The past couple of months I have been learning to use pandas and dataframes in jupyter notebook. Below is a snippet of one of those notebooks, where I look at the football matches played in the FIFA world Cups since 1930.
Doug Laney introduced us to the first 3 Vs of big data back in 2001. The three original Vs were volume, velocity, and variety. As we have amassed more data over time, the volume of data has increased. Think about sensor-meters on machines. We can now investigate how machines in a factory or a warehouse are doing based on continuous sensor readings. Furthermore, through our smart devices and social media platforms, even more data is being generated. The emergence of the internet of things (IoTs) has brought us a goldmine of datasets.
What makes big data even more special is that this data arrives repeatedly in realtime. We can monitor machines as they drill oil, likes on social media posts are instantly registered, and rainfall measures are continually measured and recorded. These three examples fall under the second V, velocity. The speed at which data arrives has increased incredibly over the last decades. This has been facilitated by the increase in bandwidth and internet speeds.
Moreover, we have a myriad of different types of data formats now. Think about the different types of data an online store can generate. First, there are the click paths that people go through on the website. The information the customer fills in on the website. What items a customer ends up buying. What payment method they used. And those are just a few examples. All of these actions generate different data formats that need to be stored, processed, and analyzed.
Other scholars and big data engineers have added other Vs to the mix. Examples are variability, veracity, and visualization. But in this post I would like to discuss a different V, referred to as value. Big data on the surface of things seems great. We have a lot of information. Which pleases those who adhere to the ‘law of large numbers’. In statistics there are many principles that point toward the idea of bigger is better. Think of the central limit theorem, the larger the sample size, the more likely the sample will morph into a normal distribution. And increasing the sample size is all about getting an answer that is closer to ‘reality’. We want a sample represents the population.
But let’s say we’re a company. We have loads of data. Statisticians would be jealous of our datasets. So much data. But what now? We let the data sit in a database or a distributed file system for a couple of weeks before we analyze it. We analyze it, and oops – it’s already too late. The interesting trends we found through our analysis are now irrelevant. That is why we should seek value in our data. It means acting fast, it means performing the right analyses. It also means realizing what we want to achieve with our data. Do we want to increase sales? Do we want to understand our population better? Do we want to facilitate better decision-making processes?
We have to know what we’re doing, that is why the value principle is so important. This principle is based on our other Vs as well, the volume, variety, and velocity of the data. Value is often overlooked but it is definitely imperative to your big data solution.
This post is part of a series that looks at social media from different perspectives. My second interview was with a social media marketer.
We first start to talk about social media itself. I am curious to hear about her personal opinion on online platforms. She explains to me that she has a love-hate relationship with them. She is concerned about the privacy breaches and bad algorithms, content that she liked once, will repeatedly show up. However, she likes the fact that it is easy to get updates on the people she knows.
If you post it, it has to be perfect
People refuse to participate
My interviewee has worked with companies to improve their social media. For this she required participation from the company. Though this was hard to achieve. People are excited about social media but refuse to participate. They’ll tell her “if you post [something], it has to be perfect” or “people do not want to see my content”. Thus, the people within companies do not believe their content is exciting enough to be shared or that they will not be able to live up to a certain level of perceived perfection that they feel is required. Furthermore, they experience difficulties posting content due to the strict rules the management has laid on them. And on top of that, people experience self-censorship when engaging with social media. Which is fueled by social pressures from other coworkers or their own strive for perfection. A sentiment the social marketer also shares with the people within a company is that there is an anxiety that comes from ‘playing’ around with company’s brands. You don’t want ruin a company’s image.
To post is to exist
But the social media marketer doesn’t just look at social media from her work perspective, but also as a consumer. If she’s looking for a specific company, and they haven’t posted for a month, she’ll start to question if they’re still around. Another social media pet peeve of hers is social media managers who do not know how to use social media. As an example she mentions people who do not put spaces between their hashtags. On some platforms this will result in one long hashtag that won’t function properly. On the other hand, she also wonders about self-proclaimed social media experts who claim to be able to help you expand your clientele. If these experts spend a lot of time on social media explaining their expertise… how will they have time left to actually help their clients? This way they are signaling that they might now have work. She compares it to ‘clean desk policies’. If people have a clean desk at work, are they spending time working or cleaning their desks? A clean desk then signals that they might not be working after all. A messy desk suggests the opposite.
