Digitalization of Communication: Social networking sites

Yan Ting Patricia Louie

Although I imagine that most people nowadays engage in social media acitivities, I would still like to provide a definition of what I think of as a social media  beforehand...

Definition: The social media is  computer-mediated platforms that allow  people to create, share or exchange content through an online community.

Social media does not equal to social networking sites. Social networking sites is a type of social media platform and today I'd like to narrow down our focus to mainly social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

So which 3 characteristics of digitalization does the social networking sites exhibit?

1. Digital footprints

2. Timeless time

3. Algorithmification

Let's start with......

1. Digital footprints

1. Digital footprints

Definition: Information left behind by our digital steps 

e.g. posts that you posted on Facebook that can be tracked down with GPS/ location services.

Any idea about how you leave behind digital footprints using Instagram and Twitter?

Any Twitter or Instagram users? Try going to this website - "READY OR NOT?" and find out how easily people can track you down !

This employer's location was exposed to public in only 45 minutes when a netizen tracked him down using location service that searches where the post was uploaded...

This suggests how our online behavior can expose our privacy and how easily can one's behavior be observed through digital footprints that are left behind. 

Possible changes brought by usage of digital footprints...

1. People are often unaware of digital footprints. Thus, they can be representative information or predictors of an individuals behavior 

2. Digital footprints from e.g. Facebook likes, can be used by corporates to target their products and advertisements to the right consumers

3. Companies, employees, High education institutions collect personal information about candidates from digital footprints left behind when using the social media.

WATCH this video for more detailed information -->

Based on what I have talked about, it seems that digital footprint is always used against us... tracking our location, exposing our privacy to public, making individuals' actions vulnerable to public criticism e.t.c.

However, information is always physical and it always needs to be stored in some place. Thus, the possibility of asynchronous communication can arguably be facilitated by the recording and storage of information online that allows other communicators to access them in their own time. At the same time, this inevitably produces what we call digital footprints.

With this, it brings us to the next characteristic of digitalization...

2. Timeless time

2. Timeless time

Definition: The combination of asynchronous and synchronous ways of communication that allows us to negate sequences

Breaking it down ...

Synchronous communication: Communication that occurs simultaneously e.g. Face-to-face communication, video conferencing

Asynchronous communication: Communication that allows a time lag between communicators. i.e. each communicator will be able to receive the information according to their own schedule e.g. texting, e-mail

Let's take a look at a few examples ...

Features provided by FB for asynchronous communication:

1.  inbox: Send an inbox message to a friend and your friend reads it when he/she is free

!!!!!!!  Remember how "text" was one form of social media mentioned in the introductory video

2. Post: Posts uploaded to Facebook will remain on the site almost eternally and can be reviewed by friends at all times 

Although asynchronous communication is possible,  synchronous communication is facilitated when communicators respond spontaneously to each other in real time through these features. Thus, asynchronous and synchronous communication can be combined to create timeless time.

Possible impacts generated from asynchronous communication:

1. Allows us to communication with people living in different time zones without disrupting each other e.g. facilitate with global business communication

2. It allows us to communicate more efficiently in our own time

Lastly, we have come to ....

3. Algorithmification

3. Algorithmification

Algortihmification: Decisions and actions performed by humans are now executed by machines made possible by the ICT convergence.

ICT convergence:

1. Storage of information

2. Storage communication networks

3. Computation of information

Let's look at the example of Facebook and try to figure out how algorithmification is facilitated by ICT convergence.

Remember how we talked about digital footprints earlier....

Some social media websites collect our information from our digital footprints with cookies and analyze them with algorithms to provide suggests for us... Have you ever wondered how Facebook recommends friends and customizes advertisements for you?

CHECK OUT these sites and a video -->

ICT convergence and Algorthmification

1. Storage:  Cookies installed in your computer collects information from your digital footprints e.g. sites that you previously visited, your interests and preferences e.t.c.

2. Communication networks: Facebook connects you to it's own database system and third party companies who have installed cookies to read data collected in the Facebook database. Advertisements embedded on Facebook can also install cookies on your computer system and collect information from your digital footprints

3. Computation: These information collected are then analyzed by machines using algorithms. It then makes predictions about what you might be interested in and suggests advertisements for you. Facebook algorithms also analyze  your social networks on Facebook and predict who you might be interested in making friends with or who you might know in real life.

In essence, Facebook is able to collect data from your browsing habits and existing social media circles to make predictions about your future needs using artificial intelligence.

Some possible effects on the society...


1. Reduces transaction costs through reducing the need for market research, and saving advertising costs by targeting at specific consumers


1. Social media users no longer have total control over how their information is shared or use. Machines sometimes make uninformed decisions on information sharing.

2. Providing customized services and products for individuals no longer incur a high cost. By using cookies and algorithms to analyze information, social media sites and other websites can provided personalized recommendations based on individual's search history

To sum up ...

Although the digitalization of communication processes on social media has brought with it tremendous benefits, we have to carefully manage our digital footprints that might reveal too much about ourselves. When handled with care, online communication will benefit us more than it will do harm. This again reiterates the idea that the social media is a tool. The way we manage it is going to change the impact that it has on us. 

Looking to disconnect yourself?

Try these ...

Disclaimer: I have not tried using these services before ... but they might be good starting points for you to search for ways to protect your browsing history...

Thank you and I hope you enjoyed this mini presentation !!!

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Public - 5/5/16, 6:32 PM