Debates in Digital Culture 2019/Printable version

Debates in Digital Culture 2019

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Online Communities


A graph showing the number of internet users by country. Online communities connect people globally.
There is often a tendency to define a dichotomy between life online and offline; however, in societies with constant, easy access to technology, this distinction has blurred nearly to nonexistence [1]. Social relationships can begin or be maintained virtually through various types of online communities, but there is some debate over whether these communities are beneficial or detrimental for their users, most of whom are young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 [2].

Franchise CommunitiesEdit

Franchise communities are those which allow fan made content - particularly fan art, game modding and fanfiction - to be sold or available to other members of the community. Largely these works are hosted on websites such as Etsy, Redbubble, Steam, Archive of Our Own, and fanfiction, which allow for simple ways to share fan made content. Franchise communities allow creators to give back to their respective fandoms through content such as fan art and fan fiction. In many ways, these communities unite entire fanbases in ways previously unforeseen. However, there are some issues with franchise communities, particularly in regards to those who earn money through the creation of fan made content. As a result of this, there are ongoing debates about the legality of fan made content and its place in the wider fandom community.

Fan Made Content and the LawEdit

Fan made content will always be a point of contention with the original licence holders of the content - particularly those who are able to make a profit from their fan made creations. Largely those who are to monetise their content are often fan artists which have multiple platforms to distribute their content without the consent of the original license holders. Whilst it is not illegal to create fan made content and upload it online for other members of the community - monetising that content is, as fan creators do not own the rights to original source. Despite this, websites such as Etsy and Redbubble do not strictly enforce a no copyright content rule despite it being in both their terms of use [3] [4] that they follow an Intellectual Property Policy to ensure that copyrighted content is not hosted on their site. Even with those policies in place, Etsy is known as one of the largest hosts of fan made content.

Anne Rice is one of many authors who disapproves of fan fictions

However, it is not just the monetisation of fan made content that comes up against the law - fan fiction is often placed under pressure to be removed by the original authors due to copyright issues. Anne Rice, author of The Vampire Chronicles, disallows all works of fan fiction based on her creations [5] - requesting that (one of the largest hosts of fan writing) remove all stories featuring her characters. FanFiction now states in their community guidelines [6] a list of authors or publishers who have disallowed fan made works to be posted based on their site. Content creators often want to produce original content to bring in an audience, but do not want those works to be affected by fan made content, therefore protected by legal status and the integrity of the original work.[7] However, the moment works are placed into wide circulation, there are fan creators who will produce content for the gratification of the community, monetised or not.

Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) heads several non-profit fan supportive websites

There are websites however, that are attempting to ease the legal strain of fan made content. Archive of Our Own (AO3) is a non-profit fan works website, run by the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW), relying on donations visitors to the site to allow it to continue running. The non-profit status of the website allows it to host content without the possibility of legal action as no money is made by those posting works. Due to this, AO3 has a strict non-advertising policy for its users, direct links to funding websites such as Ko-fi or Patreon are not allowed as this violates non-profit rules placing AO3 culpable of monetising content.[8]

Despite the legal implications of monetising fan made content, many creators will continue to do so. Whilst fans will mostly rely on gift culture (receiving content for free from members of the community) there are many who will continue to distribute fan made content through websites like Etsy. Content creators will always skirt the lines of the law, particularly in regard to the monetisation of content, but as of yet there has been no legal ruling to say that fan made content harms the original source or that it should be considered illegal.[9]

Interest CommunitiesEdit

Interest communities are those online websites that encourage members to talk about their own personal interests, such as a specific music artist, film or book, to name a few. In this sense, these websites are different to those used for personal use (personal communities), as the individual is not the focus point. Rather, users connect over their shared interests, leading to the creation of a fandom which is often a fairly exclusive group.

Social Media: Tumblr, Twitter and RedditEdit

The Sherlock fandom community stick together during the show's hiatuses

Tumblr is a microblogging platform which has been ‘reported to be the most popular social site among [the] young generation, as half of Tumblr’s visitors are under 25 years old.[10] For many individuals, Tumblr has become a safe space to come together as a community and share thoughts and interests on different areas.

Megan DeSouza explained in an article about the affects on individuals within Tumblr communities ‘Entire online "communities" of like-minded individuals can be brought together without ever knowing each other's real-world identities, simply through interaction on such networks’[11]. DeSouza used the BBC Drama ‘Sherlock’ as an inspiration for her looking into Tumblr to see how the fans interacted, maintaining their community between the show's hiatus. She found that a lot of the communities came together to speculate what was going to happen within the next coming episodes and seasons, as well as sharing their favourite photos and ‘gifs’ of the show.

Twitter has enabled fans to create groups which over time become a close knit group of people, creating a community. These groups range from supporting music artists to films or TV series. Since it was introduced in 2006 Twitter has established its reputation as the main platform for communication between celebrities and their audiences [12]. The website facilitates discussion between celebrities and the user, with the first big fandoms on Twitter arguably being the One Direction and Justin Bieber fandoms.

One Direction at the Logies Awards 2012

The One Direction fandom in particular proved to be dominant across the platform, with just over 30 million followers. In 2015, fans dominated the trending feature on the website, as they paid tribute to the band's five-year anniversary and successfully created trends dedicated to each of the members over a week long period [13]. However, these fandoms often do not interact well with others on the platform, such as between the One Direction and Justin Bieber fandoms. In 2016, tensions were heightened between the two, when Bieber's fandom beat One Direction's to the award of Best Fandom in the iHeartRadio Awards.

Despite the negatives that can arise from fandom culture, Twitter is a place that allows different groups of people to bond over their common interest. Creating a feeling of community, the fandom can often become a close-knit group of people who feel closer to their favourite celebrity and can discuss with like-minded people their opinions and views.

Reddit, as well as many other forum based online communities, has been the subject of a variety of research over the years, not only into the site itself and how it functions, but also into the users. One study in particular looked into the way that users function in Subreddits, while also asking the question of how likely it is for one user to participate in multiple Subreddits. This research found that although the Reddit users can generally be incredibly active in their own communities, and that many do take on a specific role, a large majority of Reddit users do not actively participate in more than one community. [14]

Smart MobsEdit

File:Social Media Censorship.jpg
Thinking outside of the group mentality can make you a target.

Smart Mobs is a term used to describe a group of people who use digital technology and media to co-operate and communicate. The concept was defined by Howard Rheingold[15]. A smart mob can be seen as the embodiment of collective intelligence and once communicating they can gather physically or online.

An example of smart mobs using digital technology to then connect in the real world would be planning protests or riots via texting and then meeting up to actually take part (example: 2005 French riots). This page will focus on the actions of smart mobs on the digital space.

Online, smart mobs often gather on social media where it can be easy for groups of like-minded people to attack and berate someone else something they have said or done. The most common place for this type of social mob mentality is twitter where it is easy to hide your identity[16]. A new term gaining popularity is cancel culture where a mob declares someone to be "cancelled" due to something they have done that has been seen as problematic or unacceptable. Critics of this often discuss how people are usually being vilified for things they have done in the past. A recent example would be Kevin Hart's 2011 homophobic tweets being brought up in 2019 after repeated previous apologies. This resulted in him being forced to back out of hosting the 2019 Oscars.[17].

Often these mobs refuse to accept that people's opinions can change over time, as well as what is culturally acceptable changing too. The concept of "social justice" and "social justice warriors" did not exist in the mainstream before around 2013 [18] Those in the mob act morally superior and hold people to unobtainable standards by digging into people's past when they likely have said similar things themselves.

Fandom HierarchiesEdit

Fan communities have always had a place online ever since the domestication of the internet in the late 90’s, it furthered their existing access [19]. In fandoms, it only seems natural that there would be negative aspects; if a big enough group gets together not everyone is going to be nice.

Current Doctor Who Logo

Doctor Who, after it’s reboot in 2005, touched the lives of more than one generation of fans. From the arguments of Andrea MacDonald, 5 levels of hierarchy are established: Knowledge, fandom level, access, leaders and venue [20] each amounting to an individual’s importance in the fandom. Bourdieu’s theory of society assumes that knowledge is a metaphor for capital; a cultural capital [21]. In relation to Doctor Who, a generational hierarchy formed, with older fans believing they had more capital and newer fans believing they had better access [19] the way fandoms worked in 2005, was different and more technologically charged. While the formation of a hierarchy in a fandom seems natural it is discouraging, in her 1998 research MacDonald believed that hierarchies were there to help new fans [20] but some 2 decades later it would seem that hierarchies are used more to belittle fans; for not knowing enough or not buying enough, making fandoms a much less harmonious place to be.

Personal CommunitiesEdit

Various Social Media Logos

Personal communities, such as Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram, allow users to create a profile containing personal information and facilitate communication with other users through direct (direct messaging), passive/voyeuristic (browsing without commenting) or broadcast means (e.g. stories, live broadcasting), allowing for widespread sharing and consumption of user-created content. Users are motivated by the opportunity for social interaction, archiving and self-expression.[22] Users have control over their privacy settings to an extent, picking and choosing how much information to disclose, and whether or not they would like their profiles to be freely viewable without permission. The type of content and connections that are built and shared in these communities are entirely down to the user based on who they choose to follow and to whom they allow access to their own pages.

With constant access to our phones, communication occurs in an instant.

Young people especially spend a large amount of their everyday lives online, with constant access to endless information [23]. This temporal convenience allows users to keep track of updates in their friends’ and family’s as though they were physically there at the time. These types of interactions are beneficial in building and maintaining various types of social capital in different ways. Social capital "broadly refers to the resources accumulated through the relationships among people" [24], with bridging social capital being weaker or loose connections with others which provide information but not necessarily emotional support. Ellison et al's Facebook study indicated that bridging social capital is facilitated through the platform's lowering of barriers of participation, meaning shyer students may feel less inhibited to become involved and build such social capital. [24]. With bonded social capital, which is characterized by close and deep emotional connections (e.g. close friends and family), Facebook can be useful in maintaining pre-existing close relationships (by allowing users to send birthday wishes, for example).[24]. Such platforms also allow for the maintenance of social capital where a person is physically disconnected from a previous community, such as a student leaving their home town for university. Studies have shown personal communities and the connections built and maintained through them also have health and physical benefits, whether it is information and support when looking for a job after unemployment [25], or psychological well-being related to stress-relief.[26] Public health as a whole has scope for improvement through personal online communities too, whether it is through public health notices posted on these platforms to raise awareness, patients speaking to other patients online or even patients speaking to their healthcare professionals through platforms like Facebook and Twitter.[27] There are also benefits outside of a user’s personal life, as they can share and spread information and articles in an instant, expanding others’ knowledge of current events, scientific discoveries, and more. While there are concerns related to bias or unreliability, with a little bit of effort, one can easily keep track of important events in the world.

Online Identity and DeindividuationEdit

While social networks offer several beneficial aspects, they can also be a place for manipulation and deception. The freedom offered by the Internet, and more specifically by social media platforms, allows people to craft an image of themselves that does not necessarily correspond to reality. While concealing one’s identity is normalised and at times encouraged in the context of interest communities[28], the ability to manipulate how one presents themselves in online communities can lead to crimes such as identity theft and fraud.

The most notorious example of identity theft is catfishing, an example of identity replacement-the act of substituting another identity for one’s own[29]-which occurs when an individual uses someone else’s pictures and fabricates personal details, usually with the intention to establish a relationship with an unsuspecting victim. This practice can reveal especially dangerous if the relationship progresses to a meeting in real life, which could lead to fraud or even assault. Another possible downside of online anonymity is deindividuation. This phenomenon occurs when individuals lose their sense of personal identity after disguising their own identity online or after becoming members of a group. According to this theory, people subject to deindividuation tend to behave differently than they would without the anonymous status offered by online communities[29]. This leads to a broader discourse regarding people’s social engagement, and whether people’s online activity influences the way they behave in society. Jaron Lanier argues that as most aspects of our lives have now become digitalised, human interactions are meant to follow[30]: the way social media connects us to one another is also one of the main aspects that make them so addictive, leading users to feel the need to ‘fit in’ with the rest of the community, possibly losing their individuality.

With deindividuation also comes the threat of a loss of creativity. Lanier argues that the internet has undergone a “missionary reductionism” with the rise of Web 2.0, whereby personhood is reduced, and individuals become fragments of their true selves in online communities (2011, p.48)[30]. He states that “using computers to reduce individual expression is a primitive, retrograde activity, no matter how sophisticated your tools are (2011, p.48)[30]. Examples of this include websites like Facebook which reduce personalities into simplified online fragments or Wikipedia’s which seek to erase viewpoint entirely to give an illusion of superhuman quality. When the online self is deindividuated and dehumanised all that remains is mush as quantity does not necessarily equate quality.

Trolling and Aggression in Online CommunitiesEdit

The Internet Troll

Online anonymity has earned the World Wide Web the nickname the 'Wild West Web': a lawless digital realm where pseudonyms allow users to post their most primal thoughts with little to no repercussions in the offline world. The decentralised organisation of the internet coupled with online anonymity creates an environment without the normative limitations needed to keep aggression in check (Malamuth, Linz & Yao, 2005)[31] Anonymity in online communities has two key effects on aggressive behaviour: it protects 'trolls', or "an anonymous person who is abusive in an online environment", (Lanier, 2011, p.60)[30] from being held accountable and depersonalises victims.

In serious cases, victims of online trolling and cyberbullying have committed suicide. In 2012, a 15-year-old girl from Canada named Amanda Todd, took her own life after being harassed online by an internet 'troll' located in the Netherlands. In addition to personal victims, the latest incidences of online trolling have had political implications. The Internet Research Agency in Russia is responsible for hiring a team of internet 'trolls' to spread pro-Russian propaganda in countries like the United States.

Online communities are often praised for their ability to provide social support (such as fan communities), but the ever present dark side to this is that it can have the same effect with aggressive communities. The Internet can give the impression to individual users that many others share the same ideas or interests as they do, no matter how deviant the interests are. This has been the case with extremist groups who use the uninhibited realm of the Internet as "a fertile ground for growth and expression"(Malamuth, Linz & Yao, 2005, p.176).[31] In her report on the Alternative Influence Network, Lewis (2018)[32] identifies the dangers of right-wing extremist communities on the video sharing platform Youtube, emphasising how influencers on the site are able to lend credibility to one another, despite openly extreme, white nationalist ideologies.


Depending on someone's perspective, communities formed online can have both a positive and negative impact on both society and individuals. On a positive level, they can provide emotional support and entertainment , as well as facilitate business activities. [33]. An example of these business activities is user-generated fan content that is shown online and then can be bought by other users if they like the artwork. People can find others with similar interests and bond over celebrities, tv shows and music. However, there can be negative consequences to online communities. Users can suffer from de-individualisation or depression stemming from online activities. Not all communities are nice places, with trolling or mob mentalities causing people to be hurt showing that the digital space can have real life consequences.


Web 2.0


One way of understanding Web 2.0, as proposed by Murugesan, is that it was a development in web technology that "emphasiz[ed] peers’ social interaction...and present[ed] new opportunities for...engaging its users more effectively." (Murugesan, 2007)[34]. Unlike the internet that came before, Web 2.0 allowed the common web user a deeper engagement with online media through the innovative ways a website could now be designed. Many Web 2.0 sites gave users the power to create accounts to make online content, like: uploading videos on YouTube, contributing to articles on Wikipedia, or posting about their life on Myspace or Facebook. Allowing anyone to contribute, however, made Web 2.0 equally dangerous, with an example being online hate speech against minority groups. This heightened level of interaction dawned a new age in research for communications and media scholars worldwide because of the developments in online culture, politics and business, and potentials for further technological growth. In 2019 Web 2.0 is becoming outdated as the internet continues to grow and develop into forms greater than it could ever be.

