Video Game Review: Sam & Max in “Abe Lincoln Must Die!” for PC

Abe Lincoln Must Die Review

Wow is this game funny or what. Bearing in mind the rattling pace at which they’re turning out hilarious, surreal Sam and Max episodes, it must be some killer cocktail of caffeine and hallucinogens. Episode 4 sees the series continuing with one of their best efforts so far: our dynamic duo of intrepid crimefighters make it all the way to the White House — where Max gets elected president.
Improbable? You bet. This is Sam and Max, after all — one’s a six-foot talking dog and the other’s a deranged, psychopathic lagomorph. Ideal presidential material, to be sure. In typical style, Max’s campaign relies on character assassination, wanton destruction, entrapment and all manner of underhanded skullduggery, and if that sounds like a) fun and b) not so very different from real-life politicking, you’ve got the idea.

Abe Lincoln Must Die represents something of a new direction for this successful series. Max’s journey to the Oval Office is accompanied by a generous helping of lightweight political satire. It’s not overbearing or overly partisan — unless, perhaps, you’re a fan of the late (or, as it transpires, not so late) Abe Lincoln himself.

Not to say, though, that some familiar characters and concepts don’t reappear. Yes, job-hopping Sybil has a new vocation. Two, in fact. Bosco, proprietor of Sam and Max’s local grocery store, is now pretending to be Russian, and a major plot point involves acquiring enough cash to buy his latest invention. Again.

Adventure game veterans won’t have too much difficulty with the puzzles. Simply choosing the options that lead to the greatest potential for mayhem, violence, and/or embarrassment of political figures generally leads to the right results. And no, it’s not especially long, at about four hours, and only adds three new locations to the familiar street where Sam and Max’s office is to be found.

But a special mention should go to the music, which complements the on-screen satire in a way previous episodes haven’t done. Its lighthearted interpretations of stirring patriotic themes work a treat, and there’s an absolutely hilarious, almost Pythonesque song and dance interlude that rates as one of the best sequences of the series to date.

Is it sinking into a rut? Sure — but then, it’s not a problem when Lost features the same characters week in, week out, is it? It’s practically in the nature of episodic content to sink into ruts. This is only a problem when taken to excess, and if Sam and Max was really churning out the same old jokes over and over again, we’d mark it down more harshly. That’s not the case, though. If you want a good laugh and just wanna have some good old fun at the PC you should buy this game.

Arcade Game Review : Alien Syndrome (Sega, 1987)

Arcade Game Review : Alien Syndrome (Sega, 1987)


Alien Syndrome
Published By : Sega (1987)
Re-releases : Sega Classics Collection (Playstation 2)
Alien Syndrome is Sega’s combined take on both Atari’s Gauntlet and the movie Aliens. There’s six spaceships up there infested with extraterrestrial beasties and filled with crewmembers needing saving, and it’s up to you as Guy or Girl (or both simultaneously, if you have a bud handy) to roam to the rescue.

Each level is basically one big deck of a starship, in which there’s lots of nasty aliens roaming around and trapped crewmembers in various locations. You’ve got to find a certain quota of crew before time runs out, then adjourn to the escape hatch at the top of the level. Each one of these little rescue missions concludes with a boss fight against large and odd creatures such as a plant monster who spews Bubbleicious and a purple mutated vagina that can only be shot when the labia parts (watch this review become Google’s #1 search result for “mutated vagina” now … don’t let me down Google!).

The game’s graphics were actually pretty fab for it’s time (1987) and the sound/music are likewise decent, but neither has held up all that well over the course of two decades. The game also just isn’t all that much fun. The monsters come at you from every direction and can squirm around pretty fast, but your players are only able to move and fire in eight directions and end up being a little too stiff to contend properly with the continually respawning onslaught. This makes the game come off as a bit clunky and frustrating. The levels are also basically the same thing over and over with little variety.

Tony Hawk Proving Ground is a Waste

THPG is a waste of money

Tony Hawk Proving Ground (THPG) is the tenth installment of the Tony Hawk video game franchise, and it was released for every console on October 10th. Aside from all of the past releases THPG is reconnecting with the previous versions of the franchise by making this a strictly skating game. New elements are introduced in this game varying from a choose your own path style of gaming. You can choose a rigger path (Skaters that build their own ramps), hardcore path (Conduct crazy tricks just for the love of skating), and career path (create videos and photos to gain endorsements). In choosing a path you gain special abilities by completing tasks.
The setting finally explores the not so commercialized east coast scene in skating. Players will skate in a tri-state area of Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The world and environments are some what satisfying. By tweaking the formula THPG has attempted to make a flawless mode of gameplay by having regular street missions readily available to complete. In doing this quantity of missions lack the quality.

