escaping corporate social media, chinese observatory 1874

Social Networking for a Better World

The rise of corporate-owned social media raises many flags about our online security and the future of the digital commons. The solution, says theorist Michael Albert, is a different kind of network altogether.

[  ]…Which, when you think about it, is probably the exact opposite of what the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world thought social media would do. So much of what sites like Twitter or Facebook are designed for, how they’re organized and governed, and how they make money, could not be further from ideals like social justice or goals like ending student debt. Many sites, like Facebook, even have a history of giving private data over to government agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

But here’s the good news. It doesn’t have to be like this. There’s no law of nature that social media need to be run by giant corporations or that users need to put up with government spying and manipulative advertising. So, what’s the alternative?

Michael Albert, social theorist and co-editor of Z Magazine, has come up with one solution—and it’s worth taking a close look at. It’s called FaceLeft, and it embodies the very best of social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter, but emphatically without the spying, concision, and commercialization users have long put up with. Ad-free, substantive, and as open or private as users want to make it, FaceLeft is the first social network designed by and for activists—or anyone who feels uncomfortable with corporate-owned social media.

One, it is difficult to get people to get up and move in cyperspace. FaceBook has over a billion users. Activists have a tendency to want to get things rolling as quickly as possible. The situation – say some police brutality running rampant, a state legislature passing some crazy bill in the middle of the night…may demand urgent attention. So FaceLeft needs to get a massive influx of users. You could use FaceBook to announce your FaceLeft page. Two, is the privacy issue. FaceLeft can do some things that will easily surpass other social media sites, but ultimately, if you’re in the U.S. and the FBI shows up with a warrant, unless you’re ready to go to jail, you’ll be handing over whatever they want. Though with MySpace, FaceBook and Google+ some people had to be the pioneers. The negatives acknowledged it would be great if FaceBook lost a lot or, wishful thinking, most of their users. Every user is just a product to be marketed – to be a guinea pig for information, dots on spread sheets of big data to be harvested. From 2012, FaceBook: $5.32 in average revenue per user in 2012 , $1.58 billion in revenue for the last quarter. Zuckerberg has not proven to be as bright at social issues and social responsibility as he is at programming. Considering the good he could accomplish, that is a  tragedy.

A photograph of a Chinese Observatory with an armillary sphere, an azimuth theodolite and other astronomical Instruments taken by Adolf Erazmovich Boiarskii in 1874. Boiarskii was the official photographer on a Russian research and trading mission to China.

Three-Wheeled Wooden Vehicle with Chinese Dragon

Three-Wheeled Wooden Vehicle with Chinese Dragon Artillery (Longshen Pao). Lanzhou, Gansu Province, China, 1875. Also taken by Adolf Erazmovich Boiarskii.

View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills

View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Japanese Relocation Center. 1943. By the great Ansel Adams. This was not a great print. Though considering that it was free and no royalties have to be paid, it is a great example of his work.