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  • Mark 4:12 pm on May 31, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Expertise and the politics of discipline 

    In the last few days, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on a remark Susan Halford made at this event about the difference between expertise and discipline. If I understand her correctly, her point was that capacities for knowing and acting in the world (expertise) can have their reproduction organised socially in different ways (discipline) and this is crucial for understanding how knowledge production responds to novel developments. In some cases, discipline might support expertise but in other cases it might hinder it. In either case, expertise is dependent upon it because it requires a social organisation through which existing knowledge is codified, new knowledge incorporated and knowledge practitioners trained. This means that we can’t ever have ‘pure expertise’ as a response to novelty because experts are embedded, even if loosely or unorthodoxly, within disciplines. This is the problem Susan identifies with the politics of discipline generated by big data:

    How we define Big Data matters because it shapes our understanding of the expertise that is required to engage with it – to extract the value and deliver the promise. Is this the job for mathematicians and statisticians? Computer scientists? Or ‘domain experts’ – economists, sociologists or geographers – as appropriate to the real-world problems at hand? As the Big Data field forms we see the processes of occupational closure at play: who does this field belong to, who has the expertise, the right to practice? This is of observational interest for those of us who research professions, knowledge and the labour market, as we see how claims to expert knowledge are made by competing disciplines. But it is also of broader interest for those of us concerned with the future of Big Data: the outcome will shape the epistemological foundations of the field. Whether or not it is acknowledged, the disciplinary carve-up of big data will have profound consequences for the questions that are asked, the claims that are made and – ultimately – the value that is derived from this ‘new oil’ in the global economy.

    One response to this upheaval is to retreat into disciplinary silos and there’s inevitably a comfort to this. But not only does it cede terrain in a way which might allow narrow forms of expertise to become hegemonic, doubling down on a form of discipline unlikely to survive this transformation of expertise in its current form will inevitably be short sighted. This is how Felicity Callard and Des Fitzgerald describe the shifting plate tectonics of the human sciences in their book on interdisciplinarity:

    The more we wander down strange interdisciplinary tracks, the more apparent it becomes to us that being disciplined isn’t playing it safe: the truth is that staying within the narrow epistemological confines of –for example –mid-twentieth-century sociology, while it may produce short-term gains, is not, in fact, the best way to guarantee a career in the twenty-first century (and we mean ‘career’ in its most capacious sense here: we are not using it with the assumption that everyone wants a permanent post at a university, but to express an idea that many would like to find some way to advance their projects, ideas, and so on). The plate tectonics of the human sciences are shifting: we here describe our own forays into one small, circumscribed niche between the social and natural sciences, but expand this horizon to epigenetics, to the emergence of the human microbiome, to all kinds of translational research in mental health, to ‘big data’ and the devices that append it, to the breakdown of the barrier between creative practices and research, and to a whole host of other collapsing dichotomies, and it becomes apparent that ‘neuro-social science’ is only one local effect of a much broader reverberation.

    But there’s also a great deal of creativity in this space. It just means we have to consider projects of expertise alongside projects of discipline, mapping out these issues as neither purely matters of expertise nor purely matters of discipline. This is what I hope we’ll manage to explore in my session at the TSR conference on defending the social. It’s a Fireside Chat with Val Gillies and Ros Edwards, as well as their co-author who couldn’t make it when we recorded the podcast below.

     
  • Mark 7:04 pm on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , speculative fiction,   

    CFP: Imagining Radical Futures, Princeton Oct. 5th 

    An interesting CfP I’m saving for my future reference

    *Imagining Radical Futures: Anthropological Potentialities?*
    Princeton Anthropology Graduate Conference
    October 5th, 2018
    Princeton University

    *“The facts, alone, will not save us. Social change requires novel fictions
    that reimagine and rework*
    *all that is taken for granted about the current structure of society”
    (Benjamin 2016)*

    Anthropology has traditionally practiced restraint to speak only of what we know by virtue of “being there”. Anthropologists have embraced the limitations of knowledge while demonstrating the power of attention to the specific and the particular, to contest positivism and moralizing normativity. Increasingly, governments and corporations attempt to mobilize anthropological knowledge about social change, geopolitical events, sustainability and resilience as a predictive tool. Yet productive recognition of indeterminacy that anthropological theory and practice evokes opens doors to the imaginary, the hopeful, the potential, and the dreamed. This conference will explore the potential of non-predictive futures in anthropological thought and the methodological complexities of imagining futures from the present. The binary of “dark anthropology” and “anthropology of the good” (Ortner 2016) belies complexities and tensions in anthropological approaches to social change: anthropology can report, embody, employ, and open toward or against utopian ideals. What are the implications of imaginative fictions for interlocutors, ethnographers, and the discipline? What radical possibilities can anthropology’s fundamental questions about difference, relationality, and power open for us as we attempt to engage with futurity?

    We seek contributions from graduate students in anthropology whose work contributes to understanding imagined futures and extends the anthropological imagination. How can anthropology treat the imaginary as both a heuristic and a space of futurity? What social role can anthropology play in voicing potential futures otherwise? How can ethnographers engage differently with interlocutors’ imagined futures?

    Potential areas of inquiry include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • New technologies
    • Queering Progress
    • Novel Fictions/Anthrofictions
    • Nonhuman futures
    • Creativity and imagination
    • Climate and environment
    • Hope at the margins
    • Aging
    • Temporality of Markets
    • Policy

    Interested applicants should submit an individual abstract (250-300 words) in addition to brief biographies on or before July 1st to antcon@princeton.edu. Limited travel funds may be available TBD.

    *References*
    Benjamin, Ruha. “Racial Fictions, Biological Facts: Expanding the
    Sociological Imagination through Speculative Methods,” Catalyst:
    Feminism, Theory, Technoscience: Vol 2, no. 2 (2016), 1-28.
    Ortner, Sherry B. “Dark Anthropology and Its Others: Theory since the
    Eighties.” HAU : Journal of Ethnographic Theory: Vol 6, no. 1
    (2016): 47–73.

     
  • Mark 12:24 pm on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Critique and Agency in the Accelerated Academy, June 8th @CPGJCam 

    June 8th, 12pm to 2pm, DMB 2S4
    Faculty of Education, Hills Road, Cambridge

    In the fifth event in the Accelerated Academy series, the Cultural Politics and Global Justice cluster at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education hosts an afternoon seminar on critique and agency in the accelerated academy. How is temporality changing within the academy? What does this mean for our capacity to individually and collectively shape our working lives? Is there still space for critique within an academy where time pressure has become the norm?

