All posts by vicvan

Music & Social Media

We’re at the last blog of the semester. As with the previous one, it will focus on the topic my classmates put forward in line with their thesis research. This time focused on the role of social media in the music industry.

So, music and social media. The two are indeed an important combination. I remember back in the day when MySpace was the place for bands to come in contact with their fans online. Since that social platform has now gone extinct, its role has been taken over by Facebook. It is now easier than ever to keep in check with your favourite bands. Just hit the like button on their Facebook page and you’ll be able to receive every single one of their updates (provided they are active on Facebook). If anything I think social media and the Internet have made it so people can be more actively engaged with bands. What better way to know when they’ll be playing in your neighbourhood than checking the tour schedule they just posted online? Another major player in the industry is YouTube. Of the 100 most watched videos on YouTube, 95 of them are music videos. It is so apparent that even Wikipedia has made indications in its list to signify what videos are not of the musical genre. This goes to show how important the platform has become in playing music and sharing it with your audience. The most played video has 4,35 billion views, equal to roughly 57% of the world population. Now I know that this doesn’t mean that each one of those clicks is a separate person, but it goes to show how insane playing music has become on the video platform. The most streamed song on Spotify “only” has 1,43 billion clicks. You could say YouTube has become the MTV of today, except here the user gets to choose which videos he/she wants to see.

There is no way around it; music artists have to take social media into account if they want to become successful. And this doesn’t limit itself to just artists. Even organisers have made the jump to the online world. A few days ago Graspop, a metal festival in Belgium, announced its first 46 names (apart from the headliners) through, you guessed it, Facebook. It’s apparent that the (r)evolution runs through almost every aspect of the industry.


Digital Literacy and The Silent Majority

This week’s blog will be divided into two separate parts. Two of my classmates will be presenting their thesis, each dealing with a different topic.


First of all, I’ll be talking about Digital Literacy. In my eyes this concept signifies the capability someone has to deal with digital media. A digitally literate person knows how to make use of online tools, what the implications behind it are, what the dangers are, etc. A topic that gets brought up a lot in the context of this is privacy on social media. It is often stated that many people don’t stop to think about the implications or possible consequences when they post something themselves. Various people say that this should be something that schools need to adopt in their curriculum. I do agree that schools can play an important role in teaching the skills needed to foster a good handling of online media, but I think that you will never be able to do this solely through education. A lot of it, I feel, comes down to trail and error. You can tell children all about the dangers on something, but if they don’t experience it themselves or through someone close to them they will never truly learn it. The majority of it is dependent on themselves and their direct environment as well. It is a very important skill, one that will be fundamental in the future.


As a second topic here is that of the silent majority in participatory culture. I never thought of a concept like this in a digital context. My understanding of it was always through a political view. An interesting statement was that big data could potentially lead us to knowing what the general line of thought is of the silent majority. While this could indeed be a big development, a few concerns can be brought up. First of all that of privacy, many people have already voiced their discontent of data gathering to make advertising more personalised. Is the use of this data for political reason than so much better? If anything abuse of personal data in this context could have some very dangerous implication. What I do find interesting is ‘the 90-9-1 principle’ that was proposed in one of the articles. This states that 90% of a community are lurkers, 9% are sporadically vocal and 1% is incredibly vocal. I’ve always thought online communities were more defined by a sort of 80-20 or pareto-principle. Whereby 80% of all the content comes from 20% of the community. I will look further into it though.
All in all, I’m curious what my classmates will bring tomorrow.

Thesis update

Hi everyone, just a small update on my thesis (a big one actually if you look at it). I finally managed to get into contact with my thesis coordinator. While my topic is still Algorithmic Awareness, my focus has shifted a bit. Instead of looking at the consumer side, I’ll turn towards the producer-side. I’m taking a look at how news producers think about the algorithms behind Facebook and how they try to circumvent it. The central theoretical framework in this will be gatekeeping-theory, whereby personalisation through Facebook can be seen as a second gatekeeper above the news organisations. The bulk of my literature review still remains the same since I’m still talking about personalisation on the web, how Facebook works, the filter bubble and Algorithmic Awareness. The only difference is that in my last part I’ll be focusing on the producer side instead of on the consumer side.

