Archive for July 19th, 2007

Posted by: Serena | 19th Jul, 2007

Facebook polls

I’ve been keeping my eye for the past few weeks on the new Facebook polls. They have been interesting at best, and utterly ridiculous at worst. However, the latest one was a little different:

“Who do you look up to the most?” (CHOICES: Politicians, athletes, businesspeople, artists, or scientists)

I think part of what makes it interesting is how abstract the question is in relation to former questions. (i.e. “boxers or briefs?” “Is global warming a concern?” “What’s your favorite burger joint?”) What do they mean by “look up to”? Admiration? Respect? Most valuable to society? Most interesting? Closest to matching personal goals? Stereotypical, desirable personality traits associated with each career path? Successfulness? (As measured in happiness or monetary gain?)

Has this abstraction of query affected the results of the poll? Let’s take a look at the responses. (NOTE: Facebook does not claim statistical significance with these polls. Keep that in mind.)


Ok. So at first glance it appears that–on average–Facebook users look up to artists the most, with athletes coming in second. What about demographic breakdowns?


No surprises with the percentage of age groups. Facebook poll responses have generally followed this pattern. But wait! The male/female response ratio is a surprise. (Though only if you’re geeky like me and remember past ratios.) If I remember correctly, most previous poll responses have been dominated by women. Why was there a higher male response to this poll? Do women have a harder time answering a question like this? And is it because they don’t look up to others as often, disagree with the method of categorization, or because they recognize the high level of subjectivity in the question, which makes a thoughtful response more difficult? And why is this question so easy for men to answer? Does this simple bar graph indicate a meaningful difference in gender-related thought processes and societal influences?


Oooh! The only two categories in which females exceed males in vote percentage are, oddly enough, two occupations we (society) generally consider to be opposites: artists and scientists. What is it that we’re supposed to be getting out of this graph? That women place a greater value on art and science while men favor sports? I certainly don’t think we should jump to that conclusion; it’s probably unfair to men. But what does it mean? I think it ties back to the issue of subjectivity. How flexible is the question being asked? (It’s plastic, Dr. C.) Perhaps what happened is that, due to differences in cognitive directions, men interpreted this question in one way while women interpreted it in another. Likely?


This last one is interesting too. It seems that the oldest age group looks up to scientists more, whereas the youngest idolize artists. Naiveté vs. practicality? 18 to 24-year-olds also chose artists, and 25 to 34-year-olds went for athletes. Do age differences contribute in the same way as gender differences, or is it a bit more random?

The only observable, significant uniformity was general loathing for politicians. Unsurprising.

Posted by: Serena | 19th Jul, 2007

New Media Studies on Facebook

On Monday, we were all discussing Ashley’s idea of creating a Facebook page for the class. Many ideas were thrown out (see? there’s that phrase again) and I thought I’d recap a couple. These are more thematic than technical, but I think this Facebook thing has huge potential.

  1. Page rather than group, because we want flexibility of content.
  2. This will serve as an online community for the members of this class. Even after the class is over, we can stay in touch and continue to exchange ideas and engage in discussions.
  3. Even more exciting is the potential for new members! Future members of this class can join the community and expand the circle of students actively involved in this exploration. Students taking new media courses at other colleges will be able to join us too, until we have a huge community of students thinking, discussing, and creating.

What better way to further online discourse on new media than through students, the future creators? I’m excited.

Posted by: Serena | 19th Jul, 2007

Web 16.0

I think I can finally connect a few thoughts I was having last Thursday.

Web 2.0 is all about connections between people and interaction in the online environment. It involves creation of new content in addition to simple acquisition of available information. But what about the cabinet in the short story we read? It automatically knows what Bishop wants. Right now we input information into a computer and use it to find what we want. The computer does the work for us, but we still have to tell it what we want. Is it possible to have a computer that performs the exact functions we want without any input from us? I know it sounds outlandish; after all, wouldn’t that be bordering on the psychic? Perhaps not. There are already programs in existence that use minimal input as a starting point for extensive retrieval of desired information, even when inquiries are not particularly specific. After all, the most difficult things for us to find are the ones that aren’t straightforward information retrieval, but operations that deal with more complex needs and desires. What are we in the mood for? What will inspire us at any given moment? What do we need to go in a new direction? And I think those are the questions that computers can help with the most, potentially.

A good example of a current program that is covering a sort-of middle ground between present and future is Pandora. Yes, there’s still input required, but not much. You type in a song or artist you like, and fwoosh! Pandora gives you a playlist of other music it thinks you’ll like, based on that one song. It’s not foolproof–nothing is–but the point here is not what it’s accomplishing but what it’s attempting to accomplish. Pandora delivers what it thinks we want. It’s not a simple search and play program. It’s search and explore.

Getting back to the title of my post (I’m sure you’re all just dying of curiosity), what exactly is Web 16.0? Web 2.0 allows us to interact with each other. Web 16.0 interacts with us itself. Web 16.0 is, in effect, an independent entity. It is an enhanced mirror. Not a portal, or a window, but a crazy kind of conglomeration. It is a replacement for a human being, but so different in its capabilities that it would act more as a supplement than a replacement. And true Web 16.0 would be neither replacement nor supplement; one of those words implies lack of need for interaction between humans and the other implies inferiority to us. It would be equal. And more importantly, just as Web 2.0 acts as a network of connections and inspiration between people, Web 16.0 is a network of mutual inspiration between people and computers. As we evolve, so does our technology.

If we let it.