    • Time present and academic futures – Jana Bacevic (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge)
    • On Critical University StudiesAlison Wood (CRASSH, University of Cambridge)
    • The Coming of the Venture AcademicFilip Vostal (Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

    Each speaker will talk for around 20 minutes, with time for questions. We will then open out for a broader discussion of the themes raised during the talks. For information about the Accelerated Academy project, see the website or special section of the LSE Impact Blog.

     
  • Mark 10:17 am on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Undisciplining: Conversations from the Edges 

    The Sociological Review are organising a conference unlike any other next month in Gateshead, UK. There will be sociological walks, a film festival, art work, participatory workshops, a diverse array of plenary sessions and much more. It will be preceded by an ECR day organised by the journal’s early career editorial board. Thanks to the support of the foundation, the conference only costs £100 (standard) and £50 (concessionary).

    Only a week left to get your tickets: register here and don’t miss out! 

     
  • Mark 9:57 am on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    “Funny, you don’t know the concessions that you’re making until you catalog em. And by then they’re many and you’re battle-hardened” 

     
  • Mark 9:51 am on May 30, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , gillespie, margetts, , , ,   

    The Political Ontology of Platforms 

    These notes are for the fifth and final week of the CPGJ platform capitalism intensive reading group. One of the themes running through the readings over the five weeks has been the political valence of platforms and its relationship to our analysis of them. My own instinct is that valorising platforms in an a priori way impedes our analysis of them but that an a political framing of platform capitalism is neither possible nor desirable. Rather than being an outright contradiction, I believe this leaves a small space for analysis which I hoped the readings for this week would help open up. The essay by Helen Margetts takes issue with the gloomy interpretations of recent developments with social media, contrasting to the now antiquated sense of excitement with which they were once greeted. As she put it in a lecture in Cambridge I helped organise in November, “social media have had a bad press recently”:

    They are held responsible for pollution of the democratic environment through fake news, junk science, computational propaganda and aggressive micro-targeting. In turn, these phenomena have been blamed for the rise of populism, political polarization, far-right extremism and radicalisation, waves of hate against women and minorities, post-truth, the end of representative democracy, fake democracy and ultimately, the death of democracy. It feels like the tirade of relatives of the deceased at the trial of the murderer. It is extraordinary how much of this litany is taken almost as given, the most gloomy prognoses as certain visions of the future.

    Her point is not to reassert tech-utopianism but simply to stress that “we know rather little about the relationship between social media and democracy”. After ten years in which the internet has challenged our previous assumptions about democracy, it is imperative that we do not rush to judgement in lieu of understanding how social media have “injected volatility and instability into political systems, bringing a continual cast of unpredictable events”. There is barely a feature of political life that has been untouched by these changes, posing profound questions for our conceptual, empirical and normative understanding of democracy. But as much as these platforms generate transactional data which could in principle help us to understand these changes, in reality “Most of this data is proprietary and inaccessible to researchers –  the revolution in big data and data science has passed by democracy research”.

    Her essay responds to this epistemic void by laying out a concise thought systematic account of what we _do_ know about social media and its relationship to politics. The positive part of this account rests on the value of what she terms “tiny acts” such as “Following, liking, tweeting, retweeting, sharing text or images relating to a political issue or signing up to a digital campaign” which have no equivalent prior to social media and extend “below the bottom rung of the ladder of participation, which stretches from small acts such as signing a petition, through voting, to attending a political meeting, and donating money to a political cause, right up to political violence or armed struggle”. These tiny acts bring new people into politics but the same characteristics which enable political activity to take place outside of organised groups render the ensuing actions unstable and unpredictable. The resulting pattern is akin to that of earthquakes, argues Margetts, with many trivial eruptions and a few enormous ones. These patterns of engagement challenge two democratic features (political identity and institutions) and render politics more unpredictable than ever before. Drawing an analogy with the stages of grief, Margetts identifies Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Resistance as stages of response to the profound change which has been brought about in democratic politics. This includes the interesting contradiction that ‘clicktavism’ is disdained while social media is also claimed to have massive pathological effects upon organised politics. Which is it? The final stage of acceptance entails the recognition that social media are here to stay and the ensuing difficult work of institutionalising them:

    There is an alternative response to the role of social media in politics – to accept that they are part of our democratic system, the political weather, and that political systems must accommodate the change, through a process of institutional catch up. Most social media platforms did not exist 10 years ago, and they have been at the heart of our political systems for far less than that. So it is understandable that political institutions have failed to adjust, and the new institutions of democracy – social media corporations – have proceeded unchecked and unregulated, particularly given the power of the original cyber-utopian dream.


    We have been using the terminology of ‘platforms’ through this reading group but have we paid enough attention to the implications of this? A number of the readings we have used make a strong case about the analytical value of the term, identifying it as a mode of organisation with ramifications for capitalism as a whole. But what should we make of the readiness with which companies adopt the terminology to describe their own services. Should this make us suspicious? This is the argument Tarleton Gillespie makes in the politics of platforms. This is a term which, as Gillespie puts it, is “increasingly familiar term in the description of the online services of content intermediaries, both in their self- characterizations and in the broader public discourse of users, the press, and commentators”. Understood as a discursive strategy, it is a crucial part of how these firms “establish a long-term position in a fluctuating economic and cultural terrain”. Gillespie insists we must unpack these strategic considerations, in order to analyse how firms seek “to position themselves both to pursue current and future profits, to strike a regulatory sweet spot between legislative protections that benefit them and obligations that do not, and to lay out a cultural imaginary within which their service makes sense”. To put it crudely: it is part of the self-branding of platforms and this should surely give us pause for thought. Nonetheless, analysing this self-positioning can help us make sense of the how these firms understanding themselves, what they see as their interests and how they intend to develop their businesses over the coming years.

    Platform is a structural metaphor akin to ‘network,’ ‘broadcast,’ or ‘channel’ which “depends on a semantic richness that, though it may go unnoticed by the casual listener or even the speaker, gives the term discursive resonance”. Gillespie identifies four senses in which the term platform is used, expressed through fifteen entries in the dictionary: computational (providing an infrastructure), architectural (surfaces upon which people can stand), figurative (a foundation upon which we can build) and political (a body of commitments upon which a party and/or individual seeks election). These sense intermingle, such that “being raised, level, and accessible are ideological features as much as physical ones” conveying certain qualities in the system or entity which is designated as a platform. The computational meaning of platform precedes the current preoccupation with social media. This tracks a shift in the meaning, such that the quality of being a platform is identified “not necessarily because they allow code to be written or run, but because they afford an opportunity to communicate, interact, or sell”. Reflecting on the case of YouTube, Gillespie explains how the increasingly dominant sense of platform uses the discursive force of the trope to politicisation the facilitation of user generated content:

    This more conceptual use of ‘platform’ leans on all of the term’s connotations: computational, something to build upon and innovate from; political, a place from which to speak and be heard; figurative, in that the opportunity is an abstract promise as much as a practical one; and architectural, in that YouTube is designed as an open-armed, egalitarian facilitation of expression, not an elitist gatekeeper with normative and technical restrictions. This fits neatly with the long-standing rhetoric about the democratizing potential of the Internet, and with the more recent enthusiasm for user-generated content (UGC), amateur expertise, popular creativity, peer-level social networking, and robust online commentary.

