Thursday, 26 June 2014

Video interview about the book “Social Media and Democracy” (edited by Brian Loader and Dan Mercea)

By Cheryl Jadav, student in the MA in Social Media at the University of Westminster
Watch the video here:

If you’re reading this, obviously, you follow social media!

Has politics and political democracy fascinated you? Do you wonder what impacts and what role does social media play, not only in our routinely life but in something as important and broad as politics and democracy?

The interview with Dr. Dan Mercea of City University London highlights the importance of social media in participatory politics. As he suggests, ‘Social Media is an instrument’ that supports democracy.

As Dan Mercea puts in, the book is a ‘fairly dated collection in internet time’. A collection based on a conference held in 2011, this book is for those who are interested in studying the internet and social media, politics and democracy.

Over the last couple of years, we have seen our social networks being flooded by the updates on the political occurrences throughout the globe, be it London or the Occupy Wall Street Moment or the protests on Tahrir Square or in the Ukraine. However, this book on participatory politics will help you understand the non-utopian role of social media in these political situations. One might often believe that social media is the reason behind all the political upheavals seen in recent times.

Democracy is a wide concept and a different perspective can be applied to the various occurrences. For some, casting a vote is democracy. For others, a wider participation of the masses is democracy. Social media aids the wider participation and looks beyond the act of merely casting a vote. As Dan Mercea suggests, social media has enabled more participation from the younger generation. Thus, it could be taken as a game changing act! An act that enables more participation, probably from the masses that might have been possibly left out.

The interview also discusses government surveillance and the power structures that exist and frame social media. A wave of public upheaval has been witnessed by us in places such as Egypt, India, Ukraine and so on. However, what has been the ultimate result? Has the government won or has the mass won?

If your interest lies in understanding social media, be it political or non-political, watch this video for more!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Writing on the wall: Social Media’s first 2000 years. A video about a book by Tom Standage

By Abdullah Anees, student in the MA in Social Media at the University of Westminster

At the beginning of our semester we were asked by our teacher Christian Fuchs to write a book review. The book had to be an academic reflection on social media. So I went away and searched for books by authors I could interview face to face.

I came across ‘Writing on the wall’ by Tom Standage, the digital editor of The Economist. In “Writing on the wall”, he argues how the concept of social media initially dates back to the Roman Period one century BC. He took me on an historical journey throughout time and highlighted how concepts of social media played roles throughout history.

From Cicero’s letters to Luther’s pamphlets to the modern day revolutions, Tom Standage discusses how sharing ideas that spread have had influences throughout time. After reading the book I can actually say looking back at history from a social media perspective was very interesting and enjoyable.

Graffiti on the walls of Pompeii or Tom’s comparison of old slates to a modern day iPad set a very engaging theme. However with any book review there are some parts you are left questioning. Questions I knew I would have the opportunity to ask Tom face to face.

Tom clearly outlines his intentions of the book in the introduction. He mentions his focus to be around the rise of social media in Western Europe and America. He admits that he is most comfortable in discussing Western media. However a more suited approach may have been to highlight the historical patterns of both social media in the East and West.

Another view I thought that would have made his work more engaging was if Tom related old social techniques to modern day techniques. One of the questions I asked him was if modern day graffiti could have been linked to graffiti in older societies and how they both were a way of self-expression. Tom explained how modern day graffiti was more of an art form whereas Pompeii graffiti shared slogans and he did not want to mix them together. I can see where Tom is coming from however I believe modern day graffiti be it art or slogans will always be a way for the artist to express themselves.

Once I finished reading the book, I made a final list of questions to ask Tom. This was my second interview I’ve ever conducted on camera and this time I was on my own.

So after a quick crash course on how to setup and use a professional camera and mic, I headed off to The Economist Plaza in central London to meet Tom. In the video included in this post, Tom gave me time to explain any doubts and questions I had, and provided realistic and honest answers.

I would like this opportunity to mention that I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Writing on the wall’ by Tom Standage. I would definitely recommend people interested in social media to take time in reading through some of the events that took place in history, which were influenced by media platforms.  I would also like to thank Tom Standage in agreeing to a face-to-face interview and to participate in the production of my video.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Book of blogs - contributors update

Wow, we've been blown away by the response to our call for contributors, please see our previous post for the background to this crowdsourced project. If you've already read that and are keen to get going then here are your next steps:
  • Step 1 - email us at: we will then send you a link to access the contributors spreadsheet.
  • Step 2 - complete the Google Doc spreadsheet with your basic information and any ideas or suggestions you have for the book, we can then send you a log in for the platform we'll be using to publish the book.
  • Step 3 - get writing!
  • Step 3a. - (optional) send it to us if you would like the editorial support group to provide some constructive feedback.
  • Step 4 -  upload it - you're done! 