This essay seeks to explore what Web 2.0 is, comparing it the retrospectively named 'Web 1.0' of the past. In addition, it will explore the potentials of Web 2.0 in areas like 'participatory' culture, Web 2.0's role in different industries as well as collective intelligence. Finally, it will explore the death of Web 2.0 and the new technologies subsequently developed that supersede it. Within the exploration of the main facets of Web 2.0, reference will be made to leading media scholars (Jenkins, O'Reilly, Lanier etc.), regarding their theories and viewpoints on the development of Web 2.0 and how they see its impact on our society.

Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0Edit

Web 1.0, also termed by Berners-Lee as “read only web" gave users the chance to find information online "search and read" (Getting, 2007)[35]. This was helpful to website owners as they were able to establish an online presence and allowed them to inform users about important information. Web 1.0 was a simple platform for users to browse, compared to the new engaging version of Web coined as “read-write” web by Barners-Lee. The transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 made it possible for all users to create content and interact with one another. With the appearance of social media (such as MySpace, Facebook), video sharing websites (like YouTube), and blogs that rely on users submissions, users were able to engage with one another. Users finally had the ability to interact with each other, edit their own page, and share their stories with pictures and videos in a user-generated virtual community. Flew describes that Web 2.0 is the transition from "personal websites to blogs and blog site aggregation, from publishing to participation, from web content as the outcome of large up-front investment to an ongoing and interactive process, and from content management systems to links based on tagging, or what is known as folksonomy” (Flew, 2008).[36]

When delving deep into the transition from Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, it is important to understand what differentiates the two versions in order to fully comprehend their usages. These differences can be detected in a variety of areas such as, "technological (scripting and presentation technologies used to render the site and allow user interaction); structural (purpose and layout of the site); and sociological (notions of friends and groups)” (Cormode & Krishnamurthy, 2008)[37]. Beginning with the technological and structural aspect of Web 2.0. The level of sophistication between current and beginning websites is easy to see when looking at the technological and structural aspect. Rather than going through code as would have been the norm in the years of Web 1.0, Web 2.0 has easy ways to make websites and engage on online platforms as seen with businesses such as Wix.[38] Wix allows users to easily make websites without the difficulty and hassle of using code, this in turn further emphasizes Web 2.0’s ability to provide easy to use and accessible tools for its users to utilize. The ideas of the sociological factors are arguably the most profound change that occurred during the transition from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the idea of connecting with friends and staying connected to them. The use of instant messaging that was pioneered by sites such as Bebo and Windows Live Messenger has introduced a level of connectivity never seen in the world before. In conclusion, Web 2.0 can not only be seen as a departure from Web 1.0 but also a departure from how the world itself worked before the advent of Web 2.0. To further understand the transition that occurred with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 it is helpful to look at a example. Google AdSense is a tool that lets users post ads from Google on their own pages and calculate compensation based on a formula. In digital advertising, its ancestor was DoubleClick, which transformed the software into a service, but its business model required formal sales contracts to limit its collaboration to thousands of larger sites. There is no central point in the information network. The users in each border area constitute the bulk of the information network. The strategy of Google AdSense is to make each website easily become a place to post advertisements, so it grows fast and is very successful.

Web 2.0 and CultureEdit

When society embraced the transition between Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, it greatly altered global communication and interactions among people. Web 2.0 allowed everyone to communicate with each other regardless of geographical barriers, and opened a world of interaction and information to be shared with everyone who had access to those tools. Several key concepts that were created due to the effect of the relationship between Web 2.0 and cultures resulted in societies practicing participatory culture, changes in learning through business and education, and the aggregation of a global collective intelligence. These concepts are important to fully understand Web 2.0 as they demonstrate the world wide changes cause by the addition of creative and communicative tools created for Web 2.0. The relationship between Web 2.0 and culture also helped to further shape Web 2.0 tools to meet the demands of the ever shifting society which seeks different ways to share content and collect information.

Participatory CultureEdit

Henry Jenkins has conducted broad research into participatory culture, the concept of a passive consumer of media also becoming an active producer of media (prosumer).

Web 2.0 has become an essential technological tool in the creation of participatory culture as we know it today. Participatory culture, as defined by Henry Jenkins, is a culture built on the ability to engage in meaningful artistic expression and civic engagement while receiving informal mentorship or interactions from other users (Jenkins 2009).[39] Web 2.0 has given people the ability to interact on a global scale through platforms such as social media, which has led to the pressure people face from society to become a part of the participatory culture. This online pressure to interact with society comes in many forms such as always-on culture and civic engagement. With Web 2.0 tools available to people practically 24 hours a day, it is easy to see how most users are constantly contributing and participating online. This phenomenon is known as always-on culture, which Mandiberg (2012) describes as ”being networked to people and information wherever and whenever you need it.”[40] With the ability to access and interact online, everyday tasks typically void of technology can now involve online interaction. Social media platforms enable constant online interactions among users without the limitations created by geography. With phones within easy access of the user, people can always be alert and aware of conversations taking place online and respond in real time.

Web 2.0 and ProsumersEdit

YouTube remains today as the largest host of user-generated video content.

Part of participatory culture's meaning is web interactivity at the public level, i.e. everyone has the freedom to make additions as a Prosumer. A popular website for this phenomenon at the height of Web 2.0 was, and remains, YouTube. YouTube, as a participatory platform, is for watching videos created by solely by its users and, subsequently, sharing one's own videos for others. Chau studies YouTube's structure as a participatory platform at the base level, assessing its accessibility to the youth of internet society. He argues there is a high degree of self-sufficiency to YouTube because of the user base being able to guide and tutor future prosumers without assistance from traditional media producers (Chau, 2008).[41] Valtysson, meanwhile, studies 'remixability' of online media through YouTube. Following the ability to upload a video to a website, the ability to download the videos quickly followed. So, users began to modify existing videos or compile them together, which became a popular trend in internet culture (Valtysson, 2010).[42] Internet culture has grown through exposure to 'remixed' user generated content, like for example memes. With an ever-growing number of internet users producing their own media and consuming that of their peers, new perspectives of participatory culture have been established.

Collective IntelligenceEdit

Collective intelligence illustrated as a global brain.

The users’ engagement and sharing of opinions, creations, and knowledge contributes to the creation of an online collective intelligence. O’Reilly (2005) mentions the “harnessing” of collective intelligence reinforcing Web 2.0's image as a “global brain.”[43] This idea has been in mind of earlier thinkers like Lévy (1997) who wrote how “networks promote the construction of intelligent communities in which our social and cognitive potential can be mutually developed and enhanced” (p. 17).[44] Wikipedia is an example of how collaborative work can create a network of information that is shared as a collective public good and shows how widespread participatory culture has become.

Contrarily, Lanier (2006) described the phenomenon as an act of “foolish collectivism”[45] because in his opinion he believes people using sites such as Wikipedia should not be able to post content without review or critique. This is not to say that smart mobs cannot be the creators of highly interesting and accurate information, but Lanier (2006) highlighted that the anonymity of the users who can include anything “without having to worry about the possibility of being wrong” and the chaotic structure could negatively affect the process.

Despite these potentially negative parts, Wikipedia still has an order and a set of rules that allows it to continue being one of the biggest websites online. Furthermore, it is undeniable that the characteristics of Web 2.0 gave way to a more democratic space in which people. The conception of users as “co-workers” that help to build a better place fits with O’Reilly’s thoughts on the innovative aspects of the platforms.[43]

Web 2.0's Impact in Business and EducationEdit

The impact of Web 2.0 in Business CommunicationEdit

The emergence of Web 2.0 resulted in companies having to reorganize their traditional work environment and overall structure to comply with the new implications and integrate the changes to adapt their company. Employers, employees, customers and external suppliers or investors were all effected with the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 as new opportunities to improve communication and solutions to problems arose. Web 2.0 can be used as a tool which enables businesses to “overcome geographical and temporal barriers” when considering not only consumers but employees too (Lytras, 2009)[46]. The ability to communicate online through instant messaging, document sharing, video conference and more, has allowed for a work place to be orientated around collaboration and team work without face-to-face interaction. These aspects allow for boundaries which were once in place to be overcome and communication throughout a business to be more fluent and organized, whether that is nationally or internationally. This is only possible because Web 2.0 allowed our culture to become participatory, and push for not only individuals but whole companies to become active online.

Furthermore, Chen (2009) reviews the influence Web 2.0 has had on how businesses organize or structure their content, introducing data bases or private company portals where employees can access easy, findable and organized resources or archives [47]. This also allows for daily communication for employers using less time-consuming methods, an example being travel. The elimination of travel allows for both money and company time to be spared. Chen 2009 introduces the increase in growth surrounding business models when considering the impact Web 2.0 has had for creating individual platforms which involve user generated content to boost the companies plan to generate revenue.

One example of an industry utilizing Web 2.0 is the medical industry, which has gained tremendous benefits from this technology and turned it into an improvement in public life. According to a survey on a website, almost “89% of physicians use at least one Web 2.0 tool in their medical practice”, and other exciting data suggests that Web 2.0 can help with everyday behaviour. Numerous reports detail how doctors use Web 2.0 to connect with each other to enrich their knowledge base.

The Role of the Web in EducationEdit

Web 2.0 applications are interactive and allow users to connect and collaborate with the Web and other people.

Businesses are not the only organizations that are utilizing the tools available through Web 2.0. Schools around the world have increasingly relied on interactive technology to enhance and facilitate learning. The use of the applications provided by this technology prepares students for a future that is increasingly digital and driven by information access. Web 2.0 services are mediators between students and the world around them. Wikis, as defined by Anja Ebersbach, is a web page or set of webpages that can be edited by anyone who is allowed admission (Anderson, 2007)[48]. This collaborative tool implements cooperative learning where students can upload resources and draft text together, create online presentations that incorporate images, text, gifs, videos to demonstrate and share learning. As well as this application used in education, Paul Anderson mentions others that demonstrate the base of the Web 2.0 such as blogs, tagging and social bookmarking, multimedia sharing, audio blogging and podcasting, and the RSS (Anderson, 2007)[48].

The Death of Web 2.0 and a possible Web 3.0?Edit

Responses to Web 2.0Edit

Facebook reported record profits of $4.9b in 2018

While Web 2.0 has continuously developed and shaped based on societal needs, many believe that the shift has moved far past its origins and has possibly reached its 'death'. For many the 'death' of Web 2.0 is brought about with the newest iteration of the internet, Web 3.0, however simply because a newer version exists does not mean that the previous version of the web is dead. The discourse of versions helps to define periods of the internet's history illustrating a continuity rather than a radical shift of the Web (Allen, 2012).[49] This description resembles the concept of remediation, “the representation of one medium in another” which explains how the old content can prevail in new mediums.[50] Sometimes the features of newer versions of the web are simply not suitable for a website's purpose and so are not used. For example, a small e-commerce website does not require the user-driven content of Web 2.0 and so will not employ those features, but this does not make the website obsolete as a consequence (Getting, 2007).[35] Therefore, this section will focus on debates surrounding Web 2.0 and arguments for and against it.

The concept of Web 2.0 has been around for well over a decade now and so when considering criticism's, it is important to recognize that these are sometimes no longer relevant as time has passed. For example, an article from CNNMoney in 2008 proclaimed the supposed death of Web 2.0,[51] citing the lack of profitability from social media sites as one of the main reasons that they would become obsolete. However, a decade later in 2018 Facebook reported record profits.[52]

Theorising the assertion of deathEdit

A constantly changing forms of social interaction.

This topic has been discussed under various contexts. In the book “The Death of Web 2.0” by Greg Singh, an Associate Professor at the University of Stirling, he discusses it with perspectives of connectivity ethics and psychology. As mentioned before, if Allen suggests that Web 1.0 or Web 2.0 are just “a discourse of versions,” instead of distinct technological innovation, then Web 3.0 refers to the reproduction of versioning discourse. Such extension involves how Web 2.0 is constantly changing the lives of people nowadays, especially “in the realm of participatory cultures.” The media connectivity not only creates a more democratic culture, affecting digital literacy frameworks culturally and politically, but also generates a new form of social media interaction. Singh explains a “recognition theory” of the “always-on” phenomenon. The first level is in relation to interpersonal and the mobilization of identity,” as well as the challenges towards traditional social relations. In other words, how the social media continually impacting issues of rights, fairness and equity. All these contributes to the formation of “self-realization”(Singh, 2019).[53] In short, the topic is not simply to deal with the ever-growing development of technology, but the possibility of any future discourses (Web 3.0 or even Web 4.0) that would help eliminate the flaws of Web 2.0.

Successes of Web 2.0Edit

Web 2.0 was merely created in an attempt to develop the internet referred to as the 'second stage,' characterized by the change from web pages to user-generated content and the continuing growth and rise of social media. The social networking sites such as Facebook and myspace is critical to the success of Web 2.0 applications. The fact content can be shared and enhanced by personal connections rather than through search or query techniques it has emerged as a major aspect of the success of Web 2.0 applications (Hendler, J., Gold-beck, J.) [54]. Referring back to a previous section of this discussion, YouTube is a modern web application that can be shared by other users allowing a bigger platform for the video to become popular. Web 2.0 has also been successful with its relationship with organizations such as education systems as mentioned previously.

Flaws of Web 2.0Edit

Privacy problem in searching engines has been widely raised.

Despite the success of Web 2.0, one major problem that is considered to be the flaw of Web 2.0 would be privacy, which causes concerns and has potentially caused the 'death' of Web 2.0. The personal information flows of web users are usually being neglected in many Web 2.0 platforms. Personal information that exits in online platforms like Twitter or Plazes can serve as investigation purpose for employers, police and other activities, both legal or illegal. Contents of deleted e-mails were being reported to be found in searching engine Google(Zimmer, 2008).[55]

Overall Web 2.0 has an array of advantages that has led to the success of the technology, however Web 3.0 or the 'third phase of the world wide web' is on the rise. The World Wide Web is an on going evolution in itself and Web 2.0's success has played an important part in creating user-generated content and benefits for businesses and organisations. Its creation allowed a new way of online culture to take hold and shape the future of online interactions, and without it much of the communications people and organizations are capable of today would not be possible. Whether Web 2.0 has met its end is not important, but rather that the technology currently embedded in society continues to grow and adapt to meet the users needs and provide a service that engages users around the world with each other and information.


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Impression Management


Impression management is something we do everyday. Most of the time we don’t even know we’re doing it as it has become such a natural form of communication between ourselves and the rest of the world. So what exactly does impression management mean? Impression management is the conscious or subconscious act of attempting to change public perceptions of people, events or objects. This is done by both companies and individuals through controlling the information and personal lives that the public can see. 

It was first conceptualised by Erving Goffman[1] in 1959 inThe Presentation of Self in Everyday Life and then was expanded upon in 1967. The concept of impression management was first applied to face-to-face communication within the professional space, but then with the expansion of modern technology, it was renamed to apply to online presentation.

Examples of this can be seen very clearly on the YouTube where impression management is a key factor in the success and longevity of a creator’s career on the platform. Furthermore, with more people concisely or subconsciously being a part of impression management more research has been shown into the mental health issues that arise in with the excessive impression management that has become the norm within society.