    This positions YouTube as “unlike the mainstream broadcasters, film studios, and publishers” and rejecting the “role of gatekeeper, not even curators: they would be mere facilitators, supporters, hosts”. In spite of the prominence of their advertising model, much of the user-generated content cannot be paired with ads because concern of being paired with the wrong content is so widespread while YouTube itself is concerned about accidentally profiting from copyright infringement. YouTube have therefore sought commercial partnerships from the outset, dominating the platform in spite of being a minority of the content to be found on it. This entails a delicate balancing act and the terminology of the platform can help unify what might otherwise be competing accounts of YouTube and its role:

    The business of being a cultural intermediary is a complex and fragile one, oriented as it is to at least three constituencies: end users, advertisers, and professional content producers. This is where the discursive work is most vital. Intermediaries like YouTube must present themselves strategically to each of these audiences, carve out a role and a set of expectations that is acceptable to each and also serves their own financial interests, while resolving or at least eliding the contradictions between them.

    In the case of YouTube, it allows them to “make a bid to be the new television, convincing media producers to provide their valuable content and advertisers to buy valuable consumer attention, on the back of user-generated content and all its democratic, egalitarian connotations, offered to them as television’s antidote“. 
These discursive strategies have a legal as well as marketing component. As Gillespie observe, “what we call such things, what precedents we see as most analogous, and how we characterize its technical workings drives how we set conditions for it”. Firms seek “a regulatory paradigm that gives them the most leeway to conduct their business, imposes the fewest restrictions on their service provision, protects them from liability for things they hope not to be liable for, and paints them in the best light in terms of the public interest” with self-characterisation being a potent means through which this can be pursued. He deftly illustrates how the terminology of the platform can be used to avoid responsibility by defining themselves as technical companies rather than publishers. This has crucial significance within US law because under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as “long as you are a neutral distributor of information and are not aware of specific violations, you are not liable for the violations of users”. He draws an important comparison to the regulatory environment which the telephone companies used to be subject to:

    For instance, before their deregulation the telephone companies were bound by two obligations: first, they must act as a ‘common carrier,’ agreeing to provide service to the entire public without discrimination. Second, they can avoid liability for the information activities of their users, to the extent that they serve as ‘conduit,’ rather than as producers of content themselves. Both metaphors, common carrier and conduit, make a similar (but not identical) semantic claim as does platform. Both suggest that the role of distributing information is a neutral one, where the function is merely the passage of any and all content without discrimination.

    The business model of YouTube doesn’t leave them with the traditional interests of publishers but it does leave them with interests in what they publish. They unavoidably make choices which shape the production, circulation and reception of material accessible through the service and these choices have implications beyond the scope of the service itself. The terminology of platform obfuscates in the face of this responsibility and this is why we must recognises the strategic conduct underpinning it:

    A term like ‘platform’ does not drop from the sky, or emerge in some organic, unfettered way from the public discussion. It is drawn from the available cultural vocabulary by stakeholders with specific aims, and carefully massaged so as to have particular resonance for particular audiences inside of particular discourses. These are efforts not only to sell, convince, persuade, protect, triumph, or condemn, but to make claims about what these technologies are and are not, and what should and should not be expected of them. In other words, they represent an attempt to establish the very criteria by which these technologies will be judged, built directly into the terms by which we know them.

    If we do this, it becomes easier to recognise the similarities between platform businesses and traditional media, as well as the interest they have in obscuring this commonality. Gillespie’s argument is that the discourse of ‘platform’ actively works against us in trying to analyse their position and how they represent their actions.

     
    • landzek 4:51 pm on May 30, 2018 Permalink

      Platform as discursive strategy. I like that. It is interesting to me how in the general living of “freedom” it appears that we begin with this idea of neutral or neutrality across a category, and we find overtime that this neutrality gets exploited, and so demand regulation if we are going to maintain this neutrality. I mean that looks like a critique of freedom itself.

      Like a way that consciousness functions. Because I think that we have to admit that what say people that of been around a while, a.k.a. adults or older people, dread of the future for their children, the children themselves just grow up in that space as if it’s natural. It seems than that democracy itself is this kind of self regulating neutrality. That it isn’t so much that people become “not free“ through the regulation, but the regulated freedom just becomes freedom itself. What someone 100 years prior might say is authoritarianism for the people of that moment 100 years later they just call it freedom.

      So much to think about thank you for having your blog.

    • Mark 9:50 am on June 11, 2018 Permalink

      You’re welcome! Thanks for your thoughtful comments 🙂

  • Mark 11:39 am on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , timescapes   

    Barbara Adam on the practice of theorising 

    In her keynote at the Accelerated Academy, Barbara Adam explains how she came to her concept of timescapes. It began with the study of social theory of time, leading her to recognise how “everyone used the same word but they didn’t talk about the same thing” because this was “a multiple compound concept, not a single one”. This was further complicated by interviews with diverse groups about their lived experience of time. The notion of timescales was developed in response to the the necessity of extracting something from the ensuing complexity, providing a sense of how these different facets existed in relationship to one another, as well as what this meant. This led her to develop an account of timescapes, as those features of  time which can be found across contexts: time as frame (imposed periods within which activities takes place), temporality (the processual, changing and cyclical character of lived life), tempo (speed, intensity and velocity), timing (synchronisation and coordination) and modality (past, present, future and our orientation towards them). It was a synthetic concept, drawing together existing conceptual and empirical strands while creating something new and distinct in the process, capable of acting back upon the space of ideas it had responded to in order to organise that space and shape the direction of its development.

