Cyborg Anthropology

Bridging the gap between traditional and cyborg anthropology.
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Cyborg Anthropology O'Reilly Webcast

I gave an hour-long webcast called Cyborg Anthropology: A Short Introduction on August, 5 2010 The event was free and had roughly 450 attendees.

Date: 
Thursday, August 5, 2010 

Time: 
10am PT, San Francisco 
6pm - London | 1pm - New York | Fri, Aug 6th at 3am - Sydney | Fri, Aug 6th at 2am - Tokyo | Fri, Aug 6th at 1am - Beijing | 10:30pm - Mumbai 

Presented by: Amber Case 
 
Duration: Approximately 60 minutes. 

Cost: Free 



Summary: 
Cyborg Anthropology is a way of understanding how we live as technosocially connected citizens in the modern era. Our cell phones, cars and laptops have turned us into cyborgs. What does it mean to extend the body into hyperspace? What are the implications to privacy, information and the formation of identity? Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it? This presentation will cover aspects of time and space compression, communication in the mobile era, evaporating interfaces and how to approach a rapidly changing information spaces. 



Full details here: http://oreillynet.com/pub/e/1679.


Speech Transcript (in progress)

Haraway proposed what she termed a "cyborg anthropology" to study the relation between the machine and the human, and she adds that it should proceed by "provocatively" reconceiving "the border relations among specific humans, other organisms, and machines" (52). Late twentieth century machines have made thoroughly ambiguous the difference between natural and artificial, mind and body, self-developing and externally designed systems".

Based on this essay, and many other instances of needing a methodology to understand and describe rapidly changing sociocultural systems affected by technology, the idea of a “Cyborg Anthropology” was proposed at the Annual Meetings of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in 1992.

The word Cyborg came from a 1960 paper on space travel, describing an organism “to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments”

In Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, he warned of "a possible future in which the magnificence of humans as prosthetic gods is tempered by the ill-fitting and troublesome nature of our auxiliary organs”(11).

Novelist Mr. Marriott, who just finished writing the sequel to his 2008 novel “The Skull Cage Key,” says that “the acceleration of obsolescence is breathtaking”. He says that it makes it difficult to imagine the future for his charactes.

Tim O’Reilly used the phrase "the architecture of participation" to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution.

The shape of a space affects how one can contribute – how one can represent themselves. Anthropologist danah boyd’s research on teens and social networks showed that there class differences between teens who stayed on MySpace and those who migrated from Myspace to Facebook. The difference was in how each network allowed one to present the self. On Twitter, one is represented by text. Status is open, and updates are controlled by the user. Facebook’s architecture morphs its users into a social structure of consumption and eavesdropping. A good software project or social network “can be seen to have a natural architecture of participation”.

http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html

All of our boundaries are blurring together

In 1956, sociologist Erving Goffman wrote a book called “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”. In it, he talked about the different ways in which people present themselves depending on the situation. For instance, two children whispering to each other act differently towards each other than they might towards their parents. In the same way, a person at work might construct their professional self very differently than they would at home.

“When we think about our behavior in public, it has always been bounded by where we are. Only people within a certain distance can see what we do. Now, this isn't strictly true”, says Paul Adams, senior user experience researcher at Google. The problem is that the social networks we're creating online don't match the social networks we already have offline. When we think about our behavior in public, it has always been bounded by where we are. Only people within a certain distance can see what we do. Now, this isn't strictly true.

In co-creating yourself with a digital device, you develop an identity in relation to others. This identity is either interesting or not interesting. If it is interesting, an ocular convergence, or set of virtual attention can attach itself to a virtual identity. This gives a person a certain amount of gravity with respect to others. One’s status updates must be technosocially attractive to viewers, or else identity loses gravity. Brands, and increasingly individuals, seek to increase gravity. Many of them fail. The ones who succeed become helpful, service-oriented personas, or they become icons of entertainment. Identity Production is the conscious production of identity through action, whether the action is physical, mental, virtual or both. The production of identity in virtual reality can occur on a social network, through text, image or video and can occur in small moments or large ones.

