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, it does not much encourage actual participation in democratic political action.
      • 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. In closed societies, leadership "figures it out" and starts using digital networks to the advantage of the government via increased surveillance.
    • 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
  • 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 problematic. The "data marketplace" is HUGE: 2020=$158B; 2026: $268B (projected)

"Big Data Market size and forecast growth."

The Filter Bubble

[14.5 has been purposely deleted]

Europe handles data management differently than does the USA (and companies that do business there have to comply in the EU).
"Summary of the GDPR" (you can get a copy of the enitre document in the Canvas Files folder)

"I Blew the Whistle on Facebook. Europe Just Showed Us the Next Step."

Concept 14 Analysis article:

"Madison Square Garden Uses Facial Recognition to Ban Its Owner’s Enemies."

Want to learn more?

"Data Marketplaces: The Ultimate Guide 2022."

"What is a Data Warehouse?"

What is a Data Lake?

“Investigation of Competition in Digital Markets Majority Staff Report and Recommendations, Executive Summary,"pages 9-21.

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

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.

(A) Text Reading Analyses

(B) Concept Analyses

(C) Extra Credit (D) Grading
Special Considerations Concepts Schedule

IM 355 Homepage
© Ed Lamoureux, 2023