‘You’ve got to share. You’ve got to care’: Emotional and Creative Exchange in the My Little Pony Fandom

  Referring to themselves largely (but not uniformly) as Bronies, members of the Internet-enabled MLP (My Little Pony) fandom span multiple platforms and generate a prolific amount of artwork and an intense sense of community. The most prominent fan fiction website, FiMFiction.net, hosts over a billion words from over thirty thousand authors.[1] Reddit boasts over 50 separate subreddits (forums) dedicated to fostering community and content, from /r/MLPdrawingschool to /r/TheoryOfPony. I’ve spent the last month immersed in ethnographic study of online MLP communities, looking at ways that they share and care for one another. This blog looks briefly at some of […]

Instagram: The Next Big (Academic) Thing?

Social media is one of the most prominent areas of interest in Internet scholarship, particularly the Twitter and Facebook platforms. A quick search in Google Scholar for “Twitter” pulls up over 50,000 results just since 2014. Some have argued that these two platforms are overrepresented in research: Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only popular social media sites out there. What’s next in the field of social media studies? An excellent candidate for study is Instagram: a mobile-oriented, photo/video-sharing social network site which launched in October 2010. As of February 2015, Instagram has over 300 million active users, 70% 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 […]

Unpacking patient trust in the “who” and the “how” of Internet-based health records

In an attempt to reduce costs and improve quality, digital health records are permeating health systems all over the world. Internet-based access to them creates new opportunities for access and sharing – while at the same time causing nightmares to many patients: medical data floating around freely within the clouds, unprotected from strangers, being abused to target and discriminate people without their knowledge? Individuals often have little knowledge about the actual risks, and single instances of breaches are exaggerated in the media. Key to successful adoption of Internet-based health records is, however, how much a patient places trust in the […]

The New ‘Power of Now’ and the Perils of the Hyper-Present

With modern technology, living life ‘in the moment’ has never been easier. But this new nowness is far from what earlier advocates had in mind, and might only be distracting us from the planet’s ever more pressing challenges. Last week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum at Davos saw a host of political and business leaders facing up to an ever-growing roster of pressing global problems. But a new article from Douglas Rushkoff suggests that one of the primary challenges these pioneers face relates to the very process of getting things done in the modern age, the result of […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]