Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Quinnipiac Final Paper – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation

Internet identity, reputation, and deception in the online dating world. Truth and little white lies on the Internet.


Several weeks ago, when participating in class, I used the term creative obfuscation. The idea behind it was (and still is) that people of course bend the truth or cover it up, or they lie by omission. Some of these lies are more egregious than others.

For my final paper, I decided to look at what it all means with reference to internet dating. And boy, was there a lot of fodder! Here are some excerpts.


For many people[1] these days, social media is wrapped with identity, as identity is, in turn, intimately wrapped up with social media. It is often a daily[2] presence in our lives. As Julia Knight and Alexis Weedon discovered, online life and self are increasingly just as important as offline life and self.[3] “In 2008, Vincent Miller’s article in Convergence recognized in our ubiquitous and pervasive media the essential role of phatic communication[4] which forms our connection to the here and now. Social media has become a native habitus for many and is a place to perform our various roles in our multimodal lives, as a professional, a parent, an acquaintance, and a colleague. The current generation has grown up with social media and like the 10-year-old Facebook, Twitter too has become part of some people’s everyday here and now.”[5]

[1] About 39% of the world is online, according to Internet World Statistics. This includes just fewer than 85% of North America and over 2/3 of Europe and Oceania.

[2] According to Pew Research, in 2013, 63% of Facebook users visit the site daily. Just under half (46%) of Twitter users visit that site on a daily basis.

[3] Knight, Julia and Weedon, Alexis, Convergence, ISSN 1354-8565, 08/2014, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp. 257 – 258, Identity and social media

[4] Phatic communications are generally language for the purposes of social interaction rather than the conveying of information or the making of inquiries, e. g. ‘small talk’.

[5] Knight and Weedon, Ibid., Page 257.


Quinnipiac Assignment 12 – ICM501 – Creative Obfuscation
Jeff Bates (hemos from Slashdot) at 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Unlike offline reputation, online reputation can be categorized and quantified. For sites attempting to preserve and promote civility, but which cannot or will not adopt a real-names policy like Facebook’s, reputation scores can sometimes alert other users to an individual’s tendency to be either helpful or abusive. As AS Crane noted in Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum[6], “Moderation in combination with reputation scores have been used successfully on the large technology site Slashdot, according to Lampe and Resnick (2004). Slashdot moderation duties are shared among a group of users, who can assign positive or negative reputation points to posts and to other members. Users who have earned a sufficient reputation rating are allowed to participate in moderation if they wish. Meta-moderators observe the moderators for abuse and can remove bad moderators, or reward good moderators by assigning a higher point value to their votes.” In Slashdot’s case, it would seem that good behavior not only is rewarding in and of itself, but it also provides a reward in the form of being granted the ability to police others’ behavior.

[6] AS Crane, 2012, Promoting Civility in Online Discussions: A Study of the Intelligent Conversation Forum,, Page 17


For those who bend the truth on Facebook and other social media websites, some of the consequences are unexpected ones. For example, a ten-year-old child who claims to be thirteen will, in five years, be considered eighteen on the social networking site. This will alter her privacy settings automatically, allowing images to be seen by everyone, including pedophiles.[7]

[7] Olsen, Tyler, 22 April 2013, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire: An Explanation of Deception, Professor Combs English 1010-21


Although it is fairly easy to bend the truth when composing an online dating profile, an in-person meeting will expose the lie to all, and the liar will lose social capital and likely never make it to a second date. More problematic is when a person’s sincerely developed identity does not jibe with their appearance or their birth characteristics. Differences between online verbiage and offline appearance might not have an intentionally malicious origin, and it is entirely possible for online daters to, through ambiguity or poor word choice, appear deceptive and untrustworthy when they may be anything but.

But regardless of the reason for an untruth, online daters care about their reputations and their online and offline appearances. What others think matters to them. Much of that is directly related to the fact that the object behind the use of an online dating site is to meet; the mission is the date. Setting up the date for failure or the loss of face is not in online daters’ best interests and most of them act accordingly in order to assure success or at least prevent and minimize failure and the loss of social capital.

Personal identity matters in the online world, and it is a heady brew of inborn traits, learned and attained characteristics, and identification, desire, and preference. For the person presenting their identity and showing this admixture to all and sundry, what it means to be them, what they think of as the ‘self’, is what is cobbled together from potentially thousands of measurable and nonquantifiable data points in order to present a full picture of their personality. For the recipients of these messages, the potential dating partners and perhaps even more permanent mates, the choice is whether to read or listen to these many messages and accept all or some of them, even if they conflict with or downright contradict the evidence that the recipient can observe or otherwise gather independently.