Psychologist Sherry Turkle was one of the first to use the phrase “second self” to identify our bodies in virtual space. She considers the computer not as a "tool," but as an extension of the psychological and social self in reality. Cyberspace allows one to sample the self – that is, choose which pieces of the self to present the self with. A person experiences thousands of moments every day. The moments one chooses to report shape one’s identity.

In 1995, Marc Auge wrote Non-Places – an introduction to supermodernity. A place is something in which one has “identity, relation and history”. According to Auge, places like airports and Subways are not places, because they offer the individual no identity, relation or history. They are only places betwixt and between here and there. They are places that are passed through, but not lived in.

As mobile individual spends more and more time in non-places like airports or security lines, the individual self reaches out for something to do. This is why pod devices such as the iPhone and portable music player have become so popular. They provide us with reconnection to something familiar while we wait through the endless corridors and interface changes of lines and airports and public transit.

In traffic jams, everyone has the same feelings, but they’re not connected. They are separated by exoskeletons. No one can set foot on a highway. In this case, many people use cell phones or music to reconnect themselves to place. This technosocial interaction helps users to transcend the heaviness of a fully rendered physical body stuck in space. If one’s physical self is stuck in traffic, one’s mental self can travel elsewhere, assisted by technosocial device.

In the same way, the modern individual passes through transitory spaces. The only way to reconnect the self to a place is to use a phone or music device. The public space has thus become a private one, where private conversations, texts and music are carried on by individuals as they go from one place to another. An airport gives no one identity, relation or history, but a cell phone or computer does. One can easily connect to virtual reality to escape the blandness of the physical one.

The Internet has drastically reduced the space and time it takes to create and experience events and time. This image was created by David Harvey to reflect how small our world became with each technological advance. This image did not take the Internet into account. Although the fastest planes can travel at the speed of sound, a hyperlink can travel near the speed of light. On Facebook, one can connect instantly to someone in another country. Geography is annihilated. If geography is annihilated, then this map is already outdated. What is a more accurate representation of what the technosocial world looks like?

We’re spending more and more of our time in what Linda Stone calls “Continuous Partial Attention”, or “Presence Lite”. The idea of one’s presence being “sort of” there in many places, instead of completely there in one place.

When multitasking, the brain does not store related memories in one place, but in small pieces. This causes performance and recall to suffer. One can easily see this when installing software while leaving other programs running, or downloading a bunch of images and storing them in different places all over the hard drive. The computer’s memory gets fragmented, much like a brain becomes fragmented. Mental hygiene becomes difficult, but important, in environments like these.

An Extended Nervous Systems leads to extended desire, extended stimulus, and extended privacy and security concerns. One must maintain the desires, needs and boundaries of one's external, digital body as well as one's physical body.

Simultaneous time also causes social punctuation, as technosocial connectivity seeps into every part of social relations.

It’s not that we’re always connected, but that we have always ability to connect. This is ambient intimacy, where connectivity is only a button away. Where sharing and connecting with another is not defined by geography but technosocial capability. David Weinberger called it “continual partial friendship”, and Johnnie Moore pointed out that, “it’s not about being poked and prodded, it’s about exposing more surface area for others to connect with”.

Filmmaker and cyborg theorist Sheldon Renan calls it “Loosely but deeply entangled”. Whatever you call it, it is a higher order of connectivity than we’ve ever experienced before as humans. We are beginning to see a new sense of time – the collective now.

And what we’re really seeing is that everything is a button away. We are mobile, and we need just in time information. In our mother’s wombs, all things came to us without us having to go anywhere. It is the same with the Smartphone. Even though we move around in time and space, we can increasingly access social and entertainment sentience via a single device.

Facebook has successful participation architecture because it brings everything to you, through understanding what you’re interested in. Instead of going out of your way to pick up the phone, write a letter or look at someone’s blog, all of the relevant status updates are brought right to you. Many are unrelated, but the architecture of Facebook is very good formatting data into small enough chunks to where anything is interesting.

