Stars in the playground and hearts in the factory

Stars and Hearts by Dan and Fern Treacy CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Stars and Hearts by
Dan and Fern Treacy
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This week the switching of the star/favorite for the heart/like has been a source of a little sadness for many in my slice of Twitter. Laura Gogia and Maha Bali supplied interesting commentaries on views expressed in ‘academic Twitter’  but I felt a little distant from the angst.  Although I don’t have active plans to leave like I do for Facebook, somehow I know that it’s unlikely I will still be active on Twitter in a couple of years time.  Like Kate Bowles, for me the corporate/ economic explanations are the most likely ones.

For a bit of fun, I checked out the symbol/ term variations for liking/favouriting across some popular sites.

Symbols on Social Networking Sites

So it seems that the concept of favourite is passé in the corporate standards of social media semiotics – it’s all ‘like’ now and the ‘favourite’ icon is the heart, thumbs up second. So it seems Twitter are following the trend for terms and symbols but meaning – that’s something else altogether.

In the last two years, I have observed, experienced and written about some highs and lows in social networking. Some old and new reading has been helping me to make sense of it.  I returned to Zuboff(1988) and her concept of informating, the generation of new streams of information about activities. That’s an interesting concept to apply to the endlessly changing yet persistent data collected by Social Networking Sites  (SNS) about activities such as liking/favouriting. Laura Gogia explained the semantics of academic tweeters’ different uses of the old Twitter star/favourite and how their practice might be different with the new heart/like.

Now, I don’t know how Twitter record a favourite/like but I imagine that it is a boolean true/false link between a tweet object and a tweeter/identity object with none of the semantics that Laura describes.  The complex semantics provide the motivation for our actions but are not recorded in the database. This simple favourite/like data is interpreted though, to provide economic value through the advertising services that SNS provide, by targeting tweeters by manipulating their streams.

My new reading has started with Ben Light’s theory of Disconnective Practice (relating to SNS) that helps with our understanding of how states of disconnection come into being and are maintained. Through Light’s book, I came across the work of Ulisses Mejias whose thesis that we need to remove our network goggles and look at what is happening off the network in the paranodal spaces around the network nodes seems particularly relevant to our consideration of stars and hearts, liking and favoriting. Monopsonies are counterpoints of monopolies, where the emergence of a single buyer, particularly of user-generated content, can lead to increasing inequality. Much better to watch this video, where he explains it for himself.

The Internet as Playground and Factory – Ulises Ali Mejias from The Politics of Digital Culture on Vimeo.

So thinking about Twitter’s aspiration to be the monopsony in micro-blogging might be a good way to understand what’s going on with the stars and hearts.  We think we are in the playground but maybe we are in the factory.

Jenny Mackness’s post reminded me that Sonia Livingstone’s hot seat for Networked Learning starts tomorrow.  I have a feeling I am going to be learning more about Sonia’s research that definitely doesn’t have network goggles.

References
Light, B. (2014). Disconnecting with social networking sites. doi:10.1057/9781137022479
Mejias, U. A. (2013). Off the Network. doi:10.5860/CHOICE.51-4485