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<nettime> Nick Montfort: The Facepalm at the End of the Mind

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The Facepalm at the End of the Mind

   Sunday 13 July 2014, 4:30 pm   

   I can no longer keep myself from commenting on the Facebook
   "emotional manipulation" study. Alas. Here are several points.
     * Do you want your money back?

     * Don't we only know about this study done on 689,003 people because
       it was written up and reported on in a prestigious journal?

     * Could it be that other studies might have been done, or might be
       going on right now, or might happen in the future, and we might
       know nothing about them because their results will be kept as
       proprietary information?

     * Why didn't something this massive and egregious ever happen on the
       Web - you know, the open Web that isn't run by a single

     * Don't we have, or didn't we used to have, news feeds on the Web,
       like the Facebook news feed that the company manipulated?

     * Such as RSS feeds?

     * Using a free standard, which anyone in world can set up in their
       own way without adhering to a single company's policy?

     * Don't we, or didn't we, subscribe to these RSS feeds with feed
       readers, such as Liferea?

     * Wouldn't it be harder for a person or company to manipulate a news
       reader that subscribes to feeds on the open Web and is running on a
       person's own computer?

     * Particularly if this news reader is free software and you can
       build it from source that you and everyone else in the world
       can inspect?

     * Could it be that the "users," as we like to call them, are the ones
       who really made a fundamental mistake here, rather than Facebook?

     * You know how Facebook is, well, a company, a for-profit

     * So, it's actually supposed to harvest data from users as
       efficiently as possible and exploit that data to make more money,
       up to the limit of what the law allows?

     * Can't companies be sued by their shareholders if they don't act to
       maximize profits?

     * Could it be that Facebook is, in everything it does, trying to
       harvest information from, exploit the data of, and learn how to
       profit from the behavior of those people called "users," whom
       Facebook legally and officially owes absolutely nothing?

     * Remember the World Wide Web?

     * Remember blogs?

     * What happened to these blogs, including the one that I was part
       of that helped to shape the emerging field of digital media?

     * Was the recent zombie craze formulated to help metaphorically
       describe what has happened to blogs?

     * Why do I still blog?

     * Have you noticed that I get a comment on my blog about every other

     * What does it mean that I can announce the publication of a book
       that I worked on for years, and after more than two weeks, this
       post hasn't garnered a single comment?

     * Remember how, after overcoming a few (diminishing) technical
       barriers, anyone could write about whatever topics - personal,
       political, academic, technical, aesthetic - and could host a forum,
       a blog, in which anyone else in the world, as long as they were
       online, could respond?

     * Remember how attitudes toward technology, changing methods of media
       consumption and transformation, and other important discourses were
       shaped by people having public conversations on the Web in blogs?

     * Why do I get thousands of spam comments on my blog each month, sent
       in complete disregard for the things that are posted here?

     * These spam comments might be sent by organized crime botnets, in
       part, but since some of them are commercial, might they be sent by
       or on behalf of companies?

     * Companies trying to maximize their profit, indifferent to anything
       except what they can get away with?

     * Why do we think that we can fix Facebook?

     * Why did people who communicate and learn together, people who had
       the world, leave it, en masse, for a shopping mall?

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