In reality, Facebook is a giant spreadsheet with a billion rows of data. When you log on, it shows you the cells that have changed. Spreadsheets have never been so successful at gaining an audience.

We put all sorts of things into computers and devices. Photos, software, writing, ect. In reality, if you put a bunch of pictures into a room, that room gets full. When you put information into a hard drive, the hard drive stays the same weight. When you put information onto the Internet, you don’t feel the weight at all. The weight is being stored somewhere else.

If you take all of the material out of the average computer and print it out, what do you get? Cutwater agency did this in a campaign for Maxtor hard drives. They took 8 years of digital photos, printed them out, and stuck them together. And this is what it looked like.

Instead of real memories, we’re beginning to have hyperlinked memories. Digital Anthropologist Michael Wesch talked about a bunch of kids getting together to hang out. In reality, kids try to one-up each other with the best stories. In this case, they were trying to link each other to the best YouTube videos, then memories had become hyperlinks, and being cool means having access to the best hyperlinks. Coolness is ambient findability.

When one uploads images online, those images become hyperlinked memories. An address book or online document or E-mail is also a hyperlinked memory. It is an external memory stored outside the self for later access.

To get to these hyperlinked memories, we must become increasingly skilled virtual paleontologists. The E-mail inbox is the best example of this. Every day our memories and data is covered by a new layer of dust, spam, and items to be responded to. If we need something from our past, we must dig through the newly accumulated items in order to get it. But instead of using a hammer and a chisel, brush and field notebook, we use keywords and search results, tags and categories.

Work and Play

Now let’s talk about work and play.

In real life, the time and space between goals and accomplishments is often large. For some, it is physically impossible to achieve certain things, like purchasing a Ferrari or rising above middle management in their career path. Online gaming, especially sites like Farmville,step in to take care of that void.

Whereas one doesn’t have the money, time or room for a real garden, Farmville gives you one without the back aching labor. All reality is replaced by small icons, and time is compressed so that goals and accomplishments are right next to one another. Everything has a point value and a reward. When real life takes so long to reward someone, online gaming is often a better and more enjoyable alternative.

For those who spend a lot of time in reality, Foursquare is a good add-on for making the mundane exciting.

In a reputation economy, one levels up or down after gaining or losing friends or followers. How much one levels up depends on the quality and actual connectedness of a friend or follower.

On Twitter, people with similar stats can talk to each other.

Again, the Internet is not giving people stats, it is making visible stats that people already have between each other, and offering the opportunity for people in different geographies and times to connect with one another based on these stats.

The Tamagotchi was one of the first major virtual pets to hit the market. Since its introduction in 1996, over 70 million Tamagotchis have been sold.

The toy is simple. Children and teens feed, train and clean up after a virtual pet through a few buttons on the screen. In return, the pet grows older. Teens took to the toys in school and became obsessive about maintaining them. Why? The virtual pet on the device exhibited signs of life – it had needs, grew, and died. Each of these aspects caused toy owners to become mentally attached to them, responding to the stimulus with the correct series of button presses.

Real life relationships are complex. They must be maintained, or they fade away. The cell phone, like the Tamagotchi, is a virtual way to feed relationships. Friends may be fed by button presses, and looked after. A mobile phone cries, and it must be picked up and soothed back to sleep. When it runs out of battery power it must be fed. Because the mobile phone requires attention, it too resembles a living creature. Cell phones now live in our pockets and wake us up in the morning. They are our dashboards for interfacing with friends, family and appointments. They connect us to the database on which we now live.

The Internet as Playground and factory is the best phrase I’ve found to describe what’s going on in the virtual and physical worlds. Foursquare makes it so that every venue in real life has a point value. Yelp makes it so that every place is an experience that can be reported on and shared. Facebook and Twitter turn everyday interactions into historical text.

But each moment of play is also a moment of work. Each additional review, each status update, and every Foursquare check-in is work. Because it is fun, there is no friction to contributing. But it is still work. The Facebook database is updated by millions of unpaid workers every day, voluntarily contributing their content in order to receive responses and content and the release of oxytocin that comes with a community’s response to their contribution. The more one contributes to Facebook, the more information Facebook has on human interests and behavior. And the more information Facebook has on human interests and behavior, the more advertiser on Facebook pay for access to demographic data.