    It was a fascinating account of how a theoretical framework was developed over years of study. But Adam also explained how you don’t lose theoretical insights, they become part of you and you think with them. She explains how she would invoke these facets in an explicit way when talking and writing theoretically but when doing research they are not things which need to be remembered because through their development they have become part of her. But she continually stressed the role of reflexivity in this process, making explicit what you take for granted and examining any contradictions which might become obvious in the process. She explained that “Tools are ways of looking. They shape what you see. Each tool shapes differently” and advocated a reflexivity about these tools through the process of their development. It was an incredibly stimulating account of what it is to do theory, theorising as a skilled activity, rather than to simply write about theories and theorists. This is what I am exploring in this series of interviews at Social Theory Applied and what myself and Jana Bacevic have tried to address through the Practice of Social Theory Summer School. Our sense is these concerns are curiously absent from graduate education, neglecting the fundamental practical quality of theorising in favour of a narrower conception of working with texts. We need more experienced social theorists to offer accounts of how they have approached theory as an activity, as well as what is stake in how it is undertaken for social theory as a body of work and its relationship to social science as a whole. What gets in the way? Ironically, I think it’s often time pressure, bringing us neatly back to the theme of the conference itself.

     
  • Mark 3:56 pm on May 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , live streaming,   

    CfP: Going Live: Exploring Live Digital Technologies and Live Streaming Practices 

    For avoidance of doubt, CfPs I post in the ‘interested’ category of my blog are ones other people have organised which I’m archiving for my own use and sharing in case people are interested. If I’m organising an event or project, it’s in the ‘organising’ category of the blog. 

    *Going Live: Exploring Live Digital Technologies and Live Streaming
    Practices*

    Organizers: Dr. Mia Consalvo & Dr. Stefanie Duguay, Concordia University

    Website: https://goingliveconf.wixsite.com/goinglive

    As a pre-conference event affiliated with the Association of Internet
    Researchers (AoIR) annual conference, this full-day workshop will bring
    together game studies scholars and social media researchers to discuss the
    increasing popularity of live digital technologies. These technologies
    include features on social media sites such as Facebook Live, standalone
    smartphone apps (e.g., Periscope), and websites dedicated to live
    streaming, such as the gaming platform Twitch.tv

    Although live streaming has been possible for many years (e.g. Senft,
    2008), the evolution of recording devices, data transfer speeds, mobile
    apps, and other digital technologies has contributed to a recent
    proliferation of live media. Live platforms encourage spontaneous sharing
    but controversial incidents raise questions about what should be shared in
    a live context. Live streaming game platforms showcase modes of
    self-presentation and self-promotion (Consalvo & Altizer, 2017), which
    social media influencers also adopt when broadcasting content to adoring
    fans (Abidin, 2016). Gamers and influencers alike benefit from the
    commercialization of these practices, generating revenue from brand
    promotion and boosting attention to advertisements. Clearly, live streaming
    and live digital technologies have social, political, economic, and
    cultural impacts. However, research into these areas is still developing
    and there have been few opportunities for interdisciplinary dialogue among
    scholars researching live streaming.

    We invite you to tackle these topics with us at this pre-conference
    workshop, taking place at Concordia University’s cutting-edge Milieux
    Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology. We encourage participation from
    a range of scholars, from graduate students to early career researchers and
    established academics. If you are an AoIR member, you must register through
    the AoIR conference website to reserve your place. If you are not an AoIR
    member or if you are not attending the AoIR conference, please register
    through our website <https://goingliveconf.wixsite.com/goinglive>. The day
    will feature a keynote presentation by Dr. T.L. Taylor, Professor of
    Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr.
    Taylor is an internationally recognized scholar in game studies, having
    written field-defining books about online games, the rise of competitive
    esports, and the business of live streaming. Watch our website for
    additional speaker announcements as we finalize our schedule.

    The day will also include paper sessions for presenting and receiving
    feedback about works-in-progress. We invite abstracts from scholars
    researching live streaming and live digital technologies across a range of
    topics, including but not limited to:

    • Gaming and esports
    • Platform infrastructures, algorithms, and automation
    • Communities, practices, and audiences
    • Microcelebrity and self-branding
    • Political economies and labour
    • Ephemeral and everyday media
    • Data, policy, privacy, and governance
    • Transnational liveness

    Selected presenters will have the chance to submit their work-in-progress
    papers prior to the workshop for circulation to attendees. If you are
    interested in presenting, please submit an abstract of 250 words along with
    your name, title, affiliation and a brief bio (50 words) to
    goingliveconf@gmail.com by *June 29, 2018*.

     
  • Mark 8:19 pm on May 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , digital inequality, , , ,   

    Call for Papers – (In)Equalities and Social (In)Visibilities in the Digital Age 

    *Call for Papers – (In)Equalities and Social (In)Visibilities in the
    Digital Age – Journal Interações*

    The influence of new technologies in public and private spheres of society,
    rather than a reformulation, has given rise to a new social field and
    directly interferes with how we perceive the world, relate to it and
    others. In Pierre Bourdieu’s (2001) theory, field arises as a configuration
    of socially distributed relations.

    Progressively, a universe of socialisation has emerged and consolidated:
    cyberspace. Although virtual, it exists and produces effects. It can be
    defined as the space boosted by the different digital communication
    platforms and assumes itself as an individual communication model, allowing
    the receiver to be simultaneously emitter. Space of flows (Castells, 1996),
    cyberspace translates the social dimension of the Internet enabling the
    diffusion of communication/information on a global scale. This causes an
    intense process of inclusion and exclusion of people in the network.

    The reference to info-inclusive and info-excluded societies of the digital
    scenario is imperative when it is reflected in the geography of the new
    socio-technological spaces. The dynamics of these territories are directly
    associated with the way social, demographic, economic and technological
    variables condition each other, revealing the potential for dissemination
    of information and knowledge through technologies.

    In this special issue of the journal Interações we propose a reflection on
    (In)Equalities and Social (In)Visibilities in the Digital Age. Unpublished
    works that present research results and/or theoretical reflection on this
    theme are accepted (although this special issue is not limited to these
    topics):

    • Digital and social and economic inequalities in different geographical

    contexts;

    • Promoting equality by digital;
    • Visibilities and social invisible created by movements of exclusion or

    social inclusion, digital, media, economic, etc.;

    • Invisible social groups in the digital age;
    • Digital literacy and vulnerable social groups;
    • Digital as a geographical barrier;
    • Conditioning created by technology to the individual in a social context.

    Deadline for submission of articles: June 25
    Notification of acceptance: July 10
    Publication: July 31

    The articles must be sent via email: interacoes@ismt.pt

    Any questions should be addressed to the same email.

    Guidelines and other instructions for authors can be found on the journal’s
    website: http://www.interacoes-ismt.com/index.php/revista

     
  • Mark 8:19 pm on May 21, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    CfP: Twitter: Global Perspectives, Uses and Criticisms 

    Contributors are invited to submit abstracts (about 200 words) toward our
    new edited collection *Twitter: Global Perspectives, Uses and Criticisms*
    to be published by Nova Science (New York). We are interested in new
    research and perspectives on, as well as criticisms of *Twitter
    communication*.

