It is really short right now but outlines exactly what I intend to do.
Today's question: Now that we are at the end of the semester, use your experience from all of the readings in this course to put Benkler's ideas in The Wealth of Networks in play with one of the other authors we have read. For instance, compare and contrast a central argument from Benkler to Price, Innis, Howard, or any of the readings in the class. You might consider: Is the real difference between the two arguments you chose found in the choice of a research method or a set of assumptions? Or, can "the Internet" be substituted for another technology described by an earlier author in this course? (and if so, are the author's arguments still true?)
If one was looking to read about the Internet and read Miller and Slater at first they would come away with a much different picture than if they had read Benkler. On the surface, Benkler is discussing the vast potential for the Internet to make human welfare better. Miller and Slater are concerned with the inner workings of the Trini culture and how this directly relates to Trini’s Internet use. I feel these topical differences do lie on the surface. The authors of these books are seemingly interested in the same general types of questions – how is the Internet used to autonomize people? How is the Interned used to gain capital? In hindsight we can see that Miller and Slater almost paved the way for some of Benkler’s perspectives. The “nonrival” information flowing out of Trini’s homepages can be seen not only as a means of Trini identity formation, but as the beginnings of virtual communities. Frequently, these websites had guest pages, and means of group communication which could facilitate the growth of social networking. Both Miller and Slater, and Benkler are optimistic about the potential for online social networking. Although the research was done awhile ago, overall I think that the Miller and Slater book fits as a neat little example of some of the broader concepts that Benkler is discussing.
Today's question: Communication technologies have always had a role in political life. Is there something fundamentally or causally different about the newest information technologies in the political sphere? For example, you might consider: What aspects of communication and culture are structurally different about the political sphere as opposed to other kinds of activities? What aspects of new communication technologies (like blogs, online donations, citizenship, and political campaign software [e.g., VoteMover etc.]) are different from the older communication technologies that have been used for politics? Please refer to the Howard reading in supporting your answer.
Democracy is a form of government that is directed by the votes of the constituency. New media technology, specifically data mining and OpinionBots, turn democracy into a government that is run by the trails of our credit cards. If Martin and I felt Howard was depressing in the first half of the book, as Howard said it himself, we would be “destroyed” after reading the second half. This prophecy came true. I feel that the new technology is turning our democratically run elections into a bit of a joke. Websites can be tailored to “narrowcast” to particular individuals. “Technology exposes the holes in campaigns” (pg 154). These holes, or paradoxes, are not fixed, merely managed, according to campaign managers. Before the Internet politics were run very differently. We were governed based on our votes, or polling. I had made the analogy last week in class that current campaigns are run in a fashion similar to the algorithms on Amazon.com. Our data shadows can be mined for information that not only tell us which book to read next, but who to vote for in the upcoming elections. At what point does this read as a democracy? Or at what point is this not some Orwellian nightmare come true?
Howard spends the latter half of the first chapter attempting to define and flesh out his argument regarding “political culture.” Unfortunately he starts several sentences with “political culture is…” and never categorically defines what he considers political culture. Howard really likes the idea that political culture should include some mental and material schemata. He argues that it is those who are in charge of creating the material and cultural schemata that are a part of the new information technology and digital democracy can ultimately empower as well as limit the entire political structure. Howard spends a great deal of time explaining the different organizations and leaders of the organizations that were responsible for the beginnings of “political hypermedia.” I feel that he ultimately sees the promise and/or demise of political hypermedia resting in the hands of these companies who are mining our personal data while at the same time providing us with “unbiased” political information.
I think this view of political culture isn’t the best analytical tool due to its lack of finite definition. I feel it is difficult to examine political culture critically if we cannot draw a line between who is ultimately involved and who is not. I think it is because of the new information technology that even Howard is having difficulty deciding this. Ultimately I think he has a bit of a cynical view regarding political hypermedia, but tries hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps if he had made it more clear if he thought political hypermedia would bring to good or bad to the future of political culture, his ideas would hold more analytical power. However, this may just be a personal preference of mine. Some may enjoy his uncertainty and use it as a launching pad for debate.
Today's Question: In several of the books we've read so far, we have found the hope or fear that new communication technologies challenge national borders or that they create new conditions for international unity (e.g., they will "bring the whole world together" or make place irrelevant). The Price book is an extended analysis of this one idea. Throughout the book Price compares and contrasts the consequences of specific technologies (satellite radio, AM radio, shortwave radio, the Internet, television, newspapers, books, etc.) for transnational migration, identity formation, international relations, and domestic politics. There are several examples in each chapter from specific places. Speaking generally, where is the agency (meaning: the means of action) in Price's accounts? In other words, is there an account of causation here, and if so, what is it? What leads to the consequences identified here, and what would we need to change to obtain different consequences?
I read this question as asking what forces are causing and pushing the examples in Price’s book. I think there is definitely an account of causation here, yet I am not sure if we can change anything to obtain different consequences. Very broadly, Price’s accounts seem to be an illustration of the classic power struggle man has been witness to since the beginning of time. Who is it that ultimately has the right to protect common man? Is it the common man? And if it is the common man that begs the question of whether or not the common man has the right to freedom from said protection. There are always vested interests – whether they are corporate, security based, or humanitarian in nature. These interests inherently speak to who has the power to procure solutions to the problems that lie within the interests. That is to say, regardless of nations working together to create a common law (e. g. satellite broadcasting or Internet security), there will be a power struggle involved. Who ultimately has a right to create the national or international values that establish laws?
Are there groups, organizations, governments, etc., that are capable of seeing the entire picture? I think this particular question is answered in the negative especially when examined in the struggle over the V-Chip. Price ultimately retells this account as a power struggle. Parents needed to be “empowered” through the help of the law. They have the right to protect their children. Yet Hollywood has the right to make money. Ultimately the rhetoric surrounding this debate focuses on the question posed at the beginning of this rant – who has the right and responsibility to protect children from imagery that may not even be bad for them in the first place?