Don’t think about all the things that can go wrong
You need a level of superficiality
Over the years she has learned that with social media you can’t go too ‘deep’, you need a level of superficiality to practice social media marketing. And you definitely shouldn’t “think about all the things that can go wrong”. A problem she faced while working on social media related content is that she would overthink it. You just need to think about your target audience and consider your statistics. People should look at the ratio between website visits and the call to action. If people merely visit your website, but don’t buy your products, then something is clearly wrong. If you are not getting that many visits, but most visitors buy your products, you’re on the right path. She explains to me that people have been making this mistake for decades. The same principle holds for flyers people would receive in the mail. If not done correctly, they would also not lead to more sales. She feels that there is a discrepancy between sales and marketing, which she calls ‘waste’. Both departments will end up blaming each other for the lack of sales. There is no group looking at why this waste is happening.
Who am I communicating with?
Doing business is still personal
She recommends businesses to retain a personal touch in their online communication and on their platforms in general. This could be in the form of pictures of employees or by being able to see names of the people you communicated with. When she interacts with businesses online she asks herself “who am I communicating with?”. Knowing who the person is and if they have talked before would beg understanding. For instance, in customer service, does the person know her case or does she have to explain it again? “Doing business is still personal”. We end the interview on the note that companies cannot survive without an online presence, as it happens facilitate the ability to easily find information about the company. She adds: “when I hear about a company [offline], I will look them up online first”.
This post is part of a series that looks at social media from different perspectives. My first interview was with a student in linguistics and American studies.
My interviewee explains to me that the language on each social media platform is different. He names a couple of platforms such as Twitter and 4Chan that have distinct ways of interaction and incorporate memes into their communication. However, groups on these platforms also have different ways that they utilize language, ‘Black Twitter’ is an example of this. Online users learn ways of setting up jokes that is only recognizable to them and their online peers, which is facilitated through the language they use. Furthermore, younger generations will develop parts of their identity through online interactions. He names interests and political affiliations as examples.
Some people think that language deteriorates because of social media. But my interviewee disagrees. He argues that language becomes more standardized and globalized as a result of its role on social media. Consequently, people will be able to communicate with one another with much more ease. However, I then wondered if it would be harder to discuss more complex topics online using this standardized form of language. He disagreed. He lists simple topics that will be easier to discuss with this type of language and further explains to me that abstract topics such as politics and philosophy will still be discussed, but just using different language.
Discourse: 4Chan vs Twitter
He believes that discourse could depend on the topic that is discussed on social media and explains to me that there isn’t necessarily one type of discourse that is inherent to social media. However, he does see a distinction between the discourse in older forms of media and social media. The anonymity influences the discourse on social media platforms, it is much directer and harsher now. Yet, the degree of anonymity varies between platforms, which causes some discourse to be even harsher in some online settings. He uses 4Chan and Twitter as examples again, explaining that users on Twitter have more identifiable characteristics than 4Chan users. Therefore, the harshness on 4Chan is expected to be more severe.
The World and Social Media
The bigger platforms that are used in the ‘west’ tend to originate from the United States. However, while these websites are American, countries filter the content on the platforms. He comes up with a personal example. In order to see more American content on YouTube, he had to change his settings. However, it appears that the U.S. is a forerunner when it comes to online trends and challenges. But ‘nonwestern’ countries are also starting to become influential online. Tiktok and anime are two prime examples of this.
Social Media is a double-edged sword
Advantages vs. Disadvantages
He definitely thinks there are advantages to social media. First, he believes that he has learned a lot about different cultures and people through the use of social media. Though, there is still a possibility that you end up in a filter bubble, which is a disadvantage. Furthermore, teenagers might spend less time outside and adults might spend less time talking face-to-face. Yet, he does believe that it could be easier to find like-minded individuals to form a connection with. It all depends on how you look at it.
Social media has the potential to have a positive effect. But in its current form it does not. Especially since bigger corporations own the platforms, which they run for profit. Their objective is not to create a human experience online. Each recommendations seems to serve to pull you to click or buy with the goal to profit. Furthermore, there are inequalities online, since the majority have a strong presence, they influence the recommendations you see online. Minorities are underrepresented in online settings. Social media is socially segregated.
Social media has both been criticized and hailed by different groups and individuals. People have varying perspectives on the advantages and risks of using social media. To understand these contrasting views, I will be interviewing several people with different backgrounds to get an overview of the diverse views regarding social media. The perspectives that will be discussed include: linguistic, cybersecurity, social media marketing, and self-advertisement. These interviews will take place over the next two months and will be posted on this blog.
Decades ago Judith Butler wrote about a concept called ‘gender performance’. This means that gender does not pre-exist the person, gender is a result of a set of behaviors. Nowadays the construction of gender has become a controversial topic. Especially in the light of awareness of transgenderism, there are debates about the differences between assigned sex and gender. Some believe these are the same, others believe that these are two separate concepts. Then the question arises whether gender is the result of socialization or genetics – or both. Though, one thing is clear, your gender influences your experience.
