger arguments of the authors.
I will then be able to compare and contrast them and finally come to a concluding
statement. The reviews of both books are not merely summaries: I will also address
unclear paragraphs and theories I came across and add to them with thoughts and
questions that came up while reading both texts.

The rest of the paper can be found here: Comparing and Contrasting ‘Protocol’ with ‘Control and Freedom’

The second paper was written for New Media Theories, a class that covered a lot of classical media texts and subjects such as Vannevar Bush’s ‘As We May Think’, Ivan Sutherland’s ‘Sketchpad’, Theodor Nelson’s ‘Xanadu’, Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ and so on. I chose to write about digital obsolescence and made a link with both Walter Benjamin’s historical ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ and Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s ‘Constituents of a Theory of the Media’.

Here’s the abstract:

With this paper I attempt to answer the question why digital preservation in new
media and new media art is as important as it is difficult. It considers the relation
between digital obsolescence and digital preservation, and looks into several
strategies to preserve digital information; with a particular focus on emulation. This
contemporary issue is first linked back to the historical works of Walter Benjamin’s
and Hans Magnus Enzensberger’s and their ideas on reproduction, thus providing an
overview of the importance of (mechanical and technological) reproducibility since its

And the rest can be found here: The Battle Against Digital Obsolescence:
Exploring Strategies of Digital Preservation in New Media and New Media Art


The Hardship of a Blogger November 10, 2008

Filed under: Blog,Personal,Web 2.0 — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p11

Even though I started this blog only recently and did a pretty good job keeping it updated at first, I must admit (and regular visitors probably already noticed this) I’m not much of a blogger. At least not frequency-wise. Sometimes I’m just too busy. Other times, I can’t find any inspiration. Either way: I don’t blog much. UvA lecturer Anne Helmond gave a lecture on the ‘Perceived Freshness Fetish’, in which she looks at her own blogging addiction and analyses why bloggers feel the need to update their blogs daily.

She divides this Perceived Freshness Fetish into two parts:

1. The ‘internal fetish’, a wish or demand for the blogger himself to update daily.

2. The ‘external fetish’, the requirement from blog search engines to blog daily, thereby achieving a certain ranking.

Looking at my own experiences with blogging, I think this fetish could very well explain the need for bloggers to blog. Once my blog was up, I had to post. Of course, no one orders me to do this. But my blog is what represents me on the Web and since I’ve created it I HAVE to keep it up. It’s something I feel internally. Perhaps this makes it more about others (the blog readers in this case) and less about me. Which makes me wonder: why am I blogging in the first place and who am I blogging for? I think it’s safe to say that I’m not just blogging for myself, I hope to reach a certain audience and receive some feedback.

Not being a natural blogger, I constantly struggle with the question if I should blog randomly just to add a post (keeping my stats up) or if I should hold out until there’s actually something interesting to write about. It’s not that I don’t enjoy keeping a blog, it’s just not second nature to me. I have to make an effort to blog.

The external fetish is also something I’ve experienced. If I do not update my blog on a regular basis, the amount of visitors, stats and rankings will drop and eventually my blog will be deeply buried somewhere in search engine algorithms, nowhere to be found when requested. This raises the ontological question: do I still ‘exist’ when I can’t be found on Google? How important is it for my online identity to be established and found on the Web?

In any case, this lecture introduces some interesting insights in the nature of the blogger.

Note: this is not an ‘I’m sorry blog’ post, as Anne describes. I will keep blogging, I just don’t know when. 😉


Workshop (De-)Constructing Information Visualization October 3, 2008

Filed under: Blog,Information,New Media,Personal,Visualization — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p10

I attended a workshop on (De-)Constructing Information Visualization yesterday evening, led by Yuri Engelhardt and Christian Behrens, who are both specialized in information visualization and data visualization and information design. It was all about ‘exploring the notion of a ‘building block systems’ of visual language: Which basic visual coding principles can be identified as the building blocks of visualization? Which of these building blocks are appropriate for representing which kind of information? What are the ‘rules of the game’ for combining two, three, or many of these basic visual coding principles into meaningful and interesting visual representations?’, as they explain it themselves.

We got a brief introduction to the history of data and information visualization, and then started cutting and pasting and created our own data visualization graphics. We used different cards and figures to represent the data or ‘building blocks’ and tried to recreate existing data visualizations (charts, maps and graphs). This turned out to be a pretty hard concept to grasp, because it’s so abstract. We finally got the hang of it though, when we came up with our own data concept and a visualization to match.



The Greenness of Blackle September 12, 2008

Filed under: Blog,New Media,Opinion,Personal — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p09

I was introduced to Blackle today. I had never heard of it before (which made me feel a little bit clueless), but it’s a search engine that apparently saves energy because the screen is almost entirely black. And black pixel screens need less energy to load than white pixel screens. EcoIron even posted a blog last year on how this ‘Black Google’ would save 750 megawatt-hours a year.

Although it is powered by Google Custom Search, it is not owned by Google. So it doesn’t have a lot of Google’s features – like the ‘in cache’ or ‘similar pages’ options. Also, a random Blackle search doesn’t find as much links as a Google search normally would. Still, I think it’s a good effort to making the world a little more environmentally conscious and wasting a little less. So I guess that Blackle is actually really Green. 🙂

For those interested, there’s also a Wikipedia entry on Blackle and a Dutch Blackle version.


Microsoft vs. Shoes? September 5, 2008

Filed under: Blog,Broadcasting,Commercial,Personal — Annewil Neervens @ 20:53 p09

So the Microsoft commercial starring Jerry Seinfeld was added on YouTube yesterday. I just saw it, and don’t really know what to make of it. Could someone please explain the hidden metaphores?