Motives and BehavioursEdit


Candidate at a job interview

There are multiple motives and behaviours associated with impression management. Mark C. Bolino et al. [2] describes behaviours exhibited by individuals. For example self-handicapping is a type of defensive mechanism which provides explanations for poor performance, also ingratiation is a form of assertive impression management in which flattery is used to be perceived as more likeable.

The motives behind these forms of impression management vary, but often point to similar rationale. For instance, individuals will be more likely to adopt behaviours associated with “Self Handicapping” impression management when they fail a task at work [3] . This allows the blame to be placed away from the individual, as to not tarnish their reputation and prior performance. Individuals will also be more inclined to use behaviours associated with “Ingratiation” impression management when they found a job to be attractive or when they expected a job offer [4]. This allows for an appealing impression of the individual towards the hiring staff, which could benefit their job prospects.

Although the majority of the research into impression management focuses on behaviours seek to benefit an individual by avoiding unattractive traits [5] can lead to negative impressions [6]. For example, behaviours such as poor performance, disinterest and bad attitudes can be used when an individual wishes to be dismissed or transferred from their current job. This creates a bad impression of the individual, leading to dismissal or other necessary actions; actions in which the individual actually desired.


In regard to motives, everyone has a different reason as to why they present themselves the way that they do online. Ingratiation is a form of assertive impression management that an individual can use to their own advantage, allowing them to be perceived as more likeable, and comes under the category of motives. To understand why motives are important regarding impression management, it is vital to know why people do the things that they do. As discussed by Roy G. D'Andrade & Claudia Strauss (1999), it is important to investigate the psychology as this has been able to explain motivation primarily in terms of universal needs and drives. [7] This suggests that there must be a need to perform a certain way in impression management to then therefore get the results that one has intended.

There are endless behaviours in impression management that one could perform, which leads to the understanding of having hidden motives to that behaviour. Intimidation being one of them, a person can be whoever they want to be online and even pretend to be a violent person, resulting in getting the outcome that their motives desired. As discussed by Carolyn M. Cunningham (2013), it seems that there are positives to intimidation online regarding impression management, explaining that intimidation could provide a strategic advantage to the person engaging in this strategy. [8]

The Self as Commodity OnlineEdit


Jake Paul was the second highest earning YouTube celebrity in 2018, according to Forbes List.

In the new sphere of online celebrity content creators have become both the seller and the commodity.[9] The creation of an 'authentic' personality on social media platforms is key to generating income. The crackdown on YouTube’s advertising algorithm after controversies surrounding brand advertising on videos promoting controversial ideologies has meant that many creators suffer a loss of income due to their content not being advertiser friendly - creating an environment where videos that contain strong language were less likely to make money.[10] This is an example of how online identity is often created with the sole intent be profitable. “I’ve figured out ways to monetise and to take advantage of the power of the algorithm [...] it preferences longer videos.” says Cody-Ko, a creator with over two million subscribers on the platform. [11] This algorithm can lead to a "careful self-monitoring of one’s online persona" [12] in aid of being suitable for advertisers.

The more profitable the internet becomes, the more self can be monetised and tactics to maximise profits through the upkeep of online identity can be implemented. [13] It is claimed that YouTube creator Jake Paul earned 21.5 million in profits from YouTube and other branded content in 2018.[14] Jake Paul is known for his highly manufactured presence online, sparking a documentary series investigating his 'sociopathic tendencies' [15] and the ‘real’ him. Despite the popularity of these episodes, Paul’s own behind the scenes series of his life failed due to it being ‘too real’ for the platform and the people involved - noting that the parties involved didn't want “that much realness or content about their lives out there on social media.” [16]

Social CapitalEdit

Cartoon of a Social Influencer

Although the commodification of the self and social capital is often associated with monetary value it is not necessarily always the case. Social capital refers to ways in which people can establish social value as a type of influence or power. However, social capital can be exchanged in to monetary value. [17] The concept of social capital is closely interlinked with monetary value due to how money can be used to create influence. Followers, likes, retweets and similar notions become tools used for the purpose of personal branding, meaning that the self is used as a site for extraction of value. [18] In this case the extraction of value refers to establishing fame and recognition which in turn creates social influence which is a form of power. When social influence has been established monetary exchange can occur.

How the conversion of social influence into monetary value occurs is not straightforward. Social influence is not a type of currency and cannot be measured as such. Through influencer marketing companies can target potential customers by identifying individuals that are seen as influential figures. These individuals are also known as social influencers. Social influencers receive sponsorships, which is a form of monetary exchange, however, social influencers receive these sponsorships because they have already established themselves as influential figures.

Psycho-Social EffectsEdit

Psycho-social Effects of Impression Management is the psychological and social change in behaviour and mental state due to the management of online and offline identities. These effects are subjective to individuals and are not universal to everyone.


Online narcissism can help an individual develop Narcissistic Personality Disorder but is more often used to satisfy narcissistic traits. Managing online identities promotes these narcissistic traits as the content being posted is chosen to get the most likes, recognition and a higher follower count. [19] Narcissism is not exclusive to in social media as narcissism is needed for establishing the self and establishing relationships.[20]

Couple taking selfie
The narcissistic traits associated with Impression Management is the inflated self-image, being self-obsessed and the need for admiration. [21] The main ways in which these traits have been satisfied is the act of posting of photos online. Selfies are a significant part of online identity online as it presents online a visual mode of self-presentation[22] .Those who post selfies often are satisfying their self-obsession and receive self-gratification through others’ reaction to the photo. This can, in some cases, transfer into their offline life and their identity.

Those with an inflated self-image are often not easily embarrassed because of their grandiose view of themselves.[23] For example, Danielle Bregoli could be described as narcissistic as she displays multiple traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder and her rise to fame started with an appearance on the Dr Phil show in 2016.[24] Her behaviour and impression became a part of her brand online which in turn meant her narcissistic traits were rewarded. [25]


Studies have shown that the role social media and cellphone usage increases a feeling of loneliness amongst teenagers and adults. When we are on these devices we are constantly comparing ourselves to others’ lives and those who do better than us. They want this constant pleasure response from their phone that we don’t always get that leads to sleep disturbance, distractability, and of course loneliness. Amatenstein, Sherry (11/8/18). "Not so social media: How social media increases loneliness". A survey found, “Individuals who spend more time on social media everyday felt lonelier than those who spent less time engaged in social media. Amatenstein, Sherry (11/8/18). "Not so social media: How social media increases loneliness".  Additionally, individuals who spent more time on social media in a week felt more isolated compared to others who checked their screen less.

Think about how often we talk or see those friends on our social media page? Not regularly but yet we are still connected through photographs where a conversation isn’t needed. The entire social media sphere brings in an experience that leaves us constantly disconnected by checking our phones. As we view our peer’s enjoyment we then tend to think of ourselves as not so good.Ali, Shaianna (10/5/18). "Is Social Media making You lonely".  Social media is an addiction that can take us away from good energy, sleep, human interaction, and experience. So much comes into play when we communicate with our mobile devices for better or for worse.


Group use of social media and group norms can indirectly lead to anxiety among users.

Studies of online identity have shown that impression management behaviors online can cause anxiety. Impression management behaviors have been linked to group norms, which are behaviors that people believe to be consistent with those of their social group. [26] Many users engage in false self-presentation behaviors on social media platforms because they believe these behaviors to be norms of their social group. [27]

Often these group norms encourage the idea of self as a commodity and place an importance upon self-validation through the number of likes, followers, and comments obtained.[28][29] Examples of these behaviors include deleting a post on social media because it did not get enough likes or comments or not to posting twice in one day on Instagram because it is viewed as taboo by your social group.

Users often seek to create a profile or identity online that reflects their 'ideal self' [29] and engage in strategic representation in order to create a positive impression [26] of their life as glamorous, cool, or fun even when their life is not, [29] therefore engaging in false-self presentation behaviors. [27][28] The pressure to constantly maintain a specific image of the 'ideal self' that follows group norms on social media can be overwhelming and lead to stress and strain on users. These false self-presentation behaviors and other forms of impression management have been linked to heightened levels of anxiety among social media users. [27]


Emergence of online interactivity is consequential to mental health [30] [31] [32]; depression can cause an increase in low self-esteem. According to Blease[33] from Andrew and Thomson [34] depression is a "mechanism" produced by pressure results in consciously or unconsciously awareness specifically in regards to social networks sites (SNS).

Multiple studies on 'Facebook Depression' lead to scholarship opposing views.[35] Facebook content and features attract attention by individuals through status updates entailing information such as friendship count, likes, browsing and feed, which are part of 'internet activity'. Seemingly this appears harmless however studies evaluated by Blease, Baker [36] and Jelenchick. Eickhoff & Moreno[37] indicate links between certain images and captions with person's achievement generates negative impact on the self. In addition, the 'reaction features' produced are controversial. Individuals have opportunities of expression through these icons, nonetheless envy, social comparison, melancholia correlate to depression. Thus, highlights SNS's are not at fault but the content within the sites immerse individuals unconsciously isolated, this brings forth Darwinism on natural selection.

No member of a specie is the same no matter the DNA, even when it comes to the appearance of a person. Individuals ability to portray someone else ties with evolutionary performance in the sense of avatarism [7] [38], inserts emphasis on.perfectionism [39] visualized in unrealistic formats with high expectations. Moreover, competitive nature in evolutionary performance proposes negative connotations due to social comparisons. On the contrary online communities prove to benefit individuals with support. SNS's involve not just friends or acquaintances but people across nations, which certain individuals confined on as Wright et al note perhaps individuals partake in this to avoid confrontation.from friends and family. It is clear narcissism, loneliness, anxiety and depression in impression management are at early stages of research however, more people remain vulnerable.

Professionalism in Impression ManagementEdit

Social Media Screening

Multiple Hurdle Interview System- mass amounts of candidate information

Social media screening is defined as a resource for employers to have access to a potential candidates information that is not expressed in their resume[40]. As of 2014, “over 92% of employers use or are planning to use social media for recruiting” (Jobvite, 2014) [41]. Social networking websites allow recruiters to connect, target, and attract talented and capable candidates (Jacobs, 2009)[42]. Selection of the ‘right’ applicant for a job is simpler through pre-interview screening [43]. Candidates share posts on their social networking sites that provide an impression for the employer.

LinkedIn Logo

Recruiters use online networking to connect candidates with employers [44] LinkedIn is a networking site for professionals, based on the amount of personal and professional information they provide, they are ranked at different levels which enables recruiters and hiring managers to be in contact. Online posts through a public domain are revealing in both positive and negative ways and accessed by recruiters and HR departments.[40] This increased need for public information can lead candidates to provide misleading information to boost the presentation of their professionalism. Online impressions are crucial in the new age hiring process.

Increase social media screening has developed an employer need for required online applications. Human resource information systems (HRIS) can easily scan and sort the applications.[41] Utilizing applicants social networking sites provides information in a cost-effective manner and application honesty.[45] Furthermore, social media screening is a growing field in the hiring process and the impressions applicants post online are influential in their candidacy.

Online and Offline Interactions and ImpressionsEdit

Impression Management, as theorised by Erving Goffman, is more commonly applied to offline interactions, however it often occurs in online social settings as well and can be seen in cases of dating. Although there is a tendency to believe that the ways one acts online does not necessarily equate to the person they are in the offline world, it becomes evident that that is not necessarily the case. The assumption that persons appear to not consciously manage the way they present themselves offline and that one would be less of one’s real self online – because of a temptation to present themselves as an ideal version of who they are, due to higher chances of anonymity – becomes challenged when looking at case studies done on dating (both offline and online) in regards to Impression Management.

Dating – in any way – is a much exaggerated form where there is a conscious attempt of Impression Management, as researched by Zytko, Grandhi, and Jones, which revealed that online daters didn’t take any conscious measures to alter the way they presented themselves online, in fear of giving false impressions that would be exposed when eventually offline interactions happened.[46] Often one would try to emulate the ways in which they presented themselves offline by using emojis to copy facial expressions, or punctuation to imply tone over text. In doing so they would attempt to closely replicate interactions they would have offline into an online format and thus manage the ways in which the impressions of their self is presented, seemingly making themselves appear more authentic as researched by Ellison, Heino, and Gibbs. [47] Through both of these studies, it can be inferred that dating becomes a clear measure of how Impression Management is utilised offline as well as online.

Abuse of Impression ManagementEdit

Impression management is also often abused in social interaction. Chan and Jaideep[48] conducted a study about some social phenomenons. The following are some of the most common and typical behaviors we use to compel others to change their mind and behavior, through manipulating impressions of themselves or of another person.

The most common kind of impression management in business is the presentation of merchandise which is advertising. Advertising is the business of attracting consumers' attention and encouraging them to buy something.[49] We should stick to the tenet of moral marketing to proceed real advertising. However, some companies often make no bones about concocting marketing solutions that misbehave or deceive consumers. Will Heilpern summarized some of the deceptive advertising in his article.[50] The following are some ways that unscrupulous advertisers persuade the public to buy their products or services.

Phenomenon Definition
Boasting Exaggerate your ability to make self-recommendation.
Flattery This is a way to improve your standing in the eyes of others.
'Dress to kill' Express yourself by overdressing, like respectable and authoritative, sexy and desirable.[51]
Deceitful advertising Exaggerated product efficacy or quality to mislead consumers. For example, electronic products.
Bad arguments In advertising, propagandizing false arguments leads consumers to believe they are true.
Emotive persuasion Persuade consumers to buy their own products and control their emotions. But such products often have quality problems. For example, some weight loss products are harmful to health.[52]


Although Impression Management is mainly researched in areas of social studies and offline interactions, the practice of it, is also prevalent within online spheres. The way that people behave online, is not separate from the way they would act in the offline world, as there are similar motives and behaviours that impression management incites, as seen in cases of dating. Furthermore, impression management online, also becomes a tool for people to explore their identity within the vacuum of anonymity and even allows for abuse of impression management within social interactions, this can negatively influence a person's self presentation online as their self image and mental health can be affected. However, impression management can also become a source for people to create an online persona that they can profit from, as well as be used within professional settings such as job recruitment. There are many sides to impression management and the ways it manifests online, whether that be a conscious or unconscious action, it still remains a part of socially structured interactions.


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  29. a b c Pounders, Kathrynn; Kowalczyk, Christine M.; Stowers (2016). "Insight Into the Motivation of Selfie Postings: Impression Management and Self-Esteem" (in English). European Journal of Marketing (Emerald Group Publishing Lts.) 50 (9-10): 1879-1892. doi:10.1108/EJM-07-2015-0502. ISSN 03090566. 
  30. Wright, K. B., Rosenberg, J., Egbert, N., Ploeger, N. A., Bernard, D. R., & King, S. (2013). Communication competence, social support, and depression among college students: A model of Facebook and face-to-face support network influence. Journal of health communication, 18(1), 41-57. Available at:
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  52. Is Impression Management And How Can It Be Abused? by Peck.D,2018

Online Disinhibition

Introduction to online disinhibitionEdit

According to the online disinhibition effect, the behaviours one exhibits online greatly stray from that of the ones they express offline. According to John R. Suler, this aspect of online life is like a “double edged sword.” [1] Whilst on the one hand it can have positive impacts by encouraging people to explore and express their true identities without societal constraints which dominate the physical world, it can also be extremely negative. Online disinhibition has given rise to many toxic implications such as cyberbullying, harassment or threatening language. In his writings on the topic, Suler identifies six key factors which play a role in the formation of online disinhibition. Each will be examined within this essay.

