What social futures are we enabling? Connective or consumptiove? Photos Sandra Geitz CC-BY-NC-3.0
Since last posting Exploring engaging futures, I’ve been noticing an increasing degree of discomfort and tension in the public sharing our digital selves. We seem to be experiencing greater conflict between our desire for openness, connectedness and authenticity and our opposing concern to maintain privacy and freedom of access and choice as social technologies evolve.
What is being seen and heard? What might it mean?
Echo-chamber effects? Or emerging novelty?
Whilst in transit and listening to radio All in the Mind, Professor Alex Pentland discusseding his book, Social Physics, that was reviewed in my last post. His key finding is that good ideas are spread more successfully through a combination of exploration, behaviours that introduce novelty and diversity of ideas, and through engagement, socialisation and validation of ideas from within ones’ close peer network. His key contribution was directly quantifying both types of actual human behaviour. His method minimised the scope to behave differently in our public and private life spheres. Prior studies were skewed by exagerated self-reporting or self-editing in their social surveys. The Facebook effect in the social sciences…
Next, the radio program explored the We Feel research project that maps emotions globally by sampling world’s Twitter feed. This collaboration between Australia’s prominent scientific researchers of CSIRO, and mental health researchers of the Black Dog Institute, charts the world’s emotional state real-time. Language posted to Twitter is analysed live for emotions and is visualised. What might this mean when we edit and make choices as to what we share publicly? Impression management is a well known phenomena of social media, as we tend to share news that reinforce positive impressions, that we are seen to be in the know...
We Feel? An interactive real-time global emotional map. CSIRO Data license non commercial, wefeel.csiro.au
And how about those Twitterbot accounts inflating follower counts and retweeting posts… More impression management. So is Twitter really a high potential platform to consider for mental health interventions?
What emotions dominate your country’s Twitter stream?
Next social breadcrumb came via The Economist. It described how exceptionally powerful data-mining companies, like Dataminr, can provide up to 5-10 minutes edge in real-time analysis for financial investment customers, newsrooms and public sector services. Twitter’s global feed of over 500 million tweets are rated for over 30 significant indicators. Those tweets that score exceptionally highly for signal to noise are broadcast to clients. Their algorithms were tuned over time to amplify signals, from proven patterns of past breaking news traced back to earliest weak signals. So this model relies on past patterns to discover several minutes of an early warning signal. Yet, current bigdata approaches struggle to wrangle novelty, for now...
Interestingly, Dataminr claims to use as few as three tweets to signal an alert. Three novel independent sources was the rule of thumb for novelty that our Strategic Foresight lecturer, Dr Joe Voros advised us to notice during broad environmental scanning. How are these datamined events more or less valid than manually choosing between environmental scanning sources?
Then breadcrumb from The Atlantic, via Bryan Alexander, on the fascinating developments in facial recognition software. Machine-learning algorithms are claimed to be able to recognise human emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, repugnance and scorn in the field of vision of one’s Google Glasses. Crucially, they claim to be skilled at discerning fake emotions from genuine emotional expressions. And... test data has shown the machine can better our human ability at recognition.
Yes, that’s quite unsettling. Creepy even. Wearable technology that can identify individual faces, voices, real emotions and an ability to make judgements between any inconsistencies in the inputs. NLP on steroids? Will there be no place to be truly human anymore? Emotional control trumping social smoothing, no more white lies and social platitudes that ease and bind us together.
Are we emotionally resilient and ready for such this raw truth? Is this really desirable and socially useful?
Beware of overshare
And then I stumbled across the concept of the invasive valley, via @busynessgirl. She adapted the uncanny valley in robotics to personalisation; which describes the dip in human comfort or revulsion as robots become increasingly human-like.
For personalisation, in our physical, real world, we allow different degrees of access to our personal data. From low access given to strangers, increasing to work colleagues, family, best-friends and partners to full access by ourselves. Anyone who over-reaches allowed access may cause us severe discomfort or threat, as in the case of stalkers.
Creepy curve: adapted from the invasive valley of personalisation of @busynessgirl, and Meeker’s KPCB social message trends via Matthew Henry and @stoweboyd
In our social media and digital realm, we allow differing degress of access to personal data. Appointment apps contain little personal data. Our better selves are broadcast in Facebook to large groups of distant connections. Popular last year, WeChat, SnapChat, and other messaging apps share more of our intimate selves with our close peers.
Are we seeking closer connections? Do experiences feel genuine and socially useful?
Do we seek more privacy, or do we have impression fatigue with public social spaces?
Platforms like Apple and search engines like Google provide deeper access to our personal data and preferences, whether incidental or by our choices. New product releases may take us down the valley, if they are seen as more socially invasive rather than useful. Google Glass and Quantifying myself are within my valley currently, though each of us has our own balance between utility over personalisation.
What is in your valley of invasive access?
What do you consider over-sharing?
Which social futures do we enable, and which do we reject?
Meeker, M 2014, Internet Trends 2014: Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, slideshare, viewed on 2June http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-2014-05-28-14-pdf
Milne, D, Paris, C, Christensen, H, Batterham, P and O’Dea, B 2014, The We Feel emotion explorer, website, viewed on 26May http://wefeel.csiro.au