You are who you were at birth, who you have become, and who you claim to be, and who you think you are. But that does not mean that anyone has to believe you, accept you, or love you.

Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 12 – ICM501 – Participation and Control

Participation and Control

As the Internet has grown, the creation and invention of products, including software and applications, has proliferated. Online society is far more participatory than its comparable offline cousin. For creators, collaboration has become the order of the day. Online communities have taken a great leap forward and have begun to make lasting works as a function of their shared interests and preference for togetherness. These people aren’t just chatting. And so arise issues of participation and control.

Open Source

Open Source is the vanguard of that movement. One interesting offshoot is how Apple is beginning to suppress unconventional and unauthorized development. According to Zittrain, J. (2010, February 3). A fight over freedom at Apple’s core. [Link | Alternate Link], “An e-mail reader was denied because it competed with Apple’s own Mail app. Imagine if Microsoft’s Bill Gates had decreed that no other word processor but Word would be allowed to run on the Windows operating system. Microsoft lost a decade-long competition lawsuit for far less proprietary behaviour.”

Participation and ControlThis participation culture is pervasive in OSS (Open Source Software) development communities. A Long Ranger type of developer seems to be becoming a thing of the past.

As Liao, T. (Forthcoming.). Open source challenges: The role of the android developers challenge in shaping the development communityNew Media & Society. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard] wrote, “The practice of developers helping one another is noted across many OSS communities. In this case, even within the context of a competition, one type help that did occur was responses to direct inquiries. Eric, a graduate student programmer, describes his experience: ‘It’s pretty rare that I can’t find the answer to a technical question […] There are a few people who seem very helpful (interview).’ Michael Martin, founder of, also described a general atmosphere of mutual help: ‘There was a lot of helping and assistance and kudos and compliments, […] from my perspective in talking to developers everyone was helping each other out as opposed to animosity or ultra-competitiveness (interview).’ Informants unanimously described the prevalence of this type of help occurring during the challenge and noted that the challenge did not have a noticeable effect on this type of help.” (Page 13)

Company Control

However, the other side of the coin is the question of how much control a company or a content producer can exert. As is explained above, Apple is putting the brakes on this sort of development, even though initially they had embraced it. But the general public is evolving, whether Apple likes it or not. We are moving from a passive consumer culture to a far more proactive/active shared content creation/development/artistic/artisanal culture.

This is a hybrid of production and usage that Axel Bruns has coined as a portmanteau word: produsage. See: Bruns, A. (2008). The key characteristics of produsage. In Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and beyond: From production to produsage (pp. 9–36). New York: Peter Lang. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard].  As Bruns states, “For consumers turned users, the media are no longer ‘something that is done to them,’ as Shirky had described it for the traditional model; instead, they become much more actively involved in shaping their own media and network usage.” (Page 15)

But who owns what’s being made? Who decides on the direction that it can take? Can anyone exert a measure of control? In response to hacking issues, Congress got active. As Coleman, E. G. (2013). Coding freedom: The ethics and aesthetics of hackingPrinceton, NJ: Princeton University Press [Link | Whole-book PDF] wrote, “The copyright industries told Congress that their economic future in the new millennium utterly depended on a drastic revision of copyright law (Vaidhyanathan 2001). Congress listened. These industries successfully pushed for a bill— the DMCA— that fundamentally rewrote intellectual property law by granting copyright owners technological control over digitized copyright material. The main thrust of the act, with a few narrowly defined exceptions, is that it prohibits the circumvention of access and copy control measures that publishers place on copyrighted work.” (Page 84)


But these all seem to be reactions after the fact of creation and invention. Congress acts to punish copyright violations. Apple shuts out Open Source development efforts. Produsage, it would appear, is not the manufacturer’s best friend.

But what of the artist? I can only speak for myself, but I have seen how consumption of art has also changed. Instead of readers more or less passively consuming artistic content, they morph it. Hence there are how many cover versions of songs on YouTube these days?

My own experience is perhaps even stranger. I post fiction online, with chapters spun out slowly over time and generally not posted all at once. I have had readers suggest to me the direction the story should take. This is always completely unsolicited. It is as if our culture, which no longer can passively consume content, is also losing its understanding of the difference between critiquing and suggesting. I get the feeling no one suggested to Charles Dickens (who also published on an installment basis) that he should have four ghosts in A Christmas Carol, and not three.

Speaking only for myself and my own artistic creations, I want my control back.

Quinnipiac Social Media Class

Quinnipiac Assignment 11 – ICM501 – Mobile & Locative Media

Mobile & Locative Media

Locative Media. Just as online communities are giving us digital posses and homes away from home, locative and mobile media are providing us with a means of joining a group in person at any time.

