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Syllabus Revision: Class 15, “Facebook, Facebook, Facebook”
Will Facebook be able to stay relevant and thrive through the wave of new and growing social networks, or will it go the way of Myspace?
What we Kept:
→ Milian, Mark. 2009. “A Look Into Facebook’s Judicial System”. Los Angeles Times. December 7, 2009. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2009/12/facebookban.html This article explains Facebook’s system for governing the website, focusing mainly policies on removal of inappropriate photos and content. It gives specific examples, such as the case of a woman whose breastfeeding photos were removed for inappropriate exposure. It also shows Facebook’s point of view, which is that most of the pictures removed are in fact inappropriate/offensive in a blatant way, and that they only act on content that is reported by users. We decided to keep this article because it’s a very interesting topic, it’s easy to read, and unlike the vast majority of the existing syllabus articles it ties into our key question. It shows that Facebook has a lot of power in its users lives, and when that power is exercised, it can sometimes drive users from the website (the breastfeeding incident cost Facebook a number of users). → “A Face in the Crowd” (Project) This project involves using a third-party Facebook application to find photos of yourself that you’re not already tagged in. After the application has been used, the project instructs the student to analyze the photos and see how many are actually of them, and then to do the same with a friend. A note of revision for this project is that the application is now called “Photo Tagger” as opposed to “Photo Finder”. This project was kept because it grabs attention and gets the student interested in the topic. It’s new, cool technology, and once the student sees that photo with a red cup in their hand that they thought they were untagged from, it shocks them into thinking more about their photos on Facebook and the topic in general. This relates to our key question in that it stimulates thought about a topic that is driving some away from the network (photo availability/control over photos). → “Never Met a Stranger” (Project) This project is a very simple survey. The student is asked to send messages to 8 of their Facebook friends, asking questions about how well they need to know someone before they will add them as a friend, and then analyze the results. We like this project because it relates to our experiences, so we assume that it will relate to the experiences of others. It meshes with the key idea because it points out a negative aspect of Facebook that is pushing some users away (the same reason we kept “Face in a Crowd”). The class would probably be interested to see how other people handle random requests in relation to how they do.
What we Eliminated:
→ Finder, Alan. 2006. "For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé.” New York TImes. June 11. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/us/11recruit.html?pagewanted=2 This article discusses how interviewers/recruiters look up the social networking pages of job candidates, particularly on Facebook and Google. It talks about specific instances where job seekers have been denied the position because of their online activities. The article goes beyond just Facebook, and discusses Google search results as well. It includes commentary from job recruiters who have denied applicants for specific reasons, and talks about those reasons. We chose to eliminate this article because it doesn't really tie in with our focus question. It's about how Facebook is being used against its users in terms of job hunting, rather than discussing its new features, challengers, and struggle to continue to thrive. It’s a good article in many ways, but not for our key idea. → Eaton, Kit. 2010. “Facebook Turns to the Crowd to Monitor the Crowdies.” Fastcompany.com. October 1. http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/kiteaton/technomix/facebook-turns-crowd-moderate-crowd? partner=homepage_newsletter This is an opinion piece from Fast Company magazine. It discusses Facebook’s move to form a user council of moderators (the “FCC”) to assist in management of content that could go against Facebook’s terms and conditions. The author refers less to specific situations, and more to his opinion on possible scenarios or broad topics. The article suggests a number of theories about the motives of Facebook in the creation of the FCC, and questions how the council could affect Facebook. We chose to kill this piece for three reasons. The first is that it’s a bit of a stretch to connect it with our key idea. The second is the blatantly opinionated views of the author, and the fact that the article is less informative and more a summary of those views. The third is the length – it’s a very short article, and we were left wondering what we were supposed to take from it. → Steel, Emily. 2010. “Facebook, Myspace Confront Privacy Loophole.” The Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704513104575256701215465596. html This article from the Wall Street Journal exposes a loophole in many social networking sites’ code that could send personal information about users to advertisers. The loophole sends the username of a user to the advertiser when they click on an ad, which could allow the advertiser to see that personal information. The websites deny any purposeful sending of personal information, and say that they have deleted any coding that could allow it. The advertisers allege that they didn’t know it was going on, and that if the information was there, they aren’t looking for or using it. In terms of our key idea, the article is all about privacy and, therefore, doesn’t fit. Even if it did fit our idea, it encroaches on the internet privacy topic, so it really shouldn’t be used at all. Without our key idea in mind, we