Thus, we might say that Facebook has a sticky participation architecture. Once in, it’s hard to get out. It’s one of the easiest, and stickiest, way to create a second self.

We covered a lot of topics here.

Let’s try a short scenario from the future.

Non-visual augmented reality with SMS and GPS

A successful interface makes itself invisible.

People think about cyborg anthropology as something about the future. And it's not. We've already been Borged. And people think about humans becoming more alien-like in the future. It's not like that. It's more about human beings being able to be whatever they are. Of course there's still the good and the bad. The struggle continues. But the one thing we've learned in the last 15 years is that the advanced things we think are highly technological are actually natural. The mechanics of networks are found throughout the world. All things really do want to be connected. Whether they're ladybird or highly developed organic systems.You can't have photosynthesis without connection and cooperation?

People want to work together. Things want to work together. And matter wants to work together, because its job is made easier when its environment acts in a cooperative way. Whether it's whales singing across 2000 miles of liquid to join up and meet somewhere, or a few hundred interested individuals from all over the world attending an online webinar to discuss the future of humans and technology.

I was first attracted to cyborg anthropology because I was attracted to a better future. But what I learned is that cyborg anthropology isn't looking at the future. It's really just a way of trying to understand what is going on around us and what might happen to us as a result.

Because of this, cyborg anthropology will eventually absorb all of anthropology, because anthropology is nothing more than a chronicle of humankind and its relationship and cultural reaction to tools. And now our tools are evolving much faster than we are.

We can use them to understand our world and each other, or we can let our prosthetics move us. Either way, technology, as it did in the beginning, will continue to co-create us, and we will co-create it.

What is a Cyborg Anthropologist?

A cyborg anthropologist looks at how humans and non human objects interact with each other, and how that changes culture. So, for instance, we have these things in our pockets that cry, and we have to pick them up and soothe them back to sleep, and then we have to feed them every night by plugging them into the wall, right? And at no other time in history have we had these really strange non human devices that we take care of as if they are real. And we're very dependent upon them. So that's one of the aspects that I'm studying, the idea of mobile technology and its effect on people's relationships. Another thing is the idea of extending into the second self online, through an avatar. So studying how people interact with each other through these little technosocial interactions, versus just the analog interactions, is another aspect of cyborg anthropology.

What happens in kind of very traditional, analog anthropology is: You go to another culture, and you look at all the people, and you see how they interact with each other. You see how knowledge goes through, you see kinship, you see rituals, you see all these different pastimes and hobbies. You see what they eat. And mostly the anthropologist goes over to another country and says, "Oh, look how fascinating these people are. They're so strange. Look at all their weird customs." Right? But the problem is that people are not doing that to the world that they live in right now.

They're saying, "Oh, this is just normal." Right? Because Facebook has become very normal. People are on it all the time. Cell phones have become very normal. So there needs to be an anthropologist that comes in and says, "Oh my God, how fascinating. Look at all these strange things people do. They're posting on each other's Walls." And things like that. So I look through a traditional lens and apply that to the digital space. And then everything seems weird and strange, because I'm taking the thousand foot view, and actually looking at: What is really going on? And has anything actually changed? Or are people just bringing offline behaviors to the online space?

Prosthetics

In Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents, his words suggest "a possible future in which the magnificence of humans as prosthetic gods is tempered by the ill-fitting and troublesome nature of their auxiliary organs” (11). We are Gods, until we forget to plug in our devices. When our phones break, suddenly our ears cannot hear all the way to Japan at the mere touch of a button. When we spill water on our computers, we no longer can access files that we’ve saved to the externalized prosthetic for our cranium. The information that serves as social and work currency gets stuck, lost, and forever cut off from our ability to access it. In the same way, our external organs sit angrily attacked in office cubicles, in airports -- in all of the interface exchanges we encounter during our daily lives -- such as the ATM machine, the coin dispenser, ect. The copiers, printers, scanners, and fixers; the software inside our computers, and the computer itself.