Are we uploading content ourselves then? Ideally yes, it would be really helpful if, once you have written your blog, you could upload it yourself. We are a small team & the network is currently unfunded so we have chosen a process which reduces the administrative burden and encourages everyone to play a part in the publishing process.

We're using PressBook which is akin to a communal WordPress tool this allows people to upload their own content and then enables us to publish the content as an eBook for publication on ecommerce sites like Amazon and devices like Kindle etc. If you're used to using a blogging tool like WordPress or Blogger then you should find the process familiar.

If this is your first ever blog then congratulations, we think you'll find the WSIWYG format relatively simple, you can easily cut and paste text from any word-processing package. If you hit any problems then contact us and we'll provide support.

When you log into the PressBook site you will see the following screens, choose Text from the left-hand menu and then select Add new chapter - 


What content can I include in my blog? 

See our previous post for the general guidance on themes and topics. 
  • As an ebook you can include images, videos and web links. Please don’t link to any material that we don’t have rights for.  Videos will not routinely work in all ebook formats so consider this when selecting your content.  If you are putting video and pictures into the book please make sure you aren’t breaking the law when you are doing so! Please reference quotes and use appropriate web links or citations to credit the original creators.
  • You can be as provocative as you like, but anything offensive won’t make the cut.  
  • Please don’t attempt to sell or push a product or service – that is the one thing that won’t be acceptable. 
  • The book needs to be accessible so remember to write for a wide audience with varying levels of technical expertise and practical experience, if you are writing about complex methodologies or philosophy include links for less experienced readers to explore other resources on the subject
  • Please include a short bio (no longer than a paragraph) at the end of your chapter. You can include links to your blog, or website as you wish.
What about editing and quality control?

Anyone can contribute – there's no formal quality control – this is not a peer reviewed journal, if someone has taken the trouble to write it then we will take the time to publish it.  We want this to be packed full of different voices, some will be experienced, others not, that's fine.

We hope (and expect) that we won’t have a cut to make as we do want to publish everything that is submitted. We're assuming the average blog will be about 1000 words long – a bit longer or shorter is fine, but we won’t publish a paragraph or a long treatise – unless they are really good ;-). If we find do have to make a cut we'll talk to you all about a fair way of doing that, if we think your blog is too long or too short we will contact you about that individually.

We aren't planning on a protracted editing process but we are offering to review draft blogs and make suggestions, give constructive feedback, particularly for novice bloggers. We're looking for volunteers to form an editorial support group to provide informal feedback, so let us know if you'd be willing to play a part in that when you sign up on the spreadsheet.

What's the timescale, milestones and deadline?
  • By June 30th - everyone signed up on the spreadsheet and an editorial support group formed
  • By July 31st - we're aiming to have 60% of your content submitted
  • August 29th is the final deadline for contributors
  • End September is our provisional publication date *nervous laugh*

How can I help?
  • By being as self-sufficient as possible, try uploading yourself first before asking us to do it.
  • By sticking to the deadlines, if one person misses these everything gets held up.
  • By being an informal editorial mentor for others, this will involve reading early drafts and offering constructive feedback
  • By promoting the book of blogs to your network, we need to get the idea out to as many people as possible to both encourage contributions and to ensure wide readership come publication
  • Let us know if you have ideas about where and how we should publicise and promote the book
  • Please do suggest and pass on details to other potential authors and let us know possible people to write the forward to the book, it would be great to get the endorsement of someone well respected and well known - think big and outside of the box, who should we ask to introduce our work to the rest of the world?
Now is when it starts to get really interesting!

We're looking forward to hearing from you really soon.

Kandy & the #NSMNSS team

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Call for contributors to A Book of Blogs – blurring the boundaries, using social media for social research

We've been thinking a lot at #NSMNSS about what types of activities the network should support next. One idea we've been ruminating on for a while is creating a volume of crowdsourced blogs on the impact social media are having on social science research methods. (We are also supporting the development of a new Sage Handbook of Social Media Research Methods which many network members will be contributing to but this is on a longer time-span and will be published in a more traditional way.)