still don’t think the article should be used. The main point of the article is an interesting tidbit, but it is fully realized in the very beginning of the article, and the rest just seemed repetitive and/or uninteresting. → Rosen, Jeffrey. 2010. “The Web Means the End of Forgetting.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/magazine/25privacy-t2.html? pagewanted=1&ref=facebook_inc Rosen believes that the Internet has become mainly a means to share information with one another, and that as a result, we will no longer enjoy the privacy that existed in the pre-Facebook era. The article suggests that we no longer have the option of a “second chance” in life, because everything is forever recorded on the World Wide Web, whether we like it or not. It goes on to expand on that idea, saying that our identity can never be erased, even if we do decide that we need to “reinvent” our world. Finally, the article describes how government officials are creating new privacy laws to protect people from scarring their reputation without even knowing it. As with most of the other articles that we eliminated, we decided this one should be discarded because it primarily deals with privacy issues, and that's not what our focus is (or, again, what any key idea for Facebook in this class should focus on - it falls under the topic of privacy and the internet). In addition, the article is tediously long (8 pages), and the topic isn’t engrossing or relevant enough for the read to be worthwhile. → “Do I Know You” (Project) This project is similar to “Never Met a Stranger”. It asks the student to test Facebook’s “People you may know” feature by looking at a sample of the website’s suggestions and going through a process to find out how well they actually know those people. Then, the student is instructed to reflect on their findings. We eliminated this project primarily because the “Never Met a Stranger” project addresses this topic, and we found it to be more interesting. There is also the fact that almost all Facebook users who are going to be friends of UCLA students probably have the foresight to block their information from public view at this point (after all of the hysteria about Facebook privacy in the news), so it would be difficult to address the "how much information can you find about the person" question – it’s going to be little to none in most cases.
What We Added:
→ Raacke, John. 2008. “MySpace and Facebook: Applying the Gratifications Theory to Exploring Friend-Networking Sites.” Liebertonline.com. April 18. http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/cpb.2007.0056 This study attempts to determine a) why people use social networking sites, b) what the characteristics are of the typical college user (e.g. sex, age, and ethnicity) are, and c) what gratification is gained by using networking websites. The results show that college students are using these social networking sites both to get better acquainted with new friends and to locate their old friends. According to the study, the more an adolescent frequents social networks, the greater the likelihood that his or her social well-being will be impacted by information received from that site (posted messages from other users). We added this study first and foremost because it’s very difficult to find scholarly articles that fit our key idea, and this is one of the few that applies. It ties in by talking about why people become so engrossed and Facebook,
and how that is a factor in its competitiveness against new networks. If a user is already attached to Facebook because it fulfills their needs (gratification), they are going to be less willing to switch over to a challenger – a definite upper hand for Facebook in the battle to stay relevant. → Olivarez-Giles, Nathan. 2011. “Facebook F8: Is Facebook a 'social operating system'? Los Angeles Times. November 22. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2011/09/facebook-f8-is-facebookbecoming-a-social-operating-system.html This article describes Facebook’s upcoming reboot, announced at F8 2011, and references interviews with executives at two Facebook partner companies. It doesn’t give much opinion – it’s focused on this particular update, what it means for users, and what proponents of the new Facebook have to say. The article is short, but there are interviews that students should be encouraged to listen to as part of the “reading”. We like this piece for a couple of reasons. First, it’s relevant to the “now”, unlike most of the other articles that are more applicable to any month/year/time period (which isn’t a bad thing, but having a current article keeps the material fresh and interesting for students). We also like the voice interviews that are included. Both of them are interesting, easy to understand, and provide a change from the monotony of reading article after article for the class. In addition, it’s very relevant to our topic – this update’s success or failure could indicate Facebook’s success or failure as a whole. → Lichtenberg, Ravit. 2011. “10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2011”. ReadWriteWeb.com. December 15. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/10_ways_social_media_will_cha nge_in_2011.php This article talks about the future of all social media, not Facebook specifically. It tells the reader what's to come, how it ties into Facebook, and how Facebook plans to remain the dominant face of social media in the future. For example, Lichtenberg predicts that companies will soon use consumer feedback in order to make many executive decisions. He also suggests that social media will become an even bigger part of the internet experience than it already is, and that Facebook will literally be a part of the entire internet (this has already clearly begun with the prevalence of the universal “like” button). This is another article that might seem to apply specifically to this year, but has core ideas that could continue to be relevant for much longer. Even if students are reading this article in 2015, they can reflect on whether or not these things actually happened, and how (if they did happen) they affected Facebook. In terms of readability, we liked the fact that the article is a list organized by section; it’s easier to digest information when it’s broken down. → Salam, Reihan. 2010. “The Future of Facebook”. Forbes.com. April 26. http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/26/facebook-google-microsoft-media-opinionscolumnists-reihan-salam.html This article is about Facebook’s Open Graph initiative, which was the beginning of its push to integrate Facebook into every part of our internet life (it is now a year old). It talks about what exactly Open Graph is, then goes into a discussion of what its effects could be on internet users, especially the middle-upper class (college educated, disposable income). Basically, Open Graph is Facebook’s attempt to tie together the internet through what users “like”, using information about users’ interests to tailor the web to their tastes. A great quote from the article that
describes the initiative well is “…Facebook is attempting to serve as the infrastructure that knits together the world's information.” This article is great in how it describes Facebook’s first organized push to become an influence on the rest of the internet. If you asked a typical user what Open Graph was, they would probably have no idea. But if you asked them about the little like buttons that they see on many news media websites, they would more than likely know what you’re talking about. Salam does a fantastic job of illustrating how Facebook is affecting the rest of the internet through Open Graph, and having this on the syllabus would help to inform students of Facebook’s huge internet influence. → Chesters, Laura. 2011. “Facebook – King of the internet or the next Myspace?”. Independent.co.uk. January 9. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/facebookndash-king-of-the-internet-or-the-next-myspace-2179584.html This article mainly discusses the future of Facebook. It discusses the massive investments going into Facebook, some of which are unimaginably huge for their currently profitability. It also talks about possibilities for Facebook to expand even further. Creating more Facebook games in-house, using Facebook ‘credit’ as a way to purchase things online and even expanding into something like Google’s search capabilities are all listed as possibilities. Chesters closes by stressing the extreme importance of continued modification and expansion of Facebook if it is to stay viable. This is probably the article that we are most insistent on being added to the syllabus. Just looking at the title (which is basically our key question) shows how relevant it is to our topic. It’s extremely well written and it covers a large amount of material without being too drawn out. We also like how it discusses multiple possible Facebook futures. → “We Don’t Care That You Ate Ice Cream Today” (Project) Proposed assignment instructions: For one week, you must write two status updates a day. One of the status updates can be interesting or important, but the other should be completely unimportant (Ex. “About to get my Red Bull on!”). After the week is over, go over any comments/likes/dislikes your status updates received. Did you receive more “attention” than usual, and was that attention good or bad? Did your “friends” notice the increase/decrease in status updates? In addition, describe how this experience makes you feel about the status update feature of Facebook; do you now feel that it is more/less useful than you did before? The idea behind this project is to get students thinking about status updates. Many Facebook users haven’t really examined what they write statuses about, or how people react to their statuses. Hopefully, after doing this project, students will either feel that this feature of Facebook is vital or that it’s useless, and that can stoke discussion about Facebook vs. other networks (especially Twitter, in this scenario) in general. → “MIA For a Day” (Project) Most college students check and update their Facebook very frequently; it has, without a doubt, become one of our main methods of communication. Deactivate your Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=13015) for a whole day, without announcing it to your friends. Reactivate your Facebook the following day and examine whether or not your Facebook friends noticed your 1-day deactivation. If they did, record who noticed/their responses. If any, were those "friends" your
close friends, classmates, acquaintances, co-workers, or family? Were you surprised by who noticed your deactivation? Were there users who you expected to notice your deactivation, but didn't? If no one made a remark about your 1-day deactivation, why do you think that was the case? Lastly, how did not being on Facebook for a day affect your life? This assignment is all about making students understand how vital Facebook has become to young adults. Being off of Facebook for a day sounds easy, but when students find themselves forgetting when/where events are and itching to know what their friends are up to, they’ll have to face the hard reality of what a powerful force Facebook is in a college student’s life. That should provoke discussion of whether or not the friends we have on Facebook/Facebook in general are replaceable by other networks.