    Topics being covered (though not limited to these) include:

    ·         *Perspectives and concepts in Twitter communication*

    ·         *Methods & techniques in Twitter studies/research*

    ·         *Practices and uses of Twitter (e.g. business, journalism,
    education *

    *        etc.)*

    ·         *Activism, campaigning and political discourse on Twitter*

    ·         *Criticisms and the future of Twitter*

    *Kindly note the following important dates*

    *Abstract Submission deadline: May 31st  2018*

    *Chapter Submission deadline: August 30th 2018*

    The contributions for this edited book are intended to range from
    4,000-10,000 words (chapters over 10,000 words can be updated by the author
    for the e-version of their chapter).

    Publication will be about *3-9 months* after the close of the volume.

    Please, send your chapter proposals/chapters to:

    innocent.chiluwa@covenantuniversity.edu.ng and/or  gwen.bouvier@mu.ie

     
  • Mark 10:57 am on May 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    The Fractured Mirror: Narratives of Artificial Intelligence and Humanity 

    Session 11.png

    The Technology and New Media Research Cluster’s penultimate session of this academic year will be on Friday 25th May, 12-1.30pm in Room B of 17 Mill Lane. The session will be led by Dr Beth Singler from the Institute of Science and Religion on ‘The Fractured Mirror: Narratives of Artificial Intelligence and Humanity’.

    All are welcome to attend this multi-disciplinary session and to encourage others to also come and participate in what will undoubtedly be a fascinating, very topical, discussion. Refreshments will be available at the session.

    Any queries about the session or the Cluster’s activities can be directed to the current convenor, Amarpreet Kaur ak997@cam.ac.uk

     
  • Mark 10:56 am on May 19, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    CfP: AI, Robotics and Responsibility 

    This looks fascinating:

    FROM THE HRC-SCHOLARS LISTSERV:

    Dear members,

    Please find attached for the call for papers from my institution’s anniversary conference. My institution being TILT (The Institute for Law, Technology and Society in Tilburg, The Netherlands), you might find this one a bit out there but we have several tracks for which we secifically hope to bring together a very interdisciplinary crowd. The track that I wanted to bring to your attention is “AI, Robotics and Responsibility”, I copy-pasted the text below. 

    This is the website: https://www.tilburguniversity.edu/upload/11d6299f-4ea0-4b39-bc88-a4631c328875_CALL_FOR_PAPERS_TILTing%202019.pdf

    PLease feel free to spread the word!

    Aviva.

    Track: AI, Robotics and Responsibility

    The complexity and autonomous character of Artificial Intelligent (AI) technologies and robotics challenge conventional ideas about responsibility. How will responsibility be distributed if self- driving cars no longer require the active attention of the driver? Can operators or commanders be held responsible for the targeting decisions of autonomous lethal weapons? To what extent can human beings be accountable for administrative decisions made by machine-learning
    algorithms? Some scholars have argued that the more autonomous technologies become, the less we can reasonably hold human beings responsible. This particular conclusion is perhaps a bit too premature, but it does underline that these (envisioned) technologies require a rethinking of our conceptions of responsibility and associated concepts, such as accountability, liability, trust, autonomy, agency, and control.

    In this track we want to explore how developments in AI and robotics affect established ways of
    distributing responsibility and how concerns about responsibility can be addressed. We consider
    responsibility in a broad sense as pertaining to various different kinds of responsibility, including
    accountability, liability, role responsibility, professional responsibility or moral responsibility. As
    such, AI and robotics have raised a range of questions and concerns. Are our existing concepts
    of liability and accountability equipped to deal with machine learning algorithms? Should artificial
    agents and robots at one point in the future be held liable or be considered moral agents? To
    what extent can and should the outputs of AI algorithms be explained, for example to hold human
    beings accountable for automated decisions? What does it mean to have meaningful control over
    an AI technology? How do increasingly autonomous technologies mediate how we experience our
    (moral) responsibility, for instance in terms of how they interact with feelings of guilt, regret or
    duty? These different questions bring together a number of current and related discussions that
    we want to connect in this track to examine how the changing relationship between human beings
    and digital technologies affects the role of responsibility in the governance and regulation of AI and
    robotics. We, therefore, welcome contributions from a range of different disciplines, including law,
    philosophy, social science, cognitive science and computer science, on topics related to AI, robotics
    and responsibility.

    For questions about possible presentation topics for this track,
    please contact Dr. Merel Noorman: M.E.Noorman@uvt.nl

     
  • Mark 4:45 pm on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Putting agents, ethics and politics at the heart of our account of platform capitalism 

    Notes for week 4 of the CPGJ Platform Capitalism Reading Group

    I thought this short talk by danah boyd was really powerful in linking the utopian dreams of internet radicals to the anxieties and outcomes of work. Framing the future of work in terms of automation, as if that says everything which is needed to be said, obscures “the broader anxiety about identities that’s shaping both technology and work”. It’s important we reclaim this a focus of our analysis because people who can no longer “find their identity through their working environment” and realise they are in a situation “where institutions and information intermediaries no longer have their back” will not stand inertly as the rug is pulled out from beneath their feet. Their responses may be self-destructive (the opioid crisis), socially destructive (religious extremism) or socially transformational (activism). However it’s important to recognise how the activism through which people find this meaning might come to be destructive (and disruptive) in turn:

    People often find themselves by engaging with others through collective action, but collective action isn’t always productive. Consider this in light of the broader conversation about media manipulation: for those who have grown up gaming, running a raid on America’s political establishment is thrilling. It’s exhilarating to game the media to say ridiculous things. Hacking the attention economy produces a rush. It doesn’t matter whether or not you memed the president into being if you believe you did. It doesn’t even matter if your comrades were foreign agents with a much darker agenda.

    These people are responding to an environment which looks the way it does because of a past activism, intended to “create a public that was more broadly accessible, but ended up enabling a new wave of corrosive populism to take hold”. These people wants to “disrupt the status quo, but weren’t at all prepared for what it would mean when they controlled the infrastructure underlying democracy, the economy, the media, and communication”. Platform capitalism was “birthed out of idealism” yet became something profoundly different, now “emblematic of corrosive neoliberalism and libertarianism run amok”. Early adopters saw themselves as marginal (“geeks, freaks, and queers”) and “turned to technology to build solidarity and feel less alone”. As boyd observes, it wasn’t so long ago that this utopianism seemed tenable to many,

    A decade ago, academics that I adore were celebrating participatory culture as emancipatory, noting that technology allowed people to engage with culture in unprecedented ways. Radical leftists were celebrating the possibilities of decentralized technologies as a form of resisting corporate power. Smart mobs were being touted as the mechanism by which authoritarian regimes could come crashing down.

