Watching the Netflix documentary “The Social Dilemma” was my latest experience with a long list of dystopian takes on internet and society. Just a glimpse on the recent books below gives an impression of how pessimistic the outlook on this once welcomed technology has become. This motivated me to think more about it in a new post for the FemLab.Co blog titled:
Digital pessimism: Can we break out of the negativity loop?
I´m going to connect to these thoughts in a presentation for a webinar at Pondicherry University’s Department of Electronic Media and Mass Communication on September 23rd.
On September 7, 2020, I´m giving a talk at the Data Wise program at University of Groningen. It’s based on my PhD thesis and related work. Check out the abstract below.
When the internet grew into a mainstream technology, it came with the widespread expectation that it will have inclusive and democratizing effects on society. Never before did so many people have access to so much information. Maybe even more significant were the new possibilities to produce and disseminate it. Suddenly, there was an unprecedented independence from the gatekeepers who used to control information flows. In 2020, there is not much left of this initial euphoria. Stories on fake news, hate speech, privacy violations and algorithmic discrimination frame our perception of the internet. Many blame digital platforms. They dominate the internet and have emerged as its gatekeepers. But how do they actually perform this task? Would we be better off without them or can their decision-making at least be improved? The presentation gives an introduction into platforms’ gatekeeping processes and discusses a value that has regained grounds to make them more inclusive: Diversity.
I was very happy that I was invited to give a talk at the very interesting Science 2.0 Conference in Hamburg. Thanks to the perfect organization, the event was also documented very well with videos of the presentations (find them here). Here´s my talk:
Abstract: We live in a Beta-Society: Software is structuring almost all niches of society, including academia, and more often than not, it is in a permanent beta state. As such, it is never stable nor ready and we – the users – are constantly monitored for its improvement, subjects of an ongoing real-life experiment. At the same time, users and their data have become a commodity and their interactions the foundation of Web 2.0 platforms. Therefore, developers have lowered the interaction barriers as far as possible while hiding the complexity and actual social costs of their platforms and keeping them within their “walled gardens”. Specifically, scholarly communication is increasingly mediated and structured through these services, posing a number of challenges to the academic system: opaque algorithms re-ordering scientific relevance, new forms of peer review and quality management, lay participation and privacy threats to name just a few. The talk will address these issues by focusing on concrete examples of popular Web 2.0 platforms.