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Surveillance Capitalism and Social Media
Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media by Sarah T. Roberts.?
Behind the Screen is an excellent book about the content moderation industry. While the book starts with more discussion of the academic research in the area of labor than needed for a popular press book (in my option), it quickly gets into the nitty-gritty of the content moderation industry, its effect on our lives and the people who do the work.
"Rather than elevating the workers of the world, twenty-first-century configurations of labor are undergoing a globalized race to the bottom in search of ever-cheaper, faster, and more human and material resources to compete in the globalized 24/7 networked marketplace. "
One might assume that YouTube and Facebook employees do content moderation. However, direct employees of the technology companies do not do most content moderation. Watching and removing violent and hateful content is done by contractors or sub-contractors of contractors, many of whom are overseas. This system of contractors allows tech companies to distance themselves from any liability regarding the effect of sorting and tagging violent and sadistic videos and posts hour after hour for years on end could have on a person's mind.
Ironically, it is the existence of sites that allow for direct upload, and streaming of content incentivizes the creation of such horrible videos. Beyond the removal of content, many content moderation companies create content for commercial interests, steering online discussions to match the corporate message (done by humans) and using bots to amplify and re-enforce the message.
I used to think that the online world was a digitized version of the physical world. This book makes it clear that the online world is a highly curated commercial world where paid-humans and ever sophisticated bots shape and distort digital reality. I highly recommend this book to all.
Book: Glow Kids by Nicholas Kardaras. Amazon Link. Glow Kids is a well-written book about the effects of screens on kids and teenagers, from video games and so-called educational games to social media and online porn. Well documented with lots of cases and references to current research, this book examines the causes of screen addiction from the perspective of a professional psychologist who specializes in treating digital addiction.
Just like cocaine and other drugs, some proportion of the population is highly susceptible to online addiction. Many of our online experiences are designed to deliver a dopamine release to encourage addictive behavior. Think of the infinite scrolling common to social media. The effect of this constant stimulation is not good, and the research points to a hazardous impact on the brains of children and teens whose brains are still developing.
"Our brains are simply not designed for the visual hyperstimulation with which recently developed digital technology bombards us." -Page 18
One of the things that I re-discovered in this book (I forgot things!) was how many Technologists limit the time that their kids spend on on-screen.
"..ironically, the most tech-cautious parents are the people who invented our iCulture. People are shocked to find out that tech god Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent; in 2010, when a reporter suggested that his children must love their just-released iPad, he replied: "They haven't used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home."-Page 31
I highly recommend this book, especially for those with young children or who are planning on having some! The author's style of writing might not appeal to everyone. He is sometimes too wordy, for example, taking time to tell you whenever he intends for something to be a pun or not to be a pun, but the book also has lots of great examples and stories that help bring you along.
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