    Now, even the most hardened tech geek is quietly asking:

    What hath we wrought?

    I thought this talk setup questions rather than answered them. How do the cultural frames promulgated by technologists lock in the outcomes their innovations have made possible? How do we politicise technology in a way that recognises the ever-present possibility of corruption and abuse? How can we ensure technologists take responsibility for what they produce? Can the instinct to disrupt the status quo through technology take a positive form or should the lesson of the last couple of decades be that this will inevitably lead us to dark places? The talk also does something foundational to how I approach platform capitalism: it brings the agents back in without losing the focus on the technology.

     
  • Mark 9:23 am on May 18, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    The slow university 

    Saved here for later reading:

     
  • Mark 9:08 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Call for Papers: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University 

    December 13th-14th, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

    In recent discussions of capitalism, the notion of the ‘platform’ has come to play a prominent role in conceptualising our present circumstances and imagining our potential futures. There are criticisms which can be raised of the platform-as-metaphor, however we believe it provides a useful hook through which to make sense of how socio-technical innovations may be leading to a new phase of capitalist accumulation. To talk of ‘platform capitalism’ in this sense does not exclude consideration of parallel notions such as digital capitalism, data capitalism and surveillance capitalism but rather seeks to frame these considerations through a focus upon the platform as a novel assemblage.

    While research into social media and the sharing economy is relatively advanced, the increasing centrality of platforms to the operation of the university remains understudied and undertheorised. Our conference seeks to rectify this, raising the possibility of the ‘platform university’ as a provocation to stimulate discussion concerning platforms, the commercial and academic science they depend upon and contribute to reshaping, as well as their implications for the future of the university. We see the university as a case study for inquiry into platforms, but also as a horizon of change within which the social sciences seek to address these processes.

    We invite papers which address the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including topics such as:

    • The ontology of platforms
    • The epistemology of platforms
    • Methodological challenges in studying platforms
    • The transformation of the social sciences
    • The politics and political economy of platforms
    • Platforms as evaluative infrastructures
    • Platform education and the platform university 

    There will be a keynote by Ben Williamson on The expanding data infrastructure of higher education: public-private policy networks and platform plug-ins.

    We welcome abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2018, sent to mac228@cam.ac.uk. Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three key words to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. We hope to have limited travel and accommodation funding available for unfunded PhD students and post-docs but cannot confirm this at present.

     
  • Mark 10:55 am on May 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Against slow scholarship 

    In preparation for next week’s Accelerated Academy, I found myself reading the Slow Scholarship Manifesto for the first time in a few years, as well as Heather Mendick’s brilliant critique of it. Taking explicit inspiration from the slow food movement, it calls for ‘slow scholarship’ as a response to ‘hasty scholarship’:

    Slow scholarship, is thoughtful, reflective, and the product of rumination – a kind of field testing against other ideas. It is carefully prepared, with fresh ideas, local when possible, and is best enjoyed leisurely, on one’s own or as part of a dialogue around a table with friends, family and colleagues.

    The author recognises how career pressure leads to hasty scholarship, encouraging scholars to “send a conference paper off to a journal which may still be half-baked, may only have a spark of originality, may be a slight variation on something they or others have published, may rely on data that is still preliminary”. The author cites their “own experience of taking 17 years from the start of a Ph.D. to the publication of the book which had its origins in the dissertation” to make the case for slow scholarship. It is a plea that others might see the “fruits of slow scholarship”, littered around us but often unrecognised because the academy rewards the quick, robbing the slow of prestige and financial reward.

    The Manifesto for Slow Scholarship is explicitly negative about social media, framing it as “brim[ming] over with sometimes idle, sometimes angry, sometimes scurrilous, always hasty, first impressions”. This is a medium through which people inevitably offer “quick responses to a talk they have heard, an article they read, an email they have received” which are “off the cuff, fresh—but not the product of much cogitation, comparison, or contextualisation”. The manifesto calls for ‘slogs’ and ‘sleets’ in response to these pressures. These are “short, thoughtful essays, that have been carefully thought through” posted a few times a year or “carefully crafted sentences, that pack so much into them they can almost be read as a poem, or haiku on their own”. Such a sleet might “capture a complex thought, inspire such thoughts in others, and be worth preserving for posterity”. The impulse here is an almost aggressively traditional one: scholarly value is expressed through the creation of things which are lasting, self-standing and worthy of preservation. The work should be an end in itself, with anything which complicates this ambition or renders it ambiguous being seen as an unwelcome intrusion on the scholarly vocation.

    Rather than being a repudiation of neoliberalism within the academy, as Mendick observesslowing down is often framed in terms of being a more efficient and effective scholar. We will do our work better if we slow down. We will be more successful if we slow down. Nonetheless, some are able to feel at home within slow, while others are not, reflecting “where you come from, which university you are at, which contract you are on and what other responsibilities you have”. This matters furthermore because the call to slowness involves a claim to prestige. The slow scholars are working carefully and creatively, in contrast to the hasty scholars who are hurriedly responding to the situational demands placed upon them. To be a slow scholar is an aspirational identity to which many will not have access because the brute realities of causal labour, documented by Mendick in her insightful paper. What might most accurately be seen as struggling is easily recast in the framework of slow scholarship as intellectual and creative failure. The way out of this failure lies in the exercise of temporal agency which is rarely feasible for those on fixed term contracts, concerned as they with successfully securing the next period of employment, let alone those on adjunct contracts who must piece together a working life from an array of desultory fragments.

     
    • akash angral 12:11 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      Loved It Mark!

    • Jo VanEvery (@JoVanEvery) 1:12 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      My primary criticism of the Slow Scholarship book was the balance between critique of the current conditions and fleshing out what slow scholarship might look like in those conditions. There was too much rehashing of what most of us are already well aware of and not enough careful attention to HOW (exactly) the slow food principles could be applied. Which leads to this issue about privilege. In the way of so much privilege the things that are assumed rather than made visible and carefully considered are the issue.

    • Mark 3:37 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      Well said!

    • landzek 4:32 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      I think that there are implicit ends to either. I don’t think an argument can be made that one is better than the other or one -year-old better information or better or worse analysis. I think the question is what’s the point?

      If you’re in a highly competitive school for a medicine or for la what are you going to take five years to thoroughly study and investigate something that kid normally take them six months if you were made to have to work that fast?