The game lags and freezes more than once on a regular basis which is like most of the Tony Hawk games, but there is one too many in THPG. The game introduces some physics when it comes to tackling posers (enemy in game) while riding on your skateboard and using the new the nail-the-trick special. Other than these new elements, the physics remains the same such as landing perfectly off of every vertical ramp or that you can even grind on any edge in any setting.

This game is so long I felt like it was a job that I had to beat this game. It’s lengthy gameplay is both a positive and a negative. The positive is that the game does challenge every player and attempts to unlock more achievements to obtain the rights to boast who’s got more game. The negative is that it’s so tedious it looses its fun after half an hour of trying to complete a mission. Since there are so many glitches in this game, some missions just need some good luck and elbow grease.

The nail-the-trick special is not a great innovation but a good try. When you click both analog sticks it slows time down to allow the skater a longer period of time to make as many flips as possible before they would land on the ground. The physics for this special is somewhat confusing and well designed but still not that great. By making the board usable by every axis on the analog sticks, it is hard to match every direction exactly so you can’t always land the trick you would like.

Do not waste your time and money. No one can recreate what once was the phenomena of a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game when it was first released in 1999. Eight years later we come to understand more innovations in a game does not necessarily mean that everyone will be interested in, especially if it does not even work properly. Both Neversoft and Activision should understand that if a massive game like Halo 3 can play with hardly any lags, than any other game should not even have any. What absolutely killed this game for me is the inability to skip the hour and a half long tutorial (all of downtown Philadelphia which is about 6 missions) since everyone knows how to play Tony Hawk ergo tutorials should be optional.

The West: Online Game Review

The West is a unique look at the wild west; focusing on work, towns, and gunfights. All the characters in the game start with exactly the same skills and abilities. You move around the map in the game by clicking on a job and choosing to do that job. For finishing a job, you gain money, experience and sometimes an item that you can sell or use. As you gain experience in the game, you gain levels and points to improve your character. Once you have gathered enough money, you can build a town. If you do not want to build a town, you can always join someone else’s town.
Being in a town allows you to rest but only if a hotel has been built. You can buy things at a discount if you have stores in your town. Once a mortuary has been built, you can fight other players by dueling them. This gains you money and experience. It will also make you some enemies since no one likes to be robbed. The duels go into a scene showing the hits, misses, and damage accumulated by both players.

There are missions that you can go on that the friendly people in the tavern will ask you to help them with. These range from something as simple as picking a crop or fighting a bad guy, to a multi-task adventure which requires you to do many things needing varied skills. Eventually, when your town has been built up adequately, you can build a fort. This has benefits that that help you and your town.

As your character develops in The West, new tasks will open up allowing more money to be made, more experience to be gained and better items to be found. One of the best features of the game is the fact that your inventory is unlimited. This enables you to customize your character using items that enhance your skills. By changing these items around, you can do other quests. Without this ability you would be limited to keeping items that help you in the original skills you focused on.

The West is a free game, but you can buy gold nuggets which allow you to get in-game benefits. The West is a “click on a task and wait” for the results game. This is a great feature for those of us who have to work or be away from the game for long periods of time. However, it makes you impatient for things to get accomplished when you do have the time to play. All in all, I recommend The West for people who have patience or like to multitask.

Galaxy Online MMORTS Review

Galaxy Online Review


Game Strength:
Free to play with no monthly subscription, frequent updates with new content, flexible research and ship design offers almost limitless customization of ships and empires, small file size makes for quick download.
Game Weakness:
Mall Points allow players who choose to pay to have special perks, learning curve can be steep and support is mostly provided from community sources, currently no music or sound effects.

Galaxy Online allows players to enter a sprawling milky way universe with thousands of other players as the leader of a fledgling world taking flight into the cosmos. Players in Galaxy Online will colonize new worlds, research an array of new scientific technologies and build massive fleets to capture new worlds from their enemies.

Starting Gameplay
Players begin with a single colonized planet in their own home solar system. Each home solar system has 5 available worlds which are identical and are open to colonization by the player. Unlike many online games which offer only temporary protection to new players, in Galaxy Online players homeworld system is permanently safe from attack. No ships from any other player can enter a players home galaxy, however as an added twist, any fleets that the player sends outside of the system can likewise never return.