So from all the things I talked about during my presentation on Thursday, a few things have fundamentally shifted. For that reason I’m actually not going to upload it, since I feel it does not represent the structure nor goal of my thesis well enough anymore


In this week’s blog, I will quickly go over what I would like to do for my exam for DIKULT 303: Digital Media Aesthetics.


As you may know my thesis research handles about how people are aware of the fact that what they see on Facebook is filtered tot heir needs and interests. Pariser called this phenomenon ‘the filter bubble’. As I started reading more and more about the topic, I came to realize that it is interwoven with a lot of other topics as well. Or rather that it involves a lot of different ones. Algorithmic Awareness, online news, content diversity, recommender systems, Google and Facebook are just a few of them.


As more and more people start to consider Facebook as a news source, we need to make sure that the platform offers enough different stances on issues and conflicting information as the traditional media. If not we risk falling in a vicious circle where our view on the world and interests keep being reinforced because of our lack of exposure to conflicting information and ideologies.


Looking at it, I would like to make a sort of mini-literature review, like those that you find in an academic article for the exam assignment. First starting with why the topic of Filter Bubbles is important in today’s society, thus giving the scientific and societal value of the research, followed by an overview on the implications, critiques and past research and findings on the filter bubble and online news consumption.

At the moment my idea is to link this issue to the so-called cognitive-dissonance theory in social psychology. This states that we don’t like seeing information that conflict with our view on the world, as well in the fact that we feel uncomfortable when our actions go against our ideas. This is closely linked to the confirmation bias-theory, which argues that we seek out information that reinforces our ideology.


In summary the structure of my paper would thus be the following: start by giving the societal value of research on the topic, which is closely tied to the recent media-use statistics. Next would then be the academic value by giving an overview on what has already been said/done on the topic and where there are still flaws that need to be given attention. These two parts would in essence comprise the introduction to the literature review. The second part, the actual literature review would be made up in three different sections, starting with the cognitive dissonance theory, as this is the theoretical framework out of which I would look at the issue. The proceeding two parts would first be an explanation of the filter bubble (what has been written about it) and secondly a look at how people are aware of it, by looking at literature about algorithmic awareness.


This is roughly an idea on how I would like to organise the assignment. A lot of it still depends on my discussion about it with my professor. I am also still not sure on the theoretical framework that I would use in my thesis. On the hand, the cognitive dissonance theory says a lot about how people handle their view on the world and information opposing it, but the other viewpoint, namely Gatekeeping-theory, says a lot more about news dissemination and what information makes it through. In the latter case algorithms could thus be seen as a form of gatekeepers that decide what information the user will see.


As you can see, the last part is still a mystery even for me. In general this is how I would like to do the assignment though.

The Seven Deadly Sins: Envy

In this week’s blog I’ll be taking a look at chapter 7, Envy, in the book ‘Evil By Design’. It was provided to me by one of my fellow students in line with his masters’ thesis. In it, Chris Nodder, the author, describes how we can achieve or trigger each of the seven deadly sins in designing something.


In this specific chapter he puts forward 8 ways to make it so some of your customers feel a sense of envy in line with your product. They are: creating desirability, aspiration, pre-ownership, creating status differences, emphasize achievement, encourage payment over achievement, design status advertisement and creating a sense of importance.


I like how in a certain way, he doesn’t just rely on the fact that the sins are just bad or evil by default. The author makes the distinction between destructive envy (bad) and benign envy (good). It is important to make sure the former does not come forward in its extreme form.


The first way, creating desirability, is the same as the basics of marketing. Making sure it’s good to look at, saying it can solve your audience their problems and associating it with a lifestyle most people look up to, has been the foundation of advertising since a long time. Creating aspiration is somewhat the same I feel as creating desire, but only in a totally positive way.

