Lister, Martin [et al.], (2009) “Chapter 3. Networks, users and economics” from Martin Lister [et al.], New media: a critical introduction pp.163-236, London: Routledge ©
I’m sitting in front of an open window, as summer rain falls heavily onto our tin roof and the excess of the wisteria vine that makes the pergola look like a jungle. I seem to be developing RSI in my right wrist, so I’m very aware of my body as I sit here, trying to read.
I like the tensions Lister sets up, between ‘culture and commerce’, between freedom and constraint, between the ways that the internet is organic and the ways it is constructed by major industries.
The ‘technological imaginary’ is extraordinarily powerful, not just reflecting but creating economic and other real-world changes (p. 165).
Lister’s praise of Wikipedia is fascinating. Although Wikipedia continues to be widely used (I find it is one the most effective places to get an overview of a topic, or to gain an introduction to new critical theories), it is also widely criticised. Many teachers continue to discourage students from using it, and it’s gender imbalance and gaping blindspots have lead to a number of ‘edit-athons‘ (and other similar terms), suggesting that democracy has not created a totally egalitarian online space in the 6 years since Lister wrote this.
Web advertising is also less effective than it was in 2009. Now, the sheer abundance of web advertising has made display adversiting very cheap and not wildly effective (video advertising is more effective currently).
It’s fascinating the extent to which gender is an issue that can be glossed over in a sentence, and then only in terms of the pay gap between men and women. The internet has become a much more gendered place since then. (The Wikipedia fight over Gamergate above is only one such example).
Web 2.0, the ‘folksonomy’ (as opposed to taxonomy) of tagging, hypertext, and social sharing.
I need to think about this in the light of the rise of ‘curators’–companies like BuzzFeed and Upworthy, but also individuals like Brain Pickings, and major taste-makers on Twitter, people who start Hashtags regularly, as well as companies (including Facebook, and possibly soon Twitter) who are now tagging and ranking information through metadata and algortithms.
I wonder how ‘democratic’ Wikipedia is compared to, say, the development of the Oxford English Dictionary which was, itself, a hugely collaborative project through the old fashioned interactive medium of the post.
Through newspapers distributed to bookshops and libraries, [John Murray] appealed for readers who would report “as many quotations as you can for ordinary words” and for words that were “rare, obsolete, old-fashioned, new, peculiar or used in a peculiar way”.Murray had American philologist and liberal-arts-college professor Francis March manage the collection in North America; 1,000 quotation slips arrived daily to the Scriptorium, and by 1880, there were 2,500,000.:15
In the same way, I wonder about the sharing economy of people ‘without technical ability':
In the Victorian era it was quite normal for people to entertain their friends by playing musical instruments, or putting on plays; quite normal to decorate your home with watercolours and tapestries your daughters had made; quite normal to leave the house in clothes you had made and sewn yourself. Small press magazines were quite normal, self published books of poetry, or amatuer performances at concerts, right up to 1914.
Yes, there are differences, the potential for audiences of thousands or millions rather than hundreds. But I think we simply had a glitch there, where it was too hard and to expensive to make digital music or take digital photographs or shoot digital movies for a few years… and now it’s entirely possible again for your housemaid to play the piano.
There has been a fascinating shift from being anyomous on the web to being your legal self since 2009. My early life on bulletin boards and Twitter is shown by the fact that my handle @katrinafee is strangely oldfashioned. Most people now are versions of their real name, their legal name, and a number of platforms (most recently Facebook) strongly police the use of pseudonyms (see the 2011 Google+ ‘nym wars‘).
The public sphere and the use of the online space as a participatory democracy continues to be debated, through the criticism of ‘hashtag activism‘ vs protest marches, for example.
Yet online spaces are still frequently exclusionary, in ways Lister had explained earlier on, and in ways that have developed since. Garnham (1992)’s critiques of Habermas can still be used to critique the internet in 2015.
Since 2009, crowdsources and comment sections have gone from being the future of news to the home of trolls. The advice ‘Don’t read the comments‘ has become commonplace.
On the other hand, fan culture has become mainstream in best selling fan-fic words which have gained publishing deals, become best sellers and are now being made into Hollywood films. Examples include Twilight fan fic (both the best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, and a whole sub-genre of fan fic of Fifty Shades of Grey), or Harry Potter (most notably Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments). Jenkins (2006) is still relevant here.
In this live blog, I ended up talking about some of the ways in which new media has changed over the last six years, about how it has become novel, and also ways in which it may be thought to have returned to earlier forms of participatory culture.