Taste Performances on Social Networks

Social network profiles provide online space for individuals to express themselves. The notion of expressing oneself through a SNP is described as taste performance or textual performance (Liu, 253). Taste can be performed based on the interests a user lists on his or her SNP. These interests are cultural signs that can include music, books, movies, television shows, hobbies, and so forth (Liu, 252). Taste statements are more complicated than a user simply adding any and all interests to his or her SNP. Rather, users are aware that their audience, the other users of the particular social network, will closely scrutinize their taste statements. Users tend to carefully determine their taste statements with viewers in mind, in hopes that their SNP will stand up to the scrutiny and judgement of others (Liu, 253).




Taste is complex and influenced by a number a variables, most notably socioeconomic and aesthetic factors (Liu, 255). One’s socioeconomic status determines what interests and hobbies he or she is able to afford. In addition, it is significant that some pursuits require ample free time, another indicator of socioeconomic status (Liu, 255). It is clear that users create social network profiles in a way that they hope will indicate prestige or wealth and distinguish them from others. A users interests, or interest tokens, are not random lists. Rather, they can be “grouped into families of shared connotation, called motifs” (Liu, 257). Combinations of interest tokens give way to paradigms and syntagms. Paradigms consist of two or more mutually exclusive motifs, while syntagms are the combinations of interest tokens that from social network profiles. High-level expressions are possible due to syntagms (Liu, 257).

Related Link:

Facebook’s Graph Search and its Effects on the Site and its Users




Friending on Social Network Sites

The act of friending on social networking sites is deeply connected with real life relationships and has “the potential to complicate relationships with friends, colleagues, schoolmates, and lovers” (Boyd, 18). In the summer of 2003, Friendster began to emerge as the first large-scale social network site (Boyd, 1). However, Friendster was not used the way its creators had intended. As the first site of its kind, Friendster creators expected users to list their real-life friends on the site, but this was not the case among many users. Friendster users then and Facebook users today are typically online-friends with a large variety of people, from close friends to individuals they may hardly know. There are a variety of reasons for this phenomena, one of which is that users may want to have as many friends as possible, perhaps to be viewed as socially superior because they have so many “friends”. Just as friendships offline can be complex and image-driven, online communities are also egocentric. Social network participants “override the term ‘Friend’ to make room for a variety of different relationships so that they may properly show face” (Boyd, 4). On Friendster, online friends were also not always real-life ones because of the technological affordance specific to the site. Some users would aim to have ‘gateway Friends’ to make viewing more profiles possible (Boyd, 5).

Online profiles are used to write oneself into the online world. In particular, social networks allow for self expression and the identification of cultural location. There are many benefits of becoming part of a community, but being a member comes with a complicated social system that users are expected to adhere to. For example, simply receiving a friend request can be tremendously political. Users not only have to decide if they want to be friends with another user, they also might feel pressure not to reject a friend request they are uninterested in because “in short, it’s socially awkward to say no” (Boyd, 9). Sites such as MySpace that allow users to rank their friends can also become heatedly political. Younger users in particular lament this affordance and compare it to the drama they already experience at school now being carried over into online environments. Their experiences with this affordance are “probably quite similar to their issues in negotiating status amongst friends at school” (Boyd, 11).



Overall, the act of friending forces users to consider how they want the public to perceive them based on the connections they have online. The act of friending is far from arbitrary. Rather, it is a deeply calculated decision that carries over into the user’s other social environments. (Boyd, 18).


Related Link: How Facebook determines which friends’ photos show up on your timeline




Crowd Sourcing and The Working Consumer

Thanks to the Web 2.0, the phenomena of “crowd sourcing” has become increasingly popular. Crowd sourcing is, “the outsourcing of tasks to the general public” (Kleeman, 5). Through the act of crowd sourcing, producers intentionally rely on consumers for work such as product design, advertising, creative ideas, and solutions to specific technical problems (Kleeman, 6). The transition from consumers that are uninvolved in production to consumers that are closely involved has given rise to the term the “working consumer”. Working consumers are unlike the passive consumers of the past. Whether they realize it or not, they have a more direct effect on the products firms create. The working consumer is sometimes compensated for his or her work, but often no compensation occurs.

There are a variety of popular examples of crowd sourcing occurring today. One is sites such as amazon.com providing the opportunity for customers to write product reviews and reliability ratings (Kleeman, 8). Many sites have embraced this type of crowd sourcing, and consumers are not generally compensated for their work. Fiat offered working consumers a major role in the creative design process by offering them the chance to design the new Fiat 500 online (Kleeman, 12). Participants did not receive any compensation for their designs although Fiat benefitted from the design submissions. Lay’s “Do Us a Flavor” contest also offers consumers a chance to contribute their ideas, in this case creating new chip flavors. Unlike designing the new Fiat 500, the working consumer who creates the winning chip flavor is compensated with a one million dollar prize. Proctor & Gamble also offers the chance of compensation for its working consumers. On http://www.innocentive.com, consumers can attempt to solve posted research questions. Successful participants can be rewarded with up to $100,000, depending on the difficulty of the given question (Kleeman, 13).



