Your Smart Phone Changed Everything 3/10

This post is part of a 10 day posting challenge issued by Tina Zita. You can’t be a connected educator if you don’t contribute. Sometimes we need a nudge to remember that if nobody shares, nobody learns. Thanks Tina! 


A caution as you read this: I am a learner, not an expert.  

I have set out here to use my #10posts10days challenge to explore this area that deeply interests me, in an open way that lets others see what I am learning.  If you know more than I do, please correct me if necessary, and share! If you have more questions, please post those in the comments too.  Let’s learn more together.

All of the posts in this series can be found here: You Live in a Bubble


It’s been 10 years since Steve Jobs first announced the invention of the iPhone.  Prior to 2007, how did you access information online?

Over the past decade, we have gone from primarily desktop and laptop access, to using our phones for most of our online activity.

This has profoundly changed when, where and how we access the web.

Image shared by Gerry CC BY 2.0

As you look around and see friends, family, and co-workers busy on their phones, consider how much of that time is being spent INSIDE Apps?

Why is that important?

At one time, the web was a place that was democratizing voices – allowing people to write, publish, communicate – without all the barriers to publication that were there for print media.  But as we moved inside the “walled gardens”, and changed our access patterns so that we existed online inside apps that tracked us, and fed us only what we wanted, some of the best content stopped reaching us.

Hossein Derakhshan, on CBC Ideas (9:20)

“I would describe the change in one simple argument, that the internet used to be like books, but now it’s like television.  That entails that a few elements, a few core elements and features of the internet and web, pre- the emergence of social media have also changed, so decentralization, non-linearity, it’s much less diverse now, and it’s become quite popularity driven, in a way.  If you write something that not many people support somehow, then it’s very likely that it wouldn’t be visible to very many people, even the people who are following you, and that’s a very key difference here.  Now, when you follow someone, let’s say on Twitter or Facebook, you don’t even see all their posts. That’s a huge change. You only get to see the ones the algorithms decide you should see, based on your previous engagements, based on the topics, and based on the amount of engagement they have attracted, likes and reshares, retweets and all that.”

He goes on to say that Web 2.0 has “transformed into social networks”, something which is now dominating in essentially every country.  This is probably even more predominant in developing countries where up to 50% of the people can think that the internet IS Facebook.

Apps have created convenience for us.  By spending time inside these corporately-owned spaces, we trade our privacy for that convenience.  According to Kin Lane, people who really understand the web are using this information to sort us into “comfortable little groups” so they can sell things to us.

So what basic understanding do we need to see what is happening to us based on our digital habits? To begin with, we need to understand what domains are, and who is behind them.  Domain Literacy, defined here by Kin Lane, is an important digital literacy.  Without this understanding, we are left to behave in our bubbles just as the app owners direct us to.

From Kin Lane:

“Increasingly startups are building tools to separate, segment, and personalize the web for “you”, leaving out all the bits about where you exist only in their sales funnel. They have a single focus, to identify you, target you, and put you into a bucket where they can monitor, track, and sell you things, on the way to their business exit (cha-ching).”

Tomorrow, I will take a closer look at the history of how our behaviour online has changed so much over the past 10-20 years.  In the meantime, I recommend the references below if you want to pursue this idea further.

Featured image by Frank McKenna on Unsplash

All of the posts in this series can be found here:

4/10 – Historical perspective – the co-created open web to corporately owned platforms

5/10 – Algorithms: What’s controlling what you see and read?

6/10 – Information Literacy: What will your lesson plan look like now?

7/10 – Videos and Images – From Facts to Feelings

8/10 – Popularity over Importance: Celebrity culture in a time of wicked world problems

9/10 – The Attention Economy

10/10 – Escape Your [Filter] Bubble



Hacking the Attention Economy by danah boyd

Why America is Self-Segregating by danah boyd

The Social Bubbles we Experienced During Election is the Future of the Web by Kin Lane

Screened Off – The Dangers of the Insular Web – CBC Ideas Podcast

Post-Truth Fact Check – Canadaland Podcast

Facebook Dismissive of Censorship and Abuse Concerns

Iran’s blogfather: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are killing the web – Hossein Derakhshan

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet

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