There’s A Party Somewhere

With locative media, there is always something going on.

For persons traveling to an unfamiliar section of their city, locative media can give them a sense of where to go. Let’s say a person living in the Allston section of Boston takes the wrong Green Line trolley outbound from Park Street. Instead of the B, which would take them along Commonwealth Avenue to home, they get on the E, which goes down Huntington Avenue. Instead of despairing at being lost, or turning around, or getting a bus or cab (or the correct trolley) back home, what if the unintentional explorer looks on FourSquare (or if this scenario took place before 2013, Google Latitude, the successor to Dodgeball)?

Familiar in the Unfamiliar

With locational technology, the traveler finds friends, or recommendations, or even just a bit of tracking thrown out there by people they’re connected to. If the traveler can find his or her friends, the unfamiliar space might become parochialized. As Humphreys, L. (2010). Mobile social networks and urban public spaceNew Media & Society, 12(5), 763-778. [Library Link | PDF] wrote, “Parochial spaces are territories characterized by ‘a sense of commonality among acquaintances and neighbors who are involved in interpersonal networks that are located within communities’ (Lofland, 1998: 10). Neighborhoods are examples of parochial spaces.” (Page 768)

Quinnipiac Assignment 11 – ICM501 – Mobile & Locative Media
English: A smartphone app called MagicPlan uses augmented reality to capture building topology. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The act of parochialization lends familiarity and commonality to a public space. Humphreys further stated, “Mobile social networks can help to turn public realms into parochial realms through parochialization. Parochialization can be defined as the process of creating, sharing and exchanging information, social and locational, to contribute to a sense of commonality among a group of people in public space. Sharing information through mobile social networks can help to contribute to a sense of familiarity among users in urban public spaces.” (Page 768, Ibid.)


Humphreys refers to a use of Dodgeball as a means of pre-planning parochialization, and wrote,“People also used Dodgeball to parochialize the public space when traveling with a group of people. For example, several New York participants mentioned using Dodgeball at South by Southwest, an annual music/film/hi-tech festival in Austin, Texas. A large group of colleagues and friends were at the festival and used Dodgeball to ensure meeting up with familiar people in an unfamiliar city.” (Page 773, Ibid.)

However, even a semi-serendipitous finding of like-minded individuals could happen. For our hypothetic traveler, a stroll down Huntington Avenue reveals Northeastern University and the Museum of Fine Arts. Nearby is the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum. With FourSquare checkins, the traveler knows that her friends are at the Gardiner, and she can choose to join them, or contact them and suggest a change of venue to the MFA, or avoid them by entering the campus of Northeastern.

Is the RSVP dead?

Even planned meetings have changed.

As Rheingold, H. (2002). Shibuya epiphany. In Smart mobs: The next social revolution (pp. 1–28). New York: Basic Books. [Posted to “Course Materials” on Blackboard] wrote,  “‘Kids have become loose about time and place. If you have a phone, you can be late,’ added Kawamura. Kamide, the other graduate student, agreed that it is no longer taboo to show up late: ‘Today’s taboo,’ Kamide conjectured, is ‘to forget your keitai [cell phone] or let your battery die.” I later discovered that this ‘softening of time’ was noted for the same age group in Norway. ‘The opportunity to make decisions on the spot has made young people reluctant to divide their lives into time slots, as older generations are used to doing,’ agreed another Norwegian researcher.” (Page 5)

All of this is small comfort to someone planning (and paying for) a major event like a wedding or a Bat Mitzvah. Kids may have become looser about time and place, but caterers have not.


Constantly knowing where everyone is at all times can take away the fun of accidental meetings. It can make them nigh well impossible. Continually seeking preexisting friends when in unfamiliar places can keep people from extending their hands and introducing themselves to new people. With augmented reality, the locatability isn’t even necessarily voluntary anymore.

As Lamantia, J. (2009, August 17). Inside out: Interaction design for augmented reality.UX Matters. [Link] wrote, “With tools like augmented ID on the way, what happens if your environmentally aware AR device, service, or application recognizes me and broadcasts my identity locally—or globally—when I want to remain incognito? At least until the advent of effective privacy management solutions—including hardware, software, standards, and legal frameworks—AR experiences that identify people by face, marker, or RFID tag could severely challenge our ability to do ordinary things like get lost in a crowd, sit quietly at the back of a room, or attend a surprise party for a friend.”

Even more chilling, what happens when victims are trying to escape abusers or stalkers? Constantly being locatable seems, at times, akin to the microchipping of pets. We don’t want our dogs and cats to wander too far, because we fear they’ll get lost or will be injured or even stolen. But humans are (ostensibly) smarter than all that. Shouldn’t we have the freedom to, if we want to, just go out without having a tracer put on us?

