A Foucaultian perspective on Web 2.0


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A Foucaultian perspective on Web 2.0

  1. 1. Fausto Colombo OssCom - Catholic University of Milan - ItalyMeRIS | Urbino 13-15 Settembre 2011Metodologia di Ricerca Online e Internet Studies 1
  2. 2. The rise of the optimistic (and ideological) approaches to web 2.0  Economic theory (new economy before the 2000; digital capitalism after the 2000; theory of the end of scarcity; end of phisical work; rise of digital workers …): Kelly 1995, 1999, Anderson 2009, Tapscott and Williams 2006, Shirky 2010  Psichological (or philosophic) theory: new cognitive skills (Turkle 1995; 1999); new (non alphabetic) mankind: Lévy 1994, Serres 2009 2
  3. 3.   Political theory (rise of democracy in web 2.0, netizens… wikicracy…)  Sociological theory (new communities; tribal society…): Rheingold 1991, 1993, 2002  Semiotic theory (active, participating audiences…) 3
  4. 4.   Economic theory   Capitalistic characteristics of digital capitalism; concentrations, enclosures: Lovink 2007, Formenti 2011   Addictions; narcissism;  Psichological (or crisis of traditional ways of philosophic) in depth thinking: Lanier theory 2010, Turkle 2009, 2011, Carr 2010 4
  5. 5.   Rise of centripetal control:  Political theory Barabasi 2002; crisis of democracies: Gladwell 2010  Sociological theory   Individualism or mass (new communities; individualism: Castells tribal society…) (2009)  Semiotic theory   Parallel flows of user communication activities (see later) 5
  6. 6.   Rediscovering classics: Marx, Lacan, Althusser, Gramsci, Foucault  Usefullness of Foucault: genealogy as a tool for understanding the constitution of individuals in the modern society  Weakness of Foucault: impossibility to translate his thinking in revolutionary (or at least political) action (Formenti) 6
  7. 7. 7
  8. 8.   Foucault as reference for the studies on digital interactive media and power, from Lyon to Andreevic  Foucault’s point of view on power enables us to look the distribution of social power in a complex and problematic way: not only its vertical form, but also a kind of horizontal relation between individuals. 8
  9. 9. In some of his works (1973-1975), Foucault distinguishes between two different forms of power: •  Sovereignity: pre-modern power, based on the -  king’s (intermittant) visibility, -  citizen’s invisibility (with the exception of the intervention of the power, like public executions) •  Discipline. Modern power, based on -  continuous surveillance -  citizens visibility. 9
  10. 10. A typical example ofthe power ofdiscipline: thePanopticon, theprison planned byJeremy Bentham,The convicts live incells with only onetransparent wall.They can bewatched by prisonguards, or anycitizen who decidesto observe them. 10
  11. 11. For Foucault the modern power needs three basic elements:  Subjects: (institutions like school, army, asylums; but also citizens, like in Panopticon)  Tools: writing, which enables the system   on the one hand to settle the conditions of the social life,   on the other hand to memorize the citizens’ behaviours  Objects: the citizen’s “soul” (standardization of behaviour, thinking, knowledge…) 11
  12. 12.   The concept of “dispositif” (french word, in english translated as “apparatus”): it’s a synthesis of technological and social systems, able to work in automatic (and unnoticed) way as regulator and controller.  Thereason-why of the consensus is the idea of safety in a (potentially) unsafe society. 12
  13. 13. In fact – according with Andreevic - our behaviour with digital interactive media is completely under observation. Two are the main goals:   the political one (aimed to repression or social control)   thecommercial one, typical of the the great web 2.0 companies that use the informations on the users, customers and surfers as a commodity (knowledge technologies about privacy are like the writing in d.i.m.) 13
  14. 14. In a Foucaultian perspective, the asset of digital power needs three basic elements:  Subjects: great economical companies using big set of users data (i.e. Google)  Tools: set of hardware and software devices for treatment of personal data, which enables the apparatus   on the one hand to create profiles of users   on the other hand to conditioning their digital and personal behaviours: see bank, search engines, commercial or cognitive companies…  Objects: the citizen’s digital “soul” (produced contents, responses to companies contents or services, communication activities…) 14
  15. 15. The reasons-why of the consensus are:  (communicative) richness in a proletarizing society  free consumption as a form of freedom  sociability in an unfriendly society 15
  16. 16.   Every single act of the receiver/user can be seen/ read by the ”apparatus” (transparency)  the communication flow is practically continuous (more the user is always on, more her/his life is traceable by the system, or by other users)  the trust is replaced by an implicit acceptance, typical of the relationship with the apparatus 16
  17. 17. Traditional media: Digital interactive media:  the flow of communication   users use the media as a goes from the apparatus to resource for horizontal recipients, that can communication, but they interpret/ domesticate the are in fact generating a flow message/device of information towards the apparatus  trust (credibility or   users assign to the reliability) is part of the apparatus the value of relation of the recipient tools. In these instruments, with the message and the trust is of automatic type publisher/editor/author and poorly verified. 17
  18. 18. •  Use tools •  Receive/read texts Receiver Users s Commodi Authors ties•  Communicate • Send information to/with others on theirselves to the apparatus18
  19. 19.   A foucaultian perspective enables us to understand the characteristic power structure of the digital communication in the web 2.0  The peculiar form of the digital apparatus is able to explain the ambiguous role of the activity of the user in digital media  In a foucaultian perspective the form of power doesn’t explain only the traditional vertical form of the power, but also the more radical power implicated in many forms of horizontal communications (see the concept of “interveillance”: Andreevic, Jansson) 19
  20. 20. http://foucaultblog.wordpress.com/2007/08/07/facebook-is-the-new-panopticon/ 20
  21. 21. Critical analysis of Google:-  Rank Egemony, Power law (Shirky 2003)-  Dialectic between centrifugal and centripetal forces (Introna and Nissenbaum 2000, Miconi 2011)-  Googlearchy (Hindman and alii 2009)-  Customization (or googlelization) of results-  Stock and (ab)use of users personal data 21
  22. 22. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.”(Lewis Carroll, Alice through the looking glass) 22
  23. 23. “When I use your personal data, Google said, in a rather a scornful tone, “I use them in the way I decide — neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can use informations ‘bout my self in so many different ways.” “The question is,” said Google, “which is to be master that’s all.”(Carroll-Foucault-Colombo, Alice through the looking Google) 23