Welcome to Diaspora*
// Posted by Emily on 09/21/2014 (5:50 PM)
In keeping with a social media response theme, for this week’s experience I joined Diaspora*. Established in 2010, Diaspora* is a social media site that allows users to join or create their own servers (called “pods”) to share content ranging from text, articles, photos, and videos. There are pods all over the world; some larger than others. Users have the option to create their own pod to post their content to, or join one based on their size and location preferences. Unlike other centralized forms of social media like Facebook or MySpace, users own everything they post on Diaspora*, which means they have control over how it is shared and distributed.
For our experience, I was assigned the character of Edward Snowden, the infamous former NSA employee who stole and subsequently leaked classified documents to the press. Guided by the belief that the government was infringing on the privacy, internet freedom, and basic liberties of its citizens with a monumental surveillance machine, Snowden methodically searched through close to two million documents, selecting those that would best expose the absence of federal transparency (Greenwald, MacAskill, & Pointras). Trying to keep in character, I googled “social media sites” and pulled up a Wikipedia article that had compiled a master list of social media websites, including a description of their focus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites). I wanted to join a site that shares Snowden’s values of privacy and freedom, and Diaspora* fit the bill. Committed to decentralization, freedom, and privacy, in many ways it is a direct reflection of Snowden’s opinions on the ideal relationship between technology and society.
Using the site
Signing up to use Diaspora*, I was prompted for my email, a username, and password. I was never asked for my real name, age, location, or gender. Once I signed up, I was directed to a page that asked me “What Are You Into?,” giving me a space to type in searchable hashtags that other participants had used in their posts. I typed in #snowden-nsa, #edwardsnowden, #glengreenwald, #transparency, #nsa, #chelseamanning, #wikileak, #julianassange, and #surveillance. After hitting “enter,” a Facebook newsfeed-style page appeared with posts that contained those hashtags. Originally, I had planned on sharing something or commenting on a post. I realized that these hashtags relate to matters of national security, and in a panic I had a vision that my words would land me on a government watch list. Perhaps my new friend Edward Snowden is to blame for the paranoia?
Below are screen shots of some posts that appeared on my page. If anything, the conversations captured below should do something to assuage Snowden’s worry that the public has become numb to NSA disclosures. People are talking, and they want to be heard:
What does Diaspora* have to do with our experience?
In Information Please, Poster endeavors to examine the ways we spark confrontations between culture and media. He argues that culture can no longer be understood independent from technology, and that the relationship between culture and technology has made the national global by facilitating new types of interactions across the world. Both Diaspora* and our experience on Wednesday reflect this global interconnectedness. Because of technology, Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, Glen Greenwald, Hong Kong, Russia, Chelsea Manning, and the NSA are intertwined in ways they never would have been in its absence. During the experience, we were able to see how the actions of individuals impact entire nations and organizations. Users on Diaspora* are able to weigh in on these matters in a way that doesn’t stand to threaten their beliefs in decentralization, privacy, and freedom. Is this the direction social media is heading in? I don’t know. What I do know is that as our experience and this site clearly demonstrate, opinions, actions, and their consequences will never again be confined to the borders of a single nation.