People are becoming more and more reliant on social media as an outlet for expression. However, this does not always come without a cost

All in all, this topic looks at comparisons between online and offline behaviours and the potential motives that lie behind these alterations. Whilst some explain these deviances in behaviour through psychological theories such as the ‘social structure and social learning theory’ which argues that our behaviours often mimic those of the people we surround ourselves with [2], the underlying premise is the same. The online world provides new ways of expression that are often what people view as morally unacceptable offline, but now these same modes of expression are suddenly viewed in a completely different light when produced from behind a screen.

Main conceptsEdit

Benign disinhibitionEdit

Benign online disinhibition refers to the positive outcomes which can come from presenting oneself on the Internet. Being that online platforms lack the social cues of face-to-face communication, they come across as far less intimidating. We no longer feel a pressure to conform to societal norms. We can be who we want to be, expressing ourselves in a way in which we would not feel comfortable showing offline in the form of what Suler calls an “emotional hit and run.” [3]
Benign online disinhibition allows us to grow and develop our identities in ways that are often denied in the offline world.
Not only does the fluidity of this platform allow us to experiment with multiple identities, but it often encourages us to be more open and furthermore accepting than we are in person. If something is weighing us down but we aren’t ready to reveal it to our peers face to face, we can test the water by doing so anonymously online.
Online platforms not only bring people together within the LGBT community, but they can also - often through anonymity - create a 'safe space' for people to express their sexuality without fear of torment.
As a result, we can “use social media to connect with people struggling with the same issues as you; social media can be an incredibly powerful support network.” [4]

Charles Cheung further emphasizes this idea in a chapter where he writes about the powers of ‘personal homepages.’ For those who struggle with face-to-face communication, these platforms are the perfect place for one to unleash their true identities. [5] Not only that, but they can do so without the pressure of having to get it right first time. They can edit and explore until their heart's content. To put it another way, as stated by Aija Mayrock, “Social media is currency for young people. It is a portal to potential possibilities, even for people who feel hopeless, uninspired, scared, and alone.” [6] Therefore, benign online disinhibition can open doors that are usually locked by the social norms of the offline world.

Toxic disinhibitionEdit

The internet is not always a place of comfort or support. At times it is a space polluted by internet trolls, cyber criminals and cyberbullies. The anonymity and invisibility that online environments provide to users, in comparison to the face-to-face interactions offline, can cause an increase in negative and abusive behaviour within online interactions. Lapidot-Lefler and Barak (2012), [7] identify that a reason behind this toxic behaviour is in response to lack of visual and vocal communication. When there are no reminders that communication is genuinely happening with another human being, and not just a screen, the severity of an individual’s actions can become lost to them.

Technology-mediated communication enables toxic behaviour through anonymity and/or invisibility of individual users.

Cyberbullying is a concept that has become familiar in western society due to its rising prevalence. [8][9] [10] Cyberbullying is associated with varying degrees of actions that can include repeated malicious behaviour against an individual with intent to harass, harm and/or embarrass.[8][9] The act does not include physical violence, but invites “other types of aggression such as verbal harassment, social exclusion, and cyber targeting."[10] In relation to the connection with cyberbullying and toxic online disinhibition, studies such as Slonje and Smith (2008) and Vandebosch and Van Cleemput (2008),[11] recognize that online anonymity and invisibility are factors which increase the likelihood of individuals becoming online abusers, or trolls, because interactions with others are mediated through technology rather than physical engagement with victims - ultimately making the abuser less likely to be aware of how damaging their actions can be. Slonje and Smith commented that “without such direct feedback there may be fewer opportunities for empathy or remorse and there may also be less opportunity for bystander intervention.”[12] This type of toxic online disinhibition is a common issue with children and young adults, and research indicates that “cyberbullying may be an even greater risk factor for suicidal idealization in adolescents than more traditional types of bullying”[13]. The abundance of cyberbullying suicide cases are evident within media exposure, illustrating clearly the genuine problems that virtual spaces can have upon real people in ‘real’ life.

The different forms of harassment experienced by female journalists due to toxic online disinhibition

Doxing (or 'doxxing') as an online practice is perhaps less recognized than cyberbullying, yet is potentially one of the most toxic forms of disinhibition within online environments. Doxing, as Parul Khanna et al (2016) defines, is a process that involves an individual or organization recovering information (PII) through searching through publicly available data from “social media websites, search engines, password cracking methods [and] social engineering tools” in order to “threaten, embarrass, harass and humiliate the organization or individual” [14] Furthermore, organizational doxing brings this process to a wider scale of victims, as the information obtained and released involves multiple people's lives being targeted.

Evidence for online disinhibitionEdit

Benign disinhibition effectsEdit

Patients tend to give more honest answers and report more health-related problems to a computer than to a doctor face-to-face
Research has shown that when people feel that they are visually anonymous online, they are much more likely to disclose a greater amount of information than they would in a face-to-face (FtF) interaction. This can be seen particularly from a series of studies carried out by Joinson (2001)[15]. This study found that participants engaging in computer-mediated communication (CMC) portrayed higher levels of self-disclosure compared to participants in face-to-face interactions.
People feel more comfortable talking about issues via online surveys which are text based than they do face-to-face.

The second study incorporated a video link for half of those communicated via CMC. The findings for levels of self-disclosure here correlated heavily with that found in FtF interactions suggesting once more that people feel more willing to share personal information when it is purely text based. Joinson (2007) says that "methods that increase the social presence of the surveyor have been predicted to lead to a reduced willingness to answer sensitive questions."[16] Furthermore, when data collection regarding health issues is conducted through computer-aided-self-interviews, patients tend to give more honest answers and report more health-related problems to a computer than to a doctor face-to-face. This once again proves that visual anonymity online encourages people to disclose a greater amount of information, which in the occasion of describing symptoms to a machine instead of a doctor, is highly beneficial for their health and thus their real life.

Toxic disinhibtion effectsEdit

Toxic online disinhibition can have devastating consequences. The most well-known example of this would perhaps be cyberbullying. However, such harassment can come in a whole variety of forms, one of which is known as doxing. Most recognisable in mainstream media, in the horrific attack on celebrities in 2014 and 2017 where multiple nude photographs were published on the anonymous website 4chan.[11] [12] [13].
"It was so unbelievably violating"[6] Actress Jennifer Lawrence, addressing the 4chan hack
With this website allowing for “90% of posts” to be “made by fully anonymous users”,[17] an environment free of consequences is ultimately created. Anonymity may encourage some to express themselves freely. However, for others, they see it as an opportunity to get away with extremely derogatory behaviour against others in a toxic online environment where this behaviour is accepted rather than condemned.

Members of the public, not just celebrities, have also fallen victim to such toxicity. An example being, Rebecca Scheffler (a pseudonym name) who shared her devastating experience with doxing on the digital publication page, In her post 'Someone Posted My Phone Number On Craigslist and Said I Wanted Strange Men to Rape Me'. Being that this woman had already been a victim of rape in the real world, such harassment brought back a whole load of unnecessary trauma that subsequently impacted her mental wellbeing. Thus, contrary to popular belief, what happens online doesn’t stay online. It impacts real people in ways that are often extremely difficult to overcome.

Other examples of toxic disinhibition come from impulsive tweeters like Justine Sacco who failed to think about how posting "Going to Africa. Hope I get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm White!" could potentially lose not only her job, but also destroy personal relationships and leave her suffering with PTSD and depression.

Suler's factors for online disinhibitionEdit

Dissociative anonymityEdit

Anonymity is one of the main factors behind online disinhibition according to John Suler.
People feel more confident when they don't have to show who they really are.

Unlike in the real world, online we are given full control over how much - if any - of our ‘real’ identity we want to make known. By using multiple usernames/titles we can feel as though, when online, our actions are completely separate from that of our offline selves. In other words, by utilising the anonymity that social networking platforms provide, we often are just as fooled as those lapping up our disguise.

'On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.' - Peter Steiner

Anonymity can have positive and negative impacts. However, in the grand scheme of things, it has been more commonly associated with toxic online disinhibition. The sad truth is, when people feel they are anonymous, they feel almost invincible. Many have completely abandoned their morals, and as a result, often forget that there is in fact a living, breathing human being on the other end of the screen receiving their unnecessary torment and abuse. Such negativity is growing more and more prevalent amongst teenagers according to statistics. Worryingly, 81% of teens have said they partake in cyberbullying because the lack of face-to-face communication makes them see it as a harmless 'joke'. As a result, not only are we more likely to partake in such derogatory behaviours, but we are also more likely to “disown responsibility” for them [18]

This is further emphasised by an article written about cyberbullying amongst children and adolescents, “Being anonymous allows for reduced accountability, which may encourage inappropriate behavior online.” [19] This lack of regulation and authority gives us a whole new conception of power. We feel we can say or do whatever we want, all the while forgetting that whilst “the typed text provides the mask” [20], by no means is this mask full proof.
The anonymity that the online world provides leads many to feel like they are invincible in this communicative platform.

The toxicity which has far too often emerged from anonymity online has led to debates as to whether anyone should be allowed to be anonymous in the online world. As social media becomes more and more a part of the “fabric” of day to day life, we are being asked to place an extreme amount of trust in these communication platforms. Thus, we want to be certain we know who we are talking to, hence why anonymity is becoming far less desirable than it once was. The “always on” culture in which we are immersed means that “our various online personas are all digital breadcrumbs of the same persona; different symptoms of our same core self.” [21]. In other words, the unidentifability that anonymity seemingly promotes is nothing more than an illusion.

Studies such as the one carried out by Fox, Crux and Young Lee [22], emphasise that no matter how much those who are for online anonymity stress the idea of the digital self being a “compartmentalised self” which is separate from our offline identities, this is simply not the case. Their work proved that toxic and sexist behaviour carried out online subsequently increased levels of sexist attitudes offline.

Anonymity online, therefore, is like a ticking time-bomb. For, no matter how much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, it is only a matter of time before our trail of ‘digital breadcrumbs’ come full circle and reveal our true identities. The moment where our anonymous mask slips once and for all.


Being invisible online gives the illusion we can't be detected.

Another factor which leads to online disinhibition is invisibility. By putting up a metaphorical and physical barrier, users are met with far less pressures in regards to how they present themselves. [23] Unlike in the physical world, we don’t have to worry about how we look, how we sound. All that matters is how well we can write.

Furthermore, not having to see other peoples reaction and, more importantly, knowing that they cannot see you means that our inhibitions are significantly lowered for the social cues which dominate the real world are erased.[24]

The invisibility of the online world is therefore an opportunity to reinvent oneself.[25] Whilst this can be beneficial in some cases, it can also lead to misinterpretations of the identity you are trying to convey. Yet, at the end of the day, although not foolproof, people take comfort in knowing that the invisible cloak they can wear online makes it that little bit harder for their online actions to be linked back to them, unlike in the real world.


Emails are the perfect place for online disinhibition because they are asynchronous.

For the most part, computer-mediated communication is text based. As a result, immediacy is fundamentally lacking in this communication platform. These technologies alter our relationship with space and time, providing us with a gift of time that is simply impossible in the offline world. We are granted an opportunity to pause, reflect and thoroughly plan out what it is we wish to say before we press the send button. In other words, we can concoct the ‘perfect’ response through mediated communication, without having to worry about the mishaps that occur with the pressures that emerge from communicating face-to-face [26]. Suler argues that this furthermore allows for one to portray “deeper expressions of benign and toxic disinhibition that avert social norms.” [27]

This is further promoted by the ideas outline by Sherry Turkle in regards to the ‘tethered self.’ [28] Being that we live in a world where we are never far from some form of communicative device. Such accessibility means we have more time to muse over what we want to say, and therefore, in the online world, time is not such a burden. Yet, this is not always a positive thing, for our reliance on the ability to edit and modify our self-presentations means we are becoming more and more secluded from the realities of the offline world. Face-to-face communication is a dying trend, with people becoming increasingly prone to avoiding it wherever possible [29]. Hence the irony of online disinhibition in this sense is that, at the same time we are being encouraged to be more open, we are further reclining from the idea of communicating without the assistance of a screen.

Solipsistic introjectionEdit

Through solipsistic introjection, we create an internal dialogue that, whilst feeling incredibly real, is just as fictitious as a play we would see at the theatre.

Solipsistic introjection is the idea that due to the lack of vocal communication in the online world, our minds begin to fill in the blanks, providing an internal voice to the text being consumed. If said text is coming from someone we know, we imagine their voice in our heads. However, if it is coming from someone we don’t know, we assign them a voice based on the personality traits they have expressed via their online persona. In other words, online communication means that “cyberspace may become a stage, and we are merely players.” [30]

However, logging off does not draw the final curtain on this internal performance. We often find ourselves daydreaming about them long after we have logged off. This comes with numerous dangers, for being that we are given a ‘safe space’ to carry out these conversations - which feel incredibly real in our own minds, we are becoming more and more reluctant to express ourselves without the assistance of text-based communications. In other words, whilst to some extent solipsistic introjection does provide a feeling of confidence for us, “it distracts… from face-to-face communication.” ultimately making us more susceptible to online disinhibition.

Dissociative imaginationEdit

The freedom and fluidity of online platforms has led many users viewing the medium as “a kind of game with rules that do not apply to everyday living.” [31] This is what is known as dissociative imagination.

This diagram represents the idea of mixed reality put forward by Milgram and Kishino which suggests a strong interrelation between the real and the virtual world

Immersing ourselves in the online world, we often forget that our actions can still have serious consequences offline. Commonly associated with fantasy/role playing games and toxic disinhibition, this factor illustrates the lack of responsibility many users take in regards to their online actions. Rather, they view them as no more real than the stories they read as kids.

However, this is far from the truth as seen by the case of Thomas Montgomery. After starting an online affair, which many like him would claim “"exists only in cyberspace" he began a double life. Yet, his justifications backfired on him when, after learning that his co-worker - in the real world - was also having an online affair with the same woman, Montgomery became so enraged that he shot him dead in the car park. Furthermore proving, “emotions don’t turn on when we log on and turn off when we log off.”

Minimisation of status and authorityEdit

The lack of face-to-face communication online ultimately reduces social context cues which dominate the offline world. This furthermore provides the illusion that the internet is an authority free zone. Being that we cannot see who we are communicating with in the same way that we can in person, it feels as though everyone is on a level playing field, ultimately abolishing social hierarchies and giving users a feeling of great power.

Social context cues are not as visible on text-based communications apps like Facebook Messenger.

Danah Boyd points out this behaviour is especially prevalent with teenagers who although “may be comfortable having strangers overhear their exchange, the sudden appearance of someone with social authority changes the context entirely.”[32] Thus, due to the fact that it is harder to see authority figures within many online platforms, many are guilty of straying from their moral inhibitions.

This has had many negative consequences, such as cyberbullying. Reinis Udris’ study into cyberbullying among high school students in Japan highlights that: “It is easy to write insulting things online, because there are no repercussions.” [33] This is ultimately helped by the anonymity that many online platforms provide [34], however, it does not always need to be a factor. The case of a prison official in Maryland who lost his job in 2015 after he posted on Facebook making fun of sexual assaults in prisons being a prime example. [35] Cases such as this one highlight the true dangers of online disinhibition. Although many would beg to differ, and although it may be harder to spot, authority does still exist on the internet. Allowing yourself to believe otherwise can have life shattering consequences.


This essay clearly demonstrates that whilst online disinhibition can have benign consequences by encouraging people to be more open and accepting online, it can also go in the opposite direction. However, either way one thing remains fundamentally clear. What we do online does not stay online. It travels with us every time we step away from the computer screen and, thus, can greatly impact our offline lives.