Throughout history men have generally been part of the dominant group in society. And on top of that, if we look at specific histories such as the U.S., we see that it also helps to be of a certain skin color and to be part of a higher social class. For instance, before the nineteenth century, voting was restricted to white men of age whom owned property. Therefore, gender alone does not predispose a person’s advantage, there are other intersectional factors. However, for now I will simplify matters by solely looking at gender.
Connell has developed a theory over the years, which is now referred to as ‘hegemonic masculinity’. Merriam-Webster defines a hegemony as “the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group“. According to Connell’s theory, a specific kind of masculinity is considered to be ideal. This type of masculinity dismisses any alternative forms of masculinity or femininity. Sexual prowess, physical strength, and stoicism are all considered to be ideal performances of masculinity. If one were to divert from these ideals, then a person would be performing an alternative masculinity.
Furthermore, there is pressure from others in the dominant group of hegemonic masculinity to strive to fit the ideals. This leads to the exclusion of gay peers or the sexual objectification of women. Because the standard is considered to be heteronormativity, this norm predicates that romantic and/or sexual relationships take place between a man and a woman. Moreover, let’s go back to intersectionality for a second. Hegemonic masculinity does not only exclude ‘deviating’ sexual orientations, but also other identity characteristics. Researchers posit that hegemonic masculinity is restricted to “white, heterosexual, upper and middle-class men”.
times are a-changing?
Other researchers now suggest that masculinity is changing. The pressures of performing behavioral ideals related to hegemonic masculinity is decreasing. Masculinity performances are becoming more inclusive, therefore researchers are proposing new theories, such as inclusive masculinity theory or other hybrid masculinity theories. These types of masculinities have no problems having gay peers in their group of friends and tend to be more emotionally open. Furthermore, tactility is accepted among these men, which means that affectionate acts such as hugging are encouraged.
According to the same researchers, this inclusive masculinity performance is likely possible due to a decrease in homohysteria. Homohysteria is the apprehension of being perceived as gay. A lack of such a hysteria paves the way for masculinities that are not in line with hegemonic masculinity ideals. Therefore, feminine behaviors by men will be less likely to be denounced. Because hegemonic masculinity creates clear lines between masculinity and femininity, ‘feminine’ behaviors such as emotional expression is discouraged. However, as alternative masculinities are more and more recognized, these binary gender lines start to blur. In this contemporary scenario, the objective of masculinity is no longer to dominate other genders. If this trend continues, it begs the question of how society will be shaped as a result. Will power relations based on gender be any different?
Today we will discuss the philosophy behind the American constitution. The American constitution didn’t come out of nowhere, it is based on the ideas the framers had about humans and human nature. Imagine you are one of the framers. It’s 1787. You’re about 25 years old and you have to write the most important legal document in American history. What would you write? How would the government be structured according to you? Would it have separate branches? Would this system include checks and balances? Are you designing a federalist system? What rights do people have in this scenario? These are all questions the framers tried to answer. A lot of concepts in the constitution seem incredibly self-evident today.
But where did the framers get their ideas from?
The most important philosopher from which the framers borrowed ideas was Locke. Locke lived from 1632 to 1704. The constitution was written and signed in 1787, long after Locke died. Thus, he never saw the constitution come to life. However, he is said to have helped write the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina in 1669.
Locke is and was a very influential philosopher that came up with wide range of ideas. He is one of the most important Enlightenment thinkers that inspired the ideology of liberalism. His ideas about natural rights, the social contract, and democracy were imperative to the creation of the American constitution. The Second Treatise of Locke’s work, which is called Two Treatises of Government was especially important to the framers. Let’s go over some of the concepts from this interesting philosophical work! I will be quoting bits and pieces from Locke’s second treatise and tie it to the American constitution.
Locke writes the following.
“Men all being naturally free, equal, and independent, no-one can be deprived of this freedom etc. and subjected to the political power of someone else, without his own consent.”
Locke starts with a premise that people are born free and that they have natural rights as a result. People possess agency over themselves. An idea that is so self-evident to us now that we almost take it for granted. Quote. “every man has a Property in his own Person”. Unquote. This means that every individual has ownership over his or her own body. The first ten amendments of the American constitution — also called the Bill of Rights — protect people’s individual liberties and they limit the powers of the government.
However, some natural liberties disappear once people live in a civil society.
