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). See the conference website for information as well as event registration. To the questions posed in the title of the panel “Whose Knowledge? Whose Web?”, the answer has too often, and too simplistically, been “everyone’s.” Among Web 2.0’s most strident enthusiasts, the rise of user-generated content is heralded as the reclaiming of knowledge production from entrenched institutions, allowing a brave new world of pluralist democracy to find expression online. These digital evangelists speak of the emancipatory promise of the Internet in language usually reserved for that of markets. In both cases, the prescription is the same: progress is a matter of access. Hence, the “digital divide” has become a discussion about disparities in connectivity rather than one about the expressions and reproductions of social inequalities online.
This panel, featuring work by Emily Lawrence, Piergiorgio Degli Esposti & Roberta Paltrinieri, Andrew Famiglietti, and Martin Irvine*, problematizes the rosy picture of a digital public sphere in two critical ways. The first problem is empirical: as Web 2.0 enters its second decade, how does its track record compare to its promise of producing pluralist knowledges? The second is theoretical: are offline social inequalities merely mapped onto new digital platforms, or do social formations in digital space create new forms of discrimination? Papers in this session examine how publics are formed online and what are their affinities, criteria for belonging, and methods of exclusivity.
Join us this Saturday at 2:30-4:00 for discussion—come as meat to Room B of the Theorizing the Web conference or watch via livestream and tweet your questions.
*Note: Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Martin Irvine will not be able to attend the conference.
[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.] more...