One's lack of inhibitions online clearly comes from a variety of factors as outline by Suler. Yet, the one which appears to present itself the most prevalently is the idea of anonymity. Being able to mask who we are online and furthermore feeling like we are not constantly being monitored in the same way we are offline, one feels motivated to abandon their morals in a way they would never dare to in the physical world. When used right, this can help us grow as individuals both on and offline. However, when used negatively, we are opening ourselves up to all kinds of backlash, for one thing is for certain; “although the internet may have provided an escapism from everyday life, it is mostly mimicking it.”

Further ReadingEdit

1. Lapidot-Lefler, N., & Barak, A. (2015). The benign online disinhibition effect: Could situational factors induce self-disclosure and prosocial behaviors? in Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 9(2), article 3. doi: 10.5817/CP2015-2-3

2. Tidwell, L., Walther, J. (2002). Computer-Mediated Communication Effects on Disclosure, Impressions, and Interpersonal Evaluations in Human Communication Research, 28(3), 317-348

3. McKenna, K., Bargh, J. (1998). Coming Out in the Age of the Internet: Identity “Demarginalization” Through Virtual Group Participation in Small Groups: Key Readings in Social Psychology, 450-469

4. Jourard, S. M., & Friedman, R. (1970). Experimenter-subject "distance" and self-disclosure in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 15(3), 278-282.

5. Suler, J. (1999). To Get What You Need: Healthy and Pathological Internet Use in CyberPsychology & Behaviour, 2(5), 385-393

6. Ibrahim Y. (2018) Self-Love and Self-Curation Online in Production of the 'Self' in the Digital Age, 37-56

7. Wallace P. (1999). The Psychology of the Internet, Cambridge University Press

8. Vilanova, F., Beria, F.M., Costa, A.B., Silvia, H.K. (2017). Deindividuation: From Le Bon to the social identity model of deindividuation effects in Cogent Psychology, 1-21

9. Oldberg, C.J.A. (2016). Organizational Doxing: Disaster on the Doorstep, journal on telecommunications and high technology law, 15(1), 181-206.


The Quantified Self

The Quantified SelfEdit

CSIS Seminar, Self-Monitoring and LifeLogging

As Deborah Lupton notes, "Monitoring, measuring and recording elements of one’s body and life as a form of self-improvement or self-reflection are practices that have been discussed since ancient times. The introduction of digital technologies that facilitate these practices has led to renewed interest in what self-tracking can offer and to an expansion of the domains and purposes to which these practices are applied."[36] Put simply, the Quantified Self refers to collecting personal data for the purposes of analysing behaviour, health and wellbeing. In contemporary society, individuals are now able to achieve this employing wearable technology, which connect to smart devices which analyse and package the data. Uses, however, now extend beyond the individual, as the medical professions and various industries adopt both technology and practice for their own aims.

This chapter of the WikiBook, 'Debates in Digital Culture 2019', looks at the history of the Quantitative Self movement; the technology employed; the applications for the data; and explores some criticisms and concerns surrounding the movement.

History and DevelopmentEdit

Gary Wolf, a founder of Quantified Self.

Self-tracking can be traced back as far as the 16th century, to Sanctorius of Padua, who documented his eating habits, weight and bowel movements to study his metabolism. Many cite Sanctorius of Padua as the founding father of the quantitative approach to medicine.[37] Following Sanctorius of Padua, Benjamin Franklin tracked his daily routines which informed the development of his '13 virtues'.[38] In 1865, Francis Galton employed the statistical framework developed by Adolphe Quetelet in an attempt to identify significant characteristics of historical figures that he considered to be 'men of genius'. [39] In turn, this gave rise to the development of Phrenology and Eugenics, both of which have been largely discredited in the modern era.[40]

As self-tracking technologies became more usable and widespread, communities focused on 'quantified self’ followed after as direct successors of the self-tracking communities that formed to discuss and make use of that technology. While communities interested in self-tracking had the potential to form around almost every new individual item of hardware or software, the community that shared its name with the concept, Quantified Self, would become firmly planted as the “centre of the quantified self movement”.[41] In forming this organisation, its creators aimed to invite a wide-reaching set of interests in the existing range of self-tracking technologies into the same space, all in the spirit of self-analysis; Gary Wolf, a founding member of the movement, claimed early in the organisation’s lifespan that Quantified Self was founded as a natural consequence of the speed at which self-tracking technology had begun to develop. Wolf described the direct causal relationship between the community’s founding and rapidly developing technology very simply: “with new tracking systems popping up almost daily, we decided to create a website to track them.”[42]

As Quantified Self grew, however, its philosophy would develop alongside its practical purpose as a centralised community for self-trackers, taking its slogan, “self-knowledge through numbers”, to new extremes. Acting as more than a single-purpose website for ‘tracking trackers’, Quantified Self would become, for example, an advocate for ‘N-of-1’ (single patient) experiments, encouraging self-experimentation as an important part of the self-tracking process. Quantified Self also developed the view that self-tracking is modern technology’s key to finally “knowing thyself”, as well as realising one’s “best self”— aspirations found throughout human history.[43]

However, Quantified Self’s enthusiastic views on the potential of this technology marks its members out as an especially dedicated minority when compared to the less devoted majority of self-trackers. For example, a recent (2017) study found that although Quantified Self recommended constant reflection on collected data in order to attain a more comprehensive level of self-knowledge, ordinary users of self-tracking software were still using it only to help achieve short-term goals, such as weight loss.[44] This separation between Quantified Self’s approach to self-trackers and that of casual users suggests that it has now diverged from acting as a simple ‘website to track trackers’ and into a lifestyle. As the ease of self-tracking is increased by the development of wearable technology, Quantified Self's lifestyle becomes even easier for ordinary people to adopt.

Wearable TechnologyEdit


Over the years, technology has increasingly expanded its margins and borders, leading to the achievement of different goals and the birth of various innovations. In recent years, in particular, there has been the introduction of a large innovative device, namely those of the so-called “wearable technologies “.This research concerns some investigations carried out in the United States regarding wearable devices for fitness that have the potential to address some of the public health problems, but at the same time, they raise some privacy issues. The collected data can be combined with personal information from other sources, leading, consequently to the data breach. [45].

Two years ago, sales giant Target joined Fitbit to convince its US workers to engage in healthy behavior. Those who signed up for the program received free and discounted Fitbit activity trackers. The purpose of these US companies is to adopt wellness programs and offer various incentives to encourage participation. Mobile app development with wearable fitness devices helps American lose weight, improve fitness and reduce stress. The digital company Endeavour Partners claims that wearable devices belong to a category of mass-market products. The market for these wearable health devices is set to develop due to the continued use of smartphones and the dependence on digital media for health information and services. Between 2013 and 2015, the use of wearable health apps doubled. In 2016, 39.5 million adults used a wearable device at least once a month, also facilitated by the fact that these devices are becoming less expensive.[46]

The birth of this “new health economy“ is overcoming the boundaries between health institutions and the digital commercial market. The last few years have led to an expansion of specific sectors that offer different Big Data services to marketing experts. For example, data management platforms, through an analysis of data relating to individuals from different online and offline sources, allow to provide marketers with detailed control of their entire audience.[47]

The advertising industry is working to use wearable devices and other digital devices as the main tools for data-based marketing of a more complete medical and health ecosystem. According to a recent survey carried out for a marketing company, the main advantage of wearable devices is to provide a more detailed set of information.[48]

The FitbitEdit

The focus of this section will be specifically on the Fitbit. The Fitbit is a watch with a unique technology that track elements of your lifestyle such as your sleep patterns, the number of heart beats per minute, when you have been exercising and even if you have simply walked up a flight of stairs. It does so much more, too. It appears that having this information about yourself on your wrist and phone at all time can make users motivated to be more active.

A study a Haynes[49] done of himself in 2015 revealed a lot about self-motivation through wearable technology, specifically the Fitbit. By keeping a close eye on his heart rate and activity levels every day and tweaking his work out regime to suit, he had gone from a self-proclaimed ‘couch potato to marathon runner’. Without this technology available, it can be argued that Haynes and many other Fitbit users would be would not be motivated to put in the same effort to improve their health and fitness as perhaps they would be ignorant to the possibility that they were unfit in the first place.

A study done in the United States of America[50] shows a similar result. When 50 unfit postmenopausal women were given a Fitbit or a standard pedometer as a health intervention in the hope that they would enjoy it and start their journeys to good health, it worked. The results of the study shown that the women using the Fitbit showed a significant change in their fitness whereas the standard pedometer women did not. This is a very useful insight into the impact that not just any old wearable technology, but the Fitbit specifically, has on people of all ages.

The reason as to why the Fitbit stands out against the others may be due to the mobile phone app that comes with it. The Fitbit itself gives a brief summary of the information it tracks throughout the day, but the app is a whole world of insight. When you meet a target, 10000 daily steps for example, everything goes green and it throws you a mini party for a few seconds. Could this be why it is so successful and why people want to keep using it?


A large part of the quantified self is not just the devices but the applications on smart devices which help the user to input and track the data the devices records. As the popularity of the applications has spread over the last decade there is now a Quantified Self Application for almost any part of someone’s life: fitness, health, sleep, diet, sexual behavior, moods and dreams etc.

Most manufacturers of Quantified Self Devices have now expanded into having their own apps. For example, if you buy a FitBit to record your steps, heart rate and sleep you can only track that data on the FitBit app. This allows for many other apps to form a relationship with these companies to allow for a more in-depth analysis of the data. For example, if you want to record your food and drink intake you would need to use a different app that is associated with FitBit.



Gary Wolf describes the application of Quantified Self data as 'the macroscope'[51], a concept borrowed from Piers Anthony's 1969 novel of the same name, which referred to "a machine to view anything anywhere".[52]. For Wolf, the concept translates to the ability of an indivdual to analyse their life as a " collection of countless moments, behaviors, and locations. Within the “n=1” of the individual is an “n=∞” of times, actions, and places."[53]

The recording of physical data allows the user to track a variety of metrics relating to their health and well-being. Weight, digestion and calorie intake analysis allows the user to modify their diet and track how their body reacts to different foods.[54] Sleep analysis allows the user to identify poor habits and health risks such as sleep apnoea.[55] Posture and gait tracking gives the user insight into their movement and body-shape, allowing for adjustments to avoid future health complications.[56]

Many users are also able to record data based on their sexual experiences and use this to look at how their body and physiology changes throughout these experiences.[57] Analyzing this data allows the user to see which part of their health is struggling from the strenuous exercise and how this could be improved. This also raises a lot of ethical and privacy issues as to what data people should be recording.

It is not just physical elements that can be informed by data collection. Psychological health can also be tracked and improved[58], with some claiming that this is an updated framework that is identified as the 'Qualified Self'.[59] Mood tracking can inform Cognitive Behavioural analysis to evidence factors that influence the users state of mind. Breathing coaches within wearables and mindfulness apps can intervene in anxiety attacks, supporting the user in overcoming otherwise uncontrollable mental states.

All of these metrics, wearables and applications can be cross-referenced to provide a holistic overview and assist in linking factors that affect health and wellbeing.


The ability to use self-tracking to support health and wellbeing has informed the approach of medical professionals as well as individuals. A key development in delivering care for patients with Alzheimer's disease is the ability to track the whereabouts of patients categorised as 'wanderers'.[60] Wearable technology allows caregivers to supply patients with tracking devices that are not contingent upon the user's ability to carry or use the monitoring device. Wearables can also be employed by health professionals to support care and rehabilitation for patients suffering from epilepsy, strokes and myocardial ischemia. [61]

More in-depth analysis can also allow medical professionals to develop health plans for individuals. Genomic data such as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (abnormal sequences in the genome), transcriptome (RNA expression data) and microbiome data all provide deep insights into the individual's potential health risks and inherited genetic markers.[62] This, in turn, allows doctors to prescribe not just medicine, but also advise on whether regular screening is required.


Industry has been quick to adopt wearable technology and self-tracking as a facet of data analytics. Applications include automation of timesheet processes, dispensing with the need for an employee to 'clock in'. Supervisors can also track the online behaviour of employees such as browsing habits and project participation.[63]Access to restricted areas in the workplace can be controlled by fingerprint/iris scans. More controversial uses include proposals for sub-dermal implants[64], keystroke logging [65] and wristbands that employ haptic feedback to influence and control employee behaviour[66].

Animal tracking has also emerged as a key component of both the scientific research community and farming industry. Scottish company, Ice Robotics, have developed wearable technology which is employed by both, allowing researchers to automate practices previously conducted in person and dairy farmers to improve the health and wellbeing of their herds.[67]


The ‘Quantified-Self’ movement can be seen as a way to optimise one’s health and well-being. However, continuously tracking what you eat, how many steps you have taken, how much you sleep, etc. can have negative consequences on your mental health. In the article, 'The Hidden Anxieties of the Quantified Self Movement' by Candice Lanius she began to 'quantify herself' by using various technologies and applications to account for her daily life activities. From basic daily routines such as grocery shopping (using Grocery IQ) to physical activity (Fitbit) and what she eats in a day (MyFitnessPal). She discusses her experience and makes obvious that this can be the experience for many who decide to track and monitor aspects of their life. Lanius notes how, “after the novelty wore off, however, I found self-tracking and self-monitoring created restrictions on my life” [68]. Lanius looks deeper into the personal effects that self-quantification has on individuals, physically, mentally and emotionally and how it can cause limits on your life.
DARPA Big Data

A lot of her time was spent using her devices and apps to input data and some of this period was even spent trying to optimise her time using an application which is meant to help you be more productive, "The effort input into tracking 'work sprints' and overall productivity cost me precious minutes of break time" [69]. This is ironic as this application's purpose is to enhance your time, however consumers end up spending some of that precious time inputting data. However, Lanius felt that "wasted time was not the only or most insidious effect self-tracking applications had on me"[70]. Through monitoring herself, she found how she would get ‘anxiety’ when the data she received was condemned as ‘poor’. She then started to notice changes in her lifestyle such as not enjoying her meals because of the restrictions on the intake of calories and taking a longer and uncomfortable route so her GPS could get a signal to properly work. This highlights how self-tracking and monitoring can have an impact on your body and behaviour and this isn't always in a positive way. Also, people are growing ever more scared of the unknown nowadays as so much information is available very easily and the quantified self-movement is adding to this as people can tend to be less spontaneous in their actions as this may not be ‘quantifiable’ and therefore they do not want to part take in it as they cannot bear to feel the guilt of not accounting for it.

Monitoring and tracking many aspects of your life also leads many people to be uncomfortable with who they are and feel that they need to change themselves to be ‘perfect', “These outside forces guide citizens to become ideal subjects, and these forces are slowly internalized so that individuals want to become the best version of themselves as approved by the state” [71]. The ‘Quantified Self’ movement can be destructive to someone’s self-image and create an idea that you have to fit to certain standards. However, Lanius also criticises some of the user’s personal gain through these applications as ‘a form of narcissism’ as it is used as a way of showing off your growth, meaning that they are only working hard to prove to others what they have accomplished rather than working hard for the benefit of their personal gain.

The data that is put into these self-improving applications can later be sold ‘on the dark web’, as stated by Mathew Aldridge in his article ‘Evolving perception of personal data in 2019’.[72] Aldridge states that “companies held in high esteem and who are regularly trusted with sensitive personal data are successful targets of cyberattacks”[73]. This means that consumer data is too easily sold from one company to the next without the customer’s knowledge and they might even sell the data for a profit gain.

