Researching Digital (note from readings)

Researching the Digital

Project Muse
Between Democracy and Spectacle
The Front- End and Back-End of the social Web
The Front-End of online media -Where users interact
In creases:
“the ability of users to produce and disseminate new creations and to take part in public cultural discourse”
This suggests that the front-end of the online media gives users more freedom to produce things, and therefore reinforce the idea that we are not simply consumers we are prosumers as we make and distribute our own material.
The Back-End of online media- To which the owners have access
This refers to the sites that people use. For example Youtube, is a site on which people can share their videos which they have created. However Youtube owns the site and so has the right to remove or block deny account it sees to be violating its agreement.
The Terms and Conditions within social media sites can also be an example of how the companies control the sites and the content on those sites. For example within the term and conditions of the Facebook messenger app, stat that it can access your camera and photos at anytime without informing you.
There is a growing tension between the dynamics on the front-end and on the back-end the web 2.0. This could be due to the increasing amount of control producers feel they have over their work and so they might feel restricted with what they can do when using sits such as youtube. The only real solution to get past the back end of the internet, would be to build or buy your own server, then create and mention your own website. This is the only way to have full creative control. However it can be very expensive and time consuming producing such a thing. This might be due to the fact that you need to have some idea of code and how to write a program and a website in order to do this.
It has been suggested that the involvement and participation the front-end of the internet is simply a simulation of actual involvement (we have no say in how Tumbler is run) and instead we are still controlled and manipulated by the back-end of the internet.
Guy Debord called it “the heart of the unrealism of the real society”.
The social meaning of technologies are shaped by how ‘they are embedded into social life, advanced, and transformed by the myriad of individual actors, large institutions, practices, and projects that constitute contemporary reality ‘.
Therefore the importance given to technology is due to the ways in which we use it.
‘Much of the current analysis focuses primarily on there front-end and thus paint an overly utopian and very one-sided picture’
‘There are, of course, critical analyses that focus on the back-end, yet they also paint a very one-sided picture of technological dominance’
This would suggest that must of the research surround the front and back-end of digital media contain extensive biases.
We make two assumptions which could explain some level of bias seen within digital research.
1st ‘all forms of social life involve communication; thus, changes in communication directly affect all forms of social life’
This docent take into account the fact that some people have an agenda to make changes, it suggests that changes in how we communicate with each other, directly effects the way we communicate with each other. I can see some instance where it might feel like this is happening, for example the mobile phone and the age of texting among teenagers, during the mid 2000,s 2005-2008 mobile phones didn’t have touch screen and where more used simply as a phone than how its used now. The ability to text meant that teenagers could communicate with each other more freely (while still being confined to the 10 digit dialing pad). Teenagers and other groups in society started to use short had text abbreviations such as ‘G8’ for ‘Great’ or ‘Brb’ for ‘Be right back’. Now some of these shorthand text talk still is used within the digital media when we communicate with each other such as ‘Brb’, but culturally abbreviated speech has mades its way into every day conversions of teenagers. With statements like ‘YOLO’.
However we must not forget how ‘the changes in the organization of the digital are taken to be so powerful that they simply impact on the material reality’  And that understanding these new changes in communication provided a ‘privileged vantage point’ which allows people to understand a range of social transformations.
This argument states it as a simple contrast between the old and the new, we are expected to replace old forms of communication with newer technologies.
2nd ‘conflicts are the result of miscommunication and a lack of information about the other side. Thus, improved communication leads to cooperation.’
  • an old utopian promise
New forms of communication do not stop conflict. The inventor of the radio Marconi predicted that the radio ‘will make war impossible, because it will make war ridiculous’, this was two years before WW1.
New forms of communication can be argued to impact individuals more than whole countries or societies. Lets face it when the telephone was first invented people wanted to talk to the same people they’d been writing letters too for years. If people didn’t talk to each other before why talk to each other after. However the digital media opens it up on a more real and actualized scale, for example ignored to phone/ text some one you had to have their number (there was always the directory, but that might of lead to some awkward conversations), with the digital world we can gain cases to people we don’t know and follow them, ask them questions. They could be on the other side of the world.
With the adoption of digital social tools, projects can be realized without need for money, bloging is free. Small campaigners were able to produce their messages to a wider audience online than they where able to with out the use of social media. For example the ‘Mattress Protest’ started small but went viral due to the use of digital social media. These small groups and even the larger ones are no longer dependent upon an organization in order to publish their ideas.
‘Only now that… (digital social media)…. are well understood, and can be taken for granted, are they beginning to unfold their full social potential.’  The difference between Web 2.0 and Web 1.0 is accessibility, Shirky. The power of the digital tolls are being felt more today due to the fact that they are more easily accessible to people and not just to ‘geeks’. However ‘only 60% of US households have broadband’ which could suggest that it is only accessible to those with the finial ability to pay for it, while it is very useful to some eating and paying the bills is a bigger priority. We might also suggest that the generations before the digital age might choose simple not to use new technologies.

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”

Making a Vlog

Lets talk about being a media student, Vlog

As part of our behind the scenes video, we have been given the task to make a vlog, talking about our experiences with social media and being a media student in general.

In the vlog I made I talk about the types of social media outlets which I use, along with some issues with social media. For example terms and conditions which contain wording which might have some ethical issues. For example Facebook messenger’s terms and conditions state that they can access your camera on your phone without your knowledge.  I find this slightly intimidating because it suggests that technology has the power not us as the consumers.

There have also been issues with people using either a handle or their own name which are similar to a companies name. At which point the companies do try to stop people from using their names online because they are worried that they might loose out on potential clients. For example Tumbler removed links to a woman’s account and move her posts due to a company having the same name as her handle.

This made me think about what about my name. There have been lost of time when I’ve been trying to make a profile on a social media site and found that in stead of Emma Lawson as my user name I’ve had to have ELLawson, or some other version of my name. Also as part of my photography module we are told to make a separate blog for our photos, however I found that there was already a blog called Emma Lawson’s Photography. Although I am not a company and don’t at all suggest that I’m a professional by any stretch of the imagination. They might at some point find my blog and decide that I’m encroaching upon their company and try to stop me from posting photos. It’s a little scary.