Sunday, December 1, 2019

Is a reworked social media the new jetpack of the future?

That is to say, we're living in the Singularity and social media is its most visible and pervasive manifestation. But it's not working all that well, not for we the people anyhow, but it seems to be just fine for those running it according the industrial strength business values of the previous era. What to do? Annalee Newitz addresses that in, A Better Social Media World Is Waiting for Us, NYTimes 30 Nov 2019. Here's a taste:
[John Scalzi] imagines a new wave of digital media companies that will serve the generations of people who have grown up online (soon, that will be most people) and already know that digital information can’t be trusted. They will care about who is giving them the news, where it comes from, and why it’s believable. “They will not be internet optimists in the way that the current generation of tech billionaires wants,” he said with a laugh. They will not, he explained, believe the hype about how every new app makes the world a better place: “They’ll be internet pessimists and realists.”

What would “internet realists” want from their media streams? The opposite of what we have now. Today, platforms like Facebook and Twitter are designed to make users easy to contact. That was the novelty of social media — we could get in touch with people in new and previously unimaginable ways.

It also meant, by default, that any government or advertiser could do the same. Mr. Scalzi thinks we should turn the whole system on its head with “an intense emphasis on the value of curation.” It would be up to you to curate what you want to see. Your online profiles would begin with everything and everyone blocked by default.

Think of it as a more robust, comprehensive version of privacy settings, where news and entertainment would reach you only after you opted into them. This would be the first line of defense against viral falsehoods, as well as mobs of strangers or bots attacking someone they disagree with.

The problem is that you can’t make advertising money from a system where everyone is blocked by default — companies wouldn’t be able to gather and sell your data, and you could avoid seeing ads. New business models would have to replace current ones after the demise of social media.
Not feeling it. A different take:
When she thinks about the future, Ms. Noble imagines a counterintuitive and elegantly simple solution to the algorithm problem. She calls it “slow media.” As Ms. Noble said: “Right now, we know billions of items per day are uploaded into Facebook. With that volume of content, it’s impossible for the platform to look at all of it and determine whether it should be there or not.”

Trying to keep up with this torrent, media companies have used algorithms to stop the spread of abusive or misleading information. But so far, they haven’t helped much. Instead of deploying algorithms to curate content at superhuman speeds, what if future public platforms simply set limits on how quickly content circulates?
To rebuild the public sphere, we’ll need to use what we’ve learned from billion-dollar social experiments like Facebook, and marginalized communities like Black Twitter.
It would be a much different media experience. “Maybe you’ll submit something and it won’t show up the next minute,” Ms. Noble said. “That might be positive. Maybe we’ll upload things and come back in a week and see if it’s there.”

That slowness would give human moderators or curators time to review content. They could quash dangerous conspiracy theories before they lead to harassment or worse.
Not feeling that either. Don't thing Annalee is either.
Twitter and Facebook executives often say that their services are modeled on a “public square.” But the public square is more like 1970s network television, where one person at a time addresses the masses. On social media, the “square” is more like millions of karaoke boxes running in parallel, where groups of people are singing lyrics that none of the other boxes can hear. And many members of the “public” are actually artificial beings controlled by hidden individuals or organizations.

There isn’t a decent real-world analogue for social media, and that makes it difficult for users to understand where public information is coming from, and where their personal information is going.
We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms — and give it back to human beings.
It doesn’t have to be that way. As Erika Hall pointed out, we have centuries of experience designing real-life spaces where people gather safely. After the social media age is over, we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild our damaged public sphere by creating digital public places that imitate actual town halls, concert venues and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. These are places where people can socialize or debate with a large community, but they can do it anonymously. If they want to, they can just be faces in the crowd, not data streams loaded with personal information.

That’s because in real life, we have more control over who will come into our private lives, and who will learn intimate details about us.
OK. I like that. Let it be over. Let's put the Singularity behind us and get on with it.

What about a reality check?
“We’re going to have really intricately fake people,” [Mikki Kendall] said. But there will also be ways to get at the truth behind the airbrushing and cat-ear filters. It will hinge on that low-tech practice known as meeting face to face. “You’re going to see people saying, ‘I met so-and-so,’ and that becomes your street cred,” she explained.

People who aren’t willing to meet up in person, no matter how persuasive their online personas, simply won’t be trusted.
Too baroque.

And whoever wrote that title,  "A Better Social Media World Is Waiting for Us", missed the boat, didn't they? That's no way to take responsibility.

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