We got the idea for this from David De Souza (@dds180) and his hugely successful HR book of blogs Humane, Resourced which topped the best seller nonfiction business charts last year. We want to try and replicate this success and believe it will be a great showcase for network members to share their experiences and views about social media research with a wider audience. The broad idea is to reach 100+ pages of content collected from a  multitude of contributors from across the social science world, in the UK and elsewhere. In the spirit of the network this will be a crowd sourced, digitally published volume.

Our best guess at the moment is approximately 50 contributors giving one blog each of 3 pages each = 150 pages of insight & personal   reflections.

The theme of the book is how are social media blurring the boundaries of conventional research methods and practice? You can write about your experiences of using social media for research, new tools or methods you've used/developed or more conceptually about the challenges or opportunities shifting methodologies present to us as researchers. Give us a case study or not... Tell us how using new approaches improved or complicated your project... how you present your ideas or reflections is up to you. We're also interested in how the research community is developing it's capacity for using these approaches so if you want to write about teaching social media methods hop on board too!
Once we can see the content coming in we'll try to organise the volume thematically.

The rules/guidelines/principles for anyone interested in contributing are below - See the following blogpost for detailed instructions on contributing - 
  • It must be your own work, if you use diagrams, images they must be free to use & respect copyright. 
  • You can contribute one or two blogs. No more. We're hoping to get to 50 blogs, more if more authors come forward.
  • It can be new material or an old favourite. Just be sure to write within the overall theme. If you've already published a blog on the #NSMNSS blog or other blogs then we're happy for you to review, revise and submit an old favourite
  • You don’t have to be a regular blogger, this could be your first or your hundredth blog
  • You can be as provocative as you like, but anything offensive won’t make the cut.  Also you don't have to be 'fan' of digital social research, we're interested in blogs questioning these approaches too.
  • You don't need to be an established 'name' we're interested in blogs from people at all stages of their research careers.
  • We want the book to be interdisciplinary so don't feel constrained or excluded if you come from a non-social science background or context. We're positively encouraging blogs which look at interdisciplinary work and welcome co-authored blogs
  • The book needs to be accessible so please write for a wide audience with varying levels of technical expertise and practical experience, if you are writing about complex methodologies or philosophy include links for less experienced readers to explore other resources on the subject
The book is being sponsored by the #NSMNSS network but it is a voluntary self funded project so there'll be no payment for contributions and editorial support will be limited.

We hope (and expect) that we don’t have a cut to make. We're assuming the average blog will be about 1000 words long – a bit longer or shorter is fine, but we won’t publish a paragraph or a long treatise – unless they are really good ;-) if we do have to make a cut we'll talk to potential contributors about a fair way of doing that.

We aren't planning on a protracted editing process but we will offer to review your draft blog for you and make suggestions, give constructive feedback. We're looking for volunteers to form an editorial support group to provide informal feedback, let us know if you're up for that.

The book will be self-published as a digital volume, and distributed electronically. We are planning to make a small charge for the final volume (we're thinking less than £5) any proceeds will go towards supporting #NSMNSS network events in the coming 12 months. The main focus and goal of the book is about is about sharing knowledge, showcasing some great work and not about making money. It’s about giving people a chance to express new ideas, share what they've learnt and challenge accepted orthodoxies of research practice. It’s about creating a volume of interesting perspectives from a new and developing field of social research.

How to join in? If you are interested please let us know in the comments section below or email

Once you are signed up just get writing. We'll let you know more about the  process for collation in the next month, we'll collate blogs over the next eight weeks and publish within the next three months.

If something is worth doing it is worth doing quickly.

Hope to hear from you – and we're accepting proposals for titles too! Please share this widely and let your fellow researchers know, the more the merrier!

You can read more guidance for contributors here.

The #NSMNSS team

With special thanks to David for showing us the ropes and providing the initial inspiration. You can read David's blog here

Friday, 13 June 2014

Some Thoughts on Why You Would Like to Archive and Share [Small] Twitter Data Sets

This post by Ernesto Priego was originally published here. We're delighted to share it as it touches on many issues network members have been discussing, so thanks to Ernesto for allowing us to repost.

Twitter ecosystem quadrant, via

This is just a quick snippet to jot down some ideas as some kind of follow-up to my blog post on the Ethics of researching Twitter datasets republished today [28 May 2014] by the LSE Impact blog.