“The only way anyone can strip off his natural liberty and clothe himself in the bonds of civil society is for him to agree with other men to unite into a community, so as to live together comfortably, safely, and peaceably, in a secure enjoyment of their properties and a greater security against outsiders.”
Thus in order to make civil society possible and to protect your property, people will not be able to exercise all of their natural liberties. But this way of living ensures comfort, safety and peace for all civilians.
On property, one of the framers, Madison, said the following.
“It is sufficiently obvious, that Persons and Property, are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act: and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property are the objects for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated. The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property when acquired a right to protection as a social right.”
Here we can see how Madison emphasizes that property AND individual rights ought to be protected by the government, an idea that Locke wrote about a century earlier.
Locke further writes that people have to consent to be a part of this community in civil society.
“When any number of men have in this way consented to make one community or government, this immediately incorporates them, turns them into a single body politic in which the majority have a right to act on behalf of the rest and to bind them by its decisions.”
Locke upholds the idea of a democracy where the majority gets a say. Furthermore, the consent that people give implies that the government exists to serve society. This idea can be found in the very first words of the preamble of the American constitution. It starts with the famous phrase “we the people”. The constitution and the government exist for the people.
In summary what we have just learned is that government is formed through the consent of the people. The people form a political body which will uphold values such as safety and peaceful living. Men are born free and equal with natural rights. However, this does not mean that people are entirely free to do what they want to do. They have to adhere to the common laws and in return they will receive protection from the government.
There is one last quote I would like to read out to you from Locke’s Second Treatise.
“But this is only an ‘entrusted’ power to act for certain ends, so that the people retain a supreme power to remove or alter the legislature when they find it acting contrary to the trust that had been placed in it.”
Thus, the government is responsible to society. And when the government no longer serves the people, then the people get to change the government. The framers protected people from a tyrannical government by incorporating checks and balances such as holding consistent elections and through the mechanisms of federalism.
My aim of this podcast was to show you that the constitution did not come out of thin air. It is based on the philosophical works that the framers deemed as important for governing a Republic. Philosophical ideas influence how we perceive things around us and what we think the world should be like. Locke’s ideas are normal to us now – but they were definitely revolutionary during Locke’s lifetime. I hope you learned something new today. If you would like to read the transcript, please go to my website at socialscienceblog.org. Thank you for listening.
The emergence of the internet has paved new ways for people to communicate. As a millennial, I spent half of my early teens in chat rooms and on messaging platforms such as the late MSN. I chatted both with strangers and my in-real-life friends. Growing up with this technology, I was not fazed by it one bit. I completely embraced this lifestyle. I would come home from school, excited, to talk to my school friends, but online. There was something mystical about talking to people I know, behind a screen far away from them. And it provided to the opportunity to easily talk to people I was intimidated by — such as my crushes. After MSN became unpopular, I moved to online forums, perusing through messaging boards that discussed my niche interests. And in turn, these niche interests I would not have found without the internet. Quickly, the internet started to heavily influence the formation of my identity.
I found hobbies and interests I would have never known. They started to define me. Social media revved up my impression management skills. In everyday life we also use impression management, we try to show a side of ourselves that lines up with the situation we’re in. This means that when you’re in a job interview, you might try to impress the interviewer by demonstrating your competency. Or when you’re with friends you will behave in ways that will make them positively reinforce you. If you consider your friends to be smart, you might do your best to show your intellectual side in their presence. Social media is riddled with these kinds of impression management strategies. For instance, on Instagram or Facebook there is an incentive to showcase positive life events. This often gives a skewed vision of what individual’s lives are truly like. I would be lying if I said that I have not felt the pressure to participate in this.That is why I have decided to delete all of my social media.
However, I once welcomed such media with open arms. It especially agitated me when people from older cohorts – the non-digital natives – criticized my internet. How dare they speak ill of the greatest technological invention?! While I still might not agree with all negative views regarding social media or the internet, I have grown wary of it. Events such as Cambridge Analytica and studies linking social media to depression have changed my opinion. I once opposed the opinions of scholars such as Sherry Turkle, that too much screen time might be detrimental to our offline communication skills. But I am starting to see where they are coming from.
I have stepped away from my alliance to technological determinism, the idea that society is entirely molded by the technology it produces. Yes, since technology is such an integral part of our everyday life that it definitely influences many of our ideas and values, but it isn’t the sole maker. There a myriad of other factors at play. I no longer embrace the internet as the solution to every problem or as the form of technology that can do no wrong. Though, just as a clarification, I do not consider the internet as a stand alone creature that we are submitted to. I look at the environment that it provides to us humans, that are slightly different from ‘real life’ situations. For instance, the anonymity of certain online spaces provide a place for people to voice their insulting opinions.
