a feminist technology blog

Month: September 2006

one to watch: root.net

ROOT (which just got $1m in funding from a futures exchange in Chicago) is “a commodities exchange for Internet-generated consumer leads”. Which means? root.net is a service that lets users store their clickstream activity (or “Attention Data“) so they can then choose who to sell it to.

The entire thing is couched in this language of user empowerment! and ownership!; but it still makes the assumption that everything is going to be tracked anyway, so you may as well be able to sell it yourself. Which, again, makes the assumption that selling data is a good thing.

Clearly, I agree with the general premise that users should have control over their own data; however, the entire idea of the “clickstream” gives me the wig. AttentionTrust has a Firefox plugin which sets up a clickstream and saves all that data to an XML file that you can save on your own machine or on a server (such as ROOT’s), and the idea of an attention data futures market is just bizarre.

TechCrunch sez:

Offering our attention data in a futures market would look like this. Companies would pay now for access later to attention data from people who intend to buy a compact car in California, or who are outdoor recreation enthusiasts with a certain income level. What have those people been doing online as they prepare to make a purchase? The idea is that users will selectively expose that data about themselves in exchange for some benefit to themselves: advertising targeting our intentions instead of sent scattershot at us, compensation for our data or discounts.

I generally try to be realistic about social critique: it’s not useful, for example, to provide a Marxist critique of something with the solution being “socialist revolution now!” and I don’t think that critiquing this idea with the solution “don’t track any data!” is particularly realistic.

However, the alternative, assume that data tracking of everything is inevitable and there’s nothing we can do about it, is very depressing, and I don’t believe it. I do believe that ethical or limited data collection is possible, I think it’s actually likely, and I think there are enough people working on it that a clickstream-for-all sold to the highest bidder future is not at all inevitable. Let’s not rush to usher it in before we’ve really considerered the ramifications.

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links for 2006-09-30

Link roundup for September 22, 2006

Rad rad rad giftwrap for xmas 06.

Link roundup for September 21, 2006

Fabulous SF streetwear blog w/ an extensive list of links to other round-the-world streetwear blogs.

truce called!

Donna Bogotin wrote another column, this time about me and how uninformed I am. I’m really surprised a professional writer would stoop to such vitriol about a casual blogger/student (who has a readership of like 100 people). I am not going to talk about her any more on this blog, and I apologize for writing the words “what do you expect from a former investment banker”, which I guess justified all those personal attacks from her. Generally, when I critique an article or piece, I think it’s really important to look at the perspective of the person writing it. A person with a purely business background, for example, might look at a website and ask “how can it make money for me?” while a sociologist might ask “what are users doing on this site that is interesting?”

I guess she didn’t like the short summary of my Swan paper either; I can see how it might seem a little abstruse to a non-academic. I really like that one– I’m rewriting it right now and will be submitting it to journals soon. I spent more than two years studying plastic surgery and reality television. I guess if you come from journalism and don’t really understand academia, you might think this is a dumb project or something, but hell, I’m in media studies, and I think the Swan is a really rich text for looking at the construction of feminine identity.

Anyway, enough of all this. I leave tonight for Oxford and will try to blog a bit from the conference, if the guy at Radio Shack was right and my power adapter doesn’t fry my laptop, and there is wireless, two big IFs.

links for 2006-09-05

Where I’ve Been

Hi everyone,

I apologize for the lack of updates. I left SF a week ago and have been holed up in NYC with my boyfriend waiting to move into my new apartment, which I finally did on Friday (Greenpoint w00t!). Tomorrow I leave for Oxford, where I am presenting at the Media Change and Social Theory conference on online identity. After I get back on the 12th, I should be back to blogging as usual.

I really haven’t been spending much time online in the last week, so I’ve missed most of the business announcements etc. I’m sure all y’all’s RSS feeds and such will be fine without me.

Enjoy September!


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