The home system itself is fairly limited in both resources and space, so eventually each player will turn outward to colonizing the expansive universe with the thousands of other galaxy online players. As a player grows they will begin upgrading their planets with factories, defensive weapons, shipyards and then massive star fleets.

Players accumulate four separate resources in Galaxy Online, Alum, Gas, Population and Science. By building factories, and science institutes on their worlds they are able to extract these resources which are added to their resource pool every 60 seconds. This trickle effect of resources means that the gameplay speed of Galaxy Online is slower them so online games when first starting out, but also allows players to spend less time micromanaging their empire. It’s entirely possible to login once per day for an hour or two to spend the resources you’ve collected over the last twenty four hours, or to play the game all day if you choose to do so. This flexibility is one of the greatest advantages of Galaxy Online.

Galaxy Online really starts to shine when you dive into it’s expansive technology tree and options for ship customization and design. Each new technology and level adds new modules and components that can be used in designing star ships in nearly limitless configurations.

Faction Based Combat
The real intrigue of Galaxy Online comes with the different factions, or races in the universe. Each player chooses a faction when they begin playing that gives different resource bonuses and advantages. There are a total of six separate factions each of which vie for control over the galaxies in the universe. While players cannot engage in combat against their own faction, combat and political maneuvering between different factions is fast paced and cutthroat.

In addition to faction based warfare Galaxy Online has a seventh pirate faction which is computer controlled. The pirate faction holds many powerful galaxies of it’s own which players can raid for resources, points and special fleet commanders that cannot be found anywhere else in the game. Fleet commanders have special abilities which enhance the ships they are leading in combat often making the difference between victory and defeat.

Free to Play with a Twist
Galaxy Online is touted by the developer IGG as free to play which is in effect true, but with a twist. IGG offers a system called “Mall Points” which allows players to spend money to purchase points that can be spent on bonuses inside the game. For a small fee players can upgrade resource or ship production, build more colonies, increase the size of their build queue’s and more. This advantage of paying players is somewhat offset by a “Getpaid” program that IGG offers which allows free players to complete trial offers with their partners in exchange for free Mall Points. So players who don’t necessarily have or want to spend money in the game can still remain competitive with those who choose to pay.

Galaxy Online offers all the political intrigue, galaxy smashing fleet combat and 4X excitement you would expect from a 4X strategy game in a well balanced and designed package. It’s straight forward graphics are clean and to the point and while they do not impress, they are sufficient enough to draw you in for hours on end. In the end for the price, it would be difficult to find a massively multiplayer real time strategy game like Galaxy Online that offers so much for so little.

The use of social media in Syria

In this entry, I will write about the use of social media by Syrians, and mainly the use of Facebook [1]. Why is this interesting? I find it so because Syria and the Middle East are largely importers of digital technology, and still remain relatively under-studied by those who design and make technology. The other obvious reason is that due to the conditions and the events that Syrians are going through, looking at their use of social media for personal and public matters is one way to talk about the different motivations, actions, and circumstances that frame their lives, and a way to think about what that means for designing technology. Finally, in social informatics, and especially in community- related research, we are interested in “localities” where technology is used [Taylor 2004]. After all, as Howard Becker argues, every particular case has general implications [Becker 1998].

To write this post, I spent a couple of days looking at how people I could reach from my Facebook account use the platform. This includes Friends and personal connections, pages I follow or those I could reach because one of my connections referred to them, and activists who are usually individuals with extended social reach with a large audience base. My account is rather personal and I do not aim to be exhaustive or general [2]. I do try to be politically unbiased, although it is a particularly challenging matter to which I don’t think I can fully comply. Although there are atrocities committed by all sides, the sequence of events and the numbers do not put equal responsibility. I present these observations within themes, showing examples when possible [3], and I further use them to provoke questions about the design of social media. So, there we go.

Themes of Facebook use in Syria

1. News, events, and activism

Facebook is a main aggregator of various sources of news: news of family and friends, of the local town, of national events, and of world politics. This is supported both by the various possibilities for social connection (person-person, person-group, person-page, page-page) as well as its ability to curate various types of other media (photos, videos, and generic URLs). Facebook is therefore an important way for many Syrians to get news about local, national and international events. Although anybody can be a source of news, specific people (media activists), public figures, local groups, and media agencies dedicate special effort to follow the news and report on it (often with political commentary). Volunteers and local media groups often specialize in certain areas (a town or a region), and are almost always politically affiliated. The news can cover anything: the locations of bombings heard early morning, the state of repair of power and water lines, the condition of roads and the possibility of travel, the progress of combat on the front lines, the names of those killed in a recent strike, prices of vegetables, the elections in USA, and media statements made by politicians, activists, or military leaders.

