New Facebook and Neutrinos

Two extremely interesting news was published yesterday. Firstly Facebook notified about the changes to their service which was simply called as the Timeline. Secondly scientists informed that subatomic particles called as neutrinos had exceeded the speed of light.

What I intended to do in this short and quick blog post is to elaborate how these two things are in fact interconnected.

The point of convergence here is of course the concept and understanding of time. Einstein’s theory of relativity established the speed of light as the ultimate limit. He argued that if you could send a message faster than light, you could quite literally send a telegram to the past. Exceeding the speed of light would result to the possibility of time travel.

Now it is indeed time travel what also Facebook introduced with its concept of Timeline. They say they want their users to be able to tell a story of their lives. Timeline is an excursion to the users past and present postings, it is built around the user’s online presence which is based on sharing and following links, contacts and material such as photos.

Introducing Timeline

One needs to understand however that the Timeline is more than just an archive of past interests and current actions. Quite on the contrary the potential of Timeline is not in the past as much as in its ability to predict, premediate and predefine the future.

The Timeline is what is visible to the user but the algorithms behind it work like neutrons exceeding the speed of light and thinking and providing the users an experience of serendipity in real-time. Facebook dwells into the past and brings third party applications back to the personal profile. However we are not witnessing the return of the same in a new packet but something that is essentially different. For example Facebook remediates the music service Spotify within its platform. Due this collaboration it is no wonder that Facebook’s example of serendipity or a ‘happy accident’ is music.

Spotify and bumping into music your friends are listening to is an example of Open Graph – a new kind of set of apps which allow finding out new things through friends. Here Facebook finally challenges Google. It provides a search, stream and anticipate function according to users’ experiences and activities. As we see Facebook does not even want to become a new Google –  that is a search engine of the web. However what it wants to be is the search engine of life – of our mundane activities, and it wants to do this by providing us stuff that we even didn’t know to search for. This is both serendipity and premediation. Without a doubt Open Graph a magnificent tool for digital economy.

As Carolin Gerlitz pointed out in Twitter yesterday this new mechanism is not interested as much in qualities or quantities of information than about intensities. That is they want to determine the different relations according to which we become individuals. Here another interesting theoretical reference point emerges. It seems this new model of data mining relates to Gabriel Tarde’s idea of quantification. I do not have the chance to elaborate this much further here but the point is that these new measures of understanding, collecting and controlling intensities have influences on the way we cohere and conspire in Facebook and – what has become almost synonymous – in life.

To return to our metaphor of Facebook and neutrinos, both still have to be tested. It is not sure if neutrinos really are able to exceed the speed of light. Neither is it sure whether the Open Graph of Facebook actually works the way users want. Or better, make users want it. But what is sure is that Facebook is moving towards interesting directions that need to be explored more. For me the question of how disconnection fits into this model is relevant. For this I do not have an answer yet. And what is better than a problem that needs answering?


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