Information Sciences

Blog, Journal for High Schoolers, Journal for High Schoolers 2021

Authors

Kevin Bachelor , Hannah Yousuf, Alexander Kong, Isabella Coenen, Meher Brar

Abstract

Information science involves the study of processes for storing and retrieving information, especially scientific or technical information. Our project’s goal is to use a multimedia educational website to teach different groups of people about these ideas. Our focus will be on applications of information science within social media. This website will include different ways of teaching including information science, such as a cartoon on internet safety aimed at younger kids, some short papers exploring the ethics of common practices of social media giants, a parent guide to internet safety with a focus on social media and privacy, and video tutorials to help older people use different social media platforms, with an emphasis on safety and practical usage, as well as some other video tutorials in which we explain how data gets traded behind the scenes in social media.

Background

Social Media Ethics

A staggering 50,000 child predators are online at any given time [1]. This terrifying statistic reveals that every parent’s worst fears for their children online have a very real chance of manifesting in the form of unwanted sexual advances, grooming, online harassment, and countless other grim scenarios. Since most children in today’s modern world have access to the potentially volatile internet, we felt called to educate the group which we saw as most at risk for dangerous schemes and unethical practices- young children. After exploring the most successful methods of educating young children, we decided to make a visual learning aid in the form of a colorful cartoon. However, educating young children on internet safety habits would be essentially useless without also informing parents of their options as their child’s gatekeeper to the online world, so we composed a parent guide to the cartoon, modeled after movie review guides, to include parents in this learning process.

Social Media Data Videos

Social media giants such as Facebook and Snapchat claim to be free. However these websites are raking in exorbitant profits. For instance, just last quarter, Snapchat earned 982.11 million dollars in revenue: their most profitable quarter to date [2]. The main way these companies earn their profit is through personal data collection. Companies take this valuable data and sell it to numerous companies who use it for everything from ads to insurance prices. 72% of Americans today use at least one type of social media [4]. Since social media giants attempt to keep this data selling policy under the door, we wanted to begin sharing this debatably unethical practice with the public. We decided to do this by developing tutorial and general info videos to attempt to educate the general public about social media, so they will be better equipped to make informed decisions about their personal data.

Instagram Politics

In the aftermath of a volatile election and deadly pandemic, both of which were exacerbated by the spread of misinformation on social media, we recognized the enormous role social media now plays in shaping society as a whole. The potential of bias in social media and news outlets remains a major question, so we decided to put the algorithm of the second most popular social media app of the decade, Instagram, to the test. The algorithm, or code, of Instagram is largely secretive. It is assumed that the Instagram algorithm works by analyzing the type of content you are interacting with, and presents you with similar content that it guesses you will find entertaining. With this assumption in mind, we hypothesized that an individual who has clear political leanings would be shown content mostly related to the party they belong to. We predicted that if they were to have a change of heart and show interest in the other side, Instagram would reflect this switch, since it is in Instagram’s best interest to present content that best matches a person’s interests, increasing interaction, the number of ads consumed, and hence revenue. In order to test this hypothesis we came up with a methodology that composed of saturating an Instagram account’s feed with posts of one political party and then interacting with the other side a certain amount in order to see how the algorithm responds.

Blog Post & Tutorials

Blog posts and videos are important aspects of internet usage. They show the audience that content creators are reliable with providing information to a greater audience. Composing blog posts imply that creators cherish the information that they are sharing with others. Although blog posts provide a concise way of spreading information, videos have a much higher engagement rate. People are more inclined to click on videos and possibly refer them to others. In order to ensure that social media will make the world a better place, people first need to learn how to use certain platforms effectively. Blog posts and tutorial videos are not nuanced methods of teaching in today’s society, however they are extremely effective in ensuring that social media is used properly and safely. A hub for all tutorials for each social media platform will prove to be an accessible and beneficial tool for those who are trying to learn the functions of social media. Blog posts and Videos are instrumental in the effort to create more practical internet usage.

