Habemus trollum: why the new Pope’s Twitter account ‘mirrors’ its detractors

On February 2nd, 2013 I wrote this post describing trolling as a defining feature of Pope Benedict XVI’s Twitter presence. After establishing the role of online pontiff-bashing in helping redefine Catholicism, I concluded the Vatican should “feed the trolls”. A week later Joseph Ratzinger resigned. Of course, it’s unrelated. Only an idiot would say there’s a link betweet trolling and papal resignation. And here’s an actual idiot who said just that, in an interview with TIME magazine:

grillopopetweet

Italian Comedian-Kingmaker Beppe Grillo on Internet and Politics | TIME.com

Soon after the renunciatio, the @pontifex account was semi-discontinued. All tweets uttered in the name of Joseph Ratzinger were deleted, his avatar replaced by the Vatican symbol, the denomination Benedictus XVI supplanted by Sede Vacante (‘Vacant Chair of St. Peter’).

By now, as you know, everything is back to normal, more or less. The cardinals have elected a new Pope, and the pontifical Twitter account is back in the game… with a surprising ALLCAPS message that kind of freaked the hell out of of me. Read more

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Please Your Holiness, feed the #troll (an open letter to the Pope)

[Update Feb. 11 2013: This post has been also published in the French edition of the Huffingtonpost and featured in Andrew Sullivan's The Dish as well as in the Catholic Herald.]

> To : Pope Benedict XVI
> From : Antonio Casilli
> Sent:  Sun Feb. 3 2013 03:52:22 PM
> Subject: What to do about Twitter trolling
>

Your Holiness,

let me start by saying that I am not a christian, plus I am not particularly appreciative of your work. I am but a modest scholar of digital cultures who has been following, with a professional eye, your recent effort to rebrand your online image. By now, the general public is aware that you and your staff operate the Twitter account @pontifex – and its multilingual permutations @pontifex_fr, pontifex_it, pontifex_es… My sources indicate that this is the brainchild of Jesuit cybertheologian Antonio Spadaro, counselor of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications 1. So it seems only obvious that the Jesuit magazine Popoli commissioned a study to assess how well your online presence has been perceived after a month on Twitter. On the face of it, you did fine. You have been sending out approximately 100 messages in 9 languages, and earned more than 2 million followers altogether. Moreover, you have generated 270,456 responses from your fellow users.

This impressive amount of comments was also used to perform a “sentiment analysis”, to determine the general attitude of the Twittersphere. About 82% of the feedback received was “neutral”, a meager 10% was positive, and 8% negative. Let me break it down for you, Your Holiness: sentiment-wise, your entrance on Twitter has been saluted by a roaring “meh”… The not so brilliant results are summarized in the following infographic:

The Pope on Twitter. Source: Oogo.com Read more

  1. Turns out my sources were not completely accurate after all. On Twitter, jesuit theologian Antonio Spadaro clarifies that:

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La simulation sociale pour combattre la censure : texte de ma conférence à TEDxParisUniversités

[UPDATE 05.06.2102: La vidéo de mon talk est désormais en ligne sur le site Web des conférences TED. Enjoy & share !]

Le samedi 19 mai j’ai été parmi les heureux conférenciers de l’édition 2012 de TEDxParisUniversités. A cette occasion, j’ai pu présenter au public français les résultats du projet ICCU (Internet Censorship and Civil Unrest) que je mène avec Paola Tubaro, enseignante-chercheuse à l’Université de Greenwich, Londres. L’accueil a été plus que chaleureux : la tweeterie m’a porté en triomphe, j’ai reçu les accolades des organisateurs et je me suis imbibé de l’enthousiasme d’étudiants et de militants de tout bord. J’exagère, mais pas tant que ça (suffit de lire le compte-rendu Storify concocté par Gayané Adourian ;). Voici donc le texte et les slides de mon intervention, en attendant la vidéo.

Aujourd’hui je vais vous parler des effets négatifs de la censure des médias sociaux, en passant par le cas des émeutes britanniques de 2011.

La censure est extrêmement difficile à étudier du point de vue des sciences sociales. Dans la mesure où elle est une interruption de flux d’information, les données relatives à ses conséquences et à son efficacité prétendue sont souvent inaccessibles aux chercheurs. C’est pourquoi nous devons nous appuyer sur une méthode innovante : la simulation sociale. Read more

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What’s the actual size of your personal social network? Some numbers

Ok, so you have hundreds of friends on Facebook and thousands of followers on Twitter. Big deal. How many will show up to help you win that human pyramid contest, uh? And how many have you actually being interacting with in the last few months? More broadly, what’s the size of your actual social network? Scientists have been looking for an answer to that question, exploring the cognitive limits of the number of individuals one person can create ties with, both online and offline.

Famously, in 1992 anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed a rough estimate of 150. The ‘Dunbar’s number’ was the result of a large-scale study comparing the size of the neocortex in primates and humans. But in 1998 that figure pretty much doubled when social network analyst Peter Killworth contemplated a mean personal network size of 290. And in 2010 that number doubled again, as sociologist Matthew Salganik settled for an estimate of 610 personal ties.

So who says 1,200? Nobody yet. Maybe (I’m just teasing) psychologist Lisa Barrett will come up with a number of her own, if the hype surrounding her latest article published in Nature Neuroscience continues. What hype? Didn’t you see this?