We're beginning to have prostheses inside of prostheses. Interface inside of interface, malfunction compounded by poor design and the decay of time.

Planned obsolescence has given us machines that must be constantly updated and refreshed Good experiences are guaranteed as long as one stays on top of the purchasing wave.

Once one falls behind, the prostheses become worrisome --gives us more and more friction when dealing with reality. To upgrade generally decreases this friction -- lubricates us to glide more freely through the rigors of society. Source: [1]

You get a new computer and suddenly you have a better capability to run programs. You're purchasing external evolution.

The Prosthetic, or Second Self

Now the same factors that apply to the prosthetic self in real life apply to the digital self. One's second self can go stale and turn against the self if not updated.

Topics

Now that we have a second self, how do we protect it?

Yes. Without telling people. Just changing it and then saying, "If you want to change it back, here are some options." Right? People need to know beforehand. And I think what happens is: There's this schism. In real life and this is kind of one of the early things that happened with Facebook, when everybody's parents started showing up on Facebook. They were seeing all these conversations that these kids were having, right? And the problem was that, in real life, you have kids are talking to kids, adults are talking to adults, and the conversation that kids have with adults is very different from what adults have with adults and what kids have with kids.

And when you let those two groups kind of blend together in an online space, and suddenly all that communication gets kind of muddy, it doesn't represent what happens in real life. So the schism happens. Right? So if people are used to all this privacy on Facebook, and suddenly the privacy is gone, there's this enormous schism, because, in real life, if they were to meet up in quiet groups, they would be private. That's as if some newspaper reporter were just to say, "Hey, all these people are doing these things!" And put it on the front page for everybody to see. It's really bad.

The other thing is that, I think, sites like Yelp! and a few others instead of opting in, it's opt out, so Facebook automatically takes data about you from there, if you're logged in to Facebook, and adds it to Facebook. And so it's an opt out. So there's this shift from the opt in yes, I want this to happen. Yes, I want this data to be shared. To opt out, where it's automatically shared. You're automatically not private, and you have to opt out of that, if you want to change it. So that's a little bit strange. The other thing is and I think Marshall was telling me about this, but the idea of I think one of the people from Facebook was talking about well, why did they decide to have Facebook be more public?

Well, because if you look at blogs and blog comments and newspaper comments, that's, like, an open invite. That's like an open letter to an editor. And Twitter's always been open from the start. And there's private accounts on Twitter, and there are privacy options, but that's all been open. So making Facebook open is just like, you know, doing anything like those other sites do. But the problem is that Facebook has been a site where people can say private things to a limited audience, for a while. And to open that up, it's not like when you post on Twitter, you know it's public. And people have known that since the beginning of Twitter.

But on Facebook, you're dealing with a number of youth, basically, in transition. They're defining themselves, they're figuring things out, they're making mistakes, they're trying to figure out not only how to represent themselves in real life, but how to represent themselves online. So they're dealing with two versions of themselves: This digital self that's conceived of these images and this text that interacts with other people's images and text, and their actual analog self. And sometimes there are incongruencies in that. And they're also trying to figure out life in general.

So they can't be expected to think of privacy, think of legal aspects, think of representing themselves in a responsible way. Versus on Twitter, where it just says, "Hey, look: It's public." And whatever somebody's public thing is, it's that. And you're not joining tons of groups on Twitter that can be looked at, or something like that. You have hashtags, and you can search people's timelines, and that data goes away after three days. It's really hard to search for. So Facebook is very different, in that respect.

Future of Advertising

Future of Interfaces

Solid to liquid to air.

Erving Goffman's Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

The second self. One must manage both the offline self and the online self. The outer appearance and security of the analog self must be updated an maintained. Clothing and skillets, house and vitamins. One cannot look out of date. The digital self must also maintain the extension of self. Sensors must be developed, even mentally, to ascertain where the boundaries of the digital body begin and end.

A schisim. Two kids whispering to each other are not heard by adults. Two adults talking about adult things are not usually heard by children. On Facebook, everyone can hear each other. The demarcations are not defined. It's uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as if these things happened in real life.