A known personality in Aleppo reports on the recent status of water delivery in the city after a prolonged suspension.

— A known personality in Aleppo reports on the recent status of water delivery in the city after a prolonged suspension.

A Facebook page dedicated for delivering news on Aleppo reporting on heavy clashes.

— A Facebook page dedicated for delivering news on Aleppo reporting on heavy clashes.

After the recent killing of "Father Frans"; a dutch priest who was residing in the Old City of Homs. The picture shows Father Frans in the green t-shirt along with another young man in a blue shirt: "Bassel Shehadeh", who was a Syrian film producer and an activist. Bassel was killed in May 2012 during a government assault in Homs. Finally, the profile picture of the activist posting this picture is a pic of the activist "Razan Zaitouneh" who was kidnapped in December 2013 by unknown militants.

— After the recent killing of “Father Frans”; a dutch priest who was residing in the Old City of Homs. The picture shows Father Frans in the green t-shirt along with another young man in a blue shirt: “Bassel Shehadeh”, who was a Syrian film producer and an activist. Bassel was killed in May 2012 during a government assault in Homs. Finally, the profile picture of the activist posting this picture is a pic of the activist “Razan Zaitouneh” who was kidnapped in December 2013 by unknown militants.

2. Personal connection, friends and family

The direct straight-forward theme is using Facebook to communicate and keep-up with friends and family. Syrians are becoming increasingly displaced. Large numbers of refugees continue to flood into Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, while those better-off economically manage to leave to Egypt, the gulf states, or Europe. Browsing the Facebook feed has therefore became a primary way to get news and commentary about the whereabouts of friends and family, either inside or outside of Syria. My connections have mentioned often that browsing the “green dot” that indicates that somebody is online on Facebook chat was a way to know that they are doing OK. With the increased absence of electricity and Internet the whole city of Aleppo can go offline for several days, and even weeks. It is then common to have a wave of “online cheering” and exchange of greetings when the city gets reconnected with friends and family appearing back online.

A friend of mine recently shared a music piece with the theme of remembering the homeland. He tagged us in the first comment.

— A friend of mine recently shared a music piece with the theme of remembering the homeland. He tagged us in the first comment.

3. Nostalgia towards left places and sorrow over destruction

Numerous homes, villages and cities have suffered immense destruction, largely due to the use of heavy artillery and air bombing, and due to clashes taking place among inhabited areas. In Aleppo, the line of clashes goes right through the city center and the old city. You can often find posts of photos and Youtube videos with compassionate comments showing destruction in civilian areas, infrastructure, and historic sites, while comparing the condition of those places with photos and videos taken before 2011.

A Facebook page dedicated for celebrating local Aleppo culture (accent, food, events) posting a picture of the city with words of nostalgia: "Good morning o peace of my aching heart".

— A Facebook page dedicated for local Aleppo culture (accent, food, events) posting a picture of the city with the words: “Good morning, O peace of my aching heart”.

4. Solidarity with the missing

With Syrians detained by the government (estimates of 200,000), and also increasingly by various militant groups, it is common to use Facebook to report of missing Syrians. Friends and activists would spread posts explaining the circumstances of those detained or kidnapped, and Facebook pages would be opened to follow their news and to remind people with their disappearance. Sometimes, the family of those missing asks for no fuss to be made online, fearing that this will bring further hardship.

5. Loss, death, and grief

With 9 million displaced Syrians, many Syrians have experienced loss in one way or another over the past three years: losing home, losing a family member or a friend, or losing work and savings. As military action escalated in late 2011 and onward, it is rare to find a Syrian who does not have a family member or who did not personally know someone who was killed, either because of participating in combat, or as a result of detention and torture, or because of being a civilian under fire. It is almost a custom now that Facebook pages would be opened in memory of those who passed away, for friends to write elegies and words of condolence, and for the public to become aware of the reasons and circumstances of their death. The personal profiles of those who passed away would also become a place of mourning where friends would write words of farewell.

