P2 Lecture 3


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Third lecture in the series "Theories and Interpretation of Interactive Media (P2)"

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P2 Lecture 3

  1. 1. Theories and interpretation of interactive media 3 / Vuorovaikutteisen median teoriat ja tulkinta 3 Frans Mäyrä Professor of hypermedia, esp. digital culture and game studies University of Tampere, Hypermedia Laboratory frans.mayra@uta.fi
  2. 2. Lecture 3: “Web / networking”: Theories of Internet and World Wide Web
  3. 3. From a communications channel into a living environment • This lecture continues themes discussed last week in PC/communications lecture • The emphasis here is on discussions that interpret hypermedia in terms of a network, rather than a communications channel • Network is particular kind of structure, a web of relations • ‘Web’ or ‘network’ are very relevant concepts for understanding current culture and society, since they characterise many contemporary technologies, social processes and intellectual developments
  4. 4. Network theories • Multidisciplinary field: – mathematical network theories (graphs of nodes, edges and directed/undirected connections) – theories of technical/communications networks – network theories in natural sciences (complex systems, emergent behaviours, thermodynamics, kinetics) – social network theories (actor network theories, social network analysis) – network culture theories (on online subcultures, online art, collaboration, activism)
  5. 5. World Wide Web • Early experiments: oN-Line System, NLS (Douglas Engelbart), Project Xanadu (Ted Nelson) • Tim Berners-Lee proposed a linked information system (‘mesh’) for CERN in March 1989, and implemented the first World Wide Web system 1991 • Berners-Lee (1999, 3) has written how WWW evolved from his believe in power of “arranging ideas in an unconstrained, weblike way”: – Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked … Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which anything could be linked to anything. (Ibid., 4.) To improve “our Weblike existence in the world.” (Ibid., 133.) Sources: Tim Berners-Lee (1989): “Information Management: A Proposal”. Online: http://www.nic.funet.fi/index/FUNET/history/internet/w3c/proposal.html Berners-Lee & Mark Fischetti (1999): Weaving the Web. New York: HarperCollins.
  6. 6. Critique of WWW • WWW architecture is very simple to implement, anyone can link to anywhere • Since the end-node maintainer need not to reciprocate, there is also ‘link rot’ (changed or removed address does not automatically update incoming links) • Basic WWW system remains static, as there is no way the reader of page can add notes or further links to a document • Ownership, responsibility and copyright payments are be difficult to implement or maintain as material is either completely locked away or completely open (cf. Xanadu) • Open world of WWW is also “messy”: it relies on multiple different applications, file formats and (sub)standards
  7. 7. Multiple evolutions • The “browser wars” were focused on additional functions that each new browser version was able to support • Later the standards provided by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) have lessened the role of browsers • It is now possible to have dynamic web pages using various scripts and programming techniques (e.g. AJAX, Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) • Rather than web of static pages, WWW starts to function like interactive software interfaces - a new kind of medium • Simultaneously, multiple services have been designed to make use of ‘power of networks’ in a socially and culturally oriented sense
  8. 8. Networks as social change • Rise of the Internet and WWW as key media coincides with the emergence of interpretations of society becoming “networked” • E.g. Manuel Castells (1996) argued that network is the new paradigm for modern society, and claimed that more significance is attached to flows of information than to flow of power • Often associated with globalization: work and production become redistributed in a manner that has powerful effects on global scale
  9. 9. van Dijk: Network Society
  10. 10. New media theory and social theories integrate • Numerous synthetic attempts have been produced to describe the role of WWW in comprehensive manner • In the following, Burnett & Marshall, Web Theory: An Introduction (2003) will be mostly used • Focus on “Internet culture” in areas related to globalization, political economy, regulation, communication, identity and aesthetics
  11. 11. Web as technology • The first perspective Burnett and Marshall highlight is one of technology and secondly that of cybernetics • In technologically determinist perspective, one can theorise how Web is a force that will fundamentally transform the society • Cybernetics is the ‘science of systems of control and communication in animals and machines’ (Wiener, Bateson) • Digitalisation of cultural information allows the associated social and cultural processes to become involved in programmed processes within the larger cybernetic, man- machine system of actions, reactions and feedback
  12. 12. Web culture • Web culture represents a new concentration on information and its directional flow • Web culture can produce dislocations of identity and community • Web culture facilitates the flow of information for the objectives of globalisation • As one part of wider developments in networked IT, web can also be part of increasing surveillance (panopticon - a structure for total loss of privacy)
