Category Archives: #TtW12

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: The Politics of Design

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 3.30.12 and was updated to include video on 7.19.12. See the conference website for

Presider: Kari Kraus (@karikraus)

Drawing on a diverse range of approaches–from media archaeology and ethnography to queer theory and critical code studies–the “Politics of Design” panel will collectively consider where and how power pools and collects in the designed, value-laden spaces of the internet. Individual panelists will take up digital networks and anonymity (Moesch); established and proposed internet architectures (Shilton and Neal); slick Web 2.0 and grungy “dirt style” interfaces (Kane); and the failed rhetoric of the digital sublime by the founders of Google and Second Life (Chia).  Not content to dwell on surface design features, each speaker unearths hidden variables–whether technological, social, or historical–that affect the systems, platforms, and communication structures under discussion. In the process, they expose the faultlines in those structures that allow us to envision them otherwise; the politics of design, that is to say, ultimately point–directly or indirectly–to alt-design and re-design.

Please join us on 4/14 for what promises to be a fabulous #TtW12 panel!

[Paper titles and abstracts are after the jump.] (more…)

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Manufacturing Dissent

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.2.12 and was updated to include video on 7.11.12. See the conference website for

Any study of politics is going to be fundamentally about power, and about who is free to exercise it and how: How policy is made, how the public sphere is constituted and how boundary lines are drawn around it, who has a voice and who is excluded from

Presider: Sarah Wanenchak

discussion or consideration, who is central and who is marginalized. By the same token, the study of contentious politics – as it focuses on dissent and protest – is fundamentally about how those who have been marginalized, denied a voice, and left without power act to seize the things that have been denied them: How activist communities form and frame themselves, how their objectives and tactics change over time, how they seek entry into the public sphere and engage the actors they find there, how the voiceless find a voice and what they use it to say. Moreover, it’s about what is visible and recognized: How we understand political action in light of what’s gone before and what might come in the future.

All of this would be complex enough without communications technology, and what this panel highlights is how technology changes and enriches this already-complicated picture. Communications technology has the potential to change what we understand by “public sphere” and how we construct meanings around events, as well as how different collective actors organize and react to each other. If knowledge and information are vital to the development of a social movement, then understanding how knowledge and information flow is additionally vital.

Given recent and ongoing global protest movements, the intersection of technology and protest is a subject both broad and deep. Rather than attempt to capture all aspects of it, the excellent papers in this panel call attention to more tightly focused corners of the political picture, and in so doing, illuminate further potential avenues for research and exploration. Additionally, the geographical and cultural focus of this panel is truly diverse, allowing us to push back a bit against the American-and-Eurocentric bias that appears too often in research of this kind.

Titles and abstracts are after the cut.

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#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Technologies of Identity

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 4.11.12 and was updated to include video on 6.5.12. See the conference website for additional information.

I am very happy to have the opportunity to preside over the panel on technologies of identity. Internet is intimately related to people’s identities; a point that is almost self-evident. People express, reinforce and even sometimes construct new identities via the Internet. But how exactly does this happen? through what mechanisms? How, for example, do people who date online maintain or challenge their identities concerning their sexual preference, class, race, etc. in ways similarly and differently than those who date exclusively offline? Or, how do second-generation immigrants take advantage of the Internet to reshape society’s perceptions of them? How, for instance, do people’s conception of consumption change when faced with the new possibility of shopping online? How does our desire for power and pleasure manifest itself through online social networks? …the questions are endless…

Internet meet identity are both fascinating topics: we expect expect analyses that are both interesting and insightful. And that is the promise our presenters try to fulfill with their intriguing papers.

*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Nicholas Boston will not be able to attend the conference.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]

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A New Privacy pt. I: Distributed Agency & the Myth of Autonomy

We're always connected, whether we're connecting or not.

Last month at TtW2012, a panel titled “Logging off and Disconnection” considered how and why some people choose to restrict (or even terminate) their participation in digital social life—and in doing so raised the question, is it truly possible to log off? Taken together, the four talks by Jenny Davis (@Jup83), Jessica Roberts, Laura Portwood-Stacer (@lportwoodstacer), and Jessica Vitak (@jvitak) suggested that, while most people express some degree of ambivalence about social media and other digital social technologies, the majority of digital social technology users find the burdens and anxieties of participating in digital social life to be vastly preferable to the burdens and anxieties that accompany not participating. The implied answer is therefore NO: though whether to use social media and digital social technologies remains a choice (in theory), the choice not to use these technologies is no longer a practicable option for number of people.

In the three-part essay to follow, I first extend this argument by considering that it may be technically impossible for anyone, even social media rejecters and abstainers, to disconnect completely from social media and other digital social technologies (to which I will refer throughout simply as ‘digital social technologies’). Even if we choose not to connect directly to digital social technologies, we remain connected to them through our ‘conventional’ or ‘analogue’ social networks. Consequently, decisions about our presence and participation in digital social life are made not only by us, but also by an expanding network of others. In the second section, I examine two prevailing discourses of privacy, and explore the ways in which each fails to account for the contingencies of life in augmented realities. Though these discourses are in some ways diametrically opposed, each serves to reinforce not only radical individualist framings of privacy, but also existing inequalities and norms of visibility. In the final section, I argue that current notions of both “privacy” and “choice” need to be reconceptualized in ways that adequately take into account the increasing digital augmentation of everyday life. We need to see privacy both as a collective condition and as a collective responsibility, something that must be honored and respected as much as guarded and protected. (more…)

Video from the #TtW12 Keynote

Doing Journalism in the Social Media Age

Discussion with Andy Carvin (@acarvin) & Zeynep Tufekci (@techsoc)

Introduction: Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) & PJ Rey (@pjrey)

 

#TtW12 Panel Spotlight: Logging off & Disconnection

This is part of a series of posts highlighting the Theorizing the Web conference, April 14th, 2012 at the University of Maryland (inside the D.C. beltway). It was originally posted on 3.28.12 and was updated to include video on 5.10.12. See the conference website for additional information.