Snapchat is a worldwide social media platform that allows users to message one another using advanced features. Snapchat is recognized for its outstanding camera quality, functuational filters and lenses, and many other high-tech digital features. These classifications of the app were intended to embolden a more communicative “content” stream. Because Snapchat’s strength is within engagement, marketers are able to grasp the puncturing gap between Millennials and Generation Z.

Twitter is a microblogging social media that allows its users to like, comment, and tweet (post) on blogs and/or topics. Twitter grants it’s users the ability to nurture the development of research, grow your own platform ( ie. your business, blog, etc), and to furnish trending and non-trending discussions. Both platforms allow users to become more distinguished within society’s political and social grounds.

Methods

Social Media Ethics

Our team began this project by developing a script for the cartoon and sketching a rough storyboard of what we envisioned. The cartoon, entitled Welcome to the Jungle, metaphorically relates the wildness of a jungle to the virtual world of the internet. While young children may not fully grasp this metaphor, we hoped to frame the internet as full of possibilities- both exciting and worrisome ones. The storyboard was designed using the notability app on an iPad. After the initial storyboard underwent review and was finalized, the cartoon was illustrated using color pencils. While this was in production, we began writing the parent guide to Welcome to the Jungle. This guide was designed to parallel the popular format of movie guides for parents, so that it would be in a familiar and easy to navigate layout.

Algorithm Fluidity

Our team developed the following methodology to use in gathering data for all 6 of our studied accounts:

First, create an instagram account on a personal computer. The account should be set for a male, named Billy Joe, with the birthday 1/01/1985. Make the account on private mode and ensure location services are turned off. Like 10 posts from 1 of the 10 predetermined political leaders for the political leaning which you are saturating the account for. After that, go to the discover page, refresh the page, and record the percentage of posts (out of the first 50 posts,) that are directly related and in support of the account’s initial political ideology. Record any details about the radicalness of the political posts, as well as the nature of the nonpolitical posts. Next, like all posts out of the first 50 on the discover page related to the account’s initial political saturation. Repeat this process 9 times, carefully documenting everything. After 10 cycles of liking political posts, the account should be ≥40% saturated with either liberal or conservative content. After this, repeat the initial liking cycle, using accounts from the opposite political leaning instead. Like x percentage of posts from the opposite party. For instance, a lib2con.20 account mimics a liberal individual engaging with content that is 20% conservative. So, like 2 posts from the new ideology, and the remaining 8 from the initial leaning. This process is the same for the 40% and 60% accounts. Finally, record the percentage of both political ideologies out of the first 50 posts on the explore page, along with any notable observations about the content being displayed. This process was repeated for the 6 accounts that data was collected from.

Potential Sources of Error: All of this data was gathered on a personal computer located in California. While location services were turned off for the final few accounts, it was on for the initial testing. The instagram algorithm could have possibly been influenced to display more of a certain political ideology by location.

While we developed guidelines for determining whether or not a post could be considered political, there is a chance that our personal political biases influenced the decision to count a post as either liberal or conservative.

Blog Post & Tutorials

Our group used screen mirroring and screen recordings to create our videos. We used a cable that would connect an iphone to mac in order to achieve the full visuals of creating an account. We used a software called “QuickTime Player”and prompted screen recording. Before officially recording, we downloaded the social media platform that we would be working on from the app store, then we began the process of creating a specific account on that platform while recording. Once we finished recording the videos, we then switched to a different application for the intention of editing. These applications are “IMovie” and “Adobe Premiere Pro”. Other social media platforms required some differentiation. For example, instead of downloading the Twitter app, we created the account by going to the website: https://twitter.com/i/flow/signup. Once we went to the web version of the platform, we began with recording the process of creating a Twitter account. The videos and blog posts encompass useful and engaging information that teach the population more practical internet usage.

