Researching the Digital (lecture notes)

  • Front end/back end of the social web
  • How can we think about digital media.
  • Techno- utopia vs. Techno dystopia
  • Utopia:
  • Analysis focuses on front-end
  • Positive association with the possibilities of social media
  • People control technology
  • Dystopia

Analysis Focuses on the back-end


Technology controls people


We need to tale both sides and combine them because social media is so complex.


Promise of “web 2.0”

Clay Shirky’s Here comes everybody.

Before social media it was every difficult to get communication up of the group and make their voice heard.

The web 1.0 was difficult for every one to be connected.

There is now more access to communication

More equality

More access

More collaboration


Blogs Wiki is an example of this utopian ideal



Dad sets up account to document his daughters life.

Google promises you that the web is so stable.


However the web is always changing there is no promise that it will be the same in 10 years time.

We don’t have control of al the web, the sites might change or shut down.

There are limitations


Four assertions that limits this type of analysis


-voluntary user contribution are, indeed expressions of authentic personal opinions with no connection to in



The downsides of web

Crowdsourcing as free labour (e.g Yelp) You add your knowledge but don’t get paid, they still make money off or advertising.

“authentic” participation has hidden goals

Wikipedia bias


“if we take the creation of voluntary communities and the provision of new infrastructures as the twin dimensions of the social web, we can see that the phenomenon as a whole is characterized by two contradictory dynamics


one is decentralized, ad hoc, cheap, easy to use community oriented, and transparent.


The other is centralized, based on long-term planning very expensive, difficult to run, corporate, and opaque.


If the personal blog symbolizes one side, the data centres represents the other.


All the trappings of conventional organisations, their hierarches, formal policies, and o







“thus, there’s a tension at the core of the social web created by the uneasy (miss) match of the commercial interests that rule the back-end and community interests advanced through the front-end. The communities are embedded within privately owned environments so that users, usually unaware of the problem.



The surveillance Economy


Your are the product.

Facebook can sell your information.


“every activity online generates a trace that can be gathered and compiled, and companies go to great length making money




Real time tracking is a new form of power


Should it remain in private hands?


“Code is Law” (Lawrence Lesig)

In this new age to collaboration, there is issue of copyright brought about. We are encouraged to share information, but sometime you might want to share things which are copyright protected. Sharing only goes so far, but as soon as you encroach on the intellectuality you are told no.


Front end, we are told to share

Back –end code prevents copyright, we are punished for sharing


Neither utopia nor dystopia in web or social media, you need to focus on both the front end and the back end of social media.



-Ask for….

New legislation

More access to the back end of social media

“we must own the goddam server”


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