Presider: Dan Greene (@Greene_DM)

Logging Off and Disconnection” presents an important new set of perspectives on a key theme of Theorizing the Web: ‘Cyberspace’ does not exist as an immaterial realm separate from human bodies and relationships. The online is instead always imbricated with the offline and the connections we make and unmake are crucial determinants of of both spaces. This panel explores this co-determination from the perspectives of those who decide, or are forced, to disconnect from online media in order to examine the relationships between personal participation and motivation and structuring forces of media design, cultural narrative, and economies of data and prosumption.

Jenny Davis’ qualitative study of Facebook users explores how social networking technology’s tight integration into the rhythms and relationships of everyday life highlights the tension between moral definitions of a meaningful life and cultural ambivalence about the technology’s effects on sociality. Jessica Roberts uses the global data of the world Unplugged projectto investigate the behavioral and emotional responses university students had to a 24-hour withdrawal from ambient media. She expands the ‘awareness systems’ tradition in computer science and stresses the integration of already-existing awareness systems into daily life, demonstrating that the seamless connectivity of ambient media makes it harder for students to recognize how their relationships with, and through, those media function. Laura Portwood-Stacer focuses on discourses of Facebook rejection in popular and alternative media outlets and in her interviews with ‘non members’. This rejection of a specific, dominant medium is an important piece of non-members’ production and negotiation of political and ethical identity. Finally, Jessica Vitak builds on the rich social scientific research literature on self-presentation and privacy in order to explore different users’ management of personal information, audience relationships, and social norms through the specific affordances of Facebook . All four researchers illustrate how in relationships with and through online media the links not made, the social graphs refused, are powerful forces in media ecologies and (non-)users’ lives. 

[Paper titles and abstracts are after the jump.] (more…)

Backchanneling: Conference engagement with/through Twitter

The Twitter backchannel in action. Photo by Rob Wanenchak.

Last weekend, I had the double pleasure of presiding over an excellent panel on technology and protest, and having David Banks as my extremely capable Twitter backchannel moderator and Livestream assistant. Both the Twitter backchannel and the Livestream were getting their first serious run as an institutional part of Theorizing the Web, and despite some minor difficulties with mics and cameras, I think they were a clear success.

But the experience of presiding on a panel and then serving as the backchannel moderator for the panel immediately after delivered some interesting revelations regarding what these kinds of technology actually mean for how our conferences work, and for how we engage with and in our spaces of knowledge production.

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Overcoming Tote Bag Praxis

TtW12 twitter backchannel

The TtW12 Twitter back channel. Photo by Rob Wanenchak

Theorizing the Web 2012 was great. Everyone involved did a bang-up job. I certainly learned more in a single day than I usually do at weekend-long establishment conferences. I have said a lot about conferences (here, here, and here) as have fellow cyborgologists (Sarah, Nathan, and PJ). All of these posts have a common thread: academia is changing, but conferences seem out of date in some way. They are needlessly insular, they rely on hefty attendance fees that are increasingly cost-prohibitive,  and they rarely take advantage of social media in any meaningful way. The relative obduracy of conference styles come into high relief once they are compared to the massive changes to institutional knowledge production. Universities have adopted many of the managerial practices of private companies. They are also acting more like profit-seeking enterprises: putting massive resources into patenting offices and business incubators, hiring less tenure-track teaching staff, and employing armies of professionalized managers that run everything from information technology services to athletic facilities. Conferences, on the other hand, have seen few innovations beyond what I call Tote Bag Praxis.  (more…)

Theory Meets Film: Over & Out and Logging Off

I hereby dare to say that TtW2012 met and surpassed the precedent set by TtW2011 (though both were fantastic). One of the unique features of the TtW conferences are their integration of academic, professional, and artistic expressions of the human/technology relationship. One such example was the lunchtime screening of Kelsey Brannan’s film: Over&Out. In particular, I was struck by the connection between Brannan’s piece and the academic presentations in the Logging off and Disconnection panel. Here, I try to tease out this connection.

I begin with a short synopsis of Over&Out taken from the film’s website: (more…)

#TtW12: Thank You!

We would like everyone who participated in, attended, followed and helped with making Theorizing the Web 2012 a success! The sessions were smart, the energy was fun and the tweets were so prolific that we were Twitter-trending in Washington D.C. More news, reactions, analyses, photos and videos to come.

Cyborgology editors (standing in the foreground) Nathan Jurgenson (left) and PJ Rey (right) introduce #TtW12 keynote speakers Zeynep Tufekci of UNC (left) and Andy Carvin of NPR (right). Photo by the great Rob Wanenchak.