In 2018 ‘MyFitnessPal’, an application used for calculating daily nutrient and calorie intake, was part of the 620 million accounts that were sold on the dark web [74]. “While it doesn’t sound like hackers will be able to check on what MyFitnessPal users ate for breakfast, the leaked credentials could be a problem for people who reuse passwords across multiple websites.[75] This means a buyer may easily be able to access a lot of personal information about a user, especially if they are able to get a hold of their email. This conveys how there are some negatives to the ‘quantified self’ movement.



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Digital Labour

Digital LabourEdit


Digital labour is one of the ways of working in the digital age. As Dennis Beck and Claretha Hughes say, historically this era began when the use of digital technology became prevalent and of common use throughout the world, mainly with the widespread use of the Internet (Beck & Hughes, 2012) [1]. Logically, this manner of working appeared in a context in which workers can assume any place as optimal to work, thanks to the digital revolution and the implementation of the information and communications technology (Graham, Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017).

Both the current society and its way of working are linked to computers.

Digital labour consists in the exploitation of users’ unpaid labour, who create content for multiple websites, for example social networks. Nowadays, this is the predominant model of capital accumulation of corporate Internet platforms. In addition, they benefit from the content because this online activity creates a data commodity that is sold to advertising clients as a commodity. In this way, they have the possibility of presenting advertisements that are targeted to users’ interests and online behaviour, and earn more money (Fuchs & Sevignani, 2013) [2].

There is a growing demand for work that takes place exclusively online. The internet has progressed to a point in which businesses are recognising the merits of a digital form of labour. The deployment of digital media has an impact on the working conditions; for example, the blurring of working space and other spaces of human life. This new way of working, as practically any activity, has benefits and drawbacks, both for employees and employers.

Christian Fuchs and Sebastian Sevignani link digital labour with Marxist theories and the present economic system. This current of thought is critical of capitalism and blame it for enriching a minority, which owns the means of production, at the expense of an oppressed and exploited majority. These ideas, as the labor theory of value, can be extrapolated to the current digital economy and can be related to digital labour, which has a major impact on our economy (Fuchs & Sevignani, 2013). But not only them talk about the influence of capitalism, also in an Ephemera Journal’s article the term “digital capitalism” is introduced [3].

Arnaumh (discusscontribs)

Digital Labour BenefitsEdit

Digital labour has completely changed the relationship between the employer and the employee. In general, people think that the new relationship established benefits the employer and harms the worker, but employees can also benefit from digital labour, such as the authors of 'Digital labour and development: impacts of global digital labour and the gig economy on worker livelihood' argue.

The most obvious benefit that digital work has over workers is the creation of jobs. This is something highly valued in countries that are developing, since it increases the development of their economies. In fact, “governments like those of Nigeria, Malaysia and the Philippines, and large organisations like the [[w:World Bank|World Bank], are increasingly coming to view digital labour as a mechanism for helping some of the world’s poorest escape the limited opportunities for economic growth in their local contexts” (Graham & Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017, p. 24) [4].

Countries with a more intense red are those that use the Internet the most. Digital labour contributes to increasing the use of the network throughout the world.

Another benefit of digital labour is the promotion of Internet connectivity for people who previously did not have access. The platforms that offer digital labour want the supply of workers to be as large as possible. For this reason, they make an effort so that the Internet reaches all parts of the world. Again, this benefits underdeveloped countries where there was not a consolidated connection (Graham & Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017).

Thanks to digital labour, some workers from countries with weak economies have managed to exponentially improve their annual profits. Previously, these people worked in jobs with low remuneration, such as computer technician or cashier. Digital labour, which allows that "anyone can, in theory, do any work from anywhere" (Graham & Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017, p. 4), gives them the opportunity to find a better paid job outside the impoverished economies of their countries.

The authors of 'Employability of offshore service sector workers in the Philippines: opportunities for upward labour mobility or dead-end jobs?' identify another benefit that digital work has on workers: the disappearance of the intermediary figure, which makes labour experiment a functional improvement and increases the added value of the work in the service chains (Beerepoot & Hendriks, 2013) [5]. In fact, digital labour platforms try to delete intermediaries so that job seekers from anywhere can have access to foreign demand, not just local demand (Beerepoot & Hendriks, 2014) [6].

The disappearance of intermediaries in the job search processes generates another digital labour benefit at the same time, since it eliminates economic exclusion. This is another point in favour of digital work because it helps to find work for job seekers who have difficulties or problems doing it in their environment. This is possible because digital labour allows them to access international markets via network. As Graham, Hjorth and Lehdonvirta indicates (2017), “millions of people have turned to outsourced digitally mediated work as a way to transcend some of the constraints of their local labour markets” (p. 3). In addition, digital labour also helps to find employment in local markets from anonymity using a nickname.

There is another aspect of digital work that benefits the worker, but also the employer. It is the specialization. In a context where the offer is so big, “work is turned into a commodity in which workers are transformed into a ‘computation service’” (Graham & Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017, p. 3). The person that offers a better service will get the job because he or she is the best positioned. That is why “one of the main potentials of digital work in the context of development is ‘skill arbitrage’” (Graham & Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017, p. 8).

Amazon logo.

Contrary to what many people think, workers derive benefits from digital work, as we have seen. However, employers benefit the most, since they have a much larger labour supply available thanks to the Internet. The authors of 'Amazon Mechanical Turk and the commodification of labour' explain that having a greater offer allows them to set working conditions that are very beneficial for their enrichment, but harmful for workers.

One of the most significant crowdsourcing sites is Amazon Mechanical Turk, which exploits the advantages offered by digital labour. The platform hires workers through Internet at low cost and without any social protection or moral obligation. By doing this, Amazon Mechanical Turk and the rest of digital labour platforms are clearly benefited (Bergvall-Kåreborn & Howcroft, 2014) [7].

The new relationship between employers and employees has benefited workers in some aspects. However, until there is a firm regulation of this type of work, companies will be the great beneficiaries of this new situation, which enables them “to shift costs and offload risk as they access a flexible, scalable workforce that sits outside the traditional boundaries of labour laws” (Bergvall-Kåreborn & Howcroft, 2014, p. 1).

Alvarocarrena (discusscontribs)

Digital Labour DrawbacksEdit

There are, however, significant issues with digital labour. The online workforce is still relatively young, which has allowed large companies and con-men alike, to take full advantage. This includes huge legislative holes and a lack of transparency among other huge issues which thus far has only bred corruption. Digital labour as a lot of us know it can be seen as work enabled by an online 'information society', many people are able to work from the leisure of their own home by working on a laptop or desktop. This is often earned, however, there are many situations in which digital labour is not a benefit, instead it is a huge hinderance that has the potential to ruin lives as Digital Labour is a world in which; "Exploitation is organized through labour markets, where labourers have specific state-guaranteed rights and freedoms that frees them not only from personal dependences, but also from controlling the conditions for the realization of their labour to make ends meet." (Fisher & Fuchs, 2015, p159) [8] Digital labour follows this model, however doesn't necessarily have all of the of the state-guaranteed rights as will be discussed moving forward.

Digital labour platforms provide immense flexibility for workers, Job security is, however, a common concern, and digital workers are exposed to a handful of risks regarding their employment status as well as the benefits and payments that they receive. Unfair rejection is a major concern on crowdworking platforms, with communication between workers and project management often being unclear or lacking, giving workers little direction as to what is expected of them (Berg, 2018)[9]. It is common for platforms to have an algorithm to monitor submissions and evaluate work quality and efficiency. A system such as this may lack precision without human supervision, which can lead to work being rejected despite how well it might have been completed. Workers in turn receive little to no feedback on their work, since management often will have no insight on why work was rejected by the algorithm. This not only inhibits crowdworkers opportunity to improve their skills, but also impacts their ability to get further work, since many rejections and negative ratings can affect employability chances, and even cause for workers accounts to be deactivated. Crowdworkers have little protection when it comes to wage theft; If rejected work is still of use for project management, crowdworkers might not get a wage for their labour provided. According to surveys held by the Geneva International Labour Office, “Almost nine out of ten workers [...] have had work rejected or have had payment refused” (Berg, 2018 p.74)[10]. Of the workers surveyed only 12 per cent stated that all rejections were justified, and 50 per cent of the participants stated that only some of the work rejections were justified. As requesters have the power to reject work without reasoning, lack of transparency provides a major problem for crowdworkers, as it allows requesters to take advantage of the labour that crowdworkers provide.

work rejection survey[11] by platform (percentages).

There are many poor countries that digital labour is able to take full advantage of, whether it be through poor legislation in regard to workers' rights, or citizens in a place of extreme poverty and desperation, who get themselves into a job market that takes advantage of them, cheats them, and then throws them away when done. This is prevalent in places such as Malaysia, in which the government pushes digital labour scheme which is supposed to make opportunities for those in need. It also happens in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, instead of a government, the Digital labour campaign is ran by the Rockefellar foundation. These 'opportunities' just pits people against each other in a highly competitive environment where there is no job security as is highlighted here in a review that interviews digital labour workers. In the article, one of the workers named Kim-Ly found herself unemployed as her employer; ‘closed the contract altogether without prior warning’ (Graham, Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017, p145) [12] which would not be possible elsewhere in the world. This happened to Kim-Ly due to a lack of legislation that stops employers from simply cutting off employees.

These sorts of things will also happen in the west where companies have the ability move from state to state to get past legislation but the reason that businesses have to do that is because in the western world legislation is beginning to catch up whereas in the eastern world there is still plenty space for courrupt practices and it makes the less technologically advanced places more vulnerable. The fact that these people are working for a faceless boss who they cannot have any human interaction with allows for heartless statistic based decisions, a Newsweek article points out that; ‘Workers may have to accept near-constant monitoring of every mouse click and conversation (Zittrain, 2009). [13] The world of digital labour is ruthless and heartless, the businesses offering jobs can see everything that you do, and if you take even a single brake to say; check up on your ill child, you could risk losing your job.

The Rockefeller Foundation pushed a digital labour campaign that offered impoverished people what turned out to be very unsecure jobs.

It can be argued that the intention of these initiatives are good, as they do provide jobs and garner results, however, upon looking further into the topic it is clear that in the cases of review that was cited earlier (Graham, Hjorth & Lehdonvirta, 2017) [14]. People seem to be more often than not, on the short end of the straw. these plans by huge entities such as the Rockefeller foundation, which to take on people in impoverished areas is a means to take advantage of them, not to help them.


There are certain strategies that could be set in place in order to help protect digital labour. Market based strategies help to encourage transparency between the employer and the employee. If both consumers and buyers alike have more information surrounding the products and production practises that they intend on engaging in, it would be less likely for firms to act unethically through exploitation. However, the problem with this is that this that digital labour is a fairly new concept. Therefore, market based strategies that work on transparency tend to lend themselves to physical and tangible goods, whereas digital labour is harder to trace. (Graham, 2017, p.154) Existing strategies such as, consumer watchdogs, certification schemes and activist organisations could be revised to try and fit the digital labour demands. Such as, updating ethical standards and setting social and economic protections on the living wage. (Graham, 2017, p.154) In the past, is workers were unsatisfied, one would protest and strike in hopes of improving working standards. However, the problem with digital labour is the lack of solidarity within the field. The anonymity within the field makes it hard to organise such strikes. However, another problem is also the oversaturation within the field. Due to the highly competitive tendencies within the field, workers are easily replaced, therefore individuals cannot afford to go on strike or the strike would in effective in itself. Mark Graham et al. suggests that one could create a transnational digital workers or trade secretariat to attempt to combat the problems at hand. However, due to the globalised nature of digital labour, it would be hard to put into practise due to the confined political boundaries policy makers are faced with. However, research shows that despite the globalised nature of digital labour work, the countries that exhibit the most demand and supply of digital labour is still quite centralised. Primarily concentrated in regions such as, the United States, United Kingdom, and such- east Asian countries like Malaysia and India. This could be a good starting point in setting up certain regulations such minimum wage based of the country of residence and working contracts for workers protection and job security. (Graham, 2017, p.156)

Digital EconomyEdit

Platform Market Capitalisation, US Dollar(Billions)

[15]The digital economy can be defined as an economy based on computer/internet technologies. Due to the worldwide capitalist crisis, neoliberalism and the logic of commodification of everything have suffered cracks, fissures and holes. There is an arrival of the interest in Marx, which expects us to consider the role of Marxism in Media and Communication Studies.[16]Dallas Smythe helps us to remember the significance of commitment with Marx's works for studying the media in capitalism critically. Both Critical Theory and Critical Political Economy of the Media and Communication have been criticized for being uneven.[17]At last, Marx composes, a brutal power which controls over everything, including the capitalist himself (1964: 156). The prompt sign of the alienation of species-getting to be described in Manuscripts is the subjection of the labourer to the rule of the factory master.[18] In today’s digital economy, the danger of disturbance is high agile market players are getting through conventional industry limits to capture market share example Airbnb has upset the hotel industry, Uber the taxi industry, and Amazon retail.

There are four key priorities for digital business planning

1. Develop a demand-driven business plan To survive and thrive in the digital economy, companies should operate as a demand-driven business plan that moves the concentration from the supply chain to the value chain. To widen the organizer's viewpoint to incorporate all players associated with delivering the final product or service to the customer. As per this model, planners are called in to solve problems only in exceptional cases, else, they've focused around on creating value and generating revenue

2. Improve responsiveness As companies feel the pressure to advance toward faster planning. To expand agility and responsiveness, companies need a single wellspring of information with the goal that all roles can accurately assess conditions, reproduce the effect of activities, and execute decisions in real time.

3. Plan holistically The digital economy requires a well-defined plan from start to finish that broadens the options on the entire value chain. Many companies begin inside, coordinating arranging exercises crosswise over lines of business. Moving outward, companies then incorporate suppliers so as to team up, plan, and deliver more effectively.

4. Increase strategic agility Agility in companies’ strategies is a must in this digital era. Companies in this front moved to self-regulating and adaptive planning models. With live data and real-time analytics companies can increase their profits.

Ala Venkat (discusscontribs) 16:46, 28 March 2019 (UTC)


As stated, as digital media becomes more and more prevalent in our society, the benefits and drawbacks also become clearer. It is clear that is consists of the exploitation of labour forces that produce what we know as the internet and our products.

Protest against Apple for ignoring Foxconn's Labor Conditions

As explained in the benefits section, the biggest advantage of digital labour is the effect it has on poor and impoverished countries. Digital labour creates many jobs for the people that reside in these countries and gives access to the internet that was not accessible beforehand. It also improves the annual profit of said countries and removes the intermediary figure in the employment process. Therefore, we can see that the workforce of a company do benefit from digital labour however due to their availability of labour, the employer benefits the most. An example was given of w:Amazon Mechanical Turk, to explain the exploitation of workers at a low cost. Ultimately we can conclude that digital labour has a negative effect and exploits the workforce of the employer, for their benefit.

The drawbacks are also extremely clear and it could be argued that they outweigh the benefits. Digital labour comes with substantial negative effects such as taking advantage of the companies due to their younger workforce's and of poorer countries. Conclusively, digital labour is the major cause of people being used for their services and being disregarded afterwards. While there are some benefits, the treatment of the workers cannot be excused. Strategies to battle the exploitation within digital labour are present but difficult to put into effect or make a difference. The anonymity, lack of solidarity and over saturation makes strikes and other tactics extremely difficult to carry out.

Strategies to battle the exploitation within digital labour are present but difficult to put into effect or make a difference. The anonymity, lack of solidarity and over-saturation makes strikes and other tactics extremely difficult to carry out. Finally, our section on Digital Economy explains his critiques of digital labour and shows the four key priorities of Digital Business Planning.