Didn’t Make the Cut:
→ Brodkin, Jon. 2010. “Facebook vs. Twitter”. Networkworld.com. June 7. http://www.networkworld.com/news/2010/060710-tech-argument-facebooktwitter.html This is an article about the differences and similarities between Facebook and Twitter. The basic message that the author is getting at is that Facebook dominates the social networking landscape, but Twitter is on the rise. It discusses how the many privacy issues Facebook has had are driving users away. It also mentions that Facebook launched something similar to Twitter in 2009, but shut it down after less than a year, something that not many people know. This piece was interesting, but we ended up leaving it out of our “add” section. For one thing, it addresses a very specific topic. Facebook vs. Twitter is probably not going to be as big of a debate as it is in 2011, so the article couldn’t really be used in future years. The article is also written rather unprofessionally, and it’s a bit short to have as a reading on the syllabus.
→ Stone, Brad and Story, Louise. 2007. “Facebook Retreats on Online Tracking”. Isy.vcu.edu. November 30. http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar? q=cache%3AKT2Fa99k4mkJ%3Ascholar.google.com %2F+facebook&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5 This article concerns a tracking program Facebook introduced (and subsequently removed) in 2007, and the petition against it that garnered over 50,000 signatures. The program was called Beacon, and it tracked user information behind the scenes for use by advertisers. In addition to describing the program, the article discusses the irony in the fact that other companies such as Google, AOL, and Microsoft routinely track where people go online based on the searches they have conducted without nearly as much backlash. This article was interesting and credible, which is why it almost made it onto our suggested “add” list, but in the end it wasn’t relevant to our topic or
current enough (it was written 4 years ago about a specific news event). It also caused some confusion in that it praises Facebook for innovative advertising, and then bashes it for violating privacy rights. → “Like or Dislike” (Project) Facebook is constantly revamping their website in order to maintain their status as the premier social networking site. Some changes have been well received by the public, such as the "like" button; others are met with extreme disapproval. With the latest update to Facebook, everything seems to have changed, including the streaming sidebar, subscriptions to friend's profiles, and an "Ask Question" button at the top of the homepage. Research five of Facebook's “tools” and find out what functions they perform. Are those functions useful to you? Find at least 2 tools that you like and 2 that you dislike. For each of them, record when (if possible) the feature was introduced, why you like/dislike the feature, and whether or not you feel the feature should remain on Facebook. While this is an interesting idea for a project, there were two reasons we couldn’t add it. First, if there hasn’t been an update to Facebook recently, the project isn’t very interesting to students. Second, it’s difficult to think of questions that apply to everyone, because the guidelines need to be so vague to accommodate all the different ways students could complete the project.
What we considered, but turned out to be unsuitable:
→ Wang, Bin. 2009. “Survival and competition among social networking websites: A research commentary on ‘Critical Mass and Willingness to Pay for Social Networks’”. WestlandSciencedirect.com. August 2. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1567422309000520 This article (which is based on a separate article) attempts to explain the effects that people in a social network have on one another. It talks about how social networks can become popular/overtake existing sites or catch up with market leaders. For example, one driving force behind the popularity of Myspace and Twitter was the ability to customize your profile, according to Bin. In addition, the article mentions competition between networks and issues that affect the survival of social networks. Several theories concerning social networking are discussed. This article was mostly unusable for our purposes. For one thing, it’s based on a different article, and it’s difficult to understand without having knowledge of that article. For another, it refers to a number of different theories, which would probably serve only to confuse students. It did have some tidbits that related to our topic, but none meaningful enough to assign it as a reading. → MacMillan, Douglas. 2010. “Google Buzz Won't Weaken Facebook”. Businessweek.com. February 10. http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/feb2010/tc2010029_ 989050.htm In this article, MacMillian discusses Google Buzz in terms of its potential threat to Facebook. He first explains the Buzz network in general - what it does and how it
operates. He then talks about the fact that Buzz is actually quite different from Facebook. The conclusion drawn in the article is that Buzz won’t threaten to take traffic away from Facebook so much as offer an additional option for users. We found that we can’t use this article mainly because Google Buzz was a very short-lived network. If students even knew what it was when it existed, they probably won’t be able to relate to the subject because it wasn’t popular enough for many of them to have used it. Even if Buzz was relevant in today’s internet society, a comparison between two networks directly is too specific for our purposes (see the “Facebook vs. Twitter article in our “considered” section).