Figure 1: Facebook's Social Graph Data Structure, Business Insider UK, http://uk.businessinsider.com/author/boonsri-dickinson?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 04 September 2015]
Figure 1: Facebook’s Social Graph Data Structure, Business Insider UK, http://uk.businessinsider.com/author/boonsri-dickinson?r=US&IR=T [Accessed 04 September 2015]
The Facebook Social Graph, an ample showing of one of the ways the internet is becoming more connected, allowing users to supply information such as their hobbies, personal details, friends, family and uses the information supplied to make a graph charting their relationships. At its heart, it refers to Facebook’s ability to “collect, express, and leverage the connections between the site’s users” (Gallaugher, J. 2012, pp. 290), and with the development of Facebook’s open graph in 2010, this graph is growing to be the closest thing to the semantic web (Dickinson, B. 2012).

The open graph has allowed developers to make use of the power Facebook has in the modern world, giving users the ability to like, share and login to other sites using their Facebook credentials. It also allows those sites to directly link up to Facebook, and even use the information contained there (within limited fashion, and usually only with user-permission). This creates a kind of social graph on a larger scale, between sites, products and services, and brings with it the phenomenal potential for economic and social gains. Former west coast tech reporter, Boonsri Dickinson (2012) described the process as Facebook “seeing you as a user, identifying an action (whatever you are doing), and then publishing it as an object.”

This development isn’t all clear-sailing, however, and even with this great potential for growth, both in social development, technological development, and economic development it ultimately falls onto the individual, business, or corporation to make use of this potential. With working on this potential, there is also a need to wade through the potential complications and pitfalls that decorate the path. While the pros lay mostly in the intrepid potential, the faster processing of information, the easier transfer of data, the ability to save time, creative potentials, more transparent process of information, and better ability for businesses to target and understand their audiences (to list a few of the pros), the cons are less apparent.

Web editor, Anthony Wing Kosner, outlined some of the potential pitfalls with Facebooks recently development, the Graph Search (2013), bringing to light some of the inherent complications with the graph system. Suggesting the complication of user asymmetry (where there is a dissonance between the user’s ability to control the information supplied, and how programmatic those tools are), inherent privacy complications (with the ability to view each-other’s data), and the ambiguity of information. These complications are paralleled in social graphs, and their ever increasing usage throughout the web. Further than that, however, common threats since the earliest days of the internet, such as hacking, viruses, and the risk to identity, become ever more prominent and daunting as the world around us becomes ever more connected.

Personally, I find there’s both a sense of excitement, and of dread, when it comes to the development of the world and of technologies. Even outside of social graphs, the way in which technology is rapidly developing, and how truly interconnected everything is, leaves a sense of both vulnerability, and never truly being isolated. The complication for the immediate future, and future generations, is tempering the amount of power we are giving to those individuals who are aware of how to manipulate, and pull apart these systems, with the necessary defences (both legal, and technical) to allow the public to safely and most properly reap these apparent benefits.

References:

Dickinson, B.. 2012. So What The Heck Is The ‘Social Graph’ Facebook Keeps Talking About?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/explainer-what-exactly-is-the-social-graph-2012-3?IR=T. [Accessed 04 September 15].

Gallaugher, J. Getting the Most Out of Information Systems, pp. 290-293 [online] . Lard Bucket. Available at: http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/getting-the-most-out-of-information-systems-v1.3/index.html [Accessed 4 September 2015]

Kosner, A.. 2013. Facebook Graph Search Is A Disruptive Minefield Of Unintended Consequences. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonykosner/2013/01/20/facebook-graph-search-is-a-disruptive-minefield-of-unintended-consequences/. [Accessed 04 September 15].

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