Apparently, after scanning a few brains, Barrett and her team discovered a fancy correlation between personal network size and the size of the corpus amygdaloideum. Turns out Facebook has nothing to do with the matter in question. If the numbers of the average size of personal networks are going up as years go by, it’s not because of our increasing technological embeddedness. Dunbar’s number was based on the size of human neocortex (i.e. that part of the human brain presiding higher mental functions), so it  would come as no surprise if it was way smaller than the one correlated to the size of the amygdala (the part that regulates emotional responses and aggression). After all, it’s safe to say that among our acquaintances the number of those we would like to punch is higher than that of those with whom we would enjoy a civilized chat…

—a

ResearchBlogging.org

Bickart, K., Wright, C., Dautoff, R., Dickerson, B., & Barrett, L. (2010). Amygdala volume and social network size in humans Nature Neuroscience, advance online publication DOI: 10.1038/nn.2724

Dunbar, R. (1992). Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates Journal of Human Evolution, 22 (6), 469-493 DOI: 10.1016/0047-2484(92)90081-J

Killworth, P., Johnsen, E., Bernard, H. R., Shelley, G., & McCarty, C. (1990). Estimating the size of personal networks Social Networks, 12 (4), 289-312 DOI: 10.1016/0378-8733(90)90012-X

McCormick, T., Salganik, M., & Zheng, T. (2010). How Many People Do You Know?: Efficiently Estimating Personal Network Size Journal of the American Statistical Association, 105 (489), 59-70 DOI: 10.1198/jasa.2009.ap08518


ps. This post was inspired by a few tweets exchanged with mathematician Valdis Krebs (@orgnet) and anthropologist Sally Applin (@AnthroPunk). To them goes my appreciation and #FF.

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Tableau des équivalences web occidental / web chinois

Il y a quelques mois, lors de la conférence Lift10, l’auditoire a été capturé par le brillant exposé de Basile Zimmermann. Le jeune professeur de l’Université de Genève a expliqué – d’une manière extrêmement convaincante – comment la différence culturelle entre la Chine et les sociétés euro-étasuniennes soit encodée dans le langage et dans les pratiques d’écriture. Et quand les usages technologiques s’en mêlent, l’écart peut se creuser encore davantage. Les  claviers,  les écrans, et les conventions communicationnelles opposent radicalement la manière de lire des contenus en ligne en Chine et dans les pays « alphabetiques ».

Certes utile pour se repérer dans le web chinois, le tableau concocté par l’expert de médias sociaux Thomas Crampton, doit IMHO être lu à l’aune des commentaires de Basile Zimmermann – qui nous invite à ne pas réduire la différence culturelle à un simple jeu d’équivalences.

—a

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Running experiments on Twitter? Don’t forget the bug

Just a quick post to point you to an interesting article about tie formation on Twitter – which is also the place where I found this reference, a couple of days ago:

ResearchBlogging.org
Scott A. Golder and Sarita Yardi (2010). Structural Predictors of Tie Formation in Twitter: Transitivity and Mutuality. Proceedings of the Second IEEE International Conference on Social Computing. August 20-22, Minneapolis, MN.

Here I summarize the results:

Read more

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Don’t believe the hype (about the role of social media in Iran protests)

« Iranian reformist candidates Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoub and their supporters have few communications options. They have no access to national TV, radio, or newspapers, which are under state control. Text messaging is being blocked and web sites are filtered. How are they able to organize a huge protest movement?

While the mainstream media has focused on the role of Twitter and decentralized organizing, the real picture of digital activism in Iran is more complex. Protests are organized centrally by the campaigns of reformist candidates and then that information is disseminated both online and off. The role of citizens with regard to social media is as citizen journalists, using YouTube and Twitter to report on what is happening, rather than to organize the protests. Since this activity is intended for an international audience (and is in English) it is no wonder that this use of social media is more visible to a Western audience than the online tactics actually being used to organize the protests. »

Digital Activism in Iran: Beyond the Headlines
By Hamid Tehrani, June 20, 2009
(read the rest of this article on Digiactive: a world of digital activists)

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Links for Education and Social Media (eng, fr, pt)

A Study on the Effective Use of Social Software by Further and Higher Education in the UK to Support Student Learning and Engagement (by Shailey Minocha, Department of Computing, The Open University, UK)
http://kn.open.ac.uk/public/getfile.cfm?documentfileid=14866

Manifesto sobre as Mídias Locativas (by André Lemos, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil)
http://andrelemos.info/404nOtF0und/404_71.htm

L’Observatoire des Mondes Numériques en Sciences Humaines (OMNSH)
http://www.omnsh.org/

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Wisconsin student twitters his way to PhD in biomedical engineering

First off this video:

What is it all about? Just another day in the Twitter-crazed US media landscape: a high-profiled news report on Adam Wilson, a biomedical engineer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who, according to Wired, managed to send a tweet using only his brain. Quite self-referentially, the first telepathic microblogging message in the history of humankind simply read: « USING EEG TO SEND TWEET ». I cannot help but wonder if Antonio Meucci’s first telephone call went something like that, too – with him shouting « I’M USING MY MOUTH TO SPEAK ON THE PHONE!!! »

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Using Twitter during surgery

An interesting way of integrating robotic surgery and micro-blogging. A publicity stunt, basically. Question is, what’s with medicine and online communications? The answer, in a forthcoming article by Yours Faithfully, featured in the March 2009  issue of the French journal Esprit. Stay tuned. —a

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