Security in real life Security of the second self.

Taking one's private data is like a giant ripping off the roof's of people's houses and exposing their secrets to the world. what ourselves look like online do not match up to our models of what something looks like in private connections breaking connections -- accounts deleted.

people need some sense of whether something is safe.

trust in real life means - i can walk out of the house and have a sense that people wont steal my stuff… trust online means that i can log out of a social netwokr and have a sense that the network won't open up my data.

or people eaving a social network and not having all of their secrets getting out.

Why is privacy hard? Granularity is complicated, security, & there is currently no model for making money on it. @hotdogsladies #webvisions

Privacy

stays in default public.

there are no replacements. nothing as cool. but their models are default private.

Life as a Game

Why are we so okay with sharing everything? Privacy. Do people really want it?

It's about experiencing anything we experience it through mediation. Something funny happens and we immediately --- keep it alive - feeding it with experiences. But we don't complete any experience or any activity without sending some kind of message out about it. I don't think the recipient is totally relevant.

Completing our experience through messaging. The idea of being alone in a bookstore and having a fantastic experience but not being able to share that experience until later, or at all, because that experience is temporary and confined to that cognitive moment. But sometimes the experience is in the now of things, that the father away that experience gets, the more difficult it becomes to share the experience with the same amount of resolution that that experience first existed in. 

So instead we take a picture and we upload it to our audience. this is the equivalent of showing it to a the friends we didn't bring to the bookstore with us going to the friend and saying, "here this is!". And even if no one else sees it, we feel complete in that experience because we've shared it. the interface becomes a mirror of our experience, the idea of having actually have been there, and existing there. 

Online there's this idea of immediate feedback. Social rewards and often faster and more widespread in the digital world than in real life. Also, the rewards have a quantitative and lasting value. Analog interaction is less quantifiable and not as far reaching. If you share something intimate, you can get multiple comments and multiple likes. You get immediate feedback. It feels good. And the more you reveal about yourself, the more you often get back. Eventually, you can feel a sense of community where you might otherwise feel you don’t. if you think about it, it’s like a cross between playing a videogame and being your own micro celebrity.

Immediate feedback. Rewards are faster than in real life. They show up faster. There is more of an adrenaline rush. Every social interaction and success becomes quantifiable. One can get mega points (when their content goes viral) or micro points for micro updates.. THis is the same reason why one is addicted to Farmville-like games.

Ambient Intimacy

Panic Architecture

ERG there's a new E-mail - a button you hbve to click. Urgent email. facebook.

Space/Time Compression

Space and time compression give rise to plastic time.

Plastic Time

A term coined by Intel researchers to suggest a frame of modern life as an experience that is "highly interruptible, shrinking and expanding around immediate concerns, and interleaving through multiple activities".

"There are many aspects of our day, such as computer usage, that fly under the radar, can be done not just in a rushed manner but at the right time, and be bent and stretched in such a way as to enable people to interleave the multiple activities going on in their lives, in both relaxed and high-pressure moments. This bending and stretching we are calling "plastic time," and is a key way that people engage with the constraints and opportunities of modern life".

In this way, one can live in multiple sets of time at once, collectively experiencing more than 30 hours in a day.

Air as a Button

Facebook and Participation Architecture

A Greek hero goes to an island, and there's this big cornucopia type table spread set up, with this infinite amount of food, and every time he eats from it, the food keeps reappearing. And if he eats from it at all, he gets stuck on the island. Right? So, in a way, Facebook has infinite content. The content never runs out. Any time you consume content, it doesn't go away. It stays there, but it gets replaced with new content. So all the time you have all this content that you can look at as a very sticky surface, and even if you're trying to look at your own images or you're trying to look at somebody else, you find yourself just going deeper and deeper into the structure, and then, maybe 30 minutes later, you wake up and you say, "Oh! Where have I been? What have I done?" It's this very you know, it plays upon the thing of surveilling everybody.