A Facebook page created in memory of "Waseem Abu Zenah", a young Syrian IT engineer who recently died in detention due to lack of medical attention. The page shares an English article written by one of Waseem's friends.

— A Facebook page created in memory of “Waseem Abu Zenah”, a young Syrian IT engineer who recently died in detention due to lack of medical attention. The page shares an English article written by one of Waseem’s friends.

6. Fight, debate, and violence

I would argue that it is next to impossible to remain neutral in light of the events in Syria. Debate (or simply online flaming) therefore takes place on any type of a shared post or a comment. Also, violent content is abundant in the Syrian online social sphere. Photos and videos of the aftermath of bombings, airstrikes and front-line fighting (which are extremely graphic and violent by any measure) are very common in the daily stream of content on my Facebook wall. Along this, it is common to find comments on these pieces of content that are inflaming and calling to exterminate and defeat the “other side” and calling for justice and revenge.

A raging debate goes on a post made by a Syrian activist who heavily denounced air strikes and barrel bombings.

— A raging debate goes on a post made by a Syrian activist who heavily denounced air strikes and barrel bombings.

-- A debate between a commentator who is pro-government military action and another one who is opposing.

— A debate between a commentator who is pro-government military action and another one who is opposing.

7. Collaboration and thriving local communities

Many Syrians use Facebook to collaborate, communicate and learn. This includes local activist groups connecting over Facebook groups to coordinate for covering the news of localities, relief and charity groups coordinating online fundraising campaigns, and potentially militants who communicate to coordinate some of their operations (this last one I have not observed personally, but activists mentioned that it happens). In my own work, I have worked for a prolonged period (over two years by now) with a community of learners (mostly university students) who use Facebook, blogs, youtube and custom wikis to learn about cutting-edge technology, hold public talks and presentations, and organize collaborative workshops. Social media helps them to find alternative places to collaborate and publish content as well as to spread the word about their events and grow the community by reaching to new members online.

8. Charity and relief

The cyberspace, and on top of it the social layer, has allowed Syrian groups and organizations to sprout and coordinate for the benefit of a certain activist agenda without having to establish official associations going through complex procedures (which are often unclear and subject to corruption and authoritative government control). Today, countless groups and organizations dedicated for the relief of Syrians use Facebook and other social media, sometimes as media outlets to announce their activities and publish reports, or even to coordinate the work between their members and to announce their need for volunteers and donations.

A local charity and relief organization reporting on their recent knitting workshop held in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.

— A local charity and relief organization reporting on their recent knitting workshop held in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.

-- A volunteer working in a local charity group asking for aid through her Facebook profile.

— A volunteer working in a local charity group asking for aid through her Facebook profile.

Meta. A word on marginalization and non-use

Internet access in Syria before 2011 has been gradually increasing with more private users, internet cafes, and public institutions getting connected. I have not found an informative report, but it is common sense to expect that those better off economically had better Internet access. This is also true after 2011. Government-controlled areas still have better access to electricity and Internet, and those better off economically have stronger voices online. News about areas outside of government control come mainly from media activists or from online media outlets (Facebook pages, Youtube channels) of oppositional armed groups. This heavily questions the non-proportionate representation of Syrians online, where those who access the Internet can deliver their point of view, while the weakest and the most vulnerable are photographed and studied by activists, media agencies, and relief associations instead of speaking for themselves. A Syrian researcher has an insightful report of his visit to Syrian refugee camps in northern Syria and Turkey where he comments on issues relevant to the marginalization of Syrian refugees from the possibility to take initiative in actively controlling their circumstances [Idlbi 2013]. In addition to that, with the escalation of military action in Syria, the voices of civil and peaceful activists have gradually faded out of the picture, and news of armed attacks became the more dominant content.

On the role of Social Media

After this quick overview of different existing uses of Facebook, I find it quite uninformative to claim that social media has a positive or a negative effect on the Syrian situation without being concrete and in relation to a particular case. Few months ago, I have attended a talk by Kentaro Toyama, who made the compelling argument (and I paraphrase), that by looking at the historical impact of technology, we can see that technology is an “amplifier” of human intentions, motivations and desires [Toyama 2011]. I find this accurate in the use of social media by Syrians, where people use it for family connections, relief efforts, collaboration, activism, news, war, and flaming. It is a question then on how to design social tools to enable certain forms of interaction while discouraging others. This  is a task that is neither easy nor politically-neutral (it will always come associated with a political agenda). On this note, I will close with deriving questions from the above themes on the design and making of social media in the context of the lives of Syrians.