Making people feel pre-ownership is a phenomenon that is relatively new I find, as it is amplified so much through the possibilities of the Internet. Because it is now so easy for developers of something to present their product online and keep their investors updated on everything this form of product investment has become so much easier. A lot of successful videogames have been made in through channels like Kickstarter.

Status difference, I think, is the best way to achieve envy. Being jealous of the status that someone enjoys is something that even goes back to high school. We all had the some peers in our teenage years that were much more popular than us. In that sense, status differences is something that we’ve dealt with our entire life yet are still susceptible to.

Earning achievement and paying for it, is something that I’m very familiar with in online games and I think has its place if it is handled correctly. High-end achievements should never be able to be bought because that way you take away a lot of prestige associated with it. If it’s impossible to distinguish between players who earned something the fair way and those who bought it, you’re not incentivising the former group to actually work towards it. This ties in with letting people advertise their status as well. It should be possible for people to show off what they’ve earned but again, you should take caution here that this does not create negative feelings if that status is a bought one.

Lastly making people feel important is, I think the most crucial one as it creates an immense brand loyalty with your customers. Making them feel appreciated and giving attention to their inputs, will make it so they will definitely come back to you.


All in all, this was a very interesting chapter. I’m curious what Anders will put forward tomorrow in his explanation of his thesis.

Comments, trolls & disinhibition

In this weeks blog I’ll be taking a closer look at the comment system and the consequences of anonymity on social media and just the web in general. A classmate of mine has given me two good works on this, more specifically ‘The Online Disinhibition Effect’ by J. Suler and ‘Reading the Comments’ by J. M. Reagle.


I feel like talking about Suler is a good starting point on how online behaviour can work differently from real life performance. The disinhibition effect is the phenomenon whereby people online express emotions and desires that they would otherwise restrain offline. He makes a distinction between ‘benign disinhibition’ and ‘toxic disinhibition’, whereby the former is the situation where people display a large amount of hospitality and friendliness and the latter, the state where they express hateful and rude statements. Suler states that the anonymity, or even physical invisibility to a minor extent, we obtain online is a big factor in the creation of the effect.

While I understand the difference between the two versions I feel as if, the benign effect can’t really be called as an expression of suppressed feelings as the toxic one. People whom are friendly online, I think are by nature also very friendly people offline. While people who behave in a rude, hateful and discriminatory way online, aren’t necessarily also bad people offline. It wouldn’t be surprised if some Internet trolls are actually nice people in real life, but take on a complete new personality when they surf on the Internet.

This ‘Online Disinhibition Effect’ is important to keep in mind, as we move to the next work, namely that of J. M. Reagle. His text talks more specifically about comments on online blogs, forums and social media. I think we all have looked at the comments of a video or social media post before and found that it sometimes contains some very hateful messages. The comments are just an example of the effect described by Suler. Because our identity is protected by our anonymity online, we are free to comment whatever we want on what we find. A few famous youtubers have decided to disable their comment sections in the past, some of them even permanent. Many have stated that this action had an impact on their channel.

Another famous example where toxic comments come forth is on news articles on Facebook. Even though I try to stay away from them, I sometimes can’t resist reading them and finding out some very ignorant comments. When it comes to politics many take on a very cynical, even sour (as we say in dutch) attitude. While Facebook goes against the anonymity principle that is brought forth by both the authors, it is still not enough to block some very toxic comments. I personally think this has to do with the fact that even though our identity is exposed, nothing holds us accountable for what we write in comment sections. If people call someone out on a lie in a response to a comment, many of them will either ignore it or attack that person back.

