Tag Archives: theorizing the web

Announcing Theorizing the Web 2014: #TtW14


As most of Cyborgology readers know, the blog puts on a conference called Theorizing the Web (now in it’s fourth year). We have some exciting new ideas for 2014. By popular demand, #TtW14 will now–for the first time–feature two full days of programming. We’ve also moved out of an academic-institutional space and into a gorgeous warehouse in Brooklyn, NYC. All of this means that, in addition to the competitively-selected papers and invited speakers, we can experiment with more ways to push the norms of academic conferences. The goal of Theorizing the Web has always been to create the event we’d want to attend.

If you are interested in presenting at Theorizing the Web, here’s the call for papers.

Anyone can attend, you just have to sign up. Traditional conferences get expensive and often leave people who don’t have some sort of institutional backing out in the cold. We want to include as many as possible, so TtW works on a pay-what-you-can model (minimum $1). This means that those with limited funds can still attend, relying on the generosity of those who can afford a little more. Register and pay what you can here.

All the information you’ll need should be on the conference website, and, if not, feel free to comment below or write to theorizingtheweb@gmail.com.

If you think others would be interested in this event, please share. The Twitter hashtag is: #TtW14

Thanks for all the support these first three years, and we’re excited for the fourth Theorizing the Web!

Surveillance and Digital Dualism: A Reflection on Theorizing the Web (#TtW13)

This guest-post and #TtW13 review is cross-posted with permission from Technophilosophy, a French digital theory blog

On Saturday, March 2nd, 2013, I made a presentation in New York as part of the International Conference Theorizing the Web. Organized by Nathan Jurgenson (@nathanjurgenson) and PJ Rey (@pjrey) [Yes, I also wonder what his real name is], both doctoral students in sociology at the University of Maryland (Washington, DC), the event was held in the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY), on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. A prestigious and perfectly equipped venue (no Wi-Fi issues), which promoted the sharing of high quality insights. (more…)

The Brilliance of Silver Spring #f2c

It’s as if a TED conference smashed headfirst into a hackathon and then fell into an NGO strategy summit. CEOs sit next to non-profit employees and eat boxed lunches as a dominatrix (@MClarissa) presents a slide on teledilonics followed up by a garage hacker-turned-million dollar project director quoting Alexis de Tocqueville. It is a supremely uncanny experience that all happens within the confines of a movie theater (and, later, a sushi bar). This is what one can expect when they attend the Freedom to Connect conference (#f2c) held in Silver Spring, Maryland. The conference is meant to bring “under-represented people and issues into the Washington, DC based federal policy discussion…” I left the conference feeling generally good that there are people out there working to preserve and protect open infrastructures. I just wish that team were more diverse.


#TtW13 Preview: Framing an Emergency: Photography in Areas of Conflict

Leading up to Theorizing the Web 2013, we’ll be posting a series of previews of some of the papers we’ll be showcasing at the conference. This is one of those. Stay tuned for more!

In this year’s Theorizing the Web, I will present a research that originated from my preoccupation with volatile encounters between photography and moments of social strife, as these are seen and mediated by traditional and social media. Homeless people in Libya, demonstrators’ confrontations with armed forces in Syria and Egypt, Kurd refugees in Northern Iraq, check points in Gaza, or Sudanese refugees in Sinai are just a few examples of current photographic undertakings, which are continuously mediated in independent and corporate media outlets. In this work in progress, I venture into documented ruptures while aiming to destabilize their initial appearance: to go beyond the immediate danger and visual narratives of an emergency in order to negotiate the apparatuses and discourses in which the photograph circulates, in which this practice is shaped and received. (more…)

