Social developments from digital environments

14. Control Over, & Participation with, Information is Power

Technology has long been used as a form of control. Even if users understand the new environment (and most do not), technology, formalism, bureaucracy may still prevail. There is a constant "give and take," "back and forth" in the pros and cons in media use. Especially at the start, opportunities seem to favor "openness," and new industries, but as professionalism, bureacracy and market forces take over, control is exerted by established forces. (The Big Switch p. 207-208)

  • Control
    • Who controls the products of a certain technology?
    • What social project is incorporated in that technology?
    • Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) does not intrinsically "favor" democratic political developments
      • although it probably does encourage "democratic" participation in the networked marketplaces for information, products, and services via increased access to participation
      • When communication is enabled in societies that were previously "closed," there is a liberating effect. We think of that as moves toward democracy, but it could just as easily be a move toward theocracy or a different tyrant than the one that's is in place.
    • CMC does not function uniformly across environments.
    • CMC does not break down established organizational/social barriers. For example, status differences still work their ways.
  • Liquescence
    • The state in which power resides in cyberspace.
    • Authoritarian power thrives on absence.
    • Global economy lacks local outposts where one can find and critique the overly powerful establishment. Architectural monuments of power are hollow/empty: the elite operate in cyberspace.
    • CMC can allow more unknown observation.Asymmetry in message/sender/receiver: sending now involves far lower costs, so happens more often.
  • New Media might Challenge/Resistexisting Power Elite
    • Artistic creation can establish resistive public forums (esp. recombinant content).
    • Though networks are still centralized, the means of production is de-centralized.
    • Plagiarism might be back: the nature of "author" was probably more political than real anyway.
    • Technology can be a means of active production rather than passive consumption.
    • Digital hypertext might break linearity and destabilize the inevitability of textual authority (so users can reach their own conclusions).

Tracking and targeted behavioral marketing are often problematic:

Information gathering for targeted marketing and other uses

The Filter Bubble

How Companies Are "Defining Your Worth" Online

I encourage you to listen to this entire interview.

Every time you click a link, fill out a form or visit a website, advertisers are working to collect personal information about you

But advertisers are not just limited to tracking your Internet browsing, says Turow. They're also trying to connect what you do on phones and other mobile devices, which are typically tied to an individual user and account. (OFF-BOARDING)

"In the holy grail vision of this," says Turow, "the idea of what you do on mobile should be connected to what you do on the Internet, and what you do on the Internet should be connected to what you do on your iPad, and eventually all of this will converge on what you watch on television."

"I'm concerned about ... social discrimination," he says. "... In an everyday world where companies are deciding [how] I'm targeted, making up pictures about me, I'm getting different ads and different discounts and different maps of even where I might sit in an airplane based on what they think about me."

In the future, Turow says, you might be placed into "reputation silos" by advertisers, who will then market products to you accordingly.

Europe handles privacy differently (and companies that do business there have to comply there)
Summary of the GDPR (you can get a copy of the enitre document in our Sakai resources folder)

Concept 14 Application Note article:

"Big Tech faces a new set of foes: nearly all 50 US states"

Want to learn more?

Hyper-Networked Protests, Revolts, and Riots: A Timeline

Zeynup Tufekci. Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. Yale UP, 2017.

Tom NicholsDeath of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Oxford UP, 2017.

Edward Lee LamoureuxPrivacy, Surveillance, and The New Media You. Peter Lang Pub., 2016.

Cathy O'Neil. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. Crown Publishing, 2016.

Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider (eds)Ours to Hack and to Own. OR Books, 2016.

Robert Sheer, They Know Everything About You. Nation Books, 2015.

Adam Tanner. What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data—Lifeblood of Big Business—and the End of Privacy as We Know It. PublicAffairs: 2014.

Joseph Turow. The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth. Yale UP, 2012.

Eli Pariser. The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You. Penguin Press, 2011. 

The Critical Art Ensemble.Electronic Disturbance. Brooklyn: Autonomedia, 1994.

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