But, no, I do not belong in camp “internet bad”. I would like to say that my opinion of this technology has become more nuanced over time. Maybe my adherence to the idea that the internet is invincible had to do with my ache for rebellion in my teens. I am not sure. But I have retracted that idea. I don’t think we should completely disregard the internet either. Personally, it has helped me tremendously. It is a source of communication, entertainment, information, and support. But it isn’t everything.
Part 1: pre-university
In my teens I was an avid reader of popular science books. Topics such as evolution, psychology, or philosophy were fascinating to me. I thought they were so great that I considered the books to preach absolute truth. I has no idea how research was actually conducted, and I was clueless about what the academic world looked like. I assumed that if a study was carried out, the results were automatically true. It reflected reality perfectly, it was an absolute accurate representation of the real world. I spent hours online reading about all my favorite scientific topics. I could not wait to go to university.
Part 2: university, bachelor’s
But university completely shattered the picture-perfect image I had of science. I was suddenly confronted with terms as validity and reliability. Research was subject to quality. Research was messy. Sometimes people lied and manipulated their data. Sometimes there were flaws in people’s research designs. And sometimes certain results were just not replicable. We were taught to scrutinize every detail of articles published in scholarly journals. We were also encouraged to think about where knowledge comes from and what science is. Epistemology and philosophy of science. My world was turned upside down. The way we practice science is so flawed. But! They preached statistics to us. Statistics saved science. Numbers are truth. I had faith in science again. As long as the p-values were low enough, we were going to be alright.
Part 3: university, master’s
But then I wandered into a different realm of science. One without numbers. Everything became relative. There was not one reality. No absolute truths. I was stuck in a postmodern mess. Suddenly I was paying attention to the world around me, everything was … constructed. Nothing was real anymore. Everyone lives in a different reality. Because there were no hard truths, I found myself arguing for both sides of each issue. Sometimes there were a million different sides to a story. I realized that everything was made up of structures. Structures that reproduce themselves and at times seem so arbitrary and messy. What does any of it mean? What is its significance? I was lost. Nothing made sense … but at the same time, everything did.
Part 4: philosophy
I needed answers, so I frantically started to go through the history of all philosophical ideas. I was baffled. I found that I could relate to old men who lived before Christ was born. They also struggled with the construction of reality and the fallacies of the mind. But back to practicing science. How can we say anything about the world, using science, when we cannot observe reality? I found solace in intersubjectivity. Science is a system, with rules. And if we abide these rules, we might be able to say something about the world around us.
I no longer worship science. But I am still eager to learn new things and to understand everything around me – to my best ability in this context and in this zeitgeist!
In a highly visual world where ‘the media’ represents specific body types it might be difficult for certain people to build self-esteem. Certain groups might be more susceptible to this, such as teenagers, as their need to belong and fit in might be stronger.
Self-perception influences one’s mental health. This relationship has been studied by researchers before. They found a link between how one perceived their weight status and depressive symptoms (1). This effect was also found to be stronger for women.
However, this does not mean that men do not deal with body image issues. In an article from 2004, researchers looked at body dissatisfaction among college men. They found that the men judged themselves to be fatter than they actually were. Though, these men also perceived themselves to be more muscular than they were. Though, they pointed out that they would like to be more muscular than they actually are. The researchers speculate that men are under more pressure to be more muscular due to contemporary media pressures. In this study, females were also asked to describe their preferred body type for males. The findings of the study highlights a discrepancy between what women want and what men think women want. Men assumed women want a man who is much leaner and muscular than the women in the study indicated (2).
‘Elastic’ body image
Researchers have created different models of body image. An article from 1992 describes a model that considers women’s body image, which is influenced by content on TV. This model contains different body images, including: society’s deal body, the internalized ideal body, current body image, and the objective body shape. To test their model, female participants were asked to watch specific imagery. The perception of one’s own body can change after being exposed to only half an hour of television (3).
- Ali, M. M., Fang, H., & Rizzo, J. A. (2010). Body weight, self-perception and mental health outcomes among adolescents. The journal of mental health policy and economics, 13(2), 53-63.
- Olivardia, R., Pope Jr, H. G., Borowiecki III, J. J., & Cohane, G. H. (2004). Biceps and body image: the relationship between muscularity and self-esteem, depression, and eating disorder symptoms. Psychology of men & masculinity, 5(2), 112.
- Myers, P. N., & Biocca, F. A. (1992). The elastic body image: The effect of television advertising and programming on body image distortions in young women. Journal of communication, 42(3), 108-133.