In a way, in the past, you see these celebrities and you see television shows, and suddenly now everybody in everyone's vicinity becomes this television show that everybody's watching. And so you can watch your friends like a show, and they have updates. They have status updates and they have photo updates. And you're watching them without ever talking to them or communicating with them. Like, you can just idly watch these people. And so it's this watching, gazing, observing, peeping type thing, which really kind of excites people. And it's more image based, so you can just go through and get these narratives really quick, or these short jokes.

It's kind of like when a mother bird digests food for the baby bird, and, like, stuffs it down the throat. It's very easy to digest. So versus actually, you know, taking out a book and reading something, and having a narrative build up slowly over time, you get these micronarratives, and they stitch into macronarratives, and they're really addicting because they're so quick. It's a quick fix on something else that somebody else is doing. So it's this vicarious, you know, living through somebody else's eyes. So it's a very interesting interface. It flows forever. And it's like a really long run on sentence with a bunch of really interesting words, and you can't stop reading it, because there's no punctuation. And I think Facebook's architecture and Facebook engineers try to reduce the punctuation in the site, so that you never stop.

In terms of the architecture, because it has things like news feeds, there's a constant flow of information.

Facebook is sticky because it has endless interesting content, based on the former clicks that you contributed to the site about what you're interested in, and it always presents interesting data to you, without end, so that hopefully you never stop clicking. You never stop. You don't have to stop. Versus, you know, a book ends at the end of the book. A newspaper ends at the end of an article or at the end of the newspaper. It's bounded, right? Once you have that piece of paper, it's not going to be anything else. Nothing is going to change. But Facebook is the infinite content thing. So it never, ever ends. And you can never fully exhaust it. So it's this really strange thing, because you just keep getting addicted to it, and keep looking at it.

But is being connected in that way necessarily a bad thing? I mean, what are the benefits of being connected in that way?

A lot of people have to connect that way, because that's how you contact all your friends. So I know that a lot of people, in college especially, they'll go and study abroad, and all their friends will be studying abroad for, you know, junior year, and they'll all be able to contact each other as if they were the same distance away. And I think that's one of the great things about social networks, is that geography is annihilated, as in everything could be you know, you kind of sit at even sitting at a table, right, you sit at a long table at a dinner party, and if you're at the head of the table and somebody else is at the other head, it's really hard for you to talk to each other. But online, everybody at the table is sitting the same distance apart, and everyone can talk to each other. And so, in the same way, on Facebook, anybody in the world can talk to anybody else in the world, immediately. Not as if they were in the room, but in a different way. So it's really nice, because people can really keep in touch with each other, without having to be there. So I think that that's one of the positive benefits of it.

So we've been looking a little bit at the privacy changes on Facebook, and part of what they seem to be doing here is both bringing the broader web inside of Facebook, by publishing things that you like to your Facebook news feed, but also bringing Facebook out into the broader web. What do you think this means for sort of the participation architecture of Facebook? Is this just a furthering of that great feast of data?

I definitely think so. One of the things is, if you like something on the outside, and having the like button brings it into Facebook, it adds more data. I kind of think of Facebook as a really big like, a planet with a lot of gravity, or a sun. Or, actually, more like a black hole that keeps getting mass and sucking things in. So now that Facebook has so much mass, it's getting all these other pieces of asteroids and, like, matter, and it's sucking them in. And so, when you like something on the outside of Facebook, it brings that in to Facebook and says that you like it, and basically subscribes you to those updates, which is interesting. I guess the other thing that happens is, if you list things that you like on your profile, instead of linking out to that actual page, it becomes a link within Facebook. So the idea is so that you never have to leave Facebook, and all the clicks outside of Facebook add content to Facebook.

So it becomes this universe that's kind of enveloping as much as it can. So if people are really engaged with Facebook, they're going to be voluntarily adding content and adding clicks and adding things that they like from the outside, and adding them. So Facebook users become kind of curators of the web, saying what they like and what they don't like, and all of that is stored in Facebook. So it's this complete treasure trove of data. And the other thing is that there have been some really kind of bad and dangerous things that have happened with the lack of privacy that's going on.