Crowd sourcing has consequences for both producers and the consumers. Consumers who receive compensation for their contributions obviously benefit from crowd sourcing. In addition, consumers can benefit from having more direct input in the products being created. Producers who experience increased profits as a result of crowd sourcing also benefit. However, consumers who are not compensated for their work and ideas are at risk of being taken advantage of by producers. In addition, they may not approve of the way their ideas are used. Working consumers are rarely compensated, therefore they are in  “danger of being exploited by a corporation as a cheap supplier of valuable ideas stripped of control over their use” (Kleeman, 23). Is the existing relationship between working consumers and producers fine the way it is or do consumers deserve more compensation and recognition for their work?

Related link:

Working consumer continues to benefit from entering Lay’s contest: http://newssun.suntimes.com/lifestyles/25894912-423/lays-chip-flavor-contest-still-paying-off.html

The Anatomy of a Knowledge Community

The term “spoiler” has existed for as long as the Internet has. Prior to the Internet, television shows were discussed strictly from a viewer-perspective. Generally speaking, the information known by the public about a television show was known strictly from watching the show. Today however, the Internet allows for shows to be “discussed, dissected, debated, predicted, and critiqued” by viewers around the world (Jenkins, 25). Fans known as “spoilers” work together to discover information about their favorite shows that the producers attempt to hide.

There are numerous examples of spoilers creating a knowledge community to exchange information about shows. Jenkins chooses to use Survivor to help illustrate his point. Survivor fans use chatrooms and blogs to share clues that help to shape the larger picture of the show. They go to extraordinary lengths to find the answers they seek including watching episodes frame by frame and studying satellite photographs in search of the base camp (Jenkins, 26). The information each member of the group discovers can be shared with the others on various blogs and chatrooms, such as the “Survivor Sucks” forum.



The act of spoiling has created groups referred to as knowledge communities. The development of these knowledge communities signifies “communal, rather than individualistic, modes of reception” (26). The individual members of knowledge communities each bring different perspectives and experiences to the table. By combining all of the members’ expertise, knowledge communities implement collective intelligence (27). Although the members may come from different parts of the world, they share the common interest and goal of unlocking hidden aspects of a given television show, thus being “held together through the mutual production and reciprocal exchange of knowledge” (27). Collective intelligence can rapidly expand a group’s knowledge as each member offers another clue about a show’s hidden aspects. By pooling information, each individual’s knowledge broadens.

related link: http://henryjenkins.org/aboutmehtml


Digital Rights Management: Next Step in Copyrighting

A shift in copyright enforcement has begun, switching “from the ‘code’ of law to the ‘code’ of software” (Gillespie, 651). Digital rights management, or DRM, is the effort to make technologies themselves the first line of defense rather than relying on the court after the law has already been broken. Advocates for DRM argue that making technology the regulators or “chaperones” would be more practical, saving time and money because lawsuits would not need to occur as frequently. A significant part of DRM is “robustness rules”, mandating that manufacturers have to make technology that is tamper-proof, which may not even be entirely possible (Gillespie, 651).

DRM causes serious concerns for both the producers and the consumers. First, is the issue of being able to make technology completely tamper-proof. This would be expensive and time-consuming for the producers, and updates for the technology would be incredibly costly. Making circumvention impossible and outpacing hackers would create a challenge for manufactures they may not be able to overcome. The major problem with DRM is that it limits the user’s sense of agency with technology and infringes on privacy.

DRM could be detrimental for the overall progression of technology as well. In the past, user innovations have propelled technology forward at a rapid rate. We have users, not manufacturers, to thank for many technological improvements. Opponents of DRM argue that technology is more than just manufacturer-produced devices that consumers should be forced to use the way they were intended. Rather, technology is a constantly evolving tool that consumers both use and remake repeatedly. DRM is in direct contrast to open-source design philosophy, “where design is tampering, where innovation demands investigation” (Gillespie, 660.) Essentially, the robustness standard would cease open-design innovations and users would have much more difficulty being designers.

Although advocates of DRM claim it is a positive change in technology, it is clear that it poses a serious problem for user privacy. It also has negative consequences for the development of technology as a whole, as it would prevent users from being designers. Rather than using technology as an ever-changing tool, DRM forces consumers to use technology in a very strict setting, quashing creativity and innovation. Manufacturers would also have difficulty creating adhering to robustness rules, as creating technology that the most experienced hackers cannot circumvent is a daunting task. Digital rights management infringes on privacy and tinkering in the name of preventing piracy (Gillespie, 651).