If you have ever tried to keep up with Twitter you will know how hard it is. Tweets are like butterflies– one can only really look at them for long if one pins them down out of their natural environment. The reason why we have access to Twitter in any form is because of Twitter’s API, which stands for “Application Programming Interface”. As Twitter explains it,
“An API is a defined way for a program to accomplish a task, usually by retrieving or modifying data. In Twitter’s case, we provide an API method for just about every feature you can see on our website. Programmers use the Twitter API to make applications, websites, widgets, and other projects that interact with Twitter. Programs talk to the Twitter API over HTTP, the same protocol that your browser uses to visit and interact with web pages.”
You might also know that free access to historic Twitter search results are limited to the last 7 days. This is due to several reasons, including the incredible amount of data that is requested from Twitter’s API, and –this is an educated guess– not disconnected from the fact that Twitter’s business model relies on its data being a commodity that can be resold for research. Twitter’s data is stored and managed by at least one well-known third-party, Gnip, one of their “certified data reseller partners”.

For the researcher interested in researching Twitter data, this means that harvesting needs to be done not only automatedly (needless to say storyfiying won’t cut it, even if your dataset is to be very small), but in real time.

As Twitter grew, their ability to satisfy the requests from uncountable services changed. Around August 2012 they announced that their 1.0 version of their API would be switched off in March 2013. About a month later they announced the release of a new version of their API. This imposed new limitations and guidelines (what they call their “Developer Rules of the Road“). I am not a developer, so I won’t attempt to explain these changes like one. As a researcher, this basically means that there is no way to do proper research of Twitter data without understanding how it works at API level, and this means understanding the limitations and possibilities this imposes on researchers.

Taking how the Twitter API works into consideration, it is not surprising that González-Bailón et al (2012) should alert us that the Twitter Search API isn’t 100% reliable, as it “over-represents the more central users and does not offer an accurate picture of peripheral activity” (“Assessing the bias in communication networks sampled from twitter”, SSRN 2185134). What’s a researcher to do? The whole butterfly colony cannot be captured with the nets most of us have available.

In April, 2010, the Library of Congress and Twitter signed an agreement providing the Library the public an archive of tweets from 2006 through April, 2010. The Library and Twitter agreed that Twitter would provide all public tweets on an ongoing basis under the same terms. On 4 January 2013, the Library of Congress announced an update on their Twitter collection, publishing a white paper [PDF] that summarized the Library’s work collecting Twitter (we haven’t heard of any new updates yet). There they said that
“Archiving and preserving outlets such as Twitter will enable future researchers access to a fuller picture of today’s cultural norms, dialogue, trends and events to inform scholarship, the legislative process, new works of authorship, education and other purposes.”
To get an idea of the enormity of the project, the Library’s white paper says that
“On February 28, 2012, the Library received the 2006-2010 archive through Gnip in three compressed files totaling 2.3 terabytes. When uncompressed the files total 20 terabytes. The files contained approximately 21 billion tweets, each with more than 50 accompanying metadata fields, such as place and description."
As of December 1, 2012, the Library has received more than 150 billion additional tweets and corresponding metadata, for a total including the 2006-2010 archive of approximately 170 billion tweets totaling 133.2 terabytes for two compressed copies.”

To date, none of this data is yet publicly available to researchers. This is why many of us were very excited when on 5 February 2014 Twitter announced their call for “Twitter Data Grants” [closed on 15 March 2014]. This was/is a pilot programme [Editors note - succesful applicants were announced on April 17th]. In the call, Twitter clarified that
“For this initial pilot, we’ll select a small number of proposals to receive free datasets. We can do this thanks to Gnip, one of our certified data reseller partners. They are working with us to give selected institutions free and easy access to Twitter datasets. In addition to the data, we will also be offering opportunities for the selected institutions to collaborate with Twitter engineers and researchers.”
As Martin Hawksey pointed out at the time,
“It’s worth stressing that Twitter’s initial pilot will be limited to a small number of proposals, but those who do get access will have the opportunity to “collaborate with Twitter engineers and researchers”. This isn’t the first time Twitter have opened data to researchers having made data available for a Jisc funded project to analyse the London Riot and while I expect Twitter end up with a handful of elite researchers/institutions hopefully the pilot will be extended.”
Most researchers out there are likely not to benefit from access to huge Twitter data dumps. We are working with relatively small data sets, limited by the methods we use to collect, archive and study the data (and by our own disciplinary frameworks, [lack of] funding and other limitations). We are trying to do the talk whilst doing the walk, and conduct research on Twitter and about Twitter.