      But then there are also things that just can’t be made to go quickly and if you force those, you might get a product that looks good and makes good arguments and points out various things, but it’ll be necessarily incomplete even as it looks like it’s something that is complete. It’ll be making an argument that is basically a “argument for incompletion”.

      Perhaps really that’s what the slow manifesto is arguing against. I even find myself in some philosophy and some critical theory and things like that it’s people are forced to come to conclusions because of a temporal restraint but then they also encouraged by the institution to present themselves as if they are really knowing and really in a position of authority because of the way that the reason is able to be ironed out flat.

      I think there’s a lot going on there

    • landzek 4:36 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      .. and there could be an argument that is made so far as hasty or accelerationalist methods, That the products they produce, the products that the hasty method produces, are the products that we want, that society wants , that there’s nothing wrong with them in their incompletion because all we want is products , that it doesn’t matter what the product is it matters that we have a selection of products to choose from that appear consistent in their packaging, in their appearance, that if things appear in a certain way then it is necessarily a valuable product. We could make an argument about how music is better nowadays because we have people producing all sorts of high-quality high quality production of music. Some people would say that it sounds really good we know how to write music in such away we know people have good voices and we know how to make them sing well and we have computer technology that allows people that don’t sing so well even sound really good.. so then we flood the market with all this “good music”. But in actuality 75% of it is just shit.lol

      Where as maybe the slow manifesto is saying that these products are inherently in authentic and somehow not worth as much.

      .

    • landzek 4:40 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink

      … and perhaps this hasty manner is a way to consolidate ideological, or catalyze social cohesion. Because the van instead of one person finding all these things out and presenting a coherent and complete rendering of the situation, you necessarily create a reliance upon a cohort, you imply within the method that one person cannot do it, and that create an ideology, I sort of religious theology that says that we need you and that your purpose is to be part of this method of incompletion.

  • Mark 6:27 pm on May 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags:   

    the magic in giving language to hidden things 

    There’s forest fire up in the hills again
    Always reminds me of the night we spent at the river’s edge
    For hours standing hand in hand
    Too chicken shit to just go diving it
    Too scared to turn away and face the fate that awaits us both back on land
    Forest fire has a smell to it
    A certain sweetness that misleads us to believe that everything’s well again
    The summer’s sweltering
    The kind of heat you feel inside your feet radiating upward from the earth within
    If I was a smarter man I’d’ve never gave you momma’s wedding ring
    I’d’ve went ahead and just pawned the thing
    Skipped town and never called again
    But your brain never listens to the songs that your heart’ll sing
    I ain’t no Christian, that was momma’s thing
    I don’t know how to pray and if I did I’m not too sure He’s listening
    To me it’s whispering
    I don’t know
    Maybe there is some fucking magic in giving language to hidden things
    Who are we kidding kid, we were just born into this
    And what the hell would make us think that we were any different?
    Your daddy did the same, my pops did it too
    They came to the same spot asking that river for some clues
    All they got was wet shoes
    And they gave birth to me and you
    So tell me darling
    What the hell are we supposed to do?

     
  • Mark 4:25 pm on May 15, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    Platform capitalism and the future of education 

    In this week’s CPGJ platform capitalism reading group, we turn towards education for the first time with a paper by José van Dijck and Thomas Poell looking at the influence of social media platforms on education, particularly within schools. Much of the literature has addressed social media as tools, with varying interpretations offered about how these might harm or hinder teaching and learning. The ubiquity of social media is often cited as a reason to try and integrate their use into the curriculum, with some arguing they could play a crucial role in helping with particular tasks such as information retrieval. Others frame social media as a disruptive force within the classroom, undermining existing routines and creating problems for teachers. Optimists and pessimists are united in their “social media-as-tools approach: social media are considered as technical tools that may either enhance or disrupt learning experiences”. In contrast, van Dijck and Poell insist on framing these as platforms, which are “driven by a complex interplay between technical architectures, business models, and mass user activity” and “introduce new mechanisms in social life”.

    This helps broaden the focus of our analysis, away from “student behaviour and teaching practices” towards “the organization of schools and universities and, one might argue, (public) education as such”. Their analysis rests upon two distinct mechanisms: datafication and commodification. In doing so, they draw on work which has explored social mediain terms of a transformation of the landscape within which young people become civic actors, creating a range of possibilities for how education might change. The development of this perspective by van Dijck and Poell involves seeing social media as “more than mere technical facilitators: they are simultaneously technological, economic, and socio-cultural frameworks for managing online social traffic”. The main focus of their paper is upon how ratification and commodification reshape the organisation of education at primary and secondary levels.

    • Datafication is “the tendency to quantify all aspects of social interaction and turn them into code”. This incorporates two aspects: quantification and digitisation. The affordances of digital technology facilitate quantification to an extent that would not otherwise be possible. This can have descriptive and predicative dimensions to it: tracking developments in real time but also producing predictions which feed back into practice. In a sector like education, “emerging digital policy instruments transfer the assessment of didactic and pedagogical values from teachers and classrooms to (commercial) online platforms deploying real-time and predictive analytics techniques”. But datafication will have a similar tendency in others sectors because it circumvents the situational judgement of professionals by creating an analytic apparatus which operates in the background. There might be a degree of variability in how much leeway the professional continues to enjoy (consider for instance the way data can be used to enhance the performance of elites) but the broader trend is towards the diminution of agential prerogative.In the educational context, mechanisms of datafication includes data trackers and dashboards, facilitating personalisation of a sort similar to that found in content-streaming platforms like Netflix. As they write of AltSchool, it “favors technology over teachers; online personalized learning takes over classroom instruction; and the primacy of predictive analytics downgrades teachers’ professional judgment”. Digitalising a process, rendering it data and quantitative, imposes epistemic constraints on the ensuing knowledge, creating a bias towards the immediate and the atomistic. The specificity of educational is eviscerated by a generic architecture of likes and upvotes.
    • Commodification involves the “monetization of online social traffic through business models and governance structures” and is closely connected to datification. A limited number of business models all revolve around how data can be used to generate profit, incentivising continual expansion of datafication and economies of scale giving rise to fewer and larger data actors. It is hoped that was is datafied can be commodified.Data-driven commodification facilitates the unbundling of education. As the authors write, “[t]he conventional business model reflects the ideology of higher education as a curriculum-based, comprehensive experience that offers an education at a price that includes not only lectures or course content but certification, advising, tutoring, and testing”. The market for educational data, coupled with the near-zero marginal costs of digital communications, means that the curriculum can (technically) be delivered purely as content and there is a (financial) motivation for doing so. The potential implications of this educational data have barely been recognised, with the authors plausibly suggesting they might in future replace CVs in the eyes of employers.

