AoIR 2016: fakes

Images of protest in contested social media: Production, propagation, and narratives
Luca Rossi, Christina Neumayer, Julie Vulpius.  IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

This paper discussed the social media campaign around the Blockupy protests in Frankfurt, which was marked by the co-presence of #blockupy, #destroika, and #notroika hashtags.

220px-mc3b3tmc3a6li_vc3b6rubc3adlstjc3b3ra_1Researchers differentiated between images of explicit violence (for example, confrontations with police), and symbolic violence. Images of symbolic violence portray latent expressions of power, and the potential for violence. The symbolism depends on who’s taking the picture – for example, protesters see images of barbed wire as the violence of the state, police figure images of massed protesters as potentially violent) and explicit violence.

Activists in the Blockupy protest mainly shared non-violent pictures, an image of joyful resistance. Media focused on images of explicit violence, while police social media accounts focused on symbolic violence: setting up the narrative of police guarding against the potential threat of the protesters. Understanding how these images support different narratives provides a deeper understanding of contestation online.

Keeping It Fake: Exploring User-Generated Political Fakes and Their Publics
Elisabetta Ferrari. University of Pennsylvania, United States of America.

Political faking is a type of user-generated political satire, satirising not only the politician, but also anyone who interacts with them without realising they’re a fake.

queeneuropeEarly discussions of the Internet demonstrate a concern with fakeness as a mode of online interaction, including questions of authenticity. While these questions are important, it is also useful to explore the positive potential of fakeness.

Ferrari’s work focuses on how creators of fake European accounts interact with their followers and navigate their fakeness. There are some audience members (including politicians) who try to coopt the satire, other members of the audience who don’t get that it’s satire, and others who sometimes even read hidden meanings into the satire.

At times, the people running the accounts aren’t sure whether the people they are interacting with get the satire or not. Are members of the public interacting with accounts ‘for real’ or engaged in their own forms of playful faking?

For Ferrari, gakeness gets articulated as a powerful critique of what is fake in ‘real life’. We should think of satire as a participatory practice co-created by satirists and satirees. We are all faking, at least a little bit, and it’s not always a marker of insincerity. Playful fakeness can be a powerful tool for political critique.

Seeing Is Believing: Do People Fail to Identify Fake Images on the Web? 
Mona Kasra (University of Virginia, United States of America),  Cuihua Shen (University of California – Davis, United States of America), James O’Brien (University of California – Berkeley, United States of America).

moonlandingFaked images can have powerful effects. Especially looking at, for example, Syria today, faked images that try to present a particular side’s viewpoints can have a significant humanitarian impact.

The technology that allows for creating image forgeries is far outpaced by technology that allows us to study and check these images.

Most of us have an awareness that images can be faked. This can sometimes also lead to concern that an image is faked when it’s not. However, we are very poor at identifying what’s fake and what’s not when we’re trying to judge unaided and untrained.

This study explored how viewers try to understand which images are faked. Researchers created faked images and mocked them up as they might be presented on different platforms.

Viewers tended to be bad at looking for discrepancies in lighting, shadows, perspective, and so on. They were more likely to develop post-hoc justifications for their pre-existing understandings of a situation (eg. “I’ve heard of cases like this before, so it seems plausible.”) When they couldn’t find clues in the image itself, they tended to see implausible images as misattributed rather than faked.

How We Use Social Media: Do We See The Advertising Presented?
Ryan Payne (Seneca College, Canada), Jeremy Shtern (Ryerson University, Canada)

Social media users tend not to pay attention to the presence of ads on Facebook and other sites (they said in interviews). “I don’t mind that FB is monetised because I don’t see or interact with the ads”. Users report that they learn to recognise ads and avoid them.

Researchers used eye-tracking to measure what users actually focused on in their Facebook use. Contrary to what many users reported, people do engage with ads and other commercial content regardless of the strategies they discussed using to focus on social content instead.

When users were shown records of what they looked at during their social media time, they often tried to rationalise their use, for example: “Well, they’re my friends and we have a lot in common, so if they’ve liked something it might be interesting to me”.

There’s a lack of understanding of commercial messages on social media particularly when it’s not spread directly as advertising, but rather through other users’ likes or shares. There’s a granularity to understanding users’ digital literacy, and how to educate them about the commercial nature of platforms.


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