  13. 13. Web as communication • Governed by mode of communication distinct from the broadcast model, Web is more open to approaches derived from linguistics and discourse theory • Communications in Web/Internet include all levels: interpersonal, group, organisational, mass communication, with the control variously distributed to participants • Metaphor of ‘loose web’ to describe the varying degrees of engagement with the full spectrum of media forms that all fit somewhere in the complex whole of today’s WWW
  14. 14. Webs of identity • Early cyberculture thinkers such as Sherry Turkle and Allucquere Rosanne Stone did put much emphasis on fluidity of identity, as acted out in construction of ‘virtual personas’ in the Internet • Radical postmodern theories, that mostly seem to apply within more extreme forms of Web culture • A more “mainstream” phenomenon is construction of personal home pages and how “self” is being represented through them • Burnett & Marshall argue that rather than in the area of reception, it is within the production of culture where the ‘loose Web’ will associated with broad-ranging social changes
  15. 15. Web aesthetics • Web aesthetics has distinctive look & feel and an impact on other media, but it is layered (a way of organising multiple conventions) • Collage aesthetics, consisting of text-only lists and menus, icons and other application elements, combined within graphically rich, interlinked interfaces • Web aesthetics is created in a constant tension between usability (pulling towards simplicity and established convention) and originality (playful innovation and subversive experimentation)
  16. 16. Web economy • Web economy radically collapsed in 2000, but has continued to grow steadily since then • In 2003, 77 million US persons used a computer at work, 55,5 % of total US employment* • In 2006 the global value of online shopping was estimated to reach US$218 billion, in Finland 3,3 billion euros** • Two mentalities, that of free information (the logic of public library, or cultural gift) and commercial activity often appear to conflict or compete Sources:* http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ciuaw.nr0.htm ** http://www.euromonitor.com/Online_shopping_sees_fraud_clouds_ahead http://www.deski.fi/page.php?page_id=11&tiedote_id=5261
  17. 17. Web and politics • In 1990s, Web became associated with ‘new economy’ - the vision of information society economics as based on information rather than material production • Multiple national information infrastructure initiatives were launched • Simultaneously ideas of privatisation, free market values and commodification of information became associated with ‘Internet economy’ • Still, such key concepts as author, creation, copy, or distribution become contested or redefined within the context of Web • E.g. Lawrence Lessig has argued that current copyright laws are harmful for public good • Another contested area remains in the area of free speech vs. regulation (e.g. violence, child pornography, racist or hatred speech)
  18. 18. News and the Web • Standard evaluation criteria for news in mass media include factualness, accuracy, completeness, and readability (McQuail, Media Performance. 1992) • Burnett & Marshall name as ‘informational news’ the new mode of news that is typical for the Web: – transformation of the reader/viewer/listener into the researcher – new kind of comfort with a range of multiple sources – the fluidity of media form – global community of interests – cf. personalised, or socially filtered news services (Google News, Digg.com, del.icio.us social bookmarking service)
  19. 19. Web of entertainment • Examples of entertainment industry’s troubles with the Internet are particularly visible: – industry underestimated the impact of digital music and downloads – industry perceives mp3 files and filesharing services as threats rather than opportunities – sharing music fans are treated as criminals rather than as early adopters or trendsetters – cf. a recent major Canadian study which points out that those who download music from P2P networks also buy more music CDs than those who do not* Source:* http://strategis.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/ippd-dppi.nsf/en/h_ip01456e.html
  20. 20. Social Web / Web 2.0 • Much research focused on ‘Semantic Web’ • Simultaneously major popular attention driven to ‘social media’ or ‘Web 2.0’ • New wave of easily accessible, dynamic web sites which rely on social connections and networking around some particular interest or function • “Web 2.0” concept was coined by Tim O’Reilly in 2004 • New services also often associated with “emergence”
  21. 21. Emergence • Study of complex systems has pointed out how higher level patterns can arise from multiple simple interactions or events • Within even a single web service, there might be population level phenomena which exhibit emergent characteristics • The Web as a whole can also be understood in terms of “small world network” where every page is linked to every other page through small number of hops • A “power law” is also in effect: small number of Web pages gets majority of links and visitors, while majority of pages (the “long tail”) are rarely linked to or visited Image source: www.wikimedia.org