Mobile Apps for Behavior Change

Graphs attribution: Molly Norris, Conference Photo Behavior change is one of the most difficult things to achieve whether you’re trying to alter consumer purchases or harmful lifestyles. I was able to share my thinking on how mobile apps contribute to the war being waged in becoming our better selves at Editorial Intelligence’s Mobile World Conference in association with Vodafone, The Huffington Post and Channel 4. I see two main models that inform how app developers hope to change behaviour: the rational and social learner. Apps that involve logging new data about oneself expose the previously unseen. Apps to track fitness […]

Careful, Now: Turing’s life and the construction of a genius narrative

“I wish I had,” said Steve Jobs when asked if he had designed the Apple logo as a reverence to the computer pioneer Alan Turing who committed suicide with a poisoned apple. Nevertheless, we can draw a line between the mathematician and contemporary technology companies. Without Turing the development of computer science, the end of World War II and the advances in Artificial Intelligence would have taken much longer. We celebrate Turing’s centenary and although his name is generally unknown to the wider public, he will enter history books and the pantheon of science right next to Newton or Darwin. […]

YouTube Still Appreciates User-Generated Content (For Now)

  “YouTube is popular.” There it is, folks. The safest sentence I have written on this blog. With 60 hours of content uploaded every minute and 4 billion page views every day, the pre-eminent video sharing site has found monumental success. But since 2007, what can be less confidently asserted is that YouTube is a champion of user-generated content, a bastion of hope for the layman with a camera or video file. Of course, a statement like this was tautological when YouTube was created. The only content on YouTube was of the user-generated variety, and so the site fostered the […]

Exploring the Geography of WorldBank.org

 “Once we become critical of the assumption that the Web is a neutral repository of information, the structure of the Web becomes much more interesting.” – M.H Jackson, 1997 Absences speak volumes, and yet, interpreting information gaps online has produced only muffled truths. Studies on the geographical origin of Internet content have shown old divides between rich and poor countries repeat themselves online. For example, the vast majority of the shares of Google’s user generated content, academic journal citations and authorship of Wikipedia entries tilt to the wealthier global north. Admittedly, exploring digital landscapes is far less adventurous than the globetrotting variety. However, these journeys allow us to […]

Your Voice–Your Vote?

Facebook is updating its privacy policy and its users can vote which policy version they actually want to have. Considering the torrent of criticism about Facebook’s general approach to privacy, that sounds like a good idea. Except it is not. It presents itself as a democratic procedure but is far away from the standards of an actual referendum. A chance to enhance the self-regulation process has been wasted. Who should get to decide how long Facebook should keep personal data or how they should deploy targeted advertising? The future of privacy will be decided by little tweaks in the phrasing of regulation terminology and users are […]

How Privacy Advocates Respond to Piracy Hawks: a rudimentary analysis on public salience

It makes sense that the salience of these two issues would be related. Anti-piracy laws and countermeasures tend to violate traditional privacy norms – indeed they are perhaps the biggest threat to our online privacy these days. The Google insight chart below shows the relative volume of ‘privacy’ and ‘piracy’ in news headlines since 2008. What we see here is that often after an upward blip in the public salience of piracy, there is a corresponding upward blip in the public salience of privacy (there are, however, spikes in privacy that are seemingly unrelated to piracy salience). This fits with […]

Network Effects–We Missed the Inframarginals

When discussing the internet, the economic concept that seems to have made the largest dispersion into popular discourse is the concept of ‘network effects’. “Facebook  is unconquerable because of positive network externalities.” “Product X must reach the tipping point so that network effects can take over,” etc. This sub-field is often treated as if it is more-or-less mature (and it may well be), but there is a serious theoretical ambiguity within the economic literature about exactly what a network effect is based upon. The original incarnation of the term deals with a good whose value increases as the number of […]

Losing a Grip on Your Facebook Account? You’re Not the Only One

Having a Facebook page is becoming more and more of a liability. Surely we’ve heard it all before, though. Journalists, authors, bloggers, and even occasionally incredulous Masters’ students love talking about the potential negative Facebook effects, from loss of self-esteem to increased anxiety or jealousy. But there’s a much more tangible one: you can be expelled or not hired based on what is posted on your Facebook wall. This is hardly a newsflash depending on how jaded you are about invasions of privacy, but the situation has gotten worse. In 2009, the University of Oxford’s student population discovered that their […]

What Privacy Advocated DO Get About Data Tracking on the Web

This post is a clarification of some recent work I have done, which I think has been taken in slightly a different manner than I intended it. The clarification is substantive. I wrote a piece recently for The Atlantic entitled, “It’s Not All About You: What Privacy Advocates Don’t Get About Data Tracking on the Web.” The thesis of this piece was, essentially, the power that massive user and behavioral data gives private corporation (and the asymmetry between them and everyone else) is more important ramification of this new ecology than any individual level breech of personal information. Creepily targeted […]

Free Speech in Databases: Martians on Facebook

The European Data Protection Directive contains a list of seven principles governing recommendations on protecting personal data. One of them–‘access’–includes the right to view data being held about us and correct them if they are wrong. The purpose of this is to ensure that data about me are not used in contexts that I do not want them used in. It allows me to complete incomplete information and correct mischaracterizations of my character that I would consider damaging if they were viewed and/or used by someone. Say, for instance, that someone had a database with my gender written down incorrectly. I […]