    Their analysis refuses to separate off education platforms from the wider ecosystem in which they emerge, dominated as it is by the major actors of Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. While education platforms might not threat existing institutions in the manner of Uber and taxi firms, Dijck and Poell identify three features which might lead to systemic change:

    1. Principles of social media architecture have primacy over pedagogical principles on educational platforms. When young people are “growing up immersed in the compelling social interaction these platforms offer in terms of connecting, liking, rating and following each other” and free education services (e.g. Google Scholar, Google Docs, Gmail) offered by major players like Google already play a prominent role in young people’s educational lives. This ubiquity is liable to be reinforced by continued growth in use amongst young people and funding shortfalls leaving organisation’s looking to free services which enables costs to be cut. The result is that “corporate platforms such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Microsoft are able to position themselves strategically, at the gateways of educational infrastructures such as libraries, administrative and communication systems”.
    2. The capacity of education platforms to solve what are perceived as endemic problems of education is widely assumed yet little demonstrated. This reflects the broader influence of ‘solutionism’ (seeing technical fixes to social problems) and the narrative of sustained failures within the education system. These platforms are presented as emerging from off-stage to solve the problem, riding to the rescue of something their own emergence is intimately bound up in the creation of as part of the political economy of late capitalism.
    3. The growth of online educational globally might lead to a cultural shift in the understanding of education as a public good. They suggest we can identify “how education is increasingly defined as a technological challenge developed by tech companies and decreasingly as a service carried out by dedicated teachers and funded by taxes”. The scaleable and free logic of digital education seems enticing against a backdrop of austerity politics and a drive towards the retrenchment of the welfare state.

    The second paper analysis the platform as evaluative infrastructure. They are evaluative in the sense of deploying a wide array of ranking mechanisms to establish orders of worth. They are infrastructure because they provide the background conditions which makes interaction possible. An infrastructure consists of “technical artefacts, institutional arrangements, cultural habits and social conventions” (“people, language, numbers, categories, cultures, practices, artefacts but also pipes and hard-wired circuits”) to produce material forms which facilitate exchange over time and space. Power within them operates through protocols (rules and standards governing behaviour within networks) rather than familiar hierarchical forms of influence. Evaluative infrastructure “consists of an ecology of devices that disclose values of actions, events and objects in heterarchically organized systems (such as platforms) through the maintenance of protocol”. Their mechanisms co-ordinate and condition interaction which takes place between distributed parties, with the platform being the means through the platform owner facilitates the interaction and seeks to profit from it. Evaluative infrastructures facilitate platform owners to operate distinctive types of platform organisation. The evaluative infrastructure is what makes platform capitalism possible.

    An immense amount of activity takes place on them: “as of 2014 eBay had 165 million active users,3 Uber was hosting over 1 million rides per day, and Airbnb was facilitating 155 million guest stays annually, surpassing the Hilton Worldwide by 22 percent”. The evaluative infrastructure establishes shared orders of worth which makes this interaction meaningful, stabilising expectations and generating trust between parties who do not stand in a prior relation to each other or have much context in common. In doing so, they “relate and recombine people, ideas, and things” through “the invisible infrastructures that coordinate and control platform activities”. Their operation rests on a “an ecology of accounting devices in the form of rankings, lists, classifications, stars and other symbols (‘likes, ‘links’, tags, and other traces left through clicks) which relate buyers, sellers, and objects”. The value creation this gives rise to takes place horizontally across the platform, defying any traditional vertical attempts to organise it by the platform-owner, necessitating a new accounting regime on the part of the platform owners and new concepts for social scientists to analyse their operation. Part of the challenge stems from the capacity of these infrastructures to bring new worlds into being rather than capturing the traces of what is already there.

    Community plays a significant role in this, with the eBay founder once saying that “eBay’s success as a company de- pends upon the success of the community”. What I take them to be saying, in slightly different theoretical lingo to the one I’d used, concerns the capacity of platforms to generate relationality within groups. It produces thick relations through the mechanisms designed to counter the fact thin relations are the starting point. In doing so, the interests of the platform are effectively baked into the relational web, as much as it remains possible for its evaluative orientation to run counter to the problem in exceptional cases. Users can resist a platform but they do so in spite of their status as users. Recognising this will be crucial to understanding the lived experience of platform participation, generating thick descriptions of actions within and through infrastructures which “constantly link events, actions, behaviours, decisions (clicks), assessments and other traces left unintentionally and unconsciously (such as speed of typing, time of access, or browser used to access site) all of which are used to build a web of context around objects and subjects”. The power of platform owners operates under these conditions “through its infrastructural design, maintaining standards, imposing what counts and how to count, excluding users, and introducing rules” so as to structure the field of possibilities, rather than guiding actors within it.

    Questions for discussion:

    1. What is at stake in whether we define social media as platforms or tools?
    2. What does it mean to say “All platforms are equally defined by a set of mechanisms”?
    3. Where are the agents behind evaluative infrastructures?
     
  • Mark 8:04 pm on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , care, , , ,   

    Curation as care 

    I knew curation had a root in ‘look after’ but I’d framed this in terms of organise or sustain. The role of care in it makes the notion take on a completely different intonation.

     
  • Mark 7:24 pm on May 13, 2018 Permalink | Reply
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    What is platform literacy? 

    In the last couple of years, I’ve found myself returning repeatedly to the idea of platform literacy. By this I mean a capacity to understand how platforms shape the action which takes place through them, sometimes in observable and explicit ways but usually in unobservable and implicit ones. It concerns our own (inter)actions and how this context facilitates or frustrates them, as well as the unseen ways in which it subtly moulds them and the responses of others to them.

    This understanding seems increasingly crucial to me because the alternative might otherwise be a diffuse paranoia. As knowledge of data brokerage and data politics expands throughout society, it generates a certainty that we are being manipulated but an unknowability about precisely who is doing the manipulation, how they are doing it and what the effects might be. Platform literacy helps ground this in a concrete understanding of specific processes and their implications for our agency.

    Any recommendations for reading on this are much appreciated! Particularly those with a pedagogical focus. I’ll be working my way through the Digital Polarisation Intiative’s work and the Polarisation MOOC in the meantime.

     
    • X. Li 2:15 am on November 10, 2018 Permalink

      Hello Mark!
      Thanks for sharing. I’m teaching a “Cross-platform” class as a part of a Graphic Design BFA curriculum and have been thinking about the topic.
      I found the article “The politics of ‘platforms’ ” really informative. https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/12774/pop.pdf?sequence=1

      We might have a different focus in this but I’d definitely love to follow your thoughts on this.

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