Just today (15th of October), I saw a perfect example of the topic of this blog post. It was a news article by De Morgen, which a Flemish quality newspaper about a statement by the actress Mayim Bialik, who plays in The Big Bang Theory. It was about the recent scandal involving Weinstein in Hollywood. I won’t go further on this as it’s not of importance here but if you followed the news for the past week then you definitely heard of it. She said that because she dresses just mediocre and doesn’t really flirt with people, she never had the problem of men harassing her. In a perfect society women should be able to dress how they want etc., but because that’s not the society we live in, women are to be careful in those things. When I took a look at the comment section I was kinda disgusted with the responses to the article. One guy stated that she dresses mediocre because she has nothing to show for in the first place, another one calling her a dumb religious child. One guy even stated that she has been going crazy for a while now, speaking as if he personally knows her. 2 out the 3 profiles of the people I stated above where fake accounts. So here again the anonymity makes it so they can say whatever they want without it ever harming them in real life.


It is one of the many sad things that have come with the rising popularity of social media, and sadly one that is very hard to counter. Though we shouldn’t just look at the toxic comments, but also appreciate the encouraging ones or those with constructive criticism. As with anything on the Internet, there’s a good and bad side to it.

On the thesis & danah boyd

This week’s blog will be divided into two different parts. In the first I will be talking a bit more about my masters thesis topic. And in the second, I’m taking a closer look at the interview with danah boys by On Being Studios, more specifically about The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Internet.


Thesis: Algorithmic Awareness

In terms of a temporary title for my thesis I was thinking about “man over machine? An analysis on getting around the algorithms on social media”.

When I first saw the theme of ‘Algorithmic Awareness”, I was thinking more about research on the degree in which a specific demographic group is aware of the various algorithms behind social media. However, someone from my class here in Norway brought up an interesting situation whereby he works around the algorithms of Netflix by having multiple accounts on the PlayStation he uses to watch it.

In my thesis I’d thus like to take a different angle on the issue. Instead of merely finding out in what way people are aware of the algorithms on social media, I’d like to take a look at how people try to work around them. Or do they even try to work around them in the first place? The making of multiple accounts each tailored to a specific kind of content or trying to like as many of as few things as possible? These are a few things that I think of when it comes to ways in which one can overcome the algorithms on social media.

This could be researched through qualitative interviews, whereby it is possible to find out if people are aware of the algorithms and how they deal with this.

This way the question gets a whole new dimension: that of apathy or action.


Podcast danah boyd

In my discussion on the podcast of danah boyd, I would like to just take a few snippits out of it that I found interesting or that I’m familiar with through some of my previous courses.

The first is the fact that she mentioned in her teenage years that her brother brought her a yellow page book where supposedly the pages on the Internet were all written down. Never before in my life have I ever heard that something like that existed. It is hard to fathom that there was ever a time where all the pages on the Internet could be written down in a book. Looking back at it, I first got on the Internet when I was 10 (so about 12 years ago now) and I think even then it was already impossible to do that kind of reduction. So something like that would be literally impossible right now, as I’m sure by the time you would finish a book like that the amount of website would’ve already doubled. It made me realize how much the Internet has evolved in the span of about 20-30 years.

Another part that I found interesting is the magnifying that the web does when it comes to the presentation of the dangers in the world. It reminded me of the concept of the “risk society” by Ulrich Beck. He talks about how the world today does not have more or less dangers than in the past, but through contemporary media (not just the internet but also television & radio), these risk have become global. We are more aware of the dangers that exist in todays society and have thus, in danah boyd analysis, become more scared to sort of say.

In her example of bullying, I will argue that the Internet also magnifies this phenomenon. I agree with her that bullying isn’t more common in today’s world, but I will add that it has become more visible than ever before. If I were a bully (I am not), than it would be much more easy for other people to see my behaviour online (for example on Facebook). Through the Internet it is also easy for bullies to continue their behaviour after school.

This part thus also holds true that the Internet has made visible those things that were previously concealed.

In some ways it’s scary how much modern media can bring forth these things that shouldn’t be rewarded with visibility. But because of the rapid development of the technology, as was made evident in the first paragraph, it is hard if not impossible to stop these negative consequences.