Problematizing social media in Syria

  1. Spread of hate-speech: how can social media be designed to encourage mutual understanding or peaceful debate instead of increasing rift between people?
  2. Spread of graphic violent content: Facebook and Youtube frequently delete content that is deemed to be violent or offensive. The policies that these platforms follow to moderate content posted by their users remain unclear, but one of them is mass reports made by other users. For example, Syrian pro-government and pro-opposition pages often lead “reporting campaigns” in order to shut the opponents’ pages down. The question that I raise here is around regarding the nature of “violent content” and the effect of its posting and the discussion that goes around it. It is, on the one hand, a fundamental right to know about atrocities. On the other hand, this content is never neutral and is often interpreted and re-purposed for emotional charging and calls for in a war-torn Syria.
  3. Ownership of data and Facebook’s monopoly: a relevant issue is Facebook’s ultimate control over its content. Several activists and pages have reported the suspension of their accounts at one point or another, and content deletion is common due to mass reports. This has raised some concerns and suggestions to find an alternative, possibly federated, social platform where the ownership of data does not belong to one central authority. Such platforms do exist, but the immense popularity of Facebook where “everybody is there” makes such platforms less appealing.
  4. Security of data and cyber intelligence: when somebody gets detained or kidnapped (especially an activist or a charity worker), I have seen in many cases that their friends would swiftly write to Facebook administration to close their account. Even more, activists often leave their account passwords with people they trust such that those friends would change all passwords if the activist is detained or kidnapped. This is to prevent the leak of sensitive insider data (connections, personal messages, online social interactions, political affiliations) from being exposed, and thus further endangering the kidnapped and their social circle. Further, it is common among activists to be aware of suspicious account of people they do not know personally for they might be following them for the sake of tracking them down. This raises the questions on how we can protect private data and quickly lock-down accounts to protect against malicious access.
  5. Role in escalating or dampening violence: it is a big question whether social media in the case of Syria has actually contributed to reducing or escalating the violence. On the one hand, whenever an atrocity is committed, tweets, Youtube videos, and Facebook posts flood the media sphere. This somewhat enables people to become moral supervisors of each others. However, due to the flexibility of engineering your own connections online, I have seen several of my friends mentioning that in Facebook you can end up completely isolated within a similarly-minded group of people. This, in turn, might encourage extreme identities and a closed-world view where it is easier to dehumanize the other.
  6. Design for collaboration and for rapid small groupings: Facebook is being used by collaborative and volunteer groups to communicate, coordinate action, collect donations and announce events. However, I have seen concerns around the lack of possibility to organize and retrieve content on Facebook, which is linear and “decays” with time. Could there be alternative structuring for a social platform where there is the possibility to structure how information are created and retrieved? Further, could we think of providing small charity and voluntary groups with tools that help them express their needs and find resources? There are even local efforts by Syrians to create alternative social platforms that aim to address these very issues [4]

In the case of Syria, social media tools and platforms need to take into account radically new contexts and use cases. The current tools have provided a promising space, and their relative neutrality contributes significantly to their wide adoption and adaptation by various groups with diverse views, however, looking at how they are used within the Syrian context provokes various questions of the current status and alternative possibilities to work out. My final word here is to encourage others to provoke and suggest what I have omitted, where social media is surely being used by Syrians in ways far more diverse and complex that what I have listed in this post [5].



  1. Facebook is what is mainly addressed here. However, due to connectedness of social media, it is a melting pot. On Facebook you can see references and discussions around videos, blog posts, news articles, photos, and statements made by public figures or activists. It is therefore fair to consider it as the social platform where most other social media are referenced, shared and discussed in the Syrian sphere.
  2. To clarify my position:  I am currently  located in Switzerland, working at the University of Fribourg, and with good contact with a local community of Syrian volunteers (mainly in Damascus) as well as with people working in charity and relief. I have spent the time between June 2011 and February 2012 in Aleppo. Since Aleppo is my home town, my connections and attention is naturally biased to it. Also, what I see on Facebook is only what my personal social & professional circles enable me to reach and what I tend to follow due to my political views. This post should therefore be read as a single account.
  3. In the screenshots taken, I have anonymized personal information, including personal names and profile pictures. In the case of public pages, I have left the snapshots un-blurred.  I have translated all content except for the one case where content was written originally in English (I noted that explicitly).
  4. MicroCommunity” is a project lead by Syrians for creating a social platform for encouraging the formation and collaboration of small-scale communities, particularly in the Arab world.
  5. The topics that I omitted include the use of social media for: fun and humor; history and documentation; political activism and popular mobilization; political propaganda; cyber war; and also, for connecting and recruiting foreign fighters, apparently mostly by the Islamic State of Iraq And Al-Sham (ISIS) and Al-Nusra front [ICSR 2014]. For more information, there is a number of media articles on the use of social media particularly in relation with the Syrian uprising, mentioning recruitment of fighters; fund-raising for humanitarian aid as well as for weapons and supplies; artistry; news and activism; cyber intelligence; debate and flaming; and media campaigns [MediaMeasurementMitchellReuters 2011Baker 2014].