Related post identifying examples of DRM consumers experience:



Fashion and Feminism

For my first board, I knew I wanted to connect the fashion industry with new media. I’ve always been interested in fashion and I was aware of some of the more basic ways the fashion industry implements new media technology, but I was sure my knowledge only skimmed the surface. What surprised me most was how resistant much of the industry was to using new media technology. This resistance seemed to stem from the fact that the world of new media was seen as vast and intimidating, and many brands weren’t sure where to begin or how consumers would respond. Luxury brands were particularly resistant as they thought it would cheapen their brand. One issue I ran into repeatedly was transparency; some designers embraced the idea of consumers knowing all about the brand while others feared it would open them up to criticism they weren’t ready to handle. I also experienced mixed opinions about the influence of blogs in the fashion industry. Blogs have become immensely popular to the point that some designers have even teamed up with them in a clever marketing move. Bloggers are being invited to Fashion Week and even sitting in the front row alongside the most influential figures in the business. This is obviously fantastic for the bloggers, but there is some criticism that they have deprofessionalized the fashion journalism industry. Finally, I found that brands who chose to embrace new media, particularly social media, have been met with a great deal of success. One example is Burberry, whose site “The Art Of The Trench” has been met with consumer enthusiasm. Overall, it seems that consumers have enjoyed getting a closer, more intimate look at some of their favorite brands. By offering consumers a more personal experience, brands have succeeded in developing a larger following and making their clients feel like part of an exclusive community. 


For my next board, I decided to concentrate on the way new media has influenced the feminist movement. I chose this topic mostly because I am currently taking Intro to Women’s Studies in which we often discuss the negative impact the media has on both women and men’s perception of themselves. I wanted to take a broader look at how new media has altered the way feminist activists attempt to promote social change. Overall, I found disagreement between feminists about whether new media has had positive or negative effects on the movement. Some strongly believe that social media, Twitter in particular, has become an essential tool that allows more people to become activists on their own terms. Others claim that new media within the feminist movement leads to greater inequality between those with access to technology and those without it. I found that although there is dispute over new media being good or bad, it is undeniable that it has led to feminists around the world connecting like never before. It also seems that there is an incredibly large feminist community on Twitter that has been effective in promoting awareness about feminist issues, often by using a hashtag. Finally, I attempted to examine the relationship between feminism and video games, a technology I admittedly know very little about. It was clear that there is a large group of feminists unsatisfied with the way female characters are portrayed in video games and there is a movement to change video game characters to make them less stereotyped. 




I knew virtually nothing about either of my topics at the start of this assignment. I wasn’t entirely sure how to start so I simply Googled “new media and fashion industry” and “new media’s influence of feminist movement”. The results that came up were overwhelming at first, but upon reading some of the results I realized that many of the articles shared common themes. I attempted to mix informative pins with pins that were more entertaining. Some pins are not as much fun to read, but they provide essential information that gives the reader a deeper understanding of the topic at hand. Other pins were current topics in the media I knew most people had heard of. I found it interesting to learn more about pop culture topics from a new media perspective, particularly because we don’t always make the connection between fashion/feminism and new media. I determined if a source was worth pinning based on whether I learned something new and relevant from the source. I wanted to be sure that my sources were legitimate and factual as well. I was also careful to only pin sources I knew were relevant to both new media and the topic I chose.


This assignment was my first experience using Pinterest. Before learning about Pinterest, I thought of it as a social networking tool used almost exclusively for recipes and makeup tips. I now realize there is much more to Pinterest than that, and there are some people who use it to its full potential. I found downloading the “pin it” button very valuable as it enabled me to pin directly from websites rather than alternating between Pinterest and my source. I also appreciated how Pinterest is organized. Creating separate boards based on subject is a valuable organizational tool. One issue I had with Pinterest is that it does not allow you to attach any image you want to your post, instead it limits you to the images on the source you are posting from. I also found the 500 word length to be problematic. I understand that many people who use Pinterest do not need more than 500 words for a description, but I found it challenging to give sufficient explanations of my pins within 500 words. Finally, Pinterest was sometimes incorrect about how many pins I had in my board. For example, my board on the fashion industry has 20 pins but Pinterest says it has 21. 


After experiencing Pinterest firsthand, I can certainly understand why it’s become so popular. Pinterest’s layout provides the perfect backdrop for intriguing pictures from any category imaginable. Everyone I know who has a Pinterest account generally uses it for recipes, home decor, fashion, and makeup; however it can be used for far more than just those topics. Because Pinterest has a reputation for attracting female users, I think that men are apprehensive to join. Overall, I think Pinterest demonstrates that users value the ability to organize their hobbies and interests on one site.