Participation & education

For this week’s blog I’ve read chapter 4&5 of the book ‘Participatory Culture in a Networked Era’ by Henry Jenkins, Mizuko Ito & Danah Boyd. They specifically talk about potential impact of digital media on learning (both inside and outside of school) and the importance of a literacy to handle the information that is out there on the Internet with care. As you can see this chapter is closely related to Rheingold’s Net Smart. I’ll talk focus here more on chapter 4.

The first part handles about the concept of learning and how it comes forth in the connected world and in traditional research. They argue that learning is a side effect of creative production. In their example they refer to how US anime fans (Japanese cartoons to sort of say, frequently based on manga) learned the Japanese language much more quickly than they would in a traditional school setting. However very few actually take this community-based learning to their school/career settings. A participatory classroom they say would be much better than the traditional authoritarian setting, as the students would feel much more compelled to learn.

I don’t deny that people learn much quickly about the things they have an interest in. However it would like to add a few nuances to it. In the first place I’m still a big advocate of the traditional ‘authoritarian’ education. It is important that kids in their way to becoming adults receive a certain basis of knowledge and are taught some of the basic fundamentals of society. In this way I think that traditional research still should have priority of participatory learning.

As stated above very few young people take their community based learning to the traditional school setting: a shift an out of school/work context to a in the school/work contest thus. I think the opposite is true as well however, in the sense that kids or even university students take what they learn in the traditional setting and find interesting outside of the school context. A student learning about a certain theory in his physics class or about a genre of books in his English class might go surfing on the internet and forums afterwards to learn more about it.

In their second part the three scholars talk about the information overload that is typical, but not exclusive, to the Internet. They argue for the need for a critical literacy in our handling of this information: knowing why certain types of information are more commonly found on the Internet and why. I honestly wholeheartedly agree with this statement. It is important that not just kids, but adults as well learn how to properly handle the digital media and its contents. This goes from having a critical mind when reading online stories to knowing how to properly protect your privacy online.

The statement that we should move away from thinking about the ‘they the media’ towards the ‘we the media’ holds true to a certain degree in the digital world. However traditional media still plays a very large role in today’s society and have also found their way to the online world. We have a lot more agency than ever before in our handling of the media. But this freedom is in a certain way still structured by the underlying boundaries of the traditional media.

While the work of Jenkins, Ito & Boyd is certainly a worthwhile one: participation is a major factor of today’s digital media, there is a need for a critical mindset and our power over in the media has never been so high. I find that at sometimes they are often a little bit too radical in their thinking. This was made clear in my thought on the participatory versus traditional school setting. But my thoughts on Wikipedia are another example of this. Wikipedia is perhaps one of the greatest inventions ever made, but the information it presents is in my eyes still inferior to that of academic papers.

Perhaps I’m not progressively minded enough, who knows. Only time will tell.

Kind regards,



My vision on my masters thesis

What are you interested in researching for your MA work?

I’ve been thinking a lot of what I want to research in my masters thesis. First and foremost my topic of preference would be someting to do with the gaming industry. I’ve thought about doing something in terms of businessmodels or development models in videogames. The problem however is that this is thus far a veru unexplored topic, so it wouldn’t be easy as a normal MA student to find sufficient supporting literature. Another topic that interests me in the gaming industry is the social interactions that go on in online worlds. For exmaple, do people consider others online that they play with as their friends? To what degree do they have contact with them outside of the game, but through other online channels like Facebook? What is their stance on letting someone whom they’ve never met in real life know their real name, university, adress, etc.? How do they think about their online peers in comparison to the people they know in real life? Do they trust their online peers more on certain topics that they wouldn’t trust their real life friends with?

As you see there are a lot of question that come to my mind when talking about what I would like to research. I haven’t decided yet on what specifiec direction I want to take with it. I would very much appreciate being able to talk to a scholar/professional on research on gaming to see what topics are maybe already exhausted or which ones aren’t. Since the University of Brussels does not really have someone that it focused on the gamingindustry, I haven’t been able to find this person.