Social Media Data Videos

In order to do this, we began creating a website to store all of the different types of things we wanted to share and present in the end. We planned to do this using HTML and CSS, and a design tool called Sigma, however we eventually found a better site html5up that allowed us to start with a template, and just change the HTML and CSS to make it all fit our project.. We were then able to move on to the videos, but we needed to make sure our information was all correct and no false assumptions had been made. In order to make sure of this, we did a lot of research and organized it into video topics. We then wrote the draft for the first video. After this we recorded, completed the graphics and edited together the video.

Discussion

Social Media Ethics

Our group plans on publishing the multimedia website which contains both the cartoon and comic book. Once the website is published, we plan on promoting it with resources available through Stanford University so that our targeted audience of young children and their parents have access to these materials. Future work in this project could involve composing several papers discussing the ethics of questionable social media practices such as data mining and facial recognition. We also want to explore options for creating educational resources for older children, who are just as in-need of vetted internet safety advice.

Algorithm Fluidity

Due to time constraints, we were only able to complete 6 accounts, 3 liberal and 3 conservative, from 20-60%. Because of the small sample size it is difficult to come up with a definitive conclusion. But from the trends that are observable within the data we have, it seems as though the algorithm does not respond drastically to a change in the amount of interaction with the other side. It seems to push a maximum of around 6-9 posts (or 12-18% of the explore page) related to the opposite ideology no matter how much you interact with the other side. This insinuates that the algorithm is fairly rigid and it is difficult to switch what you are seeing even if your beliefs change.

Given more time we would complete all the accounts we had planned and even create multiple of each type of account so that we could have more reliable data. Additionally, we would create more firm guidelines on what constitutes a liberal or conservativ post. There were definitely inconsistencies in each of our evaluations and that may have heavily affected our results.

Social Media Data Videos

We plan on turning the rest of our research into more videos. The video we have at the moment is explanatory and helpful, but it would be nice to have more, as that doesn’t really cover the ethical or more technical material that we originally planned to cover. On top of this, we want to increase the quality of future videos, possibly with more visuals, and more rehearsal.

Blog Post & Tutorials

We intend on spreading and sharing the blog posts and video tutorials on our website, where we can strive to increase the number of elders on social sites by providing information on how to use these platforms. Other than teaching people how to use social media in an effective manner, these posts teach new social media users how to maintain safety and practicality while being active on social media. Before starting this project, our team had realized that although there were an ample amount of websites that teach how to use a specific social media platform, there was not a website that included tutorials for all platforms in one place. Future work will involve creating more blog posts and tutorials on other social media programs, such as-Tik-Tok- and Facebook.

Conclusion

Overall, the goal of our website is to educate people on all different aspects of social media, from how to use it safely, to the possible ethical drawbacks of social media. Our future plans would be to share the website and give it exposure so that we can share our work with as many people as possible. We could also potentially add new media and continue to work on the format and layout of the website itself. We hope that our work can open people’s eyes to aspects of social media they may never have thought about before, and show people the crossover between the information sciences and social media.

Works Cited

  1. GuardChild. (2013, June 11). Internet Statistics. https://www.guardchild.com/statistics/
  2. Published by Statista Research Department, & 26, J. (2021, July 26). Snap revenue per Quarter 2021. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/552694/snapchat-quarterly-revenue/.
  3. Pew Research Center. (2021, April 26). Demographics of social media users and adoption in the United States. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/fact-sheet/social-media/. 3
  4. Youens, A. (2020, April 21). The Complete Data Privacy Timeline. AE. https://get.theappreciationengine.com/2020/02/19/data-privacy-timeline/
  5. MacMillan, D. (2019, June 24). How to stop companies from selling your data. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/06/24/how-stop-companies-selling-your-data/
  6. Steve, S. (2014, March 10). The Data Brokers: Selling your personal information. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-data-brokers-selling-your-personal-information/
  7. Auxier, B., Anderson, M., Perrin, A., & Turner, E. (2020, July 28). Parenting Children in the Age of Screens. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/07/28/parenting-children-in-the-age-of-screens/

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