Career changing Personal Work

They used to call me Robot Girl

They used to call me Robot Girl

I haven’t blogged for a while. Yeah, I know.

I was uninspired, and didn’t want to just subject all two of my readers to my ramblings. Plus, I was looking for an actual day job.

Well, I found one. It’s a temping gig for a large financial services company which shall remain nameless. I am a Financial Analyst, preparing and running database reports. The job is rather similar to several other gigs I’ve held. And then I will be back in Social Media full time.

In the meantime, the Bot Boys are not forgotten, and I actually blog more for them that I had been. The need for Social Media exposure does not diminish just because I’ve got a new gig.

But I wanted to reach out, on this blog, for the first time in quite a while, to offer up some of the things I’ve learned along the way. So gather ’round, and hopefully I can help someone else to navigate the wild world of startups.

  1. The best gift that anyone can offer startups is money. Advice and expertise are great, and they are helpful, but it all pales in the face of do-re-mi. And while startup competitions may not want (or, truly, be able) to part with too much of it, it is money that is most needed because, to truly succeed, someone has to quit their day job. You know, the thing I just got a few weeks ago? Yeah. Someone has to take a flying leap into outer space – but that person still needs to be able to afford ramen and a futon.
  2. Speaking of ramen and futons, the startup game is, often, played by the young. This is not to say that those of us who were born during the Kennedy Administration have naught to offer. Rather, it is that we have mortgages. We may have children. We have lives that often require more than minimal Connector-style health insurance. We may have aging parents, credit card debt or any number of things that make living off ramen, on a futon, nigh impossible.
  3. However, this does not mean that the not-so-young do not have a place in the land of startups. But that place is often a different one. The enthusiastic feel of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey ...
    Cropped screenshot of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from the trailer for the film Love Finds Andy Hardy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    (now I’m really dating myself) yelling, “Hey, kids! Let’s put on a show! We can get the barn!” is replaced with “Let’s see if we can get this thing to work before defaulting on the mortgage/Junior needs braces/gall bladder surgery is required/etc.” Our needs are different, and we may be more patient with setbacks. This does not necessarily spell being less hungry but, perhaps, less able to truly go for broke. The not-so-young person’s role in a startup is often more advisory. We are the ones who can’t quit day jobs until the salaries are decent. And that day may never come.

  4. Startup events are best when they have a focus. Mass Innovation Nights, I feel, is something of a Gold Standard. There is a coherent beginning, middle and end to each event. It’s not just a lot of business card trading. The participants and the audience get good conversational hooks. Making contacts is vital – I hooked up with the Bot Boys at an event like that – but it can’t just be “Hey, let’s get a bunch of startups together, eat pizza and trade business cards!” The startups that are succeeding are too busy for such activities. And those that aren’t ….
  5. Cloud computing, apps and software companies are everywhere in the startup space. With the Bot Boys, we can stand out a bit as we are a hardware company. Having a product that people can see and feel is valuable amidst a sea of virtual stuff.
  6. The downside to that is that hardware companies have spinup problems that cloud computing companies just don’t have – app companies do not have to worry about shipping and packaging. They do not have to perform quality control checks on shipments. They do not have to work on product safety.
  7. No one wants to talk to the job seeker, but everyone wants to talk to the entrepreneur – and those are often the same person! Human nature is a bit odd in this area, but I have seen people who are barely past the “I’ve got this great idea I’ve sketched on the back of a napkin” stage where there is a flock of interested people swarming around, whereas a person honest about looking for work is often overlooked.
  8. Charisma counts. While one founder is going to be the inventor or the developer (the idea person), the other pretty much must be the socializer. Otherwise, even the best ideas are all too often buried. Someone must be willing and able to do public speaking, elevator pitching and sales. This need not be an experienced sales person, but that person has got to be a lot friendlier and a lot more fearless than most.
  9. Most startups and most entrepreneur groupings will fail, morph, coalesce or break apart before succeeding. And perhaps that is as it should be, for being nimble is one of the characteristics of a successful startup. If the product sells when it’s colored blue, but not when it’s colored green, dip it in dye, fer chrissakes!
  10. We all work for startups, or former startups. Even the large financial services firm was, once, a gleam in someone’s eye. Every invention started off as an idea. Even day jobs were, at one time, in places where the founders were living off that generation’s equivalent of ramen and sleeping in that era’s analogue to a futon. Yet somehow, against the odds, they made it.

And a lot of today’s startups can, too.

See you ’round the scene.

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