To conclude, due to the exploitation of workers in digital labour, they are trapped in a world of being a small part of a massive corporation. The work force feel alienated from reality and no matter how unwilling they are to do this occupation, the employer feels as though it is necessary for the product and the profit. Additionally, people in poorer countries have no choice but to be taken advantage of through digital labour to survive.


Digital Culture and the Environment


When discussing the topic of digital culture and the environment three subtopics are worth considering; the global village, digital media consumption, and digital media production. The introduction of digital media has made the world a considerably smaller place, changing the way in which people and society act. This has serious implications when it comes to the environment, creating new problems and solutions. By discussing and analysing how people use and consume media, the current efforts, how seriously people are thinking about the impact of their media consumption, and ways consumers could improve, we can get a better idea of just how much impact digital media consumption has on the environment. It's also important to consider media production. Specifically, looking into the comparison of traditional and digital media production, negative and positive impacts of digital media production, the justification and business approach, and alternative sustainable solutions.

Main ConceptsEdit

How Living in a Global Village Impacts the PlanetEdit

Marshall McLuhan at Cambridge University

The term "Global village" was popularized in the early sixties by Canadian theorist Marshall McLuhan in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy[19]. In the book, McLuhan reflects on the impact that print media had on the world when it first became mainstream. Books were our first, and for most of history only, ‘teaching machine’. Today, we have access to all kinds of teaching machines and with the digital world at our fingertips, we can learn anywhere. In his interview "The World is a Global Village"[20], McLuhan talks about the ways in which the world and people are being transformed by media. The world is now a single unit, a 'continually sounding tribal drum’ through which messages spread. As an example, the live news coverage of the attack on the twin towers on September 11th 2001 comes to mind. In this article [21], a journalist recounts his experience of reporting the attack in New York, relaying information and footage via the internet to his boss in the UK. The attack was broadcast to audiences in different countries in real-time making the date 9/11 a universally recognised day of tragedy. Now eighteen years on, the digital space has become much more advanced and instead of exclusively relying on news outlets, we have smartphones in our pockets and access to social media - ready to distribute any 'news' we deem important. This network that connects the globe impacts not just the digital environment, but also the physical environment of the planet. As his work began to develop, McLuhan adopted the term "Global theatre", as he felt it was more descriptive of the ‘surrealist cornucopia’ of American culture that dominated the media space during the 1950s. [22] He claims that other countries have been 'westernised' and have adopted the wasteful and harmful business practices that are prevalent in western culture.

Eco TourismEdit

A captive orca performing at SeaWorld San Diego in the mid/late 1960s.

With such a wide audience viewing this global theatre, it's not surprising that places shown in films have become popular tourist attractions. Film has encouraged visitations to specific locations and certain species of animals. The market for ecotourism has increased considerably.
Following the release of the successful Free Willy films, whale and dolphin watching has become the fastest growing sector of the eco-tourism industry. Orcas are now the most recognized and well-known whales by the general public, and this rapid growth has consequently “industrialised the ocean”. Undoubtedly, dolphin and whale watching is leaving a trace. Studies have shown that human interaction with cetaceans can cause short-term changes in the behaviour of these creatures, such as alterations to foraging strategies or reduced maternal care, which in the long term can lead to the displacement from preferred habitats or reduced reproductive success (Blewitt 2008) [23].

The “David Attenborough Effect” perpetuates the ecotourists’ expectations of close encounters with wild animals. David Attenborough offers “closeness to nature”, but his documentaries fail to detail the months or years of research into a particular population of animals and the hours of filming required to “get the shot”. Consequently, his documentaries can convey the wrong message of wild animals and their willingness to connect with humans in non-threatening ways. One can argue that the David Attenborough Effect has influenced even captive animal viewing, and has created unreasonable expectations of viewing animals in close proximity, which the ecotourist seeks and expects when wildlife viewing (Wearing 2011) [24].

Social Media Companies, Their Environmental Goals and Their Current Impact on the EnvironmentEdit

Facebook Data Center

When discussing social media and its environmental impact, it is crucial that we assess the actions of companies such as Facebook and Twitter, and judge them on how effective their attempts at sustainability have been. Articles such as [25] highlight the enormous environmental impact top digital companies have. Amongst other things, it was revealed that Google's CO2 emissions in 2010 were significantly higher compared to the likes of Facebook, with "Facebook emitting 285,000 metric tons of CO2 whilst Google's annual emissions were 1.5M metric tons of CO2". This was followed up by a statement from Facebook headquarters revealing the construction of a large Data centre in Sweden, with the cold temperatures helping to reduce energy consumption in the process of cooling the data servers. What can be taken away from this article is that digital companies are somewhat environmentally conscious and actions are being undertaken to maintain their services without damaging the environment. Another source found that the effects of Facebook CO2 on an individual level are rather small each year [26] However, "It’s estimated that by 2021, there will be 3.02 billion users of social media." That’s 41% of the world’s population. Facebook claims that each user emits an average of 299g of CO2 per year. Not bad. But for 3.02 billion users? The numbers add up quickly, especially keeping in mind that facebook's user base will likely keep growing far beyond 2021.

Data Centers – the Production of Media and Their Impact on the EnvironmentEdit

Because we are part of an ever-advancing civilization, we have to deal with ever-increasing data volumes being processed, stored, and accessed. This results in growing energy demands as to keep Data Centres alive. [27]. When thinking about electricity usage and energy efficiency, Data Centres are a huge concern as they need to be in constant operation, as can be seen in this video Inside a Google Data Center. Data centres are needed for the dissemination and production of digital media services, data transfer, film and video streaming, communication, cloud based storage. "In order to provide reliable and scalable computing infrastructure, the high network capacity of data centres is especially provisioned […] thus use a huge amount of energy (Zhang & Ansari 2013)[28] servers, storage and communication equipment, and power distribution infrastructure and cooling infrastructure are the three main contributors to power usage of data centers". Technology company [Google LLC] and leading data centre manager has recently announced the shut down of consumer Google+ for April 2nd, 2019. As a result, all content, including Photos and videos from Google+'s Album Archive and Google+ pages, will be deleted. However, some Data Centers are able to operate on an efficient level such as the ones based in Iceland Landsvirkjun-Iceland Data Center. As part of a concerted effort to reduce emissions and cause less damage to the environment, Google was awarded a multi-site certification employing greener and more efficient sources of energy.

Media Consumption and its Impact on the EnvironmentEdit

How People Use and Consume Media and How That Affects the EnvironmentEdit

Consumption of electronics is becoming inevitable and combatting negative environmental impacts more insurmountable than ever.
Ever since the invention of TV and smartphones, people have been able to consume digital media faster and more readily than ever before. Whereas the spreading notion of Information society allows us to be more connected and involved through digital media, there is a price that comes with that. In their article, Chandaria, Hunter, and Williams (2011) note that "(...) a 2007 study for Ofcom (Forster et al.) estimated that television and related peripherals account for around 1.8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions". [29] Although that study was conducted in 2007, it can only be assumed that those numbers have increased alongside the growing interaction with digital culture. In their work, Sui and Rejeski (2002) write that "(...) the Internet is responsible for one-half to two-thirds of all growth in the U.S. electricity demand in the last decade. For every 2000 kilobytes of data moving on the Internet, the amount of energy obtained from burning a pound of coal is needed to create the necessary kilowatt-hours." [30] In fact, a lot of the environmental issues associated with digital culture stem from the energy use of technology, and not only on the individual consumer level - server warehouses, mostly immaterial to consumers, took up to 2.2% of the total energy supply of the US in 2010 and numbers are estimated to double every five years (Maxwell et al. 2012)[31].
A view intangible for many people living in information societies.
Not only does digital media consumption require increasing amounts of energy, but the gadgets themselves also provide another burden on the environment. Consumer behaviour is highly influenced by business models that encourage decreasing device lifespans and increasing online content interaction. As networks keep creating activities that increase time spent online and the number of coinciding user interactions, they further impede the environmental benefits of "dematerialisation" (Wood et al. 2014)[32]. The Office for National Statistics (UK) reports a significant increase in interaction with online newspapers and magazines [33]. Accordingly, Salesforce Research outlines a decrease in printed material consumption worldwide[34]. Furthermore, with devices such as televisions, computers and mobile phones being replaced on average every two to ten years (Robinson, 2009[35]; Statista, 2019)[36], leads information societies to produce incomprehensible amounts of E-waste.

Regardless of consumer efforts to recycle, countries often bypass recycling regulations for E-waste due to high labour costs and lack of facilities (Robinson 2009)[37]. It has been reported that up to 90% of the world's early electronic waste, which is estimated to add up to 20-25 million tonnes, is illegally dumped [38] in countries where recycling techniques disregard the protection of the environment [39]. Yet, information regarding the recycling of these materials often fails to reach the everyday consumer.

Current Efforts Surrounding Digital Media ConsumptionEdit

It appears that consumers don't consciously think about the environmental impacts of consuming digital media. This is relevant because of the ongoing shift from traditional print media to digital libraries which use up lots of energy. Meanwhile, the demand for technology and especially their ownership in the era of developing information society is increasing. The everyday consumer seems to have very little faith in the potential of an increasing technology to possibly have a positive environmental effect[40]. In his research, Chowdhury (2012) found that "Many recent studies show increasing interests in the use of specific types of digital information products(...) It is estimated that ICT’s [information and communication technologies] own sector footprint currently stands at 2 percent of global emissions and it will almost double by 2020 (The Climate Group, 2008). [41] This is concerning and further highlights how little consumers think or know about the consequences or their consumption.

Meanwhile, news and media networks work hard to meet energy demands without having to sacrifice the impact on nature[42]. An increased awareness of the environmental impacts of technology usage and media consumption has the potential to drive the development of more efficient and sustainable uses of technologies. As the Internet of Things (IoT) is more and more becoming a part of our everyday lives, its increasing energy consumption is an active concern. However, as recent discussions point out, the IoT also has the potential to further develop functions that contribute to more sustainable technology usage. For example, sensing technologies can provide functions to adapt to changes in the environment and help with the distribution of resources. We currently employ cars that turn off when stopping at a red light and lights that turn off when there is no movement detected in order to increase sustainability. Such functions have the potential to offer energy savings of up to 10-15% by managing user behaviour [43]. As user behaviour seems to be a significant determinant of the energy consumed as well as the GHG emissions produced, it is crucial to encourage changes on a practical level [44]. However, only minimal changes are predicted regarding reducing data intensity and reducing demands on users' devices [45].

To encourage consumers to overthink their consumption habits, it is vital to expose them to the detrimental effects their choices have on the environment e.g. e-waste landfills in Africa[46]. Because consumption usually doesn't affect the consumers' immediate environment there can be dissociation. However, if consumers were better able to see and comprehend the environmental effects of their choices have, they might be more likely to make environmentally friendly decisions.

Instagram 24% (10 votes) 76% (32 votes)
Facebook 29% (6 votes) 71% (15 votes)
Table 1. Poll conducted on Instagram and Facebook asking whether a person considers themselves to be informed/aware of the environmental impacts of their digital media use

Solutions for Sustainable ConsumptionEdit

A generic Google search that billions of users conduct every day and consequently uses just as much energy.

Fighting ignorance is detrimental to get consumers to actively consider their effects on the environment. Digital media's status as the eco-friendly, paperless option to its predecessors has recently been contested due to the incredible amount of power it requires to be sustained. According to Chowdhury (2012), "(...) even on a conservative estimate, one billion grams or 1,000 tonnes of CO2 is emitted only for Google search every day". [47] Digital media is ever growing and while it uses its own share of resources, ways to mobilise it in monitoring carbon footprint have been discovered.

In the age of climate crisis, utilising IoT in energy production, city infrastructure, transport, agriculture and urban housing has the potential to lower carbon emissions through pollution tracking and effective communication between manufacturers and devices [48]. This is applicable both on industry and grassroot level. In the 'Global e-Sustainability Initiative and Accenture Strategy' study #SMARTer2030 [49] the concept of smart buildings is discussed as a way for individuals to track the energy consumption of their home. Smart buildings are implemented with monitors, automation systems and meters that forward data on energy use to the user’s smart device. Embedding houses into the smart grid network can lower users’ bills and help integrate renewable energy sources. The European Union is currently aiming to install smart meters in 80% of households by 2020. [50]
A Nest thermostat that reports energy usage is an example of a smart home feature

Monitoring consumption is a part of the way digital media promotes environmentally conscious behaviour. Spreading environmental awareness has been proposed to be a key factor in endorsing pro-environmentalism and environmental groups have taken to social media to spread information on current issues. However, social media can be harnessed beyond raising awareness - Zapico et al. (2009) find that social ICT applications can be used to persuade users into adjusting their behaviour to be more ecological. This happens not just through real-time feedback on the users' carbon footprint, but through social comparison and monitoring by others.[51] This is supported by Kaur and Chalal [52] who also found that the comparative powers of social media endorses pro-environmental behaviour over other types of media, which should be taken into account in future green ICT application design.

Media Production and Impact on the EnvironmentEdit

Living in a weightless Society

Because we live in a world dominated by media and new technology, we are described by some as living in a ‘Weightless Society’- a society having been de-materialised through digitalisation.[53] However, just because it is 'weightless', doesn't mean that our economy is sustainable - some experts go as far as stating that the use of modern-day technology may be more damaging than e.g. the overuse of paper and other materials which are known to put a strain on our planet's natural resources. For example, despite not being able to blatantly see the damage caused, in order to produce and consume media, whole ecosystems are being torn apart so that we can tweet, make Instagram posts or share our location on Facebook. These small actions only take seconds, which is why people seem to fail to grasp the scope of them. However, the causes are detrimental to landscapes, the people who inhabit them and their culture. Moreover, overexposure to media might further disconnect us, decreasing social interaction and even emotional development as we become consumed by the social bubbles within our smartphone.

Aaron Paul on the set of Breaking Bad - which features many SFX

How the Production of Film Impacts the EnvironmentEdit

Film lighting powered by generators on the set of 'Your Money or Your Life' by Jean-Pierre Mocky (1966)

Film and television production has been known to negatively impact on the environment. Filming often requires access to remote locations which are often harmed during the filming process. For example, film sets are known to pollute the environment around them through special effects, stunts, and even the lavish lifestyles of those on set. Like most large corporations and projects, the trail of a carbon footprint can begin from administration all the way up to the editing room. A prime example of this is the production of the film Mad Max: Fury Road. An article by Wired notes that: "(...) parts of the desert until now untouched by vehicles had been driven over, leaving tracks -- in one area a "ploughing device" had been used.[54] Even worse, to try and level the tracks as they left, the crew had dragged nets across the ground, ripping out small plants." An Article by Kaleem Aftab explores the pollution and environmental damage caused by film sets: "From the generators to the caterers delivering food onto set, making a film eats up energy like no other art form."[55] Aftab states that, despite the endeavours of stars, directors, and companies to highlight green issues, they would be better shifting their focus to the movie industry itself. With the article now being over a decade old the longevity of the problem is highlighted and, considering the recent boom of the industry and the growth of film as a medium, one can only assume that circumstances must have worsened since then. Maxwell and Miller discuss this concern in their book ‘Greening the Media’. They explain that to this day, it is mostly traditional pollutants such as energy which are the problem: “In California, as a whole, film— and television-related energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) are about the same as those produced by aerospace and semiconductor industries.” [56]

Current EffortsEdit

Some directors are already paving the way forward: Aftab cites Roland Emmerich, director of the 2004 film The Day After Tomorrow, a natural-disaster movie which explores global warming as a cause of environmental disasters. Emmerich "sought to ensure that production wouldn't contribute to global warming by offsetting the carbon footprint of the film and by taking measures to reduce its environmental impact." To ensure this goal was met, Emmerich paid out of his own pockets and further encouraged his agents, UTA, to become carbon neutral. This is uncommon for a director to do: as Aftab states, such measures usually rely on directors or authority figures making demands. Aftab also shares a variety of possible ways in which the film industry could change to become more sustainable, highlighting that there are viable options to ensure a greener film set: Opting not to use cine-film, lights which don't rely on generators, as well as to recycle, using local restaurants and reducing crew sizes are all steps in the right direction. However, it's currently up to directors and producers to push for these changes.