  • Becker, H. S. (1998). Tricks of the Trade: How to Think About Your Research While You’re Doing It (p. 232). University of Chicago Press.
  • Idlbi, A. (2013). On a Mission to Learn – My Trip to a Syrian IDP Camp. Field report. Link
  • Taylor, W. (2004). Community Informatics in Perspective. In S. Marshall, W. Taylor, & X. Yu (Eds.) Using Community Informatics to Transform Regions (pp. 1-17). Hershey, PA: Idea Group Publishing.
  • Toyama, K. (2011). Technology as amplifier in international development. In Proceedings of the 2011 iConference on – iConference ’11 (pp. 75–82). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press.

Faculty Search in Social Informatics

The School of Informatics and Computing (SoIC) at Indiana University Bloomington is accepting faculty applications for a position at any level in Social Informatics (SI), defined as the field of study that seeks to understand how the computational sciences and digital technologies shape society and human experience, and how society and culture, in turn, shape the development of science and technology.

We are especially interested in senior applicants who are internationally recognized leaders in SI and can help us develop the program further by building on our existing strengths in social studies of computing, in which they should have a strong research and teaching profile.

The successful senior candidate should also have interest in at least one additional area of social informatics in which we are active (organizational informatics, social media and Internet research, policy, or social computing). We are also interested in junior applicants who can move the social studies of computing in new directions to take it beyond analytical critique and toward the design and development of new technologies.

The position will begin in Fall 2012. Additional information on the SoIC and Bloomington, and application requirements and submission instructions, are available at

To receive full consideration applications must be received by November 15, 2011. Inquiries can be directed to John Paolillo (Assoc. Prof. Informatics), SI Search Committee chair (

Revisiting the term and categories of Social Networking Sites

Throughout the S604 Online Social Networking Sites lectures, we have been reading articles that somehow attempts to define the term social networking site (SNS). Even though social networking sites became popular around 2002 and 2003 (boyd & Ellison, 2007), the concerns and issues about people socializing on computer networks and the Internet goes back to the 1990’s. In 1996 Wellman et al. (1996) brought up issues that are still relevant to nowadays’ social networking sites but, at that time, they were referring to any computer networks.

Wellman et al. argue that when computer networks connect people along with machine, they turn themselves into social networks. The authors call them computer-supported social networks (CSSNs), which are able to sustain strong, intermediate and weak ties that supply information and promote social support in specialized and broadly based relationships. CSSNs foster virtual communities that are commonly partial and narrowly focused. The communication within these networks was basically done through electronic mails and computerized conferencing usually text-based and asynchronous.

According to the authors, CSSNs “accomplish a wide variety of cooperative work, connecting workers within and between organizations who are often physically dispersed”. Like any other social ambience, CSSNs have developed their own social norms and structures. The essence of the framework can limit as well as facilitate social control. CSSNs “have strong societal implications, fostering situations that combine global connectivity, the fragmentation of solidarities, the de-emphasis of local organizations (in the neighborhood and workplace), and the increased importance of home bases”.

It is interesting to highlight that, even though Wellman et al.’s definition came around in 1996, it is really close to the definition of social networking sites given by boyd and Ellison (2007). The main difference is that the “social network” in 1996 comprised of the entire computer network, due to its simplicity, and nowadays it is “only” a website. Wellman et al. do not talk specifically about impression management, but based on their article, we can infer that it was done through the language and writing styles of the person, it was also done by the person’s signature, which was considered their profile.

The author’s narrative gives us an impression that the concept of CSSNs and its development are not technological deterministic. In other words, technology (CSSNs) does not change society — it only affords possibilities for change. CSSNs are social institutions that should not be studied in isolation but as integrated into everyday lives. Thus, it gives sociologists wonderful opportunities to research the CSSNs’ area and develop social systems and not just study them after the fact. Like William Buxton once said, “the computer science is easy, the sociology is hard.”

