Unlike Us: What to expect in 2012

2011 was an exciting year with the Occupy movement, Facebook’s settlement with FTC’s charges, Europe versus Facebook, decentralized social media alternatives developing, critical social media art, more awareness about tracking and a significant wave of criticism after Facebook’s new changes. Moreover, the Unlike Us research network was launched at the Cyprus University of Technology, Limassol, where the first conference was held.

Now in 2012, we are looking forward to Unlike Us #2 in Amsterdam. Artists, designers, scholars, activists and programmers will gather to analyze the economic and cultural aspects of dominant social media platforms and discuss alternative, decentralized social media software.

Unlike Us #2 will be a three day event: showcases of alternatives in social media on 8 March 2012 and a two day conference on 9, 10 March, 2012. Visit the program for more details. In addition to a second and possibly a third conference this year, the research network will produce publications derived from (conference) contributions. If you would like to get involved, please join our mailinglist and contact us.


To contrast the overly positive business-minded ‘predictions’ for ‘social media’ in 2012, here is my take on what we could expect: ten ideas in no specific order.

1: The decentralization of everything
Decentralized social media software will grow in popularity and attract more users. ‘Search’ will be next; YaCy is a fully decentralized search engine that we can already use. Finally, regarding video sharing alternatives, Plumi will enable you to create your own video sharing site. These projects could very well be a sign of things to come. The sky is the limit, not the corporately owned ‘cloud’.

2: More and more people leaving Facebook
German privacy NGO FoeBuD is planning ‘Social Swarm’: a coordinated campaign, much larger than QuitFacebookday, to switch to a ‘good’ alternative for ‘Faceboogle’. @Not_On_Facebook will keep retweeting every ‘I-quit-facebook-tweet’ and selling ‘not on facebook’ t-shirts. With more users leaving, more convincing ‘this-is-why-I-quit’ blogposts will be written (outstanding example given). In 2012 leaving Facebook will be cool!

3: The survival of privacy
The age of privacy is far from over. In fact, we are still making sense of the private, the public, the entities that force us to lose control over our data and the ones that enable us to reclaim it. Meanwhile, Europe versus Facebook is winning, EPIC is working hard to fix Facebook’s privacy fail, and @privacycamp’s ( #privchat) is taking place weekly on Twitter. It’s going to be a great year for privacy advocates.

4: Hardware for private, secure and anonymous communication
The Freedombox project is working on a device that enables turnkey privacy, security and anonymity. FreedomBox is a personal server running a free software operating system and free applications, designed to create and preserve personal privacy by providing a secure platform upon which federated social networks can be constructed. This year we might be able to buy freedom out of the box!

5: An increased focus on mobility
With 40% of visits to Facebook coming from the mobile app and activists in need of mobile privacy/anonymity, software developers are challenged with finding new mobile solutions for (their) decentralized social media software. Although there already are a lot of great mobile apps out there, such as Orbot (Tor for Android), Vibe for (Occupy) activists and Textsecure for encrypted texting, mobile social media alternatives are just starting to develop.

6: Dataveillance revisited
Whether it is Facebook spying for free, tracking our Web browsing behaviour, or the Federal Government spying on social media (‘Face.Book.Intelligence.’), reeking surveillance practices should be disclosed and properly investigated. Dataveillance is likely to enter the political agenda in 2012.

7: Facebook free zones
2012 will be the year of Facebook-free-zones. Enter the first one here.

8: Internet Censorship legislation and its countermeasures
The draconian SOPA and PROTECT-IP censorship leglislation bills will soon clash with Google, Amazon, Wikipedia, eBay, Yahoo, and Twitter who are considering to go ‘nuclear’ and go black in protest against the bills. Why bother, when hackers are building a distributed satellite ground station network? In other words, a SOPA Free Satellite Internet.

9: Code Year
Thousands of Internet users have decided to learn to code with Codeacademy in 2012 as their New Year’s resolution. 2012 is the Code Year!

10: Social media fatigue
It seems that we are growing tired of social media. For some, particularly Facebook has become too crowded and too chaotic. That is why nobody goes to Facebook anymore. Let’s redefine the ‘social’ and thrive on better network cultures .

Happy New Year!