Overall, when we discuss digital culture and the environment, topics such as the 'global village', 'media consumption' and 'media productions' impacts on the environment' are just a few of the many important aspects worth considering within this debate. Regarding this discussion, it's important to note the ways in which people use and consume media, the current efforts utilised to combat related issues and how individually and globally, efforts can be made to reduce digital pollution and e-waste. There are an abundance of examples as well as academic research exposing the harsh reality of e-waste. Awareness surrounding the point in question is becoming ever more important, but in a world where governments and corporations often turn a blind eye, the question of responsibility needs to be re-evaluated. After all, it is no less than the future of our planet which lies in the smartphones in our palms and behind the silver screens of tablets and TV's.


Social (Media) Movements

Social (Media) MovementsEdit


Without doubt, social media sites change the way we construe the world around us as well as the ways in which we commute information or organise our lives. In fact, social media platforms have played an important role in spreading social movements as they began to facilitate the organisation of movements such as #MeToo and the Women's March. But what are the determining factors or characteristics of social media platforms that deems them appropriate for facilitating social change or raising social awareness? How did they gain the power to shape society and in what ways are they continuously evolving?

To explore these issues, this essay will investigate what social media platforms are, how they emerged and why certain platforms managed to 'outlive' other platforms. By focusing on the characteristics of social media and how they relate to social movements, we will give contemporary examples of movements and illustrate what made them popular. Finally, we will examine the way in which the evolution and the characteristics of social media might help us understand and predict future trends in using social media as a tool to raise awareness, apply pressure and potentially facilitate burning social changes.

A History of Social Media: Between Growth and DeclineEdit

An example of one of the Myspace logo's in use, something many have seen, but likely overlooked

Social Media and the platforms that have come to prominence today were not always the dominant platforms in existence, they were very much the upstart companies at a time where Myspace and Bebo were the dominant players in the market. To a point, early in Facebook's existence the owners of Myspace had the opportunity to buy the entire Facebook operation from Zukerberg and their partners for $75 million which they passed up as being too expensive[57] [58] . Something which when viewed in hindsight was a major mistake considering the shift in market shares of both platforms, but how did it go right for a company like Myspace, for it to then go completely wrong?

Was it a failure to adapt to new trends, something that we have seen Facebook has been very adaptive towards as it has grown over the past 10 years and more, or was it something that it lacked, like a real social integration as it clung onto its original model of communities as its whole model, upon which Facebook adopted this as a subjection of Groups within its Social realm? Another part of Myspace that appears to have limited its potential for growth comes down to the user profile, or as referred to as 'The potential self in MySpace'[59] where this profile appears to have a very journal style that isn't shown in anyone's feed, unlike in Facebook where feed posts are its main method of profile sharing.

The area on which Facebook appears to have grown the most stems from what can be called as context design, an idea of structuring communications between groups of people who wouldn't normally interact in the real world, so this comes back to 'the online self' and how this online activity is used as an extension of what the person is doing when not offline[60]. A real world example of this would be someone sharing posts and photos from a music festival for their friends/contacts to see. And it is this kind of method in action that has allowed Facebook to grow as people find they can interact with the poster much easier compared to the very journal styled profiles that Myspace used.

Vine logo

A more recent example of a platform coming to prominence, only to then essentially shut down is Vine. The video making app allowed users to create short, 6 second clips that would then play on a loop. Vine’s cultural impact was truly surprising to many. It seemed that the constricting parameter of only 6 seconds for a video was something that many users took on as a challenge to try and test their creativity. From the onset, Vine users experimented and used the Vine app to create a somewhat strange array of content, that managed to go viral in many cases and garner an absurd amount of views.

Despite the platform rising to be one of the leaders among other social media, it simply could not keep up with other platforms who were adding, changing and developing their features. This ultimately drew many of the famous Vine users away to use other platforms such as Instagram or YouTube. Instagram was said to be Vine's main competitor, as Vine saw an increased downfall of users once Instagram implemented their video feature that was painstakingly similar to that of Vine's. The fact that Vine was behind on its development of different tools and features, many marketers shifted their sights onto other platforms who were growing at a faster rate. The Vine app had the capability and means to create more widely loved memes and content than any other app of the time, but Twitter (who had bought Vine over) had issues unfolding internally that solidified Vine’s eventual closure, especially when the app began finding difficulties in making money.[61]

So, it would seem that Vine’s downfall as a platform was not the result of a lack of love for the platform, but rather a combination of being unable to keep up with its competitors and internal issues that eventually led to its end. It could be argued, however, that Vine did not die. A simple Google search will show that Vine compilations are constantly being made by nostalgic fans and uploaded onto various other sites and platforms, mainly YouTube, and easily garnering millions of views. This would suggest that the cultural shift that Vine caused is still apparent and ongoing, despite the platform itself no longer being in operation.

Use of Social Media: What Are Their Characteristics?Edit

Social media movements in the present day can have a direct link to television. Many people believe that social media and new technology have led to a demise in the television industry, but this is far from the case, as social media and television often work together to aid each other and create a multi-screen experience.

More people are watching TV than ever, using mobile devices to converge with the TV set and change 'the way in which we experience programming' [62]. Social media sites, especially Twitter, are used as a ‘backchannel’ which drives broadcasts. Due to this, conversations are no longer confined to the living room but can be shared with others worldwide who are ‘co-viewing’. This 'real-time chat'[63] is most convenient on Twitter as it is public by default and does not require an account to view. However, Facebook is also used to share opinions, although it is more private. Social media and portability of devices has encouraged a two-screen experience, watching TV whilst being on the internet, creating a natural and comfortable way of viewing. Twitter is integral for 'TV viewers who are looking to express themselves while watching broadcasts' [64]. Research was done into tweets during two TV broadcasts: Obama’s Nobel prize speech and an episode of ‘So you think you can dance’. It showed that for both broadcasts, online people were mainly sharing opinion and emotional messages. 'Tweets indicate that people are using Twitter to express themselves' [65]
Example of Twitter interaction displaying a fan giving an opinion to an artist that they admire. This is an example of Proulx and Shepatin's point that conversations are no longer confined to the living room.

Blake highlights that a pivotal moment for this development was in 2008 when devices became able to support interactive sources. The argument is that these extra platforms are important to social television as binge-watching is not possible due to adverts and scheduling. The extra platforms allow viewers to engage with the material when it is not being broadcasted. Blake states that this leads to ‘superfans’. He uses good examples throughout, showing how transmedia storytelling has been effective. One example being the Love Island app, which allows the user to interact as an avatar and drive the narrative whichever way they want to take it [66].

Social media not only encourages users to actively engage with television but also allows for political and social movements to occur. The platform that the internet gives to Social Media users, for example those on Twitter, reaches far and wide to those that might not otherwise engage politically.

'Media are not technologies, but techno-social systems'. [67] When discussing techno-social systems Fuchs means that the internet both encourages and inhibits interaction between what he calls Actors (those using media i.e. us). He also discusses the dynamics between media structures and the agency of the user. This can answer a question brought forward in Shirky’s reading of social media activism. How does one make a change when it is needed? Twitter hashtags allow everyone regardless of socioeconomic background to participate in campaigns such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Fuchs describes the engagement of Actors in social media as a cycle that starts with social structures and moves to Enabling / Constraining, then on to Actors, then to Agency, and back to Social Structures. The cycle continues. This means that for media engagement to occur, social structures must be established that simultaneously encourage and inhibit the user to consciously participate online. This cycle will continue over and over with users giving momentum to a movement or topic.

Shirky suggests that people want to make a change but are unsure how to do this. With Fuchs methodology it can be said that to participate in Social change one must partake in online engagement. To feed a movement like #MeToo, celebrities and civilians alike took to Twitter sharing their common outrage towards sexual harassment in the workplace. The movement has now become a global call for change. Much like the #MeToo movement active engagement in any social or political change first comes from the conscious decision from the Actor to participate.

Political and Social Activism: Social Media MovementsEdit

2017 Women's March - An image of campaigners from a protest that now runs annually.

The line between social and political activism can be blurry; more often than not they intertwine. They also boast the same objective: change. Louise Ryan states that ‘social movements provide a framework for understanding the dynamics of various social issues, including civil rights, feminism, environmentalism, and the peace movement’ [68]. As a platform, social media is an outlet where we can show / express our opinions and watch, organise and/or take part in world-changing action on societal issues we feel strongly about.

Firstly, let's talk about politics. Allison Brooke Robertson writes about the two types of social media campaigning/ activism in her dissertation [69] : top-down (from those in power to the people) and bottom-up (demands of the people to those in power). An example of top-down would be how, like many candidates, Barack Obama successfully utilised social media in his 2008 & 2012 Presidential campaigns and started activism in support of himself. An example of bottom-up being the Women's March against Trump and his sexist beliefs/ statements in 2017 (which now runs annually) which had around 5 million protesters present. This shows how a shared opinions/ dislike for something shared online can manifest into something bigger and serious outside of social media that can really make an impact. Robertson writes how 'online tools' lead to offline action'; both types of campaigns used hashtags, tweeting patterns, posted pictures and updates of campaign tours and charity/ activist work they've partaken in to spread awareness and gain support online which them becomes offline support also. Demographic contributed to both types of activism; 67% of 18-29 year olds watched official political video content on social media and 49% engaged in political activity and sharing - these were the highest percentages of any age group; we can link this to the fact that the number of young voters was Obama's highest voting demographic (ROPER [70]), and that more people from this age group attended the Women's March than Trump's inauguration (75% more) to conclude that this aptly highlights the immense power of political, and social, internet activism, especially in the age of the millennial.

Kids > Guns - A sign from the protest March For Our Lives.

Beyond the electoral aspect of politics on social media lies activism, which instead pushes for a change in the law. In the aftermath of the MSD High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students and staff dead, many MSD students took to social media to push for tighter gun control under the twitter hashtag #NeverAgain. The recognition that these teenagers received, and the momentum that followed their campaign, would have been impossible if they did not have the power of social media behind them. With social media attention from across the globe and endorsements from notable public figures such as Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, the students of MSD made unparalleled changes to the way in which smartphone obsessed teenagers are viewed by the world; now more than ever teenagers are viewed as a sign of hope and even change. In the face of tragedy and outrage, MSD students “created a movement armed with their knowledge of how to effectively use social media to impact change.”[71] The students went on to organise #MarchForOurLives – a protest which took place in cities across the USA and countries across the world, with over 1.2 million participants in America alone. While no major change has occurred so far – with their first triumph, the bump stock ban, still in the process of getting pushed through congress - these social media led movements have changed the conversation around gun control as more people globally are becoming aware of the issues around gun legislation in the USA – emphasising the important role that activism plays on social media.

Since the beginning of social media people have been sharing their opinions, beliefs and feelings online which is why when we began to see activism creeping its way into the online realm, it became so big so fast. Social activism is a method of raising awareness about a specific cause in hopes of societal change. Social media has played a huge role in activism recently. Although the use of activism to gain recognition for important causes is not a new concept, the use of social media to promote this activism is. '...technological advancement has necessitated a new way of understanding activism among young people.' [72] Teruelle explains that many do not understand the power of social media and brand young people as lazy and unmotivated as a result, however these platforms may actually be the most influential tools for activism yet. Even protests that took place offline (such as the #TrashTagChallenge and Women's March Against Trump) started on and were organised via the Internet. The hashtag has become so much more powerful than anyone ever believed a tiny symbol could be. This symbol has sparked some of the most influential and important protests through social media such as #BlackLivesMatter, #JeSuisCharlie and #MeToo. In 2017 people, specifically women, decided it was time to take action to fight against sexual abuse and violence. The #MeToo movement started as a hashtag on Twitter and its aim was to display the magnitude of the epidemic that is sexual abuse. The wide spread support this campaign got was unexpected by many but it has done nothing but help and raise awareness for women everywhere. The true powers of social media platforms are beginning to shine through and Shirky [73] says that the best way to view social media is to see it as a long term tool that will inevitably only work to strengthen civil society and the public sphere.

Adapting To Society: Present and Future TrendsEdit

In order to survive and to remain powerful, social media platforms must constantly adapt to a changing society and to changing consumer needs. We have seen before that Facebook achieves this well: by making its platform follower-centric it was able to push its competitor Myspace from the market. Facebook also implemented photo sharing in its service which shows that it understood the customer’s switch to more visual content. In fact, the company took over Instagram which became one of the most popular social media platforms.

Examples of commons-based peer production communities

Due to their democratic nature, everyone can participate on social media. The platforms are therefore used to promote contrary messages and movement. However, users see content on social media that is based on their preferences, their behaviour and their ideology. Algorithms ensure that people hear stories and read messages they are likely to respond to; people only have a biased view of what is going on as they will tend to hear about social movements which are in line with their ideology. It is argued that the amount of data the companies store about users (big data) can also mobilise, persuade and influence people by using it to send personalised information based on their interests, behaviour and ideology, but can people really blame Facebook when everyone receives different content according to who they are? Messages on the platforms are just more tailored than broadcasting. Casero-Ripollés states that 'social networks are not neutral artefacts, but are political and social spaces with strong democratic implications. Its digital architecture is integrated by technical protocols that allow, constrict and influence the behavior of users'.[74]

Looking at the future, Fuchs argues: ‘Social media today have an anticipative and simultaneously limited sociality: they anticipate a full socialization of human existence that is limited by the capitalist reality of social media. Alternatives are needed.’[75] He proposes the move towards are more commons-based internet ‘that is not based on capital accumulation, advertising, profit, ideology […], but rather enables knowledge, communication and collaboration for their own sake’ (ibid., p. 257). People should be able to share, collaborate, entertain themselves, access educative material, without the control of big capitalist corporations driven by profit. He gives the examples of Wiki*edia, Diaspora* and open-source social media platforms.


As it has been illustrated above, social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, are very effective tools for uniting people who share the same belief systems or strive for the same goals: Facebook is designed to connect people as well as keeping the people connected to one another, and Twitter with its hashtag system allows everyone to participate in and support social and political movements. When contributing to a cause such as #MeToo, being able to take part and raise awareness allows for a collective support and recognition a movement like this may not have received without the use of social media. Characteristics, such as these, are tremendously useful in generating awareness and interest for a cause as well as applying pressure on the people with power and with people spending substantial amount of their time on social media, the likelihood of social media facilitating the organization of social movements is rather high.

The arguments aforementioned in this essay have set a firm foundation in the need for Social Media to be used as a global instrument in political and social change. Irrespective of the user's motivation whether it be activism, sociopolitical engagement, or personal enjoyment Social Media has become part of our daily lives. The platforms we use today might not be what we use tomorrow but the construct and ideology of Social Media use are unlikely to change.



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