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This is a re-post from George Ritzer’s newly-launched blog. George’s original post was derived from a plenary talk given in 2011 at the first Theorizing the Web conference at the University of Maryland, and he returned to these thoughts in anticipation of the third Theorizing the Web conference scheduled for early 2013 at the City University of New York.

Our understanding of the Internet, social networking, and the role of the prosumer in them is greatly enhanced by analyzing them through the lens of a number of ideas associated with postmodern theory.

There is, for example, the argument that the goal in any conversation, including those that characterize science, is not to find the “truth” but simply to keep the conversation going. The Internet is a site of such conversations. It is a world in which there is rarely, if ever, an answer, a conclusion, a finished product, a truth. Instead, there are lots of ongoing conversations and many new ideas and insights. Prime examples of this on the Internet include wikis in general and Wikipedia in particular, blogs and social networking sites. Google’s index is continually evolving and a complete iteration online content is impossible. All such sites involve open-ended processes that admit of no final conclusion. more...

Photo by Whitney Erin Boesel

(This post originally appeared at Peasant Muse on 17 October 2012)

Alexis Madrigal has a very interesting article over at The Atlantic on a topic he calls dark social, or web traffic driven by non-referred sources outside of those generated on traditional social platforms. Even though the dominant narrative places the innovative crown of web-connection on sites like Wikipedia, MySpace, Facebook, and so on, the article provides undeniable proof that so-called ‘dark social’ forces- links shared over gchat, email or personal connection- actually drive the majority of web traffic.

Madrigal interlaces his data-backed revelations with anecdotal tales on his use of 90’s era communicative platforms like ICQ and USENET to share links with his friends, the contrasting effect meant to convey a sense of experiential validation on the larger thesis of the piece. If almost 70% of traffic occurs through means outside of those facilitated by, say, ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ something on Facebook or retweeting an interesting link shared on Twitter, then what does that say about the narratives telling us how we use the web? On a larger level, what does inclusion of this ‘dark social’ data say about our levels of perception and the limits circumscribed therein?


Editor’s Note from PJ Rey: Several months ago, I wrote a post called “Why Journals are the Dinosaurs of Academia,” which argued that goal of academics to circulate their ideas as widely as possible was hindered by their own backward practice of attributing excessive symbolic value to print media. In fact, the academia’s incentive structure rewards the best practices of yesteryear, while wholly ignoring modern communication. This is largely a product of the entrenched interests powerful senior scholars who seeks to consolidate their privileged position by reifying their own established habits. I concluded that, for the academy to continue to be relevant (or, rather, to start being relevant again), we must begin to reward blogging, tweeting, wiki editing, etc.

Given recent interest in the topic, I thought I would repost Patricia Hill Collins’ response.

I agree that the status of a journal should be decoupled from the fact of whether or not it exists in print. The wind is already blowing in that direction as publishers realize how expensive print really is.

I don’t think that journals are necessarily dinosaurs. A good peer reviewed journal by experts in a field can become one important location that can help us wade through seemingly endless ideas on the web with an eye toward influencing informed decisions about quality. The sheer volume of ideas that are now available on the Web means that we need some sort of system (or multiple systems) of vetting those ideas. The journal system, especially in an era of ever-more-specialized journals, can help do that. Digital journals are well-positioned to help with this task. I, for one, don’t want a “thumbs up” Facebook model of voting on intellectual quality. more...

“Jailbreak the patriarchy!” is a new Chrome extension from Danielle Sucher. The neat little project allows you to reframe the information you encounter on the internet by switching the gender of the content presented. The extension basically replaces instances of man with woman, he with she, and various other nouns and pronouns with their gendered equivalent (although it doesn’t always retain proper grammar). As Sucher herself states:

Jailbreak the Patriarchy genderswaps the world for you. When it’s installed, everything you read in Chrome (except for gmail, so far) loads with pronouns and a reasonably thorough set of other gendered words swapped. For example: “he loved his mother very much” would read as “she loved her father very much”, “the patriarchy also hurts men” would read as “the matriarchy also hurts women”, that sort of thing.

This makes reading stuff on the internet a pretty fascinating and eye-opening experience, I must say. What would the world be like if we reversed the way we speak about women and men? Well, now you can find out!


