As the saying goes, if you don't pay for the product, you are the product. When looking solely at these corporate products, social media feels like the hellish extreme of late capitalism, Faustian bargains where consumers consume themselves. (Sarah Jeong, 2017)
Hoplr attracted our attention in Ghent on September 17, 2017. Sami Sougir, then the leader of the VLD in the city council, now the sidekick of the new Mayor Mathias De Clercq, questioned Daniël Termont about its activities. Leaflets had been posted in every house in every street of the city. We all recall Google street view, when spy cameras entered our neighbourhoods. Hoplr doesn’t intrude our privacy that rough, it’s just asking us to do it ourselves, voluntarily… Spoiler alert: more about later.
A Google translated quote of Sami:
“In recent weeks and months, a lot of people from Ghent have received a letter to register for Hoplr, a private social network for your neighbourhood that focuses on social interaction between residents and engagement in the neighbourhood.
Residents can exchange items or services, launch initiatives, announce events, make notifications or simply get to know each other better. In addition, Hoplr allows reports from the city, police, fire department … to be received. In the invitation you can read: “In collaboration with IVAGO”.”
Sami wanted also to know if there had been a consultation about collaboration with Hoplr and:
“Will other city services also use Hoplr to make announcements or to monitor what is going on in the neighbourhoods? For example, the neighbourhood directors of the Policy Participation Department or the neighbourhood inspectors.”
The answer of the former Mayor is very detailed, you can read it yourself, though point 3. should be mentioned because Hoplr is very silent about this. Another Google translation:
“The purchase of anonymous statistical information about the interactions that take place, the topics of conversation that are frequently used, and so on.”
About three weeks later, we read in De Morgen about a completely different proposal from a not-for-profit designer Indienet, for an implementation of Indieweb. This technology makes it possible for everyone to remain the owner of what he/she posts on the internet, he/she always keeps control of its own “content” and makes that content interchangeable with all internet services. The paper found this important enough to publish two articles on it on the same day: “Gent wil burgers eigen stukje internet geven” (De Morgen, 9/10/2017) and “Surfen zonder uitgemolken te worden is een mensenrecht” (De Morgen, 9/10/201).
Exploratory talks about this proposal between Aral Balkan and the strategic coordinator of the city, Karl-Filip Coenegrachts even reached an agreement to start a first phase of development as you can read on indienet.info:
“Indienet is an initiative led by Indie to explore the development and deployment of Federated Personal Web Sites (FPWS) to empower people with individual sovereignty and a healthy commons in the digital/networked age. The first round of development (Jan-April, 2018) was realised with financial support and development resources from Digipolis at the The City of Ghent.”
Continue reading Hoplr going deep, an intro into research about the impact of local social media on our lives