What are you interested in making in the context of your MA work?

I’m not sure what is meant by this question, but I guess the first thing that should be on my list is a scientific paper as that is the essential part of the masters thesis. An interesting approach to the research would be to maybe make some kind of an online forum with the people who are participating in the empirical part of my research. That way, like a focus group, the participants can discuss among each other to give me some deeper insights in what they think about the topic. This could also alleviate some of the common pitfalls when it comes to focus groups, like trying to get people together in one place at the same time. Plus, with a setup like this the discussion isn’t limited to a few hours but it can keep evolving for weeks straight.

Another thing that would be nice to ‘make’ in terms of my MA work, is a sort of academic network. As I said before I don’t have contact with any scholar that is specialised in research on the videogaming industry. Being able to develop a network with these kinds of people would surely help my thesis along the way. Nice insights might arise, they could give more context/nuance to certain concepts, etc.


In what ways can you use, develop, or incorporate networked learning or some aspect of the networked effect in your MA research work?

As stated above a kind of online forum might be a good way to use networks to furter my research as well as the academic network. I guess the latter could be considered as some kind of networked learning since I would gain more knowledge through interacting with people who are more familiar with the field of research.


With Kind Regards



Rheingold’s Collaboration and Networks through the eyes of an MMORPG player.

After a week of other schoolwork, I finally got to read the next three chapters of Rheingold’s Net Smart. So here I am with my take on participation, collaboration and networks. There were a lot of things in these chapter, I kind of already knew about from previous classes back in Belgium, but a lot of topics that he brought up had a personal link to me in one way or another.


I mostly want to focus here on chapter 5&6: Collaboration & Networks. This is mostly because these 2 chapters relate to me the most on a personal level. As an online gamer, I am part of a virtual community as Rheingold coined it. So I want to approach what he says from my personal experience and – examples.


First to give you a little background, I play the MMORPG Guild Wars 2 and have done so since the game first came out in 2012. Over the years I have met and lost many people in that online world. Like Rheingold’s example of World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 has a guild system as well (obviously!) and having seen almost 95% of my fellow guild members leave the game was not a pretty feeling. So in that perspective a lot of the things he brings up sounded familiar to me in one way or another.


His notion of collaboration “enhancing the capacity of another for mutual benefit and to achieve a common purpose by sharing risks, resources, responsibilities and reward” is something that definitely comes back in a lot of online games. 80 people all coming together and following 3 squad leaders in order to tackle a map wide event to get some special awards for example in Guild Wars 2. I have made some very good friends online just by playing the game and seeing someone come to my rescue when I’m about to lose or me coming to their rescue when they’re about to die (in the game that is) and then tackling the game together for the rest of the evening. After 5 years of playing this has made for a quite intimate group of people whom I consider my friends. One of which I have met in real life and quite a few of them that I added to my Facebook friends list and talk with outside of the game. In that sense his statement that communities can’t be forced holds true. None of us were really looking for a group to belong to, we mostly stumbled upon each other by coincidence when our goals aligned and stuck together after those goals were met.


Looking at this from the topics introduced in chapter 6: Network, those people that I met online are part of my personal network as well now. Some of them I consider stronger ties than people I went to highschool with for 6 years. Mostly due to fact that these people have gone from being a strong and weak tie to absent ties, people you have lost touch with and haven’t spoken to in a long time.

I do think that his notion of a bridge is a bit vague or maybe I didn’t understand it well enough but you could say that everyone is a bridge between two different networks. No two people belong the same networks. You belong to networks that none of your friends belong to and vice versa. In the end it comes down to how useful the bridge is I think.


All in all I really enjoyed these 3 chapters, mostly because I could relate to them from my experience as an online gamer. Definitely worth a read!



With Kind Regards






(Ps. While Rheingold brings up Reed’s Law in chapter 6, I will argue that Zipf’s Law or West’s law is much better to assess the value of a network)