Crossposted at Sociological Images

I am a huge fan of the television series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” but I want to problematize some of the humor we often take for granted in the show. In a recent interview with Conan O’Brien, Charlie Day discusses some of the changes introduced into the current season of the show. Specifically, about 1:30 in, they discuss the weight gain that Rob McElhenney (“Fat Mac”) accomplished in pursuit of a “funnier” character. Notice how Charlie Day and Conan laugh—freely and unapologetically—at the prospect of Mac contracting diabetes (especially Conan’s mocking “Go America!” response to the image of “Fat Mac”): more...

Photo Credit: John A. Rogers

I have written before about the (new) cyborg body, mostly in the form of tattoos and body modification, but new technologies are pushing this trend further in the form of epidermal electronics. John Rogers and his research colleagues, at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaigne have developed rubbery sheets of “elastometer” that mimic the mechanical properties of the human skin. This allows them to embed circuits and semiconductors into the material and apply it to the human skin much like one applies a temporary tattoo. Jon Cartwright reports that this material more...

This post originally appeared on OWNI, 7 March, 2011.

“Robert, I am leaving you.” In the initial moments after, all Robert could do was replay those words in his head until all the tears he could muster had spilled from his broken heart. Once the shock settled, he could throw himself into the comfort of a bottle of beer – or harder alcohol depending on the situation – to drown out his sorrows. Yet the inevitable form of cleansing was obvious, as we’ve all been Robert –  he needed to burn (or at least return to the original owner) the knick-knacks, photos, love letters, and the memories that were attached to those objects. He needed to reject the one who no longer wanted him. This is not an easy step to make, but once this purging has been accomplished then the relationship is truly over.

That was before…and like everything else, yes, it was better before. Now, Robert must also mange his failed love-life in the digital world.  It is nothing groundbreaking that our lives are not just physical, but also virtual. So if we raise the question whether our digital accounts will affect the grieving process of friends and family after out death, the same inquiry can be applied to breakups. Social networks have permanently changed the situation, making breakups more painful. A US marketing agency tried to create “break up with your ex day” on the same day as Valentine’s Day: time to turn the page, unfollow, untag, block, and move on! Wise decision, but breaking digital connections are not the same as breaking ties in real life. The digital world constantly reminds the most desperate and nostalgic of their misfortunes.

Facebook: the heroine for breakups

Lucy* had been dumped, and was too quick to take the decision to cut off her torturer from her Facebook profile. “I blocked him to avoid being tempted to contact him on his status updates. I knew I would post something or send him a message. It’s childish, I know!” Skip to the hater category, a well-known classic in the breakup realm. more...

This content is reproduced from the Center for the Advanced Study of Communities and Information website.

Last weekends Theorizing the Web 2011 conference (TTW2011) was a great time. I’ve been working along with Ben Shneiderman and Marc Smith on developing techniques and tools (namely NodeXL [1]) to make sense of social media data – particularly relational data from sites like Twitter and Facebook ([2], [3]). I thought I’d take the opportunity to do a bit of quick-and-dirty analysis and visualizations of the Twitter network around the conference. Here are a few snapshots. I’d love to hear reactions and thoughts on ideas for further analyses and reactions of how well these visualizations represented conference attendees’ experiences.

Size by Betweeness


Aimée Morrison

Aimée Morrison (@digiwonk) posted a review of Theorizing the Web 2011 on her digiwonk blog.  See full text below:

What makes a great conference?

I’m not yet home from Theorizing the Web 2011, just sitting in the Starbucks at the Marriott wondering what it is that made this conference so awesome. Because it was awesome: I ran out of paper in my notebook from writing so much down.

I’m thinking it’s the grad students.

I go to a lot of conferences and, if I may be frank, was rapidly becoming disenchanted, nay, jaded, about the whole system. more...

This post was originally published March 2, 2011 by Racism Review and is reproduced with permission. This work is part or an ongoing series by Jessie Daniels on race and social media.

(CC photo credit: ERNESTO LAGO)

I’ve been doing a series about what academic research on race and racism on the Internet.    The series continues today with a look at what researchers are finding about one the most talked about aspects of the popular Internet: Social Networking Sites.

Social networking sites (SNS), such as Facebook and MySpace, are phenomenally popular and important to the field of Internet studies, (Boyd and Ellison, “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship,” JCMC, 2007, Vol.13(1):210-230).    According to a recent report, the top SNS is currently Facebook, with over 65 million unique visitors per month.  Facebook has displaced the former leader in the field, MySpace, which still currently gets about 58 million unique visitors per month.  These are staggeringly high numbers of people participating in these sites.    But what does this phenomenon have to do with race and racism? more...