There should be no question now about how valuable Twitter data can be for researchers of perhaps all disciplines. Given the difficulty to properly collect and analyse Twitter data as viewable from most Twitter Web and mobile clients (as most users get it) and the very limited short-span of search results, there is the danger of losing huge amounts of valuable historical material. As Jason Leavey (2013) says, “social media presents a growing body of evidence that can inform social and economic policy”, but
“A more sophisticated and overarching approach that uses social media data as a source of primary evidence requires tools that are not yet available. Making sense of social media data in a robust fashion will require a range of different skills and disciplines to come together. This is a process already taking shape in the research community, but it could be hastened by government.”
At the moment, unlimited access to the data has been the privilege of a few lucky individuals and elite institutions.

So, why collect and share Twitter data?

In my case, Martin Hawksey’s Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet has provided a relatively-simple method to collect some tweets from academic Twitter backchannels (for an example, start with this post and this dataset). I have been steadily collecting them for qualitative and quantitative analysis and archival and historical reasons since at least 2010.

My interest is to also share this data with the participants of the studied networks, in order to encourage collaboration, interest, curiosity, wider dissemination, aswareness, reproducibility of my own findings and ideally further research. For the individual researcher there is a wealth of data out there that, within the limitations imposed by the Twitter API and the archival methods we have at our disposal, can be saved and made accessible before it disappears.

Figshare has been a brilliant addition to my Twitter data research workflow, enabling me to get a Digital Object Identifier for my uploaded outputs, and useful metrics that give me a smoke signal that I am not completely mad and alone in the world.

I believe that you should cite data in just the same way that you can cite other sources of information, such as articles and books. Sharing research data openly can have several benefits, not limited to
enabling easy reuse of data allowing the reach of data to be measured or tracked strengthening research networks and fostering exchange and collaboration. Finally, some useful sources of information that have inspired me to share small data sets are:
…and many others…

This coming academic year with my students at City University London I am looking forward to discussing and dealing practically with the challenges and opportunities of researching, collecting, curating, sharing and preserving data such as the kind we can obtain from Twitter.

If you’ve read this far you might be interested to know that James Baker (British Library) and me will lead a workshop at the dhAHRC event ‘Promoting Interdisciplinary Engagement in the Digital Humanities’ [PDF] at the University of Oxford on 13 June 2014.

This session will offer a space to consider the relationships between research in the arts and humanities and the use and reuse of research data. Some thoughts on what research data is, the difference between available and useable data, mechanisms for sharing, and what types of sharing encourage reuse will open the session. Through structured group work, the remainder of the session will encourage participants to reflect on their own research data, to consider what they would want to keep, to share with restrictions, or to share for unrestricted reuse, and the reasons for these choices.

Update: for some recent work with a small Twitter dataset, see

Ernesto Priego is a Lecturer in Library Science at the Centre for Information Science, City University London. His blog at City is here. His research interests include comics scholarship, digital humanities, library science, online publishing, journalism, social media, alt-metrics, data research and scholarly communications.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Tweets and The Streets: A video interview about Paolo Gerbaudo’s book

By Jamileh Kadivar, student in the MA in Social Media at the University of Westminster.

Watch the video here

The video I produced is an introduction to Tweets and The Streets: Social Media And Contemporary Activism, a must read and a great book with lots of interesting insights and a strong research foundations. The book was written by Paolo Gerbaudo and published by Pluto Press in 2012.

The video includes two interviews. In the beginning, I present the main arguments of the book and introduce the author as an academic, a journalist and also an activist; then, you can watch the interviewees' replies to my questions. Finally, I present my own conclusion.

The first interview was conducted with Paolo Gerbaudo on March 2nd, 2014, by Skype. Dr. Paolo Gerbaudo, a lecturer in Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London, answers questions about the key terms in his book, such as 'choreography of assembly' and 'choreographic leaders', and then explains how he defines leadership. He also challenges techno-optimistic and techno- pessimistic views and discusses the theoretical approach he took in the book. He narrates why he selected the 2011 movements, considering that there were also movements in the years before 2011 that have used social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as mobilizing tools. He also explains why out of so many movements, he chose the Arab Spring in Egypt, the Indignados movement in Spain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US. He talks about the more recent events in Egypt and argues that what happened there in 2013 was a coup, and not a revolution or an extension of the 2011 Egyptian movement. He describes the main differences between anti-globalization movements and street protests clearly in this video.

