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

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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
advent.

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