#TtW13 Preview: Theorizing the Quantified Self

Fellow Cyborgologist Whitney Erin Boesel (@phenatypical) and I are working on understanding the Quantified Self movement from a theoretical perspective. My presentation at this year’s #TtW2013 is a first attempt at such theorizing.
 While self-tracking is becoming increasingly popular, and the term “quantified self” is coming into increasingly broad use, this paper will focus specifically on the “self-knowledge through numbers” group Quantified Self (capitalized). Started in 2007 by Gary Wolf and Kevin Kelly (both alumni of Wired magazine), the first Quantified Self meeting was a group of people who met at Kelly’s Silicon Valley home to discuss their mutual interest in self-tracking. Quantified Self gained national attention in 2010 following the publication of Wolf’s essay “The Data-Driven Life,” and is now a rapidly expanding network of “meetup” groups (which are regularly occurring “show and tell” sessions organized through the social networking website Meetup.com) in 78 cities across 30 countries. Although what QSers track (and how they track it) varies widely, the general premise of Quantified Self is that self-tracking empowers individuals by allowing them to become “experts of themselves.” Self-trackers gather at Quantified Self conferences and meetups to share knowledge and experience, to present findings from their experiments, to market self-tracking related devices, and learn about new practices and products that can help their self-track efforts.

#TtW13 Presentation Preview: On the Political Origins of Digital Dualism

rousseau spiderman

Just about every one of our contributing authors has written a piece that challenges or refutes the claims made by tech journalists, industry pundits, or fellow academics. Part of the problem is technological determinism- the notion that technology has a unidirectional impact on society. (i.e. Google makes us stupid, cell phones make us lonely.) Popular discussions of digital technologies take on a very particular flavor of technological determinism, wherein the author makes the claim that social activity on/in/through Friendster/New MySpace/ Google+/ Snapchat/ Bing is inherently separate from the physical world. Nathan Jurgenson has given a name to this fallacy: digital dualism. Ever since Nathan posted Digital dualism versus augmented reality I have been preoccupied with a singular question: where did this thinking come from? Its too pervasive and readily accepted as truth to be a trendy idea or even a generational divide. Every one of Cyborgology’s regular contributors (and some of our guest authors) hear digital dualist rhetoric coming from their students. The so-called “digital natives” lament their peers’ neglect of “the real world.” Digital dualism’s roots run deep and can be found at the very core of modern thought.  Indeed, digital dualism seems to predate the very technologies that it inaccurately portrays. (more…)

Announcing: Theorizing the Web Presents: Free Speech For Whom?

As many of you already know, the third annual Theorizing the Web is fast approaching this March 1st and 2nd. We’ve moved the conference to New York City with help from CUNY’s Just Publics 365 initiative and we’ve also added a Friday event in addition to the main conference on Saturday. [Also, a reminder: the deadline to submit a 500 word abstract is January 6th!]  On Friday, March 1st,  the conference launches with a full slate of invited presentations at the CUNY Graduate Center’s James Gallery followed by an offsite social gathering. (more…)

#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: Self Documentation

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 4.6.12 and was updated to include video on 6.22.12. See the conference website for additional information.

The issue of self documentation is increasingly fertile ground for theorizing the intersection of the digital and the material, illustrating how our identities are increasingly mediated by new technologies and “digital” forms of sociality. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest (as relatively new forms of sociality) produce requisite changes in our self concepts. In the digital era, identity becomes a project of coordinating, collecting, and curating; self presentation becomes a project of self documentation.

Each of these authors acknowledges the paradigmatic changes new technology (especially social networking sites like Facebook) has introduced into our self concepts. For example, Aimée Morrison looks at how norms are created, encouraged, and enforced in the digital realm of Facebook. The Facebook status update field has gone through several permutations, reflecting changing expectations and norms regarding self presentation and self documentation on this popular social networking site. Somewhat differently, Rob Horning addresses issues of power and control in the promulgation of new forms of sociality. More specifically, Horning discusses Facebook’s role in socializing users into the “digital self,” or the self as curated project. Self documentation is integral to the rise of the digital self and the destruction of the inner/private self. In addition, Jordan Frith reflects on how social media incorporates emerging GPS technology into location based social networks (LBSN) like Foursquare. Drawing from qualitative interviews with over 35 Foursquare users, Frith analyzes the impact of this LBSN on both self-presentation and self-documentation practices.

Finally, social media and the ability to self-document also changes our conception of time. As Nathan has argued, “Social media increasingly force us to view our present as always a potential documented past” (Jurgenson, 2011). In this vein, Sam Ladner addresses the proliferation of digital calendaring (MS Outlook, Google Calendar) and resultant changes such technology engenders to our conceptions and use of time. Digital calendars create new affordances but also new risks in time management.

[Paper titles and abstracts after the jump.]


#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.]