My second interview in this video was conducted on March 5th, 2014. It is a face- to-face discussion with Dr. Miriyam Aouragh, an expert in social media and social movements, and a lecturer in the University of Westminster. She has written a review of Paolo Gerbaudo’s book. In this video, she speaks about the book's strengths and discusses her views and criticisms regarding the book in a fair and clear way.

Making a video for me, as a person without any previous experience in movie-production before this stimulating and challenging experiment, at first seemed something strange and far-fetched! At this time last year, I did not have a clue of how to do it. But now, I think it was both an interesting and fun activity that added well to the theoretical aspects of our modules. But still I'd rather prefer to write 10 essays than to make a video!

Last, but not least, the book is very well written and easy to read, not only for academics, but also for journalists, activists and ordinary people. I hope this video assists you to find good information about Tweets and the Street’s main ideas. I think, watching this video, before starting to read the book, can be helpful to get a good overview of the key arguments.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Alone Together: A Documentary about a book by Sherry Turkle

By Keurkoon Phoomwittaya, student in the MA in Social Media at the University of Westminster

Watch the video here:

In the early days of social interaction on the Internet I tried out different identities with avatars and used pseudonyms in virtual worlds. I learned and shared ideas in online forums that I was interested in such as Hamster Lovers society or the Thai fiction writers community. Nowadays, social media enterprises such as Facebook attract more people to spend their time on the platforms. At any time and on the move we can simulate ourselves to feel as if we were connected together and close with each other. The little mobile devices in our pockets shape and affect how we think about ourselves and relationships with others.

Because of my interest in such topics I became curious to read the book “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other” by Sherry Turkle. I made a documentary based on the issues that her book discuses. I am still optimistic about the abilities that technology poses for us in order to explore new ideas and innovations. But also, we need to know what cause constraints on human relationships.

Researchers have been looking at the potentials as well as problems of technology. In this documentary Sisse Siggaard Jensen, professor of Digital Communication at Roskilde University in Denmark, mentioned that when the computer was first invented people were amazed by its potential as a medium for communication. Later, the World Wide Web helped the world to be open for new ideas. Then, scholars came to study massive multiplayer online role-playing games and social media. Many see positive impacts when something is new. But, as time goes by they also observe problems that affect us. 

In the past, Turkle was optimistic about the potential of the Internet for trying out various identities. But now, with the popular use of social networking sites such as Facebook, she is concerned that the always-on status of our lives has resulted in isolation and individualisation. She says: “These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time” (Turkle 2011: xii). Her point convinced me that we need to know how the designs of different platforms affect our ability to reflect on ourselves and human relationships.

Jensen points out in the documentary that there are new opportunities for people to find possibilities for enjoyment and happiness in virtual worlds such as Second Life, World of Warcraft or EverQuest.  She sees them as spaces for developing resources and understandings with the help of social roles that are different from people’s ordinary lives. In virtual worlds like Second life people are not limited by their skin colour, gender or physical ability. Jensen et al. (2012) suggest that the ways people build virtual communities or experience extraordinary events through thought-provoking art installations hold the potential for creativity and inspirations (Jensen et al.,2012:3). Likewise, Howard Rheingold mentions in his book “Virtual Reality” that symbolic play is a positive act that draws cognition and culture together. “It’s a mental can-opener for liberating new ideas” (Rheingold 1992: 373). He suggests that imitating social roles through symbolic playing is important for everyone Rheingold 1992: 374). The Internet came with the promise that we could find opportunities to try out as well as enjoy making and exploring different virtual social spaces.

In the documentary, Jensen pinpoints that Facebook is a very limited world. The economy of "liking" posed by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is a constraint for creativity. While some spaces on the Internet give us resources to play and learn about ourselves in relation to others, our personal information on Facebook became a raw material for private corporations making profits.

If you are wondering why it is important to know more about the ways in which technology affects our lives and how the designs of the online platforms matter, this documentary is for you. The ‘Alone Together’ Documentary ( will take you on a journey, on which you can learn more about the development of empathic skills holding together relationships through play and creativity, the relationship of computers and humans, and how we use technology throughout our lifetime.


Jensen,S.S., Philips, L., & Strand D.L. 2012. Virtual worlds as sites for social and cultural innovation. Convergence. 18 (3), 3-10
Rheingold, H. 1992. Virtual Reality. Great Britain: Mandarin Paperbacks.
Turkle, S. 2011. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each other. United States: Basic Books.