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Thesis

Thesis progress, Week 6.

Last week I presented my midterm presentation and received some great feedback and suggestions. I resonated most with what Sam said about the monetization, commodification, and production of the self that occurs on Facebook. How can I incorporate that more fully into my thesis project?

I’m still iterating on a few different ideas, but eager to find the final form that my project will take, whether it’s one fully-developed web application or several different experimental applications.

I found some visual inspiration that has fueled the project I’m working on this week.

Source: https://labs.rs/en/

Share Lab has been investigating ‘The Facebook Algorithmic Factory’ with the intention “to map and visualize a complex and invisible process hidden behind a black box.” The result is an exploration of four main segments of the process: Data Collection (“Immaterial Labour and Data harvesting“), Storage and Algorithmic processing (“Human Data Banks and Algorithmic Labour“), and Targeting (“Qualified lives on discount“).

I was struck by not only the depth of research into Facebook’s policies and practices but also the beautiful (static) data visualizations produced as a way to clarify the research.

Source: https://labs.rs/en/
Source: https://labs.rs/en/

These data visualizations are simple but powerful. It left me thinking: How do I make this complex web personal ? How do I communicate the ways in which this process immediately affects every Facebook user? Can I make use of the Facebook API to build a graphic that takes the user’s personal information (likes, friends, advertisements) and displays them in an interactive web-based application?

I want to make use of a lot of the good research done by Share Lab as well as my own research to build an interactive web application that helps users see how their personal data is collected, stored, and used in order to manufacture a self, or a “consumer profile.” I was struck by what Nancy said about Facebook manufacturing a self and I think this would be a good conceptual starting point.

Right now I’m starting to build the web application using the Facebook Graph API, Facebook CLI, and a D3 clustering algorithm. I’m starting by building a web application that collects information about user_likes clustered according to category.

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