Social Media Data Analytics – Logic of Managing or Magic of Manipulating
Social Media Platforms has covertly brought about a tectonic shift in the way conventional media have managed its affair, though the affairs have been social in nature but it has suddenly turned into a political affair. Bigger, and insidious. An ugly slugfest and the perfunctory fury…war of wicked words. The high-pitched debate which took off from the fertile grounds of Donald Trump Political Campaign has crashed landed in the backyard of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg was initially tight-lipped on the leaks but later solemnly acknowledged the likely slippage, and then those leakage showing its ugly tentacles with the alleged role of London based analytics firm Cambridge Analytica in mass data harvesting of 50 million users from Facebook in profiling them for unduly gaining political mileage.
Monitoring public perceptions to mobilizing public opinions on political candidates to running campaigns to building the political propaganda to leveraging the power of digital space are profoundly redefining the way political battles are played in the real world. United States to Brazil to India to United Kingdom, the Television Media is lavishly dissecting the social re-engineering of Social Media. The Social Media Data Analytics seems to have hijacked the plan and it is no more innocuously residing in the sacred hands of common people who have become hapless puppets in the hands of the digital directors making them dance to their musical tunes on the public platform directed at extracting a slice of our mind that can predict our behavior and influence our thought.
Privacy in digital space has gradually eroded but now on the verge of completely evaporating…leaving us high and dry.
The quintessential question remains, after all, who is the custodian of our private data on the public platform?
Social Media is a storehouse of Data and Metadata. It has become an underlying accumulator of human behaviour. Our behaviour the way we like or dislike something, the way we react and respond to certain things, the way we express and the way we connect, the way we take decisions to the way we influence others to the way we get influenced, and the way we behave individually and in a group, and the way we present ourselves in front as against the way we are as a private person behind the scene, the public in social media platforms.
User Generated Data is a self-generating feeder to the massive tanks of social media platforms; the data that gets generated by users are both structured and unstructured in nature.
Unstructured data primarily are the images, the texts to the tags. These discreet and disconnected data needs to subtly discover the underlying patterns. The power of predictable patterns is like dynamos. Managing structured data is relatively easy and well-developed technology tools and techniques employed to mine those data and gets valuable insights. This derived information has played its part in building brand awareness to promoting a product, was largely limited to companies. But things have changed, and have changed radically.
Social Medias have become all pervasive and have encompassed the government and community at large and tweaking the DNAs of our society.
Structured data have become dwarfed in front of its towering sibling known as the unstructured data. Social Media is playing its surreptitious part behind the scene. Users are intuitively sucked into the vortex of media mania on the social platform. These are ticking time bombs. Deceptively harmless but decisively play their part in changing the outcomes of game played fairly, there is a catch and it is qualified by the word apparently.
Once we are there on the social platform, we are there for long hours, we are impulsively hooked and we are constantly pulled by the social media gravitational forces that are many times are out of our control.
It is the “Law of Digital Force”.
One need to remember, the emphasis is on the word control, and what is the main cause of concern, it is the lack of control on how our data are getting manipulated not managed without our knowledge and forget about permission, and it is no more the case of how prudently we use our data…how someone is blatantly misusing my private data publicly for political gains. It seems it is a casualty of our being fairly transparent in digital space.
In fact we are digitally hooked to the Data Machines, these are not mere inter connected computers and internet, not just the connecting highway, here we innocently presume that we are travelling freely and there is no travel tax. A myth, we are in fact subjected to indirect tax and we are under constant surveillance. The Data Machines are feeding us with few types of bait and we get socially hooked, though naïvely and then we are at the mercy of such deceptive entrapment. Any engagement we do with the social media, the data machine is behind there doing its designated job. The machine does the job of collecting and collating the terabytes of data that gets generated daily through the user interactions and collaborations of multiple applications of these Social Media Platforms.
There is this mythical creäture in this magical space of digital world known as the API, the Application Programming Interface that keeps doing it work of sending and receiving messages between thousands of software applications running on millions of devices across the globe. These digital data fetched from these APIs are the uranium of the nuclear bomb of digital world. The Analytical Algorithms are like hawk eye prying to get their pound of flesh to make a profound impact in the way we see at the raw data and what emerges out of the scene of Big Data.
In our so-called private space in the public platform of Social Media we keep doing multiple things and the Digital Master of these machines keep doing their task of making money out of those user data getting instantly and constantly refilled into the Digital Mines. Every task we are engaged in the digital space from blogging to tagging, from sharing to commenting, from questioning to answering, from liking to pinning, from playing a digital game to participating in an opinion poll…have the clandestine algorithms doing their religious calculation and deriving the hidden patterns that keep revealing new things and it is dynamic in nature. And those real-time analyses of changing pattern makes a paradigm shift in the way we predict the outcomes of any event, and when it comes to political events it has a much larger implication for a society.
There are these scientific techniques like Trend Projection to Sentiment Analysis to Opinion Mining to Behavioral Prediction which presents a totally different story, the picture seen by public is not the real story, story within stories; therein changes the strategy and smart cookies have those new game plans under their sleeves. Twitter gives us a quick snapshot and then Facebook gives us a quantum summary of things. Pinterest to Instagram have given the images an edge over the text. All these flavours oddly add up to a heady cocktail of evenly managing or manipulating the social media mania.
The technologies that are doggedly working behind the scenes as algorithms in these Data Machines are the Machine Learning Language to Natural Language Processing to Artificial Intelligence to Internet of Things. Once IoT unfolds in its full force and the corresponding ecosystem is ready to reap, then the volume of data that’s going to be generated is insane.
Web interfaces has forced to take a backseat and has been swiftly dislodged to make a fast forward for the Mobile interfaces.
And we are all embedded with the spy sensors in these mobile devices; and everything what we do and where we do and how we spend our day’s engagement gets transmitted to the satellites through our devices connected with APIs and to the Data Machines ironically powered by intelligent algorithms using artificial intelligence where the machine language has a bigger say then the human language. It is the digital world my dear friend…I humbly acknowledge its stated position.
Social Media have appended another branch to our stream of science called as Social Science. There is so much science behind these social engagement we are embedded, it can no more be ignored. With such humongous data at its disposal and to make a strong presence of making a sense of Big Data Analytics, we have to employ science and social science is precisely attempting to do that scientific discovery of social data stored in the social data mines. It is no more about the demographics but more so about the psychographics and behavioral analysis of the mass data for changing the fundamental course of our democracy.
Today it is Facebook and Cambridge Analytica; tomorrow it could be another combination…the onus lies on us.
Therefore, we need to be better aware of our privacy and protection, it is our right but we are wrongly being profiled of our preferences. To the extent that these are being used to decipher the state of happiness of people of a state and national level of happiness is aggregation of the findings across the state.
The tussle of power is between the state vs. company, individuals become the prey and the state and company are the predators.
In turn today Social Media Data Analytics has gone so far in telling us whether we are happy or not, and we change our behaviour what these Data Machines tell us, not our real family members and friends in the real world, and we have taken the voice of machine as gospel truth and after all today we are digitally empowered netizens. The real fight is regaining its lost ground between the Man vs. Machine, starts right now in the virtual space, fasten your seat belts and it is Clear and Present Danger – America spy thriller based on the Tom Clancy novel.