A Social University: Relationships Between Oxford Colleges in the Twittersphere

Though the University of Oxford’s prestigious reputation may convey the impression of a monolithic institution, it is — in reality — a loosely tied federation of colleges with varying histories and sizes. I aimed to elucidate relationships between colleges as revealed through social media profiles. I then created this visualisation to look specifically at geographic relationships between colleges, investigating the question, “Does closer proximity create closer ties between colleges on Twitter?” The answer, as the visualisation reveals, is not a simple “Yes”. Rather, it appears that a complex mesh of variables influences social media relationships between colleges, some of which […]

#Celebgate: Searching for Illicit Content During the 2014 Celebrity Photo Leaks

On August 31st, 2014, nearly 500 sensitive images captured from the mobile phones of various celebrities were released onto 4chan.com. With alarming alacrity, these stolen personal photographs made their way to slightly more mainstream content sites, including Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter. Internet users and media respondents have termed the phenomenon “Celebgate” or, more popularly and vulgarly, “The Fappening” (a portmanteau between happening and slang for masturbation). The leak raised numerous questions about privacy rights online, iCloud security, and the responsibilities of host sites. With the takedown of these photos as an exemplar, how do we search for information that makes […]

Orwell, Huxley, Banksy

Last month two new Banksy installations emerged, and they have something important to say about what we choose to fear in the age of the Internet. In the first piece, a stone-wall mural near the headquarters of GCHQ (Britain’s equivalent of the NSA), three special agents in trench coats and fedoras attempt to surveil a derelict phone booth. In the second, on a wood panel screwed into a stone wall in Bristol, a man and woman embrace in darkness, each halfway breaking their hug to check a glowing smartphone held behind the other’s head. Neither piece was, in itself, very notable. In fact, there was […]

Data, Knowledge, and Knowing Through Data

We live in a world ruled by data in all realms, not just the scientific or mathematical but the political and the personal. This comes with both benefits and costs. The benefits are well known. The unprecedented access to evidence allows for more detailed analysis and more informed research, for instance. The costs, on the other hand, are typically tied to ethical problems raised by data collection regarding invasion of privacy, digital dossiers, and database misuse. The influx of data and our increasing willingness to turn to it, however, generates a more pernicious problem closely associated what makes our surplus […]

The Dance of Twitter-plomacy

UPDATE: One day after this post was published, Michael McFaul announced his resignation from the post. The New York Times wrote a frank article about him, where his  Twitter skills took front and center. It is good to see mainstream publications are recognizing government talent in digital skills!   Contemporary communication brings a need for diplomacy to even seemingly trivial channels. Case in point: a few days ago, the US Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul posted the following tweet about the upcoming Olympics in Sochi: McFaul is in an interesting position on this. On the one hand, the Olympics are an inherently […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

CNN, Some Consistency Please?

CNN recently suspended political contributor Roland Martin after he posted controversial tweets during the Super Bowl. If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl — rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) February 6, 2012   The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) asked CNN to fire Martin for advocating “violence against gay people.” CNN issued the following statement to the Washington Post: “Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have […]