Theorizing the Web 2011

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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...

The Cyborgology Editors Nathan Jurgenson and PJ Rey are the guests on the latest Office Hours podcast. We chat about the Theorizing the Web 2011 conference we put on, as well as the Cyborgology blog. Listen here.

Audio from Saskia Sassen’s plenary address is also available; it streams below or can be downloaded here.

Presider: Jessie Daniels

The panel I organized for the Theorizing the Web conference was called, “Cyber Racism, Race & Social Media.”  A key theme of all the papers in this session was that race, racism and caste, are enduring features of media across geographic and temporal boundaries, and across cultures.

In the late 1990s, a popular television commercial advertisement captured the zeitgeist of thinking about the web at that time.

This notion that the Internet is a place where “there is no race,” is also one that’s permeated Internet studies.  Early on scholars theorized that the emergence of virtual environments and a culture of fantasy would mean an escape the boundaries of race and the experience of racism.  A few imagined a rise in identity tourism, that is, people using the playful possibilities of gaming to visit different racial and gender identities online (Nakamura, 2002; Turkle, 1997).

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Theorizing the Web 2011 is coming occurred on on April 9th.  In anticipation, the Cyborgology blog has been taken over by all things conference-related.  Let’s get keep the conversation going!

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.

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Several video clips were captured of danah’s keynote.  They are presented here in chronological order.


Theorizing the Web 2011 featured several projected installations.  In this post, I want to highlight the Twitter visualize produced by Vicky Lai, an undergraduate at the University of Maryland. Vicky explained her project to me, saying:

The tweet cloud generator was inspired by research with the Social Media Micro-Modeling group at UMD and started as a final project for a Digital Cultures and Creativity course. Originally designed to visualize popular words in a Twitter user’s social network (of followers/following to a certain depth), the project was modified to collect tweets containing “#ttw2011” and visualize the most frequent words. Word clouds are generated by IBM’s word cloud generator, the program used on the popular Wordle site.

The visualization automatically regenerated a couple times each minute, which enabled attendees to watch different words trend over time as the conversation in the conference itself shifted. more...

Plenary: Saskia Sassen

Audio from Saskia Sassen’s plenary address, entitled “Digital Formations of the Powerful and the Powerless” is now available; it streams below or can be downloaded here.

Introduction: Sarah Wanenchak

Plenary Address: Saskia Sassen

Q&A: Saskia and audience

Installation at TtW2011

Saturday was Theorizing the Web, the culmination of weeks, nay, months of planning, organizing, and seemingly endless design work. In addition to building the website, laying out the programs, designing collateral and getting personalized nametags completed, I added on another project to my list called Public/Private. Projected in the main atrium, it consisted of a Twitter feed styled to match the TtW branding, and an ever-changing image next to it.  This project was far more experimental than anything I’d attempted before, and like many experiments it had mixed results.

Functionally, it did exactly what I wanted it to do; it took all of the conference-related tweets with the hashtag #ttw2011 and performed a Google image search for non-common words, then displayed the first medium-sized result along with the feed. As I hoped, some of the images directly illustrated the words searched while others left us either scratching our heads or laughing.  One of the great aspects of the search function is the image cache, which has left me with a permanent record of what words were searched and all the images displayed with them. more...