Part I: Adding Hyperlinks and Multimedia
By William Hughes
Jun 27, 2014 3:30 PM
Scientists at Facebook have published a paper showing that they manipulated the content seen by more than 600,000 users in an attempt to determine whether this would affect their emotional state. The paper, “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” was published in The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences. It shows how Facebook data scientists tweaked the algorithm that determines which posts appear on users’ news feeds—specifically, researchers skewed the number of positive or negative terms seen by randomly selected users. Facebook then analyzed the future postings of those users over the course of a week to see if people responded with increased positivity or negativity of their own, thus answering the question of whether emotional states can be transmitted across a social network. Result: They can! Which is great news for Facebook data scientists hoping to prove a point about modern psychology. It’s less great for the people having their emotions secretly manipulated.
In order to sign up for Facebook, users must click a box saying they agree to the Facebook Data Use Policy, giving the company the right to access and use the information posted on the site. The policy lists a variety of potential uses for your data, most of them related to advertising, but there’s also a bit about “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” In the study, the authors point out that they stayed within the data policy’s liberal constraints by using machine analysis to pick out positive and negative posts, meaning no user data containing personal information was actually viewed by human researchers. And there was no need to ask study “participants” for consent, as they’d already given it by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service in the first place.
Facebook data scientist Adam Kramer is listed as the study’s lead author. In an interview the company released a few years ago, Kramer is quoted as saying he joined Facebook because “Facebook data constitutes the largest field study in the history of the world.” It’s a charming reminder that Facebook isn’t just the place you go to see pictures of your friends’ kids or your racist uncle’s latest rant against the government—it’s also an exciting research lab, with all of us as potential test subjects.
Part II: Reflection
When reading this article I read it as if I had no idea what Facebook was or as if I was not a constant user. In response to reading it that way I was able to identify what others would not understand and would need more information on. So I hyper linked the important information that one would need to know to understand Facebook and I also hyper linked the concepts I could not fully grasp. I chose the sites I linked to by reading them and making sure they did not leave you with any questions unanswered. Some links describe what is highlighted (Example: The actual paper that was published in PNAS aka The Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences), some showed you what they were (Example: The Facebook Terms and Conditions), and some gave you a little background information (Example: More information about Adam Kramer). As a minor side note I did use a link to Wikipedia to describe what PNAS was because it has the best explanation and breakdown. So in the end if the viewer does not click on my links they will lose vital information to perfectly understand the article.
Choosing multimedia for this assignment and any other assignment is always tough because I am never sure other viewers soak in the photos the same way I do. In terms of the writing it self, it was really easy to understand his concept but seemed a little short. When I read more information about what he was writing about I wanted to include it in the writing for a more in depth explanation. But since my links are present I do not think that will be necessary. If I could edit his writing and develop it more thoroughly I would only revise the segment where he was speaking about the algorithm and how the manipulated content would effect users emotional state. That whole bit was a little confusing but since I have heard of this concept before it was easy to piece together.
I included three images in this post that I thought got you thinking more. I chose them because they looked interesting not just simply displayed something in the writing. The first picture I chose says “Psychological Experiment” to simply portray what this writing is about. I also chose it because in the background is a basic Facebook home screen and feed. The second photo I chose says “Terms and Conditions May Apply” to represent the agreement you must accept on Facbook and where your information may go or used for. From my knowledge I know that our names will end up on google, Facebook is linked to twitter, and things on Amazon could be advertised to use based on the information they gathered from our profiles. Lastly the third picture is just the Facebook emblem on a flask to represent Facebook being Adam Kramer’s experiment.