How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets

How Netflix is turning viewers into puppets

Image: Salon.com

“The interesting and potentially troubling question is how a reliance on Big Data might funnel craftsmanship in particular directions. What happens when directors approach the editing room armed with the knowledge that a certain subset of subscribers are opposed to jump cuts or get off on gruesome torture scenes or just want to see blow jobs. Is that all we’ll be offered? We’ve seen what happens when news publications specialize in just delivering online content that maximizes page views. It isn’t always the most edifying spectacle. Do we really want creative decisions about how a show looks and feels to be made according to an algorithm counting how many times we’ve bailed out of other shows?” (Andrew Leaonard, Salon.com)

Who Do Online Advertisers Think You Are?

Image: Edward del Rosario

Image: Edward del Rosario

“Should we worry about ads aimed specifically at us everywhere we go on the Web and, increasingly, on our mobile devices too? Yes, and not just because the ads can be invasive and annoying. Real-time bidding also makes the online marketplace less of an even playing field, allowing companies to send loyalty points or discounts — or price increases — to individuals based on their perceived spending power. The travel site Orbitz, after learning that Mac users spend 30 percent more on hotel rooms than P.C. users, has started to send Mac users ads for hotels that are 11 percent more expensive than the ones that P.C. users are seeing, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. […]

As our experiences become customized, there is more at stake than just discount coupons and deals. There’s also the future of our common culture. As personalization shapes not only the ads we see and the news we read but also the potential dates we encounter and the Google search results we receive, the possibility of not only shared values but also a shared reality becomes more and more elusive.” (Jeffrey Rosen, NYTimes.com)

Is Wikipedia going commercial?

“Having commissioned articles on Wikipedia dilutes one of the last respites from commercialization on the Internet. Perhaps worse, these commissioned endorsements are hidden by the guise of pure encyclopedic information.” (Maura Ewing, Salon.com)

“If PR editing from Wikipedia’s representatives — paid or not — were to be openly tolerated, Wikipedia’s reputation will most certainly be harmed in a way that is different from the harm done from vandalism or covert PR editing.” (Violet Blue, CNET)

My Dissertation Now Available

Greetings everyone…My dissertation “Network of Knowledge: Wikipedia as a Sociotechnical System of Intelligence” is now available here on the blog.

It will be permanently downloadable from the About Me page, but I also wanted to put it here on the front page in hopes that it might spur questions and comments.

A huge thanks to all of the bot operators and Wikipedia contributors who participated in the study. I plan to continue this research (once I get the IRB approval at my new institution) and would love to chat with other WP bot operators and people involved in the creation, maintenance, and governance of automated and semi-automated tools. Please email me if you’re interested.

Need an Expert? Try the Crowd

Need an Expert? Try the Crowd - University of Vermont

Photo: James Cridland

“Josh Bongard and Paul Hines, professors in UVM’s College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences, and their students, set out to discover if volunteers who visited two different websites could pose, refine, and answer questions of each other — that could effectively predict the volunteers’ body weight and home electricity use.

The experiment, the first of its kind, was a success: the self-directed questions and answers by visitors to the websites led to computer models that effectively predict user’s monthly electricity consumption and body mass index. […]

But the UVM team primarily sees their new approach as potentially helping to accelerate the process of scientific discovery. The need for expert involvement — in shaping, say, what questions to ask on a survey or what variable to change to optimize an engineering design — “can become a bottleneck to new insights,” the scientists write.

“We’re looking for an experimental platform where, instead of waiting to read a journal article every year about what’s been learned about obesity,” Bongard says, “a research site could be changing and updating new findings constantly as people add their questions and insights.” (Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont)