That’s gonna be my next seminar @ the Department of Science & Technology Studies, Vienna, winter term 2013/14. I’m already looking forward to interesting discussions!
Search, share, shop. Critically examining the internet as technology, medium and social practice
The internet has often been described in utopian or dystopian terms if we think of the Twitter revolution in the Arab Spring or the narrative of Google making us stupid. Both of these blunt examples illustrate techno-deterministic viewpoints that often accompany the internet in public and academic discourses. This seminar aims to challenge these viewpoints by conceptualizing search tools, social media and wikis not as external to society, but rather as enacted in society and hence mirroring social, political and economic values and ideas. ‘Technology is society made durable’ as Bruno Latour put it straightforwardly. At the same time, however, Google, Facebook and co. also materialize and hence solidify societal values, politics and ideologies. They may be seen as shaped by society, while at the same time shaping society.
The task of this seminar is to critically examine the web as technology, medium and social practice. Using literature and analytical concepts from STS and critical new media studies we will address the following questions: What values, politics and ideologies do technological tools like the PageRank algorithm embody and how do they get inscribed in their technical Gestalt? In what ways may search tools and social media be seen as ‘acting’ in terms of shaping user practices? How do Wikileaks and Twitter challenge classical politics and what are the features of the arising ‘networked news ecology’? How do open access, Wikipedia and social networks like Academia.edu affect and transform practices of knowledge production and dissemination? What are the business models of Google, Facebook and Amazon, how do users contribute to the ‘like economy’, and what consequences does this trigger in regard to the exploitation of digital labor and user data? And, finally, what classical and new methods may be used to study digital phenomena of all sorts?
To answer the above mentioned questions theoretical discussions will be mixed with empirical work, which will lead to a small research project each student will conduct in the seminar paper.
More information on dates, time etc. here.