As the years go by, social networking sites get more and more sophisticated, as well as infiltrated in our daily lives. Nowadays, it seems that almost every new website is some sort of SNSs, since they are very oriented in connecting people, getting discussions going and sharing them with the largest amount of people as possible – through Facebook, Twitter, etc. Having this SNS trend on the Internet, it makes the definition of social networking sites to seem somehow fuzzy and uncertain. boyd and Ellison (2007) were the precursors in attempting to define SNSs as we know them nowadays. Their study was conducted in 2006, when the use of SNSs (i.e. MySpace, Facebook, Orkut…) was just reaching a fast pace of adoption.

Since “an Internet year is like a dog year, changing approximately seven times faster than normal human time” (Wellman, 2001), a lot has changed regarding social networking sites. The definition proposed by boyd and Ellison can still be considered valid, but as we re-read it, it seems too broad and vague, encompassing pretty much almost every new tool nowadays, since they are SNS-oriented (mentioned before).

Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) analyze this SNS trend on the Internet and come up with a more current and organized definition of social networking sites as well as other medias that are oriented towards socializing. They first attempt to characterize three terms that are usually confused by managers and academic researchers: Social Media, Web 2.0 and User Generated Content. Their approach to such terms is:

  • User Generated Content (UGC) can be seen as the sum of all ways in which people make use of Social Media. It is usually applied to describe the various forms of media content that are publicly available and created by end-users (i.e. Wikipedia, Blogs)
  • Web 2.0 represents the ideological and technological foundation, it is the platform for the evolution of Social Media (i.e. Adobe Flash, RSS, AJAX);
  • Social Media is a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Content (i.e. Youtube, Facebook, Twitter).

Having those terms defined, Kaplan and Haenlein go into “Social Media” and detail the six different types of Social Media:

  • Collaborative projects: it enables “the joint and simultaneous creation of content by many end-users and are, in this sense, probably the most democratic manifestation of UGC.” The main idea underlying collaborative projects is that the joint effort of many actors leads to a better outcome than any actor could achieve individually. (i.e. Wikipedia)
  • Blogs: “represent the earliest form of Social Media, are special types of websites that usually display date-stamped entries in reverse chronological order (OECD, 2007)”.
  • Content Communities:  “sharing of media content between users. Content communities exist for a wide range of different media types, including text (e.g., BookCrossing, via which 750,000+ people from over 130 countries share books), photos (e.g., Flickr), videos (e.g., YouTube), and PowerPoint presentations (e.g., Slideshare)”.
  • Social networking sites: applications that enable users to connect by creating personal information profiles, inviting friends and colleagues to have access to those profiles, and sending e-mails and instant messages between each other. These personal profiles can include any type of information, including photos, video, audio files, and blogs. (i.e. Facebook)
  • Virtual game worlds: “platforms that replicate a three dimensional environment in which users can appear in the form of personalized avatars and interact with each other as they would in real life”. (i.e. World of Warcraft)
  • Virtual social worlds:  “allows inhabitants to choose their behavior more freely and essentially live a virtual life similar to their real life. The users appear in the form of avatars and interact in a three-dimensional virtual environment; however, in this realm, there are no rules restricting the range of possible interactions, except for basic physical laws such as gravity”. (i.e. Second Life)

Although Kaplan and Haenlein definitions and categories seem very accurate and recent, from 2010, there seems, already, to be a new category on the rise: Mobile Social Media. This category does not only encompass the social apps (social applications for mobile devices), but also the fact that users would be able to fallow their friends across the world (i.e. Google Latitude). This new Mobile Social Network is a lot alike the CSSNs proposed by Wellman et al, but more sophisticated. It seems that Mobile is taking control of the Social Media locomotive, so let’s hop on, and see where it will take us.

Main Articles:

  • Kaplan, A.M. & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media;
  • Utz, S. (2000). Social information processing in MUDs: The development of friendships in virtual worlds;
  • Wellman, B., Salaff, J., Dimitrova, D., Garton, L., Gulia, M., & Haythornthwaite, C. (1996). Computer networks as social networks: Collaborative work, telework, and virtual community;

Cited Articles:

  • boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.
  • Wellman, B. (2001). Computer networks as social networks. Science, 293, 2031–2034.