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Tell us a bit about yourself, where you come from and your interest in CMNS?
My name is Breyden Chong, and I am a fourth year CMNS student also pursuing an ENGL minor at SFU. I have always appreciated how germane the topics in contemporary communication studies in general. In an era that is dominated by big data and the onset of highly influential technologies, I believe it is imperative to deconstruct its nuances in order to make more informed decisions. These are concerns that ought to be relevant for any networked individual as big data implications discussed in CMNS are very much applicable to other fields of study.
Why are you interested in this subject (your presentation)?
My presentation: Digital Manipulation: Ideological Contradictions Associated with Facebook's Default Settings. I am interested in better understanding how our social media platforms purposefully commodify our data in systematic ways. One way this is accomplished is through the use of defaults that capitalize on users’ passive habits and their indifference towards changing the defaults settings after creating an account. My paper focuses on Facebook where I put forward an original analysis of Facebook’s defaults through a newly created profile. I find this topic particularly interesting as it shows the discrepancy between Facebook’s surface and embedded ideologies ingrained within neoliberalism. It also asks fundamental questions about the ways in which we come to regain control of our data that we voluntarily and involuntarily provide to multi million-dollar companies.
Can you give us a sneak peek about your presentation?
I will be presenting my research paper in a condensed PowerPoint format. Here, I will try to allude to the major concerns regarding Facebook’s defaults. This includes the ways in which the defaults are set up to extract as many points about the user as possible for lucrative marketing purposes. For example, I plan on introducing concrete examples of Facebook’s attempts to inundate the user with notifications in order to encourage more engagement with their platform.
What was the process like to prepare for your presentation?
I found the process of preparing for this presentation to be challenging, yet rewarding. I am always looking at ways to fine tune my explanations without burdening the audience with overly complicated jargon. I believe the greatest challenge was trying to extract the main points of my research paper and rewording them in order to make the ideas easily digestible for the general public.
What is your experience in CMNS and SFU so far?
I am very happy with my university experience at SFU. The SFU CMNS community from the professors, teaching assistants, and students have always contributed to a positive learning environment that is both enriching and insightful. The courses offered in the CMNS program has really opened my eyes to the positive and negative aspects of the digital ecosystem. I have learned that the issues can be very complex, but the impactful conversations that emerged as a result of discussing them is perhaps the greatest takeaway I will remember from my time at SFU.
What would you tell students who might be interested in CMNS or to get more involved in presenting research?
My advice would be to take advantage of the many opportunities SFU provides in your university career. Events such as the FCAT UGC are great ways to follow-up with your research and build on your presentation skills. If you have a piece of work that you are proud of, it is very worthwhile to submit your project and see what happens. The FCAT UGC can be a fantastic addition to your resume and for portfolio purposes. I am very glad that our university offers these opportunities to undergraduates and encourage students to give them a try.